31 Dec 2009

Do something new this 'new year'

2009 is a special year for me. I started my blog this year in January. I thank all the readers, friends and colleagues who provided all the support, critique and feedback. As the last post of this year, I would like to leave you with just one thought.

If you want to become better at presentations next year and are worrying about what are the things you can do. Just relax, listen to me and try just this one thing:

"Do something new this new year. Take the risk to be different."

Whatever style you have adopted till now is fine. But come out of that comfort zone and try something new. Give yourself time and go prepared. But do something new. For once don't worry what others will feel or say. For once put yourself in an uncomfortable position. For once prepare to fail. You will not regret it. If you can't do it this new year you will never be able to do it. So go ahead and do the new.

Wish you a New New Year.


Vivek

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Image: Danilo Rizutti

23 Dec 2009

The 11th hour Problem

Sometime back I attended a presentation made by a very senior person. I have attended his presentations before and all of them have left me impressed. But the last one I attended left me with a bad taste in the mouth.

It had multiple spelling mistakes.

One or two typos here and there are fine. It happens to all of us (including me). But five or ten of them in the same presentation? This is something I expect from novices. Spelling mistakes attract unnecessary attention of the audience and reflects that you have taken no care while preparing the presentation. It is a trivial thing but puts off your audience. This is a mistake which you must avoid. I had also included it in my earlier post 11 things to check just before you present.

Why did it happen with such a senior presenter?
Well I feel it happens because of preparing your slides at the 11th hour. He must have been busy and started preparing the slides at the last. In this hurry he would have made spelling mistakes.

How to avoid such a situation?
No matter how much you plan, you will end up making many presentations at the last minute. What you then need to do are two things: 1) Run a spell check once your slides are ready, and 2) Always go through your slides slowly in slideshow mode; after your slides are complete.

It would be better if you ask a colleague to review the slides. Your familiarity with the slides will make you overlook some of the typos.

Do you still end up making spelling mistakes in your presentations? What are the steps you take to avoid them?


Image courtesy: Chris Sharp

21 Dec 2009

Best from Blogosphere: Design a Fresh Template for Your Presentation

In today's post, I want to share a great tip which I read on the blog PRESENTability with DFG by Denis. There is a simple video tutorial by David Anderson which introduces a new and refreshing template design and also teaches you how to make it. Do watch the video by clicking here or see it below:


What David Anderson has introduced is not just one cool template design but a 'new format' which you can use to make anything. He has created a farm and a magazine cutout. You can make a boardroom or a railway station. The possibilities are limitless.

Some Observations:

1. Situation: You need to know when to use this technique and how. This template design should be used for informal situations and definitely not for quarterly review presentations. However, marketers and advertising professionals do have some more 'creative' liberty to use it in formal settings.

2. Space for Text: The designs shown in the video have one problem. They are low on space. In case you need to write a lot you might have a problem. But this problem can be resolved. All you have to do is to design the template in such a manner that you leave adequate space to type out the text. It's all in your hands

3. Choice of Images for Cut outs: To make these templates you need images with single color backgrounds. Be it the farmer or the mail box, the 'Set transparent color tool' (which removes the background from an image) works only on one color. So when you make such templates, use only single color background images.


Use this unique method of template design and give your presentation a fresh look and feel.



Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

18 Dec 2009

Solve this Problem: Editing Points in Motion Path

Eric Pitcher from the US wrote to me a couple of days back with an interesting problem he is facing in MS PowerPoint 2007. It relates to editing points in motion paths (under custom animation). Here is the problem in his own words. See if you can solve it.

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"I was wondering if you have had the same problem that I have when it comes to ‘Editing Points’ on motion paths. If I animate an object with a custom, straight line motion path, most of the time I am not able to edit or add points to it.

For example, I want to make an object look like it is bouncing off of the bottom of the screen. I insert a clip art object on the screen and select to custom animate. In the menu I pick: Add Effect – Motion Paths – Draw Custom Path – Line. I draw the path line across the middle of the screen from left to right.

Now here is the problem: I right click on the motion path to get the Motion Path Menu. However, the ‘Edit Points’ entry is grayed out and cannot be selected. The weird part is that I know this can be done since I am able to select ‘edit points’ once every 100 attempts.

So I must be missing something. BTW: I am using PowerPoint 2007. Any thoughts?"

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If you have a solution to Eric's problem leave a comment here.

17 Dec 2009

Designing a logo in PowerPoint: Manage empty space

On December 3 I had shared a post on how to design a logo in PowerPoint. Click here to read that post. I would like to add to that post by sharing an important tip.

If you create a logo on the slide and save it as picture (.PNG or .GIF), you will find that your logo will have empty space. Let us say, you have designed this fictitious logo in PowerPoint.

As you can see, saving the image as .PNG/.GIF will mean that your logo will have empty spaces. How do you fill the empty space with the colour white?

One solution is to save the image as .BMP or .JPEG. But the problem with this solution is that .BMP is a bulky format and increases the file size of your picture. .JPEG should not be used in this case because it distorts the text. To read more on this click here.


The second solution, the one I use is like this:

Step-1 Insert a white shape and place it over the logo unit (shape and text).

Step-2 Click on the white shape and send it to back.

Step-3 Group the logo unit and the white shape.

Step-4 Save as picture.

In case of this logo, I have created a rectangular white space (shown in blue above) and placed it below the logo unit. This way we will have the white colour wherever there was empty space earlier.

14 Dec 2009

How to outsource your presentation? (Part 2 of 2)

This is a sequel to my last post titled '6 reasons you should not ask your subordinate to create your slides (Part 1 of 2).' There I discussed what problems you face when you outsource your presentation; when you ask your subordinate to create your slides.

The problems I had discussed were mainly to do with meaning, relevance, time management and flow. When you create slides there is a lot that goes through the mind. When you are not the one making the slides, you will not be clear on certain aspects. Why did your subordinate use a particular picture? Because life is subjective, you might not like his way of putting across your point.

Though I create my own slides and want you to do the same, I realize that there are busy people out there who don't have the time. It is also possible that the subordinate has better PowerPoint skills. To address this need today's post talks about 'How you should outsource your presentation (creating the slides)?'

Follow these 5 simple steps the next time you outsource your slides to anyone. And you will have no problems delivering a successful presentation.

1. Prepare a Presentation Brief
2. Plan the presentation along with the subordinate on a whiteboard (or paper)
3. Edit the slides which your subordinate creates
4. Rehearse the presentation
5. Re-edit the slides (if needed)

These 5 steps will take care of all the problems that might occur when you present slides that someone else has created. Let's discuss each of the steps in detail.

1. Presentation Brief (30 minutes)

I had introduced the concept of Presentation Brief in an earlier post. A Presentation Brief is like an advertising brief. Before making every TV commercial the client tells its advertising agency what is the objective of the commercial, what message to convey and to whom. This brief guides the agency in making a commercial which serves the clients' needs well. All you need is to spend around 20 to 30 minutes making the brief. Click here to view a sample brief and click here to download the brief format.

The presentation brief ensures that the subordinate fully understands the objectives of the presentation and knows whatever is important about the presentation. For your ready reference, I am listing down all the questions that you need to answer in a brief.

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A. The Facts
1. Who is presenting? 2. Who is the audience? 3. Size of the audience? 4. What is the duration of the presentation? 5. When is the presentation? How much time do I have to prepare slides? 6. Where is the presentation? How will it be delivered? 7. Significance of the presentation? 8. Is it a regular presentation?

B. The Story
1. What is the objective of the presentation? 2. What are the key messages? 3. What is the audience expecting from this presentation? 4. What action should the audience take immediately after the presentation?

C. Presentation Specific Information
1. Do's and Don'ts for this presentation 2. Remarks

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2. Plan the presentation along with the subordinate (1 hour)


As a response to the last post where I talked about problems of outsourcing, Olivia Mitchell commented; "...The presenter should plan the presentation and storyboard on paper the slides they want to go with them. And then give another person with more time, technical proficiency and design flair the job of actually creating the slides."

Olivia's point is absolutely correct. However, you should start planning the content and flow only after you have filled and handed over the brief to your subordinate. Use a whiteboard in your office and plan the presentation along with your subordinate. I recommend using a whiteboard over paper as a board gives you more space and a better overview of the content and flow.

Click here to get tips on planing a presentation.

This is the stage where you need to tell your subordinate whether you need animation, do you want transition, what kind of slide template is required. Remember the maxim; prevention is better than cure.

3. Slide Editing (30 minutes)

Ask your subordinate to send you the slides well in advance. After receiving the slides, you need to spend some time going through each and everything. View the slides in slideshow mode and run through the presentation twice. First time, just go through everything as your subordinate has put it. Start the editing process only in the second round. Somethings make sense when you see the presentation in an overall way. Remember to keep the brief in front of you while editing.

4. Rehearse the Presentation (1 hour)

Rehearsal is a must for any presentation and more so for a presentation which you have outsourced. The way to rehearse it to stand up and present the slides the way you would do in an actual presentation situation. This will give you immense amount of clarity on what to say when and how to take charge of your presentation.

I would go so far and say that, in case you are outsourcing your presentation, rehearsal is the best thing to do in order to ensure you fully understand the content and overcome the handicaps of outsourcing.

5. Re-Edit the Slides (15 mins)

After the rehearsal you will find a few places where your flow breaks down or you need to add/subtract some matter. Take out time and do that.

You are now ready to deliver the presentation in a confident manner. Go ahead and thrill your audience and yourself.


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Image credit: Suat Eman

11 Dec 2009

6 reasons you should not ask your subordinate to create your slides (Part 1 of 2)


This is the 1st post in a series of two posts.


I make my own slides. But there are many presenters who outsource their work to others. You might be too 'busy' and so you ask your subordinate to make your slides. But presenting slides which someone else has made has its own share of problems.

1. Meaning:
When you make slides, your mind is working. Your mind is talking as you type out the content. As a presenter, you need to understand (literally and figuratively) what the content on those slide really means. If you don't make it how will you know it?

2. Relevance: Only your subordinate knows why he has chosen a particular picture or ordered the animation in a particular way. You need to replicate his thought process while presenting.

3. Time: Your subordinate has broken the entire presentation time into all these slides. Can you present all this information in the given time? Are you sure he has not put more information than you can present?

4. Analysis: Only he knows how he arrived at that magic figure. It is he who has done all the data crunching and research for the last two nights. Will you be able to defend the figure in front of your audience?

5. Flow: Are you going to be comfortable with the flow your subordinate has chosen? Does he have a sense of the macro picture of what you are going to say and why? Is your subordinate qualified to make a presentation which you are supposed to make?

6. Butterflies in the stomach: Confidence comes when you know your content inside out. When your subordinate creates your slides, will you be able to present it more confidently than your own subordinate?

What is the solution then?
I am not saying that making your own slides is the only way out. Many a times there are busy CEOs and executives who just don't have time or the proficiency to create great slides. In such a case, there is a justified rationale for asking your subordinate or a presentation professional to make your slides. But in such a case, you should be well aware of these six problems.

This brings us to the next question. How do you present what someone else has made? How do you bypass these six problems? How do you successfully outsource presentation work?

This will be my topic for the next post. Click here to read it.

10 Dec 2009

How to cut short your presentation without losing its effectiveness?

Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn

You are the 3rd speaker at a seminar and you are supposed to speak for 45 minutes. Due to the late start of the event you have been asked to cut short the presentation to 25 minutes, what will you do? How do you get across the main message of your presentation the way you had intended?

This is a situation you can never prepare for in advance. But knowing how to react will help you deliver the message with same effectiveness.

Here is what you should do when faced with such a situation.

1. Do not panic: This is the first thing you should NOT do. Just because your time has been cut short does not mean your presentation is ruined. Tell yourself you will present the relevant content within the given time.

2. Do no get defensive: Do not get defensive and tell your audience that you will not be able to present properly because you have been denied the amount of time you were earlier promised. Does not help. Instead of feeling bad, start thinking and rearrange your stuff to fit in 25 minutes.

3. Skip some slides: This is the most important point. Just because you had made 25 slides for your 45 minute presentation, does not mean that you need to run through all of them within 25 minutes. You cannot increase your speed and cover everything in 25 minutes. Accept that it is not possible.

You have to skip a few slides, slides which explain a point or contain a case study or contain extra / peripheral matter. There are slides which have your central argument and many slides supporting it with examples. In such a case, after you present your argument, you can always give only 1 example and skip the others.

You might also like to cut short some basic introductory matter at the start. All I am saying is, you know what is more important and what is not. Skip the peripheral matter and get to the core right from the word go.

If you increase your pace and try presenting a 45 minute matter in 25 minutes, all you will do is reduce audience understanding and subsequently loose their attention. Adjust to the reality and present with confidence.

If you have faced such a situation before I would like to hear from you. How did you face the situation?


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Update: Read about a new approach (User Controlled Presentations) to PPT making which can help you fit any presentation within time. Click to read here.

8 Dec 2009

Unleash the hidden power of your visiting card

Imagine you are going to make a sales pitch or a presentation to raise sponsorship money or to get funding for your start up. What do you do first? You introduce yourself, your company and hand out your visiting card. Then you start making your presentation.

Have you ever thought about the role of your visiting card? Do you know that it can act as a major differentiator for you? It can positively impact your presentation (and your business) and leave a great first impression.

Take out your visiting card now and look at it. What does it say about you to an absolute stranger who will read it? What does it say about your company? Does it say anything about why one should do business with you?

No. Your visiting card just conveys facts; your name, company name, designation, address, contact number and email id. Why does it not say anything about your work?

Your Visiting Card is your slide zero. It is nothing but a two slide presentation you make about yourself and your company to the client before you come to slide 1 of your presentation. You have a chance to impresses your client right at the start of your presentation. A normal visiting card is just a fact sharing medium and fails at creating any impression. It is what everyone does; dull and boring. By making a few changes to your visiting card, you can really enhance your business success.

If you are an entrepreneur
1. Write in 1 sentence what your company does, on the back of the card
2. Write in 1 sentence why your company does it better than your competition (this gives your client the reason why you are better than others)

If you are an employee
1. Write in 1 sentence what your company does, on the back of the card
2. Write in 1 sentence why your company does it better than your competition
3. Write in 1 sentence what is your role in the company (this will great give clarity to the person dealing with you)

Go ahead. Take the path less traveled. Create a different visiting card and make a great first impression. Tell your clients what you do and that you do it better than others. This will create a powerful impact on them.

4 Dec 2009

Is your presentation immortal?


I was reading this post on the blog 'Eyeful Presentations' and I started wondering about Presentation Mortality. Are presentations mortal or immortal? What I mean is, you are a real estate company and you create a sales presentation for one of your projects. Can you keep showing the same presentation always? For the next 3 months... 6 months...

Another example, take your own corporate presentation (which shares the corporate profile to clients) which was uploaded on your website 5 years back. Is it still relevant and alive? Has it not died?
What are your thoughts on this? How long can you keep using the same sales presentation or corporate presentation or for that matter any presentation?


I believe presentations are mortal. They have a useful life. Presentation being a form of communication is highly contextual. With time the environment (context) changes and your presentation begins to die. And one day... thud! it is a vestigial organ. It becomes useless.

Do all presentations have the same life?
No. The life (how long a presentation is useful and relevant) differs from case to case. For a real estate company the sales presentation needs to change every month because the speed of construction will change and hence your content will change. Once the project is sold out, the presentation is meaningless.

For a corporate presentation, the case is different. Some content will never change (history, philosophy, etc) but the company might itself be transforming.

Talking of mortality reminds me of an investor presentation I made for a client last year. He was starting a company and he needed an investor presentation to raise funds. So we made a presentation. After ten months, when nothing much had changed, he came to me and said, "the presentation does not seem so great now, can we make a new one?" I relooked at the presentation, had a round of discussion with him to understand the context and said, "Yes." The next day we were ready with a presentation which made him jump off his seat. It was just what he wanted. It was just what he wanted then. Context is what determines the effectiveness of a presentation.


To conclude, I would say four things:

1. A presentation's life is limited.
2. To keep it alive you need to revisit it constantly.
3. One day, you need to scrap it and build a new one from scratch. Yes, right from scratch.
4. This is because, presentation is made during a certain time to cater to a certain need. As times change, needs change.

What do you think? The presentation you made last year, is it still relevant?


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Image credit: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Dec 2009

How to design a logo in PowerPoint?

You want to design a simple logo but you don't know Photoshop, Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. What should you do? Depend on others?

Need not. You can design your logo in PowerPoint and it will look very good and not take up much time. The process is very simple and needs only very basic understanding of the software. Let us take the case of how I went about designing the logo of my popular series '14 Tips to Make Awesome Charts'.

Step-1 The Design
You should know how your logo should look like. One has to decide on these 3 elements; shape, colour and text. I wanted the logo to be like a pie chart and the number 14 to come on one side of the pie. I wanted the logo in orange (that's the colour I use as a theme for the blog).

Step-2 Create a Pie
Insert a pie on the empty slide.
Insert -> Shapes -> Basic Shapes -> Pie in PowerPoint 2007.
This can also be done in 2003. Make a large pie so that it is easier to handle.

Step-3 Rotate the Pie
Format -> Rotate -> Flip Horizontal

Step-4 Fill Colour
By default, the pie is of blue colour with a dark blue outline.
Format -> Choose orange colour under Shape Fill.
Format -> Choose No Outline under Shape Outline.

Now your pie is filled with orange colour and it has no boundaries (outline).

Step-5 Add a Shadow
By adding a shadow, your logo will look much better.
Format -> Shape Effects -> Shadow -> Outer Shadow -> Choose the first option (the shadow comes on the right side in a diagonal fashion).


Step-6
Insert a text box and type 14. Try out many font styles and choose the one which appeals to you. I had chosen the font 'Impact'. Increase the font size to fit in the cut portion of the pie. Make the font bold and place it nicely within the cut.

Step-7 Moving the Text Box
There are two ways of moving a text box. One, by selecting it and using keyboard arrows or with a mouse directly. I prefer using keyboard arrows. Second, to move the text box slowly, press control and then use the keyboard arrows. It really helps set the '14' properly in place.

Step-8
Insert another text box and write down the remaining name of the series. 'Tips to present awesome charts'. Move the text box and fit it in alignment with the pie and the number 14.

Step-9 Grouping
Select all the three elements and group them.
Right click -> Group -> Group
This will group all the 3 elements into one element.


Step-10 Save as Picture
Your logo is now ready. Right click on the shape and 'Save as Picture...'
Save it as a .PNG image. This is because your logo contains both shapes and text. To read more on JPEG and PNG click here and here.

You can now use this logo wherever you want. Go ahead, design your own logo in PowerPoint and use it on your website, presentations and wherever you desire. And you don't need to be a Photoshop expert for that.

2 Dec 2009

Best of the Month: Nov '09

Hi friends

November was an exciting month. I was invited to give a talk on marketing by P2W2 to a large group of start ups. Interacting with entrepreneurs always leaves you with a lot of positive energy. I also uploaded the presentation on the blog and it immediately became the most read post of the month. If you have not checked the PPT you can do so by clicking here.

Another post which became popular was 'How to make slides as fast a Maggi noodles?' In this post I have shared how you can drastically cut down your slide creation time and yet not loose out on effectiveness. If you have to make a presentation in a hurry its a must read post.

I introduced the concept of Presentation Brief this month. This idea originated from an observation that we go through the same process when we make a presentation. If you sit down and spend 30 minutes to fill this brief, it will bring immense amount of clarity to you and also save a lot of time later on. I strongly recommend you take a look at this here and here.

And finally, here are the most read posts on this blog till date:


1. How to make a presentation seeking sponsorship money?
2. How many slides should a 30 minute presentation have?
3. Presentation lessons from Dr. Stephen Covey's session in Hyderabad?
4. How to make a business review presentation?
5. Introduction to SmartArt graphics in MS PowerPoint 2007

To share your feedback on the blog content and design, to suggest an article or a post idea and to share your presentation experiences write to me at
vivek [at] allaboutpresentations [dot] com or leaving a comment.

1 Dec 2009

Confirmation that we kick ass!

It gives me immense pleasure to share with you that our blog All About Presentations has been included in Alltop under the category speaking. Alltop, started by Guy Kawasaki, is a collection of all the top websites/blogs on various categories. Under speaking gets covered all public speaking, communication and presentation blogs and websites. Alltop not only shares top websites from all across the world, it also acts as a feed aggregator. So it shows you the latest posts on the blogs as well.

I am extremely happy that the blog could achieve this feat before its first anniversary on January 14. Thanks to all who have made it possible; my wife, my friends and a special thanks to you; my reader. I have received a very good response from all the readers across the world. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, shared feedback and spread the word. We kick ass and so do you.

Cheers!
Vivek