Aug 29, 2009

8 things you can do to become the best presenter in your office

Real life incident 1: One month back a colleague came to me and said "I have to make an important presentation but I do not how to make 'business' presentations. I have extensively researched the industry and I have all that my boss needs. But I don't know how to show it to him. They should understand within those 30 minutes that I am the man for the job." He knew everything about his work. He is not an MBA but a technical guy. If he is not able to 'present' what he has done, he won't be able to get that coveted job.

Real life incident 2: There was a hardworking marketing manager in a company (sorry I can't reveal his name either). When other colleagues doing similar projects were working 5 days a week, this man was spending the weekends working. His intentions were right and he was committed. But in the fortnightly project presentations to the seniors, he used to falter. He was never able to 'show' what he was actually doing on the field and how much effort he was putting into the work. His superiors gradually became unhappy with his work. They thought he was shirking. One fine day he put in his papers.

Any job you do in life, remember that your superior will never know what you are doing unless you tell him. Your superior is not paid to see what you do. He is not supposed to know everything. It is your job to keep him in the loop and share relevant information from time to time. You not only have to work hard but you have to show it also.

Imagine your CEO or sales head or some big guy comes every quarter to attend your review presentation. How do you tell him that you are good? You get only once chance every 3 months. That chance is the presentation you make to him. If you are unable to 'present' what exactly you have done, all that hard work will get wasted.

It is not enough to work hard. It is equally important to be able to show what exactly you have done. This is why you must master the art of making presentations. You don't need to become Steve Jobs but you can definitely become better. How about becoming the 'Best Presenter in the Office?' Every company, every office always has an 'Excel champion'. "If you have any doubts on excel, go to him. He is great." That excel champion is not anyone special. He is just like you. The only reason he is better than others is that he makes extra efforts to learn more about excel. Anyone willing to do that can master excel.

Why don't you become the most sought after presentation guy/girl in office. It is not very tough. You would need some hours of effort on weekends to hone your presentation skills. Here are some tips you can use:

1. Make presentations at every opportunity that comes by. You can only learn by doing.

2. Help others in making presentations even if that means staying back for an hour after work on some days. They will have many doubts which you guys can solve together.

3. Approach your superior and volunteer to help him on his next presentation. You can always help him by making a few slides for him.

4. Follows blogs and books on presentations as often as you can. Do not be a passive reader. Agree or disagree to what's being said by starting a discussion on the blog.

5. Make presentations on topics you enjoy and upload on websites like SlideShare. It will build immense amount of confidence in you. When you upload on SlideShare you know the world is watching. That makes you work hard.

6. Visit SlideShare and see how others make presentations.Learn from them. If you liked something ask them how they created that stuff.

7. Seek help when you get stuck while creating a presentation. Humility is a necessary precondition for learning.Seek help from colleagues and friends.

8. Start a Presentations Club in your office. Meet every fortnight and give a 15 minute presentation on a topic of your choice. Give a small token of appreciation to 1 good speaker every fortnight. I am sure your company would be most happy to fund it.

Follow these tips and you would definitely become better at presenting. Remember you need to work on your skills regularly. If you would like to add anything to the points above leave a comment. Happy weekend!

Aug 27, 2009

Fwd: Huge Virus Warning! -- true (You have to read this post)


Hi All,

I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing up for this virus!

I checked, and it is for real. Get this E-mail message sent around to your contacts ASAP.

You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled 'POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK,'regardless of who sent it to you. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.

... If you receive a mail called' POSTCARD,' even though sent to you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN.

It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept..



Yes, it is true. This was the exact email that hit my Inbox on August 24, 2009. I was sitting innocuously on my laptop when this 'Huge virus warning!' barged in. Sent to the entire office by a colleague who would got it from her friend.

My initial reaction was to smile and ignore. But if you have read 'Made to Stick' and you are a marketer by profession and love making presentations, you probably should take a closer look and learn something from his 'hoax' email. You would be dumb to ignore it.

Try sending an email to your friends/colleagues asking them to use the brand of soap your company sells or the latest upgrade your software firm is selling. How many of your colleagues would care? More so, how many would take the pain of forwarding it to 'everyone' in their office and within days it would reach to thousands and thousands?

An urban legend, like this Postcard from Hallmark, achieves this miracle no marketer can ever pull off. Remember the mail which said, 'Coming August, Mars will look bigger than Moon. This will again happen some 1000 years later..."

Any student of class X will tell you that Mars can never appear as big as Moon because for that to happen it will have to stop revolving in its orbit and come crashing down to Earth. Common sense. Yet, the moment you get such a mail, you send it to everyone you know. Amazing.

So what makes this 'Postcard from Hallmark' such a hit?

First, it is unbelievable stuff.
A huge virus comes and burns your hard disc. There is no cure. Just because it has reached your inbox, means you need to shut down your computer. It is the unexpectedness that catches our attention.

Second, it is credible. Atleast, the email invokes a lot of authorities in the field of anti-virus like Norton, McAfee, Snopes and even CNN to make you believe the lie. If you don't believe it why would you spread it to all your friends.

Third, it has some catchy stuff which appeals to the reader. He remembers it. It is not just another computer virus. We all know what a computer virus is and normally does. It is a virus which 'simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc'. It is a super virus. Remember, Microsoft just called it the 'most destructive virus ever.'

Fourth, there is a call for action.
The reader is told multiple times to 'forward it to all friends and colleagues'. If you remove this call for action (what the reader should do after reading), especially the one at the last, the message will lose 75% of its effectiveness. It won't spread as much.

Lesson for all marketers (remember, all presenters are marketers):
To get your audience interested, to make them attentive and to ensure they spread your ideas, give them something worth talking about. Give them a huge virus which fascinates them. Let their imagination run wild. Embed the above four elements which make this hoax a hit. If people can believe a hoax and spread it, they can definitely be made to believe and spread your truth.

If you happen to be making a presentation where the desired outcome is that your word should spread. Ask yourself, what have you put in the presentation that is 'spread-worthy'? Don't look for the answer in your software. Look for the answer in the content. Also remember to add a call to action at the end.

If you enjoyed reading this post then email it to one friend of yours. The one who will enjoy the most after reading this post.

Aug 25, 2009

Why are you talking to the screen?

When I asked people a few weeks back what they hated most in a presentation, I got interesting answers. One of them was by Dr. Singh and he said; "I do not like when the presenter is talking to the slide and not to me."

Does it not ring a bell?
Many a times you as a presenter end up making this mistake. You look at the slide and start talking.

How does the audience feel when you do this? They are offended. They hate it. Hate it enough to remember it and share it with me when I approach them with a survey.

Why does it happen?

It happens when you are not prepared with your content. When you have not rehearsed well. When you prepare the slides a night before and don't even remember the order in which you put your slides. This forces you to keep looking at the slide so that you don't forget.

The obvious solution is to rehearse well and go.
But let's accept the fact that you know what you 'should' do. Yet how often do you follow that. How many times have you prepared a presentation two days in advance so that you can rehearse it. Reality is, you don't even worry about rehearsal. Rehearsal is for others, not for you.

So the not so obvious solution is: "Keep a small paper pad in your hand and write down the main points, in the order you need to cover them. Avoid long sentences.
Prioritize and DO NOT write down every thing. Write down 1 thing for every slide and do not make notes for all the slides. Make notes only for slides which are the most important ones."

If you are presenting with a laptop in front, then the chances of your forgetting are less. However, looking at the laptop most of the time would be as good as looking at the slides. Your audience is not going to like it.

If you think you cannot carry notes to the presentation and manage to keep referring to it, then the only solution which remains is to rehearse well. You are like any of your friends. Everybody needs to rehearse and so do you.

Aug 22, 2009

How to make your content exciting and understandable?

SlideShare is an excellent resource if you are interested in becoming a better presenter. By signing up for free, you can upload and share presentations. More importantly, you can view hundreds of presentations which get uploaded everyday. While most of them are mundane, some are really excellent. You can learn a lot from them.

I stumbled upon one such presentation from Dan Roam yesterday. He has entered it as a part of the World's Best Presentation Contest which SlideShare is running currently. Here is the presentation. Though slightly long it is worth a watch for its unique design. Even if the content does not interest you, watch it to know how content can be made exciting by taking a different creative route altogether.
This presentation might or might not win. Does not matter. I want you to see it because it is innovative. As presenters, our biggest challenge is to find new and unique ways to present information which is easy to comprehend.

Dan's presentation is interesting because of three things:

1. Unique Platform
It breaks all notions of templates. Notice that there is no template at all.
Its absence is never felt. The presentation does not need it. It has come out in a fresh new format.

Lesson for Presenters: Experiment. Be willing to break some rules. Challenge the status quo and create something unique. The next presentation you make, try breaking 1 rule of making presentations (rule which everyone follows blindly).

2. Highly Visual Representation

The most conspicuous thing about this presentation is its visuals. The sketched people, the balance swinging in someone's favor, the arrows. Information presented has been explained only through visuals. The standard way of presenting this would have been to write everything on the slide and add a few images on the space which gets left. Dan Roam has not used images to garnish his slide. For him his visual is the main course.

Lesson for Presenters:
Stop treating visuals as a filler. Something with which you fill leftover space. Something which you search at the last minute to 'jazz up' the presentation. At times you can use only visuals to convey the message. For your next presentation try this out. Take 1 slide full of text and replace it with a sketch. You can draw a rough one on MS Paint and add to the slide. You don't need to be a Picasso to draw images like the one's in Dan's presentation.

3. Design with a Purpose

This presentation is effective because it has been designed to succeed. Every presentation has three parts; Content, Design and Delivery. Presentation Design does not mean decorating a slide and making it look better. Design is not done to impress but to elucidate.

The reason this presentation has been made so visual is that it aids understanding. If you look closely you will find that the presentation has a color scheme. The doctor is always in red (his visual and his text). The Insurance guy in blue. 'Me' is always in black and so on.

The faces also have expressions which convey the meaning much better than text can ever do. An angry doctor on Slide 7 and a smiling one on Slide 8 is so easy to comprehend.

Lesson for Presenters:
Look at the challenges facing Dan Roam. A complicated content and a very long presentation. Making you sit through 51 slides and still ensuring you understand him is not an easy job. His intentional (and effective) use of visuals paves way for easy understanding.

When you create a presentation, there are many questions which needs to be answered. One of which is "How do I wish to convey the message to my audience?" If you spend some time thinking about it, you can come up with new ways to present. Dan Roam chose sketches, you can use self taken images or videos shot from your digi-cam specifically for the presentation. You can show videos of customers interviewed instead of just writing what they said. The options are limitless. You will never get these ideas if you ignore the question.

"How do I wish to convey the message to my audience? Do I use the old methods or try something new?"

Aug 20, 2009

What your boss hates in your presentation?

As a presenter you want to do well. You want to be understood by your boss. You want to impress him/her with your presentation skills (and your work). But how can you do well? You don't even know what your boss likes and does not like? Do you know what your boss hates in your presentation?

And why should I restrict it to your boss? Even your colleagues and clients hate the same things about your presentations. But what are those things that they hate in your presentation?

Do you have the answer?

To find this out I asked this question to people from different fields of work:
"As an audience, what do you hate most in a presentation?"

Most of these people work in corporate India as managers and make (or see) presentations day in and day out. I asked HR managers, teachers, investment bankers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs and even a doctor who delivers a lot of presentations across India (and abroad).
The answers were diverse but on a closer scrutiny one can find common traits. Most of the answers were kind of commonsensical (Ya, I know that). But the very reason they are in the list shows that you are making these mistakes very often.

The biggest mistake which audiences find in your presentation is: "Too much text on the slide." You would have heard this so many times. Every presentation guru would have said this a thousand times to you. Every other 'How to make a great presentation' tips would talk about it. Yet what is the result. You are still making the same error.

Please Note:
If so many people are being put off due to excess text on the slide, it means that almost every presenter is committing this mistake. And committing it very frequently. Open your last presentation and see if you made this mistake.

The next biggest mistake you make is: "Reading out from the slides." Like the first one, even this one is a Fundamental Mistake of Presenting. It is like a Class X student committing a simple addition error in a maths problem. How can you do this dear?

The third biggest mistake you commit is: "Unclear objective and lack of direction." It is very interesting to note that this has come up in the top three. The answer respondents give to a survey reflects what is on the top of their mind. It is called TOM (Top Of Mind Recall). And what is at the t
op of their minds? Things which happen very often. That is why they are recalled faster.

So, unclear objective and lack of direction is a mistake which you are committing too often and hence is staying in the mind of your boss.

The other major mistakes (along with the top three) have been captured in the bar graph below:

A presentation is composed of three elements; Content, Design and Delivery. Content is the planing part before you start making slides whereas Delivery means presenting your slides to the audience. If we look at all the responses of the survey, 51% related to Design, 30% to Delivery and 19% to Content.

What does it mean?
The thing that upsets people most is not 'what you have to say' but 'how you say it'. Your mistakes in slide design and delivery are overshadowing your content. For all you know, your content might have been great, but yet your boss did not like it. Why? Because, that great content (coming out of your hard work and effort) got diluted by your 'excess words on the slide' and your 'reading our from the slides'.

Take cognizance of these mistakes. Accept the fact that you might be making these mistakes (and you are not even aware of it). Make sure that the next time you present to your boss, you do justice to your hard work and do not repeat them again.

Aug 19, 2009

SlideShare World's Best Presentation Contest '09

The biggest presentation contest of the world is back. SlideShare World's Best Presentation Contest 2008 was an extremely popular event. No doubt, this year it is going to be better.

You can enter the contest by making a presentation on anything you like. It can be related to business, technology, something creative, something educative or just about yourself. What you present and how you present matter equally. So open your PowerPoint (or Keynote) and get going.

The contest is open till September 8, 2009. After the presentations are uploaded the people will vote for them and that voting will go on till September 15, 2009. Top voted presentations will then be rated by the judges. Results will be announced a week later. Among the prizes on offer are a MacBook and iPhone 3GS!

You need to have a SlideShare account to enter the contest.

Out of this world graphics will not succeed. Famous contenders might lose. What will shine through is your originality and a fresh perspective. Anyone can win. So go ahead and participate. Best of luck!

Aug 18, 2009

Will your presentation be remembered for years?

Do you remember any presentation which you attended 5 years back? If you do, then what do you remember from that presentation? and more importantly, why?

I remember two such presentations. First by GSK Consumer Healthcare and second by Hindustan Lever (now HUL). Every year scores of companies used to come for campus placement to my MBA institute and from the 30 odd presentations I sat through I remember these two vividly. Companies which come to campus share information about their company, their achievements, why we should work with them, the compensation, etc. The presentation is the first interaction between the company and the students and hence it is very important for them to make a good impression on the students.

GSK Consumer Healthcare
I remember GSK's presentation because the presenter gave me the book 'Freakonomics' for free. In the course of the talk the presenter kept asking us questions. This was his method of increasing audience interaction. All his questions were related to the business of GSK. I got one question right and was rewarded with the book. It was a moment which etched this presentation in my memory for life.

Hindustan Lever
I remember the presentation which the HR manager gave for our summer placements. When she came on to present I was a bit apprehensive. I remember the plain white slide. She did not even use a template. How could she do this? That was my first reaction. I thought I was in for a boring session. But to my utter surprise she gave one of the most passionate talks I ever heard on campus. The way she spoke about the organization and the role was very impressive. She spoke from her heart and it was a jargon-less honest talk.

What do you plan to do with your next important presentation? How about trying to do one such thing which makes it memorable for years?

If you also remember a presentation which you saw five years back, let me know why. Drop a comment or write to me.

Aug 11, 2009

Why do I need to put my logo in the presentation?

It is a common practice in organizations to have a logo on each slide. Many a times the logo is part of the 'corporate template' which a manager cannot do much about. An extreme case of this can be found in some consultancies where they put the client logo and their logo on each slide.

If you also have a habit of putting your organization's logo on each slide, then you need to take a pause here and think; "Why am I putting the logo on each slide?"
I would go a step further and ask you "Do you even need the company anywhere on the slide?

I am of the opinion that you should not put 'anything' on your slide without a justification. A justification to yourself. Why should the logo be there?
What value is it adding to the presentation?

I read a post of Michael Hyatt where he says, "Instead of placing your logo on every page, you should use “bumper slides” with your logo on the first and last slide only. Other than that, it should almost never appear."

I would disagree to Micheal and ask "Why should I put the logo even on the last and the first slide unless it makes sense?" In case the presentation is to an internal audience in a company, would you still need a logo? Do people need to be reminded where they work?

Let us look at two situations:

1. Internal Presentations

These presentations are made to employees and hence do not need a logo on any slide. In case you are inducting new employees, you might like to put the logo on the very first slide. Using the logo anywhere else is unwarranted. You cannot put the logo anywhere else without a reason (example, if you are discussing the evolution of your company logo, then putting a logo obviously makes sense).
2. External Presentations
You are an advertising agency and are presenting to the client. In such cases you should put your logo on the first slide. That is all. Do not try to force fit your logo anywhere else in the presentation. People know who you are and putting the logo on each slide will only cause clutter

The next time you are presenting ask yourself this question: Do I need a logo on my presentation at all? Do not put anything on the slide which does not add value.

Aug 7, 2009

How to present information and not just data

Last week I happened to see a presentation which a senior manager regularly delivers when he inducts new employees into his organization.

The data was impressive. The organization has grown many folds over the last three decades in terms of number of people. Starting from 5 in 1979 the head count now stands at 8420! A remarkable growth. Here is the data which I culled out from the slide (the numbers have been modified slightly to maintain confidentiality):

Now the question is, how do you present this 'data' so that it excites the new employees. If your objective is to wow them, then you need to present this data in an interesting manner.

How about trying something like this?

Is this not the most obvious choice? Yes, it is. Now try to deliver the above slide. Loud and clear, as if you were making the presentation in reality.

"Friends, we started in 1979 with a team of 5 and today we are at 8420! Isn't that something great?"

Yes, that's great. But it can be better.

How about improving it further?

Improving it further by coming out of the 'data trap' and sharing some 'information'. Most presenters are victims of 'data traps'. They end up sharing just data in one form or the other. You use a table or a bar, you are still presenting 'data' not information.

Information is when you crunch data and cull out something more meaningful (an insight). Here is a slide which tries to present some useful information:

Is it better to say we grew from 5 to 8420 or is it better to say we added 2 member per day for the last decade?The magnanimity of the situation is better depicted by the latter.

You can observe in the slide above that the chart is not to scale (hence the axes has been removed). The reason is; it need not be. The objective is to present useful information and not become a captive of your chart.

To summarize I would like to make two points.

1. There is no need to present each and every data point you have. If you can choose a few data points and deliver a message more strongly, do that.

2. The next time you present a chart/graph, ask yourself this question; "Am I presenting some useful information or mere data?"

Aug 2, 2009

Best of the Month: July '09

Another month passed by. This year seems to be flying fast.

Last month I wrote a lot of posts on Presentation Design and PowerPoint Tips. There were some on Content (Presentation Planning) and a couple of posts on Delivery.

One post which was liked by a lot of readers was 'The Legend of Subodh Ranjan Saha'. I did not expect such a response for this post when I wrote it. This post has also become the most read post of the month. This post, like many, find its origin in my personal experiences. But this one dates back 12 years when I was in High School cracking exams with the help of my Mnemonics. And today I feel the same Mnemonics can help teachers, trainers and managers in making their presentation memorable. Do read the post if you have not till now.

I am sort of a presentation critic. I evaluate every presentation which I come across. I usually make a note of the good and bad points. My post on 'Charts Champion: When Legends Fail' was inspired by two charts which were presented to me during a meeting. They were kind of weird (and confusing). Hence I thought of sharing them with you.

In the end, a summary as usual of the most read posts of the month.

Content - The Legend of Subodh Ranjan Saha
Design - How to present one bullet at a time?
Design - Make good use of Motion Paths in your presentation