Sure all those themes are enticing or maybe intimidating that come along with Office 2010. You open PowerPoint and you have to make slides for a presentation. Maybe you have a company branded template. Maybe you don’t. Rather than get caught up trying to create visual interest by throwing a bunch of colors on the screen take that time and use it to work on your message. Keep the packaging simple.
White space in printed materials can help with comprehension by helping the reader know where to look. It can provide a way to gather information into digestible chucks. And it can do the same on a slide. When it comes to slides, white never goes out of style.
Well perhaps see isn’t the right verb there but … the point is that if you leave slides showing that you are not actively using when you are presenting in person, you are diverting the audience’s attention. The call of a giant screen is too enticing not to let the eyes flick back while you are talking. And if you have moved on to another topic, or have to divert to answer a question, or are speaking about anything other than what’s currently showing on the screen, you would be better off showing them nothing. Otherwise there is dissonance between what they see on the screen and what they hear. Press B while in a PowerPoint slide show to make the screen black. Or give them a neutral background slide with no content as a backdrop. You are the primary visual aid. Let them focus on you and your message.
Are you up for the challenge? Whether you are a social media enthusiast or a novice to all the cyber options for collaborating, presenting and learning online, there’s always room for one more tool in your toolkit. Be curious. Grow a little. Try something new. Expand your horizons and take the 10 Tools Challenge.
Sometimes the biggest gift you can give your audience is not to present. Does it have to be a presentation? Should it be a presentation? Would an email or blog post or handout suffice or even be better? Is a presentation the right medium for your content? Is immediate interaction necessary? Instantaneous feedback or consensus?
It’s a new year so why are you using the same old slides? How long have you been using those by the way? Really? Hmmm. Don’t you think it’s time you gave those a makeover? Haven’t you learned anything from your past presentations that you could use to improve them? No feedback? Yikes. Or even just freshen them up to a more contemporary style? I mean are you still wearing the same shoes, suit, tie, clothing item of your choice? Things wear out. Things need to be replaced now and then.
And yeah, if you are still using the templates that come with PowerPoint I can tell that you are using an old version of the software or at least a presentation built on an old template. And odds are I’ve seen that template other places. That means when I see it again, I won’t think of you and your presentation I’ll think, oh look someone else is using that same one. I’ll be distracted by the packaging and not the content. I won’t be able to differentiate your content from the other guy’s. I had this happen recently in a class where two of my fellow grad students put up final project slides based on the same template and I kept thinking, gee she used the same template as <fill in a name here>.
So how about you break out those presentations and give them a fresh look. I bet there is something you can do to improve them. And hey, if you want some suggestions, send them my way and I’ll take a look.
Always a lot of great tips over at Indezine and this one is particularly great. People have gotten so used to the snatch and grab approach to finding images to use for work presentations, personal blogs, school projects and the like that it is good to remind people that there are rules (and laws) about using the creative works of others. And with great resources like Flickr that make it easy to do it right, it’s a snap.
How do you use the time onscreen before a webinar? When you go to the movies, there are previews and even before that commercials or behind the scenes snippets. You have time as an audience member to get ready to immerse yourself in the experience. Get your seat. Have your snacks handy. Adjust your eyes to the dimming lights. Show you things to come to get you excited about the movie-going experience and show you that there will be something after the current movie you are about to see.
But what do you do when you host a webinar? Do you just put up a title slide? Do you do anything to set the stage for your presentation or learning event? Do you give the participants things to ponder? Some people need a little time to think about questions and can’t just jump into the chat. Help them out but giving them a preview. Or how about letting them know ways they can interact ahead of time. Is there a hashtag for your event? I had one presenter who even gave out his cell phone number so we could text him during the presentation. How does this event fit into the larger picture. Can you give them coming attractions?
The point is, some people will log in a few minutes early to make sure they can connect to your webinar. Take advantage of that gift of extra time they are giving you and give them something in return. Help them expand and extend their experience with you.
Like Clive Shepherd in his book entitled The Blended Learning Cookbook, I’m not afraid to say the b-word (blended, not that other one). And while this is not a review of the book, I’m just letting some of the ideas simmer. I agree that blended learning is here to stay because, as he points out, “it’s a recognition that no single approach to training is versatile enough to work for all audiences, all of the time.”
It’s actually hard for me to envision any learning that isn’t blended in one way or another. Even a classroom lecture can be blended if the students form a study group after class. Or a trainer uses a video to demonstrate a new software application. Multimedia is easier to come by and even produce. The online world and the classroom are intertwining in ever-evolving ways. But the more things change the more we come back to some basics.
Learning for work is different from school. Adults need to know how to do things for specific reasons so they want the training to be relevant. Relevance is more important than almost anything else. It doesn’t have to be all bells and whistles. If it is on point, people will stick with it because they can see it will help them get where they want to go.
And if you let them steer the car, all the better. Some people like to sight-see along the way. Sometimes. Other times and other learners want to get on the highway and just get there. It’s like planning a trip with Google Maps. Some want to take the direct path by car, some want to ride the bus and some want to linger and walk. Each path is a little different but leads to the same end point.
Finally, one of my favorite analogies from the book is about the role of trainers and the importance of practice. One of the problems I see frequently with trainers, especially those who have not had experience with, or embraced, a student-centered approach and/or collaborative methodologies is the lack of practice in training situations. Shepherd suggests that: “Trainers could learn from tennis coaches. They spend a few minutes demonstrating the correct strokes, then reinforce these over thousands of hours of repetitive practice.”
Learning is one place that too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, they actually make it richer and a tastier experience for everyone.
Social media and the digital breadcrumbs that we can scatter about the interwebs may have added more pieces to the game board but they haven’t entirely changed the rules of the game. As Theo Theobald reminds us in On Message—Precision communication for the digital age: “Technology has become the great enabler in communication but it is not the hardware and software which has had the biggest effect, it is behaviour.” Communication is still about connecting people and ideas and as the book goes on to show us that this doesn’t mean that all of the old behaviors should be tossed out of the window. The old principles of hard work, competence and consistency are timeless. The fact that we now tweet doesn’t make the need for understanding your audience any less, nor does a blog replace the need to develop sound business strategies around your core operations or to develop relationships with your customers. However, it never hurts to freshen up and hone our skills so our messages have laser-focused aim that cuts through the digital fog.
On Message encourages you to think and question before you leap. If you do not know “why” you are developing a social media presence then you probably aren’t ready to do so. If you haven’t developed an authentic voice and considered the image you want to share with the digital masses, step back and take a moment to think about it. Theobald offers chapters that let you take time to review best practices of websites and branding specialists, review lessons from great orators, and see which of the top message turn-ons would fit into your situation. There are also sections to help make your messages more memorable and improve the structure and form of the content. It includes the excellent advice to “Keep the exciting and enticing elements at the top. Readers who want more will drill down into the piece for further details.”
One of the successes of this short book is that it practices what it preaches and concludes each chapter with a pithy list of bullet points headlined “In Short” and one final “Tip” which help to summarize the key points and keep you focused on the message. Throughout there are also practice exercises that encourage you to try out some of the techniques suggested. In particular, there is a very effective description of the editing process along with sample copy on which to practice. If you are looking for something to help you get started thinking about how you and your business should be communicating online, this is worth a look. Even if you aren’t a novice in the digital communication cyberworld, you may find the book helpful in communicating with those who haven’t spent as much time considering how they sound coming through keyboard.