Slides and Speakers: by Tom Mucciolo
Ever since PowerPoint began to dominate the market, more and more casual users entered the design arena, and a wide variety of "how to" books emerged. In October of 1998, I was asked to co-author a series of PowerPoint books with Patrice Rutledge under the Special Edition: Using Microsoft PowerPoint label of the current Pearson Publishing (QUE) group. I have contributed to several of these titles to match the multiple releases of PowerPoint, through 2007. Geetesh Bajaj was a contributing author in the 2007 book. This was one of the few PowerPoint series that went beyond teaching people how to use the software, as several chapters in the book were dedicated to developing, designing and delivering the content. In these sections I was able to share guidelines based on all our audience feedback over the years.
The challenge in presentations is when the design task is separate from the delivery, making collaboration more critical. As we entered the new millennium, companies began to focus on consistency in presentations, especially for global organizations serving global markets. In fact, it was becoming increasingly clear that audiences wanted a cohesive blend of design and delivery to support a well-developed message.
Too often, when the presenters of content were neither the designers of the slides, nor the developers of the underlying message, the result was an inconsistency that audiences could recognize. The lack of collaboration among creative minds creates a marketing nightmare for so many organizations who seek uniformity across media formats. The most typical example is a presentation designed by a marketing department for use by a remote sales force. The tendency is to produce wordy, busy support content to assist even the "least experienced" presenter. In turn, presenters typically "narrate" the abundant content so as to cover everything, leaving little time for stories, examples, analogies and interaction.
We have always heard that presenters should "know the audience" when creating presentations. In a similar manner, visual designers are being asked to collaborate with presenters by "getting to know" a speaker's habits, preferences, capabilities, skills, etc. Unfortunately, designers are often limited to casual conversations, short meetings, and a few email exchanges in order to gain familiarity with a speaker, and this is clearly not enough exposure.
In 2005, during the course of training over 300 global speakers from more than 17 countries, I met Dr. Leila Jahangiri, Chair of the Department of Prosthodontics at New York University. Her visionary thinking led to her inviting me, a non-dentist, to join the faculty at NYU in order to help teachers and administrators become more effective presenters. When I arrived at NYU she asked me how I "measured" the presentation skill levels of speakers I had been coaching since 1985. When I said I had no specific mechanism to create a viable "metric" for such skill, she suggested we conduct a study of learner preferences for effective teaching, presenting, or speaking.
We published the results of a three-year study in 2008, expanded the study to multiple countries and cultures, and designed a series of interactive assessment tools and combined all of the research into a recently published book, A Guide to Better Teaching.
The Presentation Skills Assessment can be used by anyone to evaluate any speaker, and provides a "level of effectiveness" measuring 80 independent elements across 21 skill categories based on learner preferences. These studied preferences are consistent with those found in audience feedback in the late 1980's and mid-1990's; and, the desire is still for uncluttered, understandable, easy-to-view visual displays supporting a knowledgeable, professional delivery in a clear, concise, non-distracting and interactive manner. A sample of the form is viewable on my Visually Speaking blog in the Assessment Tools section.
Designing to the Delivery
These assessment tools have multiple uses, beyond those of helping speakers self-improve. The analysis provides the designer with clear indications as to what type of presentations would work more effectively for particular individuals, based on audience perceptions. The assessment tools are now giving a designer the collaborative efforts needed to build a presentation that matches a speaker’s style, based on how audiences view the speaker.
Suppose that a speaker uses a highly interactive delivery. Slide content could be adjusted to reveal fewer details early, so the presenter can use foreshadowing techniques to prompt audience for interactive discussion points, which later appear in detail. Perhaps a speaker is more comfortable with adding stories, examples, and analogies. Designers could create slides with short key phrases, revealed in full (no builds), allowing the speaker to "pick and choose" which points to expand upon to add value.
Imagine a presenter who is challenged by verbal fillers (ums, uhs) when trying to paraphrase text, giving the appearance of nervousness in trying to rush through the content. A slide designer could create more graphic images, data-driven charts, perhaps interspersed video, to allow the speaker to "talk around" the visual imagery with little or no text on the screen.
All in all, there are numerous ways that designers and presenters can use existing feedback, such as a skills assessment, to improve the visual support portion of a presentation, so that communication can be optimized and the overall message can reach the audience in the manner intended. The ultimate goal is to create presentations where both the design and the delivery function seamlessly so that audiences are engaged, enlightened, and entertained.
Tom Mucciolo is President of MediaNet, Inc., a presentation skills company in New York City. Since 1985, he has served as a presentation skills consultant for major corporations concentrating on the script, visual design, and delivery skills associated with presentations.
Tom is also part of the faculty at NYU and with his colleague, Dr. Leila Jahangiri, he has collaborated on extensive research in the area of teaching & presentation effectiveness, publishing articles, interactive assessment tools, and the recent book A Guide to Better Teaching. He is the co-author of five other books and two interactive CDs.
Categories: guest_post, opinion, powerpoint, presentation_skills
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 |