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.