6 Reasons Your Presentation is no TED Talk

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TED Talks are all the rage these days. They’re amazing 5- or 10- or 20-minute presentations delivered by thought leaders from around the globe in an effort to give “ideas worth sharing” a platform to ignite the world on fire.

Recently I published a list of Amazon’s top 40 books on presentation skills and 10% of the books were how-to guides on turning your next presentation into a TED Talk.

TED Talks have given renewed vigor to the argument that we can “just tell” an audience what they need to know. Why not lecture? After all, TED Talks are generally given before large audiences in auditoriums where interaction isn’t possible.

In fact, here are three TED Talks you could use to inspire the design of your next presentation.

And here are six reasons why your next presentation will not be TED-caliber:

1. Amateur slide design. The minute you flash a slide like this, your aspirations of giving a TED-style presentation have gone down the drain. Even if your goal isn’t TED-caliber, poor slide design can ruin your message. Click here for some ideas on how to spruce up that design.

TED

2. You think everything about your topic is important. When everything you have to say is “important” then nothing is a priority. TED speakers understand that they’re not going to create an audience of experts in 20 minutes. They are ruthless in their prioritization of what gets air time during their presentation. Click here for some ideas on how to be ruthless in prioritizing the content for your next presentation.

3. You think your content is boring. I’ve been surprised by how many times I’ve worked with a subject matter expert who has told me: “look, my area of expertise is boring, there’s no way to make it exciting, people just need to know this information and go forth and do what I say.” If you think your topic or area of expertise is boring, why in the world would anyone else pay attention, let alone be ignited to want to do something with your information?

4. You don’t want to be in front of the audience. That public speaking causes people great anxiety is no secret. Of course, if someone asks you to speak, then there’s something about you and your message that nobody else can offer to your audience. Embrace it! Relish it! Find a way to get others as passionate as you are about your topic. If you’re just going to go through the motions of a presentation, it’ll be an icky experience for you and your audience.

5. You make no effort to connect with your audience. Perhaps the single biggest problem I see when I review presentation plans is that people tend to launch straight in to their content, assuming their audience knows about it, cares about it and/or is interested in it. Click here to watch Jane McGonigal tease her audience’s interest by promising them longer lives if they simply follow the steps in her presentation. Click here for some additional ideas on how to connect with your audience.

6. You “just do it”. Nike’s message isn’t necessarily for presenters. TED speakers do not simply throw a presentation together on the airplane en route to their conference, then get up and put on a magical display of amazing slide design, smooth delivery and inspiring message. They spend countless hours designing what they want to say and how they want to say it. Then they rehearse. Then they tweek their presentation and rehearse it again until it comes out exactly how they want. Rehearsal helps hone your message, perfect your delivery and perhaps most importantly, lower your level of anxiety.

Whether you call it “lecture” or “didactic delivery” or a “presentation”, TED Talks have demonstrated that speakers can be incredibly engaging by “just talking.” However, if you find that one or more of the items in the above list are true for you, then you may not have a TED-caliber presentation on your hand. Effective lecture (or didactic delivery or presentation) requires a lot of work.

If you truly want to capture your audience’s imagination and inspire them to do something new or differently or better, it may actually be easier for you to bring some adult learning principles and interactivity into your next presentation.

Are You Using Some Of The Top 100 Tools For Learning?

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Each year, the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) puts together a list of the top 100 tools for learning. This year, I decided to vote for my top 10.

When I read the voting requirements – that I had to list ten tools in order for my vote to count – I started to wonder if I would be able to complete my ballot. I have several go-to tools, but I’m not sure that I have ten tools that I consider essential to my role as a learning practitioner.

Throwing caution to the wind, I began completing my ballot. Seven minutes later, I realized that there are more than ten tools that I use and my ballot was complete.

I then clicked on this link and started perusing how other people completed their ballots. It was interesting – many others use the same tools as I do. However, there were some tools that I’d never heard of and which I plan to check out in the very near future. And there were some tools I’d used in the past and then forgotten about, which I plan to begin using once again. And these last two points, I believe, hold the power to this list: an opportunity to be exposed to new tools and a reminder of old tools that have long since been forgotten.

If you have ten minutes, I encourage you to fill out your own ballot by clicking here. I’d also encourage you to see what kinds of tools others are using – perhaps you’ll be exposed to something new (and life changing?), perhaps you’ll simply be reminded of an old favorite.

10 Alternatives to PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi)

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PowerPoint can be an incredibly powerful tool, but for too many presenters, it’s their go-to tool. Every. Single. Presentation.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here is a PowerPoint presentation I put together in order to share 10 alternative ideas to using PowerPoint:

 

(If you’re reading on a mobile device or cannot see the embedded PowerPoint presentation, click here)

What did I miss? I’d love to hear your alternatives to PowerPoint in the comments section below.

If you really, really, really, really need to use PowerPoint during your next presentation, be sure to check out this article:

Using PowerPoint? Take Some Ideas From These Spectacular Examples.

5 Models to Pull Out of Your Hat on a Moment’s Notice

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About 10 years ago, I was sitting in a training session when the facilitator stopped the conversation, drew a diagram on the flipchart, and pivoted into a new conversation so seamlessly, it was like he had designed for the exact conversation we were having. Only, there’s no way he could have possibly known where our conversation would go that day.

A co-worker, awe-struck by how smoothly this facilitator worked through our issues, leaned over to me and whispered: “How amazing is it that this guy simply has a bunch of different models always in the back of his mind and can pull out the right one at exactly the right time?!”

At the time, I was still new to the corporate learning and development space, and in that moment I suddenly had something to aspire to: if I was going to be an effective, credible facilitator, I needed to have an array of models, ideas and theories I could bring into any conversation at a moment’s notice. Following are five models I always keep in my back pocket in case I need them, regardless of the topic:

  • In the event we need to explore a new concept: de Bono’s 6 Hat Thinking Model. Sometimes there is an individual (or group) that is vehemently opposed to a new idea or concept and unless I come up with some type of drastic measure quickly, this resistance can torpedo the entire conversation or project. de Bono’s 6 Hat Thinking Model is a non-threatening way for a group (or individual) to systematically look at an idea or concept from all sides. There is time to talk about the problems with an idea, and time to talk about the merits of the idea, and any data that exists, and any creative ways an idea can be put to use, and the idea within a larger system, and any emotional reasons someone may love or hate an idea.
  • In the event learning isn’t happening as fast as it should: the 4 Stages of Competence. Sometimes there is frustration that learning isn’t happening fast enough or there is disappointment that someone didn’t realize something sooner. The 4 Stage of Competence model is a 2×2 matrix that provides a simple explanation for how learning – in individuals and in organizations – generally happens.

4 Levels of Competence

  • In the event change isn’t happening as fast as it should: the Heath Brothers 3 Keys to Change Management. There are a lot of models for change management. John Kotter’s work is perhaps the most famous. However, I’ve found Kotter’s work to be very “academic” and difficult for audiences who are new to concepts of change management to completely wrap their arms around. Chip and Dan Heath have taken a look at many models of effective change management and boiled effective change management down into three essential elements: making a rational case for change, appealing to people’s core emotions, and providing structure for change to take place.
  • In the event a simple list of barriers and solutions won’t work: the Force-Field Analysis. I feel that simply making a list of barriers and solutions is too simplistic of an activity to really allow people to go back to their offices and get things done. I was introduced to the Force-Field Analysis in my master’s program during a course on strategic planning. A Force-Field Analysis forces an audience to think about all of the things that can drive a new initiative or project or idea forward, and all of the things that can restrain that same initiative or project or idea. Then an audience must discover all of the ways to remove or mitigate those “restraining forces” and come up with a specific action plan to address each restraining force.
  • In the event someone says “Why can’t we just tell them what they need to know?!”: a 4-step instructional design model. Simply telling someone does nothing to ensure they’ll retain it or use it later. There are many instructional design models out there, the most prevalent is ADDIE (which I argue is more of a project management model than instructional design model). This is the 4-step model I’ve come to embrace: 1) introduce content through some type of anchor activity, 2) provide the actual content, 3) offer an opportunity for application in the training environment and 4) provide learners specific ideas and ways they can use this content in the future. I honestly don’t know who came up with this model, but I’ve found it to be easy to explain to SMEs and effective in engaging audiences.

What are some of the models, tips, tools and tricks you keep in your back pocket when you’re facilitating? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Sometimes All You Need Is A Fresh Set of (Non-L&D) Eyes

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I spend a lot of time looking at the training lesson plans of subject matter experts, giving them feedback and suggestions on how to make their presentations more engaging.

About a month ago, I was preparing to deliver a segment of new hire orientation introducing my department’s work to a group of new hires. Before I began, I asked what the new hires thought of some of the other new hire sessions they’d attended. One woman said: “I’ve been impressed. There have been some presenters who have taken what could be very boring, technical topics and they’ve turned them into very interesting and cool presentations through interactive case studies, simulations, demonstrations and other activities.”

It made me feel good. Some of the things I’d worked with our subject matter experts on had been integrated into their lessons and apparently well-received.

Then I delivered my presentation. It was slated for an hour, but fifteen minutes into it I got a sinking feeling. The new hires were politely listening. And that was the problem. They were simply listening to my information.

I had been able to provide feedback and ideas to others, but I hadn’t actually used my own advice to make an amazing presentation with my own content.

I took my lesson plan to some (non-learning and development) colleagues and asked for some thoughts. With their fresh eyes on my lesson plan, we were able to come up with several stories to frame the work of our department. We came up with a case study. And of course, we ended with a short “pop quiz” just to see if people were paying attention.

For learning and development professionals, sometimes all of our theory and education and experience can’t stack up to simply getting a fresh set of eyes on our work.

Want more information about lesson plans? Try these other posts:

Know someone who could use a lesson plan template to help them organize their thoughts? Pass this post along.

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A Lesson in Gamification from Car2Go

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I was in a hurry to get home the other day and the bus wasn’t going to get me there in time, so I hopped in a Car2Go (if you’re not familiar with Car2Go, it’s a pretty ingenious way to get around town without having to own your own car; check it out here).

As I sped home in the little Smart Car, I noticed what seemed like a warning light. I pressed on the touch screen display and up popped a message, something along these lines: “you need to drive better.” Apparently I wasn’t driving in a very fuel efficient manner. Then, on the touch screen display, this image popped up:

Gamification 1

My initial thought was: What the hell? I’m just trying to get home. It’s rush hour. I’m driving in city traffic. Seattle is full of hills. And drivers who don’t go when a light turns green (nor do they honk). How am I supposed to drive in a more fuel efficient manner?

And then I took a closer look. Those trees did look pretty sad. And who wants a monitor displaying grey rain clouds? And what were those numbers? What was the highest score? 50? 100? Guess there’s only one way to find out. So I started pressing a little lighter on the gas pedal when I accelerated. When I was cruising I stopped pressing the gas pedal when I was going down a hill. I eased into traffic stoppages and stop lights a little more gently.

I noticed that the forest started looking a bit healthier. A cloud even went away. And those clouds that remained had turned white. Who doesn’t like a few white, puffy clouds in the sky?

Gamification 2

What lessons can learning & development professionals take from this?

As I drove, there were no detailed instructions. There was no carrot nor was there a stick. Nobody at Car2Go would ever yell at me (nor would they ever reward me) for my driving habits. There was barely any message given to me at all, yet my fuel efficient driving apparently improved. It tapped into my curiosity (hmmmm, how do I get these numbers to go up? How do I make the trees get bigger? Wait, the clouds turn different colors? And if my score gets high enough, the clouds go away? Well then, what happens if I ease off the gas pedal a little more? What happens if I ease into slowing down and stopping a bit more?). It tapped into my competitive nature (just how high can I get those numbers?). It tapped into my playful nature (all right, there are some electronic images of trees… how can I get them bigger and healthier?).

Whether elearning or in-person, do we need detailed instructions? Is there a way to tap into our learners’ inner curiosity? Their innate sense of play and competitiveness? Is there a more fun and simple way to motivate our learners?

If the car sharing service Car2Go can do it, why can’t instructional designers and learning and development professionals?

Do You Give Your Audience Too Much Of A Good Thing?

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On Saturday, we stopped for ice cream on the way home from a family hike. This is what they brought my son:

Too Much Of A Good Thing

I’m sure the person in the kitchen thought she was doing her customer a favor. Who doesn’t want a LOT of ice cream, topped by even more whipped cream, when they order a treat? I’m sure she was thinking: I want to make sure my customer is getting his money’s worth!

Do you ever feel the need to do this with your audience? You only have 15 or 30 minutes and your topic is really important, so you’re going to be sure your audience gets its money’s worth. You’re going to load your presentation full of facts and figures – all stuff that you obviously feel is both essential and interesting – to make sure your audience leaves full and satisfied.

What’s that, someone suggests? Cut down on some of your content and identify the one or two most important points? Ha! That’s insanity. It’s ALL important.

The problem with this line of thought is that if it’s all important, then nothing is truly a priority. Look at that ice cream cone in the picture. My son stopped after a couple of minutes because it was too overwhelming to him. He certainly tried, but after a while it didn’t even taste good to him. In fact, it took three family members to put that ice cream cone down.

When it comes to presentation design, it’s essential to separate the “must have” information from the “nice to have” information. As Shannon Tipton has written in her excellent Learning Rebels blog, “people don’t need to know how to build a watch in order to tell time.”

The next time you’re getting ready for a presentation, make sure you identify the #1 essential thing that people need to know when they walk out the door. Putting too much content into your next presentation because you find the topic interesting can be intimidating and overwhelming to your audience. And they may decide that your presentation isn’t worth the calories.

 

 

Want to Improve Your Articulate Storyline Skills? Try These 5 Tips.

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Articulate Storyline may be the greatest thing to sweep through the learning and development field since the creation of the action-oriented, learner-centered objective. Why? It’s insanely intuitive to use, and the Elearning Heroes online community is a place where you can instantly learn how to do anything you ever wanted to do in an elearning environment.

If you’re using Storyline and haven’t been taking advantage of the Elearning Heroes online community, here are five reasons to start:

  1. Adding and displaying a learner’s name throughout your module. Want to have a learner input text – whether it’s their name or some other text – and then have that same text come up later in the module? Nicole Legault’s handy tip walks you through an easy way to set this up.
  2. Create custom characters for your elearning. Sick of looking through free image sites and not finding exactly what you’re looking for? This post from Tom Kuhlman walks you through the steps it’ll take to help any non-graphic designer modify existing clip art images to create custom characters.
  3. What are other people working on? Every week, David Anderson posts an “Elearning Challenge”, asking Articulate Storyline users from around the world to come up with creative ideas or share work samples around a common instructional design theme. This is a fun way to put your own skills to the test, and to see what kinds of amazingly creative ideas other Storyline users can come up with. What is perhaps the most stunning thing about this particular series of posts is that many of the people who take on these weekly challenges will gladly share their source files.
  4. Free Assets! Looking for free clip art, images, fonts and other visual assets? Create an account on the Elearning Heroes site and you get access to lots and lots of free assets and templates.
  5. Share your module without uploading it to an LMS. Want to have other people check out your latest elearning module or preview your most recent creation without having it go live on your LMS? Mike Taylor walks you through the several simple steps you need to take in order to upload a course to Google Drive.

There are a lot of other tips, tricks and tools that are available – FREE – through the Articulate community. If Articulate Storyline is your thing, check it out.

Want to see Storyline in use? Check out this post which includes an elearning demo which allows you to solve “The Crime of the Century” and identify which meeting facilitator(s) could have been responsible for boring an audience member to death.

Know someone using Storyline? Be sure to pass this along.

“Is didactic really all that bad?”

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Last week I was reviewing some lesson plans with a colleague. At one point he stopped and asked: “Why do we need all these activities? Is simply doing 15 minutes of didactic learning all that bad?”

I don’t remember exactly what happened next. Some type of argument or a scuffle or maybe a brilliant defense of all that is good and holy about adult learning principles. When cooler heads prevailed, we found ourselves reminiscing of our own training experiences around this particular topic. We’d seen these concepts in training sessions or in practice many times, yet neither of us was a master of this topic. In fact, neither of us really knew much at all about this topic (thank God we have a bunch of really smart SMEs to lean on!).

In the moment, training participants will probably take well-designed, interactive, engaging content over didactic lecture and PowerPoint slides any day. But long term? None of this matters – didactic or interactive – if there is no follow up. Either way, people will forget most of what they’ve “learned” before their heads hit their pillows that same night.

I still say: yes, didactic really is all that bad. Even phenomenal speakers (think TED talks) may put on a good show, but three weeks later what do you still remember? Of course, the same can be said of well-designed, interactive sessions: what do you still remember three weeks later?

In the end, if you want people to be able to do something new or differently or better, and you don’t design follow-up activities to build upon what they’ve learned in the classroom, you’d probably be better off not doing the training in the first place. Chances are, they won’t remember it anyways.

Where’s the Training in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”?!

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Last weekend, we took a family outing to the movie theater. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see a movie about training.

Side note: If Hollywood was smart, they’d make more movies about training. Can you imagine the crowds lining up after seeing a movie trailer that went something to this effect: “In a world where everyone was subjected to lecture, one man chose to take a stand. Where others left masses of boredom in their wake, he rose up from humble beginnings to lead a revolution. Adventure. Romance. Engagement. Valuing others’ experiences. Task vs process maintenance. Coming this Thanksgiving, you’re invited to come along for the adventure of a lifetime.” I’d cast Vinnie Chase as the young, sometimes naïve, rogue, rebellious learning professional. But I’ve totally digressed.

Last weekend, my family saw How to Train Your Dragon 2. The adventure and plot twists and drama and intensity and pace were all great, yet I walked away feeling a bit cheated. Empty. As we left the theater, I turned to my 7-year-old daughter and asked: “Where was the training?!” She said there wasn’t any, and skipped away.

How could she be so nonchalant?! How could she not care?! What kind of parent am I? Raising a child who doesn’t even care if the title of the movie matches up with the plot?? (To my son’s credit, he ate a whole bag of Skittles then promptly fell asleep. I’m assuming this was because he, too, was on the lookout for training and when he didn’t see any, he decided to cut his losses.)

I couldn’t let it go. It invaded my dreams on Sunday night.

I dreamt I was in the theater. It all seemed so real. My family next to me. Other movie patrons. The credits rolled. I stood up and yelled: “WHERE WAS THE TRAINING?! I CAME HERE TO SEE A MOVIE ABOUT TRAINING! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT TRANSFERABLE LESSONS THAT I CAN TAKE FROM DRAGON TRAINING AND APPLY IN THE CORPORATE WORLD?!”

And then Hiccup, the hero of the movie, peered out from behind the scrolling credits and, in his calm, rational way of being, simply said: “Sir, what do you mean ‘where was the training’? It was everywhere.”

For some reason, in my dream, I didn’t think it was weird that the movie character was talking with me. I did, however, found his argument flawed. “But there was no classroom. No flipchart. Jeez, you didn’t even have PowerPoint. Or Mr. Sketch markers. Hiccup, you’re a nice guy. But you’re young. And naïve. You need some structure if you’re going to call it ‘training’.”

“I suppose it all depends on your definition of ‘training’ then, doesn’t it?” the young chieftain asked rhetorically. “Look around? Did you see ‘proper training facilities’ anywhere in the set design? No. But more importantly, when we think ‘training’ we think skills development. And that takes place in the context of real life. Our ‘training’ depends on supportive relationships. Teaching others by modeling the behaviors we’d like to see. We treat our dragons with respect. Through our actions, the dragons learn how to behave appropriately around us. You don’t need PowerPoint, or flipchart or a classroom for this type of thing. In fact, I’d argue that PowerPoint or flipchart or a classroom would actually have hindered the way we trained our dragons.”

Then I woke up. They say that different things in your dreams represent different aspects of your life or your psyche. I wonder what this dream could have possibly meant…

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