Presentation Design – The Death of Bullet Points

When was the last time you went to a presentation and came away impressed by the slides?

It is, of course, fashionable these days to speak negatively about PowerPoint, and how most on-screen presentations put audiences to “death” with an onslaught of one bullet-pointed paragraph of words after another. It is also true that the same people who like to trash PowerPoint often create mind-numbing program themselves, and then claim that it’s not their fault – their bosses make them beget slides that turn brains to butter.

Although businesspeople are pretty much stuck with PowerPoint these days, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, there have been a few pioneers out there who are trying to change the ways we use slides to convey information or persuade others to see things our way. And so even though PowerPoint is still very much alive and kicking, we think that bullet points as knowledge builders might be doomed: some designers at the cutting edge are trying new forms and structures.

One person whose work you should know if you don’t already is Cliff Atkinson. According to Michael McLaughlin, coauthor with Jay Conrad Levinson of Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants, “Cliff Atkinson believes he’s built a better mouse trap. He wants us to dump boring, bullet-riddled slides, and he has a creative solution: he taps Hollywood-style storytelling to transform PowerPoint presentations from endless lists of bullet points into compelling communications.”

Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points shows you how to use the power of storytelling to make PowerPoint presentations effective communication tools, not just speaker notes. With Atkinson’s method, you not only produce presentations that are not boring, but you are also forced to think about what you are saying in a way that all audiences relate to: telling them a story.

You should also be aware of Lawrence Lessig, who has created a buzz over the last couple years with what he believes is a “minimalist” presentation design approach. It’s interesting, and definitely worth getting up to speed on it if you’re in the presentation business. The best example of this style that we’ve seen is in a keynote given by a guy named Dick Hardt. You really need to watch this performance to appreciate its power as an antidote to the common business presentation. Here is just one link:

The problem I have with this approach is that while its followers consider it minimalist because there is typically no more that one word or image on the screen at a time, virtually EVERY word in the narrative is projected, so that with a little practice, the presenter simply delivers a completely pre-written script. It is interesting to watch and definitely holds your attention throughout, but rather than putting the presenter at the center of the process, the result is that 99% of the audience’s attention is drawn to the screen.

The really scary thing here is that it probably will have huge appeal to NewGens and younger, who unfortunately have no idea how to relate to another human except through the interface of some electronic device. So this is presentation as video-game / hip hop / text-message-me-from-the-end-of-the-bar. The presentation IS the screen, and the presenter gets kudos for his electronic design skills rather than her ability to be human.

Of course, your Master of the PowerPoint Universe here has not been asleep at the switch for the past couple years, this year you will see the World Premiere of what we are offering up as a whole new language of presentation design, with its own very tight grammar, all based on using minimalism to focus the audience on the presenter.

We haven’t yet decided how to brand it (“Beyond Bullet Points” is already taken, and “Pointless” doesn’t sound very value-added). Internally we’ve been referring to it as The Language of the Bar because we use vertical lines (bars) instead of bullet points to both set off paragraph levels and also presage to both the presenter and the audience how much more (if any) will follow on the screen after the last reveal.

It occurred to us a while ago that whereas bullet points do work to set off one huge group of words from another huge group (the 3-line ‘paragraphs’ we usually see), they don’t make a lot of sense when you do what you should do and never have more than a few words on each line. The line itself sets off the one point from the next. So if you’re using PowerPoint properly, that is, to simply key the audience where you’re going and key you to what you’re going to say, bullets become superfluous. Bonus: your slides look a lot cleaner without them.

Back to this new presentation language: although both Atkinson and Lessig dispense with bullet points, we believe that rather than just throwing out structure altogether, there are increases in both comprehension and retention when the presentation conforms to a set of predictable rules – a grammar, if you will. We believe that when your grammar presages what’s to come (in a haiku, for instance, you know exactly how many words are coming next), you create both heightened expectation and the comfort of knowing how much brain RAM you have to reserve.

Long-term readers know we’re committed to showing the world that PowerPoint (and also Apple’s Keynote, which we’ve been using lately) is NOT the problem. We don’t know if this is the answer, but we know you’ll really, really like what you’ll see.

Are You An EFFECTIVE Event Negotiator?

Most organizations today have come to realize that, while they often need events to garner their much needed revenues, they often fail to optimize their potential results because their initial negotiations are far less than optimal from the point of view of their priorities, needs and perspectives. More often than not, groups utilize either their volunteer leadership or staff members, who often are superb at other aspects and abilities, but fail to possess the experience, expertise or nuanced approach that differentiates how a quality negotiator approaches the process. Therefore, it would generally help if organizations, their leadership and those responsible for negotiating, learned and understood what it means to be an EFFECTIVE negotiator.

1. Nothing concrete or productive will occur during this process unless a negotiator sets out from the start to earn the trust and respect of the party on the other side of the proverbial table! One cannot be phony, pretentious, or avoid reality, but rather must be absolutely earnest throughout.

2. Find and focus on the intent and purpose of the most desirable agreement, and set out to communicate this openly and clearly from the onset.

3. Forget personality or any other sort of petty differences. Negotiating must never be controlled by emotions or feelings.

4. Emphasize your commitment to quality and excellence, and put needs and priorities first.

5. Don’t assume that the other party knows what you seek, or what you are going to ask for. Rather, understand that it is incumbent upon every quality negotiator to clearly articulate his position and needs, and do so in an honorable manner where his claims are legitimate and impactful. Begin with creating categories for every aspect of what you are requesting, and address each area completely and in a comprehensive manner.

6. Maintain your integrity and commitment to absolute trustworthiness. When you do so, you generally will maintain the basis for a priority – driven discussion. However, one needs to avoid the temptation to either take shortcuts or rush, but rather commit to take the time to get it done in a meaningful manner.

7. Begin your discussions by explaining your priorities, and frame the discussion by explaining the most significant or important matters first. Remember that the actual task of negotiating is not to be the time for initiating.

8. There must be a overall commitment to value, and views, while maintaining your honor, integrity and quality of personal values.

9. Negotiating always involves at least two parties, if not more. It is never solely about your, or your party’s needs. Therefore the professional negotiator approaches his tasks in an empathetic manner, because when one can clearly understand what others’ needs are, you can best address achieving the proverbial win – win scenario.

Negotiations should generally be left to the professionals or at least those with extensive expertise. Remember that mere experience, however, is far different than being a real expert!

Audio Is Still The Way To Go For Business Presentation

Has audio marketing become a dead subject? On the contrary, audio marketing is still very much alive and doing well. Even in this age of massive video presentation, audio still has its place. You would think that by now, those using audio would automatically switch to using video for representing their businesses, but as any hard core audio person knows, you simply can’t beat audio for its overall simplicity.

Audio is still being used today in Internet marketing. Many of today’s big marketers record their teleseminars and other presentations for their customers and subscribers. For example, a marketer may record a short audio that explains about a particular topic such as article marketing and use it to give away to people who sign up for their lists.

Some marketers still use audio on their web sites to explain things to their potential customers. Audio is still very much a part of Internet marketing in this world of video. So don’t let people tell you that audio marketing is dead because it isn’t. People still use it more than you think. It is just that video is in the forefront right now, and will be for quite some time, but audio is right behind. Perhaps what makes audio so wonderful is the fact that you don’t have to be near it to benefit from it, whereas with video, it requires your full undivided attention in order to get something out of it. You could be listening to an audio from clear across the room, or even if you’re in another room.

However, with video, you have to be right up close to it in order to benefit. Now this isn’t to say that video isn’t good because it is and it has done some really great things for Internet marketing. However, it is just that with audio, you can just let it play and you could be doing something else at the same time while you’re listening. Audio is great because the files are much smaller than video files which means that you can store more of them onto a portable player.

Also what makes audio so great is the fact that if you don’t feel like fixing your hair, you don’t need to when you do an audio presentation because people can’t see your hair. A matter of fact, you can do an audio without anything on and nobody will notice. Just don’t try that with video because it wouldn’t go over well in the Internet marketing community.