How to magically destroy your marketing efforts

August 6, 2012

Magician's hatMarketing is all about leading your customers and prospects down a clear path that leads to their purchasing your product or engaging your services. There is little room for ambiguity in marketing since you have people’s attention for such a brief moment in time. Your marketing messages—PowerPoint presentations, websites, social media, or any other marketing vehicle—should always clearly state what you want people to do and the benefits to them of doing it.

I recently saw an egregious example of mixed messages that made me doubt whether the person involved was really interested in his continued employment!

I was having breakfast at a diner in my town when another patron overheard me talking about the local newspaper. He introduced himself as a sales rep from that paper and talked to me a little bit about my business. He then handed me his business card, a typical black-on-white number with raised printing.

As I was reading the card, I could feel printing on the reverse so I turned it over. I expected to see more details about his job or his employer. Instead, it was a completely different business being advertised. You see, our man is also a part-time magician, so he thought he’d combine his moonlighting gig with his day job on a single business card.

“Your boss must have been impressed,” I quipped and he replied that the publisher was really angry but had let it slide. He then chuckled and told me about a magic show he’d just performed at a day camp. After the performance, who should he see stroll by but the publisher! She saw him in his magician’s outfit and knew that he wasn’t out selling ad space for her paper.

There are several lessons we can learn from this:

  • You should have one consistent marketing message. To use a PowerPoint example, think of how confused your audience would be if after your closing slide you showed one last slide that advertised your side business. How much respect would you lose in that moment?
  • Always reinforce your brand. It’s crazy that the publisher didn’t make this guy throw away the two-sided cards and pay for a reprint with just the newspaper job information. One card, one business. Period. Here’s the PowerPoint tie in: you decide that your corporate template is too boring so you change the colors around. Now your deck doesn’t look like your other marketing materials, and that inconsistency can be jarring to your audience.
  • Concentrate on your core competencies. We all know that a jack of all trades is a master of none. To build trust that we know what we’re doing, we need to focus on what we do best. A newspaper advertising sales rep who promotes his own business during his sales calls obviously doesn’t have my best interests in mind. In a presentation, you must tailor your message to your audience. If your company does five different things but the audience is only interested in one of them, concentrate on that one thing. Mention your other abilities in passing, but focus on what’s important to your audience.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you are invited to present for one reason (“Please tell us the results of advertising in your newspaper.”) then use that time to promote a different business entirely (Magician for hire! Parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, you name it!), you won’t make a good impression because nobody likes a bait-and-switch.

It’s incredible to me that anybody would have the gall to hand out business cards like this. I suspect that this fellow’s job could “vanish right before his very eyes” if he doesn’t straighten out quickly.


Slideshark: Cloud-based PPT tool for the iPad

August 3, 2012

Slideshark on the iPadWith the current popularity of tablet computers in general and the iPad in particular, it makes sense that eventually it would be possible to show a PowerPoint presentation using one. Our pals at Brainshark makes this possible with Slideshark.

Once you’ve downloaded the Slideshark app, you can sign up for a free Slideshark account, which comes with 100Mb of storage space (using the link will get you and me both an additional 25Mb of storage!). There are also paid subscriptions which give you more storage space and features.

Presentations uploaded to Slideshark live in the cloud and can be downloaded as needed onto an iPad. This means that you can present from an iPad even if you don’t have a WiFi connection—a real bonus, in my experience.

An iPad can be used in a small setting with one or just a few people or a large room using an iPad/VGA adapter cable to connect to the projection system. Although the iPad has been around for a while, not many people are using them for presenting so you might get some points for being cutting-edge.

Using Slideshark is very easy; you just scroll through the presentation by swiping your finger across the screen. There’s also a presenter mode that allows you to see your speaker notes while displaying just the slide view to the audience, so you still have access to your “cue cards” (Phew!) And by pressing on the screen, you create a “laser pointer” (a glowing red dot) that you can use to draw attention to certain areas of your slide.

Although Slideshark is very cool, I did find a couple of drawbacks. Fonts are limited to whatever’s commonly available in Windows, so if you create a preso on the Mac using some way-out font then it will revert to good old Arial in Slideshark. And any audio you’ve included in your presentation gets dropped when you upload to Slideshark.

Another interesting problem that came up when I tried to use Slideshark was that I learned that sometimes I need more than two hands. At the conference where I was presenting, they gave me a regular microphone, not a clip-on one. Since you need one hand to hold the iPad (I was using a case with a hand strap) and one hand to swipe through the presentation, that left me with nothing left to hold the mic.

Luckily, for this presentation I had triple-redundancy. I handed the AV tech a USB stick that had a PDF version of my presentation. Yes, I like the cool new stuff, but it’s always good to have a Plan B!


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?


Easily convert PDF to PowerPoint

May 3, 2012

I was on the Twitters today and came across a question from a person who wanted to know if it was easy to convert a PDF file into a PowerPoint. Actually, she wanted to know if it was possible to convert an “Adobe” into a PowerPoint. Don’t get me started…

Turns out there’s a website that’s free to use which does a decent job: convertpdftopowerpoint.com.

I tried it out on a couple of PDFs just to see what would happen. To be clear, these PDFs were never intended for presentation, so please don’t call me out for the text-heavy slides. If you cast your mind back to dinosaur days for a moment, you’ll remember that text-heavy pages are ideal for print, the original vehicle for these PDFs.

Here’s the scoop

The conversion is really amazing! The process creates editable text boxes and placed graphics, which is really cool. There were only three problems with converted files that I’d like to point out:

  1. Color Shifts: My first conversion was of a client’s PDF that uses a shade of Kelly green that transformed into lime green in PowerPoint. The same thing happened to my own logo, shown below. If accurate color is important to you, you’ll need to be careful.
  2. Font Shifts: My marketing one-sheet was created on a Mac using a purchased font. It converted to Arial in the PowerPoint, which is the expected result of creating editable text boxes. Again, for some people this will be important, but experienced PowerPoint users know that you either go with a standard Windows font on your presentations or you embed fonts if it’s really necessary.
  3. Solid Drop Shadows: Drop shadows changed from fuzzy and transparent to solid and opaque.

Bottom Line

convertpdftopowerpoint.com is a great starting point for re-creating PowerPoint decks from PDF files. If you have a bunch of text in a PDF that you don’t want to retype or want to transform a PDF graphic into something viewable in PowerPoint (watch that resolution, though), this is the utility for you.

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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?


March Slide Makeover of the Month

March 30, 2012

This month’s slide comes from Design Dispatch subscriber Bob Carpenter of BidRx. His company wants to become the eBay or the Priceline of the pharmaceutical business. By logging on to BidRx, people will be able to get competitive pricing on their prescription medicine and save a bundle in the process!

Before

BidRx slide: before

There are some pretty compelling data in this table to support Bob’s assertion that people will save money by using BidRx, but this layout makes it hard to find. Tables are usually a bad idea to show an audience because with so much to analyze you lose people’s attention.

There’s a lot of extra information in this table. Showing the prices down to the penny might be accurate, but it clutters the table and doesn’t help to show the overall trend that BidRx’s prices are lower than Medco’s. And is it important for people to know the exact dosages of each medicine?

The biggest takeaway from this slide is that consumers stand to save up to 86% on this prescription. That’s a huge discount and is the key value proposition. So why is it so tiny and at the very bottom of the slide?

After

BidRx slide: after 1

The first thing I did was to change the title of the slide. I like to think of slide titles as headlines, so they should be attention-grabbing and interesting. Next, I presented the data as a column chart, which makes it easy to compare Medco’s prices against BidRx’s.

The color choices I made are deliberate. In a financial setting, red = bad, so I’ve set up Medco as the “bad guy.” The BidRx columns are blue, a soothing color associated with health care.

The second image is what the slide looks like after the animation. I don’t want to leave it to chance that the audience will understand that BidRx’s prices are lower, so I tell them and I circle the amount people will save.
Next, I created a second slide to call out the even greater savings that could result from a competitive bidding situation:

BidRx slide: after 2

I copied the chart from the previous slide, then animate the bars going down on two of the medicines and point out the lower prices with green arrows. Then the same summary box appears.

Want to get your own slide makeover? Design Dispatch subscribers each receive a free slide makeover, a $100 value! The Design Dispatch is your monthly guide to great PowerPoint.

Sign up for the Design Dispatch today!


Are you a PowerPoint Ranger? Be proud!

March 28, 2012

Poor PowerPowerPoint patches of honorPoint. This stalwart workhorse has been around for over two decades, supporting business presentations and facilitating communication for millions of people. But are they grateful? No, quite the contrary! You have people all over Twitter complaining about Death by PowerPoint and a snarky business owner who specializes in Cheating Death by PowerPoint (that would be me).

In the armed forces, it’s considered an insult to be called a PowerPoint Ranger, the military equivalent of a police officer being called a Desk Jockey. How does one hold one’s head up high in the face of such mockery? Why, by wearing that insult as a badge of honor, of course! And Jim Placke makes it possible.

Jim Placke’s NBC Links is a website devoted to “providing easy access to information related to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) warfare, defense, and domestic preparedness.” Though the site design harkens back to an earlier time, it is a current, exhaustive listing of sites from all over the world.
But Mr. Placke isn’t all about business; he’s got a great sense of humor. Hidden among the hundreds of links is the one I want you to know about:

Click here for PowerPoint patches

Here’s where the magic happens.

From “PowerPoint Ranger” and “Slide Monkey” tabs to patches proclaiming your hours of PowerPoint service, there is something for every PowerPoint afficionado(a) on your gift list.

Don’t be put off by the old-school site design and ordering methods — this is for real! I ordered the patches seen in the above photo and received them within a week.

If you or someone you know is a beaten-down Slide Monkey, reward all of that hard work with one of these fine patches!


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