Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prepare your business for Office 2007

Today is the official launch of Office 2007, including new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. If you are a small or medium sized business that doesn't have an army of IT professionals around to tell you how this might impact your business, you will want to check out my latest article. I have identified two potentially significant impacts to any business and steps you can take to prevent any problems. You can read the full text by clicking here: .

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

PowerPoint Tip - Detailed Handouts without Packed Slides

One reason presenters pack slides with too much text and information is that they claim that since they will be printing the slides as their handout, they will need the audience to have the detail for future reference. But what happens is that the barrage of information on the slide overwhelms the audience and the presentation is a failure.

There is a better way. Instead of overloading text on your slides, design a slide file that has both detail slides and properly designed visuals that can serve both show and print purposes. Here's how you can do it.

For each topic, create two slides. The first one you will display during the presentation and it should be visual, not packed with text. The next slide should contain any detailed information you want the audience to have to refer to after the presentation. This second slide will never be shown during the presentation. It is there for printing purposes only.

Then, for each of the detailed slides, click on Slide Show - Hide Slide. This stops the detailed slide from being seen during the slide show. When you are running your slide show during practice sessions, make sure that the detailed slides are not shown.

To print a handout of slides that includes both the display slides and the hidden detail slides, check the Print hidden slides checkbox on the print dialog box. You will then get a printout with each of the detailed slides beside or below the display slide. Your audience can quickly see that they have more detailed information and can take notes that are appropriate to their own situation.

When you are presenting using this type of handout, it is a good idea to mention how the handout is structured at the start of your presentation. This lets the audience know that they do not need to take copious notes and can be more engaged in what you are saying. It also frees you from feeling that you have to plow through a lot of detailed slides in order to finish on time.

This is one way to provide a handout that is more customized than the usual handout that most presenters provide. If you want to create an even more customized handout using your slides as graphics in Word, you can get detailed instructions in my ebook "Guide to Advanced PowerPoint Techniques" at

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Teaching Templates to Professors

At the end of October I was in San Antonio speaking at a conference of business communication professors. The topic we were talking about was how to teach students to create an attractive template for their slides. The professors agreed that too many students (and in my experience presenters of all ages) spend too much time formatting every slide individually instead of using the slide master to set the common look. They also agreed that many of the designs that the students come up with or find in the program or on the Internet are at best distracting and usually closer to annoying. So we shared how to set colors and fonts so that the text color and background color have enough contrast and the text is easy to read when displayed. One key to remember is that whether you use a dark background and light text or light background and dark text, make sure that the colors have enough contrast. Another presenter at the conference explained that there are two types of contrast that you can have. The first is color brightness contrast and the other is color contrast. Remember this the next time you are creating a look for your slides.

If you want more detailed instructions on creating your own custom template, check out the web tutorial I did that shows you what colors, fonts and other elements work well for presentations and then I showed you exactly how to do it in PowerPoint. You can get your copy at:

Friday, November 17, 2006

Making slides more visual

Today I wrap up a survey I have been doing for the past month on what resources people need to improve their PowerPoint presentations. One idea that had been suggested to me before I started the survey and has been backed up by a strong showing in the survey what the topic of transforming text heavy slide sinto more visual slides. It seems that many people want to have more visual slides but aren't sure how to go about doing it. I have applied dual-coding theory concpets to the design of PowerPoint slides and have just finished an e-book that will help a lot of people in this struggle. It is called "Transforming Text Slides into Visual Slides" and shows over 35 slide examples and explains how to create visual slides in 15 different presentation situations. An invaluable resource according to those who responded to the survey. Get more details at .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wall Street Journal article on PowerPoint

Today's Cubicle Culture column in the Wall Street Journal contains an article talking about the problems with PowerPoint usage in corporations today. You can read the article today by clicking here or it should be posted at the Cubicle Culture archives here later this week.

In the article they quote my suggestion that poor presentations cost organizations over $252 million dollars per day. To see the full article on this calculation, click here. To calculate the cost of poor presentations in your own organization, read another article by clicking here.

If you want to stop wasting money due to poor presentations, e-mail me to discuss how one of my customized Think Outside The Slide(tm) seminars can show your staff how to strategically use PowerPoint visuals to enhance the clarity of their presentations.

PowerPoint Tip - Downside of Dashboards

One of the recent trends in executive presentations is to create what is know as dashboard slides. A dashboard slide is a way for executives to get a quick view on projects, initiatives, financial or other measurements of interest. It is usually designed to have a red, yellow or green light beside each item indicating the measure of that item against a standard. In some organization they have even created these displays on internal web sites so the displays are updated in real time.

While this sounds like a good idea, I have two key objections to the way most of these slides are created. First, if you ask a presenter how the color has been calculated, i.e. what constitutes a green, yellow or red, they can't answer your question because they don't know. Someone programmed a set of calculations on a spreadsheet or in some other tool that spits out the color rating for each item based on a complex formula of factors. The presenter simply reports the rating. This does not serve executives well because they need to be able to discuss why an item is rated so that they can make intelligent decisions on it. Sometimes it may be a delay in reporting from another area or system that causes the formula to report a red flag on an item, which causes unneccesary panic in the executive suite and a waste of everyones time searching for and reporting that the item is actually OK, but the reporting was flawed.

The second problem I have with most dashboard implementations is that the scoring system of three colors does not allow enough granularity to give a true measure of a situation. What is the difference between a green and a yellow rating? Probably one tenth of a point on some numerical system used to calculate the colors. Three choices is OK for a stop light where there are only three possible actions, but for organizations, more choices are needed. Even in school we had percentage scales which allowed for up to 100 possible ratings or letter grades, which had 13 possible ratings (A+ to D- and F).

My suggestions for using a stoplight dashboard slide are twofold. First, make sure that the rating calculation is transparent and understood by everyone. Make it easy to investigate why a rating is calculated the way it is so that time wasted chasing phantom problems is reduced. Second, increase the granularity of the rating scale. If you want to stick with the stoplight colors, add a + and - to them to have a total of 9 possible ratings to choose from. These suggestions should improve the clarity of dashboard slides used to present to executives and others.

Executives do prefer visual slides to text slides, and this is one of the items I discuss in my special report on Presenting to Executives. You can get your copy at .

Friday, November 10, 2006

How not to use a presentation remote

I am a strong advocate of using a presentation remote to advance your PowerPoint slides. It is a professional way to present and gets you away from the computer and closer to the audience. But I recently saw an example of how not to use a remote. The presenter had one of the nice small remotes that fit in your hand, but for some reason kept it in his jacket pocket. And kept his one hand in the pocket to work the remote. I am not sure if he thought that the audience should be dazzled by how the slides changed without him going to the computer or if he was taught that the audience should never see the remote. But it certainly looked strange. It made for an awkward pose while he was speaking and I am still not sure for what benefit. If you are using a presentation remote, get one of the small ones that fit in your hand and hold on to it during your presentation, don't hide it. This allows you to be more relaxed looking and use normal hand gestures since both hands are free to move.

Monday, November 06, 2006

If your audience can't see your graph, they can't understand it

Why should you use a graph on a PowerPoint slide? To illustrate data that would have more impact when shown visually that any other way. So if you are trying to have greater impact, why would you choose colors for a line graph that the audience would not be able to see? A recent slide was a perfect illustration of this problem. The background is a dull medium-dark blue. Five lines on the graph: bright red, which is OK, then burgundy, dark blue, light blue and dark green - Huh? What was the presenter thinking? How they thought anyone could see those last four lines is beyond me. If your audience can't see the lines (or bars, columns, pie slices) of the graph, they have no hope of figuring out what the message is supposed to be. Make sure that when you put a graph on a PowerPoint slide, you change the default colors to ones that illustrate your point. An even better approach is to figure out what the single most important point is and have that data in an accent color and the rest of the data in the same less prominent color. This way the most important point jumps out at the audience. If you want more ideas on how to make your PowerPoint graphs effective and watch exactly how it is done, check out my video at .

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why timed builds are not a good presentation practice

I have seen timed builds used twice recently and both times it left me scratching my head wondering why the presenter created their PowerPoint slide that way. A timed build is when the bullet points or items on the slide automatically appear at a scheduled interval. For example, a set of four bullet points could be timed to have each bullet point appear 15 seconds after the previous point. Timed builds, in my opinion, are distracting for both the presenter and the audience. For the presenter, they are having to concentrate so much on speaking quickly so that what they wanted to say about the topic is done before the next point comes up. It eliminates any possibility of spontaneous conversation with the audience and suggests that the presentation should just be recorded and played back on video. More importantly, for the audience it is distracting because when you see a new point or item appear on the screen, you feel compelled to look at it and read it, taking your focus away from what the presenter is saying and you miss the point they are making. A presentation should be a conversation with the audience supported by some visuals that support the message. By timing builds on a PowerPoint slide, you force the audience-presenter relationship out of the equation and create a "talking head" situation.