Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Presentation Tip: Paperless Handouts

Is it possible to replace the paper handouts we use for our presentations with a more environmentally friendly electronic version that the audience downloads in advance or just before we start? The answer is changing, and right now it would be a “maybe.”

Electronic handouts can save money on printing, save the environment by using less paper, and be easily shared with others, extending the reach of your presentation. While electronic handouts have many advantages, there are some challenges, such as participants desire to take notes on the handouts and not everyone having the device or technology needed to use an electronic handout.

Deciding on the format for the handouts is probably the easiest decision when moving to electronic handouts. The best format to use is the well-known Adobe Acrobat PDF format. This format is easy to produce from many programs, including the Microsoft Office suite. Second, this format is supported on almost all the platforms that your audience will use, including Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Blackberry. With the full Adobe Acrobat software, you can create PDF files from source documents, combine files if you want a more detailed handout, and turn on the Commenting setting so participants can take notes with the Acrobat Reader program.

The handout files can be sent by e-mail to your audience or made available for download from your intranet or on a shared drive. If you are asking people to download the file, send them a direct link in an e-mail so they don’t have to hunt all over your intranet or shared drive to find it.

As a presenter, you need to plan for participants using a broad variety of devices to view and use the handouts. Many participants will want to take notes on the handout, so you need to educate them on how that can be done on many different platforms. On Windows, the Adobe Acrobat Reader will allow annotations or comments only if the setting has been turned on in advance. Other PDF software allows annotations regardless of the Adobe setting (one that works well is PDF-XChange Viewer available for free at www.tracker-software.com). On the Mac platform, the default Preview program allows comments to be added to a PDF file regardless of the Commenting setting. On the iOS platform, there are a number of apps that allow annotations to be added to PDF files. My favorite is GoodReader, which has both a free lite version and a paid version. There are also apps on the Android platform that allow annotations to be added, including ezPDF Reader, a highly rated app available for a small cost. The technology to allow your audience to take notes on an electronic handout is available now and across all the major platforms.

In addition to different platforms, the audience will be using different sized devices to view the handouts. You may want to consider making two formats of your handout. One is for screens that are large enough to read smaller text, usually a nine inch or larger screen. Smaller screens will probably need a handout with larger fonts in order to make the information readable. Direct people to download the version appropriate to the device they are using.

In advance of the meeting, advise people of the new way of using handouts and give them links to advice on how to take notes on an electronic handout. Help them prepare in advance by letting them know about the technology required to make best use of the handouts. Point them towards the handouts on the intranet or shared drive and encourage downloading in advance of the meeting. And recognize that it may take a few times for most people to become comfortable with this change. For those not able to make use of the electronic handout, they always can print it before coming to your presentation.

Not every presenter will be able to replace paper handouts with electronic ones, but it is a trend that presenters and organizations should prepare for now. If you want to start, follow the ideas in this article and work with other presenters in your organization to build a group that can support each other and start to create standards that work for your organization. Align with eco initiatives in your organization to gain greater awareness and support.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Presentation Tip: Stand-alone presentations

This summer one of my clients asked me how to make stand-alone presentations effective. They often have to send their PowerPoint file to a prospective client without ever getting the opportunity to deliver the presentation in person or via web meeting. Since PowerPoint slides are supposed to be used to enhance the speaker’s message and not be a substitute for the presenter, I needed to look at this request in a different way.

This use of PowerPoint is not a typical presentation situation, so I turned to the experts at creating stand-alone presentations, those who use slideshare.net. slideshare has been allowing people to upload PowerPoint files for years and they have even held contests for the best presentations. For most of the presentations, all the viewer sees is the slides, there is no narration for them.

These contests attract top presentation designers and the resulting slides are very effective. I reviewed many of the contest winners and all-time most popular presentations to see what they had in common. I came up with seven ideas to make stand-alone presentations effective. When I shared these with the participants in the workshops for my client in July, they responded very positively, so I want to share these ideas with you in this article.

Idea #1: Only include the essentials
Someone will not flip through slides for 30 minutes. You need to filter your message to the essential points. You may get emotional about cutting points out, but you will have to. Outline your message so that it flows well.

Idea #2: Give them a roadmap
Manage audience expectations by giving them an idea of what you will cover early on. One easy way is to use an agenda of your points.

Idea #3: Use title slides for each main point
Since the viewer can’t hear you transition between points, you need to give them a way to know that you are moving to the next point. Use a consistent design so they recognize it each time.

Idea #4: Recap the key points at the end
Since most people won’t take notes as they flip through a stand-alone presentation, you need to recap the key points at the end so they remember your message.

Idea #5: Use large visuals with explanations
If you don’t have great visuals, just create a Word document and send it instead. If you are using PowerPoint, make the photos, diagrams, or graphs fill the screen. Add explanatory text so the viewer understands the point.

Idea #6: Use narration slides
Not every point can be made with a visual. Sometimes you should use a text slide to keep the story moving along. It doesn't need to be a transcript, just the key phrases that move the viewer along.

Idea #7: Build your points
A stand-alone presentation typically has two to five times the number of slides as a delivered presentation. Each slide delivers one point and this keeps the presentation moving along at a good pace. Either use the PowerPoint animation effects and send the file as a PowerPoint Show file so it opens in Slide Show mode, or create the builds over multiple slides.

A stand-alone presentation will deliver your key message, but you will likely want to direct the viewer to more detailed information at the end, such as other attached files, or online files or pages that contain more details. The stand-alone presentation builds interest and directs them to the next steps. You can also use a stand-alone presentation as an introduction for a website or blog to captures a visitor’s attention.

Want to see this article as a stand-alone presentation? Click here