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July 8, 2011 / marden928

If message is king…

Cross-posted from The Presentation School

…then the Audience is the Emperor.

We’ve said this before and will say it many more times.  Yes, chart design and image selection should be based on your content.  But your content should be based on your audience.  People are bombarded with information constantly; much of what doesn’t interest them.  So, think about it, what will make someone want to listen to you?

A quickie checklist to put yourself in your audiences shoes:

  • Why have they asked you to speak?  Don’t be afraid to ask them what they want from you.
  • What is the overall theme of the meeting you’ve been asked to be part of?  Don’t be afraid to learn more about the curator’s vision.
  • What challenges is your audience currently facing?  Ask them.  Do a news search on-line.  Read their annual reports, etc.  Pay attention to little comments in casual conversation.
  • What language do they speak?  (think beyond basic language.  Also think corporate, visual, etc.)
  • How does your audience learn?  Should you be included experiential exercises, hand-outs, more visuals, demonstrations, etc?  Ask them how they typically do trainings/presentations and ask them how effective it is.

In a world where everything is increasingly self-centered, you’ll be more distinctive if you make it all about your audience.


June 13, 2011 / marden928

Where to put the presentation machine?

I go to all kinds of conferences and I run all kinds of conferences (frequently as the chick who designed the presentations, helped plan the presentations or just running the machine so my client can Network). In this capacity as laptop chick, I’m constantly amazed at the confusion around where to put the press tat ion machine. I’m also constantly horrified at where others out their presentation machines.


Simply because it’s about the speaker. And it’s about having the freedom you need at the presentation machine to pull docs up and freak out about issues so the audience can focus on content instead of how lame you are for having the inevitable technical issues that always happen. However, the speaker is going to want to feel close to the machine and be able to click through as need be.

My advice?

Simple. Have 2 machines. One that has a screenshot of your meeting title slide and the other with the meeting presentations. And yes, a mixer to switch between the 2. Have the meeting title card up when sorting the presentation machine so no one sees your desktop, etc. Sit in the front row, to the side so you can have eye content with the presenter, they can click, and your speaker feels close to their material.

June 9, 2011 / marden928

Tips for Rapid Fire presentations

My role with IgniteNYC has just expanded in the most wonderful way!  In addition to collecting the presentations, checking the formats, and running the machine during the event:  I am now also rehearing and coaching the presenters.  Arguably some of the most fulfilling work I’ve done with Ignite, thus far.  It’s really magical to see someone go from struggling with their material transform into someone who really rocks their content and what their natural strengths are.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some tips with you, in case you’ve got  Pecha Kucha, Ignite or 7×7 talk of your own coming up:

  • 15 seconds is short.  You can only cover 2-3 sentences.  No more, no less (well, leave some time for audience reaction for your zingers).  For  Pecha Kucha, add another sentence to fill your 20 seconds.
  • Don’t forget to breath!  Especially with the super fast formats, it’s natural to want to jam in more information, and thus forget to breath.  Not only does it exhaust you as a presenter, but your audience’s ears.
  • Remember that you’re only presenting a nugget of information.  Shorten your story accordingly – just give a taste of what you know.  Maybe just go over one chapter of the full story.  Typically these talks are about quick awareness and conversation starting.
  • Try and stick to one purpose for your presentation:   inform, educate, entertain, inspire, or motivate
  • Think of it as a 5 minute, specifically timed monologue with images.  Not a regular presentation – memorize it, do not wing it!
  • Rehearse in front of your friends and a camera.  When you see yourself on camera, you see your little quirks.  We all do that one thing – find out what your one thing is.

Happy Presenting!  Just make it quick!

June 3, 2011 / marden928

The battle of the fonts

As someone who freelances in a variety of industries, I’ve noticed a huge disparity between advertising and more corporate settings when it comes to font size.  In advertising the most common comment I’ve gotten is “Don’t let it feel horsey”  and in management consulting I get “Can I get more on the page?”  or “Make it bigger, no bigger, bigger still.  My client is far-sighted.”

So, pray-tell, what is the right answer?

Some would argue no text at all.  That’s fine if you’re Steve Jobs or you have a lot of time to hunt for images or even better still, you have a photographer on hand.  Most presentations don’t have that kind of time.  Most of us, when designing a presentation, are happy if the words are spelled correctly.

To find that happy medium, I’ve got a couple of quick guidelines that I think both ends of the spectrum will be happy with:

  • If you need to go smaller, use a sans serif font
  • Only use a serif font if you’re going to be able to enlarge your font to a huge size – even better if it’s for only 1-2 sentences on a page.  (no more!  perhaps not even images!)
  • Shorten your text to the smallest amount of text possible – esp if you’ll be speaking to it.  Then enlarge your font as large as you can, keeping white space around your font.  If it feels cartoony, drop it 2, 4, 6 pts until it feels right.

Some quicky quidelines for a 4×3 presentation, for on-screen large group, by font type:

Arial:  24 min, 44 max

Tahoma:  24 min, 40 max

Calibri:  26 min, 50 max

Times New Roman:  44 min, 60 max

Verdana:  30 min, 54 max

Franklin Gothic:  36 min, 54 max

Cambria:  40 min, 60 max

Obviously, all of this should be adjusted according to your actual audience, your actual content and your desired emotional & intellectual impacts.


February 9, 2011 / marden928

Color psychology

I’m partially posting this for folks who just attended the second part of the webinar series that I just did for Solvate about presentation design.

I’m not a fan of debating color schemes based on individual preferences or “feelings”  that have nothing to do with one’s content.  I prefer choosing colors based on the feelings you want your audience to have about your content.  So, I refer to this handy dandy page from Pantone’s Guide to Communicating with Color as often as possible.  It’s super awesome when working with American audiences.  If you’re going international, well, it’s tougher 🙂  Check out some other resources – or something form me at some point.  More on that once I get my stuff together.

January 24, 2011 / marden928

Awesome video from Nick Morgan and a shameless plug

I’m getting ready for the first part of a 2 part webinar series that I’m doing with Solvate this upcoming Wednesday (1pm Eastern, you can sign up here My topic is presentation design – first part will be basic information for presentation planing and chart selection with  second session about basic graphic design (likely on Feb 9th).   Anyway, as part of my fun fun research and writing for my presentation, I came across this really awesome video from Nick Morgan about structuring a presentation’s story and just had to share.

January 19, 2011 / marden928

I boycott Boycott a Meeting Day

Today is the Boycott a Meeting Day.  I shall share with you the direct copy from the site:

“Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.”

I get the point, we’ve all been in long meetings that go on and on and nothing gets done.  Someone’s ego is flashed around, another person may use it as some sort of therapy session and then a huge To Do list appears.

In another scenario, there are groups that are really anti-meeting and refuse to meet.  So instead, there are endless phone calls, emails, etc trying to catch everyone up.

I propose a radical concept and therefore boycott Boycott A Meeting Day:  instead of just not having meeting because they don’t work well, how about have more effective meetings?  How to do that?  My quick tips:

  • First things first, ensure that whatever is you are trying to accomplish is something that will benefit form an in-person or on-phone meeting:  group input, group informing, group problem solving, or something else requiring all meeting attendees on deck.  Just showing off knowledge is not a good reason.
  • Have a set agenda with set goals, tell everyone how those goals can be accomplished at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Send the agenda around days before
  • Send anything that people need to be aware of beforehand, around days in advance (or as far in advance as possible) – some people are reflectors and will want the time to formulate thoughts
  • If there are individuals in the room that may be upset by the meeting topics and could hijack the meeting as a result, call them before hand and hear them out.  If something new comes up in the meeting, table it.
  • Have a parking lot where tangent topics sit to be address later – you’re staying to an agenda after all.
  • Respect time – start on-time and end on-time.  if you have to run over, ask everyone if they are comfortable scheduling more time and if not, find another time.  Being accountable on time will half folks take future meetings more seriously.  (and you as the meeting organizer, for that matter!)
  • Link your meeting in line with your big picture time lines – review what’s been done, talk about what needs to be done, mention things that everyone in the room needs to know or needs to give input in.
  • Set ground rules for speaking – if you’re just going to bicker the whole time, it won’t work.  Make sure everyone is heard, all agenda items are heard, notes are being taken for future reference (and those that miss the meeting), and that respectful tones are used.
  • Have all visuals sent ahead of time and ensure clarity.
  • Have a dry erase board/flip chart or electronic equivalent available for brainstorming and have it all set up ahead of time – appoint a great visual thinker to draw out any ideas or concepts (if frameworks appear then, draw them out – will save time later)
  • Budget in a little bit of bonding time if appropriate – ice breakers are a great way to build comradery and loosen people up to talk about tougher topics.

And the main thing for a good meeting:  ensure that everyone just respects each other!  Time is of the essence and no one wants to waste it all working!