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May 2011

Reader Feedback: A good story is always timely. Click HERE for a new response to the Discovery of Rory's Story Cubes a few months back. Thank you, Nanette Helgager, for your creativity!

In this Issue:

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
Self-Distraction Make a Powerful Point Hogworts Theory of Learning Choose the Right Wand

Say It Quick

When giving a presentation, your effectiveness begins with clarity about why you are standing in front of a group in the first place -- as illustrated in this 99-Word Story.

At a Chamber of Commerce workshop, the presenter mentioned several times how relieved he was to have a small class so that he wouldn't have to use PowerPoint. But his presentation consisted of walking us through a paper version of his slides! When questioned later, he explained that he finds PowerPoint "distracting." "People look up at the screen and not at me!" he said.

Why does he need people watching him? Recognition, affirmation, reinforcement, attention? The workshop shouldn't be about him but about learning.

Take your eyes off the goal and all sorts of self doubt creeps in.



Make a Powerful Point

Has PowerPoint changed your life? It has mine - and not for the better. Somehow we've gotten to the state where no one seems able to make their point without the "power" of Microsoft. Now, in full disclosure, I am biased against this type of presentation to begin with. I'd rather create opportunities for learning by using metaphors, games, simulations, and discussion. That said, lecturing while showing slides does have its place - if done well. But I've probably seen two decent presentations, maybe.

Fortunately, I don't have to complain about bad PowerPoint presentations any more now that I've discovered, an on-line tool that emphasizes the visual dimension of a presentation.

Using its simple interface, you can easily convert an existing presentation or invent something from scratch. Prezi begins with an infinite canvas to construct your presentation. Of course you can add text in various fonts and sizes, but you can also insert photos, images, video, audio, or PDF documents. Then add motion with panning and zooming capabilities. Combine all these gadgets and you've got the potential to create something useful and memorable.

As with any technology, there are some cautions when using Prezi. You can easily overdo the motion effects and make your viewers seasick with too much zooming and panning. But Prezi will force you to think more visually. You'll find yourself putting thoughts into more succinct bullet lists, adding graphics, and using relationships of size and space to emphasize certain information. Prezi presentations have a lot of similarity to mind maps so they are a nice fit for people who think visually.

Save your Prezi for a live presentation, record it as an e-learning course, invite people to join you for an interactive session on-line, or share it on your website. Soon you'll be a convert too! To spark your creativity, here are several Prezis I created. (Click the right-pointing arrow below each Prezi to load the presentation. Then click "More" to choose full screen mode. Navigate by clicking the arrows.)



You can also browse the Prezi library for inspiration and information. When you do, please what you find!



Hogworts Theory of Learning
In the Harry Potter series of books and movies, I believe the professors at Hogworts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry do a poor job of teaching. Typically, they demonstrate a spell then expect their students to replicate it. The teachers never give any real instruction. There are no hints about how to pronounce a spell or wave a wand. Harry and his friends are left to blunder through their classes defending themselves from dangerous creatures while creating comic relief for the rest of us.

The Hogworts Theory of Learning is not all fiction. When my daughter entered high school, her Social Studies teacher insisted his students use PowerPoint for their first group presentation. But students were never given any instruction in how to use this tool without "endangering" everyone in the class. In the end, my daughter waved a laser pointer at pages and pages of text that she had dumped straight into a few slides.

Whenever you dump something whether its rocks, socks, or information, you end up with a mess. Someone needs to sort, categorize, and put everything in its place. That's what learning is: sorting, making linkages, and finding just the right place for new information among everything one already knows. Instead of dumping, set the scene for success.

A friend wanted help designing a day-long workshop. For one section, the client insisted that project evaluators be given time to present their findings. But my friend was concerned that people would get bored during 90 minutes of data presentation.

We began to talk about why this evaluation data was important. What did people need to know? Why did we think they should know it? What did we expect them to do after knowing it? How would participants apply what they learned? With answers to these questions, my friend realized she couldn't simply turn class time over to the evaluators. The participants needed to analyze the data themselves to derive meaning from it.

As teachers, we can't just dump data on students and expect them to learn. But, when we give them the opportunity to make comparisons, ask them to manipulate new concepts, or invite them to play with unfamiliar ideas then we begin to see the sparks fly!



Choose the Right Wand
The 99-Word Story in this issue suggests that one really needs to think about a lot of factors before standing in front of a group. First, what is your purpose? Are you selling, teaching, generating ideas, solving problems, entertaining, or preaching? Then, once you are clear, choose the technology, tactics, methods, media, activities, and discussion questions that will help achieve that purpose.

Which wand will you pull from your training wizard robe and what spell will you cast? Do you have a complex topic to share? Maybe a book club makes the most sense so people can take plenty of time to study and reflect. Are you selling something? Facts and technical specs will be important but so is a good story that gives a compelling reason to purchase your widget. Is learning your objective? Provide information but tie it to a practical application so your participants will use it back on the job.

Whatever your reason for standing in front of a group, you'll always be better off with more than one method of engagement. If you must use PowerPoint, at least take advantage of its visual nature and embed it with memorable graphics that can act as metaphors to stimulate deeper thinking.

Better still, make a Prezi presentation and take advantage of spatial relationships, size, color, and motion to increase the "stickiness" of your message. Start from scratch or convert your pet PowerPoint to a Prezi presentation. When you do, please ! Good luck and have fun!


If you like what you have read in this issue, why not talk to me about bringing the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.380.4360) or .

-- Brian


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