Archive for the ‘Speaking’ Category

Ditch the laser pointer for good.

July 27, 2010 4 comments

Update, March 2013: What I’ve learned about this technique is that it requires meticulous practice. You need to internalize exactly when you will make your transitions and sync your clicker hand to your speech. When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, the alternative is to simplify your slides to the point where there are only 1 to 3 items that need pointing out.

If you’re giving a slide presentation (typically, with PowerPoint), never again use a laser pointer. I will offer a solution/alternative later in this post, but first, let me explain why laser pointers are bad:

– To use the pointer, you have to look at your slide to ensure that it is hitting the correct spot. As you describe the item you’re pointing at, you end up speaking at the wall rather than to the audience.

– If one hand is committed to the laser pointer, you are forced into an awkward posture and can’t gesture naturally with your hands.

– The “transition” between speaking to the audience, turning to point, and then turning back is inherently choppy. And on top of that, someone in the audience likely fails to see the laser pointer (gets distracted, too much glare, etc) and misses the point of the slide entirely.

I was inspired to write this post after I attended a talk where the speaker was turned 90 degrees away from the audience the entire time he spoke, even when there weren’t slides to point at with the laser pointer. He had turned to use the laser pointer, and never turned back to face the audience!

If you feel that you need to use a laser pointer, I am guessing that you have TOO MUCH CONTENT on that slide. So, declutter. Cut through the auxiliary info and figure out what your most important message is, and focus on that one message on that slide. Plenty of people who write about how to make effective presentations have advice on how to declutter your slides (fyi, each of those links is to a different guide).

Two alternative solutions to the laser pointer

Even after you’ve decluttered your slides, you might have some important idea that requires the audience to consider multiple graphics at once. Here are two approaches to use that will allow you to remain engaged with and facing the audience. Read more…

Categories: Speaking Tags: ,

Give amazing presentations even with Powerpoint.

February 11, 2010 4 comments

Previously, I pointed you to what Steve Jobs does in making awesome presentations.  As I’ve read more on presentations using visual aids, I’ve come across a couple blogs on how to get the most out of Powerpoint for your talks.  I point you to a couple example posts on each blog.

“Takahashi method” – on Presentation Zen

“What’s wrong with templates?” – Presentation Advisors (impressively, only one guy)

There are countless ways to incorporate PPT in a presentation, and the optimal way will vary with the nature of the presentation.  These blogs have so many ideas, I will definitely have fun trying to work different elements into my talks, which will be a challenge since science talks are usually so data/visual-heavy.

Become famous—but not for your verbal tics.

February 2, 2010 1 comment

On “How I Met Your Mother” the character Robin, anchor of an early-morning talk show, thinks her show is doing really well because a lot of people watch it, including students of her friend Ted.  In actuality…

College kids: “We watch it for the drinking game.  You have to drink every time she says But, um…

I never thought verbal tics and filler words could be the subject of sitcom tv, but they do a pretty good job with it.  Link to episode; start watching around the 9-minute mark. [Update: the link might no longer work.]

(My filler word is like but I’ve gotten better at using it less, thanks to the Ah-Counter at our toastmasters meetings pointing out how often I’m using it.)

Categories: On the web, Speaking Tags: ,

This is amazing. Use it.

January 5, 2010 1 comment

Go here to see a slideshow on “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.”  Then try to incorporate some of those tips the next time you give a presentation, especially if its a powerpoint.

(H/T Harman.)

Send this man to Toastmasters!

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Poor guy.  Seriously, though, this is a FAIL on the part of the team’s media relations director for allowing the player to end up in this situation.

What is Toastmasters?  Find out here.

Lessons in Winning Over an Audience: Use Metaphors

September 9, 2009 2 comments

Very few things in life are as satisfying as a highly appropriate and effectively deployed metaphor.  Last month, with the start of the school year, our Materials Science program had its kickoff lunch to welcome the new students.  The centerpiece of this gathering is the Sales Pitch Contest, in which current students have three minutes to inform the judges (the new students) of their research and how awesome it is.

My friend Joy Garnett, starting her second year, works on linking together nanoparticles.  The motivation for this research is to have the nanoparticles serve as a conduit for light.  Without getting into hardcore condensed matter physics… the discussion of periodic structures—structures with a building block that is repeated with equal spacing, such as crystal lattices or photonic crystals—is nearly ubiquitous in materials science.  Unsurprisingly, Joy’s goal is to make her nanoparticles equally spaced apart and control the spacing between them.

In the three minutes allocated for her Sales Pitch, Joy did not explain the intricacies of why light behaves specially in periodic structures.  (Wise move, as new students haven’t taken condensed matter class yet.)  Instead, she told us about the classic video game, Super Mario Brothers. Read more…

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