Tag Archives: PowerPoint

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know


I ‘m looking forward to attending a couple of daylong conferences this spring.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend tons of conferences during my life, going back to the International Radio and Television Society gathering in New York City when I was a callow, wide-eyed sophomore at the University of Alabama. Several Country Radio Seminars in Nashville during my radio days provided good information and insights, along with many memorable musical performances.

More recently, I have attended numerous PR/marketing/digital/social media conferences in St. Louis arranged by a variety of organizations over the last eight years. At this point, let me offer thanks to all who worked to set up these events. And thanks to all who have presented. (This includes me. I presented at CSPRC’s Spectrum event in 2009 about media pitching and in 2013 about Facebook best practices.)

Here’s what I want from these events:

  1. Information and ideas I can use today in my career and my business.
  2. New ideas/concepts that should be on my radar for future consideration.
  3. Different, creative ways to approach issues I deal with on a frequent basis.
  4. Disruptive input, which may or may not be valid, but provides good fodder for discussion and consideration.
  5. Solid A/V work.
  6. Connectivity.
  7. Decent coffee.

Things I don’t want from these events:

  1. Presentations that are really just infomercials for an individual and his/her organization.
  2. Big picture concepts that are too vague. Give me precise details.
  3. Panels discussions dominated by one panelist, when all panelists have good input to share.
  4. Declarations I’ve heard at these events for years, such as: Mobile is big! Video keeps growing! LinkedIn is good! (Etc.) I know that!
  5. PowerPoints, Keynotes or Prezis with text and images so small the content on the screen can’t be discerned beyond the first row.
  6. Bad planning that puts a high-demand session in a smaller meeting room.
  7. Stick-on name tags that don’t adhere well to clothing.

If you see me at a conference this spring, say hello. Let’s hope we’re able to get several actionable takeaways when we attend these events!

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92987904@N00/4297743712, via http://photopin.com, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0)

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What I’ve Learned in 2012

What you’re doing now is more important than what you used to do.

Your past accomplishments can open doors and help you get your calls taken and emails answered. That job you had a few years ago can be the source of some great stories. But the work you’re doing today is what really matters.

There is value in being discreet.

I heard a story this year of a business owner whose attorney shared confidential information with another lawyer in his firm. That second lawyer shared the tidbit with his wife, who passed it along to her daughter, who knew several employees at the business, one of whom delivered it back to the business owner. When you are trusted with a secret, keep it.

Presentations can be just as good without a PowerPoint.

I saw PowerPoints (or Keynotes or Prezis) this year that were actually distracting from speakers’ messages. Frequently, info that looks okay on a computer screen two feet away looks horrible—or worse, indecipherable—on a screen fifty feet away. I had a PowerPoint-less meeting last week where people were actually listening to me, actively taking notes and absorbing what I was saying.

Multitasking means more than it used to.

It doesn’t just mean writing a report while you’re on a conference call and monitoring CNN video at the same time you’re signaling across the room that, yes, you’d love another cup. It doesn’t just mean doing media relations, strategic planning, email marketing and social media for the same client. It also means working a main gig, doing some freelancing on the side, teaching a night course and selling your handiwork on Etsy—or a similar combo of tasks.

Everybody’s job is on the line.

It’s true. It’s important to keep your resume and/or portfolio updated. Archive your work. Stay in touch with vital contacts. Work your LinkedIn account. Even if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, keep an eye and an ear open to opportunities that may arise.

The iPhone is pretty cool.

When my old phone died in June, I finally upgraded to an iPhone. I was familiar with most of its features—many friends and associates had proudly showed me theirs over the years. But until I had one of my own, I was not fully aware how functional they are. My iPhone envy was cured… until my wife got an iPhone 5 in October!

Okay, that’s not all I’ve learned during 2012, but a handful of highlights.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Next post here on January 3, 2013.

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Nuggets of Information: I Love ‘Em!

Who is responsible for info coming to us in easily digestible nuggets? Those items that run just a sentence or two or three, but tell us the main facts we want/need to consume.

Was it the “three dot” newspaper columnists back in the first half of the 20th century? They wanted to get as many names in bold print as possible and the best way to cram several names and events into finite page space was via the well-edited nugget.

Was it New York magazine in the 1970’s? The mag’s fresh design layout allowed for numerous nuggets to be sprinkled throughout each issue, among their longer pieces.

Was it TV news consultants in the 1980’s? They told local stations that the key to ratings wins was “high story count.” This method had been shown to be effective a couple of decades earlier by top-forty radio, which presented news with energy and excitement.

Was it PowerPoint users in the 1990’s? Having a presentation on your laptop was quite impressive 20 years ago, but required reducing longer text paragraphs into bullet points.

Was it text messagers in the 2000’s? Texters have taken minimalism to an extreme, but have shown us that information can be communicated with a single letter and/or punctuation mark: k?

To all who have played roles in condensing info into nuggets, I thank you. As do others.

The St. Louis Business Journal’s page two “Shoptalk” column is its most popular feature, filled with nuggets. The Wall Street Journal’s “What’s News” on the left side of its front page has basic facts—via the nugget—and lists the page where the full story is printed. Many of the emails in my inbox each day consist of nuggets with links to details, should I want more. Twitter allows quick and easy scrolling through nugget after nugget. Another popular form of communication in 2012 is the “infographic,” with simple illustrations and lots of nuggets.

In common usage, a “nugget” can refer to something that’s bite-sized or to something that’s golden. In the world of communication, a nugget can be both.

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Dealing with Tech Failure

How many times have you seen it happen? You’re at a presentation and the PowerPoint doesn’t work. Or the projector doesn’t work. Or the wireless mike doesn’t work. Or the video doesn’t play. Or there’s feedback on the audio system.

Things happen. Sometimes there’s someone to blame. Sometimes there are equipment failures. Sometimes you didn’t bring the right connector. It doesn’t matter. Technology has failed. If it fails you, what can you do?

  1. Be cool. If your PowerPoint screws up, don’t worry. If your remarks are compelling enough, you probably don’t really need the PowerPoint. Rather than spend a huge portion of your allotted time trying to make it work, just deliver the presentation without it.
  2. Learn to project your voice. If you are going to speak before groups of people, you have to be able to make yourself heard by the person sitting farthest away, without amplification. Not by yelling, but by talking louder and projecting.
  3. Video in a presentation is a tricky proposition even if everything works properly. Anything more than a short clip gets tedious for the audience in a hurry. But if you insist on including video in your presentation, be ready to describe the entire content of the video if it doesn’t play. That’s what TV newscasters have done for decades when the film, the tape or a live feed doesn’t work.
  4. Focus on your main message points and don’t let tech failure ruin your presentation. At a luncheon a few years ago, a St. Louis consultant to non-profits had colossal tech issues. The PowerPoint was too small to be seen, the video took a long time to load and then it was almost inaudible. But she struggled through. Her message—that the best way to communicate to donors is with stories about the people who’ve benefited from your services—came through loud and clear (despite her many tech problems).
  5. See #1. Be cool. At a PRSA-St. Louis luncheon a couple of years ago, right after the panel discussion began, the power went out. Curtains were opened to let in some light and the program continued. Without microphones, without amplification, without technology. The panelists (all of whom were college instructors) spoke loud enough to be heard throughout the room and the program went along without a hitch.

Technology is wonderful. But be prepared to make accommodations when technology fails.

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