Got this the other day:Wow, when is the last time you wrote a letter in longhand? For me, it's been decades.

Good Morning Tony,
I am a recent design graduate with a focus on advertising. I am looking to break into the field of being a presentation specialist for businesses and courtroom presentations. I’m working in advertising but would like to go out on my own as a specialist. My question to you is, what would be the most direct way of me getting into the business and what tools do I need to become proficient in this career? I currently use the Adobe Creative Suite for my work. Besides sharpening up my powerpoint skills, what else do I need to do to get into this exciting field?

My reply, in part:

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Sensing a need to step up their game, Microsoft got it right when committing to revolutionizing the manner in which graphics are rendered in PowerPoint. In their own words, “For PowerPoint 2010, we are making the biggest visual update to Slide Show in nearly a decade. PowerPoint’s graphics engine is completely rebuilt using DirectX. Everything in slide show (text, shapes, animations, and more) is rendered in full 3D using your machine’s graphics card.” Source here.

Smooth, no?

Also, I tweeted some days ago that Nancy Duarte’s “5 Simple Rules” would be included in public beta of PPT 2010. This trailer above serves to whet the appetite.

Via @eyefulpres and Long Zheng, but here is Sandy Yu’s official post of the same.

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2010: The Year of the Ear

October 30, 2009

Listening is the new seeing.

While in recent years, we have enjoyed a bounty of new ways to visualize data and stories in our presentations, I predict that active and engaged listening will be the hallmark of the year to come.

In the business press, plenty of stories describe how social media is upending traditional ideas of how companies relate with their customers. We’ve read how Dell and Zappos listen and act via Twitter, creating better relationships and sales in the process. Media gurus like Bob Garfield are selling books about this. (Watch his excellent short video here.)

In the world of presentations, these same tools (SMS, Twitter, mobile web, etc.) are just now making noise. More speakers are becoming listeners as the backchannel of communication is coming forward. Olivia Mitchell has been detailing this rise better than anyone. Check out her blog posts about Presenting with Twitter.

Moreover, in less than one month, this book will come out:

You may know Cliff Atkinson from Beyond Bullet Points. I met recently with Cliff and reviewed an early draft of this work. He is onto something. Just like Bob Garfield.

So, listen up — to your audiences, your customers, and your students. Your ear will be dear this year.

Update, 10-31-09:

Here’s a video (2:24) of Timo Elliot of SAP demonstrating his PowerPoint Twitter Tools:


Larry Lessig

September 21, 2009

In his inimitable style, Larry Lessig speaks about the laws that choke creativity. I post this here for three reasons:

  • I agree with many of Lessig’s points surrounding law and culture. This dialog is important, and has big implications for those of us who use the web as a resource for words, pictures, and media for presentations.
  • Lessig is an excellent storyteller and presenter. Note how he opens: “I am going to tell you three stories on the way to one argument.” Then he proceeds to do so.
  • Watch his screen. Observe how he uses words and pictures as well as the tone and speed of his voice. (Garr Reynolds wrote more about “The Lessig Method of Presentation” here.)
  • It’s longish — 19 minutes — but goes by quickly. This is another hallmark of a good presentation.
cites John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights and the “ASCAP cartel” in his argument for reviving our creative culture.


Give Me Something to Hate

August 11, 2009

PaperballThis phrase—”give me something to hate”—was said to me this week in the context of work. The speaker said it with care. I took it as intended. Here is why I think it’s a great command:

  • As a producer of creative work, I fall into the pattern of wanting my product to be excellent right away. It should be loved at first glance. If I’m as good as I think, no one should second guess me or my results. In reality, of course, this mindset is complete bunk. Effective design is iterative; it goes back and forth, edit after edit, review after review, as it homes in on its final form. And even then, it’s probably far from perfect, but good enough to get the job done.
  • The person who said this phrase to me is a recently retired Army officer. He said he’d issue this order to his troops to get them started working. At some point during the work, he would perform what he calls a “vector check,” which is just another way of saying “are we headed in the right direction?” If the team was not headed in the right direction, that wasn’t a completely bad thing; they were at least certain about what they didn’t need to complete. Flexibility and agility were key.
  • “Give me something to hate,” then, is a disarming  phrase. Use it on those who report to you, or those whom you work with, or even yourself. It’s an unassuming invitation to start something interesting, even if the end product is nothing like the original idea or source material. This is good. This is, in fact, ideal. It frees you to consider more possibilities than you would have normally,
  • I suspect some “Death by PowerPoint” is caused by the curse of the first draft or the recycled deck. Slideware makes it easy enough for any of us to bang out some stream-of-consciousness bullets or dredge up an old file, replace some names and numbers and call it a day. We then present these rough drafts to our audiences. Sure, you might be lucky enough to have these actions are movements in the right direction, but you’ve essentially given your audience something to hate.
  • In summary, make sure all the hatin’ occurs further upstream and never reaches the lectern. Your audience will love you for it.


MVP LogoI was a little disappointed to learn that Microsoft chose not to renew my MVP designation for 2009-2010. But I’m not down.

A bit of background: each of the dozens of Microsoft products or technologies like Windows or Excel or .NET or Xbox has its MVPs. These “Most Valuable Professionals” are so named because they voluntarily assist their user communities through forums, blogs, organizations, speaking engagements, books, etc. The award lasts for one year, and award years may begin any quarter. I was a July 1st awardee four years ago in recognition of my writing and blogging about PowerPoint. I was elated and proud. I was reawarded three more times. For 2009-2010, however, I was not. [click to continue…]


A great dialog took place last night during my breakout session at the Cleveland Social Media Club meeting. Since remote presentations are taking greater precedence today in lieu of travel and in-person meetings, how can we use current tools to make these types of presentations more effective?

Nancy DuarteI answered as best I could, and the group discussed the pros and cons with interest, but the best, more comprehensive answers are delivered here by the industry’s best: Nancy Duarte gives her six tips for remote presentations. (Six self-running Flash presentation segments, as slides with audio, from around two to five minutes apiece.)

Photo from


Pecha Kucha CLeveland Vol 2You can show 20 slides or images. You may spend no more than 20 seconds per slide. No more than 20 presenters speak.

Those are the basic rules for Pecha Kucha Night, devised by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet and showcase their work in public. Pronounced something like peh-CHAWCH-ka, the phrase is from Japan and means the sound of conversation, or chit-chat. Pecha Kucha Night now appears regularly in over 100 cities worldwide.

I went to the second and third Cleveland installments. New and old lessons for all types of presenters abound:

  • It’s easy to tell who has rehearsed and who has not. If your script, your slides, and your delivery flow as one, you will be regarded highly. Come with your “A” game. Prepare.
  • If you use no script and you speak from the heart, you can do as well or better than most. Audiences can sense passion. Just watch your timings, because 20 seconds goes by in an instant if you are on a roll about one particular point.
  • Designers design in solitary environments. Colors and font choices that look great on a work computer can look terrible to an audience of 300 on a too-small screen. Whenever possible, scope out your venue before you present. Design for maximum reach.
  • Arrest the audience with something wonderful to look at. This particular series discussed works of art based on perjorative language and African American history. Powerful messages matched with powerful images.
  • Tell stories. Ben and Greg of Ben and Greg’s Renegade Lunch Project shared anecdotes while photos of people dining and stark urban landscapes flashed behind them. Neat.
  • Audiences want to be be moved, not sold. Come and present your standard pitch deck for prospective clients and you will turn your audience off.
  • Get out and have fun. It’s an electric environment at PK Night. How often do you get to go a venue where an audience is eager for speakers and their slides, and presentations elevate to levels of art and poetry?

For Cleveland’s series, the ticket price has been zero. Free. (Beer and wine available at a fair price.)

Check your local listings here.

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Writer/filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff has a new book, Life Incorporated, and his website features the nine-minute promotional video above.

While much of the video is simply him speaking, note what images and videos are interwoven in order to give his words color and meaning. What the filmmakers chose are spot-on.

The takeaway lesson: there’s a lot you can do just like this in the world of PowerPoint presentations. Other examples include newscasts or virtually any documentary. You rarely see bullet points filling the screen, right? Right.


Guy KawasakiGuy Kawasaki spoke today at the Mountain View, CA campus of Microsoft Corp. (This location is, among other things, the home of the PowerPoint team.) While I was not there physically, I followed audience members’ Twitter messages. Here are some choice tweets:

  • @doncampbell: Guy is telling MSFT audience they should sell PowerPoint Pro – limited to 10 slides + charge more!
  • @ricbret: Guy’s PowerPoint slides were done by duarte. @nancyduarte ‘s folks do great work.
  • @ricbret: recommends @nancyduarte get used by more MS execs. Couldn’t agree more.
  • @ricbret: On MS products: Opportunity to increase elegance. Real user examples, he’s deep in Entourage.
  • @ricbret: On innovation. Iconoclastic. ‘If you’re a good speaker you don’t need Keynote.’
  • @rypan: Haha. Guy’s advice for perfect font size on PowerPoint: Age of oldest person in room/2
  • @rypan: Follow the 10, 20, 30 rule of pitching. 10 slides. 20 minutes. 30 point font.
  • @rypan: Make it DICEE. Deep. Intelligence. Complete. Elegant. Emotive.
  • @rypan: Don’t worry be crappy. (if it is innovative and jumps the curve it can have elements of crap. You need to ship.)
  • @doug_free: guy kawasaki at microsoft silicon valley is smart, funny and wise and most of all refreshing – and old school, he gives a damn
  • @stephenshaw: At a talk by Guy Kawasaki, he’s talking about his love of twitter & possible business models.
  • @naydyne: is sitting next to the PPT lead, who was very pleased when @guykawasaki said that he’s never used Keynote
  • @HowardCo: Guy Kawasaki is still on stage and just said one of his Twitter accounts was just suspended for spamming. Ha. Duh, Guy.
  • @rakeshlobster: quote @guykawasaki on microsoft: you have unlimited money. what you don’t have is elegant taste.
  • @rakeshlobster: quote @guykawasaki: i use the top 10 format when i present so if i suck you know how much longer i will suck

Why should you or I care about any of this?

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