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March 1996 Features

Show and Tell

By Dona Z. Meilach

Stand up and take a bow! If the entries in our presentation contest are any indication, there are some great presenters out there. Here's a look at the best slides readers entered in our contest, along with pointers that will make your presentations sparkle.

Which came first, great software or great presentations? We don't really know the answer to that one, but we do know that the entrants in our presentation contest can definitely put together eye-catching, attention-holding, point-making slides.

Our call for entries brought in a bounty of excellent examples, with a wide range of goals and a variety of applications. Some presentations rely on one drop-dead visual, while others use dozens. They tackle every conceivable topic, including computer training workshops, information sessions, accounting reports, sales presentations, a farm-seed usage report and a toastmaster's class. There's even a multimedia job resume and a video application for a college athletic scholarship.

Several entries are first-time presentations. Most were created by the presenter for his or her own use, but a few were submitted by graphic artists hired to create a custom presentation for someone else. And they were built for every type of output: LCD projection, overhead transparencies, 35mm slides and good old hard copy.

Our youngest entrant is a 12-year-old space enthusiast whose hand drawings and on-screen presentation illustrated steps involved in making a rocket. Another whiz kid, an eighth grader, programmed and produced a presentation about Christmas trees using Multimedia ToolBook.

Microsoft's PowerPoint and Lotus Freelance Graphics were far and away the favorite presentation programs, although some contestants made creative use of MS Word as well. Gold Disk's Astound took the lead for multimedia efforts. Auxiliary artwork was often added from a graphics application such as CorelDRAW, PageMaker or Micrografx Draw.

Selecting the Winners

A pass through the entries told us quite a bit about the current state of presentation know-how. Many formerly common errors are disappearing with the maturation of today's software, the availability of prepared templates and a greater awareness of how basic presentation principles translate into well-designed, lively presentations that accomplish stated goals. The best examples are direct, uncluttered and well-organized.

We're going to highlight one or two slides from about a dozen presentations, pointing out good features, possible improvements and elements to avoid. These examples either did an outstanding job in one particular aspect or could use a little help to correct mistakes that can often get in the way of a presentation's success.

1. Use a title slide to set the stage.

A title slide introduces not only the topic, but the colors, layout and general mood for all visuals. An informal layout with a left-justified title and a right-justified company name has more eye appeal than a formal layout with all elements centered. The map template used here suggests an international company.

The gradated blue background with darker portions at top and bottom provide ample contrast for the yellow and white letters that carry the message. A drop shadow behind the letters would have made the text jump forward more, while remaining consistent with the drop shadow behind the AGC box. The Tokio Marine logo is fine in that position for each slide within, but it could have been larger for the title slide.

Presentation submitted by Nicholaos S. Galakis,
Tokio Marine Management and Trans Pacific Insurance Co., New York

Click Here to see a 18.1KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Tokio Marine Today

2. Say what you have to say.

The second slide in MultiSol's Astound multimedia presentation laid out the goals of the presentation in three succinct phrases. Too many presentations lack this simple organizational trick of establishing content at the beginning. Others err by trying to cover too many topics. People tend to remember the first and last points in a series.

In this presentation, the background color and type of bullet changed to signal a topic shift, while the template design remained consistent throughout.

Presentation submitted by Joseph J. Hotter Jr., MultiSol, Springfield, Va.

Click Here to see a 11.6KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:

3. Want action? Don't be bashful.

Do you want to sell? Persuade? Then make it easy for your audience to follow up by showing them the action you want them to take. Provide a contact on the final slide. A line across the bottom with the MultiSol box appears on all slides in the presentation, except for the last one. Only the title slide and the final slide contain the actual logo.

Presentation submitted by Joseph J. Hotter Jr., MultiSol, Springfield, Va.

Click Here to see a 7.60KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
MultiSol II

4. Build ideas with images.

Most presentation software provides a "build" feature that lets you present one bulleted concept at a time. It keeps your audience focused because you don't have to leave the same visual on screen for minutes on end. Using the build concept with images helps you put together a dynamic presentation. It's easy to do, too, by duplicating each slide and adding information to the new slide as you build up your ideas.

In this presentation, a twirlingeach image as it appeared, but the concept would be just as effective if a staticimage popped up in each successive slide.

Presentation submitted by Christian Super, ASI Market Research, Glendale, Calif.

Click Here to see a 37.3KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
New Media Research

5. Explore a program's features.

This is the only presentation submitted that took advantage of the WordArt (a.k.a. TextArt) feature available in several Windows-based programs. WordArt can be accessed under the Insert menu of PowerPoint, Word and other software and should be explored for the variety it can provide.

For example, the curved title helps swing your eye into the page. The ornamental text, clip art and bitten apple (not shown here; the apple replaces traditionallines) set a light, humorous and refreshing mood. An "objective" list in all caps, at the bottom of some slides (not shown), may have been more readable in caps and lowercase to be consistent with type used in subsequent sheets. This overhead-transparency presentation, for teaching at the Toastmasters Leadership Institute, was created in Word 6.0.

Presentation submitted by Caren M. Borowski, Idaho Springs, Colo.

Click Here to see a 16.5KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Learning Objectives

6. Integrate text and clip art.

Change text-box margins, if necessary, to keep sentences in a single line instead of two shorter lines. It's okay to overlap clip art or a scanned picture--that pulls the composition together. Use the send-to-back or bring-to-front command if text and image don't overlay properly.

Presentation submitted by Pam Foutz, Graffiti Ink, Denver

Click Here to see a 35.2KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Customer Satisfaction

7. Don't isolate the image.

This two-column format for text and image isolates each, is less visually interesting and too often runs text into two or more lines. Other problems: The white lightbulb of the clip art catches the eye before the message. The blue and black text passages on a green background are hard to read. Capitalization of "Knowledge," "Business" and "Clientele" is inconsistent with the first line. Using a lighter text color, such as light orange for the title and white for the body text, against a darker green background will add contrast, as will shading the lightbulb with a gradated off-white-to-gray fill.

Presentation submitted by Butch Williams, Cody, Wyo.

Click Here to see a 31.6KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Wyomi Winds was created just for You

8. Use arrows to control eye movement.

Where do you want your viewers to look? Control their eye movement with arrows. You know how important arrows are in diagrams that lead you from one step to another. Use them in charts to direct the viewer's eye to essential elements.

Presentation submitted by Todd Taylor, M.D., CompuGraphicS, Tempe, Ariz.

Click Here to see a 96.3KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Technology Evolution

9. Modify a template; less is better.

Overpowering template graphics can clash with otherwise good diagrams and text. The added logo--the globe at lower right--is lost here. To solve the problem, select a more appropriate template, eliminate the globe or reduce its size on some or all slides.

Presentation submitted by Robert Chernoff, Chipcom, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Click Here to see a 31.0KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Customer Environments

10. Maximize space for chart information.

Changing the default chart label would have left more screen space for this chart, making it easier to read. Labeling the y-axis as "Revenue, $ Thousands" would eliminate the need for the extra "000." It's obvious that the numbers at the right of the chart are years, so that label can be eliminated. The legend should be on the chart's back plane, and the text below angled for better readability.

Presentation submitted by Michael Walker, Nashville, Tenn.

Click Here to see a 6.79KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Nike, Inc.

11. Avoid clip-art clutter.

Clip art should elucidate the slide's contents, not clutter and crowd it. Although this slide is part of a zoo's case study, the elephant image is not integrated into the content or layout. An alternative would be to select one animal in a muted color or embossed treatment, and use it as a background and for a template.

Presentation submitted by Michael Walker, Nashville, Tenn.

Click Here to see a 5.03KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Internal Factor Evaluation

12. Watch out for wordy text.

This presentation uses 24 slides that contain only white text centered on a blue template, each with two or three long sentences. These slides should be broken up into different layouts and the text edited into shorter lines. Generally, you should avoid more than four text-only slides in a row. Add clip art and use transitions between topics. Word charts should support the speaker, not give the whole lecture. Audiences should be able to scan them, not stop to read them. When the audience reads, they don't hear what the speaker is saying.

To improve this slide, left-justify the title in yellow and make the bullets yellow. Indent the subtitle and text in white for a more readable treatment:

Supplier Quote System

Track and Status Supplier Quote Module:

Automates request for quote process (RFQ)

Allows access to combined MSC quote history file

Provides online pricing, sorting, grouping

Online RFQ generation and maintenance functions

Presentation submitted by John Taylor, Litton's Material Service Center,
Woodland Hills, Calif.

Click Here to see a 138KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Module 5.0

13. Is it the medium or the message?

A busy background may fight with the text; the bright yellow and white triangles here catch your eye before it lands on the message. However, many of the hand-drawn elements represent product materials that are pivotal to the presentation theme. Evaluate art elements carefully so they don't overshadow the message.

Presentation submitted by Linda L. Butcher, Jericho, N.Y.

Click Here to see a 157KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:

How to Win--and Lose-Points
With Your Audience

Presenters are learning to put on a good show, but there are still a few basics to be learned and bad habits to be broken.

The majority of our entrants avoided multiple fonts and inconsistent formats. Most chose a basic serif (such as Times Roman) or sans serif (Helvetica or Ariel) font. However, point-size problems still popped up. The point size suggested by a template is often inappropriate for a particular presentation; the size is usually too small, tempting the user to add too many words and lines to a slide. As a result, text and chart labels can't easily be read at a distance. Minimum chart-text size should be 30 to 32 points for titles and 24 points for message lines.

Too many slides were wordy, or filled with spelling and grammatical errors. Others overdid the use of uppercase letters. Typing a sentence in all caps is like shouting. A mix of upper- and lowercase letters suggests well-modulated speech, and is also more natural and easier to read.

Improved color usage was evident, thanks to preset color palettes. But people are still shaky about when to use colors and why. One rule to remember is that light colors appear to project forward from a dark background. Reserve light colors for the most important messages in the visual, and don't use them as drop shadows. Also remember to test colors for a specific output device. Often, colors selected for LCD panel projection won't work for 35mm slides or hard copy.

Clip art was sensitively and sensibly sprinkled throughout the submitted presentations. One way to improve these images is to change their color or size. Clever layering or overlapping of text and images can also be exciting graphically, leading the eye into the slide.

Video clips, sound and animation are appearing in more presentations, but these technologies still require ripening. They fall short of what a TV- and movie-nourished audience expects. A good multimedia presentation begs for excellent graphic design, fast delivery equipment, a lot of preparation time and top-notch software or authoring systems.

Transitional screen effects fell victim to the "enamored with new power" syndrome and were used without reason or consistency. Text-build sequences worked better in the presentations we perused because the software does most of the work. A few brave users developed image builds by replicating screens and adding a new image per screen. For example, clip-art jigsaw puzzle parts added up to a whole image. This method was an effective one.

The more daring and confident contestants customized templates or replaced template graphics with touches of creativity. The use of a range of bullets from wing-ding fonts, for example, added variety and energy to several presentations.

Not Just Another Slide Show

By Serdar Yegulalp

Your presentations are more than just lectures. The software should be more than a glorified slide projector. Changes being made in existing programs will better reflect the way presentations are done today.

Presenters now tend toward informal, interactive presentations to smaller audiences. There's less lecturing going on and more actual two-way conferencing. PowerPoint's Meeting Minder lets the presenter add notes during a presentation. The notes can be exported to Schedule+, where they can be used as action items. The program also facilitates other, simpler tasks, such as freedom of movement from one slide to another and "electronic blackboard" features.

The "Net-splosion" and subsequent increase in Internet connectivity from the desktop mean you'll want the whole of the Internet to be part of your presentation. Right now, the only way to properly access the Internet's resources is with Internet browser software (like Web browsers and newsgroup readers). But new releases of programs such as PowerPoint and Astound will allow embedded access to the Internet, so a discussion of your competitor's strategy won't have to wait until someone gets the press kit in the mail. You can make the competition's Web page part of your presentation.

Technologies like VRML and 3-D apps are being strongly considered as add-ons for the next generation of presentation software. A 3-D walk-through will almost certainly hold your audience's interest longer than a two-dimensional "blackboard"-style lecture.

The idea is to turn presentation programs into tools that help people do the things that take place during real-life meetings. Web access and 3-D technology are just two ways to accomplish that.

Tools of the Trade

WordPower 1.95
Software Publishing Corp.
800-336-8360 408-537-3000

Astound 2.0
Gold Disk
408-982-0200, fax 408-982-0298

Freelance Graphics 96
Lotus Development Crp.
800-343-5414, 617-577-8500

Harvard Graphics 4.0
Software Publishing Corp
800-336-8360, 408-537-3000

Microsoft Corp
800-426-9400, 206-882-8080

WordPerfect Presentations 3.0
800-451-5151, 801-225-5000

Now that you'e learned all the ins and outs of the presentation game, choose a package to suit your needs. The list above includes some of the most popular programs.

You might also want to check out the Presenters Resource Center, in the InFocus Systems Web site at http: //www. The projection system maker has a variety of resources, including free software and links to other Web sites where you can access clip art, sound clips, video clips and other information.

Dona Z. Meilach is president of Visually Speaking in Carlsbad, Calif. She is the author of Dynamics of Presentation Graphics, Looking Great on Video. Click Here to find the e-mail IDs for our editors, who can put you in touch with this author.

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