Saturday, January 29, 2011

PowerPoint Slide Makeover #69: Demonstrating calculations

Below I’ve posted a new Slide Makeover Video Podcast based on the ideas in "The Visual Slide Revolution". It is a good idea to use calculations to back up or prove the points you are making. This makeover shows how a slide overloaded with text explanations of the calculations can become more effective.

The slides I use in my makeovers are drawn from my consulting engagements and training workshops. If you want to submit some of your slides to be considered for a future slide makeover, e-mail them to me at

You can get all my podcasts through iTunes, subscribing to my YouTube channel, or through Brainshark. If you have subscribed via iTunes or YouTube, please provide your positive feedback on the videos in the Comments and Ratings areas of the service so others know the value you get from the videos.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Structuring a presentation that sells effectively

In my consulting work, I recently worked with three different CEOs on presentations where the primary objective was to sell their ideas or services. The reason an executive hires me to work with them on a presentation is not because I am a designer who creates fancy looking slides. They hire me because I work on the content of their presentation to make it effective and create slides that support the message (if you want to see if I would be a good fit for your organization, read this page). Today I want to share a few ideas on making sales presentations more effective.

The foundation is to get a clear structure as the starting point. Let me use one of the recent situations as an example. I asked the CEO to answer the three key structure questions. First, what do you want the Board of Directors to do at the end of the presentation? While this sounds like an easy question, it took some discussion before we came up with the specific action he wanted them to take. It was not to make the buying decision that day. Don’t always settle for the first easy answer to this question, because it may not be as clear and specific as you need it to be.

The second question was what situation did the Board of Directors find themselves in at this time? There was a history of what had happened that was causing them to search for a new supplier of this service. What were the pain points? Was there a looming deadline (there was, within three days of the presentation)? What other competitors were they also asking to present a proposal? Finding out as much about the current situation is critical in setting the stage to answer the third question.

The third question is what arguments will you make that will move the Board of Directors from their current situation to the desired action by the end of the presentation? There should be three to five of these key ideas. If you have more than three to five, group like ideas into broad categories Think of these as the elements of an equation, where you would be able to say that because of argument one, plus argument two, plus argument three, plus argument four, the conclusion is that the Board should take the following action. These must be logical and in sequence to take the Board on the journey.

Getting a solid structure takes some time, but it is critical to the success of the presentation. I worked with this CEO on the structure over 2-3 phone calls and we developed answers to all three questions. He was amazed at the clarity it gave him on what needed to be said during the presentation.

Only then could we decide on what slides he would use to support the arguments in the presentation. Your slides are never the starting point for the presentation. We created slides that demonstrated his company’s unique approach and expertise. When he went to present, he was confident because he was clear on the message he was to deliver. Any questions that came up could be answered easily because he knew what direction he wanted to take the conversation.

The end result, he won the deal worth over $200,000. Having a good presentation structure is a key ingredient to selling your ideas effectively in any setting. Start with structure, then create slides to support your arguments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PowerPoint Slide Makeover #68: Distracting background images (uses slide from Gov Cuomo)

Just a quick note to let you know that a new Slide Makeover Video Podcast based on the ideas in "The Visual Slide Revolution" is available for your viewing through the iTunes Store, online or through my YouTube channel. Using an image as the background for your slide might seem like a way to increase the visual appeal of your slides, but it can actually distract the audience from your message. This makeover takes a slide used by NY Gov Cuomo and shows how the message could stand out more without an image background.

This slide is similar to those submitted by the participants in my workshops - someone just like you who is looking for a way to make their presentations more effective. If you want to submit some of your slides to be considered for a future slide makeover, e-mail them to me at

If you have already subscribed through iTunes or another podcatcher, the new podcast should be automatically downloaded when you next run the program.

To subscribe via the iTunes Store, click here.
To view online or get the RSS file for other podcatchers, click here.
You can also watch all the podcasts on my YouTube channel at

If you have subscribed via iTunes or YouTube, please provide your positive feedback on the videos in the Comments and Ratings areas of the service so others know the value you get from the videos.

To get your own copy of "The Visual Slide Revolution", click here.
To access quick "how-to" videos for only $1.99 each, click here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Switch the focus from the data to the audience

A few months ago I advised a senior executive at a research firm on an upcoming presentation. Today I want to share the advice I gave her because it can benefit all presenters who are sharing data with their audience.

This executive was about to present data to a client and the desire was that the client understand what that data meant to their business. This type of scenario is common to many analysts and other professionals who present internally or to clients. She was struggling with how to make the data make sense. As we chatted, the key issue became clear.

She was focused on the data, where it came from, how it had been collected, and proving that the data was accurate. All important aspects to her, but not important to the audience. The audience didn’t care as much about the origins of the data as it did about what that data meant to their business. They cared about what directions the data suggested, what this data implied for their future initiatives, and what they should do now given the results of the research.

Once she heard what I was saying, she was able to view her presentation from a totally different perspective, the perspective of the audience. She focused her presentation on the key conclusions from the research and gave a few points of proof from the data. It helped the audience understand and act on the points she presented. She also mentioned that she found it easier to present since she was focused on the few key messages and could stay on track without getting lost in the details of the data.

The key for this executive, and for many presenters, is to switch the focus from the data to the audience. By taking the audience’s perspective, you gain great clarity on what they are looking for and what is important to them. If you have a lot of data, you’ll see that the audience is really only interested in the conclusions, not the data itself. They don’t need to hear all the background behind the data. They need to know what they should do based on what the data and analysis has shown.

Make this switch in your perspective, and you will find data driven presentations become far more effective.