At SOPRESO, we try hard to bring presenters and audiences together. We enable audience members to ask questions from the presenter online, to vote, and to share their virtual business cards.
After the presentation, the presenters can answer questions, see analytics, and do much more with our new product: SOPRESO.
Just learned about SOPRESO when they reblogged one of my posts and was delighted when I saw what they are up to. I am looking forward to trying this out. Making presentations more engaging is always on my to do list.
In my latest rant on why I think people should STOP HATING ON POWERPOINT … I came across the WSJ Corporate Intelligence blog post entitled “Did PowerPoint Ruin GM?” This inspired today’s slide in which I suggest that “If William Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat were painted today … it might just be a copy of the PowerPoint icon.”
Sure it’s easy to shoot the messenger. And yes, PowerPoint is used extremely badly in many contexts. And yes, it can encourage people to oversimplify concepts too much … if they stick strictly to using slidedecks when other means of communication would be better, alone or in conjunction with slidedecks.
Maybe we should blame telephones because people didn’t share the right conversations. Or Microsoft Word because the report didn’t include the right words. Or the pen for … you get the idea. If a check bounces we don’t blame the check. Tools used badly end up with bad results.
In fairness the article does go on to say: “Lengthy slide presentations have been a substitute for meaningful communication at GM since before Microsoft’s ubiquitous PowerPoint software was invented.” So it does move the discussion beyond just blaming PowerPoint.
But the headline does feed into the common belief that PowerPoint is evil. I would suggest that it’s just misunderstood.
A PowerPoint chart showing “Why people watch the World Cup”
Figured I’d use the World Cup to demonstrate a little PowerPoint trick today. The data used for the chart is completely and utterly non-scientific and just used for demonstration and humor purposes.
This is probably not the color scheme I would use if I were doing this slide for real but I just grabbed the first image that came up when I search the clip art for soccer ball (please forgive my American ways, I know it’s football/futbol/futbal/futball … see this is why I searched soccer ball, tee hee).
Anyway the point of this whole adventure is that you can set the color format of a part of a chart, such as this pie to No Fill and put an image behind it, such as this ball. I wouldn’t use this if the data points themselves were really important, but in this case it’s just to show that in my imaginary informal poll of World Cup fans that most are in it for the aesthetics more than the athletics.
Enjoy and good luck to your team or favorite player!
"For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice." Don Hutson, NFL Hall of Fame Receiver
This is the math that people don’t like to hear. This the reality of greatness, whether it’s sports or presenting or whatever. It takes practice. Sure there will be times when you will have to communicate off-the-cuff. But the only way to be ready for those moments is to have practiced how to be ready for those moments.
You can’t wait for the ball to be sailing toward your head to figure it out.
Today’s slides are brought to you by esoterics and aesthetics.
We sometimes make quick cards for certain technical training topics. I can make a quick slide, save it as an image. Copy and paste four copies of the image on a landscaped sheet of card stock. Print them up (often two-sided) and have them chopped into four pieces. Easy peasy cards.
Just to keep things simple for example purposes I’ll show you a card that reminds people that you can use the Ctrl key to change the function of the copy command in Excel when you drag across a range of cells. The topic isn’t that important but it gives me a chance to illustrate something.
When I first put the slide together I had the orange banner across the slide. The more I looked at it, there was something off about it. I changed the color a few times and when I landed on green it hit me. Green is the color of Excel. Look at the icon. In the Microsoft Office suite Excel is green . PowerPoint is orange.
Esoteric. Yep. But it was a subconscious thing. And it points to issues of branding. If you are making slides/handout/printed job aid/whatever the color you choose should be consistent (if possible) or at least complementary to the colors of the topic. And colors can be great ways to segment or categorize portions of training so it is clear which section you are in. Color is an easy way to distinguish and designate.
The other aesthetic point that I’ll mention today is about the font choice (which we have touched on in several other ways recently). But notice that the is a default font in Excel. If you haven’t changed it, the text in Excel will appear as Arial. If I am using a lot of screen captures in documentation, I want to make sure that I pick a font that matches or coordinates with the font in the screen captures. Again, very esoteric. But important.
Particularly if you are working with technical documentation, learning, or job aids, you want to make it as easy for the viewer to process the information as possible.
Doing a little throwback Thursday, reusing an image I posted a couple of months ago but it seemed appropriate after I read an article this morning about boosting your communication success.
The article discusses for key things you can do: (1) As the speaker, ask questions; (2) As the listener, repeat what you heard; (3) At the end of the conversation, summarize; and (4) Send a follow-up e-mail. These are great tips since any communication, as pictured above, it a dance with each participant leading and following, speaking and listening.
People forget that part of speaking to be understood is listening and part of listening actively is speaking. The latter is particularly tricky for some (especially some women) who feel they are interrupting is they try and get a question in. But asking a question shows interest in the speaker, the topic, and a desire to get it right if it is a request for action.
Years ago in a customer service course I facilitating we did an active listening exercise on the CAPS listening skills which stands for Clarifying, Acknowledging, Probing, and Summarizing. Each of these skills can be practiced until they become natural ways of participating in conversations. I’ll go into more detail about the CAPS skills in the next post.
Too often fonts are chosen solely for their visual impact. Or someone likes a particular font. It’s easy to read. It’s cool. It’s pretty. It’s the default font in the application.
However, fonts are more than just the visuals. They give the presentation a voice and people will react to them emotionally. And emotions rule. Facts are great but it takes reaching the audience’s emotions to really spur action or trigger interest and memory.
in a 2006 study a series of fonts were rated on a number of personality traits. Georgia was considered formal, practical, and assertive. Kristen was creative, happy, and exciting. Impact was masculine, rigid, and rude.
So are your fonts working with or against you and your message?
First emails became the communication mode of choice. Now, increasingly, presentations are seen as the way business communicates. I’m seeing more an more applications that allow for quick creation of presentations for desktop and mobile devices. This is a mixed blessing since many communications could definitely benefit from visuals and multimedia over just a written communication. However, these quick fix apps don’t solve the big problem that many presentations of all sorts have which is a lack of good content.
Today I came across a reference to slidebean which I had not encountered before. So I took a few minutes to play a little with it. There is a free version which allows basic functionality and keeps your presentations public and there is a paid version with a few more bells and whistles. The application is still in beta so I won’t be too critical (and in fairness I had limited time to experiment).
I was able to create the slide show above very easily and there were a few things I really liked. For instance, the first screen after I put in a title for my presentation said: “All set. Focus on your content. Pick a design when you are done.” Seeing this made me happy since it was encouraging people to think first. Plan their message and then worry about making it pretty.
As with other apps of this type you have a fairly limited range of layouts and color schemes but it could be enough in some circumstances. It particularly makes embedding and auto-playing video clips a snap. I could see myself creating a few intro and follow-up slides to wrap around an instructional video to make a nice little learning moment.
The image searching wasn’t as good as some other apps I’ve tested but I could always upload my own images or find them on other sites so I wasn’t hugely upset by this limitation. I didn’t like the attribution being in the upper left corner however. The way the brain works that’s where the eye goes first on any screen so I found it a little distraction from the slide’s message. It that could be at the bottom, I’d like it a lot better.
Again, this is just some initial impressions. I’ll check back with slidebean again and see where the development is going and dig a little deeper. It won’t solve all of my current presentation needs but I’ll keep it on the radar.
Notice I didn’t ask which is easier to read. But the answer would be the same. Almost a decade ago Song and Schwarz conducted an experiment that showed that “If It’s Hard to Read, It’s Hard to Do.” Or at least that is our perception. The ease with which we can take in new information matters. The instructions one either side are identical, down to the line breaks, but it takes a lot more effort to get through the copy on the right. The brain has to work a lot harder just to process the text.
So think about this the next time you are creating slides to inform or inspire action. The goal should always be to make it as easy as possible for the audience to learn or be moved to action. Don’t make the wade through the font swamp which will leave them exhausted and sweaty and then expect them to hop on your ideas.