Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Everyone Loves to Hate PowerPoint, Do You?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

PPT Puppet 003webDo you hate PowerPoint? I have to admit that some times I do. Yes, there are times when I have hated PowerPoint. I have lost countless hours of sleep because of PowerPoint. I have missed a zillion family dinners because of PowerPoint. I have missed being home in time to say good night to my kids too many times to count because of PowerPoint. I’ve worked on my days off, and numerous weekends when I should have been out at the beach or fishing on the river because of PowerPoint.

To top it off, I was nuts enough to start a company, eSlide, that specializes in designing and producing POWERPOINT shows. My partners and colleagues at eSlide may be some of the most PowerPoint tortured souls in the meeting and event industry – if you consider we live and breath PowerPoint day in and day out, and often all night. At this point after 20 plus years in the business of designing and developing presentations, I don’t really get to do much hands-on design or production except on my own presentations. I would not be able to pass the test to get on the eSlide design and production team.  They are the masters of taking PowerPoint chaos and efficiently turning it into engaging, exciting, impactful visuals that assist speakers to close million, sometimes billion dollar deals. I know, that they all hate PowerPoint too, sometimes.

But, more than hate PowerPoint, the eSlide team hates BAD PowerPoint. I believe they get real satisfaction from taking something ugly and turning it into something beautiful. They know their work will save hundreds, if not thousands of audience members from being tortured by BAD PowerPoint. More important they know their design talents and PowerPoint expertise will assist a speaker in communicating critical messages effectively, leading to results that will drive productive meetings and contribute to successful companies.

Yes, we do hate PowerPoint, occasionally. Most of the time we love it for what it can do and for what we can do with it. We love PowerPoint for being the presentation graphics tool that has been the focus of our business for the past eight years and has been a key component to our success.

Do you hate PowerPoint? I’d be interested to know why?

Prezi or PowerPoint?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

PreziFirst, I think Prezi is a great presentation tool from what I have seen of it and played around with so far. I have to admit up front that I am  PowerPoint biased, having used PowerPoint for 25+ years, and only used Prezi for maybe 25+ minutes, maybe a couple of hours total. It is fun to use, and the more I use it the more potential I see, but old habits are not easy to break.

I have heard plenty of people raving about it in some of the presentation groups/forums I belong to. Personally, I have yet to find an appropriate presentation/meeting to actually use it in. And that is my main point. It may be a good option for presenters, but as for being a replacement for PowerPoint, my experience to date with it leads me to believe that it could replace certain uses of PowerPoint, like when a whiteboard presentation would suit the content or meeting objectives better than PowerPoint slides.

I view Apple Keynote, SlideRocket, Google Presentation doc, Adobe Presenter, etc. as possible replacements for PowerPoint. All of these presentation tools follow the traditional outline, linear slide presentation path. Prezi makes a new, flexible path, a more free flow, creative style, non-linear path to developing and communicating your ideas. This can be a big advantage in meetings where the presenter wants to share information in a more interactive way and change course or paths pending on the audience feedback and input.

It may be a great tool for planning and developing a presentation that then might be presented from Prezi, but in my view of most of the  presentation content I see, a linear PowerPoint slide show would often be the better final presentation tool. People need the structure offered in an “outline” based presentation tool like PowerPoint.

There is so much free flowing, overflowing, information out in the world, the process of developing a linear story is often important in the final communication of the message.

I see Prezi as another visual presentation tool that I might suggest such as a video or flash animation rather than a PowerPoint slide show for certain types of information sharing of content or type of meeting event.

I don’t see it as a full replacement for PPT yet,  but a totally new visual presentation tool that will work for meetings and information sharing that PPT should probably not be a consideration in the first place. In the millions of presentations given every day, there is a place for Prezi, but I’m not sure how big a place yet. I see it replacing traditional white board presentations, poster board, and easel/marker information sharing. Or it may even create a new model of meeting information sharing.

It will add a great deal to meetings that can benefit from the free flowing, non-linear information sharing that Prezi excels in.  It really depends on the objectives of the meeting communication. Some meetings may benefit from a free flow, non-linear path, but often in today’s business environment with shorter meeting times, and even shorter times to prepare for the meetings . . . a well planned and practiced linear slide show to support a presenter’s communication will often achieve the best results.

We work on 100’s of presentations in a month and I see few that Prezi could replace. There might be parts of a presentation or meeting that would benefit from the use of Prezi, but for the most part we can achieve similar zoom-in and non-linear flow with PPT too. Most people do not even know the easy trick of entering a slide number and a return key click will take you to that slide number in slide show mode. Most users don’t even touch the surface of the power of PowerPoint. And in the same way, maybe I am not giving Prezi a fair shake yet, as I have only limited experience and knowledge of Prezi.

PowerPoint is so often used incorrectly, and there is soooo much bad PowerPoint out there, it is an easy target for “replace PowerPoint with . . .  a video, an animation, a Prezi, a sliderocket, a white board . . .”  instead of focusing on the advantages of the alternative for the particular type of meeting, information sharing or meeting communication that a new tool like Prezi will assit in. In some ways it’s not about just using a new tool (Prezi), it may be about a new way of presenting and sharing information.

I believe the original PowerPoint application came from the idea of turning an outline into slides. This linear “outline” is still the foundation of most slide shows and meeting communications these days. In today’s information saturated world, a tool like Prezi and it’s non-linear format, Prezi may be the future, but I do not believe it is going to replace PowerPoint in most cases any time soon.

A switch to Prezi, may be similar of the “trend” to produce presentations without bullet points. I love producing presentations without bullet points. They are often more fun, more visual than heavy verbal/text slides, they are more engaging, but also take more time to create. For 95% of the presentation I see pass across my screen it would be nearly impossible to loose the bullets – but it is possible to turn a sentence or paragraph bullet into a short, powerful bullet phrase (and maybe add a visual to support it).

My PowerPoint mantra:  “it’s not death by PPT, but death by BAD PowerPoint!”  You can kill an idea or meeting just as easily with a bad Prezi. You can also bring to life to an idea or make a meeting exciting and memorable with the support of some excellent visuals – in PPT or Prezi.  The visual tool you use depends on the audience, the  information to be communicated, the presenters skills, and speaking talents – where Lily Latridis from expertise is very important.

PowerPoint totally replaced 35mm slides and acetate overheads in about a decade. Maybe Prezi will totally replace whiteboards as we know them today. Or maybe replace both whiteboards and the idea of presenting with linear electronic slides.

What I need to do next is to try Prezi to create a presentation on using the right presentation tools to achieve the optimal meeting communications. Watch for an update to this post with a link to my Prezi in the near future.

PowerPoint is Alive and Well, Back from PPTLIVE 2009

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Ric Bretschneider, Sr Program Manager of the Microsoft PowerPoint Team gives a preview of the future of PowerPoint 2010

Just got back from “The Future of PowerPoint” and the next version of PowerPoint looks amazing! I have been trying to get to the PowerPoint Live conference for years and finally made it this year. I will not miss another. The event was everything a good event should be: educational, inspiring, fun and memorable.

The highlight for me was getting to see the new features of PowerPoint 2010 being demonstrated and explained by Ric and Sandy from the Microsoft PowerPoint team. It was great to spend three days with 100’s of other people passionate about PowerPoint and the power of the program when used correctly. There were plenty of examples of really good PowerPoint shows from some of the best in the industry. The only talk of “Death by PowerPoint” was how ridiculous a statement it is especially when you consider all the powerful communication going on when PowerPoint is used effectively.

Cliff Atkinson talked about how PowerPoint producers should avoid being seen as a commodity and focus on “value pricing”. He spoke about his assistance in producing visuals for a court trial that resulted in a $253 million dollar verdict for the client. Cliff also noted how often people in the room produced presentations that were part of successful communications which resulted in millions, if not billions of dollars for the companies they did the presentation design and productions for.

Rick Altman, the organizer of the event uses a tag line that says “making the world a better place, one presentation at a time”.  Although the media loves to pickup the negative stories of PowerPoint overload, and “Death by PPT” stories, it is clear from this event that PowerPoint is alive and well, and will be driving successful meeting communications around the world for a long time. The amazing new features introduced in PPT 2010 will make the program an even more powerful tool for creating visuals that support successful meeting communications.

I will write about some of my favorite features of PowerPoint 2010 in future posts, but if you want information now, a great place for information on PowerPoint 2010 is the Microsoft Team Blog. Maybe my next post will be one where I beg and plead with someone on the Microsoft PowerPoint Team to send me a beta copy of PPT 2010. I can’t wait to use it!

Heading to PowerPoint Live Conference

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

PowerPoint Live 2009 Conference in Atlanta

I’m heading off to Atlanta for a three day PowerPoint conference. It is billed as “the finest event in the world for the presentation professional, the PowerPoint user, and those who brand company messages”. I’m looking forward to spending three days learning more about PowerPoint and meeting other people that like or love PowerPoint. I’m especially interested in hearing about PowerPoint 2010. Maybe my next post will be from Atlanta and for three days the center of PowerPoint excitement.

Good Presentations take TIME

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

RaceTheClock-100909-11aIn my quest for trying to understand why so many people hate PowerPoint (and even I sometimes hate it), I have come to the conclusion that a key reason is that when working with PowerPoint most people are racing against the clock. It sometimes seems that when working with PowerPoint, the clock just starts racing ahead to that presentation deadline.

They don’t really hate PowerPoint, but the deadline and what they have to do to get to the deadline. Then, to top it off they have get up in front of a group and present their story or critical information, a task often feared as much as going to the dentist for a root canal surgery.

A presentation deadline is like no other. It is often a one shot deal. One shot to make and win your point. It is often a deadline that you can not delay or change. Getting a group of people together, often a group of important people or large group of people to meet these days is a challenge in itself. Wasting your own time is one thing, wasting other people’s time is magnified tenfold by the potential loss or gain of the meeting outcome.

A good presentation often takes a great deal of time to develop and design. It is my experience that most people don’t PLAN enough time for a good PowerPoint presentation. The best presenters plan more than enough time and are so well rehearsed,  that when they finally present they look so good, as if they never have to rehearse.

Before PowerPoint (Keynote, and other electronic slide applications) presentations used to take a lot longer to develop and a minimum of 24 hours to get the “slides”, the 35 mm slides or color overheads (acetates) processed. You could not make last minute edits the way you can now. With the power of PowerPoint, you can make changes to your presentation slides right up to the second before you are about to present. This is great to be able to update last minute data, fix a typo, or add a last minute important thought, but it also adds to the stress of time. The production is not done until you present it.

I’d write more, but I have to go plan my next presentation.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Guy Kawaski 10-20-30 rule Guy Kawasaki is a great speaker that often speaks to entrepreneur groups about how to present their ideas to venture capital groups. His 10-20-30 rule has been getting a lot of tweet time today. It’s a good rule for presenting to Venture Capitalist, but it should not be taken as a universal rule for presenting. He says for this VC target audience “you should not have more than 10 slides, speak longer than 20 minutes and do not use text smaller then 30 points”. He says “if you can’t fit the 30 point text on the slide then it is too much text”.

My rule would be more like 20-10-18. I’d aim for more slides with less on each slide, but about one slide per 30 seconds to keep the presentation visually interesting and moving along.  I would try not to use any type smaller than 18 point and always keep slides as simple and clean looking as possible. Yes, larger text is always helpful, especially if you are presenting to a large audience or with anyone that distance viewing may be a limited.

The more important rule is make sure your slides are readable from a distance and your important point stands out. It is ridiculous to limit the number of slides. All to often we see slide limits as the cause for content chaos – where a presenter attempts to cram 40 slides worth of content into his 15 slide limit. Good meeting facilitators should not give speakers slide number limits but time limits. It is the responsibility of the presenter to practice and trim their content to fit the time allotted as a speaker. If you have limited time to speak,  well designed PowerPoint slides can often assist in communicating the information faster and make it more memorable. A good agenda with good slides can also keep the speaker and audience stay on track for keeping the meeting to the allotted time.

The most important rule is don’t follow all the rules. Do what it takes to be innovative, creative and interesting. Break the rules if you feel it will result in more interesting visuals and a more engaged audience. Remember your objective is to communicate important information in the allotted time, not get through 10 slides as fast as you can.

Will Masks be the new Meeting Attire?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Masks are the latest "in" meeting attire

As Swine Flu hysteria makes a come back this fall, will the new attire at your next business meeting be business casual with a business blue face mask?  My daughter is home from school today for the second day. She has a simple cold or what appears to be a simple cold, but anyone sneezing or coughing at school gets sent home.  Will this new wave of Swine Flu give companies another reason (besides budget cuts) to cancel meetings and events?  What is going to happen to all the medical meetings planned that will contribute to avoiding Swine Flu outbreaks in the future? Will they be canceled? Time to call the stock broker and invest more money in Webex and the other online meeting companies.

Meetings are NOT the problem

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I recently attended the annual conference of the NY chapter of the Meeting Professionals International. It was an excellent meeting to say the least, as it should be a premier event since it is produced by some of the best meeting planners in the industry.

Meetings are part of the solution

The first sign that this was a good event is that every meeting at the conference seemed to have full attendance. In this economically challenged world this alone is a big achievement. Of course every meeting evolved to a discussion about the economy even if it was not supposed to be the primary focus of the meeting – although in many cases the economy was the target topic.

The meeting industry is under siege since the day of the now famous AIG Meeting fiasco. Obama has taken a leading role in making comments about companies accepting tax payer TARP money and not using it for “FUN” business trips . . .  “You can’t take a trip to Las Vegas or down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime”.

Many companies have since canceled many meaningful, important meetings, even if they have not accepted TARP money – to be sure they do not appear to be wasting money on meetings. And some companies have just used it as an excuse to cut meeting and event budgets.

The President’s, along with some high profile senator’s comments have wrongly given the public perception via the negative media mania of the day,  that ALL business meetings are fun and games and a big waste of money. Yes, there are some business meetings that are strictly fun and games, they are called Incentive Meetings. These trips are usually for top company revenue producers, or employees that met big goals or achieved great things for the company. But this is small percentage of meetings and events.

And then there is often a “fun” activity at many meetings and events to give incentives to employees to attend the meeting, because often meetings are NOT fun, but hard, challenging, stressful work! Meetings are big business, because so much BUSINESS gets done at meetings.

I love technology, but nothing can replace the power of a face to face meeting or a good handshake!

A thought that occured to me at the end of this conference having spent a day listening to and meeting with some of the best professional meeting planners, organizers and meeting facilitors in the business, maybe the world . . . Obama should hire an army of Meeting Professionals and put them to work at bringing the Government’s meetings into the 21st century. . . . and maybe then we’d end this financial crisis and move the country forward on other important issues at the pace of today’s digital world.

It’s great to see Obama have the first Presidential Webinar with the public participating in a live in-person audience and via the web. Let’s see him encourage MORE effective MEETINGS that produce results. Maybe he should start at home with the improvement of Senate and Congressional meetings. I know a few good professional meetings planners that he can hire that can turn those ineffective, time wasting, tax dollar supported meetings into efficiently run, effective meetings that will actually produce some results!

A Pocket sized Projector?

Friday, January 9th, 2009

For a PowerPoint guy, this has to be the coolest gadget of the year, a projector that fits in my pocket. It’s a little bigger than my Treo cell phone. I had read about its anticipated arrival months ago and as soon as they were shipping I ordered one to test. (I bought the 3M MPro110 from the 3M store for $349.) No more lugging around our “portable projector” which is about the size of a small lunch box.

A projector you can hold in your hand

When the package arrived, I dropped everything to play with this new toy. I hooked it up to my micro video camera, turned the lights off and played movies on the ceiling of my office. AMAZING! What fun. I could not wait until I was next in a client’s office to pull out this tiny projector from my pocket and show their PPT slides on their wall (or ceiling) instead of my laptop screen.

But, cool as it is, practical it is not. After further testing, it was fairly easy to connect it to my Thinkpad Laptop. The image is fairly clear, but 7 lumens is not very bright. It may be OK for watching a fun movie with your kids on the ceiling or an excellent way to show some family photos directly from your digital camera, but not for a business presentation. Even the cheapest portable projectors these days have at least 1000 Lumens. It has been years since the last time I’ve been to a presentation where they had to turn the lights off. With 7 lumens, you have to turn the lights off and shut the blinds.

I still think it is one of the coolest presentation gadgets to arrive in the past few years, but I’d wait until version two or three and a micro projector with more lumens before carrying one around in my already full pockets.

You can check out a more extensive review of micro projectors by my favorite gadget reviewer, the New York Times David Pogue’s mini projector blog post and review at: “The New World of Pocket Projectors”

Wow, It’s Not Easy Being a Presenter

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Marshall Speaking at Small Biz Tech Summit 2008I had the honor and pleasure to be a speaker at the Small Biz Summit 2008. It was a great opportunity to be on the other end of the slides. It’s been awhile since I was a speaker and not the speaker support person or on the speaker support team. I was speaking on a panel on how to transform your business. The panel presented 40 tips in 40 minutes. I had 10 minutes for my 10 tips.

I had ten plus weeks to prepare. I started thinking about it maybe ten weeks ago, but didn’t dive into it seriously until maybe 10 days ago. We were supposed to have the slides finalized and to the event producer 14 days ago. I’m so used to most of eSlide’s clients giving us slides for their presentation the day before they present, I thought 14 days in advance was silly. But it wasn’t.

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