Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Presentation Tip: Determining the goal of your presentation is hard

The foundation of every presentation should be a clear statement of the goal of the presentation. While I am sure you would agree with this, stating a clear goal is much harder than it seems. Don't always assume that the first goal you come up with is the correct goal for the presentation.

A few years ago a client who owns a boutique insurance agency came to me for help on an important upcoming presentation. He was pitching a policy to an organization and his competition was a large national insurance agency. When I asked Bruce what the goal of his presentation was, he quickly answered that it was for the Board of Directors to buy the policy from him instead of the competition. I questioned him on this goal because the other agency would be presenting after Bruce and it was not realistic for the Board to make a decision before seeing both presentations. The quick answer was not a realistic goal. After further discussion, we decided that the true goal of the presentation was to convince the Board of the best criteria for making the decision. If we could convince them of the criteria, we knew Bruce’s proposal would win in the end. We created a presentation that was focused on helping the Board understand why they should use certain criteria to make the decision. The day after the presentations, Bruce won the $175,000 contract.

When you are deciding on your goal, you must be realistic and specific. The goal is like the destination for the audience. It is much like using a GPS device. When you start using a GPS, the first thing it asks you is what destination you are going to. If you input an address that does not exist, like setting an unrealistic goal for your presentation, it gives you an error and asks you to re-enter the destination. If you are not specific enough with the address, it asks you for more detailed information, like the exact house number on the street instead of just the name of the street. Your presentation goal can’t be generic, it needs to be detailed and specific.

I was recently speaking with someone who was helping a senior HR executive prepare for a presentation to their Board of Directors. I started by asking what the goal of the presentation was. She quickly said that it was to update the Board on changes to the compensation system. Any time I hear that the goal of a presentation is to update the audience, it raises a flag for me. Having an audience just understand what you are saying is rarely the true destination. In this case, I asked whether the real goal should be for the Board to not only understand the new system, but to give their support to it. She paused and now saw the presentation in a different way.

The goal drives everything else you do for that presentation. That is why it is so important to be clear and specific about the goal. Don’t take the first easy answer that comes to mind. Take that quick response and step back. Ask yourself whether that is realistic or actually achievable in that presentation. If not, come up with a more realistic goal. Take the first response and ask if it goes far enough. Just sharing information is usually not a specific enough goal. What do you want the audience to do with the information? Do you want support for moving forward? Do you need a decision on which direction to go? Or is it something else you need them to do.

Without a well stated goal, you can waste a lot of time in creating and preparing a presentation that has no hope of achieving what you really need it to achieve. For your next presentation, invest ten minutes in thinking about the goal. Use the ideas above to help create a realistic and specific goal that will focus your preparation.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Presentation Tip: Presenting software/website usage

Have you seen a presenter attempt a live demonstration of software or a website? Too often the demo goes wrong, with the software locking up or the Internet connection not working. Even large companies like Microsoft and Apple have these problems happen to them. Instead of live demos, I suggest you use screen captures, which are more reliable and can be more helpful to your audience.

When using screen captures, make sure that you get the best capture you can so it is as clear as possible for the audience. Use a high resolution monitor and make the browser or program window as large as you can. Consider using a zoom feature in the program or browser to make the screen image larger if it will not distort the image.

When taking the screen capture, use the built-in features of the operating system, or use a program to capture the image. In Windows, there are two ways to copy a screen image to the Windows clipboard, which can then be pasted on a slide like any other image. If you press the Print Screen key on your keyboard, it will capture the entire screen, including the toolbars at the bottom and all programs that are open. If you want to capture only the active application, hold the Alt key while pressing the Print Screen key. On a Mac, you can capture the whole screen using Command+Control+Shift+3. Using Command+Control+Shift+4 on a Mac allows you to draw a rectangle around the area you want to capture. Windows has the Snipping Tool program that allows you to draw a rectangle around an area of the screen, or my preferred program is SnagIt by TechSmith, which allows many other options as well. If you are taking a screen shot of a website, use the full-screen mode of the browser to get a cleaner screen capture (the F11 key toggles this mode in some browsers, such as IE and Chrome).

We are now being asked to include screen shots from mobile devices in our presentations, so we need to know how to get a screen capture from our mobile device. In general, the device saves the screen capture as a photo on the device that you can then move to your computer and insert it as you would for any other photo. On an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, press the Home button and the Power button together to capture the current screen. On an Android device, it depends on what version of the operating system you have and whether the manufacturer has added a shortcut or app to take screen shots. Starting in version 4.0, you can press the Volume Down and Power buttons together to take a screen capture. Older versions have different methods. Blackberry 7.0 devices require a screen capture app, and there are free ones available in the app store.

Once you have the screen capture on your slide, make it as large as you can so it is easy to see. Crop out parts if you need to. You should also add a callout so the audience knows what part of the screen capture they should focus on. Since you don’t have a lot of room on the slide with a large screen capture image, I have found that the built-in callout tools in PowerPoint work quite well. The two that I use most often are the Rectangular Callout and the Rounded Rectangular Callout. Move the yellow diamond handle so that the callout points to the correct spot on the image. To make the callout easy to see, set the outline color and the fill color to have contrast. I have found a dark grey background and a white outline works well if the image is darker. I also make the background semi-transparent so that the screen capture can still be seen under the callout shape.

When presenting the slide, I suggest you use build animation to have each callout come on one at a time. You want to first show the entire screen capture in order to give the audience context. They need to recognize what you are showing them. Then, have the callout come on and explain why that area of the screen capture is a part they should focus on. Repeat this step for any other callouts you have on this slide. You can use the Appear animation effect or a fast Fade effect to bring the callouts on the slide.

If you are presenting a screen capture and need to zoom in on one portion of the image, I suggest that you use the following sequence. First, show the entire screen capture to give context. Next, indicate the area you will be focusing on with a rectangular callout shape. Finally, bring on a large image of the section you want to focus on. If you outline the large section image with a black outline it will stand out on top of the screen capture below. I like leaving the screen capture underneath to keep context for the audience. 

While it may be exciting to risk a live software or website demonstration in your presentation, it is uncomfortable for the audience when things go wrong. Use screen captures and the tips in this article to give your presentation a better chance of being successful.