The following recorded webcast is part of Safari Book Online’s webcast series.
Presentation software requires professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology offers practical approaches that combine conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world’s leading brands.
Presented by: Author Nancy Duarte
Duration: 60 minutes
Recording Date: Thursday, Octber 8, 2009
View webcast recording
Following is the Q & A that took place during the webcast:
Q: How does data visualization/Edward Tufte inform your work, if at all?
A: We are huge fans of Tufte http://www.edwardtufte.com here at Duarte. I send employees to his workshops on a regular basis. I agree wholeheartedly with his premise on how information should be displayed. Chart junk and Pluff should be removed! We both agree that the default masters in PowerPoint do encourage the wrong type of communication outcomes. We also agree that dense statistical information is not appropriate for PowerPoint. Where we differ is that I don’t think that PowerPoint is evil. I think it’s the most powerful communication medium but it’s misused. Tufte is a purist statistician. Projection is very different than print in that there are several things the audience can’t control. The presenter controls the speed that the slides advance which impacts how long the audience has to process the information. The audience is also stuck in their seats and can’t draw a slide close to their face for closer examination. So, data on slides needs to be clear and simple.
Some would say that over‐simplifying slides or even creating emphasis in the data is deceptive. We feel that it’s imperative. People came to hear you present so it’s okay to emphasize your findings and your impressions of the data. Then, after you’ve told them your impressions, you can give away all your findings as a handout and audience can draw their own conclusions later. So give the audience your findings straight up and then give them backup to see if they draw the same conclusions that you did. Presentations are a great platform for communicating the narrative that the data expressed. Another brilliant statistician and communicator is Stephen Few http://www.perceptualedge.com. He has several books and hosts workshops on the topic.
Q: Are the red pins noise in this case?
A: That is a great question. One man’s signal is another mans noise I guess. The red pins are an aesthetic choice that supports the concept. We tried to make most of the graphics look hand‐made or hand‐touched in some way. The red pin was supposed to create the illusion that it was pinning up the paper.
Q: How do you structure and sequence an idea into a story? Any thoughts on logic/problem solving?
A: Watch our blog http://blog.duarte.com because the next book is all about this topic and I’m going to start to release blog posts as soon as the structure and sequence of my thoughts are arranged into a cohesive story.
Q: What’s your experience with Prezi? And when does it work the best?
A. Prezi http://www.prezi.com is very cool and the guys who founded and run it are a great group of folks. Prezi brings a new dimension and cognitive touch‐point to presentations. Most presentations are linear sequenced slides and even bullet points are linear time‐based pieces of information. So with PowerPoint, we’ve been trapped in a time‐sequenced linear format. What Prezi does is it adds the dimension of space as a method to recall concepts and ideas. It’s brilliant to give another method for memory recall. Prezi works best when showing context helps with the understanding. The ability to zoom, scale and maneuver information can create a huge “aha moment” in the minds of an audience. Keep in mind though that not all presentations make a good Prezi. So you should use this tool when visual context adds to the meaning or it could become distracting.
Q: How do you build in spontaneity and interaction with the audience into a presentation?
A: It’s a bit of an oxymoron to have “planned spontaneity” but it does take some planning to pull it off well. In a live‐event, you can ask questions that require people to raise their hands and shout out answers. You can also use either formal Audience Response Systems or some of the emerging ones that can plot Twitter feeds. Large formal settings do tend to have more passive audience involvement but if you’re in a smaller informal environment you can give the audience quick activities to work on alone or with a team and have them report their finding. With webinars, the whiteboard and polling functions are a great way to engage the audience and you’d also get insight into the level of engagement since you can’t see their faces.
Q: Where do you find free or inexpensive photos/images for use in presos?
A: There are some free sites but the quality is rarely good. We prefer to use iStock http://www.istockphoto.com and Shutterfly http://www.shutterfly.com for images. If you do use Google images, not all of them are free. You need to check who owns the rights before you can just snag them. There’s new software coming out from PicScout http://www.picscout.com that will eventually help identify who owns which images on Google.
Q: Who is the executive, which personifies how presentations should be presented?
A: wish there was a great answer to this question. The only exposure I have is with my client base so I subscribed about a year ago to a publication called Vital Speeches, which has professional and political speeches, transcribed in it. I’ve been looking for that needle in the haystack for a while and they no one has emerged that is as iconic as Steve Jobs. Carmine Gallo http://www.carminegallo.com has a new book out about Mr. Jobs called Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and it looks amazing.
Q: Any suggestions for presentations containing condensed technical info such as programming language talks?
A: We make different layouts for various types of technical info. Specifically for programming, we’ll have it scroll vertically across the page with a path animation (up) so you can have the text as large as possible but still keep the context of the code. Prezi (see question above) is another way to navigate through dense code.
Q: Does Duarte do on‐site training for organizations? Can she explain where?
A: We do have a facilitation team that takes the workshops on the road. It’s most cost effective to fill a class with the max of 32 people. We have half‐day, full day and one and a half‐day sessions. To host one at your facility, e‐mail email@example.com to contact the training team.
Q: If you have material that belongs in a slideument, but there is some of that material that you actually want to present, how do you handle the two? Put the slideument on some sort of common directory, but then present just the key points?
A: Without seeing the density of the document you’re referencing, I’ll give a general answer. If you’ve passed out a copy of the document, you can project a version of the entire document so people see what it looks like so they know what to find in their packets. You can also circle areas of the document on the slide you want them to look at. You can also scale and shrink the document if necessary. I have a couple slides that I deliver where I walk through it on screen quickly (the order they are to process the info) and then have them review the document as I wait quietly for them to absorb the information.
Q: What about corporate politics ‐ it’s been done this way forever, why would we change?
A: That’s a huge question and one that we plan to devote an entire section to on our new web site launching at the end of the year. Corporate change is hard. You can start though by fighting the right battles. Sometimes we get caught up in skirmishes that have low value to changing the organization. Here’s a blog post http://blog.duarte.com/2009/07/don%e2%80%99t‐get‐discouraged‐fight‐for‐what%e2%80%99s‐right/ about what types of presentations to fight hard for. A change is happening and you might be in an organization that will be a late adopter, which is too bad. You can work hard at the decks of presentations that you can control…yours. If you do that well and work hard on your own communication skills, maybe you’ll get promoted and have more authority and become a more powerful change‐agent. I wish it were easier than that.
Q: How do we convince our leaders of the importance of consistent branding in presentations? They want to “cowboy” their presentations because they “know best” and don’t see value in following the rules.
A: Many organizations have rogues that think they are qualified to be an Art Director even though they didn’t take a single visual communications class. There’s a difference though between an armchair Art Director and someone who’s building a teleprompted deck. Many leaders use the presentation development process as a way to ingest and mentally prepare for their speaking engagement. By pressuring them to change, you’re asking them to move out of the well‐worn groove they’ve used for preparing for a talk. For some reason, some leaders add all kinds of crap to a slide to help them spatially remember what they want to say. Leaders that feel they don’t need to conform to the identity that the organization has established baffle me. Leaders are supposed to support and add value to the brand, not devalue it. If you could make a mental connection for them between the time and money that goes into all the other branding efforts and how their energy diminishes it, that might work.
Q: Do you carry an idea booklet or journal or camera to pick up ideas?
A: I carry an iPhone that I take notes on and take pictures with.
Q: What do you recommend using for a sales call when you need to sit in front of your prospect?
A: It all depends on the message and quantity of people in the room. Sometimes a formal presentation to a small group is appropriate and sometimes a more collaborative discussion around a printed and bound document is more appropriate. For us, I show our work less than 50% of the time. Usually they get what we do from our web site and the first meeting is to have a conversation. It all depends on where you think they are in the sales cycle.
Q: How do you give feedback to someone to let them know they need to improve their presentation without offending them?
A: Giving constructive feedback is tricky and it’s usually all about how you make them feel in the set‐up. You should also answer all the “audience needs” questions that are in slide:ology on pages 14 to 17. These same questions work for difficult conversation and basically guide you to take a walk in their shoes before you have the conversation. Presenting is really about communications and if their communications aren’t strong, their initiative, product, customer etc will not be moved and they will have wasted people’s time. Hopefully if you appeal to their desire for success it will work.
Q: What is the danger of the misuse of the power of presentation, i.e., when it becomes propaganda?
A: This is a great question. Persuasion has been associated with manipulation and propaganda and I don’t think it is either. If we were to eliminate persuasion from our workplace, it eliminates being open to other’s perspectives. Propaganda is really about spreading a doctrine or belief system that usually leads to harm—which could happen in the workplace at times. But I think the people that call workplace persuasion propaganda are using it to resist the change the organization is asking them to do. People naturally resist change unless they can see personal benefit in the change.
Q: How do you write notes for a presentation if you’re doing the creative but it may have multiple presenters?
A: Many people don’t know about the dual screen projection mode. You can project the notes field on the comfort monitor (or their laptop) and the slides behind you. You can color‐code the notes in notes view where each presenter has their own prompt‐notes.
Q: What is your blog address?
Q: Some students I know want to do great looking presentations — their teachers end up giving lower marks because “there’s not enough information on the slides!”
A: What the students should do is create slides the right way and when they turn in their slides, send a PDF in notes view instead of in PowerPoint. The details can be in the notes and the visuals can still be simple. That way the teachers can see that they did the homework and chose to present it well.
Q: Are there any tricks in presentation styles you recommend in order to communicate visually with the younger generation (i.e. less than 25 years old)? I need to deliver very important safety messages and absolutely need to hit home runs.
A: That generation has never known what it’s like to not have access 24/7 to information on the Internet. Everything is instant access to them. I suggest that you keep it very brief, very interesting and funny. Here’s a great clip from The Office http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/video/clips/best‐dwight‐moments‐no‐4/1113861/ where Dwight was giving a safety talk but nobody listened because he used PowerPoint so he did a simulation instead. Virgin Airlines took a very different approach http://blog.duarte.com/2008/11/presentations‐on‐a‐plane/ to their safety talks on their airplanes and more people paid attention.
Q: I work with professors on lecture slides (for the classroom). How would you adapt slide:ology for education?
A: Educators and students have begun to rely on having the teachers’ slides provided to them so they can study from them and not take notes during class. I think that professors should mix it up a bit. There’s value in students learning how to “hear” structure and capture it in outline form. In teaching, many of the presentations are informative and at time factual and dry. I think that at least 8 times per semester you pull out the stops and give a passionate and powerful presentation. One that the students will never forget. One that reminds you why you got into the field. One that has the kids fall in love in the subject. These presentations take time but the payoff is huge.