Going off script

When you get a question during your presentation, should you abandon your story flow and answer it? It depends.
  • For very large audiences, no. One person’s question does not merit throwing out your carefully crafted story line and potentially confuse the rest of the audience. Answer the question very briefly (“Good point, we use super glue for that, I will get back to it later in more detail”) and move on.
  • For smaller audiences that have seen the material you are presenting before, probably yes. For example a presentation to the partner group of a venture capital firm.
  • In one on one meetings: definitely yes. These meetings are not presentations, they are conversations and you should adjust the story flow based on questions, interruptions of the other person. If there are none, then follow the script, but that is likely going to be a boring meeting.

Presentation startups

Product Hunt is a treasure full of startup ideas. I cannot link to a search but enter “Presentation” into the search field and see what comes up.

How to evaluate a designer

The web is full of freelance presentation designers and full of sample portfolios. How to get a true feel for the style/skills of a designer: go beyond pages 1, 2, or 3, and look at a page somewhere in the middle of the deck. What does the designer do when no one is looking?

Humour in presentations

Jokes can be great ice breakers in presentations. Jokes can also be incredibly awkward when introduced in the wrong meeting, at the wrong time, with an audience who is not ready for them.

Here is my advice: do not hardwire risky jokes into your slides, but rather, keep the option to tell them verbally. If the mood is right, go for it, if the audience vibe is not right, you can bail out at the very last moment.

Borat bathing suit slides cannot be unseen, even when double clicked really quickly...

The basics

Here is a checklist of basic PowerPoint design skills. If you master these, you are all set to designing great business presentations:
  • Program your company colours in the theme
  • Set default shapes and lines to fit your company colours
  • Delete all slides in a template master until you have just the title page and an empty page left
  • Know how to add text to boxes
  • Know how to make compositions of text boxes (including aligning and distributing them)
  • Know how to crop images (instead of stretching them)
  • Know how to make basic bar and column charts in your company colours
No need to learn anything more...

My facebook page: 2% reach

Facebook is a poor alternative to RSS. Because I am not buying ads, blog posts on the Idea Transplant page reach around 2% of likers. Twitter, RSS, email, are better ways to stay up to date.

This is what I always say...

...when I put up this slide [that says something else...]

Solution: change that old slide to have it say what you want it to say!

VC body language

Last week, I sat in the same seat many of my clients sit in: the one facing a VC. I had a couple of meetings in the valley to test initial appetite for my “PowerPoint killer” web app.

The body language in these meetings was very interesting. In all these meetings you could clearly see when people where excited, agree with you, do not agree with you, listen to you, are not listening to you because they are thinking about something else (probably the next question), already got what you want to say.

Read the signals and use them to steer the conversation in your meeting. But this might be hard to do in real time. The big use of this feedback will be your next VC meeting.

Apple Keynote is broken

I really try to like the latest version (6, October 2013) of Apple Keynote, but a year later, I still cannot. The user interface in the latest release has been cleaned up (gone is the cramped inspector window), and initially I thought I would overcome the initial confusion where functions are. I did not.

Basic stuff like centring text, changing background colours, fonts, font colours, all require me to think, which submenu to pick: style, text, or arrange? A flowing, fast user interface is not always a logically laid out one. Functions do not always have be grouped together based on whether they are related or not. In software, features should (partially) be grouped based on frequency of use.

Then there is the “Sorry, iCloud Drive isn’t compatible with OS X Mavericks” error message I get everytime I open Keynote. After Googling I now understand that I need to wait for the release of OS X Yosemite and that I upgraded my iCloud too early, still....

Never change a winning team.

How did you get there?

Many people who read this blog are considering a career in the world of presentation design themselves, I get many questions about how I got to be who I am today professionally.

The answer: it happened somehow over many years, there was no deliberate career planning. Once I was free from a big corporate structure, you can shape the projects you choose to work on. Finding the first projects was hard, and the work I did closely resembled my strategy consulting work at McKinsey.

When you build up your initial base of happy clients, words start spreading and you get increasing freedom to pick those project that interest you. There is a reinforcing loop here: you do your best work in the type of projects you like, which gives you more demand for more projects you like. In my case, I loved presentation design work, and the prize was: more pie.

But. This transformation took years. It required a certain skill base to start off with (10 years of work experience in consulting in my case). At first, you get highly unpredictable income. As a freelancer, you need to like working on your own. A super-specialised freelance business is hard to scale beyond increasing pricing. (See Seth Godin on dumbing down/scaling up, I smarted up and scaled down).

Overdoing the icons

It is tempting to use an icon for everything in your presentation: enterprise customer, picture of a guy in suit; small business, picture of a chef; consumer segment, picture of a smiling woman. Alternative: a factory icon, a house icon, a face icon. Other alternative: browse the clip art library

There are a few problems with this:
  • Unless you are pro designer, icons, pictures are hardly ever consistent in format/style
  • Icons/small pictures add clutter to already busy presentation slides
  • For the viewer in the back of the room, the small icons/pictures are actually hard to see
  • Clipart looks so 1990..
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best solution: 3 boxes in 3 different colours with the words ENTERPRISE, SMB, CONSUMER will do fine. Throughout the presentation, use the same 3 colour to talk about your user segments.

Slides versus speaker notes

During a long plane flight to San Francsico I could see a number of people editing their presentations while stuck in the air for more than 10 hours.

Many of them were editing the exact sequence of what they were going to say to the audience. Changing a sentence, switching the order of some bullet points: they were editing speaker notes, not editing slides.

This type of editing should be done in the notes field of the slide, not on the slide itself. It is a good check for yourself: if you find yourself editing speaker notes in the slide itself, you are probably doing something wrong.