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And one more thing...


A couple of quick links and bits:
I've done more presentations in the last three months than in all my previous years combined, so I've been learning a lot and have a deep appreciation for the people who are really good at this. And I've also gone from hating slides to loving them--I used over 200 images in my one-hour talk at SXSW.

You won't find any bullet points or paragraphs on my slides (done in Apple's Keynote app)--they're mostly graphics and a word or two.

I still say that anyone using slides as a crutch or to simply recreate their words on screen should be (metaphorically) shot. But in the right circumstances, slides can definitely add value for the listeners. The reason I started using them is because I recognize the importance of visuals both for audience enjoyment and to increase understanding, retention, and recall. Plus, in a room of over 100 people, I don't make much of a useful/good visual just standing up there talking. The back of the room sees nothing if I don't use slides (although occasionally, depending on the venue and whether I'm tethered to a mic, I walk out into the room rather than being stuck to the front).

Later, I'll have a lot more to say about experimenting with ways to involve your audience more -- to treat them not as passive listeners but active particpants, but that's for another post.

Tim Baxter sent me this link to yesterday's Businessweek post on How to Wow 'Em Like Steve Jobs that packs a lot of really good info in five little tips. It's definitely worth a read if you're a geek and not a markter, and not just for presentations but in the way you communicate with your users.

Tip one, for example, is Sell the Benefit, and includes

Steve Jobs does not sell bits of metal; he sells an experience. Instead of focusing on mind-numbing statistics, as most technologists tend to do, Jobs sells the benefit. For example, when introducing a 30 GB iPod, he clearly explains what it means to the consumer -- users can carry 7,500 songs, 25,000 photos, or up to 75 hours of video.

And even though you've all seen this one by now, you can't read it too many times: Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic from Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen blog. (In his post for today, Garr offers his own comments on the Businessweek article).

(And for presentation tips, be sure to check out the 43 Folders post Open Thread: Your best tip on doing presentations.)

Next up: the Apple site features a story of skater Rob Dyrdek making a documentary about an amazing project:

For a decade Dyrdek has dreamed of the solution: a radical new design modeled on the urban environment. And in June 2005 his vision came to life with the opening of the Skate Plaza in his hometown of Kettering, Ohio. “It’s not a skate park,” insists Dyrdek, “but a park that people can skate in.” A beautifully landscaped public space built with funds from Dyrdek, his sponsor, DC Shoes, and the city, it’s open to strollers, picnickers, concert-goers. “The ultimate goal is to coexist with people,” says Dyrdek.

Here's a link to The Skate Plaza Foundation, which will get you to the film trailer.

The skate culture has always been of great interest to me because I am a skateboarder (for the last 25 years), Skyler's boyfriend is a sponsored skater, and because some of the best artists, designers (graphic and fashion), and filmmakers are a part of this world. There's a lot more going on there than I think many non-skaters may realize, both good and bad.

I am deeply disappointed that there aren't more female skaters today--in what is now called the "old school" (dogtown and z-boys era) days, women represented a much higher percentage of skaters than today. That's for adifferent discussion -- but for now, there are some bright spots, like The International Society of Skateboarding Moms. (Here's something from NPR on it... they mention the oldest member is 80!)

But for frick's sake, I still cannot do a proper olie, a relatively newer trick. I'm having fun watching and learning from The Book of Cool, though. So perhaps one of these days...

In the meantime, I suggest that any non-skaters who have teens and twenty-something users, or who are simply interested in the cultural impact of skateboarding (again -- much greater than many people seem to realize), to visit your nearest skateboard shop and appreciate the back-of-the-board artwork, or check out the Installation Shoe Gallery, a Boulder skateboard shoe+art gallery. Very fun. (I talked about their Art Battle in my Creativity on Speed post).

[Steve Jobs pic borrowed from Presentation Zen]

Posted by Kathy on April 7, 2006 | Permalink


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Speaking of skateboarding, yesterday I stumbled upon a music video for the song "Kick Push" by Lupe Fiasco. I think skateboarders will appreciate the song and personally, it's probably the best hip-hop song I've heard in a long time.

Posted by: Annonymous | Apr 7, 2006 2:34:36 PM

I'm hurt, you forgot the little people...!

Posted by: Rich...! | Apr 7, 2006 3:01:33 PM

I agree with no bullet points on slides, but I always appreciate presentations that have meaningful quotations that the speaker uses on the powerpoint slide. I feel like it increases the emotional resonance.

What do other people think?

Posted by: nursegirl | Apr 7, 2006 3:43:43 PM

Kathy writes:
And I've also gone from hating slides to loving them--I used over 200 images in my one-hour talk at SXSW.

Hate, love. From 0 per hour to 200 per hour. How about some moderation? Some thought? Some consideration? Do we have to go from one extreme to the other?

Kathy writes:
I still say that anyone using slides as a crutch or to simply recreate their words on screen should be (metaphorically) shot.

I'm sorry, but 18 seconds per slide is itself a crutch, perhaps a different kind of crutch, but nonetheless a crutch. Would you like a last cigarette, Kathy?

If you have something meaningful to say, and you've invested some thought into making it interesting, you don't need all the visuals. They're distracting. You don't need a slide that repeats two words from what you just said. If you utter the word "tree" you don't need a picture of a tree. Talks aren't television. And good talks are nothing like television.

Posted by: Bob | Apr 7, 2006 4:28:46 PM

Information graphics guru Edward Tufte gives amazing presentations and has long railed against Powerpoint. I was lucky enough to see him in a seminar in Boston a couple of years ago and he also used a slide projector with images only, no text. He talked a lot about how bullet points tend to damage communication, not enhance it. Steve Jobs' keynotes, although there's a little bit of chartjunk in his images at times, are definitely influenced by Tufte.

Posted by: Gary | Apr 7, 2006 5:11:59 PM

What if you're preseting some technical information? I'm going to be doing a quick seminar on software licenses (focusing mainly on open source licenses) for people at my work and I'm still trying to figure out how to properly present the information.

Posted by: Joe Van Dyk | Apr 7, 2006 9:03:42 PM

Selling the benefit is a great idea. I'm pretty sure that the benefit of communication, for instance, with team members increases the likelihood of achievement of shared goals. In my situation, I'm not trying to just get my team member to talk to me or send me files; I'm trying to achieve a goal of helping her to release a great product, on time, so that she can truly enjoy her May vacation. But my team member won't communicate with me regularly. How would you suggest I solve this problem? ;> I've considered showing up at her house very early on a Saturday morning (visual and extended audio), for instance, to reinforce the benefit of communicating during more normal hours...

Posted by: Solveig Haugland | Apr 8, 2006 2:53:29 AM

Yes, using images and a word or two is terrific! What has brought presentation techniques into the dungeons of evil is the hierarchical dogma of PowerPoint. Kathy you probably know the work of Edward Tufte. Here he is on PowerPoint as Rocket Science:

This is Professor Tufte's main page:

Posted by: Judy Breck | Apr 8, 2006 6:42:59 AM

I went to your presentation at SXSW. When you started and said that we'd be interacting with each other in the audience, you got a lot of eye rolls and skepticism from myself and those around me. HOWEVER! Your presentation ended up being one of the favorites of everyone at my company who attended SXSW.

Your presentation was compelling because it contained:

- Actionable Items & real-world examples: Many of the presentations took the whole hour to get to how whatever they were talking about might apply in the real world, whereas yours basically started that way and carried on throughout.

- Imagery that supported what you said clearly and grabbed your listeners: A presentation about creating passionate users *better* engage listeners, and yours thankfully did do that. Your presentation had two layers: what you were saying and how you said it. We all learned from both.

- A useful mix of presentation and interactivity: Talking with those around me ended up being a treat. It wasn't overdone or forced and didn't seem pointless as part of your presentation. Many other presentations at the conference would have benefited from the same type of content.

You nailed it, and you earned at least one dedicated follower in me. I walked away thinking about how to apply what you said to my work and wanting to read the books you mentioned.

Posted by: Kristina Barnett | Apr 8, 2006 9:41:11 AM

Would have loved to attend the presentation. It can be painful watching people almost regurgitate the words on their slides. The most effective presentations are those that have a beginning and an end, usually a set of goals and an result at the end, which could be a set of actionable items or results.

Posted by: Deepak | Apr 8, 2006 10:46:41 AM

This is a point on which I can never resist leaping onto my soapbox! (see: http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_karynromeis_archive.html)

I have never heard Steve Jobs speak. In fact, I didn't even know until recently that I was missing out on anything. My presentation hero is Guy Kawasaki (http://www.guykawasaki.com/). Now I shall have to find a way to see a Jobs presentation.

If I never see another bullet point again, it will be too soon. The opening question I always asked when running a workshop on the use of PowerPoint in presentations was:
"What do you want your audience to do with the words on your slide?"

Read them? Then sit down and shut up - you've just done yourself out of a job.

They can either read them or listen to you - they can't do both simultaneously. Graphics provide the audience with a mental hook on which to hang the words you speak.

However, I will say that less is more, and a 1 hour presentation should run to no more than 15-20 slides.

Posted by: Karyn Romeis | Apr 10, 2006 2:08:08 AM

Woohoo! I got a shoutout from inimitable Kathy Sierra!

I don't have anything to add to the conversation, I'm just giddy.

Posted by: Baxter | Apr 10, 2006 7:27:23 AM

how to ollie....

I assume having watched the book of cool you know what to do but it just doesn't seem to be working darn it!

top tip.
stop trying to ollie. get zen on it's ass.

get your deck about 5 feet away from a curb and stare at it. it's only a couple of inches high but seems like mount everest darn it. think of it as point b. you want to get from point a to point b. point b is a fab place to be and point a sucks. the journey is a simple one. you just roll towards your destination thinking of how cool you will look on point b looking down on all the sukkas still stuck at point a. pop the tail and simply step up to point b. you are a point b person. be point b. your journey is now complete and you rule!

The mistake every one makes when learning an ollie is to focus on the ollie. An ollie is just the way we get from point a to point b.

Posted by: Miles | Apr 11, 2006 5:01:49 AM

Anonymous: I like Lupe Fiasco, but I wish it had showed a lot more skating.

Rich!: OMG! I would never forget about you. I did, however, forget to link to you on this one. I'll make it up to you, I promise. You guys are my presentation heroes. But it's not like you ever write or call, you know...

Joe: If you're doing technical info, you almost certainly *will* need info graphics, pictures, code, etc. of some kind, but I try to work very hard with tech presentations to put in ONLY what they absolutely must see in order to understand your point. So, like everything else, it means putting that slide/graphic on trial for its life to make sure every piece of it is crucial to their "getting it" (whatever your goal is for that topic and audience).

Kristina: thank you so very much for this comment. I REALLY appreciate it.

Bob: "From 0 per hour to 200 per hour. How about some moderation? Some thought? Some consideration? Do we have to go from one extreme to the other?"

I don't know about moderation, but there was a great deal of thought and consideration behind this, and it evolved over a year, so it wasn't as dramatic a change as I made it seem from my post. But you're right -- it *is* somewhat extreme, but this particular presentation topic (the creating passionate users talk) is unique (for me, anyway). If I were doing, say, a talk on java, I'd probably use less than 20 slides.

"I'm sorry, but 18 seconds per slide is itself a crutch..."

I'd probably agree if it were in fact 18 seconds per slide, but your calculation assumes a perfectly linear presentation of slides, which was definitely not the case. It all depends on what adds value and best serves the exact point I'm hoping people will take away from that specific sub-topic. So, there were places where 20 different images might be displayed rapidly, and then a long stretch (well, longISH) hanging out with one slide.

"If you have something meaningful to say, and you've invested some thought into making it interesting, you don't need all the visuals."

I agree. They usually aren't needed. But that doesn't mean that -- done right (and I'm not suggesting that I'm there yet), they don't add value in some circumstances.

If you utter the word "tree" you don't need a picture of a tree. Talks aren't television. And good talks are nothing like television."

Good talks should not be television, agreed. But whether you need a picture of a tree is entirely context-dependent. Images and words are stored in two different ways, so if for some reason it really *matters* that they "get" the idea of tree, and remember it when needed -- then a picture + words will do a better job of improving retention and recall (and potentially understanding as well--again, it depends on the context and goal).

But should you arbitrarily just put pictures up of each word you're saying? No, I completely agree. But useful and stimulating is not necessarily the same as gruititous and decorative. Visuals can be a huge distraction, as you said, but there is a lot of brain science that says they can add a great deal of value in many ways. The problem, of course, is that they are far more often badly used.

I'd much rather see NO slides than bad and badly-used slides. Until recently, I felt I didn't have what it took to use slides in way that would add value (rather than subtract it), so I waited and experimented for quite some time. But, I still have a long way to go.

Miles:"stop trying to ollie. get zen on it's ass."

Now THAT is the best skating advice I've ever gotten! But I've never thought the curb was like Everest. It's more like...K2... or maybe Denali...

I'm practicing "b point b" "b point b" "b point b".

And as Neo would say, "There is no curb"
I will definitely let you know when I've done it. For now, I'm still in the "stare at it" phase.

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Apr 12, 2006 8:08:29 PM

Fewer people climb K2 and it kills more people than Everest. [For someone completely uninterested in climbing anything that requires more equipment than boots and a backpack I read too many books about alpine climbing.]

Posted by: Julie | Apr 13, 2006 10:25:12 AM

Kathy, could you please post your slides on a page somewhere? I'm listening to the podcast of your talk and feeling like I'm missing out without them. Not sure why SXSW didn't do video podcasts ... Thanks!

Posted by: Aliza | Mar 14, 2007 1:29:28 PM

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