Asked to reflect back on a presentation I have given in the past, it struck me that my most recent presentation would likely be most instructive in terms of helping me bring up my game. Now, as teachers, we make presentations all the time. For the purposes of this post, I mean a presentation in the sense of making it to a group of adults whom I have to convince of something. I would go further in the reflection process here by adding that I am aware of how many of my posts start out with a sort of self-styled how I am already doing such a good job theme. Having been involved in curriculum design for a number of years and having studied art for three years (albeit at the secondary school level) I agree with Frank Curkovic that once you start seeing things with a discerning eye you can’t “unsee” them. My love of cinema and the writing of Joseph Campbell rounds this all of for me and zooms in on the narrative of art, advertising, photography, you name it, the human condition.
In his blog post, What is Good Power Point Design? I am not sure I agree with Garr Reynolds’ statement that 3D effects are “inelegant” and to be avoided. I agreed more with his earlier statement about context and not relying on absolutes. In reference to two slides that he felt were effective I immediately preferred the second. They both featured women and information about the percentage of women reflected in the workforce but the one on the right… This one seemed of a woman walking down a city street, full of energy and purpose (with the blurry image of a suited man prominently behind her). To me, this added the element he didn’t focus on. The narrative of presentation. This image added an unspoken layer. This is the real art outside of guidelines that separates good from great for me.
Laughter is a form of nonverbal communication that conveys empathy and that is even more contagious than the yawn…
I also found the latest visual to add to my own repertoire for making presentations. This will go nicely with my own “Grammar of Cinema” project.
This is where we get back to my self-congratulatory posting style. The most recent presentation I gave was at a job interview for a demanding ICT position at Doshisha International School, Kyoto. When making the presentation I did not actually believe I would have the chance to deliver it. Unable to stop myself, however, I produced it as though I would be. Each slide went point-by-point through the job requirements as listed in their posting. At the very least, I told myself, practicing to give it would be my best preparation for the interview regardless.
Now, having worked with MS Power Point for a variety of purposes over the years, I was excited about using Keynote. Even the iPad app has more fluid and interesting transitions than Power Point. Sticking with the concept of less is more, I avoided using too many different styles of animations and transitions and focused on brevity in the use of text. I was keeping my audience in mind as, after all, my words, from me were what they wanted to hear. As part of the job is also coaching/teacher training I further needed to demonstrate how I can deliver confident, concise, relevant messages as well.
I chose a simple, white background. I felt this would make any text I did use easier on the eyes and make the images used stand out better. The bulleted points, page titles and other text-inclusive flowcharts and graphics served two purposes. On the one hand, they would provide a backdrop to my presentation, clearly outlining the point currently being addressed. On the other hand, they kept me focused on covering all the bases in the order they were prepared. (There’s nothing worse than a presenter who rambles off on tangents, off the point, wasting the time of those he seeks to influence.)
I used white space liberally and page flips as the common transition between each slide. Mixing these up always makes me think someone is just learning the software and becomes irritating a few slides in. In the end, I was able to give the presentation. I showed up a few minutes early and was allowed to set up in the meeting room while waiting. When my interlocutors arrived and saw everything ready to go they asked to see it. Now, as the readings outlined this week, (and further extrapolated by me here) a presentation does not exist to serve the display screen. The display screen exists to facilitate effective communication. I was told I could have ten minutes. I did my best to keep moving, to maintain eye contact with everyone in the room and to speak conversationally and pause between certain sentences. When I sensed one of my interviewees had had enough I asked about time and was told that I went over. I immediately shut down and handed over the floor.
Funny thing though, the questions that were asked afterwards would have been answered had I finished my presentation. One thing I have learned about interview situations, however, is that you need to let the other side do the majority of the talking. I fought my character as best I could to allow that to happen in the interview. Frankly, presenting makes me tired anyway…
image credits not found on previously linked sites.