Earlier this quarter, Nancy Duarte spoke to us at UCLA Anderson about presentation design. She's the author of two great books on the subject: slide:ology and Resonate, and her firm designs presentations for extremely influential business leaders and politicians, in addition to teaching people how to design impactful slides.
She started her talk with a personal story about herself and then gave us a debrief on what she just did. She explained the structure of her introductory story as a structure we can use for any story meant to grasp people's attention:
She said that PowerPoint should not be an exhaustive report; it should be visual and persuasive. You can save the details for handouts to give people at the end.
If you have to give a report, give an executive summary, distribute it as a document, let the audience read it, and then just discuss as human beings. That's a lot better than cramming numbers in a PowerPoint. Only project visuals that are mnemonic for the audience to remember your message, not for you to remember what to say.
Start your presentation with a unique point of view and the stakes for the audience. Incorporate story to show the transformation of a hero from beginning to end. This can apply to business presentations where a team that performs an analysis and comes up with a result can be the hero.
To bring it to a more subtle level, she argues the presenter is actually not the hero; the audience is the hero. The presenter's role is that of mentor or yoda.
She spent months studying dramatic story structure from classic Greek dramas to the most effective speeches of all time (MLK, Gandhi, Neru, Steve Jobs). She studied the visual/emotional shape of story to come up with a sine wave representing going back and forth between "what is now" and "what could be." She says this is the secret to taking your audience on a ride with you through your speech. Her argument definitely seemed persuasive to me.
She broke down every second of Steve Jobs' iPhone launch PowerPoint that she worked on and pointed out his strategies to us. She pointed out how he literally marveled at his own product and modeled the emotion he wanted his audience to feel. The "star" moment was something they'll always remember: when he turned on the iPhone for the first time and showed scrolling.
Jobs mentioned Wayne Gretzky in his speech, quoting "skate to where puck is going to be, not where it has been."
From MLK and Neru's speeches, we learned about the use of metaphor, repetition, political reference, scripture, and emotions.
In terms of connecting to audiences, Duarte's happy that people can now give live feedback on Twitter as they're listening to good or bad speakers. She advocates addressing hostile reactions explicitly in one's talk in order to inoculate them.
She spent some time also describing her creative process. She first storyboards everything with Post It's that she can then move around. She does this to find holes. Then she just puts the Post It's into PowerPoint.
Some useful links:
Overall, the talk was useful, and as a personal lover of clean, simple, visual slide design, I definitely enjoyed meeting Nancy and hearing her speak.
I recently finished reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I can honestly say it was a game-and mind-changing book.
The overall concept has to do with lifestyle design: structuring and optimizing every part of your life so that you can make concrete progress towards living your dreams here and now, rather than in the distant future. The author has made himself an expert in many fields, such as entrepreneurship, travel, Japanese, tango, health, martial arts, online marketing, and product design. As a person with many interests and hobbies myself, I have respect for a fellow Renaissance Man.
My own philosophy has a lot in common with Tim's, which is why I found his book really striking a chord within me. However, it also made me realize how much of my own behavior and habits is self-destructive and pointless, even though I've been proud of those same habits for many years (e.g., "time management" and "promptness with email"). At times, those skills are helpful, but TIm does a great job explaining the danger behind them.
This book had so many details and concrete suggestions that there is no way I can do them justice in a blog post that I want to keep relatively short. I will just try to highlight the most relevant or interesting suggestions. A lot of info can be found at 4hourblog.com.
The overall book can be summarized by a simple acronym: DEAL.
The parts of the book that I question the most or do not fully agree with have to do with the cautions about technology and reading. I think it is clearly the case that there is too much information out there, and it is easy to get sucked into it. However, I think that if a person finds enjoyment or fulfillment from reading books or listening to audiobooks (also prohibited by the author, except for his audiobooks), then that's ok. In addition, I think it's fine to pursue businesses where you want to be actively involved and enjoy that. In general, the author's viewpoint is a little extreme (obviously to make a statement) but more or less correct.
I definitely recommend this book to any other perfectionists, work-a-holics, and Renaissance Men and Women out there.
I recently went to a Hacker News meetup featuring a great speech by Giles Bowkett, a self-made wizard of Ruby on Rails, online marketing guru, and personal coach.
Giles has recently tried the challenge of launching one mini-business per month. He did this to test the limits of creativity, see what lessons he could learn, and hopefully make some money doing it as well. He managed to achieve all three goals.
He did this by first becoming a master of Ruby on Rails and speaking at tech conferences and blogging on the subject to build a reputation. His background was also in acting, and he's found ways to combine his interests in acting, coaching, and technology to make money through online mini-businesses. A lot of the lessons he taught (like the power of virtual assistants) reminded me of the life-changing and mind-altering lessons I learned in The Four-Hour Workweek, which I recently completed reading and can't wait to blog about.
The books he read that helped him with his challenge were the following:
Overall, it was a fun and engagement presentation, and I look forward to the next meetup.