Wednesday, 10 February 2016

On flow charts. Don't.

No, just no.

Life isn't like that. It doesn't just flow. It doesn't "bring your presentation to life". Things aren't equal. Turning your head on the side to read things isn't cool. Colour means things to people. Life is not a jigsaw. What if there's a piece missing? What happens if you put them in a different order? No, just don't.

The worst thing is that you'll introduce it by saying, "I'm sorry for this busy slide, let me talk you through it." If a slide is not understandable within 3 seconds, think about an advert on a passing bus, then it is distracting and you will lose the audience particularly if you "talk them through it."

Just don't.

And I'm more than happy to talk to to help them if they'd like.

Monday, 8 February 2016

This is a document. I am reading it. Out.

If you turn on the radio, you can tell immediately whether the piece is a news broadcast or an interview or the presenter speaking directly to you. The reason is that we speak differently to the way we write. One of the reasons a standard presentation fails is that the presentation has been crafted as a document, transferred as a document onto slides and the read out, as a document, to the audience. When constructing a presentation it is important that there is a point at which the written script is converted into a spoken format.

This is not simply a question of nuance. An audience is there to be engaged and the perceived quality of a presentation (p cubed) is significantly influenced by failing to engage even if p1 and p2 are good. The nature of the spoken voice encourages engagement. Virtually no presenter is able to imbue a piece of written prose with passion or emotion unless they are an accomplished actor. The teleprompt is similar. It is essential that one's script be crafted for speaking, not writing.

My best advice for this is covered in #htdap but comes from practise. Once you have constructed the p1 and illustrated that with p2 it is essential to practise in real time and repeatedly. I start with notes not a script as the natural habit will be to attempt to replicate the script. Practise ensures timing issues are specifically addressed but also allows editing, sometimes of scenes, sometimes only of steps within a sparkline but principally of the words that are used. This then will deliver a presentation that the audience feels is specifically for them rather than just a recording. The way we write is not the way we speak.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

I've SEEN things you people wouldn't believe..

The first post on this blogsite was 15/iii/2013. This week the hit count passed 100,000. I know about half of those are my Dad but thank you to the rest of you for your interest over the years. It has been an interesting journey from deciding back then that I would start sharing thoughts on presentations to where we are now. I hope folks have found it useful.

From a personal point of view I can say that the thinking and writing of the blog has challenged my preconceptions, deepened my understanding and lead me to develop ideas much further than simply expounding ideas in the pub. There is a disappointment that I haven't managed to encourage as much discussion on the site itself but certainly the blog has raised awareness both nationally and internationally.

I'm grateful for the opportunities all this has afforded me to give lectures and lead workshops in all sorts of amazing places and meet wonderful folk I would otherwise never have met. I'm particularly grateful to The Sensei, Garr Reynolds for his inspiration and Nicole Gugger for being an intellectual foil and advisor.

I'm not sure what the future holds but I'm excited. I would love to come and share ideas with anyone who is interested, wherever they are. If you have questions or requests, please get in touch.

The original post has this as its closing paragraph:

This blog aims to discuss and build upon the p cubed concept, offering opportunities for discussion and learning around the nature, construction and delivery of presentations to maximise the impact and success of presentations.

I am proud and humbled that this is starting to change presentations in so many places. The quote from Blade Runner still evokes a strong response in me. It inspires me that folks who have amazing things to share, through better presentation,s those stories, ideas and passions will not be lost, as so many are, "like tears in rain."

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The best title slide blogpost, ever (ii)

How does one arrive at a great title for a great title slide? With difficulty. It is the culmination of consideration of the audience needs, the "so what" of your data, the storyboard, the elevator pitch and the sparklines within your presentation. (If these phrases mean nothing to you please check the individual links). It fits within the steps to developing a great presentation around about No7. Importantly it doesn't happen when you submit the abstract or get invited to speak.Your title slide is the climax of your creative enterprise, not the starting point.

Getting the title(slide) wrong significantly limits the value of your presentation. It is odd but true that if your title suggests one thing and you talk of another the audience will not value the talk as much. This is not usually that they have invested heavily in your specific title, travelling miles only to hear that specific topic but probably because it raises confusion in that most important first 30 seconds. If the audience is disquieted at this point for any reason, it is increasingly difficult to recover in the remaining part of the talk. This applies to a title that is boring, confusing, overly detailed or wrong. Your title is important.

The title should arise from your preparation and gives the audience an understanding of the direction and nature of your talk, even highlighting the tenor of your delivery. "FAST sucks" is likely to be a different presentation than "FAST- is a coin toss better?" and similarly "FAST- making decisions on 50% accuracy." An interesting title stimulates...interest. A challenge or a question engages the audience before you begin, makes them think and bring an opinion to the front of their mind. This is useful if the presentation intends to challenge that opinion rather than simply presenting a pile of data and allowing the audience to decide at the end. Your title is an essential part of a good presentation. Use it for the best possible start.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What makes a great presentation?

I recently saw a tweet from someone at a conference with a picture of a frankly horrible slide accompanied by the tagline, "x just gave a great presentation." Have you ever wondered what makes a great presentation?

There are presentations where the speaker clearly knows what they are talking about and at the end you have a greater understanding of the topic discussed. There are presentations where the images are captivating and enlightening and lead to better understanding. There are presentations where the speaker is passionate and her enthusiasm washes through the audience like a life giving spring. Each of these might be considered a great presentation.

What about in the first scenario if the speaker mumbles and his pearls of wisdom can't be heard? If after the second presentation the only thing you can remember is pretty slides, has it actually been a great presentation? The charismatic speaker in scenario 3 may impart no knowledge, merely enthusiasm and if the purpose of the discussion was factual, has it been a great presentation? A great presentation is the product of its composite parts (p cubed), that is the value of the story (p1), supported by the media (p2) and influenced by its overall delivery (p3). A great presentation needs all of its parts to be great. Its greatness is a product of all these.

This is an essential concept to grasp in the construction of a presentation and should encourage the developing presenter, not discourage them. Rather than consider that your knowledge would never match that of your professor and thus your p1 would always be poor, consider a message rather than delivery of facts. Your explanation of a concept is worth more in p1 than a whole pile of facts. You may have seen someone with amazing slides (p2) and think yours will never match but actually if you improved yours just a little, dropping the text and illustrating rather than annotating your p1 that would make such a difference. You may consider that your nervousness will limit (p3) but practise and putting aside your script will actually improve that more than you can imagine. Each of these small improvements, because they are an integral factor will bring about significant improvement in the audience's perceived value of your presentation, the p cubed value.

A great presentation is the product of its parts. Work to improve each and you will begin to deliver presentations that your audience will regard as great.

Here's a link to a great talk from Natalie May @_NMay on presentation skills giving a wee hat tip to me!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The best title slide blogpost, ever (i)

The title of your presentation must stimulate interest even before you start speaking. If the title slide is full of words and useless information it is likely you will have lost the audience at that point. A great presentation has a great title slide; there is more to that than simply a title.

 This, is a poor title slide, it needs changing. The fontography and design can also be improved to add to the impact of the title slide but consider what is necessary and what detracts. Remember the speaker is always introduced and as such, much of the information in a title slide is redundant. Repeating this information does not add in any way to the message. Is it likely that the audience have forgotten which meeting they are attending, the location of that meeting or even the date? All of these details are superfluous to the message and can be minimised or removed.

The title slide is the most important slide of your deck. It determines whether the audience will pay enough attention to you for your message to be heard. Its form sets the tone and direction of the piece even before you begin speaking. A great presentation starts with a great title slide.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

This is the title of the blogpost.

It is always interesting to have questions from twitter. Thanks to Cian O'Brien for this one.
The title of many presentations simply represents a description of the subject. It misses an opportunity to increase the interest of the audience even before the presentation begins and conversely may actually cause disinterest and disconnection from the message even before you begin speaking. A great title is an essential part of a great presentation.

"An assessment of the sensitivity and specificity of focussed abdominal scanning in paediatric blunt abdominal trauma as an adjunct to clinical examination" may be a complete, factual description of the data to be delivered but it isn't very engaging. It is highly likely you even skipped over part of it as you read the sentence. Alternatively, "FAST scanning sucks" grabs attention, should stimulate intrigue, interest or anger but most importantly engages the audience even if they only to want to disagree with you. Now you have an audience to work with.

The title of your presentation is just as important as the rest of your presentation. It is not just a description. We'll discuss the title slide in a subsequent post.