No One Loses When Presentations Finish Early

Next time you’re planning a presentation consider finishing at least five minutes early. Most presenters shoehorn 60 minutes of content into a 60-minute time block and it rarely fits. The audience’s lasting impression of you becomes that of a presenter clicking feverishly through slides, speaking at a break-neck pace and being obsessed with your watch.

A better approach is to take the pressure off and plan to finish five minutes early. That gives you two appealing options. First, you can simply give that time back to your audience, and they’ll remember you favorably as the only presenter in recent memory who let them out early. Second, you can provide additional time for always-valuable Q&A or a relaxed summarization and close.

Either way you’ll set yourself apart from the mass of presenters who race against time or exceed scheduled speaking slots, leaving audiences feeling they’re unprepared or simply unprofessional.

Creating a Lasting Impression

“People will not usually remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

That maxim holds as true for presentations as it does for other interactions in our work or personal lives. Presentations created to have more than short-term impact are usually about changing or moving an audience’s belief system. Beliefs about your ability to meet a goal, create change, solve a vexing business problem or sustain excellence.

Before you get too far into planning your presentation or creating slides, write down your thoughts about what you want your audience members to think or believe differently when they leave your presentation. Then craft a plan to create the feeling you hope to leave them with as you go your separate ways.

How Much Time Does it Take to Build Presentations?

Here are some complaints I hear frequently from presentation designers:

 “Typically, when I craft a presentation that is effective and visually appealing clients complain that I take too long.”

 “When I am faithful to a specific budget, viewers say that it was no fun having to view all the slides, occasionally having to pinch themselves to stay awake.”

 “When I develop a presentation on time, clients complain that it cost them too much money to meet the deadline.”

What does it take to complete a successful presentation ? By corporate standards, you can be certain that you have created an outstanding presentation when you used a well-defined process that enabled you to:

  • Finish on schedule
  • Within the anticipated cost
  • At the quality required by your clients
  • While effectively using your assigned resources (i.e., money, people, and technology).

If you know anyone who is doing all of this well, call me.

Multiple Presentation Hats

Seriously speaking, given today’s stern economic conditions, I am assuming that many of you are wearing design and project management hats. How do you approach this challenge, especially if you handle the design of complex presentations which include different people with different temperaments, schedules and the right to be wrong?

Your first responsibility as the manager of a complex presentation project must be to ensure that you have control over at least one of the three sides of the triangle shown in Figure 1. This is the most important piece of advice in this post.

Figure 1. Components of a successful presentation

Visualize your clients holding the sides they wish to control. Your responsibility is to tell them what must be done to balance the triangle. For instance, if clients wish to control the quality and cost, then you must be given full responsibility for the schedule. If they are holding the quality side, then you can make recommendations for the cost and time. If your clients give you a fixed schedule, a fixed timeline, and fixed specifications for quality, it will be close to impossible to finish the project well and sane.

In this post, let’s look only at the time element in the project management illustration presented in Figure 1, or the development schedule.

Industry development ratios

Forecasting an optimal schedule in presentation development becomes traumatizing because, typically, clients impose pressure; given today’s improved technology, ongoing competition, and corporate thirst for success, stakeholders and audiences expect you to deliver presentations as fast as you can say PowerPoint.

The inevitable question we hear is: How many hours does a designer need to produce one hour worth of presentation content? The answer is simple but distressing: it depends. Development time is a measure of the content and objectives provided by the client, the amount of visual sophistication required, the designers’ skills, financial resources, etc.

However, an “it depends” answer is rarely satisfying to clients. So we look more deeply and inspect other fields that are similar to presentation design and take the concept of development ratios seriously.

Practitioners in the instructional design field advertise development ratios based on certain variables that are likely to impact development time. We can learn from them. For instance, some instructional designers claim they can develop 15 content screens in 3 minutes, provided that the content offered by subject matter experts is already in a form appropriate for presentation delivery.

Other developers report the ability to produce a one-hour presentation in a 40-hour week. Others claim they need one hour of research for each minute of presentation time, plus approximately one hour for each slide in a presentation (so for a 20-slide, one-hr presentation, you would forecast 80 hours).

Yet others warn that for a complex multimedia-based presentation, featuring custom graphics and video, production can reach up to 800 hours. Results of studies in the instructional design field vary. Many authoring tool providers market development ratios that range from as few as 10 hours to as many as 1,200 hours for producing one hour of content.

If you do not trust development ratios as recommended by industry standards, there are a few other methods for time estimation.

Ratios by similar projects

If you have been developing presentations for some time, one of the easiest ways to forecast schedule is to compare your current presentation project with similar ones. For instance, you could estimate that if a presentation with 6 objectives and 50 slides took 100 hours to develop, another one with 3 objectives and 25 slides would take roughly 50 hours (or slightly longer if you stopped for lunch).

Such a comparison, called analogous estimating, may be inaccurate because rarely are any two presentations alike. Use analogous estimating only as a starting point in your conversations with clients/stakeholders just to give them an idea of how long something might take.

Using formulas to establish ratios

If you are fond of numbers and math, you can use parametric modeling to forecast schedule. Parametric modeling involves the use of variables that describe certain activities involved in a project and formulas can get fancy. For instance, you identify variables included in presentation design (e.g., level of expertise, administrative work, content research) and assign a weight to each of these factors.

Then you select a task from your presentation design process – let’s say “agenda slides.” You estimate how long it will take – let’s say two hours. Then you apply the weight factors to achieve an even more accurate project time. Check out more details about parametric modeling in Lou Russell’s book Project Management for Trainers.

Bottom-up calculations

Some designers are more comfortable estimating time by breaking down the project flow into deliverables and forecasting how long each phase will take (see Table 1). This process, known as work breakdown structure (WBS), is useful because it enables you to estimate time for tangible tasks rather than forecast the schedule for larger, more generic milestones.

The drawbacks of the bottom-up calculation method are that it is time-consuming and often designers either forget to include a task, or underestimate how long a step will take. Also, tasks in a presentation project are rarely carried out sequentially. This makes it harder to break down certain steps but it can be a useful starting point in time estimations.

table


In Conclusion

We’ve looked at different techniques for estimating time and the amount of hours necessary for producing one hour of presentation content. I would love to hear how you estimate your own presentation design timelines.

Regardless of the method you use in forecasting, the word to remember is risk. Risks are caused by all other components identified in the project management chart: process, cost (money), quality, and resources (people and technology). Becoming familiar with the other project management components will help you in determining a sound risk management strategy.

Donny Osmond used to sing: “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.” This statement, while rhythmic and refreshing, does not hold true in presentation development. One unidentified risk may indeed spoil the whole schedule.

In subsequent articles, I’ll address the remaining components of the project management chart so you can see how they may plague your carefully set timelines.

As an ending thought regarding development time and schedule, a healthy habit when estimating time is to post on your wall calendar a reminder of a ruthless truth: “Dates in this calendar are closer than they appear.”

About the Author:

Dr. Carmen Simon is a cross between Tony Robbins and makeover specialist Robert Irvine. She works as a psychologist at Rexi Media, www.reximedia.com, where she consults with top executives on improving their presentation skills and is a leader in the virtual presentation movement.

Use Analogies to Lift Presentations to Another Level

During this past holiday season, my 8-year-old son, Jake, asked me why the story of Hanukkah was so important. I told him that Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that happened long ago in an ancient Temple. In the Temple they needed to keep the candles lit, but there was only enough oil to keep the lamps burning for one day. Yet, the oil lasted — not one or two, but eight days! It was a great miracle, which is celebrated every year.

Jake was unimpressed and returned to his cartoon. How could I possibly make this relevant and relatable to a modern day 8- year-old in terms he could understand?

I asked him to imagine that we were taking an eight-day trip. He’d brought along his iPod, but had forgotten the charger, and his battery had enough power for just one day. Surprisingly, the battery never died, and he had power for the entire trip to play games and listen to music.

In an instant, he got it. He said, “That would be a miracle!”

Power of Analogy

This is a perfect example of how analogies can transform a message, concept, or technical topic into terms someone else can understand. Analogies are powerful, because they allow us to convey complex or technical information and ideas to an unfamiliar audience.

Here are five benefits of using analogies. They:

1.     Make the complex simple

2.     Identify similarities and differences

3.     Bridge new ideas to familiar ideas

4.     Add believability

5.     Connect topics to the audience members’ lives

In her new and much buzzed-about book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg likens the careers of men and women to something we can all relate:  “Imagine that a career is like a marathon … a marathon where both men and women arrive at the starting line equally fit and trained. The gun goes off. The men and women run side-by-side. The male marathoners are routinely cheered on: ‘Looking strong! On your way!’ For women, however, the shouts are: ‘You know you don’t have to do this!'”

This vivid analogy creates a powerful mental picture that helps make her message stick.

Why does this matter?

Every day we need to inform and influence audiences through writing and speaking. In your career, the extent to which you are effective at doing both will be a major factor in your success.

Analogies are one of the more powerful devices in your arsenal of effective communications tools. By using them, you help make your message clear, simple, believable, relevant and memorable.

Your analogies will be most effective if they are:

•Visual – paint a picture the audience can connect with.
•Relevant to all audience members and diverse – use diverse analogies instead of just one type (like sports) to ensure that you connect with them universally.
•Memorable and repeatable – the more witty and provocative the better.

Consider the analogy used by economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight, when interviewed on NPR on March 8:

“The sequester is an unnecessary dose of cold water when the economy would otherwise be gathering steam.” He created a terrific mental picture to which everyone can relate.

Another example of a great analogy was used by Ellen Ernst Kossek, co-author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age.

Commenting on the decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to abolish telecommuting, Kossek said, “Abolishing telework is like canceling the prom because some immature people spiked the punch bowl.”

Wow! This analogy is impactful because it’s visual, relevant and memorable! It’s something that sticks in the mind, and is likely to be repeated.

About the Author:

Amy Glass is Director of Training and a Senior Facilitator at BRODY Professional Development, for 30 years providing professionals with a competitive advantage in the areas of presentation power, facilitation & meeting effectiveness, writing for impact and relationship management. For more information on BRODY’s programs and services, or to subscribe to monthly newsletters or receive a  free eBook, go to BrodyPro.com or call 215-886-1688. ©2013 Reprinted with permission

 

Improve Your Presentations, Two Slides at a Time

At the end of my workshops I ask participants if they have practical ideas that they can implement immediately to improve the effectiveness of their slides. Without exception, they all say that they have plenty of ideas they can use. In fact, the challenge is that they feel overwhelmed with everything they want to start doing to their presentations.

If they tried to apply all the learning to all the slides in their typical presentations, it wouldn’t work. They would end up spending too much time and give up with few, if any, changes being made. I want the participants in my workshops to apply what they have learned, so I share with them an approach that helps manage the work of improving presentations.

I call it the “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy. Here’s how it works. If you look at the average quality of all the slides in your normal presentation, it will be at a level that you know could be better. Some slides are good, some are average, and some are below average.

Chances are that there are a few slides, I use two as a typical number, that are the worst slides in your presentation. You don’t really like them, they are hard to present, and the audience doesn’t connect with them. What I suggest is that you work on just those two worst slides and improve them for your next presentation. Working on only two slides is a manageable amount and almost everyone says they can certainly redo two slides.

By improving the bottom two slides in your presentation, you raise the average quality of the entire presentation. Next time, work on the next bottom two slides. Every time you present, work on the worst two slides in the deck. After five or ten presentations, you will have addressed almost all the slides that need improving and your presentation will be much better than when you started.

It may have taken some time, but the results are worth it. By tackling the presentation two slides at a time, you break the work up into manageable chunks that anyone can handle.

This  “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy allows people to see a path for applying what they have learned. Start today by looking at the two worst slides in your presentation and improve them. If you are looking for other ways to improve your slides, check out the articles I have available on my site. They are organized by category so you can quickly find what you are looking for,

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs Think Outside the Slide web site, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and is a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

The Power of ‘You’ and ‘Yours’

It pays to remember that two of the most pleasing words in the English language are “you” and “yours.” Research shows that use of these two words during presentations will perk the audience’s ears and make them feel like recipients of personal appeals.

The words tend to be missing during sales demonstrations, since many presenters  try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible by using impersonal, cookie-cutter language. But when the speaker or facilitator says you, yours or even the customer’s name, they involve the audience as if its participating in the demo.

Instead of saying, “here are the benefits of the product,” try, “here is how you benefit.” Rather than saying, “here’s how it can boost a bottom line,” get in the habit of using, “here’s how it will boost your company’s bottom line.

It’s a subtle but important change that can have a significant cumulative effect.

Countering the ‘Habituation Principle’ in Presentations

The principle of habituation means that audience brains begin to check out when the stimulus in front of them doesn’t change for extended periods. When they hear a monotone voice or see a relentless series of bullet slide after bullet slide, they start to tune out.

To counter habituation, change the nature of your presented material every seven to eight minutes. Use audience interaction, slip in a compelling photograph in place of a text slide, or introduce video clips, audio, personal stories, props or other messaging vehicles to change up the stimulus and keep your audience engaged and participative from opening to close.

One single approach almost always guarantees audience boredom and detachment, the death knell for any presenter.

13 Best Practice Tips for Presentation Handouts

Your presentation handout is the lasting concrete manifestation of your presentation. It’s an important part of the total experience for the audience. But most of us focus only on preparing what happens during the presentation, not what happens afterwards.

Here are some tips for creating good handouts.

1) Prepare Your Handouts in Plenty of Time.

Don’t leave it till the last moment to create your handout. I’ve been guilty of this. We’re most concerned about the actual presentation and not making a fool of ourselves up on the stage so we work on what we’re going to say and the slides, and then 30 minutes before your presentation you realise you should have a handout and hurriedly put something together. Handouts are much too important to be relegated to an afterthought.

2) Don’t Just Print Out Your Slides.

This is lazy and not effective. If your slides are bullet-point slides (not recommended) then they will often be cut-down sentences which will no longer make sense to the reader a week later. And if they are visual slides (recommended) then they’re also unlikely to make sense without additional text.

If you’re presenting with visual PowerPoint slides, one of the easiest ways of creating a handout is to type the text of the handout in the “Notes” pane of the PowerPoint edit screen. Then print your slides as “Notes.”  You’ll have an effective handout.

3) Ensure Your Handout Reflects Your Presentation

Audience members should be able to relate the handout to the presentation they’ve just attended. If you use the Notes pane of PowerPoint as I’ve suggested above this will happen naturally as you’ll be guided by the visuals you’re using in the presentation. Your handout should have the same title as your presentation and should follow the same structure so that audience members can easily find the information they want.

4) Add More Information

Presentations are not a good format for transferring a lot of information. However, they are good for inspiring people to find out more about a topic. That extra information can be in the handout. And if you’re the sort of person who wants to tell the audience everything you know about the topic…you can put it in the handout.

5) Include References

If you’re citing research do include the references in the handout. For most presentations (scientific presentations to a scientific audience would be an exception), don’t clutter up your presentation or your slides with references.

But do be able to say: “The reference for this research is in your handout.” Let your audience know where they can find out more: books, websites, blogs etc.

6) Consider Creating an Action Sheet

Handouts are a great place to help people put ideas from your presentation into action. You could either list a series of actions that people can take, or provide a worksheet that people fill in on what actions they will take as a result of your presentation. Have people fill in the action sheet near the end of your presentation.

7) Make Your Hand-Out Stand Alone

The handout may be passed onto people who were not at your presentation. Or an audience member may look at it a year from now when they’ve forgotten most of your presentation. Make sure that it will make sense to them. For people who weren’t present, include some brief credibility-establishing information about you.

8) Provide White Space

Some people like to take notes during a presentation. Provide plenty of white space (or even some blank pages at the back) so that they can take notes on the handout and so keep all the information related to your presentation in one place.

9) Make Your Handout Look Professional

The handout is the concrete reminder of your presentation. It may also get passed onto other people who were not at your presentation. So it should enhance the perception people have of you:

  • Have someone proofread it
  • Create a consistent look and feel with your brand (this may include a logo and colors)

 

10) Consider What Additional Resources You Can Provide Your Audience

You’re not limited to paper. My bioethics teacher friend who presents at bioethics and education conferences across the globe provides each of her attendees with a DVD featuring lesson plans and resources.

11) Consider Creating a Web Page

Cliff Atkinson suggests creating a “home page” for your presentation in his book The Backchannel. If you don’t have a website, you could create a squidoo lens or a Facebook Fan page. Or if you’d like to do more than that, create a wiki website (try pbworks or wikispaces) or use blog software. Both of these can be done for free and just a little technical courage (techphobics shouldn’t try this).

All of these options allow readers to comment on what you’ve written, so it’s a great way of continuing the conversation with audience members. For instance, audience members can ask you questions they weren’t able to ask at the time.

If you decide to go the web way, you can cut down the hard copy handout to one page with the most important points from your presentation, your contact details and the web address.

12) Distribute the Handout at The Beginning of Your Presentation

This is a perennial topic of debate amongst presenters. Some people are concerned that if they distribute the handout first, people will stop listening and start leafing through it. The problem here is not the handout, it’s that your presentation is not engaging enough.

Not distributing it until after the presentation suggests that you think you know best how people should pay attention to your information. Let your audience decide for themselves.

Recent research suggests that providing handouts to university students before the lecture does not harm their learning.

Note: Readers have since pointed out three reasons for distributing your handout after your presentation. I’ve highlighted these reasons in a new post: Three good reasons to distribute your handout after your presentation.

13) Do Tell People if it’s Not in the Handout

Finally, if you go off on a tangent in reply to a question, do let them know that the answer is not in the handout.

About the Author:

Olivia Mitchell is a presentation skills trainer and blogger. Visit her blog Speaking about Presenting for many more valuable presentation tips.

Repetitions and Reputations

A few years back I was cajoled by some buddies to be in a golf tournament with them. First of all, I never golf enough to really get better. And if I would have thought for a second, I would have realized their motivation wasn’t to just hang out with a good friend for a few hours, it was to wax my sorry…

But they underestimated a deeply rooted competitive streak in me.  So a week before the big tournament I scheduled a golf lesson to fix, what was up until then, a mild slice. It meant that when others were playing in the sun and enjoying the fairway, I was usually searching for my ball in the woods.

The golf pro showed up and I was pretty excited.  A few quick fixes and I’d be good to go! (I hear a few of you chuckling already.) During the course of the next 60 minutes, I would have a number of things “corrected.” First my stance. Then my swing path. And finally my hips and my head.

One hour and $75 later, my mild slice had morphed into what golfers affectionately refer to as a “duck hook.”  I’ll save you the description. Suffice it to say it’s not very pretty and now meant I would not only be playing in the woods, but most likely the next fairway over.

Power of Continuous Improvement

What happened to me is what happens to many presenters today.

They get a little presentation skills coaching, feel some momentary discomfort because their existing habits are so deeply entrenched and then abandon their important new skill set before it can effectively take root.  (The same skills, by the way, others admired so much at the end of their training day.) For this reason, far too many presenters never get to the level they aspire to and the presentation process has just become a necessary evil.

But from time to time we’re reminded of what can happen when someone is willing to lean into this important life skill. One of our executive trainers, Fred, was back in Boston working with a senior manager at a global sporting apparel company. And every time we were in town, this manager had requested a personal coaching session with us.

Because he was so bad and desperately needed the help?  To the contrary, because he was so exceptionally good as a communicator.

When we asked him why he kept signing up for personal coaching, his answer was refreshing. He had been a professional tennis coach at one point in his life and knew first hand that it took a thousand conscious repetitions of a new movement before it became second nature.  “That’s why I keep coming back – to get more reps.”

There’s a lesson in this for anyone who aspires to be an exceptional communicator.

If you’ve had some personal coaching, are you applying the skills at every opportunity or do you just expect them to magically show up on presentation day?  If you haven’t received training in this critical area, are you willing? If you are passionate about being the kind of presenter who is remembered at the end of a very long day, take to heart what every professional understands about the nature of meaningful personal change.

You’ve got to want it.

You’ve got to commit to it for the long run.

You’ve got to believe that the benefits of mastery are well worth the time and effort to get there.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about his company, visit www.distinction-services.com

Secrets to Practicing Your Presentation When You Have No Time

By Michelle Mazur

By far, the most popular post on my site is 8 Steps for Practicing a Presentation. To me that means you are looking for help on how to practice a presentation so you can execute a successful speech. We know we have to practice, but practice seems like an abstract, daunting task. The biggest objection I hear from clients about practicing a presentation is…I don’t have time to practice. I understand the problem. I don’t have time to practice my presentations either…and frankly I am the type of presenter who does not enjoy practicing at all. My little hater comes out in full force! Let’s go through step-by-step and discuss some strategies that will save you time.Step One: Divvy Up Your Presentation into Bite-Size Chunks.

If you are doing a 30-, 60- or even 90-minute speech, you do NOT have to practice your presentation all at once. Repeat you do NOT have to rehearse your entire presentation in one sitting. Break-up your presentation in small bite-size chunks. Divide it up by introduction, each main point, and your conclusion. If it is a longer presentation, break the body of the speech down into its sub-points.Think of this as portion control for practicing your speech. It makes practice less daunting.

Step Two: Find small chunks of time.

Now that you know that you don’t have to practice the presentation all at once, start finding pockets of time for small presentation practice sessions. This means driving in your car is a great time to practice. 10 minutes between calls – practice. Taking a shower – forget singing – try practicing.

There’s all kinds of time to rehearse when you don’t have to find a huge chunk of time!

Step Three: Don’t always start from the beginning.

You need to know your introduction well!  However, don’t always start your rehearsals at the beginning. Every time you are practicing think about what you need to go over the most. In which part of the presentation is the information most difficult for you?  Which part of the speech have you not practiced yet? Start there!

Step Four: Practice does not always have to be out loud.

Practicing your speech out loud is a must. However, you don’t always have to practice out loud. Visualization is a form of practicing. Going through the speech in your head is a way to rehearse. Even if you just want to write the speech out – guess what you are practicing.

Step Five: Do one complete run through with tech.

You have to find the time to do at least ONE complete run through with your tech (microphone, PowerPoint, media, whatever). This insures that you are staying within the time limits, your transitions are good and that all your technology is in working order.

About the Author:

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a public speaking coach, communication expert and author of the Relationally Speaking blog.

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