On Tuesday the 23rd of February 2016, I gave a short presentation at the NSI campus of the University of Canberra. The presentation I delivered was not to my standard of quality and was delivered poorly in my personal opinion. Although all topics in question were answered there was a great deal of room for elaboration, more so improvement of delivery. In this blog entry, I will outline what I have learnt from my experiences during this presentation, the feedback I received from my lecturer and what needs to be improved to next time deliver a presentation that is not of sub-standards. Before I cover this topic, the first part of this blog entry will be about the content of the presentation.
As a first homework task for Professional Practice and Engagement (a unit in my final year of the bachelor’s degree), we are asked to find one object that inspires and defines us as a designer. This object could be absolutely anything as long as it was special to us in a design sense. A series of questions are then to be answered relating to this object. These questions include:
- what is special about this object and how do you incorporate these elements into your design, work/creative practice?
- What does this object say about your personality and personal style?
As mentioned in my presentation, I found, finding one object that defined and inspired my design not to mention defining my design style and personality a bit of a challenge.
Reasons behind the fact I found this task difficult to complete were, as a third-year graphic design student with only a fortnight of real world design studio experience, I feel I am still refining my own style that is personally unique. Another reason I found this difficult was that depending on the brief, inspiration will be drawn from different sources, sometimes from the polar opposite of the previous brief and as a designer every day new things I see or hear inspire me.
The object I chose to present was a book, a book titled Making and Breaking The Grid written by Timothy Samara. The reason I decided to choose this object was that from a very early stage in my design education it was taught that the grid was a valuable design principle and when possible should be put into practice. It has been a starting point for almost all my work reaching the design stage. Although such a basic tool the use of grids can have high impact on the final quality of work. I have evidence to back this theory from a comment mentioned in Making and breaking the grid. Timothy Samara (2002) states that “For some graphic designers it has become an unquestioned part of the working process that yields precision, order, and clarity”. This book was acquired in the very early stages of my design schooling and has constantly been referred to throughout projects and written tasks.
The book outlines the origins of the grid and its use throughout history from the oldest societies to the modern ages of design. The book also discusses grid basics, grid deconstruction, typographic space, grid variations and format determination.
This object is special to me because it gave me a deeper insight into such a basic design principle that can turn an illegible work into a clear piece of visual communication. I incorporate learnings from this book into the majority of my works and will continue doing so throughout my life as a designer.
If this object is to say anything about my design style, I believe it would be my design is heavily influenced and incorporates many traits of the International design aesthetic. The characteristics of the International Style are outlined as “sans-serif typography, grids and asymmetrical layouts. Also stressed was the combination of typography and photography as a means of visual communication” (Design Is History).
My style of graphic design focuses on visually rationalizing the intended communication in a clear and structured manner. At times, it is composed of unconventional and innovative layout ideas, though always with a high focus on typography and legibility. I believe highly in the saying “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.” the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and also incorporate this into my design style and way of life.
If this inspiration in design style, derived from the International Design aesthetic reflects or defines my personality in any way, I believe it would be that I try to see things clearly and look beyond the smaller picture. I tend to follow the guidelines similar to that when designing with a grid but as Timothy Samara (2005) states “A designer shouldn’t be afraid of his or her grid, but push against it to test its limits”. In mentioning this I personally believe that I try to push conventional boundaries in certain aspects of my life.
Reflecting on the deliverance of the presentation, there are many things I learnt while solidifying thing I knew.
An article written by Nick Morgan (2011) for Forbes, categorises public speakers into three groups. He writes that “about 10 percent of the population loves public speaking. This group experiences no fear and get a huge buzz being in front of a crowd. Another 10 percent are genuinely terrified. Those are the people who are physically debilitated by even the thought of public speaking. True glossphobics will go to great lengths to avoid speaking in a group situation, and will experience nausea, panic attacks and extreme anxiety. The rest of us – roughly 80 percent in the middle – get butterflies, get anxious, don’t sleep much the night before – but we know we’re going to live through it. It’s just not much fun.”
From this research I believe I fit in the 80 percent category, suffering from all these symptoms when delivering a presentation. I have confidence in myself before the presentation and usually start off strong but enivitabally make a downward descent to disaster the further I go on. This was mentioned in feedback forwarded to me by my lecturer Jeniffer Young.
Following research into others fears of public speaking and general face to face communication, like myself, found others have syptoms silimar to that of I when in these situations. I don’t believe I have a lack of self-confidence or am I overly shy, but struggle to communicate with or to a new audience. This seems to be an attribute others also experience as found when reading In The Spotlight-Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing written by Janet E. Esposito (). She outlines her experiences as follows, “ I usually felt ok felt ok when I was speaking to an individual or only a few people in an informal setting. Sometimes, though, I had a surge of anxiety if I felt intimidated by a particular person or situation, or if I had a moment of self-consciousness about being the center of attention. The real panic, though, came when I had to speak in a more formal setting. This ranged from having to introduce myself in a new situation, such as in a class or seminar, to having to give a formal presentation of any length”.
There are many reasons behind why an individual fears public speaking, to develop my public speaking skills I must first understand what the major causes are of this fear. Research shows that the most common fears associated with public speaking include:
- The audience hates me.
- My powerpoint will crash.
- I have nothing interesting to say and the audience will be bored with my presentation.
- I will forget everything I want to say.
- I’ll run out of time or I’ll finish too early.
- People can’t understand me because I talk too quickly or too softly because I am nervous.
- I will say the wrong word, forget a section of my speech, or do something embarrassing.
In my personal opinion, this leads to one clear and simple answer to begin to improve my public speaking skills. The answer is, be prepared. Know the presentation back to front and word for word if possible. Knowing the content of your presentation will lead to a confident delivery. Practicing on family members and friends or even standing in the front of a large room will help ready the mind for the experience of the presentation and lead to this experience being less intimidating. This will lead to the experience being enjoyable rather than nerve wrecking and further boost confidence. This personal opinion is further solidified by a paper written by Herb Rubentstien (2003), where he explains key points of how to prepare for a presentation. These include:
- Know exactly why you are giving the speech or presentation.
- Knowing your subject matter.
- In whatever way works for best for you rehearse and practice your speech.
In conclusion, this blog entry reflecting on the presentation has allowed me to understand that I am one of many people with weak public speaking skills. Knowing this I have learnt there are methods and ways to improve on these skills over time, the most important being preparation and knowing the content. Knowing the content and rehearsing it will in turn lead to a confident delivery and successful presentation.
Design Is History. (n.d.). Swiss Design. Retrieved Feb 25, 2016, from Design Is History: http://www.designishistory.com/home/swiss/
Esposito, J. (2001). In The Spotlight-Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing. Brigewater, Connecticut, U.S.A: In The Spotlight.
Morgan, N. (2011, Mar 30). Why We Fear Public Speaking And How To Overcome It. Forbes .
Rubenstien, H. (2003). How to Prepare for Your Speech and Overcome Speaking Anxiety. Growth Strategies Inc.
Samara, T. (2005). Making and Breaking the Grid. Beverly, MA, U.S.A: Rockport Publishers,inc.
Stanford University. Overcoming Speech Anxiety. Human Centre for Writing and Speaking. Stanford University.