Monthly Archives: March 2012

A short video on why most PowerPoint presentations suck

I recorded this video using’s 3-D animation. I am not a big fan of cheesy clip art and animation in slides. But I am going to make an exception in this case. The 3-D stick figures are classy and are not obnoxious.

Surely you must be joking!

I came across the following comment on LinkedIn. The discussion topic is body language.

“Keep in mind, IF you do not know your subject well, you tend to do strange things with your body… other words, practice and make sure you feel like an expert on your topic. Confidence shows through your body language.”

The person who wrote this bit of wisdom calls herself “Executive Coach, Speaker and Trainer on Communication in the Workplace”.

She is saying that if you don’t know your subject well – meaning you don’t know what you are talking about – she can teach you to fake it and make you “feel like an expert on your topic”.

So maybe that’s why we have so many speakers out there who don’t know what the heck they are talking about but they blink their eyes the right way and contort their bodies the right way. Thanks to the “executive coach”, we now have all these circus clowns out there.

My advice is this: if you don’t know the topic well, get OFF the stage and LEARN the topic first and stop wasting your money on some self-proclaimed “executive coach”.

Q and A after my webinar

I did a webinar last week and about 130 people from all over the world attended. The topic was on How to Make a Great  PowerPoint presentation. At the end of the webinar, a number of questions (20 to be exact) were posed.

I have included the questions (unedited) and my corresponding answers to each one below:

Oues.1: Norman I use 3 to 4 bullet points in an slide, however when the slide is first shown the audience dose not see all the bullet points until I’m ready to discuss the next bullet point, I then click again (on the same slide) to reveal the next bullet and discuss it. This seems to work for me, what are your thoughts on this system reguarding bullet points.

Answer: That is better than showing all the bullet points at once. You don’t want the audience to get ahead of your talk.

Oues.2: While I agree with the basic points he made, (image with few words) his own slides were not particularly polished. (Blobs of blue with some text next to a picture). This webinar is good for presenters with little experience, but I was hoping for something more. He spent way too much time showing bad slides. (That case could have been made with 3 examples instead of 10 or more).

Answer: I showed 10 or more bad slides because there are so many bad slides out there. Not sure what you were hoping for. More bells and whistles?

Oues.3: I’m going to try Mr. Wei’s ideas in my next presentation. That said, the repetition in his slides and banter is crazy-making for me. That goes for the excessive examples of bad slides, to the excessive examples of 5 slides idea, and so on.

Answer: Glad you are willing to try out my ideas.

Oues.4: What about a slide with 3 bullets and one picture…is that bad?

Answer: Yes..that’s bad. Remember this: billet points are YOUR speaking notes. Why do you have to show the audience your speaking notes?

Oues.5: You’re repeating the slides many times. Is this done to help the audience remember the key points?

Answer: Yes..tell them what you are going to show, show them and tell them what you have shown. You remember them, don’t you?

Oues.6: Does using visuals for abstract ideas work even if the visual has no real basis in reality? Showing Rodin’s Thinker for example to demonstrate comtemplation?

Answer: If the topic is too abstract, show a picture and talk about it. If it is too abstract to show, do a handout.

Oues.7: I know you don’t like bullet points, but what do you think about the 6×6 rule?

Answer: Don’t believe in 6 X 6 rule. Six bullet points is 6 too many.

Oues.8: What are some good sources (preferrably free) for good pictures and visuals?

Answer: Take your own pictures if possible. Or go to istock. They are not free but very reasonable.

Oues.9: do you do web conferences?

Answer: Yes I do.

Oues.10: Norman, how many slides was this presentation?

Answer: I used 111 slides and they were all FREE!

Oues. 11: What are your thoughts about handouts of the presentation? My bosses believe that you should have the least amount of slides as possible because they always do handouts of the presentation.

Answer: Always handout the material at the END of your presentation. You do not want your audience to be reading your handout while you talk.

Oues.12: one question what if we include animation or excel sheet

Answer: Do not use animation unless you are presenting a cartoon show. Imbedded videos are fine. No excel sheet! Audience can’t read and analyze the numbers while you are talking!!

Oues.13: What about audience expecation tho? Some people expect to see many words, and if they don’t, they believe you haven’t delivered!

Answer: Audience wants many words on the screen? I don’t think so. Just becasue th audience is used to crap (bullet points) is no reason to give them crap. You deliver by TALKING about your ideas – not reading them off the screen.

Oues.14: how about calculations and formulae? is there a place for pics?

Answer: Use simple pics for formulae. If it take 5 pages to explain your calculation, give them a handout. There are presentation tools out there that allow you to do sketching and draw out your formulae.

Oues.15: What is your feeling of using fade in and out of points on a single slide using a representative, meaningful graphic.

Answer: A bit of fade in and out is OK. You do NOT want your audience to be distracted by the fancy animation unless you are doing a cartoon show.

Oues.16: should we include refrences in the presentation?

Answer: NO.  Give them a list of references in your handout at the END of the presentation.

Oues.17: The problem with having 100 slides is that you will, by default, spend 30 seconds on each slide.  That means you will have a 50 minute presentation which is too long in most cases.

Answer: There is no law that requires you to spend 30 seconds on each slide. You spend more time on some and less on others. If you only have 30 minutes, reduce the number of points in your presentation. You can’t tell the entire history of the western civilization in 50 minutes.

Oues.18: Does this apply in preparing for teaching university classes?

Answer: Absolutely….talk to the class and give handout at the end of a particular discussion.

Oues.19: do i have rehease the slide before presentation?

Answer: Rehearse the content and timing of the presentation. Do NOT memorize your talk. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Show passion! Not dullness.

Oues.20: A bit crude, but a boss once told me the infomation on a slide should be like a mini-skirt: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.

Answer: Yes..a bit crude but true nonetheless.

Telling jokes and public speaking

Here is an excellent video of Andrew Stanton (famous playwright and director) giving a talk in TED.

I think speakers and comedians are both story tellers. The two groups BOTH convey messages through their stories (some stores are real while others are not). Comedians often use stories that are not real while speakers tell real stories. The message in Stanton’s story (joke) is that one simple mistake can brand you for life. His punch line was very funny and the audience got it in a nano second.

Less than half-way through the video, I noticed that he kept glancing down. The frequency picked up as he progressed. I found myself starting to count the number of times he did that – and that’s not good. I realized why he was doing that when I saw the teleprompter box on the floor in front of him.

I don’t understand why he had to refer to the prompter so often since there was plenty of time for him to refresh his memory during the video clips he was showing. He could have also written notes on the palm of his left hand ala Sarah Palin.

How to present data

I have often said that too many presenters simply splash their complicated data in tabulated form on the screen and expect the audience to decipher the trend. That’s just pure fantasy. There is no way anyone in the audience can determine the trend. Most tables are not readable because they contain 10 row and 10 columns!

Even a table as simple as this one can pose problem.

A much better way is to present the data in a simple chart – uncomplicated by legends and footnotes.

A glance at the chart on the left shows that fewer people are taking the subway and more are using their bikes. The bus trend stays pretty much the same with a slight decrease.