Skip to content

Presentations to Talk About

September 24, 2011

Have you been to a keynote or presentation that when it’s over you just can’t stop talking about?  What was it that had you so captivated?  Did the information blow your mind?  Did the speaker inspire you to action?  Was the message so off base you can’t think of anything except disputing it?  Whatever the reason, in the end, the speaker was successful if when you walk out, you continue discussing the presentation.

I recently saw a presentation that was so poor, I have not been able to stop talking about it, unfortunately in a bad way.  This person did not provide any new or useful information and his presentation style was as if he was lecturing to a Freshman intro class, not the room full of educated professionals he was facing.  This got me thinking about what makes for a good presentation.

I have come up with four main types of presentations that keep us talking long after they finish.  These fall into two different categories.

Category: Content

  • Positive Conent: This includes new, useful or motivating information that will have a positive impact on your or the work you do.  You continue the dialogue well after the speech and often refer back in your own teachings.  One of the best examples of this I have seen is Dennis Snow, a former manager within Disney University who now speaks about customer service.
  • Disputable Content: This is information that you passionately disagree with and that your ongoing dialogues are those presenting alternative information.  At last year’s ACUI International Conference, James Fowler was just this type as he offered some very controversial messages about social media.  Whether it was accurate or not, the concepts kept people talking for months after.

Category: Delivery

  • Inspirational: This is when regardless of the content or the message, the style of the presenter creates a huge emotional impact on you.  Also at last year’s ACUI International Conference I witnessed the most inspirational speaker I have ever seen.  Lt. Dan Choi spoke on being opening gay in the military and all that I could think about was this must have been what it was like to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak (OK, maybe a stretch of a comparison, but it was pretty powerful) and I wasn’t even directly connected to his content.
  • You’ve Lost Me:  This is where the delivery or style was so weak, with poor transitions, examples that make no sense at all, metaphors that are not linked to the content and other disasters that the audience is just lost (but not uninterested…that’s actually type #5).  This is the only of these four that the continued dialogue is for the wrong reasons, you just keep saying “what was the person thinking?”  The speaker I discussed earlier falls into this category (he’ll remain nameless to be fair).

The fifth type I just hinted at is one that creates no dialogue afterwards because the content was not new nor challengeable and the delivery was just plain boring that you lose interest altogether.  We’ll call this Clock Watching.

When giving your own presentations or keynotes, obviously you want to have a positive impact (I would hope) and really, any of the first three above does that (yes, even disputable content, even though it’s not positive towards your message).  You should always take your presentations very seriously, your audience is investing their time into you, you should do the same for them.

A wonderful book I use before every presentation I give is The Exceptional Presenter by Timothy J. Koegel.  I love the useable tips throughout this book.

The 5 components of a great presentation:

  1. Begin with a Purpose: Clearly identify the 1, 2 or 3 key points you want the audience to remember
  2. Objective/Purpose/Mission/Goal: Identify what you will cover (not in detail, just the basic agenda for the presentation)
  3. Position/Situation/Issues: State the current situation or issues (basically, why are you here)
  4. End Result/Benefits/Consequences: Describe what will happen of taking or not taking action
  5. Next Step/Action Plan/Time Line: This is your call to action

Remember this sequence: Tell them what you’re going to tell them (opening) – Tell them (body) – Tell them what you just told them (close) and you’ll be setting up the audience to walk away with your key points.

Think about all of the presentations and keynotes that you have seen, which of these do you remember the most.  What stands about about them?  What parts of their message or style do you remember vividly?  If you want to learn more tips about presenting, study great speakers.  Check out TED Talks to find short presentations of great content and delivery.

Cobwebs in the Attic 1: Hands of Time

August 28, 2011

Does intentionally setting your clock 10-15 minutes fast really help you to not be late?  I used to do this and over time I simply knew my clock was fast and adjusted for it.  About the only thing I really got out of it was to get my brain to start thinking first thing in the morning to do the math before I hit the snooze.  The clock in my car is 5 minutes fast and all it does is make me have to explain to my passengers “don’t worry, that’s fast, we’ve got time.”

My boss has his clock (a really nice grandfather clock) in his office set 10 minutes fast.  For him it works because he knows it takes no more than 10 minutes to walk anywhere on campus so he leaves when the clock shows the time of the meeting.  My wife, she sets the clock to the correct time, then closes her eyes and randomly moves the time forward a few more minutes.  This way she really does not know how fast the clock is, forcing her to assume it’s correct.

For me, I’m moving on from this and just setting my clocks to the actual time it is (or maybe I should go to the other extreme and select a different time zone…would that work?).  Do you set your clocks ahead?  How does that work out?

Thanks for listening to the first of a series of random thoughts from Up In the Attic…until the next Cobweb cleaning.

There’s a Man With a Gun Over There

August 24, 2011

Courtesy of: TFTS blog post by Kevin Schram, 1 December, 2009

“VT Alerts Person with a gun reported near Dietrick. Stay inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.”  That was the message at 9:51am on August 4, 2011 that began a 5-hour lockdown (a loose term that was not officially used as it is impossible to completely lockdown the campus) at Virginia Tech.  During those hours and beyond, campus and local police searched the campus for a person reported to possibly be carrying a gun.

After first checking in with my staff in the Squires Student Center (I was in a training in another building), my next stop was Twitter.  I was hoping to get some additional information from someone who might be outside and saw this supposed individual.  Instead, what I saw across numerous hashtag feeds was a barrage of tweets from all across the country.

Some of these included the basic VT stated alert that I began this blog with.  Others sent messages of prayers and hopes for safety to the people on campus (including some DM’s to me…thank you to my concerned friends).  While many of the rest were a mix of “oh no, not again” and “what are they doing at Virginia Tech to breed this type of people” and others along the same lines.  Within minutes assumptions of what was happening were running wild.  This continued throughout the day and over the next few days, laying claims that Virginia Tech is some feeding ground for people with guns and that the campus is unsafe.

I can tell you firsthand that this is the furthest from the truth.  The response I witnessed was swift and thorough.  Some say the campus overacted, but you must remember the sensitive nature of this subject here at Virginia Tech, every precaution was taken to secure the safety of the people on campus.

I was most disturbed by two tweets.  The first was a series of messages stating that there was a “gunman” on campus.  I get a very different image from the word “gunman” than I do from “person with a gun”.  For those following on Twitter, that subtle change in wording turned an investigation into an action of someone firing in campus (note: no shots were ever fired this day).  The second message came around 11am and said that “D-2 was now open and given the all-clear.”  This message that was retweeted by at least 4 others from what I could find was completely false (the official alert remained in effect until 2:52).  Imagine if people began leaving because of this message and there was an actual gunman waiting outside.

Thankfully this event turned up nothing but an inconvenienced day and a solid exercise of our campus emergency response plan (I do not know whether there was or was not a person with a gun, only that there were no other sightings).  However, the world of Twitter quickly spawned multiple assumptions, accusations and rehashing of events from April 16, 2007 (in which 32 members of Virginia Tech were killed).

This has really made me think about what that day would have been like had Twitter existed or social media been as widespread as it is today.  What would the messages have been?  We are on the verge of the traditional media becoming obsolete because the people facing these incidents have social media on their side and can spread the message faster than anyone else.  So what kind of responsibility should come from this?  Many people complain that the media does not do a good job of remaining unbiased.  What I witnessed in the Twitterverse was the same scenario in many ways.

With all of the positive and negative impacts that social media has played in the world this past year (Egypt, London, and even a mall in Cleveland), what do you think is our responsibility?  I challenge people to REthink before they (RE:)tweet.

Mentoring Comes In Many Forms and At Many Times

March 22, 2011

Whether we know it or not, every one of us has had a mentor in our lives.  Some of them may have been formally set-up through a pairing process, others you may have reached out and intentionally developed yourself, while others may simply have happened naturally over time.  Whomever they are and however they developed, mentors are the people we turn to when we have the most pressing questions on our minds and are facing the most challenging of situations.

I have had many mentors in my life.  These are people I have turned to for questions as I’ve done my own professional and personal soul-searching.  I’ve actually had all three of the kinds described above and each have assisted me through very different times in my life.

Right now I consider myself having four mentors.  Two (Chris Roby and Dr. Bryan Coker) are former supervisors who in each of their own ways are role models for the type of professional and person (both are amazing at life balance) I would like to be .  Sometimes I turn to them directly for advice while other times I simply reflect on my situation and ask what they would do.  Another (Dr. Lucy Croft) is with me at my current job and is someone whom I have respected in the field for many years and am now proud to say I work with and learn from everyday now.  All of them are people I gain inspiration from on a regular basis.

My fourth has been a very interesting journey.  J. Scott Derrick and I were originally paired up at an NACA Conference in 2001 through a formal mentorship program joining new professionals and “seasoned” professionals (I’m sure he hates that term).  The funny thing is I was expecting some great relationship to develop instantaneously and to be able to pick his brain every time I needed.  However, although we did speak a little at that first conference, nothing close to a mentorship developed for quite some time.  This was OK because at the time, I really didn’t need his advice in my professional life, I had other mentors at the time (I just didn’t realize it until later that’s what they were).

Over the years we became friends mostly through working together on the conference planning teams.  Then just a few years ago as I began to be challenged more than ever before as a professional, I turned to him person and said “OK, I now need that mentor role we were supposed to have a long time ago.”  The advice I received that day was invaluable and motivating.  I went on to tackle my job with a whole new perspective.  Since that day I have continued to turn to J. Scott on multiple occasions for professional advice in my most challenging of times.  And he has consistently helped me to stay on the right path as a professional who leads with integrity and tries to the right thing.

Recently I have been paired up with a mentee through the Twitter #saGrow program that Ed Cabellon initiated.  My mentee Marlena Hensarling is a wonderful new professional who I know is going to go on to accomplish great things just through our first few months of conversations.  She is a very thought-provoking, inquisitive and caring individual who has also given me new perspectives through our conversations.

As the “seasoned” professional (I’m not too fond of it either, it just screams “old”), I have committed myself to be available to her as much as she needs and to help support her professional pursuits.  She is at a point where she really needs someone unbiased and with more experience to turn to and I am one of those people right now.  Down the road times may change and she may not turn to me as much and that is OK, mentors are meant to come and go as we need them and as they need us.

So to all of you who are mentees and mentors, never stop being available, supportive, challenging and a friend.  You never know when you are being a mentor to someone or when you may need them.

Who do you consider your mentors?  How have they helped you both personally and professionally?  Do you try to emulate them or simply look for their advice.  Have you challenged yourself to become a mentor?

The Future of Technology for College Unions and Student Activities

February 25, 2011

Today began my role on the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Education Council and some very deep topics were thrown on the table. We were asked what areas of ACUI’s new strategic plan we each had an interest in. Of course I chimed in with my hopes of exploring how we can play a pivotal role in building community virtually.

ACUI Strategic Direction #4: ACUI will be the leader among student affairs associations in using online technology to advance community building and the college union and student activities profession.

Then in the Leadership Team meeting we did an exercise to identify what we as a council will have accomplished in 5 years from now. So I pose this question for you:

How will technology impact our profession of College Unions and Student Activities over the next 5 years?

I can easily see ACUI having it’s own app for it’s membership to further explore, learn and utilize our core competencies and skill sets (among hundreds of other possibilities for an app). I’d also like to see Twitter used more often to connect experts outside of our field with our membership. I also think we can further online learning programs to engage with members who are unable to attend conferences and workshops.

These were just some of the initial thoughts that came from this first conversation.

I know I am a relative newcomer in this social media world of student affairs and so I pose this to everyone. Please share your predictions.

– Posted using WordPress from my iPad

Impress Your Guests With the Details

February 7, 2011

This past weekend my family and I went to Walt Disney World (with a three-year old who has already been more times than I went in my entire life before she was born).  Like many other business professionals, I use Disney as a model for my department’s philosophy on providing excellence in customer service.  I think most would agree that there are very few companies out there who provide a better customer experience.

What also impresses me is Disney’s attention to details.  Years ago I heard how they did studies to find out the average amount of time it took a typical guest to eat something from their free-standing food units.  They then placed garbage cans in each direction based on average walking time so it would be easy to throw out the box or cup.

If you drive to the parks you know you dread that final walk to the parking lot with the family, not wanting to tell them you forgot where you parked (even though the tram driver told you about 10 times).  Disney is ready for you, just tell a park attendant what time you parked and they will “magically” find you car (really they have a card that records what lot they were parking in at each time throughout the day).

Even when you first enter the park, if you are carrying a bag, it is policy to go through bag check.  But this is no ordinary check, ask the guard what they are checking and they’ll tell you they are searching for “mouse traps.”

There are literally millions of details that Disney has intentionally put into place to ensure their guests have a magical experience.  This past weekend I witnessed yet another that served so very helpful to my family.  Like the rest of Florida, it rained on and off most of the weekend.

We were at Hollywood Studios during one of the showers.  Shortly after our 4-month old needed to be fed and clothes changed so we headed for one of the benches.  Just before we were about to sit down we almost made that fearful mistake of sitting on a wet bench.  Guess what we found, it was completely dry…magically less than 10 minutes after the rain, all of the benches were dried off so the guests would not be inconvenienced (and I still did not see anyone actually doing it…it really was magic).

So the next time you are evaluating your operations, take another page from Disney.  Thinking about your guests (either of your facility or your programs, etc.) pay attention to the details that will really make a difference to them.  Put yourself in your guest’s shoes and address every possible detail you can think of.  This is how you can strive for excellence in everything that you do and impress your guests every step of the way.

The Door Is Open So Come On In

January 30, 2011

How many times have you hear the boss say “my door is always open”?  After recent conversations with some of my students, apparently less often than I thought.

Not too long ago as staff member and I took some students to a regional conference.  As a result of the trip, the students were required to share their experiences with the entire Student Union student staff at the Spring training.  One of the students said something that just shocked me…”Not everyone has an open door policy like we do here and we should not take this for granted.”

So what I thought to be a pretty standard policy, especially within student affairs and for our students, I guess I was wrong.  What a shame, because so many great things come from a true Open Door Policy.  I have built so many wonderful and lasting relationships with my students and staff because of this.

Here are my thoughts on the benefits of an Open Door Policy (ODP) and how to cultivate one into action.

First, there are two reasons people take advantage of an ODP:

  1. To openly share feedback about the company or department
  2. To share personal information and build a relationship

It is important to understand that both of these exist and each has different benefits to the employee, the supervisor and the company.

Benefits of an Open Door Policy:

  1. The staff feel safe and more connected to the boss and the department.
  2. The boss will be seen as more human as opposed to the mysterious person at the top.
  3. Hearing about problems directly from the staff is the best way to find ways to address the issues and helps the staff understand the rationale behind your decisions.
  4. Relationships can build into a mentor / mentee relationship.
  5. Staff will be more trusting of the boss and more willing to work towards the boss’s goals / expectations / vision.

So now you see all the great things that can come from an ODP, you must be asking yourself, “how can I make this happen?”  Glad you asked, here are a few pointers:

Cultivating an Open Door Policy:

  1. Talk about it, reiterate it and be sure to tell your staff who understand first-hand to spread the word.
  2. Actions speak louder than words (it’s a cliché for a reason)…the more you practice an ODP and show the staff the benefits, the more they (and others) will take advantage of it.
  3. Go out of your way to solicit feedback, both positive and negative, from the staff.
  4. Invite the staff into your office for lunch (no meeting, no agenda, just good food and good company).
  5. Get to know your staff on a personal level, find out their interests…this not only builds trust, but also gives you a glimpse into what motivates them (and can help you in many other areas of the department).
  6. Share personal info and stories as examples.  This is especially helpful when the staff come to share personal issues they are having difficulty working through.
  7. Always have their backs, especially when they come bearing bad news.

There are some rules that should always be made understood and followed with an ODP so boundaries are not overstepped (how far the line is will depend on how comfortable you are sharing personal info and learning about your staff).

Rules to adhere to in an Open Door Policy:

  1. If the door is literally closed (maybe you’re in a meeting, or working on a very important/sensitive project) then staff should not disturb you.
  2. If the door is literally open, but you are having a meeting with someone else, the staff should not disturb you.  These first two may seem common sense, but I say from first-hand experience with students, it’s not always the case (this is when helping them understand where the line is becomes important).
  3. If you are busy working on something when a staff member comes in, unless is it super time sensitive, stop and take 5-10 minutes to give them your undivided attention.  Be sure to tell them you only have 5-10 minutes and then you must get back to the project.  Taking this time with them and showing they are valued will go light years for you.
  4. If you are busy and really cannot take time for them right then, be sure to tell them and to coordinate in making some one-on-one time later.
  5. You must find and maintain a balance of personal information from your staff and the line of Too Much Information.  This line will vary for everyone so be sure to know where yours is and share it early.

So there you have it, a guide to developing an Open Door Policy with your staff.  If you think you have one, I suggest you check with your staff on the actual perception, the door may not be as open as you would like.  If you do not have one, I challenge you to question why not…what could it hurt?

Do you have an Open Door Policy with your staff?  What benefits have you seen as a  direct result of this?  What other ideas do you have for cultivating an Open Door Policy?

%d bloggers like this: