- The curse of knowledge, you are so deep in the material that you:
- Cannot see anymore what points of your story are obvious to an audience, and which points are not (and vice versa, which points are difficult to understand while you think they are very clear
- Cannot see anymore which details are important / add flavour to the story, and which details are tangents that lead to nowhere
- You probably hang on to a story structure that you designed for your first presentation a long time ago. Your company and your story has moved on, but your slide deck has not.
Lining up a data chart and a table in PowerPoint or Keynote is very tricky. And that is a shame, because it is one of the most useful compositions to present data. Just tables, and you cannot really see the trends. Just data charts, and it all becomes cluttered.
I took the data from an earlier blog post and quickly turned it into a combined table/data chart. You can clone the slides I create in presentation app SlideMagic into your own SlideMagic account by clicking this link.
The first layer of the image in an image is what it is about, a tree, a house, a car. The second layer though is what general mood it evokes. Even if your images depict the right thing, somehow they do not feel right, and it is hard to pin down why. Here is a check list, I am exaggerating on purpose.
- Cheesy, tacky, not real, fake people
- Something aggressive, violent, scary
- Things are gross, ugly, not pretty, repulsive
- A bit too racy
- Girly, cutesy, childish
- Dark, somber (including colours)
- A closed, trapped setting
- College humour that is actually not really funny
- Cliche: ice bergs, dominos,
I am exaggerating on purpose. That image of the apple pie is probably not "gross", but subconsciously, there is something not tasty about it. The image of the solider is not violent, but somehow a military association sets the wrong tone of the presentation.
The opposite is also true. The best images can uplift your mood and somehow makes your feel right. Images can set your mood pretty much like a painting / piece of art can.
If your image does not feel right, it probably is not right.
Sometimes I get the strangest support questions by users of my presentation app SlideMagic. Obviously, the user did not explore the help pages, or did not try out all the menu options, or did not understand the philosophy behind SlideMagic. Initially, I felt like pointing that out. Now I figured out that it is my problem, not the user's.
User interface is entering an interesting phase. Mobile/tablet apps all look very cute but it is often incredibly difficult to find the most obvious functions. Desktop/laptop applications have become so bloated that obvious functions are hard to find, or are still in places "because they have always been there for the past 10 years" to serve the large install base of users. Every time I set up a new presentation, or create a new slide in PowerPoint I find myself doing a large number of repeat clicks (by now at incredible speed) that basically do very simple things (creating and aligning a grid of boxes for example).
I keep on trying to get it right.
Art: Vladimir Makovsky, Teacher Visiting a Village, 1897
Images are a great way to liven up an "about" page on a web site or a team page in a presentation. The best images are the one where all team members are present in one image. You can overlay name tags and get a great composition. No issues with images in a different style, images that are outdated. And it shows how well the team works together.
Second best alternative is individual images. But please avoid selfies. Most people assume that where-is-the-button-I-need-to-press look when taking a selfie. It does not come across very professional. The least you can do is ask a colleague to take a quick picture with your phone if you are in a hurry.
Many large companies grow only a few % points per year. They are large and mature businesses. And many quarterly investor presentations have charts like this in them:
When things don't change that much, a stacked column chart like this one might not be the best way to show the data, maybe a good old table is better. Stacked column chart show the relative proportion of values at the expense of legibility, especially for small categories that can be hard to read. If nothing changes in the proportions, a table will be easier to digest.
For these big companies, analysts do not focus that much on the absolute numbers, it is the differences in growth percentages that matter. To give the growth numbers more visual power, a combination of a table and a bar chart can be a powerful visual tool.
You can clone this chart and others that I used on the blog into your own SlideMagic account buy clicking this link.
PowerPoint conversion is now live in the SlideMagic app. The back office workflow is still a bit improvised, but it works.
I see many users requesting PowerPoint conversions of the SlideMagic templates, in the hope that they can use the simple SlideMagic slide manipulation functionality in good old PowerPoint. That will not work in most cases. All elements of a SlideMagic chart line up beautifully in a grid, and when converted to PowerPoint, all these blocks become individual PowerPoint shapes. If you do not touch them, they look great, but try to make changes to a slide layout, and you have to go through tricky resizing and re-alignment exercises. It is this type of work that probably makes up 50% of my bespoke presentation design work and which was the main driver to try to automate it.
Before committing to developing SlideMagic, I have tried extensively to program a smart PowerPoint template that could do similar things, but I could not get it to a level that was simple enough for a layman designer to use it. Believe me, I tried (really hard).
I hope that SlideMagic users will feel increased confidence to give the app a try now that they know that there is always a way back to PowerPoint, if they want. But at the same time, I think users that have given the app a real opportunity to show itself (create one presentation start to finish), will see the limitations of PowerPoint and make the switch.
Whether there will be a PowerPoint import feature as well? The answer is a definitive "no". Because of the fundamental differences in design approach SlideMagic takes, it is not possible to convert PowerPoint into SlideMagic presentations.
Let me know your feedback here in the comments or via jan at slidemagic dot com. Not yet a SlideMagic user? Sign up here.
Sometimes, your company has 2 products with similar, but different stories. Pitch the products in full detail sequentially duplicates some of the common parts of the story (and bores the audience) A generic pitch followed by example 1 and example 2 makes the product pitches too weak.
A possible solution that I recently applied to a medical technology startup:
- Layout the basic idea behind the innovation that is shared between the products, not necessarily as a pitch, but more to educate the audience
- Set up the company as a combination of 2 parts
- Do a full pitch for product 1 (without repeating the basic concept that was explained in the introduction)
- Do a slightly shorter pitch for product 2, just highlighting the differences in the technology for product 2 compared to product 1.
Art: John Everett Millais: Twins, Kate Hoare and Grace Hoare, 1876
This slide looks like it came straight out of the consulting report that preceded the decision to make the changes. There are a number of things that can be improved:
- The look & feel does not match Citrix' clean black and white corporate identity
- The slide uses a standard Microsoft PowerPoint smart object, with "dirty" gradients
- No attention has been given to typography: "H2'16" is orphaned on a 2nd line, the light boxes are too narrow to contain 3 lines of text
- Messages are repeated on the left and right side of the chart
- There is a cause and effect relationship in the chart (we do this and get ROC in return) that is not reflected in the way it is laid out.
- The headline is a but woolly.
I tried to fix these issues in this quick makeover in my presentation app SlideMagic. I kept the 30% margin and $200 cost cut info in the business model optimisation box, although you could argue that that is an outcome of the strategy as well. A true business model optimisation would be "price increases" or something.
I have been reading the reviews of the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro with great interest. Analyst Benedict Evans and many others claim that iOS/Android powered devices will replace OSX/Windows computers as the main computing tools we use.
Illustrators and designers seem to love the devices. Big surfaces with a precise pencil signal the end of the expensive Cintiq devices.
Writers (bloggers, journalists) complain that they miss the mouse/track pad on these devices. It is hard to go back and forth from keyboard to screen to move quickly through text and cut/paste sentences.
Presentation design might actually be a good fit for a bigger tablet, if you can make things run smoothly without the need for the attached physical keyboard. It would require a redesign of the user interface though, the mouse-based UI is too complicated, and the current mobile UIs are too counter-intuitive, many functions are hidden. SlideMagic might fit the bill, I am going to find out soon.
Still, there is the difference between "it works great" and mass adoption in big enterprises...
Many people have asked for this feature. I might have found a partially automated solution for this. Partially means, slides are converted automatically, but the overall workflow is still manual.
Before I start investing a lot of resources (time and money) in developing a fully automated solution, I want to test demand. Soon, I will be adding a "PowerPoint" button to SlideMagic, but in the interim, you can email to (ppt at slidemagic dot com) an editable link of your presentation (generate it via the SHARE menu in SlideMagic) and we will send you back a PowerPoint file.
It is important to send the link using the SHARE function, nobody but you can open the links in your browser for privacy/security reasons.
Make sure that you have the Roboto Condensed font installed on your machine. It is a free font provided by Google
- Exit PowerPoint
- Go to the Roboto Condensed download page
- Tick the 400 and 700 boxes
- Download using the "arrow down" icon at the top right
- Double click the downloaded files to install the fonts
- Re-open PowerPoint
Roboto Condensed cannot be installed on iOS devices. If you want to edit your converted SlideMagic presentation in PowerPoint for iOS consider replacing the Roboto Condensed font for Helvetica Neue Condensed. Here is how to swap fonts across an entire presentation on a Mac. But hey, SlideMagic runs pretty well in Safari on iPad, no need to convert to PowerPoint for this.
- It is a partially manual solution, please be patient, delivery can be instant or take some time.
- A human will open your presentation, we are nice people and unlikely to read it all in detail and/or post things on the Internet though. Still some corporate compliance regulations might have an issue with this
- There might be glitches in the quality of the conversion, if so, we would like to hear about them.
You will see that the end result looks pretty decent and small text edits work great, but - and this is the reason I created SlideMagic - if you want to make fundamental edits to a SlideMagic slide in PowerPoint you will hit the limitations of PowerPoint. For example, adding a row or column to your grid and getting everything to line up nicely is a small operation. I suspect you will quickly go back into SlideMagic, do the edit there, and convert again. Hopefully, in the end you will just forget about the conversion and stay inside SlideMagic.
So, hopefully the option of converting your SlideMagic presentation to PowerPoint will give you increased confidence to try it out, there is nothing to lose, you can always fall back to good old PowerPoint.
Not a SlideMagic user yet? Sign up here.
"When I put up the first [incredibly busy bullet point] I start of with this introduction before I take people through the slide"
Usually, these introductions are great. They come out naturally, in a conversational style. Next time:
- Use that introduction as the opening of your presentation, add a visual slide here and there to support the story. And don't stop there, finish the entire presentation in that style
- Second best option. Put in a black slide before your busy opening slide and tell that introduction without encouraging people to start reading your bullet points.
Image: New Zealand rugby team performing the "haka" in 1932
Big, confident images look better on a presentation slide. The maximum size of your image is achieved when you let it "bleed" of the page (the term comes from the age of print, where the ink would drip of the corner).
These full size images look great if your presentation is just images. In most cases, my client work is not. Hence, I prefer to frame my images within a box of white (or black). Some people say it is bad practice, I disagree:
- You do not have to worry about legibility of slide titles
- Photo slides look consistent with other slides in the presentation
- I think, it actually looks very distinguised
My presentation app SlideMagic caters for both formats, so don't worry if you disagree with me. You can clone the slides below (and all other slides I have used on the blog) into your own SlideMagic presentation via this link.
The image was found on unsplash, free images under a do-whatever-you-want license
Many marketing documents are written to pitch to the author, not the potential customer. When pitching to yourself:
- You do not have to explain what your solution actually does, you know it already
- You can boil down critical aspects of the pitch in just a few "place holder words". Reading them will trigger your memory to pull up 15 pages of value proposition in a nano second
- You have a lot of different customer segments to worry about, so you dilute the story a bit to appeal to as many different customers there are, emphasising a few extra benefits here and there
- You do not have to explain technical marketing jargon, as an expert you know it all
Think about this.
Often, graphics design is about details. It is difficult to pin down why something just does not look right. The answer: small little things. See the bottom of a magazine ad below. The logos on the left and right have tag lines/sub brands: above on the left, and below on the right. The graphics designer simply centred the image files, but our eyes wants to centre not the entire image, but the main text of the logo. It looks like the logo on the right is positioned too high.
If you cannot get excited by this you should not become a graphics designer...
Illustration: Gemini constellation
Marketing, Investor relations, corporate communications, business development, everyone likes to have a say in the design of the next keynote address of the CEO at that important industry conference.
When the team "works" on a presentation, you usually get the following pattern:
- Long meetings in a conference room, with a few people dialing in by phone (people who cannot see the slides), discussing the key messages on each slide
- Long email exchanges without an organised discussion thread to log changes
Design by committee also does not work for presentations. Here is why it goes wrong:
- In the end, you need to pick a consistent approach to the story. Mixing and matching parts of approach A and parts of approach B is not going to give you a "best of both worlds" result. The only way to get something consistent is to have one person write it.
- A committee focuses on the slides, adding footnotes, changing headlines, shuffling the order. And while doing that, they feel like they are "programming" the verbatim of the CEO (who is not in the room). Wrong, in the end the CEO will pick his own story, sometimes despite the slides.
- In a committee there is no one doing the real work, at the end of the meeting, the most junior person at the table probably gets tasked with "incorporate all comments into a new version and email it around by 9AM". That junior person might have dropped / not understood a few comments, and probably lacks the spine to push back against more senior executive in the company (who made a point that does not make sense).
- You will for sure miss the contribution of introverts
- The casual observer in a committee meeting often does not have the in-depth understanding of how the presentation is built, and what is written on which slide. As a result, noticing that important elements are missing, she will suggest to add comments, bubbles, and footnotes on random slides to make sure that the key messages are "at least written down somewhere".
- Committees under time pressure like to give drastic input. After a 3 hour discussion: "oh yeah, the deck is too long, collapse 35 slides into 10", leaving the junior team member confused what to do.
A better approach:
- Interview the CEO/the person who is actually going to give the talk
- Get the committee together and "shake the tree" for all messages and issues that need to be included
- Now, design the whole deck start to finish
- Then ask input from the committee and be tough with accepting comments
Art: Claude Bernard and his pupils. Oil painting after Léon-Augus Wellcome
I played around with the new "connectors" in my presentation app SlideMagic and used them to create a chart that visualises how multiple weak signals can come together into a strong one. I have added this chart to the SlideMagic template with charts that I discussed on the blog, you can clone it to your SlideMagic account here.
The accelerator of Microsoft Ventures Tel Aviv invited me to speak this week. I used my presentation app SlideMagic for the design and presentation of the slides (in the lion's den of PowerPoint). You can view and clone the slides to your own SlideMagic account here. If you do not have an account yet, the app will let you create one.
Some of these slides are hard to understand without verbal explanation. But, this presentation pretty much follows the narrative of my book about presentation design. Check it out, it is free to read.
This is the dilemma in many investor presentations, in the front, in the back? Usually, I put the team slide in the second half of the presentation, after you tackled the pitch of the problem/solution. The slide sits in the "about" section, alongside financials, organisation, milestones, etc.
There are exceptions, here are some reasons to put your team slide in the front:
- The team is actually the key story of the pitch: if your company consists of unusual people (the former this, the former that), than better start with it right
- The majority of your team is sitting in the room, physically. A team slide upfront is a great background for the introduction of your people
- Your company is all about combining different disciplines, which have never been combined before. A time slide (specifically designed to show the cross-functional expertise) might help support this point.
I usually design 2 versions of the team slide:
- A summary slide that highlights the main message about team that you want to emphasise (we worked together for 5 years before, we worked for very important companies before, each of us has 5 patents, etc.)
- In the appendix of the document a more elaborate, traditional CV description of the backgrounds, you can use font size 8 here.
Art: Scotland Forever! by Elizabeth Thompson, 1881
"How much time do I have?" is the first question many speakers ask when getting invited to speak at an event. It is an important question: a 5 minute presentation is dramatically different from a 20 minute one. Beyond 20 minutes though, it does not make that much of a difference. These presentations are "long". I very much doubt that you will do a better job in convincing your audience in 60 minutes than in 20. In fact the opposite might be true.
If you get offered a 60 minute slot, ask yourself whether you really need it, or you should cut it to 20-30 minutes instead.
Image taken from WikiPedia