Zenning My Presentation

Do you know how to Zen your presentation? It’s a concept that my colleague and friend, Bob Cole, director of our Teaching & Learning Collaborative, turned me on to. How often have you sat through a presentation with a tiny font size and so much text that you couldn’t possibly absorb the information, let alone concentrate on the speaker?

With Zenning, less is more. Find images that are thought-provoking and relevant to the topic. Flickr’s Creative Commons is a great resource. And rather than creating bulleted lists of facts and figures, select a few words or phrases that express your key concepts. Think Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The presentation should be an aide, not a distraction. Once you free yourself from the prison of bullet lists, your audience is free to focus on your message. For more details, check out Garr Reynold’s Web site. He literally wrote the book on Zenning your presentation: Presentation Zen.

As I start to design the presentation for my TESOL workshop, I think back to the first time I converted a PowerPoint show using these ideas. Afterword, participants raved to me! For a sample of what I did, check out my slideshare “The Top 10 Things Every New Language Program Administrator Should Know.”

So, if you are gearing up for a presentation of your own this year, consider adding some Zen. Your audience will thank you for it!

About pszasz

Patricia Szasz is the Director of Intensive English Programs at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In addition to overseeing a variety of English language programs for international students, Patricia is fortunate enough to teach graduate courses in language pedagogy on campus. She currently serves on the board of the California/Nevada affiliate, CATESOL, as Level Chair for Intensive English Programs. Her professional interests include language program administration, leadership, technology-enhanced language learning, project-based learning, and intercultural communication. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, reading, traveling and taking walks along the beautiful California coast with her dog Henry.
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4 Responses to Zenning My Presentation

  1. I am actually preparing for a presentation and stumbled upon your posting, probably because it include the words “zen” and “presentation”, exactly what I was looking for. I have had to sit through so many terrible presentations and power points, I do not want to add mine to this list.

    I like the idea of “less is more” and providing pictures that visual your topic. I have never been a fan of bulletted lists or speakers that read straight through their power point. If we were supposed to read, why would we need a speaker?

    Thank you again for the timely well thought out article, it came to me at the right time today!

    Grace Bosworth
    President, Global2Local Language Solutions LLC

  2. Thanks for sharing this information .. let me accept this i did not heard about this earlier and never think about this method before. Let me have a try and come back to you with more feedback about this shortly.

  3. pszasz pszasz says:

    Joe — thanks for the additional resources! These are great! Although one solution to the issue would be to have more detailed handouts available at the presentation, I try to take a greener approach. I collect attendees business cards or email addresses at the end of the presentation and offer to send them my resources by email. It seems to have worked. And of course, there’s also the TESOL Resource Center (http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/trc_genform.asp?CID=1253&DID=7561). That way we also don’t have to carry all that paper back in our luggage 🙂 Thanks for the feedback, and hpe to see you in N’awlins!

  4. Joe McVeigh says:

    I’m a big fan of Presentation Zen as well, Patricia. It has totally changed the way I think about presentations. I now spend much more time contemplating how I can support the ideas visually and I also spend a lot of time on Flickr looking for Creative Commons licensed photos that I can use. I’ve also found a couple of Garr Reynolds’ recommendations useful as well. Brain Rules by John Medina has useful information about how we think, and this can inform presentations. Resonate by Nancy Duarte adds useful ideas about planning, structure, and the power of storytelling. I do find, though, that many TESOL and educational presentations don’t lend themselves so well to this approach. Participants expect so much in the way of didactic content that I usually find it impossible to avoid having some slides that are just words with bullet points. Here’s an example of one: http://www.slideshare.net/Joe_McVeigh/speaking-skills-forenglishlanguagelearners Anyway, I’ll do my best to follow your lead and take the Presentation Zen approach in New Orleans. Hope to see you there!

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