Robert Lane is a presentation design consultant specializing in visually interactive communication techniques. He has authored several books including Relational Presentation: A Visually Interactive Approach and Selling Visually with PowerPoint.
In this conversation, Robert discusses his upcoming Visual Language online workshop, being held in July 2013.
Geetesh: Can you tell us more about your Visual Language online workshop, and what participants will learn from this workshop series?
Robert: This particular workshop addresses what I see as a deepening crisis with corporate presentations. Talks have become so bad, so broken, so unbelievably boring, rigid and uninspiring that’s it’s affecting people’s ability to understand and remember information.
Nobody wants to waste an hour looking at slide after slide of bullet points, cartoonish clipart, meaningless stock photos and androgynous, faceless beings holding megaphones. We don’t tolerate that kind of garbage at a movie theatre or while surfing YouTube or checking Facebook. Why should a PowerPoint performance be acceptably awful? What people really want is content that is entertaining, visual, colorful, meaningful and memorable—slides that make them think, stir emotions, cause laughter and captivate with stories. Creating that kind of content and delivering it in a conversational, natural way is the focus of these sessions.
I believe it’s time we rethink our purposes for being in the spotlight. Are were there to dump as much detail and as many facts into people’s brains during the time we have, or can we be more effective entertaining and inspiring them to catch the gist of our messages and then motivating and persuading them to pursue the details in another form, perhaps a handout, a book, a website, or the like.
To that end, these workshop sessions focus on four key content design principles:
- High-quality Visuals: Participants learn to minimize or even eliminate text on slides and use meaningful images and other quality forms of media instead to express ideas. Pictures alone can play more than 20 helpful roles that greatly improve audience engagement and understanding.
- Modularity and Reusability: This is a very hands-on course where learners remake their own presentation materials. Part of that makeover process involves dividing long single shows into many tiny, reusable pieces that span multiple audiences into the future. Those tiny pieces eventually are linked together to form a dynamic structure that resembles a website, allowing presenters to flexibly select individual visual topics as needed while speaking.
- Organization: Once those long shows are divided into pieces, what we call visual vocabulary, the next step is organizing them for fast random display. If someone asks a question or you suddenly think of an example that would be perfect in the moment, you must immediately know where to find that topic and how display it within seconds.
- Flexibility: Having a highly organized collection of high-quality visual and reusable individual topics is great … but only if you have simple and effective navigation strategies in place allowing you to move around seamlessly and quickly within that collection. Being able to fully navigate ALL presentation materials right now is absolutely essential.
Geetesh: Who is your typical workshop participant, and what takeaways do you foresee for the participant?
Robert:The best candidates for this workshop are people who recognize that their audiences would rather pull their eyes out than sit through another typical mind-numbing performance. They are ready to learn a new language—a visual language—that engages audiences like nothing else can. They master graphic design skills that can be implemented directly in PowerPoint, work with pictures and create picture stories, explore creative ways of using shapes for decoration, navigation and illusion and build navigation strategies using hyperlinks.
The course also provides three templates to simplify the learning experience. By course completion, participants have a working presentation platform that resembles both a website and a database, yet is built entirely with PowerPoint (any version and no extra add-ins or plug-ins required). They can start using this platform right away to flexibly and visually communicate messages. A video showing this presentation style in action can be found on the following page: Visual Language Workshop, July 2013.