Archives for October 2013

PowerPoint, the Swiss Army Knife of Communication Tools

One of the story lines to emerge from the recent Presentation Summit conference in Fort Lauderdale was the growing use of PowerPoint beyond its traditional slide design-and-projection purpose. The upshot: if you’re only using the software for it’s original, intended function, you’re missing out on opportunities to improve communication and marketing materials across the board.

Troy Chollar, head of TLC Creative Services, delivered a conference session titled PowerPoint is My Creative Suite.  Chollar said PowerPoint’s massive user base and user-friendly interface, as well as its ability to import and export many formats, makes it an ideal app for uses beyond traditional slide presentations. Among them: photo and video editing, mockups and prototypes, graphic drawing, e-learning, as a music player and for signage design.

In another session, Insider Secrets for Paper Presentations, presenter Ric Bretschneider explored best practices for using PowerPoint to create presentations meant to be passed out rather than presented. Bretschneider, who spent 17 years on the Microsoft team that develops PowerPoint, said much of the work done by that team for Office 2007 was focused on printed presentations. His session looked at using PowerPoint to create everything from formal pitch books to documents designed to facilitate group brainstorming efforts.

Nolan Haims, vice president and New York director of presentations for Edelman, the world’s largest PR company,  wrote about how he uses PowerPoint beyond slide presentations, including for text-heavy documents and white papers, in a post-conference wrap up. Read the post at his excellent Present Your Story site here.

(Note: Nolan delivered a free webinar for PresentationXpert on Wed. Nov 13 titled In the Trenches: Real-World Solutions to Corporate Presentation Challenges. He shared numerous techniques and strategies, developed out of pure necessity, for achieving best presentation practices while still meeting tight deadlines and contending with difficult clients. For a recording of the webinar, click here.)

And in her 500th blog post, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein listed the many ways PowerPoint can be used beyond its original purpose, and her readers joined in to add to the list.  Read the post here

In the Trenches: Real World Solutions to Corporate Presentation Challenges

We know best practices for presentations (“Use less text!” “Create separate handouts!” “Avoid bullets points!”), but the realities of corporate America often get in the way when we sit down in front of the computer. In this webinar, presentation strategist Nolan Haims shares numerous techniques and strategies, developed out of pure necessity, for achieving best practices while still meeting tight deadlines and contending with difficult clients.

notes pix

  • Multiple tactics for encouraging less text and fewer bullet points, including the disappearing content trick and the ridiculously simple “chunking” technique
  • Leveraging PowerPoint’s Notes view in unique ways to effortlessly create well-designed and distinctly different handouts
  • Creating “reskinnable” templates that can be turned into custom presentations in minutes
  • Keeping presentations highly editable through vector graphics and PowerPoint image-editing techniques
  • Breaking out of PowerPoint-think with “walking” and portrait print decks


About Nolan Haims:

nolan teaching
After careers in theater and the circus, Nolan Haims moved into the world of presentation, creating presentations for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions, and all the major television networks. Most recently, Nolan was a Vice President at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, where he oversaw presentation and visual communications. He blogs at


Customize PowerPoint’s Default Theme to Get the Look You Want

Do you open a new presentation and constantly change the font, font size, font color, alignment and more? Does your organization have difficulty getting everyone to use the right theme, so that presentations are not consistent? One of my readers asked this question because the organization wants presentations to use the Arial font, but the default always comes up using Calibri.

If you’re in this situation, then customizing the default theme in PowerPoint 2007, 2010 or 2013 will solve your problems! When you first open PowerPoint, you’ll get exactly the look you want.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open PowerPoint. In 2007 and 2010, you’ll see the default, blank theme. In 2013, choose the option marked Default Theme.
  2. To go to the slide master, click the View tab, then click Slide Master.
  3. Click the top, larger master thumbnail in the left-hand column. You may need to scroll up to see it. Make the changes that you want. For example, select the slide title and change its font, font size, font color and alignment.
  4. From the Slide Master tab, click the Close Master View button or just click the Normal view icon at the lower-left corner of the screen.
  5. Click the Design tab. In the Themes group, click the More button on the right and choose Save Current Theme at the bottom.
  6. In the Save Current Theme dialog box, accept the default location, type a new name for the theme, and click Save.
  7. Again click the Themes gallery More button and look in the Themes gallery’s Custom section. Find your new theme. To distinguish it from others that look similar, hover your cursor over a theme to see its name in a tooltip. Right-click the new theme and choose Set as Default Theme.

To test the theme, close PowerPoint without saving changes and re-open it. In PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, you’ll automatically see your new default theme. In PowerPoint 2013, you’ll see  your new custom theme in the top-left position labeled Default Theme.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a noted presentation design consultant and trainer, a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and author of a number of top-selling books in the presentations field. For more information, visit

The One Presentation Skill That Anchors Them All

I remember my first big speaking engagement with the International Association of Business Communicators.  It took place over a decade ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, and like any trip across the border, it involved a brief chat with a uniformed agent in the customs booth.

What would happen next would remind me once again about one of the most important presentation skills we can master.

As I stood patiently in line behind a hundred foreign exchange students, my mind began to wander through my opening comments in a few short hours.  My goal with this large group: be intentional about making a very personal connection.  This can seem like a daunting task at times.

But suddenly I was shaken out of my thoughts by a rather foreboding customs official giving me her well-practiced “come now” gesture. I slid my documents through the window and then it happened.  The same thing that has happened dozens of times before…but somehow my awareness level had been elevated in that moment.

Her eyes came up, met mine and then she began to ask me some questions (A few seconds felt like an eternity).  And in those moments I came face-to-face with one of her most practiced and job-essential skill sets – discerning truthfulness.  She was a trained professional in the art.  She didn’t look at my hands.  She didn’t see if my feet were shuffling.

She looked me straight in the eyes.

We may not be professionally trained at this lie-detector skill, but we’ve come by it quite naturally – every one of us.  And over the thousands of times we’ve asked our workshop attendees how they discern trust and believability in someone they’re seeing for the first time, the #1 most consistent answer is through the presenter’s eyes.

(A great case study…. observe Lance Armstrong’s eyes during his Oprah interview.  Watch at 5:38… “And I am sorry for that.”  Really?)

And why should you care if from time to time your eyes seem to bounce around the room?  Because at the heart of every important communication opportunity is this very simple truth:

If someone cannot trust you, why should they trust what you have to say?

In my 20 years of personal skills coaching, there are typically 4 reasons people struggle with this very important foundational skill:

  1. We’re creatures of habit and it takes less mental (and personal) energy to simply scan a room. It also helps us stay in our own heads to get the message right.
  2. Sometimes a bad experience or a result of unhealthy human interactions greatly impact someone’s personal comfort level.
  3. Simple brain mechanics are in play as a presenter’s eyes disengage (drop to the floor) as their brain buys time to think what’s coming next (usually accompanied by a series of umms or ahhs).
  4. Cultural issues can cause eyes to drop as a sign of respect – but carry a very different perception in North America.

Although these are all very real issues, the people on the other end of your presentations only know what they perceive in that moment.  Your personal history, bad experiences or even cultural upbringing really don’t matter. All they know is something doesn’t feel right.

And at the heart of most of these habits is a ‘presentation mode’ we’ve forged over decades. Well-entrenched. Deeply ingrained. And over time they feel like a comfortable pair of shoes.

Gone  is the warm, engaging eye contact we may have exhibited with others in our offices (or Starbucks) minutes earlier.  We become instantly detached in front of a group.  Mechanical.  And our evasive eyes send messages our audience must now struggle to reconcile.

Here’s one simple piece of advice….

Turn every presentation opportunity into a series of 1-on-1 conversations no matter what the group size; communicating to one set of eyes for 3-4 seconds, then another… then another.

For a great example of this skill, check out a TED Talks video of Jane McGonigal. Although she’s presenting to an audience of hundreds, her great eye communication makes it a personal and engaging experience for her audience… and we trust her and what she has to say to us.

You see, without trust you have no influence. Without trust there is no relationship. Without trust you have no chance to persuade or inspire.  And trust is built first and foremost through our eyes.

Now you know why it’s the one critical presentation skill that anchors them all.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit

Why Should They Listen to Your Pitch? 9 Key Tips

The sponsor – an experienced sales person – had 15 minutes to make her pitch to 25 customers. Each person in the audience could recommend her services to others. It was an important 15 minutes.

But she blew it.

Instead of pitching a fun, cool product (which is what she represents), she presented a boring slide deck with too many bullet points and collages of meaningless (to her listeners) photos. Oh, and she took 25 minutes.

What a shame.

Instead of stepping out of “presentation mode” and having a conversation with the buyers, she talked and talked and talked. She told us about features no one cared about and no one remembered. Instead of presenting to pique our interest, she stifled any.

9 Important Tips

Do not begin with the name and introduction of everyone on your team – even if your entire team is present. Instead, add their photos, names and an interesting statement to your collateral. So when listeners are interested in learning who is who, they can at their own pace.

Do not begin with background of who you are and why you’re there. If your prospect has invited you to pitch, they know.

Start strong. There are many  powerful ways to begin a presentation. You can startle them or delight them. You can start with a point they’ll easily agree with or one that will make their blood boil. You can help them envision their success or their demise. Craft an opening that will matter to them

Stay future focused.

Don’t apologize for not having something with you. If you don’t have it, don’t mention it. Or, just tell them you’ll email/mail it after the presentation.

Leave out the parts they don’t care about. No matter how wonderful your hotel spa might be, if the meeting planner is interested only in a one day seminar, your spa doesn’t come into play. Respect them enough to not talk about it!

Eliminate self-centered behaviors. No one needs to know that you aren’t feeling well, got in late, couldn’t sleep or any other ailment that might be ailing you. Deal with it in silence.

Stay through the end. Even if you have to leave the room because the rest of the meeting is closed to outsiders, stick around outside the room so you can mingle during their break. Make yourself available after your pitch. That’s where the magic happens.

Create extraordinary opportunities from routine selling situations. It’s up to you to ensure you aren’t presenting in a routine way. Make it mean something to them and make it memorable (in a good way) and they’ll want to listen – and engage.

About the Author:

Sue Hershowitz -Coore is a corporate consultant, communication specialist and internationally-recognized professional speaker. For more information about her company, visit

Infographic Resources Can Help Your Audiences Visualize Data

Most presentations are filled with truckloads of data, communicated through slide after slide of mind-numbing bullet points. The likelihood of your audience extracting the significant facts from this data dump is low.

Data is dry and lifeless until you make it come alive. Enter the infographic.

Wikipedia defines infographics as “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.” Infographics help an audience better understand complicated data and see patterns and trends. These graphic pictures provide context and tell a story which makes it easier for the audience to find relevance in the information.

The concept of graphically representing complicated information has been around for ages, but infographics are currently popular partly perhaps as an antidote to those bullet point-laden slides and partly because of new tools which make them easier than ever to produce.

Here are a few of the tools that will help you create infographics to make your presentations clearer and more memorable: This is a free, web-based app that creates professional-looking graphics. There are a variety of pre-existing themes where you can insert your own text and customize background colors, icons and fonts by dragging and dropping. The tool is easy to use and your infographic can be downloaded as a jpeg or png for your presentation.

Venngage: Another drag and drop tool with many templates, themes, charts, and icons. You can upload data as a CSV to create your chart. The free option only allows for online viewing and sharing while the premium option [currently $19/month] enables you to export as a pdf or png.

Charteo: This takes the concept of PowerPoint templates to a whole new level. There are over 15,000 slides in this PowerPoint library in a wide variety of charts, graphs, diagrams and tables as well as background images, graphic metaphors, icons, and symbols. The slides are 100% editable, including color, and can be downloaded for either Mac or PC. You can purchase an individual slide, an entire presentation or a subscription service.

With any of these tools, it’s easy to be seduced with the clever designs and cool bells and whistles. But remember that your primary job is to decide what message, story or pattern you want to communicate with your data and then…and only then…choose the appropriate tool to visualize that data for your audience.

About the Author:

Kathy Reiffenstein is the founder and president of And…Now Presenting!, a Washington DC-area business communications training firm, which offers a suite of public speaking and presentation skills programs geared to creating confident, persuasive speakers. Visit Kathy’s website at to subscribe to her bi-weekly presentation tips or her blog where you’ll find fresh insights on speaking in public that are engaging, sometimes irreverent and always practical.

Creating and Delivering Powerful Presentations Using an iPad (with Geetesh Bajaj, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP)

With the growing popularity of iPads and other mobile devices as presentation platforms, you need to learn more than just the basics of iPresenting. Learn how to select the right app as your presentation partner and then how to use them to deliver impressive presentations the way they should be seen with full animation, the right fonts, and brilliant colors and graphics. Learn also what you need to do before you begin!  This engaging and interactive webinar recording with Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, Geetesh Bajaj offers you insights into  how to maximize the power of presenting on an iPad.



Presenter: Geetesh Bajaj Geetesh2

Geetesh Bajaj is an awarded Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for over a decade now. He has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and heads Indezine, a presentation design studio and content development organization based out of Hyderabad, India. Geetesh believes that any PowerPoint presentation is a sum of its elements–these elements include abstract elements like concept, color, interactivity, and navigation–and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. He has authored six books on PowerPoint and trains corporate clients on how to plan, create, and deliver presentations.  For more information on Indezine and Geetesh, click here.

Pin It on Pinterest