9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations — Now On Slideshare

Our new 9 guide is now on Slideshare. Read it online then take the PDF with you–FREE download in the store.

More Thoughts on Student Presentations (and VC Pitches)

Last night I sat through presentations put on by students at Lincoln Christian University. My colleague, Rob Maupin, teaches a senior-level intercultural studies class in which his students work in teams to identify a ministry need (typically overseas) and then develop a strategy to meet that need. The course culminates in a pitch delivered before a panel that evaluates the students’ projects and decides whether to fund the projects (or not). Essentially, these are VC pitches.

This semester’s teams had spent weeks preparing and it was evident in their work–these were the best presentations for this class I’ve seen in the past three years. Here are a few observations and points for improvement:

  • You can never practice too much – While the presentations were good, they could have been better. Better comes only with practice.
  • Have your best presenter lead the presentation – Your team leader may not be the best presenter. Hand that task over to best speaker in your group.
  • Use a remote to advance your slides – Don’t shackle yourself to the computer/podium, pressing the space bar to advance your slides or–worse–advancing your slide, walking out to the audience, then heading back to the computer, back to the audience, rinse and repeat. It’s distracting and you want to minimize distractions.
  • Get to know your audience – It’s a long-standing sales truism: people do business with people they like. Spend time before the presentation mingling with people in your audience. Learn their names, find out what matters to them.
  • Listen – Many pitches are made by tone-deaf presenters. They won’t (or can’t) make adjustments to their presentation even if the occasion warrants. Read your audience, hear their questions/concerns, and be prepared to step away from your script and slides.

If you have a presentation coming up soon, grab our free report, 16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations. You’ll find helpful principles there even if you’re not a student.
 
16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations - Renovate Communication Design, LLC

Build a More Creative Presentation by Acting Like a Two-Year-Old

Earlier this week my two-year-old daughter was wandering through the house aimlessly, mostly causing trouble because her brothers and sisters were busy and had no time for her. After several minutes of pointless reminders (“Eva, that’s not yours.” “Eva, hands off.” “Eva, don’t touch.”), my wife put her in the Pack ‘n Play (that’s a playpen for the old schoolers) with a few toys.

The point was not to punish her; in fact, just the opposite. By giving Eva a few things to do (instead of virtually unlimited things to do) and some well-defined boundaries, she was able to play happily and–bonus–without mom and dad’s intervention. After just a few minutes, we heard her singing “Happy Birthday” and hosting a party for her dolls. You can see she was having great fun.

How to make a more creative PowerPoint presentation - Renovate Communication Design, LLC

In the creative process, we call these seemingly counterintuitive limitations “constraints.” If you’re stuck in a PowerPoint rut, try something different and embrace the power of constraints. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use no more than six words on a slide
  • Use only one word on your slides
  • Don’t use any words–pictures only
  • Get rid of your template–try a plain white or black background
  • Choose one font (not the default) and use it for a month
  • Limit yourself to 20 or 10 slides. Or 50 slides.
  • No bullets
  • No special text animation or slide transition effects
  • Go find a cool presentation and try to copy its style
  • No slides (!)

Make a game of finding your limitations–what’s one thing you can do differently on your next presentation? The point is not austerity; the point is creativity.

Speaking of creativity, do you know the 5 phonetic R’s of creativity? You can apply them in your presentations or wherever you’re feeling stuck: work, school, relationships. There’s no limit to thinking creatively.

In many cases, a better approach is right around the corner if you’re willing to stop doing something that you’re used to. If you really want to shake things up with your presenting, try some of these suggestions from John Jantsch over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog: Five Alternatives to PowerPoint Presentations.

9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations -- Renovate Communication Design, LLC

Speaking on International Adoption :: Ethiopia

Michael Gowin talks about adopting children from Ethiopia - Renovate Communication Design, LLC

One of the best ways to gain and keep your audience’s attention is to tell stories. Our eyes glaze over and our heads droop at fact after fact but a good story captivates. And the audience is in for a special treat when you, the speaker, are passionate about your story and have tuned it especially for them.

My wife, Suzanne, and I recently returned from a fourth trip to Ethiopia with our sixth child. We have three children in the, ahem, “traditional manner” (hat tip to Scott Simon for that term) and three adopted, all from Ethiopia. The latter three have joined our family in the past two years.

Last weekend we spoke about our adoption journey and international travel experiences to a group at Lincoln Christian Church in Lincoln, Illinois. I didn’t talk about statistics or a hundred facts about adoption. It’s not that these things aren’t important, especially since they represent the lives of children. But it’s difficult to make people care about numbers and data points, to make them meaningful. Instead, I simply showed photographs and shared our story. And since Lincoln is our home church, our story is intertwined with those who came to listen. They’ve dropped us off at the airport and then came to greet us when we returned from 30+ hours of travel. They brought meals in the hectic and exhausting days after we came home. They babysat our kids while I was working and Suzanne was finishing her master’s thesis.

Interestingly enough, Deanne and her husband have also adopted children from Ethiopia. As you might imagine, these are stories we love to share. Either of us would be happy to speak to your group about international adoption–just drop us a note.

PS – If you’re especially curious, hop over to my family blog to learn more about our adoption experience.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook

16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations, Visualized

16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations - Renovate Communication Design, LLCLast week I offered a list of 16 reminders for college students who need to give presentations in class. You can still grab the handout for free.

Of course, it would also be good to offer those 16 secrets in presentation format, no?

Here’s one way they could be expressed visually.