Category Archives: braindump

Braindump: Presentation kaizen

Kaizen: relentless improvement

When I think of becoming a better presenter, I think of four key areas:

  • Content: the raw material
  • Organization: how you put it together to make sense
  • Presentation: the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic aspects
  • Delivery and interaction: the performance

All four areas can be separately and deliberately practised to help you build your skill.

CONTENT: Writing journal entries, blog posts, and articles is an excellent way to deliberately practice building content. Here are some ideas for finding content worth sharing:

  • Think about what you’ve learned that other people need to know.
  • Read lots of books on a topic. Summarize them and add your own insights.
  • List the top challenges someone might face in a particular area (ex: facilitating meetings) and how to deal with them. Illustrate this with stories.
  • List five to ten unexpected tips on a topic and illustrate them with stories.
  • Come up with a creative metaphor combining two or three very different things. Illustrate.
  • Collect interesting statistics, stories, pictures, and videos.
  • Learn something new. Share it.
  • Take a cliche and change it. Illustrate.
  • Pick a famous person with interesting quotes. Apply to a different field.
  • Blog. Review your archive to find things that people find useful. Revise or summarize in a presentation or blog post.
  • Pick an action you want people to take. Assemble stories and tips to help them change.

ORGANIZATION: A good talk hangs together well. It’s of one piece. It flows. It’s memorable.

  • Read books. Watch other presentations, TV commercials, etc. Look for the framework and sequencing of ideas.
  • Take an existing talk (even by someone else). Restructure it. Find the key message. Cut out all the things that don’t support the key message.
  • Take your raw material. Pick out key elements.
  • Play with finding acronyms and mnemonics.
  • Play with structure: location, alphabet, time, category, hierarchy.

PRESENTATION: There are so many ways to express ideas.

  • Watch other presentations for inspiration. Slideshare and TED have many great examples. Take notes on what you like and don’t like.
  • Develop a visual vocabulary by looking at ads, photography, videos, and so on.
  • Keep an ear open for vivid language and imaginative metaphors.
  • Experiment with different ways to look at an idea. The Back of the Napkin has a great framework (SQVID).
  • Turn blog posts and book reviews into presentations and share them on sites like Slideshare.
  • Listen to and tell stories.
  • Read design books.
  • Look for great data visualizations and ways to make statistics come alive.

DELIVERY AND INTERACTION:

  • Watch other presenters. Take notes on what you like and don’t like. Every presentation (even a boring one) is a learning opportunity.
  • Listen to speeches, radio programs, and other examples.
  • Attend webinars to see how they handle the backchannel.
  • Read speaking books.
  • Stop thinking of people as audience. Think of them as participants who can teach you a lot. Experiment with ways to involve them and learn from them.
  • Practise and reflect.
  • Record yourself and review it. Build on your strengths.

See also: <a href=”http://sachachua.com/wp/2009/04/seven-tips-for-making-better-presentations/”>Another seven tips for making better presentations</a>

Thoughts on preparing an Ignite-style presentation

Creativity loves constraints, and the Ignite style of presentations has lots of constraints. Your speech has to fit into five minutes. You have room to make one point and perhaps tell one story. You have twenty slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds, although you can slow down by duplicating slides or speed up by using timed animation. You’re giving your presentation to a live audience, so you need to be part actor and part stand-up comedian. Oh, and you’re just one in a long line-up of five-minute speeches, so you need to stand out if you want people to remember your point.

My first Ignite-style presentation will be The Shy Presenter, which I’ll share at IgniteTO this Wednesday. It’ll be a fun experiment that builds on a lot of things I already do for my regular talks.

Full notes

So let me take apart my process to see how I can improve it, or if I’ve picked up any tips that other people might find useful.

I write about a topic before preparing a talk for it so that I can find out what I know, whether it’s useful, and whether I care enough to invest a few hours into preparing a presentation. (Yes, it’s that old skills-needs-passion sweet spot. Handy!)

Ideally, I’ll have blogged about a topic often enough to figure out the key points I want to communicate, and then it’s just a matter of reviewing the previous posts, summarizing them, and editing the points. Not having lots of blog posts about a topic is often a danger sign, as I learned two years ago:

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But sometimes an interesting presentation opportunity comes up, and I’ll flesh out new material after people have okayed my title/abstract.

I’ll mindmap what people come in with, what I want them to leave with, and what I can put together to help them along the way.  I also find it useful to braindump a quick list of points I might want to make.

I like making my talks short. I usually try to fit my talks into 7-15 minutes, which is good practice in finding the core of a message and putting together a few supporting points. A good way to estimate this is to take your target words per minute and multiply it by your time, adjusting for pauses. I usually aim for 150wpm (in the middle of the 140-160wpm often suggested by books on public speaking), although I often end up speaking at 180-200wpm. Then I read things through and tweak the text until it fits.

Keeping it short and simple also makes it easy for me to remember. The shorter it is, the more I can improvise to fit the needs of time.

I post my speaker notes online. It lessens the surprise, but it makes the notes easy to share, search, and get feedback on.

Then I split my notes/script into segments. For Ignite, that’s about 37 words per segment. Editing smoothens things out.

At this point, I can usually think of a few simple ways to illustrate each segment. Sometimes I write out the visual sequence and then storyboard it. Other times, I go straight to the storyboard. Sometimes images or segments pop into my imagination, and I rework my writing to include it.

Then I draw the pictures and make slides. I usually use Inkscape because that makes it easy to edit my drawings to reasonably resemble my imagination. I’ve been experimenting with MyPaint lately, though. It takes more work, but it’s interesting.

I post the slides on Slideshare and add it to my blog post, again trading surprise for sharing, search, and feedback.

Once I’ve boiled the idea down to slides, I can work on remembering the key points for each slide. If the key points flow together and people get interested in a topic, they can always look up the full notes on my blog. That means I don’t have to worry about following the script word for word. So if it turns out I have less time than expected, or more time than expected, or I forget something or people want to learn more about something, I can adapt.

And then there’s the blog post on the day of the presentation, and the blog post following up on what I learned from the presentation, and the blog post following up on people’s questions, and the blog post about any revisions, and the blog post about process or content tips (like this one!), and the tweets and Slideshare embeds and all of those other things that mean that the four hours or so invested into preparing a presentation pay off several times over…

Here’s a totally numbers-from-a-hat estimate:

So that’s how I generally prepare my talks. =)

The Shy Presenter: braindumping an introvert’s guide to public speaking

Why speak

  • You’ll learn even more about your topic
  • You’ll meet lots of people without having to start the conversation
  • You can make a bigger difference

Challenges

  • Don’t know what to share
  • Don’t know how to share it
  • Don’t know whom to share it with
  • Anxious about reception

Typical approach (scary!)

  • Practice with friend or mirror
  • Join Toastmasters and other speaking groups to work on confidence and delivery
  • Typical advice doesn’t help you figure out what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how to get up there

Here’s another way

  • Write (journal or blog) until you figure out what other people ask you for help about or something that can save other people time
  • Test your material by writing a blog post.
  • Share a lot of blog posts so that there are plenty of opportunities.
  • When you see that there’s interest, test your topic again by making a short slide deck. Share this on Slideshare or some other presentation site. Keep your presentation short and simple. Less to remember, less to forget.
  • Share lots of those and see which take off.
  • Based on interest, decide which ones you want to turn into a webinar. Webinars are a good way to start because you can refer to your notes and not worry too much about body language.
  • Propose your webinar to a virtual conference or webinar series organizer.
  • If accepted, revise your slides, rehearse your ideas, and go for it!

Why this works

You’ve already done the hard work of thinking through your topic, checking for interest / sense, and preparing your slides.

You don’t have to worry about people not being interested or people not finding value in your work because you’ve tested the topics beforehand.

You can connect with a friendly audience before and after your talk.

Next steps

Make a list of things you know that other people might benefit from.

Write a journal entry or blog post that explains one of those things. Repeat.

Lessons from LifeCamp

I had a great time organizing and learning from LifeCampTO at Linux Caffe on January 31, 2009. We started at 10:30 AM, and the conversations continued until around 2 PM. Sixteen people attended, and we had tremendous fun.

I brought along some markers and a pad of paper. Each participant had a piece of paper with a number on it, and they wrote down their e-mail address, what they wanted help with, and what they could offer help with. People then stood up and introduced themselves. As each person talked about what he or she wanted help with, people who could help them raised their pieces of paper up, and the person introducing himself or herself wrote those numbers down. As each person talked about what they could help with, other people who wanted help raised their pieces of paper, and then wrote the corresponding number down. I collected all (well, almost all – one participant is missing!) the papers afterwards, and I promised to e-mail everyone the appropriate introductions.

During the introductions, a few general-interest topics emerged: productivity, entrepreneurship, and networking. We decided to have a few big 20-minute conversations around each of those topics instead of breaking up into lots of little conversations. Here are my notes from those conversations:

Productivity

  • Study Hacks – good tips for academic and non-academic success; check out practices for focus
  • Control your environment to avoid distractions
  • Change your environment if you need to. You may find it hard to work at the kitchen table because you associate that with eating, for example.
  • Break tasks down into smaller, more doable things.
  • Structured procrastination
  • Flylady – good tips for household chores, also breaking tasks down into 15-minute chunks
  • Meditation – breathing is good
  • Taking care of things helps you relax and be creative
  • Doing manual stuff (washing dishes, etc.) can be a form of meditation as well
  • Sometimes doing opposite kinds of activities (ex: away from computer) can help spark creativity
  • Anything can become a meditation
  • Nature walks are nice, too
  • Block out time to do things
  • Try sharing your goals online. Take advantage of peer pressure, and tap your community
  • Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way, morning pages
  • Routines are helpful
  • RescueTime provides good analysis of where your time goes
  • Block time – find an extension that blocks your Internet surfing of time-wasting sites, and get a friend to set the password
  • Make a list of three tasks that would lead to significant progress, and focus on those
  • Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fit available time, so shorten the time you have. Give yourself early deadlines.
  • Pareto’s Principle – 80% value comes from 20%. Find the important few.
  • Examine areas of your life and figure out your priorities
  • Basecamp – a number of people swear by it. Other tools: Remember the Milk, Google Tasks, OmniFocus
  • Inbox Zero – good approach to e-mail. See also Trusted Trio: follow up, archive, or hold
  • Figuring out what you want to do with your life: Covey approach (vision, projects), GTD approach (get on top of little things so you can free yourself to be creative; little things define you)
  • See also The Joy of Not Working, perhaps?

Self-employment, entrepreneurship

  • Services portals, PayPal – international business
  • Business plan, self-employed benefits – Tania Samsonova can help
  • LinkedIn is very useful: connections, testimonials, answers
  • Social networks in general are useful for reaching out, asking for help, offering help
  • Friendfeed – good way to keep in touch with people with multiple presences
  • Check out WordPress integration with LinkedIn Apps
  • GigPark – recommendations for services
  • FreshBooks – invoicing
  • Wesabe, Yodlee – personal financing
  • Social networking – look for opportunities to connect the dots
  • E-mail newsletters – good way to keep in touch
  • LinkedIn – good way to start with an external profile / resume. Less in-your-face than sending resumes to people.
  • Business cards are very useful. Use them for advertising, too. Don’t just list occupation – talk about business benefit. See Vistaprint.ca
  • Take notes. Business card? Watch out for etiquette. Maybe a notebook or PDA. Use keywords or pictures of people to trigger memory.
  • Look for Ugly Betty episode on networking – ask Rochelle Latinsky
  • If you don’t want to give out business cards (eco footprint), carry a notebook or PDA, and get other people’s contact information. Also check out recycled business cards, soya
  • Domain name very useful. People hiring often notice that (compared to, say, @hotmail address).
  • LinkedIn – import your address book and see who’s online
  • Spokeo

Networking

  • Ask people questions and get them to talk about themselves
  • Follow up – ping them, talk about specifics of your conversation
  • Go to diverse events
  • Dealing with interpersonal conflict – Ian Garmaise recommended Swordless Samurai
  • When faced with ideas or events that grow beyond you, let the group culture lead itself, and don’t be afraid to start again
  • Put out your best ideas instead of worrying about people hijacking them
  • Handshake, eye contact, hand sandwich?
  • Live a diverse life – makes you interesting, makes it easier to connect with people
  • OtherInbox – lets you automatically set up alternate e-mail addresses, RSS view. Also see gmail: [email protected] Doesn’t work for all sites.
  • usernamecheck, Naymz – checking your web presence (UPDATE: Fixed link to Naymz, thanks; arrgh, weirdly spelled services!)
  • Mr. Tweet, Tweepler – review Twitter followers (UPDATE: Thanks for MrTweet link correction)
  • Summize, search.twitter.com, Tweepsearch (search bios) – find tweeters with similar interests
  • Mixing personal and professional – not bad, may even be good; helps build connection. “Show that you’re human.”
  • If you’re not comfortable with even one person seeing what you’ve written, don’t put it online
  • Write teasers, put content somewhere< ?li>
  • Check out Toastmasters, good way to connect
  • Volunteering is also a great way to meet people. Conferences coming up: FITC, etc. Google Calendar of Toronto events – where?

My next step is to make a spreadsheet, cross-reference the connection requests, and e-mail each person individual notes for follow-up. =)

If you were there: please keep me up to date on what you’re doing and the follow-up connections you make, and link back to this post so that other people can learn more from the conversations we had. =) If you tag your posts with lifecampto and add a comment here with the link, they’ll be easy to find, too!

Blog posts:

It was great fun. Thanks to everyone for helping make it happen. =) I’m looking forward to following up!

#hohoto conversations

  • I put “Sacha Chua, @sachac, livinganawesomelife.com” on my nametag because putting “Sacha Chua, @sachac, sachachua.com” felt a bit repetitive. It made a number of people smile, although some people asked me if I was no longer working with IBM. I told them I’d gotten an alternate domain name for my blog because it’s a bit easier to spell.
  • Kristan Uccello pointed me to the red glowsticks near the stage. I stuck one in my hair. That and my white blazer made me slightly easier to spot in the club, although it was still quite, quite packed.
  • Ian Irving told me about some Twitter data analysis and visualization he’d like to do. I promised to send him some information about Many Eyes, Wordle, and other visualizations.
  • I introduced Elena Yusunov to Patrick Dinnen, who regularly spends some time at the Center for Social Innovation. Elena is interested in social media for nonprofits, and would like to check CSI out. I should get Elena and Jane Zhang together for coffee next week. Also, I should check out those capoeira lessons.
  • I told James Walker about the Drupal hacking I’m having a lot of fun with at IBM. =) I also told him about hacklab.to after he mentioned that he occasionally drops by the Center for Social Innovation to hang out and print stuff.
  • Saleem Khan mentioned spampoetry.com.
  • Eva Amsen mentioned that she’d heard about me from Jen Dodd and Michael Nielsen, and that she was one of the organizers of SciBarCamp. I think she’d have a great conversation with Elena Yusunov about organizing events and about social media for nonprofits. She also explained the meaning of her Twitter ID, easternblot – it’s a biochemist secret handshake thing.
  • Sunir Shah asked me if I’d been to Toastmasters lately. I haven’t, but I might try exploring some of the downtown clubs with him after he’s done with house-hunting.
  • James Woods said he’d been to Mauritius, and he found it interesting to hear unexpected people fluently speak French. Gabriel Mansour mentioned that Sameer Vasta had been to Mauritius recently.
  • Gabriel Mansour told me about http://cupcakecamp.ca, which looks interesting. I promised to e-mail the details to Greg Frank, who is interested in cooking but doesn’t bake much.
  • David Crow’s 15-month-old daughter is getting quite good at sign language, and tends to string signs together like sentences.
  • Adam Schwabe turned out to be the guy doing my usability test this week. We talked about the challenge of finding out what other people are doing when it comes to Web 2.0 at IBM. I promised to send him info about our upcoming Web 2.0 for Business community call, and to connect him with a few people. (I actually talked shop at a party; meep!)
  • Brent Ashley’s on his third ultra-mobile PC. He handed down the rest to his two daughters. Reminds me of the way my dad goes through Swiss knives…
  • Kieran Huggins should definitely look into getting one or two external flashes. They’re portable and they really make a difference in pictures. For photography awesomeness, buy glass (lenses) and light (flashes). And practice, of course, which he obligingly let me do.
  • Mike Miner runs into all sorts of interesting stories as a producer. He wants to go to Africa or South America.
  • Pete Forde’s planning a dinner party. I’m looking forward to it!
  • Bryan Watson can dance swing! That was lots of fun. I may have accidentally stepped on someone’s foot while finding this out, though.
  • I promised to e-mail David Crow and Jay Goldman about volunteering to help out with events so that I can learn how to organize external events.
  • I caught up with or met a whole bunch of other interesting people. =) (Hooray! I’ve been in Canada long enough to have old friends!)

… I feel like a gossip columnist with all these names in my blog post. Odd!

Also, I need to port my BBDB-auto-hyperlink-to-people’s-blogs-or-websites code over to Org mode. Ah, Emacs…

Notes from conversations: Ushnish Sengupta, consulting

Ushnish Sengupta was interested in exploring social media consulting. He picked my brains over hot chocolate at the Bluestar Cafe. Here are some rough notes from that conversation:

  • The first tip I gave him was to blog. I think it’s a good idea for consultants to keep a blog because it’s an easy and nearly-free way to help establish credibility and build connections. The blog can contain success stories, articles, lessons learned, announcements of upcoming events, tips, tidbits, and other pieces of information that can help both potential and existing clients. Besides, it’s awfully hard to do social media consulting if you’re not immersed in the space and you don’t have a presence.
  • Business cards: I told him about putting pictures and interesting conversation hooks on business cards, showing him mine as an example.
  • Ushnish was interested in potentially getting a PhD looking at consulting services and similar areas. I recommended that he check out services science. A recent conference we both attended (CASCON) had a number of sessions about the topic, so I suggested reviewing the proceedings to find people and topics of potential interest. I also recommended that he get in touch with people like Kelly Lyons – she’s currently doing research in this field.
  • Twitter backchannel: He asked me how the City of Toronto’s Web 2.0 Summit went. I told him about the interesting conversations that happened in real life and on the Twitter backchannel, and suggested that the next time he’s at an event, he should find the tag that people are using and tune in to search.twitter.com for some lively conversation.
  • Professional networking: He asked me which professional social networks I’m on. I told him that I’m active on LinkedIn and I use it to connect with people so that I can find out about changes in e-mail addresses and positions. He asked me if I was on Plaxo. I told him that I never got into Plaxo because it started off with a bad value-proposition for people who entered their data and that it had been fairly spammy. I haven’t looked into Plaxo Pulse in detail, but LinkedIn and my personal addressbook handles most of my needs.
  • Multiple networks: He asked me about being on multiple networks and how networks become popular and then fade away. The key things I shared with him were that ideas and skills tend to be transferrable between networks, and that an external profile such as a personal site or blog is important because it ties all the networks together. I also told him about something I picked up from Rahaf Harfoush’s talk on the Obama campaign: produce a piece of content and then distribute it through different channels.
  • Partnership: Ushnish asked me if I preferred to work with people I know well or if I preferred to work alone. I told him that I definitely prefer to work with other people because I learn much more in the process. I also told him that I actually enjoy working with people I don’t know that well yet, because it gives me an opportunity to develop a new relationship and spread the skills. If I’m asked to give a presentation, I often look for ways to enable other people to give the presentation, perhaps with a little coaching from me. I want other people to develop wonderful skills, too.
  • Teaching as I learn: The point on partnership segued into a discussion of how useful, fulfilling, and effective it is to try to teach everything I know how to do. I recapped some of the points from “If you can, teach; If you can’t teach, do“.
  • Event management: I told him that I’m interested in learning more about hosting external events in 2009. Alex Sirota does a lot of events for the New Path Network (which Ushnish belongs to), so I might see if I can use some of those events as models.
  • Address book: Ushnish was curious about how I manage my network. I told him about my wonderful addressbook setup (automatically tracks who I send mail to, automatically inserts notes into my mail), and the visualization improvements I’d like to make. I also told him of my plans to try porting some of these ideas to Drupal so that other people can experiment with them.
  • Social media and change management: I told him about the spectrum of social media consulting, and that organizational change plays a large part in it.
  • Rough notes: We ended the conversation with a homework assignment: he’s supposed to blog the lecture he was also going to that day, and perhaps the notes from the conversation as well. I reassured him that rough notes are fine, and that he’ll make things clearer and clearer as he writes about them again and again.

What did I learn?

  • I seem to have learned something about social media consulting after all. =) Hooray! I need to package that into some kind of internal blog post and presentation so that my coworkers can make the most of it.
  • I should find a way to package up these social networking tips into a blog post, a presentation, and maybe an event.
  • In an alternate future, I could probably keep myself very busy building and selling tools for making all of these things easier…