Steph Curry’s Daughter Steals Interview, Scores

According to the news, Tuesday night’s postgame interview where Riley Curry stole the spotlight from her MVP dad was either the most adorable thing ever, or a travesty of sports reporting. Some people take basketball really seriously!

The measure of success for any public speaking event, whether you’re presenting a pitch, conducting training, running a meeting, or being interviewed is always the same. Did you accomplish your goals? If so, congratulations.

So what are the objectives of a postgame interview? It really isn’t about conducting “serious” journalism. The reporters asking questions aren’t going to dig up important facts during the interview or discover that the Rockets actually won. These events are more like those press tours that actors do where they go around promoting a movie on every possible talk show. They’re designed to give fans more access to the players, showcase their personalities, build their brands and that of the team. Ultimately, they exist to sell tickets, shirts, and cable subscriptions.

Did Riley Curry help with that? Absolutely. She was all over the morning news programs and somehow managed to make her enormously likable dad seem even more charming. It certainly won’t hurt him when it comes to winning endorsements from sponsors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Riley is offered a few of her own. She already has her own custom version of her dad’s signature shoes.

Now, that doesn’t mean I want athletes to regularly start dragging their kids to interviews any more than I think it’s a good idea for anyone other than Maya Rudolph to sing impression-studded versions of the national anthem at commencement ceremonies. The charm of each event comes from being so unusual and unexpected.

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-moms/news/stephen-currys-daughter-riley-steals-spotlight-at-press-conference-2015205

http://thebiglead.com/2015/05/20/reminder-on-complaints-about-steph-currys-daughter-sportswriting-is-entertainment-reporting/

 

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Presentation Disasters: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goals

When people think of presentation failures they tend to think of things going unexpectedly awry. Dead projectors. Missed flights. Wardrobe malfunctions. Really thirsty politicians. But some presentations are disasters even when they go precisely as planned.

I’ve been holding on to this video of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch for a while now because it’s just so hard to understand what their marketing team was thinking. My best guess is that they finally decided they’d do something other than just copy Apple. Instead of putting together a streamlined launch presentation, they’d put on a show. With skits!

The video above is the full 50 minute event. I wasn’t having any luck getting it to start playing at my favorite bit, the Drunk Bridesmaid number, so fast-forward to the 38 minute mark if you don’t have the time or the stomach for the whole thing. As many others have pointed out, it’s at least a little sexist. But to me the bigger issue is that they seem to have lost track of why they’re putting on a show in the first place. Sure, you want to entertain your audience so they enjoy themselves and keep paying attention. But what’s important here is selling phones, not Broadway-level production values.

As you put together your presentations, keep in mind what you want to accomplish. Remember that all the pieces of your presentation (your slides, jokes, stories, musical numbers) are there to support your message. They should never distract from or overwhelm it.

Are drunk bridesmaids going to help you sell phones to women? Probably not.

Molly Wood: Samsung GS4 Launch

Samsung GS4 Launch Presentation

Presentation Tips: Pixar’s Andrew Stanton on Storytelling

One of the great–but frequently ignored–truths about presentations is that they require you to entertain your audience. That doesn’t mean that your presentations should be frivolous, that you have to sing, tell jokes or do magic tricks. But it does mean that you have to engage your audience enough to hold their attention, to give them a good reason to keep listening to you. And there’s no better way to do that than by telling them a story.

Storytelling and presentations are a natural fit. They’re the best way to connect with your audience and help them understand what you’re talking about. And they don’t even have to be that complicated. The simplest way to create a story for your presentation is just to ask yourself “why should my audience care about this?” If you can’t quickly come up with that story you really need to reconsider your whole presentation. But there are lots of ways to construct a story for your presentations. I’m always looking for a “hook” for my presentations? What will make my talk different enough for it to be memorable to an audience? How would they describe it to someone who wasn’t there? That’s a story, too.

If you want to learn more about storytelling, there may be no better place to spend 20 minutes of your time than this TED talk from Pixar’s Andrew Stanton. Pixar, of course, is one of the best and most successful storytellers of our time. The silent montage at the beginning of Up is one the best examples of storytelling I’ve ever seen. The first time I watched it I kept having to wipe the tears from my 3-D glasses. And Stanton has played a leadership role in Pixar’s films since the beginning, including as the director of WALL-E and Finding Nemo.

Just a warning, though. The joke he uses as an icebreaker to open the talk is not something you would find in a Pixar film. Kids and delicate souls may want to stay away. Everyone else can learn a lot here. Most of the examples of storytelling techniques he uses come from films, but everything he says about connecting with an audience and creating a successful story applies to presentations as well. Here’s a brief summary of some of the key ideas that link the two:

Storytelling is joke telling: There’s a good reason that Stanton begins with a joke. Storytelling, he says, is joke telling. They both engage an audience in an immediate way, and they both require you to know the ending you’re working toward. A joke moves towards its punchline and the stories you use in your presentations need to work toward achieving your goals.

Stories give meaning: The stories that we tell each other confirm deeper truths and help us understand who we are as human beings. Because of this people love stories and are inherently drawn in and entertained by them. I’d also add that stories are effective in presentations because they help you be more persuasive. Studies show that people are more likely to believe something you tell them in story format than they are when you simply provide them with facts. Storytelling causes an audience to suspend much of their critical thinking and simply absorb what you say as true.

Stories are what connect us to others: If you want people to care about something, tell them a story that illustrates why they should. Stories activate our emotions in powerful ways that are hard to duplicate otherwise. Stanton tells a story about how Mr. Rogers carried around a quote that said “there isn’t anyone you can’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” In the TED talk this is illustrated in the slide (which you can see in the video preview about) that says, “Make me care.” You need to show why every audience should care, whether you’re trying to get them engaged with your movie, your characters, or the projects you’re involved with at work. The minute they decide they don’t care you lose them and they start changing channels in their heads.

Stories have to lead an audience somewhere: This should be obvious in presentations, but it isn’t always. You have to demonstrate that what you’re telling them is going to lead somewhere, that there will be a payoff and you’re not just wasting their time. Stanton calls this the “promise” of a story and says that “a well-told promise is like a pebble pulled back in a slingshot” that propels your story forward. What “promise” can you make to your audience to keep them interested? Have you created anticipation? Made them wonder what’s going to happen next? Will we find Nemo? Solve our IT problem? Creating this kind of tension is the surest way to make sure that they’re still paying attention.

Stories should require something of their audience: Audiences are much more likely to actually do what you ask them if they feel like they have a stake in what you’re talking about. In my own presentations, I like to involve the audience by asking them lots of questions and having having them come up with the answers themselves. That way they actually become part of the presentation and want it to succeed. Stanton talks about this in the context of the wordless sections of WALL-E, where the audience has to pay attention, figure out what’s going on. We’re born problem solvers, he says. “Audiences want to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. Your job as a storyteller is to hide that you’re making them work. Give them two plus two, but make them come up with four.”

Stories must be about change: There needs to be a primary driver for characters, and there needs to be a goal, an objective, for your presentations. Change is the force that propels all stories, and it should be the driver for your presentations. Otherwise, why are you there? One of the simplest kinds of stories, one that can be as simple as two pictures, is “before” and “after.” The basic story behind many presentations can be as elegant as “here’s the current situation, here’s where we want to get to, and here’s how we’re going to do it.”

“Wonder” is the secret sauce of storytelling: Stanton uses the example of the scene of Bambi and Thumper sliding across the frozen pond to illustrate the profound power of storytelling, the feeling of wonder that another human being can create in us simply by telling a story. Chances are that most of the presentations you attend (or give) don’t provoke that kind of emotion. But why not? Connecting with an audience in a meaningful way, telling them something that makes them feel like they know or understand you can be incredibly powerful and make it much easier to win them over to your cause. Making them laugh is a good start. Making them cry isn’t always appropriate, but it would be amazing!

Stanton himself tells a story about how he was born prematurely, which can’t help but make an audience empathize with him, then shows the clip from Finding Nemo where Marlin the clownfish finds the egg that will grow to be his son and promises to always protect him. Stanton says that this is an example of “using what you know” in storytelling. I think it’s even better as an example of using your own story to bond with and influence an audience.

The next time you have to give an important presentation, start by asking yourself “what story do I want to tell?” Then figure out how you can incorporate some of the terrific ideas from this talk.

Andrew Stanton on Storytelling

What You Lose When You’re Not There: “The Trouble With Online Education”

I felt guilty when I started teaching at UC Santa Cruz because students (or their parents) paid tuition expecting that they’d be taught by an actual professor. Instead they got me–a graduate student instructor with a fresh college diploma and no real training as a teacher. But at least I was there with my students at every class, working with them to help improve their writing. If I were a parent of student today I’d be concerned about paying fees and getting a URL or a recording instead.

This morning I was writing an article about the challenges posed by creating and delivering remote or recorded presentations when I came across this op-ed by Mark Edmundson in The New York Times. Part of the fallout from the recent ouster (and reinstatement) of University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan, the piece argues that the current focus on online education is ultimately short sighted because online courses are rarely (or never) going to provide a first-rate educational experience.

If you think none of this applies to you because you’re not a college student, think again. Meetings, training and presentations in the business environment have moved online far faster than classes have at universities. And they suffer from the exact same kinds of problems.

All the conference calls and videoconferences you sit through, the recorded (and mandatory) sexual harassment training, the Excel classes, are plagued by the same failures that occur when events aren’t held live and in person. People fail to engage and their attention wanders. Speakers can’t take advantage of the physical presence of their audience in order to amuse, charm, scare or cajole them into believing their agenda. Presentations are reduced to bullet points and “facts” instead of dialogue.

Have you ever found yourself on a conference call and so bored out of your mind that you start surfing the web, replying to email or even leaving the room to go get a cup of coffee? I know I have. That’s the kind of failure we’re talking about. How much do you learn in those sessions?

As someone who started teaching at a university more than 20 years ago, back when email accounts were brand new and computers were almost unheard of in classrooms, I may be a little old-fashioned about education. Still, I can’t imagine how online courses can begin to replicate the interactions that great teachers have with their students, or even the the relationships that engaged students have with each other.

Edmundson’s piece seems so spot-on that I’m tempted to just paste the whole thing below. But I’m going to resist, so please click on the link and go read it in it’s entirety. Below are a few of my favorite bits, like when he points out that it’s impossible to recreate online the experience of having a teacher who is able to “read” the room and adjust their material to fit the audience (something I called being “obectively engaged” when I wrote about it before).

We tend to think that the spellbinding lecturers we had in college survey classes were gifted actors who could strut and fret 50 amazing minutes on the stage. But I think that the best of those lecturers are highly adept at reading their audiences. They use practical means to do this — tests and quizzes, papers and evaluations. But they also deploy something tantamount to artistry. They are superb at sensing the mood of a room. They have a sort of pedagogical sixth sense. They feel it when the class is engaged and when it slips off. And they do something about it. Their every joke is a sounding. It’s a way of discerning who is out there on a given day.

As Edmundson points out, teaching is a dialogue, a relationship with the audience, not something that can be broadcast to any random group to achieve the desired effect. In fact the nature of recorded presentations, whether they’re college classes, corporate trainings or sales presentations, mean that they are targeted to the broadest possible audience and not tailored for specific needs. Which should be a problem for anyone hoping to get a first-class education online.

With every class we teach, we need to learn who the people in front of us are. We need to know where they are intellectually, who they are as people and what we can do to help them grow. Teaching, even when you have a group of a hundred students on hand, is a matter of dialogue.

Online education is a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It tends to be a monologue and not a real dialogue. The Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can, with his sensitivity to unspoken moods and enthusiasms. This is particularly true of online courses for which the lectures are already filmed and in the can. It doesn’t matter who is sitting out there on the Internet watching; the course is what it is.

Online classes tend to be reduced from a collaborative effort between the students and their teacher to a collection of facts that they might just as well read from a book on their own. It seems unlikely that anyone is ever going to fondly reflect back on the great online class they took in college when the audience doesn’t get a real chance to participate.

A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.

The big push behind the effort to move so many presentations online, whether they’re university classes or corporate events, is to save money and make them available to more people. But it’s all a waste of time and resources if the result is substandard or no one is paying attention. After teaching at UCSC I spent many years managing the training department at a huge law firm and talked to many trainers and training managers who had invested huge sums of money in online training only to find out that no one actually used it.

Unfortunately, the stakes are different in the business and educational environments. If a meeting turns out to be a waste of time people can adjust and try something new. But if students graduate from (or drop out of) an online program and find they haven’t learned anything useful, they often don’t get another chance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/opinion/the-trouble-with-online-education.html?hp

He Used to Speak for the Trees. Now He’s Selling Truffula Pancakes at IHOP.

Now He Speaks for Denny's

Now He Speaks for IHOP

Whatever idea you are representing as a public speaker, it’s critical that you behave in a manner consistent with your message. If you’re preaching family values it’s a bad idea to have a second family stashed away somewhere. And if you’re telling your employees you’re imposing an austerity program and you’ll have to cut back on their benefits, it’s a bad idea to arrive at the office in a limo every morning. Saying one thing and doing another can destroy your credibility and make it impossible for you to be an effective advocate.

Which is why it’s so disturbing to see Dr. Seuss’s Lorax, that icon of 70’s environmentalism, being used to sell kids’ meals at IHOP. After all, the Lorax and his fight to save the Truffula trees is often the first conservation message children hear. Now, as part of a tie-in with a Lorax movie, IHOP is offering Green Eggs, Ham (possibly from one of those exploding factory pig farms), and Truffula Chip Pancakes. Having never encountered a Truffula chip before, I have to assume that it’s a byproduct of logging and milling all of those Truffula trees, kind of like the redwood mulch that I use in my garden.

I know that these big movies depend on licensing deals in order to be profitable, but it’s hard to understand how this one came to pass, though I suppose there is only so much money to be made in children’s bedsheets and promoting “energy-efficient” cars. But this seems especially strange since the estate of Dr. Seuss used to be known for being so protective of his legacy. It’s a bit like Al Gore opening a Hummer dealership.

Remember that any time you’re speaking to a group it’s your job to persuade them. As the face or voice of your message, it’s crucial that your actions match your words. If you’re going to speak for the trees, you probably shouldn’t appear to be selling them out. Even if, as my five year-old nephew Felix suspects, Truffula chips are really just donut sprinkles.

Once you’ve lost your credibility, it’s really hard to earn it back.

Steps in writing presentations: Developing Visual Aids and Practicing

We’ve covered a lot of other steps in writing a presentation already. It’s only after you’ve worked on (or at least given some thought to) each of them that you should consider creating what many people mistakenly think of as their “presentations.”

Developing Visual Aids

After you’ve created a script for yourself you’re finally at the point where you can start developing slides and other materials that will act as the visual aids for your talk. You might have come up with some ideas for visuals during your brainstorming sessions or as you developed your ideas, but this is the point where we suggest you might actually fire up PowerPoint for the first time.

That certainly doesn’t mean that you have to use slides, however. Defaulting to slides that look just like those you see in every other presentation is probably the least effective thing you can do. Consider whether you can do away with slides and rely on other kinds of exhibits, a demo, or props. Can you make your interactions with your audience the focus of your whole presentation?

If you do use slides, think about how you can minimize your reliance on them. Whatever you wind up doing, make sure that your visual aids serve a purpose that supports your objective; don’t include them just because they’re expected.

Practice

Finally it’s time to rehearse your talk. Any presentation that requires you to stand up in front of an audience deserves at least a little bit of practice to make sure that you’re ready for the real thing. But that doesn’t mean that you need to commit a huge amount of time to rehearsing. You can approach it on several different levels of scale, everything from simply running through your main ideas in your head to recording a full dress rehearsal in a room with a live audience.

Not every presentation requires a lot of practice, but you don’t want to find yourself struggling in front of your “real” audience as you try to recall your own presentation. I can almost guarantee that any presentation you’ve found memorable and engaging, no matter how spontaneous it looked, involved a fair amount of rehearsal.

Steps in writing presentations: Deciding on your main idea and researching your material

Deciding on your main idea

Once you come up with a lot of ideas by brainstorming, themes often start to become clear pretty quickly. Using Post-Its, software, or scissors and tape, you can move them around and group them in order to see what really stands out in order to find your objective. If you find that you have several big ideas, you’ll have to decide if you can discuss them all or if you’re going to need to edit them down in order to provide your audience with a focused talk. At this point you can start trying to solidify your objective. Try to come up with one sentence that describes what you want to accomplish with your presentation. If you can’t do that yet you may still need to work on defining your “big idea.”

Researching your material

Once you’ve targeted a main idea you can take a closer look to see if you have enough material to support it. Maybe all you need is data that you already have filed away somewhere, or maybe you need to go on the internet or –God forbid– to the library, in order to support your ideas. During the research stage you may find a lot of new raw material to throw in with what you generated during your brainstorming sessions and you’ll eventually have to figure out where it all fits, if it fits at all.

Hopefully you find evidence that support your ideas, but you might find yourself changing your mind about your original plan. There’s no shame in this– in fact it’s the sign of a really thoughtful presenter that they are flexible enough to change directions when necessary.