Anecdotes are not data, but they help

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The plural of anecdote is not data. This is something you often hear from people with a scientific mindset or technical background. Too often, they warn us, we fall into the trap of overrating the importance of an event, especially if it happened to us. Because of that close connection, we tend to think it would be representative - that it's something that happens to others, too, and that we can draw conclusions from it.

In a way, this is the dark side of storytelling. We must not give in to it.

Attention Span - Humans vs. The Goldfish

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You've probably heard someone being characterised as having "the attention span of a goldfish", meaning that he or she can only focus on something for a very short time. If you search for the actual attention span of a goldfish, you'll even come across a recent study that found that the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish (human: 8.25 seconds, goldfish: 9 seconds).

So what does that mean for presentations?

Getting Rid of Bullet Points - a Clarification

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When I'm arguing against the use of bullet points on slides, I often use a little bit of exaggeration to drive home my point. I also spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of visuals and how and why they work.

This sometimes leaves people with the impression that I want them to replace all of their slides with photos. Which, understandably, makes the more technically-minded members of my audience uncomfortable. So maybe I should point out two things:

Can I have some water, please?

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In Stupid Things Presenters do I described the irritating habit of some speakers to pick up a glass or bottle of water but never drinking from it, which can be very distracting for the audience. Most of the time, however, when speakers do reach out for water it's because they need it and intend to drink from it. Assuming, of course, there is water available for them in the first place.

On Breaking The Rules

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The last of a series of mostly mediocre talks at a recent event was about breaking the rules. So the speaker decided to drive home his point and broke some of the rules for presenting. Did it help?