An Amazingly Easy Way To Pull Media Out Of PowerPoint And Keynote

April 24, 2012

It’s now two years since Ideas on Stage was born, and in that time I’ve learned a remarkable amount about presenting and communicating, much of it from my amazing business partner Pierre Morsa.

Although I don’t usually talk much about applications, here is a small but potentially useful tip which Pierre just shared on his extremely popular (French) blog, and which I felt deserved to be shared with an English-speaking audience.

Here it is: PowerPoint and Keynote files (.PPTX and .KEY) are essentially just ZIP archives with a different file extension.

So if you want to find an easy way to pull photos, videos and sounds out of a PowerPoint or Keynote file, follow this simple tip:

  1. Make a copy of your original file (this way, you don’t risk harming your original).
  2. On your copy, replace the .PPTX or .KEY extension with .ZIP instead (do this in Windows Explorer or Finder – on a Mac you may need to open the Get Info window and then change the extension in there).
  3. Then you can open the ZIP archive and you will find all the images, movies etc. which were embedded in the slide deck.

As Pierre stated, it’s a very simple tip, but it could be a real time-saver – and it’s certainly a little trick that might impress your colleagues…

Two Reasons I Rarely Recommend Prezi

August 30, 2011

There has been a lot of talk in the last year about Prezi, a new slideware application which is an alternative to the established Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote.

Prezi is different in that it gives you one big canvas, and allows you to zoom in and out, and pan around, while still including photos and videos. The developers talk about the many uses of non-linear presentations, and the limitations of slide-based competitors.

Now I’m all for innovation, and Prezi is a fine idea which is quite well-executed. You can criticize it for the limited built-in fonts or various other technical points, but in general, what it sets out to do, it does well.

Sadly, when it comes to live presentations, I am not a fan of what it sets out to do.

For me, the visuals you use when presenting need to do three things. They are there to help you to communicate your message:

a) more effectively

b) more interestingly

c) more memorably

You could well argue that a cool and eye-catching show on the wall will be more interesting than a set of bullet points, and you’d be right. It’s possible that you could use Prezi to produce visual effects which are especially memorable.

The trouble is that you don’t really want people to remember your visual effects. You want them to remember your messages, and the visuals are merely hooks on which they can hang those memories. When the hook gets more attention than the message, you have the beginnings of a problem. It’s not because an all-zooming, all-twisting, all-panning Prezi visual is more interesting than a set of bullets that it is the right solution. A blank wall is better for communication than a set of bullets too.

I always say that visuals should be simple and clear. They should help the audience to better understand the message the speaker is trying to communicate. They should also take as little of the audience’s attention as possible, and only when necessary. Most of the audience’s attention should be on the speaker, and where nothing needs to be projected to enhance the spoken message, that’s exactly what should be projected: nothing.

And this is for me the main difficulty with Prezi, as well as with highly-animated slides created with other slideware apps. The main challenge of the Presentation 2.0 revolution is not to banish bullet points to the dustbin of history: it is to reestablish the connection between the speaker and the audience, while using the best modern techniques to enhance that communication.

I contend that using Prezi – in most cases – will in fact make this worse, not better. There are two key ways this happens.

  1. While preparing a presentation, I ask presenters to focus as much as possible on their audience, to ensure they gauge the audience’s needs and expectations right, target their messages properly, use appropriate language, and ensure their audience will be able to receive and understand the presenter’s key messages. While the big problem with some slideware apps is that it is too easy to produce bad slides, the problem with Prezi is that to make it all look exactly right and design a fantastic-looking visual treat, it takes a very long time. I have seen this happen. The result is that the presenter is focusing too much on the visuals, and not enough on the audience. This can lead to beautiful visuals, but a failure to communicate effectively. That is one way in which the use of Prezi breaks the link between the presenter and the audience.
  2. During the presentation, it is important for the audience to focus as much as possible on the speaker. This way, the speaker can create a connection with the audience, and convey meaning through the exchange with the audience, through their body language and through their passion. If the audience spends all its time looking at the projector screen, rarely looking at the speaker, that connection is lost, and the speaker might as well not be on the stage at all, and instead just record a voice-over. I’ve seen some fantastic Prezi visuals. But they are just so eye-catching, particularly with all that movement, that they become the star. I believe that is counter-productive unless your sole objective is to impress the audience with your ability to create stunning visuals. (And enough people have now seen enough Prezi shows for the novelty to have worn off.)

So there are the two reasons I don’t recommend Prezi: it stops the presenter from focusing on the audience before the presentation, and stops the audience from focusing on the presenter during the presentation. It therefore goes against everything I teach.

There are good examples of the use of Prezi. TED’s Chris Anderson gave a fine talk with Prezi – but because he toned down all the animation, in a laudable attempt to avoid having the audience look only at the slides, there was nothing there which couldn’t have been done equally effectively with Keynote or PowerPoint. In fact, in all the really good Prezi-backed presentations I’ve viewed (and I’ve viewed many), the other tools could have been just as effective.

So there’s the irony. Prezi is a great tool for producing stunning swirling visuals which don’t help communication; whereas if you choose to use it in a way which doesn’t stop communication, you might just as well use Keynote or PowerPoint instead. The one situation where I think Prezi is simply brilliant is for producing videos with a voice-over. That’s where you want the audience to focus on the visuals. It’s not what you want in a live presentation.

I’ll leave the last word to Guy Kawasaki: “If you need animation to make your presentation interesting, you must suck.” The answer is not animating more – it is sucking less.

In other words, the answer is not a cooler tool like Prezi – it is learning to communicate effectively with your audience. Focus less on your visuals and more on your audience, and you’ll be on the right track.

Presentation 2.0: Resonate Naked

June 29, 2011

As I prepare to launch a new Ideas on Stage training course entitled Presentation 2.0, I feel compelled to write about two recent books which have captured the spirit of what we mean with Presentation 2.0, and which I would advise any presenter to read more than once.

Presentation 2.0 – the new art of presenting – is about engaging with your audience, telling authentic stories, and sharing passion and motivation with more concern for your audience than for yourself. In a Presentation 2.0, you are presenting not because you are important, but because your audience is important, so your focus is on them.

In a Presentation 2.0, you might choose to use visual aids to get your message across more memorably, but you will keep your slides simple and clear, and you will ensure that they are there only to help your audience to understand and remember your messages, not to help you to remember what you need to say.

In a Presentation 2.0, you will care more about what your audience will do with your message afterwards than what they think about you as a presenter.

For all these reasons, Presentation 2.0 is a far more effective and enjoyable way to communicate than the 1.0 style of reading bullet-ridden slideuments to bored audiences, or even the more advanced 1.1 style, promoted by slide-oriented sites like SlideShare, where you use pretty slides but still divert too much of the audience’s attention onto the slides and away from the two-way communication you should be having between presenter and audience. Death By Pretty Powerpoint is just sharpening the axe – it still falls and it still kills.

Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds ponder each other's first book

Now, before I talk about these two books, let me first provide a disclaimer. I didn’t pay for either of these – I received copies directly from the authors. The presentation business is still a fairly small world, people quote each other and write forewords for each other’s books, and that’s remarkably refreshing since we’re all working together with a common aim. While I’ve not yet met Nancy Duarte (an omission I’ll soon be correcting), I’ve shared a stage with Garr Reynolds and organize seminars with him, and – further disclaimer – he even did me the honour of including one of my articles in The Naked Presenter.

So I’m not exactly impartial here. But I’m not being paid to write a review, and if either author was hoping for one, I’ve likely disappointed them by delaying it for eight months.

Nancy Duarte wrote resonate as a prequel to her best-seller slide:ology. This fact alone is telling.

After many years as a leading presentation specialist, Nancy realised that before you can spend time making attractive and effective slides, you first have to structure your presentation properly, with clear objectives, simple messages, and a powerful scenario which draws on millennia of storytelling experience from Aristotle to Hollywood. And before you can do that, you have to focus on your audience.

Only when you know your audience and you have a story to match can you expect your ideas to resonate with them – and if your ideas resonate, then the audience will take them away and make them resonate far and wide.

resonate is therefore the book to read before slide:ology, and indeed, if it is the only presentation book you ever read, it will be a good choice because it tells you so much about storytelling, with many examples from Martin Luther King Jr to Star Wars, and if you can get your storytelling right and tailor it to your audience’s needs, you have the makings of a fine presentation.

The Naked Presenter follows on from Garr Reynolds’ previous two best-sellers, Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design. Where the first was about realising the received wisdom about presenting was all wrong, and offering a fresh, simple approach, and the second was about designing simple and attractive slides, The Naked Presenter focuses on how to deliver your presentation authentically and memorably.

Naked, in this sense, is figurative: it is about being yourself, being authentic, and making a connection with your audience. It is about presenting for them, not for you. It is about communicating, not putting on a show.

The “Naked Book”, as Garr calls it, is in fact a fantastic one-stop-shop for presentation skills, because it also covers how to structure your presentation, and how to approach your slides. So again, if this is the only presentation book you ever read, it’s a good choice.

Both books are beautifully designed and easy to read, in bite-size chunks. Personally, I would recommend reading The Naked Presenter first, then reading it again, and then getting into resonate. This is because Garr’s book will give you a strong foundation in all aspects of the Presentation 2.0 approach (storytelling, effective visuals and delivery), and Nancy’s book will then give you expert knowledge about how to choose your objectives and craft an effective story.

You can then of course go into detail on slide design with slide:ology or Presentation Zen Design, both of which I refer back to regularly. But don’t put the cart before the horse: learn what makes a presentation work, and then learn how to illustrate it. There are few if any skills you can learn which you will have as many opportunities to use as presenting effectively, and even fewer which will better help you to advance your career.

The evolution of Presentation 2.0 is clear if you contrast Nancy’s and Garr’s latest books with their previous ones. Previously, it seemed that the main battle to be fought was against bad slides, and both authors created powerful ammunition to beat the legions of slideuments and their endless flow of bullets. That battle is not yet won, but the tide is turning.

Yet now it is clear that fixing your slides isn’t good enough. Films don’t win awards only with brilliant supporting roles: they need to have top-class lead actors, and very strong storylines which truly engage the target audience. Slides are just a support, no more. You need to make your ideas resonate, and you need to engage properly with your audience. Only then can your finely manicured slides be effective.

That’s why resonate and The Naked Presenter mark the beginning of a new era in presenting, an era where the audience is paramount; where presentations put ideas on stage, not mere information; where those ideas are crafted and delivered so they resonate with audiences; and where presenters engage their audiences in a naked, authentic way.

This is the Presentation 2.0 era. This is where we can all resonate naked. And our audiences will most definitely thank us for it.

%d bloggers like this: