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Tag Archives: Presentation tips

 

bike flowers

 

How do you want to travel?

 

Presentations and workshops are particular journeys for all participants – the facilitator included. From an overall accountability perspective, responsibility for the session sits squarely on the shoulders of the presenter, and rightly so. The content, pacing, climate and structure need to be clearly communicated and consistently enacted. Course evaluations assess how effectively presenters perform across these domains, and offer immediate feedback for improvement. But what about the audience?

Lately I’ve been thinking about individual audience members’ accountability, and the delicacy in creating a climate where each person in the room feels as invested in the value and success of the event as the presenter. This goes beyond learning outcomes and focuses on process (how we engage) as well as content (what we learn).

Most workshops and presentations typically start with some or all of:

  • Learning outcomes
  • Session overview or outline
  • Participants’ learning goals
  • Pre-session learning assessments.

However, few workshops explicitly build in a chance for participants to identify how they will contribute. In other words, reflecting on how we learn and participate, what might hold us back, and what would make it safe to take risks and participate in ways that might feel downright uncomfortable. I think these questions are crucial precursors to the usual content-focused questions or assessments, because a conversation about process sets the stage for joint responsibility for engagement.

It comes down to a conversation about how we (both presenter and group) collectively want to make the journey together. From a presenter’s perspective, this means starting out by asking questions such as:

  1. Are you coming to this session as a spectator or as a participant?
  2. What are some possible ways into the content that would resonate for you, and how could you amplify these entry points?
  3. What would it take to make you want to step outside your comfort zone?
  4. If you decided to take some risks in the interest of your own ‘deep learning’, how can the group support you?
  5. How will you translate and adapt ideas or applications to make them 100% relevant for you?

You don’t have to ask all five questions, and there are a wealth of other questions you could pose. The key is our intentionality in creating time for all participants to reflect on their roles, and on the nature of the voyage they are going to take with you and one-another.

And the next time I attend a presentation or workshop (or a class, meeting, performance, celebration or other opportunity to actively engage), I will be asking myself: “How do I want to travel?”

 

 

 

firepit

 

 

“Every person is like all others, some others, and no others.”

 

Night air, pine trees, starlight and throw another log on the fire. Sitting around a fire-pit makes us all storytellers.

This weekend I finally heard the complete narrative of my dad’s1981 road trip through Canada’s Maritime provinces with Uncle Ulysses. Including the ill-advised (in retrospect) meal of fresh-cooked clams that led to their acute and enduring distress. Like all heroes, Euclid and Ulysses (actual names) valiantly carried on through their itinerary of roadside museums and historic landmarks. It all culminated on the final night of the trip where, after three days of fasting, they deemed it safe to order pizza as an accompaniment to the 6-pack of beer they’d picked up earlier. The smell of fresh pizza proved too much to bear, and as my father put it, “I said: ‘Please don’t hit the beer’; and we never did eat the pizza”. To this day, neither of them has ever tasted shellfish again.

I loved that story, and even more I loved the experience of hearing the story. The fireside version took around 15 minutes and was punctuated with the audience’s questions, observations, digressions, reflections and laughter. It was engaging, relateable, suspenseful, totally human.

This makes me think more about the axiom of “tell more stories” in presentations and workshops. For listeners, the most powerful storytelling experiences are not passive, but rather, involve actively participating as co-authors in the telling. Even in large groups or online or asynchronous learning environments this can take the form of an internal conversation and co-authoring, as each of us relates to our own lives and our personal stories.

So…my lesson learned is to try going beyond just telling stories, and to intentionally create avenues for the audience to participate in the telling. Most training venues and classrooms don’t permit campfires, but I’m inspired to find ways to leverage stories as powerful shared experiences. Every story represents the rich complexity of human experience, as each of us is “like all others, some others, and no others” (paraphrasing Murray and Kluckhohn, 1953).

Stories connect our content to others in powerful ways. Being a better presenter has to involve getting better at storytelling.

 

 

 

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Artifice and performance are the enemies of engagement

 

I gave a talk yesterday on presentation and facilitation skills, and one of the key themes was the importance of shifting our focus away from ourselves (“Am I doing a good job?” “Do I measure up?”), and directing our attention to the needs and interests of the audience. This marks the crucial shift from performance to conversation.

Paradoxically, at the same time we also need to pay attention to being ourselves. I was struck once again by the “simple but not easy” axiom as it relates to authenticity. On one hand, what is simpler than just being who we are? But on the other hand, what is harder than offering our real, true self in front of a large (or smallish) group?

“The snow goose need not bath to make itself white.

Neither need you do anything but be yourself.” (Lao Tzu)

 

I’ve never seen a snow goose, but I’ve seen quite a lot of snow this winter. And up close every snow flake is unique and beautiful.

The most engaging presenters are fully focused and radically authentic.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

chipmunk

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.

Related:

Deep Learning

Who was your favorite teacher?

3 Classroom Essentials: Education, inspiration and fun

Transformative learning in the conceptual age

Education is…

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It’s about preparation versus rehearsal

 

My first exposure to the concept of a ‘meditative preparation’ for working with others – whether in a therapeutic, collegial or educational context – came from Dr. Lawrence Shulman in his notion of sessional “tuning in” to a group prior to each group therapy session.

For Shulman, tuning in is about taking a few minutes beforehand to anticipate and imagine what might be going on with each person and with the group as a whole:

  • Was it difficult to get to group because of weather or transit?
  • What other competing priorities might people be struggling with?
  • How safe are people feeling in the group itself?
  • What stage of group development are we at?
  • Are people there because they want to come, or because someone else made them attend?

I have found the skill of tuning in to be enormously helpful before leading any group, including conference presentations, trainings and workshops. Intentionally tuning in helps get me focused on the participants, how they’re feeling, and what they are hoping for; versus focused on me and what I am feeling or hoping for! Tuning in puts me squarely in in the “here and now”. It helps me to be 100% present.

Take five minutes before you enter the room to reflect on the above questions. The best five minutes you can possibly spend: think preparation versus rehearsal.

 

 

 

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A small investment that can add big value to your training or workshop

 

People attend courses and workshops for a variety of reasons: some are there to learn, some are forced to attend, and others are curious-but-skeptical. Yet whatever the reason, how can we add value in the form of creating a compelling and memorable experience? An experience that effectively reaches beyond the workshop into the “real world” inhabited by our learners?

An obvious way to help bridge the learning-practice gap is to offer a package of professional, relevant and well-designed handouts. We trainers reassure ourselves that this invaluable resource will serve as an oft-consulted reference for learners post-session. Yet, how many of these things have you unearthed and pitched out in an office-purge years later? It’s a natural tendency to “file it and forget about it”. So…What else is needed?

I have attended two recent faculty development sessions where the speakers employed an ingenious and appealing strategy. So brilliant, so obvious, why have I never done this before? I am decided that I will now incorporate this into every single workshop:

Give each and every participant a small, meaningful token – a symbol – of the underlying meaning or “spirit” of your session.

Don’t tell them ahead of time. Do it near the end of your workshop or talk. Involve them in an activity demonstrating how they might use it.

 

Example:

In the Motivational Interviewing workshops that I facilitate, we talk about the skill of affirming as one of four foundation skills in this counselling approach. Last week at a session I gave for Queen’s University Health, Counselling and Disability Services clinicians, I handed out “saphires” (plastic, from a discount store) to each participant, and asked them to consider an affirmation that they could offer to a challenging student they are working with. Long after the workshop, that “jewel” on a practioner’s desk is a tangible reminder of mindful practice, and more evocative (and concise) than the 40 page handout I provided! (Or even the one page ” MI Tips ” for that matter).

Learners give their time, attention and wisdom to us when we co-construct learning communities. In the spirit of reciprocity, I have decided that going forward, a symbolic token to take away represents a significant value-add for learners and a reminder of what we have collectively shared.

 

ocean fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every audience comes with varying levels of motivation to learn: What can you do to engage them?

 

A recurring challenge in facilitating continuing professional education workshops is how to respond to participants who do not see a value in attending. This isn’t uncommon, given that training is often mandated by management and the topic or content of your session doesn’t necessarily align with their individual learning goals or perceived needs. It’s easy to get focused on (or distracted by) these less-than-enthusiastic folks, but people participate along a diverse spectrum. A strong facilitator reaches out to everyone in the room.

So, you might wonder, how is an individualized, motivational approach possible with more than just a handful of participants? In my experience over 15 years of leading professional courses and workshops, I have found that groups of all sizes generally coalesce into five sub-groups:

  1. “Keeners”: It doesn’t matter whether they came voluntarily or because their manager made them attend. They are hungry for any and every opportunity for learning: 100% intrinsically motivated.
  2. “On the Fence”: These folks aren’t unhappy to take time off work for your session and are open to learning, but they are looking for a practical demonstration of how and why the topic/content is relevant before they will engage.
  3. “Open-minded Skeptics”: They are generally seasoned and respected experts in the group who are provisionally willing to give you a chance. However, because of their super-strong skill-set they have lots of experience sitting in courses with not much to show for it, and this can impact their motivation for learning in your course.
  4. “Convince Me”: These individuals can be hard core for even the most experienced trainer. They are not happy campers from the get-go, and they are not afraid to show it openly and repeatedly.
  5. “Multi-taskers”: This sub-group has other things on the go besides your training. Often arriving late, leaving early, on their mobile, or otherwise occupied, they are polite and willing to participate when present, but your workshop is not necessarily a high priority.

 

How can we best respond to and motivate these diverse groups, all at the same time, over a course that might range from an hour, or a day, through to multiple days? Let’s look at some quick tips for each:

The “Keeners” are on your side. You really need to mess up in order to alienate them. You will know who these individuals are right away because they are quick to raise their hands, offer insights and opinions, and generally smooth your path. Make sure to explicitly thank and encourage them.

Those who are “On the Fence” can (by definition) go either way. It’s important to prepare a strong start to the session by engaging the group in a conversation – or for a large audience, a demonstration –  of the practical value of the topic/course. A quick “Turn to the person next to you and identify the most important take-away”, or a video demonstration, case example or personal story can accomplish this. The key is to spark peoples’ interest and invite them in.

The “Open-minded Skeptics” can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Adult education affirms that learners come with pre-existing knowledge and skills, and that is never truer than for this group. Because they are, themselves, experts, it’s essential to explicitly acknowledge and invite their and others’ contributions to the content you have prepared. These folks often ask specific, technical questions, and they will know if you try to fake it. Probably everyone else will know too. My own approach is to be up front with the group, respectfully affirm where others’ knowledge and skills exceeds mine, and encourage a collaborative learning environment where everyone – regardless of months, years or decades of experience – has something of value to contribute (check out this link for a nice way to establish this climate from the start: First, empty your cup). In addition, I make a point of naming and reinforcing participants who demonstrate their skills and effectiveness – they are a resource to the whole group.

Now let’s consider those who come across as somewhat difficult, or even openly antagonistic: “Convince Me”. I don’t see these individuals in every workshop, but it’s happened often enough to be worth coming prepared. This is where skills in group facilitation and knowledge of group dynamics are essential. I need a large chunk of the group to be “with” me, in order to help manage what can become a facilitation disaster (I am not exaggerating). If the majority of participants are engaged, enjoying themselves, and find value in the material, it is hard for one or two naysayers to sabotage. On the other hand, if the group as a whole are “On the Fence”, the “Convince Me” contingent can bring it all down. If you do run into problems, here is a tried-and true strategy for How to TAME difficult, skeptical, hostile or challenging participants.

Last but not least, “Multi-taskers” should not be ignored. Artful facilitation can help them shift to “Open-minded Skeptics” or even “Keeners”. The thing is, you may never know because they aren’t totally present (literally). But that doesn’t mean your workshop didn’t make an impression – these individuals are often opinion leaders and influencers with large professional networks (that’s why they’re so busy). Articulating everyone’s right to participate however they choose is a win-win. They will do it anyway, and affirming personal choice and control communicates respect and positive regard.

One caveat: The real world is messy and disorganized, and slotting people into categories is perilous at best. Individuals and groups are dynamic, organic and open to complex reciprocal influences from you, one another and the environment. Thus, my most important tip? Don’t stand in the middle of the stream; go with the flow.

 

Check out more learner engagement strategies:

Classroom Management 101

Five Things About Teaching

That’s just how we roll

nest blue eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slideware 101: Tips and Resources

 

We’ve all been there: the uncomfortable chairs, the slightly darkened room, and slide after slide after slide. Each one identically bullet-ed, punctuated by the occasional graph and the speaker stating, “I know that you can’t read this, but…”.

 

The almost ubiquitous use of slideware has rigidified knowledge communication, and the sad part is that somewhere buried in the bullet points and boredom is someone’s singular message, lost. Not only that, sometimes the consequences of information presented poorly can be devastating.

 

Edward Tufte, a Yale University Professor Emeritus and visionary in information design and data visualization, wrote an influential essay – posted online – pointing to the use of PowerPoint slide decks in NASA engineering briefings as a contributing factor in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster. In their report, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that the distinct cognitive style of PowerPoint reinforced the hierarchical filtering and biases of the NASA bureaucracy during the crucial period when the Columbia was injured but still alive”. The take-away? Templates that structure information into bullet points can obscure nuance and interrelationships within and between knowledge domains.

 

The way I see it, it’s not slideware that’s the problem, it’s how it is used. Done well, visuals (whether video or static images) can add impact and interest to a presentation. But the design tools and templates of PowerPoint et al. are generally used by folks who have never learned design. Thus we end up with…

 

PC World Article: Worst PPT Presentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC World: Worst PPT Presentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out the full article with more examples here.

 

I too have been guilty of multitudinous slideware sins, and found redemption in Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen, and accompanying resources and slide decks. I especially like the PowerPoint “Before and After” demos to illustrate how good design can transform our visual communication.

 

In a nutshell: 

Simplicity is key to good design. Images trump words. Fewer words are better than a lot of words.

 

Here a couple of my own PowerPoint makeovers, inspired by Reynolds’ work.

 

This slide attempts to summarize (via text) the information and context that should be delivered in a narrative elaboration of the simplified (after) slide

Motivational Interviewing Processes: Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivational Interviewing Processes: After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was from a slide deck on presentation skills, and offers a good example of how slides and handouts should be two different things

Presentation Skills: Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation Skills: After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was quite proud of this next slide, which had lots of text animations (shudder). The second slide conveys the “ACE” acronym via the image

Motivational Interviewing "Spirit": Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivational Interviewing "Spirit": After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow this link for more examples of PowerPoint Makeovers.

 

 

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Five big lessons learned along the way

 

1. How do you feel when you walk out the door?

I’ve always valued the axiom that people don’t remember what you do or say – they remember how you made them feel. Think about your favorite teacher – what do you remember most from that class? The course content? Or is it the passion, inspiration, affirmation, compassion, kindness and care that he or she offered? For the most part, process is way more important than content in teaching and learning.

 

 

2. Transformational learning is about inspiring change, not transmitting information (no matter how “essential”).

Another axiom: “To teach well we need not say all we know, only what is useful for the pupil to hear”. In other words, no course or continuing professional education workshop is ever long enough for all of the didactic content that we regard as essential. Here’s my most important learning objective, no matter what the content:

At the end of this course the learner will…

Be so energized and inspired by the importance and relevance of this topic that he or she will continue to access knowledge and skills development long after the session has ended.

 

3. It’s not my decision.

Learning is 100% volitional. So is change. No matter how urgently I believe that I know what is best, that’s not really the point. Each individual is the expert on his or her life, including the learning goals and activities that may guide growth and development.

 

4. Change is a process, not an event – and so is learning.

Teaching and learning are really about change. By definition, seeing things from a new perspective involves a fundamental shift in standpoint or beliefs. Sometimes a (brief) interaction and connection doesn’t yield any appreciable indication that I have successfully “taught” anything. Then ten years later I randomly see a former student at the airport and am privileged to hear an inspiring story of transformation – initiated by something that I said or did. We plant seeds and only rarely witness the harvest.

 

5. We’re all protagonists (and want to be treated as such).

No matter how ubiquitous the student concerns, complaints, issues, grade appeals, special requests – each of us is at the centre of our own lives. Individual experience is at once singular and universal: all people are “like all others, some others, and no others” (to paraphrase Murray and Kluckhohn, 1953). It’s about listening (on our part) and – more important – feeling heard (on the other person’s part). Which brings us right back to Point #1.

 

 

So…although these are my top five, as Joni Mitchell famously said:

“People will tell you where they’ve gone, they’ll tell you where to go, but till you get there yourself you never really know.”

 

 

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Six surefire ways to lose an hour in the classroom

Each spring 60 minutes evaporate when we set the clocks forward. Daylight Savings Time (DST) signals the start of long days, fresh colour, smell of earth and birdsong. But still, it hurts to lose that precious hour, especially when there are few enough in the weekend to begin with.

Of course we get an hour of DST back again in the fall, so it’s only a temporary loss. But for educators and students, how many precious hours of learning opportunity are lost in the classroom? Hours that add up to days, weeks, months and years over the course of a high school and post-secondary career. We could argue that this is a student issue based on motivation, attention or capacity: after all, learning is volitional and each of us is personally responsible. Still, I see this stance as at least somewhat disingenuous.

Even the most motivated, attentive and able students can find themselves wishing there was such a thing as what I call Classroom Savings Time (CST) during boring, irrelevant or unproductive “learning” activities. Here are a few tried and true instructional strategies to make them want to fast-forward the clock:

1. Give too much information (because “To teach well, we need not say all that we know, only what is useful for the pupil to hear.”)

2. Teach people what they already know

3. Lecture for more than 10 minutes at a time (TED talks might run twice as long, but after all these are some of the world’s most compelling speakers)

4. Permit student presentations in excess of 10 minutes each (see previous point)

5. Play a video for longer than eight minutes (and that’s still probably three minutes too long)

6. At all times stick to your script (textbook and/or lesson plan).

There is truth to the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” However, you CAN make him thirsty! There may be no getting away from DST, but we can all avoid CST. Students everywhere will be grateful.

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Why it’s less about managing the class than joining with the group

Recently overheard in a high school classroom: “F#*%  you…sir!”    Wow: Did I just witness respect + disrespect expressed simultaneously? How does that work exactly?

Teaching is a tough job whatever the age group. Adults may be less “out there” than teenagers, but the group dynamics are the same. Groups tend to behave like unitary entities: they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. But if they fall into the latter category they are a many-headed hydra who cannot be vanquished.

Here’s how I see it: If you have to actually “manage” the class that is not a good sign. Now I am not talking about classroom management in terms of providing guidance or direction with respect to learning content or processes. Every group needs a guide to stay on track. What I mean is that if students act out, tune out or walk out, things have already gone bad. At that point it’s likely not so much a student issue as a group issue.

Here are a few tips to help get things off to a good start, and to keep it that way:

1. Mutual respect is an essential precondition for ANY relationship. If it’s lacking there’s no relating. Regularly affirm your respect for each student and for the class as a whole (the “two clients”: the individual and the group).

2. Make it interesting. Easy to say, but how? Three words: make it relevant. OK, but how? The group will tell you if you ask. What do they care about? Why are they there in the first place? What do they want from you and from each-other?

3. But… what if I am teaching a mandatory course that no one cares about? Here’s the thing: There is no such thing as a topic that’s inherently interesting (have you ever gone to a talk that intrigued you only to be bored out of your mind?). And, conversely, there is no such thing as a topic that’s inherently boring (have you ever gone to a talk you were dreading only to be pleasantly surprised?). Why is the course mandatory? What’s the larger narrative? Why is this essential knowledge and learning? These are the primary questions to address as part of an ongoing group dialogue.

4. Show that you care. Not just about what you’re teaching, and not just about your students as people, but about their experience in the here-and-now. Who’s tired? Who’s bored? How comfortable is the room? What else is happening in the world and how does that impact the tasks at hand? This in-the-moment reflection continuously reestablishes the connection between facilitator and class. In clinical practice it’s called therapeutic use of self – tune in to your own experience to help you tune in to the group.

5. Be generous. Generous with your humour, your time, your interest, yourself. I think of generosity as comprised of curiosity, authenticity, empathy and joy. It’s less a focus on how the group sees you than on who is in the group and what you see in them. And be generous with people when they’re having a bad day. It happens to all of us.

Over the last two days I facilitated a mandatory training for a diverse group of health and social service professionals in Halifax, Nova Scotia. What a pleasure – even if some learners started off the day with ambivalence, we all ended on a high note. And just to add…if you ever find yourself in that beautiful city, be sure to check out Cabin Coffee on Hollis Street for a latte and a killer cinnamon bun!

calendar plan 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What (and who) inspired me in 2012?

As the calendar clicks over to 2013, it’s an opportune time to reflect on some of the inspiring tools and ideas that have engaged me over the past year – and will continue to have traction in the coming year.

Here is a reverse-ordered list with lots of links to explore. Happy New Year!

10. Playlists: Every course (or presentation) needs a good soundtrack. Songza is an auto-playlist-maker recommended by Mary Nisi on NPR’s technology blog

9. Infographics: We can all do a better job at presenting complex ideas visually and elegantly. Here is a List.ly List of infographics tools

8. Presentation Zen: (Re)imagining visual communication – Garr Reynolds has been a big influencer on my own presentation style and content

7. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs): The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts

6. Gaming: Networked learning and simulation can benefit from the principles of successful, immersive and authentic hi-fidelity game environments – and this is progressing in medical simulation in Canada and worldwide.

5. Virality: What is the “replicability factor” intrinsic to certain memes? How can we infuse knowledge products with that same DNA? Check out some emerging research by Berger and Milkman (2012) What Makes Online Content Viral? and Stanford now offers an online course on viral marketing

4. Another MOOC MOOC by Hybrid Pedagogy: Because information wants to be free

3. Motivational Interviewing: A clinical approach that maps equally well to teaching and learning

2. Y Combinator: A model with applications for curricular innovation, education research and student engagement?

1. Social Inclusion: Anyone can learn if they have the tools – like the instrumental support pioneered by the World Braille Foundation: Braille = Equality… Why? Because literacy is the key to opportunity, economic security and freedom. Yet in many countries 95 per cent of blind children don’t even attend school due to lack of skilled teachers and limited access to Braille materials.

This international foundation is dedicated to promoting literacy, independence and empowerment to blind persons, with past and current projects in Kenya, Swaziland, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Liberia and Lesotho. I make a donation every year. Plus, full disclosure, the WBF was started 10 years ago by my dad, Euclid Herie, and my #1 inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do when it’s just you and several hundred people

Big room, big crowd, big sound system. It’s all about a big performance, right? In fact, the opposite is true. In my experience, larger audiences mean that it’s even more essential to take the approach of a one-on-one conversation.

What does that look like in the context of one presenter and hundreds of participants? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Talk to the audience as if you were at a really great social event with a group of professionals. In other words, you are kind of on your best behavior, but you can still be spontaneous, authentic and funny.

Tell stories – lots of stories. People are hard-wired to respond to, and remember, stories, so come prepared with anecdotes and examples. These can be some combination of work, practice or personal illustrations of key points. Just keep things brief and to the point.

If you’re using slideware rely on images versus text. This is a good principle for presenting to any size group, but it’s even more relevant with larger audiences where the sightlines may not be as good from every vantage point in the room.

Audit your presentation with a non-expert who has a really short attention span (I suggest a teen-ager). What parts of the talk do they like? Where are they bored? Adjust accordingly.

Promote direct interaction using methods such as: Individual reflection (“Write down the first thing that comes to your mind in response to the following statement…”); Peer-to-peer conversation (“take two minutes and turn to the person next to you and talk about…”); Rhetorical questions (“What would you do in the following situation?”); Video or audio clips with direction (“As you’re looking at this video, here’s what to watch for…”); A call to action (“What’s one thing you will commit to practicing after this session?”).

Reflect what’s happening in the here-and now. Is the room too cold or too warm? Are people tired or hungry? Is there an interesting event that’s all over the news? Acknowledge the “meta-context” in which the session is taking place.

I love giving talks to large audiences: the dynamic energy that happens when lots of people come together is socially infectious. It’s not you versus them – you’re all in it together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presenting in less-than-optimal surroundings

Awhile ago I was invited to facilitate a session for about 160 people over two days. I flew in the night before, and that first morning discovered that we would be spending our time in a…gymnasium. Set up with… garden furniture (the white plastic kind). Gyms really echo, especially with a sound system. I probably knew that already but it has been awhile since I’ve been to a high school dance. 

It can be discouraging when the learning environment is less-than-optimal, but the learning experience is what people are looking for, and it’s their overall experience that really counts and adds value.

Here are a few “Dos” and one “Don’t” when presenting in imperfect environments:

– Less-than-optimal surroundings mean that you are going to be working even harder to keep the group’s energy up. I suggest starting the day with the best coffee that you are capable of finding. For example, this one by twoifbysea bakeshop (see above)

Tune in to the group. How are they feeling? What do they want to do next? What matters to them? You do this anyway, but do it even more mindfully when you’re in a gym and the air conditioning doesn’t work too well.

– Keep a brisk pace by switching things up every few minutes. In other words, shift the focus away from the physical environment through meaningful activity and involvement.

Express gratitude that a group of people who have lots of other things to do chose to spend the day with you, and with each-other.

– And finally, never, ever complain about the room (or the furniture). Not to the organizers, not to the group, not even to yourself. It is what it is. Sometimes, that’s just how we roll.

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