Monday, 27 June 2011

Bad Presentations Are Not the Fault of PowerPoint

Ever sat through a bad presentation? Not sure what it was what about? Couldn't remember much about it when it was over?

Have you ever found your thoughts wandering ... maybe something like this ....

  • After the third slide, "His slides are just bulleted lists ..."
  • After the fourth slide, "He's just reading from the slides ...."
  • After the fifth slide, "There are a lot of words on each slide for him to read out ..."
  • By the sixth slide, "Oh no! I've just spotted that this is slide 6 of 45 ....argh!"
  • "Ok I got the message three slides ago, can we stop now? Please?"

Why does this happen? It's long been commonplace, almost fashionable, to blame it on PowerPoint.  Whilst PowerPoint has it's drawbacks, a bad presentation is really the fault of the person who plans it, designs it and delivers it.


Typical problems
  • What is this about?

Presenters sometimes tell the audience everything they know on a given subject but without making any clear points, reaching a  conclusion or identifying a call to action

  • Death by bullet points

The audience is taken through a series of slides containing little more than bulleted lists (this blog post makes use of bullet points as a reading aid, naturally)

  • Death by slides

There are just too many slides

  • The slides are the presenter's script

The presenter uses the slides as their auto cue - the content and format reflect this.  The audience are probably reading the slides and not listening.  Some don't even do this and just ask for the slides at the end

  • Failure to manage audience expectations

Some are so familiar with the bulleted list style of presentation that other approaches don't satisfy them

Some judge the value of the presentation by the scale and depth of the detail it contains

  • The audience is poorly prepared

Some have not had time (or not made time) to read the briefing document and want a presentation where the presenter "reads it out loud" for them

  • Poor visual design, themes and layout

Use of standard or garish and distracting templates and transitions 

Some Solutions
  • Make a clear point

What is the purpose of the presentation and what is the value to the audience - what do you want them to think do or say at the end?

Based on your analysis (see below) plan to tell them only those facts that help them get the point, understand the conclusion or know what is being asked of them

  • Analyse the audience

Before starting to plan the presentation, consider the audience:

  • What do they already know about the subject?
  • What is their need for detail, facts, figures, drawings?
  • What do they want - if they've read the report they may just want 10 minutes to ask questions so why prepare a 30 minute presentation?
  • What impression do you want to leave them with - of you and your credibility
  • What would make them want to sit through your presentation twice - or at least recommend it to others?
  • Separate the "script" from the supporting images

Plan the presentation, write the story board or script - then choose images and key words that reinforce what will be said, make these your slides

I've seen some excellent presentations that used a single visual aid

  • Less is more

Fewer slides with one or two messages per slide with strong visuals that help the audience get the point you are making and to remember it afterwards

If you use a slide it must support what you are saying at the point you say it

  • Brief the audience beforehand

Send a summary of the theme and key ideas together with the purpose and value of the presentation or meeting

Help the audience understand what they will get from the presentation and what they might be expected to do as a result

  • Anticipate the audience's lack of preparedness

Don't ask "Has everyone read the briefing the paper?", those who haven't won't embarrass themselves by saying no .... instead offer to run through the main ideas of the paper before starting the presentation

  • Meet the need for detail or technical material

Issue a paper or report beforehand, refer to it during the presentation

Hand out the paper or report at the start of the meeting or presentation - give people 5 or 10 minutes to review it, then reference it throughout the presentation

  • Do you really need PowerPoint at all?

And finally - having identified your objectives, analysed the audience's needs and planned what needs to be covered - and how, you might consider holding a different kind of meeting and maybe, just maybe, not even using technology at all .... just a thought.......


clip_image001There is a lot of material on this subject on the web. 

A good place to start is Edward Tufte's web site.




Friday, 17 June 2011

What is Facilitation?

Despite having been one for many years, I still occasionally struggle to give a succinct explanation of what a facilitator does.  I was very pleased (relieved?) to see an article by Gordon Wylie this week on the subject of facilitation.  Before introducing an approach to group facilitation, Gordon begins by giving an excellent summary of the role of the facilitator:

"The purpose of a facilitator is to make an activity much more productive and easier to perform. It's about helping groups, or individuals to identify and agree an outcome. The group or individual come up with their own ideas/answers, not the facilitator."

Gordon goes on to explain how a facilitator should and shouldn't lead, before giving an excellent example of how this is put into practice. 

The presentation is supported by examples from Gordon's work using MindGenius.

Read the article in full here.

If you would like to know more about facilitation why not visit the web site of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

imageIf you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the website and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius. 

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Thank you MindGenius... and thank you Gordon.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Clickable Keywords from WikiSummarizer

A new feature just added to WikiSummarizer (see: Read Less, Learn More from WikiSummarizer and  Mapping with WikiSummarizer) is the ability to follow your train of thought from keyword to keyword. 

Now, clicking on a keyword presented in a summary in your browser will automatically search Wikipedia and present a summary of the article that matches that keyword.

For example, I stumble across the word "archetype" and I'm not sure what that means.  Using WikiSummarizer, I search for that word amongst the Wikipedia summaries (click on the images below to see a readable image). 

imageWikiSummarizer presents me with a list of matching/near matching summaries, together with a few key phrases and a clickable link to the full summary.



image I click on the "Link summary" hyperlink for the summary of "Archetype".  This brings up the summary of the Wiki article in a new browser window.





One of the keywords in this summary is "Jung", whom I have heard of. 

Wanting to know how Jung is connected to archetypes I click on the "Jung" keyword in the summary. 




A new browser window opens to display the article summary for "Jung".  At the bottom of the summary I see the keyword "Freud" and click this ...... and so on it goes.


imageThis approach returns us to one of the key ideas behind the invention of hyper links - the ability to follow threads in much the same way our brain works. 

Now we can do it from keyword to keyword - making best use of the benefits of summarising.

Going back to the original summary on "Archetype", I decide I want to keep this and select the "Export to: Rich Text Format" option.  This let's me open or save an RTF version of the summary on/to my PC, which I can open with MS Word or similar word processor. 

The new format of the RTF file download that was introduced in the earlier post Mapping with WikiSummarizer is now available.  It's a tidy presentation and has the advantage that many mapping software applications can import it.image

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

MindGenius Free Trial and Discount on Purchases

imageIf some of the recent posts have sparked your interest in MindGenius, why not give it a try and download the free trial - click here or on the image (right).


PreviewShould you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.


To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

This is a discount to readers of the Peace of Mind blog - thanks MindGenius.

For further information on the features of MindGenius 4 please visit the MindGenius web site.

I hope you enjoy using the mapping, brainstorming and analysis features of MindGenius.  MindGenius also supports presentations and task and project management, there will be more on these features soon on this blog.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Mapping with WikiSummarizer

WikiSummarizer from Context Discovery is a web-based application that specialises in summarising Wikipedia articles.  Aimed at anyone who needs to learn, understand or write about topics, the application will benefit such diverse roles as researcher, student, writer, journalist and blogger. 

"Summarization" is the process by which a piece of text, document or article is analysed to produce a list of keywords and the more significant text extracts associated with these keywords.

WikiSummarizer will create a summary in your browser.  If you want to work with the summary using mind mapping software there is the option to download a summary direct to MindManager .... but what if you want to work with other mapping software?

The alternative summary download option is the Rich Text File format and this is due to be updated in the very near future.  The first benefit is that the RTF file is now improved in terms of layout and presentation.  The second benefit, and the one of most interest to mind mappers, is that the RTF file has been tagged with document styles that make import more straightforward into mind mapping software other than MindManager.

The RTF file is now structured using Word styles - Title, Heading1, Heading 2 - and when this is imported by a mapping tool it creates a corresponding branch structure - Central Topic, Level 1, Level 2.

There are four main steps to getting the Wiki summary into your mind mapping application:

  • Create the summary using WikiSummarizer
  • Download the RTF version of the summary
  • Open the file using MS Word 2007 or 2010 and then save as 2007-10 file format (.docx) or the older 97-2003 format (.doc), depending on what your mind mapping software will work with
  • Open your mind mapping application and import the Word file.

The examples that follow use a summary of the Wiki article, "Fermentation (wine)".



Here is the summary of the Wiki article as it appears in the browser.






imageHere is the RTF file downloaded and opened with MS Word.






Once saved in the latest Word format and imported into a mind mapping application, the summary becomes available for further and more visual analysis and refinement.

image Here, the file imported into MindView.







imageHere, the same file with iMindMap (this using version 4.1 and Word 97-2003 format).






image And finally, here is the MindGenius version (note the summary of the summary in the "Map Explorer" window top right).




For more on WikiSummarizer see Read Less, Learn More - WikiSummarizer or the Context Discovery blog.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Questions, 6 Thinking Hats and MindGenius

Most techniques or workshop tools that involve creativity or lateral thinking are driven by questions.  There is the overall focus question that scopes the problem to be considered - and there are detailed questions that help bring out the ideas. 

A set of questions for use with De Bono's "6 Thinking Hats" will reinforce the differing perspective of each "Thinking Hat". 


This helps you and the audience stay with the theme of the hat, as well as providing stimulation of thoughts and ideas. 


Summary level questions for each hat might look like this:

  • White hat: What are the facts?
  • Red hat: How do you feel about this?
  • Black hat: What are the challenges and risks?
  • Yellow hat: What are the advantages?
  • Green hat: What new things might be possible?
  • Blue hat: What process shall we follow?

As part of the workshop design or as just part of the process that is followed, additional supporting questions can be asked that keep the thinking going and ensure the full scope is covered.


Q set 1 One way to approach this is to use a MindGenius Question Set.  The questions are displayed in a window alongside the map being worked on and help the process as described above.  We'll use the "Edit Question Sets" feature to create on for "6 Thinking Hats".


Q set 2

From the "Tools" menu, select "Edit Question Sets".  Click on the left-most icon in the dialogue window, which will highlight as "New Question Set".




Q set 3

Enter the name of the new question set, "6 Thinking Hats" in "Question Set Name" and click "Create".




Q set 4 Now, working in the right hand pane of the dialogue window, under "Manage Question Set", highlight the question set title and click the "Add New Question" icon.  In this example, we've created the "Thinking Hats" as level one questions .


Q set 5Next, highlight each level one "Thinking Hat" and add questions relevant to that hat. If you make a mistake, you can edit the question, delete it or change it's sequence.



A completed question set looks like this.Q set 6

Q set 7 Click "OK" to save the "6 Thinking Hats" question set.  Open a new map, click the "Home" tab and then click "Question Sets".  The "6 Thinking Hats" set appears under "Custom Question Sets". 


Click this and the question set is loaded into the question set window, normally at the bottom left of your MindGenius workspace.



Q set 8

You are now ready to go and can use the question set to prompt the development of a map or it can be used in conjunction with the "Brainstorm" mode.

imageTo download a free trial of MindGenius 4 to try these features for yourself, click on this link or the image (right).



To find out more about 6 Thinking Hats try De Bono's original book.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Adding 6 Thinking Hats Categories to MindGenius

In a previous post (see: 6 Thinking Hats and MindGenius) we saw how De Bono's famous thinking tool can be combined with the powerful brainstorming, analysis and mapping functions of MindGenius 4

Here is a quick tutorial on how to load 6 Thinking Hats (or indeed any other) icons and create the categories needed.

Category editAssuming you have a set of icons to use, open MindGenius and select "Tools > Options" and then click on the "Categories" tab within the "Options" dialogue.

Taking this route ensures that any categories/icons added will be available to all maps as well as the currently open map.


Category edit add

The first step is to add a new "Category Group" - in this case it will be called "6 Thinking Hats".


Then, add a new "Category" to this group - here we are adding "White Hat".  With this category highlighted, click "Add Icon".  The file selection dialogue will open, go to the folder containing your icons.  Category edit add white hat


Select the relevant icon, click on "Open" and the icon is added to the MindGenius list



Category all addedKeep adding "Thinking Hats" as categories to the "6 Thinking Hats" category group in this way.



Click "OK" when finished.



Now go to either the "Analyse" or start a "Brainstorm" view and click on the drop down arrow to the right of the displayed categories.  To get the new "6 Thinking Hats" category group to display in the list, click "More Categories" and click on the "6 Thinking Hats" title in the list that appears lower right.  The category group is added to the list and is now ready to go.Category edit add white hat drop down

Please refer to the earlier post 6 Thinking Hats and MindGenius to see how this is applied to individual and group working.

hats To get a copy of the 6 Hats icons seen here, click this link or the image (left) to download a zip file, then extract the files to a folder on your PC.



To download a free trial of MindGenius 4 to try these features for yourself, click on this link or the image (right).



To find out more about 6 Thinking Hats try De Bono's original book.