Seven Questions from ethos3

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

 

Ethos3, the winner of last year World’s best Presentation Contest on SlideShare.net 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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World’s Best Presentation Contest – Part II

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jul 13th, 2008
2008
Jul 13

 

The response to my first entry into the SlideShare.net "World’s Best Presentation Contest‘ has been very good. There are a lot of great presentations in this contest (and quite a few bad ones as well).

 

I found several great presentations on presentation design. Here is an excellent presentation on "Presenting with Text".

 

 

This presentation does a fantastic job of demonstrating how you can use text and the many font choices within PowerPoint and Keynote to deliver a much more dramatic presentation.

 

 

 

 

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Build a Memory Palace to Lose the Crutch – Part III

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jun 21st, 2008
2008
Jun 21

(Read the earlier posts in this series here and here.)

Anyone can create their own memory palaces to quickly store and retrieve a wide variety of information or to remember the key points and examples of a presentation or speech..

 

1) – Pick a Palace – Choose a very familiar place (or path or journey) for your memory palace. Your current home is often a great choice for your first memory journey as you learn the technique.

 

2) – Choose a Path – Choose a starting point that you will use for all memory journeys. This can be the front door, the northern most room of the first floor, the largest entrance – what point you select try to stick to that tpe of start for all memory journeys. Decide which direction you will follow from that starting point and how you will proceed from there. If you are able to use a similar starting point and path for every memory journey, it will be much simpler to get started. As you grow more comfortable with this technique, you can use each room of a building to store multiple images. A single wall or an object within a room can become a storage location for a memory. For pi memorization, I use 10 locations in each room (four walls, ceiling, floor, (three walls in closet and closet ceiling). Since each visualization in the Dominic System represents four digits, I can store 40 digits of pi in my college apartment bedroom.

 

3) – Create the images – This step is much easier if you have taken the time to learn the Dominic System. But that is not absolutely required. Create an action scene for the info you need to remember. Make a picture in your mind of whatever the info is, and find every association you can imagine related to those associations.  Ensure their is movement and sound at a minimum. To lock this image in, use outrageous, comical or offensive action. The visualization must be memorable on its own and stand out from all the other images you collect daily. Add in smells and tastes where possible.

 

4) Lock it In – Play the memory journey through your mind in your spare moments. While you are on hold for a call, driving in the car, brushing your teeth or waiting in line, walk through your new memory palace and call up each visualization. A few minutes a day will help you lock those images inside your memory palace.

 

The metaphor I use for a memory palace is a technical one – the master file table on your computers hard disk. Your operating systems keeps a map of all location available on the hard drive. Each time data needs to be sorted, the os encodes the data, stores teh data ion available locations ( similar to to selecting a new memory palace) and keep a record of that location  Finally, when the data needs to be retried, the os check the master file table for its location on the disk, finds the data and decodes it.

 

The vivid and outrageous action scenes built on your personal associations is the encoding step. Picking your memory palace and the path inside it for storing memories is similar to finding available locations on the master file table for storage. Checking the master file table for the data location and pulling that data off the hard disk is a retrieval system much the same way returning to the appropriate spot in your memory palace is a memory retrieval.Translating the vivid action scene back into the needed information is like the os decoded the data on the disk.

 

This technique does require practice. The most difficult for many people is learning how to quickly find associations and translate those associations into a memorable and vivid action scene in a short period of time. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. If you spend just 3-5 minutes a day working on learning this memory technique, you will inevitably discover with a few weeks that you memory has improved dramatically and that it is much easier for you to recall you presentation topics and examples when you speak.

 

 

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Video, Powerpoint and the Back of a Napkin

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jun 12th, 2008
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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The Inner Game of Public Speaking

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Apr 4th, 2008
2008
Apr 4

 

Public Speaking is all in your head, literally. You can come to this blog or 10,000 other blogs, web sites, books, videos and seminars to get a step by step formula to becoming a great speaker. Ultimately, you have to execute on what you learn.

 

This point applies to a wide variety of physical and mental skills, of course. Singing, playing a musical instrument, memory, learning, golf, pool, bowling,  coding, video games, basketball, server administration, and tennis all have a wide variety of instructional videos, classes, blogs, web site, forums, and gurus. Some people are a "natural" and learn these skills on their own, while others may be seminar "junkies" and hunt and eat every single morsel of knowledge they can find. For all these skills and many more, utimately your ability to do well is determined in very large measure by what is going on in your own head.

 

Several years back, I played a great deal of tennis. I found that I could do extremely well in practice, and just as poorly in a real match. I was desperate to understand why, and read many books and watched many videos on how to perform each stroke. While I did learn several new ways to hit a forehand or a serve, my results actually got worse. I was cursed with too much knowledge.

 

Long before I came across "Made to Stick" and the concept of the "Curse of Knowledge", I read a fantastic book that has lessons that apply both to tennis and public speaking. That book is "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey.

 

I too admit to overreaching as a new pro, but one day when I was in a relaxed mood I began saying less and noticing more. To my surprise, errors that I saw but didn’t mention were correcting themselves without the student ever knowing he had made them. How were the changes happening? Though I found this interesting,  it was little hard on my ego, which didn’t quite  see how it was going  to get its due credit for the improvements  being made. It was an even greater blow when I realized that sometimes my verbal instructions seemed to decrease the probability of the desired correction occurring.


All teaching pro’s know what I am talking about. They all have students like one of mine named Dorothy.  I would give Dorothy a gentle, low-pressured instruction like, "Why don’t you try lifting  the follow through up from your waist to the level of your shoulder? The topspin will keep the ball in the court."? Sure enough,  Dorothy  would try hard to follow my instructions.The muscles would tense around her mouth; her eyebrows would set in a determined frown;the muscles in her forearm would tighten, making fluidity impossible; and the follow through would end only a few inches higher.At this point, the stock response of the patient pro is, "That’s better, Dorothy, but relax, don’t try so hard!" The advice is good far as it goes, but Dorothy does not understand how to "relax" while also trying hard to hit the ball correctly. (from page 6)

 

The lessons from "The Inner Game of Tennis" for speaking apply both to learning about public speaking AND to the whatever technical topic you are speaking about when in front of the room. I recall when I first began speaking that I was told by a co-worker to never put my hands in my pockets. When I asked "What do I do with my hands?" The answer came back "Just gesture."

 

At the time, I had no idea how to "just gesture".  In my post "But This is a Technical Presentation!" you can see an example where a technical speaker assumes that more text and information is better in a technical presentation. As Gallwey illustrates in this next excerpt, often more instruction leads to worst results.

 

 

Why should Dorothy – or you or I – experience an awkward tightening when performing a desired action which is not physically difficult? What happens inside the head between the time the instruction is given  and the swing is complete?  The first glimmer of an answer to this key question came to me at a moment of rare insight after a lesson with Dorothy: "Whatever’s going on in her head, it’s too damn much! She’s try so hard to swing the racket  the way I told her that she can’t focus on the ball" Then and there, I promised myself I would cut down on the quantity of verbal instructions.


My next lesson that day was with a beginner named Paul who had never held a racket. I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible.; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations  to beginnings players about the proper grip, stroke, and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind, several times then just let his body imitate. After I had hit  ten forehands, Paul  imagined himself doing the same. Then, as I put the racket into his hand, sliding it into the correct grip, he said to me, "I noticed that the first thing you did was move your feet." I replied with a noncommital grunt and asked him to let his body imitate the forehand as well as it could. He dropped the ball, , took a perfect backswing, swung forward, racket level, and with natural fluidity ended the swing at shoulder height , perfect for his first attempt! But wait, his feet;they hadn’t moved an inch from the perfect ready position he had assumed before taking his racket back. They were nailed to the court! I pointed to them and Paul said, " Oh yeah, I forgot about them !" The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given!


I was beginning to learn what all the good pros and students of tennis must learn; that images are better than words, showing is better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.One question perplexed me: What’s wrong with trying? What does it mean to try to hard? (from pages 6-7)

 

There are some fantastic nuggets of knowledge in this except that led to much of the things I have learned about speaking. "Images are better than words" (for example) is consistent with the research of Richard Mayer. In Chapter Six (Changing Habits) Gallwey gives the Steps to "The Inner Game Way of Learning".

 

  1. Observe Existing behavior Non-Judgementally.
  2. Picture Desired Outcome.
  3. Let it happen!
  4. Nonjudgemental, Calm Observation of the Results Leading to Continuing Observation and Learning

 

You can see much of this advise in the Six Rs of Communication.

  1. Result – this is very similar to Picture the Desired Outcome.
  2. Rapport
  3. ResponseObserve Existing Behavior
  4. Reflect - Gallwey emphasizes "non-judgemental" observation that isn’t emotional or critical.
  5. Range -
  6. Repeatable - Throughout his book, Gallwey stress the concept that "Inner Game" is more about your overall mental process than it is about drilling on specific skills.

 

 

"The Inner Game of Tennis" is a fantastic book for tennis and for any other skill. Gallwey has other books on Golf, Skiing, Music, and work. I highly recommend his approach.

 

 

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