Saturday, February 23, 2008

Benefit of being an iStockPhoto member

One of the best web sites to find photos that you can use in your PowerPoint presentations is It has a huge library of high quality photos at very reasonable prices. After you become a member (which is free to do), you can set your account to automatically send you the weekly Contact Sheet newsletter. Now I know what you are thinking, Why do I need yet another e-mail when my Inbox is already overflowing? Well, there's a benefit for this one. You see in each issue of the newsletter, they offer two free photo downloads. That's right, two high quality photos that you can download for no cost. Sometimes the photo is one you won't ever use, like this week's one of an arm being tatooed. But if you take the 60 seconds to download the ones you might use, you can start building your photo library with high quality images for free. Check it out at the link above and join today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Radio station WIMTT

Have you been listening to radio station WIMTT lately? What? You aren't familiar with that station? Worried that it doesn't broadcast in your local area? Well it is available in every local radio market in the world and it is the single most important station for presenters to listen to.

The programming is key to effective presentations, but far too many presenters ignore the valuable content it provides. What is station WIMTT? It is a radio station you don't listen to with a traditional or satellite radio. It is a station you listen to with the radio in your head.

The call letters WIMTT stand for "What It Means To Them". The focus of your presentation is the audience, and if you aren't listening to their needs and desires, your presentations will fail. Don't spend your time thinking of what you want to say, spend your energy thinking of what your points mean to the audience.

Look at things from their point of view, not your own. Excited about a feature of your product? They don't care. What they want to know is what benefit they will get from that feature. Jazzed to tell the audience all the background data you've worked so hard to prepare? Sorry, they don't care. They want to know what it means to them and the key decisions they will need to make.

Too often presenters fall into the trap of thinking that just because they feel the data or information is important, so will the audience. This leads to presentations that end up being nothing more than a deluge of data that the audience has no hope in figuring out. And if you are presenting to decision makers, they certainly won't be making the decision you are hoping for.

Next time you sit down to create a presentation, tune your mental radio to station WIMTT. You'll end up with a presentation that is far more effective and your audience will appreciate it.

If you are relatively new to presenting, this tip is one that will cause you to rethink the approaches you might have observed from others. Once you have developed your key messages based on what the audience will want to hear, the next step is to create PowerPoint slides for your presentation. My book "Guide to PowerPoint" will help you create effective slides with both design and "how to" guidance. Check it out at .

Monday, February 18, 2008

Candidate for worst presentation I've ever seen

In sorting through some notes from last year's conferences that I attended, I was reminded of one presentation that is a strong candidate for the worst use of PowerPoint I have ever seen. Folks, I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

The presenter clearly did not understand the tool at all. He only had two slides, but apparently did not know that you could have more than one slide in a file. So he had two different files for his two slides. He opened both files before he started his presentation. He had also opened a browser window for some reason.

He starts his presentation and I noticed a red squiggly line under a couple of the words. I thought that was odd, but then I realized that he was presenting in the editing mode. Apparently he didn't know about Slide Show mode. I'd heard about people presenting in the editing mode, but this was the first time I had ever seen it.

Once he was finished with his first slide, it was time to move to his second slide. To do so, he pressed Alt+Tab, the Windows key combination to switch applications. But he switched to the browser instead of his next slide. He quickly apologized, then pressed the key combination again and got to his second slide.

When he finished his second slide, he did not need the slides any more. So he placed his Starbucks cup in front of the lens of the projector, effectively balcking out the screen.

I sat through this 20 minute presentation in awe. Awe of not how effective he was as a presenter of course, but stunned at how someone who is employed teaching students to communicate was demonstrating his lack of ability. If you aren't comfortable using the tool, don't use it at all.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Skipping ahead

I was on the road last week presenting and am heading to the airport again this morning, but thought I'd share a tip that helped me last week. I was doing a new custom program for a client and wasn't sure of the amount of material that I needed. It really depended on how much discussion the group wanted to get in to. So I added an exercise close to the end that I could use if we looked like we were going to end too early. But on my speaking notes, I wrote down that if I wanted to skip the exercise, I needed to go to slide 96. Sure enough, we didn't need that exercise, so on the previous slide, I typed "9", "6", and hit the "Enter" key on my keyboard. Skipped right over the exercise without the audience even knowing it. This is a technique that all presenters should know about. To advance to any slide in your file, type in the slide number and press the Enter key. It instantly jumps to that slide. Use this to skip sections or jump to a special slide you have prepared to answer a question that you anticipated would come up. It is so much better than advancing through slides you want to skip as the audience watches information they are missing whip by. Make sure you have the slide numbers written down to do this and you will look like a pro every time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Is Your Font Big Enough?

One of the questions that comes up often in my workshops is "How big of a font should I use?" The answer is ... It depends.

You certainly don't want to do what I have seen twice in the past 18 months. These two presentations have set the record for smallest font used on a slide in my experience. They used a five point font. No, that is not a typo. Five (5) point! And they expected the audience to be able to read it.

So how do I answer the font size question? I did the research to come up with a way that I could determine an appropriate font size.

I started by considering visual acuity. This is the term used for how well we see. It is what the optometrist measures using the eye chart that starts with the large "E" at the top and smaller lines below. They determine your visual acuity based on how tall a letter you can clearly see at what distance. It is important that we have the letters on our slides large enough so most people can see them. But the next challenge was to figure out what level of visual acuity I should assume for most audiences.

To answer the average vision question I turned to the standard they use for road signs in North America. There is a manual for designers of road signs that specify how big the letters should be in order for the text to be read at a certain distance from the sign. So I used these standards and the visual acuity measurement standards to determine that road signs assume approximately 20/35 vision (20/20 is perfect vision). So, to be conservative, I assume 20/40 vision (it is also one of the standard measurements).

I then used a projector to calculate the ratio of height of a standard Arial font to the width of the projected image. This allows me to know how tall a letter of a particular point size will be on a screen of a certain size.

Now I had all the parts I needed. Using the assumptions of 20/40 vision and that the image fills the screen, I could calculate the maximum distance that an audience member should be to comfortably read a font of a certain size. Now I can answer the font size question based on research, not on a feeling. There is no one single answer, it depends on screen size and the distance of the furthest person in the room.

So what I have done is put all of this work into an easy to use table that is now available for you to download from my web site. Go to and you will see the link to download the table in Adobe PDF format. You are free to tell others about the link and encourage them to sign up for the newsletter so they can receive more great tips in the future. If you want to use it in your teaching or consulting work, please make sure that you do not alter the page and that you give credit to the source.

Now you have a way to answer the question of "How big of a font should I use?"