Category Archives: presentation

Information Design

While reading about presentation skills, I stumbled across a page entitled “So where are all the Information Designers?”. I found a name for what I’m interested in! Information design is what I do with wikis. I should learn more about this.

UPDATE: Clair wrote:

I have seen some courses aside from the one you showed me. :) It looks very interesting. Very similar to what librarians do! *laugh* I really must take a break and re-assess my life.

冗談を言うほど賢いコンピューターがありえるだろうか。 Can there be a computer intelligent enough to tell a joke?

On Technorati: ,

TLE 2008: I.B.Millennials: The Net Generation and Those Who Recruit, Hire, Work With, Manage, and Sell to Us

Last Tuesday, April 8, I gave a presentation on “I.B.Millennials: The Net Generation and Those Who Recruit, Hire, Work With, Manage, and Sell to Us” to around 60 people at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange in Orlando, Florida.

What did I do well?

  • Revision: I stayed up until 4:00 that morning, revising my presentation to improve the flow and include some of the ideas I got from conversations with people from all over IBM.
  • Energy: Because I stayed up so late, I was tired on Tuesday. I didn’t want to do a lackluster performance, so I napped during the session slot immediately before mine, and I had some tea afterwards. I reasoned that I could always listen to the playback of the session I had wanted to attend, but I wouldn’t have another opportunity to redo my session.
  • Presentation structure: After much thinking, I managed to find a good structure that made the presentation flow well. I used the power of three and alliteration throughout the presentation in order to make the presentation more coherent and memorable. I structured the characteristics as “changing childhoods, changing technologies, and changing workplaces”. I listed the challenges as “recruiting and hiring Millennials”, “working with and managing Millennials”, and “selling to Millennials”. Each challenge had three parts: “reach”, “ramp up”, and “retain”. Because of that structure, I hardly needed to glance at my slides to remember where I was, and I didn’t feel the urge to overload my slides with detail.
  • 30-second summary: I put in a 30-second summary at the beginning and end as a courtesy to people who wanted to attend several presentations or review the slides afterwards. This proved to be handy when some people dropped by to say hi and offer encouragement before my session, as I could give them the gist of my talk before they went to a different session. I think it’s a good practice.
  • Presenter remote: I used Jonathan Young’s Kensington presenter remote during my blogging talk at the Best Practices. I liked being able to step away from the podium, and I didn’t need to refer to my speaker’s notes. I also liked how the Kensington presenter fit my hand neatly. I found the same model at the Airport Wireless store in Newark, along with several other presenter remotes. I chose the Logitech presenter remote because it had a built-in timer with vibration alerts at 5 and 2 minutes, which is great in rooms without clocks. I bought it for $75 or so. If you want to buy it now, has it for $37.24 thanks to a mail-in rebate that ends on Monday, April 14. It looks like there are frequent rebate offers, so you should be able to find it on sale somewhere.
  • Stock images: Several people asked me where I got my illustrations. I got some free ones from Stock Exchange, and I got the rest of the images from The images typically cost $1 for a presentation-sized image.
  • Discussion: I knew that I didn’t have the historical perspective or the global perspective to give people the complete picture of Millennials, so I invited people to join the discussion by asking and answering questions. I had chatted with a number of people before the session started, so I knew that people had a lot to contribute. They freely shared their concerns, experiences, and insights. This resulted in a session that was not only more interactive than the jam sessions I attended, but also a lot more educational for all of us–myself included. I think this is a terrific way to do a session, as the speaker gets to learn a lot as well. There, Jim de Piante – I asked for help and I got it! =)

What can I do better?

  • More microphones: It seems my presentation style is highly interactive. Next time, I should request additional microphones so that people can be easily heard and recorded.
  • Better summaries: I need to get better at listening to what people say and quickly summarizing the key points for these recorded presentations.
  • Video recording: I want to save up for a high-definition video camera and a tripod so that I can share the material and improve my presentation skills. Jonathan Young’s setup was pretty good. He aimed the video camera’s LCD forward so that he could make sure he was in frame. Alternatively, I could ask a friend to take care of video recording.
  • Picture: I really should take pictures of my audience so that I can get a better count and so that I can recognize and thank people. Maybe I can ask someone to help me with that next time, so that I’m free to prepare other things I need for my presentation.
  • Audio and screen recording: I have Camtasia on my system, and there’s no reason why I can’t use it to record my non-TLE presentations. Next time!

That was a terrific experience. I’m looking forward to the next presentation!

blue horizon 2008: My first IBM keynote!

Aaron Kim, Bernie Michalik, Jennifer Nolan and I gave the keynote presentation at blue horizon 2008, the main conference for GBS Canada. With 700 people in the Toronto Sheraton Centre’s Grand Ballroom, it was one of my largest presentations–and one of my best. I learned a lot preparing and delivering the presentation, and I’m glad I didn’t back out.

I felt anxious about the keynote because we hadn’t had a lot of face-to-face time to prepare for the four-part presentation. Because of the Best Practices Conference, the Technical Leadership Exchange, and the Web 2.0 Summit, I had hardly any time to work on my part of the presentation, much less rehearse it together with the others. After agreeing on the general structure for the presentation, we split up and worked individually. I took the section on the Demographic Revolution because it was something I was interested in and I could use some of the research I’d done for my TLE talk on I.B.Millennials. Four days before the keynote, though, I still hadn’t nailed down the words for my part of the presentation. As we rehearsed, I experimented with what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, listening to myself to find good ways to say things. If my teammates were worried about the way I kept saying things differently each time we ran through the content, they didn’t let their nervousness show.

I was nervous about a different thing, too. I like highly interactive sessions, but our presentation would have no opportunities for questions or insights from other people. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough light to see people react. While giving a presentation, have you ever felt hyper-attenuated to the audience, listening with an almost physical reaction to people as you’re sharing your thoughts? That feeling is one of the things I love about speaking, and I wasn’t sure if I could get into that zone with such a large audience. I was afraid that I might be oblivious to people’s reactions.

On Sunday–one day before our big show–I mindmapped my speech and added keywords to my speaker notes. After sending my presentation to my teammates, I threw a suit into a bag and dashed to the hotel. I checked in for one night and left my clothes in the hotel room. I then headed to the hall to meet up with Aaron, Bernie, and Jen. We rehearsed the entire presentation three times. Each time, it got smoother and smoother. I even practiced getting up on the tall stools on the stage. I didn’t want to trip in front of all of those IBMers! Not the best way to become memorable… =)

Monday was our big day. I ironed my suit and made it down in time to grab some breakfast, hoping that I wouldn’t have any problems on stage. After the opening speech, we went on stage. Then there was nothing to do but reach out and connect.

I loved listening to my team members’ parts. Somehow, things came together in the two days we’d rehearsed. When it was my turn, the speaker notes helped me remember all the points I wanted to make, and my presenter remote allowed me to step away from the podium. There was a hiccup when Aaron’s laptop ran out of power, but the backup computer that Aaron had brought along (hard-won experience!) got us through the rest of the presentation. Bernie ended up speaking without notes, and he didn’t seem fazed at all.

I’m glad I was part of that presentation. It stretched me and made me want to learn even more about giving presentations and reaching out to hundreds of people. I want to get even better at sharing that energy, that fire. So–relentless improvement!

What worked:

  • Presentation style: The four of us agreed to use large pictures to give our presentation a distinctive and consistent style. Aaron used Keynote to make it pretty. (It made me want to get a Mac just for presentations!) 
  • Metaphor: I used the metaphor of a river to describe the demographic challenges of the North American workplace. It wasn’t easy to find just the right image. I knew I wanted a wide river with a narrow middle part, but how do you search for something like that? I searched for rivers, river necks, bottlenecks… Eventually, I found a Creative Commons Attribution-licensed Flickr photo of a river canyon. I cropped and magnified the section that looked like what I wanted. The resulting image was obviously pixelated, but I just couldn’t find any other image that resembled the one I had in mind.
  • Transitions: Our speech connected well with the other keynote speeches and the advertisements. We couldn’t have planned it better. We knew a little bit about the theme beforehand, and we tapped into the zeitgeist.
  • Technology: My totally awesome Logitech presenter remote meant that we didn’t have to worry about being behind the computer to control the slides. It beat the infrared Mac remote, which only worked with certain angles.
  • Preparation: When the main computer died, Aaron’s backup Mac saved the day. The lack of speaker notes didn’t bother Bernie at all. Good work!

What I can do to make this even better next time:

  • Watch out for in-jokes: We assumed people would understand the elephant pictures as references to Gerstner’s “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”. People who weren’t familiar with IBM’s history picked up negative associations, though.
  • Learn from other people’s successes: Aaron’s preparation of a backup computer and Bernie’s smooth transition are two things I’d like to emulate.
  • Get a Mac? ;) Just for Keynote?

That was fun!

Restructuring Presentations: The Leadership Journey

When I attended a presentation called “The Leadership Journey” at the Technical Leadership Exchange, I greatly enjoyed the anecdotes the speaker used to illustrate each point, but I felt overwhelmed by the 21 laws of leadership he presented, one after the other. The speaker had faithfully reproduced the structure in John Maxwell’s book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Although he had supplemented it with personal anecdotes, it came off–at least to me–as sounding rather like a book report. A detailed, lively book report, but a book report nonetheless – a laundry-list of concepts. I wondered if there was a better way to present the information. Here are the laws he presented:

  1. The Law of the Lid
  2. The Law of Influence
  3. The Law of Process
  4. The Law of Navigation
  5. The Law of E.F. Hutton
  6. The Law of Solid Ground
  7. The Law of Respect
  8. The Law of Intuition
  9. The Law of Magnetism
  10. The Law of Connection
  11. The Law of the Inner Circle
  12. The Law of Empowerment
  13. The Law of Reproduction
  14. The Law of Buy-In
  15. The Law of Victory
  16. The Law of Big Mo [Momentum]
  17. The Law of Priorities
  18. The Law of Sacrifice
  19. The Law of Timing
  20. The Law of Explosive Growth
  21. The Law of Legacy

I mentioned this to another colleague who got in touch with me about an internal conference. I had put this presentation down as one of the sessions I could volunteer to present if no one else stepped up, although I admitted I had my misgivings about how to deliver the presentation well. I told him how I felt the long list of concepts made the presentation less effective than it could have been, and that a mnemonic device or a navigational aid would make this presentation better. He was amused by the idea of a mnemonic–a 21-letter acronym, perhaps?–and said he’d pass on my feedback for some presentation coaching. Hearing that, I volunteered to give the speaker feedback myself. That would be better than second-hand feedback, I thought, and I might as well stand behind my words and learn even more in the process. =)

This challenged me to think about the presentation more. If I were presenting this, what would I do? How could it be organized to present all that rich content in some more easily digested and applied form?

I reviewed every slide in the original presentation, writing down keywords on a piece of scratch paper. I thought about questions the speaker could ask people to help them think about the topic before the explanation of the law. After the fourth or fifth law, I found myself categorizing things based on questions, using Who-What-When-Where-How-Why as my original framework. My first pass through the list gave me these categories: “who is a leader”, “where you go”, “how you get there”, and “what you do”. I created a spreadsheet organizing the topics into those categories. As I moved things around, I ended up refining the categories to these five:

Who can be a leader?
2. Influence
5. E.F. Hutton

How do you become a leader?
10. Connection
3. Process
7. Respect
6. Solid ground
14. Buy-in

What can hold you back or move you forward?
1. The lid
17. Priorities
19. Timing
11. Inner Circle
18. Sacrifice

What do you do as a leader?
8. Intuition
4. Navigation
9. Magnetism
16. Big Mo [Momentum]
15. Victory
20. Explosive growth

Where do you go next?
12. Empowerment
13. Reproduction
21. Legacy

Some of the topics can be moved around. “12. Empowerment” belongs in both “What do you do as a leader” and “Where do you go next”, and it could also go into the earlier entries. I don’t have a good feel for whether “1. The lid” should be in “What can hold you back or move you forward?”, or “How do you get there?”. If I spent more time revising this, I’m sure things would settle down.

What I like about this structure is that it has a certain cohesion about it. Similar laws are together, allowing the speaker to illustrate them with a single well-chosen story or use several stories to build upon a point. There are guide questions that prompt people to reflect as they’re listening to the presentation, and these guide questions are followed by advice and examples from leaders who have taken on those challenges. There’s a chronological flow that matches the leadership journey as well. Each category flows smoothly into the next, and within each category, each law leads into the next. You tell a story.

Structure is good for speakers and listeners, too. This arrangement gives you a structure that scales: you can cover the entire thing in less than ten minutes, or you can talk for hours. And because it’s broken down into chunks, it’s easier for you remember, whether you’re presenting it or listening to it. You could probably give a speech on this from memory, and people can leave the session with a feeling of understanding the whole thing, not just the first and last chunk.

Now I’m tempted to look for John C. Maxwell’s e-mail address and send a link to this blog post. It feels weird giving feedback to an author who’s written leadership bestsellers, and maybe there’s a higher reason why he organized those topics that way. But maybe the author hadn’t taken a step back and seen things click into place… If so, then maybe he’ll like this suggestion and use it to help others in a second edition of the book!

What would you call what I did? I really enjoyed poking inside that presentation and bringing everything together into a structure, a story. I would love to do more of that in the future. It’s quite far from my official IBM role (although the presentation and communication practice will help me as an evangelist), but maybe I can bring aspects of that into my life sometime. Maybe one of my careers will be as a presentation coach… =) I’d love to learn and share more about effective communication!