Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Create a custom image

As we start to move towards using more visuals in our presentations, we have the desire to create better and better graphics. And this is good, as long as better does not mean more complex. We need to keep them simple and meaningful for the audience. Does this mean we have to hire a graphic designer though?

I don't think so. Many times we can create custom images for our slides by combining multiple elements to create a new image that shows exactly what we want to communicate. And combining elements is easier than it sounds. Let me use an example from a recent client presentation.

The client wanted to explain how two competing ideas needed to be balanced in order to achieve the optimal result. Instead of stating it simply as text bullet points, I created an image by combining text and a photo. I took a photo of an old balance scale, the type they used in shops a hundred years ago. Then, I added semi- transparent text boxes on each of the platforms for the two competing ideas. The resulting image visually showed a balance of the two ideas.

What idea do you have to communicate that could be done visually by creating your own custom image? Perhaps you want to show three options to a client and they are good, better and best options. Why not use a podium like they use at sporting events and show the options as the bronze, silver and gold medal winning options.

When you are creating custom images, two techniques will help make it look great. The first is to be deliberate about placing the different elements in layers on the slide. By doing so you can control how much of each element is seen. Second, use semi- transparent backgrounds for text boxes so that any elements underneath the text box can still be partially seen. This keeps the visual continuity of the underlying elements intact.

If you want more ideas on how to transform your text slides into visuals, check out the "Transforming Text Slides Into Visual Slides" e-book at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/transformtext.htm .

Thursday, August 16, 2007

PowerPoint at Trade Shows

More and more trade show booths are using PowerPoint shows to attract the delegates into their booth. These slides rotate key messages that hopefully will click with someone passing by and cause them to stop and come in. But setting up the display dooms some booths. One setup is to have a projector beaming the images on to a white board attached to a flipchart stand. This is the cheap way to go and it shows. The image is so slanted that it looks strange and the setup takes up too much space in the booth. Another option is to just place a laptop running the slides on a table near the front of the booth. Another bad idea. The laptop screen is so small that almost no one can read it when they pass by. The best option is to rent an LCD panel and mount it in a visible spot. This gives a large, clear image for those walking by the booth. But if you are going to do this, make sure that the images are running before people come into the exhibit hall. I've seen too many LCD panels that say "No Input Signal" during the trade show hours. What does that say to potential clients?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: The Value of Preparing Early

When you travel, it is almost inevitable that you will see someone working on their presentation in the airport waiting area or on the airplane. Inevitably, they will get off the plane, jump into a rental car and drive to a meeting room where they will present that set of slides. By leaving the preparation to the last minute, you don't give yourself four advantages that preparing early gives you.

First, when you prepare early, you leave yourself time to let the ideas percolate in your mind. You can review your presentation without being rushed and make revisions. This makes your presentation better. Presenters regularly tell me that they thought of a great way to present an idea after the presentation and wished they had thought of it before they presented. By preparing early, you give yourself the time to think of these great ideas.

If you have ever arrived at the presentation site and realized that you have forgotten a cord or piece of equipment, you know the next advantage of preparing early. I've seen presenters forget their power cords, presentation remotes and all sorts of other equipment. By preparing early, you can make a list of all of these pieces of equipment so you don't forget any of them.

When you prepare at the last minute, too often your slides turn into a dump of what you are going to say. Then you end up reading the slides to the audience, which is the most annoying thing you can do according to the surveys of audiences. By preparing early, you have time to think of visuals that allow you to have more of a discussion about the ideas. You also have time to prepare the visuals, such as graphs, diagrams and photos.

Finally, when you prepare early, you can relax and enjoy the experience. I remember one presentation years ago when I left everything to the last minute and was creating slides late the night before the presentation. I wasn't relaxed and didn't feel as confident as I could have. The presentation went OK, but it could have been so much better if I had been well rested.

When you prepare early, you can check your presentation and slides to make sure everything works the way you expect it to. Members of the Think Outside The Slide Members Site have access this week to a new video where I demonstrate a number of ways to test your slides before you present. If you are not a member, watch the video tour and sign up at http://members.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com .