Monthly Archives: May 2013

Finish Strong Every Time…

In any given week, I see dozens of presentations come across my desk. If you look at a random sample of 100 of these PowerPoints, I would estimate that 98 of them end with either “Thank you” or “Questions” as the last slide. Who made this the official last slide of PowerPoint? I often wonder that, because it really is not the best way to finish up.

After preparing for weeks, presenting for an hour, and doing an awesome job, what exactly are you thanking the audience for? For listening to you? I hope not. Also, the hope is that you allowed questions throughout if something wasn’t clear. So, finishing up with a big question mark in the center of a slide and stating “Questions?” is redundant and leaves the audience with nothing new.

Now to the good stuff. The best way to end your PowerPoint is with a summary slide of the key take-away points and/or action items for next steps. Assume your audience understood and followed your logical arguments up to that point. Assume they are ready to take the next steps and proceed. Lay the groundwork. Set forth those next steps and be prepared to discuss them one on one. Name your last slide “Discussion of Next Steps.” This moves the discussion forward and truly makes the most of the time the audience invested with you.

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Know Your Audience…

Imagine spending over 100 hours creating an incredible presentation. The images are creative and beautiful, the words powerful and inspirational, and the animations humorous and intriguing. You fly into town, put on your finest suit, shine your shoes, fix your hair, and get ready to present. Your first opening slide comes up and you are psyched to give your high-level sales-training speech. Little do you know, the audience is full of accountants who have never sold anything a day in their lives.

One of the greatest failures of presenter is not taking the time to know the audience and plan accordingly. Do the research beforehand – ask the key questions and play detective. Where are you presenting, know what is the topic for the day (if you are one of a panel of presenters), how many people are signed up, what’s the demographic, how much they are paying, who are the other speakers, and what are their topics, etc. This is so essential and often overlooked.

Completing your due diligence will allow you to create a better presentation overall. It will be more relevant to the audience, hold their attention, and ultimately, it will bring in more business (or buy-in) for you. By knowing your audience beforehand, you can use images that are appropriate (maybe a certain ethnic group or gender), you can adjust the wording of your slides (maybe more or less technical), you can gauge the use of humor, the overall time, the amount of time for questions, the way you dress, handouts, and so on.

Knowing your audience can truly make or break your presentation, no matter how great the design and the speech may be. Do the work when you sign up for the job… it will be well worth your time.

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The Rule of Three…

When giving presentations or public talks, the Rule of Three is a powerful rule to remember. You should commit this to memory and practice writing and presenting using this rule. The rule is simple: When making a point, use three words or ideas in a row. The audience is more likely to consume and comprehend an idea when it is presented as part of a trio.

Using the Rule of Three allows you to present a concept more clearly, concisely, and memorably. In his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark provides insights into the magic of the number three. He states, “Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness. Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, and expand.”

The rule of three has created timeless speeches, stories, and historical foundations. Some examples include:

  • From the Declaration of Independence – “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
  • From religion – “Father, son, and holy spirit”
  • From movies – “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
  • From children’s stories – “The Three Little Pigs” or “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
  • From real estate – “Location, location, location”
  • From Julius Caesar – “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”)
  • From entertainment – “Three-ring circus” or “The Three Stooges”

As you can see, the Rule of Three has a powerful history. It’s nothing new and has been used throughout time to make powerful points, in the formation of governments (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches), and to engrain concepts into the memory of generations.

So, remember in your next speech to use the Rule of Three… and that’s  the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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Great Images… Right?

You want your PowerPoint to be impactful… to leave your audience with something ingrained in their memory. The experts in the field have all been saying to use more imagery and have fewer slides with bullets and text – that this formula will have the greatest effect on your audience.

Sounds simple enough, but how do you go about choosing an image? A great image can be a very subjective thing. So how do you really know if the chosen image is great, just OK, or totally pathetic?

First of all, a great image needs a couple of basic characteristics. Without this foundation, no matter how creative, funny, or moving the image may be, it will be average at best and will not provide the “wow factor” you’re looking for. The image needs to be high resolution, not pixilated. It should not be stretched, but should be of adequate size so it is clearly visible and fills up the area you want. The image should be professional looking – if it is a photograph, make sure the lighting, color, and composition look professional (use the wedding picture test – would you be happy if this was your wedding photograph?).

Many of the stock photo sites will have images that meet these criteria; however, just because an image is from a stock photo sites doesn’t mean it automatically meets these criteria, so be careful in your image selection.

Once you have this basic foundation for your image, the other factors are what I call the “3 R’s” of images: relevance, resonance, and rarity (uniqueness).

  • Relevance: A great image needs to match your message. This may “click” with your audience and serve as a powerful takeaway. Of course, this may require the proper setup and delivery by the speaker to ensure your point gets across as intended. This proper positioning of your chosen image will connect the dots for the audience and leave a powerful impression.
  • Resonance: While we certainly applaud and foster creativity, sometimes you need to reel it in and keep yourself focused. All too often someone will approach me with an idea for a slide he thinks is brilliant. We will show it around and with blank stares, we all say we just don’t get it. Make sure your image resonates with your audience, otherwise your really cool image will be nothing more than a really cool image. It will not have meaning and context and will just sit there on the screen, looking all pretty, with a lot of confused faces staring at it.
  • Rarity: While your image may be relevant to your message and truly resonate and connect with your audience, a truly great image will be rare or unique. This is basically the opposite of the handshake image we have seen a million times over. Find something different or apply a different use to something familiar. Mix it up for maximum impact, but don’t go too far out there, so that it’s not relevant and doesn’t resonate.

These tips should help with the beginnings of choosing great images to get maximum impact from your PowerPoint presentations and will have your audience talking about your message for days.

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