Oct 2, 2009

How to make award winning presentations?

On August 22, I had talked about a presentation by Dan Roam. He had entered it in the slideshare contest 2009. It was called Healthcare Napkins All. I had analyzed why it was an innovative way of presenting and we had a lot to learn from it.

The result of the slideshare contest
was announced recently. Dan Roam had won. I was not at all surprised.

While browsing through the names of other winners I saw another excellent presentation called Feels Bad On The Back. It is by Mohamad Faried and has won the 3rd prize (out of 3721 entries). You can check it out here:

What is required to make an award winning presentation?
Mohamad's presentation has been seen by over 3000 people in a month. More than that, it is being liked by people. Shared by people. We will understand how to make an award winning presentation by analyzing Feels Bad On The Back.

If you have not seen it, have a look and then read the analysis.

1. Think Different
This presentation is about kidneys. But it does not start by saying what is a kidney and why we should worry about it. That would be obvious. And when the audience knows what is coming next they loose interest. Mohamad chooses a not-so-obvious route. He thinks differently. He shows you what you were not expecting. Kidney like shapes from swimming pools to
the breakfast table. He puts a smile on your face at the start. Thus he is able to build interest slowly into the presentation.

When you make your next presentation, ask yourself what is the obvious way to start. Then go ahead and turn it upside down. Choose a different way to start your presentation. Something your audience would never have expected.

2. Analogy
How do you make your content understandable and memorable? Mohamad could have said, "Your kidney weighs 150gm (in males) and 130gm (in females). It is 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide." That is logical and that is right. But is that memorable? Is that interesting? I mean, a kidney weighs 150gm is very tough to visualize. Mohamad realizes that and hence uses analogy. You know how big your fist is and that a kidney just weighs as much as an iPod.

The next time you are presenting facts, stop and ask yourself, "Can I ignore the facts and present an analogy and convey the same thing more effectively."

3. Humor
This is basically a presentation which shares information about kidney disease and how you can guard yourself against it. The author has purposefully added humor in the presentation. Humor keeps audience interest from waning. Let's be honest, how many people would like to read about kidneys? It's a boring topic (not for the presenter but for the audience). You need to make it interesting.

If you are presenting something serious (and possibly boring), look for opportunities to add humor. Add it at three places. Once at the start, once in the middle and again at the end. Too much humor or too less is not advisable.

4. Effective Visuals
Visuals on every slide aids your understanding. Waste product increases in front of your eyes as you move from slide 27 to 28. The loss of balance in the body is depicted with a powerful and neat visual in slide 29. The images are simple, relevant and uncluttered.

Don't treat images as secondary objects which need to be force fitted in some corner of the slide.
Give text and images equal importance. Have an eye for neat visuals. Build a database of good images. You may not find them just when you need them.

5. Aesthetics
The overall look and feel of the presentation is very nice. The choice of font colors (red, black, blue and grey) is meaningful. Contrast between text and slide is great. A white background allows you to play around with colors much more than any other background color. Observe that there is no template. Actually almost all 'great' presentations never follow any template.

Start with an blank canvas. You don't need to compulsorily have a template. Stick to white background and use colors which are bright and go well with each other.

So if your presentation has all these five elements will you win? May be. The reason this presentation has won is not only because of these five factors. The bigger reason is that it has met its presentation objective.

Presentation Objective
A presentation wins or loses only if it meets or does not meet its objectives. First, you need to know clearly what you want to achieve with the presentation. Second, you need to plan the content and design the slides so that you achieve the objective.

This presentation aims to educate you about kidney disease and it meets is objective. It has a narrow but clear focus. It does not aim to do too much. Just enough to make you aware that you might be at risk and you don't even know about it (remember, kidney is a silent disease). It tells you about kidneys, their role, kidney disease and how to take care of them. It has not talked about many things. But it talks about what is core and essential. Mohamad knows how to prioritize content. What to keep and what to remove. That's the key to his success.

Why don't you share a presentation that you have liked in the recent past. Also tell us what makes you like it.

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