Archive for the 'General' Category

Show them you care

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Good looking slides show your audience you care about them. It shows them that they are worth the time and effort it takes to create visuals that successfully support your message. Well designed slides say (non-verbally) that you care enough to plan, develop, and produce PowerPoint slides that make it easier and faster to communicate the information you are sharing.

If you are presenting important information, the information should look important. Would you go to an important business meeting dressed in shorts and a T-shirt rather than your best suit?

Personally, I almost feel offended when I go to a meeting and the person presenting has slides that look like they threw them together the night before. I really get offended when I go to a conference I paid hard-earned money for and the presenter uses slides that look like my dog could have designed them better.

The presenter could be a great speaker, but ugly slides, to me, say the presenter did not think the audience (and I) was important enough to take the time and effort to develop PowerPoint slides that would have enhanced communication and made the sharing of the message faster and more memorable.

For example, I just watched a presentation where the speaker was not using slides and mentioned a few URL’s to check out. It was impossible to write down the URL’s as fast as he spoke about them, but if they were up on the screen, it would have been easy to copy them while he continued to talk.

Don’t kill your meeting communication with slides that say “I really don’t care about you, my audience – I just love to hear my own voice.”  Good slides do take time to plan, design, and produce. Throwing words and data into PowerPoint is easy. Producing PowerPoint visuals with high communication value is rarely easy – and sometimes hard work.  But do the work and show your audience that you care.

Presenter of the Year – Not Mark Zuckerberg

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

He might be Time Magazine’s person of the year, but he is not the presenter of the year. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg has impacted 500 million people’s lives with Facebook, but he could use some help with his presentation skills. Look at this picture below. He’s talking, no one seems to be paying attention to him and his slides look like a boring list of bullet points.

Are these people in the room paying attention to him or checking their latest post on their Facebook page?

Is this the future of meetings – where the speaker talks to the back of everyone’s heads while they multitask, reading, sending emails, and chatting on Facebook?

Mark is talking about “Next Generation Messaging” and how Facebook is coming out with a messaging tool that may replace email.

I hope he and his team are not working on a new presentation platform that will replace PowerPoint, especially if this meeting shown above is his idea of a successful presentation.

Birth of a Baby PowerPoint

Friday, November 5th, 2010

An actual email last night at 10:11pm to eSlide:

“Russ, We’ll call you in a few minutes to discuss the edits here.

FYI – I may or may not be heading to the hospital with my wife who is expecting our 2nd child any day now. Please send all of the updates requested going forward to me and Andrew when they are done so that if I’m not here, he’ll get them.”

Then at 11:51pm in response to sending him his requested edits:

“Thanks Russ.  At hospital so I’ll touch be tomorrow.”

We have yet to hear from him this morning if the baby was born or if he has more edits. This is not the first time we’ve received an email from a client in the hospital and probably will not be the last. It is an example of the intensity of some of our clients and how seriously they take their work.

This person is an analyst for the executive team of a major healthcare company. He and his team are preparing presentations for their upcoming yearly analyst meeting. They do not take this opportunity to present to an important group of analysts lightly.

We have been working with their executive team for years and we know they fully take advantage of the power of excellent PowerPoint visuals to connect with their audience, tell their story effectively, and insure the meeting does not just tell of their success but contributes to their future success with excellent communication.

The pressure of an important PowerPoint production sometimes feels like we’re helping  a client give birth to a baby. I’ve always said all the late night productions for me were great practice for the sleepless “baby feeding and diaper changing days”.  Now that my kids are way beyond that stage,

NY Times Article: “Staying Professional in Virtual Meetings”

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

A good article on meetings in The New York Times: JOBS | September 26, 2010
Career Couch:  Staying Professional in Virtual Meetings
By EILENE ZIMMERMAN

Virtual meetings have become a staple of business life, but personal conduct during a phone or video conference can be different than in face-to-face meetings.

Eilene Zimmerman hits on some important points about staying professional in Virtual Meetings from the perspective of being a participant.  I totally agree that virtual meetings are now a staple of the business world. One key point she left out about virtual meetings . . . you need to pay even more attention to your PowerPoint visuals – that’s if you are using them.  As Eilene points out the visual component of your virtual meeting is important. Read the rest of this entry »

Meeting Maniac?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I love a good meeting!  But I guess I’m just a meeting maniac. It makes me crazy when people make blanket statements about meetings. Today I read “How NOT to Have Mind Numbing Office Meetings” by one of my favorite Social Media Gurus that I follow @ChrisBrogan.  He suggests that no meeting should last more than 10 minutes. I guess he would never last in one of my management meetings that sometimes last for 10 hours. Yes, I said 10 hours!

I believe that one of the reasons for eSlide’s success is that we take meetings very seriously. We’re a small company but rarely, if ever have a meeting without a plan or objective. There have been very few meetings in our 10 year history that did not include a written agenda. If there are complex challenges to be discussed and decided on, I attempt to include detailed notes.

One of our management challenges has always been that we are so busy assisting clients prepare PowerPoint slides for their critical meetings (the focus of our business), that finding time to meet with my three partners is nearly impossible some weeks. Client meeting deadlines always seem to get in the way of our own meeting plans.

We attempt to have weekly meetings but schedule a monthly 4-6 hour management meeting. During the first few years of our start-up phase, we met from 2pm until whenever. These meetings often lasted 10+ hours. They were sometimes intense, often exhausting, but we had an agenda of items to discuss that ranged from reviewing our budget to discussing new marketing materials, to personnel issues. Certain items were just for discussion to get everyone’s input and other items were to get a group consensus and make critical decisions.

Individually, each partner (and staff member) has strengths that contribute to eSlide’s success. We communicate all day with phone calls, emails, and an online chat application but there is nothing that beats the group brain power of a well planned, focused meeting.

Maybe we learned the importance of the power of a good meeting from years of assisting executives in some of the largest, most successful companies in the world in developing their PowerPoint slides that have acted as visual information guides to their critical meetings – whether it be a board meeting of twenty or a company wide meeting of 1000’s, or the launch of a new product to millions. They often have staff preparing for weeks, sometimes months in advance for these meetings, planning every detail that can be planned, because so much of a live meeting is dynamic and unpredictable, but is also where some brilliant ideas can arise or be launched into action.

Although it seems they often forget to plan the time it takes to develop, design and produce the important PowerPoint visuals – which goes back to the reason it is hard for us keep our own meeting schedule, but since we see every day the powerful results of a good meeting, we remain totally committed to making the most of our own limited, but very valuable meeting time whether it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours.

PowerPoint Masters at Microsoft?

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I read that Microsoft had it’s Financial Analyst Meeting yesterday. I was curious what their PowerPoint slides looked like. Here are two slides from Steve Ballmer’s deck. Now, remember I’m a big fan of Microsoft and LOVE PowerPoint. I thought the slides looked OK, but I was disappointed considering they were from the developers of the program. In general there’s too much content on each slide.  Look at the slide below where it seems their main message is about making Office 2010 simple, but the slide looks chaotic. Using all caps for the text is a very poor design choice – research clearly says ALL CAPS is not as readable as upper/lower case.  One of my #1 rules for good slide design is make it as simple and easy to read as possible.

They should hire one of the terrific PowerPoint MVP’s to assist them with some slide design. Or call eSlide.  Do you think Steve Ballmer did these slides himself? Maybe, I’m being too hard on Steve and Co. What do you think of the design of these two slides?

Click here to see Steve’s entire slide deck and others presented at the their investor conference July 29th, 2010.

Ballmer_FAM_2010 slide1

Ballmer_FAM_2010 slide2

Picture Slides vs Text Slides

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Slide with 1000 words

I believe words are wonderful. You’re reading them now and they are an incredibly effective communication tool if used correctly. The power of PowerPoint is that you can easily mix text, pictures, graphics and charts to get your point across. It depends on your subject, your audience, and the point you are trying to communicate to determine what the appropriate mix is. It is more art than science to get the right mix. Even a good bullet point can be extremely effective – if done correctly as a short phrase – a bullet of text, not a paragraph. Yes, a good picture can be worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen words can paint an amazing picture. Or a great picture can tell the entire story with zero words. Picture Worth 1000 words

Can PPT Bullets Save Us From Real Bullets?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

PowerPoint is not the enemy, but can be a powerful communication secret weapon, if used well.

If you were in a contest to win a million dollars by pitching an idea to a small group of investors for starting a new company which would you choose:

1. Send them a detailed 100 page business plan a week before the meeting and ask these extremely busy investors who have their own successful companies to run and a few too many start-up businesses to oversee and keep tabs on – to read your detailed plan. Then at the pitch meeting with them, speak to a few highlights of the plan and ask them if they had any questions. What do you think the chances are that they read your detailed business plan or anything beyond the summary page – if they even took the time to look at more than the title?

2. Send them the detailed 100 page business plan and ask them to review it. Then you meet with them and take the first ten minutes to present the key highlights of the plan with some powerful, effective, easy to understand PowerPoint visuals that support your presentation speech. You make sure they knew you expect them to ask questions at any time. You brought copies of the detailed business plan, so you could answer some questions by pointing them to answers in the document (that they probably forgot to bring, or lost in the pile of plans they are asked to review). You might have an appendix of the plan in the PowerPoint deck with all the key data that you might be asked about and can quickly show supporting data to answers if asked about it.

Creating this PowerPoint deck might take a lot of work. I might even hire a professional graphic artist to assist with a few of the key graphics. In the end it will ensure that I get the opportunity to present my idea thoroughly and accurately by having the long form detailed document, my speech, and powerful visuals to point out the highlights and support the words in my speech.

For an opportunity to win a million bucks to get my business started, I’d do what ever it takes to ensure my one shot at pitching it to the investors that could make it happen. I’d use every tool available to me.

Now, if I were in the military and presenting information on strategies and information that may change the course of history and literally result in the life or death of people, not just the financial success of a company – I would use every available tool to communicate that information as effectively and accurately as possible!

If used effectively, maybe the bullet points in a PowerPoint used by the military could actually save lives by avoiding the use of real bullets that kill people.

The Enemy is NOT PowerPoint, but BAD PowerPoint

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Anti-PowerPoint articles used to be buried in the business section of The New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, the influence of PowerPoint reached new heights as this “We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint”  story appeared on the front page of The New York Times.

It amazes me the amount of hype a story about PowerPoint can create. Although, after working with PowerPoint and presentations since 1989 it should not be surprising at this point the level of anti-PowerPoint people that are out there. PowerPoint is everywhere, being used by everyone, even the leaders of the American Military view PowerPoint decks regularly.

Since the day Edward Tufte coined the term “Death by PowerPoint”, it has been a popular trend to trash PowerPoint. And why not? Who in this world has not sat through a torturous, boring meeting with ugly, distracting, complex PowerPoint slides at the front of the room. I have to admit I have sat through plenty of these slide torture festivals.

But, I don’t leave the room screaming angrily “That damn PowerPoint strikes again!” I do leave complaining “Why did that person waste my time. They obviously did not spend enough time or effort preparing for the presentation.” I can only conclude they are not really the experts on the subject that they claim they are or the audience were not important enough to them to take the time/effort to plan and develop a worthwhile speech and supporting PowerPoint visuals.

Maybe it is because I know what an incredibly powerful tool PowerPoint can be when used correctly. I have seen PowerPoint decks that have been part of meetings that close billion dollar deals, launch new successful corporate strategies, introduce new research results to life saving drugs, move large groups to making important changes, help successfully raise millions at charity events and even some fun PowerPoint decks that have entertained thousands or maybe millions.

PowerPoint when not used correctly can make meetings unbearable, torture the eyes and minds of the audience. Obviously, there is plenty of BAD PowerPoint being used. Elisabeth Bumiller’s article confirms again that there is plenty of BAD PowerPoint being used by the US Military. But it is not PowerPoint that is the Enemy but the people creating the BAD PowerPoint.

As I have written before, PowerPoint is only a tool. Just like the power tools you may use to build a house, you need to have good plans for building the house, and you need to know how to use the tools. If you don’t, disaster can strike. But banning the use of PowerPoint is like banning the use of the Power tools to build a house. You can still build the house, but it will take much longer and the results will not be the same.

A PowerPoint diagram meant to portray the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan certainly succeeded in that aim.

A PowerPoint diagram meant to portray the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan certainly succeeded in that aim.

The graphic included sited in the article is actually a good one to show the complexity of the war situation. If PowerPoint was used properly, the slides following this confusing graphic should breakdown the complex visual into easy to understand graphics that support the speaker’s verbal explanations and that should probably include an in-depth written document to support the message for anyone in the audience that wanted to dive down into the details of the issues.

It is a shame people spend so much time and effort bashing and complaining about this Powerful tool instead of learning how to use it to their advantage. Maybe if the military had a better PowerPoint training program, we’d finally win the war? I’d love to see the war won with some great PowerPoint bullets rather than those metal ones that really do kill.

PowerPoint is not the enemy as Elisabeth Bumiller writes about in her New York Times article: “We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint“,  The New York Times, April 26, 2010.

The Enemy is PowerPoint

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

PPTBullet1

Financial crisis, Healthcare crisis, and now Mideast crisis all caused by PowerPoint. The horrible program that has tortured millions, maybe billions of people to sit through boring, time wasting meetings.

Faster than a speeding locomotive, able to leap from any size digital projector or computer screen, more powerful than a nuclear bomb, capable of killing ideas and making people stupid, PowerPoint is the secret weapon of the Microsoft Bill Gates to conquer the world.

Forget Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Explorer and all the other applications the evil Microsoft has forced upon the world with their near monopoly of the software industry, it is PowerPoint that is being used to control minds and make people stupid enough to buy the next Microsoft Office release and add billions of dollars to his already fat financial world controlling bank accounts.

Once people start using the new features in PowerPoint 2010, they will become so stupid that they will start believing FOX News is truly unbiased news reporting. These people made stupid by PowerPoint 2010 will then start voting into office people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck (who are too smart to ever have used PowerPoint). Once in power, they will ban the use of Google search of their backgrounds, tax The New York Times out of existence, and heath care for anyone over the age 65 to save costs.

They will then push through congress and the senate a new law that allows them to appoint a new leadership position of the US, the Czar of the Digital US. Everyone will know, even the people made stupid by PowerPoint, that the Czar that controls the Internet, the computer “clouds”, the virtual worlds, the digital US will control the world. Bill Gates will have won. PowerPoint is the enemy. We must fight back with long winded speeches without any visual support, and 100 page research papers that everyone must read or die, for there will be no summary PowerPoint decks to help get the key points communicated. We must stop this enemy now!

Inspired by the article in the NY Times: “We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint“,  The New York Times, April 26, 2010 by Elisabeth Bumiller