Take 2 easy steps to improve presentation clarity
My 87-year old father has glaucoma. The instructions and legal notices that come with his eyedrop
prescription include several tissue-thin pages of fine 4-point text.
He asked his doctor and nurse to read it to him. They could not.
"It doesn't matter," they told him. "It's mostly legal and medical mumbo
jumbo, anyhow."If it doesn't matter: then why is it there?
Here is an easy two-step approach that can improve the clarity of any presentation:
- If a presentation element doesn't help tell the story:
get rid of it.
- And if a particular component is truly essential:
Hopefully, we will trend toward improved presentation clarity
- Larger, more meaningful headlines.
- Slimmer, simpler layouts.
- Fewer unnecessary animations and transitions.
And of course, a focus on the unique needs of the audience is heartily recommended!
Labels: PowerPoint Presentation
PowerPoint Parade or Pioneer?
Years ago, Seth Godin
wrote and distributed a short, snazzy, superficial ebook
called "Really Bad PowerPoint."
On the eve of the worldwide release of PowerPoint 2007, Mr. Godin
says PowerPoint presentations have gotten worse. So he re-posts ebook highlights
in his blog, with the "vain hope" it might work this time.Mr. Godin is just kidding
. He knows that reposting
a glib remix of old advice that admittedly didn't work in 2003 is not really going to make corporate PowerPoint presentations any better in 2007.Follow the PowerPoint parade.
On the eve of a major new software release, Mr. Godin
saw an easy opportunity to safely get behind the PowerPoint publicity parade. So he took it. His latest post follows the bandwagon beat of bashing OPP - Other People's PowerPoint
(Do a Google search for Death by PowerPoint
today -- and the engine will dredge up over 1.5 million pages. And every page will tout very similar advice
likely knows that many new media communication platforms, including:
- PowerPoint Presentations
- Cell Phone Conversations
- Online videos
...are largely do-it-yourself, bootstrappy communication platforms
. These platforms put content and design in the hands of the people.You are a Pioneer!
And if you use any of these power-to-the-people media to deliver your messages -- you are a communication pioneer.
(It's why Time Magazine made you the person of the year in 2006.)
But as a pioneer: you will likely make a few mistakes.
Learn from them.
And move on.
Continue to grow the medium.
As long as there are communication pioneers, really bad PowerPoint is not going to go away any time soon.
My predictions:Power to the Pioneers:
With today's release of PowerPoint 2007, I predict that PowerPoint presentation design
is going to get a lot worse this year!Power to the Parade Followers:
predict that Google will serve up an additional quarter million "Death by PowerPoint
" pages by the end of 2008. Very few authors will discuss their own failings with the medium: rather, blog pundits will continue to critique the failings of OPP.Power to the People!
And like Mr. Godin
, you can be a new media pioneer and a successful parade-follower at the same time! People who deliver pioneering presentations will also find fault with the PowerPoint designs of others... and write all about it on their blogs or chat it up in their podcasts.
How's that for closing the new media feedback loop?
Or increasing the noise-to-signal ratio? ;)
Labels: Blogging, PowerPoint Presentation
MS Webcast to Announce Office 2007 and Vista
Microsoft is finally launching Windows Vista as well as the 2007 Microsoft Office System. You can watch Bill Gates announce the worldwide launch live
from Times Square New York (via webcast) at 4:45pm EST today.
You will need Windows Media Player to view the live MS webcast, natch. And if you miss the live presentation at quarter to five, not to worry. All the TV news outlets will likely cover the event at six pm.
And if you do not watch TV news, the Gates webcast presentation will likely be available for post-event viewing
on demand. For grins, you can also download past PowerPoint presentations given by Mr. Gates & company.
If you are into that carefully-crafted media hoopla thing.
Valentine Background - Tiny Hearts
Since this the year of Cute
, I bring you a free Valentine PowerPoint background
featuring tiny little hearts.(Click on the image, then right click to download. Apply as a background to your Valentine PowerPoint presentation.)
But if you are a rugged, manly sort, you will probably want to avoid tiny hearts and go for one big massive heart
Choice is yours!
Labels: PowerPoint Background
Online Fun With Facial Recognition
How good are you at spotting a fake smile?
You can test your success in this quick Spot the Fake smile quiz
, brought to you by the BBC. You simply view 20 quick video clips, and judge them as "Genuine" or "Fake". You can only play each clip once, so you must rely on your gut reaction.More fun with faces.
Next, go visit myHeritage.com to use their facial recognition
software. For the example you see below, I simply swept up my hair with my hand, snapped a head-on photo with my laptop's video cam, and let the myHeritage.com software scan my pouty mug.
Next, the software did an online photo database search to find the celebrity mugshot that most closely matched my facial characteristics.The difference between fake and genuine laughter.
So when my friends snorted with derision or burst out in laughter at my flattering myHeritage analysis, I could instantly assess that their amusement was genuine.
(Other than being a humanoid, I have nothing in common with Angelina Jolie.)
Still, there will be no living with me now. Or ever.
Who is your celebrity look-alike? Visit myHeritage and find out! And have fun...
Eye contact online
Last month, I wrote of the hazards of making eye contact
with the speaker.
This month, Steve at Perspector
points me to Ms Dewey
-- a search engine that attempts to humanize the online search process by adding an actress who stares at you and makes comments while you search.
Steve and I both think this search engine is creepy.
And it is not just the disturbing eye contact: it is also the disconnect between the need of the audience to find information fast -- and the search engine's goal of...well, being cute, I suppose.
But just how much online cutesy/creepy can you stand? Is online eye contact and innuendo-laden banter really necessary for a winning online search experience?
And do you think Ms. Dewey is a successful search engine concept?
Use Your Blog Instead of PowerPoint
Dennis McDonald tells us that he successfully gave a live presentation to an audience of professional association executives. And he used his blog instead of PowerPoint
The benefits of a blog over PowerPoint for this presentation?Better show-and-tell.
What makes a better first-grade show-and-tell experience: if I show the class a picture of my dog, or if I bring my dog to the class? Dr. McDonald was showcasing the power of Web 2.0. A series of screenshots in PowerPoint could not provide as valuable an experience as demo-ing the real deal.Richer conversations afterward.
Dr. McDonald gave his audience access to a password protected area of his blog-presentation, so that they could review information and post comments. This method is far superior to distributing an out-of-context ppt file after the show. A blog platform allows the presentation to expand, giving it more breadth and depth.
The pitfalls of blog over PowerPoint?Beware the crash.
From the wireless going wonky to the blogsite crashing (and all points in between), giving a live online presentation can be fraught with peril. Having a back-up in hand is a must for live internet presentations. And as far as back-ups go, those screenshots in PowerPoint might not have been such a bad alternative!Browser bumpiness.
Dr. McDonald had to bump up his font size for presentation legibility, and then bump them back down for navigation. This can make for a bumpy presentation! Dr. McDonald worked around this issue by using Firefox settings: the Zoom and Text Size features in IE7 would also provide an equally bumpy workaround.
If I had given this presentation, I would likely have used Dr. McDonald's approach -- although I would have had a back-up. After all, I have demo'd many live sites in front of live audiences: using a blog to present is no different.
However, giving the audience a platform to continue enriching the presentation and the content after the show is over? That's powerful stuff! The blog platform can enrich and extend the topic and the conversation.Teachers and trainers:
How will you use the power of blogging to enrich your presentations this year?
Labels: PowerPoint Presentation
New Blogger or Old Blogger?
I use Old Blogger to maintain this blog. Google wants me to press the button and switch to New Blogger. I might as well do it, Google contends. More reliable, new post labels, better template editing, and privacy controls.
And then the kicker -- within a few months, they will force me to switch, anyway.
Two clients of mine are using New Blogger: and all is well. However, they have brand new blogs with few posts. I have over 300 posts in this blog.
I tested New Blogger in Beta in November -- boy was it buggy! I'd hate to push that "switch" button and have it all go haywire: because apparently, there is no going back once you switch.
So: what should I do?
Go ahead and push that button? Or wait until I am forced? Or something else?
Podcasting from PowerPoint in 2007
Over a year ago, I wrote a few posts about podcasting from PowerPoint
Well, times have changed! What worked over a year ago is no longer a best practice. Not even close!
So how do you podcast from PowerPoint in 2007?In a nutshell: Camtasia Studio by Techsmith
For a terrific tutorial on how to convert your PowerPoint presentation into an iPod presentation fit for podcasting, please view Techsmith's excellent 15 minute PowerPoint to iPod tutorial
Further, Techsmith offers a fully-functional 30-day trial
.But freebie-lovers take note:
After you use Camtasia for 30 days, it will be hard for you to go on without it! It has paid for itself many times over for me... other than creating online presentations for my own sites, I have also used Camtasia to create dozens of compelling online video presentations for clients...full of sound and motion!And also note:
Techsmith doesn't pay me a dime to write this rave review. I am simply a big fan of TechSmith products!
But on a personal note... the fact that TechSmith is located in nearby Okemos, Michigan, USA makes me happy to be a Michigander. When/if you call customer support, you get a polite and extremely helpful Midwesterner answering your questions.
Anyway, podcasting PowerPointing pioneers will want to visit visit Techsmith, pronto!
American Idol, Karaoke, and the Corporate Culture Crisis
Another season of American Idol begins this week. And American Idol is a pop culture phenomenon based on...Karaoke.
I wrote of PowerPoint Karaoke
last week -- and how your church is not a Karoake bar
last month -- then I read the final paragraph in an article from Wall Street Journal writer Jared Sandberg...
Larry Chung, a software developer, doesn't criticize fellow presenters, he says, "because I know the tables could be turned a few weeks later." To him, PowerPoint presentations are like corporate karaoke. "For the most part, it's tough to listen to," he says. "We all applaud each other even though we know how bad it stinks."
If something as vapid as an American Idol song gets a brutally honest performance evaluation -- do we not owe the same to our valued corporate colleagues?
Or is it just easier to endlessly snipe about "Death by PowerPoint"...as if PowerPoint was the problem ...and not the presentation?
Speakers Look Great with a PowerPoint Key Light Effect
When you are presenting to a small group, why not create a PowerPoint background with an area that puts the spotlight on you? After all, you are the star of the show. Why not show yourself the best light?
Last week, I determined that I look sickly-scary when a blue PowerPoint background shines in my face
from the projector in a small board room. I determined that pink is a much better color for my fair December complexion.
So I created an area on the PowerPoint background -- a pink spotlight
(see graphic) where I can stand while I give my presentation.
I bathe myself in a beautiful pink light, while the data and graphics get second billing on the other side of the slide.
Simple enough, no?
And while I was at it, I saw no reason not to create different shapes for my keylight. Hey, spotlights don't always have to be round! If I'm performing a presentation on the power of love (for a mock example) a heart-shaped PowerPoint
background may be in order!
The speaker should be more exciting than his or her slides. And creating a personalized speaker keylight background in PowerPoint is not only respectful to the presenter, but also to the venue and the audience.
When it comes to sales presentations, your audience is more likely to take the padlocks off of their wallets when they see you in a favorable light. And I mean that literally!
Remember, all the hard data in the world cannot combat the warm and glowing beauty of your personality...
So how will you experiment with shapes, colors, and gradients to create a stunning key light effect for the speaker
PowerPoint 2007 Beta Testing Almost Over
If you have been testing with the PowerPoint 2007 Beta
, your time is running out.
Microsoft sent out this email deadline reminder for Office 2007 Beta Release 2:
- with no update: Feb.1, 2007
- updated with the beta 2 technical refresh: March 31, 2007
- server products updated with the beta 2 technical refresh: May 15, 2007
Naturally, MS wants you to buy the new PowerPoint 2007 as soon as they release it to the public. But you have two other options, as well:
Whatcha gonna do? Who's going to the launch event at Cobo next month?
PowerPoint 2007 Add-Ins: Which Ones Work?
Microsoft plans to release PowerPoint 2007 this month. Before you upgrade, ask yourself:
"What about my favorite PowerPoint Add-Ins?
How well will they work with the new version?"
PowerPoint 2007 is a major upgrade, and the status of many of your favorite PowerPoint add-in or plug-in products are all over the map. Some add-ins will involve a free upgrade, some involve paid upgrades...and some may require no upgrade at all.
Some PowerPoint add-in vendors have emailed me to say that they have tested their add-ins with the PowerPoint 2007 Beta and they work great -- so they expect that their add-ins will work with the "real deal". Other vendors have written that they will need to revise their plug-ins and offer a new release to ensure 2007 compatibility. Other vendors are still more cautious -- they are waiting to have an official non-Beta PowerPoint 2007 release until they publicly admit that their products will work with Microsoft's latest PowerPoint version.
In other words, some vendors feel they are ready right now, others need some time to test.My advice to PowerPoint users?
Before you upgrade to PowerPoint 2007, do an add-in inventory. If you frequently use an "I cannot live without it" PowerPoint add-in, check with the vendor to make sure your add-in will be compatible. Most add-in vendors post upgrade and compatibility information on their sites. You might want to hold off on a PowerPoint 2007 upgrade until your "must have" add-in is ready.My advice to PowerPoint add-in vendors?
Keep your customers and prospects in the loop. Let us know when/if you plan to have your product work with 2007. Update your sites today to keep us informed. Press releases are nice -- blog posts outlining your intentions are terrific, too. And I have to tell ya...the sites that say "compatible with PowerPoint 97 and newer" aren't doing much to raise my comfort level. Be a tad more specific, please!
That said, if you are an add-in or plug-in vendor, feel free to comment below and tell us where your product stands with regard to PowerPoint 2007. You can also link to your site or add-in download page. Thanks!
Subscribing to blogs: Email v. RSS
It's 2007, and the easiest way to subscribe to my blog is still through good, old-fashioned e-mail.Enter your email address
in the space provided in the right-hand margin of this blog. Then, whenever I post a new entry, you will receive it in your email. You will get tips, tricks, templates, backgrounds, and more! And of course, you can unsub at any time.Your other option: Subscribe with RSS.
Why? RSS makes it easy & anonymous
to subscribe to this site. With RSS, you can keep up-to-date with presentation tips, tricks, ideas, and downloads...without giving up any of your personal information (like email address or name)...at all. All you have to do is click here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Maniactive
and click "subscribe to this feed".Talk about low risk!
You have nothing to lose! But still...
Surveys show that only about 10 percent of all web users subscribe to blogs and feeds through the safer, easier, and faster RSS.So honestly:
if you are one of the 9 our of 10 internet users that are not using RSS, make it your 2007 New Year's resolution to subscribe with RSS this year. Why?
Safer, faster, easier, smarter...and free. What's not to like about RSS?
PowerPoint and the Pleasures of the Flesh
The pleasures of the flesh.
For my next business presentation in a small room that uses a portable projector, I am going to use a pink, flesh colored PowerPoint background. I don't care what the topic of the presentation might be.
Why? I see an image of myself giving a presentation in that small meeting room. The PowerPoint presentation has a beautiful "business blue" background. I pace in front of 1700 lumens.Ghastly!
I look like something from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. Shining up on a pale December-in-Michigan face, blue tones give me that frightening zombie look. My audience must be horrified.
And it's not just me. When blue lights shine up on most human faces, the result is cadaverous.The red light district.
So what tones look best on human flesh? Well, they don't call it the "red light" district for nothing! Ladies of ill-repute know that being bathed in red-toned light can hide the ravages of an unhealthy lifestyle. So if you want to hide the pox as you dance on a pole, for example, red might be a good choice.
For myself, I tend to avoid red lights. Makes me look like an angry, tall tomato. And I certainly don't want to associate myself with anything erotic in a small, intimate business meeting!Think pink.
Face it: even if you're a macho he-man, you are going to look marvelous bathed in pink. It warms up your facial tones. It smoothes wrinkles. You will look healthy and vibrant. Yes, for my next small-meeting PowerPoint presentation, I will envelop myself in a soft pink aura that compliments my expressions and features.
After all, shouldn't a presenter put herself in the best light? ;)
PowerPoint Karaoke, Bingo, and My Pet Giraffe
Weird fun with PowerPoint...when Joi Ito blogs about the rules of engagement for PowerPoint Karaoke
, a commenter counters with the game of "PowerPoint Bingo".
Akin to PowerPoint Bingo, I like PowerPoint "My Pet Giraffe".Rules of the game:
tell the audience you will be saying three secret words in your short presentation. Afterwards, ask the audience to guess which three words were the "secret" ones.
Prizes for correctly guessing the three secret words are optional!Why it is called "My Pet Giraffe?"
It's based on a game we often play on long road trips -- we carry a deck of cards with three unrelated words on it. Whoever draws the card has to tell a 30 second story that always begins "I was taking my Pet Giraffe for a walk." During the narrative, the storyteller must use the three words. After time is up, the players have to guess the three words.
The idea is to tell creative, impromptu stories with so much rich, vivid, or absurd detail that the players have difficulty guessing which words are the secret ones. It also teaches you to work on your poker face and not grin too much when you use your "secret" words.The Business Twist.
But in business presentations, you can make the "secret" words obvious, to encourage the audience to pick out the key points of the presentation. This not only makes the presentation more interactive, it gives you an opportunity to re-iterate your main points at the end.
Anyway, you can go and download my PowerPoint version of the My Pet Giraffe game
, if you like. Teachers tell me they use it as a classroom vocabularly activity, as well. Have fun with it!
I'm not a MAC. I'm not a PC.
When it comes to creating presentations, I am platform agnostic.
But some of the worst presentations I have ever seen have been created on the Macintosh computer.
No offense to Apple. It's not the Mac.
It's the people who use their Macs to create awful presentations. Using a Mac doesn't turn a bad story teller into a great one.Case in point:
what recent slate of TV commercials could possibly be more offensive than the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC campaign"? I mean to women, minorities, and people over 30?
Seriously. It's not awful because it was created on a MAC...or a PC. Or whatever.
It's awful because it perpetuates stereotypes, is age-ist, racist, sexist...
...so why are these degrading commercials still on my TV? And on Apple's website?
Doesn't Apple get it?
It's not the tool. It's never the tool that creates these horrible presentations.
It's people with bad ideas and bad execution.
PowerPoint presentations are largely a Do-It-Yourself (DIY), bootstrappy creative effort by business presenters.
And I like that.
I find the DIY attitude among business presenters refreshing. It's part of what made PowerPoint so successful -- it took message and design out the realm of "The Man" and put PowerPoint into the hands of "The People".
Hey...according to Microsoft, more than 30 million presentations are made around the world with PowerPoint every day. Over 30 million DIY presentations cannot be wrong!
DIY clearly rules!
All three approaches are (somewhat) flawed.
- Designers do not want to know this. Designers like to believe that important business presentations need to be designed by professionals.
- Collaborators do not want to hear this. Collaborators want to believe that everyone should have input.
- CEOs do not want to read this. They want to delegate their PowerPoint presentations.
If you hand your presentation to a designer, you often get a "pretty" presentation with no message, story, or flow. In a collaborator's hands, the "designed by committed" presentation can be confusing. Delegate your presentation, and you risk losing an important part of your presentation: your personality and point of view.So what's the answer?
I'm a collaborator, so naturally I'm biased. But as a collaborator, I recognize the importance of defining roles for each presentation.
Take on the role of the storyteller. Respect the Designer. Respect the Accountant. Respect the CEO. They all have a perspective and point-of-view and wisdom to contribute.
But be honest. You have to tell the accountant that her spreadsheet contains too much information for one slide. You have to tell the ad agency's creative director that his clever visual does nothing to communicate to the audience. You have to tell the CEO that basing a board presentation on a picture of a rainbow is downright flaky. And you have to ask for input before you give your own DIY presentation.
You have to be willing to admit that the emperor may have no clothes. And "naked" does not necessarily make for a great presentation!
Power to the People. Listen, "the People" have done some awful things with PowerPoint over the past few decades. In their exuberance, they have often unwittingly overwhelmed, confused, and/or bored their audiences. (Sometimes simultaneously!)
If you are going the DIY PowerPoint route, bootstrap your way to a successful business presentation by realizing that the audience rules.
They are "the People" that really matter. The Accountant, the designer, the CEO...their input is valuable.
But inevitably, it's the audience, man.