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Archive for the ‘PowerPoint Slides’ Category

Disaster Preparedness … For Your Presentation – Part 1 – LCD Projectors

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

It looks so innocent doesn't it? When it works, a projector is a great thing. But when it doesn't, disaster awaits! UNLESS you're prepared!

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Do you ever have thoughts run through your head and worry that you just jinxed yourself?

I did.

I thought, “Gee, I’m glad I’ve never had a malfunction in showing my presentation slides.”  I knew immediately, that I’d just jinxed myself.

The very next time I presented, sure enough, I had a problem with my projector.

Turns out later I figured out it was user error on my part…perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Having a problem with your projector is no fun, that was for sure.

After spending a minute or two trying to figure out what was causing my problem, I went on to do my presentation without the slides.  Even though I know the audience missed out on some beautiful slides, they were still able to get value from the presentation and that’s what’s most important.

While certainly no comparison with the tragedy of a natural disaster, missteps in a presentation can really throw off a speaker off.  But just like being prepared for a natural disaster can help you cope with a hurricane or an earthquake, being prepared for presentation disasters can help you avoid making a bad situation even worse.

For the next few blog posts, I’ll touch on some disasters that can occur while you’re presenting, what to do to avoid them, and give you options on how to deal with them when they do.  First up…

Problems with Projectors

One of the most common problems for presenters is some sort of problem getting the computer’s screen sent through the LCD projector and onto the screen.

In the early days of LCD projectors, it seemed to be some sort of magic formula, which I could NEVER remember, about plugging the projector and the computer together.  One had to be off (was it the computer or the projector?), one had to be on, and then you plugged them together and turned on the other one?  Or were they both supposed to be off before you plugged them together?

Even though the order of plugging up and turning on doesn’t seem to be a big of a problem as it used to, hinky issues with projectors still happen often enough that we need to be prepared.

Arrive Early

Always arrive far earlier than you need to for the meeting or event.  If your event is out of town, arrive a day early.

Ask to get into the room with the equipment the day before if possible.  If not, get into the room one to two hours before you are due to present if possible.

This gives you time to plug everything up and make sure it’s working.  I recommend you click through your slides to make sure they look as good on the screen as they did on your computer.   If you’re using video clips, plug your computer into the sound system and play the clips so you can make adjustments for light and sound.

If you get there early and find a problem, then early arrival will give you more time to get the issue resolved before the audience starts filing in for the event.

Know Your AV Support Helpline

Get the name and contact information for the person who can help you with the equipment.   Even if you’ve gone in the day before and everything worked fine, you still want to know how to get a hold of the person or group that can help you if any problems occur.

I was presenting at a local conference and was able to get my computer set up, the LCD projector adjusted and everything ready to go a couple hours before my session was due to start.  But I still got the AV guy’s card, even though I didn’t expect to need it.

As I put on my microphone and started greeting guest right before my session was scheduled to start, the presenter in the adjoining room came in to say that my microphone feed was coming through the speakers in their room.  I called the AV guy and they took care of the problem quickly, I’m sure much to the relief of the people in the adjoining room!  I’m sure they were grateful that I had the AV guy’s card!

Have a Backup Plan

Always have a way to carry on with your presentation without the slides.  Assuming you’ve practiced your presentation (you have practiced your presentation, right?!) then you know your material.  Carry with you some hard copy materials that can help you carry on without your slides.  You can do that with a printed out version of your slides or with notes of your presentation outline.  If you have handouts that can serve as a guide, then use them.  Just be sure you have a way to still get your message across even if it’s not going to go as smoothly as you planned without the slides.

When It STILL Goes Wrong

If things start to go wrong despite your planning, then be real with the audience about it.  Try to relax and joke about it.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t apologize repeatedly.  Ask their forgiveness.

Try to correct the problem.  If you can’t figure it out quickly, say in less than two minutes, then stop trying and move on.  Gather up your confidence.  Remember that you know your content.  Deliver on the value you have to offer to the audience.

The audience will be grateful that you didn’t waste more of their time trying to figure out why your computer and projector aren’t talking.  And you may find that you do better connecting to your audience without the crutch of your slides – (especially if you haven’t read my blog posts on how to do presentation slides and you are still creating them with lots of bullet points and text).

Now It’s Your Turn

What did I forget?  What are some precautions you can take or things you can do when things go wrong with your projector to keep yourself and your presentation in tact?

Add your ideas to the comment section below.

In an attention-deficient, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-my-Facebook-page kind of world, the typical business presentation is lame.  Do you want to change that for yourself and your staff? Professional speaker, trainer, tweeter and blogger Kelly Vandever is here to help!  An award winning speaker herself, Kelly helps organizations crank up their content and create killer interaction using old school and hi-tech techniques, all while annihilating bullet points and making this a better world for business audiences.  Find out more at Communications for Everyone.


Marketing Departments – Your Branding Is Being Ignored… So Drop It from Your Presentation Slides

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on July 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

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Your Marketing Message Is Being Ignored Like a Low Value Tweet

When I first I joined Twitter back in 2009, I started following a few people I didn’t know but who seemed to be talking about topics of interest.  There was one guy in particular, we’ll call him Dee, who tweeted a whole lot.  Dee’s face adorned the left side of my screen regardless of the time of day or night when I visited Twitter.  I wasn’t finding his tweets especially helpful but I never took the time to go in to my “following” list and physically stop following him.  I found instead that when I say his head on the side of the tweet, I’d just skip over his tweets and read those on either side of his.  He wasn’t enough of an annoyance that I stopped following him, but I pretty much ignored his messages.

It’s my contention that standard marketing slides used in most corporate presentations have become like Dee’s tweets.  They have that “branding” information at the top and bottom of the slide.  But people pretty much ignore that chatter and focus on what’s next to that branding.

Delete the Corporate Branding at the Top and the Bottom of Your Presentation Slides

I know why corporate marketing departments were asked to came up with the standard slides.  Left to their own devises, corporate citizens came up with some hideous slides.  Having people use a standard set of fonts and colors definitely made the slides look more professional.

But as more and more presenters are moving away from bullet points and adopting strong visuals for their messages, the header and footer branding on the slides has become an annoyance.

Your marketing branding messages at the top and the bottom of slides have not become so offensive that audiences have stopped listening to the message of your presenters.  But the branding has become so routine and repeated that they’re ignored.  So why include them on the slides any more.

Put the branding on the first slide.  Put the branding on the last slide.  But remove all that other noise so that the people who are doing your presentation can focus on your message and message not be surrounded by an annoyance that people have learned to ignore anyway.

What Do You Think?

Do you disagree?  Do you think branding on the slides of a presentation are effective?  Explain your views in the comments!

Adding Video to Your PowerPoint Presentations

In PowerPoint Slides on March 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

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Adding Video to Your Presentation

I’ve been engaged in a few discussion groups on LinkedIn lately about PowerPoint presentations and someone asked the question “Have ever done a video for a client presentation?”   That got me to thinking about the few ways I’ve used video in client presentations.  I’ll share my experiences with you – I hope you share yours with me too!

The Target Market Testimony

One of my clients is a computer franchise organization whose target market is small businesses.  I reworked one of their standard presentations they give at chamber of commerce events and among other things, I removed the tech lingo from the content. As a way to illustrate why it was important to remove the jargon, I interviewed several small business owners and asked them the meaning of certain “IT words” out of context. For example, I asked the people, “When I say ‘user’ what does that mean to you?”  From an IT perspective, a “user” is someone who uses a computer system or software.  While one of those I interviewed said “computer users” the other answers I got included, things like someone who takes advantage of others, a drug user, a person who’s not a very nice.  The clip illustrated my point perfectly because the comments were unscripted and came from the mouths of people who are my client’s target audience.

How about you?  Could you include testimony from members of your client’s target market?  Or existing clients?  What would that add to a pitch to your prospects?

Your Product Matters

Late last year, I was doing a training session for The Home Depot on PowerPoint presentations.  One of the points I made in the session was the idea of including DIY (Do It Yourself) videos within your slides. To illustrate my point, I went around my house with a flip cam and recorded different projects that were built by my handyman husband using supplies from The Home Depot. It was short and fun clip for the most part.  But then I ended the video on a more serious note.  I showed the handrail my husband had build for my stepmom.  I explained that after her stroke last year, she needed the new handrail to assist her with getting in and out of our house. Ending on that story added an emotional element to the presentation and served as a reminder that what they do effects the lives of real people.  And we’re grateful.

How can you appreciate what your client does for their customers?  Can you add evidence that their product matters either from your personal experience or from the experience of their clients?

Humorous Video

I’ve taken clips with permission from Don McMillan who does a hilarious bit on PowerPoint.  I always include a link back to his website so he gets full credit (while I get the laughs).

Anytime we can add humor to a presentation, it’s a good thing.  Are there videos related to your topic or your clients industry that you could use without offending them?  (Always be sure to get permission before using someone else’s work – even if it is on YouTube.)

Sincere Flattery

While not a video and not my idea – I had a client who carried a digital camera with them when they went to meet with a new prospect.  They took a picture of the entrance of the building then transferred the photo into their slide show in the moments before the meeting. I thought that was a cleaver way to personalize the slides to the client.  And I think if I were the client, I would find it kind of flattering.

How might you personalize your presentation on the fly with video or pictures?

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you found any cleaver ways to add videos to presentations to your clients?  How did they work?  What were you trying to accomplish with the video?  Do tell in the comments below!

Make Your PowerPoint Slides Better by Thirds

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on March 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

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One of Kelly's Old Slides Before Ditching Bullet Points and the Default Format in PowerPoint

It doesn’t take a lot to improve your PowerPoint slides.  The bar has been set really low.  If you represent only one point per slide, add pictures and only put one or two words per slide, you’ll be ahead of most presenters who use slides in their presentations.  To take it one step further, trash the default slide format and consider using the Rule of Thirds as the way you format your slides.

The Default Position in PowerPoint

Does this slide look familiar?  It is similar to the view we’ve seen for years using PowerPoint.

The Default View in PowerPoint Most of Us Learned

Pretend for the moment that you’re making up a slide to use for a presentation about customer service and you decide that you want to represent the concept that “Seconds Count” when dealing with a customer.  You look for pictures to represent this idea (see this post for my favorite place to find photos) and you settle on an egg timer.  If you follow the default format in PowerPoint, you’ll end up with a slide that looks a little like this.

Concept Using Default Settings in PowerPoint

But what if we applied the Rule of Thirds to this slide?  How might that change the look and feel of the slide?

What Is the Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds comes from the world of design.  Imagine taking your PowerPoint slide and dividing it into three segments horizontally and vertically like this.

Imagine the Slide Divided in Thirds Horizontally & Vertically

The Rule of Thirds would have us line up our composition on the slide along the thirds that have been created by the lines.  So let’s try that with our egg timer above.  What if I move the egg timer to the right third horizontally?

Let's Move the Egg Timer Off Center

To the Side with the Grids Removed

Eh, still not feeling it.  But what if I enlarge the egg timer to fit most of that right third horizontally.

Making the Egg Timer Larger

OK, I’m getting a little closer now.  What if I move the words down to line up with the top line vertically?

Move the Words

Better.  But what if I made the words bigger?

Use a Bigger Font on the Text

I like that better.  Now let’s compare the default version with the one based on the Rule of Thirds.  What do you think?  I like the Rule of Third version better.

With the Default

With the Rule of Thirds Applied

The Rule of Thirds can be applied to more than just the sample above.  Consider these slides that follow the rule of thirds.

Rule of Thirds on a Photograph

Using the Rule of Thirds

Using the Rule of Thirds

Try the Rule of Thirds with your slides and see if you don’t agree they help your slides look even better.

Now it’s your turn…

I’d love to see the slides you’ve made over!  Post them in the comments below!

Tricks for Making Your Slides Look Their Best

In PowerPoint Slides on March 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm

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Tricks of the Trade

In the 4th grade I asked my mom if I could go to summer school.  One of the teachers was teaching an acting class over the summer and I wanted to go in the worst way.  She agreed and I played my first role ever – Mr. Allen.  I took more acting classes in high school and college and acting in several community theater productions in recent years.

Stage actors have a number of tricks that they use that the audience may not notice, but which help the audience stay in the moment of a play.  For instance, actors don’t  turn around and talk to the person behind them on stage.  If they did, it would make it harder for the audience to hear them.  Instead, actors turn their body and face slightly toward the direction where the person is standing, but they keep three fourths of their body and face pointed at the audience.  When actors pivot to leave or change directions, they turn their bodies in the direction that keeps their face and front side toward the audience longest so they minimize the time their back on the audience.  When they motion with one hand, they use the hand that is the furthest from the audience to keep from obscuring the audience’s view.  These actions are subtle but help to serve the audience.

Likewise, as I’ve worked to create better slides, I’ve found a few little tricks that I think serve the audience better.  They’re very subtle but they make for a more polished presentation.

Different Shades of White

White Background with an Object and Two Words

One of the techniques I like to use is to have a picture of a person or object on a white background and then put one or two words next to the picture such as in this client example.  What I found through, whether using a paid photo sites or particularly on free photo sites, is that not all white backgrounds are the same.  For instance:  Some white pictures are shot against a white background while others have had the background removed and replaced with pure white.  Still others have no background just the object.  And others are a combination:  for example, white a pure white background might be inserted, then reflections or shadows are added.  Here are three examples of those different types of white backgrounds.

Picture Shot on a White Background

Background Is Removed and Replaced with Pure White - Compare to the Next Photograph

You Can See the White Background Inserted When You Put the Photo on a Colored Background

All Background Is Removed So You can Put on Any Background - See the Next Picture

Notice How There Is No White Around the Object Like There Was with the Red Bow Above

This Is a Combination in that the White in the Top Left is Pure White but the Reflection and Shading Have Been Added

Where the subtly comes in is when you have a person or an object photographed against a white back drop and the picture you use doesn’t cover the whole screen.  For instance, in the photo below, notice the shadow to the right of his feet.  When I put this photo on a white slide, you get a distinct line where the shadow and the photograph ends and where the white slide begins.  I didn’t like that sharp contrast.  So I created a white triangle and covered the bulk of the shadow.  What’s left was a more subtle shadow that didn’t have a harsh break on the slide.

Notice How the Shadow Ends Abruptly to the Right of the Man in the Photo

This Is the Version of the Slide with the White Triangle Inserted

I know a little obsessive right?  But I think noticing this subtle change adds extra polish to your work.

Go All the Way to the Edge and Beyond

When I’m not using a photograph against a solid white or colored background, I like to take the photo all the way to the edges of the slide so that the picture fills the entire slide.  Depending on what the image is and the point I’m trying to make, sometimes I’ll go well beyond the edges and position just the part of the photo that I want to show up in the slide.  Here are some examples.

This Photograph Fills the Entire Slide

This Photo Went Beyond the Edge of the Slide - See the Next Photo

This Is the Original Photograph Used in the Slide Above. Expanding the Size of the Photo Beyond the Edges of the Slide Allowed Me to Have a Bigger Snake and to Use One Snake Rather than Two

I prefer the way the slide looks when the photo goes to the edges or beyond over defaulting to the way Microsoft inserts a photo in PowerPoint.   Compare for yourself.  Which do you think looks better in the two slides below?

Default from PowerPoint

Photo Enlarged to Fit the Slide

Black in Back

Sometime however, because of the proportions of the photograph, I’m not able to go to the edges or beyond without losing key elements in the photograph.  When that happens, then I use a black background for the slide.  When you project the slide on a screen, the light doesn’t pass through the black of the slide and it creates an illusion that the picture does fill the slide screen.  Below are two photos.  One taken during a presentations and the other is the slide as it appears in the deck.  Notice how the picture taken during the presentation looks like the picture is the only thing on the slide?

This is the Actual Slide with the Picture in the Center. Notice the Black Background Showing on the Sides

Sorry this Picture Isn't Clearer, But This Is the Part of the Presentation Where I Show the Slide Above. Notice How the Black "Sides" Blend in with the Screen

Again, it’s a subtle difference, but it enhances the overall look and feel of your presentation.

Now It’s Your Turn Again

What tricks have you figured out in working with photographs on slides?  What are the subtle things you’ve done to improve the quality of your presentations?  Do share in the comments below!!

Picture This

In PowerPoint Slides on March 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

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Say It with a Picture

“Where did you get the picture of those hospital beds?”  That was the question Marty asked me when we were reviewing the slides for one of his presentations.

I’ve discussed in an early post about the power of using slides with pictures and one or two words rather than bullet points and tons of words.  But I never mentioned where you can find great pictures.  Sure you can Google for images.  But sometimes those photos don’t have the quality that you’re looking for.  Or they’re too small.  And if you’re a business using photos to promote yourself, you surely don’t want to violate copyright law.

The good news is that there are a ton of websites that give you the ability to download photographs legally without violating copyright law.  They’re called royalty free photos because you don’t have to give credit to the photographer who took the picture.  Each website has different restrictions on their use so always read the fine print before using the photos, particularly for commercial use.  But here are some of the sources I’ve found helpful.

Royalty Free Pictures – Paid Sites

Sample from iStockphoto - istock_000007751536small – This is my favorite site for paid photographs. They have beautiful pictures.  Their search engine in awesome – you can put one or multiple words in the search engine and it seems to know the concept you’re going for.  There are times where I might be stuck with how to graphically represent a concept and I plug my key words into the search and BAM, iStockphoto serves up a great idea on how to represent the concept.  Each search result brings back 50 photos per page and as you hover over the pictures, they enlarge to give you a closer look.  Most photos are reasonably priced (but look out because some of the photos can be crazy expensive).  You have to either subscribe to the service or buy credits to download the pictures.  The more credits you buy in a block, the cheaper the cost per credit.  I usually get the photos with at least 300 dpi because I know the photo quality will work for both slides and for printed material.  Photos can be used for internal and commercial purposes (but remember to read the fine print).

Fotolia Sample - fotolia_3415003_m – This is my backup site for paid photographs.  It shares most of the  characteristics of iStockphoto.  The search engine isn’t as good with concepts as the iStockphoto search engine.  But the photos are beautiful and reasonably priced.  You have to either subscribe or buy credits.  Photos can also be used for internal or commercial purposes (ditto the fine print).

Royalty Free Photographs – Free Sites

sxc Photo - 90373_5557 (called Stock.XCHNG on the site)- This is my favorite site for free photos.   Like iStockphoto and fotolia, Stock.XCHNG brings up multiple options per page and hovering over the photo gives you an enlarged version.  Most of the photos are excellent, though some are not.  The search engine isn’t as good as iStockphoto.  I’ve found that trying multiple variations of a word can get you some different results so I recommending trying synonyms in your searches.  Two little cautions.  Some of the photos carry a non-standard restriction and you must first contact the person who owns the photo.  I’ve not tried to see how difficult it is to meet their requirements.   When I see the phrase “…and XYZ must be notified when using the photo for any public work,” I just move on to the next photo or go pay for a picture on iStockphoto.  Which brings up another point.  Stock.XCHNG is owned by iStockphoto.  At the top and bottom of the page, sandwiching the free photos, are iStockphoto’s paid photos.  You know it’s an iStockphoto when you hover over it and you can see the iStockphoto watermark.  Sometimes you get excited thinking you found a great free photo when in fact, it’s a paid iStockphoto.  But for the quality of photos you can find on Stock.XCHNG, it’s worth the small inconveniences.

morgeFile Photo - hide_face – I’m told that “morgue file” comes from an old newspaper term.  It refers to old photographs that have gone to the morgue file because the editors no longer use them.  The photos on morgueFile are not as good as those on Stock.XCHNG.  Some are really excellent.  Some are down right lousy.  Some do not have a high enough resolution to use in print work or to expand on a slide.  The photos that display from the search do not enlarge when you hover over them.  You have to click on the photo and load a new screen to get a closer look and the page loading is fairly slow.  I’ve found with the search engine that you can only plug in one word, otherwise you’ll get a NO RESULTS message.  However there are no additional restrictions like there are on sxc so if you find a photo you like, you can download it right away.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Photographs

Kelly Vandever Phot0 - Funny Picture are Everywhere

Family photos can be a great source to add fun and personality to your presentations.  They add a personal touch when used well to complement the points you’re trying to make.  Additionally, I’m on the lookout for fun and interesting sights.  If I’ve got my camera on me, great.  If not, I love that my cell phone also has a camera.  That way when I come across a pithy scene, I can take a picture and use it in a presentation as well.   Look through your own library of photos.  See what will make an entertaining slide to engage your audience.

Now It’s Your Turn

I’ve shared my favorite places to get photos for my presentation slides.  I know there are a gazillon more sites out there.  What are your favorites and why?  Please share in the comment section below!!

Slides with Pictures and One or Two Words – Not Only Does It Look Better… It Works Better!

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

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The Presentation that Inspired the Post

I did a presentation called “Connecting the Dots through Stories” for the Greater Atlanta Chapter of ASTD.  The presentation was geared around helping trainers find and use more stories in their training.  After the presentation, I was approached by a training manager from a large Atlanta-based company.  She didn’t ask me about the storytelling topic.  Instead she asked me how I developed my slides.



Creating Great Slides

When that training manager asked me about how I developed my slides, I recommended Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen and she quickly wrote down the title and author.  She commented that her VP of Learning wanted the training department to stop doing slides with lots of bullet points and instead do their PowerPoint slides “more like Steve Jobs.”  When she saw my slides, she thought of her VP’s direction.  A few weeks later, she called me and asked if I had a training program to teach people how to do their slides like Steve Jobs’.  The two training sessions I did for the department were well received.


The Slides that Inspired the Question:  How Did You Develop Those Slides?

Below is a sample of some of the slides from the Connecting the Dots through Stories presentation.  What do you think of the approach?

I knew when I saw my first presentations using the approach recommended in Presentation Zen, I liked the slides much better than the bullet point slides that I’d seen in business presentations and training classes.   Once I started applying the principles to my speeches and training, the feedback was extremely positive.  And while I love the beauty of this approach to slides, what really excites me is that research shows it’s actually better for the learner!

The Science behind the Approach

In a 2008 article published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Richard E. Mayer and Cheryl I. Johnson of the University of California, Santa Barbara, discuss research which demonstrates a good scientific reason to take this approach.  In studies, students retained information longer and were able to apply the information in other circumstances better when the instructor supplemented an oral presentation with pictures and one or two key words rather than with no pictures or with slides polluted with text.  Not only does eliminating bullet points feel better!  It helps the learner retain the information better and aids in applying the same information under different circumstances!  How cool is that!

Free Yourself of the Bullet Points!

Break the mold!  Stop using the bullet point default in PowerPoint that we all learned.  Create slides of beauty.  Your audience will appreciate the break from bullet points, but more importantly, they’ll retain and use your information better!