Presentation help is here.

Do your PowerPoint presentations suffer from any of the common ailments? I am referring to things like too much text, lack of relevant images, and overuse of bullet points. If you want your presentations to have more pizzazz, a good place to start is by cutting. In the article below, Michael Campbell of Radiate Presentation Design provides four key questions to help you cut—and improve—your presentations. 

For additional guidance, visit the Training & Communications page.


Four Questions to Help Ruthlessly Cut Your Presentation

by Michael Campbell, Radiate Presentation Design

If you’re a regular speaker, trainer, or sales professional you have your “deck.” It’s like a stump speech for a politician. It’s the go-to set of slides you modify and adjust for every speaking engagement.

Are you ready for some hard truth? Anecdotally, we’ve all seen a vast number of poorly designed presentations. If that holds true, there is a high likelihood your deck has problems. It’s too long, too text-heavy and not persuasive. How do I know? I don’t. Maybe you’re one of the rare ones with a deck inspired by the likes of Garr Reynolds or Nancy Duarte. But hey! We all need a reality check now and then. So, here’s an exercise to help you review your deck and ruthlessly evaluate the value of each slide.

Do a “save as” on your deck and let’s run through your slides one at a time. As you review each slide, ask these four questions:

  1. Does this information make my case?
  2. Can I memorize this information?
  3. Can I move this information to a handout?
  4. Would a visual make this information more memorable?

Be objective. Think about each slide from the perspective of your audience. Your answers should result in three outcomes: you delete the slide, you rework the slide, or you keep the slide as-is. If you decide to delete the slide, just do it—hit the delete key. If you decide to rework the slide, then draw a big red box or circle on the slide and come back to it later.

Question 1: Does this information make my case?

Imagine you’re a lawyer building a case. You have to present a sound and convincing case to the jury (your audience). As you review your slides imagine an opposing lawyer standing up and yelling “Objection your honor! Relevance?” Can you justify the relevance of this slide? Does it help build a convincing case for the audience? To use another metaphor, think of your presentation as a movie script. Screenwriters will tell you that each scene needs to advance the plot. Does this slide advance the story you are telling?

Question 2: Can I memorize this information?

Do you remember the first few minutes of every Star Wars film, when the prologue text crawls up the screen into infinite space? Imagine how boring those movies would be if the entire story was told that way—with two hours of scrolling text. If you’re looking at a slide full of bullets and text then you’re looking at your speaker notes. You know this material cold. Do you expect your audience to read along with you? Consider deleting sub-bullets and “speak to” the information from memory (with a little help from your notes). Bullet points should be one or two words long—they’re just data points to visually aid your audience.

Before and After Slides_BulletPoints.jpg

Question 3: Can I move this information to a handout?

There is another possibility when looking at a slide crammed with text. This may be an occasion for a handout. A great example is a tips and tricks slide. If you have a long list of tips and tricks (or dos and don’ts) consider moving them to a handout and making it available to your audience. Let them follow along while you review the content. Best of all, your audience will really appreciate the practical takeaway.

Before and After Slides_Tips Moved.jpg

Question 4: Would a visual make this information more memorable?

Assume your audience has limited short-term memory—because they do. How can you make information more memorable? The first thing, of course, is to simplify everything. The best way to present memorable information is to present less of it.

The human brain can handle about three things at a time, four tops. So lower your expectations on how much information you can memorably convey. Finally, think about enhancing your words with one visual. Notice, I said one visual. Again, keep it simple. All of the human brains in your audience are equipped to process visual information quickly (two-thirds of our brains are dedicated to processing visual information). When you see an opportunity to add a visual—do it. Visuals increase memorability and arouse emotions that can influence and inspire your audience.

Before and After Slides.jpg

So how’d you do? Did you delete some slides? Are looking to rework, redesign and add visuals? This approach requires an honest evaluation of your work. You may end up with a lean and memorable deck, but you also have more memorization and handout preparation added to the bargain. But I challenge you to give it a try. Evaluate your deck ruthlessly. Next time you speak; take the edited version for a test drive. And don’t forget to practice.


About the Author

Michael Campbell is a Presentation Strategist and Creative Director at Radiate Presentation Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Radiate creates high stakes and visually compelling presentations for Fortune 500 companies, bootstrapping start-ups and dynamic center-stage speakers. You can view project samples and read more about Radiate at www.radiatepresents.com.

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Turn ideas into a speaking proposal.

When you last attended an industry conference or even just reviewed an event brochure, what content holes did you see? This could fuel ideas for you to submit a speaking proposal for a future conference. In January, I encouraged readers to make 2016 the year to strengthen their professional biographies, mentioning the pursuit of speaking opportunities as one possible action. I expand on that now, offering some suggestions for the various stages of a speaking endeavor.

The Proposal

The second half of the year is generally when speakers are chosen for conferences the following year, so spring is a good time to think about this. Do not be intimidated if a speaking role would be new for you. Most conference organizers do not require prior speaking experience; the ultimate goal is having good content from a variety of individuals. Consider your past successes, including any challenges you overcame in the process. You can translate these stories into tips and advice for others.  

Presentation Preparation

If you are selected as a speaker, above all, ensure your presentation aligns with the published session description, so attendees are not disappointed. To make your content stand out among the dozens of other presentations, check out these two previous blog posts:  

Conference Arrival

Use your session as an icebreaker during networking events. As you meet fellow attendees, share that you’ll be doing a presentation on “X.” Ask about their experiences with the topic to gain additional perspectives that you could add to your session.

What experiences or expertise do you have that could make a great presentation?

What experiences or expertise do you have that could make a great presentation?

Final Thoughts

If you will be attending a conference this spring like I am (in my case, NAPCP next month), this might make it easier to think of ideas for a future session you would like to propose. However, regardless of your speaking intentions, be sure to make your next conference experience count by planning ahead. This was something I addressed in a post last year and I found it useful to re-read my own words.

 

 


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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How to present numbers with flair.

Delivering a presentation filled with numbers/statistics creates an added challenge for any presenter. For expert advice, Recharged Education invited Michael Campbell, Radiate Presentation Design, to offer tips. Before stepping in front of another audience, whether it is your management or industry peers, ensure your presentation meets Michael’s “three Bs” of presenting numbers. 


The Three Bs of Presenting Numbers

by Michael Campbell, Radiate Presentation Design

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, millions of presentations have begun in boardrooms, conference rooms and coffee shops around the world. And while I don’t have an exact figure, we can assume these presentations feature a goodly share of numbers—lots of numbers. As vital symbols for storytelling, numbers quantify progress and failure. They offer a sense of scope and scale. They add, subtract, multiply and divide our understanding of a situation. Unfortunately, a vast percentage of these numbers are unreadable, under-utilized and under-valued in presentations.

“You probably can’t read this in the back row.”

We’ve all been in the back row for these presentations. Heck, even the folks in the front row are squinting as the speaker clicks through spreadsheets and screen shots with tiny numbers. How do we stop the madness? How do we give numbers their due? It’s simple, really. When building presentations, we need to be mindful of the three "Bs" of presenting numbers: make them Big, Bold and Beautiful.

Big Numbers

Wizards are one of the biggest problems in presentations today. Not the white-bearded fellows who take you on quests for dragon’s gold. I’m talking about the step-by-step, "hand-holding" assistants in programs like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. Wizards promise "beautiful charts and graphs" in minutes—no design experience necessary—just turn the crank and Voila! Unfortunately, most people don’t look back after they’ve clicked "Create Chart.” The result is usually a pie or bar chart with a Day-Glo palette and tiny numbers in Arial Bold. Few presenters stop to consider the readability of these "insta-charts" for their audience—especially the poor folks in the back row who are destined to receive an apology from the speaker for the “eye-chart.”

If you are using a wizard, take another moment to review and reflect on the readability of the chart or graph. Step back eight feet from your monitor. Can you read it? Think about your audience. Can they read it? Guess what? You’re more powerful than a wizard. You can override their wizarding results. Double-click the numbers and double their size from 12 point to 24 point. Change the colors—double-click and darken pie slices for greater contrast. It only takes a few minutes and a few extra steps to ensure your audience gets the true impact of the numbers.

Figure 1 - The pie chart on the left is directly from the PowerPoint chart wizard. The pie chart on the right shows what five minutes of editing can do to improve readability. 

Figure 1 - The pie chart on the left is directly from the PowerPoint chart wizard. The pie chart on the right shows what five minutes of editing can do to improve readability. 

Bold Numbers

A no-brainer, you say? Just click the "B" on the formatting toolbar and "BAM!" your numbers are bold. Yes, formatting numbers with bold helps readability; however, let’s consider another definition of boldness. I’m talking about Mick Jagger boldness. As the front man of one of the biggest arena acts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Jagger uses his voice and body language to entertain his fans—even in the upper deck—with no apologies. So why are so many presenters hiding their numbers in text-heavy bullets? Let your numbers stand out. Give them the spotlight. Give them the microphone. Let them rock the audience.

What’s bolder than a giant set of digits in the middle of a slide? BAM! Now, that’s bold! A celebratory number shouting: we met our goal. A big, bad number representing an obstacle to overcome. A giant target number you want to burn into the memories of your team.

As you review your slides, consider the importance of each number. Find opportunities for boldness. Look for the numbers deserving the spotlight.

Figure 2 – The Rolling Stones wouldn’t get any satisfaction with the top slide—their achievements are buried in the bullets. The slide on the bottom pulls out the big numbers and helps the audience visually grasp their achievements.

Figure 2 – The Rolling Stones wouldn’t get any satisfaction with the top slide—their achievements are buried in the bullets. The slide on the bottom pulls out the big numbers and helps the audience visually grasp their achievements.

Beautiful Numbers

Are you ready for some brain science? When the human brain detects a presentation with the fonts Arial or Calibri, the visual cortex flips an internal switch, sending the brain into a mild state of catatonia. Okay, I made that up. There is, however, some truth to the stimulating effect of beauty on the human brain. What does this all mean for our numeric heroes? There is a big wide world of typography to explore and plenty of free fonts to download and try (check out www.fontsquirrel.com for starters). Don’t stick with the default fonts. Go forth and find a font to enhance the readability and aesthetics of your charts, graphs and tables.

Wait! Hold on—not so fast. Here are some parting words of advice on this subject:

  1. Avoid cursive or script fonts. While beautiful, most often they are not appropriate for displaying numbers.
  2. Take a look at fonts like Bebas Neue and Passion One (both available on Font Squirrel).
  3. Don’t beautify fonts with drop shadows, 3D effects or anything listed under a menu called “Type Effects.”
  4. Look around. Take note of the use of typography in the world around you. I’ve found inspiration in breakfast cereal boxes, ESPN motion graphics, infographics and billboards. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas.
Figure 3     –     Default fonts like Calibri and Arial (top row) are serviceable as readable text, but there can be beauty in numbers. The beautiful fonts above in the lower half of the figure (second row l-r): Bebas Neue, Passion One, Montserrat (third row l-r): Brooklyn Samuels, Recovery.

Figure 3 Default fonts like Calibri and Arial (top row) are serviceable as readable text, but there can be beauty in numbers. The beautiful fonts above in the lower half of the figure (second row l-r): Bebas Neue, Passion One, Montserrat (third row l-r): Brooklyn Samuels, Recovery.


About the Guest Blogger

Michael Campbell is a Presentation Strategist and Creative Director at Radiate Presentation Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Radiate helps clients like Cargill, Land O’Lakes, Hewlett-Packard and Medtronic connect with their audiences using memorable content and visual storytelling. Campbell has a passion for making his clients’ voices heard, their messages understood, and their visions realized. You can view project samples and read more about Radiate at www.radiatepresents.com.

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