Monthly Archives: March 2013

Stop Boring Your Audience with Bullet Points…

We’ve all seen presentations loaded with slides that have too many bullet points.

The presenter has likely assumed that instead of sentences, bullet points can be shorter and bring forward the real information. But too often we see slides with more than 10 bullet points, each composed of more than 10 words. The presenter has inadvertently jammed too much information onto the screen in an ironic effort to cut back on the text.

In his book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Carmine Gallo points out that the late Jobs, often considered to be a master of message, delivered presentations that were “strikingly simple, visual, and devoid of bullet points. That’s right – no bullet points. Ever.”

That’s because Jobs was focused on one thing: making sure his message got across to his audience.

Your audience is bombarded by information all day, every day. It’s sensory overload. Give them a break and think about your message. Can you identify your main point with just one, two, or three words? How about an icon or image instead?

The less text you toss up on the screen, the less the audience has to read… and the more they’ll be listening to you and what you have to say.

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Consistency, Consistency, Consistency…

If the mantra in real estate is location, location, location, the PowerPoint mantra must be consistency, consistency, consistency. An extremely common flaw, easily fixable, is the creator of the PowerPoint using a mishmash of colors, fonts images, backgrounds, etc. Besides the lack of visual appeal, it looks unprofessional and as if it was created by multiple people who don’t communicate.

Let’s get one thing straight – consistency does not mean lack of creativity. The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be both creative and consistent. The consistency we are talking about here is the unintentional inconsistency, not the intentional creative flair. These unintentional inconsistencies create noise, draw the audience to focus on the wrong things, and just look unprofessional. Focus on the following areas when reviewing your work and you should be good to go, incorporating creativity and keeping things consistent.

  • Fonts – Yes, there are hundreds of fonts available in MS Office. But, guess what – you don’t have to use all of them. Stick to two or three at most and use them consistently throughout, not just on a whim. Too many fonts look sloppy and serve only as a distraction. Also, keep your fonts simple and legible. No need for wingdings – I guarantee your point will get lost!
  • Imagery – Choose images that are similar in style and design. (of course, make sure they are professional-looking in the first place). This will improve the professional look of the overall PowerPoint. For instance, if you are using an animation of a business executive on slide three, find a similar-looking animation for slide four – don’t insert a photograph as a stock image.
  • Colors – There are seven colors in the rainbow. Mix them together and the combinations are endless. I know it’s tempting, Picasso, but restrain yourself to a consistent color scheme throughout. Again, it keeps up the professionalism of the overall work and does not distract from the points you are trying to get across.
  • Format – This refers to everything from headers and footers to bullets and background templates. Very often in a corporate setting, John has a PowerPoint to create and he takes pieces from Bob, others from Sue, a bit from the corporate overview presentation, etc. We all have our individual styles, so put this together and wow, what a mess. Spend the time formatting fonts, images, bullets, colors, text size, etc., until it’s all consistent.

These key areas should serve as a checklist to help improve the professional look of your presentations moving forward. Just remember the mantra – consistency, consistency, consistency, and you will remove distraction, allowing your audience to focus on your key message.

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The Magic Number Is…

Very often our presentations culminate with “the “X” steps to success,” or “top ‘X’ takeaways,” or “top ‘X’ goals for today.” The question begs, what is “X”? Should X be three, five, seven, 10… ? The more takeaway bullets we can give, the better, right? Wrong.

Less is more when it comes to your bulleted steps or takeaways from a presentation. Scientific studies of the brain and memory have shown time and again that people can keep three key points or steps in their short-term memory. After three, the brain kicks one out so there’s room for the next. You may have seven on the slide, but your audience has deleted four from their short-term memory and most likely retained only three.

If you really think about it, three is a great number. Things always happen in threes… three represents a beginning, a middle, and an end, or a past, a present, and a future. I feel a bit like The Count on Sesame Street, but three is a magical number with a great ring to it. Plus it ties things up nice and neat, keeps things simple, and forces you, as the presenter, to focus on what is really important for your audience.

If you have more to say, think about directing the audience to the information elsewhere… provide a web address, print material, or a blog site. Think about why your audience is there listening to you and what they want to leave with. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.

Think about how you can condense your material into points that are manageable and easy to remember. Maybe it’s a key word for each. Count them out on your hand using three fingers. And remember – three is the magic number. Less is more when it comes to presenting.

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Will Murally Change the Way We Collaborate?

My inspiration comes from everywhere, but my memory suffers from an annoying inability to contain it all. I leave Post-It notes with random words and phrases all over the place. Then I discovered the Sticky Notes program on my PC (who doesn’t love a to-do list?) and fell in love with the fact that there’s no real sticky involved, so small squares of paper with valuable information no longer go missing as easily as they used to. Then came Pinterest, which quickly went from cool to obsession. My pinboards are littered with recipes, crafts, clothing, and accessories, to the point where I had to create new pinboards just to keep track of the really good stuff.

But what about work stuff? I like to keep work and non-work separate, so what can I do with all the inspiration I find on the Internet and in real life?

Lucky for me – and maybe you – there’s a new tool called Murally, which one writer calls a “cross between Prezi and Pinterest.” The site lets you collaborate with others using virtual boards on which you can put items like pictures, notes, and videos.

With a layout similar to that of Prezi, users can drag and drop things like stickers, pictures, backgrounds, and more. Items are easily moved and edited, and boards can be shared with others. You can even turn your canvas into a presentation.

The “Google Docs for visual people” is currently available on the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, and it’s sure to change how creative people share ideas and inspiration.

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