Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dealing with poor projectors

I have been corresponding over the past few weeks with a subscriber in an Asian country who is having challenges with projectors. He is trying to educate builders in his country about the need to make buildings accessible for those with disabilities. He is in a wheelchair, so he has great credibility when speaking on this topic. He uses photos that are powerful demonstrations of the points he is making. The greatest challenge is that the projectors that are supplied for his talks are usually old models with bulbs that are past their prime. He recently shared that he had spent much time fixing a set of photos that looked great on his laptop, but when projected, looked much poorer than he had hoped. What advice did I give him? I shared two strategies that might help him and help you when faced with situations where the projector is not very good.

First is to prepare your slides, then arrive at the venue early and test to see what one of the photos looks like. If it does not appear good, try adjusting the Brightness and Contrast settings in PowerPoint for that photo until it looks good. Then quickly change the other photos with the same method so that all photos look the best they can given that projector. The second thought is to create your slides and then make one or two extra copies of the slides. In each of these extra copies, adjust all the pictures the same way. So in copy #1 you would adjust all of the pictures to appear darker for situations where that will make them look better with the projector. In copy #2 you would adjust all the pictures to appear lighter for situations where that will make the pictures look better. Then, when you get to the room, test the three versions (normal coloring, darker coloring and lighter coloring) and use the one that looks the best that day.

If you are in situations where you have no control over the projector, you will have to come prepared with more options to be able to best handle the situation of that day. As you see what works better on a consistent basis, you can refine the options you bring.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Throw out some slides

Like most professionals, you are an expert in your field and you are asked to speak on the same or similar topics frequently. To save the time of recreating all your slides from scratch, you have a file that you usually use and it works pretty well. Let me encourage you today to throw some of those slides out. Why?

Because I know (and you do too) that you have improved and you can think of more effective ways of presenting certain points. So why keep using the same old slides? Throw out the ones that don't work and create new slides. Your whole presentation will get better as a result.

Every few months I do this for my slides. About two months ago when the last revision was made, I threw out over 50 slides. Why? Because there was a better slide that had been created or I had newer material that was stronger than the points on that slide. Let me give you a couple of examples.

I eliminated some slides in the area of adding photos because my audiences didn't want that level of detail. A good lesson for you is to watch your audience when you cover really detailed parts of your presentation. Are their eyes glazing over? If so, adjust the detail level to match your audience. Now if I have a situation that requires the detail, I will put the slides back in.

I also cut out a slide in the section on audio and video that I found I could consolidate with a similar slide, saving me time and my audience from hearing similar information twice. Where can you possibly consolidate information that may be similar, such as policies or features of two products? Cut slides to keep the focus on the most important information.

And then I added slides from recent research I have read or restructured some slides based on some presentation coaching I received this summer. All of the edits made it a much better presentation at the end.

Want to see the new version? Come to the one day Think Outside The Slide workshop in Seattle next week on Friday the 28th. Seats are filling up, so don't miss out. Register today at: .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A new way to distort graphs

As I was flipping through a magazine today I came across a new way to distort graphs that I had not seen before. They used some statistics from the KPMG consulting organization. Here is the original graph that KPMG created:

Well designed and clear. Now here is what was published in Backbone magazine:

What is with the bizarre slanting of the graph? It distorts the reality of the message and makes the source of the data look bad because viewers think the original graph was this confusing. The KPMG graph was well designed, but this one confuses because the viewer can't really tell where the bars on the graph end. The longest bar at 66% looks like it goes to the 75% mark on the horizintal axis. Not sure if they thought this would look "cool" or not. But it sure is confusing.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Annoying PowerPoint Survey Now Open

Every two years I repeat my survey on what audience members findanoying about bad PowerPoint presentations. This month the 2007version of the survey is taking place. It only takes two minutes tofill out and the results will be first announced at the ThinkOutside The Slide workshop in Seattle. The benefit of participatingis that you will help all of us avoid making key mistakes in thefuture. Please take a couple of minutes to complete the shortsurvey at:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Ideas from 5,000 years ago

We can learn valuable lessons from how humans communicated 5,000years ago. At that time, formal written language was not wellestablished, so how did people communicate? They used pictures andstories. They drew a picture on a cave wall and told the story ofwhat was depicted, whether it was hunting, family relationships orother important ideas.

One of the ideas I'll be sharing at the Think Outside The Slideworkshop later this month in Seattle is what we can learn from thismethod of communicating. Today, let me share a high-level lessonlearned by thinking about communicating through cave drawings.

Some people might refer to cave drawings as primitive. I am notsure I agree. I think what people even back then realized, is thatvisuals are powerful communication vehicles. So they drew withdetail and used vivid colors. They did it so well that the drawingsstill exist today.
Once the drawing was complete, they told the story of the event theydepicted. The story referred to the drawing, but added details andcontext that the drawing could not. The audience listened to thestory and looked at the drawing when it was important to do so.

Is this how you use visuals? Are they well drawn, clear and willthey stand the test of time? Do your explanations add color andcontext to the visual? Is the visual secondary to the point you aremaking or do you hide behind the visual as if it was more important?

Difficult questions to answer honestly. But ones that force us toconsider the role we assign to visuals in our presentation. At theworkshop, we will be spending time on thinking visually. You'll seeexamples, hear how to make different visuals effective and practicethinking visually in exercises.

If you haven't registered for the workshop on Friday, September 28thin Seattle, WA, I suggest you do it right now. Spaces are limitedand you won't want to miss out because you delayed. Here is thelink: .

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Politicians and PowerPoint

Well, this seems to be the year that PowerPoint has really made a big splash in American politics. It seems that using PowerPoint slides has started to become more popular with presidential candidates. They are even starting to post them on web sites for all to see. So how are they doing with their slides? One I looked at this week from the campaign of Mitt Romney was not too bad. But the designer made a few mistakes. First, there were a few instances of poor color contrast - black text on a medium gray background and black text on a turquoise background. Unfortunately in both cases they were using a background to the text in order to try to highlight it, but ended up making the text harder to see instead. Another mistake was in using meaningless titles for some maps. The title told us the topic, but with multiple colors and a legend in micro printing, you have no idea what the point of the map is. And in a graph on how malpractice premiums have increased, the swooping lines don't look so dramatic when you realize that the vertical scale has been altered to range from 90 to 150. This makes an increase from 100 to 120 for All Physicians look much greater than it would if the scale started properly at zero. Are these mistakes restricted just to politicians? No. These are common mistakes presenters and those who create their slides make every day. It is just that now we will get to see the mistakes played out in public more than we have ever seen before.

Disclaimer: I am not an American, so I can't vote in the upcoming elections. I don't have a bias for or against any candidate, I offer these comments as a useful discussion of slides we are seeing and what we can learn from them.