Advice on Final Presentations

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It is Monday afternoon, and I’m adding some notes to what I published last week!

The Assignment

The presentation format should include about 8-12 Powerpoint slides, including screenshots of your website, and be presented in the voice of: “What I have learned about business English”. The emphasis should be on what you have learned in your two target languages, including, the professional business languages you have found on websites in your field and the professional business languages you have learned how to use in your blog entries when reporting on what you have found on the web. All the wonderful things you have learned about blogging, twittering, and the web should be discussed as they have contributed to this larger individual and course goal.

Keep Your Slides Simple!

So far, I’ve seen a lot of slides that are FILLED with text, and filled with text from my blog posts and not yours, that, as with Manon, I had to wait a long time until I hear what you have learned! This is not your fault! ALMOST EVERYBODY does this, beginning with Bill Gates …

Now, compare Bill Gates to the EXCELLENT VINCENT! final slide that Vincent presented us last week and tell me that what Vincent has done is 1000% easier to understand!

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Now, before we discuss how to make this EXCELLENT VINCENT! final slide even better, let me tell you why, on the level of content, this slide is so EXCELLENT VINCENT! (got the message?): First, he has OUTLINED the things he has learned — outlined as carefully as he has chosen the EXCELLENT VINCENT! proverbs he has posted on Twitter! So, before you do anything else, do that: OUTLINE WHAT YOU LEARNED.

Once you have this outline, then take each point and explain what you learned to your roommate in simple, conversational English — and write it down right away! This is an old trick: you talk to somebody you know, you talk normal to them, and you write it down right away while it is still fresh in your head; in this way, you do something that is easy (explaining to a friend, something we all know how to do, no need for fancy university to do that), and write it down while you are still talking in an easy way and BEFORE you start getting nervous about presenting your work to anybody else or start thinking DUMB POWERPOINT THOUGHTS!

Remember your audience, me and your classmates, and remember how, when Manon and Vincent presented their work, EVERYONE was quiet — quieter than sometimes when I try to present you things! Your audience, your fellow classmates, are smart, respectful, want very much to hear you at your best — just like I do!

That I immediately started offering advice to Manon on her work last week was only because I suddenly realized that while you all learned to clean up and simplify your blog titles, blog entry titles, and categories, she forgot all of that when it came to Powerpoints: this is because we have all gotten used to BAD BILL GATES POWERPOINTS (see above, it is a forest of fallen trees after a tornado) and when we/you start to prepare Powerpoints you start building them like the BAD BILL GATES POWERPOINTS and not like YOUR NICE, SIMPLE, CLEAR, EFFECTIVE BLOGS! So, just like you learned how to make simple, effective titles and categories, start off with simple, effective statements about what you have learned — just like EXCELLENT VINCENT! has done!

The problem is, that all this bullet point glop is built into the Powerpoint application itself: Powerpoint makes it altogether too easy to keep adding bullet points, and then more bullet points … until you think that bullet points might actually be a good way to present things. They are not.

Here’s an explanation why, from the author of presentationZEN (If you want to read more about what this author has to say, check out his presentationZEN’s tips, beginning with “simplicity” (I have the book and will bring it Wednesday, but I think you’ll learn enough with what I am showing you here):

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I hope you will recognize this advice … it is the same advice I gave you when designing your blogs! Keep it simple, direct, and to the point. Look at what Philine did: great title, great image, and they work together beautifully! Plus, her text engages the reader:

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Now, I would improve this post by putting “more …” after “look at this:”, and then I would have discussed what this business of jobs in paradise is about: how it is a lesson for marketing, or whatever: but you get my point. You’ve learned A LOT in making your blogs …. carry this knowledge over to Powerpoints — even it means having to trip over your memories of all the other bad powerpoints that have convinced you to make more bad powerpoints yourselves!   

Now let’s see how Vincent did it:

VincentFirstBlog.jpg

This comes close! The image is direct, relevant, and even if a little brutal, it makes Vincent’s point and supports what he says. To improve it I, personally, would use a “before and after” format, because what Vincent did before wasn’t bad: he just did what he knew to do (and put in good effort, if I remember right!): he just didn’t know better (that’s why we are in school). UNLESS, of course, when he were to say, “I didn’t see the point (and did not ask for a better explanation)” or “I didn’t take the assignment seriously…” Well, if he were to say that, well, that’s not too good. But here, he says that it was not a failure and that he figured something out … and that’s all, at least in my book, that a teacher can ask for: that you learn from your mistakes and then go on to build a new, improved version!

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Here’s a “before and after” comparison that is simple, direct, and to the point — and the point is what she learned how to do: how she moved one centimeter or meter forward in her understanding of what branding is, what her particular brand might be, and how to relate image and text. Her text would then best be about why she did it this way.

Not only that, at the bottom the slide suggests what might be done next. This should not only warm the heart of any designer and teacher — people whose professional interest is in exploration and improvement, but it also orients the viewer to a trajectory that invites the viewer to offer other suggestions for improvement.

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Think about this for a second. How do you want your audience — and especially people like professors, examiners, or clients — to respond? You want them to respond sympathetically, and even better, you want them to offer you more advice, so that when you leave the classroom or exam or presentation, everyone is focussed on the problem and giving you, or helping you give them, suggestions for improvement.

So that, finally, to sum it all up: please DO NOT tell me all about me and my wonderful course (or for that matter, about my not wonderful course)! I do not need an introduction or outline of the course syllabus, because I wrote it (and made it up as we went along). I do not need an introduction to WordPress, you can find that online. Ditto Twitter. Although I have used checklists and referred to them, I don’t want you to simply check off that you did this and that. BO-RING! The ONLY thing that interests me is WHAT YOU LEARNED! AND, for every thing that you learned, I want either a screen shot or a diagram or some image that we can all look at to help us understand the 2-3 sentences you will say about it.

We have already looked at an example of learning about presenting lists of things learned, putting each thing learned on one slide, about learning about better titles, better images, branding, coordination of title and image, compare and contrast formats …

I’d love to hear about your learning something by any one or any one part of the assignments: that’s why I gave them to you. But really, I don’t need to hear the assignment, because if you start off telling me the assignment we lost time and your point of comparison is the assignment: all I can think of is: “she did the assignment” and “big deal”.

What would make me the happiest person in the world would be if you were to say something like: “after solving all this technical stuff I finally ended up discovering a website in my field that showed me all these things I didn’t know about that are important to me and my career.”

And then, “So I wrote about it, and this is what I said and how I wrote about it,”

And then, if you really want to insist on flattering me, you can say something like: “And I learned all this because I wanted to create a blog post to show everyone how I am learning how to use blogs to engage my field.”

Got it?

But as I will talk about in the famous twitter post that I’ve now written and rewritten four times, what would really make me happy is if you were to make a screenshot that looked like this
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And where you describe how differently you posted on your blog or on twitter, including an analysis of the content. Here, as we discussed in class, you could talk about how you started off just writing nonsense about what you were doing, answering the standard twitter question, but over time, you found yourself asking for and receiving help, talking about your feelings, and connecting with others — while noting how you used the “reply” feature in twitter more and more often.

If you were able to do it — and prove it with screenshots from your blog or twitter — then you could really, really make me happy and say that, well, “I learned to use English where before I used either German or French to help me do my business,” because this is, after all, a Business English class, and the whole point was for you to learn how to use English in your business.

I hope this has helped!

And one more thing. If any of you want to change what you have prepared because of these notes and really need more time, send me an email soon and I’ll be pleased to move a couple of you to next week!

Thanks for reading the post! I’m looking forward to your presentations!

All the best,

Bruce

—————————-

Below is what I posted last week, unchanged.

The Goal of Your Final Presentation

The goal of your final presentation is to review what you have learned in this class as you would present it to others.

The presentation format should include about 8-12 Powerpoint slides, including screenshots of your website, and be presented in the voice of: “What I have learned about business English”. The emphasis should be on what you have learned in your two target languages, including, the professional business languages you have found on websites in your field and the professional business languages you have learned how to use in your blog entries when reporting on what you have found on the web. All the wonderful things you have learned about blogging, twittering, and the web should be discussed as they have contributed to this larger individual and course goal.

You want to show that your work here has been a success, and to do that you’ll need to identify many of the steps you made a long the way: offer us a record of your achievement! But of course, this is not to say “I’m great!”, but in substantive terms: “this is what I have learned.”

What Am I Looking For?

I am looking for evidence of progress towards your goal of identifying and learning how to report on and use the business English of your particular field. This is defined in two ways. First, this is the English you find on the websites you find in your field, what we call your “target language”, and which you report on in your blog. Second, this is the English you use in your blogs when reporting on other people’s blogs and blog entries.

This is not the place for me for you to tell me about all of your troubles with this project, or this course — that we do with an in-class course evaluation: talk about your troubles only as they led you to find a good solution and so should be evaluated as a credit to your hard work, intelligence, and achievement.

For your presentation, after you review what you have done in the way of learning how to find relevant websites and posts and reporting on them, choose one or two of your best blog posts and explain what you learned there: what issues, debates, and languages you found there and how this work has prepared you to use these methods in the future.

For instance, you might contrast the languages you found in the Bar Project to those you found on your favorite professional websites and put this difference in context. Briefly describe how INFORMAL, playful, and fun was the talk in the bar with the far more FORMAL and, I trust, conversational, explanatory, argumentative, etc., was the language you found on the professional site.

Discuss briefly the context: that we conducted an experiment whereby we were looking for active language use by native speakers and sought to engage them, but that the Bar Project mostly led us to fun and games, and how we then sought more professional language on the web.

Discuss how, once you began to find websites in your field, you began to evaluate and select them according to various criteria, such as their entering into discussions about current issues that you have learned to appreciate in your studies and how, as you tried to follow my advice on writing blog posts, you developed a structured way of reporting on them

Then, using your best blog post as an example or case study, move on to a discussion of the details of what you found and the way you reported on what you found.

Begin by explaining why you selected this post and not others; this might involve comparing your chosen post to another than you rejected.

Then explain what is important about the discussion in this post, and do so by putting it into the context of the issues in your field that you have learned to appreciate in your other classes and studies.

In your post, of course, you should also begin by putting the issue into context as well as explain what one is going to learn by reading your post.

Be sure to review the advice I have offered you on my blog. I understand that I’ve discussed many, many things and done so in a conversational fashion, so that you won’t find a single page checklist to make your life simple. Please understand that I am not measuring you against a strict list: I am measuring you against the general framework as well as evidence that you have worked consistently and intelligently. When you do refer to my advice, be sure to offer detailed illustration of how you have used this advice to your advantage. In your case study, do not simply note that you followed my advice to describe, analyze, and evaluate a professional blog post, but do show me in your own writing the evidence that you have taken such advice to heart and used it to your advantage.

In respect to blog design, be sure to explain your choice of title, title image, categories, and blog entry titles as CHOICES that you have made, and offer one or two explanations of those choices offering the reasons why you made the choice that you did. Again, present this as a process of learning and discovery.   

Twitter

I’ll discuss Twitter in class today and add a comment here tomorrow.

The Presentation Itself

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The night before your presentation, submit to me via email both your .ppt file the script you might follow to present these slides. The best way to do this is to write up your notes using the “View/Notes” feature of Powerpoint and to print them in the Notes view, as you see by the screenshot above. If you prefer, you can also create a file in your favorite wordprocessor where you simply number the slides and submit that along with the Powerpoint.

Be sure to name any files that you send to me as follows: “yourname, final presentation, date …” so I can store and find them easily. Also be sure to create a title page for your Powerpoint that includes this information as well.

That I immediately started offering advice to Manon on her work last week was only because I suddenly realized that while you all learned to clean up and simplify your blog titles, blog entry titles, and categories, she forgot all of that when it came to Powerpoints: this is because we have all gotten used to BAD BILL GATES POWERPOINTS (see above, it is a forest of fallen trees after a tornado) and when we/you start to prepare Powerpoints you start building them like the BAD BILL GATES POWERPOINTS and not like YOUR NICE, SIMPLE, CLEAR, EFFECTIVE BLOGS! … If you were able to do it — and prove it with screenshots from your blog or twitter — then you could really, really make me happy and say that, well, “I learned to use English where before I used either German or French to help me do my business,” because this is, after all, a Business English class, and the whole point was for you to learn how to use English in your business.File Sizes.jpg

ps: I am seeing PPT files of 4-6 megabyte — sizes which take forever to load and print — and that’s something you will want to learn how to avoid. The problem is likely your image file sizes, that you dragged large files into your Powerpoint without resizing them to a minimum. The maximum size you’ll need for Powerpoint is 1024 pixels, so that you’ll likely never need a size bigger than 100-200k. Do this outside of Powerpoint. For more advice, Microsoft has some older and newer advice. If you are using Macintosh, the best solution I’ve found is to drag your images into Imagewell (cheap), resize to 1024 or smaller, before dragging into Powerpoint.

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