19 Sep 2014

Send me 5 slides

My friend works in a consumer goods company and he reports to the CEO. Yesterday my friend called me. He was frustrated. He wanted to send an important proposal to his boss and he had worked on this project for more than a week. When he asked his boss for some time to discuss the matter he was asked "Send me 5 slides."

CEOs are busy and so is everyone. Whether you are sending a sponsorship proposal to a company or a CV (resume) to a prospective employer, everyone is busy. The recipient does not share the same love for your PPT as you do. Hence it becomes important to condense your hours of work into something easily digestible.

The challenge which my friend is facing is actually good for him. Try reducing every presentation you make to 5 slides. Not possible? Give it a shot. Even if you don't present just 5 slides, this process will bring amazing clarity to your mind. You will end up with the really meaty stuff (that matters) and you will be forced to eradicate the less important stuff.

Caveat: Your 5 slides cannot look like the one below. It has to have few words on it. The other rules of making a good presentation do not change because your boss wants 5 slides :)

18 Aug 2014

Emaze: A New Alternative to PowerPoint & Prezi

Emaze is a new online technology which allows you to create presentations. It is simple to use and it will surely enhance the looks of your presentation dramatically. This is how the site works:

Sign Up
Choose a template
Add a ready-made slide
Type your content, add images and videos
You're ready
Share it with the world

Before getting into details, let me share what I feel is the real benefit of using Emaze. It allows you to make visually good looking presentations quickly. You choose a template and then you add ready-made slides. You have a slide to add quote, one with a timeline, one with a chart, one with a SmartArt kind of image, one with a table and so on.

Some templates of Emaze are like MS PowerPoint and some are like Prezi. When you work on Emaze, your deck sits in the cloud. You can access it from anywhere and on any device.

Watch this short 2 minute video for a crux of what the site does:

There are 32 templates as of now. The site tries to address all kinds of presenters. From managers to school teachers. From students to professionals. Here are a few samples:

While some templates are simple, some have lots of transitions and some are too much 3D. It totally depends on your situation and need. That should drive your choice of templates. If you keep your mouse over a template, you can get to see a preview of the template.

Slide Layouts
Once you have chosen your template, you can now start adding slides. Again we have a huge choice here. To try this out, I chose the Market Analysis template, since this is more in line with my needs as a manager. There are 22 different types of slides layouts within this template. Here are a few samples:

Once you choose a slide layout, you can start typing out your content in place of the existing content. You can also add a new text box or image (just like you do in PowerPoint). We can also delete existing text/image from the slide layout. The layout can be totally customized.

The basic version is free, so you can try it out and see for yourself. The  PRO option is available for $4.90 per month. Click here to know more. Please note: If you sign up for free, your presentation will be public and anyone can see it. Most of the best features are generally reserved for the paid users :)

Caveat (a word of caution)
While Emaze will surely help you make visually good looking presentations faster, it is no substitute for proper presentation planning (hard work). A presentation is successful because of its content. Emaze or PowerPoint is just a tool. The tool will only make your life easier.

Another caveat is to not to get too carried away after looking at all these jazzy templates. Choose the one which meets your needs. The simpler the better. Do not try to impress your audience with your design. Try to get your message to your audience in the least possible time with the least possible noise.

Who is Emaze for?
Emaze is for busy people who need a deck fast. It is for people who do not have mastery over PowerPoint or similar such software. Sign up for free and check it out. It will save a lot of your time.

Watch some presentations created by others using Emaze.
Click here to visit the site.

Disclaimer: I do not get any commission when you sign up on Emaze. However, their ad is currently running on my blog.

11 Aug 2014

Presentain: An Amazing Tool for Modern Presenters

Presentain is a great tool for presenters. Check out this 2 minute video and then the interview with Mark Thomas.

Presentain Overview from Presentain on Vimeo.

Vivek: What is Presentain? How does it work?

Mark: Presentain is a great interactive presentation tool that helps speakers engage their audiences more effectively. Here’s how it works: Speaker goes to Presentain.com to sign up and upload his presentation so it sits in the cloud and is always available to him where he presents. 

Then he downloads an iOS or Android app that serves as his smart remote to control the slides during presentation and to also control different interactivity components: like receiving questions from the audience, run real time polls, pull up his profile on the big screen and push it to audience devices so everybody can easily follow the speaker.

When the speaker is done presenting the audience can receive the presentation to their emails. And not just static presentation slides but narrated slides as with Presentain we record speaker’s voice and generate a video of his presentation. 

Vivek: Why Presentain?

Mark: Presentain lets presenters deliver a great interactive experience.

For presenter:
There’s no need to carry a laptop or a stick with a presentation now. It’s all in the cloud and can be controlled from a smart phone. The presenter really looks cool and on a cutting edge with technology when he does a lot of fancy interactivity like real time polls, pushing content to audience devices (slides in real time, his profile etc.) no more need to manually send slides to the audience after the talk – Presentain does it all automatically. 

For the audience:
Audience wants to keep slides or share slides. They usually have to take blurry pictures with their phones and then do many more extra clicks to share this picture. With Presentain they get slides pushed to their devices in real time and can share easily with 2 clicks. 

Asking questions is often an awkward experience: guy running around with a mic, somebody taking too much time promoting himself or asking unrelated questions etc. With Presentain audience can shoot those questions to presenter’s device when they have a question without needing to wait and presenter decides what to answer and when to answer.

Vivek: How much does it cost?
Mark Thomas, Presentain

Mark: The first tier is free and that includes five presentations seven slide cast and three polls. The second tier is $9.99 a month and includes thirty presentations, slide cast and polls. The third tier $24.99 a month and it includes unlimited presentations slide cast and polls.

Vivek: Thank you Mark for explaining to us the benefits of Presentain. It surely is an amazing tool.

Mark: Thanks Vivek. We really appreciate the opportunity to share Presentain with you guys. Happy presenting!

Disclaimer: I do not get any commission from Presentain :(

8 Aug 2014

Photograph Tip: Rule of Thirds

In my last post I talked about head room and lead room. In this post, let us talk about a very interesting rule.

The Rule of Thirds

This tip will help you take photographs. To understand this rule, imagine that the photograph is divided into 9 equal parts.

This rule states that the 4 intersection points are the 'power points'. The subject when placed around these areas becomes 'powerful'.

While taking this photograph, if the cameraman had placed the soldier in the middle of the photo, the photo would not look so good.

When you are taking this photo, place the soldier along the Line A or Line B.

Look at another image. See how the animal has been placed on one of the 4 power points.

Imagine you are taking the photo of the horizon. Where will you place the horizon? Along the bottom dotted line (going from left to right).

Look at these two photos taken from unsplash.com:

Did you see the rule of thirds being followed?

The next time you take a photo, follow this rule. You will most definitely come up with a much better looking photo.

Images from: unsplash.com

30 Jul 2014

Photograph Tip: Rules of Head Room & Lead Room

Today I will talk about two rules for taking good photographs. It will also help you choose good images for your PPTs. I came across these in this useful book on film making.

1. Head Room Rule

The space between the head and the top border (in an image). Here is an example:

In this image, the head room is almost zero. The hairs have got marginally cut. Let us look at another image:

The head room is very small in this image. The Head Room Rule states that the head room in your photo should be minimal. This is important if you want to capture emotions properly. A larger head room will make the face smaller and hence the emotions will not get properly captured. See the image below. The action is captured but not the emotion.

2. Lead Room Rule

Lead Room is nothing but looking room. You need to give a lot of room in the direction in which the person is looking. In case of a moving vehicle, the space needs to be given in front of the vehicle (in the direction the vehicle is moving).

This photo would look very bad if there was very less space in front of the cop and very large space behind him. The same is the case below. You have to frame the picture so that you leave a lot of looking room in front of the animal. Do not put the animal in the middle or the right side, when it is looking towards the right.

Images from unsplash.com and pixabay.com

24 Jul 2014

Create professional looking charts in 6 steps

I came across this nice looking chart in an article I read on a website.

Normally, our charts in PowerPoint don't look so cool. They have the default blue and maroon color. How do we make this kind of chart easily in PowerPoint?

Watch this slide deck and follow the 6 simple steps. Difficulty in viewing? Click here to see it on slideshare.

18 Jul 2014

New Font: Google Noto for the whole world

Google has launched its new font Noto. The font is available across multiple languages. The reason for trying this new font will not be its looks but its utility. If you have multiple languages in the same page, you can use Noto fonts for all such languages. Noto English, Noto Chinese, Noto Tamil and so on instead of installing and using different type of font for each language.

To know more about serif and sans serif fonts click here.

Go ahead, try this new font. Click here to download.

15 Jul 2014

66 Best Presentation & Public Speaking Tips

I wrote my 500th post last week. That's a big milestone for me. In this post, I try to present the crux of my five and a half years of blogging. What follows is the best 66 tips you will ever read on making a presentation and giving a talk. Benefit from it.

Planning Your Presentation

1. You have to tell a story to your audience. Stories are memorable and stories appeal to people. Ask not what information I have to share. Instead ask, what story should I tell?

2. Appeal to emotions. Most presentations are too logical but all decisions are based on emotions.

3. Every argument needs; Ethos, Pathos and Logos (Aristotle). Ethos is credibility, pathos is emotions and logos is logic. You need all the three to convince someone. Most presentations lack emotions.

4. Our brain loves novelty. Teach people something new.

5. If your audience remembers only one thing, what would it be? Try to come up with your main message in less than 140 characters. This will force you to think properly.

6. Divide your talk into 3 parts. Your audience will find it easy to follow and remember.

7. Deliver a jaw-dropping moment which will be remembered for a really long time. Nancy Duarte calls it the 'star moment'. STAR - Something They'll Always Remember.

8. Our brain also loves humor. It lowers defenses and make you more likable by your audience. Using humor will mean audience will not find your boring.

9. If you can, try to present/speak in 18 minutes or less. The shorter your presentation the better.

10. Give concrete examples. Your audience cannot understand abstract concepts.

11. Set a time limit and make your presentation. Creativity flourishes under constraints. Do not keep working on your presentation till the last minute.

12. Plan your content on paper. Software comes at the end. Once you have complete clarity, your slides will get made faster.

13. Spend time in understanding your audience. Who are they? What they know? What they want from your presentation? Where are they right now and where do you want them to be at the end of the talk?

14. Prepare for questions which your audience will ask. On every slide ask, what will my audience ask me on this slide?

15. Make proper handouts. Handouts are not printouts of the slides. Use handouts effectively. You can print a summary in a one page handout and given it at the end of the presentation.

16. As per John Medina, a molecular biologist, our brain loses attention after 10 minutes. If your talk is longer than that then every 10 mins do something different. Play a video, get a new speaker or give a task to your audience.

17. Prepare for less time. For a 10 min talk, you should prepare for 7-8 minutes.

18. Everyone pays attention at the start. Make the most of that extra attention and start well.

19. End early. Everyone loves to go home early or finish a meeting early.

20. How to start a presentation? Start from where your audience is now. What do they know about the topic. Start talking about that and get everyone on the same page. Now start your journey to where you want to take them.

21. What is the objective of your talk? Remember this all the time and make sure you fulfill it.

Designing Your Slides

1. Visual display of information is important. Avoid too much text and go for images and videos.

2. Picture Superiority Effect states that photos are better than text. Using photos make your audience understand more and remember more. Use photos to amplify your message.

3. Have one theme per slide. Do not try to say too many things on one slide.

4. Use very few words per slide. Avoid bullets at all costs.

5. For every slide ask; "What's my point?" and "Why does it matter?"

6. Remove all 'noise' from your slides. Try to keep it clutter free. Whatever can be removed without losing the main message is a 'noise'.

7. Keep animations and transitions to the minimum. Use it only if very necessary.

8. Do not use 3-D charts. Your objective is not to impress your audience. 2-D charts are better for audience understanding.

9. Utilize empty space on your slide properly. Do not fill every corner of your slide. Empty space adds to the power of your slide.

10. Help your audience understand your numbers. Make sense of the numbers and compare/contrast them.

11. Have large size text on your slides. Your slides must be visible from the back of the room.

12. If you have 10 slides with 10 charts, try to give a break to your audience by showing images or telling a story after presenting 3 slides.

13. Have a one sentence summary of what is the key finding of every chart/table you present. Do not wait for your audience to figure out the key message.

14. Edit your slides ruthlessly after your first draft is ready. Remember, the shorter the better.

Delivering Your Presentation

1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Unless you rehearse 10 times you cannot master your presentation. The aim is not to memorize but to be in the flow.

2. Talk as if you are having a conversation. You are not 'giving a presentation' to me. You are talking to me as a person talks to another.

3. Deliver a multisensory experience. Try to engage more than one sense. Can you make people feel the message?

4. Be authentic. Do not try to be someone else. Speak from your heart.

5. Do not hold yourself back during delivery. Be natural. Be the same person; on and off the stage.

6. Move around. Do not stand behind a lectern. Move your hands as well.

7. Make proper eye contact.

8. Do not read the slides.

9. Do not stand facing the slides. Have a laptop in front of you, so you don't look back.

10. Use a wireless presenter to change slides.

11. Reach your venue early. Check your equipment. Do a dry run before the actual talk starts.

12. Do not try to be a perfect speaker. Just go and talk. No one is perfect. No one can become perfect.

13. No one cares about your mistakes. Most of them will not even notice it. Take your mistakes in your stride.

14. Calm yourself before every presentation. Tell yourself everyone gets nervous. Take slow deep breaths to calm your nerves.

15. Engage your audience. You talk is not a one way lecture. Ask questions. Give away prizes. Mingle with the crowd.

16. Take charge of the room in which you are presenting. Make any changes in seating styles, lighting, etc. if you feel that is affecting your performance.

17. Share the stage with other speakers. Your audience will love this change. One speaker can become boring (especially in long presentations/workshops).

18. Voice modulation is necessary. You remember your college professor who drove you to sleep in every lecture because she kept on talking without any voice modulation.

19. Do not use jargon.

20. Have fun while preparing your presentation and while delivering it. If you have fun, your audience will also have fun. You are tense and they will not enjoy at all.

21. Use props to explain concepts. Go out of the way in figuring out ways to make your audience understand and remember your story.

22. Do not speak too fast. Pause often. Pauses help you get extra attention.

23. The more you speak, the better you become. If it is your first presentation, you will fumble and that is fine. Only after you have presented multiple times can you hope to improve.

Other Tips
1. You have to be passionate about your topic. If you are not moved by the topic, how can you move your audience? Passion is contagious. Your passion will affect your audience.

2. Your talk has to help people. Do not sell what you will not buy yourself.

3. Start with a beginners' mind. There is no right and wrong way of giving a talk. Do what you feel right. Take a risk. Try out something new.

4. Be clear, be simple and be short.

5. PowerPoint is not a must every time you speak. Go without slides once in a while. Just carry some prints of data you want to present.

6. You are the focus of your presentation. Not your slides. People have come to listen to you. So stop equating presentation with PowerPoint.

7. Videotape first few minutes of your talk and watch it. It will help you immensely.

8. Look back at the talk you just gave. What went right, repeat it. What went wrong, learn from it.

Most of these tips are based on the following books: Presentation Zen, Talk Like TED, Confessions of a Public Speaker, Resonate, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, The Quick & Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking  & The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. It is also based on my 6 years of blogging. Read the book reviews by clicking here.