Want to make a video? Why not use PowerPoint?

PowerPoint has a variety of applications. In addition to designing slides for presentations I have used it to make promotional posters and to design logos and buttons for the animal welfare groups that I am involved with (see Life by PowerPoint). I have also started creating videos.  You can insert music to link to your slides (for the  examples below I used music from iStockPhoto.com).  For me, the biggest challanges in making videos with Powerpoint are telling my story in just a couple of minutes (I recommend you keep you videos to 2-3 minutes), and having the music timed just right.

Re timing: using the Transitions tab you can select the transition you want and how long you want the slide to viewed.  I find that somewhere between 3-8 seconds works best, depending on what is on the slide. Once your slide show is running to the music you can convert it to a video format. In PowerPoint 2010 go to File – Save & Send – Create Video.

Here are 2 examples.


Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring

Why people don’t change – solving the “Death by PowerPoint” mystery

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It was always a bit of a mystery to me as to why people continue to produce and deliver “Death by PowerPoint” type presentations.  There are so many resources available on how and why to change your presentation style from bulleted list PowerPoint slides to something more innovative.  Yet “Death by PowerPoint” persists in most organizations, one day I had the proverbial ah-hah moment.

I was at our cottage on the south shore of Nova Scotia; I do a lot of my presentation and other design work there.  Looking for inspiration on a project I was working on, I scrolled through Twitter and followed a link to a link to another link.  And there it was, an article in the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gawande describing how the medical community adopts new ideas.  SLOW IDEAS – Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t?  

It had no mention of presentations but it was the answer to my mystery.  I had one of those moments of clarity – finally I understood.  Dr. Gawande describes how some breakthrough innovations were rapidly adopted by the medical community, while others took decades to become standard practice. He notes there are two factors which influence the speed of innovation adoption, both of which (to me anyway) explained exactly my people stick to their “Death by PowerPoint” style presentations:

1) How visible is the problem?

Dr. Gawande points out that anesthetic agents in operating rooms became widely used shortly after their discovery in the 1800s.  The problem – patients screaming in agony during surgery – was very visible.  In contrast, the use of antiseptic agents in operating rooms took decades to become standard practice, even though their use dramatically lowered post-operative death rates. The problem of infection was a big one but it happened after, not during, the surgery.  The issue of germs causing infections was not immediately “visible” to the surgeons of the day.

As presenters we have an invisibility problem.  We really don’t see if our presentation has made any impression on the audience. For most presentations we only get one opportunity to make an impact. So I think it makes sense to make the effort to ensure our idea/concept/proposal is understood.

2) How painful is it to implement the innovation?

Dr. Gawande further explains that anesthetic agents were of immediate benefit but obtaining the agent and constructing the inhaler was challenging. Use of early antiseptics was also challenging to implement. It involved a complex process, part of which was spraying carbolic acid onto the surgeon’s hands, which caused burning (literally a painful process to implement).  Both procedures were not easy to implement, so why did one become a standard of practise so much faster than the other?

Anesthetic agents made life better for patients and doctors; they changed surgery from a time-pressured sprint on a screaming patient to a calmer, thoughtful procedure.  Antiseptic technique was only of benefit to the patient and was actually painful for the doctor to implement.

We have to understand that it is going to take some effort (pain) to make sure our presentation makes an impact.  I guess it’s like the old saying “no pain no gain”.

We have to work at changing someone’s actions, opinion or point of view, we just can’t hope that it will happen. But when you do get that change, you have made an impact.  And isn’t that what presentations are all about?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring

White background, black background. Which is better?

B & W1
The Effective Sales Presentation is an excellent blog by Jean-François Messier. It is one of the only sales presentation blogs I can find.  Since I am in sales, do a lot of presentations, and have a passion for presentation design, I am always keenly interested to see what he has to say.

A couple of weeks ago Jean- François re-posted an article by Phil Waknell which discussed what type of background is better for your slides, 5 Reasons Why Black Is The New White. He believes that a dark/black background is better for a variety of reasons:

1.  A black background won’t fatigue your audience, whereas a white background can be hard on the eyes.

2.  A black background will keep them focused on you since your eyes are naturally attracted to the “bright” light.

3.  Smile – you’re on camera; black backgrounds work better if you are being recorded on video.

4.  You may have “slides without borders” – photos that don’t fit the slide have a bright white frame around them.

5.  You will stand out from the crowd since the majority of “bad” presentations have white backgrounds.

I agree with the points which support the use of black backgrounds on slides, but there is one other factor to consider.  I think that there are instances where a white background may be best for someone who creates their own presentation visuals.  Garr Reynolds comments on the background color of slides in his book Presentation Zen Design.  He says that since most stock images have white backgrounds, the images can easily be used on a slide with a white background.  I think the majority of people who create their own presentations have minimal training in presentation design, no Photoshop on their computers, and no access to graphic designers… therefore slides with a white background are easier to work with.  You can find great professional stock images on sites like iStockPhoto.com.

In her book Slideology, Nancy Duarte talks about two factors which determine background color:  the formality of the event and the venue size.  She believes that black backgrounds are most appropriate for formal events and large venues.  Since the majority of presentations in organizations are in smaller meeting rooms and in an informal setting, a white background is probably appropriate. Of course the key is to have a high contrast between your background and any words you may have on your slides.

I wonder though – should you mix black and white backgrounds in one presentation?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring