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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The 10 Commandments of Presentations




The 10 Commandments of Presentations

1. Identify and then tell the story

When we give a presentation, we are doing it to tell a story that has one or two goals. We are trying to inform the audience about something we know that they don’t, we are trying to persuade the audience to adopt a view that we have, or a combination of the two. We need to identify the beginning, middle, and end of the story that accomplishes our goals and then use the presentation to tell the story. A presentation should not just be a data dump. If our goal is just to provide data, then we would be better off cancelling the presentation and just sending out the data. The presenter is providing a perspective that the data cannot provide, by itself.

2. Do not present too much information

Dating back to Aristotle, speakers have known that an audience will only walk away remembering a few ideas from a speech. Aristotle called this the “Rule of Three”. Pick three ideas you want to present and present those. Each of those might be broken into three parts to explain, but don’t bother adding a fourth main point, because they won’t remember it. For a modern example, look at the Apple presentations given by Steve Jobs – they were always structured around the “Rule of Three”.

3. Do not add content unless it supports your main points

The slide is a canvas used to paint your story. There should be nothing on the slide that is not working to tell the story. Extraneous details in templates, graphs, figures, and tables should be removed. The process of absorbing and using information is called cognitive loading. Extraneous details use up cognitive load and make it harder for the audience to follow along and learn.

4. Do not use PowerPoint as a teleprompter

Do not read your slides to the audience. Do not fill your slides with everything you need to say. Do not make the audience question what value you, the speaker, is adding to the presentation. The slides are for the audience, not the speaker. If something is on a slide, it is because it is needed to understand what the speaker is saying.

5. Use PowerPoint to clarify and amplify your message

The purpose of projecting an image on the wall, adjacent to the person speaking, is to provide a visual representation of the topics being spoken of. The visuals are to augment, not repeat, the words of the speaker. Slides should convey graphically what words cannot. If the words are so straightforward that they need no clarification or amplification, then don’t use slides.

6. Do not use PowerPoint for reasons it is not intended

A slide is intended to augment a speaker – it is not intended to stand alone and serve as a document. PowerPoint slides should be viewed as ephemeral – only existing while the speaker is talking. A PowerPoint presentation is not supposed to be a permanent documentation of a topic.

7. Never give out copies of the presentation

PowerPoint slides support the speaker – they are not supposed to stand alone. When we get in the habit of handing out copies of our presentation, we get in the habit of designing our presentations to be handouts. If they become effective at standing alone, they become less effective at supporting the speaker because they become crowded and repetitive.

8. Prepare a dedicated handout

Rather than giving out a copy of the presentation, prepare a dedicated handout that includes a combination of the most important visuals from the presentation with the most important words from the speech. Written in full sentence narrative, this handout would be able to stand alone and would still make sense to the audience, three months after the presentation. For some presentations, this handout might be a simple as a one page summary of the presentation. For other presentations, it might be a full white paper that includes the supporting data that led to the arguments made in the presentation.

9. Involve the audience in the presentation

Whether your goal is to inform or to persuade, the goal will be more likely met if the audience has a participative role in the presentation. People don’t like to be talked to – they like to be talked with. Include questions for the audience. Solicit opinions and experiences from the audience. Turn the presentation into a guided discussion with visual support.

10. Ensure that the presentation is legible from anywhere in the room

Do not use fonts or graphics that cannot be comfortably understood from the back of the room. Most experts recommend not using a font size smaller than 28 points. If you find yourself needing to go below 28, you have too much text on each slide.
-By
Robert Frost, engineer/instructor at NASA

Monday, November 10, 2014

11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month: Veterans Day






Remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month…Armistice Day, the day World War One ended. Tuesday is Veterans Day, renamed that in 1954, to include the veterans of World War II and all other wars the US had fought.


In honor of all you who have served your nation, here is a brief history of Vetarans Day from the Veterans Administraton (VA):


World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne 
Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts 

On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.
 

In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman.
The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.


Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.