31 janeiro 2009

Structure your presentation like a screenplay

(That's exactly what I did, and it worked perfectly! But let me tell you the full story.)

This past week I had to build THE presentation for an interview process that I was participating in. Considering that the interviewers' reaction to this presentation would determine if I would get the job, and that getting the job would enable me to go work/live in US to be with my fiancée, get married and start a family... well, let's say it was a very important presentation. :)

I was struggling on this task when I saw this tweet from Tim Walker:

"Anybody wanna share tips on building good presentation decks? I'm working on a blog post about it."

After pondering about it for a while, this is what I replied:

"@TWalk My essencial thought on this is that you must tell a story through your presentation.. always.. This keeps people engaged. My 2 cents"

Little did I know that this reply would be the turning point on my presentation...

While I was going home on the night before the interview/preso, I had that moment of "Eureka!": why don't I follow my own recommendation and tell a story through my presenation?

To give a little more context to why this wasn't something so trivial to my mind, you should know that this presentation was about a very technical subject, including a few formulas and also involving some math (things like a base conversion from decimal to binary and a right shift). Ah, and I had only 20 minutes to present.

So, after this moment of enlightment, I began to structure my presentation like I would do with a screenplay, using a three act structure:

  1. Setup of characters (who is the protagonist? what are his/her motivations?)

  2. Conflict (introduction of an obstacle)

  3. Resolution

Translating this to my technical presentation, I used a case study approach, and it ended up structured like this:

  1. A potential customer has some business needs and contact your company, which decides to develop a proof-of-concept (POC) and you're the one left with this task

  2. You go to present it to the customer, who spot a "problem" (on their point of view) and you have little time to come up with good arguments

  3. After a step-by-step analysis of the problem, you have very good arguments to discuss it with the customer

(Looking at it now, it seems so simple)

In the end, what was the result of my interview/presentation? Even better than what I expected.

What did they like most? The structure. By using a case study and telling a story, it kept people engaged and interested (even though it was a Live Meeting presentation with only audio support).

So, here is my advice to you when you have a presentation to build: tell a story.

Because if it can work even for a very technical presentation, it definitely can work for you. :)

07 janeiro 2009

Pensamentos soltos para o novo ano

Ao invés de fazer um extenso post sobre o ano que passou e o que se inicia, decidi colocar aqui alguns textos e músicas que, de certa forma, passam a mensagem de maneira melhor do que eu jamais poderia expressar.

Abaixo segue um texto "atribuído" a Carlos Drummond de Andrade, mas do qual não consegui encontrar nenhuma referência concreta. De qualquer forma, gosto muito de como ele trata da questão do tempo e da esperança que um novo ano nos traz.

"Quem teve a idéia de cortar o tempo em fatias, a que se deu o nome de ano, foi um indivíduo genial.

Industrializou a esperança, fazendo-a funcionar no limite da exaustão. Doze meses dão para qualquer ser humano se cansar e entregar os pontos.

Aí entra o milagre da renovação e tudo começa outra vez, com outro número e outra vontade de acreditar que daqui para diante, vai ser diferente."

Este é um texto do qual se fala muito, mas se conhece pouco. Para entenderem a verdadeira história por trás do texto, o artigo da Wikipedia é bem completo (em inglês), inclusive com o link para o texto original publicado no Chicago Tribune em 1997. Toda vez que leio esse texto é como se fizesse uma "recarga nas baterias", o que é algo sempre bem-vindo no começo de um novo ano.

Para quem não lê inglês, aqui está uma versão do vídeo com legendas em português.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '97... wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen."

E para encerrar, outro texto em inglês, uma música que apesar de eu haver conhecido na deliciosa voz da Diana Krall, na verdade foi escrita por Irving Berlin para o filme
"White Christmas" (1954).

Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)

"When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings"

Então nesse novo ano, quando não conseguir dormir, faça como a canção recomenda: "conte suas bençãos ao invés de carneiros".

Um bom ano a todos! :)