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May 2013

TED Talk: 9 ways to live better, longer, happier

Beachwalk This TED presentation below is one I've pointed to before, but it's worth repeating. The message is important no matter who you are or what kind of work you're engaged in. In this TEDx talk , National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner shares what the world's longest-lived peoples have in common. Buettner condensed the findings into nine easy-to-remember lifestyle habits. The presentation is good in terms of content and delivery; Buettner is an engaging figure. Visually, the presentation would be even better if he ditched that typical PowerPoint template in favor of slides with a background that fit the feel of his other visuals. However, except for that I really like the way he effortlessly mixes in high quality images and video to augment his narrative. You are starting to see more and more people now mix in full-screen video clips (with the audio removed) with other images while they tell their stories or share their evidence.

Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+

 Longevity_slide2  Longevity_slide_video
I'm not crazy about the typical PowerPoint template used in a few of the slides, but most of the time the screen was filled with full-screen images (Left) or video clips (Right) that were a good complement to the talk.

In Sum
What are the common denominators running through the different cultures they studied? If you do not have time to watch the video, I summarized them below in my own words. You can go to the Blue Zones website to get all the details.

Move Naturally
(1) You don't need a formal, rigorous exercise plan. We're talking here a change in lifestyle that is fundamentally active. We're designed to move. We've not meant to drive 100 meters in a car to pick up chips at the local store. Walk, do yard work, whatever. Do exercises/activities that you enjoy.

Have Right Outlook
(2) Slow down. When you're constantly in a hurry and stressed out, this has a negative impact on your health. Limiting negative stress is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
(3) Have a clear purpose. The Japanese call it "ikigai" 生き甲斐 (lit: life + value, be worth while). You must have a passion, a calling, a purpose. There's got to be a reason to get out of bed every day.

Eat Wisely
(4) Drink a little (wine) everyday.
(5) Eat mainly plant-based foods. Small amounts of meat and fish are OK.
(6) Hara Hachi Bu: Eat until 80% full. Do not eat eat until you're stuffed. (I've talked about this many time before in the context of presentation.)

Be Connected with others
(7) Put family, loved ones first.
(8) Belong to a community. Many in his study belonged to faith-based communities.
(9) Belong to the right tribe. That is, hang out with people with healthy habits, physical and emotional ones.

How to live a long, healthy life in one slide
Even nine recommendations can be hard to remember, so I simplified the advice down to five in this Keynote slide that capture the essence of the tips from Dan Buettner's good TEDx talk.

(Click on image of slide for a larger size.)

No excuse for boring an audience: Advice on giving technical presentations

Conference_prezo_1Long before "death-by-powerpoint" or vertigo-by-prezi, there were bad presentations. Really bad presentations. So don't blame the software. The genesis of painfully dull or muddled presentations predates the computer. No one knows this better than scientists, researchers, and academics, who have long been required to attend numerous conferences each year, conferences which typically feature a keynote speaker and scores of shorter presentations by others in their field.

Over the years I've heard from many people with technical backgrounds about what is a good presentation and what is not. I've heard from many of you — doctors, researchers, scientists, programmers, etc. — and your comments have been very helpful. I've read several presentation books over the years specifically designed for scientists and others who need to give more technical presentations. Here are five:

The Craft of Scientific Presentations
Trees, Maps, and Theorems
Scientific Papers and Presentations, Second Edition
Communicating in Science : Writing a Scientific Paper and Speaking at Scientific Meetings
Designing Science Presentations: A Visual Guide to Figures, Papers, Slides, Posters, and More (New)

The book  Designing Science Presentations on the list above was published this year. The author Matt Carter is a young scientist who has teaching awards from his years at Stanford. Matt sent me a copy of his book a few weeks ago and said that he had been following my work for years. His book is very visual and very detailed. I recommend it for any one in a scientific field, although it is on the expensive side.

Scientist offers his presentation advice

Scientific_papersA few years ago, while on the train to the office, I found a wonderful essay in the appendix section of "Scientific Papers and Presentations." This editorial essay was written by Dr. Jay H. Lehr, an engineer and scientist with a Ph.D. in Ground Water Hydrology who has attended scientific presentations since the '50s. The title of the essay, which appeared in Ground Water in 1985, is "Let there Be Stoning!" This should be required reading for all academics and business people, especially those who are to present at a future conference. And perhaps proof that there is a God, this 28-year old essay is available for download (here) from the Western Washington University website. So spread the word.

As you read the editorial, please keep in mind that it was written by a professional with an engineering and scientific background, not by a "right-brain creative type"  who knows more about design and communication than about scientific investigation and processes for evaluating empirical knowledge. Here are just a few highlights from Dr. Lehr's editorial:

On dull conference speakers:

"They are not sophisticated, erudite scientists speaking above our intellectual capability; they are arrogant, thoughtless individuals who insult our very presence by the lack of concern for our desire to benefit from a meeting which we choose to attend."

On the importance of presenting well at technical conferences:

"Failure to spend the [presentation] time wisely and well, failure to educate, entertain, elucidate, enlighten, and most important of all, failure to maintain attention and interest should be punishable by stoning. There is no excuse for tedium."

On reading a conference paper:

"There is never an excuse to read a paper.... Better to lower the level of verbal excellence and raise the level of extemporaneous energy."

On using slides:

"They must be brightly lit and convey a simple thought. If you need a pointer to indicate an important concept or location on a slide, it is probably too crowded or difficult to comprehend."

On showing enthusiasm

            "Be enthusiastic! I studied astronomy under a dullard and thought it
             was a dead science. Carl Sagan taught me differently.
Please read the whole editorial when you get a chance. And if you have any success stories or details of great presentations you've seen at technical conferences, please feel free to share your wisdom
here. I'd love to hear your stories.

Related posts
How to run a useless conference by Seth Godin.
How to kick butt on a panel by Guy Kawasaki.
• "Slideuments" and the catch-22 for conference speakers, Presentation Zen.
How to lecture and keep 'em engaged, Presentation Zen.
Really Bad Powerpoint, Seth Godin