When you've got a strategy to design, why not project it on the wall and work on it with your team?
In a recent Fast Company article titled "Strategy by Design", Tim Brown, the CEO of the product design firm IDEO, describes how organizations can tap into a team's intuitive and creative depths when developing a strategy.
Tim describes the need for collaboration, story structure, prototyping, and transforming a team's ideas into a practical media format that other people can easily use. You can easily apply these skills yourself by using a tool you already have on your desktop - PowerPoint.
There are a couple of tips at the end of Chapter 1 of BBP, describing how you can use storyboarding techniques to create visual profiles of potential audience members (p. 44) , to role-play an audience (p. 45), or to produce a strategic collage (p. 45) to help you structure Act I of your story template. This is a form of rapid visual prototyping that keeps costs low while generating high-quality ideas.
It only takes the click of a button to turn on a projector or print out some blank storyboard pages and tape them to the wall. The real value from this exercise comes not from the pieces that you collect, but from the combined creativity of the people involved.
When you start tapping into the creative power of your team, you'll be able to conduct some rapid visual prototyping of your own to figure out the strategic stories that your audiences are waiting to see and hear.
If you'd like a special copy of the presentation I gave on May 12 at Microsoft Office LiveMeeting, you can download it from this new seminar resource page. (There are lots of other goodies there, including a special offer on the Add-In for seminar attendees.)
In keeping with my own advice to "send your notes pages not your slides", the download is a PDF version of the Notes Page view of selected slides of the presentation.
One of the main ideas underlying the BBP approach is that any slide (or frame) that you show during a presentation is presented in the context of your verbal narration. This verbal explanation you also write down in the offscreen notes area in Notes Page view. Without the context of either the Notes Pages or the verbal narration, the slides simply don't (and shouldn't) make sense.
In the notes area of the PDF version of the presentation, I've written the gist of what I said at that point in the presentation, and I also included the interesting results of the polls we took at the beginning of the seminar.
The 14 slides I chose for the PDF correspond with the "5-minute version" of my story template, which you can also download from the resource page along with my basic storyboard.
If you're interested in learning more about how I created the animation "builds" in the PowerPoint file, I describe what I did in this discussion board thread.
Thanks again for attending last week, and please stay in touch as you move Beyond Bullet Points!
In case you weren't able to attend my May 12 web seminar "Transform Your PowerPoint Beyond Bullet Points," a free recording is now available for viewing online here, courtesy of Microsoft Office LiveMeeting.
Thanks to those of you who were able to make it - I know I had a great time and I hope you did too. Hopefully this is only the beginning of more seminars like this.
For those who had questions about the material I covered in the seminar, I've answered the questions you posted on the seminar discussion area here, and I'll add the rest of the questions that were asked during the seminar this weekend. Feel free to post more questions in the discussion board if you have any - I hope this is just the beginning of our discussion.
Quite a few people asked for a copy of my presentation materials. You're welcome to view and download my story template and storyboard that I used to prepare the presentation - I described the process of creating them and posted the files on the discussion board here. Next week I'll send out a special PDF version of the presentation to those who requested one.
Thanks again for joining me yesterday if you were able to, and if not, I hope you enjoy the recording!
P.S. By the way, an interesting tidbit about the power of a web seminar - before I gave the talk, my book was ranked #3,100 at Amazon, and after the seminar it jumped up to #210. Thank you!
If you're interested in electrifying your audiences, increase the voltage of your conversation. That's the core message that Henry Boettinger described his 1969 book, Moving Mountains, which includes the best definition I've ever read about communication:
"Presentation of ideas is conversation carried on at high voltage -- at once more dangerous and more powerful."
I don't think we could ask for a more electrifying antidote to our often stale, boring, and bullet-pointed communications culture. In his brief quote, Henry describes a presentation as a two-way conversation, with the potential to carry a high-voltage exchange of energy. And beyond that, it can even be dangerous, and more powerful. Wow - what an engaging vision for communications.
Tomorrow in my free web seminar I'll show you how you can transform your own communications beyond bullet points in three steps. But be careful, because after you attend the seminar you just may be in danger of generating a powerful new way to electrify your ideas, yourself, and your audiences.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but a couple of new studies report that people suffer a drop in their thinking ability when they experience information overload.
One recent study at Kansas State University reported that the MTV-inspired scrolling tickers and headlines on television screens reduced the ability of people to remember information by 10 percentage points.
Another study reported that people who were bombarded by email and phone calls suffered an IQ drop of 10 points - double the drop in IQ that has been attributed to marijuana.
The smarter solution? Strip away the distractions and aim for simplicity.
Richard E. Mayer's research in multimedia learning reports that when interesting but irrelevant words and pictures were removed from a multimedia presentation, people experienced a median 189 percent improvement in remembering the information.
Although we currently appear to be a culture on its way to dumbing down, the smart money will go next to an inevitable counter-trend toward simplicity.
An interesting thought from KSU professor Tom Grimes:
"The human brain is today as it was in the 1880s, the 1580s and in the time of the Greeks and Romans. It has not changed. We are no better able to parallel process conflicting information than we were 300 years ago."
If the brain has not changed, it is we who have mistakenly assumed that we gain something from "razzle dazzle". Instead, we need to accept that there's "no there there" beneath the glitz, and that if we simplify we only have our intelligence to gain (back).
Tip: Simple is smart, overload is dumb.
For those of you who keep up with such things, usability expert Don Norman just published an essay titled In Defense of PowerPoint, in which he aims squarely at the criticisms of PowerPoint by information design guru Edward Tufte. In a word, Norman calls Tufte's critique:
People occasionally ask me what I think of the PowerPoint-bashing that has been going on the past couple of years. On the one hand, it's a good thing that we are identifying that our current approach does create serious problems that we need to address. But on the other, I side with the growing number of people who realize there's a problem and simply want to move forward toward a solution.
But before moving on, I can't resist identifying the three things that are consistently missing from any serious analysis of our current approach to PowerPoint:
OK, I'm glad I got that out of my system. Next slide, please.
In case you recently couldn't sign up for my upcoming free May 12 web seminar, it turns out the event "sold out" this weekend because we unexpectedly surpassed the maximum number of registrations for the event (2,500!).
The folks at LiveMeeting want to make sure that anyone who wants to attend can come, so they've graciously opened another conference room that can accommodate more people. So if you were turned away, you can still register for the event at this link.
I'm thrilled by the great response - there must be a few people out there who are eager to move beyond PowerPoint-bashing and into a new world of clear and focused communication.
By the way, since I'll be talking about applying the Beyond Bullet Points approach during the seminar, I thought I'd put my storyboard where my mouth is. As I prepare my own presentation for the May 12 event, I've started a new "behind the scenes" discussion thread here where I'm posting the various documents I'm creating and am making comments along the way.
How scalable is your story structure?
The free Beyond Bullet Points story template is designed to easily scale a presentation to 5, 15, or 45 minutes without losing the integrity of your story. With a few clicks of the mouse you can use the same PowerPoint file to guide you through a brief elevator pitch or an extended keynote address.
As she describes in her initial post in this discussion thread, Laura is a technical training coordinator for an organization where she's developing a 3-year curriculum that she's launching in June. She is planning 20+ existing courses and an additional 20+ new courses.
I suggested to Laura that she try the story template to structure the entire curriculum, creating a "meta-story" that frames the whole program. If a curriculum has overarching goals, why not map those back to a master story that is clear to everyone involved?
Laura took me up on the challenge and ended up creating an amazing story through the course of our new discussion thread. The result was a single document she could tape to the wall that shows the singular story the organization wants to accomplish through its training program. (All the documents are included in the post.) Actually I was so thrilled with what Laura had done that I printed out the story template and taped it to my own wall, pictured above.
What Laura accomplished with her meta-story could also be applied to any curriculum development process, to conference planning or even strategy development.
The engine that drives the structure is a classical logic tree that you know in the form of organizational charts. But the true power of this tool emerges when you fill the template with your clear thinking like Laura did, and make your focused ideas visible for everyone to see.
When you're looking for inspiration on how to structure a story, look no farther than your own television set.
According to a great article in today's New York Times Magazine by Steven Johnson ("Watching TV Makes You Smarter"), television writers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their narrative approach these days. And unbeknownst to us, as their writing becomes more sophisticated, our own expectations of visual stories become more sophisticated too.
Steven explains that a hit show like "24" weaves nine primary narrative threads through the show each week, and somehow we are able to weave a sense of coherence through it all. To judge how much our own media expectations have changed so quickly, he recommends watching a TV show from the 1970s, like Starsky and Hutch, to compare the experience and see how primitive those older shows seem today.
As the gap grows even wider between the sophisticated media expectations of audiences, and our own presentations and communications, our need to start learning how to communicate with media grows more urgent. Although our first instinct is to jump in and pick up a camera or start rendering 3-D, what we're really talking about here is a writing issue, not a visual issue. It is only once we have a written story structure in place that we can begin to build visual surfaces that help us see what the story is really all about.
Tip: How's your screenwriting coming along these days? If you want to advance your skills at writing narrative beyond the story template described in Beyond Bullet Points, check out the classics in screenwriting including Story by Robert McKee, Screenplay by Syd Field, or Stealing Fire from the Gods by Jim Bonnet. They're all excellent resources for developing the basic media skills we all need to know to keep the narrative threads in our own lives in an understandable pattern.