Archive: November 23, 2014

Upcoming speaking engagements

I’ve been lucky enough to get invited along to participate in two speaking engagements on the next week or so. While they are very different kinds of speaking engagements, the common element is that I was asked to participate because of the way I use Twitter. For the first I was approached by the good people at the CAVAL Reference Group who had seen some of my work relating to productivity hacks, while in the second, my use of Twitter in the classroom meant that I was selected for a research project which subsequently has seem me interviewed and selected for the upcoming panel session.

The details for each are:

On November 26th I’m giving the closing keynote at the CAVAL reference group’s Information Literacy Seminar titled: Information Literacy and Beyond: To boldly go where no librarian has gone before. []. It looks like a fascinating agenda covering everything from learning design, to remote research classes, to alt-metrics. I’ll be speaking about my Adventures In Extreme Productivity series and (hopefully) wrapping the day up on a positive note. I intend to break down he process of hacking the time we have to get the kinds of results we want.

On December 1st, I’m a panel member as part of the @RMIT research project looking into the practices of teachers who have gone beyond just using BlackBoard in their classes. The session will be MC’d by Tania Lacy (@tanialacy) and it should be  some good fun. If you’d like to come along, you can see the details here: [] and register here. It’s being held in RMIT Building 80, 12:30-1:30pm on December 1st.(ignore where on the registration page that says Wednesday 19th November).

If you can make it to either/both I’d love to see you. Come up and say hi (or just heckle me over Twitter).

Going beyond ‘student’ presentations

I’m so very proud of my students – the very top performers will be presenting their semester’s work to some of the executives of The Australian Red Cross Blood Service this Friday. They’ve worked incredibly hard this semester, my students, and today we gathered for a presentation masterclass with the aim of transforming what they know about giving presentations into something professional and what I like to call “boardroom ready”.

It surprises me every semester when I run these classes that the students have been able to get so far through university and no-one has taught them how to create a professional presentation. It seems no-one teaches them about structure, about the use of metaphor, about how to connect with an audience through the use of emotion. This saddens me.

So I thought I’d share two great presentations here that I show the students in the masterclass. The first one is of Nancy Duarte who gives a great introduction to what actually makes a great presentation. The video is 20 minutes long, but it’s well worth watching.

If you watch this presentation, pay close attention to not only what she is trying to say (her message) but also the way in which she is saying it. Her message is that good presentations have an identifiable structure, that if you follow this structure, then your presentation can also turn out well. If you pay attention to the process of her presentation you can see that she is modelling the ideas that she is trying to convey. This presentation is worth watching a few times and I ask my students to break it down, both content and process, to get to the heart of what makes a good presentation.

Some questions I ask my students include:

  • What is the main theme in this presentation?
  • What techniques does Nancy use to improve the power of her presentation?
  • What do you notice about her slides?
  • How does Nancy connect the beginning of the presentation with the end?

Often it comes as a surprise to my students that the art of crafting a good presentation is as complex as it is presented here. They are often so very keen to dive right into the design of the slides and start to pull the Powerpoint deck together that they underdo the thinking and planning of the presentation. The designing of the slides (if they are going to be used at all) should come at the end, not the beginning.

Another example of a good presentation that I like to show is one of Ben Zander talking about classical music. Ben is clearly a master presenter. He is charismatic, talented, funny and so very engaged.  It’s clear that Ben has given this presentation many many times (or one very much like it) and he is truly comfortable in front of the audience. But like Nancy’s presentation above, if you analyse what Ben is doing throughout his presentation, you can begin to see familiar themes arising. Ben uses cadence and rhythm to give structure to his presentation and he uses humour to great effect, punctuating his presentation with jokes and stories to keep the audience interested. However, the strength of Ben’s presentation is not the techniques that he uses to structure a great talk, but his use of emotion to connect with his audience.

On Friday my students will be trying to get their big ideas across to our industry representatives. They’ll have 15 minutes to present their findings and they’ll have 10 minutes of QandA to answer any tricky questions. All the work we have been doing throughout the semester comes to a very sharp point. I’m confident that they know their stuff, the trick will be if can they communicate it effectively. Ultimately the main lesson on Friday will not be how ‘good’ their presentation is, but how much they learn about making a good presentation as they prepare. It’s the same lesson that they tackled throughout the semester with their reports. It’s not the final report that matters, but what they had to learn in order to make the final report.

Process matters.

The Experiential Turn – Mapping and research

On Wednesday 12th November I was a “conversationalist” in an event sponsored by the Design Research Institute at RMIT University. A bunch of experienced and early career researchers (ECRs) came together to talk about our research, explore what each of us are doing and to have a larger conversation about the experience of research. My role was to facilitate the discussion and prompt, prod and ask questions and generally kept things moving along in an interesting way.

To help with this task I brought along some artefacts, some maps, from An Atlas of Radical Cartography. Inside are ten maps that serve to challenge our conceptions of what a map is and also force us to ask questions about such things as legitimacy, agency and power.

Our table discussed such issues as:

  • how, as researchers, do we conceive our audiences for our research. Who is our research for?
  • do we make transparent in our research that which is normally hidden? Do we surface our micro-decisions?
  • how do we account for the fact that research design and method selection have an inextricable link with what we eventually ‘show’?
  • If we were to represent our research in map form, would we draw maps of that which already exists, or would we be drawing maps of that which is yet to be?
  • what does it mean when our maps (research) gets published? Is unpublished research somehow illegitimate?

It was a fascinating 90 minutes and it flew by. All too soon it was over.

You can scroll through the photos above to get a sense of what occurred on our table. I would love to have been a ‘roving conversationalist’ – it seemed that there were extremely interesting conversations happening all around the room.

Many thanks to Jeremy Yuille for inviting me along to participate!

The Turn – Exploring with maps

I’m pleased to announce that I’m one of the ‘conversationalists’ at the Design Research Institute seminar @RMIT next Wednesday, 12th November.

My role is to prod, prompt and help the participants to explore their (our!) roles as early career researchers with a focus on cross-disciplinarity.

I’ll be bringing some maps along and I’m really looking forward to seeing what my ‘table’ comes up with. I think this is a great initiative from the uni.

If you want to pop in for a look, or even better, join the conversation, you can see all the details on the invitation which I’ve included below.

I hope to see you there!

The Turn: Experiential Discourse – (invitation)