Labor Day Linguistics and Gender Neutrality
I plan on making the first Monday in September my own official "Leisure Day." I plan to do no work that pays an hourly wage.
Of course, there is always labor (or labour). For example, women's work is never done -- someone has got to put that traditional Labor Day picnic together and wash all the dishes.
(That will be me.)
And someone will take the day off fix the garage door opener and prep the storm windows for autumnal installation.
(That will be someone else. Someone who is a man.)
And isn't that what Labor Day is all about? A mix of home labor disguised as leisure? And a nod to the gender division of labor?
Actually, not. Samuel Gompers waxes poetic on the real meaning of Labor Day
at the US Department of Labor website. A very manly citation -- Gompers uses "man" three times in his short quote. Indeed, the DOL website notes that the first Labor Day is called a "workingmen's holiday".
Go and read the DOL Labor Day History page...it starts out all manly, then suddenly, it becomes gender neutral. "The working man" suddenly became "the American worker". Oddly, the DOL Labor Day history page does not mention why, how, or when Labor language became neutered.
According to the DOL Labor Day page, we are all gender neutral workers.
Makes us sound like ants.
I was surprised that the words on the DOL page became neutral without even a passing nod to the contribution of women to the workforce. It is a history page, after all.Labor Day Linguistics.
So listen carefully to your Labor Day addresses and speeches this weekend. Politicians are usually very crafty and correct, using gender neutral terms to refer to workers. After all, they have polished speech writers.
But others frequently slip and use the male-centric language of the pre-1970's era when referring to laborers.
I even heard a young, 30-something woman refer to "Workman's Compensation" earlier this month. I thought the DOL started calling it "Worker's Compensation" back in the 1970's...but old vocal patterns die hard.
Have fun listening to Labor Day Linguistics. And enjoy the holiday!
Present Like a Penguin...
It is cool to present like penguin...
You can dress conservatively, waddle to the podium, and start quacking under your breath like a Batman villain.
Or Dick Cheney.
But that is only one way to present like a penguin...
Go black and white.
In a sea of high-tech presentations, you can stand out by entirely eliminating color from your presentation. Black on white (or white on black) includes the element of drama. High-impact.
Simple, clear, and powerful.
Just like the mighty penguin?
(BTW - the penguin image is this week's free image download at iStockPhoto.com . I love iStockPhoto for image downloads....often as little as $1 a pop, perfect for PowerPoint presentations. And when you join (for free) you can download their "free image of the week". This week, it was the penguin -- cool!)
PowerPoint templates can be jolly useful -- but some of the most awful presentations are template-driven instead of content-driven. If you are a free PowerPoint template junkie, start with your content first, and you will develop a more creative, inspiring, and persuasive presentation.What do I mean by "free PowerPoint templates" junkies?
I know that a lot of people like to go to their favorite search engine and type in the term "free PowerPoint templates" -- and then go on a download spree. These folks like to tell themselves that they are "collecting design ideas for their next presentation". But the recent spate of PowerPoint viruses make this practice potentially treacherous
this month....and maybe even longer.
Beyond safety considerations, August/September 2006 is an excellent time to free yourself from haphazardly downloading PowerPoint templates and presentations from the internet. If you are in the habit of downloading free templates before
you craft your presentation, face facts:
you are procrastinating.
Quite likely, you are likely avoiding the hard but necessary work of writing your narrative or developing your content
How to kick the habit. Use this summer's spate of viruses as an excuse to kick the start-with-the-template habit NOW, cold turkey. And you don't need a twelve-step program, either. If you're a template junkie, turn your usual creative process on its head. Learn these six simple words:
Content first. Rehearse next. Design last.Start with written words.
Try kicking the habit with this creative exercise -- write your presentation narrative first. If an image presents itself as you write, congratulations! You are thinking visually while working with words. You can jot a description of the image down in the margins, along with a potential headline. But if you want to kick the "begin with the template habit" -- continue to work with your words only...Out loud. In front of a mirror.
After you have a first draft of a narrative, rehearse it out loud, in front of a mirror or video camera, sans
PowerPoint. Rehearsal without using PowerPoint as a prop can make you acutely aware of any awkward phrasing or postures. And as you give the speech out loud, you are more likely find the areas that need a re-write.
At this point, you may be shocked to find that you have a great stand-alone speech, and PowerPoint will not even be necessary! You might find yourself thinking that PowerPoint might be the wrong medium entirely....a video, puppet show, audio podcast, or stand-up act might be even better.
Why not use the PowerPoint virus/trojans this summer to break any "design-first" tendencies you might have? Try the "narrative-first" as a creative exercise, and you will find yourself crafting appealing and persuasive presentations.
You may never even use PowerPoint templates ever again!
(Disclaimer: Yes, I have PowerPoint templates
available for free download at this very site. And they're all virus-free. But please -- be careful out there! Download responsibly...and develop your presentations thoughtfully!)
Protect Yourself from PowerPoint.
Just when you thought it was safe...
Last month, some nasty Canastas released the "Zero Day" PowerPoint bug
just one day after Microsoft's monthly "patch day". This meant that PowerPoint users had to wait a whole month for a PowerPoint patch. And on August 8, Microsoft released the "zero day" patch.
But hold on...we are not safe just yet! There is now a new set of PowerPoint nasties worming their way throughout the internet. A twin set of Trojans
that use PowerPoint to deliver malicious code is now making the rounds...
Protect yourself from PowerPoint...
So last month's advice on opening PowerPoint files from remains the same: 1) keep your anti-virus software up-to-date and 2) refrain from opening unsolicited PowerPoint files that you receive in your email and 3) only download PowerPoint files (both templates and presentations) from the internet sites that you know and trust.
Presenting to Chimpanzees...
This YouTube video
(and TV ad for CareerBuilder) deftly illustrates why it is critical to immediately gain the respect of your business audience when giving a PowerPoint presentation.
While your audience may not consist entirely of chimpanzees, you can bet that several audience members will be armed with technical devices....like laser pointers!
Or cell phones. Or Blackberry devices.
If you don't earn the interest or command the respect of your audience, you can bet that they will drag out the little electronic gizmos.
And when it comes to using laser pointers...
I must admit that I use my laser pointer more for monkey shines than for professional presentations! Second for second, I have logged more time using this "tech tool" to mess with the fish in my aquarium than I ever have to enlighten my audience!
How about you? What is your best use for a laser pointer?
OPP - Other People's PowerPoint...
Of course, there is an enormous amount of PowerPoint backlash in blogs and online articles. It is the primary presentation program that people love to dis.
Did you ever notice, though...
...that only OPP (Other People's PowerPoint) gets defamed and flamed in various blog posts throughout the internet?
...that when PowerPoint sucks or causes death, it is always OPP?
...that indeed, most of the PowerPoint bashing is for OPP?
Why is looking at one's own body of work so difficult? Especially when a video of one's own performance may reveal that flaws may lie more in the presenter than within the design of the presentation?
Video recorders are just about as prevalent as PowerPoint. For a real eye-opener about your own presentation style, try turning a video on yourself when you give your next presentation.
You'll be glad you did... after all, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes....right?
How do you handle handouts?
How do you handle PowerPoint handouts?
Sidebar. The word "handouts" in regard to PowerPoint is just plain odd. Say "handout" and my mind conjures up images of ratty beggars rattling tin cups.
"Show Notes" is a better phrase....but Microsoft distinguishes between "handouts" and "show notes" and "slides" and "outline view" in its print console.
So for the moment, let us say that you intend to give "PowerPoint handouts" to the greedy beggars that make up your audience...
Most trainers and marketers I know recommend that presenters only offer handouts following the live, stand-up version of their presentations. Never before. Never during.
Give your handouts out before or during the presentation, and you'll lose your audience as they read ahead while you present. Or worse, those greedy beggars will grab your handout and bolt before you give your stand-up -- wrongly assuming that your show notes are actually your presentation.Generally, I don't give out handouts.
And when I do, I give them out after
Lately, I've been using the most delightful method for dealing with handouts -- I make the audience (aka "those greedy beggars") actually work
for their handouts.Put your audience to work!
No more sitting idly back, waiting for you to pass out a polished, neatly printed and bound Cliff Notes version of your presentation.
In other words, no more handouts in the "beggin' for it" sense of the word!Work for it!
At the end of the presentation, instruct your audience to visit a web page that you've created JUST FOR THEM. Here, each audience member can enter their email address and name, and only then they do they get to download your show notes (formerly known as a handout).This approach lets marketers win
-- you can measure the success of your presentation when hundreds of audience members log in, thirsting for mere memories of your information and your amazing stage presence. And of course, you can ask for permission to send them future emails about upcoming speaking events or other marketing information.Trainers can win, too
-- you can find out which students are really into your groove by looking at who downloads... and when.
And let's face it, when you give "handouts" to beggars, you're usually looking to end the conversation.
But when you make your audience work for your handouts, you can effectively continue the conversation. You'll know who's really interested....and who took your material merely to be polite.
(The only print handout I've given out this month is my business card.)
So... how do you handle PowerPoint handouts?
PowerPoint and the Power Failure
The thing about electronic gizmos is that they can -- and will -- fail you.
At any time. Without any notice.
In the past month, I've been without electricity itself...twice. Power failures were all the rage during last week's heat wave.
If electrical failure has not happened to you yet in your life -- it will.
That's why you need to plan on some kind of presentation-related electrical failure. It will happen frequently in your lifetime.
- A computer's hard drive will crash during an important PowerPoint presentation.
- A remote will go kaput just when you need to advance slides.
- Your microphone will start inexplicably screeching mid-speech.
- The bulb in your projector will suddenly burn out....
Count on it. Plan for electrical failure with every presentation. Develop and rehearse your PowerPoint backup plan.
Because when you plan on electrical failure, you're actaully planning on presentation success.
Why? Because if you count on electrical failure, you have a contingency plan. You learn to count on yourself. You focus on connecting with your audience , and not the electronic gizmos.
When you learn to communicate successfully without electricity, and you'll be a better, more confident presenter.... even when you eventually have access to the fully functional electrical gizmos.
Or as Garr Reynolds' writes at his masterful blog, learn to present naked!
(In this hellishly hot weather, who would blame you?)