Focus on the Words



In an older and more formal style of presenting, all of the information coming out of your mouth is also in writing on the slides. Sometimes this lingers, particularly in the technical corners of academia. This has been a struggle for me because in lab presentations the professors often don’t actually listen to what you say, and instead try to read the text. Then, any clarifications made through your words that’s not on the slides is lost and the presentation may be deemed incomplete or unclear.

Clear Speech


Stop saying um so much. There’s a few ways to get around this, but my favorite is to just talk slower. So many people talk very fast and have a fairly high percentage of filler words so the sentence takes nearly the same time. Talking slower sounds a bit more intentional, controlled, and emphatic. Add in some pauses for emphasis.

Do an Activity


Adding an activity to what would otherwise be a lecture sometimes feels like a stretch. In Workshop Open Mic, one of our participants was very confused as to how they might add an activity to a 15 minute workshop about the history of military submarines. At first I almost agreed with him–it felt contrived and awkward forcing an activity in there. When we demo’d the workshops, his was a ton of fun as he had us building small models of and guessing the shape of the first submarine and why it failed so many times. This was a great way to solidify the points and add so much engagement to an otherwise absurdly boring subject.



While deciding upon whether a specific pre-workshop activity was appropriate, I went down the list of all the potential sounds I was prepared to make for this sound-driven activity. Despite animal sounds being an absolutely minuscule percentage of all possible sounds, they made up about 40% of what I thought of at the time. I suspect that I was subconsciously limiting myself for no good reason.

Lights, Camera, Action

Another thought from the Workshop Open Mic event, this graph shows what happens when you share your creations. Consider the initial path: you’re certainly improving over time, but it’s so slow compared to what it could be. The dots where the path changes is each time you share your creations. In the context of the event, we were at the first dot. If we gave participants another 30 minutes to refine and improve after the first share, their workshop would get so much better. If we repeated that four, five, or maybe six times they’d be approaching readiness for a fairly large audience.

Quick Turnaround


We recently hosted an event called “Workshop Open Mic.” The goal of this was to show participants that you need remarkably little time to prepare. It’s obvious that no preparation yields poor quality, but it’s less obvious that having nearly infinite time doesn’t improve the quality *that* much. In this event we had the goal of getting participants close to the inflection point at that dotted line. We estimated this point would be about 30 minutes of prep time.