stand on the shoulders of giants

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“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

Sir Isaac Newton

Since I’ve been working in education I’ve been fascinated with how we can best educate. When it comes to presenting I don’t think there is one single ‘right way to do it’ and I certainly don’t think I’m the font of all knowledge. But I think presenting is a skill like any other and just as we practice evidence based medicine so we should practice evidence based presenting.

Part of that is to look at those who have gone before to help us.

Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) has long blogged and published on the subject and should be essential reading for any presentationalist.

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Active observation of TED talks is another easily accessibly way to improve our skills especially if you can find a talk on a similar topic to yours. One talk which changed how I look at story telling is from Nancy Duarte on sparklines.

Ross Fisher (@ffoillet) is a surgeon who has done a lot of work to spread the message of improving presentations through the ‘p cubed’ model. His website is essential reading.

PowerPoint kills. The work of Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus at Yale, looking at NASA’s use of PowerPoint and how it perpetuated errors which kills the Columbia astronauts is an eye opening reminder of why blinding putting up slides kills communication.

For resources on educational theory and the best way to prepare a teaching session The Learning Scientists are brilliant.

Look to your educators. These can be famous, two who spring to mind in particular for me are Sir David Attenborough and Professor Brian Cox. Both manage to convey passion and inspire their audience. Both also manage to make potentially difficult subject matters accessible and emotive. These skills are vital for any presentationalist.

But your role models could also be the people you work with and whom you see in action every day.

Notice the good and the bad in other people’s presenting as you would in any aspect of their work. Follow what’s good, lose what isn’t. Do the same for yourself. Get feedback. Keep the good, lose the bad.