Friday, September 29, 2006

When a Graph is better than a Table

In working on a presentation for a client this week I realized again the importance of using PowerPoint slides as a visual support for your message. In this case, the original slide that the executive had was a table of figures showing revenue growth over five years. It was factually accurate, but did little to convey the message strongly. I converted the data to a graph, just a simple bar graph, and the message of strong revenue growth leapt off the slide. By making a simple shift to recognize the power of a picture, we were able to improve the message immensely. The lesson here is to examine the tables you are using in your slides. Does the message jump out, or is it lost in the lines and numbers. If you are using a laser pointer to wave it over the numbers in the vain hope that the audience can see which figure you are pointing to, trust me, they have no clue what you are trying to say. The key points must stand out. Try using a message title, callout devices for the key numbers or changing the color of the box the key figures are in. This way, a table can deliver a message. Even better many times - see if the figures in the table can be represented graphically so that "a picture can tell a thousand words."

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Power of a Great Visual

My wife just got back from a convention last night and when we talked about the sessions, one experience stood out for her. She described how the head of the organization started the conference by painting a gate on a fence on the stage. She went on to explain how leaders need to deal with problems and that involves getting messy. What she did next shocked everyone. She started painting her clothes and body with the red fence paint to illustrate how leaders need to get messy. Right on her expensive suit! And then five other leaders came out and proceeded to paint their clothes and selves with the red paint. The message was unmistakable. And one my wife and the other attendees will never forget. The point is this. What visuals are you using that will weld your ideas to the mind of each person sitting in your audience? And it doesn't have to be using PowerPoint, although it could. Great messages are not only about words, but the pictures our audiences create in their own world based on our visuals, stories and words. What great visual would work for your next presentation that will have people talking about your message for years to come?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PowerPoint Tip - Equipment Connections

In my webinar this week on Setting Up for a Worry Free Presentation, one of the items I will be covering is how to connect the equipment you will need for your presentation. I'll go into more details onthe webinar, but want to outline some of the most important basics today.

The two most important pieces of equipment you will likely be using are a projector and your computer. The most obvious connection is to connect the display port of the computer to the display input of the projector. This is usually done using a cable that connects to the VGA port of the computer and a computer input port on the projector (sometimes a VGA port and sometimes a special port for that projector).

Two other connections seem so obvious that they are usually taken for granted - the power cords for the projector and the laptop. While it may seem obvious, I have seen people struggle to figure out why the projector isn't working when it was simply the cord not being plugged in. And I have seen laptops display a low battery warning in front of 1,200 people because the cord wasn't plugged in. So while they may be too obvious for many, top presenters always make sure the power cords are plugged in and working properly. If you are plugging in to a power bar, which I always suggest you do to protect your equipment, make sure it is turned on - I have personal experience on forgetting this detail.

When you have the computer and projector connected, make sure you set the laptop into the display mode so you see the slides on the laptop screen and the slides are displayed on the projector. There is usually a key combination on your laptop that toggles between three display modes: 1) laptop screen only, 2) external display only (the projector) or 3) both laptop screen and external display. It seems that every laptop is different, so while it is Fn+F8 on my Dell laptop, it will likely be different on your laptop.

That covers the basic connections between laptop computer and projector. On the webinar I will also cover connecting other equipment, as well as choices in room setup, how to effectively test your slides, the difference between practice and rehearsal and the best way to create a backup of your presentation. To sign up for the webinar, go to .

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PowerPoint Tip - Photo Entrance Loop

Summer is over for most as the kids are back in school and we look forward to the last third of the calendar year. I hope many of you were able to take some time off in the last few months to recharge and rest up. Most people take photos while they are on vacation and with the popularity of digital cameras, the number of photos we take has exploded. We were away for 20 days last month and took almost 2,000 pictures!

With digital pictures being so easy to take and select the best to show others, why not think of using a loop of digital pictures as an entrance show for an upcoming conference presentation you are involved in. Fall is a prime time for conferences and if you are speaking at one or helping prepare someone's presentation, this is a way to make the presentation stand out from the start.

What I mean by a loop is a set of say 10-15 photos that automatically change from one to the next and repeat until you are ready to start your presentation. It is a nice way to set the mood and give people some visuals to look at while they are waiting for the presentation to start. You see it at many high end professional presentations and they spend lots to make it happen - but you don't need to.

Here's how you do it:
1. Create a presentation of your best photos that relate to thetopic you are speaking on or set the mood. If you are a conferenceorganizer it could be of the highlights of the conference so far.
2. Set the slide transitions to nicely fade or dissolve between theslides and set them to automatically advance every 6-8 seconds.
3. Set the presentation to loop continuously
.4. From the first slide in your main presentation, hyperlink to thelooping presentation file.
5. In your session, activate the hyperlink on the first slide andthe looping photos presentation will start and continue until youpress Esc. Then you will be back in your presentation and ready todeliver a great message to your audience which is now better in themood to listen to you.

I adapted this tip from a more detailed explanation of this idea on pages 41-43 of my "Guide to Advanced PowerPoint Techniques" e-book. You can find out more about the book and the other 25 advanced techniques at

If you want to learn more about using digital photos in your presentations, you will want to check out my video on this topic at