« A key to continuous learning: Keep a decision log | Main | A reading workflow based on Leveen's "Little Guide" »

What a difference a framework can make

I admit it: I love a good mental framework. While partly due to genetic anomalies that drove me toward engineering, computers, and personal productivity, having a good framework is also fundamental to being human. By "framework" I mean what Answers.com calls "A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality." To that I'd add the framework needs to be applied by providing processes, practices, and/or tools to adopt it.

This comes up because I'm creating version 2.0 of my full-day workshop in preparation for summer seminars (including one for NASA employees at the Kennedy Space Center - woo hoo!) and as usual I was having a terrible time facing the task. I've committed to moving to PowerPoint for many good reasons (especially better connection with the audience and more effective adoption of the ideas), but I think putting together a good one is hard. This leads to my procrastinating on the preparation, avoiding it until the last few weeks and making the process extremely unpleasant. This is not an example of "enjoying the ride" [1].

Thankfully, Ricky Spears recommended Cliff Atkinson's book Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire. Wow. I've heard mixed opinions about the book from people I greatly admire, but I found that so far Atkinson's framework (based on presentation = story) really resonates. It's also given me a whack on the head by realizing that my prior lack of a framework (including a process) has been a major problem.

And that's one huge benefit of a framework: Without one, I felt lost. Yes, structure brings constraint, but it can also provide freedom to give your creativity an outlet. In the case of my workshop, it's also making me face the hard questions around goals, clarifying the essential ideas, and coming up with a compelling story and theme. (All the while developing my own brand and identity.) As a result, the process is feeling more fun, and is giving me some solid anti-procrastination direction.

Some of the other frameworks I've found helpful:
We'll see how it works out for my presentation, but what about you? What frameworks gave you an "aha!" and how did they help? How'd you find out about them? And did they turn you into a saint, prophet, or evangelist?


Reader Comments (13)

I can relate closely to your workshop development challenges and appreciate your reference to Cliff's book. Personally, I've found Dave Paradi's tips on his PowerPoint blog (and his book) to often be quite helpful to me.
Thanks for the post, Don

April 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Thanks for the support, and for the pointer to the book ( [ Guide to PowerPoint | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0131452401?ie=UTF8&tag=masidbl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0131452401 ] ). I'll check it out.

April 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Good luck with your forthcoming seminars.

Congratulations on your seminar for NASA. This should contribute to placing you on-orbit! ;^)

For visual presentations, I love using OmniGraffle to prepare slides. For the delivery I usually simply export the OmniGraffle document as a pdf file. I can both show it on the screen and print it as a handout. I have posted something on this a while back at ://pascalvenier.com/blog/?p=60

It is also possible to export each OmniGraffle slide as a jpg image and then import them in PowerPoint.

I must say that I am very weary of using PowerPoint for important presentations. A few years back, I gave a plenary presentation at a conference at the University of Oxford and had the very unpleasant surprise of discovering when I started talking that my slides on looked nothing like what it was when I had prepared them! :-( I prepared the material on a Mac and a Window machine was used for the conference: some of the colours, formats, setting, etc were different.

Ever since, I always have a pdf file version of the presentation as a back up.

April 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPascal Venier

Two additional resources might be of interest to you:

Guy Kawasaki's post The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

and a great blog: Presentation Zen

April 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPascal Venier

Pascal, thank you *very* much for tips and pointers!

April 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Just a side-comment coming from a completely different discipline. In connecting with other organizers of Integral Theory groups, I've discovered that exactly this dichotomy between structure/framework and spontaneous free-flow/allowing what wants to arise emerge can prove challenging. It can take much thought and experimentation before a person/group finds the proportion that works for her/them. My experience is that both pieces are exceedingly valuable, in my discipline at least I'd even say necessary.

Congratulations on your upcoming workshops!!!! You go, Matt!

April 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRainier

Rainier: Neat thinking! I like your perspective of what percentage makes sense. I guess I was thinking it was all-or-nothing - you adopt the framework or not. I'd like to hear more. Plus, the [ Integral theory | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_theory_(philosophy) ] stuff is cool. (BTW, I bet you'd be a great person to edit that Wikipedia entry :-)

Congratulations on your upcoming workshops!!!! You go, Matt!: Much obliged! I very open to encouragement right now - got a bit down with all that's happening. I'm excited to do it, though. Just don't ask about the forms I'm having to fill out - it's been a while since I worked for NASA, and I forgot about paperwork!!

April 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Matt: It seems as though your success continues to grow ... congratulations!!! Though I'm in no way surprised ... continued success for you.


Jeff H (Architect) Fort Worth, Texas

April 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeff H

Thanks, Jeff!

April 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Matt, maybe what you need is a system. The difference between a framework and a system is that a framework is a tool; a system is a process with all the tools built in. Good luck with the NASA engagement.I'm sure it will be a successful experience for you and your client.

April 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavey

Hi Davey.

The difference between a framework and a system is that a framework is a tool; a system is a process with all the tools built in.: As usual, an excellent point - I hadn't thought the difference before reading your comment.

Good luck with the NASA engagement.I'm sure it will be a successful experience for you and your client. Thanks! I'm looking forward to it.

April 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hi Matt,

I must admit that understanding the frame works is not an easy job and indeed it involves lot of complexities and other problems,i think its not really been the best way to get the concept of the framework.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIT Services

I continue to play with ways to organize ideas - I agree it's difficult!

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.