Creating an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

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.

Content:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Create an outline to ensure the messages are consistent and the structure of the presentation is solid.
  3. 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.
  4. Keep wording clear and simple, use active visual language and cut any unnecessary words.

Design:

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:

Basic Design

  • 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
    presentation.
    −  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.

Font

  • 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
    time.
    −  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!

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Divertimento alla Festa!

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Casey Schaak

Ciao amici! This year, the Vollrath Associates team returned to Festa Italiana to offer our public relations expertise. The four-day festival and the weeks leading up to it were jam packed with press releases, alerts, media inquiries and opportunities, as well as some great coverage, if we do say so ourselves. While we were certainly busy with media relations and keeping Festa Facebook and Twitter followers in the know on the latest and greatest happenings, we all had an excellent experience at the event.

From enjoying delicious food, to spending time with the friendly and familiar faces of Festa and watching plenty of entertaining acts and spectacular fireworks, the 35th anniversary of Festa Italiana was a hit with team VA! Take a look at our highlights from the week:

Entertainment

From Italian dancers and musicians, to the Italian Idol contest, opera singers, a surprise country act and even a magic act, Festa provided excellent entertainment that appealed to audiences of all ages.

 

Phil Vassar was announced as the surprise country headliner for Festa during a special Spiked Island Beach Party at Bradford Beach. (From left to right) Dave Spano, president of Festa, Phil Vassar and Jessica.

Bill Jennaro, Festa board member, joined musicians Michael Castaldo and Frank Tenaglia on Fox 6’s Real Milwaukee with Tony Clark. They even showed off their impressive singing talents on air! (From left to right) Bill, Michael, Tony and Frank.

Team VA joined the fun as the audience danced to the Oldies but Goodies Spectacular on Friday night, after listening to the Ides of March. Phil (left) and Marilyn even whipped out some dance moves!

Food

Of course, we all enjoyed arancini (rice balls) at various times throughout the weekend, as well as sfincione (Sicilian pizza), spinach stromboli and sfingi (Italian donuts). Gelato and vino were also crowd pleasers!

Tiffany Ogle (left), of Today’s TMJ4 Morning Blend, learns how to make pasta melanzani (eggplant) and spiedini with Dean Cannestra, chef and owner of Nessun Dorma and Libiamo restaurants.

CBS 58 caught the action of the cannoli-eating contest. Four-time winner Anthony Paulis took the title again this year, eating a total of 30 mini cannoli.

Bocce Ball

Pronounced “bo-chi” ball (not to be confused with the pronunciation “botch-y,” which means kiss in Italian), this fun and interactive game was available to festival-goers throughout the weekend, with a tournament on Sunday. Also check out the video here!

Prior to Festa, Andrea Anderson with the Journal Sentinel created a video tutorial on Bocce Ball, its history and the rules.

 

Team VA tried our hand at Bocce Ball. (From left to right) Jessica, Casey, Julie and John.

 For a deeper dive into all the Festa festivities and pictures from all four days, check out the Festa Italiana Facebook page!

Arrivederci until next year!

The Importance of Visuals in PR

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By John Grossman, Summer Public Relations Intern

With more sensory stimuli present in everyday society, the battle for your audience’s attention is more challenging than ever. Because of this, simple text-only releases just don’t cut it anymore. Your releases need a spark that will captivate your audience’s attention, and nothing works better for this than images and other multimedia. The power of visuals and imagery can be seen by Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram, a social media image hosting site, for a cool $1 billion. However, despite the attention and precedence of visuals in society, the majority of public relations content remains plain text on a plain background distributed through the same channels. The monotony of it all not only bores eyes, but also readers. The simple reliance on words to convey a story and paint a picture in the audience’s mind is currently the method of choice, and drastically inefficient compared to some of the newer trends in PR. Here’s why you should get ahead of the game and start making your PR tactics a multifaceted approach:

  • Multimedia content creates more results. In a recent analytic study, PR Newswire looked in-depth at what differentiates regular plain-text news releases with those that contain images, videos and other media sources. The results they found make it hard to believe that many PR professionals haven’t made a visual switch yet. Their analysis showed that the inclusion of many media types in press releases garnished 77% more views than releases with just text. If you aren’t sure if visuals are right for you, this should help persuade you in the right direction. In order for your content to stay at the top it doesn’t just need to sound good, it needs to look good too.
  • Social media loves visuals. By including visuals in your releases, you are creating more shareable elements than a simple text release would have. These shareable images make their way onto different social media networks, driving traffic to your releases from more than one place. In the past, most traffic is gained through search engines. Now that each media source is different, the audience can be reached without detailed searching, once again driving up views and the total reach by your work. With a share rate of three times that of text-only releases, multimedia should be a mainstay in your future work.

Now, you may be thinking that this all sounds great, but you have no idea how to implement visuals into your daily work. It’s not just you thinking this. Multimedia costs more, and as budgets for PR work remain tight, it’s hard to convince clients to spend more on what still is considered an unproven element. With the right tactics, however, you can show multimedia’s effectiveness and why it deserves funding. Utilize a few key elements in order to see such results:

  • Simplify information. One of the biggest trends right now in visual PR are infographics. These visually appealing, simple to read displays convert raw data into something the audience wants to see. Infographics are able to convert complex information into simple bite-sized pieces that the audience can understand and share with their networks.
  • Spice it up. It may not be the most exciting thing, but things like lists and basic information are needed. Rather than simply typing these details, turn your text visual. Replacing a basic list with a colorful display will add some life to your release. The reader will be drawn to it, and will view it further in-depth than just plain text buried within the release.
  • Take advantage of social media releases. To help with the changing times, more tools are becoming available for PR professionals that make it easier and more effective than ever to include multimedia content in releases. Pitch Engine is a service that turns a traditional press release into a multifaceted approach that benefits both you and your client. This easy-to-use program creates a social media release that allows for embedded pictures, videos and other content. Since they are linked through social media, the releases are easy to share via Twitter and Facebook, widening your audience even further. Not only is it effective and easier to distribute than traditional release styles, Pitch Engine also helps boost your SEO, an important statistic that helps drive web traffic to your site. Most wire services also have templates for more multimedia options, so make sure to utilize these as well.

As the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words. An effective implementation of imagery and visuals can be worth even more than that to your clients by reaching larger audiences and multiple channels of distribution compared to simple text releases. By linking content creation, your business needs and your data, you can achieve a significant improvement in your releases and their reception.

How are you incorporating visuals into your PR plan?

Write a Better Feature Article

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?

An Inside Look at the Vollrath Associates PR Approach

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By: Casey Schaak

When it comes to public relations, a reliable and successful process can go a long way. A good process helps us serve our clients to the best of our abilities while meeting their PR needs. Our approach combines our strengths and expertise into organized steps, allowing us to effectively tackle any project, from investor relations and public relations, to social media and marketing communications.

Our VA team not only brings years of experience and an array of individual talents to our clients, but an effective PR approach that works. Our four-step process starts with an initial evaluation, dives into planning and execution and wraps up with a review. Here’s an inside look at how our approach remains successful:

The Vollrath Approach

1.    EvaluateImage

Before we get too far, we first need to understand the ins and outs of our client’s current and past programs. We begin our process with evaluating communications programs and messaging. Through effective communication and audit research, we assess the brand messaging and define potential opportunities.

2.    Plan

After we have done our homework, we establish goals, objectives and target audiences. We find the right fit to successfully tell our client’s story and set realistic goals that will result in a measurable return on investment.

3.    Activate

Once we agree on a plan, we put it in motion and refine the details as needed. This is the point in the process when we use our expertise and proven abilities to tell the right story that resonates with the right audiences.

4.    Review

Now that our plan has been put into action, we monitor and evaluate the results. We measure the outcome against the goals and objectives to determine the next steps for ongoing, consistent communication.

While these four steps certainly don’t encompass every element of a PR plan and the work that goes into it, they give a condensed overview of our approach. The VA approach is built around our continuous commitment to helping our clients. We use our resources, experience and knowledge to build a plan that’s tailored to fit the needs and goals of our clients, and adjust as needed along the way. This is how we help our clients tell their story!

Learn more about The Vollrath Approach and check out the Vollrath Services.

Behind the Scenes at the Cedarburg Winter Festival Bed Races!

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

On February 4, the Vollrath Associates team dared to go where no other public relations agency has gone before…

The Cedarburg Annual Winter Festival Bed Races!

Since nearly half the team is from Cedarburg, we figured the town’s winter festival would be a great way to get out of the office and have some fun—and a few laughs. From decorating the bed, to dressing up as Snow White & The Dwarfettes, to walking in the parade and of course, the races, it was quite the eventful day. Luckily for you, we’re brave enough willing to share pictures and our step-by-step secrets for surviving the race success. Who knows, after reading this, maybe you’ll be inspired to put a team together for next year’s races! 

Step 1: Decide on the perfect theme

This year’s festival theme was the Grimm Fairy Tales and we agreed that Snow White and the Dwarfettes would be the best way to incorporate all members of our team. Plus, Phil has been looking for an excuse to be a poisonous apple…

Top L to R: Marilyn, The Evil Queen; Phil, the poisonous apple; Jessica, Snow White and Casey M., Prince Charming. Bottom L to R: Dwarfettes: Casey S., Bashful; Julie, Dopey and Liz, Happy.

Step 2: Tell your friends!

Since we are a public relations firm it’s in our second nature to promote events, even our own! Two weeks before the festival, we created a Mail Chimp e-invite that our contacts were able to engage with using Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, as well as share with their friends. We also promoted the event using our Facebook page and the Twitter hashtag #VABedRaces.

In the days leading up to the festival, and on the event day itself, we tracked our excitement using #VABedRaces. The simple hashtag let our friends and Twitter followers know what the team was up to.

After the races we created a fun YouTube video recapping the weekend, which you can view here!


Step 3: Decorate the bed

Thanks to our creative friends at Hare Strigenz, along with our “stylist” Marian, the bed decorations came together in a flash. To transform our bed into Snow White’s bed, we used custom headboards, a hand-painted quilt, lots of ribbons and other glitzy touches.

Tip: The beds that looked the best didn’t make it very far in the races. If you’re going for the best costume award, go all out with decorations, but if you want to win the race, less is more. Just ask the Boy Scouts (this year’s winners who raced in a go-cart)!

Our bed pre-race. Everyone pitched in to decorate!

Step 4: Practice

The bed races are usually held on ice, but because of this “winter’s” unseasonably warm temperatures, the team didn’t end up racing on skates…we’re thinking that may have been for the best. Our practice involved running up and down the driveway with a bed on wheels the day of as Snow White (aka Jessica) held on for dear life. To be eligible for the race, your team needs four runners (or skaters) and one passenger.

Suggested practice fuel: Bloody Marys

Step 5: The Parade

Smile and have fun! Everyone on the VA team channeled their inner Kate Middleton as we waved to the crowds along the streets. The kids especially loved Snow White and her Prince Charming.

Tip: The parade is the place to win over fans for the bed races to follow. If you’re into bribery, give out good candy (not spoiled apples).

Snow White & The Dwarfettes in the parade.

Step 6: The Bed Races

After lacing up our gym shoes to win our first heat, we lost our second in a close race that came down to the finish line. The team, led by Prince Charming and Happy in the front, ran as fast as our legs could carry us but, in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

While we wish we could say we won the races, we can’t. However, we can say that we tried our hardest.

Casey goes head-to-head with our competitor in the final heat!

Step 7: Relax!

Hash out the X’s and O’s over your beverage of choice at the nearest pub/grill. Cedarburg is home to plenty of cozy establishments perfect for warming up after a long day outside.

What has your team done recently for fun? Do you think out-of-office bonding contributes to better in-office relationships?

Welcome Spring Public Relations Interns!

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hello clients and friends of Vollrath Associates! I am thrilled to be working with the VA PR firm this spring for the first time. I cannot wait to spend the semester gaining first-hand experience in public relations. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and learn from all the wonderful people at Vollrath Associates! Image

Meredith Augspurger

Hello again clients and friends of Vollrath Associates! This is my third semester working for VA as a public relations intern. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work on a number of exciting projects over the past two years. I am eager to continue learning more about public relations, investor relations and new media as I grow into a young PR practitioner.  Image

Julie Caan