Jan 29, 2010

Are you up for this challenge?

Here is a small challenge I want to throw at you. If you do take it up, share with me the results. If you find any problems with taking it up, do table your concerns.

The Challenge: Deliver a Presentation without any text on your slides. You may use pictures, shapes, whatever but no text.

The only situation you might not be able to try this is when you are in a formal setting. But explore the various informal talks/presentations you give. Try it out.

Why this dare?

To improve ourselves as a presenter.

- So that we stop using excess text.
- So that we stop using text as an anchor to remind us of what to speak.
- So that we get complete attention of our audience. So they stop reading the text on the slides and start looking at us and listening to us.
- So that we develop confidence by taking complete charge of our presentation.

What do you think friend? Are you game?

Image credit: djcodrin

Jan 27, 2010

Keep the lights on while presenting

Every presentation I attend I try to learn something. Some things that have been done right and some things not quite so. The presentation I last attended was a sales pitch from the business development manager of a large enterprise. The presenter was pitching for some business.

When I entered the room I saw the presenter standing at one end of the mid-sized rectangular conference room. All lights off. I could only see the bright slides and nothing else. The presenter was at standing near his laptop (he did not have a wireless presenter and so had to stand at one place). He was just not visible.

This brings me to the topic of the day:
"How should you manage the room lighting while presenting?"

Well, the focus of this sales pitch or for that matter any presentation is on the presenter. We have come to listen to him. He is the one who is pitching and asking me to shell out my time and money. So should he hide himself while talking? (unless ofcourse I have come to see a video or a movie)

No. The presenter should never be invisible. The lights near the screen should be switched off but lights falling on the presenter and the audience should be on. If I can't see you, how am I going to understand you? It's a recipe for disaster. All the basics of good presentation, eye contact, connecting with the audience thrown right out of the window. There it fell on the road, thud!

It was very difficult for me as an audience to not be able to see the presenter. I was really troubled and so will any member of the audience. So what I did do about it? I asked asked the presenter (after about 15 minutes) to switch on the lights above him and above us. And I advice anybody who is in my position to do the same. Let there be light!

Image credit: Pixomar

Jan 25, 2010

TED India Talk: Devdutt Pattanaik - Why is India different from the West?

Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer with the Future Group (Big Bazaar), India. His talk at TED India which took place in Mysore last year is fascinating and exciting. It also answers what the words 'Chief Belief Officer' mean. You must watch his talk (18 mins) here:

Devdutt's presentation is on an uncommon topic; linking mythology to business. How is India different from the West? How is Indian business style connected to its mythology? Why the clash of civilisations is imminent and what we can do about it?

There is a lot to learn about presentation making from Devdutt's presentation. Here are a few of my observations:

1. Start with a story: Devdutt is well aware that his topic is kind of esoteric. If not made interesting, he will loose his audience half-way. To make the content interesting and understandable he chose to tell us the story of Lord Ganesh and his brother Kartikeya.

You need to appreciate that this story helps Devdutt firmly establish his model of 'The World and My World'. If Devdutt was an average presenter, he would have started with a table like this:

This is the very first point which Devdutt talks about and the entire presentation is based upon the understanding of 'My World and The World'. Using a story to establish this framework has worked well for Devdutt.

Stories also make the message easy to remember. Days after you would have forgotten about what Devdutt exactly said, you'll remember Ganesh & Kartikeya and Alexander & the Gymnosophist. And once you remember them, you'll remember the core message as well. That's the power of stories in action.

2. Passion: You can see his passion for the subject. It is infectious and it is charming. We listen to people who are passionate about their stuff. Devdutt surely is.

3. Minimal Use of Slides: This is perhaps the biggest lesson that we should take from Devdutt. People have come to listen to what Devdutt has to 'say'. He has used slides as an aid, as a support to help him explain his point better. That's it. When he talks about Alexander, he shows you an image. When he talks of Ganesha, he shows you an image.

He does let his slides overtake his presentation. The focus of the talk is Devdutt and he ensures that people look at him and listen to him and ignore the slides. And that's exactly what we do. If there are too many slides and too much text on it or too much happening on the slides then our focus will move from the presenter to the slides. Remember, you are the focal point of the presentation and not your slides. The less they interfere, the better.

Overall, I consider Devdutt as an actor who has given a passionate performance of what he believes in.

Jan 22, 2010

4 Challenges of Talking to an Audience for the First Time

Few days back I was asked by a popular MBA entrance institute to give a talk to a group of students. This institute prepares students for MBA entrance exams. I was asked to guide them on how to crack Group Discussions (called GDs) which is an essential part of almost every MBA institute's entrance process in India. I had worked with the institute last year on the same thing and so was invited again.

So here I was. Talking to a group of 25 students, all of them working with leading software companies. This was my first interaction with them and my task was clear. I had to connect with them right from the start and to share with them all the tips and tricks I had.

Talking to an audience for the first time is a challenge. There are 4 challenges you need to overcome as a speaker.

1. How to connect with the audience from the very start?
2. How to make a good first impression?
3. How to understand and know more about the audience?
4. How to establish credibility so that the audience listens to you and does what you say?

1. How to connect with the audience from the very start?

Connecting with the audience is a tough task. That too with an audience you have never met. To some it comes naturally while others have to practice it.

Think of the last time you met a stranger for a meeting. What happened? Did you get along well? Did you start talking about things and never felt uncomfortable? If you have this knack then think of the presentation as meeting with people individually. This will give you the confidence and you will be able to connect.

If you do not have a knack of connecting with people immediately, I suggest you become consciously aware that you are meeting a group of strangers. Smile a lot, establish good eye contact, have open gestures and stand close to the audience. Do not park yourself in one corner of the room. Staying close, looking into the eye and smiling helps connect with the audience better.

2. How to make a good first impression?

While you are trying to connect with the audience, your audience is also evaluating you. People judge others by first impressions. So, as a speaker, you have to get the first 5 to 10 minutes right in order to impress your audience. And here is what you should do.

Introduction - At the very start, introduce yourself properly. Share details about yourself which are relevant and places you in the right light. Talk about your relevant experience and achievements without boasting too much.

Dress appropriate - The choice of dress (formal / casual / etc.) should suit the occasion. Do not over dress.

Dress well - Wear your favourite dress. The dress which you like more than others. It helps.

Talk sense - Do not talk things which are irrelevant. You need not start a talk with a joke unless there is some merit in doing so. Be natural, stay calm and start getting into the groove.

3. How to understand and know more about the audience?

To connect with the audience you have to talk about things which the audience can relate to. You have to be relevant. But how can you, without knowing your audience well?

In my case, though I was talking to this group for the first time, I had met similar people the last time around. So I assumed that these people will not be too different. It was a safe assumption to make.

What if it was the first talk I was giving? How did I manage last year when I was actually meeting them (or people like them) for the very first time?

Well there are always ways and means to know a bit about your audience. I could have asked the organisers to share with me the profile of the group. I could have called the organisers and asked them to brief me about the audience, their needs, their expectations and their problems. Worse case, I can ask the group to share their background and expectations right at the start of the talk (after introducing myself).

Whatever it may be, you have to know your audience before you start speaking.

4. How to establish credibility so that the audience listens to you?

As a speaker (and more so as a teacher/trainer), the most important thing for you to do is to establish credibility. Why should the audience listen to you? The audience has never met you and might have never heard about you (unless you are Obama or Steve Jobs or Narayan Murthy). You may be famous in your own circle but you need to prove that to a group of strangers.

So establish your credibility at the start and reinforce it (if need be later on). Credibility can be established in many ways.

- Talk about your experience

- Talk about your educational qualification
- Tell them that you conducted this training last year and how successful it was

All of it need not be at the start. Some of it can be subtly mentioned when the need arises.
Remember to be specific when you talk. Generic statements hold no water.

The next time you have a talk in front a completely new audience, don't panic. Understand the audience and their expectations before hand. Make a solid first impression and connect with the audience right from the word go. And make sure you establish your credentials to ensure people listen to you.

All the very best!

Image credits: Nicholas Tarling, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, vegadsl, Simon Houden.

Jan 18, 2010

Download free PowerPoint Templates

On Friday my old friend Sid called. He was going to make a presentation to a bunch of sales guys about Mutual funds and he was looking for a suitable template.

If you type 'free powerpoint templates' you will get 5.92 million results on Google and 6.09 million on Bing. But searching on Google might take some time. That's because you are looking for a specific template. In such cases, all you need to do is prioritise.

What you should do is find out 2 or 3 good websites which provide free templates. Then go and search these sites instead of wandering around on Google.

On of my favourite sites to download PowerPoint templates has been 'MS Office Online'. I used to use this site back in college days. In the last few years I have never downloaded a template.

There are two ways to visit the site. You can bookmark the URL and access from your browser. If you forget the URL you need not worry. The link is part of MS PowerPoint.

In Office 2007

Open a presentation -> Go to Design tab -> Click on down arrow to open the Themes -> Click on More Themes on Microsoft Office Online -> Click on Template categories (in the website) -> Choose PowerPoint. The process is almost similar in Office 2003.

You can go the templates page directly by clicking here.
MS Office Online Templates

There are 9 categories under which templates have been classified. There are 62 templates under Academic and 80 under Business. Though by no means exhaustive I still feel the site has a good collection of templates.

If you have never been on the site, you must definitely check it out. If you have your own favourite websites where you download templates from, share the link and help all of us here :)

Jan 15, 2010

1st Anniversary of the Blog

I am very happy to share with you that our blog 'All About Presentations' has completed one year of existence. It was on January 14th last year that I started off the blog. I started the blog with two objectives:

1. Learn more about making presentations, and
2. Share all my learnings with you.

I have been trying my best to write useful content in simple language. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.

I would take this opportunity to thank my better half (it was her idea to start this blog) and to all the friends/relatives, readers and fellow bloggers who have commented, shared feedback and encouraged me.

As the blog enters its 2nd year, all I would say is: 'Expect more exciting stuff.'

Vivek (aka Poza)

Jan 13, 2010

Sharing Presentations Online

How do we share presentations with others online? We email it to them. That is how people have been sharing presentations with me. Recently a reader emailed me a 2MB+ presentation which took quite a lot of time to download.

While most people just email the .PPT/.PPTX file to the receiver there are others who convert it to PDF to save on size. I consider conversion to PDF a good idea (unless your presentation has animation, because animation will not work in PDF). PDFs look nice and occupy less space.

What else can you do to make the sharing easy and viewing experience better?

Slideshare. I strongly recommend you open a slideshare account. Having a slideshare account helps you upload files upto 100MB and then share it with others. You have an option of sharing the files only with the people you want to. After uploading you can choose to show the file to 'Only Me' in sharing. This is called Private Sharing, as opposed to Public Sharing. When you share publicly anyone can view the presentation. Once you share privately, you have a secret URL which you can send to others. To view the secret URL, click on the presentation. To your left you will find this URL. Only people who have this secret URL can view your presentation. It is a wise idea to use slideshare for sharing extremely bulky presentations.

These are the 3 ways I know of sharing presentations online. Which one do you use? Is there any other method which you use? Share your sharing technique with me.

Image: Danilo Rizutti

Jan 11, 2010

Create Magic in PowerPoint

Today I am going to share a very interesting trick with you. I read about the basic technique in this post by Jan Schultink. I have added another dimension to the trick to make it more appealing. Learn the trick and then try to use it to amaze your audience at an opportune moment.

How to create this effect on PowerPoint?

This trick is actually very simple. All you need to do is to check this small presentation which explains all the 6 steps:

Now that you know the trick, go out and use it in your presentations. Make them more appealing and thrill the audiences. Best wishes for all your presentations.

Jan 6, 2010

How to create a Lunar Eclipse Effect in PowerPoint?

PowerPoint is an amazing tool. It can do a lot more than what you think it can. There is nothing impossible with PowerPoint. If you have a crazy idea and you think you can't do it on PowerPoint or it is too complicated, think again.

While playing with PowerPoint just a while back I got this weird idea. Can we create an Eclipse Effect in PowerPoint? How do we re-create a total lunar eclipse where the Earth casts its shadow over the Moon and gradually eclipses it totally and then moves over.

Read to find how to create this 'cool' trick in PowerPoint in just 5 minutes. You can also see screenshots in the presentation below to understand the steps better. For best results, view the presentation in full screen mode.

Step-1 You need a blank slide
Open a new file in PowerPoint. Right click on the slide panel (on the left) -> Under Layout, choose Office Theme 'Blank'. Now you have a blank slide with you.

Step-2 Make the background black (to act as the night sky)
Go to Design -> Background Styles -> Choose a complete black slide. Alternatively, you can insert a rectangle in PowerPoint (from Insert Tab). Expand it to cover the slide and make it black.

Step-3 Draw the Moon
Insert -> Shapes -> Choose an Oval -> Draw a circle in the middle of the slide.
Select the circle -> Go to Format Tab -> Enter 8 for Shape Height & Shape Width. This will make it a perfect circle with diameter 8 units.
Step-4 Make the Moon white
By default the colour of the shape is blue. Select the circle -> Right click -> Format Shape -> Choose Solid Fill, colour White -> Click on Line Color option on the left -> Choose no line (this removes the blue outline)
Step-5 Put the Moon in the Center of the slide
Select the circle -> Under Home Tab -> Under Arrange -> Choose Align Center (this places the Moon in the center horizontally) -> Choose Align Middle (this places the Moon in the center vertically)

Step-6 Create Earth's shadow
Copy the circle (CTRL C & CTRL V). You now have two white colour circles on the slides. Choose the newly created shape and make it completely black. Right Click -> Format Shapes -> Solid Fill, colour black

Step-7 Place the Earth's shadow away from the Moon
This black shape is the shadow of the Earth on the Moon. Move Earth's shadow onto the left-bottom corner of the slide. You can drag the object by mouse or use a more accurate technique. Choose the shape -> Home Tab -> Arrange -> Align Left -> Align Bottom

Step-8 Set up the Animation
We need to visualize how Earth's shadow will move over the Moon, eclipse it fully (because it is an object of the same size) and then move across.

Select Earth's shadow -> Animations ->Custom Animation -> Add Effect -> Motion Paths -> Draw Custom Path -> Line.

Now click on the center of the Earth's shadow, drag the line diagonally up (top right of the slide). Try to pass the line approximately from the center of the Moon.

Step-9 Fine Tune the Animation (Reduce the speed to make it look like a real eclipse)
If you have drawn the line well, then in slideshow mode you can see your animation. On one left click, your Earth's shadow will pass over the Moon and move across. But the speed is too fast. By default the speed chosen is Medium.

Click on Earth's shadow -> Under Custom Animation panel on the right -> Under Speed -> Choose Very Slow.

If you want an eclipse even slower than this then: Click on Earth's shadow -> Under Custom Animation panel on the right -> Click on the right of the 'Oval' -> Choose Timing -> Under Speed type 20 -> Press Ok (This make the speed at 30 seconds, which is extremely slow)

Now you can go to SlideShow mode (Shortcut: SHIFT+F5) and on one click the animation starts. Depending on your liking you can enter a speed higher or lower.

Step-10 Fine Tuning (Making the Earth bigger)
In case you are not able to make the Earth's shadow cut the Moon fully, try this trick. Increase the shape height and width of Earth's shadow to 9 units. Then re-align the shape to the right-bottom of the slide. Now it will be easier for Earth's shadow to cut across (overlap) the Moon.

Surprise your friends and colleagues with a 'home-made' eclipse.

Jan 4, 2010

Avoid The Edges

We all want to deliver a successful presentation. But the success of our presentation is not entirely in our hands. It depends on many things. On how you have planned the content, how you have designed the slides and how you deliver the presentation. But even then your presentation can go haywire. And the reason can be as small as 'improper projection'.

I don't know about other countries but certainly here in India a lot of times the projector happens to be a presenter's biggest enemy. Ruining the look and feel of the best of slides.

One possible problem which I have seen quite often is that the edges of the slides get cut due to adjustment problems. The projection does not fall in sync with the screen on the wall.

If you call the IT guy or try your hand and the solution does not come within 5 minutes, stop trying and move on. This is however a 'cure' approach. Curing the problem after it occurs.

One simple preemptive solution would be: Avoid text on the edges of the slides. Maintain a good gap between the edges and your text on all the four sides of the slide.

This solution takes away a lot of unnecessary tension from your mind.

Inspite of your best efforts if your text does get cut you should never say; "The text is getting cut due to a projector problem." Remember one thing. Every single problem which reduces your presentation's effectiveness is YOUR problem. Because it is YOUR presentation which is getting ruined or impacted. An excuse will not help. Tackle the problem and move on. If you can come 30 minutes before the start and check these projector problems, that will be better.

Jan 1, 2010

Best of the Month: December 09

Dear friends

December was personally an exciting month for me. I was blessed with a baby boy on December 21 and since then I have been very busy (with work, travel and the baby). The baby and my wife both are doing fine.

The new year is here. This new year I plan to bring some 'new' stuff on the blog. But before we launch into 2010 let's just look back at December 09. Like I do every month, in this post I recap the most read posts of the last month and the most read posts on the blog since inception.

6 reasons you should not ask your subordinate to make your slides was the most read post of the month. It has come out from my own experience of making slides which others present. The post highlights problems like loss of meaning, relevance, time management, flow, etc. The next post to this also offers the solutions and talks about how to outsource your presentation.

Another post which saw reader interest was on
designing a fresh template for your presentation. I read it on another blog and posted it with my comments and suggestions. This post shares a new and easy to make template which is very eye-catchy.

The 3 most read posts on the blog till date are:

How to make sponsorship proposal presentations?
How many slides should a 30 minute presentation have?
How to make business review presentations?*

* This post has risen from No. 4 to No. 3 this month and has taken over '7 presentation tips from Dr. Stephen Covey'

Thanks for reading and best wishes for the new year.