Archive for the ‘Visual Aids’ Category

For a Great Presentation, Practice the 10/20/30 Rule

Guy Kawasaki is a technology guru and venture capitalist who listens to a lot of presentations from entrepreneurs seeking money for start-up ventures.  The overwhelming majority of the presentations he hears are, as he says, “crap.” 

 

And so he requires that all presentations at his business Garage Technology Ventures follow what he calls the “10/20/30 rule”.   It’s a rule that should be embraced by anyone that wants to connect with audiences.

 

The rule states that all presentations should be limited to 10 slides, 20 minutes, and have no words on the slides smaller than 30-point type.  I love the rule because it keeps you out of the weeds by forcing you to keep your message focused on key issues.

 

Limit Your Presentation to 10 slides. Too many of us create presentations by opening up PowerPoint, picking a template, and typing. Before long, we have a “presentation” with 40 slides.

 

I was coaching a consultant once as he prepared to speak at a trade conference.  He arrived at our practice session with 60 slides for a 45-minute presentation.  Flipping through, I noted that every slide was loaded with bullet points.

 

“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “Would you want to listen to this presentation?”

 

“Well . . . , ” he muttered, seeming startled. “I guess not.”

 

His presentation was packed with too much information.  Limiting your message to 10 slides forces you to answer the question “What do I really want to say?”

 

PowerPoint has no template for that question.

 

Speak for no more than 20 minutes.  When Kawasaki listens to a pitch for start-up capital, he allocates an hour.  Limiting the pitch to 20 minutes allows for 40 minutes of Q&A. As Kawasaki knows, all presentations improve with lots of Q&A.

 

Recently, I went fishing in Tampa with a guide named Rick. He told me that one way he markets his business is by giving presentations on how to catch fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

“I usually speak for about fifteen minutes and then take questions,” he said. “I’ve found that people have a lot more fun at my presentations when they get to ask questions.”

 

That’s a nice lesson in hooking an audience from a professional fisherman.

 

No Slides with Words Smaller than 30-Point Type.  For many people, this seems impossible. You can’t get more than five or six words on a line with 30-point type.

 

But all businesses should mandate this rule. Smaller type  is so hard to read that it becomes distracting.

 

To me, corporate America tolerates tiny type on slides in the same way that mill town residents tolerate the stench that fills their community.  It’s so prevalent that everyone just gets used to it and no one even notices anymore.

 

But your slides will be far more effective if you minimize your bullets and keep your type size big.

 

And if you follow the 10/20/30 rule, your presentations will be a breath of a fresh air.

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Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

To Connect with Audiences, Follow the 10/20/30 Rule

Guy Kawasaki is a technology guru and venture capitalist who listens to a lot of presentations from entrepreneurs seeking money for start-up ventures.  The overwhelming majority of the presentations he hears are, as he says, “crap.” 

 

And so he demands that all presentations at his business Garage Technology Ventures follow what he calls the “10/20/30 rule”.  It’s a rule that should be embraced by anyone that wants to connect with audiences.

 

The rule states that all presentations should be limited to 10 slides, 20 minutes, and have no words on the slides smaller than 30-point type.  I love the rule because it keeps you out of the weeds by forcing you to keep your message focused on key issues.

 

Limit Your Presentation to 10 slides. Too many of us create presentations by opening up PowerPoint, picking a template, and typing. Before long, we have a “presentation” with 40 slides.

 

I was coaching an attorney once as he prepared to speak at a bar event.  He arrived at our practice session with 60 slides for a 45-minute presentation.  Flipping through, I noted that every slide was loaded with bullet points.

 

“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “Would you want to listen to this presentation?”

 

“Well . . . , ” he muttered, seeming startled. “I guess not.”

 

His presentation was packed with too much information.  Limiting your message to 10 slides forces you to answer the question “What do I really want to say?”

 

PowerPoint has no template for that question.

 

Speak for no more than 20 minutes.  When Kawasaki listens to a pitch for start-up capital, he allocates an hour.  Limiting the pitch to 20 minutes allows for 40 minutes of Q&A. As Kawasaki knows, all presentations improve with lots of Q&A.

 

Last weekend, I went fishing in Tampa with a guide named Rick. He told me that one way he markets his business is by giving presentations on how to catch fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

“I usually speak for about fifteen minutes and then take questions,” he said. “I’ve found that people have a lot more fun at my presentations when they get to ask questions.”

 

That’s a nice lesson in hooking an audience from a professional fisherman.

 

No Slides with Words Smaller than 30-Point Type.  For many people, this seems impossible. You can’t get more than five or six words on a line with 30-point type.

 

But all businesses should mandate this rule. Smaller type  is so hard to read that it becomes distracting.

 

To me, corporate America tolerates tiny type on slides in the same way that mill town residents tolerate the stench that fills their community.  It’s so prevalent that everyone just gets used to it and no one even notices anymore.

 

But your slides will be far more effective if you minimize your bullets and keep your type size big.

 

And if you follow the 10/20/30 rule, your presentations will be a breath of a fresh air.

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Thursday, June 25th, 2009

How Practical Are Edward Tufte’s Ideas on PowerPoint?

TUFTE How Practical Are Edward Tuftes Ideas on PowerPoint?

To hear Edward Tufte tell it, PowerPoint is a killer app that actually kills.

Truly.

He points to a poorly done PowerPoint presentation as a cause for the space shuttle Columbia disaster.  An author and former Yale professor, Tufte argues that the imprecise nature of PowerPoint glossed over the true cause of the disaster.  The presenters who analyzed the foam debris that caused the disaster, Tufte claims, were too imprecise by virtue of the use of PowerPoint.

If you’d like to hear Tufte rail against PowerPoint on NPR click here.

I’m no lover of PowerPoint.

But Tufte’s claims probably apply best to presentations of highly technical information in visual form. Looking at his website, you’ll see that the visuals he loves are often highly complicated themselves, though perhaps they’re accurate.

One has to wonder whether the average business person can really use his ideas. Or whether we’re just supposed to send in our money and buy his beautiful graphs and illustrations, frame them, and put them on our walls.

My Beef with PowerPoint

My complaint about PowerPoint is different than Tufte’s complaint.  PowerPoint is a perfectly fine program. It’s just used improperly.  Most people use it as a presentation creation tool when it’s actually a tool to illustrate presentations.

To create a presentation, you should first decide what are your two or three core messages. Then you should fill out what you’re going to say to illustrate those messages. Then you should decide how you’re going to illustrate those points.

Instead, people create their presentations by opening up PowerPoint and relying on the templates that the program provides. As a result, most PowerPoint presentations are painful outlines with lots of bullet points.

So, if you’re watching a bad presentation, you don’t blame PowerPoint. Blame the presenter.

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Friday, May 22nd, 2009

The Slide to Leadership Ratio

I often tell my clients that there is an inverse relationship between the number of slides you have in your presentation and the amount of leadership you display.

The fewer slides you have, the more you look and sound like a leader. And vice versa.

The idea here is that speaking and presenting are about connecting with people, building relationships, and exerting influence. Presenting is not about relaying data and information. Too many slides, and all you’re really doing is transmitting data.  If you want to transmit data, just send a memo. I can read it faster than you can tell it to me. If I have questions, I’ll call you.

Yesterday, Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about the The Heirarchy of Presentations.  He makes the point that presenting is about influence.

The purpose of a presentation is to change minds. That’s the only reason I can think of to spend the time and resources. If your goal isn’t to change minds, perhaps you should consider a different approach.

Slides don’t change minds. You change minds with the force of simple argument, stories and passion.

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Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Pet Peeve: Putting Quotations on PowerPoint Slides

A client recently sent over a deck of slides for a big presentation on leadership.  The first slide was a quotation from Jack Welch, the former GE Chairman. 

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

What a great quote! 

But what value do you add to the audience by putting it on the slide?  None. That’s why we advise our clients never to put quotes on slides.

Remember that the speaker is the most important visual; far more important than any slide.  You’re there as a leader to influence your audience with your ideas and your intensity. 

When you put a quotation on a slide, you undermine your presentation by diverting attention from you to the slide.

And you certainly don’t undermine the impact of the quotation by delivering it without the slide.  Indeed, we think it’s far more impactful to look at the audience and state the quote from memory, or if necessary from a cheat sheet.

Imagine this:

You come before you audience, with a blank screen. Here’s how you start.

We’re here today to discuss leadership training. And when we’re talking about this issue, I’m reminded of a quote from Jack Welch. He said, “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Now that’s the way to grab your audience’s attention.  Having your audience look at a slide while you read it to them won’t have near the impact.

By the way, if you’re looking for quotations to use in presentations try www.wikiquote.org.

 

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Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Know Your Message Before Creating Your Slides

43544.strip Know Your Message Before Creating Your Slides

If you don’t want people thinking that you’re Dilbert, don’t start creating presentation before you’ve come up with what you want to say.

Take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the three “bumper stickers” that you absolutely want your listeners to remember above all else. Then think about how you want to illustrate your presentation. It may be that you don’t even need slides.

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Friday, March 13th, 2009

Bill Gates Connects with Audience Using Live Mosquitoes

BillGates Davos2004 Bill Gates Connects with Audience Using Live Mosquitoes

Software Billionaire Bill Gates grabbed his audience’s attention yesterday when he unleashed a jar of mosquitoes on his audience. He was trying to make a point about the problem of malaria in the Third World. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working to eradicate malaria.

“Malaria is spread by mosquitoes,” Gates said while opening a jar onstage at the Technology,Entertainment, Design Conference — a gathering known to attract technology kings, politicians, and Hollywood stars. “I brought some. Here I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.”

Gates was using a tried and true method of connecting with an audience — the physical demonstration.  His chief rival Steve Jobs has long used the physical demonstration to connect with audiences. Jobs is famous for finding fun ways to produce the next new thing from Apple. When he introduced the MacBook Air notebook computer, he slid it out of an inter-office mail envelope to demonstrate its thinness.

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Friday, February 6th, 2009

Wait! I’m Not a PowerPoint Hater!

I’ve apparently been labeled a PowerPoint hater among the public speaking blogosphere. 

Fellow public speaking blogger Olivia Mitchell recently spearheaded an interesting virtual debate on the value of PowerPoint. She quoted me here trashing the value of PowerPoint.

And I admit that I’m not a huge fan. But I’m not against the use of visuals. I just think that people focus so much on visuals that they forget their value. 

PowerPoint illustrates a presentation. But it doesn’t sell an idea. That is done by the speaker by keeping his message focused and delivering it with passion.

I think that people think that endless fiddling with slides will somehow make their presentation good. But it won’t. Only a focused message and rehearsal will do that.

If you want to read all the posts in the great PowerPoint the debate, click here.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

How to Put Lipstick on the PowerPoint Pig?

Presentation skills coach and fellow blogger  Olivia Mitchell has asked me and many others to comment on what, in our business, apparently passes for a controversy: how can we make PowerPoint better?  You probably missed this controversy if you are part of the following group: business people who are trying to accomplish things.

Let me summarize this distracting tempest in the graphic design teapot.  For several years, a group of graphic designers have been rightly trashing PowerPoint and the busy slides it tends to produce.

Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen, Nancy Duarte at Duarte Design, and Edward Tufte (the granddaddy of PowerPoint haters)  have been hammering on the misuse of PowerPoint for years.   Many graphic artists have pushed for a minimalist approach using big pictures and very few words. These slides are quite attractive and it’s easy to see why artists love them.  They’re very “arty” looking

Now comes the inevitable backlash to this minimalist approach from writer and internet marketing consultant Laura Bergells. On her PowerPoint blog, Maniactive she wrote: 

The current PowerPoint design fashion vogue is overly simplistic, and panders almost completely to the right side of the brain. Since one of our chief presentation objectives is to persuade, why is this a problem?

Using only right brain techniques to persuade is emotionally manipulative. Oh, it’s highly effective, all right, but it’s propaganda, nonetheless! Appealing only to the right side of the brain is less than truthful — it lies by omission of key facts. 

Audiences are getting more savvy.  We’re getting more suspicious. We’re asking harder questions. We’re tired of lying, half-truths, and crass emotional manipulation by corporate leaders, politicians, and news media outlets.

So there you have it. First there is a well-deserved backlash against PowerPoint’s tendency to get too complex.   Now comes a backlash to the backlash arguing that we’ve gotten too simple.

When it comes to PowerPoint, I suppose I come down in the “simpler is better” category.  And I do think that visuals are helpful. We help our clients with slides and flip charts when they are appropriate.  I use them myself in my presentations.

But ultimately my position on PowerPoint is this: it’s largely irrelevant to whether you accomplish your goals. That’s because PowerPoint and other visuals, now matter how graphically pleasing, don’t inspire audiences, sell ideas, or win business. That’s done by the speaker. If he or she has a well-crafted message that focuses simply on the listeners’ needs, and if it’s delivered well, then the presentation is going to be a success regardless of what slides you have. 

Does anyone remember the Barack Obama’s slides?  Colin Powell’s?  Ronald Reagan’s? What about Steve Jobs? Sure he uses a minimalist slide approach. But the reason he’s so good has nothing to do with his slides.  He’s great because he knows how to tell a story and deliver it. Take away his slides and he is still great. If you don’t agree, check out his much praised graduation speech at Stanford.

This debate is a symptom of a larger problem. That problem is that business people waste too much time crafting slides rather than doing what will really make their presentation succeed: seeking to understand the audience, telling a good story, and rehearsing.

Here’s what I’d like to see going forward. Let’s start creating presentations by taking out a blank sheet of paper and writing down what we want to accomplish and what our audience cares about. Then let’s decide what our core message is, deciding what three key messages we really want our audience to remember. Then let’s see if we have some interesting and relevant stories to support our points. 

Then let’s spend a little time thinking about whether slides are even necessary. If they are, then let’s spend a little time creating slides.

But let’s also keep in mind that slides don’t grow businesses. Connecting with audiences and colleagues and business partners and customers is what grows businesses. And to do that you need a clear message, a style that connects, and lot of rehearsal.

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Thursday, January 8th, 2009

How Not to Be Blinded By PowerPoint

projector light2 How Not to Be Blinded By PowerPointOne thing people that worry about when using PowerPoint is what to do when the light from the projector cuts the room in half.

 

You’ve seen the problem. Your projector is on a table at the front of the room and the light from the projector is shining on the screen such that you can’t walk across the front of the room without blinding yourself and briefly blocking the screen.

 

If you never cross in front of the light, you feel cut off from one side of the room and hence, half the audience.

 

The solution: Try to stay to one side for about half the time and then cross over in front of the light, moving quickly to ensure that you can connect with the other half of the room.

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Monday, November 24th, 2008