• CBC News (Canada) reporting on the PSA video
• fastcocreate.com reports on the video
• changethemascot.org shows the video
Earlier this month, Hollywood director Michael Bay walked on stage at CES in Las Vegas to say a few words about his work and to praise the new 105-inch curved TV by Samsung.
However, things did no go as planned, and Bay, who seemed uncomfortable right from the beginning, left the stage before his presentation ever really got started. This incident was a hot topic on social media last week and many people were quite unkind to Bay. Still, most people could empathize, or at least sympathize with the man. It does not matter if you are rich and famous or a complete unknown, everyone has their own fears to deal with. The only reason I bring up the Michael Bay presentation is because I hope the incident will remind people that (1) presentation is not easy, (2) fears or anxieties regarding public speaking are normal and affect almost everyone, and (3) it's better to prepare well and speak from the heart rather than to read a script off a teleprompter.
Let me out of here!
Merriam-Webster defines a Panic Attack in part as "...an episode of intense fear or apprehension that is of sudden onset and may occur for no apparent reason or as a reaction to an identifiable triggering stimulus [such] as a stressful event." Whatever we call what Bay was feeling at the time, many of us can relate. In fact, many years ago I went through something very similar to what Michael Bay experienced. In my case, I was in Japan and half way through a presentation on stage in front of a large group when my brain just froze up while I was trying to read a short quote in Japanese. I knew the Kanji (Chinese characters) on the screen, but I obviously did not know them as well as I thought and suddenly I felt like I was having a stroke. My talk was completely derailed and I became so nervous that I seriously considered just walking off stage. My fight-or-flight response had fully kicked in. I was absolutely in a state of panic. I managed to just skip ahead in my presentation to a place where I could regain my control. I knew this looked bad but it was better than walking away, though I would never blame anyone for doing so.
In graduate school I actually did walk away in the middle of a panel discussion. The room was absolutely packed and quite hot. While another panelist was speaking—I was up next—I was suddenly overcome with irrational fear. I just quietly got up and exited the room. People probably just thought I was going to the bathroom, but in fact I was "running away" from the situation. My heart was pounding. After a few minutes in the hallway alone jumping up and down, stretching, and then deep breathing, I managed to calm down enough to walk back in and rejoin the panel. I was fine in the end, but the unexpected panic attack worried me for years until I found out through study and experience that it was normal. Although I do not suffer from panic attacks while presenting any longer, assuming I have prepared, I do—like so many other people—have to cope with claustrophobia, acrophobia, and a good deal of irrational worrying about flying.
Happens to everyone
As you become accustomed to public speaking and presenting over time you will grow more comfortable and able to be more natural, letting "the real you" come out. But if you are still quite nervous about the idea of presenting in front of others, don't worry, virtually every confident and engaging presenter you see today was at some point earlier in their careers much less sure of themselves in front of a live audience. For example, this clip features Steve Jobs getting ready for a live TV appearance when he was in his early 20s in 1978. This clip is confirmation that everyone can get better and become more relaxed and comfortable with time. But it's also a reminder that it is perfectly OK and absolutely natural for you to feel nervous in front of an audience.
Can you ever be 100% comfortable?
In a great little documentary called Comedian (a must for any public speaker) Jerry Seinfeld had this to say about getting more comfortable on stage: "You’re never really comfortable. Even though you may think you are... you really aren’t.” But in time, Seinfeld says, "you learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace...” and you will get more comfortable.
The slides above are from a series of slides available on Slideshare.net.
In the Naked Presenter book (2011) I touched on the issue of nerves. In that chapter a nice two-page callout section was written by my buddy in Australia Les Posen. Les is a Clinical Psychologist practising in Melbourne who uses his knowledge of the cognitive sciences to help presenters deliver their best possible presentations. Below is an excerpt from his contribution to the Naked book which appears on pages 92-93.
Five tips for dealing with presentation nerves
by Les Posen
"Starting about 60,000 years ago, our brains developed a marvelous system of providing us with remarkable defenses against environmental threats. Sometimes, those defenses are set-and-forget types, such as automatically blinking when a bug hits your windscreen, even though you “know” you’re protected. Other times, an evolutionary newer part of our brain where we make decisions and plans—the part that makes us most human—warns us of an upcoming threat. In the case of presenting, it might be fears of not connecting, or of our ideas not being accepted, or of going blank in front of 500 pairs of eyes. In historical terms, we still possess the fear of what it means to be stared at by so many people: Either we are the monarch, or more likely, we are the next sacrifice! Through evidence-based research and practice, clinical and performance psychologists have developed ways to help suppress these learned and ingrained fears, especially when we know we can perform well if only we give ourselves the chance. There are five interventions I teach and want to share with you:
1. Chunking and exposure.
Identify and break down your presenting challenges into small manageable chunks, and deliberately expose yourself to each of them step by step.
Beyond just practicing your slide timings, actually visualize and hear yourself say the words with your slides. You see yourself in front of the crowd and rehearse your presentation to a variety of audience reactions, both positive and negative.
Anxiety grabs onto self-critical talk such as “I’ll do a terrible job. What happens if the slide show fails. What happens if they don’t laugh at my jokes.” Your task is not to feed your anxiety with this type of talk, but to change it into “I can do this. I will follow my rehearsed plans. This is manageable.”
4. Arousal control via diaphragmatic breathing.
Calm your brain’s fear center with slow, deliberate breaths with slightly longer exhales. Slower rhythm (rather than deep breathing) is helpful for fear management.
5. Deliberate practice.
Practice your beginning, identify challenging concepts, and practice, practice, practice—out loud. These techniques work, and I use them myself as well as with clients. They are powerful and will prove useful in scenarios other than presenting."
The tips from Les Posen above are not the last word on dealing with presentation anxiety, but these bits of advice can certainly help. One of the biggest tips to remember as well is to be well prepared. A big source of difficulty comes when speakers simply have not prepared. The only thing scarier than presenting in front of a crowd is doing so while being ill-prepared and unsure of yourself and your content.
• Your Worst Speaking Fear Realized (Nick Morgan)
• Mitch Joel's comments regarding Michael Bay incident
• Carmine Gallo's article with lessons from Michael Bay's presentation
• Les Posen's blog
A side note: Michael Bay did say the next day in this interview that he would have been incapable of "winging" it since the plan was for him to read text that Samsung had prepared for him, not his own words. Moreover, the script, he said, was being changed at the last minute. This obviously was a very bad idea. Even if things had gone perfectly as planned, it would have been a dry, unnatural and underwelming speech to say the least. The only thing worse than listening to someone read a prepared speech is listening to someone read a speech that someone else prepared.
Last August I took the family back to the USA and Canada to see family and friends for the first time since our mom died in 2010. Our first stop was to see our dear friend Nancy Duarte in Silicon Valley. While visiting the cool new offices of Duarte, Inc., Nancy and I put on this little event and also recorded a short conversation. Below is a 12-minute segment from that chat. Nancy highlights the contents on her website, but I am including the video here as well. One of the things we touch upon is children. I'm much less productive professionally than I was before my daughter was born over three years ago, but I think I have a greater sense of purpose and a clearer idea about what's important and what is not. Since having a son almost two years ago things have become even more hectic, but also more rewarding. I think that having children has somehow changed my brain. This study suggests that perhaps my brain has indeed changed as a result of fatherhood: "A father sprouts supplemental neurons in his brain and experiences hormonal changes after the birth of a child." While my passion for work and keen interest in self-development and teaching and helping others has not declined in the least, I find that more and more things — everything, really — has taken a back seat to the simple idea of just being with my family here in Japan.
This moment will never happen again
I still get frustrated sometimes because I want to produce more professionally and to do much better work — to make a significant contribution — but I also do not want to be away from my children. One important thing my children have taught me is to appreciate each moment more, even the seemingly inconsequential ones. Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea—it's an idea I have mentioned several times here over the years. Roughly translated the phrase means "one time, one meeting" or "one encounter; one opportunity" or "every encounter is a treasure." It's an idea that reminds us of something all too obvious but often not recognized. That is, that no moment ever happens again, every moment is unique, and we should recognize and be only in this moment. It's an expression that reminds me to slowdown and appreciate each "meeting," especially with my children.
I used this slide above in a talk almost two years ago, when my daughter was 23-months old. In the photo, I was having my breakfast while trying to get through some email at home while my daughter, who I already fed, bathed and dressed, was playing nearby. While I was trying to get some work in and enjoy a cup of coffee, my daughter suddenly climbs up into my lap and takes my toast. Do'h! I could look at it as a kind of workus interruptus, but I learned to just go with the flow and enjoy these moments. Of course, this explains why my email-answering skills have suffered. And yet, that's life.
13-year old Logan Laplante shares how hacking his education is helping him achieve his goals. This video was posted almost a year ago and went viral soon after, but just in case you have not see it yet I'm posting it here. (Thanks to Jay Pitman for the tip.) Back in 2006, Sir Ken Robinson asked us to ponder a fundamental question in this TED Talk: "What's education for?" The implication being that surely one's education is about much more than just preparing to compete for the "best job" possible several years in the future. "Most education is orientated, for better or worse, towards making a living rather than making a life," Laplante says.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Laplante says at the start of his talk that if you ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up, they often reply innocently with "I want to be happy." This really resonated with me, and I'll tell you why. When I was a 4th grader at Central School in Seaside, Oregon I remember the day our teacher Mr. Doyle asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grow up and to write our answer down on a piece of paper (you know, the kind of lined paper with chucks of wood still in it). My answer was "I want to be happy." At that time in my life I was often yelled at by my troubled father at home. Many nights I was not happy at all, even if I did not know what happiness really was. On some nights I was down right miserable. Anyway, Mr. Doyle collected the papers and then began to read some of the short, poorly spelled answers to the class. Johnny wants to be a fireman. Susan wants to be a teacher. Steve wants to be a professional football player. And Garr wants to be happy. "Be happy!?" The whole class erupts in laughter. Ha! Ha! Ha! I felt like Charlie Brown at the beginning of every Peanuts TV show ever. I am sure if my own dog was in the classroom, he too would have mocked me. It was humiliating. I guess I did not understand that game. For the next few years, then, I would learn to feel guilty about just wanting to be happy, until around the age of 16 when I finally came out of my shell at school and had a very happy home life. It was my beautiful mother and a couple of caring, wonderful high school teachers who helped me learn to be resilient and that happiness was indeed a worthy lifelong pursuit.
• Twitter: @loganlaplante
• Hackschooling FaceBook page
• Dr. Roger Walsh
Currently I'm compiling a list of my "Top-10 books for 2014." One of the books I'm including on that list is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by University of Houston research professor Brené Brown. I am a huge Brené Brown fan. I first wrote about her here back in 2011. Her first TEDx Talk (featured on the TED website) has nearly 13 million views now—and she's been on Ophra!. Her message resonates with many, many people, to say the least. In this 21-minute RSA talk Brown says that it's a myth that vulnerability is what makes us weak. Instead, it is the courage to be vulnerable, to take a risk, that leads to deeper connection and engagement. If you do not have 21-minutes to watch the entire talk now, at least watch this animated RSA Short which uses audio from her talk to create something special. This RSA short features a visualization of Brown's ideas regarding the difference between sympathy and empathy, and why it matters. The animation is by Katy Davis (www.gobblynne.com), and it's brilliant.
The Power of Vulnerability (full RSA Talk)
Interesting ideas regarding blame in this talk. Brown suggests that blame is a way of discharging anger. When we are listening to someone's story and attempting to make connections to find out who's to blame then we are not truly listening with empathy. But empathy, says Brown, is not scripted, it's not something you can write a formula for and then say OK go out and be empathetic by following some sort of decision tree. Empathy is about being present and wholly engaged without your protective armour. There are not hard and fast rules for empathy, but Brown says that there is at least one thing for sure: No empathetic response begins with "at least" (Something she explains in the short video above as well as in the longer video below).
Since we're on the subject, what about empathy and storytelling?
Stephen Apkon suggests in his book The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens that good storytellers are, among other things, empathetic. "All good storytellers, in whatever media, are first keen observers of the world around them," he says. "They see nuance and story in the small details of life, and they possess the skills to convey these observations in compelling ways." All good storytellers, then, do not see the world in a kind of solipsistic way but rather have the ability to slow down and see things from other points of view, and more importantly, from another person's particular point of view. In fact, Apkon argues that learning the language and the tools of filmmakers and other visual communicators can teach young people empathy. "[T]here are three primal components to the experience of media—what we see, what we hear, and what we feel....All three together help develop empathy toward and a connection with the character of a story, which informs children's social and emotional development." I do not know if empathy is wholly innate or if it is learned through education; I suspect it's a little of both. Certainly much has been written about empathy and its correlation with high emotional intelligence (See Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ). No matter how empathetic we may think we are today, certainly we can all benefit from becoming more empathetic listeners, communicators and people in general. I'm very grateful for the work that Dr. Brown has done in this field. I'm not quite the communicator—or the person—that I want to be, but the work of Brené Brown and others is helping me on the journey.
Much more great stuff on Brené Brown's website
The 2nd Edition of Presentation Zen Design is now on sale on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and directly from Peachpit Publishing (which offers a hardcopy/ full digital bundle) The 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design debuted exactly four years ago as a follow-up to Presentation Zen which was published in 2008 (now in 17 different languages and in its 2nd edition as well). Presentation Zen Design (2nd Edition) focuses on teaching basic design principles and techniques to non-designers. The context is presentation visuals but the principles can be applied more widely to other forms of visual communication. Although I did not write it or design it to be a textbook, the 1st edition has nonetheless been used as a textbook, or supplementary book, in communication-related classes at colleges and universities worldwide. The meaning of the term "2nd edition" actually varies wildly. As was the case with the 2nd edition of Presentation Zen, this 2nd edition is not greatly different than the first and will be of most value to those people who never got the 1st edition. While the book is much the same, I spent virtually everyday for months in the Fall refreshing some of the content — cutting some bits and expanding others — and designing what I think is a better book, and a better looking book as well. It's hard to get the look and feel of a hardcopy so I made this 24-second video of the book using Honda's Roadmovies app, a very popular and free visual tool in Japan.
Three professional speakers and two presentation professionals have offered their endorsements on the back (or front) of the book. Here's one:
"In this increasingly competitive global economy, you're only as successful as your ability to persuasively sell your ideas. Garr's presentation design techniques have helped me elevate my own presentation slides and I know they'll help you, too. Garr's book is essential for anyone, in any field, who wants to be more, make more, and have more impact."
— Carmine Gallo, Author, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and Talk Like TED
What's new? Should I get the 2nd Edition?
The chapters are the same in this 2nd edition except one new chapter — "Making an Impact With Video" — was added to the elements section. There are some new samples throughout and a general design refresh. The "samples" chapter was cut down a bit and a few new slide decks added. There is a very cool five-page callout section by Nancy Duarte on something new called "slidedocs" which is very interesting. The contributions by leading visual thinkers remain as they were in the 1st edition. The total number of pages is 288, twenty-four more pages than the 1st edition. The 2nd edition is about 80% the same as the 1st edition. If you already have the 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design, then I do not think you really need this 2nd edition. The 2nd edition is a better, cooler book (with a nicer cover), but please do not get this book thinking it's going to be an overhaul of the 1st edition. If you never did get the 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design, however, then I think you will find value in the book.
This is an iPhone snap of page 242-243. I designed the book in Adobe's latest version of InDesign on a MacBook Air connected to a 27-inch Apple display. This spread shows samples slides and some context from a cool little success story from a local Japanese entrepreneur, Akino Ogata. Her slides were created by designer Keiko Nada.
If you have purchased any of my books over the years, I thank you very much indeed. The support from the book and website readers over the years is most humbling. If you have any questions about this book please let me know. Happy New Year!
• Order on Amazon
• Order on Barnes & Noble
• Order from Peachpit Press
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the first animated TV special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles Schulz. Most people reading this have surely heard of the animated short, and many others, like myself, have seen it every year since 1965. The animated story has won many awards including an Emmy and a Peabody. I watch it now with my small children here in Japan, but every time I view it I'm taken back to a time when I watched it perched on my mother's knee or plopped down on the living room floor in front of our RCA Color TV with a remote control the size of an aircraft carrier (at least we never lost it). The show is a classic, but you may not know of its humble and rather improbable beginnings. When you have a chance, take some time to watch this short documentary on the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The history surrounding its creation is quite a journey and a great story in itself and there are lessons in there about resilience, perseverance, risk taking, authenticity, storytelling, and of course, creativity. Merry Christmas, everyone.
At the two-minute mark of the first scene Snoopy spins Linus and Charlie on the ice sending them both sailing, but we only see Charlie Brown landing and hitting a tree as the title fades in. What happened to Linus? Well, the first season it aired in December of 1965 Coca-Cola was the sponsor so Linus actually bumps into a snow-covered sign that says "brought to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola" before fading to commercial. After 1965 those few moments were cut since Coke was no longer the sponsor. Thankfully those moments live on in YouTube.
Creativity and education expert Sir Ken Robinson delivered two amazingly popular TED Talks prior to 2013. His first talk—presented sans multimedia in the true Sir Ken Robinson style — was made in 2006 and is the most viewed TED talk of all time. His follow-up talk given in 2010 also has been downloaded millions of times. I have seen Sir Ken speak many times and he is always inspiring and engaging, but his latest TED talk, presented at TED Talks Education in April of this year, is my favorite yet. Good presentation is a balance of information, persuasion, and inspiration. Presentations related to leadership must necessarily light a spark and point the way. Sir Ken does not scream or jump up and down but he nonetheless ignites, provokes, and inspires his live audience, and anyone else who cares to listen to his presentation on line, in a meaningful and memorable way. Millions of people have seen his latest talk, but just in case you have not, please set aside about 20 minutes to watch this outstanding, albeit short, talk below.
One of my new favorite TED Talks: Sir Ken Robinson in 2013
Quotables from this great talk
I increasingly speak on the topic of 21st-century education in Japan and abroad so I have a keen interest in Robinson's ideas, and I know you do as well. To help me remember some of Sir Ken's key statements in this talk, I chose several of his statements and put them in slide form below (on Slideshare.net). I have shared videos related to Finland's great success in education before. Therefore, the passages I chose for inclusion below do not touch on his statements concerning the lessons learned from the Finnish system (you'll have to watch his talk or read the transcripts for those points). The slides are in PDF form and may be downloaded. On slideshare you can easily cut and paste any of the passages (scroll down the page on slideshare.) I hope these simple quotes help you share Sir Ken Robinson's message and get the conversation rolling.
One of my favorite talks from TEDKyoto 2013 was the one presented by Japanologist and award-winning author Alex Kerr. If you have any interest at all in Japanese culture, design, and lessons in sustainability then I think you will find this talk fascinating indeed. Alex structured his presentation very simply, first illuminating the problem and then taking us on a journey exploring some solutions to that problem. Visually, I liked what Alex did by keeping text to an absolute minimum and using stunning images that were, for the most part, beautiful full-screen images that filled the 16:9 frame and helped take the audience along on his journey. Alex Kerr's low-key, thoughtful, and visual presentation is a good example of the modern short-form presentation zen style. And the content of his talk provides many valuable lessons in sustainable tourism and beyond.
The power of visual comparison: Before/After & Now/Then, etc.
A common mistake people make with visuals is that they include photos that are too small. One thing I liked about Alex's talk was that his visuals included high-quality photos of his work that filled the entire screen (there were some exceptions). Alex also used a simple technique of showing Before/After photos in a way that made things instantly clear, showing a great transformation. The examples below were not shown side by side, but rather a "Before" photo is shown and then the "After" photo fades in to illustrate the dramatic change.
The "after" photos on the right faded in (cross dissolve) which had a dramatic effect in this presentation.
Alex Kerr presenting on stage at TEDxKyoto 2013.
"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."You'll never get a job doing that!
— Kurt Vonnegut
"You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice—now, profoundly mistaken."
— Sir Ken Robinson
The role of art & music in education
The advice from Kurt Vonnegut ties in nicely with a piece that came out a couple of years ago by Quincy Jones called Arts Education in America. Quincy asks "...can we really run the risk of becoming a culturally bankrupt nation because we have not inserted a curriculum into our educational institutions that will teach and nurture creativity in our children?" The most interesting part of Quincy's article were the words taken from the 1943 War Department Education Manual EM 603 that got its recommendations on jazz completely wrong. (Read it — you'll be amazed.) Kind of makes you wonder what else — in spite of good intentions — our educational institutions and leaders are getting completely wrong today? If our recommendations are based on the assumptions that science is not a place for creative thinking or that the arts/humanities have no room for analysis and logic or that students need to make a choice about what kind of person they are — logical or intuitive — then something tells me we're getting it wrong. We need both science and the arts...and we need to do better teaching both.
"It has been proven time and time again in countless studies that students who actively participate in arts education are twice as likely to read for pleasure, have strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking skills, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair...."
— Quincy Jones
Above: Slide with famous Picasso quote featuring a photo of my son banging on the drums before he was old enough to walk.
• Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show
• Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
H/T Letters of Note website.