Monday, February 26, 2007

You Know You Have Lost Your Audience When ...

... they are reading magazines or knitting.

I really can't make this stuff up. I was at a recent conference where I saw one audience member reading magazines during the presentations and one knitting. Obviously the presenter had lost the audience but didn't realize it. Why did they lose the interest of the audience? One presenter used slides with paragraphs that the audience tried to read while he spoke about a related point and finally after 20-30 of these slides they just got too tired of trying to listen while they were reading. Lesson: don't use paragraphs of text, use bullet points or even better use visuals. Another presenter started off her presentation with 10-12 minutes all about her and her background. Lesson: It's not about you, it's about the audience. Critical mistakes like these will cause audiences to move on to something else. Today's business audiences are too busy to sit through boring presentations and will leave - physically or mentally - if they aren't getting what they need. Be clear, Be audience focused, and you will shine at the front of the room.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Protecting Your Slides from Changes

You have spent a long time getting your slides just right - everything is in place, colors work, animation builds to emphasize the key points and visuals speak louder than text. Now you have to send it to a colleague or distribute it to others. The risk is that all that work will be for naught when someone else decides to change something on the slide.

I have spoken and done consulting in the investment management industry where compliance is a large concern and the risk of slides being changed is a real threat. Other industries have similar compliance risks. Even if you don't have a compliance issue, the risk of your carefully crafted message or visuals being altered and an important client not getting the right message can be even more scary. Just telling people not to change the slides doesn't work.

There are a couple of things you can do to reduce or prevent changes. First, use the grouping feature to lock the positions of graphical elements. I use this for callout boxes or arrows to make sure that the element of a visual that the callout is highlighting does not change. I have also used this to lock the relative positions of pictures and names of people to make sure someone's name or picture does not get accidentally moved or deleted.

The second thing you can do is to lock all the content on a slide. The easiest way to do this is to save each slide as a PNG graphic file. Then, create a new presentation and import each graphic file as a slide. The slides look like your original presentation, but they have no individual elements that can be changed because the entire slide is a single graphic. You do lose any builds on the slide with this technique, but you can get around that by creating separate slides instead of building on a single slide. I have also used this technique when sending slides to people who view them on a handheld device like a Blackberry or Treo because I have found that the visuals tend to look better by using graphics as the slides.

I cover more details on protecting your slide content in my ebook "Guide to Advanced PowerPoint Techniques", which contains 26 techniques that weren't included in Prentice Hall's "Guide to PowerPoint". You can get the advanced techniques ebook at . If you haven't purchased "Guide to PowerPoint", learn more and get your copy at .

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Presentation Technology Checklist

Recently I had a request to reprint a checklist I produced in 2002 that clearly people still have and use. It is called the Presentation Technology Checklist and it lists items that you may need to take along for your presentation in a checklist format. It is especially useful when you are travelling to deliver a presentation or preparing someone else to deliver a presentation in another location. It is based on my own experience taking equipment to present all over North America. I revisited the list and have made a few updates. It is now available for download as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file on my web site at . I hope it helps you remember everything you need for your next trip.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Power of Visuals at the Ski Chalet

I went skiing with my son’s class this week and helped get the students their ski boots in the rental area. When fitting boots, the easy way to tell if the boot is too small is to check whether their toes are flat or scrunched. That’s easy with regular boost where you can push down on the top of the boot and feel their toes. But with a hard ski boot, you have to ask them. The question that the ski center staff use is “Can you wiggle your toes?” That sounds like a good question but with 9 and 10 year olds they aren’t sure how much they should be able to wiggle their toes. So once again a visual provided the solution. I would show the kids my hand vertically as the front of the boot. Then I would use the fingers of my other hand to show toes flat or curled under and ask them which way their toes were. The kids understood this instantly and sped up the process. The lesson for presenters is to think of visuals that can explain your points better than text on your slides. Is there a simple diagram or illustration that would help your audience understand instantly?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Observations from a Recital

Yesterday our kids were performing in a piano and voice recital held by their music teacher. All the children performed well and tried their best. Two performances demonstrated lessons any presenter should take note of. One was by a girl who was singing a solo. She had obviously practiced it at home, but when she came to the front of the room and set the pages with the words on the music stand, that's when things got off track. She had not practiced how she was going to flip the pages and almost lost her place three or four times. Lesson to presenters: Practice where you are going to place your notes and how you are going to flip or turn them before you get up to speak.

The second performance was a young man who captured the audience's attention and held it throughout his solo. He did not sing perfectly, but he had great facial expressions and used his body to express emotion that added to the words he was singing. Lesson to presenters: If you want to capture attention, it won't be only what you say, but more importantly how you say it. Tap into your emotions about the subject and let your passion show through.

Lessons on great performances are out there for all of us to see every day. What will you notice and learn from?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

PowerPoint Tip - Taking Pictures for use in PowerPoint

Photographs are becoming more and more common in presentations and for good reason. Photos can cut to the emotion of a point far better than text or clip art ever can. And with the popularity of digital cameras, it is now easier than ever to use our own photos as part of our presentations. When you are taking photos, keep these ideas in mind.

1. Frame the photo
Most photos have the subject of the photo, whether it is a person or an object, in the direct center of the frame. It is often more interesting to have the subject off center in one of four spots in the frame. Imagine the frame of the photo is divided by four lines into nine boxes like a tic-tac-toe board. Try to have your subject at one of the spots where the lines of the grid intersect. This will make for a more interesting shot and put the subject in context with the background.

2. Make sure the subject is in focus
With our photos projected on to large screens, any blurriness is magnified and what looked OK on our monitor may look too fuzzy on the screen. Make sure you use the focus lock feature of your camera to lock the focus on the subject before you snap the photo. This is especially true when using the framing technique described above.

3. Watch for lighting
The single biggest issue I see with photos taken by most people is that the lighting is poor. Don't be afraid to use the flash on your camera to add light to a picture, even outdoors. In many cases a flash will take care of the shadows created by the natural light and make the fine features even more prominent. Many cameras have the ability to force the flash or use a fill flash mode to do this.

If you want more tips on taking great photos, contact a local camera store or college to see what classes they offer. Once you have those great photos, you can learn more on how to use them effectively in your presentation, including the way to make sure those multi-megapixel photos don't balloon your PowerPoint file and make it slow to run and impossible to email to others. It's all in my "Using Digital Photographs in PowerPoint Presentations" web tutorial recording available at .

Friday, February 02, 2007

Testing for color blindness

A topic that I discuss in almost every workshop I do is how you need to be careful when using red and green because a certain percentage of the population has some degree of red-green color blindness. The medical studies suggest it is about 9-11% of Caucasian males and much lower in females and non-Caucasian males (I don’t know why and I am not sure the doctors know either).

There is a site I ran across recently that will help you see what someone with color blindness will see when they look at your slides. It is at . It allows you to upload a JPG or PNG graphic file and it will show you what people with the most common types of color blindness will see when they view your slide. To use it with PowerPoint, you must first save your slide or slides into the PNG or JPG format. To do so, click on File - Save As. In the Save as type drop down box at the bottom of the dialog box, scroll down until you find the PNG or JPG format. Then click the Save button and decide whether you want to save one slide or all slides if it asks you (usually one slide should be sufficient for this test).

Then you can upload the saved image file and use the tool to see what your slide will look like. It does show you what someone with yellow/blue color blindness will see but my research indicates that this type is so rare that I would not worry about it too much. Use this tool when you know someone with color blindness will be in your audience or when speaking to a large group where the chances are at least some of the people will be affected.