Scrum and Presentation Design – Part 2: Vision, Constraints and User Stories

Welcome to the second post in a multi-part series discussing the application of Scrum to Presentation Design. 

Read the first part here.

Step 1

Vision

The first step when starting a software development project using Scrum is the project vision. Why are we developing this product or service.

When designing a presentation the first step is exactly the same. Why are we designing this presentation. What is the purpose. If you don’t know the answer to this, you probably shouldn’t do it. You must have a vision. Some examples could be:

  • Changing people’s risk perception about investing in real estate.
  • Change people’s recycling habits.
  • Convince people to stop buying bottled water.
  • Inform people about the dire situation of the company’s financials.

These are all examples of why. Why are you doing this presentation.

Constraints

Another part of step one of the Scrum framework as described in part 1 is project constraints. There are three types of constraints; time, money and scope.

A presentation design project has those exact same constraints.

  • Time – we have a firm deadline we need to meet because that is when we are scheduled to present or that is when our client is scheduled to present.
  • Money – we only have a certain amount of money to spend on the design. Maybe we can’t buy all the stock photos we want. Maybe we can’t hire that graphic designer to help us out.
  • Scope – We only have 5 minutes for our presentation. We can only use 10 slides.

These three are in balance. You can’t research everything (scope) if you only have 1 week to prepare the presentation (time). If you have a limited budget you may have to reduce the scope of your project to afford high quality stock photos for the points you want to make. Or if you have a limited budget you may need more time to prepare because you have to create your own illustrations instead of buying them.

The point here is that it is important to know what constraints your project faces so you can plan correctly.

Step 2

User Stories

The second step in the Scrum framework is creating something called user stories. This is a way for us to put ourselves in our user’s shoes and view the product or service from their angle. A user story goes something like this: As a <user> I would like to <action>, so that <value>. Of course, we must swap out <user>, <action> and <value>. To be able to do this we must know who our user is, what they like to do and what they value. For example, as a working mom I would like to turn on the washing machine remotely, so that it is done when I get home and I don’t have to worry about it having more time to spend with the kids.

Applying this to presentation design is basically the same as know your audience. We must know who our <user> is, our audience members, what they like to do and what they value. This will help us tailor our presentation to our audience. It will determine what images to use, what colors to use, what words to chose, what to wear etc. Depending on who you are presenting to this might all be different. Since we are presenting for the audience we must put ourselves in their shoes to be able to see things from their point of view so we can provide them the most value.

In a presentation with the vision “Convince people to stop buying bottled water” we may be speaking to a group of high-school students in an environmental class. We could have a user story or audience story like this: As a high-school student I would like to make my parents stop buying bottled water, so that I can help protect the environment.

Now, what does that mean for your presentation. First, remember that you may have many different user stories and you must prioritize them. The story that fits the largest number of your audience would probably be on top. Back to our story, if a large group of the audience felt the same then you might want to make sure you talk about how to convince other people to stop buying/drinking bottled water, some easy and good arguments they can remember and how to address objections.

Summary

By applying parts of the Scrum framework to presentation design we have seen how important it is to start out with a vision. Knowing why you are giving/designing the presentation. We have also seen how important it is to know the project constraints to plan the work correctly and finally how important it is to know who your audience is and how you can best connect with them.

Stay tuned for part 3…

Speaking: Eye Contact

When speaking or presenting in front of an audience it is always challenging to connect with them. Connecting with you audience is difficult. One way that can help is to actively use eye contact.

What does that mean?

Eye contact is a powerful tool for communicating, non-verbally. It can help make your presentation direct, personal and conversational. Direct because it feels like you are speaking directly to the audience. Personal because it feels like you are speaking directly to the person you are looking at, tailoring your message directly to that person. Conversational because of the closeness between you and your audience. It feels just like you are one of them having a conversation.

If you don’t look at your audience you will break the communication bond. Each person, no matter how big the audience, wants to feel important.

So whenever you speak or present use your eyes actively by going around the room and look each person in the audience in the eyes. Hold the person’s eyes long enough to establish a bond, maybe 5-10 seconds or the time it takes to finish a sentence. But don’t hold it so long that it becomes uncomfortable and you appear to be staring at the person.

If you are presenting for a large audience, pick one or two individuals in each section of the room and make eye contact with them. Each person in that section will get the impression you are talking directly at them.

So next time look them in the eye 😉

Contrast

When placing elements on a slide it is important to think about what elements you want the audience to notice first, second and so on. One way to achieve this is to add contrast to the elements to really emphasize your message or you point so your audience can immediately get it.

Many times we create contrast unintentionally and according to the law of informative change, people expect changes in properties to carry information. This basically means that any stylistic difference between two elements carry some sort of information. So unintentional contrast can confuse or contradict the intended message. Any stylistic choice has the potential to suggest importance, urgency and value. So it is important to have a purpose for any and all stylistic changes/choices you make in your slides.

Below are several examples of how one can create contrast between elements on a slide. Choosing which one to use depends on your message and what you are trying to emphasize.

Contrast - No contrast
No Contrast

Contrast - Contrast in Size
Contrast in Size

Contrast - Contrast in Shape
Contrast in Shape

Contrast - Contrast in Proximity
Contrast in Proximity

Contrast - Contrast in Shade
Contrast in Shade (value)

Contrast - Contrast in Color
Contrast in Color

Contrast - Contrast in Orientation
Contrast in Orientation

Sources: Slideology, Presentation Zen Design

Speaking: Know your audience

Before writing a speech it is useful to take a moment to think about who the speech is for, to do some research on your audience. It is like going on a trip somewhere and researching your destination so you can get the most out of your visit. When preparing your speech you want to be sure that it is tailored to fit your audience and their unique characteristics.

If you are speaking to an audience of scientists you want to make sure that your speech isn’t too simple and trivial, that it reflects their level of knowledge about the subject. If on the other hand, you are speaking to an audience of high-school kids about the same topic, you may want to use less scientific words and explain the topic in contexts they are familiar with.

Thus it is important to learn about who your audience so you can write a speech that fits their needs and meets their expectations. It will help you choose the right words, the best stories, the best structure, the most appropriate message. It will help to keep your audience engaged.

Some questions to ask are:

  • Who is in the audience?
  • What is their background?
  • What are their values?
  • Are they part of an organization? What organization?
  • What do the audience have in common?
  • How big is the audience?
  • What message for the audience?

So before you write your speech, take some time to analyze your audience and customize your message.