Master Life Faster: Newsletter

How to Give a Great Presentation

Posted in Newsletter by Paul Lem, M.D. on September 11, 2009

Volume 2, Issue 9
HEALTHY: Why eating eggs helps you lose weight
SOCIAL: How to give a great presentation
SMART: Insights from Singularity University – Part 2

“I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”
-Dr. Seuss

Why Eating Eggs Helps You Lose Weight

EggsKathryn Myronuk describes herself as a “knowledge sommelier.” For Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near,” she was the perfectionist who collected and compiled most of the data and references.  At Singularity University, Kathryn is in charge of Library and Knowledge Resources, which is a fancy way of saying we go to her when we have unanswered questions.

Breakfast of Champions
In the NASA cafeteria, I sat down beside Kathryn and noticed we were eating the same breakfast: soya milk, cream of wheat, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs. As we ate our eggs together, I remembered a study in the International Journal of Obesity recommending 2 eggs rather than a bagel breakfast of equal calories.

Compared to the bagel eaters, people who ate eggs as part of a calorie-reduced diet:

  • Lost 65 percent more weight in 8 weeks (2.6 kg versus 1.6 kg)
  • Reported higher energy levels
  • Saw no increase in their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or triglyercide levels

Nikhil Dhurandhar was the lead researcher on the study. He concluded, “People have a hard time adhering to diets and our research shows that choosing eggs for breakfast can dramatically improve the success of a weight loss plan.”

Tastes Great, More Filling
Why do eggs work? The reason is because eggs have a satiety index that is 50 percent higher than white bread or ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. Satiety is a measure of how filling a food is. Eggs are mostly protein, and protein takes longer to break down in your gut than simple carbohydrates such as bagels. This makes eggs more filling than bagels.

And when you feel full, you’re less likely to overeat or sneak a bad snack.

Vander Wal JS et al. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obesity. 32: 1545–1551. Abstract.

“Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”
-Vint Cerf

How to Give a Great Presentation

David S. RoseAt Singularity University, we’ve had some incredible lectures—from Dan Barry’s talk on “Failure is an Option” to Andrew Hessel’s glimpses into the future of Synthetic Biology. David S. Rose is New York City’s “Pitch Coach.” Thanks to his 3-hour workshop on the anatomy of presentations, I now know why some presentations are so much better than others.

Here are 5 keys to success:

(1) Great presentations answer 3 questions well:

  • What is your main point?
  • Why does it matter?
  • If the audience remembers only one thing, what do you want it to be?

(2) The audience is there to see you.

If they simply wanted to read your handout, they would have stayed at home. Therefore, you are the center of attention. And to hold the audience’s attention, you must be passionate and genuine. If you’re not excited about your topic, then you shouldn’t give the presentation.

To be genuine, imagine you’re sitting around a fire and telling stories with your friends. For example, watch how South Bronx activist Majora Carter talks about urban renewal.

(3) Slides should be visual and emotional.
The best slides have few or no words. Just one evocative image that adds an emotional punch to what you’re saying. For example, check out these slides from Chris Landry of the Sustainable Food Lab.

To get images for your presentations, go to iStockPhoto, or check out MorgueFile and Google Image Search for royalty-free pictures.

(4) People have short attention spans.
Scientists have found that students recall the most information from the first 5 minutes of a lecture. Attention drops around the 6-minute mark and stays relatively constant until 15 minutes. Past 15 minutes, many students have a hard time staying alert.

This is why your presentations should be less than 20 minutes. If you must talk longer, then intersperse your 20-minute mini lectures with 2–5 minutes of active engagement. For example, ask students to stand up and share opinions with their neighbors.

(5) Practice makes perfect.
To become a great speaker, you must practice constantly. Violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz once said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. If I don’t practice two days, my critics know it. If I don’t practice three days, everyone knows it.” To get more practice, join your local chapter of ToastMasters International. In parallel, watch TED talks for role models and examples.

Knock Their Socks Off
We’ve all sat through countless hours of “death by PowerPoint.” The bar is so low that you’ll distinguish yourself the first time you apply these 5 tips. Then with a bit of practice, watch out as your calendar fills up with speaking requests.

P.S. for the definitive guide to giving great presentations, get a copy of Garr Reynolds’ book “Presentation Zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery.”

Burns RA. (1985). Information impact and factors affecting recall. Paper presented at Annual National Conference on Teaching Excellence and Conference of Administrators, Austin TX. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 258 639). Abstract.

“The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.
-Winston Churchill

Insights from Singularity University – Part 2

Dan BarryI’m back in Canada from Singularity University, and I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on the mind-blowing experience I had this summer. Yes, it was super cool to learn about bleeding-edge technologies in fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence. But technology is changing so fast that many things I learned this summer will be obsolete by next summer.

Stories of Success
As I discussed in last month’s newsletter, the most valuable lessons were insights into human nature and psychology. Specifically, what do successful people do to become successful?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Dan Barry is a famous retired astronaut. He told me that some of his astronaut friends have their schedules booked up a few years in advance. But Dan does the opposite. He keeps his schedule free by turning down most invitations. This means he’s available when a truly great opportunity comes along, such as the opportunity to teach at Singularity University for 9 weeks.
  • Barney Pell is the founder of Powerset, the natural language search engine that was acquired by Microsoft for about $100 million in 2008. For 15 years, Barney knew that natural language search would eventually find its way into the mainstream. In 2006, he judged that the timing was right. He assembled a team of people and technology that he had cultivated patiently for years. It’s a strategy he’s looking to repeat: (1) identify powerful trends, (2) wait patiently for the right time, and (3) assemble the right team.
  • Yonatan AdiriThere were 40 students in the inaugural class of Singularity University. There were doctors, scientists, bankers, entrepreneurs, engineers and artists from around the world. From these outstanding young leaders, we voted Yonatan Adiri as our Class President, and Vijai Anma as most inspiring student. What made these guys stand out from everyone else?
  1. It felt good to be around them. They had positive energy.
  2. When they said they would do something, they always did it.
  3. They were confident and humble.
  4. They were secure in the five Master Life Faster areas: Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, Smart, and Social.

Singularity University was a life-changing experience for me. Maybe you should apply for next year’s class?

Copyright 2009 by Paul Lem, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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