Top 5 Lessons Learned from The Last Lecture

Powerful. Inspirational. Emotionally moving.

Those are the words that best describe Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “The Last Lecture” presentation, delivered to a packed house in Cole Hall on April 25th. The Last Lecture is an annual lecture series hosted by a UCSF professional school government group (and inspired by the original last lecture), in which the presenter is hand-picked by students and asked to respond to the question, “If you had but one lecture to give, what would you say?” Dr. Daniel Lowenstein, epilepsy specialist and director of the UCSF Epilepsy Center, did not disappoint. In fact, I can say with confidence that he delivered one of the best presentations that I have attended.

Rather than attempt to paraphrase his words, or provide a Cliff Notes version that doesn’t do his presentation justice, I will instead encourage you to watch the video recording of his presentation. The video is an hour in length, and if you have any interest in becoming a better presenter yourself, it is a must-watch. After the jump, we’ll explore my top “top 5 lessons learned” from Dr. Lowenstein’s presentation.

last lecture youtube

Last Lecture – Top 5 Lessons Learned: Continue reading

Persuade with Stories (pt 1)

Storyteller paintingEvery presenter wants their presentation to be a memorable experience for the audience. We want the audience to leave our presentation with new ideas, new perspectives, and new knowledge. If we can affect the audience in some way, allow them to relate to us, and move them emotionally, they are more likely to remember the information we present. What is the secret to accomplishing all of these things? Should we add more bullet points, more images, and more videos to our slide shows? Do we need to add more 3D slide transitions and bouncing text animations? Should we learn to tap dance or juggle? No, of course not. The secret is simple; we need to become better storytellers!

But what does it mean to be a storyteller, and how does this skill apply to a PowerPoint presentation? Let’s ask the experts!

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Better notes

I don’t like rules. When someone tells me that I should have x-number of slides in my presentation, or suggests that I use department so-and-so’s template, my brow furrows. I also don’t believe in following traditional, formal (outdated) guidelines about how I should present.

For example, I don’t believe it’s necessary to spend countless hours rehearsing a presentation just so you can memorize every word of your talk. In my opinion, printed presenter notes are just fine to have in your hand while presenting. In fact, they’re more than just fine, they’re recommended. In this post, I’m going to tell you why I recommend having printed notes, and I’m also going to give you some tips on a smarter way to print those notes from PowerPoint! Continue reading

The 20 Minute Rule (for Presentations)

As presenters, we worry a great deal about how long our presentation should be. When the length of the presentation is determined for us, we worry about how many slides the presentation should contain. We worry about presenting too much information, and we worry about not presenting enough information. We worry a lot. And in many cases, we worry about the wrong things.

Is there a correlation between the number of slides in a presentation, the time spent delivering a presentation, and the presentation’s overall effectiveness? Or does it all depend on the content and the situation? Are there timing guidelines that we can follow?

Actually, there are! Continue reading

Pecha Kucha: Speed Dating for Presenters

The purpose of speed dating is to get as many “good” phone numbers as possible in a short time. Little time is wasted, and potential suitors have to sell their best qualities quickly. If the bell rings before you told her that you liked romantic walks on the beach and kittens, you’re out of luck.

There is a trend in presentation delivery that places a presenter in a similar situation. Unlike speed dating, however, your success rate is determined by more than your rugged good looks. It’s called Pecha Kucha (pronouncedPecha Kucha not Pickachu peh-chach-ka, not to be confused with Pikachu). Originating in Tokyo and created by two architects, this presentation style has officially gone viral and has swept across the globe. Regular “PechaKucha Nights” now happen monthly in (at last count) 527 cities across the globe… including San Francisco! Pecha Kucha is named for the Japanese sound of conversation, or “chit chat” when translated.

When the two creators were asked why they started this whole thing in the first place, they replied, “Because architects talk too much! Give a microphone and some images to an architect – or most creative people for that matter – and they’ll go on forever! Give PowerPoint to anyone else and they have the same problem.” Amen to that!

This is how it works: Each presenter talks through 20 slides, each of which is auto-timed to appear for exactly 20 seconds. The format is also referred to as 20×20. And so, each presentation is exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds long. And that’s pretty much it. Simple.

But is it effective?

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Present Like a 1st Grader

You have been presenting for much longer than you think. The first presentation you gave was a big success, despite the fact that you spent absolutely no time preparing, didn’t even consider building a PowerPoint slide show, and likely had SpaghettiO’s crust on your face during the whole presentation. Don’t you remember? It was one of the best days of the entire school year. It was show-and-tell day! I dare say that your presentation style has changed a bit since then.

In many ways, kids can teach us grow-ups a lot about being better presenters. Check out the videos below and then we’ll discuss after the jump.

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Your Lecture is Boring (pt 2)

As we saw in part 1, many students think the standard lecture format is boring, even more so when bulleted PowerPoint slides are read to them aloud (no surprise there!). Faculty were listening, and here is a highlight video of their responses:

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Your Lecture is Boring (pt 1)

What happens when you give college students the opportunity to share what they really think about their instructor’s lectures? Well, this may come as no surprise, but you tend to get answers like this, “I feel that the majority of my lectures are boring, and the inspiring lectures are in the minority.” The Chronicle of Higher Education asked students these questions, as part of their Lecture Fail project. Here is a highlight video of the responses they received:

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TED.com: A Doctor’s Touch

TED.com is a great resource for inspiration. TED (technology, entertainment and design) is a non-profit organization that facilitates a series of global conferences during which the world’s leading minds present their ideas. On TED.com, you can watch hundreds of presentations from the conferences for free. There are number of health and health care presentations to explore.

This one in particular caught my eye: TED.com – A Doctor’s Touch. I challenge you to explore these presentation videos, and then compare/contrast their delivery and design style with “typical PowerPoint” presentations that you are accustomed to. Please provide your thoughts in the comments area below!

Practice room available!

Natural born presenters do not exist. Great presenters work hard to be great. They work hard to learn and prepare their content, and then they work hard on their delivery in the practice room. Great presenters are made. You can be a great presenter, and we can help.

The Learning Technologies Group, located on the 2nd floor of the Parnassus Library, has the perfect place for you to practice your presentation.

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