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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2008
Jul 14

I have created my second entry into the SlideShare.net "World’s Best Presentation Contest‘.

 

 

This entry is a high level overview of why virtualization is the hottest market in IT today. Of course, such a presentation could easily be 200 slides to cover all the relevant reasons to why virtualization gets so much buzz. I chose to focus on the primary points, and keep the overall presentation very high level. I kept my focus on my ultimate result and the audience (which is a very wide range of people, many of whom are not in the tech industry).

 

 

 


 

 


 (Viewed best in full screen mode. You can download a complete version of the presentation in pdf format here. Licensed under Creative Commons Non-Commercial -Share Alike 3.0.)

 

 

 

Here are a  few notes on the creation of this deck and the choices I made in creating the slides. I have found that a review of my thought process in any type of communication helps me improve a great deal in the future.

 

 

 

 First, the choice of the title "The Buzz on Virtualization". My opening to a presentation is typically based on a relevant story or metaphor.  A metaphor or story gives your audience a way to relate to the information in a personal manner, and is much more accessible to a diverse audience.

 

In this presentation I decided to use the "Buzz" metaphor for all the interest in virtualization. I like this metaphor because it evokes the sound of "buzz" and the picture of a bee. If I were presenting this in person, I would add in a sound effect of bees buzzing to the title slide. Whenever possible I try to appeal to multiple senses throughout a presentation, both in the metaphors I choose and the visuals used inside the slides. The widens the appeal to a broader range of people by capturing the interest of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

 

On each section title slide I added in a picture of a single isolated bee to tie back to the theme of the buzz around virtualization. I also used the opening question again the conclusion. This is a very common structure for a speech or presentation. I have found success in tying in the opening at key points during the presentation and closing the loop at the end.

 

I used graphics extensively (with stock photos from iStockPhoto.com and Sxc.hu among others)  through out the deck. I minimized the amount of text per slide and used the "rule of thirds" (from Garr Reynolds "Presentation Zen" ) whenever possible.  Garr’s book is an essential resource to anyone who regularly builds slide presentations.

 

The primary font used is Arial black, a san serif based font. San serif fonts are much more readable on a presentation than serif fonts. Green is the primary font color. There are two reason I selected green. First, "going green" is a popular idea inside IT today. "Going green" is about reducing carbon emmisions and energy use, and aligns well with the idea of reducing energy costs with virtualization. Another image evoked by "green" is money. Since ultimately the biggest initial driver of virtualization in any company is saving money, I decided green was very appropriate for the font color.

 

The back ground I chose for this deck is black. All of the early drafts of this deck had a white background. That is the corporate standard at my company and one with which I am most familar. Most of the stock photos I used for the deck are isolated on a white background, so that was a natural choice. Garr and many others recommend a black background with a light colored font. I resisted this initially due to my familiarity with the white background and the stock photos. I have used black before but I was reluctant to in this case because of the difficult in editing th white background of the images.

 

I changed my mind after a trip to the grocery store this weekend. I saw a woman wearing a "Coke" t-shirt. The shirt was black the "enjoy Coke" on the front. "Coke" was in bright white letters and each letter of "enjoy" in a different light color (orange, light red, pink, etc…).  As soon as I saw the shirt I began to pay more attention to advertisements and other shirts I saw while I walked in the store. I found that the most compelling ads and shirts all had dark backgrounds and lightly colored text. By the time I got home I decided to change to the background.

 

 

I think this slide presentation communicates the message very well. I also feel that the content is much more memorable in this format than the typically text and bullet heavy format of most presentations in the software industry. It will be interesting to see what response (if any) this slide presentation receives from the extremely diverse audience at slideshare.net.

 

 

Please post feedback in the comments.

 

 

 

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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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PowerPoint Power Tips

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Mar 16th, 2008
2008
Mar 16

 

Here are two powerful tips for making more effective use of PowerPoint when you use it to support your presentations -

 

  1. Presenter’s View – PowerPoint has had a Presenter’s View for several years. The PowerPoint Development team has improved this tool a great deal in PowerPoint 2007. Here is how this feature is described at Office Online
  2.  

    • You can use thumbnails to select slides out of sequence and create a customized presentation for your audience.

    • Preview text shows you what your next click will add to the screen, such as a new slide or the next bullet in a list.

    • Speaker’s notes are shown in large, clear type so that you can use them as a script for your presentation.

    • You can darken or lighten the screen during your presentation and then resume where you left off. For example, you might not want to display the slide content during a break or a question and answer (Q and A) period.

     

     

    This can be a very useful feature. Many speakers swear by this feature. Despite the ability to see your slides notes and upcoming slides, it is very important that you do not use this feature to increase your dependency on PowerPoint as a crutch.

     

  3.  ZoomIt -Zoomit is a fantastic tool for use with slide presentation, especially when you need to zoom into visuals, screen shots, videos, or demos. The developer, Mark Russinovich (of Sysinternals fame for those in the computer industry) describes ZoomIt like this -

 

ZoomIt is screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. I wrote ZoomIt to fit my specific needs and use it in all my presentations.

ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can use pen input for ZoomIt drawing on tablet PCs.

 

I found a great ZoomIt overview video on YouTube. This video is made by Alik Levin at PracticeThis.

 

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jMLAF-9ACk]

 

 

If you have any great power tips for PowerPoint, please post them in the comments or sent me an email form the Contact page above.

 

 

 

 

 

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But This is a Technical Presentation!

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Mar 5th, 2008
2008
Mar 5

 I was recently on a call to review a new technical presentation being created for the next release of a software product. I was joined by a Product Marketing Manager and a Field Readiness Manger to discuss the content of the slides and to give my feedback. Overall, the slides had a lot of great technical content and useful insights into the product.  Several of the slides, however, were overloaded with text. I stressed my belief that much of that text could be moved to the notes and that the more we used visuals instead of text, the more effective and engaging the presentation would be. Unfortunately, the person who created most of the content did not take this response as feedback (the Reflect of the Six Rs) but became defensive. When I remarked that one slide had over 100 words on it, the volume and the tension raised considerably. Then he used the fateful phrase – "But this a technical presentation!"

 

I must admit, I have used this phrase several times myself in the past, before I came to understand how heavily I was leaning on the Technical Speaker’s Crutch (more commonly known as PowerPoint). I used that phrase when I still believed that the slides were there to be both my teleprompter and a handout to give to the audience afterwards. I used that phrase before I came to discover the there is a better way, and there is science to prove it.

 

Sometime in 2003, I was searching on the web for information on how to become a more effective technical speaker. I came across an article on Wired.com entitled "PowerPoint is Evil" by Edward Tufte. That provocative title certainly got my interest. This article asserts "the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play -very loud, very slow, and very simple". That article led me to Tufte’s essay on PowerPoint and the Shuttle Columbia investigation and his well known short called "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Picthing Out Corrupts Within".
 

 

Tufte rejects PowerPoint almost entirely, and I could not see a way to do my job without it completely. I wanted to find out more about how to use this tool effectivley to support my remarks, not distract from them. His points about the abuse of slideware certainly had my interest, and these articles lead to me to do more digging into learning styles, cognition, and PowerPoint.

 

I soon found this document written by Dr. Richard Mayer and Roxana Moreno (presented at the annual meeting of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Los Angeles, CA in 1998). In this paper, these two Cognitive Psychologists review "a series of experiments yielding five major principles of how to use multimedia to help students understand a scientific explanation". This paper opened my mind to many new possibilities, and provided hard data to back up the assumption that less text more visuals in a slice deck was a good thing. Mayer published a book on this topic in 2001 called Multimedia Learning.  Mayer lists three assumptions of multimedia learning in the book -

  • First, the human information-processing system consists of two separate channels—an auditory/verbal channel for processing auditory input and verbal representations and a visual/pictorial channel for processing visual input and pictorial representations.
  • Second, each channel in the human information-processing system has limited capacity—only a limited amount of cognitive processing can take place in the verbal channel at any one time, and only a limited amount of cognitive processing can take place in the visual channel at any one time.
  • Third, meaningful learning requires a substantial amount of cognitive processing to take place in the verbal and visual channels.

 

Mayer updated his list in this book to Seven principles -

 

1. The Multimedia Principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
2. The Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
3. The Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
4. The Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
5. The Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
6. The Redundancy Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration and on-screen text.
7. The Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are greater for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learners than for low-spatial learners.

 

All of the principles are relevant to the conversation I described in the opening and the plea "But this a technical presentation!".  A combination of words and pictures are more effective than words alone, especially when a minimal text description appear with a visual. Narration with animation and visuals is better than any combination with on-screen text. Audiences that are new to your topic will gain an even greater benefit from these principles than those who are well versed in your topic.

 

Even when "this is a technical presentation" you should aim for a high degree of retention and influence of your audience. If not, why bother preparing and speaking if you do NOT actually want to communicate? I cannot imagine taking the time and effort to prepare a presentation for an audience when you do not intend to communicate the value of your thoughts and ideas. If you want your technical presentation to be successful, I suggest reading Mayer’s work and implementing these principles into your preparation and presentation.

 

 

 

 

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