Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Text formatting tips

Last Friday I did a web based training session for a consulting organization and one of the issues we discussed was formatting text on slides so that it was easy to understand. Even though I try to help people use visuals instead of text, I know that text will still be an important part of our slides. So today’s article gives a few tips on making that text easy to interpret.

Let’s start with a common issue I see on slides, improper use of hanging indents. This happens when you want to have text on a slide that is not in bullet points, so you just click the bullet point format button to turn off bullet points in the default layout. Unfortunately, PowerPoint removes the bullet, but does not remove the hanging indent, which causes the first line of text to hang off to the left of the rest of the text. The audience wonders what is wrong. One solution is to adjust the indent settings on the ruler to make the first line indent marker line up with the left indent marker. An even better solution is to select the Title Only slide layout and add your own text box. This way, PowerPoint won’t reformat the slide if you re-use it in another presentation.

When you use a text box to hold your text, an easy way to format the text into columns is to use the tabs that you can add on the text box ruler. There are four types of tabs you can add, and the two most important in my mind are the left tab and the decimal tab. The left tab allows you to line up text on the left edge at a certain spot. This works best for a column of words because we are expecting words to be left-aligned. The decimal tab lines up numbers at the decimal, regardless of how many numbers are on either side of the decimal. This is the best way to line up financial amounts because it makes the numbers very easy to understand. And is a much better approach than trying to use spaces to line up numbers (which never works perfectly anyways).

If you are forced to display a paragraph of text on a slide because you are quoting a person or a legal/regulatory document, you need a way to make the most important phrase or two stand out. You can make those words bold, but I have found that, depending on the lighting or screen, bold doesn’t always stand out well in the middle of a paragraph of text. Underlining was a good approach in the past, but today it has a different interpretation. When people see underlined text, they assume it is a hyperlink because we have been conditioned by viewing web sites. The best approach I have found is to highlight the words you want to emphasize. Since there is no highlight tool in PowerPoint, you need to create a rectangle behind the words in a color that will be easily seen (yellow highlighting on a white background works well because it looks like a real highlighter on a page of paper).

Some of you already know the techniques to use in PowerPoint to implement the ideas I’ve shared in this article. If you are looking for step-by-step videos, I demonstrated these techniques and many, many more of my most asked for “how-to” techniques in a webinar last year. The recording is available here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Presentation Lesson from the Applebees Men’s Room

Don’t worry, this is a G-rated blog post. In the last two weeks I’ve had lunch twice at our local Applebees with business colleagues. The first time I went in to the men’s room, I stopped and looked at the mirror above the sink. Here’s what I saw.

They are using a new technology that displays a visual ad on the mirror. I don’t know how the technology works, but it looked pretty cool. When I went to wash my hands, the ad disappeared from the mirror.

There is a little motion sensor below the mirror that detects if someone is in front of the mirror and turns the ad off. Now how does this relate to presentations?

In too many presentations, the presenter keeps a visual up on the screen even though the visual doesn’t add to what they are saying. It may have been used to introduce the point, but then the presenter moves in to a deeper explanation or story and the visual really isn’t necessary. The visual on the screen distracts the audience and takes away from the message you are delivering. What should you do? Get rid of the visual. Go to a black slide.

It is similar to what happens on the mirror in the Applebees men’s room. The ad on the mirror disappears when you want to focus on your appearance before you leave the men’s room. When you want the audience to focus on you and the point you are making, get rid of the visual that distracts them and give them only you to focus on.

Especially in keynote presentations, I think presenters could use black slides far more often than I see today. Use a visual to introduce the point, then go to a black slide and the audience is forced to focus on you and your message. I am not suggesting you get rid of all visuals. I am suggesting that they be used more effectively during the presentation. Sometimes the most effective visual is not on the screen, it is you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Quickly adding iPhone or iPad videos to your presentation

Last week the new iPad2 joined the lineup of popular Apple devices that have video cameras. The desire to use those videos in our presentation is a hot topic. One of my consulting clients will be using his iPhone videos this year to show testimonials. I used my iPhone to demonstrate taking and using video in a recent CSAE presentation. And I included the topic in last month’s webinar on Incorporating Video in Your PowerPoint Presentations.

So how do you use video from an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch in your presentation? There are four steps I want to cover in this article. One important thing to realize is that you don’t need to use iTunes to get your video off your device. This means you can take a video and use it even if you aren’t at your home PC that you use to sync your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how you can use these videos in your presentation.

First, connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer and wait for it to be recognized. If you have iTunes on this computer, it usually automatically opens up, assuming you want to use iTunes. In this case we don’t. You usually get a notification from Windows that the device has been connected and it allows you to view the files in Windows Explorer (you can just open Windows Explorer to view the files even if you don’t get the automatic notification). This is what you want to do. Find the video file you want on your device and copy it to your computer using the normal file copying techniques.

Most of the time you will want to edit the video clip to remove any extra segments that are not needed to make the one point you are using it for. To convert the video to the WMV format that is preferred by PowerPoint on Windows, use the online conversion tool at www.online-convert.com. It is a quick tool that does a great job.

Third, edit the video using Windows Live Movie Maker, which is a free download from Microsoft’s web site. It is easy to use and includes a good tool to clip some time off the front or back of a video. Microsoft has some good tutorials on using this tool online here. Output the video in at least a 640 x 480 resolution so it will be easy for the audience to see it.

The last step is to insert the movie clip on a slide in your presentation. PowerPoint makes this easy when you click on Insert – Movie. Select the option to play the video automatically and as soon as you go to that slide, your video will play.

By becoming comfortable with these steps, you can start to quickly incorporate videos from your iPhone or iPad2 into your presentations. If you’d like more details on using video in your presentation, check out the recording of my webinar on this topic by clicking here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PowerPoint Slide Makeover #72: Revealing details in levels

Below I’ve posted a new Slide Makeover Video Podcast based on the ideas in "The Visual Slide Revolution". Too often presenters overwhelm audiences with details using a spreadsheet copied on to a slide. This makeover shows how you can reveal details in levels so the audience can follow your message easier.

The slides I use in my makeovers are drawn from my consulting engagements and training workshops. If you want to submit some of your slides to be considered for a future slide makeover, e-mail them to me at Dave@ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com.

You can get all my podcasts through iTunes, subscribing to my YouTube channel, or through Brainshark. If you have subscribed via iTunes or YouTube, please provide your positive feedback on the videos in the Comments and Ratings areas of the service so others know the value you get from the videos.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Equipment to carry when presenting

I was speaking at the CSAE Trillium Chapter Winter Summit last Friday. I brought a lot of cables and equipment because I was doing a live demonstration of how you can create a video for your web site using visuals you create in PowerPoint. I normally don’t carry that amount of gear with me, but I do carry more than just my laptop and remote. In today’s article I want to talk about three pieces of equipment that help me present successfully when travelling.

I carry a 12 foot VGA extension cable in the bottom of my laptop bag. Why? Because it allows me to place my laptop where I can see it and work with it regardless of how the AV staff have set up the projector connection. Typically the connection for the projector is taped down to the lectern. I don’t speak behind a lectern because it creates a physical barrier between the audience and the presenter. Instead, I use my extension cord to move the connection to a nearby table or chair. This also allows me to access my laptop in case I am doing a live demonstration or hyperlinking from a slide to external content.

Another key piece of equipment in my laptop bag is a small hamburger speaker. When I want to use a video or audio clip, the laptop speakers are inadequate because they are not loud enough and they are aimed towards me, not the audience. I don’t want to haul a large set of speakers with me, and this is the smallest speaker I could find that fills a room. I’ve used it successfully in rooms with 50-75 people. It is powered from a USB port, so there are no power cords to carry. It plugs in to the headphone jack on the laptop, and it can also be used to play music from an MP3 player if you want to. If you’ve never seen this type of speaker before, here is a link to the one that iHome makes: http://www.ihomeaudio.com/iHM60LC/, which is available at many retailers.

Last year I changed the portable wireless mouse I carry when I travel. I am now using the Microsoft Arc Mouse. Why did I make the switch? A number of reasons. First, it is the smallest and lightest portable mouse that I can use comfortably (those tiny ones hurt my hand after a short time). It stores even smaller because it flips closed, which is great when you are trying to fit everything in a laptop bag. That flipping closed also turns off the mouse, saving the battery when I am not using it. The USB dongle for the computer magnetically sticks to the bottom of the mouse and is protected when the mouse is flipped close. And being wireless, I can use it as a remote if I need to in case my remote dies during a presentation. You should be able to buy this mouse at most computer or electronic retailers.

Those are three key pieces of equipment that I carry to help my presentations be successful. If you have other key pieces of equipment that help you present when travelling, feel free to add them in the comments below.