October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
By: Casey Schaak
PowerPoint has become a staple in the presentation world. PowerPoints are easy to create, update and transport. Not to mention they can be found on almost every computer. But with the regularity of use of these computer-based slides, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and thus, create a less-than-ideal presentation.
Don’t fall into a PowerPoint slump – make the best of this extremely useful presentation tool by following these important content and design tips to keep your presentation clear and effective.
The most important part of a PowerPoint presentation is content. Follow the steps below to make sure you are presenting the right content in a concise way:
- Before deciding on the design of the PowerPoint, first define your objective and the key points you want to get across. Also, keep your audience in mind and remember that your presentation must be geared to them – their familiarity with the topic and what is of interest to them.
- Create an outline to ensure the messages are consistent and the structure of the presentation is solid.
- Limit the content. Follow the rule of six: six words per line and six lines per slide.
− Go through your information and narrow down the points so only the
most important information is on the slides.
− Avoid using complete sentences on slides. Cut paragraphs down to
sentences, sentences into phrases and phrases into key words.
− You can fill in any details during your presentation, but every word you
say should not also be on the slides.
- Keep wording clear and simple, use active visual language and cut any unnecessary words.
Slides are meant to support the speaker, but aren’t supposed to be the main focus of the presentation. When designing a presentation, avoid clutter and establish a professional and consistent layout. Follow the design tips below to create an effective look and feel for your PowerPoint presentation:
- Create a clear and consistent theme and color scheme throughout the presentation by using a template within PowerPoint, creating your own or using a company template provided for this purpose.
- Use high-contrast fonts and backgrounds to make text stand out.
- Keep the background consistent. Complicated backgrounds make it difficult to read the text.
- Avoid flashy, distracting animation or sound effects. The focus should be on the presenter, not animation on the screen.
− If text moves, keep it simple and consistent throughout the
− Avoid using movement transitions between slides, or keep it consistent.
- Always practice your presentation on a large screen, one similar to what you will be presenting on, to make sure all fonts, graphs and images are clear.
- Use a font that is big enough for the audience to easily read.
− Font should be 24-32 point size, with titles 36-44 point size.
- At most, use only two fonts per slide. One for the title and one for the other text.
− Sans serif fonts (Arial or Helvetica) are generally easier to read than
serif fonts (Times New Roman).
- Don’t use too many different colors in the text – two or three at most.
- Avoid all upper-case letters. Upper and lowercase letters are easier to read.
- Use left or right text alignment – centered text is difficult to read.
- Use bullets to present information clearly.
Graphics and Charts
- Graphics should balance the slide, be easily understood and complement the text without overwhelming.
− Avoid using more than two graphics per slide.
- Visuals, such as graphs, diagrams, photos and media clips, can be used to engage the audience in place of text. In this case, use only enough text to label the graphic.
- Use the same style graphics throughout (cartoon, photographs, etc.).
- Use clip art sparingly and if possible, avoid using PowerPoint clip art, as this is commonly used and the audience has most likely seen these images before.
- Charts are a great tool to visually present information.
− Pie charts should be used to show percentages.
− Vertical bar charts should be used to show changes in quantity over
− Horizontal bar charts should be used to compare quantities.
− Line charts should be used to demonstrate trends.
Once you’ve established the content, designed the slides and finalized your PowerPoint, make sure to proof read your slides for potential errors and practice giving your presentation.
By following these tips, you are now ready to give an effective PowerPoint presentation – good luck!
July 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Written By: Julie Caan
Writing a feature story is one thing, but writing a feature story that people will actually want to read is another.
Creating a great feature story isn’t easy; in fact, it’s really tough.
Every day, we’re entrusted with telling our clients’ stories through articles, blogs, newsletters and other communication. It can be easy to slip into bad writing habits when writing for a company’s internal audience: enter clichés, corporate-speak, abstract concepts and the like.
My fellow VA team member, Casey, and I recently attended a presentation about how to write stronger feature articles. The talk left Casey and I feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to write. Throughout the talk, we were reminded that it’s all about the little things when it comes to writing interesting feature copy.
Avoid Boring Writing:
This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, but corporate writing can be really boring. Next time you sit down to write think about WHY you’re writing, WHO you’re writing for and WHY they should care. I know this all sounds basic, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forget about your audience and most importantly, the PEOPLE behind the story.
Think of it this way: you’re the messenger and what you’re writing (whether you think so or not) is important to someone, somewhere. Don’t abuse this privilege; make sure you’re writing something people can relate to and draw meaning from—and try to have a little fun along the way.
Next time you write a feature, keep these building blocks in mind:
Elements of a Great Feature Story:
1. Attention grabbing, non-newsy lead (take a step back and reflect on the news)
2. Color (pay attention to detail—inject life into your writing!)
3. Narrative writing style (set the scene)
4. Include point of view
5. People (human beings doing things to influence a story)
Now, I realize that not every feature story you write is going to be “dramatic” or even all that interesting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write a quality piece that will resonate with your audience.
The talk we attended also emphasized being specific, focusing on people and writing with clarity. How many times have you buried a complicated acronym in the lead, or used jargon your audience might not understand? Instead of describing a new initiative using obscure, abstract language, use specific words that will paint a picture in the readers’ minds. Rather than writing about a new policy or procedure, try SHOWING your audience the change using people and actions they can relate to.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway I learned from this presentation was the importance of using people to tell stories (after all, this is feature writing we’re talking about). It’s simple really. When you’re writing about people, make sure to inject all the qualities (when appropriate) that make them who they are into your story. For example, if you’re interviewing someone for a corporate profile, pay attention to what’s on his or her desk, photos or even that obscure collection of piggy banks hiding in the corner. This is the stuff your readers care about. Rather than resume-dumping right off the bat, why not try leading with some ‘color?’ Pay attention to detail. Humanize the piece.
To close, I’d like to share some general tips that apply to all types of writing:
• Set a timer for one hour and write without looking back (good old school tip that really works!)
• All great writing lies in great editing: it will take time to carve the perfect masterpiece
• Have fun with your writing!
Nobody’s a perfect writer and while some assignments may seem destined to be boring, it’s your job to turn them around. Cut to the heart of the story, create images and include PEOPLE. Set the scene for something your audience will want to read and something you will want to write!
What do you think goes into writing a great feature story? Any tips?
February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
WRITTEN BY PHIL VOLLRATH
And I’m not talking about rock bands here. What I am talking about is WHO do you want to receive your brand content, which has to precede the WHAT, or messages and tactics you choose to communicate with them. I fear that so much of the discussion today centers on the tools in the toolbox, including social networking, rather than if the toolbox even contains precisely what we need for our public relations, marketing and lead development campaigns.
Who are Your Stakeholders?
The goal of campaigns must be based upon understanding and deepening relationships with one’s stakeholders. To do this, one has to research and identify the lives of these stakeholders by interviewing them, and come up with profiles, or personas, of each.. We are already familiar with famous political personas as in Soccer Moms and Joe The Plumber. And in president Obama’s State of the Union Address, the person in attendance who has cancer but cannot get treatment because his cancer is a pre-existing condition. These are not market or job descriptions, but rather descriptions of persons, or again, personas.
At Marquette University, where I teach part-time as an Instructor, our senior advertising and public relations campaigns all begin with profiling the personas of customers. For example, a typical campaign approach begins with, “ Meet Lauren, an account executive for a Chicago public relations firm, whose day begins at 6:30 a.m. as she checks her competitors’ blogs and her client’s Facebook page…..,” then goes on to describe in detail, hour by hour, the rest of Lauren’s day. Ad agencies do this routinely, and so should everyone else seeking solid results from their marketing content.
Meet Your Persona
Wikipedia defines marketing personas as “fictional characters created to represent different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way…..they are a tool or method of market segmentation.” It goes on to describe these personas as, “useful in considering the goals, desires and limitations of brand buyers and users in order to help guide decisions about a service, brand, product or interaction space….” The Council of Public Relations Firms has issued a White Paper, Stakeholders 2.0, How to Build Better Social Media Campaigns (www.prfirms.org.), which describes consumer stakeholder personas based upon their online activity. The White Paper cites Forrester’s Groundswell methodology which identifies seven distinct social media personas including “creators,” “critics,” “collectors,” “joiners, “ and “spectators.”
Personas profile real people, and what they do between when they get up and go back to bed. This includes what they do and who they meet with during the day, the problems and challenges they encounter and how they solve them, the leisure or recreational activities they perform and when, which movies they see and restaurants they choose, what turns them on or off, how they relate to friends and family and much more. Do they vote on products they like or dislike, engage in causes or campaigns and connect regularly with others such as in Facebook or Foursquare, or in blogs? All of these are vital in shaping persona – based customer profiles.
Thinking and Acting like Them
By building personas, you begin to think and act like the people you are studying.. You will talk and write in their language and offer ideas they can relate to, like curiosity, security, relaxation, or having cake and eating it too. And when you do this, you will improve the precision and efficiency of your message content. You will also create campaigns that resonate with and connect with real people who also are your customers. If people see themselves in your products or services, you will greatly improve your ability to reach them with your marketing or brand messages, tactics and media (social and traditional), and achieve positive results at the bottom line.
Persona-based marketing can also be utilized to improve message content so vital in connecting with any other stakeholder–based group including employees, investors and shareholders, government officials, educators and the media, for example. In every case, the WHAT will do what you want it to, only if it connects to, you guessed it, the WHO, which is YOU!
February 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
WRITTEN BY PHIL VOLLRATH
The 2010 Associated Press Style guide is a must reading for business executives and their communication professionals. I am referring especially to the new “Business Guidelines” section. Far from providing just symbols and tips on word, sentence and punctuation usage, the new edition provides extensive counsel on: “Covering Corporate Earnings Reports” complete with conference calls and “wrap stories;” “Bankruptcy;” “Guidelines for Interpreting Proxy Statements” including “new ways to calculate pay;” “Mergers and Acquisitions” and financial releases. The section is very informational for those engaged in investor relations and financial public relations, as Vollrath Associates is.
Also included in the 2010 stylebook is an excellent section on “Social Media Guidelines,” which counsels reporters to “ knock on the door or pick up the phone” whenever they can as opposed to relying solely on tweets, and definitions of all the latest social networking words, tactics and topics. “Sports Guidelines and Style,” (timely as the Green Bay Packers head for the Super Bowl and the Milwaukee Brewers begin a new season with an awesome pitching crew) and “Media Law” are also covered in considerable detail… Yes, it’s all there, and AP is keeping up with the rapidly changing writing and reporting landscape as best it, or anyone, can for that matter.
Back to the business section, the style guide specifically informs reporters how to prepare for earnings stories, and specifically what to look for, such as management changes or issues. How to compare profits, losses and revenues and earnings-per-share are reviewed, counseling reporters to report these using “active verbs” versus “passive constructions.” How to check for warnings of future earnings reductions and upward revisions of earnings forecasts are both explained, and much more.
The point is, by thoroughly reading this section of the style guide, business executives of public companies and their communicators will understand and anticipate what reporters will be looking for, and they can present their information in a manner that will anticipate and help them out. This is likely to be appreciated by the reporter and support a strong business relationship with the public employer.
Having the all new Associated Press Style guide at one’s side at all times is a good idea and strongly recommended. You can go wrong without it!