Egocentric PowerPoints fail the “WIIFM?” test

June 11, 2012

What's in it for me?The other day, a friend of mine wanted my advice on pricing the redesign of her client’s pitch deck, the initial presentation shown to a prospect to get hired. When I opened the presentation, my jaw literally dropped because it was an 11-page résumé in 16-point type sandwiched between a title slide and a closing slide. And the closing slide didn’t even have any contact information.

My friend’s client seems to believe something similar to the Field of Dreams maxim: “If you build it, they will come.” In his case it was “If I tell people how great my company is, they will hire us.” But this is a terrible approach.

When you focus entirely on your own qualifications, education, and achievements you’re not necessarily demonstrating your worth. Instead, you’re bombarding your audience with data about how great you are while ignoring issues they may be facing. The focus has to be on the audience and address the big question that’s on everyone’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”

In marketing we speak of “client pains” — problems the client has — and how to solve them. The best marketing addresses these pains directly (“Are you tired of paying too much for cable?” “Been in an accident?” “You could save over $475 on car insurance!”). It can be even more effective if you’re able to reveal pains the client didn’t know he had which could cause problems later on. By providing solutions to these pains, the savvy marketer positions himself as the only logical choice for the client.  Addressing and solving client pains is client-centric, not egocentric, which is what great marketing should be. What’s in it for me? You could save money, increase efficiency, live longer, be happier, lower your risk, etc. etc. etc.

To be fair, the client approached my friend because he recognized that his deck was unattractive. And as everybody knows, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. But redesigning this deck would’ve been like putting lipstick on a pig because it was entirely presenter-focused.

What can help for this type of presentation when you’re trying to get someone to hire you based on your credentials?

  • Client testimonials: Ask satisfied clients to described how you helped them to save money, finish a task in record time, avoid red tape, etc. Would they rehire you? If so, quote them on it!
  • Highlight benefits of certifications: If you’re certified or trained in a particular specialty, how does that save your client money? Ensure the success of the project? Prevent rework?
  • Photos of completed projects: A picture speaks a thousand words.
  • Success stories: You don’t need full-blown case studies, just some anecdotes about how you helped your clients to solve their problems.
  • Relevant companies you’ve worked with: Focus on companies you’ve worked with that are similar to your audience’s.

Remember, the presentation is always about the audience, not about the presenter. Always focusing on the “What’s in it for me?” question will help you stay on track to create presentations that really mean something to your audience.

Your turn

Have you ever been to an egocentric presentation? What was it like? Have you ever delivered one?


Great Design Goes Mainstream

June 4, 2012

Place settingFor the past several years, I have been working with people who share my conviction that the same design principles that are used to create award-winning websites, compelling logos, and stunning point-of-purchase displays can and should be used in PowerPoint presentations. This viewpoint isn’t commonly shared; the majority seems to believe that PowerPoint is nothing but a necessary evil that must be suffered through like some kind of horrible rite of initiation. These people are missing out on a powerful design trend: the mainstream acceptance of good design.

We are surrounded by increasingly sophisticated designs without necessarily being aware of it. Think about how easy it is to order just about anything under the sun from Amazon.com. Their revolutionary website sets the bar for great user experience. Industrial designer Phillipe Starck’s work for Target changed the way mainstream America believes even such mundane items as dustpans and trash cans should look. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, with its translucent case and bold blue accents, it smashed the paradigm that personal computers needed to be housed in beige boxes.

For some reason, this increased design sophistication doesn’t always carry through to a company’s PowerPoint presentations. Tired sales reps and harried admins are still banging out text-heavy, bullet-pointed borefests in much the same way they did in the late eighties when PowerPoint first hit the market. The only difference now is some of the “cool” animation effects and clipart available in PowerPoint 2010. But presentations can be made much more effective with great design. And the public is increasingly demanding great design.

Welcome to the Era of Design proclaims the headline of a recent blog on Forbes.com by Adam Swann, head of strategy at gyro. This article talks about how design is becoming mainstream, affordable, and expected in today’s marketplace.

In an era of design, bad design really stands out as being, well, bad. Today’s innovators stay ahead of their competition by ensuring that great design is carried out in all aspects of their marketing mix.

Your turn

What role does design play in your business?


Good presentations start with good scripts

May 31, 2012

ScreenplayA gentleman once asked me to provide a quote on redoing a PowerPoint presentation. He provided a link to the presentation, which included a voiceover narration.  I had to explain to him that he’d be unhappy with the results if I just did the cosmetic fixes he’d asked for. Sure, the presentation would’ve looked better, but it wouldn’t have made it a better presentation. Redesigning the presentation in its current state would’ve done nothing to address the basic problem: the visuals didn’t match the script.

The script is what you as the presenter are going to say when you’re up in front of the audience, or what your narration will be on a mobile presentation. Some people create PowerPoint presentations first then write the script to match the visuals. This is absolutely the opposite approach you should take. Think about how all movies start with a script. It would be absurd to shoot a movie without one. Just as it’s absurd to create a PowerPoint presentation before you write your script.

The script is what drives the PowerPoint visuals. It tells you what words, if any, to use on each slide and suggests images that would help to convey your message. It can also suggest the use of animation to emphasize or illustrate key points.

PowerPoint presentations should enhance good storytelling. And you don’t get good storytelling without a good script. So here’s a simple graphic to remind you of the correct four-step sequence you should follow when creating your next PowerPoint presentation:

PowerPoint process

Your turn

Do you write your script before you design your PowerPoint presentations? If so, how well has that worked for you?


Free screen sharing for presenters (and everybody else, too!)

April 23, 2012

Screen sharingHow many times have you tried to explain something visual to somebody over the phone? It can be incredibly frustrating. Screen sharing is a great way to get your visual points across to people on the phone.

Screen sharing is allowing people to log in to see areas of your computer screen that you give them access to. Unlike a webinar using products like WebEx and GoToWebinar, it’s not possible to record a screen-sharing session for later viewing or to use a moderator to field questions from the audience. But it’s a great way to walk someone through a presentation or to offer a down-and-dirty webinar. Here are two free screen-sharing options for you to try.

FreeScreenSharing.com

FreeScreenSharing allows you to customize the login area with your own logo, photo, and contact information. Another nice feature is being able to designate certain windows on your computer to be off-limits and to show only what you want to be seen. FreeScreenSharing also offers a chat area for IMs.

Participants need to download software to make FreeScreenSharing work, so be sure to allow time for them to do so if you use this product.

Although FreeScreenSharing provides a conference call number, it doesn’t record the call. But they have another product, FreeConferenceCall, which allows you to record the conversation and download it for later use.

Join.me

Join.me allows people to log in to your screen-sharing session via a website without having to download additional software. You can have a conversation using your computer’s microphone and speakers (hands-free fun!) and there’s a chat area.

Use FreeConferenceCall if you want to record the conversation because it’s not possible to do so using join.me.

Unlike with FreeScreenSharing you cannot designate private windows on your monitor, so people will be able to see everything you’re doing. So don’t be goofing around on the Web or sending email while you’re sharing your screen because everyone will know it.

My Experience

I have used both of these products and have found them invaluable for explaining visual concepts and for online collaboration.

The customization and setting off-limits areas capabilities of FreeScreenSharing are good to have. The first time I used it with a client I didn’t account for the setup time of his having to download software, though, but after that things went well.

I like the immediacy of join.me for quick discussions; people just go to their website and log on to the session without downloading software. But although it’s billed as cross-platform I couldn’t get join.me to work on my Mac, just my VMware PC. I sent email to join.me about the issue and a technician contacted me shortly afterwards. He logged in to my Mac remotely and set me up with join.me for the Mac. Great customer service! I haven’t used the chat or online conversation tools yet.

Your Turn

Have you ever used screen sharing to facilitate a phone conversation? What tools did you use and how did it go?


How to make a PowerPoint presentation mobile

April 17, 2012

Laura on an iPadNowadays, we’re no longer restricted to delivering presentations in person. With webcasts, on-demand viewing, and sites where you can upload decks and video, your message can be seen by a vast audience without your having to be there. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of mobile presentations.

Send your decks to people who ask for them

No.

When people ask you to send your PowerPoint files to them, what they’re really saying is “I want to be able to view your presentation at my own convenience.” And there are much better ways of allowing people to do this than releasing your source files.

For more information, please read Why you should never send your PowerPoint decks to people who ask for them

Export your deck as a video

PowerPoint 2010 makes it easy to export your deck as a video. In the File tab on the ribbon select Save & Send then Create a Video. You can set automatic timing for animations and slide transitions so that your presentation advances automatically. You could even record your voiceover and custom audio and insert the audio files into your deck, timing everything so that they play when they need to. Then you email the video file to people, put it on your website, or post it to…

YouTube

Uploading your video presentation to YouTube is a great way to get exposure for your message. Creating a YouTube channel gives people another way to find out about what you have to say and can help to position you as a thought leader on your particular subject. Plus, it’s easy to see how many times people have watched your video and which ones are most popular, allowing you to create more content to meet the demand.

Brainshark

Brainshark (for companies) and MyBrainshark (for small businesses and individuals) offer a means to create videos of your PowerPoint files without the bother of setting up automatic timing and coordinating audio with video. Brainsharks, as these videos are called, are used by many companies in a variety of ways: training, sales, tutorials. You can create free or pay-per-view Brainsharks, which could become a nice revenue stream if you are a trainer.

You upload a PowerPoint deck then add your voiceover using a phone, a microphone connected to your computer, or by uploading prerecorded MP3 files. While you’re speaking, you view each slide and click through the animation as you go along just as if you were presenting live, and you can re-record the audio as many times as you want. You can add music to your Brainshark, selecting from among the many free music clips they offer or uploading your own.

It’s also possible to add video to Brainshark, either by uploading video files or embedding them in your deck.

As if this all weren’t cool enough, Brainsharks can include clickable links to websites or your email address and can also include polls.

But wait, there’s more! Once you’ve created a Brainshark, you can upload it to your website or post it to YouTube.

Your turn

Have you ever used one of these methods to present remotely? How did you do it and was it a success?


Six reasons you should pay for PowerPoint design

March 12, 2012
A very ugly PowerPoint slideI make a lot of prospecting calls to tell people about my presentation design services and to ask for their business, so I hear many variations on “We don’t want any,” such as, “We already have a template,” “We do all of our PowerPoint in house,” and “My admin takes care of that.” Maybe you are thinking along the same lines as you read this. But sometimes it can be beneficial to look for a presentation design specialist outside one’s organization. Here are six good reasons why:

1. Your time is valuable.

Do you change the oil in your car? I don’t. Sure, I might save a few bucks doing it myself, but it’s much more convenient for me to bring the car to the shop. They perform this service all day every day and have developed work processes to speed things along quickly. Even a simple job like this might take me two hours, including finding all the proper tools, doing the actual work, and locating a place that will take the used oil.

If you don’t use PowerPoint all day every day, there are probably a few things that hold you up, that take a while to figure out. The thing is, every minute that you spend working with technology you’re not thoroughly familiar with is a minute you’re not making money for your company. You hire specialists for other business areas, why not presentation design?

2. Good design communicates ideas better than poor design.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who are professionals in their respective careers. They are really good at what they do and they know their stuff, as is evidenced by the wealth of text and data they stuff into their presentations. But slides full of text, bullet points, busy charts, and complicated tables require an audience to spend too much time sorting through information and not enough time paying attention to the presenter. Even the best ideas get lost in the confusion.

Presentation designers can transform boring data into effective infographics, find and use photographs that do a better job of communicating than bullet points, and ensure that your deck looks like the rest of your marketing materials, thereby strengthening your brand.

3. You don’t want a bored audience.

How exciting is a slide full of text? It’s like watching paint dry, right? Loading up slides with text might make it easier to remember what to say, but it’s miserable for the audience. They’re too busy reading slides to listen to the presenter or, worse, they’re seething because they know how to read so they resent this huge waste of their time.

Do you think a roomful of irritated people will want to fund a venture? Buy a product or service? Attend a class? Probably not.

4. Designers have created the other components of your marketing mix.

Logos, websites, catalogs, data sheets, business cards, uniforms, vehicle graphics, brochures…these are all components of a company’s marketing mix. All of these were likely created by professional designers to create a cohesive brand. By using off-the-shelf PowerPoint templates and default colors, you introduce a jarring element that detracts from your brand and can make you look unprofessional.

5. Well-designed presentations make you look better prepared.

Presenters who read off of their slides are viewed as time-wasters who don’t know what they’re talking about. If you were presenting and the power suddenly went out, would you be able to continue? Do you know your presentation so well that you could keep talking? You should.

6. Other companies are doing it.

Smart companies invest in their marketing to create cohesive brands and messaging. Al Gore didn’t design his own slides for An Inconvenient Truth, they were created by a presentation design agency. And I’m guessing that Steve Jobs didn’t create his iconic presentations himself.

Professional presentation design gives you an edge over your competition. A presentation designer can create a stunning deck using the latest techniques of animation, video, and audio enhancement. The designer can also let you know when less is more.

Your turn

Do you create your own PowerPoint presentations or do you hire out? What about your keynote, annual meeting, and conference presentations?


Do you read your PowerPoint slides to the audience? Knock it off!

March 2, 2012

Tweets about boring PowerPointAccording to a recent survey conducted by PowerPoint designer Dave Paradi, the number-one PowerPoint annoyance is when presenters read their slides to the audience. In fact, “reading from the slides” has been one of the top five most annoying PowerPoint habits since he started conducting this survey in 2003! So why do people continue to do it? It’s simple.

Presenters read from their slides because they are unprepared.

Do Broadway stars read from scripts on opening night? Did Steve Jobs have a fistful of index cards at the ready during his legendary Apple keynotes? Of course not. Great presenters know what they’re talking about, know their lines, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

If you are guilty of reading to your audience from your slides, stop it right now. Though they might not come right out and say it, inwardly they’re seething, counting down the seconds until the end of your presentation, and tweeting snarky comments about #DeathByPowerPoint.

Why you shouldn’t read from your slides

If consistent survey results over the past nine years and nasty anti-PowerPoint posts in Twitter don’t convince you, here are five more reasons you shouldn’t be reading from your deck:

  1. You look unprepared. The only reason to read from a PowerPoint slide is if you don’t already know what’s on it. If you don’t know your subject inside and out, then why are you presenting?
  2. You waste people’s time. If everything you want to communicate is on each and every slide, why are you asking people to give up the time it takes to attend your presentation and listen to you read? Wasting people’s time costs money—estimate the hourly salary of each attendee in your presentation, add it together, then multiply that amount by how long it takes to read your deck to them. Do the world a favor and if you’re gonna stuff all your text into your deck (which you shouldn’t do, by the way), just email it to people. They read the deck on their own time and get your message. Maybe.
  3. You waste your own time. You have a captive audience in the room with you, listening in silence to your every word. Don’t blow this golden opportunity to tell your story, to lead people to the conclusions you want them to reach, to add your perspective and insights, and—most importantly—to engage with your audience.
  4. Your slides look ugly. PowerPoint is a visual medium. When you cram loads of text onto a slide, it just looks bad.
  5. You look stupid. The bottom line is that if all you do is read your slides to the audience, you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Your turn

Have you ever sat through a boring presentation where the presenter reads directly from his slides? If you have read from your own slides to an audience, why did you do it and what was their reaction?


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