Blog Archives

Turn horrible text driven PowerPoint slides into awesome big bold visual messages

During Presentation Skills training, we learn all about the 4 pillars of an effective presentation: Message, Structure, Content and Style. In content and style, we also look at how visual supports are used to support and message and speech: What would be the minimum effective dose when it comes to discussing a certain topic? Is a chart a better way of showing growth than a table? Should I add some images to my PowerPoint? And what kind of visual style should I use?

In my other post “9 PowerPoint Essentials for Real Business People”, I listed some very simple pointers for fixing PowerPoint slides. In this post, I develop one PPT slide example to show how we can turn bad text-driven slides into awesome big bold visual messages…

 

First, let’s look at the original slide in question:

1

This slide comes from a PPT deck in support of a presentation explaining how a particular bandage is better than another. One of the primary reasons is because this bandage doesn’t hurt when being taken off an abrasion-injury…

 

What’s wrong with this slide?

If you appreciate the 9 PPT Guidelines then its clear:

  • There’s too much text
  • The title is bad
  • The colour contrast is not effective
  • Its not very visual

 

Let’s see what we can do. First, to get to the minimum effective dose of text, take out anything that doesn’t have power (that’s why they call it PowerPoint, after all!):

  • Look for what words carry the structural and content “weight”
  • Take out useless prepositions (if, by, and, of…) and articles (a, the, an…)

 

You might end up with something like this…

2

That’s already a lot better!

 

One the ideas I like a lot about PowerPoint is Vinod Kholsa’s 5 second rule – if you can’t tell what a slide is about in 5 seconds, then its not good enough. A good next step to helping solve that is to add a message-driven title that actually says something. Try this:

 

3

..now, in the context of the greater presentation, we know immediately what this slide is about. What next?

 

Personally, I think a better colour contrast on PowerPoint slides makes a big difference to how physically easy it is to look at something and how aesthetically pleasing it can be. Keep the following in mind:

  • Contrast is important to create good easy readability: Be sure to have light on dark or vice-versa
  • Your eye will focus on whatever is brightest. This means that a bright white background is going to get all your attention… that is tiring and leads to headache. Better to have a dark background…
  • …but if you do that, bear in mind that your printing costs will be higher. Consider having a dark-background for the wall and a white background for the handout.

 

Here is the new improved contrast version:

4

…immediately much better. Of course, don’t forget to customise your colours to suit the company branding, or your marketing guys will be really unhappy !

 

OK – its getting better. We are close to the minimum (maybe…) but its not very visual. A visual slide will work much better for the majority of people.

Here’s some basic guidelines for getting visual:

  • Avoid old boring dodgy clipart – we’ve all seen it all before and it doesn’t make you look clever!
  • Don’t draw things yourself unless you want to be “quirky” (like I did here) or you’re a really good artist
  • Don’t opt for the first results you find in Google – chances are everyone else already used that as well
  • Make sure your images are high quality – use the “other sizes” link bottom-right underneath Google thumbnail images to find better quality pictures
  • If you are going to steal copyright (which I know you wouldn’t do…), don’t take the image with a watermark for copyright on it. It just looks lazy.
  • If you are talking about numbers, pimp your table (blog-post to follow), use one of the right 4 chart types (blog post also to follow) or maybe even consider just showing an image which tells the story without reverting to numbers (you can put the numbers in a handout)

 

In this slide, the presenter added in an image that really shows you what he means by abrasions:

5

…but he kind of just slapped it on there without thinking. #Fail

 

Where should you put images when there is text on the slide?

Answer = left of the text block. Why? Its simple, because it lines up more nicely to the text block, like here:

6

 

Now, there are exceptions to this rule and the above example is not finished yet, so bear with me…

If you have text which is justified to the right, then of course you could line your image up better on the right. And if you have just a few bullet points that can be creatively placed to line up better, go for it. Click here to see one of my own examples.

 

In the slide above, the image is in the right place, but it is not looking beautiful yet. I think it would be much better to increase the size of the image to match with the size of the text block, like here:

7

 

Personally, I think we’ve come a long way from our original text-driven slide. We have gotten rid of a load of text, we’ve made more contrast and added a message-driven image, which is in the right place. Some people would stop here and depending on your style, that might be the right choice.

 

But personally, in terms of minimum effective dose (within the greater framework of the entire PPT) we can do a lot better.

First, let’s get bold with that image:

8

Hurts to look at? It should! That’s the point!

 

..but hang on a minute: The text says that an example of an abrasion is road-rash or something you get from sports + play, that’s its a superficial wound, that it hurts and that its prone to infection. Doesn’t the image already say all that? Wouldn’t the following do just the same?

9

For some people, this is too much. For me, it really is the minimum effective dose. For me, its an awesome big bold visual message.

 

The advantages of awesome big bold visual messages are many:

  • It will be understood more quickly by the majority of people
  • It will stick in people’s heads a little bit longer (certainly in THIS example!)
  • It will oblige you to talk around your point instead of reading from the slide
  • People will think you are awesome 🙂

 

Thanks for reading – I hope this helped

Leave a comment

Follow me on Twitter

Make great PowerPoints

Have fun

Happy Christmas 🙂

 

 

The Best Prezi Tips I Found Today

33 tips for Prezi users to improve their Prezi presentation. Including structure, movement, paths, backgrounds, rotated-text, quality screenshots, images, keyboard shortcuts, using YouTube, adding music and step-sounds, embedding in WordPress …

Over the last few months, I have been browsing around for cool prezi tips . This post lists all my favourites. Please share!

Given the initial success of this post and my work with Prezi, I now run a training session on the tool. More information here: Prezi training with @dan_steer

 

Right, let’s get started…

 

9 BASIC TIPS ON PREZI STRUCTURE, PREZI CANVAS, IMPORTING POWERPOINT..

 

1 Create your basic structure close up, then add details zoomed-in

This is in line with my work on how to make a presentation in 5 steps. In Prezi, focus first on getting the big picture sorted, then add the details. The big picture should be closest to the eye, the details can be smaller, zoomed in. Use the layers.

 

2 Don’t overdo movement

The movement in Prezi is one of the cool selling point features that make us like it, but as with any presentation, your content needs to be minimum effective dose : do what only is necessary to support your needs or message.

  • Use movement to show the relationship between elements and to support the story-telling of your prezi
  • Make small steps between things that will be discovered “quickly” over the course of your actual presentaion to the public
  • Use big steps to mark the transition between different parts of your presentation structure

Good Prezi movement and structure is explained in detail here:

 

3 Add frames to your path as you edit in order not to lose things in Prezi

When you add things on your canvas, sometimes they can get lost. To avoid this problem:

  • When you have added something on your canvas, click on “edit path” and add it immediately to the pathway
  • ..that way, if you move it around, resize it and “lose” that bit of your Prezi, you can just click on the frame in the “edit path” navigation bar on the left and Prezi will take you back there… 

 

4 …but don’t worry about the final presentation order until near the end

If you are clear about your presentation structure, then you know more-or-less what your final Prezi path is going to look like from the start. But don’t worry about the exact order until you have finished adding everything. You WILL make changes anyway.

 

5 You can “bring-to-front” or copy/paste just like in PowerPoint..

..in order to move things from the front/back of the canvas

Note: I don’t mean zoom in/out, I just mean that in any one 2D-position on the canvas, you can change which things are on top of others, just like would in PowerPoint.

 

6 Select multiple elements on a Prezi canvas

There are 2 ways to do this:

  • Hold down the “shift” button on your computer, then click and hold your left mouse button while you drag the pointer over the canvas to select several elements
  • Click one element, hold down the “shift” button on your computer, click on the next element, keep holding “shift” and continue…

 

7 Group elements together so you can move, resize, rotate and work with them as “one element”

Just as you can group things in PowerPoint, you can do the same in Prezi.

  • Follow tip 6 to select multiple items
  • … then click on the little “padlock” icon to lock them all together
  • (You can unlock them later if you want to)

 

8 Make a big bold call-to-action with a font that contains all your content inside it…

No idea what I mean? Watch this video to see how sexy-fonts can help you make beautiful Prezi presentations…

 

9 If you have a PowerPoint presentation, import it into Prezi

Yes, you can import PPT into prezi! Watch this movie for a functional explanation.

Once you have done that, you can place your slides in order to create structure, show level of importance of content, groups slides together using frames, add formatting, images, arrows etc…

 

 

12 TIPS FOR BEAUTIFUL PREZI PRESENTATIONS .. GOING TO THE NEXT STEP…

 

10 If you want your rotated text to still look rotated in “SHOW” (presentation) mode, you can..

Just put an invisible frame around it and point to that (instead of the text itself) when you create your path.

 

11 Use 3D backgrounds

The guys at Prezi send me emails with tips from time-to-time and this is one of my favourites. The backgrounds that are possible with 3D and multiple 3D are awesome.

 

12 Fade-in things within a frame

Sometimes it can be handy to have things fade-in onto the screen just like we do in PPT. Follow this link to see how to achieve this in Prezi. Its very easy to fade in anything in a frame…

  • (As I said above, it is important to focus on minimum effective dose and in general I’m not a fan of this kind of animation)

 

13 Create extremely high-quality webpage “screenshots” in your Prezi

Because of the zoom feature in Prezi, what at first looks good when screen-captured from the web can look pretty bad when you zoom in. If you want to do a good job of zooming in on things you screenshotted from the web DO NOT use print-screen on your computer:

  • Instead, create a PDF of the web-page you want to show
  • Use this website to do this for free: http://www.web2pdfconvert.com
  • Import the PDF image of your web-page into Prezi and it will be super high-quality at all zoom levels

..as a side-note here, if you do screenshot things, set your computer screen preferences to 1024 * 768

 

14 Try some cool templates

If you read my other post on how to import PowerPoint to Prezi with style you know I’m not a fan of the standard options in Prezi. They are nice, but already starting to get a little old. If you want something new, check out some of the Prezi templates at prezzip.com. There is a limited collection of things free to download, but the price of an app will get you something really tasteful…

 

15 Customise theme colours in Prezi and keep your marketing department happy

You can do this by manually custom formatting the colours + fonts via the theme wizard in Prezi

  • Go to “Template” menu
  • Click on “Customise Current Theme” at the bottom of the “theme” area
  • Click on “advanced” and choose your colours

 

16 …then save your custom theme for the future

At any moment when you are editing your Prezi, you can click on “Theme” and scroll down to the bottom to “Save Current Theme”. Easy!

 

17 Add background music to your Prezi

If you want your Prezi to have music playing in the background, this is easyto achieve now (March 2013):

  • Click on “insert”
  • Choose “add background music”
  • Most obvious music file types will work (MP3, M4A, FLAC, WMA, WAV, OGG, AAC, MP4, and 3GP) and certainly if they already work in iTunes. Prezi will convert them if necessary.
  • You can see that the music has been added by looking at the top of the “edit-path” navigation bar on the left
  • …that’s where you go to delete the music as well

 

18 Add sound at a specific moment of your Prezi presentation

Have a look at this Prezi. You will see that I’ve added sound files at specific moments in order to explain my content. This takes a bit of work, but is really easy.

  • Record your sound file. You can do this with your PC (sound-recorder) or, as I did, with an iPhone.
  • Select the relevant step of your path in the “edit-path” navigation bar on the left
  • Click on “insert”
  • Choose “add voice-over to path step [#]”
  • As with background music, most sound file types will work and Prezi will convert them if necessary
  • ..you can easily delete them from the step by using the “edit-path” menu on the left

Prezi ZenDesk has published a tutorial on how to insert music into your Prezi – this tutorial explains tips 16 and 17 in detail so you can add music in the background or at specific steps.

 

19 Manage the way YouTube videos are treated when showing your Prezi

When actually delivering a presentation, it might be good to first say a word about a video before showing it, but you other times you might want it to play automatically.

Today (6th May 2013) when you insert a YouTube film, Prezi puts a frame around it and adds the frame to your path. This means that the film will not play automatically. You have to click it.

If you want to get Prezi to play the film immediately when it gets to that point in the path:

  • Remove the frame (be careful not to delete the film)
  • Click on “edit path” and then click on the film element itself
  • This will add the film to the path, thus is will play automatically

If you change your mind, just put a frame around the film again and add the frame to your path. This will mean you need to click on the “play” icon to play the film. 

 

20 Add some free flash to your Prezi

UNFORTUNATELY – PREZI STOPPED SUPPORTING FLASH, SO THIS IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE….. PLEAS IGNORE

Prezi works quite well with (SWF) flash files and you can insert them onto your canvas like any other element. A few additional tips:

  • If you are making flash files for Prezi yourself, work with a 30fps frame-rate. That’s the speed Prezi will run it at, so you won’t get any surprises like my friend who had prepared a jogging Flash man who ended up sprinting!
  • If you need free Flash files, you can get some here: http://www.ffiles.com – I used a free file from ffiles.com for the smoking background in this Prezi

 

21 Convert GIF files into SWF files to use the animation

Animated GIF files do not work in Prezi. You need to convert them to an SWF (flash) file first. You can do this with a free GIF to SWF convertor. More information from the Prezi team here.

 

 

12 TIPS FOR WORKING MORE EFFICIENTLY WITH PREZI

 

22 Add things to the path regularly

Sometimes I get lost in my Prezi, wondering “Where did I put that word?” The more I use the dimensions and depth, the more this happens. To avoid this:

  • When you add something you don’t want to lose, add it to your path
  • ..click on “edit path” and add the object”
  • That way, you can always navigate back to it later and edit some more
  • ..and delete it from your presentation path if you want to

 

23 Delete frames without deleting content

Be careful when you delete a frame. It will delete everything inside. Unless ….

  • Click on the frame
  • Choose “frame options” (to the left of the classic “delete button”) and click on on the “delete frame only” button (at the bottom)

OR:

  • Right click on the frame
  • Choose “remove frame without deleting content”

 

24 Use an external mouse to edit, not a laptop touch-pad

Really. Just stop it. I’ve seen so many people struggling in training. Just buy a mouse!

 

25 Prezi has shortcuts too. Use them.

Here’s a list of keyboard shortcuts you can use when creating your Prezi online or on the desktop version: http://prezi.com/learn/keyboard-shortcuts.

  • If they don’t work, you need to enable shortcuts via the settings menu on the top-right of the Prezi you are editing.

 

26 Use a remote mouse to control your Prezi presentation (in a conference, like with MS PPT)

According to the Prezi guys, most remotes will work with Prezi straight away and if not, you can use the desktop software. Frankly, I couldn’t get mine to work at all at first. (Note: 26th Sept 2013 – It does now!)

It works now (update: March 2013) but just in case: Here is a work-around for presenting via your online account that I found on this Prezi community page:

  • Create your path as you would
  • In edit mode, click anywhere (not twice, as that adds text) then press “space-bar” to enter “show” mode
  • If your browser is still showing all the menu-bars, change it to full-screen mode
  • Your remote will take you through the path. Simple as that!

 

27 Embed your Prezi in WordPress

For an example of what I mean, have a look at this post.

It’s quite simple to do, but not so obvious to figure-out.

 

28 Use your Prezi as a whole website!!

If you don’t want to develop a whole website, why not just use Prezi as one. You can have a Prezi presentation as your homepage, with none of the prezi.com page around it.

 

Note: Today (26th Sept 2013) I can’t open this link any more, so here it is step-by-step:

 

29 Choose good Prezi titles for search engine optimisation

Prezi.com has a high SEO score and is a really popular site. Presentations published on the Prezi platform are easily found by Google.

If you want your Prezis to be found by Google-searchers, then use good keywords in the title, eg: Your company name + content-related words.

 

30 Give your audience a hand-out

Easy! Just click on “print” in Prezi and save a PDF copy.

 

31 Use prezi at the right time of the day, in the right browser

  • If you are using Prezi in Europe, do it in the morning. It goes a lot better, probably because the USA is still sleeping.
  • …and use Firefox. Its far more reliable for Prezi editing than Internet Explorer.

 

32 Change the url of your Prezi

This is perhaps the world’s most obvious Prezi tip, but in case you (like me) were wondering: If you update the title of your Prezi presentation, it will correspondingly update the url. Bearing in that Prezi is pretty SEO friendly, this may have a positive (or negative) impact on your page-ranking via search.

 

33 If you have good images, save them to “My Collection”

If you are sharing a Prezi logon or regularly using the same images yourself, it is efficient more efficient to save them to Prezi in “My Collection” rather than have to upload or copy them each time:

  • Right click on the image
  • “Add to My Collection”
  • You will find them all waiting for you when you next use “insert”
  • ..in the part “My Collection”

 

 

That’s all for now!

 

Have fun!

Subscribe to my blog on the top-right.

Leave a comment if you have more good tips

Follow me on Twitter

 

 

Make a presentation in 5 steps: Overview

Trainees sometimes ask me: “What is the most efficient way to make a presentation?” Follow these 5 steps and you will know the answer… Objective, Audience, Message, Structure, Content !

 

The pages linked above outline what to do at each step – follow the links and follow the instructions and you will be able to make a great presentation.

Don’t cheat on these steps. The next time someone asks you to make a presentation, just follow one at a time… Don’t go adapting previous presentations and PPT documents you have already made, start from scratch…

 

…and even if you prefer other ways to make your presentation, you will still need to deal with 5 basic steps. I can tell you now that the most efficient way is not opening PPT and just getting started on your visual support! Design your presentation first!

NOTE: This is not about making nice PPT documents, but building the whole presentation. PPT is referenced in the entry on building content…

 

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me: mail@dansteer.com

If you have comments, add them.

And if you want more ideas, follow me on Twitter of subscribe to this blog by entering your email address above/right…