Mar 31, 2009

Pick of the Week: Audience Engagement Should Add Value

Audience engagement is essential in any presentation. In my earlier posts (Feb 5 & Feb 7) I had talked in detail about what do we mean by engagement and how to engage the audience.

But should you engage the audience just for the heck of it?
Meaningless engagement will not add any value to your presentation or the audience.
Olivia Mithcell's March 25 post talks about getting the maximum value from audience engagement.

Here is a summary of the main points in her post:

1. Audience will not start to engage unless they have built a comfort level with you and have started trusting you.

2. Involve the audience only where it will add value to them and to the presentation
3. Do not single out your audience and ask questions. It might put them in an awkward situation. You can make them talk in pairs (to each other).

4. Prepare beforehand the questions you will ask in the presentation.
Do your homework on where you want to engage the audience with which question.
5. Give clear instructions to the audience. Do not hurry. Better, write down the instructions on the slide. The audience needs to be given time to understand and follow the steps.

6. Keep the control of the presentation in your hand. Pull the audience back into the presentation tactfully. Do not let the presentation go haywire.

However, be ready to share some control of the presentation because you are engaging the audience. Be ready to manage deviations in time once audience engagement picks up.
Read her informative post to know more.

What has been your experience of audience engagement? How have you fared? What works, what doesn't?

Mar 28, 2009

Do I really need Slide Transitions?

I have seen people use all kinds of slide transitions to keep the audience interested. From simple effects like 'Fade Smoothly' to crazy effects like 'Dissolve' and 'Strips'. They come from right, they come from left, they come from all over the place.

MS PowerPoint 2007 has 49 kinds of transition effects. You can also tweak the transition speed

My question to you is:
Do you really need to worry about slide transitions?

What do you do when you make presentations? How often do you use transition effects? Do you
experiment with multiple effects in the same presentation or stick to one?

Think for a while before you read on...

I have a simple advice to offer:

"If you are making a formal presentation, then:

1. You need not worry about slide transitions

2. If you want to then apply 'Fade Smoothly' to all slides and forget about it."

Spending anything more than 2 seconds worrying about slide transitions is a waste of time.

Slide transitions came into use because they break the monotony and are used to emphasize a particular slide. Now we have started misusing the effect. If you see a transition effect once, yes I agree it does break the monotony. But when the same effect
comes after each slide, doesn't it become painfully monotonous.

The solution to this painful monotony is not to have different effects after each slide. The solution is asking yourself "Do I really need slide transitions?" Don't use it because it's there.

I recommend using 'Fade Smoothly' because it makes the transition (movement) from one slide to another smooth and eliminates the jerk. Other than this, I really don't see much value add in using slide transitions.

If you really feel you need to use transition effect to emphasize a particular slide, do it. Use a different effect type (from the 49 provided). This is an exceptional case. Also remember not to make more than 2 exceptions in one presentation. It doesn't look formal and gets really painful.

Remember, slide transitions cannot distract the audience from the presentation. If it is present, it should draw no attention towards itself.

Mar 26, 2009

Royalty Free Music for Presentations

While searching for royalty free music on the web I chanced upon a very good resource. It is a website by Kevin MacLeod. It has a large collection of music (compositions, not songs) created by Kevin. And it's royalty free. You just need to credit the composer in your presentation. All that Kevin actually asks for is a $5 voluntary donation, if you have used his composition.

The website allows you to search music by 'feel' and 'genre'. I found the search by 'feel' very useful. I was searching for a peppy & lively score and I got exactly what I needed when searching under the categories 'bouncy' and 'bright'. Explore the website and get what you are looking for.

Another interesting feature is that you can listen to a preview before downloading the entire song. Saved a lot of valuable time for me.

If you ever need a background score, try this website. Read the complete terms of use here & here. You can also get something called as Sans Attribution License (which you would require if you cannot credit the composer for some reason).

Do you know of any other good resource on the web offering royalty free music? Leave a comment.

Mar 24, 2009

Reducing the file size of your presentation

What do you do when you end up with a bulky presentation and want to reduce its size?

In this post I will share one technique which will drastically reduce the file size of your presentation. Generally we dont worry about the file size because we can present from our laptop or transfer it to some other system using a USB drive. But if you email a presentation you will have to worry about reducing the file size of your presentation. So here is my simple technique.

Reduce the size of the high resolution images you use in your presentation.

Typically these images are large and hence take up more space. By reducing the size of these images, we can reduce the size of the ppt.

How do we do that?

Copy the image (Ctrl+C)
Delete it

Paste Special as 'Picture (JPEG)'

Do it for all high resolution images

Save the file

Check the file size and be surprised!

By how much will the file size reduce?

A lot.

As a test, I created a small two slide presentation with images of 3.65MB on each slide. The pptx file (in MS PowerPoint 2007) came to 1.43MB. After applying this technique, the size of the pptx came down by 87% to just 184KB.

The reduction would be more if you have used more images in the presentation. If you are worried about the image getting blurred or distorted, don't be. On-screen quality will not at all be affected. However, I would suggest not using this technique for images which are smaller (under 250KB) as the incremental reduction in file size will not be high.

What do you do to reduce the file size of your presentation? Just before you are going to mail it?

Mar 19, 2009

Pick of the Week: Why do you need Handouts?

Most people who present do so without giving any handouts to the audience. Some who do just take print outs of the slides they present. Are handouts just a copy paste of your slides?

I don't think so. Handouts are an effective medium through which you can share the key points of your
presentation. Prepare it as a one or two page word doc and hand it over after your presentation is over.

Do not distribute handouts at the start. The
audience will not pay attention during the presentation because they already know what you are going to present.

Printout of your slides is not a good handout because your presentation is incomplete without your
speech. Your presentation is not a standalone thing. But your handout it. Your handout is a summary of what you have just finished presenting. If your audience knows you will give a handout, then instead of writing down stuff, they will actually focus more on what you are saying.

In the last ten days I have seen two posts on handouts.

Oliver Adria of ReThink Presentations writes on how a good handout will de-clutter your presentation. You
need not stuff it with text. You will not miss out on any crucial point because even if you forget to speak about it, it'll be still there in the handout.

While making a handout, you will be forced to summarize all that you want to say in 1 or 2 pages. This will
bring more clarity of thought and will surely help you deliver a better presentation.

M.J. Plebon of PresentingYourPoint in his detailed post writes on why you need to prepare a handout.

1. People have short memories and will not remember all that you have spoken about

2. Not every decision maker might be present when you speak

3. Key decision makers might not stay back for your entire presentation

In all these cases having a handout will make your job easier.
Be it a sales presentation or a business review, leaving your audience with a handout will go a long way in achieving the objective of your presentation.

Do you distribute handouts after you present? If yes, how do you go about making them? If no, would you like to share why not?

Mar 17, 2009

SmartArt Graphics in PowerPoint: An Introduction

The objective of this post is to introduce SmartArt Graphics to people to who are still shying away from using it or are just unaware of it.In this post, which is by no means exhaustive, I will talk about:

1. What is SmartArt?
2. When should you use SmartArt?

3. What are the types of Smart Art Graphics?

4. What are the various SmartArt styles?

SmartArt Graphics is a visual representation of data or information.
It is quick and easy to
make and jazzes up your presentation like nothing else. It not only enhances the visual appeal of your information but also helps communicate your idea better. SmartArt, however, is not a graph/chart wherein you input data and get a chart as your output.


Profit in your business unit is under pressure. It has happened because of rising costs, reduced margins and lower sales. You can present it with bullets (as most people do) or by using SmartArt. The profit circle in red and the arrows depicting the cause and effect relationship help communicate your point better.

Do not use it for jazzing up unnecessary content. Use it to drive home a point better. To make it stick in the minds of the audience. You can also use it to make boring content interesting.

What SmartArt cannot do?

SmartArt will not generate charts from raw data.

What are the types of SmartArt Graphics?

SmartArt has the following types of graphics:

List -
a list of itemsProcess - steps in a processCycle - a cyclical processHierarchy - an organization chartRelationship - cause & effectMatrix - parts and the wholePyramid - proportional or hierarchical relationship

In total there are 115 types of graphics you can choose from.
Which SmartArt you use would depend on your need. Explore the various graphic types and you will find some jewels in the SmartArt gallery.

Getting started with SmartArt Graphics

Go to 'Insert' -> SmartArt -> Choose your SmartArt type
Let's say you choose 'Continuous Block Process' under 'Process'

Adding Shapes

There are 3 boxes to start with. You can add shapes by right clicking on a box and choosing 'add shapes
after or before'Entering Text
Start typing your text in the boxes. You can change font type and size by selecting the entire SmartArt
object and then changing font under the 'Home' tab.

Design Options

You can change colors and styles of your SmartArt Graphic under 'SmartArt Tools Designs Tab' which opens only when you are working on the SmartArt.

SmartArt Styles

Instead of choosing 'simple fill' which comes by default try styles like white outline, moderate effect, intense
effect and polished.

These are the basic things one should know in order to get started with SmartArt.
If you do not use SmartArt Graphics while making presentations I would like to know why. What is it that you dislike? Drop in a comment.

Mar 14, 2009

How to add hyperlink to Smart Art?

SmartArt is a great feature in PowerPoint 2007. It has enhanced the visual appeal & ease with which we present information (I will share more on using SmartArt later). But there is a small problem with SmartArt. You cannot create a hyperlink with SmartArt. At least I am yet to figure that out :)

But there is a way you can bypass the problem. Do you know it already? If not, then can you guess?

Let us take a simple example to understand how to add hyperlink to SmartArt. We have a slide on the 4 P's of marketing. You need hyperlinks so that when in slideshow mode, you click on 'Product' you land on the slide which talks about product. Suppose you want to go to Slide No. 8.
Here are the simple steps we will use to create the hyperlink:
Step 1: On the 4P's slide, insert another shape. A rounded rectangle (matching the shape of the Product box). Place the new shape over the existing one (need not match it perfectly).

Step 2: Format the newly placed shape -> White fill -> Set transparency to 100% -> Remove lines. You now have a completely transparent shape over your 'Product' SmartArt box.

Step 3: We will now create a hyperlink on this transparent shape. Right click -> Hyperlink -> Choose the slide 8. Choose it from 'Place in this document' because your slide is in the same PPT file.

Your hyperlink is now ready!
If you know of any other easier way of adding hyperlinks to SmartArt do leave a comment.

Mar 12, 2009

How many slides should your presentation have?

Last week I was working with a client of mine on improving his presentation. When I told him that the presentation might stretch to 40 slides he was anxious. He wanted it to be under 20. Both the versions had the same content but different number of slides. He knew that. Still he wanted it to be under 20.

What's happening in this case?

By having 40 slides the content per slide will get drastically reduced and that he felt meant being low on content (less text on a slide meant less work done by the manager). He wanted the presentation to be content heavy.

Friends this is a mindset issue. Still in most companies in India having more text on the slides means you have done your research and hard work.

How do we solve the problem?
It wont be solved bottoms-up (by changing the mindset of the lower level managers). It has to be solved top-down. When managers see their top bosses reducing content per slide they will follow suit.

So my answer to the question is:

There is no correct number of slides.
Just make sure you have the right content, you talk one thing per slide and you finish your presentation in the allotted time.

Do not try to say 2/3 things in a slide. Do not worry about how many slides your PowerPoint runs into. If you are skilled at using PowerPoint, you can present the matter of 10 slides in 1 using animation. If your presentation has a lot of images, then you can really run through them in no time. So how does it matter how many slides your presentation has? All that matters is whether you finish within your allotted time and get your point across.

What is your take on this? Are you also advised to stick to a certain no. of slides? Leave a comment and let me know.

Mar 10, 2009

How to Make Business Review Presentations?

Meet Mr.V K Chandrasekaran. A remarkable personality who rose from being a medical representative to the post of Vice President of one of India’s biggest pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s. In this interview, we ask Mr. Chandrasekaran ‘How managers can make effective business review presentations?’

Review meetings are never easy. Managers put night outs and prepare extensively before presenting to superiors. Doing a good job in the field and being able to present it are two different skills.

How should a manager prepare for these review meetings? What is his superior looking for? Come let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Q1. What did you, as a superior, expect from these review presentations?

Being a business review, my first expectation is with regards to data. I expect data integrity, data accuracy & data familiarity. By data familiarity I mean, you should be thorough with your data. You have crunched it before coming to me.

Secondly, I expect the manager to draw some conclusions from the data presented. He is not a transmitter of data but a processor of data.

Thirdly, I expect SMART action plans. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reviewable,
Time-bound action plans. If your action plans are not SMART, they are of no use to management. If your action plan is to have 5 customer meets, I would like to know when they will happen, how will they impact sales, by how much, and so on.

A review meeting is not a retrospection exercise.

Q2. What are the common mistakes managers make in review presentations?
The 4 most common mistakes managers make are:

i) They are not organized. They treat review presentations like fast food. Cooking it up at the very last moment and serving it.

ii) They come with insufficient or inaccurate data.

iii) They lack confidence when they talk. This again stems from their lack of effort and preparation.

iv) They do not accept that they don’t know the answer. It is good to accept what you don’t know.
Q3. What are your views on using pictures, fonts, color and animation in formal presentations?As an audience, I do not care what fonts and background color scheme has been used. You should take care that your presentation is clearly visible to the last man at the back. Animation is welcome if it breaks the monotony.

If used properly an image is worth a thousand words. Managers should use relevant images to convey thoughts. No one likes to sit through an hour-long presentation staring at bar graphs and data tables. However, there is a word of caution. Do not go overboard in using animation or images. Remember, these are like background music in a movie. They cannot come to the fore and overshadow the dialogues.

Q4. What is the one thing that a manager should value most?

Time. In any business presentation, time is of most importance. Start on time, finish on time and leave enough time at the end for question and answer.

Q5. What would be your advice to young managers?

I would like to leave them with 4 thoughts:

i) Be thorough with your content.

ii) Be clear with what you want to achieve from the presentation and work hard towards it.

iii) Seek help from stakeholders to improve your presentation. You can always approach a senior colleague for advice.

iv) Provide a copy of the presentation to your superior in advance and seek feedback.

Assume a manager Manoj is presenting to the country head after one week. What stops Manoj from emailing the presentation across to the country head today and ask, “Sir here is my presentation for the business review. Please advise me on how I can better this before the meeting.”

How many of you have ever tried doing this? Knowing what the audience wants, wouldn't that help you deliver a successful presentation?


To summarize what
Mr. VK Chandrasekaran says:
1. Be thorough with data.

2. Do not come with a problem, come with a solution

3. Prepare well. Presentation is not fast food.

4. Present with confidence. Remember confidence comes with preparation.

5. Presentation design (fonts and colors) should ensure your slides are clearly visible to the audience.

Use these tips from in your next business review and you will surely do a much better job of being able to present what you have done.

How did you find these tips? Which of these tips appealed the most? Share what concerns you most while making business review presentations.

Mar 7, 2009

Pick of the Week: Should You or Should You Not?

You have just finished making a corporate presentation. Your client praises you and asks you to hand over a soft copy of the presentation. What should you do?

If you have never faced this situation before then you definitely will. How can you say no when the client is asking?

Actually you should not hand it over if you are not prepared for it.
Not so easily.

When you face this situation next time ask yourself these questions:

1. Is the presentation going to make sense without your presence when someone else sees it?

2. Are you sure you are not handing over some confidential information about your company?

3. Can your presentation be misinterpreted by people who have not heard you present?

In his interesting post M.J. Plebon asks you to be cautious.
A presentation (if made like a presentation) cannot stand alone without your presence. So if you expect such a request then you can actually carry a word doc (or pdf) which captures what you want to say properly.

If you are not prepared with a word doc, ask for time and send a word doc later.

Read M.J.'s post to know more.

Mar 5, 2009

Sample presentation: 10 lessons in branding

I read the book "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding" a few days back. These are the 10 most important lessons this book offers for brand managers. If you are a brand manager, this presentation will surely help you. If you are not, know how much effort brand managers are making to reach you and influence you.

Mar 3, 2009

Know your data before you present

You present some kind of data in almost every presentation. Data can be presented by sales people, it can be a survey result, a finding by a doctor or number crunching by a business analyst. Not to forget bankers who cant live without data.

My question then is, How do YOU present data?

Yes I am asking you. Pause for a moment and think of the last presentation you made which had data. What did you do? Did you take any extra care? Did you paste the whole excel on the slide? Was the audience able to understand? Did they ask you to explain more by opening your excel sheet?

You should be very careful when you present data. Here are a few suggestions that will you:

1. Ensure data accuracy
Nothing annoys the audience more than inaccurate data. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth. Last minute mistakes, calculation errors or just the data not adding up. The percentages in the pie chart do not add upto 100%! Take care while presenting data. Spend that extra minute checking for flaws.

2. Be familiar with your data
It is your data, hence you have to be familiar with it. How did you derive each number in the table? Why have sales in one town gone up while all others have gone down? Know the answers. When you present data you will be asked questions. Be prepared. Do not make a presentation at the last minute and go unprepared. Crunch your numbers well.

3. Keep the audience guessing
Speaker Sue offers this tip: Ask your audience to guess. "The sales went down by 12%, what do you think happened to the profit margin?" Wait for the audience to respond and then present the data. This will involve the audience better than just presenting one table after the other.

I would like to add by saying that use this method very few times in a presentation. It is effective only when used sparingly.

4. Tell them where you got the data from
Always mention the source of your data. This lends credibility. It is a good practice which most consultants follow. Never assume your audience knows where you got the data from.

5. Know your core message
Do not paste the entire excel sheet on the slide. Present the summary only. Just a few crucial numbers and your analysis in a couple of sentences. In case you need then put up a small table. You can always give your complete excel table as a handout and highlight things you want the audience to know.

6. Communicate better
I would like to end with two suggestions from Stephen Few's article.
(i) Before deciding how to present, know what exactly are you presenting.
(ii) You do not need complicated graphs if a simple sentence can do the job. It is not compulsory to use a graph to represent data.

What are the problems you faced while presenting data in your last presentation? How do you enhance the understanding of the audience when you deal with data? Write down what is in your mind before you move on to the next post.

Mar 1, 2009

Best of the Month: Februaury '09

All About Presentations has entered its second month. Last month I wrote on lessons from Dr. Stephen Covey's talk (which I attended in Hyderabad). I also wrote on how we can make our presentations stick. On the one hand I introduced a new concept 'User-Controlled Presentations', and on the other I talked about engaging the audiences and tackling nervousness before presentations. Here are the 3 most popular posts from the last month:

Feb 1: 7 habits which make Stephen Covey's presentation effective

Feb 7: How do you engage the audience?

Feb 12: How do you tackle nervousness before presentations?

Here is a list of the 3 most popular posts on this blog till date:

Jan 30: 10 ideas that will make your sponsorship proposal work?

Jan 14: Checklist for presentations (a short and useful list for every presenter)

Jan 18: 'Yes We Can' learn from Obama (review of LK Advani's website)