Friday, 21 November 2008

Presentation Visuals

This week I have been putting into practice and experimenting with new approaches to presentations and the design of PowerPoint (or Keynote) slides... Whilst I know that you can create workshops and presentations without ever touching a computer (and sometimes they are all the better for it), I know that PowerPoint is embedded within the cultural mindset.

So I feel that if you are going to use slides, they had better be brilliant and enhance what you are saying rather than repeating it (and hence distracting the audience's attention, see yesterday's blog)....

PowerPoint itself does not exactly help you to design great slides - it contains ghastly templates that encourage gruesome colour combinations that are way too busy, with a whole host of bullets or text over the top. Whatever you do, please leave all that alone.

The most important approach is one that says: less is more.
There are three key questions to ask yourself about each visual that you use:

1) Is it simple? Can anyone understand the point you are trying to make easily? That means that large amounts of text or data or points on graph or images are out. Think one key point per slide.

2) Is it beautiful? Does anyone want to look at ugly or cluttered images, clipart or fonts? Why not strive for a beautiful image that people will want to look at?

3) Does it add to what I am saying? The images should be a powerful way of enhancing what you are saying, focussing in on key messages that you want your audience to remember.

Step away from the PowerPoint templates and backgrounds.
Step away from bullet pointed lists.
Step away from clipart.

Embrace full slide photographs.
Create your own simple graphs and diagrams (or even better get a designer to do it).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Making PowerPoint Powerful

Where are people going wrong when they design slides that result in the muttered phrase "Death by PowerPoint"?

There are two basic mistakes:

Mistake 1 - Designing Slides as Handouts.If you have enough information on your slides for them to work as handouts, then your slides are wrong. Why not simply print out the slides and circulate them, instead of becoming the voice in your audience's heads as they read them?
These slides are Death by text.

Mistake 2 - Designing Slides as an Autocue.The next mistake, is to design your slides to help remind you what to say. Your audience will still read your slides, as you fill in some extra gaps.
These slides are Death by Bullet Point.

Research has proven that it is more difficult to process information if it is coming at your both verbally and in written form at the same time.

So your audience should not be both listening to you and either reading handouts or reading slides. If they are, then they will be doing neither well.

The point of slides is that they provide a strong visual backdrop to complement your words, with the audience focussing on listening to you, your passion and knowledge. They are the stills and you are the narrator.

To avoid these mistakes, you must design your slides, your prompts and your handouts as separate items. You can use PowerPoint for all three, but they are likely to be separate files not the same one.

Next time you are designing a presentation, see if you can think of the slides as a visually exciting film, which you are narrating.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Power of Passion

I watched an incredible speech over the weekend, by a 12 year old girl.
She spoke with simple phrases to an audience at the United Nations.

This would daunt even the most extrovert presenters, yet she spoke calmly without a hint of nerves.
What is most extraordinary about her short 6 minutes is the strength of her passion.

She talks about flighting for her future, and how it is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. She pleas for us to stock breaking things we cannot fix (like a desert that was once a forest). She asks us why we are so greedy, why we cannot share. Simple questions that perhaps we forget to ask anymore.

Watch this and learn how to write a great speech that could also silence the world.

Watch it by following this link:

The video is rightly entitled: The Girl Who Silenced The World.