Monday, December 28, 2009

Increasing the impact of our presentations through planned re-exposure

An article I recently wrote for Speaking of Impact magazine talked about how meeting planners can increase the ROI of their meetings by planning to re-expose the audience to key messages. You can read the article at if you select the current issue (Winter 2009) and go to page 26. I’d like to expand on this topic by giving examples of how you can use this idea of planned re-exposure in different business settings.

After you meet someone at a networking event, send an e-mail reminding them of what you discussed and give links for them to find out more information. Flag their record in your CRM system to indicate which topic they are most interested in. About 30 days later, send them a link to an article or news story relating to the topic. Even though you may not consider networking as a formal presentation, how you present what you do is also enhanced by planned re-exposure.

After a sales presentation, send an e-mail thanking the contact for their time and recapping the key ideas you presented. About seven days later, create a video message adding another idea or reason that your product or service is right for them and send the video to them or use a service like Brainshark to host the video message and send them a link (for an example of a Brainshark video, click here).

After a training session, plan to send the participants weekly e-mails that reinforce what was taught and give tips on implementing the new skills or ideas in their own work. This can be set up in advance and sent automatically via an autoresponder. Some of the e-mails can include links to videos that demonstrate the ideas in action or sample files that show how the ideas have been used in the past.

Status Update/Project Update
After an update presentation, send a link to your presentation to all of those who attended the meeting so they have the updated information to refer to. Also include the answers to any questions that were raised at the meeting that needed further research. A few days or a week later, give a quick update on how progress is going so that they know the direction things are heading.

In each of these cases, you need to think through how you will re-expose your audience to your key messages, but investing that time before you present pays off in a much greater impact overall.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Passing the torch in your presentation

Yesterday the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch relay passed through our city. It was a very special event since it is not something that you see very often. As my family and I watched one torch bearer pass the flame to the next torch bearer, I was reminded of when presenters in team presentations hand off the presentation to the next presenter. Watch the video below and notice how the first torch bearer is excited to see the next torch bearer, the next runner is prepared to accept the flame, how they pass the flame in a planned way and how the second torch bearer immediately starts his run.

When you are passing the presentation on to the next presenter in a team presentation, do as the torch bearers do. Give an enthusiastic reception to the next presenter, turn the presentation over to them with a planned and rehearsed introduction, and then let them immediately start running with the presentation. When you are the next presenter in this situation, be prepared for the handoff and be ready to start running as soon as the presentation is passed to you.

By planning and practicing the handoffs between presenters, you keep the flame burning brightly in a team presentation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Paul Gilber shares his extensive PowerPoint resource list

A big thank you to Paul Gilber of Connecting Dots for sharing his very long and extensive list of resource for PowerPoint presenters on Scribd at Be prepared to take twenty minutes (or more) to follow some of the links in his list. He covers information in articles and resources for music and stock photography amongst many other categories. A good list to review over the holidays and get some new ideas for next year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Best slide ever

While I was at the PowerPoint Live conference in October, I was interviewed by Ron Galloway, who is doing a documentary film on PowerPoint. Here’s how he describes the film: “Regarding Powerpoint” will attempt to put the program’s influence on business, education, and thinking into meaningful context. The film will be out early next year, but it is one of the questions he asked me that I want to expand on in today’s tip.

Ron asked me, “What is the best PowerPoint slide you have ever seen?” I thought for a moment and came up with an answer that he wasn’t expecting. And it may be one that you’ll find surprising as well. I said the best slide was a black slide, where there was essentially nothing on the screen. Now that may seem like a strange answer, but let me explain why I said it.

I believe that slides should only be used to enhance your message, not to take over your message. Too often, presenters make the slides the message and, in reality, the audience doesn’t even need the presenter there. Effective presenters use black slides to focus the audience on only one thing, the powerful message they are delivering. There is no visual to distract the audience or compete with the message. The spotlight is on you, not the visual support.

I use black slides when I am telling a story and want the emotion of the story to have impact without competing with a visual from a previous point. It forces the audience to look into your eyes and you connect so much deeper with them. When you are delivering the key point you want them to remember, use a black slide so they have 100% attention on your words and body language.

A colleague recently asked me to give feedback on her presentation at a conference. She did a great job using humor and connecting with the audience. But many times I felt that her slides took away from her message. She used them to illustrate one of her key points, but then as she expanded on the idea, the slide was still showing and it distracted us from her message. I suggested she use the slides, but once she showed us the quote or picture, go to a black slide so we can focus on her explaining the deeper application of the point to our lives.

Using a black slide seems like a simple idea, but one that can improve the effectiveness of your presentation. Part of thinking about presentation visuals is also thinking about when they are NOT needed. Try it in your next presentation and let me know how it works.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Misleading graphics undermine your credibility

Look at this graphic from the front page of The Globe and Mail that shows the number of troops involved in four different conflicts.

Which conflict had the most troops involved? If you said the one that takes up most of the visual, you would have come to the immediate conclusion that most people would come to when looking at this visual. But you would be wrong.

The area taken up by the troop icons for the conflict in Afghanistan is the largest area in the visual, representing about three-quarters of the area of the visual. Because we assign proportion based on the proportion of the area representing each item, we incorrectly conclude that this conflict involves the most troops.

If you count the troop icons, again you would conclude that the 135 icons in the Afghanistan conflict part of the visual would represent the largest number of troops since the next highest number of troop icons is 69. Again, this would lead you to an incorrect conclusion.

What the designer did was to use each icon in the Afghan conflict to represent 1,000 troops, but the smaller icons for the other conflicts represent 10,000 troops each. Yes, that is explained in small text below the visual, but most people will not see that explanation. Nor would they easily conclude that a much larger icon represents one-tenth of the smaller icon; it is counter-intuitive.

This is a prime example of a misleading visual. It tries to get you to draw a particular conclusion that is not actually supported by the data. It uses tricks and manipulation to deceive the viewer.

Presenters do this when they manipulate the vertical axis of a graph to show a change to be more dramatic than it actually is. Or when they crop out the part of a photo that gives it context and would cause people to come to a different conclusion. Or when they show only the results that support their point and don’t show data that would enable the audience to get a clear picture of the true situation.

Please don’t do this. Use visuals, but don’t manipulate them. It destroys your credibility and it causes your audience to start to questioning everything you have said. And your presentation is unlikely to be very successful.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

PowerPoint Slide Makeover - Explaining components of a difference

Just a quick note to let you know that a new Slide Makeover Video Podcast based on the ideas in "The Visual Slide Revolution" is available for your viewing through the iTunes Store, online or through my YouTube channel. When comparing financial figures between two periods, one of the common messages we need to communicate is what makes up the difference between the two figures. Instead of just pasting an Excel sheet on your slide, use the ideas in this makeover to break down the difference visually and make each component clear to your audience.

This slide was submitted by one of the participants in a workshop - someone just like you who is looking for a way to make their presentations more effective. If you want to submit some of your slides to be considered for a future slide makeover, e-mail them to me at

If you have already subscribed through iTunes or another podcatcher, the new podcast should be automatically downloaded when you next run the program.

To subscribe via the iTunes Store, click here.
To view online or get the RSS file for other podcatchers, click here.
You can also watch all the podcasts on my YouTube channel at

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To get your own copy of "The Visual Slide Revolution", click here.
To access quick "how-to" videos for only $1.99 each, click here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Sequence of Information matters

Research by Michael Posner reported in John Medina’s book Brain Rules shows why the typical sequence of information is not helping our presentations be as effective as they could be. I’ve been sharing this with my workshop audiences this year and I’d like to share it with you in today’s tip.

The usual sequence is to methodically share every piece of supporting data we have in a logical order and present the conclusion after all the data has been shared. For example, a typical persuasive sales presentation would list each feature of the product or service and then present the conclusion that the product or service is the best to solve the problem at hand. So why is this not as effective as it could be? Because the audience doesn’t know where you are headed. By the time you get to the conclusion, they have forgotten the different pieces of data and don’t necessarily know how the data supports the conclusion. With confusion comes lack of action.

Research by Michael Posner suggests that audiences recall better and understand your message better if they first hear the conclusion, then the supporting data. This way, they know where you are headed and can fit the data you present into the conclusion you have already stated. It is similar to having the destination first before you start to map the route. By knowing where you are going, you can see how each road in the route moves you towards the destination. This is a simple change that you can make in your presentation that will make it more effective.

I want to take this research and extend it’s application one step further. When you create a non-linear presentation, you state the conclusion first, then give the audience a menu of data to select from. The audience selects what data they need to hear in order to convince themselves that your conclusion is valid. This is a great way to engage the audience and customize the presentation to this exact audience at this exact time. How much time would be saved in meetings if the audience could direct the presentation and hear only what they needed to hear in order to support the conclusion?

If you haven’t read Brain Rules yet, click here to order a copy from Amazon or pick it up at your local bookstore. If you want to create your first non-linear presentation and want to know how to use hyperlinks in PowerPoint to do so, check out the “how-to” video in the Hyperlinks section of my PowerPoint How-To Videos page.