Category Archives: PowerPoint

Exceeding Expectations: The PPT Edition

In our last post, we discussed the importance of exceeding customer expectations by taking an ordinary product and creating an unexpectedly amazing experience with it. But what does it take to achieve this with an everyday tool like PowerPoint?

The truth is, everybody has, or will, use PowerPoint. It’s on more than 500 million computers worldwide, and is probably even on yours right now. However, it takes a unique expertise to strategically use this tool to its full potential – a skill that most don’t even know exists.

An Australian presentation design company put it this way: “The hurdle we need to overcome is not introducing presentation design to the world, the hurdle is to show the world what presentation design SHOULD be.”

We couldn’t agree more.

That’s why we developed our first-ever promotional PowerPoint demo, to reveal all of PowerPoint’s unknown capabilities and to show how we use it every day: to exceed expectations. The file represents our own original story and animation, includes highly editable and reusable elements, and is only 10MB, which means it can be sent through most email servers. Take a look by clicking here or the image below and let us know what you think through this post, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


And yes, this was created in PowerPoint… what were you expecting?

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Microsoft Releases Office for iPad

News flash! Microsoft released Office for iPad this week, which includes PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. It’s free to view documents, but if you want to create or edit, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription.

From what we’ve seen so far, PowerPoint maintains formatting and animations across the board — great news for those of you who want to present on-the-go with your iOS device. We’re still giving the app a thorough review and will be posting more details shortly, so check back soon!

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Is It Time for a Refresh?

You are an expert in your field – you know the intricacies and the nuances of your product or service better than anyone. Thus, you are often asked to speak publicly about your area of specialty. And like anyone with a lot to do and little time, you have a stock PowerPoint that you have created that you use over and again. It saves time and it works pretty well. As you read this and think about that PowerPoint you have created, I would encourage you to go through it and dispose of many of those slides.

Why, you ask? Because with each day, you get better and so should your PowerPoint. Think of new and creative ways to present your key points. Brainstorm ways to make complicated topics simpler to understand. Come up with ideas on ways to better engage your audience. Think of areas that went over really well in prior presentations and maybe put more focus there and for those areas that didn’t go over so well, how about a new strategy or eliminating the level of depth in that section.

Of course, you will also want to add slides that pertain to relevant industry news, updated research, and your own headlines – new business, new people, new products, etc. The point is, as you evolve, so should your PowerPoint presentation. While it may save time reusing your old one, it is worth the energy and effort to rebuild and revamp every couple of months. It pushes you to be better and will ultimately leave a better impression on the audience.

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Keeping It Real…

The more true to life you can portray an issue you are presenting in your PowerPoint, the better your audience will understand, relate, and identify with it. This is your ideal goal – to get your audience to know that you understand their pain, their issue, and that you have a way to help resolve it or make it better. The impact you can add by using photos, videos, sound, or other media is extremely powerful and should not be overlooked. Here are a couple of ideas on types of media and when to use them.

  • Use illustrations or video to clarify. If your product is complicated, an illustration or video lets you simplify the way it looks. Also, illustrations and videos allow you to show a zoomed-in view or a view normally not seen, such as a product interior.
  • Motion, sound, and music. Just because PowerPoint has this feature doesn’t mean you need to use it. Use sparingly and only when deemed appropriate. Adding animation, sound effects, or music will make your presentation come alive, but it also lessens the seriousness of what you are presenting. Animation can be valuable when offering a product demonstration, but using when not needed will detract rather than add from the overall presentation.
  • Keep charts and graphs simple. Charts and graphs that are used to support a point should be simple and instantly understood. Audiences will be confused by overly complex visuals.
  • Photos have tremendous impact. A picture is worth a thousand words. This holds true in a PowerPoint. Finding a relatable image to put into your presentation can create an significant impression. It will leave your audience with an image resonating in their head when they go back to the office. Make it very relatable to a key point and they will not forget what you had to say.

As you can see, there is plenty of room for creativity in your presentations. Using illustrations and photos or graphs and animations can be very powerful. But beware… overuse these tools and they will detract from your presentation, making it lose gravity and impact.

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Be Equipped with This Equipment…

Y166108959ou never want to be unprepared when presenting. This time, I am not referring to not knowing the contents of your presentation or not knowing your audience. These are the essential items you should have with you when traveling to do a presentation.

  1. A backup of your presentation. So many presenters will say they don’t need a copy because it’s on their laptop and they checked it before they left the office. Or, it’s on a CD that happened to get crushed in transit. Always have at least two versions – one on the laptop, one on a flash drive or on an online storage site, such as Dropbox.
  2. An extra power cord. This one actually happened to me. I went to plug in my laptop and the cord was not supplying power for some reason. “It happens…” I was told by the manufacturer. After time, the power cord can become ineffective. So, as I watched the battery drain, I rushed to get through my presentation. Now there is always an extra in my bag.
  3. A long VGA cable. At least 12 feet in length, if not longer. This way, you can set up your laptop where you want it rather than being restricted by the 3-foot cord the conference center provides for you. Whether you want the laptop up on a table in front or on a podium, etc., this cord will come in handy.
  4. A wireless mouse / remote. This will help with slide transitions and ease of walking through the presentation. You won’t have to keep walking back and forth to the laptop (especially if you don’t have your longer VGA cord).
  5. A USB-powered speaker. If you have audio in your presentation, this is essential. Imagine a room of 50 people trying to hear audio from your laptop’s tiny sound system… it’s not going to happen. With a small but powerful USB speaker, you can plug it right into the side of your laptop, you don’t have to worry about a power source, and the audience will be able to hear what you have prepared.

This is a good starting point so you don’t get caught unprepared. I am sure everyone has their own list (or at least they should). Leave me a comment and let me know what you always have in your travel bag.

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Excel and PowerPoint Don’t Mix…

SpreadsheetVery often presentations will include financials or other figures. And, of course, the presenter believes that the best way to present this data is by cramming as much as he can into a gigantic Excel spreadsheet and then copying and pasting that 6,250-cell spreadsheet onto one small PowerPoint slide. Impressive, right? Think again, presenter… this has zero impact. And, it will even distract from your presentation because people will lose focus as they won’t be able to see what you are referring to and follow along.

Spreadsheets are used for analyzing, not for communicating. They are fantastic for quickly figuring out totals or averages or for doing hundreds or even thousands of calculations instantly on rows and rows of data. They are not, however, great for presenting. Simply put, they contain way too much information. My advice is to simplify: do you really need to present all of the data? Or just the results?

By focusing on the results in some sort of summary fashion like a table, the audience can see the numbers big and clear. You can explain how you arrived at each number if you see fit. You can walk them through it step by step but you don’t need to show the entire process. Use colors, percentages, underlining, boldface, and other effects to highlight key figures or show comparisons or differences within the results. With a summary table you have a powerful, focused image that you can now play around with and be creative.

In the end, the audience will remain more focused and in tune with your presentation and you will be able to get your point across more succinctly and effectively.

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You Can’t Read This…

Large AudienceHow many times have you been listening to a presentation and the presenter gets to an extremely dense slide and says, “I know you can’t read this in the back, so I will read it to you…” Aaaggggghhhh (that’s my frustration coming through). I don’t know about you, but I sit there and think to myself, if you know I can’t read it, why didn’t you use a bigger font?

While we may think that jamming as much text as possible on a slide is the way to go, that’s not necessarily the case. Use big fonts, fewer words, and emphasize what is essential on the slides. Then discuss each bullet or topic. Use your words as the presentation, not the written words on the PowerPoint slide. Ten-point font is going to be too small… try 24-point or 32-point and keep your bullets short.

Remember, the goal is audience clarity and retention, not stuffing your slides full of words for you to read.

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Make Your Definitions More Interesting…

One of the more fundamental yet boring slides in a PowerPoint is the definitions slide. This may actually, in a really painful case, represent multiple slides. Here are some pointers for making the definition process fun and engaging for the audience.

Typically, you will see a slide that says “Definitions” in bold and underlined across the top. Then, listed underneath in microscopic font will be key terms and their respective meanings. Instead of using this method — which, by the way, is certain to bore your audience into a coma before you really even get started — try the following:

Let’s use the term “mammal” as an example. Across the top of the slide, state “What are mammals?” Open it up to the audience and find out what they believe the definition of a mammal is. This engages the audience, will certainly get some laughs, allows you to clear up any misconceptions, and gives you an idea of what you are dealing with in terms of your audience.

While getting audience input, add your own commentary. Correct what they are saying and add detail. Praise those who are accurate and reiterate what they have said to drill it home.

Next, on that same slide, use graphics to show examples of mammals. Introduce them one by one, focusing on the characteristics that make them mammals. Show pictures of humans, monkeys, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). This makes the concept real and relatable for the audience. And, again, keep things interesting and interactive.

Finally, end with the definition you want the audience to remember. It may be a simplified version of a standard definition, but it should be accurate and usable by the audience. This strategy will allow you to put your best foot forward with intriguing definitions that are memorable and meaningful to the audience.

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Considering a Tablet?

I came across this commercial the other day, and I thought you all might enjoy it.

We recently switched to using the Microsoft Surface Pro in our office, and we are really impressed. It’s a great hybrid of a computer and a tablet. Tablets running iOS or Android seem more like toys if you try to get them to handle anything more than watching movies, surfing the Web, checking email, or playing games. The Surface Pro is powerful and easily able to handle robust applications, making it a good choice for business productivity.

Here are three of the coolest features:

  1. Size. It’s compact and portable. We really don’t miss carrying around a heavy, cumbersome laptop.
  2. USB port. Most other tablets don’t have a USB port – with the iPad, a special adapter is needed to connect most peripherals. The Surface Pro’s onboard USB port means we can plug in a flash drive, a wireless mouse, or even a USB hub with multiple connections.
  3. Runs all applications. Since it runs Windows 8, we can use the full version of the Office suite in addition to apps built for tablets.

PowerPoint is still the tool of choice for designing presentations, and tablets running Windows 8 are the only ones that can handle creating, editing, and displaying presentations with the same power as a regular computer. That means we can continue to develop amazing presentations while taking advantage of the portability of a tablet and the richness of a PC.

Have you considered switching to a tablet?

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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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