20 July 2014

3 Killer Ways To Close Your Next Presentation

Some time ago I shared with you three powerful ways to open up a presentation. Knowing how to effectively open a presentation is of great importance. But the closing is just as important. If a smart opening helps you grab your audience’s attention, a thoughtful conclusion helps you amaze them and be remembered. After all, the way you close your presentation will be the last impression your audience will have of you.
If you’ve heard of the attention curve, then you also know how important your conclusion is. During a typical presentation, everybody listens at the beginning. Then the attention naturally starts dropping to about 10-20% of what it was initially and at the end it goes up again, especially if you make it clear you are about to conclude. This implies that no matter how good (or bad) you were during your talk people will listen to you during the conclusions. That’s why it is worth thinking about how best you can close your talk. 

There are many techniques you may use to close with a bang. The one you choose mainly depends on the context and the topic of your presentation as well as on what makes you feel more comfortable. In this article I’m going to share with you three of my favourite tips. First of all, let me tell you how not to close. Avoid saying something like “Well, that’s it. Thank you very much.” It is too ordinary, that’s what most of your colleagues will do. If you want to amaze your audience and be remembered, give these three simple tips a try.

1. Include a call to action
Any presentation should include a call to action. People don’t come to listen to you only to get some information. They are there because they want to understand what they can do with what they learn from you. They want to know how your message (be it an idea, a product, a project, etc.) can touch their daily lives. Don’t be afraid to include a call to action. As storyteller Cristiano Carriero told me, “you should take your audience where you want them to go.”
2. Repeat yourself 
Here’s how the classic 3-part speech outline works: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them. You can use this technique at the end of your presentation by summarising the key points you made earlier. I like to use a final recap slide sometimes. By repeating the key points you help your audience remember what you want them to remember and you reaffirm the validity of your message.  
3. Go back to the beginning
This is my favourite technique, which is also used in many movies. The Prestige—a great story of two magicians competing with each other—starts with a narrator's voice explaining that each trick has three parts: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. Then an entertaining story begins which only at the end makes you understand why the movie started with that sentence. Guess what? The movie ends with a narrator's voice explaining that each trick has three parts: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. As Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly wrote in a SlideShare article, going back to the beginning “provides a complete sense of closure.” 
If you want to close your presentation with a bang, start with the end in mind. Your conclusions are not the mere sequel of your presentation’s core theme. You conclusions are your core theme. Starting with the end in mind means that your conclusion—what you think is the most important takeaway for your audience—comes first. The beginning and the middle part of your presentation will come naturally if you think about how best you can support your conclusions. 

If you’d like to chat more about how to close a presentation, meet me over on Google+ or Twitter to jon the conversation right now!

IMAGE: Evan Forester via Flickr

6 July 2014

How to make them understand your slides in 3 seconds

Short while ago I read a document that was meant to explain a company’s design guidelines for its graphical user interfaces for products and product-connected apps. An example of these systems would be the display screens of our cars. It was fascinating to read about all the design principles they considered when building these interfaces, such us space, contrast, light source, etc. The document also referred to an article by Jakob Nielsen, which was an excerpt from Chapter 5 of his book Usability Engineering. Don’t worry, I won’t be writing about engineering here. Nielsen explains that “there are 3 main time limits—which are determined by human perceptual abilities—to keep in mind when optimizing web and application performance.” Without going into detail, he points out that there are specific time limits which shouldn’t be overcome if you want the user to feel that the application is working properly. In other words, when we click a button on the display screen of our car we want the application to react immediately. 
Following the belief that design lessons are everywhere, here’s a question for you. Do you ever ask yourself how long it will take for your audience to understand the idea behind your visuals? Is there a time limit when it comes to designing presentations?
The answer is yes. Why? Because if you want your audience to be engaged, you need to make sure they grasp the meaning behind your visuals as quickly as possible so that they can come back and listen to you. 

Nancy Duarte says your audience should be able to understand your visuals within about three seconds. She calls this concept Glance Test. Of course designing a presentation is not like developing the user interface for an application, so this limit is not as strict. However, I do suggest you to design visuals that can be understood as quickly as possible, say in a few seconds. And to do that you need to get rid of the unessential. 

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” — Pablo Picasso  

2 simple ways to remove the unnecessary 
Here are two simple techniques you can use to make sure your audience will understand your slides in a few seconds. And you'll also transform your presentations into a work of art. 

1. Combine images and text. 
Vision trumps all other senses, so create slides that combine a full-bleed high-quality image and a small amount of text. I know this is not always possible, nor is the best approach in every situation, but when possible it definitely helps.
2. Opt for more slides. 
If you are used to fill your slides with loads of information, try to spread the content out over several slides. Look at the sample slide below and how I spread its content over three separate slides. Isn't the second version more engaging and easier to understand quickly?  
If you do think about how fast your listeners can understand your visuals, you are designing your presentation with your audience in mind. And you should do that even when you are presenting more complex infromation, such as data displays. In this article I introduced two simple ways to dispaly data for maximum impact. These techniques not only make your presentations superior, they also help your audience understand your message faster. 
A more visual approach to presentation design doesn't only delight our eyes, it also refresh our brains.

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IMAGE: Francesco Lodolo via Flickr