PowerPoint Pet Peeve: The Passive Voice
Which sentence do you like better?
- A PowerPoint presentation was given by the CEO.
- The CEO gave a PowerPoint presentation.
Both sentences relay the same information. So why do you like the second one better?
- The first sentence is longer. It uses the passive voice.
- The second sentence is shorter. It uses the active voice.
When I listen to speakers who almost exclusively rely upon the passive voice, I go a little bonkers. Why?The passive voice is mushy and weaselly.
It signals that the speaker is trying to hide something. When someone says, "Mistakes were made
," I instantly want to spring up and scream, "By whom?"
If one more benefit shakes out of using Twitter, let it be a giant reduction in people using the passive voice. Active voice is shorter, swifter, and more powerful. It takes responsibility. It's the stronger, nobler choice.
I have no idea why so many presenters use the passive voice. Do you?
And what are your grammatical presentation pet peeves?
(Of course, it might be a fun exercise to write your blog comments, exclusively using the passive voice. That might help me exorcise my peevishness!)
Labels: PowerPoint, Presentation, Twitter
How to Take PowerPoint Personally
The Passion of the PowerPoint. I'm stunned by the passion that PowerPoint (yes, humble PowerPoint!) can arouse! My previous Propaganda, PowerPoint and You inspired Olivia Mitchell to launch a group blogging project. She asked other bloggers to write about what they'd like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009.
To date, Olivia has received over 40 passionate responses from bloggers all over the world! Most are amazing, well-reasoned, and thoughtful. Some are funny, witty, silly. But almost all are passionate!
photo credit: Arbron
Had to grin at Seth Godin's response about my "Propaganda" post. He wrote:
“Simple: she’s wrong. As the first person to speak up and out about single ideas/images and death to bullets, I take this one personally. Resist temptation. Do not backslide!”
This response reminds me of a line from the 1968 Television Mockumentary, How to Irritate People.
In this pre-Monty Python sketch comedy assortment
, John Cleese says (something like),
"If you go to a party and announce, 'The trouble with women is that they take everything personally!', about 4 women will jump up and say, 'Well, I don't!'"
How to take things personally.
You can take things personally if someone:
- actually names you.
- refers to you as a pronoun.
- judges you morally!
I didn't mention Mr. Godin in my post, so why would he take it personally? Godin is hardly the first person to recognize that propaganda techniques can be effective at persuading! As for my being "wrong" -- about what? Noticing that people seem as irritated with propaganda-heavy presentations as they are with deeply analytical presentations? Posing a few benign "what do you think" and "how about" questions in a blog post?
That brand of "wrong" was pervasive in Amerika for the past 8 years. Hopefully, it's on the way out.
photo credit: istopcrappics
I'll repeat: many people seem bored. In 2008, I was often an audience member where presentation content and design relied almost exclusively on propaganda techniques. It was merely tedious in sales and marketing presentations, but wildly inappropriate for technical training and scientific demonstrations.
The backlash against this approach is palpable. As an audience member, I feel it. I also witness others fidgeting uncomfortably. I hear whispers. I see people shout stuff like -- "Where's the beef? Hasty Generalization! Dicto Simplicter! Ad Nauseum!" and the like -- when they're watching a webinar littered with information-light, carefully-crafted, simple-image PowerPoint slides.
And yes, I read the snarky Tweets in the back channels
. And hear the gossip in the hallways and break rooms at conferences. (You can, too.)
I've witnessed the backlash first hand in 2008. A lot more than I have room for in one blog post!
So I noted the backlash. And I asked questions about it. I wondered if another approach would rise up and become popular in 2009. I suggested that a "middle road" might occur with a swing of the pendulum.
In my world, it's not wrong to note trends or ask questions!
That's so 2001.
In 2009, you can listen to your audience talk back on social media channels. You can also choose to engage or ignore the rise of an increasingly media-savvy audience. Hopefully, a more dynamic public will start recognizing heavy-handed propaganda techniques -- and start talking about them. People are already pushing back on Twitter, on blogs, at Bar Camps
-- how long will it take for the backlash to happen in person at industry conferences, classrooms, and corporate meetings?
Labels: design, fun, PowerPoint, social media
Social Media Inspired PowerPoint Design for 2009
"What would you like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009?"
That's what Olivia Mitchell, who writes the fantastic Speaking About Presenting
blog, asked me last month. Now, Olivia didn't ask just me: she also acted as community organizer, posing the question to a plethora of presentation bloggers. She asked us to write one post on this topic.
Many have already posted replies at their blogs. (Olivia promises to organize these posts at her blog later this month, for your finding & reading enjoyment. When you visit her blog, subscribe, and you'll be alerted! Lots of great ideas!)
My PowerPoint design wishes for 2009?
- The look and feel of social media techniques will transition into PowerPoint design.
- Presentations will be designed with audience participation -- and push back -- in mind.
Yeah, I want design that stimulates thoughtful discussion. I prefer design that inspires action and meaningful audience participation. So what might this kind of PowerPoint design look like?
I'm a big fan of Twitter. And many of my blogging colleagues are on Twitter, as well. Read this amazing Tweet from design virtuoso Tony Ramos
Short, Simple, Tweet.
The brevity of Twitter can make you a better designer. A better headline writer. A better presenter. Using and studying Twitter can be a powerful exercise in how to get your point across swiftly and succinctly. Twitter is enjoying phenomenal growth. The more people use Twitter, the more your audience will come to expect powerful brevity in all communication media. Start using this "short and sweet" writing technique in your 2009 PowerPoint design. (You can follow me at Twitter
: I'll be honored!)
Meet Your Audience. Yes, you can often use various social media outlets -- Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, your own blog, YouTube, et. al. -- to meet your audience pre-presentation, to get a better feel for who they are and what some of their questions and concerns may be about your topic. Such a wonderful technique, to get to know a few audience members before you give a talk -- to tailor your speech, to use their names, to personalize the presentation!
Over five years ago, the engaging Joi Ito wrote of the heckle bot
. Brilliant! While you're speaking, your audience can give you feedback on your performance. Today, the Twitter back channel
is the new heckle bot, giving a speaker instant performance feedback. Of course, it's awfully hard to read Tweets while you're performing -- but you can review your back channel comments afterwards to continually improve your performance and design.
Grassroots, D-I-Y Design.
I'm quite encouraged that people are using social media channels to talk back. I'm thrilled to see people challenge corporate, political, and thought leaders on these online, public platforms. So naturally, I'm pleased to see that, like social media, PowerPoint design still takes a (mostly) grassroots, bootstrapping, D-I-Y approach to design. They may not always be pretty, polished, or professional -- but I've seen many presenters persuade with their passion.
Less Propaganda. I use propaganda techniques in presentations. It can be effective for persuading. But persuading isn't the only purpose in giving a presentation. Sometimes, you'll want to spark an honest, intelligent, and interactive discussion. As a presenter, there are times when you'll want to learn from your audience. Social media can be an effective channel for encouraging lively dialog -- and so can a PowerPoint presentation that isn't overly focused on manipulating the audience into taking your side.
Willingness to be wrong or unpopular is a virtue. After all, how many of us are tired of the "If you're not with me, you're against me!" bandwagon approach? And how many people have been a little too frightened to do nothing but fawn and spray positive comments over popular presenters, speakers, bloggers, and leaders -- to disastrous global effect?
We need fewer "You're wrong / I'm right / Think my way / Because I'm popular, rich, and powerful" approaches. We need more intelligent dissenters.
PowerPoint to the People. Right On
. OK. One more old-fashioned, light-hearted wish: if you're a PowerPoint Do-It-Yourselfer without a power base or budget, how will you ever get your message noticed if you look and sound exactly like everyone else? How appropriate is it for you to be overly stylized and design-conscious? Why not spurn design fashion altogether... and create your own passionate and persuasive storytelling style? Or why not steal the techniques
of timeless publicity and propaganda hounds?
And as always, you're welcome to disagree with me or continue the discussion in the comments below!
What would YOU like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009?
Labels: design, PowerPoint, Presentation, social media
Top 6 Touchy-Feely Presentation Rehearsal Tips
Practice makes perfect, right?
Not really.What about imperfect practice?
If you practice badly, your performance will likely reflect your bad practices. So what components make for a better rehearsal for your next presentation?The Great Big Technical Rehearsal Checklist.
Many folks focus relentlessly on rehearsing what I'll call the technical aspects of the presentation: the room, the PowerPoint. the computer, the back-ups, the video display, the lighting, the remote, the microphone. Don't get me wrong: all of these technical details are crazy important
to rehearse. But a technical rehearsal is not enough to deliver an outstanding presentation.Sweat the Touchy-Feely Stuff.
Don't forget to rehearse for humanity! Remember, you want to make an emotional connection with your audience. Here are six teeny tiny touchy-feely tips -- frequently overlooked -- that can enormously improve your rehearsals and your final presentation.1. Strike the Pose.
I once rehearsed a presentation standing up -- only to be given a chair. When I stood to present, the elderly board president waved me down, saying, "Please, sit. We don't want to have to look up at you." This might seem like nothing, but I lost an edge in my presentation that day. Had I known I was going to deliver a sitting presentation, I would have rehearsed seated. Find out if you'll be seated or standing -- and rehearse in the position you'll be assuming.2. Wear Your Shoes.
Oh, they don't call it "dress" rehearsal for nothing! Don't rehearse in your pajamas -- unless you intend to give your presentation in your jammies ! Instead, rehearse in the actual clothes you'll be wearing during your presentation -- right down to your shoes. You'll be amazed at how much better your performance will be just by understanding how your entire body feels in full "costume and makeup."3. Get an Audience.
When I watch video rehearsals of myself, alone in my office -- I'm often chagrined. Without the audience to buoy my energy, I can sound dull and lifeless. Ideally, rehearse your presentation with people. An audience gives you emotional energy. If you don't have people, hang pictures of friends, family, or colleagues. (I've taped faces over teddy bears, and set them up as an audience. But remember, I'm ridiculous.) Looking at faces of people you know & like gives your voice and body language more oomph and power. (Bonus points if you encourage your people to heckle you.)4. Video V. Mirror.
Yes, hang it, I video record all my presentation rehearsals. And oh, yes indeed, I loathe reviewing these videos! They're painful to watch. But I always find areas to improve or smooth. (In fact, I often long for a complete personality transplant.) Don't have a video recorder? As TJ Walker writes in his excellent presentation rehearsal post, " What year are we in, 1910?
" Of course you have access to a video camera! It's 2008! So no excuses: a mirror is NOT an acceptable substitute. You're too accustomed to looking in a mirror, preening quickly, and mentally saying, "Good enough" -- before you walk out the door. A video is merciless: you won't be able to watch yourself and say, "good enough." A video, though horrifying, will truly help you see yourself as others do.5. Audio Only.
Record your presentation without video. Then, listen to it without watching
the slides. I like putting my audio on my portable mp3 player -- and taking a walk. While listening to myself on the ellipse machine at the gym last week, I found an area of my presentation that dragged so dismally, I barely registered a heartbeat while chugging along at a high incline! I went back to the office for a rewrite and added more powerful visuals. Listening to "audio only" helps you spot pace and pitch problems -- but it also helps you later recall the words and inflections that work well.
6. Rehearse in Real Time.
If you're giving a one-hour presentation: you need to record a one-hour video of yourself. Not 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Start at the beginning. Rehearse 'til the end. You don't have the opportunity to chop up your presentation in front of a live audience, so don't chop your video rehearsals into little segments, either. (Bonus points: if you're giving a 7am breakfast presentation, do a full dress rehearsal at 7am, too. Ditto for lunch or dinner presentations. My 7am energy level is quite different than my 12pm energy level. You?)
Those are my top six touchy feely tips.
You can also read what other presentation bloggers recommend about rehearsing this month. Over at the "Fortify Your Oasis" blog, RowanManahan explains why he just about loses his mind if people tell him that they don't rehearse because they want to " sound fresh
". At "Make Your Point with PowR", presenter William Botha silently seethed
as an audience member who was subjected to an un-rehearsed presenter.
Make an emotional connection.
Angry? Bored? Frustrated? You certainly want to make an emotional connection with your audience: but not those emotions! A great rehearsal can lead to a great presentation. The technical stuff is important: but so is the emotional content of your presentation. Don't dismiss the value of a full presentation rehearsal!
If you have other rehearsal tips or links, please comment! Love to hear from you!
Labels: PowerPoint, Presentation, video
UnConference Versus Conference
It's a Conference. But not like we know it, Jim.
The first rule of BarCamp?
Talk about BarCamp.
The second rule of BarCamp?
Blog about BarCamp.
I attended my first UnConference last week. BarCamp Grand Rapids
(There! I've fulfilled BarCamp rule #2!)
After this enlightening experience, I don't know if I can ever attend another ICAWKI (Industry Conference As We Know It).
What's the difference between a conference and an unconference?The Conference: Unmitigated Commercialization.
Most conferences are marked by:
- A carefully set agenda. Slick brochures. Ads in trade journals. Secure web page sign up. Pricey.
- Speakers, workshops, and panel discussions. Speeches carefully written, designed, and rehearsed.
- Those who present often overtly plug their companies with overblown introductions. (Eye rolling ensues.)
- Speakers pepper corporate brand names throughout their presentations. (More audience eye rolling.)
- PowerPoint slides, SWAG, and signage litter the landscape: laden with industry logos. (People adore free stuff.)
And of course, all this lovely commercialization keeps me happily employed as a consultant who crafts speeches and coaches presenters.
Sigh. Time to find a new way to make a living...The UnConference: Amazing, Open-Source Pockets of Grass Roots Passion
. The unconference approach is decidedly refreshing.
- No set agenda. Word of Mouth spread. Wikis and FaceBook pages for sign-ups. Low- to no-cost sign up.
- Limited corporate sponsorship (hey, somebody has to pay for the venue, presenting equipment, and snacks.)
- Three word introductions (Think: "I'm Laura Bergells." That's three. Or, "OK, let's start.")
- No overt product plugs: unless they are pertinent to the presentation.
- People who speak enthusiastically -- not for the ulterior motive of plugging their wares, but because they are passionate about sharing their ideas.
Slickly polished presentations at the unconference? Not so much.
More like smart, spirited, informal discussions with people who are in it for the joy of sharing knowledge -- and open to learning and building on the ideas of others.
Think of the tradition of Amateur Night at the Apollo
in Harlem: if a performer stinks, the audience judges harshly. Boos. Hisses. Howls. Out comes the hook.
The same thing could happen if you come to BarCamp and try to pitch your product!
Conversely, if you give a stellar performance, your reward is continuing the conversation with the engaging, delightful people you meet.
And that's a much better reward than coming home with a pocketful of pens and heavily processed information with a commercial bias.
So what's your preference?
Being force fed slickly produced corporate messages? Or sharing stories with people who are excited about their discoveries and can't wait to tell you about it?
The voice of your customer.
If listening to the voice and vernacular and ideas of your customers is important to your company, you might want to check out an UnConference -- coming soon to a city near you (if it hasn't already.)
Because if it's happening in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- it's not just a Coaster thing.
How will the spread of the popularity of the UnConference and Social Media impact the ICAWKI? (Industry Conference As We Know It.)
Labels: PowerPoint, PowerPoint Presentation, social media
Kitsch and Camp: The PowerPoint Twins
Kitsch is a black velvet painting. Garden gnomes, lava lamps, troll dolls, flamingo lawn ornaments, dogs playing poker -- all are classic kitsch. Often of poor quality, kitsch is
an object that appeals to lowbrow, popular, or tacky tastes.
What's Camp? Camp is the presentation of kitsch. Jon Waters, Cyndi Lauper, and Kiss are deliberately campy. Tom Cruise, Judy Garland, and Betty Davis are (probably) unintentionally campy. A campy presentation is so outrageously dramatic, inappropriate, gaudy, affected, or out-of-date it's ironic and funny.
What's contemporary kitsch & camp? When you watch VH1 "I Love the [insert decade here]" - you are watching a top 100 kitsch & camp report. In 3 years, what will be considered kitsch and camp for the '00 decade?Will PowerPoint presentations make the kitschy cut?
After all, there's a certain black velvet quality
to many PowerPoint presentations...
Oh, let's face it.
Everything Apple is deliciously kitschy-campy. The Apple "Zen Aesthetic" is contemporary kitsch. By combining this spare design style with:
- the Jobs priestly-black dress code
- the gratuitous and cliched body language of Buddha-pose-faux-humility,
- PlaySkool-ish, Web 2.0-y graphics,
- the promotion of i-Everything,
- dancing iPod silhouettes --
-- Apple is a contemporary kitsch+camp juggernaut!
Kitsch and camp are iconic, ironic fun.
When you're deliberately kitschy or campy, you can come across as witty and self-deprecating. However, if you're unintentionally Tom Cruise-y or Apple-campy, you risk appearing self-important or buffoonish.
Try jumping on a couch these days without appearing ironic.Commit to your camp.
If you have a kitschy style, make sure you affect a campy mannerism. This can help you more fully engage your audience. There's no sense having a clipart-y, cluttered, bullet point-y, totally 1990's Microsoft-kitsch PowerPoint presentation if you don't drive it home by, say, swaggering like Johnny Depp in Pirate of the Caribbean. Cringing like the evil Mr. Burns from the Simpsons while presenting with a very 90's slide design is also an excellent kitsch-camp combo.
If you're going to be design-kitschy, you'll want to commit to being presentation-campy.What's on your kitsch list?
What is contemporary kitsch that is currently not commonly recognized as such? What contemporary '00 kitsch & camp will become classic kitsch and camp in the '10 decade?
Labels: design, fun, images, photography, PowerPoint
New Gmail PowerPoint Viewer is Weak
So Gmail has a new PowerPoint Viewer. If you send a PowerPoint attachment to a Google Gmail client, they see something like this at the bottom of their email:
When your Gmail recipient clicks on the "View as slideshow" link, a browser window pops up with forward and backward buttons. This lets those with Gmail clients click through the slide portion your ppt file -- without using PowerPoint or other viewing software.
And while that's kind of nice -- here's the downside. Sorry, no pptx files -- only ppt. And no sound, animations, or show notes either. Gotta Mac? Sorry, the new presentation feature does not work for Mac
The visual quality of the Gmail slide presentation is weak. In my test, the fonts ran completely amok.
If you'll recall, back in February the blogosphere was breathless
with rumors of a Google "PowerPoint Killer". Four months later, this is all Google delivers (so far).
Let's see if Google can soon deliver a presentation product that really lives up to the hype!
Labels: Blogging, PowerPoint, Presentation Applications
PowerPoint Death Watch
If you Googled the phrase last year at this time, the search engine dredged up 55,000 pages that use that term.
This year, we are up to 82,400.
That is almost a 50% increase. See chart.
Apparently, the cliche is here to stay. What will next year yield?
Labels: fun, PowerPoint
Presentation Contest - Part 2
Yesterday, I posted that I would wait to upload a PowerPoint file at Slideshare
until after their presentation contest was over. I thought that by uploading a file, I would be automatically entered into their "World's Best" presentation contest -- which is judged by an all-male panel
Turns out I am mistaken (not about the all-male judging panel, that's still in play). But I did not see this rather obvious instruction at Slideshare:
Rashmi at the Slideshare team assures me that you can upload your presentations at Slideshare without entering their presentation contest. Merely uploading doesn't enter your presentation into the contest -- you actually have to follow the above instructions to opt-in.
So, you can go ahead and upload your presentations and share them with the world -- without the risk of subjecting your work or organization to a gender-biased panel review. That's a relief!
I tested this by uploading a short presentation that would stand no chance of winning a presentation contest! (Except for maybe in a Sanjaya "Vote for the Worst
" kind of way.)
Sure enough, this uploaded presentation about gender bias
in technology marketing is definitely not
in the running! ;)
Anyway, some cool stuff is being rolled out at Slideshare. Not only can you upload your presentations, but Slideshare has now added a feature where you can download the presentation, too.
That can be a big bandwidth saver. For example, instead of emailing a PowerPoint file, you can upload it to Slideshare and point to the link in your email. Your recipient can choose to view or download your file -- when they are ready. This sure beats clogging up their email inbox with a huge PowerPoint attachment, no?
That's part of the beauty of Slideshare. It lets you share ideas. More easily.
Labels: Blogging, PowerPoint, Presentation
PowerPoint 2007 Downloads: 3 Free Options
So, someone sent you a PowerPoint 2007 file with the pptx
extension -- and you have yet to upgrade to the latest version of PowerPoint. What can you do to quickly view the file?
So far, you have three free download options:
- View pptx for free. Download and install the PowerPoint 2007 free viewer. It will open up PowerPoint files with the old ppt extensions, as well as the new pptx extension. Of course, you cannot edit the files with the new PowerPoint 2007 viewer. You can only view the presentation.
- Get compatible. If you have a 2000 or newer version of the Microsoft Suite programs and the correct system requirements, you can download and install the Microsoft compatibility pack for Word, Excel, and/or PowerPoint 2007.
- Try/Buy PowerPoint 2007. For a limited time, you can download one free 60-day trial the new 2007 Microsoft Office Suite systems -- choose from Professional, Standard, Small Business, Home and Student. After your two month free trial, you can buy the software.
As time goes by, I expect that we will see more free download options for opening, editing, and viewing pptx files. Hopefully soon!
But for now, one of these three options above can save you time by preventing you from contacting the sender and asking them to "Save As" ppt before resending the file. And since pptx files are smaller than ppt files, this will save you bandwidth, as well as time.