Sep 28, 2012

Welcome to All About Presentations

Last two months have been great. The blog has added many new readers and the total count of readers now stands at more than 1300 (RSS Feed + Email subscribers). Since many of you are new to the blog, it is only fair on my part to introduce the blog to you. Here are 5 things you should know.

1. What is my blog about?
This blog is about everything related to making presentations. While I do write about PowerPoint tips once in a while, the scope of this blog is much more. I talk about presentations in general. How to plan your content, how to design the slides and how to deliver a presentation confidently. I cover all of these.

2. Who am I?
My name is Vivek Singh and I am a marketer by profession. I live in Hyderabad in India. Blogging is my hobby. It is my passion to make presentations. I also keenly observe how others present and communicate. Hence a lot of posts are inspired by real life.

3. Why do I blog?
My love for presentations began in IIM Ahmedabad; the place where I did my MBA. In late 2008 I left my job and became a Communications Consultant and worked with a few clients on designing and improving their presentations. It was in January 2009 that I started blogging. Over the last 3 years and 9 months I have written 381 posts.

This blog is my point of view about how presentations ought to be made. This blog is a collection of every bit of wisdom I have gathered about presentations. I want to learn more about presentations and hence I continue to blog.

4. What you should not miss?
This blog has 381 posts and those of you who are new cannot possibly check all of that stuff out. So I have compiled a small list of must read posts. Do not give it a miss.

14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts
This is undoubtedly the best stuff on my blog. I have discussed everything on how to present charts. You can click here to download the e-book. It's free.

Presentation Checklist
This is a simple checklist which you need to answer before starting to work on any presentation. It will help you get complete control over your presentation. It has lots of tips about how to plan your content, how to design slides and how to master delivery. I made it for a presentations workshop I conducted in January 2012.

Design Basics: What makes a design look good?
This 6 part series talks in detail about the basics of good design. These six posts will give you a lot of knowledge about how to make your slides visually appealing. You can read the posts here; 1 2 3 4 5 6

Book Reviews
I keep reading books on presentations and communications. My personal favourites are; Made to Stick and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. I write a detailed book review of every book I read. The posts contain the summary of each book; the main lessons. Check out the following reviews:

PowerPoint is an amazing software and can do much more than making presentations. You can discover a lot of new stuff that you can do with PowerPoint. I have also written about certain special tricks in PowerPoint. Check out these posts:

If you have been asked to make a presentation, this brief is a good place to start. Answer all the questions contained in this small document and you will have a lot of clarity about your presentation. A good document to help you plan better.

5. What I want you to do?
I would love to connect with you, answer your questions and discuss stuff about presentations and PowerPoint. You can like All About Presentations on Facebook and stay in touch. You can always leave a comment on the blog and I will revert within 48 hours. Alternatively, you can email me at: vivek [at] allaboutpresentations [dot] com.

Have a happy weekend.

Sep 20, 2012

9 things to note before you open PowerPoint

What do most people do when asked to make a presentation. They open PowerPoint and then start thinking what to write. Even I have been a culprit of this in my early days as a presenter. Next time you have a presentation, before opening PowerPoint, make a note of these 9 things. You will do a much better job.

1. Are you spending more time on slide designing and less on thinking about what you have to say? Put substance before style. Prepare your content first. Have total clarity about what to say and how. Slide design, images, animations and templates are secondary and can be done later.

2. Your success depends on how well you think and not how well you speak. If you think well and know what to say and how to justify your arguments, most of your job is done. To do well, you need to think well. You are not bad at speaking. You speak all the time!

3. Have a goal for every speech/presentation. Why is the audience here? Have they come to learn, to be inspired or to be entertained? Find out the goal and fulfill it. Work towards when you are planning your content.

4. Respect your audience's time. 100 people in the audience sitting for 20 minutes is equal to 33 hours of their time. You should atleast spend 5 hours preparing. Do not waste 33 hours of time and insult your audience by not preparing. Most presenters do not prepare hard enough before a presentation.

5. Have a clear structure for your talk. What is the topic? What all can you say about the topic. Write down all the statements and arguments. Select five points which you feel most strongly about. Now remember these five and write it down. This is the basic structure of your talk. You will now make your slides, expand and talk in detail about these five points. Add a chart, use an image or say a story about these 5 points. Even if your slides get lost, you will be able to confidently talk about these 5 points. This is the main skeleton on which your talk is based. This is the clear struture of your talk. Come what may your audience will get what you came to say.

6. People have a limited attention span. John Medina says human beings can only pay attention for 10 minutes. When you are presenting, some people pay more attention and some less. Moreover, you can never have the full attention of people who are interested in your talk. There are so many things on everyone's mind. People will switch on and off. Hence you need to give them a simple structure (agenda) at the start and revisit it often. So when people switch back on, they can reconnect with where you are. Make it easy for people to switch back on.

7. Talk about what people care and they will give you their attention. Modify your topic to address audience needs. Know why the audience has come and what they want. If you are relevant to the audience, the audience will definitely listen to you. Take help of the event organisers to know what the audience is looking for. Talk to some members of the audience before the talk and you will have a better understanding of what they care about.

8. On every slide, before placing a chart or a photo or a table you need to ask yourself; 'Why is the audience watching this?'. Retain what is needed and remove what is not. Just because you like an image very much does not mean it should be shown to the audience. If the image is not relevant get rid off it. Have what helps you make the case.

9. Before accepting to speak at an event or conference, ask three questions: a) What does the organiser want from you? b) What does the audience want from you? and c) What are you capable of delivering? Many people are invited to speak at TED, Ignite, PechaKucha and many events and conferences. Never accept to speak at an event unless you have known the answers to the three questions. If you have already accepted to speak and have started preparing, stop by to answer these questions. You will do a much better job once you have these answers.

These tips have are from the book 'Confessions of a Public Speaker' by Scott Berkun. I have already written two posts about the same book. It is a very practical and useful book for any public speaker.

Read more:
Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker
12 tips to help you deliver a better presentation

Sep 15, 2012

12 tips to help you deliver a better presentation

In my last post I reviewed the book 'Confessions of a Public Speaker'. In this book, the author Scott Berkun has talked mostly about how to deliver a presentation well. In this post I share 12 lessons from his book which will help you deliver a presentation or speech better than what you do right now.

1. Do not try to be perfect on stage. You will make mistakes. Accept them, learn from them and move on.

2. No one cares about your mistakes. Audience will not even notice many of your mistakes. So you should stop worrying about your mistakes while presenting.

3. If you are giving a 10 minute talk, prepare for 8 to 9 minutes. You will take more time when you are on stage.

4. Stage fright (fear of public speaking) is natural and every speaker faces it everyday. Use this fear to do well. When you leave a job and start a business, you are scared. You can fail. This fear propels you to do well in your business. Fear is necessary for success.

5. Practice your talk several times before the final speech. Stand up and practice like it is the real thing. Once you become thorough with your content, your stage fright will come down. You will not forget your content on stage.

6. Calm yourself before a presentation. Reach early and make yourself comfortable in the room. Meet the audience members and get to know them. Check your equipments and run through your slides on the projectors. Ensure no technical glitches are there. Reaching a venue late can cause you a lot of tension and stress.

7. Don't go with an assumption that you will get a tough audience. Everyone cannot like you. Some people will always hate you and ask you uncomfortable questions. That's okay. Realise that you also don't like everyone in the world.

8. Everyone pays attention at the start. Use this opportunity. Start well. Share the agenda with the audience and be very enthusiastic. People will decide to listen further only if they like you in the initial moments.

9. Engage the audience. Ask questions, give away prizes. Throw a question/puzzle at the audience. Do not make it a one way traffic where you speak and people listen. Learning happens better by doing, not just by listening.

10. End early. Audience will love you for that. Don't you love when the train/flight reaches early? Don't you love when a meeting ends early and you can reach home early?

11. Be an audience before being a presenter. How it feels to be in an audience? What challenges a speaker faces? Example: Before giving a presentation on video conference attend a similar presentation as an audience.

12. Have a laptop or screen in front of you so you need not look back. Your back should not be facing the audience. The screen can be in the middle of stage (at the ground) facing you.

Sep 14, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

Confessions of a Public Speaker is a book on public speaking by Scott Berkun. This book comes out of the tremendous experience which Scott has gained over the years from giving hundreds of speeches and presentations. I loved reading this book as it is a fast read and full of 'practical' tips. It is highly recommended.

What this books talks about?
This is a book about public speaking. It does not contain tips on how to design slides. It is completely focussed on planning and delivering a speech.

This book will help you overcome the fear of public speaking. It contains tips which ensure you never go completely blank in front of your audience. It also covers how to tackle a tough audience and take charge of the room. It covers the topic of audience attention and tells us when and how to capture our audience's attention. It also contains tips on how to engage an audience. This is not it. This book is based on the authors personal experience of public speaking and handles lots of small but useful areas a new public speaker comes across and has trouble with.

Who should read this book?
If you make presentations or give speeches, you must read this book. It is easy to read, it is practical and there is no theory in it which cannot be applied. Every presentation has three parts; planning the content, designing the slides and delivery. This book covers the first part briefly and ignored the second totally but covers the third part thoroughly. Reading this book will really help you deliver your talk well. Its a book dedicated to delivery.

What is the crux of this book?
I wish to write a few more posts about this book wherein I would like to capture the various lessons given in the book. As of now here are the 5 major lessons from this book.

1. As a speaker, we must accept failure and never aim for perfection. No body is perfect.

2. Practice several times before every presentation. Practice to become confident. Practice to know your content thoroughly well. Practice for confidence not perfection.

3. The speaker should take charge of the room. He is the speaker and he sets the ground rules which audience needs to follow. Do not be meek. Take control of the room.

4. Put substance before style. Before getting lost in fonts and templates, focus on what you are going to say and how. How will you convince the audience to agree to your point of view? You need to think well. It is not how good you speak that matters, what matters is how well you think.

5. Respect your audience. Know why they are here and give them what they deserve. Talk about what they care. Respect their time and finish early.

Where to buy it?
In India, HomeShop 18 gives you the best deal now a days. It's available for Rs. 274. Here is the link for Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US). I make no commission when you click on this link and buy. I highly recommend you read this book. Other than one or two chapters, I found the entire book awesome.

Sep 1, 2012

Brain Rules for Presenters - #10 Vision

This is the second post about the book Brain Rules by John Medina. In the last post I talked about what John Medina has to say about 'Attention' and what it means for presenters. In this post I will cover his tenth rule; 'Vision'.

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses

What the book says:

1. Vision dominates all other senses.

2. Vision is the best tool to learn anything. John Medina says, "The more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized - and recalled." This phenomenon is called the pictoral superiority effect (PSE).

3. We pay a lot of attention to moving objects.

4. We see with our brains. We see what our brain thinks is out there. The reality can be slightly different.

What this means for presenters:

Make our presentations more visual: John Medina clearly says that vision dominates all other senses. There are three ways our audience takes in information during our presentation; they listen, they read and they see. Brain researchers have found that learning by seeing is far better than learning by reading or learning by hearing. Today our presentations are heavy on text. We need to start using more of visuals. We can use photographs, charts and infographics.

Medina further says, "If information is presented orally, people remember about 10%, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65% if you add a picture."

The challenge for us is to start using more of visuals. The challenge is to start converting our slides full of text into visuals. The next time we have a slide which has only text, we can ask ourselves "How do I convert this into a visual?"

Use animations: We pay special attention when any object is in motion. This implies we should use some animations in our presentations. Do not overdo it but start using it. If there is a process chart, showing the elements one by one (using animation) is better than showing the entire chart at one go. We must use videos in our presentations. Videos are highly visual and will capture the attention of our audiences. Three years back I had attended Dr. Stephen Covey's workshop in Hyderabad. He had used a lot of videos. For every topic he spoke about, he had a video to back it up. Sure, he knew the value of videos.

Just look at slides 41 and 42 of the following presentation to see how a table can be made into a nice diagram.