Designing Your Slides

September 4, 2015.  Designing Your Slides:
Edward Tufte’s
5 Principles of Graphical Excellence

We previously introduced information design pioneer, Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus of Yale University and world-leading expert on visual display of information—and his classic book trilogy on the subject.
Here are his 5 Principles of Graphical Excellence—which you may find useful to keep in mind when you create your next set of presentation slides:

Graphical excellence—is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, statistics and design.

Graphical excellence—consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.

Graphical excellence—gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time—with the least ink in the smallest space.

Graphical excellence—is nearly almost multivariate.

Graphical excellence—requires telling the truth about the data.

150904 E Tufte books

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading

August 28, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Eric Berlow & Sean Gourley: Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading.  How ideas connect globally.

How would you map 24,000 ideas—in 50 languages, from 147 countries?

That’s exactly what ecologist Eric Berlow and physicist Sean Gourley did—applying algorithms to the entire archive of TEDx talks from around the world to see how they may be connected.


Their fascinating analysis showed that the complexity of the ideas is not random—it has mathematical structure. They used this to simplify the highly complicated network of TED knowledge into a single network map.

140515 Mapping Ideas Globally Image

Global Footprint of TEDx Talks by Topic.

From this analysis they could categorize talks , and see which talks are the most important to men versus  women, young versus old—and how ideas are connected globally.

From a presentation point of view there are a number of interesting aspects worth noting in their TED talk—in particular how they handle the extraordinary complexity of their topic, and make it very accessible and engaging for the audience.

Eric Berlow. Ecologist known for his research on ecological complexity and for creative approaches to simplifying complex problems.

Sean Gourley. Physicist with an interest in politics, using data to understand the nature of human conflict.

Trond Varlid
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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Danger of a Single Story

August 21, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story.  Award-winning Novelist & TED Speaker.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award-winning Nigerian novelist whose best-selling books include Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013). Her work has been translated into 30 languages.

She has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the New York Time’s Top Ten Books of 2013, the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

TED Global Conference 2009. ~9 million views on

One of Adichie’s more unique distinctions is that parts of her TEDxEuston message was featured by Beyoncé in the lyrics of her song Flawless (2013).

I recommend that you watch this 2009 TED talk, which has almost 9 million views on—for at least 3 reasons:

Firstly, it deals with finding your own voice and mission, something we should all strive for—in Adichie’s case, finding her authentic cultural voice as a person and novelist.

Secondly, the talk is also a reminder and warning about our tendency to stereotype and over-generalize—especially when it comes to people from other cultures and countries—and the risk of serious misunderstanding if we only listen to a single story.

Thirdly, her TED talk is a good example of how a speech that has to be delivered from a speaker stand (probably a requirement at this particular TED conference)—can still be dynamic, greatly engaging and persuasive.

Note how she achieves this by using voice dynamics, frequent eye contact with all parts of the audience, humour, passion and telling stories.

Here is her own Web site:

Trond Varlid
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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Life’s Third Act

August 14, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Jane Fonda: Life’s Third Act.  Actress, activist & fitness guru.

This TED talk by Jane Fonda—Oscar-winning actress, activist and fitness guru—provides some excellent lessons in persuasive speech delivery and how to engage your audience.

She demonstrates how you can deliver a highly dynamic and compelling speech also from a speaker stand—if necessary, as on this occasion.

TEDxWomen Global Conference 2011. 2 million views on

Here are 5 take-away speaker lessons from her talk:

Voice.  Note how she makes full use of voice dynamics for maximum effect in delivering her speech— as you might expect from a professional actor. She varies the pitch and volume of her voice, and speaks as if she were speaking to you one-to-one.

Eye Contact—‘Scan & Stop’. Eye contact is one of the most important delivery techniques to engage and keep the interest of an audience.

Therefore, take note of how Jane Fonda keeps looking across at all of the audience, continuously making eye contact—doing ‘scan and stop’ with her eyes.

Humour.  She is also using humour throughout her speech—providing variety and prompting laughter on several occasions.

Body Language.  Although she delivers the speech from a speaker stand, note how she very effectively uses hand gestures—partly to illustrate points in her talk, partly to keep the attention.

Passion.  Last, but not least—she speaks with a conviction and passion that cannot fail to engage and inspire.

Other points worth noting include how she varies the speaking pace—slowing down, keeping steady, accelerating from time to time—and uses stories to illustrate her message and make the speech come alive.

With this talk, Jane Fonda provides an excellent example of ‘how to speak so that people listen’—to quote Julian Treasure, one of the TED speakers we have previously featured.

Definitely one TED talk for your benchmark speech portfolio.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Do Schools Kill Creativity ?

August 7, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Ken Robinson:  Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Most Viewed TED Talk of All Time.

Sir Ken Robinson—Creativity Expert, Author and Educator.

We continue our series of featuring selected TED speakers—who you may want to study for tips on improving your own speaking and presentation skills.

This time we feature Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on how he believes our school systems kill creativity—the most viewed TED talk of all time with more than 34 million views on alone.

TED@Monterey, California, 2006. 34 million views on

As with other great speakers, it is easy to be taken in by the talk itself—not paying attention to how he delivers his talk. If you take note of his delivery, however, you will see that he uses a number of highly effective techniques to engage his audience and get his message across.

As you will see when you watch his talk above, using humour and telling stories are key elements of his speaking style—making what could be a dry topic (education) anything but dry!

And note how a number of his stories are not directly related to the topic as such, but used very effectively and naturally to tie different parts of his talk together—partly for comic relief in between his serious points.

The speaking delivery techniques he is using are too numerous for all of them to be commented on, but here are some worthy of special note:

Opening.  A rather surprising, and funny, opening—using a question and unexpected statement to catch attention and laughter.  “In fact, I am leaving”, he suddenly says—just 35 seconds into the talk.

Voice. To me, one of his greatest speaking skills is how he varies his voice and pitch throughout the talk—speaking in a very natural, conversational style—making you feel he is talking directly talking to you, as if in a one-to-one conversation.

Pause. Excellent and effective use of pauses—before and after important statements—for emphasis, to get attention, and to avoid interrupting people’s thoughts and laughter.

Posture.  Very centered and solid. His position remains unchanged for most of his talk—instead he uses voice, hand gestures and continuous ‘scan and stop’ eye contact; creating a very dynamic delivery and close engagement with the audience.

A true presentation classic.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Body Language Shapes Who You Are

July 31, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Amy Cuddy: Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
Harvard Business School Professor & Social Psychologist.

Would you agree that your body language affects how others perceive you?

Research by Harvard Business School Professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy, and colleagues at Harvard and Columbia University—showed that this is indeed the case. Which in turn emphasizes the importance of body language when you speak and present.

TED 2012.  27 million views on

Open, expansive postures are used by people and animals alike to show power and confidence—referred to as ‘power posing’—and closed postures the opposite. However, could using such body language in and of itself make you feel more confident—and give you more psychological power?

Perhaps surprisingly—the mentioned research also showed that your body language can change who you are. The research results demonstrated that ‘power poses’—practiced and sustained for even quite short periods of time, cause physiological, psychological and behavioral changes—making you feel more confident and powerful.

The research partly originated from Amy Cuddy’s own personal experience, having suffered significant brain damage in a serious accident as a teenager—which among other effects—made her lose her confidence almost entirely. She did not even think she would be able to go to university, let alone one day become a professor.

Watch her captivating talk—and find out how she regained not only her confidence, but became one of the pioneers and leaders in her field.

A wonderful story, and a great speaker.

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Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Want to Innovate ?

July 24, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Lab: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”.

Joi Ito is one of Japan’s early and leading Internet entrepreneurs, having founded several companies—including PSINet, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan.  He was also an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Flickr,, Wikia, and Kickstarter.

He is currently Head of the legendary MIT Media Lab and serves on the board of Sony Corporation, as well as many other companies and advisory committees.

TED March 21, 2014.  1.7 million views on

In this highly engaging talk he presents the latest trends and thinking on innovation. A central theme is how the amount of money and permission that you need to create and realize an idea has decreased dramatically.  “Aim for resilience, not strength—seek risk, not safety”, he says.

His talk is also an exemplary presentation where he uses many effective presentation concepts and techniques, including storytelling—to captivate his audience and put his core message across.

For example, note his powerful opening, using a personal story which immediately grabs the attention of his audience—and which also provides an excellent lead-in to his main topic.

It is well worth investing some time in studying his presentation to understand what Ito actually does as a presenter—and make sure to take notes while you watch!

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Best Stats You Have Ever Seen

July 17, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Hans Rosling: The best stats you’ve ever seen. Professor, Global Health Expert & Data Visionary.

If you ever had to give a presentation containing large amounts of data, were you able to do so in a way that your audience found enjoyable and easy to understand?

Maybe you are an exception.  More likely, though, you struggled to present all your data in a clear and understandable way—never mind entertaining your audience!

In this featured TED talk, Hans Rosling—Swedish professor, statistics guru and data visionary extraordinaire—shows complex and extensive health and economics data in a way that you may never have seen such data presented.

TED2006 – 8.3 million views on

Not only is he a fascinating speaker to watch—he also brings out the big picture of his data in a way unsurpassed by speakers before him.

Rosling’s TED talk took place at the TED conference in Monterey, California, in 2006—and was one of the first 6 TED talks ever posted online on Within a year these had attracted more than a million views—and as such, became a key part of TED history.

Since then Rosling has become one of the most popular TED speakers—and his presentations legendary.

Enjoy and learn!

Trond Varlid
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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Happy Secret to Better Work

July 10, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work. CEO of Good Think Inc.
Harvard University Award Winning Lecturer.

Shawn Achor is the winner of multiple distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University where he delivered lectures on positive psychology, in the most popular class at Harvard.

In this thought-provoking and entertaining TED talk he argues that happiness inspires productivity.

TEDxBloomington 2012
7.8 million views on

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.


How to Speak so People Want to Listen

July 3, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers. Ever experienced that you’re talking—but nobody seems to be listening?
Julian Treasure: How to speak so people want to listen.
Sound & Communication Expert, Business Entrepreneur & Author

Julian Treasure is a frequent TED speaker—and one of the most popular.  His 5 recorded TED talks on sound and communication have attracted millions of views on

A sound and communication expert, he is also a successful entrepreneur—having founded and developed one of the UK’s leading magazine publishers, TPD Group, sold in 2003. In addition, he is a life-long musician, author—and Founder and Chairman of The Sound Agency, advising businesses on how to use sound.

TED Global Conference 2013. 7.9 million views on

His book Sound Business is now in its second edition and also translated to Japanese (2011). He has been widely featured in world media on topics about sound and communication, including TIME Magazine, The Economist, The Times, among others—and appeared on radio and TV in the U.S., UK, Australia and elsewhere.

Subjects he feels particularly passionate about include How to master powerful speaking, How to improve your conscious listening, and How to design environments for health, productivity and better relationships—topics also covered in his TED talks.

As you would expect, his talks often feature innovative uses of sound—and in this talk you get useful advice on techniques for powerful speaking, including specific vocal exercises and how to speak with empathy.

To access more TED videos:

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.