Monthly Archives: May 2014

Italian fresco








You only have two minutes…make them count

I’ve noticed a trend at academic conferences over the last few years towards ‘micro presentations’:

  • Timed, two minute panel presentations, followed by Q & A
  • “Two minutes, two slides” (often as a complement to research posters).


In both cases, a presenter’s first reaction might be “How is that even possible?!” Many people consider a typical 15 minute symposium presentation to be at least 45 minutes too short.

And yet…

Broadcast advertising has demonstrated pretty convincingly that it’s possible to tell a compelling story in as little as one minute. Here’s a compelling love story told through Goggle search terms…”Parisian Love“.

In advertising, two minutes is an eternity. I’ve done my share of two minute presentations at academic conferences, and here are three steps to make yours stand out:


Step 1 (30 seconds): Foster an emotional connection

Offer a quick story illustrating the problem or issue and why the audience should care. Quick means three sentences, max.


Step 2 (90 seconds): Feed their heads

Next, you have a whole minute-and-a-half to share how you solved the problem. In five or six sentences.


Step 3 (30 seconds): Take it to the next level

What’s the bigger picture or implications for members of the audience? What could they do as a result of your research? (Try for one well-crafted call to action).


I’m not saying it’s easy to edit a major research initiative down to 120 seconds. As legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus put it, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” [or genius].  Even two minutes offers a precious opportunity to tell your story. Make it count.


Bonus tip: Practice with a timer!





How to Write a Conference Abstract in 4 (kind of) Easy Steps




Single gerbera on a white background












Making the world a happier place, one slide at a time


The vast majority of slideware is used as speakers’ notes. Probably because:

  1. It’s comforting to have what I’m going to say right there on a big screen, just in case I forget
  2. I’m inspired by images, but I frame my thinking in words. It’s easier to type a list of bullet points than it is to locate the one perfect picture that tells a story
  3. I’m not trained in graphic design or visual arts, so putting together clean and compelling slideware compositions doesn’t come naturally
  4. It can be hard to access high quality art and photography.

The work of Garr Reynolds and his Presentation Zen has been instrumental in my own PowerPoint makeovers (“The Good, Bad and Ugly of PowerPoint”).

In addition, tools like Haiku Deck offer a polished and visually compelling alternative to traditional slideware applications.


What’s the take-home message? What does it all boil down to? Here is my one-sentence “best practice” for slide design:


PPT Essential Design Principle










Imagine if every slide in every presentation looked this way? The world would be a happier place.



The “Top 4” Preconditions for Learner Engagement

Educators and presenters are rightly concerned with learner engagement. Creating engaging learning environments was the theme for the conference I attended today, and it made me wonder…what are my own “rules of engagement” in classrooms large and small, real and virtual? Here are my top four:

1. Make it fun

People are generally motivated to pursue activities that offer positive reinforcement, and the opposite is true for aversive experiences. That’s why chocolate + Reality TV often trumps time at the gym. By adding laughter, socializing, exploration and discovery to our facilitation we add engagement.

2. Make it personal

While altruism is a lofty ideal, in practice the most salient learning happens when we directly relate to a concept or skill on our own individual level. These personal connections evoke “aha” moments way more powerfully than relating new skills and ideas to abstract or hypothetical scenarios/applications.

3. Make it real

At its very best, presenting to groups more closely resembles a conversation than a performance. When we can be our authentic, playful, idiosyncratic selves in front of hundreds of people, that fosters connectedness (another word for engagement). If the audience sees our real, true self, that gives permission for them to be real too.

4. Make it safe

We’re only learning when we’re struggling. If it’s easy, that’s because we already know! The journey toward mastery involves making ourselves vulnerable; and our deepest instincts tell us that we can only permit our vulnerability when we feel safe. As a facilitator, I can help make it safe by modeling my own willingness to take risks or make mistakes, by creating opportunities for connectedness with other learners, and by fostering a climate of unconditional respect and acceptance.

When I think about what it really means to teach and learn, engagement is everything. Engagement is like oxygen: teaching feels as natural as breathing when it’s present, and teaching is as painful (and scary) as choking when engagement is absent. Nothing happens without it, and everything is possible when it’s there.


Deep Learning

Who was your favorite teacher?

3 Classroom Essentials: Education, inspiration and fun

Transformative learning in the conceptual age

Education is…

%d bloggers like this: