Präsentieren bedeutet, mit Menschen zu sprechen.

Monat: April, 2010

Rich content


I usually use my own images for slides. This may sound rather egocentric at first sight, and it probably is, but I find that using my own material has several advantages.

  1. There are no more copyright issues.
  2. It saves me a lot of time. There is no one ??perfect picture?? and yet it is easy to spend hours searching for it. With a limited choice, finding becomes much easier.
  3. There are no more same-party-dress situations. My dress may be plain, but it is also unique.
  4. It creates a more personal atmosphere. And teaching public speaking is something very personal.
  5. But most importantly, with my own material I always carry a special something with my, a personal emotional anchor. It acts like an extra memory: It helps me say exactly what I want to say and sound like I mean it. You need to picture what you want to say to sound convincing.

I sometimes use this cake slide to talk about what a large country presentation land is. From voice to color, from rhetorics to learning psychology, you choose.

I can only offer you so much in the course of one semester, I say. You decide what you want to learn, you decide what you pick. It can be overwhelming, to have so much to choose from. But you can take one step at a time. It is no picknick. But you are not alone in this.

In that respect, the slide is pretty straight forward. It is all about choice and the ingredients of a good talk. Rich content.

Behind the image is a different story, the one only I need to know. I may never choose to share it in class, but there it is, right by my side and it is my own personal time machine. Stepping back, even if just for a second, to that day in the park when I could not share in the banana & chocolate cake, because my diabetes 1 was too difficult to handle that day, helps me to remember what it is like when something as simple as a piece of cake is simply not a piece of cake. But it was a good day, and I mastered it, and I was not alone.

And so my slide helps me to remember what it must be like for my class, and I have stopped saying: This is really easy.

Because nothing is, unless you???ve tried it.

Too close for comfort


When you are using text plus images, no matter if on your slides, an online workshop or on printed handouts, make sure things become clear, not blurred.


Last year, at a Richard Avedon exhibition in Berlin. The last two images after 90 minutes of heavy visual impact. I am tired.?? I am visually filled to the brim. I have seen a thousand amazing shades of grey. I will never take another photograph again. Everything has been said and done. I need some quiet now, and some espresso.

But I can do two more simple images. I think. Two images of two people.?? Some descriptive text on the wall between them.

I look at the first picture and read the label next to it. ??Farmhand??.

I am irritated. I stare at the middle-aged face of a woman in a frilly white blouse. I blink. I look again. I start thinking about gender issues and my own inhibitions with the topic, about a seminar on women and rhetorics I should be planning,?? I look back at the picture, I read the text, I try to make sense of it. It takes me a full minute to understand. I have been reading the wrong text.?? The photograph I have been looking at is called ??The artist???s wife??.

Snap. Everything makes sense. We are back in Kansas.

Gestalt law #1. Proximity rules.


What had happened?

I had simpy read the first line first and assumed it belonged to the left picture, because that is how my Western mind works. Left-right, top-bottom. LOST Season 1 first, then Season 2. My brain had grouped the left image with the top label. Not a big deal. Big deal if it happens during your talk and distracts your audience.

They had also changed the rules. After over 50 photographs with the captions on the right hand side of the respective images, with the last two?? they decided to place the two captions between the photographs. My brain was confused, the poor thing.

Our brains don???t like surprise parties all that much.

So don???t break the rules unless there is a good reason to.

A touch of color often helps the brain to group the things you want it to see as one.


Of?? course you could also simply put the accompanying text right next to the image it belongs to???

When you think about it, it is nothing but common sense.

Love you to distraction


Never underestimate your audience???s ability to concentrate on something other than what is on your slides.

Especially when you are using text slides. There are biological reasons why text on slides only works to a certain degree. Don???t go against nature. Feed your audience what they really need. Not what makes life easiest for you. After all, an audience that is working with you because they actually listen to you is much more helpful than that screen you are reading from just now.

Crows hate being looked at until they know you extremely well. People are different. Not looking at your audience will lose you the biggest chance you have to connect. So even if you are using text slides, let people read what you feel they need to read in silence. And then re-connect, get back into their focus using your voice as a signal call.

Do not read them your slides.?? A presentation is not a bedtime story. At least it shouldn???t be.

Don’t #1


Sometimes you see a speaker do things you can only hope you’ll never do yourself.

So if you ever watch me do the following, please stand up and say: »Don’t.«


The speaker is speaking. »Next slide«, he says to his assistant. /Which is actually a don’t in itself, I find./

There it is. The next slide. A psychedelic blur of blues and greens. We stare at it. We are sure it is something wonderful. It must be. It is so… blue. And so very green. It holds all the secrets of the universe. We are holding our breath.

The speaker is not speaking now. He is waiting for the right moment. We, too, are waiting.

Alas, the speaker has forgotten us. He needs a drink.

We are still waiting. We wait. We wonder. The blues and greens begin to move before our eyes. We begin to move. We begin talking to our neighbors. We giggle. It helps with horror movies, maybe it will help us now. Maybe he was taking drugs when he did that, the person next to me says. I giggle. It does not help.

Finally the speaker puts away his bottle and moves on to talk about the universe and everything.  But the moment is lost, the magic is lost, the slide is lost on all of us, he has lost most of us.

So please think about your choreography. Be dramatic. By all means. Life is full of little dramas. Make your presentation life like. Build up tension. But don’t build up tension for a bottled water commercial. Five seconds. Are sometimes all that is needed to get it all wrong. It seemed longer, though. Much longer. But maybe it was just the blues and greens.

Slip sliding away


This was one of the SEE #5 few slides that actually had more than a few words on it (well, apart from the one talk that was completely illegible when it came to both verbal and visual content; but that one is a story in itself). After hundreds of images and impressions, it was quite refreshing to have this short, crisp and clean summary.

Easy to see, easy to read, easy to understand even though the majority of the audience was German. The parallel sentence structure and short verbs helped just as much as the generous white space and the formatting. And not a bullet point in sight.

Lists. They are loyal work horses. Just don’t try to win a race right from the start with one. This slide came when we needed it, into minute fourteen, when Andrew was talking about the main points of Morgan Kaufmann’s Persuasive Technology.

After that, many images and examples of his students’ work, including a dress that shows how nervous its wearer is.

Stage fright is only a topic when you let itself make it one, I always say. Some tells are just louder than others. I like the idea of a tell-tale dress and I am sure it will slip-slide its way into my classes soon.