Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Takeaways from the Presentation Summit

Last month I had the privilege of speaking at the ninth Presentation Summit in Austin, Texas. It is the one time during the year that the presentation community gets together and shares ideas and best practices on creating and delivering effective presentations. In addition to being a speaker and connecting with colleagues, I attend to further my knowledge from the excellent speakers who present. Today I want to share three of the many ideas I took away from this year’s conference.

Connie Malamed delivered a pre-conference workshop on visual design and one of the points I took away is how sketching taps in to our natural creativity. I am not an artist or designer, but I have often used sketches to determine what visual will work best for a particular situation. Recently during a consulting call, I was sketching different graphs as my client spoke about what he was trying to communicate in a specific slide. It helped to be able to visualize my thoughts and gave me new ideas as I sketched.

You don’t need to have any artistic talent to sketch. In my latest book on effective presentations for government managers, I use a form that allows presenters to plan each slide in detail. One of the main parts of the form is a space for you to sketch what visual you will be using for this slide. I’ll be showing this form in today’s webinar on planning a successful presentation. I recommend sketching your ideas to stimulate your natural creativity and come up with ways to visually represent your point. It does work.

It was a delight to see Nigel Holmes present again at the conference. Nigel has a naturally entertaining style that conveys serious topics in a fun way. One point he made was to show how many ways he could illustrate the number of hot dogs that a champion hot dog eater consumes during a competition. Because most of us limit ourselves to a few hot dogs in one sitting, we can’t relate to the large number that a competitor downs during these events.

He came up with a number of ways of showing the more than sixty hot dogs that they eat. It reminded me of the importance of making the numbers we present easily understandable for our audiences. Often it is best done using an analogy, so that we translate the magnitude of the number into something that the audience can relate to. My recent slide makeover video shows this along with a four step process to create an analogy for a large number. Make sure that you consider each audience individually, since the same analogy may not work for every audience.

The conference encourages audience interaction, which allows audience members to ask questions during the presentation to clarify their understanding. I saw a number of times where the question was related to the topic of the session, but wasn’t exactly about the visual the presenter had on the screen at the time. The speaker answered the question, but left the visual on the screen. I think that by blanking the screen (by pressing the period key in PowerPoint), the presenter could have focused the audience on the answer instead of leaving a visual on the screen that did not relate to the answer. In your next presentation, if the visual is not related to the answer you are giving to an audience question, turn off the slide so that the audience isn’t confused with a visual that is not helping to answer the question.

If you are interested in learning more about the Presentation Summit, and joining us at the tenth conference next year in Scottsdale, Arizona, go to www.PresentationSummit.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Adding crosshatching fills to graphs in PowerPoint 2007

When I was presenting a course for accountants in July, a number of the participants mentioned that starting in PowerPoint 2007, they had lost the ability to fill graph segments with crosshatch patterns. This is important when printing graphs in black and white since shades of grey are hard to distinguish. The participants asked if there was any way to get back this important feature that had been eliminated. Today I want to show you a way to restore this functionality to PowerPoint 2007 (Microsoft added this feature back in PowerPoint 2010).

First, let’s start with what crosshatch patterns are and why you may need to use them. A crosshatch pattern is a series of lines on a white background that is used to fill a shape or, in the case of a graph, a column or pie wedge. There are usually patterns such as diagonal lines (in both directions and a combination), vertical and horizontal lines, and dots. A crosshatch fill is used to be able to distinguish the different parts of a graph, such as the five wedges in a pie chart.

Why would you want to use crosshatch patterns instead of colors? If you are printing to a black and white printer, the different shades of grey that PowerPoint uses to substitute for the colors of your graph end up being hard to distinguish on the printout. By using crosshatch patterns, the pie wedges or columns are easy to distinguish because the pattern is different.

Since Microsoft removed the ability to fill a graph element with one of the crosshatch patterns, you have to work around this limitation to get this feature back. As I explained in the workshop to the accountants, the approach is to use the ability to fill an element with a picture. If the picture is a crosshatch image, the elements look like they are filled with the patterns that were available in previous versions of PowerPoint. By adding a solid border around each element, it has a boundary that makes interpreting the size of the shape easier.

I have created seven patterns as small image files that you can download and use to fill your pie wedges, columns or bars. There are a few tricks to getting the patterns to work in PowerPoint graphs, so all the instructions and links to download the image files are on my website at www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/crosshatch.htm. The explanation includes screen captures and examples that would have been too large to fit in this newsletter, so the page on my site is a permanent spot you can refer to and share with others.

If you present financial information and have been wanting to use crosshatch patterns in PowerPoint 2007, you now have a method for doing so. And if you want to learn more about presenting financial data effectively, join me in Toronto on October 18 by registering here, in Edmonton on November 14 or Calgary on November 17 by registering here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

PowerPoint Slide Makeover #74: Using an analogy to make a large number make sense

Below I’ve posted a new Slide Makeover Video Podcast based on the ideas in "The Visual Slide Revolution". Presenters often struggle with how to make large numbers easy for the audience to understand. This makeover shows how using a four step process can create a visual that makes it easy for the audience to grasp the importance and magnitude of a large number.

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.