Ask Christin and Chiara. What would you most like to know about? Seen something awesome and want some advice on how to equal said awesomeness? We are awesome, so chances are, we know the answer.
I feel rather discouraged today. My partner in crime, Christin, shares this same frustration, though I am not sure she shares the same discouraged melancholia I feel today. What does it take for people to realize that they are awesome in theory, and that their ideas are super awesome, but that their design and delivery just stinks? I conducted a workshop today in which a perfectly good teacher (who doesn’t realize his students talk about just how awful his slides are) tried to justify using the same Blackboard template, the same color font, the same fire, sparkle, comet, flippidido transitions for EVERY Keynote presentation in a 60-hour class. He said it worked for him. I stopped for a moment and realized, yes, it does work—for HIM and no one else.
A work colleague recently asked for my help as he had never used Keynote before. He worked with me for 10 minutes, then said, “I got it” and proceeded to create what were to him “simple and organized slides.” According to a workshop attendee, he might as well have just not had slides at all. Seriously, unless your slides look like Garr Reynolds’, you probably don’t rule as much as you think you do. Even Reynolds says that every good act takes persistence and life-long learning. Even Reynolds works to constantly learn, improve, and grow (and he pretty much wrote the book on this presentation design stuff). It’s ok to admit you are powerless and don’t know how to make these better. It’s also ok to admit you don’t know what’s wrong with your slides, you don’t know how the heck to get where I want you to be, and you didn’t know there was anything wrong to begin with. But, once you admit all that, as I did almost three years ago, you have to get off your butt and do something about that—you is ALL of you who use presentation software, lecture, teach, or talk for a living.
Our presentations, and let’s face it, teaching is presenting—it is the oldest form of presenting (what do you think those cave paintings were for? Self-aggrandizement?)—our presentations should be for THEM, for the audience, for our students, clients, practitioners, conference attendees, church goers, stockholders. Presentations are not about the presenter; they are about the audience. If I explain that scientifically the human mind cannot read and listen at the same time, then how can you tell me that your students are paying attention to you while you lecture, display your entire lecture on a screen, and enable their dependency on technology by allowing them to Facebook and play Tetris for eight hours while you passionately proclaim the wonders of high definition film making?
I live on a presentation soap box, but I feel like I went wrong somewhere because most people perceive my fervor for this as being entirely related to the design and dissemination of slides. Well, yeah, I spend three weeks working on a set of slides, but that effort would be useless if I didn’t also care about my audience, about what they would gain from my conveying information, empowering their design abilities, and encouraging their ability to think critically and push outside of the standard death-by-Power Point comfort zone.
I don’t work on slides for three weeks because I just totally love slides. I do it because what matters is the entire package—the creation of an engaging, dynamic, hands-on, empowering, knock your socks off, resonating, earth-shatteringly moving experience. One cannot do this without careful attention to information, its visual conveyance/transference, and its delivery. We live in a world saturated by the mediocre, trite, overdone, overworked, and overdecorated. We should live in a world of awesome—a world dictated by the outstanding, novel, unexpected, never done, never tried, and intrepid. So, I am stepping off the theoretical soap box and stepping on to the practical, hands on, in your face pedestal of awesome. Christin—it’s on.
Let there be awesome…like now.