In 1987, the San Francisco Chronicle published a poll in which hundreds of people were asked "What is your greatest fear?" Most of the answers were predictable: death, illness, war, the dentist. There was one answer, however, that surprised even the poll takers. At the top of the list was the one thing people feared the most: speaking in front of a large group of people.
Even the most experienced public speaker occasionally suffers from stage fright before a speech and "flop sweat" (a term used by professional comedians) while speaking. So why do people get up and speak in front of 10, 100, or 1000 strangers? The answer is that each and every speaker wants those strangers to take some action: to vote for Joe Blow, to invest in Hypothetical International, to build that new plant or tear down the old one, to save the whales.
The stakes involved in any presentation can be high; professional reputations, million-dollar budgets, and billion-dollar investments can be on the line. But even if you're just giving a short talk to fellow employees about a company benefits package, you can experience "presentation stress."
Adding to the difficulty of giving any presentation are the conditions under which presenters are often forced to work. Most presentations are scheduled with little or no advance warning. The presenter must prepare a speech while still keeping up with his regular workload. Slides are produced quickly, with the company president's name misspelled. There is no time to rehearse. The meeting room is often uncomfortable. The meeting audience is barely awake (morning), half asleep (After lunch), or eager to go home (late afternoon).
Getting those tired, distracted strangers to listen and understand is hard work, but if you start off on the right foot you can make your job a lot easier. With proper planning, you can create an effective, exciting presentation that will motivate your audience and help reduce your own public speaking phobia.
What Makes a Presentation Effective?
There is more to giving a presentation than a few slides and an off-the-cuff speech. A successful presentation is a carefully planned campaign to bring the audience members over to your side. It is designed to convince them that your opinion is the right one and that they should take action.
The key to a successful presentation is that it should be message driven. By sticking to a clear, well-thought-out message, you can focus the audience members' attention on what you want them to do. Creating an organized story-like structure for your presentation, with a beginning, middle, and end, enables you to clearly explain your message to the audience. This structure also allows you to control the pace at which the information is provided.
Presenting the right amount of information necessary to clarify your message is essential to good communication. Too much information can often be confusing. Too little will fail to persuade. Visually interesting, well-designed presentation graphics that enhance and clarify information will enable your audience to recall and act on your message.
Most of the work involved in creating an effective presentation happens before you create a single presentation graphic. Organization, planning, outlining, and basic visual design all need to be done before the actual presentation slides or overhead transparencies are created.
What Is a Desktop Presentation?
Until recently, a person giving a speech turned over a rough draft of his or her speech and any required charts and graphs to a graphic artist. The artist then prepared storyboards and rough sketches for the slides or overhead transparencies to be used in the presentation. After approval of the storyboards, the slides were produced using either traditional paste-up art and photography or expensive, high-end computer workstations.
Traditional art methods were too slow to allow last-minute changes. They also required a very skilled artist to prepare even the simplest text slide. This labor-intensive process led to one major end result: an expensive presentation.
Computer workstations, such as those manufactured by Genigraphics, Autographix, and Dicomed, solved a lot of the problems associated with traditional art methods. It became quite easy to make last-minute changes. It was also a lot easier to produce a large number of slides in a small amount of time. However, these workstations also required skilled operators, and a single workstation represented an investment of $50,000 to $200,000. Such a large investment in staff and equipment led to the same end result: an expensive presentation.
Like the desktop publishing revolution of several years ago, new developments in the world of personal computers have changed the way presentations are created. The traditional tools for creating presentation graphics have been refined, streamlined, made user-friendly and moved to your desktop computer. Inexpensive, specialized applications now make it possible for anyone with an IBM PC compatible or Macintosh computer to create professional-looking presentation graphics. The old, expensive, photographic and computer hardware necessary to image slides and overhead transparencies is being replaced by low-cost desktop film recorders and service bureaus that specialize in imaging slides from your computer files. The desktop presentation revolution is here!
Creating a desktop presentation means having control of the entire presentation process from start to finish. You create your own presentation plan, outline, and script. You develop a storyboard and design your own slide or overhead transparency graphics. You print your own handouts and speaker notes. You make decisions about layout, color, and typography. It's a lot of work, but the payoff is that you get to make all these elements work together to serve your message.
Desktop presentations can be produced with a wide variety of software. In addition to specialty software such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Aldus Persuasion, virtually any graphics-oriented software can create slides, including drawing, illustration, desktop publishing, page layout, and even spreadsheet programs.
No matter what type of software you are using, there are basic principles of preparation, good design, and well-organized production that will guide you in creating an exciting, effective presentation.
Who Should Read This Book?
If you are creating slide shows and other visual presentations using desktop presentation software (or considering it), you will find suggestions on how to make your work more organized, professional, and creative. This book will be valuable to anyone using the following presentation graphics software: Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Persuasion, Micrografx Charisma, Harvard Graphics, Lotus Freelance Graphics, Claris Hollywood, CorelDRAW!, MORE, CA Cricket Presents, plus many other illustration, page layout, charting, and presentation graphics programs.
If you are a corporate manager considering switching your slide production from a graphics production company to an in-house operation, you will be able to familiarize yourself with the process and pitfalls of slide making, so you can make an informed, practical decision for your organization.
About Understanding Presentation Graphics
Creating an effective presentation involves much more than sitting down at your computer and knocking off a few slides in Harvard Graphics or PowerPoint. Producing a successful presentation requires planning as well as graphic skill. Understanding Desktop Presentations is your guide to the total process of preparing and producing a presentation using your computer. In this book, you will find practical guidelines for every phase of preparing a presentation, whether it is produced as 35mm color slides, black-and-white or color overhead transparencies, computer screen shows, or video.
In most corporate situations, the planning, writing, and graphics production for a presentation are often a team effort. The speaker will prepare an outline and the text of his or her speech, while other people in the organization will create the slides, design and print handouts, and arrange meeting room space and facilities. Although you should pay particular attention to the sections of this book which apply to your specific role, don't neglect the rest of the process. You will find it easier to support the team effort when you understand the part of each person in the group.
If you are flying solo- -writer, artist, and speaker all rolled into one- -you will create more dynamic, effective presentations by following the guidelines in this book.
Understanding Presentation Graphics follows the presentation production process from beginning to end. Part 1 deals with the pre-production process: production scheduling, planning, outlining, scripting, and creating a storyboard. Part 2 covers the actual process of designing and creating presentation graphics. It includes three chapters on format design: laying out the slide frame, using color, and choosing type styles. The next three chapters deal specifically with the design of slides with text, charts and graphs, and illustrations. The final chapters provide details on methods for final production and preparations on the day of the presentation. Most of the examples are for 35mm slides, but the principles apply to all media.
Appendices include a guide to presentation software; a guide to national, regional, and local imaging service bureaus; and a bibliography.
Each chapter of Understanding Desktop Presentations also contains a chapter in a "real-life" story, in which you will meet the management and staff of Hypothetical International. Hypothetical, an unusually diversified holding company, is in the process of issuing some new stock, and the three top corporate officers are preparing a "road show" for presentation to brokers, stock analysts, and institutional investors. They have recently switched to using desktop presentation tools to create their in-house presentations, and this is their first big presentation for an outside audience. Their story shows how the guidelines presented here relate to a typical business situation.