Archives for February 2012

Consider These Free Photo-Editing Tools for Presentations

By Ellen Finkelstein

When you want to insert a photo into PowerPoint, you should think about how you can edit that photo to improve it. For example, you might want to:

–Crop it
–Change its brightness or contrast
–Recolor it
–Remove its background
–Give it a border, shadow, or reflection

You can usually do these tasks in PowerPoint. Since PowerPoint 2010 added a Remove Background feature (shown below), you often don’t need to leave PowerPoint.

But you may not have PowerPoint 2010 and the feature sometimes leaves rough edges. So here’s a list of some other free photo-editing tools. Of course, you can use them for your personal photos or any other use, not just for PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office Picture Manager

I use this a lot. It has an Auto Correct button on the toolbar that almost always makes my photos look better–in one click! I like this tool so much that I’ve set it as my default to open JPGs and PNGs.  The instructions to do this depend on your version of Windows; to find out how to set a default program to open a specific type of file, go to Start, Help and Support and search for “default program.”

This is important because Microsoft Office Picture Manager has a strange idiosyncrasy — you can’t simply open a file from within the program.  How weird is that? Instead, you click Shortcuts and let it find locations where you have images and use the Picture Shortcuts pane to navigate to images.

To find the Picture Manager, go to Start, Programs, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Tools. Another way to open an image in the Picture Manager is to right-click it in Windows Explorer and choose Open With. You should see a list that will hopefully include the Picture Manager.

Once you open a picture, after trying the Auto Correct button, click Edit Pictures for other options, which are: Brightness and Contrast; Color; Crop; Rotate and Flip; Red Eye Removal (something you can’t do in PowerPoint); Resize; and Compress Pictures. You can also choose File, Export to change the file format and more.

Picnik is typical of free online photo editors. You upload a photo, use the tools (Crop, Rotate, Exposure, Colors, Sharpen, Resize), then save the photo to your computer. One nice feature is that you don’t have to register.

Pixlr is a free online photo editor that is also a drawing tool. You can create art from scratch or upload your image. You can add text, distort photos, replace colors, and more. Pixlr is quite Photoshop-like.


GIMP is free software that you install. It’s as close to Photoshop as you can get without getting Photoshop and is widely used. It has many features for editing and composing images.

Other Free Tools

Here is a list of some other free tools. Many are supported by ads. I suggest trying them out to see which you like best. Thanks to MediaBistro for their list.

–Online Image Editor

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is the author of How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 (and 2003), 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know, 101 Advanced Techniques Every PowerPoint User Should Know and PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects.  Her web site,, offers the free PowerPoint Tips Newsletter, a PowerPoint Tips Blog and many ideas that help PowerPoint users create more effective presentations.

What Makes a Sales Demo Truly Remarkable?

By Peter Cohan

What makes customers say, “Remember the time that vendor did that really amazing demo?”  What is the difference between a good demo and a Truly Great Demo? They’re remarkable. They’re memorable. They stand out from all of the other demos and presentations –because they were really different:

“…Remember the time that the SC brought in that huge stack of papers and books to search through one-by-one – it reached from his chin all the way down to his knees!”

“…It was so great when they had our VP of sales drive a portion of the demo – our VP could barely type.  He used to do everything in all CAPS because he didn’t want to have to shift…!”

“… Remember when that salesperson showed receiving an article via the web – on a ship at sea on his Blackberry – that was truly amazing!”

“…I loved it when they let me search their database – I found answers that I didn’t know were possible, emailed them to myself and had my project done on-time and much better than I’d

These demos were so remarkable that they got the business and stayed in customers’ minds long afterward.  Let’s explore what makes certain demos truly great – and how to increase the proportion in your own organization.

Good vs. Better

Presentation skills classes help presenters improve their level of practice.  Sales methodology courses provide processes to help sales people progress and secure business faster. Demonstration skills training enable sales teams to achieve improved demos.

All of these help people get better at what they do.  For some of us, the starting point is low (e.g., “Our demos suck…”) For others, they want to go from good to better (“Our team of seasoned veterans is good, but we can all improve…”).

Most training enables a step-change – a new way of doing things that goes beyond the status-quo.  In the world of software demos, helping people to eliminate unneeded features and functions from their demos is good – but it is not going to result is a demo that is perceived as particularly remarkable.

Great Demo! methodology, on the other hand, is an example of doing things really differently – a major change.  The “Do the Last Thing First” concepts help sales, presales and marketing people change from good to great; from linear, boring, traditional demos to crisp, compelling and effective deliveries.

Stand-up Comedy – and Demos?

Stand-up comedians constantly test their material.  They introduce new ideas, explore audience reaction, and add or delete accordingly.  Their expectation is that each subsequent performance will be better than the previous. This is evolution at its best:  survival of the fittest jokes!

Comedians need to have material that is consistently remarkable.  Should demos be any different?

When you use a prop in a demo that really engages the audience and makes them light up, repeat it for the next group (that has the same or similar situation).When you present a terrific pay-off screen or key report (an Illustration) that really resonates with the key player, do it again the next time you demo to someone with the same job title.

When you tell a story that has the audience on the edge of their seats, keep it in the act. When you see the key member of your audience making notes about the Informal Success Story you just related, plan to do it again.

Demo elements that were memorable – that were particularly remarkable – are the elements to harvest,  refine, and reuse.  Demos should evolve to incorporate the best material for each customer’s situation.

Share, Plagiarize, Leverage

You have your personal stock of remarkable demo ideas; consider tapping into ideas from your colleagues, competitors and third parties as well.

In your own team, organize a “Demo Day” where team members present demo components and ideas that worked extraordinarily well.  Watch demos from other companies – on the web, at conferences, or as a customer when vendors present at your company – and collect ideas to incorporate into your own demos.

Watch presentations ( for example) to harvest novel and remarkable ideas for your own use.

Quid Pro Quo

Here’s an offer:  send me a remarkable demo story (sanitized, as necessary), and I’ll collect them and send back the aggregated set to everyone that contributes, so that you can take “pre-competitive” advantage of the ideas.  The remarkable demo stories you share don’t necessarily have to come from your own organization…

To sweeten the deal, I’ll ship a highly coveted Great Demo! Telescoping-Laser-Pen Pointer (the ultimate demo presentation tool…) to those who provide the best, most remarkable ideas.

Good to Great to Truly Remarkable

A good demo is typically what you were taught when you first came aboard – “Here’s the demo for product X…” A Great Demo! results from aligning to customer needs and turning a traditional demo upside down – “Do the Last Thing First”.

Truly Remarkable Demos harvest the best, most memorable elements of a Great Demo! – and replay them on a consistently-improving, ongoing basis. Truly Remarkable Demos have the highest success rates of all in securing the business.

About the Author:

For more on sales demonstration effectiveness skills and methods, visit Peter Cohan’s company website at For demo tips, best practices, tools and techniques, join the DemoGurus Community Website at or explore the  blog at

Are Bureaucratic Buzzwords Muddying Your Message?

If a phrase starts to easily roll off your tongue, take it as a sign you’re about to use a cliché—a sentiment so overused that it has long since lost its power. Instead, aim for originality and specificity. Stringing jargon terms and business clichés together in paragraph after paragraph from document to document…from presentation to presentation… from slide to slide makes communication bland and meaningless.

Take a look at this excerpt from an annual report of a Fortune 10 company to see if you find anything thought provoking:

Our industry is constantly evolving. The industry has globalized as the world’s economies have expanded. Partners and competition change. New opportunities are larger, more capital intensive, and often in remote areas or difficult physical environments. Business cycles fluctuate, but our long-term view provides us with consistent direction. Finally, technology has improved the methods we employ and the results we achieve in meeting the world’s energy challenges.

Any great revelation here? Could have come from any energy company in the market—or remove the word energy and you could insert it in just about any annual report. Bureaucratic. Bland. Boring. What in the world are they doing behind closed doors? Paragraphs like this make shareholders wonder, where in the world is Waldo working?

Here’s a list of bureaucratic buzzwords that muddy messages and mar your image as a clear communicator and straight shooter:

No-brainer (meaning if you don’t see it as clearly as I do, you’re off your rocker)

Enhancement (an improvement too insignificant to charge for but worth touting; often confused with body parts)

Value-added (anything you can’t charge for because the client doesn’t value it enough to pay for it)

Value-proposition (proposing differing shtick to see what flies)

Incent (prodding people with money, freebies, coupons—whatever it takes to get them to do something they’re not inclined to do on their own)

Core competencies (as opposed to core incompetencies?)

Initiatives (long, long ago, these were called goals and plans)

Thought leaders (as opposed to those leaders who don’t think?)

Optimization (the process of making things better and better—as in cooking, flying, making love, making stealth missiles, making movies, building skyscrapers, counting votes, applying makeup, charting sea turtles)

Solution (solid dissolved in a liquid or a mathematical proof hidden inside all products and services now offered by all corporations around the world)

Alignment (identifying where the rubber doesn’t meet the road in goals that are supposed to be running parallel to yours)

Deliverables (paperboys and girls used to ride bikes and carry these)

Rightsizing (Nordstrom does this free of charge if the clothes are pricey enough)

Moral clarity (when you decide you can’t get away with something without being fined or jailed)

Impactful (newly coined term meaning packed full of potential to be hard-hitting—in the mind, heart, pocketbook, gut, mouth)

Robust (fat, wealthy, expensive, complex, healthy, meaningful, deep, feisty; can be applied to people, philosophy, technology, equipment, training, strategy, food, religion, research, vegetation, medicine, light bulbs, laughter, beer)

Branding (marking livestock so it doesn’t get lost or stolen; marking dead stock in inventory that hasn’t sold in years with a new “look and feel” so that it finds its way to market again)

Methodologies (in more primitive times, this was methods or the way you do something)

Technologies (yet undiscovered wizardry from the netherworld)

Bandwidth (refers to anything you want to limit, as in “that’s outside our bandwidth”)

Seamless (meaning, I don’t know where the heck my job ends and yours starts, so we can pass the buck if necessary)

Platform (horizontal structure that supports all systems, people, brands, and philosophies)

When tempted to spout off jargon and drivel, stop. Think. Speak specifically, succinctly, and sincerely. You may be surprised at the attention plain English generates in a world of babbling.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase productivity and effectiveness through better communication: oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational. Her latest book is Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader. For more information visit

Spark a Fire: 5 Tips to Grab and Hold Audience Attention

Yaaaawn. Even the best presentations lose your attention. Why? Because your brain is fast. Your mind drifts once you decide the information presented is unimportant or uninteresting; therefore, it is unnecessary to pay attention. You need to be engaged to stay focused. Your audience is exactly the same.

The following are five techniques to capture and hold your audience’s attention throughout your presentation.

1. Surprise. Say, show or do something that is shocking or unexpected. It can be as simple as a loud noise (a clap or a few notes of music) or an odd picture added to the slide deck. The purpose is to reengage the audience’s brain. Being unpredictable or incongruent snaps the mind to attention.

For example, I attended a presentation where a hidden presenter “typed” sentences on the screen instead of speaking. The audience was dead silent and engaged the entire time.

2. Cognitive Dissonance. Keep your audience guessing. Hold their brains off balance by feeding bits of information as opposed to revealing your point early. Build a graphic slide by slide like assembling a puzzle. Slowly reveal parts of your graphic, briefly speak to each part and build your graphic so your point is revealed in the end.

3. Storytelling. Tell an interesting story that complements your presentation. Remember the saying, “Facts tell and stories sell.” Stories hook audiences from the start. Share a unique story to hold their attention and make sure to tie it into your presentation.

4. Involve. Ask your audience to participate. Play a game, pose a question, solve a puzzle, or perform an exercise. For example, avoid telling your audience everything. Let them learn through trial and error. Give your group an exercise and ask what worked and what did not.

5. Senses. The more senses (hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch) you engage, the stronger the interest. For example, play sad music, show images of neglected animals and give your audience a cuddly puppy toy to pet while telling a moving story about animal rescue.

Combine these techniques for a winning presentation. During my graphic training sessions, I show the following symbol (allegedly created for the United States Department of Homeland Defense for use during disasters) and ask, “What does this mean?”

By doing so, I use two of the techniques listed above to capture my audience’s attention (“Cognitive Dissonance” and “Involve”).

Know your audience. If your audience feels manipulated and your approach using these tactics held little relevance to the topic, you will lose their attention—and trust.

In the end, your goal is to affect your audience emotionally. Use these five techniques to spark a fire within your audience. Give them a reason care. Get them excited or concerned to engage their hearts and minds during and after your presentation.

About the Author:

Mike Parkinson is an internationally recognized visual communication expert, presenter and multi-published author. Visit Billion Dollar Graphics ( and BizGraphics On Demand ( for helpful presentation tools. Mike is also a partner at 24 Hour Company (, a premier proposal and presentation graphics firm.

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