Learning to Tell a Story
At EDUCAUSE this year I took the opportunity to attend a pre-conference seminar entitled Weaving a Tale So Others Will Listen: Technical to Fantastical led by Crista Copp and Michael Berman. This wasn’t just a “make your PowerPoint pretty” workshop (although we did spend some time on that), it was a full blown introduction to the art of story telling.
We covered things I vaguely remembered from my high school writing class like having a thesis for your talk, understanding the audience, setting up conflict and resolution in your story, and understanding the purpose of your presentation. Crista and Michael had us all bring a presentation idea with us, and at the end of the day each participant did a two minute (or so) talk.
We all promised to use what we’d learned during our next presentation, and as it happened my next presentation was yesterday. Each year I give an update to our University Planning Advisory Council (UPAC) on certain strategic initiatives around IT. The expectation is that you’ll stand up at the front of the room, run through a few bulleted slides, take some questions, and sit down. This year I sent basically the same set of slides I usually do (they were due before I left for EDUCAUSE), but in a fit of optimism I let the admin know that these slides were fine to be distributed for the agenda but that I’d bring some others to give to our AV person to show. To give you a sense, here are the slides that were sent out to the members:
After the seminar I worked on a new way to present this information and decided to tell a story about our new faculty mobile learning initiative. Since we’re still working with our first cohort, I was able to start the story from the very beginning. I showed a picture of our stack of iPads being scanned at the AppleStore and talked about going into the “iPad adoption center” and bringing these back to campus. Switching to a picture of our cohort unboxing and setting up their iPads, I talked about finding the iPads their “forever home” (yes, I’ve seen way to many pet adoption memes). And so it continued. Another picture, another part of the story. Then we shifted to our Canvas implementation where I had less story to tell (I wasn’t able to get a good story from a faculty member in the time I had), but I still tried to keep to the format of picture and story. I ended with an animated gif a faculty member sent me to express his joy in moving to Canvas and even found an interesting image for the Q&A slide. Here’s the deck I used.
The thing I found most interesting ins that using this format I never once looked at my notes (or the slides). It was a much more comfortable and natural way of conveying information about the topic. And when I sat down one of the members of our president’s cabinet leaded over and said, “that is the best presentation you’ve ever done.”
So I want to take a moment to thank Crista and Michael for all the work they did preparing for a guiding the seminar. If they offer it again I definitely encourage everyone to consider attending. Now I think I can add “story teller” to my CV.
And because you shouldn’t be denied the animated gif, here it is in all it’s glory.