Project proposals: 28 May 2010

May 31, 2010

This was the first time we had 3 PhD proposals at the same time.  Three (3) seems to play an important part in the “research” history in the making of the School of ICT; this year 3 PhD students graduated…

So what are my personal perspective on these proposal, specifically as it relates to the presentations… Another 3 things 🙂

What gives a PhD proposal credibility? A PhD student should be able to speak about his/her topic.  Credibility to some extent is gained from the supporting material (see my previous post Content is king, but watch the queen), but most credibility is gained from your passion for the subject and your general behavior before, during and after the presentation.  Credibility is also gained from being able to answer questions, specifically general question about your topic.  If you cannot argue around the topic, why choose the topic? Of course nobody expects you to be perfect, or know everything, but too little is bad for the credibility.  For more on the topic of credibility in presentations read the excellent six minutes blog post entitled What is ethos and why is it critical for speakers? and its follow up: 15 tactics to establish ethos: examples for persuasive speaking.

Connect emotionally with the audience. This is easier said than done, but was very well done in this session by involving the audience with tickers… who would have thought that in a proposal session the academics have to answer questions for the audience.  It certainly was interesting and pointed to the short coming in current assessment methods for Enterprise Architecture certification programs effectively.  Before you run off and ask questions in the next presentation do take note of one important fact: the questions served a purpose and the result were fairly predictable.  Wonder what would have happened if we all got it wrong for both questions… kind-of dangerous, but here it paid off. Wondering how to get it done in other ways? Again I can recommend two blog posts from Six minutes: What is Pathos? and 18 Paths to Pathos.

Spend some time prepariung your slides. I know I’ve been saying: reduce words on slides and use diagrams to explain work.  Overall the three did a reasonable job, worthy of mentioning here (of course if it were at the other end of the scale, I probably would have mentioned it as well).  Perfect? No, BUT it was evident that the presentation was not just a cut and paste from the project proposal documents.  Maybe this also adds to credibility – at least it shows that the candidates took the session seriously, giving some special thoughts to the needs of the audience. And that is certainly appreciated.

To all three the candidates: keep up the good work, there is a long, difficult, but exciting road ahead.


fontastic jokes

May 29, 2010

Choosing your font on slides is important.  However since its weekend I don’t want to write on presentations and fonts… maybe another day.

I’d rather remove all doubt that I am a nerd and admit that I enjoy jokes about fonts… I mean how nerdy does it get?!

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Start NOW!

May 28, 2010

Maybe you are scared of doing something. Maybe you are scared of talking, of performing in front of other people…?

Maybe you are scared about what other people think? Maybe you are scared of not being perfect?

If you are read this excellent post from Denise Graveline on what guitar lessons has taught her about public speaking and training. I think its true, and, moreover apply to much more than speaking and/or presenting. What’s my take home message:

1. Do it! ASAP

2. Don’t stop!

3. When done, reflect.

4. Goto 1

Never thought you’d leave a comment? Maybe you should start sharing…. Do it!  Here. Now!

What should we do?

May 27, 2010
So what should you do? What should you be spending your time on?

Seems like a simple question… till one starts thinking. 

Surely the answer is not to plod on from day to day; to do the same thing over and over again.  It is so easy to become just anopther cog in a big machine, to just do stuff because somebody is paying you for it.

So ask yourself why somebody is willing to pay you money for it… I would imagine that is because somebody NEEDS/WANTS what you have to offer.  However, this can not be the only thing you consider, can it?  Most people would know that you are GOOD at certain things, what about those things… Other things you may be very PASSIONATE about (maybe not as good, but that will probably follow in time…).  So my maths background urged me to draw a Venn diagram.  Here it is…

What to do?

It occurs to me that one should try and spend most of your time in the areas 1, 2 and 3 (in that order also). If you spend most of your time on the question mark sector, I would siggest you have a problem, you have become a cog in somebody else’s machine…

More interesting though is the other sectors. This is where true opportunity lies… Find your tribe, those that need desperately what you have to offer and is good at and passionate about.  Grow the circle “What other need”: find the ones that need your passion and skill, they may be closer than you think…

Is the JACKPOT not to live is sector 1? What do you think?

Wanting to be wrong…

May 26, 2010

How do we learn? By making mistakes, of course. Have you ever learned something by not making mistakes? Not possible…

How do we grow? By choosing to grow!

How do you choose to grow? You choose to not be scared of being wrong…

I often wonder why students, for example, don’t comment on class wikis, why they don’t bother to add their two cents worth to a discussion? I think it’s because they are scared of being wrong…

But THEN we need a mindshift… A drastic one


Otherwise you probably are not going to learn anything, you probably will not grow… what a depressing thought. (Of course maybe my belief that people want to grow is wrong…  Hmm, one of the rare occasions where I will rather be right.)

Seth Godin in his book linchpin says that when people complain that they don’t have any good ideas he asks them to share some bad ideas. I think that is brilliant: to get to the good ideas we need to get past the bad ones. Being worried about being wrong/having bad ideas is for people afraid of success!

Therefore, if you want to be a success, join me in not being scared to be wrong.

Am I missing the point?

From the conference trenches…

May 19, 2010

I had the privilege of spending the last 2.5 days listening to some presentations at the South African Information Security Multi-Conference in Port Elizabeth. Here are the things that impressed/annoyed me (either way there is some room for learning through reflection):

1. Have a story to tell – if you don’t know what the essence is of what you are saying, sadly the audience will not figure it out. Of course stories to connect to the audience work really well if chosen properly. Mostly presenters were reasonable in this regard – unfortunately there were some easy to spot exceptions 😦

2. The audience want to listen to your talk.  I have the proceedings, I can read! In the presentation I want to hear the story, the explanation, the nuances, and most importantly your thoughts. As the audience, I want to figure out how your head works; the facts and small detail I’ll get from the writing.  Several speakers had powerpoint diarrhea, however some others did a very decent to splendid job at this aspect.

3. Make sure the audience can hear you… Obvious? Apparently not…

4. The more you do it, the better you get. Assuming that you reflect on the exercise.  Some of our students today in the postgrad symposium said they were more nervous than in their project proposals (probably rightly so as these are knowledgeable “strangers” that you talk to), but to me they appeared much more relaxed and in control than the first presentations. Well done.

5. Get your first couple of minutes right. Not only is it the time to grab attention, but if the nerves bother make sure that you know your first 2-3 minutes.  After that, as you move ahead, you will become more relaxed and the audience will feel more “known”.

6. Setup BEFORE the time… make sure the projector works, that you are in dual screen mode in Powerpoint if that is what you want.

Overall quite a successful event and that goes for the main conference as well as the postgrad symposium. Well done to everybody. May your research prosper and your presentations reflect that.

Linchpin Laurie aka “Dr Math”

May 15, 2010

I have just finished reading Seth Godin’s book: Linchpin.  In it he tries to encourage people to not be cogs in machines, but to make a difference, be an “artist” in whatever you do. Like all of Godin’s books it is full of thought provoking ideas.  Certainly it made me think about the linchpins I know. I have decided to in future share some thought regards Linchpins with you.

So may I introduce you to linchpin Laurie.

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