Archive for the 'Meetings' Category

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.

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!

The Biggest Meeting of All Time

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Obama Meeting OneI expect President Obama’s Inauguration to be one of the biggest meetings of all time. Millions of people gathered in Washington and 100’s of millions watched it on TV, the Internet and listened on radio. The Obama inauguration has been over two years in the planning and eight years overdue. It will be a meeting that will hopefully be the beginning of a new era in history and put our country on a more positive course.

We will switch from a US past President who had lead meetings and the country with his own political party’s agenda and based important decisions on information from politically connected cronies and on “his gut”.  We now move to a new U.S. President who says he will lead the country based on the people’s agenda and make important decisions based on careful analysis after meeting with smart, intelligent experts. Obama will be one of the great speakers of our time and from my professional opinion, knows how to lead a GREAT meeting.

I’m sure there will be a zillion blogs about this day and incredible event, so I’ll keep this short. I hope and pray that this monumental meeting event is the start of better times for all.

Precious Meeting Time

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Do you treat your meeting time as “precious”?  Do your colleagues value your time? Or do they waste hours and hours in useless, boring meetings? There was a good article in “The New York Times” yesterday: “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time” by Reid Hastie. He says that “it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.”

I was surprised he did not do any PowerPoint bashing. Maybe he would agree that it is not about PowerPoint wasting meeting time, it’s about BAD PowerPoint caused by people not taking the time to plan and prepare for their meeting. Bad PowerPoint just becomes a symptom of “poor  meeting design” that he writes about.

I believe there is a correlation between a meeting with great support visuals and great meetings. A presenter with well designed PowerPoint slides usually means the presenter made the effort to plan and prepare for the meeting. No visuals or ‘last minute looking slides” usually means an unprepared presenter. Yes, it does take time and effort to design good support slides as it takes time to design and produce a good meeting.

Often the development of good slides incorporates the process of developing a plan for a successful meeting. Creating good slides becomes a big challenge when it is the first time the presenter has really thought about the meeting objectives and the critical messages that need to be communicated to make the meeting successful.

Even if you don’t have time to create PowerPoint slides, at the vey least, create a brief agenda that outlines your meeting objective and plan. Maybe if as Hastie points out in his article that companies today have to stop allowing employees to waste so much time in “poorly designed” meetings, and maybe better meetings will result in a more profitable future.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Start your PowerPoint project with a good template!

Friday, October 17th, 2008

What is a good template?

Many people believe a “good” template is a pretty background. If you do a search for PowerPoint templates on Google, you will find a zillion out there. Many are free, many are cheap, and most are worthless, besides providing you a ‘pretty background”.

Most PowerPoint users don’t know the difference between a pretty background design and a good functioning template. They find this out when creating a new chart, and they have to correct the colors with every new chart or even re-size the text with every new bullet slide. If the template is setup correctly it should be easy to start a new slide. A good template will give you a good starting point – correct colors, text sizes, spacing etc.

If you are working with a number of slide contributors it becomes even more important when you combine decks from different people. If you have a good template – combining slides is an easy and painless process. If you have a “pretty background design” template, combining slides from different decks can become a nightmare, or keep you up all night fixing slides.

Once you have worked with a good looking and well functioning PowerPoint template you will never want to start a project again without one.

Sleep Deprived Meeting Mania

Monday, September 15th, 2008

How many meetings have you had where you spent so much time preparing for the meeting, you left little time to sleep the night before a meeting? What is better, more meeting preparation, or more sleep?

I have a monthly meeting that I’m responsible for planning and facilitating. Since I’ve been in the meeting business for the past 25 years, it should be a breeze. But since we are in the business of designing and producing presentations, we are driven by client presentation deadlines. We often miss our own deadlines in order to meet our client deadlines. Although I am the least directly involved in the production of client presentations, I seem to have my own full plate of administrative deadlines.

I always start out with the plan to start preparing for the meeting the week before, but other priorities get in the way and it always seems a good portion of the preparation is the night before (just like our clients). Considering I leave for the office at 5:30am, if I stay up late to prepare the meeting detailed agenda and notes, I usually start the meeting sleep deprived. I definitely notice the difference in the success of the meeting when I get a good night’s sleep vs just a few hours or when my partners are severely sleep deprived, because of crazy client deadlines.

I wonder how many meetings are being run by sleep deprived facilitators or presenters? Bad meetings are often blamed on bad slides, but it could just be too many people stay up late producing (bad) slides and then don’t have the needed energy to present the information effectively. Their sleepy presentation produces a bored, sleepy audience and a big waste of time for all.

Just like it is illeagle to drive in NJ if you are sleep deprived (no sleep for 24hrs), maybe there should be a law against running a meeting with less than 6 hours of sleep?

A Meeting . . . to measure progress

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Red StakeA meeting is often a stake in the ground to evaluate where you are and where you are going. I believe this is what adds to the stress of preparing for and having a meeting. It is not just the stress of producing the meeting event and the preparation of the presentation content and slides, but the stress of evaluating your progress and being evaluated as you present the status of your project. Your audience is always judging you on your delivery, but more important they are evaluating the content of your presentation and the success or failure of your meeting purpose. Do they buy into what you are presenting or are you wasting their time and yours?