For the last 14 years I’ve posted one or more blog posts each week. Every post includes at least one image — over 1,400 blog post illustrations to date. Some of them are my own photographs, screenshots, or public domain images. But the majority I create myself. I’ll never be a great graphic artist, but I enjoy visualizing and creating these visual reinforcements to my posts and am always looking for new tools that a novice like me can use successfully.
In 2019, I wrote about two free and easy ways to create graphics: Canva and Keynote. Well, I’ve added three more tools to my artist’s palette. They’re not free, but they’re inexpensive and I think they’re well worth the cost. You can, of course, use them for presentation illustrations too. So without further ado, here are three great tools for blog post illustrations.
Here’s a standing invitation for event and hospitality teachers.
I will meet online with your class for free.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, much education has moved online. One small silver lining of this disruption? It’s a good time to invite guest presenters into your online classroom.
As an experienced facilitator and designer of participant-driven and participation-rich meetings, I love to share what I’ve learned during my four decades in the meeting industry. No pitches or selling anything.
You won’t get a canned presentation. Rather, we’ll discuss beforehand what you and your students want and need. A session on a specific syllabus topic you choose? A freewheeling Ask Me Anything about meeting design that delivers optimal learning, connection, engagement, and action outcomes? Or a session that we build on the fly in real time to respond to what’s top-of-mind for your class that day? (I love doing those.)
You get to choose.
I hope you’ll take advantage of this standing invitation for event and hospitality teachers. Contact me to set up a mutually agreeable date and time!
Do great speakers just provide a better emotional experience?
Feeling good—for a while
At MPI’s 2011 World Education Congress I heard the best motivational speaker I’ve ever seen. Bill Toliver gave an amazing twenty-minute speech.
I felt inspired by Bill. Here’s what I tweeted at the time.
But three months later, I didn’t remember a thing Bill said. (In fact I didn’t even remember his name when I came to write this post and had to ferret it out from an archive.)
Now this may be simply because my memory is declining with the passage of time—though I suspect that you may have had a similar experience. But I don’t think my dying brain cells are to blame.
As a counter-example, I still have vivid memories of workshops I attended over ten years ago.
Why do I remember what happened at those workshops but not what Bill said? We’ll get to that shortly, but first….
Testing two styles of lecture learning
I am not surprised by the results of research published in the May 2013 issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Here’s the experimental setup:
“Participants viewed one of two videos depicting an instructor explaining a scientific concept. The same speaker delivered the same script in both videos. The only difference was in how the information was delivered. In the fluent speaker condition, the speaker stood upright, maintained eye contact, displayed relevant gestures, and did not use notes. In the disfluent speaker condition, she hunched over a podium, read from notes, spoke haltingly, and failed to maintain eye contact.” Appearances can be deceiving: instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning—Shana K. Carpenter, Miko M. Wilford, Nate Kornell, Kellie M. Mullaney
Right after watching their video, participants were asked to estimate how much of the information in the video they would be able to recall after about 10 minutes:
“Participants who viewed the fluent speaker predicted that they would remember a greater amount of information than those who viewed the disfluent speaker. However, actual performance did not differ between the groups [emphasis added]…
…It is not clear precisely which aspects of the lecturer’s behavior influenced participants’ judgments, and the experience of fluency may be subjective. What is clear, however, is that a more fluent instructor may increase perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning [emphasis added].”
What can we conclude from these results?
It’s just one experiment, but it does support something I’ve believed to be true for years. A great speaker may well provide a more enjoyable and emotionally satisfying presentation—but the learning that results is not significantly better than that provided by a mediocre lecturer!
Am I saying that we should discount the value of the quality of a speaker’s presence, examples, stories, and presentation as a whole? No! If we’re going to learn something from a speaker, there’s value in having the experience be emotionally satisfying.
What I am saying, though, is that it is a mistake to correlate the quality of a speaker’s presentation with the learning that occurs for those present. That is a big mistake.
Highly-paid speakers may provide better emotional experience, but that doesn’t mean their listeners learn and retain what they hear especially well.
But there’s another mistake we’re making when we fill our conferences with speakers.
What’s the use of lectures?
Back to those workshops I attended. Why do I remember vividly what happened in 2002 but not what Bill, the magnificent motivational speaker, said in 2011? Because in the workshops I was participating in my learning. I was interacting with other participants, receiving feedback and insights about what I said and did, and what happened led to deep learning that has stayed with me ever since.
When we give center stage at our events to presentations at the expense of participative engagement, learning suffers. The best speakers may be far more entertaining and emotionally satisfying than the worst ones, but, according to the above research, we’re not going to learn any more from them. Perhaps a truly great speaker may inspire her audience to take action in their lives—and that can be a good and important outcome—but I wonder how often that happens at our events. (There’s an idea for more research!)
What we have known for some time though, is that if we are truly interested in maximizing learning at our events, hiring the best speakers in the world will not do the trick. Instead, we need to incorporate participative learning into every session we program. That’s the subject of my next book. Stay tuned!
So, do great speakers just provide a better emotional experience?
What do you think is the real value of good speakers? How much have you learned (and retained) from presentations compared to interactive workshops?
Free! Toilet trained! Motivational speaker topic needs a good home!
Unique opportunity! Too many ideas to handle—this one MUST GO! Great potential for the right presenter! Good for a few minutes OR MORE of your inspirational message! Use now, before someone else snaps it up!
No trained operators are standing by! This is clearly your Lucky Day!
Are you ready?
====> Pull With Both Hands! <====
So many angles available in a single four-word concept!
When you Pull with Both Hands:
Your effort is more powerful!
Two hands provide balance, one does not!
You model cooperation and teamwork!
You avoid failure! (Remember—the towel dispenser mechanism jams if only one hand used!)
There’s always an alternative! (Just turn the little thingy on the side!)
I’m sure a few moments contemplation on your part will lead to many more!
No catch! Nothing to pay! No salesperson will call!
Yet another creative idea from the billions of tiny braincells firing 24/7 at Conferences That Work!
P.S. Yes! I’ve incorporated a record number of exclamation marks into this post! Italics count isn’t too shabby either!
Thank you to the creative environment provided by the men’s bathroom at BATS, where this inspiration struck.
Here’s a one minute video about my free two hour workshop at EIBTM 2012, Barcelona, on November 28, where you’ll learn how to transform your meetings using powerful participation techniques.
The best way to learn about participation techniques is to experience them, and that’s what we’ll be doing in the workshop. You’ll experience a variety of ways for participants to learn about each other and to discover and share the issues that really matter to them. We’ll also cover the why, when, and where to use these techniques.
The workshop will be held on Wednesday, November 28, 13:30 – 15:30 in Conference Room 4.1. Session attendance is limited, so arrive early to be sure to secure a place!
Here’s a one hour video of a Hangout On Air that Jenise Fryatt & I held July 24, 2012 on How to moderate a Twitter Chat.
To decide whether this is a valuable use of your time I’ve listed below the topics and tips we covered from our summary notes.
Introduction – 5 minutes
Jenise & me intros
– poll of participants; brief answers; tweet if watching
– Q1) who wants to start a new chat? moderate an existing chat; chat name?
– Q2) what’s the most important thing you’d like to get out of this hangout?
Set up – 12 minutes Presence on the web – 2 minutes
helpful to have permanent place for chat on web: wiki, WordPress site
– include schedule, format, rules, chat archives (use Storify)
Chat formats – 3 minutes
fixed or rotating moderators
1+ moderators on busy chats
moderator asks pre-determined questions
to guests first, and then opens up discussion
Choosing a topic – 2 minutes
something that can be usefully covered in an hour
“how to do something”
“tips for doing something”
controversial current topic
Tools – 3 minutes
chat hashtag; mentions; DMs columns
use when you don’t want hashtag at end of tweet
keep as a backup in case Tweetchat goes down/is slow (rare)
Preparation – 2 minutes
gather up topic links in advance
crowdsourced topics http://www.allourideas.org/epchat
write out Qs in advance so you can paste them into your Twitter client
Running the chat – 23 minutes Protocol – 2 minutes
welcome as many participants as you can
encourage first-timers, lurkers to tweet
Welcome everyone – 4 minutes
moderator intro (write out in advance include welcome, your name, who your with, topic for today and welcome guest if any)
participant intros, including ice-breakers
possibilities: names, company, location
ice-breaker question: favorite candy, unusual experience etc.
Heart of the chat -12 minutes
concentrate on making them clear (in advance?)
make tweets stand-alone
participants often RT questions
number them Q1), Q2) and ask participants to answer w/ A1) A2)
keep track of time; have a plan for time available to get through Qs you’ve prepared
but be flexible if circumstances dictate
don’t be rushed by anything; don’t feel bad if you miss a tweet or two, we are human; can always go back after the chat & respond then
consider ignoring trollish/annoying behaviour
end of chat – 5 minutes
ask for takeaways
thank moderators, guests
mention next topic/guest(s)/time
describe where/when archive will be posted
Post-chat – 8 minutes
use Storify for archives (login first, click on save regularly, laggy!)
Jenise: can add rich media (videos) to Storify; create threads (subheads, move Tweets around)
Questions on how to moderate a Twitter chat? Ask them below!
On May 7, 2012 Google opened up Google Hangouts On Air (HOA)—a free service for broadcasting and recording live video with up to 10 participants—to all Google+ users. Six weeks later, the night before edACCESS 2012 started at the Peddie School in New Jersey, I decided to try using Google Hangouts On Air to stream and then archive the conference keynote. A couple of edACCESS old-timers who couldn’t attend in person this year had asked me if there was any way we could stream any of the “public” conference sessions. I had nothing to lose by trying out this new technology.
Here’s what I did, what I learned, and how things turned out.
Google Hangouts On Air preparation
First I created an empty Google+ Circle and went through the process of creating a test Hangout On Air. This allowed me to get familiar with the process and check in advance for any potential problems. I was able to successfully view myself streaming, and see how the stream turned into a YouTube video once I ended the Hangout. This gave me the confidence to announce through social media channels that the stream would be available. (Though I neglected to figure out how to provide a link to the stream in advance).
Peddie’s charming and efficient Director of Academic Technology provided a laptop with a decent external webcam and we circled each other on Google+ so I could add her computer to the hangout on the morning of the keynote. (Important note: you cannot invite people to a hangout unless they’ve added you to one of their circles first.) I decided to use her computer to stream video and audio of the keynote speaker, and my trusty 17″ MacBook Pro with built in webcam to setup the hangout and publicize and monitor the feed.
To broadcast Hangouts on Air you must have a linked and verified YouTube account associated with your Google login. This linked account will be where the broadcast stream, and later the video recording will appear. You only need to set up this linkage once, but I strongly suggest you do so (and test it) before your first HOA. Verification is apparently necessary if you want to save a hangout that lasts longer than fifteen minutes!
Ten minutes before the keynote was due to begin I started a hangout in the usual way by clicking on the START A HANGOUT button on the Google+ hangouts tab. Then I added Emily to the invitee list, named the hangout, checked the option “Enable Hangouts On Air” (and agreed to the warning dialog), and clicked the Hang out button. This led to a normal-looking hangout window, with the addition of an Embed link and a Start Broadcast button at the top right.
Once Emily accepted my invitation, we were nearly good to go. The big picture feed in a hangout is switched to the webcam with the loudest audio. I wanted to avoid having the stream switch away from Emily’s webcam so I muted the microphone on my computer by hovering over my small video window at the bottom and clicking on the microphone icon.
But I still needed to share a link to the stream so that anyone could watch. Clicking the Embed link on the Hangout page I obtained the embed code for the stream and quickly created a blog post with the embedded keynote stream. This embedded a YouTube player onto the page. Visitors could watch the live Hangout On Air directly from the page, as well as on Google+ and my YouTube channel. (Note: once the broadcast is over, this link points automatically to the resulting YouTube video post.) I checked the blog page to ensure the video looked OK before we went live. Then I tweeted the page link to the blog page.
[Later I discovered that when the hangout is starting, if you right-click on the timestamp of the Google+ post that announces the hangout you will also get a link to the stream.]
We were ready!
By this time the speaker was being introduced. I clicked the Start Broadcast button and we went live.
While hosting the hangout on my computer I could watch the broadcast stream, delayed by 5-10 seconds, in another browser window. Pretty cool! I also noticed that an updating count of stream viewers was displayed on the hangout page. Also cool!
After a few minutes I realized that seeing my face at the bottom of the hangout was distracting, so I turned off my camera.
Then I received a tweet from my friend Ruud Janssen in Switzerland(!) who was watching. He asked if I could use my camera to show the slides as the main video, moving the video of the speaker to a small window at the bottom of the screen. This made sense, so I turned my laptop round, pointed it at the slide screen, and clicked on its window to make the slides the main video for the stream. This worked well. (I should have thought of this earlier. Next time I will explore using a tool like CamTwist to pipe presenter slides directly into a hangout feed.)
Unlike a regular hangout, where any participant can override the camera switching that Google normally does, the main window for a Hangout On Air is either determined automatically from the webcam with the loudest audio or by the person streaming the hangout. So I became the camera operator. When the speaker asked for and answered questions, I chose Emily’s webcam. When he began speaking again, I returned to the slides as the main video.
We had no audience microphone, so I asked the speaker to repeat audience questions. That allowed stream followers to hear questions and they’d be included on the final YouTube video. Next time we could add a small netbook webcam to the hangout and have a volunteer run it round as a mike (and video) for audience questions.
When the keynote was over I simply clicked End broadcast. After about ten minutes, a recorded video of the 105 minute hangout automatically posted to my YouTube channel as well as the post on my Google+ Page, and the embed post on my blog. At this point I was able to edit the video information on YouTube. Now it appeared in my YouTube Channel with the same title I had given the hangout. Apparently you can use YouTube’s tools to edit the video itself, but I didn’t do this.
Broadcasting this impromptu stream only required a small amount of preparation. Upon completion the stream automatically turns into a standard permanent YouTube video. The ease and quality of the result pleases me. Sure, it’s not a professional broadcast and recording. But for the cost (free!) and minimal effort required, Google Hangouts On Air provides an attractive solution for streaming and archiving events that will fill many needs. I recommend you try out this approach for a low-profile event.
– You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.
– Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. Run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you start.
When and how did you first learn to vote? Probably in school by raising your hand. This time honored method of polling an audience may seem straight forward, but I frequently see presenters who don’t use this simple participation technique correctly. Here’s how to do it right.
Make sure you list all the possible choices you’re offering before you poll. If you’re asking an “only-one-of-these-answers-is-right” question, providing all options in advance helps to reduce the natural hesitation to pick the early “correct” answer when you haven’t heard all the alternatives.
Next ask if the alternatives you’re giving are clear and complete, and give the audience a chance to clarify the choices you’ve provided or incorporate additional potential answers you’ve overlooked.
Now it’s time to ask for a show of hands. Remember that because you’re at the front of the room you can see the response better than anyone in the audience except, perhaps, the people in the back row. It’s frustrating for audience members to take the trouble to vote and not be informed of the group’s response. Present each answer in turn and give people time to respond. After each answer, estimate the proportion of the audience that has hands raised and give that feedback to the audience, e.g. “About half of you prefer bacon.”
Yes-No voting with no abstentions
If you need a yes-no vote with abstaining not an option, use stand voting. Ask everyone in favor/agreement to stand. (If any audience member is unable to stand, have them raise their hand.) Then say “Everyone standing sit, everyone sitting stand.” If you’re looking for unanimity, ask anyone now standing to explain what they feel they can’t commit to, and, if necessary, the group can work on an agreement as to how to proceed.
In part 2 of this post I’ll describe Roman voting.
Here’s a transcript of my four-minute Blink! talk Torn About Tech given on Monday, April 23, at the Green Meetings Industry Council 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference:
“Let me make one thing clear.
I love technology!
I love my iPad, my iPhone! I love my iPod touch! (Three computers in one man purse!)
And I’m a big fan of the appropriate use of technology at events.
That people anywhere with an an internet connection can get a taste of what’s happening at this conference in Montreal, Canada, without having to use significant amounts of energy and resources to travel here is a GOOD THING!
But I’m Torn About Tech at face-to-face events.
I’m Torn About Tech because technology can distract us from what I believe is the core reason for having face-to-face events.
Because we don’t have to travel anymore to hear some someone speak or to obtain up-to-the-minute content.
We can get all that online.
So what is the core reason for having face-to-face events these days?
It’s so we can meet, share, and learn through face-to-face personal connection and interactions.
And there’s a danger, a very seductive danger that I’m certainly not immune to, of focusing on new technology, new gadgets, new apps to mediate our face-to-face experience and, in the process, ignoring much simpler non-tech ways to increase learning, connecting, and sharing at events.
An example: audience response systems, clickers, gadgets we can hand out to audience members to get responses to questions.
Great devices for anonymous polling, where no one in the room gets to find out how anyone else voted. Occasionally that’s appropriate and useful.
But, come on, is this really what we want at a face-to-face event? I’d like to know how you and you and you feel about an issue, and there are a ton of low-tech/no-tech methods we can use to share that information.
(one of my favorites) body voting aka human spectrograms
Body voting has audience members stand along a line in the room to show the agreement/disagreement gradient on an issue. You can use it to discover different viewpoints, create debates, create homogeneous or heterogeneous small discussion groups on a topic—all things that gadgets can’t do.
These voting methods involve people moving about which improves learning, retention, and recall. They’re free or incredibly cheap and they’re a lot more fun.
Yes, there are some things that technology does better than the old ways. Having multiple session scribes live blog into a shared Google Doc projected on a big screen is much better than scribes taking notes on yellow pads or flip charts.
But let’s not fall into the trap of believing that new technology is the only way to improve events.
Very often we can simply use different human process to greatly improve learning, connection, and fun at our events.
Off to GMIC’s Sustainable Meetings Conference this weekend. Besides a four-minute rant Torn About Tech, which will explore my ambivalence about some uses of technology at face-to-face meetings, I’m also emceeing a novel closing session on Tuesday, April 24, 3:00 – 4:30 pm with a format I haven’t tried before: Conference Weavers.
The purpose of a Conference Weavers session is to encourage reflection and reinforce learning by publicly sharing thoughts and impressions from the conference presentations and experiences. We’ll use a number of volunteers who will each spend a few minutes sharing their conference response with the group, followed by a chance for audience questions and responses. In addition, Jenise Fryatt will lead a little interpretative improv at some point. If time permits, I’m going to include a pair-share so that everyone will have an opportunity to share his or her thoughts.
I thought you’d never ask. Pair-share is a simple participation technique you can use to involve every audience member in sharing and discussion. Audience members divide into pairs and take turns sharing with their partner their conference impressions. Once that’s complete, optional public sharing can be added.
I’ll report on how this format worked after I’m back from the conference. Stay tuned!