Archive for the 'General' Category

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.

I Love PowerPoint!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I Love PowerPointThere are not many people that would admit or say that they love PowerPoint. I do.  I have been in the business of creating electronic slides (often referred to today as making “PowerPoints”) since 1991. It seems everyone loves to hate PowerPoint.  But everyone continues to use it. And too many people abuse it and don’t use it correctly. If PowerPoint is used correctly it can be a great communication tool for getting your important points across to your audience quickly and effectively. You have a better chance of having people remember what you present if you present it with good visual support –  with good PowerPoints.  I have seen PowerPoint decks that have launched new products, new businesses, new careers, ideas, strategies, and raise millions of dollars for charities, promote environmental causes, explain complicated medical procedures, assisted in winning  million dollar sales deals and be a critical communication component  in closing a billion dollar merger. Has PowerPoint helped you achieve your meeting objectives?

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.

Life by PowerPoint vs Death by PowerPoint

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Life by PowerPoint

If you work with PowerPoint, you’ve heard the term “Death by PowerPoint”. Some days it seems PowerPoint has killed more people than the Iraq war. PowerPoint has never killed or hurt anyone. It is only a communication tool that can be a great tool when used properly or a very bad tool when used poorly. Unfortunately, it is so easy to use and used so often (estimated to be 30 million users daily), it is often abused and too often used to torture audiences rather than engage and excite them.

It is not “Death by PowerPoint” but “Death by BAD PowerPoint”. PowerPoint as a communication tool has the capacity to support a meeting communication, but can also kill an idea or meeting if used incorrectly.

PowerPoint can be an amazing tool when used correctly.  It can help engage your audience, enhance your presentation, help close a deal, explain a complicated process, keep an audience focused on the important points, share information faster and more effectively than a speaker without PowerPoint slides. It can bring life to your ideas and to your important communications!

A Meeting that I’m Glad I Missed

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Eight years ago, I was headed into New York City for a client meeting.

I was traveling into the city on NJ Transit, just outside the Newark Train station where on a normal day, if you have a window seat you get a great view of the amazing New York City skyline from across the river. But the amazing view turned into the most horrific view of seeing the North Tower smoking like it was a long monster cigarette.

When I reached the station, it was still unclear if it was an accident or attack, but I got off the train, called my client, canceled the meeting and caught one of the last trains out of NYC that day to watch the rest of the horror on TV. Today, I will stop what ever I am doing at 8:46am and watch the anniversary memorial ceremonies and will say a prayer for those who died, the survivors, their families and friends, and most of all for peace in the world.

Maybe their would be more peace in the world if political leaders knew how to facilitate and participate in more effective meetings?

Example of how not to run a meeting

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Meeting MoransA pathetic example of how not to run a meeting is the NY Legislature in Albany. They are an organization in need of a serious re-organization. It’s a perfect example of meeting anarchy and what you want to avoid. I have sent them a copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order” in hopes someone there will read it and remember how to hold an organized meeting. I live in NJ, but my company is based in NY City and we pay way too much New York State and New York City taxes and it is depressing to watch them waste critical time, and my tax money. If I had the time I’d organize a march on Albany and fight to get them ALL fired, or start a campaign to keep them out of office the next time elections come up. No wonder the country and state is in such bad shape – our “leaders” in Albany can’t even hold a civil meeting.

Maybe if they were forced to plan the meeting and use some effective PowerPoint slides like successful companies do, they would not be raising our taxes and cutting our services.

PowerPoint animations are comprehension killers?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

A great deal of attention has been given to this recent blogged about study that said PowerPoint animations are comprehension killers. Why should this be such big news? As a professional working with presentations for over 20 years, it was clear 20 years ago that if you load up your slides with animation after animation, all you will accomplish is making audience dizzy and tune out.

PPT Animation can kill comprehensinFor any visual effect (and in the new PowerPoint there are many), you need to use them sparingly to have them have any impact. If you keep your slides simple and consistent except for when you want to make an important, memorable point – you add an animation or other visual effect for impact.

People just love to hate PowerPoint. I’m still not sure if people really hate PowerPoint or they just hate it by association of meetings and deadlines that they hate.

I find it interesting that with all the blogs and tweets I saw about this study yesterday, NO ONE mentioned a small important comment made in the study: “Both presentations dramatically improved the students’ scores”. YES, the presentations dramatically improved the students scores which proves the point that PowerPoint can improve communication, just leave out the fancy animations.

I’m so sick of hearing the “death by PowerPoint” cliche when it should be Death by BAD PowerPoint. I’m going to start a new effort to change the cliche to: LIFE by PowerPoint. PowerPoint (when used correctly, and effectively) can give life to ideas, careers and companies.

VizThink NYC Kick-Off event…! Weds, June 17, 6:30-8:30pm

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Viz ThinkAre you a visual thinker? Or maybe I should ask is it possible to think without thinking visually? Maybe, but I believe the smartest people think visual. Come explore this concept with this almost new group (new in NYC). For more info on VizThink check out www.VizThink.com. For more info on the Kick-Off event click here.

The Importance of Meeting IN PERSON

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I could not say it any better than this video by Empire Force Events. “MEET: Life Happens” The video was sent to me by Jaclyn Bernstein. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, all fun and exciting communicaiton tools if used right, but nothing beats an in-person meeting.