An Exploration of Submission-Focused Presentations

CommonGround is an ongoing exploration of the intersections between information, technology and design, supported by the iSchool and VPA.

I recently attended iConference 2012 in Toronto. It was my first academic conference and a refreshing change from the industry conferences I have attended. At the iConference, no one was selling anything and it was a big information-sharing extravaganza. The presentations were plentiful and I was rather surprised to see so many presenters reading their papers as opposed to presenting on the topic. This made things a little drier than I was hoping for (I even had someone next to me napping during the keynote by Geoffrey Nunberg).

However, there was one presentation, titled Metadatapedia: A proposal for aggregating metadata on data archiving, that really stood out. The presenters, David Nichols and Michael Twidale, delivered a presentation unlike the others. One would begin presenting, then the other would interject with a rude, semi-crass, pointed question that would challenge what the presenter was delivering. When this first happened, I was not quite sure what to think. As the presentation progressed, so did this style. The result was a very memorable and powerful presentation. This got me thinking about my own (questionable) presentation skills and what I could do ‘outside the box’ that would make a memorable presentation.

Creating a Memorable Presentation

Steve Jobs was famous for his well-rehearsed presentations and ‘one more thing‘, Steve Ballmer is famous for, well being Steve Ballmer. For an example, check out this clip and you’ll notice that he has been honing his passionate, unique style for quite some time. The iSchool’s own Dr. R. David Lankes kills it just about every time he gets in front of a crowd (you can find more information on his personal website and his iSchool faculty biography).

David and Michael clearly practiced and that is, along with subject-area competence, paramount. If you cannot find an audience to get in front of you may want to check out the local Toastmaster’s chapter, Orange Orators.

Reading Recommendations for Psychological Aspects of Presentations 

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds

Garr is the former Manager of Worldwide User Group Relations at Apple Computer, Inc. and Presentation Zen is his classic book that teaches us how to reach the audience through simplicity and storytelling.

Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam

The author employs a system called Vivid Thinking helps to deliver a compelling presentation that does not sound like Blah Blah Blah to your audience.

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte

From the author who created the slides in Al Gore‘s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, this book aims to help leave your audiences energized and ready to take action.

If You Want To Go Deeper

Voices That Matter: A series of books from Pearson Education’s Peachpit Press, Voices That Matter disseminate influential ideas and revolutionary techniques from leading-edge designers and is a powerful learning companion for designers of all levels. There is also a yearly Voices That Matter conference.

Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter) by Julie Dirksen

“In Design For How People Learn, you’ll discover how to use the key principles behind learning, memory, and attention to create materials that enable your audience to both gain and retain the knowledge and skills you’re sharing. Using accessible visual metaphors and concrete methods and examples, Design For How People Learn will teach you how to leverage the fundamental concepts of instructional design both to improve your own learning and to engage your audience.”

-Amazon Description

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk

“Susan Weinschenk has a Ph.D. in Psychology, and a 30-year career in applying psychology to the design of technology. She has written several books on user-centered design. Her 2008 book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click?, published by New Riders, applies the research on neuroscience to the design of web sites. A popular speaker and presenter, her nickname is “The Brain Lady”. She is Chief of User Experience Strategy, Americas, at Human Factors International, and runs a popular blog:”

 -(Amazon Author Biography

If you have practiced, prepared and despite your best visual and psychological efforts your audience is counting sheep, you can always try this method…

Submit Everyone: The Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu Files: Classified Field Manual for Becoming a Submission-focused Fighter by Kevin Howell, Dave Camarillo

Is there anything you think I have missed? Share in the comments below!

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