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PrefacePrefaceWhat Is the PowerPoint Predicament?
Several years ago, I attended a networking breakfast where several entrepreneurs were pitching their start-up companies to a panel of venture capitalists. It was set up as a competition, and one of the entrants didn't show up, so the moderator asked if anyone in the audience had a concept they wanted to present.
At the time I was on the "board" of an Internet start-up (like everyone else I knew in the technology arena) hoping to get funded. I volunteered, and without any notes or preparation, I spoke for five minutes and ended up winning the competition.
Afterward, several colleagues congratulated me (I won a T-shirtno funding), and several said, more or less, you were great, but imagine if you'd been able to prepare with PowerPoint (they knew my specialty)you would have been even better.
As I reflected at the time, I suggested that the opposite was the case. I realized that my adrenaline rush at putting myself in that position, and my realization of the need to focus and really communicate my message along with my passion for the project, resulted in a connection to the audience I may not have achieved if I'd merely presented a slide show.
Now, several years later, having been exposed to many more polished and exemplary speakers who use electronic presentations effectivelyand many others who don'tI realize that at the time I also might have been tempted to simply throw up some slides and depend upon them to tell a story.
From that point on, I decided that I would always examine the subject matter through the eyes of a seasoned presenter, structure mytalk accordingly, and only use PowerPoint to dramatize the most compelling aspects of my project.
I would have a reason for every slide I put up, and I would use the technology for good rather than for evil.
At all costs, I would do whatever I could to avoid "death by PowerPoint" because using this ubiquitous program can have the opposite effect of what you intendinstead of galvanizing an audience and helping to convey a message, a series of dull slides can put your attendees into a trance.
When I appeared on Tech TV, I was asked if that's PowerPoint's fault. Obviously, it isn'tit's mainly the fault of those who use PowerPoint badly.
If PowerPoint has a fatal flaw, it's that it's just too seductive and easy. I often get asked what the heck there is to actually teach in terms of using PowerPoint. Can't anybody click in the placeholders and fill up slides with titles and bullets?
The answer is in this book. The secret to using PowerPoint effectively is twofold:
You must realize that creating a PowerPoint slide show is not the same as creating a presentation. Creating a PowerPoint file is deceptively easyit's just a matter of clicking in the right places and creating a set of slides that may even look fairly nice.
But we all know the results of presenting a disorganized, poorly conceived slide showit can have serious consequences.
We could lose a sale or account, fail to inform or inspire, and perhaps even lose our credibility before our colleagues and associates.
Even if the show is self-running (for a kiosk, video, or commercial breakan animation technique we'll cover in Chapter 4), it had better be more than just a bunch of slides. It must tell a story, deliver a message, and serve a purpose.
In using technology to communicate more effectively, every instance must have with a raison d'etrethe French term for "a reason for being."
Polished speakers know this. It may be why "soft skills" presentation books are practical: they tell you how to prepare, where to stand, which jokes to tell, and other very specific details about how to be successful as a speaker.
But inevitably computer books only teach you how to run a program. That's where we will take a different track.
Everything we cover in the technology parts of this book will proceed from a reason for its use to accomplish a specific goalto communicate more effectively.
Poor PowerPoint users shoot themselves in the foot by thinking that if it's in the program, it's got to go into the presentation. They fill their slides with animation, transitions, and page after page of unreadable text and then wonder why their presentation did not yield the desired results.
So let's start with this premise: nothing goes into the slide show unless we know why it's there.A Word about Versions
Although some readers of this book might already have PowerPoint 2007, many others will still have version 2003, 2002/XP, or even 2000 when this book is published.
As we get into add-ins and more sophisticated features that may require the later versions or cover the latest aspects of the program that came out in Office 12, this will be mentioned and relevant screenshots included.
But for most of the conceptual material, screenshots from PowerPoint 2003 will be used. Where appropriate, I will also mention how these same features can be accessed in prior versions.
For some tasks, I will refer to other third-party programs; inevitably these also evolve faster than a publisher or writer can produce a manuscript, so I will concentrate on the major features of these programs and show the essential concepts that enable you to get things done: capture screens or video, create diagrams, or author a DVD.
Obviously, this book is not intended to be a manual for any of these programs. It should serve to point the way for when and how to use PowerPoint (and its cousins) to tell your story, and it is my intention to clearly establish the why along with the essential how to for the programs and versions we cover.This Book's Target Audience
Anyone who needs to make a presentation that has something at stake and who believes that his or her message can be enhanced by a program like PowerPoint or the use of digital media will benefit from the concepts in this book. Such users will include
- Executives and managers who need to present and can't rely on a support staff
- Small business users and professionals (doctors, dentists, attorneys) who need the competitive advantage of high-impact presentations
- Technical professionals who need to convey detailed financial or strategic messages to large and small groups
- Educators and students who want to use digital media to more effectively communicate in the classroom
- Religious leaders who want to combine video, imagery, and audio to inspire their congregations
- Individuals with personal messages to deliver in person, online, or using the latest digital media (DVD, HDTV, etc.)
These presenters generally have a product, service, or concept to sell or promotethey have a lot to lose if their ideas are not well received, and they generally understand that creating powerful visuals and communicating with maximum effectiveness is a matter of survival. Digital tools like PowerPoint and its complementary programs and features can help anyone tell a story, convince or inspire an audience, or teach a difficult subject more effectively.Getting Started
This book includes eight chapters that discuss the various features of PowerPoint:
- Chapter 1, "Planning an Effective Presentation," discusses planning a presentation as a key to success.
- Chapter 2, "Implementing Professional Design Principles," discusses using proven design principles to craft the message.
- Chapter 3, "Creating Dynamic Visuals," discusses creating visuals that tell a story or prove a point.
- Chapter 4, "Secrets of Animation and Navigation," discusses why, when, and how to use navigation and animation to maximize communication effectiveness.
- Chapter 5, "Using Video and Audio Effectively," discusses using multimedia and mastering its file formats and features.
- Chapter 6, "Powerful Presentation Tools," discusses understanding complementary programs that expand PowerPoint's sphere of influence.
- Chapter 7, "The Latest Technologies: Beyond PowerPoint to the Future," discusses taking advantage of the latest technologies including web presentations and DVD formats.
- Chapter 8, "Delivering a Killer Presentation," discusses the ultimate goal: delivering a successful presentation using all of the tools at your disposal.
- The book companion CD-ROM contains numerous PowerPoint presentations and other examples from the book, two sample chapters from Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire, and trial software from Instant Effects (OfficeFX), Serious Magic (Ovation and Vlog It!), and TechSmith (Camtasia and Snag It).
When we understand the program and have recognized the pitfalls of PowerPointsuch as the propensity to use only titles and bulletswe can begin to explore its vast potential to enhance communication, mainly by creating effective visuals and other support material.
Again, it's important to remember that visuals alone will not make up for the lack of a message, a talented and passionate speaker, or a coherent communications strategy. They are all part of the package.
But most people will acknowledge that when properly used, electronic tools can be invaluable in communicating effectively.
What we'll do in this book is to examine the basic principles of effective communication and presentation, many of them time honored and propounded by experts in the field, and then see how to apply them using the latest technology.
On that point, let's think of PowerPoint simply as the main example of electronic presenting. In Chapter 5, we'll cover other communication resources in depth, but throughout the book, the examples and concepts are intended to work with a range of presentation programs, some of which may be better suited to the task at hand than others. (You may have other tools with which you are familiar that will enable similar results.)
For example, there are plenty of programs that do flowchartsif you have such a need. We will show you the circumstances in which to use a flowchart and how to do it sequentially with animation. When we mention other programs (like Visio), it's because they can help you to quickly create specific types of chartslike timelines.
PowerPoint and Excel also have graphs. Boy, do they ever. But until you need to show a specific type of chart to convey a certain concept or message, will you have the incentive to really learn how to create it? We doubt it, so we'll begin with some key concepts and then show you how to create the relevant graphs.
In Chapter 3, we will provide quick and easy methods for creating many different types of charts, but we will start with the essential why. As we do throughout this book, we will begin by framing the message or concept we want to deliver, and then having determined the goal, we will be motivated and inspired to more easily create the type of visual or other element we need.
Proceeding in this fashion, we will see that PowerPoint on its own is just the beginning.
First, it can help you shape and define a clear message or hopelessly obscure it.
Then, as it interacts with the other Microsoft Office programs to project their content and uses these programs to create supplemental materials like handouts or reports, it broadens its reach as a communications tool.
As a mature program, PowerPoint has also attracted a host of add-ins and other visiting programs that make it even more effective, again in specific scenarios to accomplish specific goals.
There are add-ins that empower video creation, DVD production, rehearsal, web distribution, 3D backgrounds, and a wide spectrum of other enhancements that can make business and other communications much more dramatic and effective.
As we go along, we'll use examples and case studies to stimulate your thought processes as to which features to use, when to use them, and how to make them as bulletproof (pun intended) as possible.
So let's get started.
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