Adam Polansky is a UX Strategist at Bottle Rocket Studios. He has been involved with some type of media development for nearly 30 years. At different times he has worked in advertising, retail, graphic services, hospitality, mechanical services, business development, defense, travel and consulting. Past clients include Travelocity, Sabre Holdings, Texas Instruments, Corporate Express, Radio City Entertainment, Dr Pepper, Intel, Akamai, Flowserve, Penzoil-Quaker State, Heritage Bags, and General Foods.
He has written for industry periodicals and is a contributor to Usability Success Stories: How Organizations Improve by Making Easier-to-use Software and Web Sites (Gower Publishing, 2006).
IA Summit 2015
Topic(s): communication and professional development
Public speaking isn’t just for big rooms with a podium and microphone.
Sometimes it’s just you and 5,10 maybe 20 people. They might be your clients or stakeholders or your project team. Any time you address a group, you need to get your message across and know you’ll be understood. Prep and practice are always important but when you’re speaking close-up there are different things to think about and opportunities you don’t have in a conference hall.
Adam Polansky: In 1997, I went to work for a small web design company that later became what somebody once called a big punk-ass web design company.
Adam: We were going on a pitch. One of the things that I did there, because I owned more than one suit and could string a sentence together so I had to work also in business development. We were going on our pitch to a major hotel chain.
We have this awesome presentation that we were putting together right until the minute that we got into the truck and drove…truck, it’s Texas. Got into the truck and drove over there. We were all ready to give our presentation. There was a room full of people, and we were using a live Internet feed.
What we agreed with when we started our presentation was this. You see up in the upper left hand corner, a great big [inaudible 0:54] image was loading one painful pixel at a time. Now, we didn’t close that deal. You could probably think of a couple of reasons, but by the time we get through with this, you can hopefully think of a few more.
I’ve been working with some different workshops to help people who wanted to submit to conferences and speak at conferences and that kind of thing, and it dawned on me that not everybody is going to speak at a conference, not everybody even wants to speak at a conference. But, in our business, what we all do is we do speak in conference rooms.
When you’re in that room with the big, long table, I realized there are a lot of things that went into the preparation for the big talks that applied just as easily to the little talks.
When you’re working close in, there are also a handful of other things that are good to know. What we’re going to do all through in this session, we are going to talk about some stuff, you get to listen to me, and at the same time, you guys are going to be getting up and we’re going to be playing some games and doing some other goofy stuff, all right?
The first goofy stuff is I want everybody to get up, and I would like everybody to start migrating over this way, and get…I think we’ve got enough space here. Let’s get in a circle, maybe two, depending on how many folks we’ve got.
Audience Member: You’re not going to bite, are you?
Adam: I don’t bite. Go ahead and [inaudible 2:37] get around here. Everybody in.
Audience Member: [inaudible 2:41] .
Adam: It’s OK. This might be kind of interesting. You know what, let’s break this into two circles. From right about here, you guys close it up, and you guys close it up. OK, a circle, you don’t have to hold hands, right? Like this, it’s a circle.
Audience Member: That was awesome.
Adam: We are going to play a game, that improv comics do as a warm up, to get ready to take the stage. It’s called, “Beep.” What you are going to do is, you are going to look at somebody, then you are going to say the word, “Beep.”
Audience Member: Beep.
Adam: You are going to look at somebody else, and say the word beep, and then, you are going to look at somebody else, and say the word, beep. You are going to try to do this as quickly as you can.
Basically, you are passing it around, and if you drop it, in another word, if you’re not quite sure it’s you, or you fumble it…You can beep right back at the person who beeped you. But, the idea is to keep it going. If you drop that beep, you got to step out of the circle. OK? Let’s go ahead, and start right here. Go ahead and beep.
Audience Member: Beep.
Adam: OK. Over here. Start right here. Pick somebody else, beep.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Anyone can start it.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Come on, people. Beep like you mean it.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Circle is getting smaller.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: These guys are good.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Hands down. No finger pointing. Next person who points is out.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: You know what? That’s good. We’ll talk in a minute about the importance of this.
Now, what I want everybody to do is, I want you to get in small circles of at least three people, not more than five. What I want you to do is get in pretty close, three to five people.
Get in a close circle. Let’s see. Get in real close. I want everybody looking down at their feet. Yeah. Everybody looking down at their feet. Go ahead and close in. You got it? Go ahead and close up, close up. Look down at your feet.
What you’re going to do is as a group in your circle, you’re going to count from 1 to 20. Anybody can start, and you’re going to count from 1 to 20. Anybody can start, but you can’t go round in a circle. No pattern is involved. One person says one, the next person says two.
If two people shout out a number at the same time, you have to start over. Anybody in the group say one, and somebody else says two, and you keep going till 20.
Audience Member: No.
Audience Member: [inaudible 9:17]
Audience Member: Just look down?
Adam: Just looking down. You’re only using your voices.
Audience Member: One.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Did you do it? Did you do it?
Audience Member: No.
Adam: OK. Backwards. 20, all the way down.
Audience Member: If you’re next to someone, like if I say one, could she say two?
Adam: As long as you don’t go round in a circle.
Audience Member: Someone else can [inaudible 9:52] .
Adam: All right. These guys nailed it.
Adam: Some are still trying to get started, so we’ll give them a minute.
[background conversation and laughter]
Adam: Yeah. We’re almost done with this.
[background conversation and laughter]
Audience Member: No.
Adam: Did you get it? You go all the way up, and all the way back?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Adam: All right.
Adam: OK, guys. That’s good.
Adam: All right. That’s good. You can go ahead and take your seats again.
Adam: You can go ahead and take your seats.
Adam: What the hell was that for?
Adam: Did you notice that when you started playing the games, you were trying to anticipate what was going to happen next or when you were going to speak up next or try to figure out exactly what you’re going to do before it was your turn?
When you’re in meetings, one of the things that you need to do, or a lot of people wind up doing, is they’re not really listening to what’s going on, but they’re spending more time thinking about what they’re going to say next. When you play a game like this, it’s impossible to do.
The purpose of this was to get you guys in the mode of beginning to think about observing what’s going on in the meetings, really listening to the meetings, watching people. I noticed that during beep, one of the groups kept looking for ways to make the indication clearer.
Not only were they not trying to anticipate, but they were also trying to make their point clearer, leaning in, pointing, I made them stop that, but leaning in and being much more specific and deliberate about what they were saying and what they were doing. As we go through this, as we go through some of these games, hopefully, you’ll start to make these connections.
Everybody is a speaker, which is really pretty amazing when you think about what has to happen psycholinguistically between your muscles and your mind to form a thought, communicate that thought into a set of symbols and then use your muscles and your mouth and your head and your brain to communicate those thoughts to somebody else and have them be understood.
As I said, not everybody does the big podium, but we go into meetings all the time to do a number of different things.
Client-facing meetings. Some of you work for agencies, but even if you’re working internally, you have internal stakeholders. Those meetings are, in many cases, no different, internal teams, your peers and then meetings with executives.
We’re going to talk about those different meetings. These aren’t the only kind, obviously. You guys are in all kinds of different sorts of things, but these are just main areas. We’ll talk about each of these a little bit.
What’s at stake when you go in there? First of all, understanding. An IA’s job, according to Richard Saul Wurman, is to create understanding.
When he talked about that stuff in Phoenix a few years back, everybody was harshing on him because he was being an old crank, but that was one nugget that he dropped that I didn’t miss. I found a way to work that into just about everything I talk about. When it comes to being an IA, when it comes to being a user experience, our job is to create understanding.
Credibility, not just your credibility but sometimes you’re standing up for your team. There’s your team’s credibility is potentially at stake. Maybe your company’s credibility is at stake if you’re representing them elsewhere.
Managing expectations. So much of what we do when we’re in these meetings, when we’re working with people to try to get the time or the space to do the things we need to do in information architecture or user experience all comes down to managing expectations.
When you start at the beginning of a project, and I’m sure people are going to cringe, but the very first thing the product owner does is they run to Development. They say, “We’ve got an 11-week project. How much of that time are you going to need?” “Only 10.”
Then they come back to UX and say, “Let’s see how much time do you need.” “More than one.” Oftentimes, you’ll only get one, but you know what? The laws of physics are going to win every time.
How do you manage expectations so that when the time comes that, gosh, amazingly, you haven’t got all the work done for design for Dev done in a week. When that inevitably happens, how do you handle that?
Preparation. I’m going to pick on somebody here. What I’ve got here and what are on some of those tables back there are some really cool little things. They’re called “Rory’s story cubes.”
Adam: What I would like for you to do, if you don’t mind…
Audience Member: [inaudible 15:36] ?
Adam: OK. I want you to take these dice. They have pictures on them. I want you to roll the dice. Tell me what’s on the dice.
Audience Member: There is a teepee, a mushroom and an arrow.
Adam: Right now, I want you to tell me a story using all three of those elements.
Audience Member: A whole story or just a few sentences?
Adam: Give me a few sentences, but stories have beginnings, middles, ends.
Audience Member: Someone decided to go on a spirit’s journey and decided to go ahead and construct a teepee. They had no idea how to construct a teepee. Along the way, they ended up trying to eat some mushrooms that were there inside the desert.
They found themselves going in a direction that they were not supposed to go. It was not the direction that was on the map, but they followed this arrow that they saw after eating the mushrooms. It ended up leading them to a big city, and that they took as their spirit’s journey to determine the rest of their life.
Adam: I shouldn’t have asked you [inaudible 16:46] .
Adam: Would you mind taking a swipe with these? Here’s what I want you to do, though. I want you to roll the dice. Tell me what’s on them.
Audience Member: Rain, a cell phone and a key.
Adam: Now, I want you to give them to her. I want you to take one minute and put your story together, then tell your story. Take one minute.
Audience Member: As long as my voice will last. [laughs] I was using my phone to try to hail a cab. I was really challenged trying to not get my phone wet in the downpour of the rain. I went to put my phone in my pocket as the cab started to pull up. I lost my hotel key down the drain.
Adam: There are a couple of things there that everybody could see. One is with only one minute to prepare, we got a whole lot smoother narrative. With just one minute, we got a whole lot smoother narrative. We also got a very specific act-driven story.
Without any time at all, you did a great job, but you began with someone. When we talk a little more about storytelling, we’ll talk about the importance of nouns, using real nouns and names and things, but you bounced a little bit back and forth.
The only difference between the time and the only reason I had you rolling and then giving it to her was I didn’t want you to be able to anticipate exactly what would happen because anybody who saw what she did, I just want you to think, “I’ll do the same thing.” That’s why I had you hand the dice off.
By taking one minute to organize your thoughts before you go into a meeting, you can deliver a whole lot smoother presentation and a whole lot smoother start, even if you don’t have time because sometimes you go into meetings, you got 10 minutes.
We’ll talk about different things that you could do to prepare. Yes, madam?
Audience Member: I want to ask you what kind of story you wanted [inaudible 19:02] , so I have time to think.
Adam: Not bad. But when you’re out, you don’t have to tap dance like that.
The first thing is knowing your audience, when you into the room. Who are these people in the organization? Where do they sit? Who are the decision makers in the room? Who are the influencers? Who aren’t necessarily the decision makers?
Sometimes, it’s the product manager or brand manager. They might have a level of ownership on the project, but somebody else has the ability to pull the trigger and make the hard decisions, and they listen to them.
What is their patience for your topic? I’m a lucky. I work in a place, where user experience and development really live in close harmony, but I worked in places where they didn’t.
How many of you sat in a room with developers, or folks on the development side, or folks on the brand side, where you understood that whatever it was you’re talking about, they were particularly interested in? Yup. What’s their bias? Do they have an agenda?
When I worked at Travelocity, it was not uncommon to see the brand managers bypass us, because we have some folks who got so good at prototyping that they looked almost finished. They assumed that these things must take a long time. They would go around, and go straight to development.
What is their predilection for listening to what you had to say? And funding, where’s the money coming from?
You don’t always think of that. Certainly, when you’re in agency though, you think of it more than you do, when you’re working internally. These are the things you need to know about your audience, understanding the people in the room, understanding where you’re going to punch your focus and understanding how much or how little to talk about a thing, based on these elements.
There are different room dynamics. My site, it’s pulling off there. One of the ones that’s most familiar to everybody because just about everybody went to school is what we call the teacher. What we got here in all of these is we have a dynamic — I know you can’t see that. This triangle that exists between the screen, the presenter, and the audience.
In this case, the distance between the screen, and the audience, and where you are is something we call a “Bridge.” Right now, I’m standing back. I’m very close to the media. You guys are out there. What I’m doing is I’m doing much more at the moment, the lecture style. I’m closer to the medium. I’m farther from the audience. This was much more what I used to call the “Sage on the Stage.”
The coach is different. When I was down here playing the game as we were playing the games together, it became not so much about me and what I’m talking about, but us and what we’re doing, and goals that we might have, and things that we’re doing. I’m joining the audience, when I’m in that particular position.
Then lastly, we have the coach two. This is what most folks do in meetings. They sit there at the table. They open up their laptop. Maybe they have slides, where they’re sharing a screen. They sort of drawn from where they are. Sometimes, that’s more likely to get people into the conversation, because you’re right there with them, but I also call a cop out.
We’ll talk about some alternatives, to presenting this way. Before you go into a meeting, do reading. What’s the background going into the meeting? Say, it’s a new project kick-off. What are the things that predicated the need for the meeting? Is this a kick-off? What do you need to know about the client, product, or the line of business, the objectives that they have?
Anything that you could find out, do the reading. Email threads. If conversation has been going on, and you haven’t been on those, try to get that, whether it’s your project manager, or brand manager, or somebody. That’s a great way to find out what people’s latest thinking is on a project. Hopefully, you’re in those threads. If you’re not, see if you can’t be copied into them.
Last is contracts. That’s boring, but read the contracts. Read the statements of work. Understand what somebody else put you on the hook for, probably a good thing to know. Spend the time reading any documentation that has been put out there, because people will refer to these things. When it looks like you’ve done the homework, you’re adding to your credibility.
Anticipating questions. Anybody here do debate? Anybody here ever on debate? OK. So one hand. You know what opposition points are? You know what I mean when I talk about opposition points? It’s essentially trying to come up with the best argument against whatever it is you’re going to talk about, so that you can speak to those objections, or speak to concerns that somebody might have about anything that you’re proposing.
We have time for questions, whether you want to take them during your presentation or not. It’s up to you. It depends on the group. Some people would just barge them in there. People are going to offer comments. Sometimes they raise their hand, and they have a question. Really what they want to make is a comment.
Watch out for people, who like to monologue. Watch out for the spotlight fees. There are people sometimes in the meeting, who want to show everybody how smart they are. They will take the focus away from whatever it is you’re trying to do. That goes back again to the patience and the bias, that people may have other agendas, when it comes to what you’re trying to talk about.
A great response that I saw another presenter do is when he was dealing with folks who would do that. They would bring up something, some other topic, or something like that. He would always say, “You know what, that’s another talk.” It would close them down immediately. We’ll do that in another time.
Again, just before you go in and review your materials, anything that you got, even if you’ve only got short notice. Spend a little time doing the bullet points, so you know what you’re going to hit.
Find your center. This I think is something that I began to do recently. We have a room called “Decompression Room.” Everything in my office is named after some kind of a space concept, so all of the conference rooms, et cetera.
The decompression room is a place that’s dark. There’s a fish tank in there. I can go in that little water feature. I can go in there. I can shut the door, and I can take three deep breaths. I don’t do yoga. If I did, I’ve seen a lot of recommendations from different people, different cycles with different poses to go through, just to find, just to take a few deep breaths.
Find your center, before you go in. If you have ritual, I heard and I don’t know if this is true or not. I heard a story that, Bill Gates, apparently before he would take the stage, would sit off stage, doubled over in this standing, rocking, fetal position. This is how he got ready.
When you’re really nailing it, and you nail it all the time, if you have ritual that leads up to that, if you know anything about sports, you know anything about streaks, athletes are really, really superstitious. They’ll tell you that if a streak is because you don’t wash your socks, or because you crash yourself before you hit the plate, or you do a little dance, or whatever it is you do before you get up there ripped over your hands, then it is.
Finding ritual might be one of the ways that you get your center. If it puts you in the right frame of mind, before you go into a meeting room, give that a shot.
In terms of preparation, we talked about knowing your audience, knowing your room, doing a reading, anticipating questions, pre-game, and then we’re going to talk about delivery. We’re going to get vocal now.
Without having to move or across the room, I want everybody to stand up. These are exercises that at one point in my life, I was in the FIFA. I thought I was going to be an actor, and then I realized that I wasn’t ready to suffer that much for my craft. They say, “If you like to do anything half as much as acting, do it.” So I did.
One of the things that helps is before you go in that meeting as they said, you have a tendency to tense up, in places you don’t think about. One is your tongue. It tends to get tensed. When it’s tensed, you don’t speak particularly well. What everybody do, first, we’re going to do a couple of things.
First, I want you to just hum a goofy song. Whatever song you want, whether it’s “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or we get to hear Ritchie Doll last night. Hum. [hums]
Whatever it is. I want everybody start humming. [hums]
Join me. I’m alone here. Come on. [hums]
Come on. Keep it going.
Adam: Now, what I want you to do, run up some scales. [scales]
I’m losing my voice. [scales]
Now, what I want you to do is roll your tongue around. Flip it left and right. Move around in your mouth, because one of the places that you tense up is the back of your tongue. Now, I want you to start moving your mouth around, in a really exaggerated way. Use your jaw.
Use your lips, your mouth, your whole face. Open your mouth real wide. Move your jaw around. Good. That’s it. Less than a minute. Find a place to do it, so that people won’t look at you and think you’re weird, if you’re self-conscious.
Adam: It’s just about losing up. Same thing, when you come up to the stage like this. I’ve taught people roll your shoulders. Do the same thing. Shoulders really roll them. OK. Then, there is your breathing. I want everybody, as you’re standing up, put your shoulders back.
Put your head up. I want you to take a deep breath. As it fills up, I wanted to fill up from down here, first, up into your chest, and in through your nose. [breaths in]
And hold it for about 10 seconds. [breaths out]
And then, let it out. One more time. Through your nose, in through your stomach, and up in your chest, [breaths in] . [breaths out]
And let it out. One more. [breaths in] [breaths out] .
Good. Like I said, that only take a minute or two. I’m going to kill this clicker. Practice and feedback. Like I said, sometimes you get called into a meeting in 10 minutes. You don’t have a chance to do this. There are other times, when…you can sit down now. I’m sorry. Simon says, “Sit down.”
Adam: There are times that when you are giving the presentation, whether it’s to a client, whether it’s a demonstration, or something like that, if you have an opportunity before you get up in front of a group of people, get in front of a mirror. Just watch yourself. Watch to see what you’re doing. Look at what your stanzas like. Look at what your face is like.
You don’t have to go through your whole spiel, but just go through a part of it and take a moment to watch yourself.
Audio and video. Record your presentation into a recorder, and play it back, and listen to how your voice sounds, or get somebody else to listen to your videos even better, if you’re going to be up and standing up and presenting.
In the car, I get most of my stuff done. I have a long commute. I live in McKinney, Texas, which is about 35 minutes north of North Dallas where I work. Before that, I had a 45-minute drive each way to work. That was where I would go through my presentation.
It’s also where I would anticipate questions, go through my opposition points, think about anything I might run up against. It’s amazing how much I got done in the car.
Toastmasters. I get a little lustrous there, once I had a couple of things about them.
Does anybody here ever been to Toastmasters or worked with them? OK.
On the one hand, they will help you with a lot of great mechanical stuff. On the other hand, what I see from the people who really take up, drink the Toastmasters’ Kool-Aid is I see a level of polished that’s almost too polished, nearly robotic.
I have a good friend who is very involved in Toastmasters. When she presents, it’s slick, it’s clean. There’s no ash. She moves through her presentation, but the humanities almost gone from it. What everybody needs to do, when they’re telling stories, and we’ll talk a little bit more about this is, anything that’s personal, anything that your interest and emotion can come through and make that story more organic and more real is going to help you.
Don’t polish away all of that realness. Check your gear. This is an obvious one. I got in here 30 minutes before I talk. Just so I could look at the room. Make some decisions about how I was going to handle the setup here. Get everything plugged in. Make sure everything was working. I also worked for a company that we’re best known for doing native mobile apps.
We present internally all the time. We present from devices. I’m presenting often from a phone or from a tablet. You want to make sure that you’re plugged-in for your devices working, whether it’s your laptop or a tablet. Make sure the projector is working. Make sure you got the right screen proportions.
If you’re doing it’s our conference, for God’s sake, if you can get in there early and dial in the number, and get to meet me up or to join me up in advance before the meeting starts, don’t spend 15 minutes or 30-minute meeting trying to get your screen share going. Make sure if you have slides, make sure that they’re all set there in place.
Make sure they look like what you want them to, especially if you are sharing your screen, or if you’re on a jump drive, and you’re putting on a alarm machine. Make sure that the formatting came through and all that good stuff. Handouts, if you have them. We’ll talk a little bit more later about how I like to handle those. Then, the delivery itself, the physicality of delivery.
This is an idea that I got yesterday. Edward Tufte talks about how he prepares for meetings. I’m paraphrasing this. I got this third hand. I started with Tufte, like 16 years ago. It’s been a while. What he does is he gets the main points of his talk together on a single sheet of paper, and he hands that out at the beginning of the meeting, and gives a little time for everybody to read it.
Have you ever gone into a meeting, where you sent stuff out in advance. You are relying on everybody to have read it and understood it before they come into the meeting, only to find out that nobody has. This is a way to level that off. I thought that this was a great idea, so I have added this to the presentation. Try standing.
As I said before, don’t sit there at the table and just talk about what you’re going to talk about. Go ahead and get up. Walk around the room a little bit. You’re going to draw attention to yourself. You’re also going to get people interested. It also gives you a better way to survey the room. Silence is OK.
If you lose your place, and you need to go back and look at something, if you are looking for that next word, don’t feel a need to feel that. Silence is OK. I gave a keynote end of last year. I had for a change. I don’t usually do this. I had this whole narrative written out. There were times, when I forgot where I was on my narrative.
I would make a point, and I repose. I go back and check my notes, and see where I was, and pick it up again. Afterwards, somebody that saw me in that presentation was a musician. He said, “Man, in music, we something called ‘Playing the Silence.’ And you did that perfectly.” I said, “Yeah. Yeah.”
Adam: I didn’t tell him, “Yeah. I forgot what the fuck I was going to say. I had to go and look.”
Watch for cues. By standing up, one of the things that you can do better is watch the room. Are you losing your audience? Are people paying attention? Are they pop skiing around with stuff that they don’t need to be doing, while they ought to be listening to you?
Do you need to change your emphasis, raise your voice level, change your tone, maybe change subjects a little bit, to accommodate where you are in the meeting and probably where it needs to go? Do you need to pivot?
Writing. This is something that I only started doing recently. It was recommended by somebody that I worked with.
He will grab a dry eraser marker, and get up, and begin to write his own notes on the wall. What happens is on why this is a good thing is, and I do this now, you can’t write everything everybody says. It forces you to summarize. Then, you can turn around and ask people, “Hey, did I get this? Do I understand this correctly? Do I have a handle on what we’re talking about? Is this a fair summarization?”
Now, you’re creating conversation and drawing people into what you’re doing. They’re paying attention to what you’re doing. At the same time, you’re getting a clearer understanding of what they’re talking about. Hand sketching. I also worked in an office that has whiteboards on 80 percent of our walls for the ceiling. We do a lot of work on those.
A lot of conversations happen around them. Ours is a culture that’s given to sketching. We take advantage of that. It’s very easy for anyone of us to get up and begin to storyboard something right there. People going to begin to get a sense of where we’re going, what we understand, or I see some people doing some sketch notes.
If that’s a good way to capture, that is for you, then do that too. Sketching, just like the wiring, draws people into the conversation. It gets people interested. If you can, get other people out of their chair. Get them adding to it.
Eye contact. Look at the people in the room. When you’re doing big rooms like this, they say, “Look over the top of everybody’s head.” Don’t do that, because they can tell. The other thing, and they say this is small groups too. Does anybody heard the “Imagine people in their underwear thinking that sort of humanizes them?”
Adam: Look at me, then try to outthink that. I’ll leave you with that, and I rest my case.
Tag team. It adds a little color. You have somebody else chiming in to help out. Somebody else, who has subject matter expertise in a particular area, and so you want them to help you augment what you’re talking about. When we do demos, sprint demos, we do those with our development leads.
I’m the one who’s going in to tell the story, as the strategist. I’m the guy who’s got the vision for the project. We go in to share where we are. I’m going to do that by telling a story around what I’m showing. What’s become interesting is that, our development leads have become interested in doing that too, because they want to talk about the things they’re doing.
They don’t feel like I’m hijacking the presentation from them, but they want to get involved, because there are other things they want to bring up. So, chime-ins are good. Also now, I’ve got guys who become very interested in the presenting side of things, and I’m working with them, so that they can present their own work.
Sometimes, you could go scripted. I’m going to talk about this part. You’re going to talk about that part, and then I’ll hand this off to you, and you’ll hand this off to me. That’s a good way to do it, sometimes particularly where there’s a subject matter expertise involved. I haven’t ever done this myself, but I’ve seen people who really prefer to have this.
Then, there’s seating. When you go in with other people in the room, spread yourselves out. Don’t sit up at the same end of the table, or don’t sit side-by-side, if you’re working with somebody else. Get them to sit at the opposite end of the table. The reason being is, again, that draws everybody into the conversation. Otherwise, you’re having a talk, appeared one into the room.
Everybody at the other end of the room who’s not involved in that is off somewhere else. Work it out in advance. It can’t just be that I’m going in with somebody that I’ve done a lot of meetings, before I got a high comfort level. We won’t necessarily pre-plan this, but we built up to a point, where we don’t have to.
If you’re going in with somebody that you haven’t presented with a lot, spend a little time in pre-game, figuring out exactly how you want to handle, whether it’s going to be just chiming-ins or hand off or anything like that.
Executives. The thing you know about executives is that, there are handful.
There are a handful of things when presenting to executives. Most of it is it comes back to empathy on our part. There’s the E word. First of all, perspective. You’re an information architect, or you are a UX professional. Your whole world is in UX. It’s a big world.
However, when you look at it from the executive’s perspective, that’s one dot on a big map, because their perspective, they’re looking at products, and marketing, and finance, and all of the other aspects across the whole business, development, delivery, fulfillment, any of the other things that make up the supply chain of a company or the services that they deliver, so that yours is one small thing on that.
Remember that, that the big stuff to you is still probably small stuff to them. Understand what their pain points are. Anytime you go in to talk to executives, any time you have an opportunity to go in and propose the good things that we do, if you can do it in the context of making pain go away, you’re going to have an audience. You’re going to get there a year. What is causing them pain?
Every project is constrained by three things, time, cost, quality. Good, fast, cheap, whatever you want to call it. The thing about user experience is that, it’s tied to quality, and quality is pain kind of easy to defer. And so it gets kicked down the road a lot, whereas money and time are pain that happens right now. Often times, that’s the pain these guys are dealing with. That’s what they want to go away.
If you can talk about the benefit of user experience, in terms of how it affects the money part or the time part, bring in level of efficiency to what you do. You’re going to have much more of an audience here. Time demands. There’s your time. When you go into a meeting, I used to meet with our CEO at Travelocity on occasion.
She was notorious for wanting handouts, and going straight to the last page, and starting to ask questions. I started not giving her handouts. But I also knew that I have a very limited time to get in there, because as you were talking, she would be sitting there and saying, “Yup. Yup. Yup.” You obviously knew she just want you to move along.
Be cognizant. Be aware of what their perspective is and their pain points, but also be aware of their time constraints. Be economic as you can and the things that you’re talking about, when you’re speaking with executives. If they want to dig in deeper, they will. If they don’t, you might be one of the six people who’s going through cycling through them in front of them that day in that meeting.
You may have the whole meeting be yourself. Again, be cognizant of what their time demands are.
Get scoop. There are usually peculiarities about executives that you can find out in advance. The thing with our CEO at Travelocity, I learned from somebody else in advance. I knew that if I give her handout, she would flip to the last one.
Peculiarities in…it may look like they’re not listening to you, when in fact, they are very good at doing multiple things at the same time. Find out from other people who presented to them before anything peculiar or anything that they do, anything that they’re known to do. If you can understand those things, you won’t be thrown off your game. And keep it short.
There’s a great book called “Writing That Works” by Roman and Raphaelson. The way that I learned about it is my company was bought by Ogilvy & Mather, a year ago last November. That was one of David Ogilvy’s favorite books. That information was passed down to our executives, and our executives passed it down to us. I went and read it.
If you do the things they talk about in the book, your writing will be so astir as to be just a desert-like. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but I do look at it as a great sort of a baseline to work back from. The great thing about that book is that, economy found its way into what I talk about, even the emails that write.
Let alone my writing. I wind up cutting whole bits of stuff. I recommend that book, as a way to learn to help edit yourself, to find those main points. We love history. We love to get into a lot of the periphery of the things we talk about. When you’re getting up in front of these guys, they don’t have that same love. Yes?
Audience Member: [inaudible 45:17] .
Adam: The name of the book is Writing That Works.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Adam: The authors are Roman, R-O-M-A-N, and Raphaelson, R-A-P-H-A-E-L-S-O-N.
Respond to cues. I had another executive, a later CEO at Travelocity, who gave very clear cues when were losing him. The glasses would come off. He would start to do this. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that I was making his head hurt. Watch what’s happening in the room.
If you do a lot of this other stuff up here at the beginning, you shouldn’t run into this problem, but still watch for those cues. Like we’re saying before, anticipate questions.
I tend to divide people up into two categories. I started in business as a commercial illustrator. When I would show people my work, when I still consider myself more of a working artist, I would show my work to people. If they had any kind of a creative bent at all, I would hear things like, “What was it that inspired you about that?” Or, “Why did you use that particular medium?” Or, any number of other questions that had to do with the qualitative aspects of whatever I was showing them.
If they didn’t have that creative bent, they would always ask a very same thing. That same question every single time, which was, “How long did that take?” As if how long it took had a direct relationship to the quality of what I was showing them. Year after year, people would say that. I would immediately give them a spot in my ship grade.
I had people lining up in there for years. Then, I realized something that again in business, when I was dealing with creative people, who were OK with the qualitative stuff, those are my folks. When I had to deal with the guys, who were from spreadsheet to stand, for whom everything is an algorithm that can be broken down into little pieces, and you can’t adjust those pieces and build a backup, and it’s a better thing.
I realized that they think about the road also, in terms of time, and cost, and quality. Quality, when they’re looking at a piece of artwork, they really don’t get or understand that. They can’t speak to that. Cost, you can’t ask how much a thing cost, because there’s nothing to compare that to. The thing you’re left with is time. OK. I want to say something nice.
How long did that take? When I realized that all these guys overall these years have really…all they were trying to do is be nice and work with the tools that they understood, I freed them all. When you’re working in an environment like this, you need to understand, are these folks people who understand the qualitative aspects of things?
Or, are they people who look at things through that lens of a black and white spreadsheet kind of world? There are ways to communicate to both of them about what we do. You need to find those ways. There are a lot of people here that talk about that. I have in the past that gone a great length, but we won’t do that here.
Afterwards. Keep the conversation going. If you don’t get everything accomplished, and you may want to set up another meeting, you keep things going.
Handouts. If I have slides or anything like that, I don’t give handouts out, until it’s done. It’s a follow-up, or I’ve changed my PowerPoint into a PDF or my keynote into a PDF, and then send that out, so they can’t screw with it. Capturing notes.
Whether you’re going to do it on a whiteboard, you take a picture of it, or you do sketch notes, or however you do as you take notes. Make sure you capture those and share those.
Action items, and then follow up. If there were things you had to do specifically, and then following up to make sure that those things have been done.
What we talked about here is preparation, telling stories. What preparation comes down to is confidence. Confidence is what makes you be a better presenter. Let’s talk about story-telling. We’ve taken a little bit of a foray into it.
Stories embody a concept. I gave the software demo as one example. You can put it up on the wall. You can say, “You’ll notice we got the search bar here. Here are our tabs. We’ve added this. The logo is over here. Yeah, we’ll make it bigger. Here’s the main content piece over here. Here’s our,” blah, blah, blah.
If you turn it into a story and say, Betty has wanting to shop for something in particular. She is wanting to shop for some shoes. She’s come to the website. She’s opened up this. This is what she found. This is how she used the navigation, to find what she wanted. This is where she found what she wanted. This is the transaction process we went through. She was able to choose, and to dates.
Even that little bit that I just made up, tell the story. It takes what it is you’re showing and gives it a context and creates a concept that people are going to latch on to, as opposed to just a disembodied set of features and functions.
Use nouns. Like I was saying before, how do you say your name?
Audience Member: [inaudible 50:50] .
Adam: She didn’t have time to think about anything, so she just said someone who was going out into the woods, where someone, he or her, doesn’t mean anything. Give these people names. How many of you work with Persona? OK. That’s a big part of what I do too. We use those things. We talk about those people by name, when we’re in our projects.
When I go into, give a demo or anything else like that, I’m talking about those people. I’m using their names. They have real names too. They’re not Betty the Buyer, and they’re not Marty Marketing. They are real names. Use those names.
Show an outcome. What was the result of the story? What happened? What did we learn, Dorothy?
The first thing is speaking to an objective. State your point. Here’s the thing we’ve been asked to do. Or, here’s the thing that we’re tasked with accomplishing. What are the relevant support points? This, again, goes back to economy and editing. You can give history here, but it’s better just to say, “These are the things that go together to make this possible.”
We have this particular backend system. We’re doing these particular things on the front end. We are doing these particular things. These come together, to create a particular experience, and bring it home. Bring it in for landing. Have an end. Betty found the shoes that she wanted. She was happy.
John took his dog to the pet shop and found a new food, which made his coat look all nice and shiny again, and everybody was happy.
There are number of different frameworks you can use for telling the story. One is straight narrative. These are the notes that James Madison used, when he gave a speech on Constitutional Amendments.
Narrative relies much more on you. You have to think about the tone that you’re using. Think about those different room dynamics. Are you a coach? Are you talking about us, and we, and things we’re doing, or are you giving information? Are you the experts standing up here, being the Sage on the Stage, and you just laying this information out for people?
Pace. If you’re speaking at a comfortable level, you’re probably speaking too fast. What I tell people when they’re presenting in a room like this is, “Speak like you’re driving in a school zone.” You’re speaking just slow enough to make yourself a little crazy, but you’re at the perfect speed for everybody around you.
Emphasis. Put a little variation in your tone. Raise up your voice, raise up the volume when you want to make particular points. Don’t drone on in a monologue. That’s where the audio and video practice comes in. You can hear if you have a tendency to that.
Another way to get a little variance in your voice, as I said, is to dredge up whatever personal things you feel strongly about in the proposal that you’re making or the argument that you’re making. Now, there’s a fine line there because you can take it too far. I see this with designers especially. There’s a great blog post by Kenneth Bowles, who was keynote [inaudible 54:05] a few years ago, called “Letter to a Young Designer.” It was a letter to himself as a young designer.
One of the things that he talks about is being loud and shouting louder about the thing you’re passionate about does not persuade. It just means you’re being louder. When you’re thinking about emphasis, think about not trying to get your point across simply be being louder about it, but get your point across by putting the emphasis where it needs to be.
Emotion. Bring that into it. Again, you want to bring emotion into what you’re talking about, but you don’t want to be emotional, because that can hurt you in the credibility department.
Flow diagrams. Everybody’s seen a flowchart, right? It’s a great way to set up a story sometimes. They’re linear. There’s a sequence, a very specific sequence. This is great sometimes when you are trying to talk about process, because one of the things that I think most of you have experience is that project managers or product owners love to try to collapse everything we do, and get us to do all the things all at the same time.
If you know what a critical path is, you know that that is a sequence of events that have to happen one after the other. If you try to do any of them at the same time as the other steps, you will wind up doing them over again. The laws of physics are a bitch, and they’re still being enforced, so rely on that.
There’s a level of annotation that comes with that, and then they speak to an outcome, that you follow the chart, you get to the end, and it’s the end of your use case, the end of your user story, or the description of the experience. Life is now different than it was at the beginning.
Mind maps, I used to be skeptical of this. I thought they were floppy for a while until I started working with a guy who grew up dyslexic and also needed a way to capture his thinking in a non-linear way.
Mind maps, if you’ve ever seen them, they’re this kind of hub and spoke diagrams and this guy does them beautifully. He’s one of the guys who gets up and starts to write on the board in the meetings. He usually does Mind maps to capture what’s being talked about. Because things can bounce around in a meeting, mind maps is a great way to do that because they’re non-linear.
You can make very different connections between things. One thing can be connected to more than one other thing. They also let you go back and begin to say some things about emphasis. They don’t necessarily speak to an outcome so much as they are a snapshot of a conversation or a snapshot of a situation, and how those different things in that situation relate to each other.
There are user journeys, which are getting a lot of press right now and again, I’ve been lucky. I’m around some people who do some just fabulously design user journeys. But they’re two-dimensional. They work within a context. An example might be, talk about a pet shop thing. I mentioned we do mobile apps.
I can take a scenario from beginning to end and what I want to do is I want to catalog it in terms of the devices that they use over a period of time. I’ve got a person named Seth, who gets up in the morning and he sees that his dogs’ coats are mangy-looking. His dogs, they’re a little sluggish and not particularly happy.
He gets on his phone and he starts to look those up as potential symptoms of something. He looks on a vet type, he sees there’s a little more research to do there. He switches to his laptop. He does little more research and sees that maybe just a change in food might help him there.
He takes his dog to the pet store where there’s an expert there who says, “Yeah, you know what? A salon treatment would probably be great, get rid of the matting and the hair, make him a whole lot better. Change his food. We can get him into something as probably a little better for him in terms of his weight or his age that will also improve his coat. Let me show you those things.”
The store person gets out his tablet and they show them this information. Maybe they’re tied in to a loyalty program that Seth already belongs to. And so, he can handle the transaction that way too.
He signs his dog up using the tablet for the salon treatment. He comes out of the salon treatment. They go home. Seth and the dog are happy. The dog is in great shape. Life is good.
Now, if anybody got to listen to Donna Lichaw’s presentation, she adds another facet to this. I mentioned it’s two dimensional. It runs across, in this case, I had time and devices. But she’s also adding emotion.
If anybody has a chance to go back, and I don’t know what they’re going to make available from that talk, or if she’ll put some newer information how about it. I highly recommend looking in that as a way to add another facet, kind of a Z space to the X and the Y here. But I thought that was pretty fascinating stuff.
It puts things in a context. It shows a progression. There are physical aspects to what you’re showing, so movement and moving from one place to another place, interaction with particular devices, interaction between actors. Then it speaks to functionality, and it can speak to emotion.
These are the four storytelling frameworks. There are more, but these are the four that I like to bring up. I’ll probably go back to this slide — pure narrative, flow diagram, my map, and journey. Because this is going to play into one of the activities we’re going to do here shortly.
What I’d like everybody to do, everybody who is not at a table, I’d like you to go back to sit at one of the tables because I’ve got a bunch of office supplies back there.
Adam: Since there’s a small enough group here, we can do that. If you’re at a table where it’s just you or maybe two of you, go ahead and join another table. I’d like to get teams of anywhere from five to seven or eight.
Audience Member: I’m right behind [inaudible 60:42] . Thank you.
Adam: Mm-hmm. We’ve got three here, three here. Why don’t you guys join this table over here?
Adam: OK, good. On the table, you’ll see some more of my dice. What I’d like you to do is as a team, you’re going to roll the dice. You’re going to see what images you’ll get. Some of them are a little hard to understand. I haven’t exactly deciphered them all entirely yet. You know what else I want to do? Each team, reach over to another table and add one more dice to your set.
There you go. You should have four dice. Good? You’re going to roll the dice. Look at the pictures on there. If you can’t tell exactly what the picture is, do the best you can. Just as long as everybody agrees on what you think it is, then I’m good with that.
I want each team to roll the dice. Then what I want you to do is I want you to put together a story against one of these different narrative types. Choose one. One of you from each team is going to, and we’ll probably just do it right down here, is going to stand up and tell that story.
There’s a fabulous price for the winner. The winner will be decided with the small group. I may just decide myself. I’ll give my rationale.
What I recommend too, though, is once you’ve rolled the dice, before you start working on the story itself and working on the full narrative, grab a post-it notes first. Spend about the first five minutes throwing out all the ideas you can about how the story might go together.
I’d road tested this before. I saw a group sitting there trying to give birth to a fully finished narrative. They wound up not having any time and not getting anything done. Spend about the first five minutes just brainstorming ideas. Go ahead and roll the dice. Every team go ahead and roll the dice.
Adam: Then note what you have and reach agreement on what they are.
Adam: When you got the dice rolled and you’ve decided what you have, go ahead and spend about the next five minutes just brainstorming ideas. Don’t worry about which narrative structure you’re going to use yet. Because I think when you’ve got all your ideas out there, that may tell you which narrative structure you want to use. Don’t try to determine that in advance. Yes, sir?
Audience Member: Are we creating a person, the team or the story, then we’d figure out? Because for example we can say, “This is about trouble.”
Adam: What I would do first is everybody decide what they think this is about. For yourselves. Just start putting the Post-it notes out. Just whatever ideas you have about what you see there. Then begin to look at those post-it notes and start to construct a story from it.
As that happens, decide for yourselves, if we deliver this, is it going to be a better narrative? Is it going to be better done as a flow chart? Or as a user journey? Then, like I said, let the content that you have decide what the format ought to be.
Audience Member: Can we start with our ideas of what could be a story about [inaudible 64:15] .
Adam: It doesn’t matter. Right now, you’re working a little bit on your own. Just get ideas out of you head. Just get them onto the post-it notes and start slapping them down on the table.
Audience Member: That’s great. [inaudible 64:35] .
Adam: OK. A mind map usually has some sort of a core idea in the middle and then it’s got…It’s almost like a content map, it starts to branch off into different areas. Those could be your dice, which you then need to figure out the relationship between those things and how those are supporting the story.
First, right now, like I said, throw all the ideas out that you have. What could be a good overarching theme? Who would the character be? Then, what do these things suggest to you as far as activities or a context for the story.
Look at what you get first, then decide if it ought to be a mind map or a narrative or something like that. Let the content drive what format you use.
You’re looking stuck. Write down quick notes and peel it off, do the next one.
As I was telling them, get the ideas out about context, what the story could be about. Anything interesting that those dice evoke in your mind as far as ideas go. Then begin to assemble them. Compare your notes, begin to assemble them and think about…Then let that help you decide which of the frameworks you ought to use. Let your content decide.
Adam: Go ahead and stick your ideas down there so people can see them and go through them.
We’re going to take probably about 25 minutes for the whole thing. You’ve got a little time.
Audience Member: We need time, five minutes at the end to present at the end…
Adam: That would come afterwards. The first thing you all can do, like I said, just get your ideas out. Whatever you think the dice of ideas about who the characters could be in your narrative. When you get your content ideas out there and you begin to compare those and assemble them, let that drive which of the formats you want to use.
Adam: If you need more pens and stuff, just grab them from any of these other tables.
Audience Member: We have a story, we’ve blown it out.
Audience Member: What are the requirements to the execution or delivery [inaudible 68:20] ?
Adam: One person from the group is going to give the presentation. Basically, tell the story. However you have it strung together, which serves that purpose, is fine.
Audience Member: [inaudible 68:32] .
Audience Member: Although it’s nothing that any executive wants to hear about their project. It’s true, we’re presenting to AA.
Audience Member: [inaudible 68:52] .
Audience Member: A board of directors at the rehab.
Audience Member: Or the direct counsels, they’re going to understand the value proposition of very different properties.
Adam: That actually brings up an interesting idea that you’re in a position to decide who your audience is going to be. You can backwards engineer that, I guess.
Everybody, you’ve got about another 15 minutes.
Audience Member: Really? Now [inaudible 69:25] .
Adam: Yeah, if you get your story down. If you get it tightened up, adjust it maybe. Practice the narrative, practice the talk.
Audience Member: Maybe we should do the…
Audience Member: Have you ever heard of a lion’s breath?
Audience Member: It is a yogic breath that is specifically intended to relax and open everything in here and the muscles of the face. I drank coffee so I’ll step away from you so I don’t hurt you.
You breathe in real deep and then you [exhales] all the way down to get to where there’s no more breath to go out, where it’s squeaking out and everything just releases.
The only thing you have to remember is to not pinch your forehead in when you do it, and it works.
Adam: I might add that to the…
Audience Member: It works.
Adam: …to the canon.
Adam: You’ve got about five minutes.
Adam: If you haven’t yet, you’re going to need to decide who’s going to tell the story from your group and if you get a little time, probably do a run through.
Adam: I thought I heard you say you’re doing pure narrative. If that’s true, then you don’t need to have a poster. I don’t feel like you’ve got to draw because it’s there.
Audience Member: OK.
Audience Member: How long do we have to tell a story?
Adam: I haven’t spelled this out yet, either. Your stories need to stay within about four minutes.
Adam: You’ve got about two minutes.
Audience Member: What’s that? Two minutes?
Adam: Two minutes.
Audience Member: Two minutes.
Adam: Time to wrap it up. Anybody panicked?
Adam: Pencils down.
Adam: Time is up. Iron Chef, drop your stuff.
Adam: Back away from the plates. Hands up. There you go.
All right. I’m just basically going to go around. You can present from your table. When you guys present, why don’t you probably come over here in the light a little better because you’re a little further away?
Audience Member: OK.
Adam: In fact, if you all want to start, you can. Go ahead and bring your poster. Somebody can hold the poster. Somebody can present. You can come off from the dark here. Pick a mic.
Audience Member: [inaudible 74:27] all of it?
Adam: You needed to pick at least one.
Audience Member: OK.
Adam: There is no law. I’m not going to be really militant about the four minutes or exactly how many people present. You guys can go first.
Audience Member: Can we say what pictures we have from the dices first?
Audience Member: We rolled our dice and we’ve got…
Adam: You know what? I changed my mind. No.
Audience Member: No. Don’t say that.
Adam: Tell the story. Part of what I’m going to be looking at is just how smooth the narrative is. If it becomes a little bit harder to tell what exactly the dice were, I think that’s better.
Audience Member: OK. [laughs]
Audience Member: That’s even better.
Audience Member: If anyone wants to jump in, just grab the mic from me. We’ve got Adam Polansky, who is the star soccer player on the Dallas Hawks. For many years, they won their rivalry against the Houston Honeybees, but last year, he became a free agent.
The Houston Honeybees, tired of losing so many games against their rivals, took all their money to get their star player. Now, Adam plays for the Houston Honeybees. They’re going to Dallas to play their first game since that transition in Dallas against their rival.
There’s going to be a press conference downtown. Adam goes downtown. He’s going to answer questions and give interviews, but there’s this huge crowd outside. They’re mad because Adam is a traitor. He left Dallas to go play for their rivals.
After the press conference is over, he goes to leave to go to the game, but there are all these protests and riots outside. There are so many people and they’re angry with him. He has to duck back into the building and find another way to get to the game.
He goes out the back. He needs to take a wide way around and stay off the main roads. He gets to the game late. The Houston Honeybees are losing.
He gets into the game. He gets ready and gets out on the field. Right at the end, he scores the winning goal to win the game and break the rivalry. The Houston Honeybees win. That’s it.
Adam: It’s always tough to be the first one.
Adam: Great. Hand off the mic over here.
Adam: Whoever your narrator is, if you’ve got visual aids, you can have somebody hold that up. That’s what she needed.
Audience Member: Our dice, we had…
Audience Member: We’re not saying.
Adam: No. We’re not telling what the dice were. Just tell the story.
Audience Member: Sorry. There once was this loner shepherd named Pat. He lived in the mountains. One day, he received a…
Audience Member: Sorry. He received a ransom note. His prized rare mountain sheepdog has been stolen. The villain has imprisoned his dog Rufus in a castle tower. There’s a bomb in the castle. He has 24 hours to go rescue Rufus.
Pat makes his journey down the mountain. He finds his way to the tower. He’s like, “I have no way to get up there. What should I do?” He wanders around. He looks around the forest and he finds a ladder. He uses the ladder to climb up the tower.
He sets one foot into the tower. What happens is there’s this burst of confetti. Basically, it’s just a bunch of his friends saying, “Happy birthday, Pat!” because it’s hard to get a loner shepherd to leave his mountain. [laughs]
Adam: Come over this way. It’s your turn. Is that just your guide, or do you want to hold that up?
Audience Member: Hold it up, sure. All right. Fred was asleep in his room. He started hearing a noise, “Tsss…” He thought it was a snake. Scared of snakes, he jumped through the keyhole in his door to get out.
There was a magical queen. She was not afraid of snakes. She even looked back into the keyhole and stared at the snake, saying, “No. I’m not scared of you.”
Fred was still scared. He ran around the corner and was hiding behind the wall. The queen was trying to comfort Fred, “Don’t be scared of the snake,” but then just as he was about to come out, the queen turned into a snake. Fred wakes up tangled in his bed sheet. It was all a dream. That’s the end.
Audience Member: [inaudible 79:48] I’m not going to get anywhere near…
Audience Member: I’ll do my best to pass around that. Our story opens with a child peering through a keyhole at the chaos of a London night. “Look! Magneto is floating in front of Big Ben, and Aquaman rides atop a giant wave, lifting the whole Thames River off the riverbed.”
Audience Member: Magneto uses the space-time continuum to create a vast magnetic disruption.
Audience Member: [whispers] The dolphins cry.
Audience Member: Aquaman causes all the tidal waves and dolphins cry.
Audience Member: All Apple watches die due to EMF interference, but Big Ben is OK.
Audience Member: “We can still tell time, but I can’t post on Secret. No!”
Audience Member: The child grows up being anonymous and grows up having IA research superpowers.
Audience Member: “I am I Man.”
Audience Member: Or “I Woman.”
Adam: I’m going to have to add their Greek course delivery style to my deck now.
Audience Member: That one can go off to start with. This is the story of an information architect named Christine and how she was shocked when she couldn’t pay for her hotel at IA Summit because her credit card was declined.
She was hung over from karaoke from the night before, where she had gone ahead and sung “Gangnam Style” in Korean, as well as Fly Me to the Moon.” She did get two sings in with the mayor of Saint Paul, who was in attendance, James Branson.
She was in a hurry after she had discovered that her credit card was declined at the front desk in order to make her flight. Because she was in a bad mood from karaoke from being hung over, from staying out way too late, she ended up not responding very well when the front desk challenged her about her credit card being declined and got into a scuffle with them.
She ended up swiping their computers off their desk onto the floor. She punched a hole in the wall. The front desk staff called the cops immediately, and she was taken away in handcuffs.
When she is at the police station, he says, “You have one chance to go ahead and contact someone.” She immediately sent a tweet, hashtagging it #IAS15, letting them know the situation in roughly 140 characters. The entire audience and participants at IA Summit rallied together in order to try and help Christine find out what was the issue and bail her out of jail as well.
The combined resources of information architects, researchers and designers discovered that the mayor of Saint Paul, who had been at the karaoke the night before, had taken her credit card and swiped the information off of it in the dark in the back of the room in order to purchase a trip to the moon.
Audience Member: A rocket trip to the moon with Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Galactic, because James Branson is the half-brother of Richard Branson. This is all due to the people who are at IA Summit coming together in order to help support their fellow member Christine. The end.
Adam: Pass the mic off.
Audience Member: We should stand.
Audience Member: We should stand because it’s us.
Audience Member: Please stand, people.
Audience Member: Well done. We have a client, the Lottery Commission. We are pitching to them…Actually, I should just jump into the story. This is our user map. We’re going to tell the story of a particular use case.
Audience Member: Today, we are talking about the story of Larry Fortunato. Larry was a simple builder. He had a simple life with simple needs.
One of those needs was a particular drink, Pap’s Blue Ribbon, PBR. He enjoyed it because it was a simple staple, something that he can just enjoy, a light palate which went along well with this mundane life of his, which was to build and deconstruct wall.
On one particular day, he had the purpose of deconstructing a wall. On that day, he found himself a lottery ticket.
Audience Member: Would he know if this is a winning ticket or not, or is it trash? He took the ticket home. He checked the numbers. He found that they are winning numbers or he hoped. He wouldn’t know until the next day when he actually turned it in. As he was celebrating for the evening he broke out a Heineken, which he saved for special occasions, and waited until it was confirmed.
After waiting with baited breath, Larry found out to his joy and amazement that he had a $20 million Powerball ticket. Larry was elated because he knew his life was about to change. He immediately ran out and bought the most expensive bottle of Dom Pérignon that he could possibly find and had a great wild party.
He became a man about town. He spent his evenings looking out on the back of his deck drinking single-malt Scotch. Larry felt that he was fixed for life, but things were not as good as they could seem.
Audience Member: As often happens with lottery winners, suddenly from the woodwork came all of the fourth cousins five times removed — the charlatans, the fakers, the people with investment opportunities, old long-lost friends from high school, elementary school, nursery school. Larry really didn’t know which way to turn. He didn’t know who to trust.
He became more and more reclusive. He’d quit his job, and he lost his way. At this point, as the money began to dwindle, he gave some away. He lost some. He began to drink a slightly less-quality brand of liquor.
Audience Member: Unfortunately, he came to the point where he was just gambling. He never left his home at the point where he trucks were coming in with his liquor. He didn’t have to leave his home, so at this point he was drinking more of Smirnoff or plastic-bottle liquor. This caused…
Audience Member: Ultimately, he drank himself to death paralyzed by the fact that he had too much money and no idea what to do with it because again Larry was a simple man.
Audience Member: We make our case that the Lottery Commission should offer counseling, financial services, as well as guidance in helping future lottery winners really cope with the impact of their winnings on their lives. Thank you very much for your time.
Adam: All right. We’re going to wrap up here. You all can stay back here. I have just a couple more things to talk about from up here. Actually, I’ll just get my remote and do it back here. There were a lot of disparate things that we did and that we covered here. Hopefully, as we began to get into this exercise, you could begin to see them coming together.
When you’re going into a meeting, whether it’s short notice or whether you’ve got a little bit more time to prepare, there are any number of things that you can do along the way and even the littlest bit. What we saw by this exercise up here at the beginning was that even the littlest bit of time to organize your thoughts is going to improve how you do in the meeting.
There are certainly meetings where you just go in and you have to speak to a couple of points. There are other times when you’re going in to give a full-on presentation. We bounced across a couple of those things.
By putting the stories together, you can see that you can add a whole lot more interest to the things you’re talking about, even if it’s a software demo, by putting some narrative around it, putting some story around it. It catches people’s attention. It embodies the concept so much better.
Then in terms of how you handle the physicality of a meeting, don’t just do what you’ve always done. Get up. Walk around the room. Get up and write on the wall.
Get up and do something that both draws attention to yourself and shifts the focus in the room from everybody going blind on slides or sitting there paying attention to their own thing to actually being an active participant in the meeting that’s going on. I want to close with one example of one of probably the best speakers that I think I’ve ever encountered.
I’m going to prove my point. This is Lassie for anybody who doesn’t know. If you think about it, Lassie is probably one of the most effective speakers out there. Just think about the example everybody knows, which is “Woof.” “What is a girl?” “Woof.” “Timmy fell down the well?” “Woof.” “OK, take me there.” Let’s break that down.
Adam: Come on. OK, so Lassie gets his attention. “What is it, girl?” “Woof.” A specific declaration about what is going on. “Timmy fell down the well?” “Woof.” Confirmation for any questions that come up in the course of the meeting. “Take me to him.” “Woof.” Specific action. Succinct, clear, easy to understand, and generates a specific outcome.
Our prize is going to the last team that presented because while it was probably the most depressing fucking story I think I’ve ever heard…
Adam: …it did go to a specific outcome, which was that the Lottery Board…the prize is this overwrought shot glass…
Audience Member: It’s a wine goblet, of course.
Adam: …that you can fill with liquor. I’ll let you guys fight to decide who gets to keep that. I’m not sure how that will pack, but I want to thank you all for coming. I really wasn’t quite sure how this would all play out if the room filled up, but then my narcissism left me. I was glad to see that this turned out to be a group.
I think we had about 35 people here, which actually gave us an opportunity to do everything we needed to do. I think it was a better-sized audience for this, so I appreciate you guys coming in. I hope you took something away from this. If I have ever done anything on stage it’s that I want people to have something they can go away and do tomorrow.
Hopefully, you took some of that away. I appreciate it, and thank you all.