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Introverts and public speaking

Being an introvert and being afraid of public speaking are 2 different things.

Introverts find it hard to engage in small talk, introverts think before they speak, introverts do not enjoy loud crowds, let alone trying to make yourself heard in them.

But, introverts can be great public speakers. On stage, there is no small talk, but the real substance of your presentation. People are quiet and listening to you. The perfect spot for an introvert to shine.

Rows or columns?

When designing a table there is always the question: which dimension to put in rows, and which in columns. Personally, I do what looks best, without applying any specific rules.
  • If one dimension has labels that are very long, I prefer to put them in rows
  • If one dimension has lots of data points, I tend to put them in rows (16:9 screens give more flexibility for wide designs though)
  • Years usually go in columns
  • Big options (1, 2, or 3) usually go in columns
  • Ranking different values usually is better vertically, it is easier to compare a column of numbers than have your eyes move across a row of numbers.

The truly new idea

When I was a still a junior consultant at McKinsey, one of the senior partners on a team I was working on said that most consulting projects really generate only one truly original new idea/insight. The rest of the hard work is not really that original (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration as Thomas Edison put it)). Still, that one insight usually drives the entire recommendation.

At McKinsey, these truly new ideas were often the result of a novel way of combining facts/data sources for the first time and/or being able to quantify/compare things that nobody thought could be quantified.

Looking back at presentations and pitches I have worked on, the on truly new idea concept probably holds. Use it in your presentation design. Facts, and logic flows that everyone is already used to/knows are not interesting. It might be better to go quickly to that unexplored territory that you discovered.

Text on 16:9

Many people think that the wide screen 16:9 format looks modern for presentations, a slide fills the entire LCD screen, rather than being framed by 2 black bars or worse: stretched/distorted while you cannot find the screen remote in the conference room.

There is a problem though. Widescreen was designed with movies in mind. For text it is a disaster. Even at a decent font size, there are too many words on a single line, it is hard to follow for the eye.

  1. Even bigger fonts
  2. Rather than list things vertically, try putting them in boxes that are horizontally spaced out
  3. Stick to 4:3 and find that sticky, dusty, old, remote control in the conference room (look for the ASP button)

Chapters 1-3 of my book free

To support the launch of the SlideMagic presentation design app I have started to remove the paywall for my book Pitch It!. At the moment, chapters 1 to 3 are free to view online here.

I am making slow progress because it requires a rewriting and reformatting of the content. First there was the iBooks version written in iBooks Author, then the PDF version written in InDesign, and now I am converting the content to HTML using squarespace.

Web templates have moved a long way over the past 2 years. The squarespace version looks as good, if not better, than the iBook version. I have all the freedom to design interactive content, and the adjustments between wide screen, iPad, and mobile phone are phenomenal. No app stores, no pass words, just click the link and you are in on any device.

This says something about the blurring of visual communication formats beyond the slides used in a stand up presentation. Scrolling down on a tablet is much more intuitive than clicking through slides (part of the reason why in SlideMagic things are fluid). Like reading a magazine or a newspaper, there is value for big picture, wow visuals, and a 12 point story here and there. A big bold chart and a detailed diagram. Maybe a nice magazine-style website behind a password is a better to present your idea than a PowerPoint attachment?

I can now also take the opportunity to update the content of the book, some of which has become a bit stale since December 2012 (and the biggest missing piece of information is SlideMagic as a credible alternative to PowerPoint and Keynote of course!).

Let's eradicate PPT 2003

PowerPoint 2003 still uses the old MS Graph chart engine, and while PowerPoint 2003 probably does not run on any computer anymore, the slides created with it continue to live on. In many corporates, the same slides keep on getting updated with new numbers, sometimes for more than 10 years in a row.
So, in today's PPTX files we still see leftovers of MS Graph charts, almost like virus infections. Depending on the computer and software you are running, some of the following can happen:
  • Random resizing of charts
  • Random re-coloring of charts
  • But worst: a total crash of PowerPoint and loss of data
Here is the instinct I developed and I encourage you to do the same upon noticing an MS Graph chart:
  1. Hit save in PowerPoint
  2. Copy the slide with the virus
  3. (Shivrrrrr), right click and open the MS Graph in the duplicate
  4. Go to the data tab and copy the data in a blank excel sheet
  5. Hit save in PowerPoint
  6. (Pfffew) recreate the chart from scratch
  7. Hit save in PowerPoint
  8. Delete the MS Graph slides
  9. Hit save in PowerPoint
With a bit of help from all of you, PPT 2003/MS Graph charts should be eradicated in 5 years or so.

3 things with 3 things each

Management consulting stories are always divided in 3 or 5 components (optimally starting with the same letter), and each of these is then divided into 3 sub components as well.

Connect, communicate, control. And to achieve connect we need to aggregate, accumulate, and accelerate. This works reasonably well in documents for reading (if the verbs are chosen meaningfully and not using a dictionary looking for words starting with C).

Verbal pitches are a bit different though. A human, person-to-person story is flatter, more linear. It is hard to go up one level, down to the second point if we do not have the hierarchical structure in front of us. Also, using too many words that start with a C make you sound like a consulting report, not like a genuine speaker.

Listen to yourself: if it sounds wrong it probably is wrong.

You didn't know you need this

If you pitch your product as a direct alternative to something else, the purchasing manager might say that it is a nice solution, but we already spent our budget on something that is acceptable. Often, it is better to convince the buyer that this is a new market, a new product, that has no substitutes yet. An opportunity for startups that are out there to change the world.

Thomas Leuthard

Thomas Leuthard (web site, Flickr) is a street photographer who published his work under a Creative Commons license on Flickr (attribution is required). His work is of very high quality. His images make great backgrounds for presentations that need an urban setting.

Image by Thomas Leuthard

Consulting frameworks

I added a new set of templates to my presentation design app SlideMagic: consulting frameworks. It was an interesting journey back in time (I used to work for 10 years at McKinsey back in the 1990s).

Putting them in SlideMagic was interesting, it shows exactly what SlideMagic is supposed to do for business presentations. Take unnecessary complexity out of visual designs down to a level that the chart still says what it needs to say, but that you do not need to have a degree in graphics design to make them. I had to make slight deviations from the original here and there (Both SlideMagic and layman designers do not like curved shapes for example), but the end result is pretty good.

As to the content of these frameworks. They are more tools to help you think about a problem than slides that will get your audience jumping out of their chairs. Many of them are linked to classic micro-economics theory (demand/supply/competition). I think the strategic issues of many companies today have moved beyond these problems. Still some frameworks can work to kick start a discussion, they good old SWOT works great in group white board discussions.

Inviting SlideMagic feedback

For all of those who are beta testing SlideMagic, I would love to hear your reactions.
  1. Important: bugs, glitches
  2. More important: whether you like the concept
  3. Most important: what is holding you back to use software like this for a real document or live presentation: a) bugs, b) cannot do what I want to do, c) a beta version is too risky d) other. Please elaborate!
Email your thoughts to jan at slidemagic dot com.