Perception and Reality (and a few TEDx teaching tips)

This talk, from last spring's TEDxUSC (for those not in the know, USC held the first ever TEDx event, in 2009), is made of awesome, and worth watching in its entirety. It will be especially interesting for those who have read The Invisible Gorilla.

As I'm always looking for good teaching tips, here are a few good things that the presenter, Al Seckel, did.

1. His powerpoint, with few exceptions, is mostly not-text. When there is text, it is limited to just a few bulletpoints. (this is true until the last 3-4 minutes, when it gets too text-heavy)

2. He uses still images, videos, audio, and doesn't over-rely on any single sensory modality.

3. He uses funny and familiar examples. These are the same ideas that I discussed when reviewing Phil Plait's Bad Universe, about appealing to the experience and emotion of the audience.

What does he do wrong?

1. Towards the end, he got a little too text-heavy.

2. He spent most of his talk with his back to the audience, looking up to face the screen. At an event the size of TEDxUSC, he should have had a monitor in front of him, just as musicians have speakers turned around to face them so they can hear the music. For those of us who present to classes using powerpoint (or keynote) presentations from our laptops, this is also trivial to accomplish. Get an extra-long VGA cable so that you can put your laptop at a convenient location in the classroom so you can look at it and therefore have your back to the screen and not the audience.

More like this

'This video contains content from WMG who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.'

Awwww... and I don't even know what WMG is.

By https://www.go… (not verified) on 07 Sep 2010 #permalink

He does have a monitor, you can see in the early moments.

Arguably, looking up at the big screen is a visual prompt for the audience, that it is ok (even encouraged) to look at the demonstration, rather than having their attention split between it and him. Having seen similar demos, I could personally see an argument being made for *encouraging* having one's back to the audience in such situations... but of course, it is an empirical question.

WMG stands for Warner Music Group, and they objected to the use of a section of lyrics from Led Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven, where there was a cross-modal demonstration of how the brain can listen to lyrics backwards and assign meaning to meaningless gibberish when provided with visual cues.

By Al Seckel (not verified) on 08 Sep 2010 #permalink