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

Improve Your Presentations, Two Slides at a Time

At the end of my workshops I ask participants if they have practical ideas that they can implement immediately to improve the effectiveness of their slides. Without exception, they all say that they have plenty of ideas they can use. In fact, the challenge is that they feel overwhelmed with everything they want to start doing to their presentations.

If they tried to apply all the learning to all the slides in their typical presentations, it wouldn’t work. They would end up spending too much time and give up with few, if any, changes being made. I want the participants in my workshops to apply what they have learned, so I share with them an approach that helps manage the work of improving presentations.

I call it the “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy. Here’s how it works. If you look at the average quality of all the slides in your normal presentation, it will be at a level that you know could be better. Some slides are good, some are average, and some are below average.

Chances are that there are a few slides, I use two as a typical number, that are the worst slides in your presentation. You don’t really like them, they are hard to present, and the audience doesn’t connect with them. What I suggest is that you work on just those two worst slides and improve them for your next presentation. Working on only two slides is a manageable amount and almost everyone says they can certainly redo two slides.

By improving the bottom two slides in your presentation, you raise the average quality of the entire presentation. Next time, work on the next bottom two slides. Every time you present, work on the worst two slides in the deck. After five or ten presentations, you will have addressed almost all the slides that need improving and your presentation will be much better than when you started.

It may have taken some time, but the results are worth it. By tackling the presentation two slides at a time, you break the work up into manageable chunks that anyone can handle.

This  “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy allows people to see a path for applying what they have learned. Start today by looking at the two worst slides in your presentation and improve them. If you are looking for other ways to improve your slides, check out the articles I have available on my site. They are organized by category so you can quickly find what you are looking for,

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs Think Outside the Slide web site, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and is a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

Art of Motion: Animation without Embarrassment ! (Free Webinar)

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 11:00 AM – 12:00 pm PDT/2 pm EDT       REGISTER NOW!

Take your pick, PowerPoint’s animation engine can be seen as one of the finest works of digital engineering everor as one of the most loathsome creations in history. Or both. That’s a pretty powerful software application that can evoke such a wide range of responses. As always, the real control is in the hands of the violinist, not the violin, and the type of concerto that you choose to compose has everything to do with your ability to recognize the true purpose of animated objects in your presentation. This session will help you appreciate properly-conceived animation.

Topics will include:
• The power of movement, for better or for worse
• When in doubt, use wipe and fade
• Sequencing data chunks for better understanding
• Creating trust with your audience

About Rick Altman: 
Rick Altman

Rick Altman is one of the most prominent commentators in the presentation community today. He is the author of 15 books. He is the host of the Presentation Summit, the internationally-acclaimed learning event for presentation professionals (www.PresentationSummit.com).  An avid sportsman, he was not a good enough tennis player to make it onto the professional tour. All the rest of this has been his Plan B,

 

What Do We Remember from PowerPoint Presentations?

During 2012, Dr. Carmen Simon, co-founder of Rexi Media, carried out a major research study on memory – specifically, on how many slides people actually remember from a typical PowerPoint presentation. The study was based on significant changes in information processing and delivery that have taken place in the past decade:

  • An exponential increase in the amount of information delivered, and the time spent consuming it.
  • A sense of being overwhelmed by the quantity of information available, while still craving more.
  • The ubiquitous use of PowerPoint, or PowerPoint styles (landscape slides, templates, bullet points) to deliver information.
  • Presentations that all look the same, making it very difficult for messages to stand out.

Over 1,500 participants were invited to view a short, online PowerPoint presentation of 20 slides. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 26 conditions, which included different versions of the presentation. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall anything they could remember about the presentation.

There were several key findings:

  • Participants remembered on average 4 slides out of the 20.
  • Neutral images helped recall when compared with text only, but not to any great extent.
  • Participants remembered content according to a pattern, not just random slides.
  • Significant changes every fifth slide tended to aid recall.

What does this tell us? How can we use this information to improve our presentations? Carmen Simon suggests that there a number of important clues:

The Magic Number Four. Studies suggest that people can only hold about 4 or 5 items at a time in short term memory. The important thing is therefore to make sure that we point them at the right things to remember.

People remember the unusual. If everything in a presentation is equally intense (color, graphics, in your face etc), or equally bland (text, indentations and bullet points), we have no control over what, if anything, people will remember.

Concrete visual language aids recall. The most remembered slides in the study were those about what colors to wear or not to wear when presenting online (don’t wear red, don’t wear black, white or stripes, but pastel colors are good). In these cases, pictures might help, but most people can picture the text anyway without much help.

color coordinate Simon

Color coordinate your slides


Grouping your slides, “chunk” your presentation
. Sometimes this can be done by the color of the text or the background, or maybe by the use of a different set of images. Well thought-out connections between different parts of a presentation are more important than just pushing more content.

People crave novelty. If you want a presentation to attract attention, find out what your audience would consider to be novel. People are more likely to remember what they find new and surprising, rather than what they find familiar. Where information differs from what we would expect, we sit up and take notice.

Repitition aids recall Simon

Repetition aids recall

 

Repetition and alliteration helps. The most memorable slides in the research all used the word “wear.” Using the same word, or finding three or four words that begin with the same letter to stress your key points will probably make the ideas stick in the mind.

People remember negative advice (what not to wear) better than neutral or positive content. However, at the same time, it played on their vanity – do this, or don’t do this in order to “look good.” Another frequently remembered slide suggested presenters should not lean back in their chairs as it made them appear short and fat. In a society that craves positive images, ego enhancing content attracts extra attention, and aids recall.

Ego boosting content Simon

Ego-boosting content

For more information about this topic, download a fully referenced paper  on the Rexi Media research.

About the Author:

Rexi Media, a presentation skills consulting company based in San Francisco, works with over thirty specialists in the field of advanced presentation techinques.

 

Smart Talk: Making Powerfully Persuasive Presentations

In this talk, you’ll learn Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and how to practically apply these principles to persuasive presentations. Ultimately, facts are not the way to best lead, motivate, and inspire. Powerful persuasive presentations instead, rely on effective audience analysis, solid storytelling, and figurative language.

PowerPoint – Turn it on and then turn it off

PM-mic-image-180

The most common scenario with presenters with PowerPoint is on before they start speaking and never off until they are done. The projection area is always filled with an image or text that competes with the presenter. Try this technique. Do not show your first slide until several minutes into your presentation. Let the focus of attention be on you and your message. Once the audience is familiar with both, then introduce your slides. The end of your presentation should get the same treatment. End your slides before finishing your presentation. Let the focus be on you and your message as you wrap thing up.

Charles Greene III
Presentation Magician
Washington, DC
CharlesGreene.com

A Review of the PowerPoint 2013 Interface

The PowerPoint 2013 interface is similar, yet somewhat different than the interface of PowerPoint 2010. The biggest change is that 2013’s interface is primed for use on tablets, touch-screens and smart phones (other than conventional desktops). Thus, you can swipe and tap your way through a presentation — and also make several edits without the need of a cursor.

Instead of opening with a blank presentation, PowerPoint 2013 opens a Presentation gallery as shown in Figure 1. The Presentation gallery provides several ways to start your next presentation using a template, a Theme, a recent presentation, a not-so-recent presentation, or even a blank presentation. Once you make choices in this Presentation gallery, you see the actual PowerPoint interface.

pptinterface2013-01

Figure 1: PowerPoint 2013 Presentation gallery

A quick walkthrough of PowerPoint 2013 reveals some new  features. Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the PowerPoint 2013 interface — each part of the interface is explained later in this article.

pptinterface2013-02


Figure 2:
PowerPoint 2013 interface

  1. File Menu and Backstage View: When you click the File menu, you see the Backstage view that contains all the creation, save, share, and print options for your presentations, as shown in Figure 3. Learn More about File Menu and Backstage View in PowerPoint 2013.
    pptinterface2013-03Figure 3: File Menu leads to the Backstage View
  2. Quick Access Toolbar (QAT): Is  a customizable toolbar placed by default above the Ribbon — here you can add icons for your often used commands. Also the QAT can also be placed below the Ribbon. Learn more about Quick Access Toolbar in PowerPoint 2013.
  3. Ribbon: Ribbon has tabs which in turn contain groups of buttons for various options — some groups also contain galleries (for example galleries for Themes and Theme Colors). Learn more about Ribbon and Tabs in PowerPoint 2013.
  4. Slides Pane: Located on the left side of the interface, the Slides pane shows thumbnails of all the slides in the open presentation.
    Note: If the Slides  pane is not visible, click the Normal button in the View tab of the Ribbon.
  5. Slide Area: Displays the active slide.
  6. Task Pane: The Task Pane contains more options and appears when you choose an option in one of the Ribbon tabs — for example if you click the Format Background button within the Design tab of the Ribbon, the Format Background task pane opens (refer to Figure 1).
  7. Status Bar: A horizontal strip that provides information about the opened presentation like slide number, applied Theme, etc. It also includes the view and zoom options. The View buttons  are explained below (see point I).
  8. Notes Pane: Right below the active slide, this is where the speaker notes are written for the current slide. Note that none of this content is visible on the actual slide while presenting — although it is visible in both Notes Page view and Presenter view.
  9. View Buttons: Essentially there are three view buttons on the status bar displayed towards the left of the zoom-in and zoom-out options:
    • Normal: If you are in some other view such as Slide Sorter view – click the Normal button on the Status bar to switch to Normal view, Shift-clicking this gets you to Slide Master view.
    • Slide Sorter: Click this button to switch from any other view to Slide Sorter view. The Slide Sorter view  displays zoom-able thumbnails of every slide in the open presentation. Shift-clicking this button gets you to Handout Master view.
    • Reading View: Click this button to switch from any other view to Reading view.
    • Slide Show: Show the presentation as a full screen slideshow from the current selected slide. Shift-clicking brings up the Set Up Show dialog box.
  10. Mini Toolbar: This toolbar is not shown in the Figure 3,  above. It’s a semitransparent floating toolbar that spawns right next to the cursor — and it is also available instantly with a right-click (highlighted in red within Figure 4).pptinterface2013-04

Figure 4: Mini Toolbar

About The Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (www.indezine.com)  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download.

An Easy Way to Spice Up PowerPoint

Most of us won’t be abandoning PowerPoint any time soon, what with the ongoing expectations — corporate or otherwise — to use the standard slide format of headline-and-bulleted text, and given the ease of crafting such content. But there are plenty of simple ways to keep audiences from tuning out during what they can perceive as a numbing parade of text-only slides.

Replacing even a few slides with visually-stimulating images is one way. For example, one slide with a picture showing a tornado in Oklahoma can communicate infinitely more than a half-dozen bullet slides describing the destructive power of Mother Nature. Project the picture and then add the spoken narration: “The winds associated with a Level 3 tornado can drive straw through a 4-inch post. And they can toss a 2,000-pound car a quarter mile.”

Adding such slides doesn’t take much extra work, and it pays off in refocusing audience attention. It also communicates to viewers that this isn’t just another cookie-cutter presentation created the night before it was delivered.

PowerPoint Makeovers – Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable (Slide Design for the Non-Designer)

Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP who shows us how to dramatically improve our PowerPoint slides. Watch and learn as Ellen transforms slides from the audience. See the difference in “before” and “after” slide designs and learn easy tips on how to do it on your own. She shares lessons learned including how to improve slide design; de-clutter text-heavy slides; edit complex slides for clarity; and communicate more effectively with graphics.

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About Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen_smallEllen Finkelstein is a recognized expert, speaker, trainer, and best-selling author on PowerPoint, presentation skills, and AutoCAD. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newsletters, and blogs. She is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional).There are only 37 PowerPoint MVPs in the world, and only 9 in the United States. Her Web site, http://ellenfinkelstein.com offers a hug assortment of tips, techniques, tutorials, and articles on these topics.

The Secret to Storytelling is in the Editing

Presentation lessons abound in the cinematic arts. Many producers and directors will tell you that what can really make or break a film is the editing. You have probably never heard the names of even some of the most prominent Hollywood editors, even though their work is absolutely crucial to the success of your favorite films.

This week I took some time to watch (twice) a documentary called The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Making. Although it is a film about the role of editing in filmmaking, the lessons and principles are applicable to other creative work such as writing, and storytelling of all kinds, including presentations. (Watch a short clip from The Cutting Edge .)

“Murder your darlings”

Arthur Quiller-Couch’s famous advice that we should “murder our darlings” suggests that we be very careful examining those bits of our story that we love the most. Our attachment to a line or a scene or a clever visual treatment may blind us to the fact that its inclusion, no matter how cool or impressive it may be, does not help the overall message.

Objectivity is key, and this is why it is useful to remind ourselves to think like an editor. Because a film editor is not usually involved in all the things that lead up to finally getting the footage in the can (casting, storyboards, weeks/months of shooting, etc.) she maintains the most objectivity and can focus on making the story flow and use her gut too to manipulate shots for emotional effects.

“You don’t need what you don’t need”

In his autobiography, Something Like An Autobiography, legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa spoke briefly on the editing process and the lessons from his mentor Kajirō Yamamoto.

“Yama-san in the editing room,” Kurosawa wrote, “was a bona-fide mass murderer.” It’s difficult for us to dispose of pieces that we worked so hard on, but the value of a bit’s worth—whether it’s in film or literature or multimedia presentations, or even writing software for that matter—should not be measured merely in terms of the labor we put into it. The only question in measuring its value is: from the point of view of the audience, does it work in support of the story?

Below is an excerpt from Kurosawa’s autobiography on the difficulty of cutting what you worked so hard to create:

I even thought on occasion if we were going to cut so much, why did we have to shoot it all in the first place? I, too, had labored painfully to shoot the film, so it was hard for me to scrap my own work.” Kurokawa goes on to say, “When you are shooting, of course, you film only what you believe is necessary. But very often you realize only after having shot it that you didn’t need it after all. You don’t need what you don’t need. Yet human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them.

In film editing, this natural inclination is the most dangerous of all attitudes. The art of the cinema has been called an art of time, but time used to no purpose cannot be called anything but wasted time. The most important requirement for editing is objectivity. No matter how much difficulty you had in obtaining a particular shot, the audience will never know. If it is not interesting, it simply isn’t interesting. You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.”

It’s About the Story

“At the end of the day,” says Hollywood film editor Zach Staenberg, “all this stuff [filmmaking process/editing] has to work to tell a story. If you’re not telling a story, it doesn’t matter how much razzle dazzle there is. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the story.”

Every frame matters and the inclusion or exclusion of the little things makes a difference. “The difference between a few frames was a scary shark and a big floating turd,” says Steven Spielberg in The Cutting Edge documentary. Spielberg also admitted that it was very hard for him to let go of as many frames of the mechanical shark in the final cut of Jaws as he ultimately did because he had worked so hard to get the shots. Thankfully he listened to his editor, Verna Fields.

Editors are the unsung heros of film, but if we take a closer look even those of us outside of film can learn valuable lessons from their creative work. Whatever the medium, the key in storytelling is cutting the extraneous and the superfluous, keeping in only what helps tell your story.

About the Author:

Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen and other best-selling books related to presentation and presentation design. He is the former manager of the Worldwide User Group Relations at Apple Computer and is now an associate professor of management at Kansai Gaidai University, where he teaches marketing, global marketing and multimedia presentation design.

 

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