Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You better know PowerPoint to get into Chicago's MBA program

This article in the Washington Post describes how new students applying for a spot at the University of Chicago MBA program now have to submit a four slide presentation that is used as one of the final criteria for admission. The aim is to encourage creativity as an addition to the essays that are required. In the requirements posted online here, it says that the slides will be printed only, not viewed on a computer, and you can submit a Word document explaining your slides. If they are only going to print the slides, and not allow the applicant to deliver the slides, how much creativity and communications skills are they really going to see? The whole point of PowerPoint is not to be a page design program, but to create visuals that add to a live presentation. I think a better approach would be to allow the applicants to present their slides online or create a video of the presentation - that would really show creativity and communications skills. Tools to do so are readily available and would really allow applicants to be creative. My fear is that all Chicago's MBA program will receive are fancy looking documents that could have easily been done in Word anyways.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fireworks as a model for PowerPoint slides

Now before you think I've lost my mind and I'm suggesting that we make our slides look like exploding fireworks displays, rest assured that I am still sane. While watching a fireworks display recently at Disneyland with my family, I noticed how you see the firework explode and then a moment or two later you hear the boom. And it caused me to think that a firework is a good analogy to how our PowerPoint slides should work. Our audience should see the visual, take it in, then then hear us talk. If we are talking while the audience is trying to understand the visual, they won't be listening to us and our message will be lost. The point for presenters is to wait until the audience has seen the visual, comprehended it and then start speaking. This is uaually a delay of only a second or two, but it is important in helping our visuals and words make the greatest impact.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: How Many Features Do You Need To Know?

Recently we had a family picture taken on my wife's side of the family. We assembled at her parent's house and a photographer we know, Larry, came to take the picture outside. Everything went exceedingly well - the weather was perfect and smiles abounded. After we were done, we all went back into the house for refreshments.

One of the reasons we have used Larry in the past is his ability to touch up a photo using Photoshop. He and I were talking about this in the house after the photo shoot and I had assumed that he was a Photoshop expert user. Turns out he only really knows the eight or so functions that he needs to make photos look amazing.

As I thought about it later, that makes perfect sense. I teach that you don't need to know every feature of PowerPoint, only the ones to be effective at presenting in your role. That's why most top presenters only use about 20-25% of the features at most. It's also why I'll never be Microsoft certified at PowerPoint. All their tests focus on knowing every esoteric feature, not what you really need to be an effective user. That's why today I am introducing my PowerPoint Effectiveness Assessment.

It is an online assessment that will allow you to measure yourself again 40 best practices and 74 specific skills I have found that real business presenters need to know. Like Larry, you don't need to know every feature, just the ones that will help you do what you need to do in your job.
The big question is which of the hundreds and hundreds of features do you need to know? Now, with this online assessment, you will get a personal report listing which areas you are doing well in and which areas and skills you need to work on. It's like getting a personal road map to becoming an expert PowerPoint presenter.

To take the assessment, check out the details at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/assessment.htm . You'll even get to see a sample of the extensive report that you will receive after completing the questionnaire. If you have a team of colleagues who would benefit from the assessment, such as a team of sales professionals, e-mail me for group rates.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Use Your Own Remote

Many large conventions are set up by A/V folks who use a presenter remote system that inevitably causes more problems than it solves. The presenter is usually a big wig and the tech folks assume that the big wig can’t handle more than one button on a remote. So they use a remote that has only one large green button on it. The problem is that the remote is not hooked up to a computer. It signals a light in the A/V booth and when the tech person sees the light go on, they advance the slides. Sounds good in theory, but I have seen it far too often mess up a presenter. In the past, when presenters just put up a whole slide and talked for a few minutes about it, this system was usually OK. But today, presenters use builds on their slides and the system breaks down. The tech person is not watching the light closely enough to keep up with the presenter or gets ahead of the presenter when they think that the light flashed twice. I’ve seen this ruin keynote presentations. If you are presenting in a big venue, insist that you use your own remote hooked up to your own laptop sitting on or in front of the stage so that the signal from the remote will be clear and you will control it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Start Your Presentation Right

At the convention I was at this past week I saw two presenters make the same mistake using PowerPoint at the very start of their presentation. In fact, it was even before they began speaking. What mistake did they make? Let me explain. Both presenters used a set of slides to warm up and interest the audience as we were coming in to the room. One had a rotating set of slides showing pictures of her family and the other had a countdown set of slides that had interesting facts and quotes with a little reminder in the corner of how many minutes there were until the start of the program. Good ideas both. But when it came time to start the actual presentation, both dropped out of the introductory set of slides to the PowerPoint program, switched over to their presentation set of slides and then started that show. All while the audience watched. Not so good. They should have linked the two shows so that they could smoothly transition from one to the other without having to drop to the program. Remember that it is always about the experience for your audience. Learn how to use a good idea so that it enhances the experience not detracts from it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

PowerPoint Tip - Why Not Use a Map?

If you have geographic based data to present, it is important to organize it into a logical manner for the audience. Usually this means organizing it left to right in west to east order so that the data on the slide is the same order as the regions or territories would be if you looked at a map. Typically this will be a column graph with the western data starting on the left moving to the far right where we find eastern data.

A recent client slide from a Canadian client is a perfect illustration. They were showing market share in each region. They used a column graph and had one bar for BC, one for Alberta, one for the Prairies, one for Ontario, one for Quebec and one for the Atlantic provinces. It was a well designed slide. But it could have been even more effective.

When showing market share, a pie chart is a great visual because the proportion is instantly clear to the audience. But how do you create a pie graph that would show market share in each of six regions? The answer is you can't. But you can use a pie chart for each region.
What I used was a map of Canada as the base graphic for the slide covering most of the slide. On top of the map, I created a small pie chart that showed the market share in BC. Then I positioned the pie chart over British Columbia on the map. Then I did the same for each of the other five regions. So the slide had a map with six small pie charts showing the market share in each region.

The result was a much clearer picture of where the company had strong market share and where they needed to focus efforts at increasing market share. There was very little text needed because the pie chart and the positioning on the underlying map said it all. The next time you have geographic data to present, think of how you can use a map to give the audience context that is far more effective than just words.

Members of the Think Outside the Slide Members Site have access to a new video that shows the slides I refer to above and shows you how to get clean, simple maps that you can use on your slides without using complex mapping software. If you are not a member yet, you can join at http://members.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com . You can also learn more about using diagrams instead of text in chapter 6 of "Guide to PowerPoint" available at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/guidetoppt.htm .

Monday, July 02, 2007

Princess Diana knew the power of a visual

Yesterday I watched a fair bit of the telecast of the Concert for Diana from London, England. Inbetween the musical and other performers they showed video segments about Diana. One of the segments focused on photographers who had taken pictures of her, from official royal photographers to fashion photographers. Something one of them said was very interesting.

He commented that Diana really knew how to use the press, especially when it came to helping charities through having herself photographed in a way that helped the cause. One photo they showed was of her walking and she had a T-shirt with the name of the charity on under her jacket. She walked with her hands in her pockets holding the jacket open so that the name of the charity was clear for everyone to see when that photograph was published.

Another story concerned her trip to a leprosy hospital in Southeast Asia. When she came in, she deliberately went over to a man suffering from the disease and shook his hand and spoke with him. The director of the hospital commented to an observer that the one photo of Diana speaking to this man would do more for the cause than his 30 years of work at the clinic.

That's the power of a visual. They could have written letters, grant proposals, met with delegates of many nations, but the visual trumped them all.

So what's the point for business presenters? That visuals have the power to stick in people's minds. People remember images and the emotions they bring forth. In your presentations, look to create and use images that tie your key message to an emotion and you will have a much better chance of your message being remembered and acted upon.