or… An Audience Loves Performances Not Presentations
Did you know that the word “bunny” actually comes from the English word “bun” which once meant “squirrel” and was also used as a term of endearment? Mind blown 🤯
This bit of trivia, which one of my children recently educated me on, got me thinking about how often we use words without giving much thought to where they came from. We so easily lose sight of the etymology of a word as its meaning evolves – sometimes it becomes richer; other times it reduces into a label.
Here’s a more timely example: Presentation.
Talk about a word that fills people with dread. Why is that? I believe it’s because many of us interpret the word “presentation” in a way that is a far cry from its original meaning. What do you think about when you hear it? Slide decks built from outdated templates, bullet point overload, cheesy clip art…?
If you ask me, we have settled for a very poor substandard – and that’s a mistake. Today, with so much communication now taking place via video conferencing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the art of presenting is taking on a new level of importance in our day-to-day work. For most of us, that means it’s time to level up our presentation skills – and that starts with getting back to the heart of what it actually means to deliver a “presentation.”
Disclaimers: (1) This piece is an exploration of considerations to factor into data analysis to arrive at the most effective interpretation of that data. I am not an epidemiologist. (2) This piece is also slightly longer than usual, but it’s a topic that strikes close to home and so I wanted to explore the ideas here in depth, several of which transcend South Korea’s response to Covid-19.
At times when people struggle to make sense of unexpected crisis, nothing provides comfort quite like charts and data. We put our faith in data because we feel it gives us insight and control — but does it really? Only when the data is viewed within the correct context.
The way people respond to a single event is different around the world and reflects our varied cultures and experiences. That’s why it’s so important to first identify cultural variants, and then examine the data through that contextual lens. Without this understanding, we cannot know which data is actually relevant or determine the right questions to ask of the data.
In the case of Covid-19, all eyes are currently on South Korea as the shining example of a pandemic response done right. Korean scientists and business leaders prepared early and acted quickly. They operated under the assumption that Covid-19 was going to hit the country hard. And everyone remembered how South Korea successfully faced off against a MERS-CoV outbreak in 2015 and the lessons learned from that encounter.
But does South Korea offer a reliable model for other countries trying to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
How People Think Matters as Much as the Data About Their Actions
I’ve been inspired to write this piece by Li Jin’s post on technology and life in quarantine for people living in China. I wanted to do a South Korean version to call attention to a simple yet powerful truth about data that is easily overlooked: Understanding how people think is as critical as understanding the data about their actions. In fact, the two are (or should be) inseparable.
How I interpret data about Covid-19 in South Korea is informed by my long relationship with the country’s people and culture, and my own family’s experience with the virus.
Combatting Audience Distraction and Driving Engagement with Apple’s Touch Bar
I was shocked to learn recently that the Apple Touch Bar – you know, the shortcuts at the top of your MacBook that are constantly changing and trick you into turning up the brightness when volume is what you really want – will be four years old this October. FOUR years. It’s hard to believe.
Do you remember how polarizing the Touch Bar was when it was released? Be honest… Were you in the “total gimmick” camp or were you a true believer? How about now? Have you changed your opinion? Will you insist on having the Touch Bar on your next MacBook? Why?
I used to write a blog called #KillingCorporateDecks. At the time, I was working at Oracle and a big part of my job was giving presentations – oftentimes introducing customers to the latest Oracle technologies and explaining how to use them.
These weren’t your typical, run-of-the-mill corporate slideshows overloaded with bullet points copied and pasted from the speaker notes. I threw myself into my presentations, designing custom slides and talk tracks for every last one. The way I saw it, getting people into the room was only half the battle. Just because someone shows up doesn’t mean they will actually pay attention. You have to work for it. You have to earn it.
I also just really enjoyed the creative process. These presentations gave me an opportunity to quench my thirst as an artist and bring creativity into an otherwise highly-technical role. I focused heavily on the design elements and visual storytelling to capture people’s attention and keep them engaged. I broke the mold and turned technical slides into artwork.
The best part is how much people loved it. In some respects, the art of the presentation became my calling card.
Before long, colleagues started asking if I could teach them how to do it. So, I launched a training program at Oracle to help people reset their thinking about corporate decks and discover new ways to build and present them. (I’m pleased to say the program still lives on to this very day.) As part of that effort, I created KillingCorporateDecks.com – first, as a place to save and share the various training materials I was developing at the time; and then later, as a creative outlet for exploring a wider range of ideas and observations about business, technology, and leadership.
I kept up with the blog for an entire year, writing regularly and attracting a sizeable audience – and then everything changed.