At a recent seminar in Toronto organised by Brainshark, Carmen Taran from Rexi Media invited participants to write a haiku about PowerPoint.
A Haiku is a very short, Japanese poem. Traditionally, they're supposed to be 17 syllables long, but in English, they can be a bit more flexible. A haiku always contains two contrasting images or ideas, separated by the three lines - a "cutting word" usually appears at the end of one of the lines.
Purity and simplicity.
Haiku link to ideas about presentations in lots of ways - being Japanese, they're bound up with Garr Reynolds' notion of Zen and the Art of Presentation, aiming for purity and simplicity, removing all unnecessary elements. Economy in both the number of words and number of lines is great to aspire to in creating presentation slides. And haiku have strong ties to the notion of Wabi Sabi, beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete".
A haiku writer will try to to capture both transient beauty and abiding qualities within that beauty, producing a clarity of perception in which the reader sees the subject of the haiku for what it is. Everything is just right the way it is, defects and all.
I see sleep around
These slides go on and on
When will this be over?
We hate PowerPoint
Need a substitute to help
Bring on Brainshark
Is not really as clever
As you think it is
Death by PowerPoint
Sit in a classroom for hours
Try to stay awake
Here's another good one from Laura Bergells' blog.
Present with passion.
Don't read your presentation.
Read your audience.
Why not submit your own haiku in the comments section if you think your writing skills can compete? Even better if you can find a wabi sabi image to illustrate your poem.
Too much self-esteem?
Psychologists recently analyzed a group of US college students using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The survey contains questions such as "I will usually show off if I get the chance," "I am an extraordinary person," and "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place." The average score for students in 2006 was 65% higher than it was in 1982, and 25% of respondents show higher-than-normal levels of narcissism, scoring high in vanity, entitlement, exhibitionism, and superiority.
In a recent blog posting, Carmen Taran reflects on how concepts related to narcissism, self-esteem, and an exaggerated sense of self-work may impact presentations.
“What is your narcissism level and how often do you cultivate it? If you have a me-centered mindset in presentations, you may find it difficult to connect with an audience.
I recently coached someone on virtual presentations and advised her to allow the audience to contribute more during the presentation; she refused, saying that the presentation would get out of hand and she wouldn't be in control.”
Too many presenters are under the illusion that they are in charge. While this can work with very large audiences, for smaller crowds it’s important to create space for others to get involved and shape your story. Give them the opportunity to play a part rather than simply watch the show unfold. Recognize that anyone in the room, regardless of how small or large, may have just as much wisdom as you do. This creates instant connection, which contributes to your cause and prevents you from falling in love with your own reflection.
There is a fine line between self-esteem and narcissism.We operate in a culture that sometimes protects our self-esteem too much. Instead of being used in the proper way to help create a realistic sense of self and an ability to negative feedback, it can lead to an inflated sense of self-worth, and constand demands for special treatment. As a presenter, too much focus on youself is detrimental. The more you focus on others, and validate their self-worth, the more you benefit.
Modern audiences seem to be changing from a dog mentality (responsive, eager) to a cat mentality (hard to impress, independent). How often have you had an audience that looks at you, crossing their arms, leaning back, and silently announcing, “Amuse me”?
Presentations these days can become pure theater. Often you have to try too hard, by displaying emotions you don’t really feel. Dry content? Sound enthusiastic. Unrealistic promises? Use a more confident voice. A question on the NPI that gets increasingly high scores is “I find it easy to manipulate people.”.
To you, it may matter what you say, but to an audience, what matters is what you mean. People can quickly detect fake behavior and emotions. Reflect on the content you share and present only on those topics where fakery does not play a major part.
These days, we tend to have fewer friends, despite Facebook. More people live without a spouse than with one. This type of sealed lifestyle does not help you to connect with people, a skill that is essential to successful presentations.
To guard agains narcissism try spending less time with your toys and more time with real people, getting to know what others say and do in real life.
E-Learning should be more than casual grazing
In an era of information overload, how much is real? If you Google “Sokal hoax,” you can learn about some of the dangers of an “anything goes” approach to information distribution – a leading journal was duped into publishing an apparently serious scientific article which was actually complete nonsense.
A recent article by Carmen Taran reflects on the concept of superficiality and how it relates to e-Learning. How often do we create courses that look and sound good but which sacrifice depth and rigor for the sake of expediency? If you took down 80% of your e-Learning courses for a day, how many people would complain? Most of this superficiality happens because we are often in a rush to deliver and don’t have the time or the energy to devote to thorough analysis.
Sometimes we oversimplify e-Learning content for the sake of brevity. We are addressing a generation of students with increasingly shorter attention spans; learners who are after instant stimulation, shortcuts, and quick fixes. Why waste time on unnecessary argument? Thorough treatment is for old-fashioned academics.
Media and advertising sound-bites are not helping. Slogans promise a complete meal in three minutes, tax submission in two steps, and better abs in one move or less. If people are convinced they can get results without effort in other areas, why not expect the same from e-Learning? Why waste effort when instant, comfortable chunks are so much easier to handle? Superficiality has become especially attractive to corporate students seeking instant gratification.
We’ve become too gentle with our students. We encourage learning by casual grazing. If we keep going at this pace, trapped in 140 character culture, the future of e-Learning and m-learning is bleak.
Select any of your e-Learning courses and count the number of screens where detail is sacrificed for the easily digestible. There are probably quite a few. Forced brevity breeds superficiality. In many fields, you have to admit the frustrating complexity. Students might tell you that they are looking for are a “few simple rules” but in many areas, there are no simple rules. Many topics are complicated and situational. Don’t oversimplify them.
Think of it this way: if everything in a training program was simple, users would not need training. If everything was complex, they wouldn’t understand it. Simplicity and complexity need each other. It’s the contrast between them that shows your skills and provides students with substance and ease of learning. Just as we need the dark sky to appreciate the moon, we need complexity to appreciate simplicity.
If you tend to oversimplify because you’re worried about the length of your course, remember research shows that adult learners’ attention span starts fading after 30 minutes. The key word is “learner” – the entertainment industry can keep our attention for more than two hours, but learning situations are more taxing, especially if you’re asking students to retain and apply information rather than simply browse.
Learning objects may be the basis of modern instructional design, but they ignore relationships and holism. There’s an old Sufi teaching that says, "You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand and.” Being able to see connections between what is typically thought of as separate parts is the sign of the designer who thinks critically, not superficially.
To avoid the traps of cursory e-Learning, start with small steps. Find three to five areas where it is vital that your students have in-depth knowledge. Include enough substance to keep them engaged for 30 minutes at a time, and show them how those different areas are interconnected. Don’t spoil the idea of depth with phrases such as “everything you need to know.” Substance does not necessarily mean exhaustive information. It just means having enough to feel intellectually satiated. If you want students to return, leave them on high notes, with the promise of more substance during their next trip.
In the areas where knowledge is meant to be brief, use words such as “overview” or “getting started” - let users know what to expect and where to go for more. Don’t compensate for lack of content by providing a surfeit of links. A screen with dozens of links can be disheartening. A few discrete, well chosen references work much beter.
And avoid going to the other extreme. Don't offer overdoses where the content is not that critical. Inserting pictures into a Microsoft Word document is better explained by a one page pdf document than an e-Learning course with objectives, interactions, and summary.
Designers will often respond that “the client wanted it that way.” Someone else is always to blame - we are absolved of any personal responsibility. We speak about e-Learning programs failing, but how often do we speak of designers failing? The more we believe we have no control over the substance of our e-Learning, the more undisciplined we become.
Take responsibility for information overload and educate clients on what constitutes manageable training. You probably have rules for other areas in your life (no more than two glasses of wine at dinner, no more than three pieces of chocolate), so create similar rules for your training design habits – no more than five objectives for a course, or no more than 25 screens per lesson. When you start having such rules, you can devote time saved to other more important areas where there are substance opportunities. Restricting your options, even though it implies fewer choices, benefits everyone.
Look at constraints not as restrictive but as liberating – a way to take the time reserved for volume and transfer it to building real substance.
How do you handle negative feedback after a presentation? Or as others put it in politically correct terms… “constructive criticism.” The mere word “criticism” contains so many connotations. From my experiences as an executive coach, I’ve noticed that even though business professionals say “I love feedback” and “Please send me any feedback” or “Let me know how I am doing,” for most part, handling negative feedback is not that easy.
All presenters sometimes find criticism hurtful.
Just this morning I was presenting to a fairly large crowd and at the end someone told me “you could have been a bit faster in the first 5 minutes, you started sort of slow…” Even though I appreciate this statement and will remember it next time, it’s still lingering on in my mind 5 hours later, and I feel its unnecessary weight right in my stomach.
Accoring to researchers, accpeting negative feedback is linked with the ego, which we struggle so hard to protect. When it is threatened or shaken and when there is a bit of ‘hedonic asymmetry’, as a researcher put it (Frijda, 1988), self-defense takes over, especially when negative feedback is associated with domains where we see ourselves as competent (Rudman, Dohn, & Fairchild, 2007). If you’ve presented for 20 years, it may be increasingly harder to accept negative feedback if you don’t know how to balance the ego.
Seasoned speakers differentiate themselves from average presenters by the way they steer their ego and keep it in check. One of the ways to achieve this is to avoid becoming defensive.
Advanced presenters can argue an idea but do not become defensive when the audience has opposing views or when the environment offers obstacles. In short: advanced presenters do not have excuses. You hardly ever hear a seasoned speaker say “The audience was not educated enough to understand my point of view” or “My presentation would have been great if only the projector worked.”
It is only average presenters who feel they need to project a positive image and go to extremes to defend their actions. You may have heard presenters twist the truth and inflate a piece of information to appear in a good light. “There were over 100 people in the audience and I was overwhelmed,” they claim, while there were only 50 people in the audience. Or they minimize the gravity of a situation. “The event was not that important,” they claim, even though it was the yearly worldwide sales kickoff. Or they make up self-serving stories to appear in a positive light. “I’ve been doing large-group presentations for 15 years,” even though they’ve only presented to two or three people for the last five.
Others show defensiveness by engaging in extreme self-affirmation, conveniently ignoring negative remarks received and emphasizing positive qualities they possess in other areas (Steele, Spencer, & Lynch, 1993). For instance, you might hear presenters say “I may have gone overtime with my presentation today, but my slides were really great.” It’s always convenient to recruit positive qualities immediately after receiving negative feedback (Dodgson & Wood, 1998).
I have also noticed that average presenters resist feedback (while claiming to welcome it); and do not reflect on their mistakes (which they probably haven’t acknowledged anyway). They often use self-defense mechanisms to regulate negative emotions that cause threats to their self-worth.
Research shows that negative feedback, while providing benefits to the self, can have negative social consequences. For instance, in a scientific experiment, when White students were given negative feedback after an IQ test, they showed greater prejudice against Asian students (Fein & Spencer, 1997). The self benefits by alleviating anxiety, but others around us may pay the price.
The ironic aspect is that the more visible business presenters and executives become, the more some of them feel they need to defend who they are.
Sometimes presenters think they have great attributes (e.g., passionate, self-confident, straightforward) but they come across in a different light (e.g., overzealous, self-absorbed, and inconsiderate). This is why receiving feedback should be mandatory.
To become a seasoned presenter, it is imperative to seek, accept, and implement critical feedback from others. The question stands: how do we best do it? So far, literature suggests the following techniques (Arrendondo, 2000).
- Be aware when you are defensive and monitor your reactions. This is critical because if your body language is not approachable, it may be difficult for others to offer feedback. Smiles and a welcoming manner will lead to openness, and eliminate potential hesitancy for others to speak with you. Offer appreciation to those who take the time (and emotional energy) to provide negative feedback.
- Ask questions to clarify. This gives you time to regulate emotions, and to eliminate misunderstanding. For instance, at the end of a segment in a session I presented, someone said, “this was great introductory information.” I was prepared to be hurt because I thought he meant “information for beginners” (as in, “this was too easy”), and intended it as criticism. When I asked, “what do you mean by that?” he explained that it was a great overview of the topic and he wanted to learn more. Getting someone to restating the feedback gives you time to regulate emotions.
- Ask for examples to clarify what others mean when they provide negative feedback. The number of examples also counts. If someone tells you “you had a lot of ums in your presentation” it is ok to ask how many. If you spoke for an hour and there were only four, you did a great job.
- Determine the reliability of the feedback you receive. Just because one person considers that you used “graphics that were too sensuous” in your slideware, does not mean that the entire group left with that impression. Numbers and the source count in what we do with the feedback we receive.
- Practice stress management techniques. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly can help diffuse strong emotions.
- If you really disagree with the feedback, it is often best to return to the conversation or to the written evidence later when emotions are not so strong.
I would love to hear if you have any additional suggestions for this list. It is often beneficial for all of us presenters to give up the defensive posture, lean towards the crowds, and listen. How do you do it?
Arrendondo, L. (2000). Communicating Effectively. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Dodgson, P. G., & Wood, J. V. (1998). Self-esteem and the cognitive, accessibility of strengths and weaknesses after failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 178–197.
Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through derogating others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 31–44.
Frijda, N. H. (1988). The laws of emotion. American Psychologist, 43, 349–358.
Rudman, L.A. , Dohn, M.C., Fairchild, K. (2007). Implicit Self-Esteem Compensation: Automatic Threat Defense. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(5), 798-813.
Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). The nature and function of self-esteem: Sociometer theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 1–62). New York: Academic Press.
Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Lynch, M. (1993). Self-image resilience and dissonance: The role of affirmation resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 885–896.
by @carmentaran, @reximedia
Psychology research often links attitudes and behaviors (attitudes being defined as a positive, negative, mixed, or indifferent reaction towards a person, object, or idea).
For instance, an attitude becomes stronger when it is associated with a corresponding behavior. If a person helps out a candidate during a political campaign, it is more likely that the person will vote for the candidate upon conclusion of the event. The strength or weakness of an attitude is generally determined by whether the issue is related to our self-interest - it is linked to our core values (religious, political, philosophical) or well being of those in our lives.
Presenting to Multicultural Audiences
If we hold enough information about a topic, we are also more likely to act out a specific attitude. If we know the benefits of exercise for instance, and have a strong attitude about it, we are more likely to engage in that behavior. If the information about this topic is obtained from personal experience (e.g. being on the tennis team in high school), it is more likely that exercise will be carried out because the source of information for the attitude towards exercise was obtained through our own means.
These thoughts about the link between attitudes and behaviours prompted me to take the idea further and relate it to presentation skills. If an attitude is a reaction towards a person, object, or idea, that means we can almost equate it to an emotion. And if that is the case, I am really interested how attitudes are displayed on our faces, especially if we come from different cultures. Could we predict, based on someone’s facial expression, whether they have a strong attitude about a topic and how they might act? Does this emotional display of attitudes differ from culture to culture?
Finding the answers would help tremendously if you were a presenter constantly striving to adjust delivery to audience reception, especially if you’re presenting to diverse listeners.
I recently read an article on this topic titled Cultural Differences in the Perception of Facial Emotion” (Masuda et. al, 2006).
When studying facial expressions, the authors took into consideration the following aspects:
1. Attention to context. Western cultures tend to pay attend to focus points, while Eastern culture take into consideration the background.
2. Significance of social context. Western cultures pay attention to personal goals and strive for singularity, while Eastern cultures tend to see individuals as inseparable from the community and pay more attention to a collective consciousness.
3. Perception of emotions. Westerners tend to see emotions as personal reactions, related to the self. Their emotions are spontaneous, internal, and easy to display in public. People from the East on the other hand may have a harder time displaying personal emotions; theirs are more adapted to the group; the public display of personal emotions is not encouraged. In fact, if you showed a Japanese person a photograph, s/he would probably not be able to tell you what emotion was being displayed in the picture without a context.
It was interesting to note that in Western art, the individual in a portrait typically takes up most of the canvas space, where as in Eastern paintings, portraits are much smaller and people are more often simply part of the background.
In this particular study, the authors confirmed that, when asked to gage the emotions of people in pictures, Japanese talked about the emotions of the people in the background while Americans focused on the emotions expressed by the main subject alone. Japanese participants also mentioned that they were more likely to be influenced by changes in the background figures, whereas Western participants were not.
Consider these findings for any presentation you deliver to a multicultural audience. For instance, if you feel that you have a strong topic and good delivery, yet Eastern audiences do not react, you don’t need to doubt your skills. Or if you're not used to Western audiences who display their feelings in public, there's no need to not feel embarassed or insulted. The more you understand the links between your listeners’ attitudes and behaviors, the more confidence you can have in your delivery.
Masuda, T., Ellsworth, P., Mesquita, B., Leu, J., Tanida, S., & Van de Veerdonk, E. (2006). Placing the face in context: Cultural differences in the perception of facial emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94 (3), pp.22-35.
by Carmen Taran
We often hear this question from our corporate clients: how can we communicate change persuasively? How do we get our teams to move along with our vision?
Psychologically speaking, persuasion is impacted by a variety of factors. For example, persuasion depends on the source that transmits its message. Elements such as credibility, likeability (similarity and physical attractiveness), what the message contains and how it is delivered, and whether fear or positive emotions are involved – all these will definitely influence persuasion.
Something I’ve found useful in persuading others is the map outlined in “It Starts with One" by J Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen (2008). The authors suggest that there's a three-step process to changing people’s attitudes: help them to see, move, and finish.
During this phase, we need to enable people to "see" the change. If people can see the new behaviors, they are more likely to change. Usually, there are two processes involved in visualization: contrasting and experiencing the new reality. During the “seeing” phase, the goal is to pinpoint a few (not a laundry list) of key differentiating behaviors and then enable them to experience the new reality. I remember reading the story of some high-up leaders from Samsung who did not understand how their products were sold in the US. When they flew over from Korea, they saw their products gathering dust in the malls and eventually being purchased on clearance by adolescents with purple hair and nose rings. That drove a lot of changed behavior from the company but only because the experience of the “new” was so forceful.
During this phase, the authors suggest that people are more likely to change if they have a clear path of where they are going, recognize the resources or tools necessary to help them get there, and there is a proper rewards system is in place.
Sometimes, change is not implemented all the way, because people get tired or get lost in the process. During this phase, it is helpful to identify change champions that can assist with re-enforcing efforts for new behaviors and help with charting progress - people are more likely to continue to change and implement change if they know how much they've accomplished and how much there is left to cover. At this stage, communication is very important; use tools that enable you to constantly communicate about progress made, current successes, and the path left on the destination map. Corporate wiki pages, internal sites, or media-rich emails that appeal to the senses are all good examples of keeping communication fresh and persuasive.
This is definitely a book for anyone in the corporate world who wants to learn more about communicating and implementing change management in a persuasive way.
Danielle Daly and Carmen Taran of Rexi Media recently completed the Rome Marathon on 20 March 2011 - strong beginnings, even better endings, smooth transitions and outstanding, passionate presentation throughout to emphasise the Rexi Media message.
In a recent video interview, by @carmentaran of @reximedia talks about the importance of having one big idea for every presentation; one thing you want everyone to remember. Carmen says, "It sometimes helps to have an image in your mind of the kind of people who'll be attending your presentation or webinar - what will they want out of it, what will they be expecting?". Obviously, to some extent, you have to deliver to those expectations.
But it's equally important to maintain an element of surprise or edge - "One reason many presentations fail is because they're so predictable; when people know what's coming next, they'll start checking their iPhones or engaging in other forms of multitasking. Don't feel you have to fill every second with information - sometimes you need to trust the silence." (There's an interesting survey going on at the moment into what people are actually doing when they're supposed to be following a webinar or an e-learning course.)
Carmen suggests that presenters should always try to make time to review recordings of past presentations - "Find out what brought you alive, what energised your spirit - it will make presenting a more fulfilling experience for you, and a more rewarding experience for your audience."
Learn more in by signing up to a free webinar hosted by Adobe that Carmen will be presenting next month.
Better Beginnings: How to attract students' attention in 30 seconds or less
Thursday April 7, 10:00 - 11:00 am, PST
Carmen Taran will be delivering a virtual keynote to the forthcoming Best Practices in Upgrading Online Virtual Conference 2011 on how to incorporate aesthetics into instructional materials that will engage students with both style and substance. Her passionate and captivating presentation will motivate you to re-think how you design learning materials.
Have you noticed how we seem to be asking for beauty, sophisticated style and sensory pleasure in almost everything we do, drive, click on or look at? We want everything to look good. Many businesses now appeal to customers by offering a balanced combination of performance, quality, low cost and … beauty. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, aesthetics is the way to stand out.
The preference for style is starting to appear in education and training as well. Ever since the release of the iMac, the iPod and the seemingly unstoppable growth of the Apple brand, computing and mobile education have been enjoying better aesthetics, as seen in the way users interact with interfaces, perceived usability, and frequency of use. Modern students are starting to demand virtual training that is a combination of art, entertainment, training, and process control.
Anatomy of Apple Design from Transparent House on Vimeo.
If you want power and advantage in what you do, it’s time to value beauty and incorporate it into your instructional products, educational services, even your grant proposals or budget requests. Attend this incisive, provocative, and witty keynote and learn how to
- design virtual training that attract students through both style and substance
- use aesthetic principles, such as symmetry, harmony, lines, shapes, texture, and vivid color to enrich digital educational systems with poweful images
- differentiate yourself from others by providing outstanding and memorable sensory pleasure with your services and products.
The presentation will stimulate your thinking and start you looking at virtual education in fresh ways. The advice springs from a variety of practical examples and fields such as art, emotion, visualization, programming, and interface design. Whether you'ree a professor, corporate trainer, or instructional designer, whether you develop or deliver learning products and services, at the end of Carmen’s presentation, you will never look at digital education the same away again. When your students take a look at your products or courses, they won't simply say "good course", but rather exclaim, "I loved that!"
here for the presentation - Friday, March 25, 10:30 -11:45 am MST
Alex Cequea reviews Rexi Media's Presenter Pro iPhone App for The Speaker Point, February 2011 - "I give Presenter Pro a 10/10. Did I mention that it was free?"
Alex goes on to say, "This is quite an amazing app. It has six main sections: Structure, Visuals, Words, Voice, Gestures, and Rate Me (which others can use to rate your speech in different categories). There are also quizzes to test your speaking knowledge, videos, and the ability to create a checklist from the information you read within the app.
To be honest, I couldn’t believe this app was free. The interface is smooth and easy to use, and the depth of information is incredibly insightful and interesting. A lot of sections come with practice exercises that take you outside of the app. For example, a practice exercise on the Facial Expressions section (under “Gestures”) has you go to YouTube to watch comedians use specific facial expressions. Then it asks you to record yourself saying prepared sentences and adding meaningful facial expressions. Cool!
Besides maybe adding one more video showing great presentation techniques working together, I cannot think of any way to improve this app."
PresenterPro is available now from the iPhone store - and watch out for a special iPad version that's coming soon!