Greetings once again from the island of O'ahu (making my way across the pond). The legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey once said "If you're not appearing, you're disappearing." This is one of my favorite quotes and is a mantra of sorts that I repeat often. All entrepreneurs know this to be true: if you want to get connected, you have to get out there...and make a contribution, or just learn something or meet someone new. Presentations are great opportunities for that. With this in mind, let me share a few appearances in the near future, some of which are open to the public.
Next week I'll be in San Francisco for a couple of days working with a documentary film maker who is making a Presentation Zen DVD for the publisher. Mostly I'll be in front of a green screen elaborating on some of the ideas in the book and blog. There will be more news about the DVD and the online versions in the future. I'll be doing a couple of presentations including presenting once again at Microsoft in Silicon Valley on Thursday. That's an internal talk, but the next day (Friday), I'll be speaking at the offices of Slideshare in the evening (not far from the Microsoft campus). After the presentation there is a book signing, food & drinks, etc. If you're in the Bay Area, I hope you can make it to Slideshare on Friday. (Here are the details on Facebook, or see the Slideshare blog.
I'll be in Nashville for the Voices That Matter Web Conference the week after that. Really looking forward to that. I'll be talking on Friday the 13th about the ideas of presentation zen in the context of web design, and frankly graphic design and communication in general.
After a week or so back in Japan, I'll be heading to New Zealand for the first time to give two six-hour workshops for Webstock's Autumn series. This time I'm in Wellington only due to some tight scheduling, but I hope to be back soon to Auckland if there is demand. After the Wellington workshops I'll head over to Sydney for five days (July 2-7). No plans there yet, just a holiday in Australia, but if you're in Sydney and you need a presentation let me know.
Later on in the summer after returning to Japan from some presentations in the US (including one in Redmond), I'll be heading to India for about a week for 5-6 presentations and events. The schedule in India looks something like this: Aug 18-19 Bangalore (two talks), Aug 20-21 Mumbai (two talks), Aug 22-24 New Delhi (two talks and one press event). Some really cool people have put this tour together in India; there will be more details soon that I'll point you to.
An article that got some attention in Japan last week was this one (in Japanese), which says the Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Katsuaki Watanabe urged employees to show self-restraint and stop the wasteful practice of using PowerPoint for the creation of documents (what I call slideuments). The CEO made this statement while talking about the need to reduce costs at Toyota. He is reminding employees to be cost conscious and he used the practice of using PowerPoint as an example of waste. Watanabe said that (in the good old days?) they used to use one piece of paper to make a clear point or proposal, or to summarize an issue, but now everything is in PowerPoint, he says, which uses many sheets of paper and expensive colors...but it's a waste. The CEO is not saying that PowerPoint is necessarily harmful (he does not mention its use for actual presentations), but he is saying printed "documents" made with the presentation tool tend to have less content, less clarity, and yet use more paper/ink and take more time. In the context of a challenging economy and an atmosphere of reducing costs, what would you say of any business practice that (1) takes more time, (2) costs more money, and yet (3) appears to be less effective? In the spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement), even if the waste is small, it must be eliminated.
Watanabe's sentiments are nothing new to you. You understand what many people do not: that visuals projected on a screen in support of a live talk are very different from material that is to be printed and read and/or analyzed. You understand that the term "PowerPoint presentation" is antiquated and meaningless for it suggests that there is but one way to make a presentation with the aid of slideware or other multimedia (i.e., the typical death-by-PowerPoint way with a projector or the practice of printing out reams of tiny slides which lack depth ). Many people misunderstood Watanabe's comments to mean he banned the use of PowerPoint. The problem is that in Japan—like other places in the world—there is often no distinction made between documents (slideuments made in PowerPoint) and presentation slides prepared for projection. They are often interchangeable. Sounds efficient, right? And it would be funny if it was not so inefficient, wasteful, and unproductive. The slideuments produced in Japan make understanding and precision harder when printed, and when used for projected slides in a darkened conference room, they are the country's number one cure for insomnia. Again, the Toyota CEO did not say anything you do not already know about the ineffective use of PowerPoint, but given his high stature and credibility we can hope that more people will come to realize that the printed slideument or docu-point is a scourge that must be eliminated from the business world and academia.
I was happy to read Watanabe's comments, but my fear is that because people have not been exposed to many effective methods of using PowerPoint (or Keynote, etc.) for live talks, there may be a push to ban the use of the tools themselves. Slideware, however, is not a method, it's simply a kind of tool. A kind of tool that can be used effectively or ineffectively. It all depends on your approach and your method.
A few days ago our buddy Seth Godin had a great riff about the future of presenting at conferences and meetings. As online presentation technology gets better — and the cost and inconvenience of travel continues to get worse — our expectations for the live events we attend is going to go up. In other words, says Seth, "'I flew all the way here for this?' is going to be far more common than it used to be." On presentations at conferences, Seth says, "If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you're wrong." (The quote is in the slide above — click to get the full size.)
This too is a great line and has direct relevance for just about any live presentation:
"Here's what someone expects if they come to see you on an in-person sales call: that you'll be prepared, focused, enthusiastic and willing to engage honestly about the next steps. If you can't do that, don't have the meeting."
And speaking of Seth Godin — who I consider to be a fantastic presenter with a relaxed, natural presence — let me remind you of this presentation that Seth did at Google a couple of years ago. I pointed to this before, but never featured it. I couldn't find it while searching the [email protected] talks on YouTube, but you can find it here on the Google video site, or just watch it below. Even if you have seen it before, it's well worth watching again (hey, there's nothing on TV anyway!). It looks like a similar room to the one I talked in at Google. It's a good room, but there are no monitors so you can't see your screen unless you turn your head (or stay behind the lectern, but who wants to do that?). No worries for Seth though. A great presentation with wonderful, memorable material.
As I have said many times: if you want to learn how to be a great presenter, look outside the public-speaking and presentation-skills literature, and certainly look beyond advice on how to use ephemeral software apps like PowerPoint and Keynote. Every year it seems a new book comes out with practical applications for presenters and speakers, even though it's not a book about presentations at all. For example, best-selling books like A Whole New Mind, and Made to Stick had valuable lessons and applications for presenters; some of the ideas from those two books ended up in Presentation Zen. This year, thanks to the [email protected] speaking series (where I also spoke in March), I stumbled across this 50-minute talk by Dr. John Medina outlining a few of his key points from Brain Rules. I was impressed with the content, so I bought the book. Then I read the book, and was blown away. In a way, we already know the rules put forth by Dr. Medina in his book, such as vision is the dominant sense (rule#10). We certainly know the power of the visual — a picture is worth a thousand words, etc. — yet we fail to take advantage of this properly in the area of presentation design, web design, document design, and so on. We all know that people don't pay attention to boring things (rule #4), yet the majority of presentations on this planet are less than compelling (to say the least).
Using our brains
Because most of us are not brain scientists, we have virtually no knowledge of how the brain works. If we did, we wouldn't try to drive and use our cell phones at the same time, or create high-stress office environments, or design schools where most of the real learning is done at home, or live on 3-5 hours of sleep a night, etc. What Brain Rules attempts to do is explain what brain scientists know about the brain in ways that we can use to improve our daily lives at school and work. I highly recommend the book. Brain Rules is one of the most informative, engaging, and useful books of our time. Required reading for every educator and every business person. My favorite book of 2008. Seriously – if you can get only one book this year, make it this one. At about 20 bucks on Amazon.com (with a nice DVD with useful video segments), it's a great value. Still, depending on where you are in the world or your current economic situation, even $20-30 is a lot more than free. But you're in luck. John Medina was very gracious in building such a good website and giving many of the ideas from the book away for free on his site and in videos on YouTube. And the Google talk has some good stuff too. The segments on the website also cite the sources of the original research.
12 brain rules All 12 brain rules have practical applications for our personal and professional lives. I read the book (twice, so far) with presentations in mind. I created a slide presentation below which is a rough compilation of some key ideas and quotes from just three of the chapters. (1) Exercise. People who exercise "outperform couch potatoes in long-term memory, reasoning, attention, and problem solving," says Medina. (2) Attention. "You've got seconds to grab someone's attention and only 10 minutes to keep it." (3) Vision. "Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images." People should "burn their PowerPoint presentations," says Medina, "and make new ones."
Above: I started creating slides to use for my own talks based on some of the ideas in Brain Rules, then I thought I might as well share them. The slides may make better sense if you read the book or spend some time on brainrules.com. This deck is meant to be viewed online in about 10-12 minutes or less; it contains far more text than I would use in a talk. (Note: for some reason some of the slides got resized a bit in the Slideshare viewer which ruins some of the "animation." But if you download the PDF deck the slides look fine.).
Brain Rules video clips The Brain Rules book includes a nice bonus DVD. Below are a few clips from the DVD related to the three rules I focused on in the presentation. After an introduction of the Brain Rules objective, this clip discusses the importance of the first rule, exercise. (YouTube link.)
Attention: the myth of multitasking We can do many things at once, but when it comes to paying attention, is "multitasking" really effective? (YouTube link.)
Vision trumps all other senses The power of images. How can we communicate more with visuals? (YouTube link.)
Death by PowerPoint As much as possible, make it visual...bullets can be dangerous.(YouTube link.)
Talking Points Memo (a political blog) reported today that the Hillary Clinton campaign emailed an "electability" PowerPoint deck to all House Democrats. It's slideuments like this that have given PowerPoint a bad name over the years. Nine slides, approximately 275 words, one table, three bar charts, and two pie charts. Why not just write a proper, concise, well-designed document and send it as a PDF? Unfortunately, sending this kind of docu-point/slideument as a quick alternative to a well-crafted paper or handout, etc. is all too familiar.
A note about PZ on Twitter
I received several emails from PZ readers about this Hillary PowerPoint today (thank you everyone!). In future I will be posting certain links to presentation-related videos, news stories, etc. on my Twitter page that may never appear on presentationzen.com. People use Twitter in different ways. In my case, I find it useful to post links (such as hot books, bad/good ppt, etc.) that might not be worthy of a proper post on the PZ blog but are still something I think most of you will enjoy or find useful/educational in some way. This Hillary Campaign PowerPoint is a good example: it's not really something I would post on the PZ blog normally, but it is the kind of thing I will link to on the presentationzen Twitter page. Hope to see you on Twitter. (Speaking of Twitter, my pal Mitch Joel had an interesting post about his use of Twitterfor Six Pixels of Separation.)
David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals shares his ideas on creating a profitable startup company in a presentation titled "The (a) secret to making money online." I was tipped off to these presentations from Startup School '08 because a reader found the online presentation of the talk noteworthy. I watched the talk initially just to see how the video works, but then I got interested in David's talk. Actually, it's quite good (raw and honest, no bullet-point snoozer, etc.). Although the audio quality and camera work are not great (not the presenter's fault) I thought this is a really good talk. Smart content from a credible source and a simple straight-forward delivery. Checkout the talk in the format below (click on the arrow to go to full screen view), or go to the source here. If you'd like to just watch the video of David's talk (low-rez) see the video on the 37signals site here.
As for the online display of the presentation (slides on the left and below with video on the right) I think it's really interesting and it might work very well in some cases. Personally, I prefer to see the presenter and the visuals in the same frame with some good camera work, something like the videos you see on TED. This seems simpler, but it requires a good video footage of the presenter and the on-stage visuals and some good editing in post. I also watch a lot of video presentations on my iPod where videos of presentations like those on TED work pretty well so long as the slides used in the talk are simple and very visual. (Nonetheless, I'll have to play around with Omnisio in future.)
Mitch Joel is the President of the award-winning Digital Marketing agency Twist Image. Marketing Magazine dubbed him the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and in 2006 he was named one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world. Mitch, from Canada, is also a great presenter and is in high demand for his informative and inspirational talks on issues such as marketing in today's world, digital marketing, personal branding, etc. Mitch has shared the stage with former US President Bill Clinton, Anthony Robbins, Dr. Phil, Sir Ken Robinson, and many more. Go to his speakers page on the Speakers' Spotlight to get more detail on Mitch and his speaking topics. Watch this sample video of Mitch on stage.
Mitch Joel has a great blog called Six Pixels of Separation (a book by the same title is in the works as well). If you have any interest at all in marketing, branding, entrepreneurism, and new media then you really should checkout Six Pixels. But it's the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast that I really want to turn you on to. This week marks episode #102 and Mitch has an amazing following across the globe. I've been listening faithfully since January when I discovered SPOS (listen to episode #102 to find out how I learned about it). I love the freshness and rawness of the delivery and I always learn something new from Mitch's informal show. Go here to subscribe on iTunes, etc. Last week I had the honor of being Mitch's guest. Our conversation about presentations and communications in general ended up taking the entire podcast. Download the podcast to your iPod, etc. and give it a listen when you have some free time. It's just a frank conversation (me on a cell phone in Japan, Mitch on a phone back in Canada). Here's the link to podcast #102 on the SPOS page.
PODCAST: Digital Marketing guru Mitch Joel from Twist Image and Six Pixels of Separation called me from Canada last week to talk about presentations and other issues related to communications and marketing. Click map above to listen. (Time: 51:07).
If you are not aware of the psychologist and physician Dr. Edward de Bono, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore his contributions. I knew of Dr. de Bono from his book Six Thinking Hats, but recently my interest in his work was renewed when I spoke with an executive of a famous multinational firm in Hong Kong who said they'd really benefited from some of his methods. Dr. de Bono says that so-called Western thinking, using analysis, judgement, and argument, is largely concerned with "what is." This is all well and good, he says, but it's not sufficient. There is another aspect of thinking which is concerned with "what can be." This type of thinking involves creative thinking and "designing a way forward." Dr. de Bono is credited with coining the terms Lateral Thinking and Parallel Thinking (See Dr. de Bono's site for detailed definitions). Lateral thinking is about changing concepts and perception and reasoning about a problem in ways that would not ordinarily be possible with traditional forms of logic. The idea is to get away from predictable, expected ways of thinking about problems using techniques that help people approach problems in very different ways. Lateral thinking methods can lead to creative and so-called "outside the box" thinking. One of the techniques is Provocation which de Bono touches on in the short video below. (Watch YouTube video.)
Summary of some of Dr. de Bono's thoughts from video •If our brain is a computer, then the software we're using was largely designed 2,400 years ago. We've done virtually nothing about thinking since the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. (In his book Six Thinking Hats de Bono suggests that thinking systems based on analysis, judgement, and logical argument are excellent in the same way that the left front wheel of a car is excellent. That is, there is nothing at all wrong with it, but it is not sufficient).
•Creativity is a skill, not just a matter of individual talent (therefore it can be learned). But it's not merely a matter of inspiration, etc.
•Creativity is more than just being different. The creative idea is not just different (for the sake of being different). Creative ideas must necessarily have or add value.
•People are reluctant to be creative out of fear of making "a mistake." Problem is (at least in the English language) we don't have a good word to describe creative ideas that just don't work...except to call them "mistakes." That is, we do not have a good word for this: "Fully justified venture which for reasons beyond our control did not succeed." If you do not succeed with your creative idea this is called a "mistake." And people generally like to avoid "mistakes." (We need a better word!)
•Provocation is one of the methods of lateral thinking. Provocations runs opposite to our normal logical thinking. Provocations put you on a new path and open up new ideas (even though this may not seem obvious at first).
•Thinking outside the box. Escaping from, breaking out of the box to change concepts, change perceptions, change constraints and rules. Developing an idea that would not have been expected in our usual behavior and our usual thinking.
Six Thinking Hats
Dr. de Bono is perhaps most famous to many people for his Six Thinking Hats method, a method designed to help people break away from traditional argument or adversarial thinking. From Edward de Bono's website: "Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything." Parallel thinking methods help two or more parties, then, engage in more cooperative and coordinated forms of thinking that lead to creative solutions. Rather than explaining the Six Hats in detail here, simply watch the video below where Dr. de Bono, in his typical de Bono analog style, presents his ideas to the audience (an effective method for him). The book is useful, but you can get the basics of the method from the materials available online. You might consider using the Six Thinking Hats method in the preparation stage of your next big group presentation project.