SXSWi2009: Presenting Straight to the Brain

Jared Goralnick, Productivity Evangelist, AwayFind
Cliff Atkinson, BBP Media
Craig Ball, Pres, Craig D Ball PC
Kathy Sierra, CreatingPassionateUsers

#brain is the hashtag

Jared says:
– we’re distracted
– engage your audience
– introducing the panelists

Cliff says:
– no research that says what we’re doing with presentation software is the best way to learn and communicate
– talking about research that shows stuff in presentations like charts, bullet point words, etc don’t really work
– we have an “eye of the needle” task in presenting – we have a lot of info we want to share, and our audience’s limits of short-term memory
– sync the two channels – visual and aural
– guide attention – show and say what we want our audience to pay attention to
– we’re shifting from looking at presentations as a sheet of paper to more of a filmstrp approach with a beginning, middle and end

Kathy Sierra says:
– your brain and mind are in an epic battle
– the brain’s spam filter – we can’t tune it very well
– the brain cares about chemistry – stuff that sends a little chemical signal
– novel, strange, or a little weird get noticed. stuff that stands out (a purple duck in a sea of yellow ducks)
– thrilling, exciting, scary, innocent and might need help
– sense of joy
– faces – real, drawn, etc
– brains love to resolve things and fill things in

The brain does not care about:
– tablet PCs, code
– cheap trick vs useful tool (putting cool face with code) – makes people think about their girlfriend, and not the code
– talk to the brain, not to the mind (her main point)

Craig Ball says:
– he’s been a trial lawyer
– talking about juror retention. ear input only, not so hot. eye also was better. hearing & seeing – bingo!
– showing how he pulled the imprtant stuff out of boring documents
– uses Ken Burns effect sith backgrounds of slides
– he actually took parts and pieces of a photo out, then put them back in using the animation feature of powerpoint (that almost no one uses)
– showing how he uses those animation techniques to introduce complex ideas to people

What’s the biggest mistake people make?
– Cliff – using the screen as speaker notes. Instead, use the screen as visual cues
– Kathy – showing a slide of a brochure vs an instruction manual. Don’t teach about the tool. Instead, teach about what people want to DO with the tool.
– think more like a marketer
– Craig – when you talk AND put text on the screen at the same time, you’re forcing people to make a choice, and you wil lose

Lightning talk format or going through lots of slides quickly – is this helpful?
– Kathy – that’s not the important question – it’s a technique. The better question is what is it that happens between your ears when you present?

Visual persuasion tips?
Craig – go to my website, I’ve written lots aobut it

When is it appropriate to use bullet points?
– Cliff – that’s a loaded question.
– our culture is stuck in a bullet point mindset …
– when is it appropriate to put bulletpoints in a filmstrip? Never. Does anyone ever put up the script in a film? No.
– instead, think story with a beginning, middle and end.
– Kathy – she sometimes uses bulletpoints. Sometimes you just want to show a collection of stuff
– Craig – it depends. But don’t read the bulletpoints to people.
– if the bulletpoint has to wrap, it’s a bad sentence – change it.
– is there a better way to present it? Then use that instead of a bulletpoint

How can we present so that we don’t leave just with a good reaction, but with good stuff to take away?
– Kathy – orientation is everything – how you view the audience and your role to the audience is everything.
– in a panel on doing better presentations – that’s the wrong focus. Instead, we need to focus on what YOU do.
– Focus on how to make individuals int he audience do whatever they do better.
– Cliff – like a modern website – focus on the user!

Backchannel thing – how does that affect people’s ability to retain info?
– Craig – he knows he has failed his audience when his lawyers go into “blackberry prayer” mode.
– Cliff – it depends. If you use it as a note-taking device, that’s cool. Audiences don’t put up with bad presentations anymore. We can now hear when we’re off the mark.
– Kathy – not that important of a question. She trusts that we’ll do whatever we need to do. If the presenter has done their job, it’s ok.

end stuff:
– powerpoint is a lousy word processor
– never use a template!
– tap into popular culture

– use puppies.
– ask this for each slide: does it have a pulse? Is it begging to be there?

– … read his book.

Q: she works at NIH – there’s an expectation for slides to be … boring. What to do?
A: Cliff – powerpoint culture – it’s strong in research organizations. So start by educating people that what they’re doing is not based in research
A: Kathy: Include both, switch back and forth.

Q: Varying education levels, lots of computer-based training. Not sure if she’s engaging them… what to do?
A: Cliff – how people learn is the same in live and online training. So use the same types of concepts.

Q: he presents to executives – they interrupt a lot – what to do? and his presentations need to be portable – how to do it when there’s no voiceover?
A: Cliff – include text notes in with the slide in a handout, pdf format – works both live and later.
Cliff – on the first part of the question – open slides up to dialogue – prompt the conversation so they feel like they can talk without interrupting.
A: Craig – record your presentation while you’re doing it – then you have the audio too.