Seven Questions from ethos3

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Aug 6th, 2008
Aug 6


Ethos3, the winner of last year World’s best Presentation Contest on and the driving force behind the recent Presentation Design Tennis, asked me last week to do a blog interview with them.

Here are the Seven Questions -


1.  What was the inspiration behind Public Speaking for Geeks?

2.  You obviously have done a lot of public speaking in your 15 years  in the technology field.  What is the greatest public speaking lesson  you have learned thus far?

3.  How important is story as it relates to the world of presentations?

4.  What is your definition of Presentation 2.0?

5.  Who is your favorite presenter?

6.  If you could offer one tip to a person who is opening PowerPoint  for the first time, what would it be?

7.  How important is right-brain thinking in your left-brain industry?



Follow this link to read "Seven Questions with Barry Flanagan".



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Video, Powerpoint and the Back of a Napkin

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jun 12th, 2008
Jun 12

A screencast is " a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration."  I completed a screencast recently, and would like to share the final results and the process to create it with the readers of this blog.


In my last post here, I wrote about the video coverage project I put together for my company’s annual user conference. This video project went extremely well (despite a few hiccups, especially with wi-fi and cell coverage). In the week after the event, I had to put together a report to share the results with internal employees and with the audience for the Citrix blog


On the flight home, I was thinking about the format I wanted to use for the report. I felt that a video about the video coverage was the best way to communicate the results. I dabbeld with the idea of using the Nokia N95 cell phone to do a Qik video, but quickly discarded that notion. The view of my big head adds nothing to a report.


I had just finished reading an excellent book called "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam. This was a very eye opening book about the process of using visual thinking to solve problems and communicate ideas. While Dan’s focus in totally on white boarding, it occurred to me that his process applies to any type of visual communication, including powerpoint presentations and screencasts. I resolved to create a screencast of the Synergy Underground results that follows Dan’s model for the types of questions to ask and answer in a visual manner. 


In addition to using the visual thinking frame work from "The Back of the Napkin" I used several other techniques that I have discovered during my journey down the road to more effective speaking. As I have written about before, I used a mind map for the outline and included it as the agenda slide. In several slides, I followed the Lessig Method for text. The great majority of the sides were simple visuals which I narrated, consistent with the principles of Garr Reynolds book (and blog) Presentation Zen and the research of Richard Mayer.







I am very pleased with the overall results. This screencast is certainly not perfect and has given me the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons as I reflect on the experience.



Voice over – The mic I used was not very high quality. I spent a lot of time trying to clean up noise. Camtasia is great for editing video, but I found the audio editing capabilities of my version to be lacking (or at least my knowledge of how to use them). These lessons have been useful in my preparation for the new podcast series I am putting together for Citrix. I have upgraded to a studio quality condenser microphone (an AKG Perception 200 from ebay), an Alesis Multimix USB mixer and a home made "Porta-Booth" to minimize noise. I have also started using Adobe Audition specifically for audio editing.


Overall, I am not thrilled with my voice over. My voice was very flat in the beginning. In several places I stumbled as I narrated then slide. Two main factors contributed to my lackluster voice over- insufficient practice and the very late hour when I did the final cut. 


Preparation – I spent the lion’s share time trying to get all the other pieces right (the outlines, slides, Camtasia screen recording, etc…). I set a deadline when to finish this, and spent most of the time changing the outline and redoing the slides to fit with the new structure I learned from Dan Roam’s book. Recording the voice over at 2 am was probably not the best choice to maximize the tone and rhythm of my voice. Since I have not done a screencast in some time AND I was using a new framework for the overall structure of the presentation, I should have given myself more time to complete this project.


Visuals- I am very pleased with the content of the screencast overall. One issue does stand out however. It is very obvious now that the video is too long. While I did get many questions about how I did the live video streaming from the Nokia N95 cell phone, I can see now that I should have made that into a separate video. That one changed would have cut the length by about 4 minutes.


My goal for the over all structure was to follow the "Visual Thinking Codex" from "The Back of the Napkin"  (pg. 141). I chose the relevant  frame work questions and selected one of the recommended visual methods  to answer each question. Mind mapping  this new frame work helped a great deal, but took much more time than expected due to numerous revisions.


Using the simple visuals, minimal text and the basic bar charts recommend by Dan Roam for "How many?" questions did help save a great deal of time. Unfortunately, when Camtasia converted the video to wmv or avi format on the first few attempts, there were significant issues rendering the rapid text changes. That issue took an inordinate amount of time to solve.




Despite these issues, I am very happy I went through this process. I learned a lot of important lessons that will help me in the futre. I hope that my writing about this process will help some of you as well.



My ultimate goal here is to create a repeatable process that allows me to communicate even more effectively.This combination of visual thinking from "The Back of the Napkin", powerpoint and video along with other lessons I have learned in the past are moving me closer to that goal.  I appreciate any feedback you have on the progress to date.







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Insider Tips from a Mind Map Guru

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Mar 3rd, 2008
Mar 3


Chuck Frey over at the Mind Mapping Software Blog recently posted the "8 Best Ways to Improve Your Mind Maps".


1. Use a master map

2. Stick to one map, one purpose.

3. Use icons in your maps.

4. Optimize the content of your maps.

5. Avoid clutter and unnecessary detail in your maps.

6. Consistency is critical.

7. Leverage the power of images.

8. Consider creating a personal dashboard map.


 As I stated in the previous post of "The Secret to Creative Presentations", mind maps are a great way to create a more useful structure AND increase your creativity while creating content for a presentation.


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The Secret to Creative Presentations

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Mar 3rd, 2008
Mar 3

In my post "The Six R’s to Beat the Curse", I included a simple mind map of the Six R’s.


Six Rs of Communication

  (click on thumbnail to enlarge)


Mind Mapping is a concept that was introduced to me about 5 years ago. Mind mapping is a fantastic way to improve your creativity and retention of ideas. Mind maps work in a way very similar to how the human brain works. One thought leads to an association which leads to another thought, and another. The physical structure of the brain and nervous systems also works in a similar way – an electrical impulse in one neuron is sent through a dendrite to another neuron, then to another neuron. Tony Buzan came up with term mind map (and owns the trademark) though some argue the idea has been around for centuries.


Below is the definition of a mind map from Wikipedia -


A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.


It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.


A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.


The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.



A process for brainstorming, note taking or outlining that closely mirrors the actual structure of the human brain and our thought processes is bound to be dramatically more effective than typical processes such as linear outlines.


Most public speaking coaches will recommend you outline a presentation as a first step, and not go directly to Powerpoint as I once did. Once I began to use mind maps as my main brainstorming and preparation tool for presentations, I found I was able to be much more creative and innovative. I was also able to avoid "writer’s block" and save a great deal of time. My presentations began to have a much more intuitive structure as well. I now mind map projects, training sessions and brainstorming sessions. I have mind maps that link to multiple web sites, Word documents, mp3 files and include multiple pictures. I highly recommend using mind maps instead of outlines (or PowerPoint) as your first step in mapping out a presentation, speech, or white board session.


There are many resources to help you learn mind mapping. The first one I used was by the original developer of the mind map concept, Tony Buzan. His book "The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential" is an excellent first start. I also listened to the audio book by Michael Gelb  entitled "Mind Mapping:How to Liberate Your Natural Genius" . Today, many more resources are readily available thanks to online video and podcasts.


Buzan himself has made several videos on mind mapping. I found a quick intro video on YouTube -




 This short video (3 minutes) gives you a great overview of Buzan’s seven laws of mind mapping with excellent examples.





I do use pencil and paper to create mind maps in meetings, but my prefferred method is to use software. MindJet Mind Manager is the best tool I have used by far. In the quick tour overview at the MindJet site you can get an idea of the flexibility and power of this fantastic tool. I found a couple of examples on YouTube of how far you can go with Mind Manager 7. The video below shows some of the powerful features of Mind Manager through a mind map of Great Adventure.




There are many other tools available of course.Tony Buzan now offers iMindMap and there is also Concept Draw, 3D TopicScape and Visual Mind. There are several open source options, including Free Mind. Wikipedia has an extensive list of the different mind mapping software packages available.


I recently discovered two web based packages, and MINDOMO. is completley free (for now) and MINDOMO has a free offering and a premium offering.


Whether you prefer to get a more interactive experience with pencil and paper or you want the power of software, give mind mapping a shot the next time you need to outline a presentation or brainstorm for new ideas. I think you will be surprised at how much more creative and innovative you can be with the right tool.




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