• 6 Steps to a Snazzier Title Slide

  • Posted on June 15, 2015

  • I was watching a YouTube video recently on nutritional supplements (long story!) and saw the speaker had used this title slide. I immediately knew what was wrong with it and how to fix it. So as an educational opportunity, I wanted to share my step-by-step process.

    These types of title slides are common among non-professional designers:

    • Lengthy title that is center-aligned
    • Lengthy speaker biography that is crowded and hard to read
    • Clip art photo slapped artlessly on the page
    • Gradient background (or some template background) for that extra pop!

    It looks amateurish, doesn’t it? And yet, it could look very professional if you know what to look for and how to fix it. Let’s go step-by-step fixing this title slide.

    1. Alignment
    Always pay attention to alignment. That means everything on your slide should share an invisible border with at least one other thing on your slide. Center alignment is a killer because it destroys your alignment. On this slide, nothing really lines up and so everything seems to be slapped on messily.

    I’m always going to align my text on the left. There are some times you can break this rule, but most of the time your slides will immediately look better with left alignment. I’m going to place the picture off to the side for now (we’ll deal with it later).

    2. Text Variety
    Right now the text looks overwhelming to read. That’s because it’s all the same size, so the eye doesn’t know where to land. Instead, we want to give the eye clear landing spots by using variety and contrast in text treatment.

    In the title, for instance, we have four lines of text with no contrast. We can introduce contrast by 1) bolding some keywords and 2) italicizing the emotional words.

    In the biography, we can bold the speaker’s name and make the font larger. The rest of the text we can make smaller, and white, so it whispers.

    There are several calls-to-action in the biography, including two URL’s and a Facebook page. I 0nly want to highlight one of them. Otherwise, they are all competing for attention. I’m going to use a technique where the last line (call-to-action) has the same text treatment as the first line (speaker’s name) like a set of bookends. Finally, we don’t intuitively know what “FB” means, so I’m going to replace that with a Facebook icon.

    Do you see how adding variety to the text treatment makes it easier to read and more visually interesting?

    3. Integrate the Picture
    The presenter is on the right track to add a picture to the title slide. Pictures engage audiences, and especially pictures of people. But its placement is awkward, just wherever there is some blank space on the slide. It looks “bolted on”. Instead, I want it to be integrated more naturally with the page.

    The rule of thumb is I want people to see the picture before looking at the text. There’s a ton of brain research behind this but basically we want to engage people emotionally (picture) before engaging them logically (text). The eye naturally starts in the upper left, so I’m going to place the picture in the upper left. Then it will naturally read left to right to the title.

    I’m also going to rework the title a bit more, adding even more contrast, by making the emotional words smaller and adding some color. See how things really start to pop when you have contrast and variety in your text? See why it’s such a mistake to have all the text the same size and color?

    4. Gradient Box
    There’s a bit of a hard border between the picture and the text. The picture has a white background that ends suddenly. It feels like a harsh transition. One handy tip I like to use is a semi-transparent box that goes from fully transparent on the left to fully dark on the right. I’ve created a video showing how you can make these.

    The effect is to marry the text and picture better. You also have a darker background for the text to stand up against (I turned the larger title text white).

    5. Color
    The layout is better. But now I’m thinking about color. Right now we have a gray background. Gray can be used artfully but it also tends to be a somewhat depressing color. Maybe that’s the mood this speaker wants to set. But since she’s talking about anxiety, worry and food cravings, depressing doesn’t seem to capture it.

    There is a ton of research showing that different colors subtly create different moods in the audience. I want to be more purposeful here. What mood do I want in my audience, and what color can help to set that? You can see how different colors convey different moods:

    Any of these colors creates more of a mood than the gray, and makes the slide look more professional. Any of these colors makes the slide “prettier”. But the choice comes down to: what mood do you want to set?

    • Blue makes you feel calm and that’s not what we’re trying to say.
    • Purple conveys prestige or luxury, again not what we want.
    • Green is also a calming color, and suggests health and growth and vitality. It’s a reasonable choice for a talk about health.
    • Orange makes you feel a bit fidgety, and maybe even a little hungry. Bingo! Anxious and hungry is the topic of our talk, so let’s go with that!

    6. Textured Background
    Most slides have a solid color background, and that’s fine. Some use a gradient fill to add some more polish. Still others go for a template background, which can often be too much.

    But I like to add textured backgrounds. Gradients seem a bit artificial, while textures feel more organic. Gradients seem like you’ve seen them before, while textures feel new and creative.

    There are lots of places to find textures and I created this video showing how to make textured backgrounds. But just go to sites like Pixabay.com or Compfight.com and search for “texture”. Or use a search term like “cloud” or “paint” or “sand” or “water” to get some interesting photos with texture.

    I found this texture at Pixabay.com and just recolored it using Picture Tools > Format > Color in PowerPoint. There’s a sense of chaos in the randomness that reinforces the idea of anxiety, panic and worry that complements this presentation’s topic.

    By the way, Pixabay is my favorite new site for finding pictures because they have lots of high-quality pictures, you can use them free even for commercial purposes and — best of all — you don’t even have to add the author’s attribution. You do have the option to pay the author, but it’s voluntary.

    Good luck with your presentations and check out my book Speaking PowerPoint if you found this useful! Or, if you want your staff to learn to use PowerPoint this well, consider having me in to conduct an onsite workshop.

    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.


  • Does the NFL Have a Concussion Problem? Graphs Tell the Story.

  • Posted on March 23, 2015

  • Chris Borland made headlines last week when he announced, after one year in the NFL, he was retiring because the risk of concussions was too great. It was especially pertinent given March 2105 is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The NFL responded that “football has never been safer“.

    And that got me thinking. How BAD is the concussion problem in the NFL? Is the risk too great, as Borland says? Or is it relatively safe, as the NFL wants us to believe?

    But first, let’s appreciate what it means to suffer a concussion.

     

    The long-term complications from concussions can include chronic migraines,  fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, seizures, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and depression, often leading to suicidal thoughts. One of the example is Andre Waters, a safety with the Philadelphia Eagles known for his punishing tackles, who shot himself at the age of 44, a few years after retiring from the NFL. Examiners studied his brain tissue and found it was like that of an 85 year-old dementia patient. Other studies have found that 76 of 79 brains of deceased NFL players also showed signs of the same degeneration. However, the NFL has always denied there is a proven connection between concussions and later brain degeneration.

    Let’s start with the NFL’s position. They say that over the past three years, the number of concussions has been decreasing. And the data show they are right.

    NFL Concussions are declining since 2012 But hold on. Whenever you look at timeline data, always be skeptical of the starting date. Because the story can change based on your starting date. If we go back to 2009, the first year PBS Concussion Watch started tracking official injury reports, we see that the concussion problem got progressively worse until 2012, and it is now abating. So, the NFL’s story is true, but only half of the story. (note: NFL reports different numbers than Concussion Watch).

    NFL concussions 2009-2014

    But are these numbers good? Is 111 concussions in the NFL too high? Or “safe”? There are 32 teams and 53 players per team, for a total of 1,696 players. If 111 get a concussion, that’s 6.5%. That seems pretty low, I guess.

    But it turns out that the chances of getting a concussion are different based on your position. In 2014, only 2% of quarterbacks got a concussion. But 14% of cornerbacks. 2% seems pretty low. 14% seems kinda high to me.

    In fact, if you look at the trends by position, you see the percentage has decreased for offensive players, especially running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. That’s in part because of the NFL’s new rules protecting ball carriers from vicious tackles, especially helmet-to-helmet. But they have stayed stubbornly high for defensive players, especially cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.

    NFL concussions, by position 2012-2014

    This shows the percentage chance of getting a concussion in a single season. But what if you have a 10-year career? Clearly, the chances of getting a concussion sometime during your career will be higher the longer you play.

    Chance of NFL concussion, by length of career

    Most players don’t last 10 years. According to the NFL, the average NFL career is 6 years. So, assuming you are a rookie starting in the NFL, what is the chance you will get a concussion sometime during your 6-year career? The numbers are more sobering.

    Chance of concussion during 6-year NFL career

    Now we see the true extent of the NFL’s concussion problem. For the “speed positions” (the fastest players on the field), and especially those involved in the passing game, at least one-in-three will get a concussion during their career. If you are brave enough to be a cornerback or safety, one of every two players will get at least one concussion during their career.

    So does the NFL have a concussion problem? That’s a normative question, based on what you think is “normal”.

    But put the question this way: imagine there was a paint, and if you were exposed to it long enough there’s a 35% chance that the rest of your life will be complicated by depression, early-onset Alzheimer’s and suicidal thoughts. Would the government allow you to pain the walls of your workplace with this stuff?

    Not likely. I’d say the NFL does have a concussion problem.

     

    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.


  • PowerPoint Clip Art is Dead. Now What?

  • Posted on February 16, 2015

  • In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery. Now when you insert clip art in PowerPoint, the program searches Bing Images and delivers pictures that have been tagged with a creative commons license.

    There is some upside. Bing Images can find hundreds of thousands of pictures for any search term, dwarfing the size of the clip art gallery. And the internet adds a bazillion new pictures every day while the clip art gallery grows stale. So the thinking was good.

    But there’s several problems, which will change how we insert clip art forever

    1. You mostly get photographs, even if you try to filer on just “Illustrations”. Try it. Search “handshake” and limit to Illustrations only. You’ll primarily get photographs.
    2. There are no vector images in Bing Image search. Vector images are made up of many shapes (lines, squares, circles) that are grouped together. If you want to edit an image, you can’t do it with the Bing Image results.
    3. It’s a lot more work to verify the license for each picture. Now when you insert an image, you need to go back to the source website to verify the license. Do you need to add attribution? Who gets the attribution? Can you use it commercially? Every image becomes a fact-checker’s nightmare.

    So this means we need to have some new habits when we insert images in PowerPoint.

    1. Add “clip art” to your search term. If you search “shaking hands” you’ll get mostly photographs, even if you filter on Illustrations. That’s because Bing Images doesn’t know how to recognize PowerPoint’s filters yet. So if you want to limit to just Illustrations, search “shaking hands clip art” and Bing will look for images tagged as clip art.

     

    2. Find other sources for clip art. There are lots of sites that give free clip art. Just search “free clip art” and you’ll find sites like ClipArts 101 and Clipart.co, which might be free but don’t have the highest quality images to choose from. Noun Project is a favorite of many designers for its extensive set of high quality and free icons.

     

    3. Use installed fonts instead of pictures. There are lots of fonts built into PowerPoint that will give you small images. Check out this blog post on how to use the Wingdings and Webdings fonts to make small icons.

     

    4. Install free symbol fonts. Search any font website for free symbol fonts and install them on your computer. Some of my favorite sites for free fonts are DaFont, Font Squirrel and Font Space.

     

    5. Unclick “Include Office.com Content”. In my version of PowerPoint 2010, I can still access a small portion of the clip art gallery. But I need to unclick “Include Office.com Content” or else it will search Bing Images. If I unclick it, Bing Images doesn’t get searched and I can scrape around in what remains of the clip art gallery.

     

    6. Quick – hoard all your vectors! Scrounge around in the remaining clip art gallery and save those vectors. They may be gone soon. In addition, go through all your existing PowerPoint decks and save all your vectors into a central place. Pillage any deck you receive and loot all the vectors. You may need them some day!

     

    7. Download this set of vectors. I did steps #5 and #6 and saved 150 pieces of vector clip art. Enjoy!

     

    8. Search for WMF files. WFM (Windows MetaFile) files are one easy-to-use format for vector images. So add “WMF” to your search terms. For instance, “shaking hands WMF” will return tons of editable vector images on Google Images. You’ll have to download the images to your desktop and then insert them as pictures (not clip art) so it’s a laborious multi-step process. Add them to your master deck!

     

    Verifying the license is the biggest problem of all. Who wants to snoop around a poorly constructed website looking in vain for clear license rights, and clear attribution instructions. Sheesh!

    Perhaps Microsoft can work on fixing these problems to truly make the clip art feature more valuable by connecting it to Bing Images, and not less.

    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.


  • Worst NFL Call Ever? The Data Says “Not!”

  • Posted on February 9, 2015

  • This article has nothing to do with presentations. But if you know me, you’ll know you can count on me for 1) challenging sloppy thinking and 2) being data-based (example >).

    With that said, let me state clearly: Seattle made the right call at the end of the Super Bowl.

    With 26 seconds left in the game, and one timeout left, Seattle was on the one-yard line. They needed a touchdown to win. On second down and goal, they threw a quick pass which got intercepted by Malcolm Butler of the Patriots, ending the game and giving the Patriots the Super Bowl.

     

    The internet erupted with criticism, calling it  the “Worst Call in NFL History“. I’m going to show you it was the right call, using data.

    Bottom line: with 26 seconds left you have time for 2 running plays. But if you want THREE chances at the end zone, at least one of those plays has to be a pass. And it’s best to try that pass on second down when the defense is expecting a run.

     

    The Situation

    With 26 seconds left, the Seahawks have to make a decision: run or pass? At first glance it seems obvious: you are just one yard away. Run it!

    But if you don’t score on that play, it gets trickier. Because you have to use your last timeout to stop the clock at about 18 seconds. Now what? Run or pass? If you run and don’t get in, the clock keeps running down. You might not have time to line up for a fourth play. If you pass and it’s incomplete, the clock stops and gives you time for a fourth play.

    So you don’t have time for 3 running plays. If you want 3 shots at the touchdown, at least one has to be a pass. So what do you do on 2nd down?

     

     

    If you RUN

    Marshawn Lynch is an amazing running back. But his stats aren’t good at the goal line. During the 2014 regular season, he ran the ball 5 times from the one-yard line and only scored once — a pitiful 20% success rate. If we look at his success rate from up to 3 yards away, he’s run the ball 11 times and gained at least one yard 7 times, and stopped for no gain or a loss 4 times (source). At best, we can say there’s a 7-in-11 chance Lynch scores the touchdown in this situation (63%). So if you run the ball with Lynch, your chances are

    • 63% touchdown
    • 36% stopped for no gain/loss
    • 1.4% fumble

     

     

    If you PASS

    Russell Wilson completed 63% of his passes in 2014 and only 1.5% were intercepted. He’s only thrown from inside the 5-yard-line five times, and 3 were completed. Again, a 60% completion rate (source). So your chances if you throw:

    • 63% touchdown
    • 36% incomplete
    • 1.5% interception

     

    Now you see that Seattle has the same chance to win the game running or passing! But if they run and don’t get into the end zone, they have to burn their last timeout with about 18 seconds left. With no timeouts left, they either have to pass on third down, or run the ball and take their chances that Lynch can get a touchdown because they probably won’t have time to run another play on fourth down.

    But if you pass it on 2nd down (as Seattle wisely chose) and the pass is incomplete, the clock stops automatically at 18 seconds and you still have your timeout! Now you face the same run/pass choice on third down. But you’re in a better position because with your timeout, you can leisurely run it twice. And the defense knows that.

     

    The Real Problem

    The real problem wasn’t the call. It was how the ball was thrown. Ideally, Wilson would throw the ball so it hits the receiver in the chest and the defender coming from behind has to go through the receiver’s back to get it. Instead, Wilson threw it in front of the receiver so he had to reach for it.

    The receiver, Ricardo Lockette (83), was actually closer to the ball but waited for it to get to him. In fact, if you watch closely, it actually looks like Lockette slowed down toward the end of his run, possibly to avoid a collision with the charging defender (Lockette is known more for his blistering speed than his brute strength). In that case, Wilson’s throw was right on the money and would have hit him on the chest if he had maintained his full running speed.

    Malcolm Butler (21), the defender on the play, showed amazing speed and determination to get to the ball first. And amazing smarts to know it was a pick play and where the ball was going to be thrown. He practiced that exact play again and again in preparation for this game, and so he recognized the Seattle formation immediately.

     

    If you run that play 100 times, Seattle will score a touchdown 63 times and get intercepted only once. This was that 1-in-100 situation. But given the same circumstances in the future, I’d run the pass play without hesitation.

    Not a bad call. A good call. Just a bad throw broken up by a determined athlete who prepared himself for that very situation.

    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.


  • 3 PowerPoint Myths from a Master Storyteller

  • Posted on August 8, 2014

  • I have a great deal of respect for Robert McKee, author of “Story”, considered by many the bible on Hollywood scriptwriting. I hope to one day pen my own novel or screenplay, leveraging some of the great ideas in his book.

    But he is no expert on PowerPoint or its role in business presentations. In this video, he spouts a lot of clichés which are quite plainly wrong. See if you can spot them too.

     

     

    Myth #1: All business presentations are to persuade
    Especially in business, it’s a huge mistake to believe every presentation is to convince the audience you’re right. Some presentations are to socialize ideas and solicit feedback and you need to be more interested in listening than convincing. Some presentations are to choose among many alternatives, especially when one path offers huge rewards but huge risks. These kinds of decisions need to be made by the company leaders, and your goal is not to persuade the executive to adopt your proposal, but to consider the tradeoffs and make the final call.

    There are many other examples: status reports, research read-outs, product feature overviews. I’m sure McKee has never been in any of those meetings.

     

    Myth #2: Persuade with story, not statistics
    While it’s true that storytelling is one of your strongest tools for persuading, it’s a mistake to think an executive will approve a $5 million project using storytelling alone. Someone in that room will ask to see your data. A VC will not invest $20 million in your idea without some data on market size. It’s naïve to think storytelling alone will win over an audience.

    To paraphrase Henry Boettinger, author of “Moving Mountains”, think of story and statistics as the 2 blades of the scissors. Which one does the cutting? The most you can say is both work together.

     

    Myth #3: Facts should be shared in stories, not pie charts
    McKee clearly doesn’t work in business, where graphs easily make up 10% – 20% of slides. Why? Because you can’t summarize every graph easily as a story. A line chart showing sales trends in five geographies can be summed as “Sales are increasing in North America faster than any other region.” But any exec will want to see the graph so they can ask questions like: How much faster is North America sales growing? How are the other regions doing? Are things trending up or down? What predictions can be made about the future? Execs are impatient and want to see visuals that compact a lot of information into a small space, that they can “get” instantly. Graphs do that. Narratives don’t.

    Stories are certainly more persuasive than graphs, and it’s better if graphs support an overall narrative. But you will have a hard time finding an executive who will take you at your word and doesn’t want to see the data visualized as a graph.

     

    As I said, I’m a big fan of Robert McKee’s book “Story”. And I like his observation that you can weave stories into a PowerPoint presentation (fact-fact-anecdote). The research on storytelling is very positive and it deserves a role in your business presentations. And if you want your idea to be viral, it has to be repeatable without slides. But stories without PowerPoint, while they might make sense in a TED talk or sales presentation, work in very few day to day business presentations.

    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.

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I was watching a YouTube video recently on nutritional supplements (long story!) and saw the speaker had used this title slide. I immediately knew what was wrong with it and how to fix it. So as an educational opportunity, I wanted to share my step-by-step process.

These types of title slides are common among non-professional designers:

  • Lengthy title that is center-aligned
  • Lengthy speaker biography that is crowded and hard to read
  • Clip art photo slapped artlessly on the page
  • Gradient background (or some template background) for that extra pop!

It looks amateurish, doesn’t it? And yet, it could look very professional if you know what to look for and how to fix it. Let’s go step-by-step fixing this title slide.

1. Alignment
Always pay attention to alignment. That means everything on your slide should share an invisible border with at least one other thing on your slide. Center alignment is a killer because it destroys your alignment. On this slide, nothing really lines up and so everything seems to be slapped on messily.

I’m always going to align my text on the left. There are some times you can break this rule, but most of the time your slides will immediately look better with left alignment. I’m going to place the picture off to the side for now (we’ll deal with it later).

2. Text Variety
Right now the text looks overwhelming to read. That’s because it’s all the same size, so the eye doesn’t know where to land. Instead, we want to give the eye clear landing spots by using variety and contrast in text treatment.

In the title, for instance, we have four lines of text with no contrast. We can introduce contrast by 1) bolding some keywords and 2) italicizing the emotional words.

In the biography, we can bold the speaker’s name and make the font larger. The rest of the text we can make smaller, and white, so it whispers.

There are several calls-to-action in the biography, including two URL’s and a Facebook page. I 0nly want to highlight one of them. Otherwise, they are all competing for attention. I’m going to use a technique where the last line (call-to-action) has the same text treatment as the first line (speaker’s name) like a set of bookends. Finally, we don’t intuitively know what “FB” means, so I’m going to replace that with a Facebook icon.

Do you see how adding variety to the text treatment makes it easier to read and more visually interesting?

3. Integrate the Picture
The presenter is on the right track to add a picture to the title slide. Pictures engage audiences, and especially pictures of people. But its placement is awkward, just wherever there is some blank space on the slide. It looks “bolted on”. Instead, I want it to be integrated more naturally with the page.

The rule of thumb is I want people to see the picture before looking at the text. There’s a ton of brain research behind this but basically we want to engage people emotionally (picture) before engaging them logically (text). The eye naturally starts in the upper left, so I’m going to place the picture in the upper left. Then it will naturally read left to right to the title.

I’m also going to rework the title a bit more, adding even more contrast, by making the emotional words smaller and adding some color. See how things really start to pop when you have contrast and variety in your text? See why it’s such a mistake to have all the text the same size and color?

4. Gradient Box
There’s a bit of a hard border between the picture and the text. The picture has a white background that ends suddenly. It feels like a harsh transition. One handy tip I like to use is a semi-transparent box that goes from fully transparent on the left to fully dark on the right. I’ve created a video showing how you can make these.

The effect is to marry the text and picture better. You also have a darker background for the text to stand up against (I turned the larger title text white).

5. Color
The layout is better. But now I’m thinking about color. Right now we have a gray background. Gray can be used artfully but it also tends to be a somewhat depressing color. Maybe that’s the mood this speaker wants to set. But since she’s talking about anxiety, worry and food cravings, depressing doesn’t seem to capture it.

There is a ton of research showing that different colors subtly create different moods in the audience. I want to be more purposeful here. What mood do I want in my audience, and what color can help to set that? You can see how different colors convey different moods:

Any of these colors creates more of a mood than the gray, and makes the slide look more professional. Any of these colors makes the slide “prettier”. But the choice comes down to: what mood do you want to set?

  • Blue makes you feel calm and that’s not what we’re trying to say.
  • Purple conveys prestige or luxury, again not what we want.
  • Green is also a calming color, and suggests health and growth and vitality. It’s a reasonable choice for a talk about health.
  • Orange makes you feel a bit fidgety, and maybe even a little hungry. Bingo! Anxious and hungry is the topic of our talk, so let’s go with that!

6. Textured Background
Most slides have a solid color background, and that’s fine. Some use a gradient fill to add some more polish. Still others go for a template background, which can often be too much.

But I like to add textured backgrounds. Gradients seem a bit artificial, while textures feel more organic. Gradients seem like you’ve seen them before, while textures feel new and creative.

There are lots of places to find textures and I created this video showing how to make textured backgrounds. But just go to sites like Pixabay.com or Compfight.com and search for “texture”. Or use a search term like “cloud” or “paint” or “sand” or “water” to get some interesting photos with texture.

I found this texture at Pixabay.com and just recolored it using Picture Tools > Format > Color in PowerPoint. There’s a sense of chaos in the randomness that reinforces the idea of anxiety, panic and worry that complements this presentation’s topic.

By the way, Pixabay is my favorite new site for finding pictures because they have lots of high-quality pictures, you can use them free even for commercial purposes and — best of all — you don’t even have to add the author’s attribution. You do have the option to pay the author, but it’s voluntary.

Good luck with your presentations and check out my book Speaking PowerPoint if you found this useful! Or, if you want your staff to learn to use PowerPoint this well, consider having me in to conduct an onsite workshop.

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.

Chris Borland made headlines last week when he announced, after one year in the NFL, he was retiring because the risk of concussions was too great. It was especially pertinent given March 2105 is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The NFL responded that “football has never been safer“.

And that got me thinking. How BAD is the concussion problem in the NFL? Is the risk too great, as Borland says? Or is it relatively safe, as the NFL wants us to believe?

But first, let’s appreciate what it means to suffer a concussion.

 

The long-term complications from concussions can include chronic migraines,  fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, seizures, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and depression, often leading to suicidal thoughts. One of the example is Andre Waters, a safety with the Philadelphia Eagles known for his punishing tackles, who shot himself at the age of 44, a few years after retiring from the NFL. Examiners studied his brain tissue and found it was like that of an 85 year-old dementia patient. Other studies have found that 76 of 79 brains of deceased NFL players also showed signs of the same degeneration. However, the NFL has always denied there is a proven connection between concussions and later brain degeneration.

Let’s start with the NFL’s position. They say that over the past three years, the number of concussions has been decreasing. And the data show they are right.

NFL Concussions are declining since 2012 But hold on. Whenever you look at timeline data, always be skeptical of the starting date. Because the story can change based on your starting date. If we go back to 2009, the first year PBS Concussion Watch started tracking official injury reports, we see that the concussion problem got progressively worse until 2012, and it is now abating. So, the NFL’s story is true, but only half of the story. (note: NFL reports different numbers than Concussion Watch).

NFL concussions 2009-2014

But are these numbers good? Is 111 concussions in the NFL too high? Or “safe”? There are 32 teams and 53 players per team, for a total of 1,696 players. If 111 get a concussion, that’s 6.5%. That seems pretty low, I guess.

But it turns out that the chances of getting a concussion are different based on your position. In 2014, only 2% of quarterbacks got a concussion. But 14% of cornerbacks. 2% seems pretty low. 14% seems kinda high to me.

In fact, if you look at the trends by position, you see the percentage has decreased for offensive players, especially running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. That’s in part because of the NFL’s new rules protecting ball carriers from vicious tackles, especially helmet-to-helmet. But they have stayed stubbornly high for defensive players, especially cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.

NFL concussions, by position 2012-2014

This shows the percentage chance of getting a concussion in a single season. But what if you have a 10-year career? Clearly, the chances of getting a concussion sometime during your career will be higher the longer you play.

Chance of NFL concussion, by length of career

Most players don’t last 10 years. According to the NFL, the average NFL career is 6 years. So, assuming you are a rookie starting in the NFL, what is the chance you will get a concussion sometime during your 6-year career? The numbers are more sobering.

Chance of concussion during 6-year NFL career

Now we see the true extent of the NFL’s concussion problem. For the “speed positions” (the fastest players on the field), and especially those involved in the passing game, at least one-in-three will get a concussion during their career. If you are brave enough to be a cornerback or safety, one of every two players will get at least one concussion during their career.

So does the NFL have a concussion problem? That’s a normative question, based on what you think is “normal”.

But put the question this way: imagine there was a paint, and if you were exposed to it long enough there’s a 35% chance that the rest of your life will be complicated by depression, early-onset Alzheimer’s and suicidal thoughts. Would the government allow you to pain the walls of your workplace with this stuff?

Not likely. I’d say the NFL does have a concussion problem.

 

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.

In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery. Now when you insert clip art in PowerPoint, the program searches Bing Images and delivers pictures that have been tagged with a creative commons license.

There is some upside. Bing Images can find hundreds of thousands of pictures for any search term, dwarfing the size of the clip art gallery. And the internet adds a bazillion new pictures every day while the clip art gallery grows stale. So the thinking was good.

But there’s several problems, which will change how we insert clip art forever

  1. You mostly get photographs, even if you try to filer on just “Illustrations”. Try it. Search “handshake” and limit to Illustrations only. You’ll primarily get photographs.
  2. There are no vector images in Bing Image search. Vector images are made up of many shapes (lines, squares, circles) that are grouped together. If you want to edit an image, you can’t do it with the Bing Image results.
  3. It’s a lot more work to verify the license for each picture. Now when you insert an image, you need to go back to the source website to verify the license. Do you need to add attribution? Who gets the attribution? Can you use it commercially? Every image becomes a fact-checker’s nightmare.

So this means we need to have some new habits when we insert images in PowerPoint.

1. Add “clip art” to your search term. If you search “shaking hands” you’ll get mostly photographs, even if you filter on Illustrations. That’s because Bing Images doesn’t know how to recognize PowerPoint’s filters yet. So if you want to limit to just Illustrations, search “shaking hands clip art” and Bing will look for images tagged as clip art.

 

2. Find other sources for clip art. There are lots of sites that give free clip art. Just search “free clip art” and you’ll find sites like ClipArts 101 and Clipart.co, which might be free but don’t have the highest quality images to choose from. Noun Project is a favorite of many designers for its extensive set of high quality and free icons.

 

3. Use installed fonts instead of pictures. There are lots of fonts built into PowerPoint that will give you small images. Check out this blog post on how to use the Wingdings and Webdings fonts to make small icons.

 

4. Install free symbol fonts. Search any font website for free symbol fonts and install them on your computer. Some of my favorite sites for free fonts are DaFont, Font Squirrel and Font Space.

 

5. Unclick “Include Office.com Content”. In my version of PowerPoint 2010, I can still access a small portion of the clip art gallery. But I need to unclick “Include Office.com Content” or else it will search Bing Images. If I unclick it, Bing Images doesn’t get searched and I can scrape around in what remains of the clip art gallery.

 

6. Quick – hoard all your vectors! Scrounge around in the remaining clip art gallery and save those vectors. They may be gone soon. In addition, go through all your existing PowerPoint decks and save all your vectors into a central place. Pillage any deck you receive and loot all the vectors. You may need them some day!

 

7. Download this set of vectors. I did steps #5 and #6 and saved 150 pieces of vector clip art. Enjoy!

 

8. Search for WMF files. WFM (Windows MetaFile) files are one easy-to-use format for vector images. So add “WMF” to your search terms. For instance, “shaking hands WMF” will return tons of editable vector images on Google Images. You’ll have to download the images to your desktop and then insert them as pictures (not clip art) so it’s a laborious multi-step process. Add them to your master deck!

 

Verifying the license is the biggest problem of all. Who wants to snoop around a poorly constructed website looking in vain for clear license rights, and clear attribution instructions. Sheesh!

Perhaps Microsoft can work on fixing these problems to truly make the clip art feature more valuable by connecting it to Bing Images, and not less.

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.

This article has nothing to do with presentations. But if you know me, you’ll know you can count on me for 1) challenging sloppy thinking and 2) being data-based (example >).

With that said, let me state clearly: Seattle made the right call at the end of the Super Bowl.

With 26 seconds left in the game, and one timeout left, Seattle was on the one-yard line. They needed a touchdown to win. On second down and goal, they threw a quick pass which got intercepted by Malcolm Butler of the Patriots, ending the game and giving the Patriots the Super Bowl.

 

The internet erupted with criticism, calling it  the “Worst Call in NFL History“. I’m going to show you it was the right call, using data.

Bottom line: with 26 seconds left you have time for 2 running plays. But if you want THREE chances at the end zone, at least one of those plays has to be a pass. And it’s best to try that pass on second down when the defense is expecting a run.

 

The Situation

With 26 seconds left, the Seahawks have to make a decision: run or pass? At first glance it seems obvious: you are just one yard away. Run it!

But if you don’t score on that play, it gets trickier. Because you have to use your last timeout to stop the clock at about 18 seconds. Now what? Run or pass? If you run and don’t get in, the clock keeps running down. You might not have time to line up for a fourth play. If you pass and it’s incomplete, the clock stops and gives you time for a fourth play.

So you don’t have time for 3 running plays. If you want 3 shots at the touchdown, at least one has to be a pass. So what do you do on 2nd down?

 

 

If you RUN

Marshawn Lynch is an amazing running back. But his stats aren’t good at the goal line. During the 2014 regular season, he ran the ball 5 times from the one-yard line and only scored once — a pitiful 20% success rate. If we look at his success rate from up to 3 yards away, he’s run the ball 11 times and gained at least one yard 7 times, and stopped for no gain or a loss 4 times (source). At best, we can say there’s a 7-in-11 chance Lynch scores the touchdown in this situation (63%). So if you run the ball with Lynch, your chances are

  • 63% touchdown
  • 36% stopped for no gain/loss
  • 1.4% fumble

 

 

If you PASS

Russell Wilson completed 63% of his passes in 2014 and only 1.5% were intercepted. He’s only thrown from inside the 5-yard-line five times, and 3 were completed. Again, a 60% completion rate (source). So your chances if you throw:

  • 63% touchdown
  • 36% incomplete
  • 1.5% interception

 

Now you see that Seattle has the same chance to win the game running or passing! But if they run and don’t get into the end zone, they have to burn their last timeout with about 18 seconds left. With no timeouts left, they either have to pass on third down, or run the ball and take their chances that Lynch can get a touchdown because they probably won’t have time to run another play on fourth down.

But if you pass it on 2nd down (as Seattle wisely chose) and the pass is incomplete, the clock stops automatically at 18 seconds and you still have your timeout! Now you face the same run/pass choice on third down. But you’re in a better position because with your timeout, you can leisurely run it twice. And the defense knows that.

 

The Real Problem

The real problem wasn’t the call. It was how the ball was thrown. Ideally, Wilson would throw the ball so it hits the receiver in the chest and the defender coming from behind has to go through the receiver’s back to get it. Instead, Wilson threw it in front of the receiver so he had to reach for it.

The receiver, Ricardo Lockette (83), was actually closer to the ball but waited for it to get to him. In fact, if you watch closely, it actually looks like Lockette slowed down toward the end of his run, possibly to avoid a collision with the charging defender (Lockette is known more for his blistering speed than his brute strength). In that case, Wilson’s throw was right on the money and would have hit him on the chest if he had maintained his full running speed.

Malcolm Butler (21), the defender on the play, showed amazing speed and determination to get to the ball first. And amazing smarts to know it was a pick play and where the ball was going to be thrown. He practiced that exact play again and again in preparation for this game, and so he recognized the Seattle formation immediately.

 

If you run that play 100 times, Seattle will score a touchdown 63 times and get intercepted only once. This was that 1-in-100 situation. But given the same circumstances in the future, I’d run the pass play without hesitation.

Not a bad call. A good call. Just a bad throw broken up by a determined athlete who prepared himself for that very situation.

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.

I have a great deal of respect for Robert McKee, author of “Story”, considered by many the bible on Hollywood scriptwriting. I hope to one day pen my own novel or screenplay, leveraging some of the great ideas in his book.

But he is no expert on PowerPoint or its role in business presentations. In this video, he spouts a lot of clichés which are quite plainly wrong. See if you can spot them too.

 

 

Myth #1: All business presentations are to persuade
Especially in business, it’s a huge mistake to believe every presentation is to convince the audience you’re right. Some presentations are to socialize ideas and solicit feedback and you need to be more interested in listening than convincing. Some presentations are to choose among many alternatives, especially when one path offers huge rewards but huge risks. These kinds of decisions need to be made by the company leaders, and your goal is not to persuade the executive to adopt your proposal, but to consider the tradeoffs and make the final call.

There are many other examples: status reports, research read-outs, product feature overviews. I’m sure McKee has never been in any of those meetings.

 

Myth #2: Persuade with story, not statistics
While it’s true that storytelling is one of your strongest tools for persuading, it’s a mistake to think an executive will approve a $5 million project using storytelling alone. Someone in that room will ask to see your data. A VC will not invest $20 million in your idea without some data on market size. It’s naïve to think storytelling alone will win over an audience.

To paraphrase Henry Boettinger, author of “Moving Mountains”, think of story and statistics as the 2 blades of the scissors. Which one does the cutting? The most you can say is both work together.

 

Myth #3: Facts should be shared in stories, not pie charts
McKee clearly doesn’t work in business, where graphs easily make up 10% – 20% of slides. Why? Because you can’t summarize every graph easily as a story. A line chart showing sales trends in five geographies can be summed as “Sales are increasing in North America faster than any other region.” But any exec will want to see the graph so they can ask questions like: How much faster is North America sales growing? How are the other regions doing? Are things trending up or down? What predictions can be made about the future? Execs are impatient and want to see visuals that compact a lot of information into a small space, that they can “get” instantly. Graphs do that. Narratives don’t.

Stories are certainly more persuasive than graphs, and it’s better if graphs support an overall narrative. But you will have a hard time finding an executive who will take you at your word and doesn’t want to see the data visualized as a graph.

 

As I said, I’m a big fan of Robert McKee’s book “Story”. And I like his observation that you can weave stories into a PowerPoint presentation (fact-fact-anecdote). The research on storytelling is very positive and it deserves a role in your business presentations. And if you want your idea to be viral, it has to be repeatable without slides. But stories without PowerPoint, while they might make sense in a TED talk or sales presentation, work in very few day to day business presentations.

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.