Presentation Tips


I finally seized the opportunity to see Edward Tufte deliver his one-day workshop Presenting Data and Information. Due to his rockstar reputation, I had some overblown expectations—something more theatrical, with flashy graphics, head stands, perhaps a light show? I spent the first two hours feeling a bit let down until I realized how antipodal his message is to the marketing flash of someone like Seth Godin. Tufte’s presentation is all about delivering substantive content that is cognitively engaging—an approach that he modeled expertly, sans bells and whistles. While I had overestimated Tufte’s histrionics, he did not underestimate my (his audience’s) intelligence.

The workshop is directed more toward those in the business world who need to present data and information to address engineering problems, inform budget decisions, and the like. However, I found a couple of take-aways for trainer-facilitators.

1. The Super Graphic (or Return of the Handout)

There is a tendency (especially in online learning) to reduce data and information to a minimal amount per screen, or to stretch data sets out over a series of screens. This is driven necessarily by the compact pixel real estate of the computer monitor, but the outcome is to shrink information toward meaninglessness or to confound the viewer’s cognitive ability to make comparisons and draw conclusions by scattering the inputs and forcing super-human acts of memorizing.

Enter the SUPER GRAPHIC! This is a printed, efficiently annotated graphic, dense with data, legal size or larger, that allows the learner to scan the entirety of an information set, make comparisons from proximal visual, numerical and textual information, and derive informed, self-propelled conclusions. This kind of information presentation could/should accompany most online training. Many courses include downloadable handouts of resources as more of an addendum than an integral part of the learning. Why not design a course around a super graphic, using the online portion to direct the learner’s attention, inject probing questions, and allow interactions to demonstrate the successful intake of knowledge?

2. Give the learner time to think

Several times during the workshop, Tufte asked the audience to study a data set or super graphic in one of his books, which we all had stacked in front of us. And then he stopped talking. Attention was not focused on the stage but on the pages of our books. There were some low murmurs of people sharing observations but the room of 400+ was otherwise quiet. This went on for five minutes—an eternity of “dead air” in broadcast parlance.

This was an aha! moment for me. Not only is it okay to give learners some studying-thinking time during instruction, it empowers them to absorb, reflect, and contribute to the formation of knowledge. It allows real learning to take place. Isn’t that more important than filling up every second of audio space?

Do I recommend going to see Tufte’s presentation next time he’s in your neighborhood? Sure! Yes, you can buy all the books for approximately half the price of the workshop, but you would miss the directed tour through the material and you would miss Tufte’s modeling of effective delivery.

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A big thanks to Janie Hermann for bringing this great article to our attention: How to Present When People Are Twittering.

twitter2Olivia Mitchell goes against the conventional wisdom and points out eight benefits to having an active twitter back-channel among your participants and then she takes one step further and suggests that there are even benefits to having your own Twitter back-channel while presenting!

Mitchell has some great advice for managing that back channel and concludes:

Presenting while people are twittering is challenging. But isn’t it better to get that feedback in real-time when you can do something to retrieve the situation – than wait till you read the evaluation sheets a few days after the conference – and find that you bombed?

What happens when graphic designers try really really hard to be boring and to put the viewer to sleep? Check out Before&After’s Bedtime Book Cover challenge for a bit of light diversion before the holidays.

156 designers responded to the challenge to be boring. And many of them did not succeed.

I wonder what the contest results would look like if online instructional designers were given the same challenge. How high do you think the percentage would be of successfully sleep-inducing course modules?

Over at Walking Paper, Aaron Schmidt has started a great conversation on how to give a good presentation.  Pete Bromberg (aka moi) has added his perspective over at the Library Garden blog.  Brenda Hough also weighs in on her blog, Librarians with Class (great blog name!)

So CLENIACS, what are your tips, best practices, double-secret tricks, etc. that you rely on to give kick-ass presentations?

(Here I go again—blogging about another WebJunction event. Can I help it if there’s some cool stuff shakin’ at WJ?)

If you’ve presented, facilitated, or produced a live, online training session or webinar, you have a sense of how many variables are involved. It’s a juggling act with virtual balls. The really successful trainers make it look easy and seamless.

WebJunction has partnered with InSync Training to offer the Synchronous Learning Expert certificate series to help you master seamless and smooth online facilitation, as well as design of online training and the opportunity to create your own capstone e-design project. The great advantage of taking this course through WebJunction is being in a cohort with other library staff with similar interests AND having the new WJ collaborative learning space to maximize your online learning experience.

As a prerequisite to the SLE courses, WJ is offering a FREE one hour introductory course, Learn How to Learn Online. There are two offerings of this course currently scheduled:

  • Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 10:00 AM Pacific/1:00 PM Eastern
  • Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 2:00 PM Pacific/5:00 PM Eastern

To enroll in either offering, visit http://tinyurl.com/5896z8.

Questions? Email courses@webjunction.org

If you are a regular reader of the CLENExchange, you may remember the book review of Card Games by Thiagi, written by then CLENE President, Pat Taviss for the September 2007 issue. Pat described Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan as “an international game master with a reputation for creating engaging games that enhance and support learning.” As the CLENExchange editor, I added an editor’s note to her review about my memories both of seeing Thiagi at an American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) conference in 1988 and attending his 2-day workshop in 1990.

As I frequently tell trainers I meet about the impact Thiagi’s training made on me, I was delighted to receive an email today with a link to a wonderful YouTube video titled Rapid Instructional Design with Thiagi. The April 2008 program was sponsored by the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Training Forum. The email came from Gail Griffith, Deputy Director of the Carroll County (MD) Public Library, responsible for public services and staff development and a CLENE member. I wrote about connecting with Gail as a part of my research for a December 2005 CLENExchange article on Elliot Masie’s Learning 2005 global conference; there is also a profile of Gail in that issue.

Back to the video …the description reads, “Learn how Thiagi and his team undertake complex instructional design projects without the use of time-consuming, low value added traditional ISD models. Thiagi has created, tested and successfully applied his own model that produces rapid prototypes tomorrow.” I urge you not to miss this opportunity to learn and be mesmerized by a master. For more information, tips and tricks from Thiagi, visit his website too.

 

Come play with Thiagi

Come play with Thiagi

An interesting thing is happening in the San Francisco East Bay area: a local chapter of the American Society for Training & Development is becoming the trainer-teacher-learner’s version of a literary salon, and its community of members has increased by nearly 33 percent (from 62 to 82 members) in less than six months.

 

Here’s how it’s evolving: Three of us who work on programming for the ASTD Mt. Diablo Chapter’s monthly two-hour dinner meetings at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville decided to build off of the Chapter’s tradition of bringing in the best available speakers on the interrelated topics of training, leadership, and human resources; we encouraged presenters to use engaging, cutting-edge presentation styles while playing off of the camaraderie which existed within the small group of 10 or 15 repeat attendees.

 

Chapter member Steven Cerri, presenting on the topic “Why Most Training Isn’t Sticky and What to Do About It” at the Chapter’s April meeting, didn’t just cover the topic effectively; he frequently called attention to the techniques he was using and, as a result, kept the event lively, personal, and sticky for the audience he was addressing. And that’s when the magic began: the regulars had never been shy about engaging speakers and each other throughout the monthly formal presentations, but they upped the ante—and made the experience memorable—by being part of the discussion rather than sitting back, listening passively, and politely asking questions while Steven stood before them. And when the hour-long formal program was over, people didn’t quickly empty the room. The discussion continued informally for at least another half hour.

 

Daren Blonski, VP of Leadership Development for Sonoma Learning Systems, inspired an equally engaging exchange the following month on the theme of what trainers need to know to function effectively in multigenerational workplaces. We worked together, as he prepared his PowerPoint slides, to incorporate a Cliff Atkinson Beyond Bullet Points style to his presentation—creating a visual narrative flow from slide to slide without using much text. The level of engagement between Daren and the other participants—it would be inaccurate and unfair to refer to them as an “audience” in this context—was electric. Daren didn’t even use all the slides he had prepared; he took advantage of the lively interactions to cover the material, and the discussion continued informally for almost 45 minutes after the monthly meeting was formally adjourned.

 

Provokare Presentations Founder Roberto Giannicola, at the Chapter’s June meeting, took the process over the top. With visually stimulating slides, a puckishly engaging sense of humor, and a presentation virtually free of bullet points (except when he was using them to show how ineffective they can be), he set an enormously high bar for all presenters who will follow him at Mt. Diablo Chapter dinner meetings. He facilitated a very lively discussion on how the combination of  imagery and storytelling creates effective learning experiences, and it was again with reticence that everyone parted ways nearly an hour after the meeting ended.

 

It hasn’t taken long for the word to spread. That small community of regulars in March has quickly expanded so that the Chapter’s meeting last night, featuring ASTD Senior Chapter Coach Scott Wilson (based in Washington, D.C., but traveling under the auspices of ASTD to serve as keynote speaker for the event), drew 32 participants—nearly half of them first-time attendees, and two of them returning after at least a few years away from the Chapter. One after another, they confirmed that they were drawn to Scott’s presentation on “Current Reports and Best Training Practices from ASTD’s National Office” because colleagues have been telling them about the “incredible energy” that is coming out of the Mt. Diablo Chapter presentations and discussions. And, of course, it was no surprise to find two people standing outside in that warm summer evening weather 90 minutes after Scott’s formal presentation ended last night. Which suggests that we may not be far from seeing after-meeting discussions which exceed the two-hour time frame for the formal dinners and presentations themselves.

 

For more information about the Chapter’s activities, please visit its website.

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