Do You Design Slides More Like Nancy Duarte or Guy Kawasaki?

Nancy Duarte (author of Resonate and Slideology) and Guy Kawasaki (author of Enchantment) have very different views of presentation design. Whose opinion do you connect with more?

This one-hour video, filmed with an iPad 2 (note: sound quality is poor in some sections), features Nancy and Guy critiquing audience-submitted slides at AdTech. While Guy’s advice is go for the simplest, most conceptual slide, Nancy has a more complex and nuanced understanding of presentation design because she helps many clients with their presentations.

I encourage you to watch the entire video. But if you just want the highlights, scroll past the video for my top 10 takeaways (along with the exact time on the video).

1. Stock photos. Don’t go for obvious stock photography. You won’t stand out from competitors. Instead, brainstorm ideas on a whiteboard first.(00:00 – 00:45)

2. Use complete sentences for slide titles. Guy insists you should never use a complete sentence. Nancy favors full sentences with a verb. You should be able to understand a deck simply by reading the slide titles. (2:30-3:20 & 29:00-29:50) I also teach this in my workshops

3. You can create documents with PowerPoint. Nancy creates documents in PowerPoint all the time. But don’t present your document on the screen. Instead, start from scratch and create another version using storytelling to highlight the meaning and connect personally with the audience. (8:10-10:00)

4. Eye-flow. Nancy and Guy agree a slide needs an anchor point that “sucks the eyeball to one place” using color or font size for emphasis.  (10:35-12:20 & 25:35-26:40) I also cover this in my workshops.

5. For complex slides, build them up in layers. First establish the axes, then bring the data in point by point. Guy is not a fan of slide builds but Nancy says she may use 200-400 clicks for a 40 minute talk. (18:15 – 20:05)

6. Contrast. This talk was more interesting because it was a conversation between Nancy and Guy. Nancy emphasized that a great presentation needed contrast, such as: two speakers, contrasting the present with the future, vocal variety. (32:45-33:25)

7. Use motion to add meaning, not decoration. Guy never uses animation or transitions. Nancy believes animation can add meaning or emphasis. But she teaches new Duarte employees to pretend Microsoft never even invented certain slide transitions like checkerboard, blinds or boomerang. (34:15-36:50)

8. Prezi. Nancy is not keen about Prezi as a presentation tool.  The zoom in/out adds novelty but doesn’t add meaning. However, Prezi has a lot of potential as a space for teams to collaborate and take visual notes on an event. (37:00-39:05)

9. Webinars. Guy doesn’t do anything different when he presents his slides through a webinar. Nancy, though, offered many useful ideas: use a more animated voice because you’re competing with the audience’s inbox. To simulate eye contact with an audience, she also puts pictures of adoring audiences on her computer. She stands and paces around the room to add inflection and force to her voice.  (40:45-42:45) See also my article on presenting a webinar.

10. Prepare. Guy has to give a presentation about 30 times before he feels he’s mastered it. Nancy practiced 38 hours for her 18 minute TEDx speech. Why? Because a great speech can lead to a million dollars in consulting and speaking opportunities. She is adamant the 38 hours is better than a teleprompter because it allows her to establish eye contact and really connect with the audience. (53:55-55;20)

So, is your philosophy more like Nancy’s? Or Guy’s? Leave a comment and let me know.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

The Secrets of Storytelling in the Boardroom – Part 4, Three Ways to Open Your Presentation

(Return to part 1). One of the best examples of using storytelling in front of a skeptical business audience came in 2002 in a business school lecture hall at the University of Chicago. It was an MBA class on entrepreneurship and each group of 3-5 students pitched their business idea to a panel of cool venture capitalists. Their approach tended to follow this logical path: the market size is X, if we can get 3% of that market our revenue will look like this in 3 years.

Then our instructor Jim Schrager, a long-time veteran of the VC world, stood up to model the correct way to pitch a new business idea. He stood in front of us in silence for about ten seconds, while we squirmed, waiting for him to begin his business pitch.

He opened his mouth and began to tell a story. “In 1998, the Vice President of a global technology firm was side-swiped on the highway by a semi truck, sending him into a concrete bridge piling at 70 miles per hour. His car was destroyed, his wife died instantly, but he miraculously survived. Paramedics pulled him from the twisted metal of his shattered car and rushed him to the nearest hospital, bleeding profusely. The doctors and nurses raced him into surgery. But it was too late. They could not stop the bleeding and this wealthy business executive died.”

Shrager paused and looked around the room, which was hushed. Then he went on “If the hospital had our product, that man might still be alive today.”

Then Schrager went on to describe the product, the patents, the several hospitals where the product was in use, the inventor’s credentials and so on. Everyone in that classroom felt humbled. We had focused on impressing the investors with the market size. Schrager used a story not only to help the potential investors understand the product, but to turn them into humbled admirers before he even talked about the revenue potential.

I will never forget how powerful was that example, and it illustrates the incredible magic of a story to help an audience see the world through the hero’s eyes. Even in a boardroom presentation, you need to start out by grabbing the audience’s attention and getting them on your side. While your presentation may not lend itself to such a powerful and tragic story, there are at least three ways you might consider using a story to begin your presentation:

1. Springboard story. 

Stephen Denning, author of The Leaders Guide to Storytelling describes a springboard story as a true story that illustrates a problem you are facing and introduces the solution to that problem. The Schrager example discussed above is an example of a springboard story.

Customer case studies are an excellent source of springboard stories. I conduct market research for a living, including interviewing customers, potential customers and channel partners, to learn how they make technology purchasing decisions. I am always on the lookout for good customer stories of the challenges they face and how they are solving those problems. When I present the final results to clients, I will often begin by using a customer story to illustrate the problem and the solution. Talk to your sales people; they are a great source of customer stories.

According to Denning, it’s best to include both the problem and the solution in the springboard story. Problems make listeners sour, but solutions keep people positive and their confidence in you high.

2. Analogies and metaphors.

An analogy or metaphor is a similarity between two different things, like the similarities between a bird and a plane. This is how human beings learn; we make generalizations from one thing and apply them to other things. This happens naturally and automatically.

We not only see similarities; sometimes we actually transfer traits from one thing to another. For instance, we compare a first kiss to a sports car and automatically transfer the excitement and newness of the kiss to the car, even though the similarities are not real.

And analogies work. For instance, in a 2009 study at the University of British Columbia, researchers showed advertisements for sports cars, massage chairs and mountain vacations. Some ads contained straightforward features and benefits. Other ads used analogies, comparing the sports car to a first kiss and the massage chair to a hot tub after a hard day of skiing. The result: audiences were about 50% more interested in products when the ads used analogies, because they generated positive memories and emotions that transferred onto the advertised product. In a 2004 study at Northwestern University, people falsely believed facts were true of one story when they read them in a similar story.

A great example of using an analogy is how Microsoft describes the importance of cloud computing. For those who don’t know, cloud computing means using software (like PowerPoint) through a web browser instead of as an application on your computer. To explain the importance of cloud computing, Microsoft begins with an analogy of how the first automobile was introduced in the early 1900’s and no-one could see its potential to change the world. Cloud computing is like that; we can’t quite see how it will change the world, but it’s inevitable.

Consider opening your presentation with an analogy when presenting:

Complex or new ideas: Familiar analogies help audiences understand difficult-to-imagine ideas. For instance, to explain cloud computing to an unfamiliar audience, you could use the analogy of how we used to send physical mail to our loved ones. Now, we send email. We don’t need the physical paper and ink anymore. Same thing with software. We don’t need to load a physical CD into our computer; we can just log into software through the internet.

Controversial ideas: Some ideas go down easier after hearing an analogy. For instance, perhaps you feel your business is being threatened by internet competitors. Rather than argue and defend this claim, you could start out by talking about the decline of telephone books, maps, newspapers and TV Guide. Then, when the analogy has been made, you talk about how your business is being caught in the same trends.

A decision-making meeting: Analogies can help people see a problem in a new way and generate creative new solutions. For instance, if your company is losing sales to a competitor who tells lies about your product, does that remind you of anything? How would you deal with a schoolyard bully? Or a computer hacker? Or a slanderous news reporter? By recasting the problem in the form of an analogy, you can brainstorm solutions you may not have thought of.

The analogy should be a true story, not a fable or fabrication. One study at the National University of Singapore found story ads were more persuasive than logical ads. But when the audience thought harder about the story ads, only the stories that seemed true were still persuasive.

Analogies can be found by reading the news, history books, or just paying attention to common situations around you. Sometimes, analogies suddenly hit you like a bolt of lightning when you’ve been thinking about it long enough. When you have a complex or controversial idea, ask yourself “what does this remind me of?” Then brainstorm as many ideas as you can, both good and bad ideas.

3. Use an image as a metaphor.

A metaphor is not a story, but like an analogy it can activate stories stored in memory. And just like analogies, metaphors make us see the new situation as similar to the metaphor, including the emotions and other characteristics of that metaphor.

As an example, I once attended a business presentation to learn about different licensing programs. Licensing is usually a very dry subject, riddled with legal rules and conditions. But this presenter, rather than show a table comparing the different licensing programs, showed three 7-11 soda cups; small, medium and the Big Gulp. We now had a familiar metaphor to use as a placeholder while the speaker explained the three licensing choices.

You can also invent a metaphor, such as describing how a new technology is frightening to customers. Cloud computing is a new concept among technology leaders, and they are concerned what happens when someone else is in charge of their company’s private data. To introduce this to an audience, you could create a picture of customers standing at the edge of a cliff and being invited to step out onto a fluffy cloud. This metaphorical image conveys, in ways words cannot, what a big step it is to step off solid ground and into the unknown. The audience creates their own internal story, aided by the hero (customer looking over the edge), conflict (uncertainty of stepping onto a cloud) and imagery. 

This is at least three ways to use the power of stories to begin a presentation. In the next blog post, we discuss one of the most important storytelling features to introduce conflict and so increase interest in the rest of your presentation – the Inciting Incident.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Watch a Hilarious Speaker Wow the Crowd with PowerPoint

Think PowerPoint is boring? Can only be used to over-complicate (or dumb down) an idea? Turns an otherwise gifted speaker into a droning idiot?

Here’s a video that proves otherwise.

Watch as the master, Brian Walter, demonstrates how he uses PowerPoint to put the biggest smiles on his audience’s faces at the National Speaker’s Association meeting. He even reads the text from the slides. It can be done!

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

The Secrets of Storytelling in the Boardroom, Part 3 – Three Secrets for Better Stories

In my last blog, I discussed the four benefits of using storytelling: clearer message, increased trust, more word of mouth and increased agreement. But what, exactly, is a “story”? And how do you make your story compelling?

There are various definitions of a “story” but in simplest terms, a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Something happens, which causes something else to happen, which causes yet something else to happen.

But arranging your PowerPoint deck into a cause-effect chain is more of a story skeleton than a true story that can inspire a storylistening trance. When you are crafting a story, there are three main secrets of effective storytelling.

1. Have a hero the audience can relate to

All stories need someone the audience can relate to: a hero. Just adding a human element to your story moves it further away from logic alone and further toward storytelling. When you find yourself about to talk about SOMETHING, like market segments or international markets, instead try to talk about SOMEONE, like students, mobile professionals or software developers in China.

More tips for creating great heros: 

  • Make it easy for the audience to relate to the hero and project themselves into the story and see the world through the hero’s eyes. Mention values, personal traits or demographics that are similar to the audience.
  • The speaker may be the hero, such as telling your audience about a customer you met or bad product experience you had. In that case, don’t just TELL the audience what happened, but RE-EXPERIENCE the event including the feelings. Transport yourself back in time and you will transport the audience with you, where they can see the world through your eyes.
  • You may decide to make the audience the hero in your presentation. In that case, you will be trying to build a vision of what the world could look like. This approach fits best for motivational speeches or visionary speeches by the company leaders, but may work less well if the audience is more pragmatic and wants to review current status and discuss short-term plans.

Finding the hero is perhaps the hardest part of using storytelling in boardroom presentations, where discussions focus on issues and abstractions like “strategies”, “market segments”, “competitive threats”, “business metrics” and “financial performance.” Many of these presentations simply do not have a hero and cannot be told as a story.

Still, start by trying to identify the hero by asking “who” are we talking about, rather than “what” are we talking about. Finding the hero is the anchor point for moving from a logical argument to a storyteller approach. However, even if you can’t find the hero, there are still many ways to use storytelling, which we will cover in the rest of this blog series.

2. Conflict

A hero needs a goal. And when the hero faces challenges reaching their goal, it’s called “conflict”. Stories where everything goes according to plan are boring. Stories where the hero has to climb mountains, fight dragons and face his childhood enemy to rescue the princess are interesting. So when you tell stories, enliven them by saying what the hero is trying to achieve and what is standing in his way.

More tips on crafting story conflict: 

  • The best way to increase interest in your story is to focus on increasing the conflict, according to screenwriting expert Robert McKee. A story about a smart person getting his Ph.D. is not interesting because they face no hurdles. But a story about a homeless man with a heroin addiction pursuing a Ph.D. is interesting. He faces many challenges to completing his goal.
  • Even better, the hero should face some risk in pursuing the goal; that is, they stand to LOSE something if they fail. Perhaps the homeless man is hiding from the mafia. To pursue his Ph.D. he must come out of hiding and risk his life to pursue his goal.
  • Be explicit not only about what the hero is trying to accomplish, but why. This internal motivation — love, greed, fear, revenge — makes the hero easier to relate to because the audience has had similar motivations, or admires persons with those motivations.

Boardroom meetings are often about goals and challenges, so they are a natural fit for storytelling. But pay attention to highlighting the conflicts and risks if you want the audience to be a bit more attentive, and sprinkle conflict and motivation into all stories you use during your presentation.

3. Use pictures and picture words

The most important thing is to use pictures or picture words, to help the audience visualize the setting and become immersed in the story. People become transported into the idea through the hero’s eyes. When people experience the story internally, it becomes theirs and change happens effortlessly.

In one landmark study of the storylistening trance, researchers visited storytelling festivals and interviewed people in the audience who appeared to be (and later confirmed they were) in a storylistening trance. The one thing that most agreed on: stories they could visualize were the most engaging.

More tips on helping your audience visualize the story: 

  • Provide specific dates and locations, if possible, to help create an internal context. Did this story happen in 2010 or 1867? In downtown Seattle or rural India?
  • Use picture words, like “students” instead of “customers”, “computer” instead of “PC”, “men and women” instead of “voters”.
  • Use action words like “jump”, “chase”, “run”. These also generate mental images.
  • Encourage your audience to become immersed by saying things like “just imagine” and “let me paint you a picture”. Consider using pictures on your PowerPoint slides, or actual props, if the concept is too unfamiliar for the audience to imagine
  • If you use pictures on your PowerPoint slides, choose images that immerse the audience into the scene rather than images that put the audience outside looking into the scene. For instance, if you talk about football, show a picture from the viewpoint of the player — on the field facing an opposing player or inside the huddle — rather than a picture taken from the stands.
  • Add irrelevant details to your descriptions. For instance, instead of saying “mobile phone” say “pink mobile phone”. It may not be relevant, but adding irrelevant detail makes the story more realistic. One 1974 study found people remember 50% more when unnecessary details are added to a sentence.

Not every presentation can be told as a story, and especially in a business meeting. Boardroom discussions tend to revolve around abstractions like “strategies”, “market segments”, “market share” and “competitive threats”. Executives care about metrics and fact-based data, which often don’t strictly lend themselves to stories. So although these tips are based on what makes a great screenplay, not all the tips translate to a boardroom presentation.

Still, there are at least four ways to use storytelling, or the persuasive elements of storytelling, in a business presentation:

  1. Attention: to grab the audience’s attention and make it easier for your audience to understand and agree with your argument
  2. Interest: to create interest and desire to hear your message
  3. Structure: to structure the overall presentation
  4. Enliven: to enliven key points of the presentation

We now cover each in detail, starting with using storytelling to open your boardroom presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group.

Is a Webinar More Like a Presentation or Talk Radio?

A webinar is just like a presentation but without the eye contact. Right?

Well, maybe not.

A presentation is the wrong metaphor for a webinar because there are so many things you can do in a presentation that you can’t do in a webinar. The “presentation” metaphor is limiting.

Instead, think of your webinar like talk radio but with pictures. That was the advice of one workshop participant at Lisa Braithwaite‘s 2009 PresentationCamp (see 20:35-22:00 of this video) and it was an enlightening moment when I heard that comment.

Thinking in terms of talk radio opens new ideas for you; ideas you wouldn’t have thought of if you were locked in the presentation metaphor. Rather than limiting, the “talk radio” metaphor is empowering. What makes talk radio interesting? And what secrets of talk radio can you borrow to enliven your next webinar?

1. Dialogue, not monologue. Instead of a single speaker, try having two presenters who talk back and forth. Or interview a guest during the webinar from a prepared list of questions. This dialogue, like the banter of morning show dj’s, is more interesting to listen to than a long monologue.

2. Invite callers. Invite lots of questions from the audience. Stop frequently and make it as interactive as possible. Consider asking a question at the beginning of the webinar and taking guesses throughout the webinar until someone finally gets the answer right, like a talk radio host.

3. Stand. Stand up when you conduct the webinar. It will help increase airflow in your lungs and increase your energy levels, giving you a stronger radio voice.

4. Look. Have a mirror nearby and look into it occasionally. Smile! Your audience can hear the smile in your voice and smiling will give you energy to power through your webinar with gusto.

5. Personal factoids. Share mundane personal facts about yourself. Where you live, what kind of car you drive, that you like (or hate) cats, your favorite sports team. Plan these factoids in advance. Give your audience many reasons to identify with you.

Give that a try. Then leave me a comment letting me know which tips worked best for you, and what other tips you have for approaching a webinar like talk radio.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Get your own copy of Speaking PowerPoint, join my LinkedIn group or subscribe to this blog.