Raising the Bar: Lessons from Brown University’s Executive Master in Science And Technology

by | Aug 22, 2017

Mom. Dad. I’m teach­ing at Brown Uni­ver­si­ty this week­end.”

These are words every par­ent would love to hear from their child. I found myself say­ing these to mine last week, and hav­ing to clar­i­fy exact­ly what that meant to comedic effect. No, I didn’t leave my Direc­tor of Data Viz role at Search Dis­cov­ery and become a pro­fes­sor, and no, they weren’t actu­al Brown stu­dents, and no, the class wasn’t exact­ly held on Brown cam­pus.

Instead, I was asked to deliv­er my Raise the Bar Chart pre­sen­ta­tion and data visu­al­iza­tion boot camp as part of the rig­or­ous Exec­u­tive Mas­ters in Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Lead­er­ship pro­gram. And instead of Brown under­grad stu­dents, these were a ultra-intel­li­gent and enlivened cor­po­rate pro­fes­sion­als from some of the largest orga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment agen­cies in the world such as Nokia and AT&T.

While I didn’t leave their halls a new­ly mint­ed pro­fes­sor, I was still tru­ly hon­ored and hum­bled to have my work­shop includ­ed in the cur­ricu­lum for this pres­ti­gious degree. Among whom a nuclear engi­neer. Add to that the unex­pect­ed dis­tinc­tion of pre­sent­ing in front of Bar­bara Tan­nen­baum, the leg­endary Senior Lec­tur­er of pub­lic speak­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and the pres­sure to serve was cer­tain­ly on.

I always say that I am the for­ev­er stu­dent; the more work­shops I teach, the more I real­ize that my stu­dents are my great­est teach­ers. This was cer­tain­ly no dif­fer­ent; in fact, these stu­dents took me to school! They asked provoca­tive ques­tions and relayed inter­est­ing nuances to their cor­po­rate cul­ture that could pro­vide chal­lenges in adopt­ing my con­cepts.

Cir­cum­stances like hav­ing strict lim­its of ten slides or less, when I believe you should use as many slides as you need to sup­port your cur­rent idea and not stag­nate on one slide for too long. Or that the full pre­sen­ta­tion deck must be sent pri­or to the meet­ing when I have found that doing this can weak­en the cap­tive nature of the audi­ence dur­ing the meet­ing and under­mine the presenter’s role as nar­ra­tor.

And I was hap­py to meet each one with com­pas­sion and my best effort to tai­lor appro­pri­ate action. It con­tin­ued to show me that learn­ing best in class pre­so skills is only a piece of the puz­zle; cor­po­rate cul­tures have grown high­ly attached to cer­tain pre­sen­ta­tion habits such as cre­at­ing live pre­sen­ta­tions that bet­ter serve offline audi­ences and putting logos on every slide (which cre­ates visu­al inter­fer­ence). Col­lab­o­rat­ing with your cul­ture in small steps is the most pro­duc­tive way of effect­ing change slow­ly but sure­ly.

Noth­ing is more grat­i­fy­ing than hear­ing from the stu­dents about how they’re going to think dif­fer­ent­ly and what one action they will take to lev­el up their pre­sent­ing game. To have each stu­dent leave with just one new tool or idea is the foun­da­tion for the dream of empow­er­ing pro­fes­sion­als with the tools they need to cre­ate indis­pens­abil­i­ty for them­selves with impact­ful pre­sen­ta­tion.

Are you ready for data visu­al­iza­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion solu­tions that cre­ate action and work with your company’s cul­ture? Don’t hes­i­tate to reach out to learn more about my avail­abil­i­ty for speak­ing ses­sions and work­shops.