Steve Jobs on life: change it, improve it, make your mark

Every year around this time I look for inspirational speeches, presentations, and other words of advice for graduating seniors. Last year, for example, I pointed to these three graduation speeches. This year I do not have a formal speech to point to, but I stumbled on this short and simple yet profound piece by Steve Jobs below. This clip is from a PBS documentary called "One Last Thing" which aired last November. This interview clip dates back to a time in the '90s, before he rejoined Apple. The words are very simple and uncomplicated...and true. Life is short and ephemeral, an yet we can have an impact. We can each make a contribution. Our job is to figure out what that contribution is. (The clip on Youtube.)



Life: "You can change it, you can influence it..."

Here is the transcript for the video clip. There are some good quotable lines in there.

"When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

"The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

"I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”   — Steve Jobs


Videos to help you rethink education, learning, & school

School_sleepHaving children causes one to (re)think seriously about education and the role of school. Education obviously is the most powerful thing in the world. And yet the old Mark Twain chestnut — "I never let school get in the way of my education" — speaks to the core of my own thinking regarding education. I am not an expert in education by any means, but like almost everyone, I have strong ideas based on my personal experiences going through formal, mass schooling. Personally, the best years where I learned the most and was inspired to study and learn on my own were surely the six years of elementary school, and then university and graduate school. One thing I am sure of is that while listening carefully to teachers (and to the masters, etc.) is important, the real learning requires lots and lots of doing, not just listening. One does not learn to play the music — or math or science for that matter — only by sitting in a chair and listening. One learns by doing and figuring things out. I do not provide any answers or insights here, but I wanted to point you to several presentations and interviews below concerning education and schooling that I have found particularly relevant and stimulating. I think they are all worth watching. I hope you'll find something worth while in these presentations that you'd like to share with others and keep the discussion concerning education and schooling going.

Seth Godin on Education
In this short interview, Seth Godin sums up the essence of the problem.


 
Seth Godin on how schools teach kids to aim low
In this short clip Seth Godin says something concerning the "lizard brain" and our fear of taking risks that reminded me of the world of live stand-up presentations in work or academia. Seth said:

"There are some people, if you give them a mile, they're going to take an inch."
Seth Godin



This gets at part of the problem: a boss or a teacher or a conference organizer will ask you to make a presentation, and while doing something different and creative - and effective - should be welcomed by all, we retreat to doing only what is expected (less downside that way) rather than doing something creative, different, and engaging. After all, doing what is expected is pretty easy, but surpassing expectations and doing something remarkable with impact is both harder (usually) and comes with an increased risk of failure. Even when we give people a mile and encourage creativity and nonconformity, it still seems like too many play it safe and take only an inch. I can't help but think that the habits learned in formal schools across the world at least in part contribute to this cautious approach to doing things differently.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms
This is an RSA animation of Sir Ken Robinson's second talk at TED. This echoes my sentiments exactly. You can see the live version of this TED talk here.


 
Born to learn
I love the simple animation and flow to this presentation on learning. We are indeed "born to learn" and we are naturally curious creatures. But does your school stimulate that curiosity and light the sparks in students. My favorite teachers did when I was a kid. Although my secondary school experience was a bit of a blurry bore, I remember the good teachers I had who helped me and inspired me in spite of the imprefect system.


 
 
Dr. Tae — Building A New Culture Of Teaching And Learning (or "why school sucks")
I love this presention by American physicist Dr. Tae. In the presentation Dr. Tae touches on the depersonalized nature of the large lecture hall with the "tiny professor somewhere down there" in front going through the material but without engagement or connection with the students. If one of the goals of education is to "have a lively exchange of ideas," the depersonalized one-way lecture seems to be an outdated method for stimulating this exchange.

 


Shawn Cornally — The Future of Education Without Coercion 

Shawn Cornally is a young, passionate teacher who shares his perspective and experiences in this TEDx talk.




Finland's education success

Here's a short clip from the BBC reporting on Finland's success with schools. They enjoy great success, but do not have a test-driven environment. While no place is perfect, we could learn a lot by examining what Finland is doing in their schools.



Japanese documentary: Children Full of Life (part 1/5)
I like a lot of what I see in elementary schools in Japan (although I am much less excited about public junior and senior high schools). Here is part one of five from a wonderful documentary which gives you an evocative look inside one 4th-grade class. You can't helped but be moved. You can see all the clips in this post from last year.


Presentation tips for teachers (Never give a boring lecture again!)
This is a short talk I gave at TEDxOsaka in 2012.



A word from my favorite astrophysicist:
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Here's a fantastic audio interview on science literacy with one of my modern day heros, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not just for science teachers, however. This is interesting stuff for all reasonable humans. I agree with Dr. Tyson. Inspiring stuff. Here's a slide featuring a quote from his interview:

Education_quote.027

"The flaw in the educational system, as far as I see it, is that you live your life – the teacher and student – in quest of A’s. Yet later in life, the A is irrelevant. So then what is the point of the school system? It’s missing something. It is not identifying the people who actually succeed in life, because they’re not showing up as the straight A’s. So somewhere in there, the educational system needs to reflect on what it takes to succeed in life, and get some of that back into the classroom." — Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Link

If you are not familiar with John Taylor Gatto's books (wiki), this short video interview with the veteran teacher and author will be of interest to anyone, whether you agree with him or not.


Slowing down to appreciate what's important

Birth_sonAbout two years ago, the rate of new blog posts to presentation zen declined a bit. It was not for a lack of ideas; I have folders full of ideas and samples that I would like to share. However, two years ago this April something extraordinary happened (well, extraordinary for my wife and me at least): our first child, a girl, was born in Osaka. And last week, our second child, a boy, was born in the same hospital (photo right). It's a cliché to say, but children change everything.

Immediately upon holding my girl for the first time 23 months ago, I felt as if I had somehow fundamentally changed. This study suggests that perhaps my brain was even changing:
"A father sprouts supplemental neurons in his brain and experiences hormonal changes after the birth of a child." While my passion for work and keen interest in self-development and teaching and helping others with presentations, etc. did not decline in the least, I found that more and more things — everything, really — took a back seat to the simple concept of just being with my daughter (and now son as well). I still get frustrated sometimes because I do want to work more, but I also do not want to be away from family. One important thing my children have taught me is to appreciate each moment, even the seemingly inconsequential ones.

Ichigo_ichie.057
This slide above with a 16:9 aspect ratio features a photo from this week that tells a story. I was having my morning breakfast while trying to get through some email at home while my 23-month old daughter, who I already fed, bathed and dressed, was playing nearby. While I was trying to get some work in and enjoy a cup of coffee, my daughter suddenly climbs up into my lap and takes my toast. Do'h! I could look at it as a kind of
workus interruptus, but I have learned to just go with the flow and enjoy these moments. Of course, this explains why my email-answering skills have suffered. And yet, c'est la vie.

This moment will never happen again
Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea. Roughly translated the phrase means "one time, one meeting" or "one encounter; one opportunity" or "every encounter is a treasure." It is an idea that reminds us of something all too obvious but often not recognized. That is, that no moment ever happens again, every moment is unique, and we should recognize and be in this moment as it will never happen again. Personally, it is an expression that reminds me to slowdown and appreciate each "meeting," especially with my children. So this is why the rate of posts to presentation zen have slowed (and the rate of baby pics to facebook have increased). I have some books in the works and I'll be sharing as much content as I can here more regularly on many topics related to presentations, creativity, education, and so on. All I really wanted to say was thank you for your support and for all your emails and comments over the years. It means a lot. I'll do my best to get more useful information published on this website in a speedier fashion.


Hans Rosling: The Jedi Master of data visualization

Dr. Hans Rosling is one of my presentation heroes; he's been featured or mentioned in all my books and several times on presentationzen.com over the years. If there is a Jedi Master of presenting data clearly, visually, and simply, then it is Hans. He proves time and time again, that data are not dull—and when you are trying to change the world, there is no excuse for boring presentations. Most people are aware of Dr. Rosling through his popular TED Talks, but just in case you've never seen him present, below is a nice 5-minute piece he did on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. At TED.com you'll find many video presentations and articles on Hans Rosling.

US in a converging world: Hans Rosling on CNN
This segment is from March, 2011. Go here to see loads of videos on gapminder.org.




Documentary: Rosling's World
One of the videos you will find on gapminder.org is this documentary on Hans Rosling. It is fantastic and well worth your time (about an hour). It is in Swedish so do not forget to click on CC in Youtube for the English subtitles if you need them. Dr. Rosling is an inspiring figure who is doing his own bit to change the world in a big way. His story is one more people need to hear. And Gapminder.org is an invaluable resource for educators. Loads of videos, and downloads, and tons of indicators displayed in Gapminder World.


 


New: Presentation Zen (2nd Edition)

Pz_istockphoto.Four years ago my first book Presentation Zen was published by Peachpit Press. Since then I wrote two other presentation books and a sketchbook/storyboard book and a DVD (plus an additional DVD/Book just for Japan). Although a lot of time had passed, I was still happy with the original Presentation Zen. And yet, the original Presentation Zen book could benefit from a little freshening up in the form of a 2nd edition for 2012. This 2nd edition of Presentation Zen has the same look and feel as the original book and I still did all the design and layout myself. The biggest difference is the book is about 70 pages longer, and although the same high-quality paper is used this time, the price is lower than the original.

Presentation_zen_2nd   PZ_2nd_backcover
Above: The front and back covers (click for larger view).


Frequently asked questions
 
I get a lot of questions about the book (thank you!), so below is a brief FAQ. I hope this helps.


I already have the first edition, should I get the 2nd edition?
I intentionally did not change too much from the first book. My goal with this 2nd edition was to make the first edition better and more complete, not to rework everything in the book. So if you have the first edition and are looking for something completely different, then you should not get this book. If you liked the first edition and you'd like to own a newer and better version of the first, then you will be happy with the book. Of course, if you do not have the first edition, then although I am quite biased, I can highly recommend you get this 2nd edition. (See Dirk Haun's overview of the 2nd edition at the mobilepresenter.) To give you a better sense for the look and feel of the new 312-page book I sat down in our washitsu at home in Nara, Japan and recorded this rough 4-min video on my iPhone (YouTube link).

 
I hear there is a DVD with the 2nd edition. Is this true?
Barne_noble_pzBarnes & Noble are indeed including the Presentation Zen DVD I made in 2009 with the 2nd edition. This deal is a special promotion available only with Barnes & Noble. This was B&N's idea. Although the DVD is not new, the ideas and examples are still reflected in the 2nd edition book. The B&N price is cheaper than even Amazon (which does not include the DVD) and is almost 1/2 off the list price. The 50-minute DVD is broken in to four sections and many teachers and instructors use the DVD as part of their own classes or seminars.

Is there an ebook version?
Ipad_pz2_kindleYes, there are ebook versions on Amazon and on iTunes and ebook and PDF versions available here at Peachpit Press (which sells a bundle of two ebook versions plus hard copy for one price). The visual presentation of the ideas in the book are much better and more complete in the paper format compared to the ebook version available on Amazon, but the Kindle version does have advantages (including cost) and I am a big user of Kindle books for the iPad. (The photo above is of the 2nd edition on the Kindle app for iPad and gives you a sense for how the design of the book is disrupted in this format.)

Is there a special offer on free images from iStockphoto?
Istockphoto_offer_slide.321Yes. iStockphoto has been very supportive of all my work and they are indeed offering 10 free high-resolution images again. This deal is only available for the hardcopy version. At the back of the hard copy you'll see an iStockphoto page which has a special url that will take you to the Presentation Zen 2nd Edition iStockphoto page. You can use a special code to get 20% off a purchase from their massive collection or you can just get the 10 images you like for free from the selection of 50 high-res images. (The Japanese garden images here and at the top of this post are part of the 50. The original size of each is 4304x2800 at 300dpi which is suitable for printing, or you can reduce the image size for presentations or web, etc.)

Thanks very much to everyone who has purchased the 2nd Edition already (or any of my books for that matter). Your support in trying to help people present and generally communicate better is greatly appreciated. There is still along ways to go, but there has been good improvement. And I thank you for that.



10 great books to help you think, create, & communicate better

In the spirit of personal kaizen, I have listed below a few books that I read (or reread) over the past year that you may want to read as part of your own continuous improvement journey.

Brain_at_work(1) Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. Over the last 10-20 years scientists have made many remarkable discoveries concerning the brain and how it works. David Rock is not a neuroscientist but he is a good "neurotranslator" of the scientific evidence and does a good job of explaining in clear terms how the brain works and how our own understanding of the brain can help us in school, work, and beyond. If you want a small taste of David's work watch this Authors at Google talk or this TEDxBlue talk.

Design_learn(2) Design For How People Learn.
This book is quick and easy to read. If you are already well-read on e-learning and the brain and memory, etc. then there may not be much new here for you, but it has good material for professionals and students that can help them understand how people learn and how to design learning experiences (like presentations) that do a better job of engaging audiences. For me it was an interesting review of many of the key concepts in e-learning. A much deeper (and expensive) related book is e-Learning and the Science of Instruction.

100_things(3) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. I like how the book is broken up into 100 chucks of 1-3 pages with key principles and practical tips in each of these short sections. As the book covers a lot of ground, it may lack the depth for some, but for most people it will be a good primer or a helpful review of important principles. Areas covered include: how people see, how people read, how people remember, how people think, how people focus their attention, what motivates people, and others. I think this is a book that will help a lot of people who read it to design better visuals and communicate in more engaging ways.

Biz_plan(4) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.This is a beautifully designed book. The book is billed as "a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises." Even if you are not in need of deigning a business model, there are lessons in this book that can challenge your thinking and help you clarify your ideas and objectives. Amazon says the book is designed for doers who are ready to "abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new models of value creation." I am thinking now to design an entire semester-long course around this book. The book is simple, visual, and clear. Good bits on their website.

Visual_meetings(5) Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. As someone who loves whiteboards and other analog tools (and hates typical, boring meetings), I found the ideas in this book very refreshing. I can't sum it up better than Amazon: "Visual Meetings explains how anyone can implement powerful visual tools, and how these tools are being used in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to facilitate both face-to-face and virtual group work. This dynamic and richly illustrated resource gives meeting leaders, presenters, and consultants a slew of exciting tricks and tools, including." I have been trying to use many of the principles and techniques discussed in the book in my college courses and seminars. I think this could be very useful for teachers and college professors even though it may seem more targeted to business professionals and entrepreneurs. Good discussions on using visual language to facilitate and present to groups. (Video about the book.)

Game_storming(6) Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers. I am a strong advocate of serious play. Play and school—as well as play and work—are often treated as contradictory ideas, yet it is though play—and games—that we explore, discover, and learn. The authors of Gamestorming get that. There are 83 games introduced in the book that are explained clearly and simply. You can choose the games to fit your needs and your situation. All of the games (or activities if "games" is a scary word in your work environment) can help engage your audience and get them involved in your meeting, seminar, or classroom. The Amazon page has a few examples from the book and there is a video as well here.

Universal_principles(7) Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design. This is an absolutely fabulous book that I have recommend before a few years ago. This is the 2nd edition which includes many new concepts that are all beautifully and simply spread out across a 272-page book. This is a great reference book for anyone, but especially for designers, engineers, architects, and other creative professionals (and students) who want to learn to sharpen and broaden their understanding of design. The book is informative, educational, and also inspiring. Love this classic book.

Blah_blah_blah(8) Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work. I liked Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin books, but this one is even better. I received an advance copy of the book for free and my endorsement is on the back cover, but it's true: I really do think this book is great. The spoken word is wonderful, of course, but Dan is correct when he says we are being drowned out by the "blah, blah, blah." Pictures, sketches, and other visuals are not panaceas for bad ideas, but the techniques and approach found in "Vivid Thinking" can help good ideas come to life rather than be lost in the "blah, blah, blah." The book is, of course, highly visual and the concepts and techniques are explained using interesting and varied examples from the real world. This video explains the "Blah-blahmeter" introduced in the first chapter—just one of the tools in the book.

White_space(9) White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design. This a bit like The Non-Designer's Book on Design Book but with more varied content. This is a great introduction for all types of working professionals or students, and yet those already experienced in graphic design may want this on their shelf too if for no other reason than to loan it out from time to time to friends or colleagues who could benefit from knowing the basics. There is nothing really on presentations per se, but many of the concepts can be applied to presentation design as well. A well designed book with loads of visual examples.

Zen_of_creativity(10) The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life This is not a new book, but one I always recommend. While there are many books written on the subject of creativity, this is one of my favorites. Simple, smart, inspirational, and practical. The ideas in this book just may give you insights and perspectives into a very different way for looking at the world and approaching your own creative endeavors. This is the kind of book you can read and then reread (as I did) years later and still enjoy it and learn from it. A classic.
________________________________________

In the spirit of Spinal Tap, this list of ten books actually features eleven.

Pz_2(11) Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition). New for 2012. This is the 2nd edition of my first book Presentation Zen. This book is the same as the first edition, but I am much happier with it. I think it is a better book. I designed it to have the same look and feel as the first book, but with an additional 70 pages or so, including a new chapter on engagement. Most of the photos and some of the examples have been changed and many new ones added. There are a few new callout sections such as a special 6-page section on Steve Jobs. There is another special offer from iStockphoto also included in the print version. I'll dedicate a future post with more information about the 2nd Edition soon.

 

 


Progress and the intentional selection of less

Zen_kyotoMany people today talk about presentation technology as if it were a panacea for boring lectures and ineffective presentations. Technologies such as our laptops, iPads, and cool software packages are wonderful tools that can, when used well, increase the quality of communication and engagement. This is especially true when we need to engage with people live on the other side of the planet via tools like video conferencing, webinars, Skype, and so on. However, while technology has evolved in dramatic ways over the last generation, our deep human need for visceral connections, and personal engagement has not changed. When it comes to technology as it relates to communication, then, what is often needed today is not more, but less. That is, an intentional selection of less.

Regress to progress
Eiji Han Shimizu is a Japanese filmaker and creator of the award-winning film "Happy." In his 2011 TEDxTokyo presentation Shimizu underscored the idea that it is not always "more" that makes us happy, but rather the intentional selection of less, an aesthetic that is at the heart of traditional Japanese culture.

"A blind march toward progress that's based on distraction, temptation, and consumption may not bring happiness." Eiji Han Shimizu

If we apply this sentiment to the modern age of presentation technology, it raises a question: are too many of us blindly marching to accept all that is shiny and new, in a spirit of what we may call "progress," proclaiming that the tools themselves increase engagement? Does this focus on the consumption of more and more ephemeral tools lead to a great distraction in many cases? Digital tools are an important part of our work. However, we must be very skeptical about claims of engagement—especially when they come from the very companies which make the tools. As more digital tools become available at a faster pace, it will be the intentional selection of less, the willingness to say no to more, and the thoughtful practice of restraint that leads to the clearest communication and best presentations. As we begin the new year, here are some questions to ponder for you (and your group).

Questions to consider
• How can you apply the "intentional selection of less" to your work?
• What elements or activities in your field serve more to distract than to engage?
• How can you remove the distractions?
• In what ways, in your field, is more actually less (and vice versa)?
• How can you increase clarity and impact by resisting the call to add more?

Related
Some questions that the simplicity of Zen can help address


Steve Jobs: "People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint"

HashingOne thing we need to constantly remind ourselves is that slides and other forms of projected visualization—no matter how "cool" they may be—are not appropriate for every context. Multimedia is great for presentations before large groups such as keynote addresses or conference presentations, but in meetings where you want to actively discuss issues or go over details in depth, slides—especially the snooze-inducing bullet-point variety, which are never a good idea—are almost always counter productive. I stressed early on in the first version of Presentation Zen four years ago—and ad nauseam on this website long before that—that PowerPoint (and other forms of multimedia projected on a screen) are not appropriate for every kind of presentation, or even for most kinds of presentations. This was a point that was made too by Steve Jobs in several of his interviews with biographer Walter Isaacson in his book called simply Steve Jobs. (In the 2nd edition of Presentation Zen, which just started shipping, I expand a bit more on Steve Jobs's ideas concerning presentations).

Sj_quote2.098

"I wanted them to engage..."
Steve-jobs-bookEven when I first started working at Apple in 2001, I overheard someone in my department say that you should never show up to a meeting with Steve Jobs with a deck of slides. Jobs's aversion to people using slides in meetings was well known inside Apple. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson when describing meetings upon his return to Apple in 1997. “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” Jobs preferred to use the whiteboard to explain his ideas and hash out things with people. Former Senior Vice President of the iPod Division at Apple Tony Fadell confirmed Jobs's disdain of slides. "Steve prefers to be in the moment, talking things through," Fadell says in Isaacson's book. "He once told me, ‘If you need slides, it shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.'"

There is a difference between a keynote and ballroom style presentations (and TED and TEDx talks, Ignite presentations, Pecha Kucha and similar events, etc.) and a meeting around a conference table. Most productive meetings are a time for discussion and working things out, not simply going through a bunch of slides. Each case is different, of course, but in general consider saving the multimedia for the larger presentations, and never resort to using slideware and other forms of computer-generated visuals simply out of habit.


Kamishibai: Lessons in visual storytelling from Japan

Kamishibai_1940sKamishibai is a form of visual and participatory storytelling that combines the use of hand drawn visuals with the engaging narration of a live presenter. Kami (紙) means paper and shibai (芝居 ) means play/drama. The origins of kamishibai are not clear, but its roots can be taced back to various picture storytelling traditions in Japan such as etoki and emaki scrolls and other forms of visual storytelling which date back centuries. However, the form of Kamishibai that one thinks of today developed around 1929 and was quite popular in the 30s, and 40s, all but dying out with the introduction of television later in the 1950s. Typical kamishibai consists of a presenter who stands to the right of a small wooden box or stage that holds the 12-20 cards featuring the visuals that accompany each story. This miniature stage is attached to the storyteller’s bicycle. The presenter changes the card, varying the speed of the transition to match the flow of the story he is telling. The best Kamishibai presenters do not read the story, but instead keep eyes on the audience and occasionally on the current card in the frame. It’s difficult to appreciate kamishibai unless you see it in action. The clip below is of kamishibai performer Master Yassan. Even if you do not speak Japanese, this will help you get a sense for how the presenter uses visuals and narration to connect with the audience.



This clip on Youtube gives you a feel for kamishibai from 1959, a time when most gaito kamishibaiya (kamishibai storytellers) were decreasing in number as TV was becoming popular in the home.

Visual, simple, & clear

Kamishibai_1959Although Kamishibai is a form of visual storytelling that originated more than eighty years ago, with roots that go back centuries in Japan, the lessons from this craft can be applied to modern multimedia presentations. Tara McGowan, who wrote The Kamishibai Classroom, says that Kamishibai visuals are more like the frames from a movie. “Kamishibai pictures are designed to be seen only for a few [moments], so extraneous details detract from the story and open up the possibilities of misinterpretation." It's important to design each card, she says, "...to focus the audiences attention on characters and scenery that are most important at any given moment." If your material includes a great deal of detail that can not be eliminated, then Kamishibai may not be a suitable method to tell your story, McGowan says. But if "clarity and economy of expression are the goals, it would be hard to find a more perfect medium." It’s easy to imagine how we can apply the same spirit of kamishibai to our modern-day presentations that include the use of multimedia and a screen.

Kamishibai
Above: Note how the visual fills the entire card yet maintains a level of empty space. Even when text and graphics appear on the the same card, they are for the most part free of clutter. Elements often bleed off the edge which allows the element to appear larger. (Photo by Aki Saito.)

Lessons for today's presentations from kamishibai
There are many lessons that we can apply to modern presentations given with the aid of multimedia. Here are just five things to keep in mind.

(1) Visuals should be big and bold.
Visuals in Kamishibai are big and bold and easy to see for an audience. Remember: "Design for the last row" is our mantra. This "big and bold" approach is different from picture books which have more detail since they are seen by an individual reader. In the same way, minute visual detail on screen is not appropriate for most presentation contexts as those details are too difficult to see. If you have loads of detail — and if it is crucial that people see it— a handout may be more appropriate.

(2) Visuals may bleed off the edge.
The Kamishibai visuals must not be cluttered. The entire card is used and yet much of the card may be empty which allows the positive elements on the canvas to pop out more. Elements also may bleed off the edge or appear hidden. Our brains will fill in the missing bits which fall off the edge. This makes the images appear larger and simpler than if all elements were crammed in to fit all inside the frame.

(3) Visuals may take an active role.
The visuals are not just an aid, they are a necessary part of the show. The storyteller decides when the focus will be on him and his narrative and when the focus is on the visual. It's a balance among the visual and the aural from the point of view of the audience, and a balance of telling and showing in a smooth harmonious flow of events from the point of view of the presenter.

(4) Aim to carefully trim back the details.
Kamishibai is different from picture books in the same way that a document is different from a live, visual presentation. The presentation by its very nature omits many visual details and includes only those details which are necessary to tell the story clearly. A kamishibai performance like, say, a TED-style presentation, uses visuals to amplify meaning through simplification.

(5) Make your presentation participatory.
Even though we are using visuals, human-to-human connections are still key. Kamishibai performers of old really got the kids involved in the performance. Kamishibai is not like TV, where you just sit there. A good kamishibai performer elicited responses and totally engaged his audience. Interestingly, some kamishibai masters from the 1950s noted that their young audiences became less engaged and were more passive as TV became popular. Kids became used to just sitting in front of content rather than engaging with it. Today, however, as much as possible, we must aim to make our presentations as participatory as the context allows. This is the real lesson from the kamishibai masters.

LINKS
iPad gives 'kamishibai' stories a new lease on life (app).
• Kamishibai in the classroom (in America) video.

 


Coming to France, Belgium, & England in November

In November I return to Europe for a few different presentations and a seminar. Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Hope you can make one of these events.

European_tour.159Paris: Nov 14-15. Presentation Zen
& Ideas on Stage

The first stop is Paris for the 2011 version of the Presentation Zen European Seminar. This seminar is held on Monday, November 14, and includes lunch and mingling before the seminar. We may do a tweetup on the evening prior in central Paris. On November 15 I will be presenting at the first Ideas on Stage Conference in Paris. This is a conference which focuses on innovation, communication, and entrepreneurship. I'll be speaking about the concept of onkochishin and how the lessons for the future are really rooted in the past. You can get a discount if you register for both events. The seating for the seminar on the 14th is very limited but there is still room I hear. Register.

Last year people came from countries all over Europe, and two people even came all the way over from the USA. Detailed comments from people who attended last year here, here, and here. Photos here.

World_forumHasselt, Belgium: Nov 16-17
Creativity World Forum

I'll be giving a keynote presentation on November 17 open to the entire sold-out conference of 2500 people followed by a small workshop for a much smaller group right after the keynote. Other presenters include, Malcolm Gladwell, Jimmy Whales, Alex Osterwalder, Oliver Stone, and more.

European_tour.158England: London Nov 18,
Oxfor
d University Nov 21
I'll be heading to London on the 18th and am scheduled to present at the Apple Store, Regent Street at 5:00pm. This is a free presentation and no registration is required. On Monday November 21 I'll be presenting at 4:30pm at the Gulbenkian Theatre, Law Faculty, University of Oxford.

Schedule at a glance
Nov 14 Paris: Presentation Zen European Seminar (noon-6:00pm)
Nov 15 Paris: Ideas on Stage Conference
Nov 16-17 Belgium: Creativity World Forum: sold out
Nov 18 London: Apple Store Regent Street, 5:00pm
Nov 21 Oxford: Oxford University, 4:30pm