Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things I Learned at the Presentation Summit

With more presentation and design experts than you can shake a stick at, there was much to be learned at the Presentation Summit in Austin. Here are a few prime tips and resources to sink your teeth into:

  1. Tell a story with your presentation (which can apply to marketing materials like brochures and websites as well). Don't simply show charts or images to your audience. Connect these visuals with a story—a story in which your audience can see themselves and relate. Jon Thomas of Presentation Advisors said, "When audience members see themselves in your story, the need to persuade disappears."
  2. Carmen Taran, Rexi Media, surveyed her audiences after several presentations to learn what they remembered most about her slides. She found that when she had a slide with a bizarre image (like a pig with wings), the audience remembered that slide. When she had a contrast from one slide to another (like a large image to a small image), the audience remembered those slides. People act on what they remember and by changing up your slides (or even your websites or pages in your brochures), you will hold their attention and they will be more likely to buy into your product or service. Try mixing an odd image with something familiar to your audience. Go from predictable to the unexpected and they will want to look more closely to see what you're going to do next.
  3. PowerPoint 2010 is more powerful than I imagined, and Sandy Johnson of Presentation Wiz helped me realize it. You can import Illustrator files as eps and ungroup the elements. The Combine Shapes feature allows you to create simple vector images and icons that are fully editable. Check out Sandy's website for a pdf tutorial on how to use the tool and begin creating your own icons and vector images. I think Illustrator may have to watch its back soon ...
  4. I've always set up templates for Word with styles and colors specified. As for my slides, I've set up the slide masters and a template slide with style choice but ... that was it. Then Julie Terberg of Terberg Design demonstrated that I was short changing myself and those editing my presentations. Creating theme colors in PowerPoint saves time in importing graphics, text, charts, SmartArt, etc. Because, if you used theme colors to set up your template, PowerPoint will automatically update the colors of what you import into your template, saving you loads of time. Julie has a great explanation in her blog for how to best do this. I bookmarked it!
  5. The final lesson I wanted to talk about is "failure." Yes, I said, "failure" and it isn't a typo. As Rick Altman brilliantly said in his Monday morning talk, he wanted us all to fail during the conference and when we left. Now Rick wasn't hoping we wouldn't succeed in life, he was referencing Denzel Washington's commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania. He encouraged the graduates to take risks "because nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks." He told those graduates not to be afraid to "fall forward" and learn from their failures and mistakes. Do not be afraid of failure but embrace it, because failing is one of the most powerful ways to grow, to improve, to become better presenters, designers, managers, writers, trainers ... whatever it is we want to be.

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