Sunday, November 27, 2011


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How should your students or audience perceive your presentation through their eyeballs? Based on the “sidebar” in my previous blog, I think it should be reflexive and seamless. I should know my material so well that it appears to flow naturally. The PowerPoint with all of the multimedia should proceed seamlessly in terms of the content and technology.

I admit I have been completely nuts when it came to preparing for class and presentations. I make changes, practice, and rehearse over and over right up until the presentation to make sure everything works. I’m never satisfied. And then somewhere during the presentation, I commit a gaffe or there’s a technology glitch, such as a video doesn’t play or the electricity in the entire building goes out. I think that’s how God humbles me to let me know who’s in charge.


What may take 8 or 30 seconds to execute could take considerable time to prepare. In retrospect, I have never regretted the preparation for my classes and any keynote or workshop. My students and professional audiences always deserve the best I can possibly deliver. The impact and value to my audiences were worth it and their appreciation and responsiveness were the pay-offs. I wanted each presentation to be better than any previous one. Each one was my best effort at that point in time.


So what are you going to invest in your classes and presentations? Where are you going to draw the line? I have found that you find the time to do what matters most--- the highest priority. That’s the result of passion, not a job. At the end of the day, regardless of what time-management system you use, if a task was not completed, it’s because it simply wasn’t important enough.

As you wind down this semester in the next month, consider how you prepare for presentations that matter, whether classes, faculty meetings, conferences, or lectures to your kids and pets. Can you do more or give more? I know I always can. In 2012, break your preparation mold and notice the differences in your presentations. You’ll never go back.


COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Friday, November 25, 2011


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May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


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Just returning from the Lilly Conference on College Teaching, the topic of PREPARATION arose in my sessions and in conversations over those amazing meals. You have to draw the line somewhere in the time and effort you spend preparing for class or a presentation at Lilly. The problem is that my 2 sessions on “Humor & Multimedia” and “Evidenced-Based PowerPoint” were intended to extend your preparation life as you now know it. Adding humor, animation, music, images, and YouTube clips to your PowerPoints complicates everything and requires much more time than you probably have. So what are you supposed to do?


In my 30th year of teaching at Johns Hopkins, I was working 90-100 hours, 7 days a week, to meet obsessive-compulsive requirements. During my last 5.389 retirement years, I've worked 70-80. I bet you're thinking: "Are you CRAZY?" Probably.


I relate to some very unusual people. One is Evin Lysechek, who won the Gold Medal in Men’s Figure Skating at the Vancouver Olympics. He had a reputation for working harder and practicing longer than anyone else. A second is Bob Fosse, iconic, awarding-winning Broadway director and choreographer, who was relentless in rehearsing his dancers. He required dancers to practice the dance routines over a hundred times. A dancer became ONE WITH THE DANCE. The dance was natural and reflexive; he or she didn’t have to think about the steps. They were automatically part of them.


So how should you prepare? Is your presentation part of you or someone else? Do you struggle to remember what comes next? Do you need cues? My next blog will present the challenge. Stay tuned.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Saturday, October 29, 2011


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How many of you have “pick up Halloween costume” on your to-do list this weekend? My guess is, rounded to 6 decimal points, 0! Since this blog is a service-provider to faculty, trainers, administrators, and assorted farm animals, I thought you might like to know what costumes are flying off the shelves at Wal-Mart into professors little coffee/tea-stained hands. I’m sure you already know that politicians and dead terrorists and dictators are out this year.

Can decide whether to

1. Pick the “hot” costume
2. Pick something totally different
3. Do business-as-usual with NO costume on Mon.

Here are the Top 10 picks from the home office in Kodiak, AK, at "Costumes for Profs" national chain, usually next door to Wal-Mart, except where noted:

(WARNING: Despite the highly testosteronal implications of many of these costumes, women may wear them as well.)

TOP 10

10. KNIGHT (Full suit of armor with chainmail and sword, available in 42–50 regular only at Men’s Warehouse)

9. GORILLA (Nothing says “high student ratings” like the “Teaching Gorilla”)

8. GEICO GECKO or GORDON GECKO (Find out what it’s like being green, unless you’re dressing up as Kermit the Frog)

7. CAPITAL ONE “VIKING” (Your chance to be acceptably uncouth and crude or Jerry Stiller)

6. LADY GAGA (Don't hurt yourself with the costume or eat it; not recommended for vegetarians)

5. WOLFMAN/WOMAN (You might need a lot of hair and extra teeth; you could be mistaken for no. 7)

4. BABY “BOOMER” (With diaper, bib, rattle, pacifier; you could be mistaken for no. 9)

3. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Add a chandelier and pic of Chaz Bono for effect)

2. CORDUROY SUIT & BOWTIE (WAIT! That's regular apparel)

2. SHERLOCK HOLMES (As much as I like Robert Downey, Jr., I still prefer the impeccably dignified Basil Rathbone with Inverness cape, deer stalker, and calabash pipe)


1. PUMPKIN (Always reliable with leather headband and music to perform “Gourd of the Dance”)

Tell me what costume you picked. I bet it will be creative. Your students will go wild.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC 

Thursday, August 25, 2011


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Social media seems to have taken over earth and, perhaps, a few other local planets. I recently wrote an article on Netiquetteproper rules, attitudes, and behaviors on the Internet, which will be published this fall.

But I forgot 1 thing: a title. No. I’m kidding. That’s a little blog humor. I forgot to mention the official style manual and resource for writing blogs and posts on social media. For those of you in academia, you are probably familiar with APA Publication Style, required for a bazillion journals. In the media, the style manual has 1 less letter: AP, which stands for Reuters. Oops! I mean Associated Press. It’s called the (Are you ready? Isn’t this exciting?) AP Stylebook. Here’s the citation in APA style:

Christian, D., Jacobsen, S., & Minthorn, D. (Eds.). (2011). 2011 AP stylebook. Boston, MA: Associated Press.

It’s often referred to as the journalist's "bible." It is a spiral-bound style manual for all writers, editors, students, and public relations specialists. The 2011 edition provides fundamental guidelines on spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage, with special sections on food, social media, business, sports and media law.

For those of you who write a lot on the Internet or for the New York Times, it’s an essential reference. Check it out. Between APA and AP, you should be well armed to write anything in proper format. Now if you could just think of something worthy of that impeccable style, you’d be set.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Sunday, August 21, 2011

“NEW PowerPoint® DIET!: Top 10 Steps to a More Svelte PowerPoint®”—The Rest of the Story

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Are you still trying to cram, stuff, squish, or shoe horn every bit of text onto every slide? Stop it. NOW! Read the remaining 4 steps, then go back to shoe horning.

POWERPOINT® DIET (continued)
Here are the remaining steps of the diet and a few thoughts on its impact on learning, memory, and engagement:

7. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 for each slide in order to distill the essence of each slide and draw your audience into your itty-bitty text and focus their eyeballs on the main point (NOTE: Keep in mind your audience may be thinking “get to the point,” if you don’t.)

8. Your draft Presentation Deck should tell your story or convey the low-fat, meat or tofu of your message concisely

9. Edit this deck to streamline what your audience will see to grab their attention from the get-go and what you will say in the presentation; draw your audience in by highlighting key words or phrases with a contrasting color, larger font, italics, bold, etc., and inserting engagement activities

10. Edit your Handout Deck so it covers exactly the material you want in the format you want; think like your audience to determine what and how the content should be included

You now have a skinny, svelte PRESENTATION DECK for your presentation and a fat, blubbery HANDOUT DECK for your audience. You have what you need to maximize learning, memory, and engagement of your audience during the presentation; your audience has the amplified content to read and study after you’ve made your points, plus space for fill-ins, exercises, and notes during your presentation.

Now isn’t that a more efficient and effective strategy to communicate your content than trying to present 1 monster blubbery deck on the screen, which will be difficult to present and nearly impossible to comprehend and remember? Think about it. The PRESENTATION DECK is like a CliffsNotes version of the handout. Who doesn’t prefer a short, concise, right-to-the-point dose first compared to the full-blown blubbery version?

For several articles on the research and more detailed practices for PowerPoint® presentations, go to

I hope you find these suggestions useful in your work. Let me know your thoughts.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Friday, August 19, 2011

“NEW PowerPoint® DIET!: Top 10 Steps to a More Svelte PowerPoint®”

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The answer to the multiple-choice item from the previous blog is “E.” It can be any of those reasons and many others. The problem is there is too much text. If you are afflicted with this infirmity of chronic “Textyitus,” proceed to my diet; otherwise, you can bail.

Guess what? Yup, it’s D I E T time! Those are 4 of the most hated letters in our vocabulary. You can do this. It requires only 10 simple steps. Once you implement this diet, you won’t even recognize your PowerPoint®. It will be a “PowerPoint® Makeover." You'll be cured forever of Textyitus.

In order to lop off excess text from each slide so that your audience will learn, remember, and be engaged in the content you present, follow this step by step:

1. Start with your text-bloated slides with all of the content, exercises, fill-ins, and note spaces (If you don’t have any, get some)

2. Consider these slides DECK #1, which will be a draft of the handout you will distribute to your audience; they need the details to read, study, review, take notes, and process after your presentation

3. Use this Handout Deck to create DECK #2, which is your much abbreviated, slimmed down Presentation Deck

4. Take each slide and ask yourself: “Self, isn’t this bloated blog with a stupid diet metaphor over yet?” WROOONG! “What’s the point of this slide?”

5. When you figure out the main point from all of the text, type a couple of short sentences or a FEW bullet points on your clean slide to emphasize what you want your audience to learn and remember (NOTE: 1 main point per slide, plus any relevant engagement activity, if appropriate)

6. Edit the content on the “New & Improved” slide and, even better, consider adding a visual image (still, animated, or video) to punctuate your point or replace part or all of the text

OOPS! I’ve exceeded my word limit. My next blog will finish the remaining 4 steps. You don’t want to miss the desserts on this diet.

For several articles on the research and more detailed practices for PowerPoint® presentations, go to

I hope you find these suggestions useful in your work. Let me know your thoughts.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Thursday, August 18, 2011

“NEW PowerPoint® DIET!: A Must Try for ALL PowerPointers”

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What kind of diet could this possibly be? We all know from Dr. Oz and the PBS fundraising-drive, brain-and-body guys (NOTE: So far no women docs. Why?) that diets don’t work. But we do know that all diets involve cutting back or out certain foods (aka “everything that tastes good”) and substituting other foods (aka “food that tastes bad or has no taste,” like a tofu sandwich on a Styrofoam rice cake, which is barf on a stick).

So how does this semi-humorous diet chit-chat relate to PowerPoint®? Great question! It has to do with the major complaint about PowerPoints®:

A June 2011 survey of the U.S. adult population (3.2% margin of error) by IBOPE Zogby International (Allen, 2011) concluded that “death by PowerPoint®” is a national epidemic and called for a presentation revolution. Too much text and boring graphics top the list of frustrating and uninspired features. Can you relate to those findings? PowerPoint® ranks as one of the most dreaded presentation platforms, with respondents claiming they would rather forego sex tonight (24%), do their taxes (21%), go to the dentist (20%), or work on Saturday (18%) than have a close encounter of the PowerPoint® kind. (QUESTION: Does that mean the other 7682% had sex, refused to do their taxes, let their teeth rot, and went sailing on Saturday?)
Why is there too much text on PPT slides?
A. The presenter slaps the whole presentation on the slides and uses the text as a crutch
B. The presenter doesn’t know the material well enough to slap only a little text on the slides
C. The presenter doesn’t prepare a separate handout with the detailed text
D. The presenter hasn’t read my latest article, which reviews the research on cognitive overload; the audience cannot possibly understand and remember a bucket of text on each slide 

For the answer to the above test item and details on the PowerPoint® Diet, tune in to my next blog.
For several articles on the research and more detailed practices for PowerPoint® presentations, go to

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

“POWERPOINT GOES TO BROADWAY: Adding Media to Templates”

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Dear PowerPointers,

I hope you are constantly thinking of ways to improve the effectiveness of your PowerPoints, just as I am. It’s a battle because it’s so time intensive, but the rewards to your students or audience are worth it. They receive the benefits in their engagement, attention, learning, and memory of your message.

My latest PowerPoint illustration is derived from one of my keynotes on the Net Generation. The issue is using a basic template throughout your presentation. There are thousands of FREE templates available, so none of this involves a nickel out of your pocket.

The artistic configuration of your template can be a boon and bane to your presentation. It provides an attractive image for text, bullet points, visuals, graphics, and media, but it can also restrict the placement of that content in the available space. Only you can weigh the pluses and minuses. You don’t want the template to pull the focus of your audience away from the key content. It should not distract.

With that notion in mind, once you have drafted the text, how can you add transitions, animations, music, and videos to increase the impact of your message?

My RULE OF THUMB: Keep asking yourself, “What’s the point of this slide? How does it contribute to my message?”

Every element should have a purpose and contribute something UNIQUE to the effect of the slide. If you don’t know the point of the slide, how’s your audience supposed to know? What should they remember from what you say about each slide? Does the material on the slide support your point?

This PowerPoint (converted to video) contains only a few opening slides from a presentation. Consider how the music, especially lyrics, animation, and video clip are used to make several points about the Net Generation:


You can do this with your PowerPoint software and free templates. There are no tricks involved. This entire process can be done by YOU cost-free. Consider your templates without any animation or media; just dead words. Media can create the difference between an unforgettable and forgettable PowerPoint. 

Let me know your reaction and thoughts.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


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Dear Conference/Meeting Planners and Directors of Centers and Faculty Development:

Have you picked your speakers for your fall 2011–2015 events or next decade yet? No? Then you need to get on the stick.

Have I got a speaker for you! I just saw him in Calgary and San Diego and he will blow your beach chair right out from under you.

With all of the financial cutbacks, you may be crunched for funds to import super-star speakers, but you can consider those lower on the food chain or not even on the food chain, but dangling on a hook like bait.

For example, I know this speaker personally (he sends me birthday e-mails) who will work with you to cut expenses, plus he will pay your mother’s social security in August if the President doesn’t.

This means he will

1. sleep in your garage (with a bucket of ice if you don’t have ac) instead of a hotel, but not before washing your vehicle,
2. fly WITH Southwest’s free baggage,
3. hitch a ride from the airport to your garage,
4. walk to his home airport (25 mi) to save mileage and parking fees,
5. deliver his handout to faculty door-to-door,
6. eat just navel oranges & Fig Newtons,
7. drink tap water only, and
8. not tip anyone.

Those sacrifices can make a major dent in the expenses. He will also slash honoraria under 5 digits to fit your budget. Should I continue? Is this a dream come true?

Anyway, he speaks on 17 topics on humor and multimedia, Net Generation, multigenerational classroom/workplace, stress reduction, student assessment, faculty evaluation, and PowerPoint. Abstracts are available on his Website ( His most popular topics appear on his LinkedIn profile ( and 2011 brochure.

Testimonials by buckets of clients, some of whom may be your peers, and a few extraterrestrials are listed on the brochure and posted on those sites FYI.

If you would like further information, please contact the speaker, who is currently preparing his PowerPoint in a garage in Biloxi, which is in Wyoming, while sucking key limes.

Have a wonderful decade and go pick up your beach chair!

An anonymous blogger

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Ronald A. Berk, LLC