Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Presentation Insight: Are your slides Re-Tweetable?
So why should this matter to presenters? Because we want the key messages in our presentation to have an immediate impact on our audiences. We want the audience to understand the messages, see how the messages impact their life or business, and act on those messages. Not that much different from what a good tweet does.
So which tweets have the most impact? Those that have effective images attached. This research from Buffer shows that tweets with images received 89% more favorites and were retweeted 150% more than tweets without images. The most retweeted tweet of 2013 (Lea Michelle thanking fans for their support after the death of Cory Monteith), and the most retweeted tweet of all time (US President Barak Obama's re-election in 2012) both contained images. In our presentations, if all we are using is text, we are missing a great opportunity to be memorable. By using visuals, we can increase the impact of our presentation.
But it is not just adding any old image and assuming just the presence of the image will make the presentation better. A random image attached to a poorly structured tweet won't get much attention. There are two parts of effective tweets that presenters can adapt: the well written text tweet, and the interesting, meaningful visual.
On a slide, the equivalent to the text tweet is the slide headline. An effective tweet usually isn't just a topic statement. It explains the key message in 140 characters or less. You can write quite a lot in 140 characters. Don't be afraid to write a longer headline that summarizes the key point you want the audience to understand from your slide. And limit yourself to one key message. Just like on Twitter, if you have another point, you send another tweet. If you have two points to make, use two slides, each with its own headline. The message in the headline should be so important that the viewer wants to see and hear more from you about this point.
The equivalent to the Twitter picture is a visual on your slide that illustrates the message in the headline. If you are comparing numbers or values, use a graph, proportional object collection, grouped item comparison diagram, or other visual that shows the difference in values. If you are talking about the relationship of events over a time period, use a timeline, Gantt chart, or calendar diagram. There are many other visuals for other types of situations or messages you are communicating. The visual helps solidify the message in the mind of the viewer.
Here is an example of a slide with a clear message in the headline, and a visual that illustrates the point.
With a clear headline and a meaningful visual, your slide becomes something your audience wants to share with others. Even if you are not on Twitter, if you make your slides Re-Tweetable, you will improve the effectiveness of your presentation.
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Presentation Insight: 3 Tips for making column graphs even clearer
In this article I want to take the cleaning up of column graphs further by sharing three ideas based on information fellow PowerPoint MVP Nolan Haims of PresentYourStory.com shared at the Presentation Summit last September.
"Fewer Distracting Pixels"
A phrase Nolan used struck me as a guideline for further cleaning up of graphs. He said we should aim to have "fewer distracting pixels" on our slides. He applied the idea by suggesting we remove the tick marks on the horizontal axis for column graphs. The column already shows the audience what label is associated with which data. I would suggest that in many cases we can also remove the axis line, since it often does not add any meaning to the graph. Here is an example of a before and after slide applying this approach. The change isn't much, but it removes pixels that distract the audience from the point of the slide.
Two colors work better than one color for column graphs
The default graph in PowerPoint assigns the same color for each column in a column graph. I do teach how you can set the color of one column differently than the other columns. The additional nuance I picked up is to apply this more frequently using shades of the same color. Use a muted color for all of the columns except the one or two you want to emphasize. Make those columns a bolder version of that color. By using related colors, the audience knows the data is related, but they also see the difference and will focus more on the columns in the bolder color. Here is an example based on a recent workshop makeover.
Use labels more effectively
Text labels in the graph allow the audience to quickly understand the point you are making. In my workshops I show how you can add text labels to your graphs if the default data labels won't work for the point you are trying to make. I would now add that you can use labels to better tie the explanatory text to the data by using colors for the text. Here is the example from above with a larger, colored text label placed over the default x-axis label. See how the bold text draws your eye even more to the column you want to emphasize.
While I have explained these ideas in relation to column graphs, you can also apply these concepts to other types of graphs, such as bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs. When presenting numeric information visually, it is important that we make the graphs as clean as possible, to focus as much of the audience's attention on the data that supports our point.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Presentation Insight: Using Amazon Storybuilder to outline a presentation
In my workshops I always share my six step RAPIDS approach for planning your message. The P in the RAPIDS acronym stands for Presentation Outline. I show the participants how outlining your message with hierarchically arranged sticky notes is a great way to see the entire message at once. You may also have seen this in the seven day e-course that I offer new newsletter registrants. Here is the example I use in my workshops and the e-course:
Up to now, there has been no easy online way to create these types of outlines. The Amazon Storybuilder tool (at http://studios.amazon.com/storybuilder) may be a great answer to this challenge. It is an entirely web-based tool that is accessible from any platform and any browser. I have used it on my laptop and my iPad quite easily. All you need is a free Amazon account (you can use the one you are already using to buy books if you want).
The concept is that you create a corkboard and pin cards to it, similar to sticking sticky notes to a wall or whiteboard. You create a new corkboard for each presentation. The topics you want to cover in your presentation are the highest level of your presentation outline. In Storybuilder, the top level of the story are referred to as Groups, so you would add each topic as a Group at the top of the corkboard.
Under each Group, add a Card for each point you will make when discussing that topic. The Card has a title, which you can use to describe the point. In the description for the Card, add what supporting information or visual you will use to illustrate this point, such as a graph, photo, etc. You can even add an image to each Card if you want to sketch out the visual. I did this recently in an airport lounge. I drew a graph on a napkin and took a photo on my iPad when adding an image to the Card. You access the image feature by double clicking on the card to make it larger and show the additional options.
Just like cards on a corkboard or sticky notes on a wall, you can use your mouse to rearrange the cards on your corkboard, making it easy to move points between different topics if needed. You also see the whole corkboard on your screen, which allows you to see the whole presentation at the same time, so you can make sure you have included everything you wanted to say.
The tool will also allow you to invite collaborators to help work on the outline. They only need a free Amazon account to view and add comments to your corkboard. You can also output the corkboard to a PDF that can be sent to others.
The tool allows you to put cards in a virtual drawer at the top of the board. You can use the drawer to store cards that you know you will need later, but don’t know exactly where yet. You can also use the drawer to hold cards that you remove from the corkboard but don’t want to permanently delete because you may need them later.
Here is the example above done in the Amazon Storybuilder corkboard:
If you have been looking for a visual tool to organize the content for your presentation, one that allows collaboration and visuals to be included, check out the Amazon Storybuilder tool at http://studios.amazon.com/storybuilder. To show you how easy it is to use this tool, I created a 7 minute video that walks you through using it to create a presentation outline. Watch it below:
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
3 Steps to Lead Presentation Change in 2014
Step 1: Remind yourself and others of the financial impact of poor presentations
No problem gets solved unless it is a big enough problem. So the first step is to remind yourself and others of the real cost of poor presentations. In a recent Chicago workshop, I showed the participants how the time wasted by the current way presentations are created is costing them millions of dollars each year. Any issue worth that much is one that management and others will be interested in addressing. Without putting a dollar figure to the cost of the current approach, the change won’t have priority. To calculate the cost in your organization, use this calculator.
Step 2: Start small
Don’t start changing every slide in a key presentation all at once. It won’t work very well. It will take too long and the drastic change may alienate some key members of the audience. Instead, select one key message that is currently shown as a wall of text or a spreadsheet on the slide and create a more effective visual for that one slide. It won’t take too long to do, and the change is less risky because it is only one point in the overall presentation.
Step 3: Listen to feedback to build support for the changes
After you have delivered the new slide, ask a few key people if the new visual helped them understand the message better. Listen to what they liked and what they felt was missing. Improve the slide and check for additional feedback. By focusing on making the message clearer, you position yourself as someone who is looking for opportunities to improve the quality of presentations. This leads to better decisions, improves the results for your organization, and boosts your career.
After a short time, the new visual becomes the standard. Then move on to the next key message that can be improved with a new visual. Repeat the process over time and the entire presentation ends up being transformed.
You can lead the change to more effective presentations in 2014 if you start small, build support, and always focus on the bottom-line benefit to your organization.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Presentation Tip: Proportional Object Collection Calculator
Glenna had written about the online tool in blog posts for Microsoft (see the June 11 newsletter for links), but she wanted it to do more. She wanted the tool to calculate the sizes of more than two shapes. This would allow it to be used when you have more than two values to compare visually. She also wanted it to be more generic, so the sizes could apply to any shape or image, not just squares, rectangles, and circles.
Of course her ideas made perfect sense. So I went to work in my hotel room that day and created a new tool, the Proportional Object Collection Calculator. It allows you to create slides like this:
This example of a proportional object collection shows one of the shapes only partially on the slide. When one of the values is much larger than the rest of the values, this approach can work well because it allows the shapes for the smaller values to be more easily seen on the slide. The audience still understands the magnitude of the large shape because more than half of it is on the slide.
To use the calculator, enter the height and width of the largest object you want to create (in inches or centimetres). Then you enter the values you want to represent with proportional objects. Enter the values in order from largest to smallest. In the Results section, you will see exact measurements for each object. Use the entry fields in the Size group for the object to enter the height and width shown in the Results table.
I have found it easiest to copy the results table of object sizes onto my slide so it is easy to see when entering the sizes for each shape or image. You can make the table smaller if it is taking up too much room, and move it to one of the top corners of the slide so it is out of the way of where you are placing the objects. When you are done, you can delete the table or move it to the Notes section of the slide if you need to keep the dimensions of the objects.
Instead of a column or bar graph, consider using a proportional object collection in your next presentation. It tells the story of the numbers visually in a way the audience will understand and remember.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Celebrating 300 newsletter issues
In the US, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. A tradition started years ago is the Black Friday sale at many retailers the day after the holiday. That tradition expanded to Cyber Monday where online retailers get into the sale mode a couple of days later. So I decided to have an Issue #300/Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale on my Kindle ebooks. As a thank you to my loyal readers, I am cutting the price of my Kindle ebook series in half until Tuesday December 3. Instead of $2.99, the ebooks are only $1.49 on Amazon. The ebooks include 20 Tips for Financial Presentations, Sales Presentations, Project Status Presentations, and, the latest one in the series, 20 Tips for Students. Here are the links directly to Amazon to take advantage of the sale:
20 Tips for Effective Financial Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips for Effective Sales Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips for Effective Project Status Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips to Help Students Ace Their Next PowerPoint Presentation
I have always been known for giving many free resources on my website that help presenters improve their presentations. If you haven’t visited my website lately, you may have forgotten about some of these resources. Two of the resources I get a lot of comments on are the PowerPoint tutorial videos and the slide makeovers. I offer over 30 videos that show you how to use PowerPoint to create graphs, diagrams, handouts, and more. These aren’t feature focused, they are specific to the tasks you have to get done. All of the videos are short, usually in the 3-8 minute range, so you can learn the task and get back to work. They are organized by category on this page. My slide makeovers are also organized so it is easy for you to find one that is relevant to the type of slide or industry you are in. These slide makeover videos show you a “before” slide, how I revised it into a better “after” slide, and lessons presenters can learn from the makeover. If you are looking for a new way to show information on a slide, check out these videos on this page.
I also offer two tools that help presenters design slides that are visually appealing and easy to understand. The first is the Color Contrast Calculator. This tool allows you to enter the RGB values of two colors and know if the audience will be able to easily read the text on the background, or distinguish between adjacent shapes in a graph or diagram. Full instructions on how to use the calculator are included on the Color Contrast Calculator page. The second most annoying thing presenters do, according to audiences in my latest survey, is use a font that is too small to easily read. How big of a font should you use? The only true answer is “It depends.” You need to take into account the size of the screen and the size of the room. I use visual acuity standards and road sign guidelines to create two charts that you can use to determine the right font size for your presentation. The charts for standard 4x3 projectors and widescreen TVs are on this page in English and French. If you need to create a full template for your organization, there is no better book than one written by my fellow PowerPoint MVPs Julie Terberg and Echo Swinford. If you have been tasked with creating the PowerPoint template for your organization, get their book today.
Thank you again for your loyal support and kind comments over the years. I look forward to serving you for many years to come. For those of you gathering with family and friends this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, travel safely and celebrate the blessings you have been given.