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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Animation or Live Action… What Kind of Video Should I Use?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant shift toward using video to connect with an audience. From YouTube and vimeo, to news sites and now even Instagram, video offers users rich and engaging content.

But what kind of video is best?

Video CameraAnimation, which starts with independent pictures / objects and pieces them together (think movies created from still pictures or illustrations and cartoons), provides an easy way to describe complex stories, ideas, and information. With animation, you can do just about anything. It performs very well for tech companies and internet services, and it’s a great method of demonstrating something abstract or conceptual. Animation makes it very easy to brand your video. By using similar colors, styles, and themes, your video can easily fit in seamlessly with your website and advertising and marketing collateral. And if your product or service is continuously developing, it’s simpler to make an update to an animated video than it is to a live one.

However, it’s harder to elicit emotion with animated videos. They are much less realistic and it is harder to gain the audience’s trust. Production can be time-consuming.

Live-action video, which uses filmed footage (anything from a C-level executive in front of a green screen to aerial shots taken from a helicopter), is a great alternative to animation and is certainly more appealing to an audience.

“There is a very economical way to produce executive messaging depending on the length of the message (usually one to three minutes) utilizing minimal graphics and the client’s location,” according to Bob Nastasi, Infinitely Big’s executive producer.

Viewers tend to feel more of a connection to the message. Live action is a good way to demonstrate a concrete product or service. When offered the choice, most people prefer to see a product or service in action. Live action is also a great tool for connecting with your audience, especially if you run a personal business, like a consulting firm or an eatery. People like seeing other people. It gives them an emotional connection, which can be influential and effective when telling your tale. Actual people and real life, as opposed to make-believe characters, help in developing trust with the audience.

But with live-action filming it can take days to get the right take; the equipment (and sometimes the talent) can be pricey; and editing can be a headache – especially if you want to alter the script or the setting, because then you’ll have to reshoot.

With both options, cost is always a consideration.

“In my world, true animation almost always is more expensive than live video depending on the content and degree of difficulty,” Nastasi said. “Animation actually can be costly – but let’s match apples to apples. What type of animation are we estimating? Is it 2D or 3D? What type of creative are we pitching? How many talent voices are needed? What about music and sound design? What is the total running time of the animated program? All these elements factor into the total cost, and how easy or difficult updating the program can be.”

“I can say with confidence that live action video can be produced for competitive rates and even for less than animation,” he added.

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Build a Better Banner…

149282846Running a big meeting? Tradeshow? Networking event?

If the venue is big enough — and even if it’s not – it’s likely you’ll need a traditional print banner or similar signage to inform and direct attendees.

Here are some tips for making sure your banner makes its point.

  • Don’t fill it up. You should have as much content as a postcard. People are going to be looking at it from a distance, so you need room for larger fonts and images.
  • Make sure it’s the right size. Too small and it will go unnoticed; too big and people will wonder what you were thinking. Consider the location and venue. If you’re looking to attract drivers-by from a high-traffic road, make sure it’s big enough to be seen without squinting, and that the content is simple enough to be read with a glance. If your meeting is being held in a hotel ballroom, you’ll want something large enough to be read from pretty far away, but not so big it looks out of place.
  • Use an appropriate font. Choose a large and easy-to-read font that contrasts well with the background color.
  • Choose the right images. Make sure the pictures you use clearly relate to the type of event you’re running. Most people see images and “translate” them first.
  • Point people in the right direction. Are you directing attendees down the hall and to the left? Don’t send them a roundabout way, and make sure your banner points them in the correct direction. Plan ahead for where banners will be placed throughout the venue. Better yet, create a banner that allows you to print out separate arrows that can be attached with tape or Velcro.

Print banners serve a purpose… but better yet, check out digital signage, which can be manipulated by a viewer and is easy to update frequently.

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Focus on the Message…

Whatever you’re saying is important and you certainly want it to be treated that way.

We get requests all the time for presentations to be done in the latest and greatest software program. But what it really boils down to is not how your message gets out, but what the message is in and of itself. Your focus should be on effective communication.

Of course you want your delivery to be engaging, but if you’re putting all of your energy into developing a cool-looking Prezi instead of working on the message, your audience will walk away thinking, “That was a cool presentation. What was that meeting about again?” And that’s every presenter’s worst nightmare.

So before you decide your presentation has to have amazing animation, cool colors, and tantalizing images, think about what it is you’re trying to say and focus on making it audience-worthy.

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What’s the Importance of a Good Business Card?

Your business card leaves a lasting impression. It’s usually the one physical thing a person takes away from a meeting or encounter, and it can be your golden ticket to future contact… or end up in the trash, along with your chances of ever hearing from that person again.

Many of the business cards we see today are typical, boring, and unrelated to a business’ services. Websites like Vistaprint and Zazzle offer free templates – but how many other businesses are using that very same design? And does it really make sense to have a card with a flower motif if your business is more focused on tree removal?

John Jantsch, a marketing consultant and the man behind Duct Tape Marketing, says the need for a business card “is pretty limited in business these days. For the most part people can either find the info online or zap it to each other electronically. In a way this shift has made the business card an opportunity to make a statement. … Since people aren’t using them that much you have the ability to stand out by doing so.”

Your business card design should be unique – something that people associate with you and want to hold onto. But don’t let that sidetrack you from making the look and feel of it represent you and your services.

What are the elements of a great business card?

  • Remarkable. Make it unique so it – and, in turn, you – gets noticed.
  • Clear messaging. Does the card really tell what it is you do? Does it communicate your brand?
  • Clean design. Too simple or amateur looking and it looks bad on you; too complex and it might lose detail.
  • The right size. Not too big (it should still fit in a business card pocket), not too small… think Goldilocks and get it just right.
  • High print quality. Don’t skimp. You pay for what you get. A stellar design looks so-so when it is printed poorly – or printed on the wrong medium.
  • Clear contact information. Don’t hide the most important information – and the reason for handing out the business card in the first place.

If you’re not sure how to design something that will be remembered – and held onto – then hire a designer. It will be well worth the investment.

Note: We do business cards differently at Infinitely Big. Check these out…

LemonAidFactoryBCLAWVending

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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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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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