Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presentation Tip: Ten years of the newsletter

Ten years ago, on February 26th 2002, I sent out my first newsletter. Today, I am sending you issue 255. What a journey it has been these last ten years. According to my records, over 13,500 people have been part of the newsletter list at one time or another (over 8,200 are on the list currently). Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey. Today I want to reflect on what I have learned and experienced writing this newsletter for you, my subscribers.

In the first issue I covered shortcut keys when using Slide Show mode in PowerPoint, keeping cables organized with Velcro straps, and a book recommendation. Back then, the focus of my business was broader and included the different technologies we used to communicate, including all the Microsoft Office programs and related software and hardware. As the focus of my business has changed, the content of the newsletter changed. In the last year I have been sharing tips on many aspects of effective presenting, not just on PowerPoint, so you will see the newsletter now reflects that in the subject line.

The discipline of writing this newsletter every two weeks for you has given me more benefits than I could have imagined ten years ago. I have been encouraged to cover topics that I otherwise would not have explored. I have been challenged to examine perspectives that made me deepen my thinking. And I have discovered topics that have enriched my workshops, consulting, and webinars.

The thoughts I have captured in these newsletter articles have helped me author or co-author six books (with two more planned for this year). The content has given me the depth to produce both written and video products that many of you have invested in. And the archives have given many people a resource of information that has improved their presentations.

Today I would like to officially launch a new part of my website dedicated to delivering even more free resources to help presenters. At www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/freeresources, you will find written resources, video tutorials, and links to other tools that will help you create more effective presentations. All of the content is absolutely free. Why? Because I know that if you see the value in what I offer there, you will be more likely to invest in a book, webinar recording, consulting or live workshop.

Here's what you'll find on my Free Resources site. You can download a chapter of my book "The Visual Slide Revolution", along with other documents. You can download videos that teach you certain techniques in PowerPoint, and find links to the best tutorials on PowerPoint by other experts I trust. There are links to my slide makeover videos, which use before and after examples to teach valuable lessons for presenters. And you can use the links to tools such as the Color Contrast Calculator to make better decisions about the design and content of your presentations. Please pass on the site address to others who want to improve their presentations.

At the end of each newsletter, I'll feature one of the resources from this site so you can be reminded of a technique, tool, or video that could help you in your presentations. Feel free to tweet about it, post it on Facebook, or include it in a blog post if it helps you. Look for the link at the end of each newsletter.

Again, thank you for your support over the last ten years. I can truthfully say that I could not keep doing this without the comments, questions, and encouragement of all of you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

PowerPoint Tip: Don’t start your presentation with credits

Last week in a coaching session a client asked, “What is the best way to start my presentation?” She said that she had tried different methods and didn’t feel that they were working as well as she wanted. This question reminded me of what Nick Morgan said in his keynote presentation at the Presentation Summit last fall. In this article I want to talk about how to start your presentation, building off of what Nick suggested in his talk.

How do most movies and TV shows start today? As Nick pointed out, it is much different than 15 years ago. In the past, a movie started out with the credits. It listed all the actors, the key production personnel, and other important people before you saw the first scene. Not today. In the first moments of any show, they have an exciting scene that immediately gets you involved in the story. After they have you hooked, they show a few credits.

I agree with Nick that our presentations should be similar. If we don’t hook the audience in the first sixty seconds, they start to lose interest. But, you may say, I don’t give credits at the start of my presentation like a movie does. Too many of the presentations I review actually do start with the equivalent of credits in the business world: the introduction of the team, many facts about the company or department, and the agenda of the presentation. The audience has lost interest by the time you actually get to any real content.

So how do you grab their attention at the start of your presentation, and what do you do with the “credits” information? As I suggested to my coaching client last week, you should start by making it clear to the audience why they should spend time listening to you. What key analysis, important decision, or future direction are you going to discuss that will directly impact this audience? Unless they see the connection to their own lives, they won’t see a reason to stay tuned to the rest of the presentation.

Once you have started with the reason they should pay attention, you can then outline the key points in your presentation, in the form of an agenda if you prefer. This gives the audience a roadmap to follow as you explain the details behind your opening statement.

Consider whether you really need to include information about the team or company. Many times that information is self-serving and does not really help the audience understand your message. If you do include this type of information, it must be presented in a way so that your audience understands why it matters to them, not just because you are trying to boast. (I did a slide makeover on this topic that you can view on YouTube here)

Just like movie and television producers have changed how they start a show, as presenters we have to change how we start our presentations. The old methods of telling a joke, commenting on the news, or reciting how great we are do not work. Our audience expects to be engaged from the start. If we don’t engage them, they will turn to their laptop, smartphone, or even get up and leave. Start your presentation with why your topic is important to this audience and you will have a more successful presentation.