PowerPoint Tip: Takeaways from the Presentation Summit

Last month I had the privilege of speaking at the ninth Presentation Summit in Austin, Texas. It is the one time during the year that the presentation community gets together and shares ideas and best practices on creating and delivering effective presentations. In addition to being a speaker and connecting with colleagues, I attend to further my knowledge from the excellent speakers who present. Today I want to share three of the many ideas I took away from this year’s conference.

Connie Malamed delivered a pre-conference workshop on visual design and one of the points I took away is how sketching taps in to our natural creativity. I am not an artist or designer, but I have often used sketches to determine what visual will work best for a particular situation. Recently during a consulting call, I was sketching different graphs as my client spoke about what he was trying to communicate in a specific slide. It helped to be able to visualize my thoughts and gave me new ideas as I sketched.

You don’t need to have any artistic talent to sketch. In my latest book on effective presentations for government managers, I use a form that allows presenters to plan each slide in detail. One of the main parts of the form is a space for you to sketch what visual you will be using for this slide. I’ll be showing this form in today’s webinar on planning a successful presentation. I recommend sketching your ideas to stimulate your natural creativity and come up with ways to visually represent your point. It does work.

It was a delight to see Nigel Holmes present again at the conference. Nigel has a naturally entertaining style that conveys serious topics in a fun way. One point he made was to show how many ways he could illustrate the number of hot dogs that a champion hot dog eater consumes during a competition. Because most of us limit ourselves to a few hot dogs in one sitting, we can’t relate to the large number that a competitor downs during these events.

He came up with a number of ways of showing the more than sixty hot dogs that they eat. It reminded me of the importance of making the numbers we present easily understandable for our audiences. Often it is best done using an analogy, so that we translate the magnitude of the number into something that the audience can relate to. My recent slide makeover video shows this along with a four step process to create an analogy for a large number. Make sure that you consider each audience individually, since the same analogy may not work for every audience.

The conference encourages audience interaction, which allows audience members to ask questions during the presentation to clarify their understanding. I saw a number of times where the question was related to the topic of the session, but wasn’t exactly about the visual the presenter had on the screen at the time. The speaker answered the question, but left the visual on the screen. I think that by blanking the screen (by pressing the period key in PowerPoint), the presenter could have focused the audience on the answer instead of leaving a visual on the screen that did not relate to the answer. In your next presentation, if the visual is not related to the answer you are giving to an audience question, turn off the slide so that the audience isn’t confused with a visual that is not helping to answer the question.

If you are interested in learning more about the Presentation Summit, and joining us at the tenth conference next year in Scottsdale, Arizona, go to www.PresentationSummit.com.