Powerpoint Slides

With the current plan to start attending conferences again this spring, I’ve been working a lot on a few different presentations, which means spending a lot of time on PowerPoint presentations.

Microsoft debuted PowerPoint in 1987, and since then, it has been used to present content in meetings, conference rooms, and classrooms. There are a lot of jokes about how bad PowerPoint can be, but if you know a little about its features, PowerPoint can be so much more than mere presentation software. It can be the means for taking audiences on a truly engaging learning adventure as well as a powerful tool that supports presenters by serving as their digital co-facilitator. It just requires some work.

Making presentations for folks outside my organization always gets me thinking of best practices. It helps me concentrate on how the true value of PowerPoint isn’t to serve as an information provider—that’s the role of a presenter. The true value of PowerPoint
is to support you and your presentation.

A presentation is most effective when it is focused and has a coherent narrative. Achieving that starts with defining your objectives and then taking some time to figure out how you’ll meet those objectives. Be intentional in your use of PowerPoint.

Traditional PowerPoint ThinkingIntentional PowerPoint Design Thinking
Every presentation needs slides.My intended presentation outcomes should dictate
the types of visual aids I use (or don’t use).
Every point I make needs a slide.My slides should never compete with me for the audience’s attention; they should support my message.
PowerPoint is synonymous with your presentation.PowerPoint is my co-facilitator.
PowerPoint is linear, and slides appear sequentially.Using triggers and hyperlinks, it’s possible to reveal information dynamically.
Templates make a slide deck look professional.Effective use of slide real estate and visual representation of my message looks professional.
There is a maximum number of words and an ideal font size for most presentations.My audience should be able to read all the words that appear on a slide.
People need a lot of information on technical slides and data-driven presentations.Slides are a visual aid for a presentation; more
detailed information is better offered through
handouts.
There are lots of options for animations and transitions, so they should all be used at some point.Animations and transitions can help focus attention, but there is such a thing as too much.
I can send someone my PowerPoint deck and that should be the equivalent of attending my presentation.Most narratives can be placed in the Notes section and distributed, along with my slides, to paint a complete picture for those not in attendance.
What’s Possible with PowerPoint?

Give a lot of thought to who is your audience. It is always a good idea to understand your audience, but when speaking to folks outside of your What (if anything) does the potential audience already know about your topic? What should the audience be able to do new, different, or better because of the time spent with you?

For example, at the upcoming ISPE Asceptic Conference, my audience understands pharmaceutical quality systems so I can start with the understanding that they understand the basics of my topic. My presentation, as a result, can go to more advanced topics and not have to explain the basics.

A presentation is most effective when it is focused and has a coherent narrative. Achieving that starts with defining your objectives and then taking some time to figure out how you’ll meet those objectives. Taking an hour or two to map out your thoughts and truly think through how best to visually represent your key points can help ensure that your presentation will be tight and focused with a coherent flow.

For each slide:

  1. Slide Purpose/Objective
  2. Sketch/Imagery
  3. Key Points

Things Conferences Should Change

Working on presentations for conferences again really reminds me of all the bad practices conferences continue to use.

  1. Stop Using Templates: It is a common misconception is that using a template makes the slide deck look more professional. Slide templates do help with consistency, but they dramatically reduce the real estate you have to work with on your slide. By the very nature of their structure, these templates encourage a title and bulleted list format. Don’t just believe me, watch this fun video by Will Thalheimer. The more space on a slide that is occupied by professional-looking template designs and logos, the less space remains for inserting powerful imagery, text, facts, or figures.
  2. Leverage Technology to Break Linearity: Most people use PowerPoint in linerar ways, and conference technology builds pretty much make that an inevitability. The technology exists to allow the audience to have some sort of control over the content that’s on display in front of them, and would greatly enhance the conference experience.

Resources

  • Bozarth, J. 2013. Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint. 2nd ed. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Duarte, N. 2010. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Duarte, N. 2008. slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
  • Medina, J. 2014. Brain Rules (2nd ed.). Seattle: Pear Press.
  • Schwertly, S. 2011. How to be a Presentation God: Build, Design and Deliver Presentations that Dominate. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Vella, J. 2002. Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Williams, R. 2008. The Non-Designer’s Design Book. 3rd ed. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.
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Dealing with Naysayers

Every process improvement, every experiment, requires us to persuade others. There is a diversity of ideas, of needs, of requirements from stakeholders. I’ve written before about practicing “Yes..But…And“. Sometimes you just find people who are in naysayer category and you should have strategies for dealing with them. Try these:

  • Have you acknowledged the individual and their concerns? Sometimes the person simply wants to acknowledged. Although the naysayer’s actions can be frustrating because they are delaying the process of implementing, it can be worth it – and save time in the long run – to meet with the individual and listen to their concerns and thoughts.
  • What is the person not saying? Do they feel threatened or excluded?
  • As the individual how they would handle the challenge your idea seeks to solve. When you listen to them, you may find you have a kernel of common agreement upon which to build. Listen to their arguments against your idea – that could help you as you sell your idea to stakehoders and build an army of volunteers.
  • Does your idea potentially affect the naysayer’s area? Could it be a matter of a turf war? Can you gain insights by seeing things from their perspective – for example how would you feel if someone offered a similar idea that affected your team?
  • Does the person have someone whom they respect and will listen to? Can you discuss your idea with that individual and ask them to speak with the naysayer?
  • Are there other allies whom you can persuade and whom you can gain as allies to counter the naysayer? You may have to accept that the naysayer won’t come around to your idea.
  • Reach out to the naysayer for casual conversation to try to establish a collegial bond and build a better relationship for the long term.
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Practice Exuberance

Love what you do. Love the practice of quality. Your enthusiasm will take you a long way. If you don’t love the work you do, well…. maybe get a different job, or if you are like me, learn to exude exuberance.

Your enthusiasm is the secret sauce of quality success. It is the launching pad to get folks to listen, learn, participate and strive for changes. You should inspire hope, energy, and excitement about the future.

Please don’t confuse enthusiasm with entertainment. Enthusiasm is a passion for what you do, commitment to whom you do it form, and confidence in how you do it.

I am passionate about quality and building systems. And yes, some days I have more enthusiasm than others. We all have days like that. So have a few ways to help:

  • Look for ways to do something out of the ordinary
  • Examine the parts of my work I enjoy the least and then look for opportunities to fix them.
  • Keep a smile file.
  • Try something new regularly
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Five Year Career Plan

Do not ask this question during interviews. The answers are always inane, the question is inane, it is a waste of precious interview time.

We cannot plan for the future. If we could I would be living on a space station, painting giraffes as my 4-year-old self anticipated. For those wondering, I have no space station or giraffe in my life.

There are just too many factors beyond your control that will shape job options–global economic trends, political elections, and technological changes, just to name a few. Please do yourself the favor and avoid committing the hubris of thinking that anyone can determine their professional glide path.

What we can control are the options we choose now to give ourselves more options in the future. A better question is “What do you want to learn in this job and how can we help make that happen?”