Feb 28, 2009

Giving Audience the Remote of Your Presentation - Part II

In my last post we discussed a new concept; User-Controlled Presentations. A presentation where the audience decides the content and flow. Let us now see how we make one.

Say, the topics or areas you will cover in your presentation are: Tasks Done, Problems, Team,
Learning, Feedback & Action Plan. Assuming each topic has two slides this is how your presentation should finally look like in Slide Sorter View:

Remember: While you are presenting, you need to come to the dashboard (slide 2 above) and ask the superior what he wants you to present. You will then choose that topic and start presenting. Once done with that topic, you need to come back to the dashboard.


Steps in Preparing this Presentation
The only two things you need to learn are:
1. How to navigate from the dashboard to the chosen slides
2. How to reach the dashboard after you are done with a topic

1. How to navigate from the dashboard to the chosen slide
The dashboard above has been made with
shapes. One shape for one topic. For better visual appeal make it in SmartArt (more on this later). Let us see how to make the dashboard using normal shapes.

Step-1: Create a shape on the dashboard. Insert -> Shapes
I have created a white fill, blue border shape and labelled it as 'Tasks Done'.

Make the shapes for other topics as well.

Step-2: Right click on the shape 'Tasks Done' and choose hyperlink.

Go to Place in This Document -> Choose the slide Tasks 1 (the starting slide under Tasks Done) -> Ok

Step-3: Repeat step-2 by right clicking on all the shapes
Now you can easily navigate from the dashboard to the starting slide of any topic.
2. How to reach the dashboard after you are done with a topic

Go to the last slide of first Topic (Tasks Done)

Step-1: Insert Shapes -> Action Buttons -> Previous or Back -> Draw the button

Step-2: Under 'Mouse Click' choose Hyperlink -> Drop down to 'Slide' -> Choose Slide 2 -> Ok (In our presentation, the dashboard is on slide 2)
Step-3: Format this button by changing its color and borders to suit your slide
Step-4: Copy Paste this Action Button to the last slide in each topic.
Your presentation is ready!
If you liked this new style of presenting then surprise your audience by presenting to them this way.

Feb 26, 2009

Giving Audience the Remote of Your Presentation - Part I

How about putting the audience in the driver's seat? Hand them the remote and let them choose the flow and content of your presentation. It would be the pinnacle of audience engagement, the epitome of customization. What I call "User-Controlled Presentations." A democratic presentation which is of the audience, for the audience & now by the audience.

A User-Controlled Presentation (UCP) is where every step is decided by the audience. From what they want to know to the order in which they want to know it.

You can use this style in any presentation you make. Some of the cases when I recommend this are:

- the topics are so many that you don't know what to keep and what to remove (so you come with everything and let the audience decide),

- you want to take the audience by surprise, or

- you want to generate interest in a boring presentation

How does it work?
Let's take an example. A review presentation in office to showcase what you have done in the last month. You start with briefing the superior and then you put up this slide:

No this is not just an agenda slide. This is the dashboard of the UCP (User-Controlled Presentation).
Each square corresponds to a topic. You start by asking the superior what he would like to discuss first. He chooses 'Problems'. Using hyperlink you go to the slides under Problems and then come back to the dashboard. He then choses 'Tasks Done'. You click on the box, present the content and come back to the dashboard and ask your superior again. Simple isn't it.

In a UCP, the audience decides the order of the presentation. In case of paucity of time, this method allows the presenter to present what the audience feels as priority. Makes a lot of sense. You can always at the end give away handouts which summarizes everything that you had on the slides. This method lets you discover what's priority for the audience.

In my next post on Feb 28, we shall discuss ways of making such a presentation. In the meantime, what are the questions that are coming to your mind? Where can you possibly use this style of presenting? What are the problems you foresee. L
eave a comment.

Feb 24, 2009

When Should I Use Animation?

Once a presenter asked me, "When should I use animation?" It was a presentation where he was proposing a relaxation of rules set by a government agency. I replied, "use it when you make your most important point."

I do not recommend much animation in business presentations. Some people think animation is silly and do not use it at all.
Some use it so much that it becomes irritating. Point after point made with all kinds of animations. The right choice lies somewhere in the middle. Use it if your presentation needs it. Use it when you make the most important point.

How do you decide when to use animation?

Animation is a powerful tool. It brings your presentation to life. When slides after slides are static, animation comes in to
break the monotony. It draws the attention of the audience and gets your point across very effectively. You should use animation when:

1. You want to draw the audience attention to an important point

2. You want to explain a complicated process

3. You want to share information in a phased manner

1. You want to draw the audience attention to an important point

You are presenting to investors that your company's sales grew the fastest last year when compared to competition. Assume
this is one of your most important points. You show a graph with sales growth of all companies. At the end, you click and your bar graph goes shooting past the rest. Nails the point in the head of the audience vividly.

Use animation to make your most important points. Think of animation as your secret weapon. A weapon which you can only use a few times
. Use it judiciously.

2. You want to explain a complicated process

You are explaining how steel is manufactured or how photosynthesis takes place. These are processes which have multiple
steps. Use animation to show each process one after the other. After you are done, the entire process is there on one slide for all to see.

3. You want to share information in a phased manner

You want to share a lot of information but do not want to show all the points on a slide at once.
You can then use animation to order bullet points. Do not use multiple animation effects (stick to one) and use something subtle.

Some words of caution:
1. Do not use animation in every slide

The very reason animation is used is to break the monotony and attract attention. If your animation comes again and again,
its just adds to the monotony. Too much animation diverts audience attention from content to design. Use animation on very few occasions.

2. Do not use all types of effects

Use simple effects like fade, expand, compress, ascend, descend depending on suitability. Do not use all the effects in
one presentation. A presentation should ideally have one or two types of effects.

How often do you use animation in formal presentations? What is your favorite effect? Leave a comment.

Feb 21, 2009

Pick of the Week: How Speaking Can Make You Successful

Olivia Mitchell in her post talks about how speaking can enhance your career. Perception is reality, hence a better speaker is considered a better leader and that takes you up the corporate ladder faster. I agree with this. If you talk well and present your ideas better, you will move up in life a lot faster.

What should people do then?
If you speak less in meetings because you think you might be interrupting / dominating or want to speak only when you can add value, it's time to change. Here are some of the tips she offers to increase what Olivia calls your "speak-up" rate:

1. Let go of perfection in your speech. Talks what comes to mind.
2. Set a goal for how many times you want to talk in a meeting.
3. Support what others say.
4. Don't shy away from interrupting other people.

Jan Shultink
offers an interesting tip in his blog 'Slides that Stick'. Check out how you can get your point across in a very different manner. You can use this tip to highlight something really important.
Check out his blog for other interesting stuff.

What have you been reading on presentations this week?

Feb 19, 2009

Sweep the Audience Off Their Feet

You want to make presentations that will impress people. That will make them say 'wow'. That they will talk about.
Then 'make them smile'.

They will smile when they see your creativity. When they see a remarkably different way of putting your point across. Trust me, it's not as difficult as it seems. There are many ways to make people smile. In this post I will share one such method with you. It's simple to use and free of cost. Check this example out.

You are a software firm making a sales pitch to a client and your slide is on 'why should they choose you'. One of the reasons is: "300 out of the Fortune 500 companies are our clients". Lets see how you say that.

Option #1:
Plain vanilla style. This is what everyone will do. You can try saying the same thing with a few company logos. Does not highlight your point well.

Option#2: You will notice the client is take aback. He is amazed and it shows up in his smile.

Option #3: Similar response. This is even better as the message makes more sense on a scoreboard than a green board.

These are the 'wow moments' in your presentation. Moments that make people stand up and notice. These 'wow moments' will get remembered. Use them very infrequently to highlight something very special.

How do you make such a creative slide?
You don't need super creativity to do that. Check out the site Add Letters. An image and sign generation website which will give you that creative edge in every presentation you make. The above two images have been made using this site. It's very simple and very effective.

I came across this site while reading a post by Jan Schultink.
Thanks Jan for letting us know of this site.
The only problem with these images is their resolution. They are low, hence do not stretch the images to cover the entire slide. Use it as they are.

How do you find this technique? What technique do you use to highlight something special?

Feb 17, 2009

The Most Important Thing in a Presentation

What is the most important thing in a presentation?

The content, the delivery or the design (the slides).

Have you ever pondered over this question before starting to make a presentation? Let's take an example. You are a business development manager and you are going to present to a prospective client. What's the one most important thing in your presentation?

It is not the content, the design or the delivery.

Realising what's most important will help you shape up the entire presentation.

You would know what to write (content), how to write (design) and how to talk (delivery).
If you need to cut excess content, you would know exactly what to chop off.

The most important element in every presentation is the objective.
For the business development manager, its getting the account, the business.
Sounds common sense? It is not as simple as it seems.

I often come across presenters who miss the woods for the trees.
They miss the bigger picture. They keep worrying about whether to write X or Y, whether to present it this way or that way... They know the objective but forget to give it the importance it deserves.

This post asks all presenters to focus on that most important element; 'the objective'.

Before you start making the presentation, ask yourself what the objective is.
The answer is not straight forward. It's not always obvious. If there are multiple objectives, focus on the most important one.

Real life example: I recently made a sales presentation for a client. They sell a high-involvement product and the sales team was not able to communicate the product's USP (unique selling proposition) to the prospects very well. They were also unable to deliver the complete sales pitch to the prospects.

It was a sales presentation but the objective was not to close the sale. This presentation was the initial pitch and the objective was to deliver the correct and complete sales pitch to the prospect highlighting the USP. It was to make the prospect ask the right questions; to get them interested.

Once you are clear that the objective is 'highlighting the USP and making the prospect interested' you can now choose appropriate content and create a good presentation. Had the objective been closing a sale, the presentation would have been very different.

Once you know what your objective is, content, design and delivery will automatically fall in place.
So, the next time you start conceptualising your presentation, take out time and zero in on the objective. The very reason you are taking the pain to make the presentation.

Remember: Everything that you can achieve is not the objective. Objective is the one thing you have to achieve.

Share this thought with people who make a lot of presentations.

Feb 14, 2009

Pick of the Week: Mosquitoes & Toastmasters

Mosquitoes from Windows
Eric Alberston on slide:ology writes an interesting post on how Bill Gates released a jar full of mosquitoes on his
audience while he was presenting to the TED community. A moment the audience will never forget. It is a remarkable trick which Bill has come up with. Read more on this here.

Know the Toastmasters
Andrew Dlugan in his blog Six Minutes writes on the Toastmasters. It is a not-for-profit organisation spread across the world. The members who join Toastmasters get together once a week or two weeks to make speeches, presentations and improve their communication skills. This is a good way to tackle the fear of public speaking.

Read Andrew's informative post here.

If you go to the Toastmasters International's website you can find that it is present in 18 cities across India. Hyderabad,
where I stay, has 10 clubs whereas Mumbai has 6, Delhi 5, Chennai 10 and Kolkata 3. You can check out a club near you on the website. It is not very big in India, but its popularity will keep going up as more and more Indians realise the need for it.

Feb 12, 2009

Nervous before Presentations?

Most people get nervous before they make presentations. Talking to an audience creates in us a fear. We start thinking...

What if I forget?
What if I say something wrong?

What if I do a bad job?
What if the audience asks a tough question?

How does one get rid of this stage fright? By actually attacking the very reasons which breed it. I recommend 4 simple ways to reduce nervousness.

1. Practice
Why will you forget what to say if you know everything you have to say? Know your content and rehearse it well. When you know the content, the chances of saying something wrong, or forgetting something get reduced. If you prepare your presentation the night before, chances are you will mess it up. Preparing at the last minute is a recipe for disaster.

Worried about what the audience will ask?
Prepare for 2 possible questions which can emanate from each of your slides. Be ready with your answers. This will take care of audience questions.

2. Reach Early
Your presentation starts at 9am. You reach the venue at 8.55am. What do you expect after that? Of course, you will be tense unless you have delivered the same presentation ten times before.

Reach your venue early. Go to the stage if you can, take a small walk. If possible run your presentation once to preempt any worries of a technical snag.

3. Know Your Audience
A big reason of stage fright stems from presenting to complete strangers. But what if the audience is known to you? The fear goes down. Do you get very nervous every time you make your quarterly business review presentation to the same boss?

Your nervousness keeps going down as you make more and more presentations to the same audience.

What if you are presenting for the first time to an audience? How do you get to know them? Try two things.

1. Find out more about the background of the audience.
2. Mingle with the audience before you have started presenting. A few known faces will make your job easy. You will start addressing them more and it will make you feel better.

4. Realize
Realize that stage fright is natural and even the most experienced speakers go through it. Being slightly nervous keeps you on your toes and gets the best out of you. The next time you are nervous, tell yourself "It is perfectly natural and will only help me deliver a better presentation."

Follow these 4 techniques to 'PERK' up your delivery every time you present.

What makes you nervous when you present? How do you plan to deal with it? Leave a comment.

Feb 10, 2009

Make Your Presentation Stick

Made to Stick is a must read book for everyone. This powerful book explains why some ideas stick and some are forgotten. Why proverbs are remembered centuries after they were coined, while we forget what our company chairman said in the annual conference yesterday.

You need not be in the field of
marketing, advertising or communications to benefit from this book. This book will help you every time you are communicating. A must read for all those who make a lot of presentations.

If you do not get the time to read the book, you can download 'Making Your Presentation Stick' from the Made to Stick website. It's free! The authors Chip & Dan Heath have shared some invaluable tips on how everyone can make their presentations better. 5 simple rules for presentation moksha!

These are the 5 things the booklet talks about:

Download the pdf by registering here for free.
Share your experiences after reading and using these tips.

Feb 7, 2009

Engage the Audience: what why how (Part 2 of 2)

In Part I we discussed what does engaging the audience mean and why is engagement required. Before we find out how to engage the audience, let us recap what engagement means.

  • get audience attention
  • hold the attention
  • induce involvement
  • which will lead to:
  • understanding & recall (audience remembers what you told them)

In Part II we will discuss how to engage your audience when you make a presentation. What should you do to get attention, maintain attention and involve the audience.

We can learn from the book Made to Stick which talks about what makes some ideas sticky. The book talks about two emotions; surprise and interest. Surprise gets attention and interest maintains it. To surprise, you need to break a pattern. Unexpected, unpredictable events attract attention. Remember the New Zealand cricket umpire Billy Bowden. Do you think anyone who sees his 'actions' the first time will ever forget him? He does something totally unexpected.
So how can you start engaging your audiences. In order to do that I propose what I call the '10 tools of engagement'. You can start using these tools right away. They are simple and are used by every good presenter.

1. Start well - An unexpected and solid start sets the tone of the presentation. Rather than starting with an agenda slide, start with a story, a problem or a visual. If you are proposing something new, write down a problem statement on slide 1 and then move on to proposing your solution.
2. Tell stories - Stories are perhaps the best way to get attention and aid recall (you cannot forget a good story). If you have a story, always begin with it. Avoid stories at the end.

3. Q&As - Take questions all the time. Acknowledge good questions posed by the audience. An ideal technique for trainers & teachers who make long presentations is to reward students who ask intelligent questions. This will ensure students pay complete attention.

4. Make the audience dance - Make your audience shout, stand or write something. Seek a volunteer or a show of hands. Make them do some activity. The last time I heard Stephen Covey in Hyderabad he made audiences stand, shout "hee haw" and write down a few things.
This engages the audience very well.

5. Use relevant videos - Videos breaks the monotony and explain your point well.
You must use videos when you have a long presentation. Do not use two videos back to back.

6. Repeat important stuff - Repeating important stuff does not mean keep saying the same thing again and again. It means you link back every idea to the core message. This helps recall.
7. Use images - Text has a soporific effect on the audience. To keep them awake use images. Images that supplement the idea. A good image reinforces understanding.

8. Use props - This is my favorite
tool. Using a prop well makes it very dramatic for the audience. If you are talking of conserving water, how about pouring a glass of water on the stage and asking the audience "Do you want to continue wasting water." This is better than saying "Please do not waste water.".
9. Ask a question - Who says only the audience can ask questions? Trainers and teachers use this technique all the time to gauge the level of audience understanding. Why don't you use this in your next presentation?
10. Be enthusiastic - Enthusiasm is contagious. Be passionate and the audience will love you.Your body language is a precursor of how your presentation is going to be. Start with a smile and maintain eye contact with the audience.
You need not use each of these 10 tools in every presentation. Depending on your objective and your comfort level choose your tools of engagement. If you are not a story teller, try out props or make the audience dance.
Which of these 'tools of engagement' are you already using? Which are the tools you would like to adopt? Drop in a comment.

Feb 5, 2009

Engage the Audience: what why how (Part 1 of 2)

Recall the last presentation you attended. What do you remember? What was the topic and what was the core idea? Were you excited during the presentation or waiting for the speaker to finish. If the answer is in the negative, then the presenter was unable to 'engage' you.

If you search 'how to engage your audience' Google will throw 1.2million search results in 0.07 seconds flat! But what do you mean by audience engagement during a presentation?


Are you sure? Think about it before you read on.

This two part post is an exploration in audience engagement. In Part I (which is now) we will understand what engagement means and why is it needed? In Part II I will discuss how to engage your audience.

So, what is audience engagement?

Did you think about it?
Most people assume that we all know what 'engagement' means. Yet if you ask 5 people what engagement means to them, you are likely to get atleast 3 different answers.

The word 'engagement' does not only mean to 'get attention' but it also means to 'hold
attention'. You cannot let go of what you have already got! You can start your next business review presentation by dancing on the podium (you get attention) but you will lose all of it (and much more) after you have stopped being Micheal Jackson.

The word engagement means all of the following:

get attention

hold attention

induce involvement

which will lead to:
understanding &
recall (audience remembers what you told them)

Why do you need engagement?

I don't think there is any debate on that. You can present to inform, entertain, educate, discuss, decide, seek or change. To fulfil each one of these objectives, you need to ensure the audience is engaged. They are attentive, they are involved, they understand and they remember. Next time when you are conceptualizing your presentation and designing your slides remember to ask yourself these questions:

Is this making sense?

Is this going to generate interest?

Is this going to be understood in its current form?

Will this induce people to think / to ask / to discuss?

If the answer to these questions is a NO then remove that content from your presentation.
Before you go to Part II and find out 'how you can engage the audience' I would like you to answer a simple question?
What do you currently do to engage your audience? Leave a comment.

Feb 3, 2009

Pick of the Week: Pause & Edit

What do you do immediately after you change a slide in your presentation?
What do you do after your PowerPoint is ready?

These two questions have been answered during the last week. A week which has seen a lot of activity on presentation and public speaking blogs. So lets get down to the answers.

Jerry Weisman
, a guest blogger on slide:ology, tells us what we should do immediately after changing a slide.


This is a very simple yet immensely powerful idea. When you read the question, you would have not thought the answers was so simple. Yet how many speakers remember to 'pause'? They keep talking while the audience is busy reading what's on the slides.

Olivia Mitchell
, author of Speaking about Presenting, takes us through 9 steps of how we can edit a presentation. Very often we finish the PowerPoint in a hurry and do not get enough time to edit it. Following these simple steps will not only help reduce unnecessary content from your presentation, it will also prepare you for delivery.

Have you read anything else on presentations lately which you have liked? Share it with me.

Feb 2, 2009

Best of the Month: January '09

All About Presentations started in January. Last month I wrote on presentation tips, lessons from real life presenters (Obama & Honda) and a couple of learnings for making sponsorship proposals. Here are the 3 most popular posts of January:

Jan 18: 'Yes We Can' learn from Obama (review of LK Advani's website)
Jan 25: Honda 'Kicks out the ladder' (learning from the latest Honda corporate video)
Jan 14: Checklist for Presentations (a short and useful list for every presenter).

Feb 1, 2009

7 Habits of Dr. Stephen Covey

I attended the Knowledge Forum of Dr. Stephen Covey recently in Hyderabad. It was a one day gathering of 500 people so Dr. Covey presented with four large screens in a big hall. There were 7 good things he did which other presenters should learn from.

1. Repeat the important stuff. Dr. Covey did repeat important phrases/statements throughout the speech and kept connecting it back to the core message. This is a good practice for long presentations.

2. Keep inviting questions throughout the presentation. He did not have a question and answer session at the end. It is better to clarify doubts and answer questions on an ongoing basis.

3. Use videos. Since it was a day long presentation using videos keeps the audience attentive and interested. Videos that are relevant, which help explain every important point you make. Before any video was played he also used to mention what was the objective of the video so that the audience knows what to watch out for.

4. Effective use of humor. His speech and videos were well garnished with humor. Whenever the topic became too serious Dr. Covey used to infuse humor and win over the audience.

5. Giving handouts before the start. While explaining important concepts, he would direct the audience to open the handout and see the diagram rather than looking at the PowerPoint slides. Whenever your audience has come to learn from your presentation (and also to make notes) giving handouts in advance makes their life easier.

6. Enhance audience understanding. While explaining a concept, Dr. Covey would refer to some character from an earlier video so that people can relate better. He also made the audience write a few times in their notebooks. This I feel enhances retention and understanding.

7. Use Props. This was something I liked the most in Dr. Covey's presentation. He was asking us to 'find our voice' (find out what we really like to do in life) and then 'inspire others to find their voice'. To explain this he lighted up a matchstick (find our voice) and then used this matchstick to light up another matchstick (inspire others to find their voice). It was dramatic but it worked! You could see it in the audience.

Which of these habits are you already following? Which are the ones you would like to try out in your next presentation? Leave a comment.