As smartphones, tablets and touchscreens become more entrenched in business, our customers, clients and associates want interaction and freedom to explore the information being presented. Increasingly, it’s becoming important to show the heart in a business or organisation. Sharing information, not just advertising, is necessary to remain relevant.

We’ve all suffered death by Powerpoint, being forced to sit through uninspiring and dull presentations

This is where the buzz phrase ‘digital storytelling’ enters. This rapidly evolving culture encompasses elements of traditional presentations and combines multimedia and often touchscreen capabilities to enhance the overall information delivery experience. Through images, video, sound, touch we have a greater chance of evoking emotions and eliciting a response from our audiences.

Enter the new players – giving us choice, flexibility and above all else, new scope for creativity. Predominantly web-based, these new platforms are not only bringing exciting new features to the field but also allowing you access anywhere, anytime regardless of your device.

Flowboard

Free, Available for Apple iOS

Designed to be used on iPad, this app can set you free from your desk and unleash a whole new way to explore the way we present information.

This is where the fun and creativity begin. With its incredibly simple navigation – drag, drop and link content from your iPad, Google, Facebook or Instagram, to create your interactive display or Flowboard as it’s known. The creative at Flowboard have provided some templates to work with or you can create your own. An interactive magazine style publication can be created in just a few minutes.

But here’s where Flowboard truly shines. Not only is your presentation stored on the cloud accessible anywhere, once you publish your Flowboard you can share your content on Twitter, Facebook or as a URL direct link. No more having to attach a presentation to an email or saving to thumb drives. You could even include the link in your email and newsletters.

What’s also special is although you have created it on an iPad it is compatible on any other platform – meaning no boundaries or worries about who can view it.

If you’re looking for a large scale high-end publishing platform Flowboard would not fit the bill. But if you’re looking for a simple way to create some fun, interactive content for a business presentation, seminar or product pitch then this app is highly recommended.

Tips:

  • The better the quality of your images and the more engaging your content, the better the overall look will be.
  • Take a look at the Gallery to see what other Flowboarders are creating if you need some inspiration.

Cost:

  • Create up to 200MB of content for free
  • Premium plans are only $4.99/month and offer up to 1 Gigabyte of storage.

Prezi

Free, iOS, Web-based/Browser-based

Zoom in for this one. Using the notion of presenting ideas with passion and the unmistakable zoom feature, Prezi definitely has wow factor visually, but may require a little more initial thought to make a truly awe inspiring presentation. The potential is definitely worth the investment. Available to use online, offline, desktop or as an iOS iPad app, the range of options is there for the taking.

Take your audience on a journey literally as you move around the single canvas zooming in and out to create emphasis and fit small pieces of information into a bigger picture. Think info graphics with movement, music and videos. Very impressive.

It’s truly amazing how the simple addition of motion really can lift your presentation to a much higher level.

Tips:

  • Take the time to learn how to navigate and familiarise yourself with it, watching the video tutorials provided will make life a whole lot easier when starting out.
  • Import existing Powerpoint slides to embellish, alter and improve. Prezi is flexible enough to allow you to utilise existing work.
  • Once you’ve finished, share your Prezi via Facebook or download it as a PDF/portable version.

Cost:

  • Free
  • ‘Enjoy’ member for $4.92 per month with extra options e.g. private presentations, extra storage space
  • ‘Pro’ user for $13.25 per month
  • Business options for larger scale.

Creative force, visual excellence and dynamic, entertaining presentations are not the domain of big business with unlimited budgets. They are accessible, affordable and easily achieved. So get creative!

Featured Image Credit: Judith Klein

Emma Wallace

Emma Wallace plays her magic flute and has computer mice following her. Not really – but she has acquired lots of tech-knowledge and business skills co-running regional based IT consultancy, CloneSurfing Technology for over 7 years. She has a passion and flair for shaking things up and loves meeting inspiring folk.

A.K.A @digisquirrel this graphic/web designer, digital artist, digital publisher and former radio presenter with gift wrapping skills is a little bit different – but what’s wrong with that?


You are ushered into a semi dark room, the screen before you glows ominously and you can feel your shoulders slump involuntarily as you shuffle sideways to your seat. The first slide is produced with multiple rows of tiny text, followed by a complex diagram with colour that is burnt onto your retina and bullet point by bullet point, you begin to slowly succumb to ‘Death by PowerPoint’.


This scenario is reproduced daily in boardrooms, training rooms and conferences all over Australia. At best it is annoying and may induce prolonged somnolence, at worst it causes cognitive overload and reduces information retention.
PowerPoint was introduced as part of the Microsoft Office package over 21 years ago and it revolutionised the way we deliver presentations. We no longer need the hand written overheads or to spend up to $8 per slide to have them professionally produced. PowerPoint provides us the software to prepare our own slides quickly and easily with the only cost being our time.

Slowly, slide by slide PowerPoint took over our presentations and changed the way we communicate. These days when you ask someone to give a talk the first thing they do is open their laptop and start punching away at slides. But is using PowerPoint the best way to communicate our message?

One of the first people to openly criticise PowerPoint was Edward Tufte, an American statistician and Professor Emeritus of statistics, information design, interface design, and political economy at Yale University. In his article ‘The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within’ Tufte states that “Slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations” and that
“Popular PowerPoint templates usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning” He goes on to criticise the PowerPoint presentations by NASA engineers suggesting that their ambiguity contributed to the events that lead to the Columbia Disaster.

Professor John Sweller from the University of NSW conducted his own research. He quizzed students after talking to them about a particular subject; he then repeated the experiment including text on a PowerPoint slide and found that the subjects achieved a lower score. His conclusions were that showing text on a screen and talking to the audience simultaneously produces cognitive overload. He concludes with a strong statement “the use of PowerPoint has been a disaster, it should be ditched”

So where does that leave us? Do we ban PowerPoint presentations altogether as Scott McNealy the Chairman of Sun Microsystems famously did in 1997?
PowerPoint however does have its supporters. Other schools of thought suggest it is the user and not the tool that is the problem. Richard E Mayer Professor of psychology at the University of California suggests that the use of PowerPoint with pictures can be effective as people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Cliff Atkinson in his book ‘Beyond Bullet Points’ (Published by Microsoft Press) believes in the power of stories and that by applying a three step process: script, storyboard and production, you can go beyond bullet points and produce engaging and memorable presentations.

Lucy Thompson a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor, says the problem lies in the fact that we try and make PowerPoint be all things to all people. “The slides are used as a teleprompter, visual aid as well as a handout. A lot of problems would be rectified by using PowerPoint as a visual tool only, providing a handout and creating your own notes as a prompt for your presentation.”
From my experience in facilitating workshops on presenting with PowerPoint I find that there are two main challenges. The first challenge is that people fear presenting and because they are not confident in their material they use PowerPoint as a teleprompter or crutch. The second challenge is information overload. This occurs when presenters don’t know what is important so they put everything up on the slide in an attempt to cover all bases.
Both these problems can be overcome by getting back to basics and following these simple steps.

10 ways to beat PowerPoint into submission

Start with the basics
1. Set your objectives – What do you want your audience to do say think or feel as a result of this presentation?

2. Research your audience – what is it they need/want to know about this topic?

3. Develop your topic – use mind mapping to flesh out your topic delete everything that is not relevant to your objective or audience.

4. Structure your presentation – Develop an introduction, cover 3 main points in the body and conclude with a summary and a call to action.

5. Decide what is the best way for delivering your message? – Do I need to use PowerPoint? Would a workshop, discussion or role-play work best?

…then focus on your delivery

6. Stories sell facts tell – Include anecdotes, metaphors and stories so people can visualise your message.

7. Reduce text – never use text when a graph or photo will do

8. Reduce slides – With every slide ask your self ‘is this adding to or detracting from my message?’

9. Passionate people persuade – ensure you take centre stage and allow your passion to show

10. Use the ‘B’ key frequently – By blacking out the screen you bring the focus back onto you and the audience which encourages interaction and reflection.

So be brave… get your PowerPoint slides back to what they should be – a visual tool only. Step out from behind the screen, take a big breath, smile and engage your audience – after all they have come to see you the speaker not the PowerPoint computer show.

Sharon Ferrier

This article has been printed in the Australian Institute of Training and Development magazine Training and Development in Australia as well as issue four of RTO Management
Sharon Ferrier, through her business ‘Persuasive Presentations’ consults to organisations and individuals who have a need to improve their communication, presentation skills and confidence in public speaking. Her ‘Escaping PowerPoint Purgatory’ workshops run for either a full or half day and can be tailored to meet your teams needs.

Top Image: Credit


Attending an auction, I walked through the house one last time before bidding started. I was mentally placing my furniture when another buyer walked in. A full 3 seconds later the realisation hit me. Right there in front of me was the Chief Information Officer whose gatekeeper I hadn’t been able to bypass. We had been introduced by one of his people but it had gone no further. I impulsively called his name and as he turned, I smiled, stuck out my hand and introduced myself saying our paths had crossed in business. He smiled politely not remembering me at all, “oh, yes of course. What is it you do”? And there was my elevator moment. True story!

Your moment arrives, your chance of a lifetime, face to face with your ideal client and you have roughly 30 seconds to make a powerful first impression to say something that communicates exactly what you do interestingly enough so that they want to know more. It’s called the Elevator Pitch, except I wasn’t in an elevator which taught me something else; the elevator pitch can be used anywhere, anytime to garner interest, make connections, start a conversation, kick off the sales process or simply to introduce yourself and your business in a highly professional manner rather than a strangled aargh, um I’m uh, you know, like…um, guaranteed to end any encounter before it begins.

7 Keys to the ultimate elevator pitch

  1. The elevator pitch is a sound bite only to start a conversation, not your whole business plan. 30 seconds max.
  2. It all about them, it’s not about you. Tell them WHO you help and the ISSUES they are dealing with and WHAT they get from working with you.
  3. No waffle. Be short, sharp, pithy. Make every word count.
  4. No How’s or processes that you will follow. That comes much later.
  5. Prepare a number of different versions, corner unsuspecting colleagues, friends, family and try them out to get feedback on which one is best.
  6. Rehearse it until it rolls off your tongue fluently.
  7. Refine as the business, goals or target market changes.

5 Questions to developing your Elevator Pitch

  1. Who do you help through your work? e.g leaders, executives and their teams
  2. What qualifies them to work with you? e.g in blue chip organizations
  3. What service do you actually perform? e.g simplify their business communications
  4. What’s the chief result you attain for your client? e.g clarity, impact and memorability of key messages
  5. Why is that result important to them? e.g makes it easy for their stakeholders to make more favourable business decisions.

Now put it all together…

I work with leaders, executives and their teams in blue chip organizations simplifying their business communications. This boosts clarity, impact and memorability of key messages making it easy for their stakeholders to make more favourable business decisions.

And yes I got the business. Neither of us bought the house.

Jennifer Burrows

Jennifer Burrows is a highly experienced Pitch Consultant and Presentation Skills Coach advising corporate organizations on their internal and external communications. Her coaching and facilitation experience extends to senior leaders and executives across Australia, New Zealand and the USA in both the public and private sectors.

Top Photo: Credit


There is a common misconception that a business presentation must be crammed with information, serious and dry. It seems the higher you go in the corporate world; the more you are expected to “confuse to impress”. This results in presentations that are long, verbose, poorly structured and capable of inducing prolonged somnolence!
I believe every presentation is a „sales pitch‟ of some kind. You may not be selling a product or service, but you want to persuade your audience to take on board your message, take action or change their attitude/views/ minds on a subject. Because of this, every presentation is a balance between entertainment and information. Entertainment is simply the way you get your message across, information is the message itself. Too much information and you confuse your audience or worse still, they switch off. Too much entertainment without the information and your audience feels cheated that they have wasted their valuable time.
Good speech structure helps you achieve this balance and present a powerful and persuasive presentation.

The 5 steps to creating a persuasive presentation are:

1. Capturing attention

Nothing can be achieved without first capturing your audience‟s attention. Studies show that you have up to 10 seconds to capture the audience. Suggested ways to achieve this are to start with a quote, startling statistic, hypothetical question, or a disturbing statement.

2. Establish need

It is important to focus on your audience‟s needs and desires. Too often a speaker gets bound up in their research, jargon and expertise and forgets that the audience may have a different level of understanding. Consider the information you are presenting from your audience‟s perspective.

3. Emotion

„People buy on emotion and justify with logic‟. Posture, body language, gestures, eye contact and vocal variety all help to convey passion and enthusiasm which are very persuasive. Using appropriate personal stories assists you to create empathy with your audience, thus helping to make your message memorable.

4. Logic

Use fact to support the emotions that you are conveying in your presentation. This will provide your audience the means to properly comprehend the main body of your presentation.

5. Ask for action

The last and most critical step for delivering a powerful presentation is asking for action. What is it that you want your audience to do or consider as a result of this presentation?
By following these steps and applying the well known „6 P‟s‟ (Prior preparation prevents pretty poor performance) you will come across as confident, articulate, persuasive as well as preventing „whiplash injuries‟ from your audience falling asleep.

Sharon Ferrier

Sharon Ferrier is a persuasive presentations expert. She helps individuals and organisations to be influential and persuasive speakers.

Top Image: Credit


In the past 15 years I’ve coached hundreds of male and female executives, CEOs, Olympians and BDMs to present powerfully and engagingly and quite simply there is a difference in the way women present, especially to male oriented audiences.

So, if you’re in a boardroom, pitching for business or find yourself with a microphone, here are my Top 10 Professional Public Speaking Tips for Women.

1. Stop talking about yourself , your company, how passionate you are about your new widget and start talking about the audience. Passion is compelling, but it’s not hard to become the bore at the party if you focus your presentation on your world rather than the client’s; Simple rule: if you’re still talking about yourself after 5 minutes, you have become the self indulgent talking to the self interested

2. Voice matters (1). If you have a high voice, it will only get higher at the exciting bits. The audience will then hear ‘shrill’ not passionate. Practice lowering your tone two thirds of a smidgen (very scientific) and you will have room to move.

3. Voice matters (2). Talking fast is natural with two of your best friends and a bottle of Mumm, but audiences (especially we slower listening men) can’t take it all in. The issue is if it’s too quick and we don’t get it, it’s as if you haven’t said it at all. Add three times the number of pauses as you think normal. Don’t slow your delivery –just add pauses.

4. Don’t Flirt. Yes, I know this is obvious in a professional setting, but it still happens. The hair flick, sexy voice and constantly calling the client by his first name may work for some but it is not perceived by the majority as necessary for professional business engagement.

5. Watch the Bling – I’ve seen presentations where the presenter had 3 bracelets, 4 rings, 2 necklaces and a wrap that was constantly being re-arranged. It just becomes a total distraction – and sometimes a noisy one with a remote mouse being waved around as well.

6. Tell stories – It amazes me that so many women are great storytellers around the dinner table, yet become more formal in a business setting and leave all that natural storytelling ability behind. Tell a story about a client’s result, rather than putting up slides about functionality. Tell a story about your research into the client’s goals, rather than just boring facts about productivity, market share etc.

7. Talk outcomes, not process. It depends on your role, but men tend to be better at saying ‘right this is the bottom line – if you pay us $50K per month, we’re going to cut 15% off your total expenditure over 2 years. Many women enjoy discussing how you’ll get there with all the nuances and variables with the presumption that the outcome is obvious. Again, we of the Y chromosome need to hear it, plain and simple.

8. Don’t overcompensate. You don’t need to be blokier or dress down or change your language if it’s just not you. They can tell and you lose the power of authenticity.

9. Use visuals and creativity not boring slides. Use pictures, images, YouTube videos to make your case. It freshens up the whole presentation and makes you stand out.

10. Practise. Yes, I know it’s boring but there are presenters that will spend three hours checking the spreadsheets, preparing their choice of lipstick, hairstyle, skirt, heels and 20 minutes rehearsing their content, If you don’t rehearse, where do you find your mistakes?

Elliot Epstein

As CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.

Elliot is a specialist sales speaker for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, Alcatel – Lucent, Commonwealth Bank, Hitachi, Computershare and SEEK. He is renowned for ensuring presentations are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.

He is an advisory Board Member of Generation –e, one of Australia’s fastest growing IT companies.

Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.


Time to challenge myself.

I have done a few presentations in my life and i can say without doubt that it is one of the most frightening experiences in my life. Public speaking!!!!!

Therefore yesterday I joined Toastmasters. Toastmaster is an International Not-for-Profit Organization that helps to develop public speaking skills. It is not only about building your confidence. Continue reading →