5 Principles for great presentations: More than PowerPoint

presentation chaosThose who are less than expert at PowerPoint may be relieved to know that you need not be a whiz at presentation software to give a great presentation. In fact, I have attended some presentations that would have been much better without any “slides” at all.

Don’t get me wrong, PowerPoint is an excellent tool when used for the right purposes. However, while working for a corporation where PowerPoint was widely used, I once received an interoffice memo in PowerPoint format (I’m not kidding)!

Set objectives: Why are you giving this presentation anyway? Even if “my boss told me to”, there must be some sort of goal. Ask yourself, what do I want my audience to be talking about as they walk away? Now, write that down and keep it in front of you while you prepare.

Less information is more: To quote Shakespeare, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Try the exercise of limiting yourself to 20 slides for each hour you are presenting. And make sure your text covers no more than 30% of any slide. The rest should be white space or graphics. The impact of your presentation will increase dramatically.

PowerPoint is a visual aid: It is not intended to convey the information. It should help you convey the information. If you want folks to read, give them a handout or do a blog post.

Consider your audience: Whom are you speaking to? Why did they come to listen? What matters to them? How will they benefit from your presentation? Keep these in mind and you will truly have their attention.

Engage your audience: Unless you were specifically asked to lecture, don’t. No one really enjoys being “talked at”. Ask them questions and encourage them to do the same. Better yet, get them interacting with each other.

So you don’t need to be an impresario, a PowerPoint whiz or a comedian(ienne). Keep these in mind and you are well on the way to being that “great speaker”.

5 Reasons Why You Have Time for Social Media

“How am I going to find time for social media when I have 300 emails in my inbox?” A common sentiment, although now often tempered with, “I know I should be doing it, but . . . “ So here is why you do have time to have a Facebook page, read blogs, tweet, or (insert the social media tool of your choice here):

1. It does not have to be a random time sink. Remember when companies blocked the internet and predicted hours of lost productivity as employees idly surfed websites? Now it is an essential business tool. Social media is going through the same progression. And, besides, no one needs a computer to waste time.

2. If you are in business, you have to do marketing, right? Social media is far less expensive and reaches a much larger audience than traditional marketing. A pretty good return for your initial time investment.

3. You don’t have to do it all. Pick the tool(s) that work for you. Feel guilty about all those friends you haven’t been in touch with? (Facebook ) Afraid you won’t recognize that guy you met at the last networking meeting? (LinkedIn ) Tired of sorting through all the useless websites about a topic to get to the good ones? (Delicious ). Find the tool that saves you time.

4. The “blogosphere” offers incredible resources of useful information and commentary. You can set up a homepage (I use iGoogle ) so it “feeds” you all the latest blog posts on your topics of interest. Want to know which blogs are most respected? Check out Technorati .

5. You don’t have to keep up with all the latest developments. You don’t have to be especially knowledgeable about the tool(s) you use. The learning curve is very low. Once you get started, you can pick and choose what seems useful to you. And there are all those blogs out there just waiting to help you!

Just remember, all you need is to Be Conversant.

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Wired for Good

I’m just returning from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Conference in Atlanta.  It was a high-energy gathering (1,449 Strong) of technology providers and nonprofit staff, dedicated to leveraging technology to make the world a better place.  I’ve been to this conference several times before and, as a group, they make more comprehensive use of free and low cost technology tools than any other organization I’ve encountered.  Here are some highlights for your inspiration:

A website, IdeaEncore, where you can share forms, templates, presentations or any kind of document.   The author of the document can share it free of charge or for a fee.  The site collects a percentage of fees charged, but otherwise it’s all free.  Why reinvent the wheel?

A video game called Peacemaker which challenges gamers to progress towards peace in the Middle East.  It repurposes a maligned medium towards understanding the complexities of real world violence.

An international nonprofit called The Spamhaus Project dedicated to providing antispam protection on the internet.  Their website contains a wealth of info on spam, spammers (including pictures!) and spam protection.  Thanks to Jordan Dossett for this tip.

Using a Wiki instead of email to collaborate on projects, provide a centerpiece for a presentation and share information within a group of any sort.  Beth Kanter’s Blog has a great graphic demonstrating the simplicity of this technique.

A few more reasons to Be Conversant with technology!

*I’ve borrowed my title from an excellent book on technology planning by Joni Podolsky, Wired for Good

Why bother keeping up with technology?

Best Toaster

It’s a full time job just to keep track of it, much less learn how to use it.  If you played video games at age 6 (Pac Man at the arcade doesn’t count), it’s a natural part of life.  But what about the rest of us?  We get by and hope it works.  Often, we tolerate technology.

Computers and the internet are pretty much inescapable.  And they can save huge amounts of time and money.  If you have a business, you need them to keep up with your competitors.  All are reasons to be tech savvy.

So here’s the secret. You learned it in yoga.  Stay focused and in the moment.  What do you need to do right now?  Marketing?  Find a new job?  Compare toasters? Raise funds?  Now, “Google” it.  Search on “how do I compare toasters?”  Read a couple of sources.  Ignore the sales pitches and be careful not to fall into “research paralysis”. Now, go buy your toaster. Or better yet, find the best price and buy one online.

There.  You did it. You just used the internet to save time and money.  Remember, you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to Be Conversant.