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October 2010

September 2010

The Presentation Zen Bento Box

Garr_bento_box I have always been inspired by the beautiful bento box lunches sold at Shinkansen (bullet train) stations in Japan. This inspired me years ago to start the presentation zen website, which became the books, seminars, DVD, etc. Finally, my concept of presentation-in-a-box or "presentation kit" has been realized. We started this a long time ago, but because we wanted a high-quality product while keeping costs down, it took a lot of creativity behind the scenes and time to bring this to market. I have wanted a presentation bento box to give away as gifts and to give to people who took the PZ seminars, etc. before the first book was even finished. Now I've got it and I am very very pleased with the great work the publisher (Peach Pit Press in Berkeley, CA) did on the design and production.You can order it on Amazon and you can find it in book stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders and also on the Peach Pit Press website.

What's inside: The same original Presentation Zen DVD that came out last year, a 168-page storyboard/sketch book, two pencils, two stacks of sticky notes, and a card from iStockphoto for 20 free high-rez images (a $300 value) plus a discount on a future order of images, and the bento box itself is very nice (sketchbook is also sold separately). When you remove the items, the package becomes a nice little 2-level box for storing bits and bobs.

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A couple of shots of the bento on the train to Tokyo (click for larger size).

Above. To give you a better appreciation of the box, I recorded this video at home in Nara on my iPhone recently of my wife opening up the box in our washitsu.

 CINE_award        Telly_site_bugs_silver-1

Above. The 50-min DVD, which was previously released on its own, was awarded two film awards in non-fiction and adult education earlier this summer.

Obento, Zen gardens, and Presentations

Before & After: A valuable resource for presenters

6a00d83451b64669e201287674b042970c-120wi The helpful advice from designer and executive director John McWade from Before & After is one of the most useful websites out there. I'm a huge fan of John's simple, straight forward approach to graphic design and teaching. His advice is always very practical and he has helped thousands and thousands of people over the years communicate more clearly by learning the essentials of graphic design. John even contributed a lovely four-page spread about using images in presentations which appears in the Presentation Zen Design book. Recently, John began to make short, well-made videos which feature a simple principle and practical tips. As Dean Laffan in Australia reminded me this week, John's videos are actually good examples of how short teaching videos like this should be produced. As Dean said in his note to me, these videos are good because (1) They are short and sweet, (2) Have good production values, (3) Are well thought out and professionally edited, and (4) Are not overly slick. John's style in front of the camera is very natural and down to earth. Two of John's recent videos appear below—let's hope he makes many more.

Video 1. Make sure your words and graphics are in harmony
In this video below John shows how a typeface can express an unintentional message. Now, the "after" example does not mean that it is the best solution possible, but it is a big improvement and serves to illustrate what a difference shapes (from sharp to soft) can make. Personally, I do not have a problem with the color red for the tooth as the tooth is actually white taking up the negative space (though John does raise a good point). Additionally, red has good contrast with the blues and red & white are also a symbol of help or medical care such as in the Red Cross association, etc.

Video 2.
Working in a tiny space: Think simple
John's point in the video below about choosing simpler and more focused images is especially important for websites but the concept is applicable to presentation visuals as well. A common problem in presentation graphics are designs which have too many elements and lack a clear focal point. A good photography tip as well is to try to compose your shots in a way that eliminates unnecessary detail or clutter.

10 non-PowerPoint books all presenters should have

The power of online video (and presentation) to change the world

This new talk by TED curator Chris Anderson is a great example of a naked talk given with the support of technology. This is one of my favorite talks ever, in part because of the content, and in part because of the way it was delivered. Anderson is not slick or over rehearsed, he speaks in a human voice, imperfections and all. He speaks from the heart. His embedded video and visuals help but do not get in the way. The visual amplifies his narrative and helps him take people on a little journey. Anderson states that the rise of web video created a growing worldwide phenomenon called Crowd Accelerated Innovation. 

Our brains are "exquisitely wired" for the medium of video, Anderson says. And the potential reach is enormous. "Today, one person speaking can be seen by millions." Watch the talk below or here on TED.

The rise of face-to-face communication
Toward the end of his talk, Chris speaks to the power of face-to-face communication and presentation. As he says, information often can be taken in faster by reading it. But there is a necessary depth and richness that is often missing. Part of the effectiveness of a presentation is the visual impact and the show and tell aspect of it, but there is more to it than that. "There's a lot more being transferred than just words. It is in that nonverbal portion that there's some serious magic. Somewhere hidden in the physical gestures, the vocal cadence, the facial expressions, the eye contact, the passion, and the kind of awkward British body language, the sense of how the audience are reacting.... There are hundreds of subconscious clues that go to how well you will understand and whether you are inspired."

Fine-tuned for face-to-face communication
Reading and writing are relatively recent inventions, Anderson says. "Face-to-face communication has been fine tuned by millions of years of evolution. That's what's made it into this mysterious powerful thing it is. Someone speaks, and there is resonance in all these receiving brains. [Then] the whole group acts together. This is the connective tissue of the human super organism in action. It has driven our culture for millennia." Now, print came long 500 years ago and was a challenge to the face-to-face communication largely because it scaled. Ideas could now spread far and wide. And the art of the spoken word withered on the vine, says Anderson. "But now, in the blink of an eye, the game has changed again. What Gutenberg did for writing, online video can now do for face-to-face communication."

Prezi has potential
Prezislide Prezi is a good tool when used with discretion and restraint. If not used well, the tool can quickly lead to superfluous spinning and zooming effects that are distracting. Prezi works well in non-linear presentation situations such as an interactive class where you are explaining something that is spacial and you want to be able to zoom in and out as questions arise. Yet, I think Chris Anderson shows how Prezi can be used effectively in a linear talk like this which has the feeling of a story and a journey. But what really made this talk good was Anderson's idea and the simple organization of the idea around a metaphor. The visual presentation was enhanced in video editing a bit. I would like to see simple cuts to next full-bleed image as was done in editing of this video. For example, four images displayed individually that play in succession without a transition effect between them (rather than four small images shown on one screen at the same time).These simple cuts from one full-screen image to another would be a welcomed change of pace.


Presentation (and life) lessons from the dojo

Judo_sm Kyuzo Mifune (1883–1965) is considered one of the great Judo masters of the modern era. Though Mifune was not large physically, even in his old age he could defeat much larger and younger men. According to John Stevens in Budo Secrets, Mifune often used a technique called kuki-nage (air throw) which is based on the principle of a perfect sphere. "A sphere never loses its center, it moves swiftly without strain, and it does not resist force." The meaning of the term Judo (柔道) is gentle+way or "The way of gentleness." A key tenet of Judo is that the soft controls the hard, that one can be successful by adapting to constantly changing circumstances and using the opponent's force against himself.

Kyuzo Mifune's seven rules of judo practice.
These seven rules are written for those who practice the martial art of Judo, yet you can use your imagination to see how these simple rules are invaluable guides that you can apply to your own life and work outside the dojo. You can certainly see the applications to public speaking and leadership. For example, a sure way to lose credibility in front of most audiences is to make light of your competition (in the case of business) by saying disparaging things about them. True humility is a sign of strength, over confidence or arrogance is a sign of weakness. Take some time to think about these seven rules as they relate to your own life and work.
  1. Do not make light of an opponent.
  2. Do not lose self-confidence.
  3. Maintain a good posture.
  4. Develop speed.
  5. Project power in all directions.
  6. Develop self-control.
  7. Never stop training.

There are no quick fixes or secret techniques
Whether we are talking about business, or presentation, or of life in general, there are no panaceas to the challenges we face. There is no substitute for study and steady practice and a commitment to continuous improvement. For this point, too, Judo has a lesson for all of us. "Do not place hope in finding a secret technique," said Kyuzo Mifune. "Polish the mind through ceaseless training; that is the key to effective techniques."


Create and communicate meaning

What entrepreneurship and the art of presentation have in common is they are both really about creating meaning. This simple fundamental is often forgotten (or was never learned). In business, we need to make money, of course. This is a given. But the focus and the very reason one goes into the business should not be money. This is not because the pursuit of wealth is ignoble, but it may be a signal that one's focus is misplaced. If acquiring wealth is the primary goal of an entrepreneur, ironically the wealth will rarely materialize. This video clip below from a 2004 presentation by Guy Kawasaki at Stanford University explains this point better. "If you make meaning, you'll probably make money. But if you set out to make money you will probably not make meaning and you will not make money," says Kawasaki.

Tom Wujec on 3 ways the brain creates meaning
Make_meaning If you are going to create something significant that makes the world a better place, that rights a wrong, that solves a problem, or prevents the end of something good, then you are going to have to tell this story of meaning and significance to others. You are, after all, creating a cause not just a business. Those who have never been an entrepreneur assume business is only about money, and those who have never presented (or taught) assume it's all about information and data. Information is important, but information or data alone are not story. Information or data alone are not meaning. We need to show context and why it matters. We need to engage the whole mind of the audience when telling stories of our great or humble cause. And when we are telling our story, one of the best ways to augment our message is visually. Images and visualizations of data can show evidence and also tap our emotions. In this very short clip from TED University in Long Beach, Tom Wujec talks about how the brain creates meaning and how we can take advantage of that. In the end Wujec suggests we use images in three ways: (1) Use images to clarify ideas. (2) Use images to create engagement with your ideas. (3) Use images to augment memory with persistent and evolving views.

Presentation Zen seminar in Tokyo October 2

Associe If you are in Japan in early October, please consider joining my presentation zen seminar on Saturday, October 2 from 12 noon to 5:00pm. This event is sponsored by Nikkei Business Associé Magazine (pdf of magazine article on this seminar). The cost is ¥29,800 per person and includes the Presentation Zen Design book in Japanese and the pz storyboarding/sketch book plus drinks and a light snack. We held the same seminar in July and it sold out in a few days. I will speak in English while presenting with Japanese interpretation, this is how we did the first seminar and it went really well. So if you are not Japanese and can speak only a little Japanese, you will still feel comfortable in this environment. Register here or click on banner below.

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Above are a couple of pics from the July seminar to give you a feel for the event. More pics here. (I will also hold a similar seminar 5-hour seminar December 7 in Paris, France—more on that later.)

Naked talk in Silicon Valley
Nancy Duarte held a presentation zen naked tweetup in the Duarte office when I was in Silicon Valley a couple of weeks ago.
I was under the influence of jet lag and was pretty tired from a morning seminar over at Stanford University down the street, but it was a great night. We had a very nice party and I got to meet a lot of cool people who read this blog. Thanks so much to everyone who came out. The event was streamed live. You can watch an archive of the presentation here. My talk was actually about 26 minutes with another 15-20 minutes of Q&A.

Click on the image from the naked talk above to see the video.

Presentation: A few minutes with John Cleese on creativity

Laptop.001 Below is an excellent 10-min video clip from a presentation by John Cleese expressing a few of his ideas on creativity. One of the main problems for many of use today is that we are always in a hurry and our minds are a bit scattered juggling many balls in the air. But if we are racing around all day with a busy mind, Cleese says, we are not going to have many creative ideas. We must slow down our minds to see the connections. There is some evidence that insights, for example, are best captured when we slow down, clear the noise and do not think about the problem at hand. In David Rock's book Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, he says "Having insights involves hearing subtle signals and allowing loose connections to be made. This requires a quiet mind...." In a world that is always online and always connected, it's helpful to close your computer as much as possible. Remove the distractions. As Cleese says, "We don't know where we get our ideas from. We do know that we do not get them from our laptops."

Create an oasis or "tortoise  enclosure"
Tortoise One key to being more creative, says Cleese, is to avoid interruption. This is very important, yet increasingly difficult. So the question, then, is how to become more creative in a frantic, high-paced world that is filled with interruptions and demands to multitask. Cleese's idea is that we must create a sort of "tortoise enclosure," an atmosphere that is safe and free from the threat of interruption. You have to create an oasis in your life in the middle of what is a kind of chaos for most of us. We must create clear boundaries of space and of time. Creating the space to avoid interruptions may be difficult at home and at work (ironically), but it must be done. If you have a nice private office at work or a good home office, it's easier. If you do not have one of these luxuries, as Cleese mentions you can always find some other kind of oasis such as the park or a coffee shop or the beach and so on. It's important to find alone time or uninterrupted time and space for your team in the case of collaboration. Cleese suggests that when we create this "oasis of boundaries" where we will not be interrupted, we must give ourselves a clear starting time and a clear finishing time. A boundary of time as well as space is important in order for play and creativity to flourish. Play happens when there are clear boundaries from ordinary life.

Quiet.005  Quiet.006
For introspection and for insight, we need to slow our busy minds. Often this means getting off the grid completely, if even only for a short period.