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99% of all presentations suck… December 9, 2009

Posted by roshanbhula in Slide:ology, Uncategorized.
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…says Guy Kawasaki.  And he’s right.  The first step in getting into the 1% is to read Slide:ology.  It will make your presentations more effective by making you think through simple design techniques. My five favorite takeaways:

  1. Don’t start with Powerpoint. Use white-boards or pen & paper to map out ideas and storyboard the presentation.  Sitting at a computer leads to outlines and bullets, rather than stepping back and framing the whole story effectively.
  2. Crowding a slide is lazy – avoid creating ‘slide-uments’ that say nothing by trying to say too much.
  3. Data slides shouldn’t overload the audience with numbers or charts. Think about what is most important, what you want people to remember. Can you make an emotional attachment to the data that makes it more compelling?
  4. Think like a designer.  White (negative) space, fonts, consistent color schemes, and the layout of images and text on the slide all convey certain things.
  5. Strive for a consistent look for images and avoid clichés (such as two hands shaking in front of a globe or my personal favorite, an iceberg as a metaphor for diversity).

Putting the Power back in PowerPoint October 6, 2009

Posted by Jason Hirschhorn in Slide:ology, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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Having just completed Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology, I have one thing to say to all of the audiences that I have subjected to a PowerPoint presentation that I have created: I’m Sorry!  Duarte is the woman behind Al Gore’s PowerPoint tour de force, “An Inconvenient Truth” and she takes readers through several engaging, glossy pages of how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation.  Several highly relevant examples are provided.  The main message I took away: What you’ve been doing thus far has probably been boring, disengaging, alienating or incomprehensible to your audiences. 

Some of her points to effective, engaging, informative and persuasive slides may sound simple: Pick the right tool for the job; use succinct text; large fonts, convey big ideas; use clean lines, reduce clutter; use colors that mesh well with your subject matter; use pictures that convey emotional impact.  While these may sound simple, Duarte takes us to a level of nuance that we probably have not encountered before when thinking about PowerPoint.  Many of us probably just relied on pre-constructed templates that were put together by our companies.  Some of her more nuanced points include the personality behind fonts (Georgia is formal and practical; Times New Roman is professional and traditional; Century Gothic is happy and elegant) and the10/20/30 rule (you should deliver a presentation in no more than 10 slides, take 20 minutes and have font no less than 30 point).

One of the primary takeaways for me from Slide:ology is how slides and PowerPoint have become a part of organizational culture and how implementing some of her messages will require a culture shift in organizations.  I used to work in consulting where PowerPoint was King.  If you didn’t or couldn’t convey your thought in PowerPoint, you didn’t really have a thought.  Often these messages were conveyed in small, detailed text-heavy or complicated slides with graphs, charts and frameworks.  For a consulting organization to adopt some of her ideas will require a culture shift about how we communicate.  Duarte convinced me that it’s worth shifting that culture towards to embrace a style and approach that will result in more powerful presentations, communication and ideas.

Here, then, area a few of the most salient takeaways from Slide:ology:

  1. Don’t ignore the importance of your background.  The color and texture of backgrounds conveys a message, but they should never compete with content. A dark background is formal and is good for large venues whereas a light background is more informal, illuminates a room and works well for smaller settings.
  2. Use the three second rule.  Can the message you are conveying on a slide be understood in three seconds by your audience? It should be.
  3. Pick the right chart for the job: Pie charts work for showing large differences in proportion, especially percentages.  Bar charts are visually more precise than pie charts and are good when you need to show relationships.
  4. Remember the “Bullet Laws:” Protect your audience.  Use bullets sparingly.  Use parallel structure and avoid sub-bullets.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be PowerPoint-less.  Hitting the “B” key during a presentation will turn your screen to black so that the focus is on the speaker.  Pressing the “W” key will turn the screen white. 

Emily Lin on Slide:ology September 30, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Slide:ology.
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The book not only provides technical tips to improve the presentation development skills, but also a fundamental paradigm shift of what IS an impactful presentation. It requires a different mindset and devotion of time and focus. A great presentation can influence millions of people, especially in this internet age.
The presentation slides we are referring to is the visual aid that helps the audience to comprehend what the presenter is talking about. The powerpoint or flip-chart is NOT the presentation itself, but only a means. “Audiences can’t see and listen at the same time.” Often times we spend most of our efforts in developing the slides but forget that we – the presenters themselves – should be the focus. We should put emphasis on the points we want to deliver, rehearse, and create a presentation slides that help, not hinder, the messages.
“Treat your audiences as kings! They come to see what you can do for you, not you.” As all communication, understanding your audience is the first key to successful communication. Before starting to create slides, we should spend time thinking of who we will be talking to, what they want, and what is the best way to communicate. Sometimes creating a document to read is more effective than delivering a presentation. Often times we mix documents with slides by putting too much text and visual-unfriendly materials.
Less is more – this especially applies to visual communication. To deliver a clear message, there should be only one message per slide, and no more than three layers of concepts on a single slide. We often pack multiple concepts on a slide and thus create a dense but confusing image. The book provides several vivid examples of how to transform from a document-type slide into presentation-type slide. Simplicity applies to all information including concepts, text, data, images, colors and photos. “Think as a designer, not a decorator.” Useless and inconsistent information is noisy and distracting.
“Be prepared to be powerless.”- the book warns us at the very end. Again, the presenter should be the focus, not the slides. If things go wrong and slides can’t be projected, the presenter should still have the confidence and means to deliver his/her messages successfully. With this end in mind, the amount of time and focus spent on the messages and rehearsals would not be under-estimated. “The amount of time required to develop a presentation is directly proportional to how high the stakes are.”

Slide:ology September 28, 2009

Posted by roshanbhula in Slide:ology, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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Slideology connected with me because it bridged my past career in consulting with my side project, helping to launch a graphic design start-up.

Slideology lays out some of the basic concepts of graphic design: size, color, gridlines, whitespace, typeface, etc. but then tries to convince Powerpoint users to think more like a designer when approaching a presentation.

The book started by encouraging people to start with pens, pencils, and paper and draw out the ideas that will form a presentation. Diving right into Powerpoint is not an effective way to stimulate creativity and create new ideas. It reinforced the idea of mindmaps, affinity diagrams, and sketching.

The most compelling part of the book for me was the data section, where the key message was about communicating the ‘so what’ behind the data more than the data itself. The natural tendency to create a graph and add more data to it is usually wrong and clutters up the message. People don’t need all the data, they need to know why they should care.

Overall, a good read. One and a half thumbs up.

Slide:ology & my comfort zone September 23, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in Slide:ology, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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As a business professional and an MBA student, I am very familiar with PowerPoint. Most of my business interaction involves PowerPoint, and my roles range from being a listener to a presenter, as well as everything in between, such as an editor of others’ presentation, a preparer of the presentation for others to deliver, and a presenter of a presentation prepared by others.

I have used PowerPoint since I was in college, which has now been over 8 years. Over the years, I have developed my own style in preparing the presentation based on adoption of some best practices I saw in others’ presentations. Being a career switcher from accounting to marketing, I am still attracted to details and organizations of things. So, my presentation normally contains a lot of boxes and frames, with moderate level of text. To add some interesting aspects to my presentation, I rely on color choices, images, and animations. My presentation often receives compliments for its neatness and its easiness to understand and follow. Therefore, during the last 4 years, I found myself using this same style over and over. My friends would recognize my slides and know that this is my style.

Reading through this book, Slide: Ology, last week, I found many interesting tips and techniques that I thought I could use in preparing my next slides. Two days later, I had to prepare presentation for a class. After working on it for a while, I reviewed my slides and just realized that it was still in “my style”. Although I recognized the usefulness of the book and made up my mind that I would apply the concepts, I still ended up with my same old slides.

Why is it so difficult to break out from what we used to do and what we are comfortable with? Is it just me, or does this happen to everybody else? Or the fact that I have established my own style means that I have passed the experimenting stage? What should I do to always keep my mindset in the experimenting stage?