Monday, 5 October 2009

Watch Your Attitude as You Train or Teach - Believe!

This is an amazing, emotion, powerful, inspirational appeal to anyone who works with other people....

Dalton reminds us about how much we work together to make a difference to the young people in our communities. But the message works for all organisations, all people, all companies.

Perhaps it's time to consider how often we ask ourselves what we are passing onto the next generation.

Do we believe that every person we teach can reach their potential? Because ultimately it is in our hands and minds to make that happen.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Perfection Trap

How many of us are waiting - until we are ready? until we know it all? until, until.... It doesn't matter what you are waiting for, the time is never right....

You'll never find (read "just happen upon") the perfect moment to ditch your annoying boy/girl friend.
You'll never be totally ready to have children/ leave your job/ quit your job/ start a business.

Waiting for the perfect time is a way to save ourselves from venturing into the unknown (read "scary place"). A way to stay in our comfort zone (read "safe but boring").

But life marches on. I mean honestly - do you really want to get to the end of your life and have carved on your tomb "Here lies XXX. She/ He was waiting to be great".

Here's something to think about... every great presenter, once wasn't.

I know the lure of waiting. Of spending more time researching. Of studying for more qualifications. Of going to more workshops on designing workshops. Of being stuck and not feeling ready.

But ultimately, the fastest and best way to being a great presenter is to start. Now. Start even if you are imperfect. Learn. Develop. Gain experience. Get great.

So what are you waiting for?
Go out there and talk to people, share what you know.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Learners' Charter: Learn by Doing and Making

One of the other requests on the Charter for Learning was that "We want to learn by doing and making".

A quotation that I have used many times when talking about training and learning is this: you didn't learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book.

The same can be said for working a computer, writing a letter, cooking a meal, asking a girl out... you name it.

Our lives, our lifestyles, our jobs, our hobbies are mainly skills-based. Whatever job or business you are in, you will need some knowledge to do that job well. But nearly always, that knowledge and data is translated into actions before it has real impact. It is turning concepts and ideas into action that really counts.

As a trainer, for instance, you might learn about the different learning styles, but that knowledge is useful to help you design experiences that satisfy those different styles.

Is it more useful for me to tell you the step-by-step process of designing a presentation, or to ask you to use the process to design one of your own?

In many cases, learning becomes knowledge and experience, only once you put it into practice, try it out, reflect on what worked and start to create new pathways in your brain.

How many times do you tell people what to do, when instead you could either show them, or get someone to do it straight away?

So go on..... help people learn by doing and making!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Learner's Charter: Real Things That Matter to Us

Have you ever wondered what people would say if you asked them what sort of learning experiences they would like?

What would you say, if you were asked? What experiences have you had where you were inspired, motivated, energised, curious about a topic?

Well last year 170 young people from diverse schools and backgrounds were asked and the simplicity and authenticity of their answers is illuminating and inspiring.

One of their requests was "to learn real things, that matter to us."
Note - no desire to learn for simply the sake of it, nor to learn abstract ideas or concepts, nor things that matter to other people.

Research into learning in adults echoes these results - that relevance is one of the most important aspects of learning.

However many times you have communicated about your area of expertise, the one thing that changes every single time is your learners. And when your learners change, so does what matters to them.

How do you find out what matters to them?
The simplest way of all is to simply ask them: "why do you want to learn how to do X?"

This is not about showing your ignorance, it is about listening to them. About involving them in their learning. About making sure you give them what they need: real things that matter to them.

So before you teach them anything, ask them.

Find out more at

Friday, 21 August 2009

It's not what you do that counts...

As an entrepreneur building your connections through socialising and networking, how many people ask you this question: "So what is it that you do?"

How do you respond?
Do you sigh and reel off your standard response? I wouldn't blame you if you did. After all if I were to answer that honestly, it would sound something like:
"I listen and observe people, I type keys on my computer, then I stand up and talk to people."

Here are a few others ways I could answer it:
* I am a presentation skills coach (my job description)
* I am am CEO of Light the Spark (my position)
* I coach people who want to improve their presentation skills (what I do but not really what they want to know)

If I leave it like this, the person listening will make their own mind up about how I could help them (or why they don't need to talk to me anymore!).

What people actually want to know is the answer to this question:
How do you help people like me?

Think about it.
People do not spend money on diet food - they spend money to feel better about themselves when they look in the mirror, or to be able to climb a flight of stairs without being out of breath.

People don't hire a dating coach - they spend money to find someone they can spend the rest of their lives with (and to avoid excruciating dates with totally unsuitable people)

People don't hire a presentations skills coach - they spend money to make sure that when they make that sales pitch, they get the sale.

So work out what it is that you do that helps people. And the next time someone asks you "what do you do?" give them a powerful, succinct summary of who you help and how their lives improve by working with you.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Let Your Audience Teach You

Today's blog is inspired by a quotation I recently posted on Twitter by Marva Collins:
'The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.'

To be a great teacher or trainer you could do worse than let your audience teach you. To do that, you must create opportunities to interact with them, and them with you.

The more you can interact with your audience, the more you will learn from them. They will spark off new ideas in you and enhance your teaching a thousand fold.

Teaching is not about filling someone's head with facts - such as the seven different leadership styles.

Teaching is about inspiring people - about setting off a spark in them - a curiosity to learn more, to observe others, to reflect on their own experiences, to help them see through new eyes the world that has always been around them.

One of my favourite lecturers was a man who rarely gave me information, or answers. He almost always posed questions and let us debate our views. When we stated our point of view (so confidently, awaiting his agreement, for him to validate our position), he normally responded with a counterpoint- another question. He made me think more deeply, made me go beyond the obvious, the superficial and really work things out for myself.

He sparked more thoughts in me than he could ever have managed by telling me things.

Ask questions.
* Open questions.
* Controversial questions.
* Challenging questions.

Treat all your students as teachers and you will be amazed at how much more everyone will learn as a result.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Beautiful Simple Images combined with Powerful Words

This is a great example of a mid-week pick-me-up.
What's not to like?

* Beautiful, simple, high quality photographs of gorgeous scenery that echo and enhance the phrases
* Touching, inspirational words that really connect with all our lives - who hasn't ever felt like quitting and needed support to keep going?

In just two minutes, without rushing, this presentation speaks to us personally (notice the prevalence of the word "you" in the poem).

Please post your comments below - what would you improve?

Monday, 20 July 2009

What Does Your Typeface Say About You?

I am a big fan of fonts - from my earliest days tracing over letters and fonts from a hardcopy catalogue, I still love to explore and experiment.

I choose fonts that appeal to my own personality - quirky perhaps, avoiding the predictable. Although in presentations it pays to use something like Arial or the words take on a life of their own when you play it back (been there!)

This is a great video about typefaces, looking at how different restaurants might use typefaces in their signage and menus to represent the food style.

The presentation uses a great combination of strong visual elements, music, matched words and the big daddy of them all - repetition, repetition, repetition.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Present Material to Suit the Way Our Brains Work

This presentation by Garr Reynolds (of Presentation Zen fame) shows how Dr. John Medina' rules on how the brain works should drive our preparation of presentations and workshops.

Rule #1 - Exercise boosts brain power.
So why do we tend to present to people who are sitting down in one of the most passive physical conditions in the world?

Rule #4 - We don't pay attention to boring things. So why do people still design presentations that are slide after slide of bullet points?

Rule #10: Vision triumphs all other senses. And a PowerPoint slide full of words or text doesn't really count here!

I was so inspired by this presentation and the lessons I can learn as a presenter, I bought the book...!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Learning Through Play

This is a great talk about the creativity, the ingenuity, the inherent desire to create new things and try new things within children. To my mind, we need Tinkering Schools for adults - with no set agenda, with plenty of raw materials and allow ourselves to just play and learn as we go.

We need to give ourselves space to let our imaginations fly, without the rigid rules or expectations we frequently place on ourselves.

How can you use this?
Do you have space in your workshops to give people time to tinker?
Do you have too many rules about what a workshop is or is not?
Could you invite people to a workshop where everyone present teaches in small bursts the very best of what they know? Where there is no set agenda, no learning journey laid out in advance?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Using PowerPoint for Comedy

Comedian Tim Lee is a fantastic example of how to use PowerPoint to great effect.

He uses very simple visual information to enhance his humour and create a more complex story than would be possible using just words, as in traditional stand-up.

Presenting is all about playing to your strengths:
* You are great at talking, describing, body language, gestures.
* PowerPoint is great at diagrams, photos, graphs, visualising complex data.

So when you are thinking about what to put on your slides - let PowerPoint do the things you cannot do!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #10

Thine presentation is not about you, tis about thine audience - how will they benefit from what you are saying?

Firstly, let's cover nerves. Nerves are vanity. If you are feeling nervous then where is your focus? Your focus is probably on making an idiot of yourself, or your mouth drying up, or you forgetting something.

If you focus on your audience, on how you can help them, or make their lives better then your nerves will calm down significantly.

This brings us to the What Is In It For Me (WIIFM)? factor.
Every speech, every presentation, every workshop you deliver should explain how it will benefit your audience. Speak about how their lives will improve and watch them sit up and pay attention!

However interesting your life story, or your battle to succeed in business, or your ten minutes of fame on Big Brother, your story needs to connect with people, to tell them something new, even change their minds or inspire them to action.

WIIFM might include:
* reducing some pain (costs, bills, time, hassle, junk mail...)
* increase some gain (money, clients, leisure, happiness)
* creating more good feelings (pleasure, joy, energy, inspiration)
* reducing less pleasurable feelings (sadness, frustration, anger)

So how does what you say improve the lives of those listening to you?
What Is In It For Me if I listen to you?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #9

Thou shalt do something more than just entertain thine audience when thou speakest - thine audience should learn.

Don't get me wrong - people relax and learn when they are enjoying themselves. But your speech or workshop should do more than just leave your audience with a warm fuzzy feeling.

If you're an "after dinner" speaker, then ramp up the jokes and anecdotes and feel free to aim for entertainment or inspiration, or whatever your audience has hired you for.

But in many other situations, people want and deserve more than just being entertained. They want some value, some purpose, some new information or skills.

If you have read commandment #6, you should be clear on what your audience really NEEDS TO KNOW. Structure your talk (off the computer if you can) around that information. Follow commandment #2 and avoid long dreary elements. Mix it up. Make it fun, make it enjoyable, and make sure they get it (follow commandment #4 and include plenty of variety in your session to ensure everyone gets a chance to learn at their best).

If your speech is there to challenge behaviours or entrenched attitudes, then having your audience feel uncomfortable for a while might be a much better solution to jolt them out of their status quo than warm fuzziness.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #8

Neither shalt thou get thine audience jumping around after lunch, nor shalt thou put on a long video in the dark

As a facilitator or presenter, one of your core jobs is the manage the energy of both the group and yourself.

To do this well, you need to be able to assess energy levels: to know when your audience are bouncing and when they are slumping. Here are a few signs to look out for:

1) Body language - are they slumped, doodling, eyes vacant? Or are they alert, engaged and following your movements with their eyes?
2) Level of interaction and engagement - what happens when you ask a question or set a task?
3) Your own energy levels - if the room has low energy you might find your own levels are drained as you try to raise theirs.... Conversely when their energy is full-on it tends to make you feel great too!

There is always a balance to be struck, as reflected in the title. After lunch there can be a significant lull in energy levels, as blood moves to the digestive system (if you can, choose a lunch with less stodge). Don't put the lights out and show a video unless you want them to have a snooze. After lunch is a great time to get them working on a case study or interactive exercise.

What signs and evidence can you find or have you noticed that reflects the energy levels of your audience when you are presenting? Post your comments here....

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #7

Thou shalt not show thine audience how much thou knowest.

No-one likes a show off. Not since school days.

There's a saying that seems appropriate here...
People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Really, I couldn't care less what celebrities you have coached, until you have shown me a simple tip that will make my life better.

I don't want to know how many qualifications you have, or letters after your name, unless you can give me a piece of sage advice that I can use straight away.

An expert knows alot.
A teacher knows how to break down something complex into simple steps that anyone can master. A teacher can take something other people find hard and make it easy.

Be both an expert in your topic and a great teacher - so that your audience can benefit from your years of experience in a way that will transform their life.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #6

Thou shalt not bore thine audience with irrelevant fluff - thou shalt concentrate on the real NEED TO KNOW data.

This commandment is easily demonstrated using an example - let's use Swine Flu as the topic of your presentation.

Think about what your audience really needs to know about this potential pandemic.
If your audience is the general public, then what they really NEED TO KNOW must be about the symptoms, treatment and what to do if you think you have it.

If that is the NEED TO KNOW information, how do the recent news reports stack up:
* Information on the genetic make-up of swine flu
* That swine flu is a variation of the H1N1 virus
* How the disease spread from pigs into the human population and why
* What the difference is between an epidemic and a pandemic

Lots of this is fluff. It's not offensive, but it's not NEED TO KNOW either.
It confuses the issue and overloads us with facts that are not going to save us.

For everything you are thinking of saying in a presentation put it through the NEED TO KNOW filter.

It doesn't matter how interesting the story is, or how funny your statistics are, or how much research it took some lab rat to discover the origins of the theory. If your audience, in this situation do not NEED TO KNOW, then leave it out. Please.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #5

Thou shalt prepare for (nearly) every eventuality and be flexible in thine approach to thine event.

It doesn't well you have laid your plans for your presentation, or workshop - the law of sod will sometimes intervene.

As a presenter, it pays to be adaptable. To be flexible. To go with the flow.
The more you consider and even plan for such changes, the better you are likely to react when at the last moment:

* swine-flu puts half your audience into quarantine the night before your event
* the electricity fails five seconds before you power up an incredible video clip (or more likely the bulb blows in the projector)
* the person before you overruns and your time is cut in half and what's more they nearly killed your audience with PowerPoint and they are now semi-comatose
* you find out that your delegates have just been given 30 days consultation before the organisation closes for good

The key to being a great presenter is to be able to think on your feet, and change your direction.

For each of the elements you have planned in your session - your chunks of talking, discussions, interactive exercises, planning or coaching sessions - consider the "what if" options.

What if I have twice or half as long to do this - what would I do?
What if I have more or fewer people at the event - what would I do?
What if the technology fails - what would I do?

By thinking through these options, and having an answer in most cases, then you will be a whole lot better prepared and able to respond if (not when) something does change.

If you have designed your session around core NEED TO KNOW information or skills, then making these changes is much much easier than if you have a long script that rambles. But more of that in commandment #6.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #4

Thou shalt honour the fact that all people are different & create variety at the heart of your talk.
People are magical. They are wonderfully diverse in what they like and how they prefer to learn. Some people sit in silence, absorbing the content, without ever needing to hear their own voice. Some people like to get engaged with a topic, and start trying things out from the getgo.

I know that until I learnt about the different styles, I tended to design workshops that appealed to me. Fine for those with similar styles, but with little to appeal to the rest of the people present. Appreciating the differences and how they want to learn was a huge eye-opener for me and improved my presentations and workshops beyond all recognition.

There are alot of different ways of characterising people, and today we are just going to discuss one - the preferences we have for how we communicate - our VAK or VARK style. Are you a visual person, an auditory person, a read-write person or a kinaesthetic person?

If you don't know, then follow this link to find out: (on one of my personal favourite websites)

A visual person will benefit from slides, flipcharts, video and colourful handouts.
An auditory person will benefit from discussions, brainstorming and music.
A read-write person will benefit from quizzes and handouts.
A kinaesthetic person will benefit from touching things, movement and interactive elements.

We are a wonderfully diverse people and the more we appreciate our uniqueness, the better our presentations and workshops become. If you design in variety at the very heart of what you do, you increase your chances of inspiring and engaging everyone who is listening - in fact you can Light the Spark in everyone.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #3

Thou shalt not talk to thine listeners or treat them as if they are your troublesome children

It is amazing what adults can do. They hold down a job, run a household, pay into a retirement fund, look after their parents and children... So why is that some presenters treat them like they are four years' old?

A smatter of condescension, some "guidelines" (read rules) at the start to keep everyone in their place... It's enough to bring out the worst in your learners. Drone on like a school master of old and watch as people start to fiddle and play up!

Your adults know an incredible amount and have decades of life experience. They might not be experts at what you do, but they are experts in their own right. If you choose to treat them as experts (in another field) then your focus grows. Not only do you think of how you can help them, but also, what you can learn from them.

I used to teach a short module on data protection - despite knowing very little about it. At the start of each session I would get groups of around six people to write down everything they knew or thought they knew about Data Protection. Without fail someone in each team would have plenty to say, because either it was or had been part of their role. All I had to do then was to correct any misunderstandings and draw out their own expertise.

The best way to use the experience and knowledge already present in your audience is to ask them questions, set them tasks and get them working in groups. The person with the most relevant knowledge then teaches the rest of the group and you simply correct or add in where there are gaps.

Plus, you treat them like the knowledgeable experts they are.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #2

Thou shalt not drone on for more than fifteen minutes or thou wilst lose thine audience's attention.

Adults are independent, self-determining beings. We are used to being in control of our lives. Until it is evening and men go to watch the tv (fire) after a long day at the office (hunting), few people want to sit (without moving) and listen (in silence) to someone talk for hours on end. With a few exceptions (comedians or entertainers).

If your speech or workshop lasts more than about 15 minutes, then you need to chunk it down. Split it into segments, with some talking, some discussions, some exercises or interactions - with none of the talking bits lasting more than about 15 minutes.

Even with an audience of 500 people, you can intersperse your session with:
* discussions - ask them to talk to their neighbour/ the person in front or behind
* questions and answer segments - how might they do X? what is their experience of Y?
* polls - use either hands up, or a jack-in-the-box (stand up for yes, sit for no) approach to get people thinking about the questions and information
* small movements - even if it's something as simple as getting your audience to cross their arms, notice which arm is on top, then asking them to do it with the other arm on top. An old faithful for pointing out how new things always feel weird at first.

Think about the attention span of your audience before you plan your session. Last thing on a Friday (for instance) you may decide to have no speaking longer than 10 minutes. Whatever the time of day, design in sections to get them involved, get them thinking for themselves, get them moving and you will not only help keep them awake, alert and attentive, but you'll stimulate the blood flow to their brain and support their learning.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Sparkie's Ten Commandments #1

Thou shalt not shoe-horn thine favourite activities into every workshops thou runneth.

Tempting as it is, your favourite activity or exercise may not going to be relevant nor appropriate for every workshop you deliver. I urge you not to get lazy and rely on your old faithfuls.

Sure, it's better to include a brainstorm that just to talk non-stop, but rely on the same thing all the time and your workshops will suffer from the "Law of Diminishing Astonishment" - or being boring in other words.

Would you teach a child to ride a bike with 57 PowerPoint slides and a brainstorm?
Not if you wanted them to be able to ride it anytime soon!

Teach people about writing, by getting them writing.
Teach people about making difficult choices, by outlining a situation and helping them make a choice.

Try this combination to build confidence in any new skill: some step-by-step instructions (concepts), observation (watching someone else) then doing (practice), then reflection.

Friday, 8 May 2009

What Would You Say To Sum Up the Lessons in Your Life?

This video is amazing and emotional and it touched me deeply. Randy uses simple images, simple phrases and powerful messages to help us all connect with our dreams and what life is really about.

I loved the image of him pouring soda over the back seat of his new car - he knew the difference between stuff and what really matters.

Powerful, persuasive, passionate. If I am half the speaker Randy is here, I will be a very blessed one.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Simplify your slides and data

This short video is a great example of using the principles of simplicity in getting information across.

Friday, 1 May 2009

A new drug called Despondex is revealed...

This short video is similar to Steve McDermott's book on being a complete and utter failure. You both laugh and learn by stealth at the same time. Loving this.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

How to Send Shivers Down Spines

Earth day 2009 from Zoltan Ladanyi on Vimeo.

This is the most amazing video - Disney knows how to sell us on the importance of the Earth and capture our imagination whilst tugging at our emotions...

Monday, 20 April 2009

When I'm 50.... what and who will you be?

In just over one minute, here are some people reminding us of what we might want in our lives when we are fifty years old...

Watch and comment - what really resonated with you?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Sixty Seconds to Sell Yourself

Below is the wildcard favourite entry in the "World's Best Job" website competition. Instead of a resume, applicants submitted a sixty second video for a job in Australia Tourism. Could you pitch such a persuasive argument in sixty seconds or less?

A great monday morning pick-me-up....
to see other entrants visit:

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Simple, Powerful and Inspiring - Watch This!

This is an amazing, short piece that made the hairs on my neck stand up and a shiver go down my spine.

Monday, 9 March 2009

How to Remember What to Say

As a presenter you want to remember what to say during your presentation or workshop. The more nervous you are, the more you may want to use extensive notes, or even a script to make sure you remember it all. But please put the script down if you really want to connect to your audience.

There are only two occasions when reading off a script is acceptable:
1) If you are a political or business leader such as President Obama
2) If every single word or nuance must be spoken exactly as written

The rest of the time, it is far better to be spontaneous and ad-lib. Here's why:
* Your tone and pace will be more natural
* You will have more eye contact and connection with your audience
* Your personality and natural charisma will shine through

The problem with a script is that it is rarely written in words or phrases that you would use naturally when speaking. Sentences are too long. By reading it out you may stutter or sound stilted, never mind lose your place as you talk.

One of the worst solutions is to write a series of PowerPoint slides with bullet points on to remind you what to say. Sure, lots of people do it, that doesn't mean it's a great idea.

These are some great options to help remember what to say:
* Use brief notes on A5 paper, or blank cards - just a few reminders will do
* Create a brief plan of what to say and when (with times to ensure you stick to your timings)
* Practise, practise, practise until you know what you need to say and can say it in the time allowed, without any reference to notes at all. The sooner you start practising each element of the presentation, the more confident you will be when push comes to shove.

A passionate, authentic delivery of any information is better than a stilted script-driven reading without eye contact. So go on, put the script down and back away from the podium.....

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Real-life stories to capture the imagination

I recently watched a great channel four documentary on the Hudson River plane crash (watch it on-line at in the next 25 days...) This story is emotional, has a happy ending and many of your audience will be familiar with it from the news. Being current it can really help bring your presentation or workshop bang up to date.

Here are some interesting themes that you could highlight:
* the importance of training for 'what-if' scenarios
* the importance of being creative and finding alternative solutions fast
* the prevalence of video and cameras in the modern environment so that live videos exist (see YouTube)
* how the public are trumping journalists in photos/ videos of events
* design of planes for double engine failure at 3000 feet
* the effect of a near death experience on the passengers
* the response from people watching/ phoning 911/ ferries who went to rescue the passengers

With some video clips or photographs, some quotes from the programme or other sources such as newspapers and a clear set of learning objectives, modern news can be used as an interesting and vibrant addition to your presentation or workshop.

So keep your eyes and ears open for interesting news stories that you can use to stimulate discussion, especially if you can find a unique or interesting angle to it!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Dare you go Handout-free?

I have been pondering the issue of handouts of late. Handouts are something that many people ask about - what do you handout, and when do you hand it out (at the start, or at the end?)

I worry about the folders of training courses that just gather dust on shelves, never to be opened again. It seems almost criminal to be printing full colour pages that use the world's valuable resources if they are not going to be used.

Have we created an expectation that handouts MUST be provided?
Have we taught our learners to want and expect handouts - so they have something to doodle on or flick ahead to see what is coming?

What if we dispensed with handouts all together?
What if we relied up powerful presentation from the person at the front?
What if we spent much more time helping people understand the story or flow to the information - going back to our aural tradition?

I am on a mission to wean us all (trainers and attendees alike) off handouts, wherever possible. Let us save the trees for something more important that looking good on shelves before being finally recycled years later.

Save yourself hours of preparation too.
So who is with me - are you ready to go handout-free?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Impact and Passion, but the graphs.....!! oh dear

I love the bit where he contrasts spending on malaria and baldness.... but some of his graphs, even at huge scale are clumsy, gaudi and could be much much better.

Watch. Then reflect on what you would like to emulate and what you would like to avoid in your own presentations

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Humour in Creating Groups

One way to lighten the mood, open people's minds and de-stress people during presentations and workshops is by using humour.

There are very gentle, subtle ways of encouraging a playful or light-hearted attitude during your workshop that don't rely on telling jokes or things outside your natural personality.

It is an essential element of learning that everyone gets a chance to apply new knowledge or practise new skills. As they say "you don't learn to ride a bike by reading a manual."

When using interactive exercises, you will need to create pairs, or small groups for these interactive elements, and in doing that you easily add humour. Here are some suggestions for creating groups:

1) Using sweets - especially retro ones that cause a stir and get people talking. Have a bag with different kinds of sweets (say four of each kind if you want groups of four) and hand them around as a lucky dip. Things like refreshers, lover hearts, gob stoppers for example. If you do this at the beginning when people arrive, you can then ask them to remember the sweet they have already eaten!

2) Using badges - by badges of 70s, 80s, or even 90s bands (ebay is the perfect place to find them) and do a lucky dip again, or lay them out for people to choose. Choose the decade depending on your audience - some will remember swooning over David Cassidy or the Bay City Rollers and some would just go "who?"

If you have created pairs and want to determine who goes first, instead of just asking the group to decide, why not use the following statements to determine who goes first:

* the person with the most vowels in their full name
* the person with the longest fingernail (any finger on any hand)
* the person who has the most nieces and nephews (aunts and uncles etc)
* the person with the biggest watch
* the person with the most unusual thing in their pocket or purse

Think of some unusual methods to form groups and pick who goes first and you will add an element of surprise into your workshops, that automatically raise them above the run-of-the-mill expectations.

Good luck and please share your own ideas for forming groups here on the light the spark facebook page....

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Decluttering Your Materials

Continuing on the theme of paring down your presentations and workshops, so that you can focus on the NEED TO KNOW information, it is now time to reflect upon your materials...

We've all seen presentations containing tens or hundreds of similar slides with a handout the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica as we leave...

We've all laughed at Don McMillan's brilliant parody of cluttered PowerPoint slides on YouTube (and if you haven't, just follow this... )

But in the spirit of decluttering, ask yourself these questions:

* What information do my listeners or learners really need to take away from this event? ... Can I fit it only a credit card as a takeaway?
* What slides or images do my learners really need to look at during my event?... Can I eliminate slides all together?
* For each piece of NEED TO KNOW information, what would be the simplest way to convey that to my learners?

Don't think that if you have shunned PowerPoint for flipcharts then you are off the hook. Last weekend I saw some dreadfully cluttered, overly colourful flipcharts where the presenter was trying too hard...

Let's say that you have presentation with a year's worth of figures (broken down monthly) that you need to present - perhaps your instinct is to choose a bar chart to display them. But it might only be a single month that counts - a peak in August, or tumble-weed blowing through the cash tills in February.

So do you display them all, then use your laser pointer to highlight the key month...
Or, do you have a single figure or percentage next to the name of the month on a slide and tell your audience why that figure is important?

Which is most likely to grab their attention? Which one tells the most powerful story?

Look at all the materials you use during your presentations and workshops and eliminate any that do not 100% enhance your learners' experience during your event.

Then you can use the fire test. When decluttering your house, you pick a single box of items you can save in a fire. So in a similar vein if you had only a handful of slides/ notes/ handouts which of these would you pick?

Now look at the ones you didn't pick - how could you either eliminate them, or make them great enough to be in your final selection?

Remember - what your audience takes away from a presentation is not determined by the pages in your handouts.....

Keep your message simple and strong and they will take it away in their minds and hearts instead.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Decluttering Your Message

The New Year is a great place to start putting some new habits into practice, so let us have a little clear out - or in some cases a really big clear out....

Let us start by decluttering your message.
Many of you will have heard of the 80/20 or Pareto rule...

Well the same applies in presentations and workshops: 80% of your impact will come from just 20% of your message,

So now is the time to declutter your message so that you get clear about the 80% that really makes a difference. Using the Pareto rule, mandatory training could be cut to 20% of the time it usually takes by cutting to the chase.

Using Post-It notes, write down all the key things you normally say in your presentation (that last a few minutes at least). Count the notes and work on getting down to one-fifth or 20% of that number.

There are two rules now for dealing with each note: Ditch It or Do It.

If you feel it falls into the 80%, ditch it.
If you feel it falls into the 20%, keep it and keep doing it.

This is a great method for getting clear about what you should be saying and what you pretty much can leave out with very little detriment to your listeners....

Now you have something sleek and elegant - and can design some interactive exercises that reiterate your core message, rather than adding in non-core fluff.

Keep an eye out for part 2, where I will talk about decluttering your materials.

Go the 2nd December 2008 to find out more about the NEED TO KNOW basis for content design.