And now for the News

August 16, 2012

Although there are lots of ways these days to keep up with what’s going on in the world, I still tend to watch the news on the TV once or twice a day. News broadcasts are a way of getting information across to people and involves people talking supported by visuals, so they are, in effect, a type of presentation.  And I think there are lessons that can be learnt about presentations from watching the TV news

One of the main problems with most presentations I attend is that the presenter has limited time but uses a deck of Powerpoint slides crammed full of information. In many cases every single point they make is reproduced in a list of bullet points on screen. The speaker isn’t really needed. All the information is on the slides. And because most of the audience will attempt to frantically copy down the words, they don’t hear the speaker, who might as well not be there!

TV news bulletins aren’t like this. The following is a clip from a typical BBC news bulletin.

The bulletin uses lots of visuals – it is TV after all. There are a lot of video clips that illustrate the point but there is no attempt to convert everything that the news presenters say into words. There are some “slides” where key facts are displayed, and one quote from the Prime minister. But they are limited and note how they don’t have much information displayed at any one time.

On the TV News the spoken word is the main way of conveying the information with relevant pictures used to support what is being said, and with limited use of text and graphics. TV news is really meant to be an overview of what’s happening in the world. There isn’t time in a news bulletin to give all the detail. If anyone does want to know more they can turn to other sources much more suited to presenting large amounts of detailed information – such as a newspaper or, these days, websites. With presentations, rather than try to cram everything on slides so the audience can copy them down, provide a handout they can take away.

Presenters can learn  a lot from TV news

  • time is limited, so keep to the essential points,
  • Use good quality images to support what’s being said,
  • use text and graphics sparingly
  • there should be minimal text on slides
  • provide a handout or references in case the audience wants to know more

It occurred to me the other day that the problem with the phrase “Powerpoint presentation” is the word “Powerpoint”.  What I mean by that is that when somebody delivers a “Powerpoint presentation” the emphasis is on the “Powerpoint” rather than the “presentation”. And, for me, that’s the wrong way round.

Presenters will often start preparing their presentation by opening up Powerpoint, or some other “slideware” program, on their computer and start typing. What they’re actually doing is creating an outline for their talk. That’s not a bad idea in itself. The talk needs to have a structure. But  doing it this way means that they end up with a deck of wordy slides that aren’t really what they need.

The presentation isn’t the deck of slides – it’s what the presenter has to say. The slides are visual aids that should support this. The audience doesn’t need to see the outline. They need appropriate images and key words that emphasise what the speaker is trying to get across without being a distraction.

For me best practice on presentation design is to follow the approach advocated by Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen and Nancy Duarte in Resonance

  • work out the objective of the talk – what you want the audience to know or to do at the end
  • work out the key points that need to be covered
  • organise the key points to create an outline for the talk
  • decide what visual aids you’re going to use – it doesn’t have to be Powerpoint slides,other approaches can be better
  • if you’re going to use slides, start to think about their design

All of these are best done before switching on the computer.

Taking this approach would mean you’re concentrating on the presentation rather than the Powerpoint . And that’s a much better emphasis.

August 12, 2012

I like this webinar. Good points about different types of presenters and presented well with good imaginative visuals

make a powerful point

Recast of Webinar 7/31/12

Find out how to energize an audience, become comfortable with improvisation during Q&A, and make explanations of complex diagrams fluid. Most people use PowerPoint in a way that exaggerates their weaknesses instead of playing to their strengths. The dirty little secret is that we all present differently. There are six “Presenter Types.” Knowing yours is the secret to effectively engaging your audience and becoming better on your feet. Learn how to successfully communicate in the most powerful and direct way, using your strengths to your advantage.

Thanks to all who participated in the Webinar and the great feedback.

Once you’ve seen this: Diagnose your presenter type. Take one minute to find your presenter type for fast-acting relief from PowerPoint pain.

Also – you can download the slides at SlideShare.

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August 10, 2012

Estimate Approved

apple slide

Today I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by advertising and pitching guru Mike Morrison. He gave a fantastic presentation at my office about how to succeed at pitching. Although the content was very insightful I found the greatest takeaways were from his presentation style. Here they are:

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I came across this Vimeo video recently. It’s by Susan Weinschenk,  a behavioral psychologist who specialises in applying psychology to the workplace.

It’s produced in the style of the  RSA Animate series of talks by leading thinkers. In these animated videos you don’t get to see the speaker. You hear them talking while an artist creates a cartoon summary of the talk. It’s quite an effective technique.

The talk does what it says on the tin – provides 5 key points about how people respond when listening to a presentation. I’ve come across most of these points before, but Susan brings out some key lessons on what they mean in practice for the preparation and delivery of presentations

Her second point – “multiple sensory channels compete” – is particularly important in the context of slide design and reinforces the view that wordy slides should be avoided at all cost. When there’s too much to take in visually, your audience won’t hear what you’re saying.

The video is, in effect, a “taster” for her book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People, and it’s done it’s job as I think it’s worth checking out the book.

I  recently came across a slide deck posted on Slideshare by Chris Atherton. She’s a psychologist and used to be a Senior Lecturer (formerly Lecturer) in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. She’s now working as a User Experience Architect for Numiko ltd

The slides are from a presentation Chris made in April at the Leeds Bettakultcha. According to their website this is:

an evening of short talks accompanied by digital slide presentations. The presenters are all volunteers who have based their talk around something that they are passionate about – which can be absolutely anything.

The format of Bettakultcha talks is 20 slides for 15 seconds each (they transition automatically), and you can talk about anything you want. Chris chose to talk about (what else) psychology.

Too many people use Powerpoint in a bad way – either creating an outline or using it as a script. In either case that results in badly designed, over wordy slides. The slides for a “lecture” type presentation should be visual aids to supplement what the presenter is saying, not to reproduce the talk or act as a teleprompter. They should be visual with minimal words that add to what the speaker is saying. Now this means that if the slides are posted onto Slideshare , where the speaker isn’t present, the slide deck can look pretty meaningless. Chris has got over the problem by annotating the slides with a summary of what she said. The annotations on the slides were added afterwards  so that they make sense to the viewer. They weren’t present on the originals. I’ve noticed that a few people have started to do this and it’s a technique that I’ve started to use with presentations I’ve uploaded to Slideshare.

She hasn’t used Powerpoint – she’s tried something quite different. The slides are hand drawn on an iPad using the Paper”. It’s a, fresh, original approach. You’d have to be reasonably good at drawing to use it, though.

Chris Atherton at @Bettakultcha Leeds from Chris Atherton

As well as showing a fresh, inovative approach to slide design, I think that this presentation is a really good example  of how to get a technical topic across to a lay audience in a limited time with well designed slides!