19 July 2015

10 Practical Tips To Design Your Next Presentation Like A Pro

I want to give you the knowledge you need to design your next presentation like a pro. 

I’ve recently made a presentation for a student who had to discuss his Master thesis to an audience on his graduation day. I’m going to use that presentation as an example for you to learn 10 basic design concepts that will take your presentations to the next level.

(The slides are in Italian, but I only want you to focus on the design. For the purpose of this article, the language and the content don't matter).

(1) Start strong
The first slide is the most important one. It sets the tone for what comes next. You need to use it to arouse curiosity. You want your audience to get intrigued. A high-quality image that supports your topic is always a good choice. This before-after slide shows you how most students would design the first slide of their Master thesis presentation and how they really should design it. Which one do you prefer? 

(2) Use the rule of three
The rule of three is one of the most important concepts in communication theory. It means that people can only hold about three pieces of information in short-term memory. Therefore, split your presentation into three separate sections. I know this cannot always be done—but when possible find a way to use this rule. You’ll give your narrative structure and make sure your audience will remember your [three] main points. Apple uses this trick all the time.
(3) Never use bullet points 
One of the main reasons why Death by PowerPoint is in everybody’s vocabulary today is bullet points. There is always an alternative to the boring bullets. An idea is to use icons instead. 
(4) Display data effectively 
The key to displaying data for maximum impact is to leave out all the elements that don’t add value to an audience’s understanding of your message. I’ve recently interviewed Rick Altman, host of the Presentation Summit. Speaking about data display, he said “most of the time you are sharing proportional data, [that is] how this thing relates to that thing. You could do that with two rectangles, one of them being longer than another one.”

How often do you really need a background? Do you need the lines across it? The answer, my friend, is no you don’t. In many cases you don’t even need the axes.

Extra tip: don’t use the title of your chart as the title of your slide. Instead, use a short message that tells the story behind the data. In the slide below, instead of “GDP and public debt” I wrote “Debt raises while GDP stays flat”. You’ll make it easier for your audience to immediately grasp the meaning of your chart. Remember, what’s important is not the data, but the story behind the data. 
What’s important is not the data, 
but the story behind the data. [Tweet this]

(More on data display here

(5) Use hierarchy 
If one element is more important than another, show it! One way to do that is by using hierarchy. Here’s how I used it in this slide:
  • Title: Raleway Bold, 36 points
  • Chart legend: Raleway Regular, 30 points 
  • Source and numbers: Raleway Light, 20 points     
From a visual point of view, the tile is more important than the legend, which in turn is more important than the data source. 

(6) Go big or go home
If there is one thing you really want your audience to remember, make it big. If it’s important for your listeners to know the inflation rate is 1.2%, then that’s what you should do. Again, Apple does it all the time. 
(7) Combine images and text
In visual communication, there are few things more powerful than a high-quality image combined with text. By no coincidence billboards are often designed that way. They need to grasp people’s attention in a matter of seconds—and so should your slides. 

Extra tip: Use the rule of thirds. Imagine to break down your slide into thirds—both vertically and horizontally—so that you have four intersecting points. Then place the key elements of your visual either along one of the dividing lines or on the intersecting points.

Extra tip 2: Apply the same filter to your images. Here’s a small trick: create a rectangular shape of the colour you want to use for setting the tone of your presentation and place it underneath each of your images. Then substantially reduce the opacity so that the shape fades away. In my presentation I’ve used a blue shape and brought the opacity down to 20%. If you look carefully, each image has a blue tone. 

Extra tip 3: Make sure images and text flow into each other. Notice where this woman is looking at? She is exactly looking at the text. I haven’t placed the text there by coincidence. As soon as you show such a slide, people will naturally look at the woman first and then follow her eyes towards the text. That’s exactly what you want them to do.
(8) Use colour wisely
I’ve already written about colour theory here and how to apply the theory here. To sum up, don’t use random colours. For example, the reason why I’ve used blue, red and white is because those are the national colours of Japan. Also, I didn’t use any red, but rather the same red as in the Japanese flag. (I then adjusted the shade to make it stand out better).

(9) Achieve unity 
You may be thinking that some of these tips are too meticulous to even get recognised. However, it all adds up. If you apply them, you’ll come up with a unified presentation where all the elements work together to support your design as a whole. You’ll make sure your elements don’t compete with each other, but rather support each other towards a common goal of communicating your message. You’ll make sure your elements belong together. 

(More on achieving unity here). 

(10) Give credits 
Never use somebody else’s images or design elements without giving appropriate credit. As one said, ”Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
If you want to take your presentations to the next level, please reach me out at andr.pacini@gmail.com.  

IMAGE: Nathanael Coyne via Flickr

6 July 2015

Six Scientifically Proven Principles of Persuasion (VIDEO)

Don’t do what you think might be right, do what science tells you is right.

Whether in business, in communication or in any activity you might be involved in, understanding the psychology of why people say yes is of invaluable benefit. 

In Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini revealed his evidence-based research on what moves people to change behaviour. According to the Journal of Marketing Research, [Influence] is among the most important books ever written for marketers. Above you find an animated video that summarises the book. The ideas in this article are mainly taken from that video. 

Dr. Cialdini’s research demonstrates that we don’t consider all the available information to guide our decision making. Rather, we use shortcuts. 
These shortcuts are the 6 universal principles of persuasion. 
  1. Reciprocity 
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority 
  4. Consistency 
  5. Liking 
  6. Consensus 
Influence is among the most important books ever written for marketers.
— Journal of Marketing Research

(1) Reciprocity 

Idea: we feel obliged to give when we receive. If a colleague does you a favour, you are more likely to return the favour. 

Example: when you go to restaurants, you often get a small gift at the end of your meal—usually at the same time of the bill. A study conducted in several restaurants aimed to understand whether the giving of a mint had any influence over how much tip people would leave. Here are the findings:
  • when waiters gave a mint, tips increased by 3%
  • when they gave two mints, tips increased by 14% 
  • interestingly, when waiters gave one mint, went away and then came back to the table saying “for you nice people here’s an extra mint”, tips increased by 23%. We feel obliged to give when we receive.   
Key to remember: be the first to give and give something that’s personalised and unexpected. 

(2) Scarcity 

Idea: people want more of those things they can have less of.

Example: when British Airways announced in 2003 they would no longer operate their twice-daily London-New York flight, the next day sales took off. Why? Easy, the flight became a scarse resource, so people wanted it more. 

Key to remember: it’s not enough to highlight the benefits of the products or services you are selling. You also need to make your prospective customers understand why your product is unique and what they lose if they don’t buy it. 

(3) Authority 

Idea: people follow credible experts.

Example: if a doctor shows his diploma in his studio, you are more likely to trust him. If a person asks you for money to park somewhere, you are more likely to give the money if he wears a uniform rather than casual clothes. 

Key to remember: it doesn’t have to be you telling your potential clients you are brilliant. You can find other people to do that for you. That’s exactly what many online services do: they use experts who have already embraced an idea to convince others to follow them. Here’s a screenshot of the NextDraft’s landing page. It’s not Dave Pell himself trying to convince you to subscribe to his newsletter—he lets the President of the Atlantic and the Executive Producer of the Daily Show to do that for him. 
(4) Consistency 

Idea: people like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.

Example: a study reduced missed appointments at health centres by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card. 

Key to remember: the consistency principle is activated by asking for small initial commitments that can be made. Remember, those commitments have to be voluntary.

(5) Liking

Idea: people say yes to those they like. This is fairly intuitive, but science also tells us specific factors that make us like people. 

We like:
  • people who are similar to us
  • people who pay us compliments
  • people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals
Example: in a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students of two business schools, a group were told “time is money, get straight down to business”. In this group around 55% were able to come to an agreement. 
A second group were told “before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other and identify similarities you have in common. Then, begin negotiating. In this group, 90% of them were able to come to a successful agreement. 

Key to remember: before you start doing business (whether online or offline), look for areas of similarity you share with others and pay genuine compliments. 

(6) Consensus 

Idea: people look at the behaviour of others to determine their own, especially when in doubt.

Example: visit the Buffer blog and scroll down to the bottom. A message will pop up: “Join more than 2 million people who save time on social media with Buffer”. This technique is used by many websites—and it works. It's a social proof: if you know that more than 2 million people are already using a service, I bet you start thinking it must be a cool service.

Key to remember: instead of relying on your own ability to influence others, you can point to what many others are already doing.         

In this article we’ve looked at six scientifically validated principles of persuasion. By implementing these small, practical and costless changes to your activities, you’ll see a big difference in your own ability to make others say yes to your requests.