Bad presentations are commonplace, but rather than focus on what is wrong with bad presentations, the authors looked at what makes an exceptional presentation. They referenced recent work on the aesthetic qualities of learning experiences by Patrick Parrish and others, which describe aesthetic learning experiences as those that involve learners in the right level of challenge and heightened engagement. Aesthetic learning experiences are memorable and often transformative, leaving learners with enhanced confidence and capabilities—the very definition of exceptional. By attending to the situational qualities of aesthetic learning experiences, presenters are more likely to create exceptional presentations that establish relevance and engagement—and, therefore, have a better chance at achieving specific learning objectives and outcomes. To do this, the authors identified the most viewed presentations on the TED website as the sample for their study. They created a matrix based on the situational qualities of aesthetic learning experiences and analyzed the top six "most viewed" presentations (as of July 15, 2011).
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