Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When is changing a graph axis OK?

One of the things I find deceiving when looking at graphs on slides is when the vertical axis on a column chart has no values. In many cases, this means that the scale does not start at zero and it means the presenter is trying to fool their audience into thinking that the graph tells a story that is better than reality. Check out most of the graphs you see in corporate quarterly analyst briefings and you'll see what I mean.

But recently I changed the scale on a column chart to make the point more effective. On a client slide they had two column charts - one to show additional revenue over the next four years and another to show the investment required to realize that revenue. Initially, they had both charts side by side with the scale of the revenue chart going from 0 to 120 and the investment chart scale 0 to 25. The problem was that visually, the height of the investment bars was almost as high as the revenue bars, making it look like the return would be very small. Most observers won't make the connection that the scales were different. So I changed the scale of the investment chart to be the same as the revenue chart. Now, the side by side charts show that the investment is quite small compared to the revenue that is gained.

When you are using more than one related chart to make a point, make sure that the visual comparison can tell the correct story without your audience having to read the scales of the charts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

PowerPoint Tip - Using Hyper-links

One of the topics I discussed in a presentation on future trends in presentations last month was the use of hyper-links to create non- linear presentations and include other content in our presentations. The ability of PowerPoint to link to content within or outside the current set of slides allows you to create and deliver a more flexible presentation customized to what your audience needs at that moment. Let's look at some of the options hyper-linking gives you.

1. Link to a slide in your presentation
By linking to another slide in the existing presentation, you are able to jump between topics in the order that the audience wants to hear them. This is usually done by creating a menu slide and then giving the audience a choice of where they want to go from there. It can also be used when an audience member asks a question that you have anticipated and you jump to a prepared slide for the answer to that question. Then you can jump back to where you were in the presentation.

2.Link to another presentation
If you have multiple presenters, each with their own presentation, it is annoying to see the switch between presentations by exiting one presentation and loading the next. It is far easier and more professional to set up a quick menu of the presentations and use hyper-links to start each presentation. When a presentation is done, you press Esc to exit the presentation and it drops to the menu to start the next presentation.

3. Link to other content
If you have a spreadsheet, document or PDF file that you want to show during the presentation, you can create a hyper-link to open that document during your presentation seamlessly. No more exiting slide show mode, switch to the other application and then switching back. Simply set up a hyper-link to the file that you want to include and from within PowerPoint the application will open, you show the document and then when you close the application you are back at your slide. I have used this to take survey results and create an instant graph in Excel or to capture audience best ideas in a Word document during the presentation.

4. Link to a web site
While switching to a web site live during a presentation is more risky due to connection problems in many conference venues, if you have a good connection, this can really add to your presentation. You can create a hyper-link to a specific web site or page and at that point in your presentation, jump to the site, show what you want and when you exit the browser you will be back at your slide.

You can create a hyper-link from text, a shape or an image, so by considering the four ways you can use hyper-links above, you can enhance your presentation in many new ways. Hyper-linking is just one of the advanced presentation techniques I shared in my webinar on "Non-Linear and Advanced Presentation Techniques". You can get your copy at http://www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/wtnonlinear.htm .

Friday, January 19, 2007

Finding commands in PowerPoint 2007

On January 30th, the new version of Microsoft Office goes on sale to the public and will be the version that you get pre-installed on a new computer. As I have mentioned before, the user interface is quite different from the drop down list of commands under menus that we are all familiar with. The new interface relies on ribbons of commands instead. When you first start using the new version, you will have to learn where the commands you want to use are now located. What if you can't find that favourite command? Well, there is a solution. Microsoft has created a web based tool to help users find PowerPoint 2003 commands in the new PowerPoint 2007 ribbon interface.

Go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/powerpoint/HA101490761033.aspx and you can start this Flash based tool that will help you find that command in the new interface. You navigate in this tool to the command using the existing PowerPoint 2003 menus, then they show you where to find that command in the PowerPoint 2007 ribbon interface. And since this is a web based tool, you will be able to have it open while working in PowerPoint and switch between the two while you get used to where your favourite commands are now located. This is sure to save you time and frustration in getting used to the new interface.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"But that's going to be different"

I am working with a client who has a big presentation coming up next month. They are presenting in front of the top executives in their organization and want to make a good impression. I was reviewing the outline for the presentation with them and they asked how many slides will they have for a 20-30 minute presentation. I said, "About 15, why?" They got quiet for a moment and shared that having only 15 slides would be very different from how they normally present.

You see, a "normal" presentation in their firm is 40+ slides of data dumped on the executives. What they don't realize is that executives don't want the graphs, charts and raw data. They want the interpretation of the data and the answer to their key question, "What does this mean to me/my department/my division?" By cutting down to 15 slides that will include builds, pictures and customer videos, the presentation will turn from the usual "dump truck" presentation to a conversation with the audience. They will be able to connect with the executives through stories and examples and the executives will remember who gave them information in a way they could actually use it.

If you have important presentations to executives, have the courage to step away from the "dump truck" presentation and create one that allows you to have a conversation with them - after all, they are just real people like you. You may also want to check out my special report "Presenting to Executives" available on my web site.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: How Attitude Affects Your Presentation

When you are presenting, certainly your message and key points are important. But perhaps as important is your attitude towards your audience and your material. Attitude is not something that most of us consciously consider on a daily basis - but perhaps we should.

I am sure we have all seen presentations that suffered from a lack of interest in the topic by the presenter or contempt for the audience by the presenter. In either situation, the presenter may have tried to hide their true feelings, but the audience can pick it up in an instant.

I have been thinking more about attitude since I have been reading Jeffrey Gitomer's new book "Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude". Jeffrey is someone I have admired for a number of years for his straightforward style and his approach to business. It doesn't hurt that he started switching to visual slides for his presentations years ago, well before many others were thinking about it.

This book is about how you can create a Yes! attitude in all aspects of your life. I highly recommend it and I am happy to be a part of the expert team he has involved in launching the book on Amazon today. Many of you know that I rarely recommend other resources because my quality standards are high. I can tell you that this easy to read little book certainly will have a place on my re-read shelf. And if you buy it on Amazon today the launch team has arranged for a whole host of bonuses for you - more on that later.

Here are two ideas that I think presenters can immediately apply. On pages 28 & 29 he talks about how it is so important to phrase your ideas in terms of the other person, not in terms of yourself. This is critical when structuring your presentation. You must always analyze the audience first before you decide what you will say or else the presentation won't be about what they need to hear. I have seen too many presentations where the attitude was clearly "Look how great I am" instead of "How can I be of service to help you".

The second idea is on pages 192 & 193, almost the end of the book. On these pages Jeffrey talks about how part of a Yes! attitude is quickly getting over the inevitable bad things that will happen in our lives. When you apply this to presentations, we must remember to get over the problems that will occur, such as equipment failure, poor room lighting, grumpy audience members and so many more. The quicker we get over these things, the quicker we get back to delivering the high quality information the audience came to hear.

There are many more great ideas of course, but these are two that I think presenters can immediately apply. I think you should buy this book for your own library, but why buy it today on Amazon? As part of the launch, Jeffrey has put together a list of experts including Ty Boyd, Jack Canfield, Harvey Mackay and Victoria Labalme who are offering some downloadable bonuses if you buy the book today on Amazon and send your receipt to yes@gitomer.com. These bonuses include reports, book chapters and audio files that will help you in many areas of your life (see the full list at http://www.gitomer.com/yes).

So, to get these bonuses, go to Amazon.com with this link http://snipurl.com/16mzr and buy the book. Then, e-mail your receipt to yes@gitomer.com and you will get a link to all the downloadable material.

Friday, January 05, 2007

When inserting isn't really inserting

When you click Insert - Picture in PowerPoint, it inserts the contents of the picture file into your presentation. While this could make your presentation file huge if you don't resample the picture first, you know that when you send the file to someone else they will be able to see the picture. So in this case, inserting really is inserting.

I recently helped a client understand that when PowerPoint says Insert, it doesn't always mean it. Here's what happened. They had an audio file that they inserted into a presentation. Sent the presentation to someone else and the sound did not play. Why not? It was "inserted" wasn't it? Well, not exactly.

You see, when PowerPoint "inserts" an audio file, it will only embed the audio file in the PowerPoint file if it is smaller than a certain size. By default, this size is 100 KB, much smaller than almost any sound file you will use. (Side note: You can change this default embedding size by going to Tools-Options-General tab and increasing the "Link sounds with file size greater than" value). This was done when it was thought that a PowerPoint file would get bloated if audio files were embedded and not making your PowerPoint file larger than it needs to be is still a pretty good idea.

So how do you make sure your audio file plays when it is sent to someone else? Make sure that you send all linked audio files as well as the presentation file. This issue also affects "inserting" of video files and making sure that they play when they get to their destination is one of the important topics I cover in my video tutorial "Incorporating Video into Your PowerPoint Presentations" (click on the title link to get your copy).