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

“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.

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