Friday, December 22, 2006

Why buy a PowerPoint background template when you can create your own?

The most searched for term in the area of PowerPoint are phrases around background templates. This is the basic look of your slides. There is an entire industry devoted to cranking out new templates for you to buy. They aren't going to like what I am about to say. Save your money! Why buy one when you can create a background template that is much more effective than most out there and will be completely unique to your presentations? The template industry would like you to believe that you need a degree in graphics and high-end software to create templates, but you don't (they don't tell you that do they). You just need to know what colors & fonts work, how to lay it out and the steps to do it in PowerPoint. That's why I have released my new e-book "Create Your Own PowerPoint Template" based on my webinar from earlier this year. Check it out by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

If the audience changes, so should your presentation

I met recently with a new client who wants my help in creating a presentation for an upcoming meeting with their company executives. They have an existing presentation on the topic, so why do they need my help? Because the audience has changed. The existing presentation is for detail oriented staff who need to know all the numbers and facts in this division. But executives don't. If you use a presentation geared for specialists to present to executives, you will lose them within two minutes. Executives need high-level strategic information. Their job is not to deal with details, but to make strategic decisions on where to invest the organization's resources - time and people. For each presentation, always go back to the start of the presentation structure process and determine if the goal and audience have changed. If so, time to relook at your presentation and come up with one that meets the new goal and takes into account the audience you will be presenting to.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Projector thoughts from PC Magazine

Today PC Magazine published an article reviewing some projectors and started with a review of what factors they consider important for selecting a projector. The author, M. David Stone, suggests that many people don't realize that some of what they consider important criteria are actually not (read the article here,1895,2071665,00.asp ). I have to disagree with him on three of his assertions. First, he says that for most business presentations an SVGA (800 x 600) resolution projector is just fine. I beg to differ. If all you are displaying is text, that may be OK, but today's top presenters are using visuals to support their message which require an XGA resolution projector as the minimum acceptable. I wonder if he has been sitting through too many boring text based presentations and thinks mistakenly that text is what top presenters use. Second, he suggests that if you have a wide screen laptop that you should consider getting a projector that is wide screen. I don't see the need. Wide screen projectors are so much more expensive and if you are going to be in situations where a room does not have a wide screen projector, you need to be prepared to present with a regular ratio projector. I own a wide screen laptop and run it in regular XGA mode so that what I see on my screen is exactly what the projector will see. Third, he says that when buying a projector, brighter is not always better. He claims that staring at a bright image for too long is hard on the eyes. Only true if that image is mostly white. That's why I suggest presenters not use a white background so that they don't tire the eyes of the audience. When you are selecting a projector, he says you need to consider what is myth and what is not. I agree. Don't necessarily believe all you read in the press. Test the ideas against what the real world tells us is true for top presenters like yourself.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Office 2007 Ribbon Observations

Last week Microsoft officially introduced the new version of Office, Office 2007, which includes a new version of PowerPoint. One of the major differences in the new version is the user interface. The familiar menus and selections have been replaced by a new ribbon interface which makes more options visible in a graphical ribbon across the top of the screen. I showed it to a buddy of mine and he made an observation that was very interesting. When he saw the ribbon, he immediately thought of the extra time people would spend creating presentations because now they would play with so many more settings than before, simply because they could now see that they could play with the settings. This was a very insightful observation and one I had not considered yet. While making more of the options visible to the user, Microsoft may have negatively impacted productivity by giving people too much to "play" with in terms of changing colors, fonts, layouts and art objects. I fear that we will end up with awful looking slides that people think are visually "cool" but are in reality annoying. Remember that even though you see that you can change so many more options, stick to good clean design practices that will make your slides clear and easy to understand for your audience.

I agree that moving from text based slides to more visual slides will improve your presentations, but think first about what visual will support the point you are making. I list fifteen common topics that you may be addressing in your presentation and how to create a visual slide for them in my e-book "Transforming Text Slides Into Visual Slides". Get your copy at .

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Presentation on today's Oprah show

Yesterday I wrote about how we are all going to be compared to great presentations that our audience's see and little did I know that today's Oprah show featured Al Gore and his presentation on global warming. Watch how he uses rich graphics, video and almost no text. See how he uses callouts on his graphics to make the point clearer to the audience. The reason that this presentation has been turned into a best selling documentary DVD is that the audience gets what he is talking about. Is it because he is a great speaker? No. It is because his presentation captures the heart with the visuals that demonstrate what he is saying. A great use of both pathways to the brain. He tells a story with pictures. Would the presentation be as compelling with a series of bullet point slides? No way! The lesson for all presenters: You need to think very hard about the slides you use and how you can make them more visual. That's why my new e-book gives examples (39 slide examples) of how to Transform Text Slides into Visual Slides. Click here to get your copy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"I'm OK because I use bullet points"

I was speaking to a customer service manager on a flight recently and we started with the usual questions on what each of us did. When he found out that I help presenters strategically use PowerPoint visuals to enhance their presentations, he commented that he does a number of presentations and was better than most because he didn't read sentences from the slide, but used bullet points. While I agree that using bullet points is better than reading from the slide, it is not a matter today of being better than those who are poor presenters. It is a matter of being as good as the best presenters your audience has seen. In today's world, we are not compared to just others in our own firm or industry, we are compared to the world's best that we see and hear on TV or the internet. So if you want to stand out and be remembered by your audience, you need to see the best and commit to working towards getting to their level. That's why this week I am going to the 10th annual Canadian Association of Professional Speakers Convention in Vancouver. I am going to observe and learn from the best in my industry and the best in the world. I'll also be delivering a concurrent session on future technology use in presentations and one of the topics I will cover is how the top presenters are using visual slides instead of text based slides. If you want to get my latest ideas on this topic, pick up a copy of my new e-book "Transforming Text Slides into Visual Slides" by clicking here. One of the most popular presentations being talked about is Al Gore's presentation on the environment. His rich use of visuals will now be expected by those who want to consider themeselves at the top of the presentation game.