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DIY presentations need careful handling

A CLIENT was complaining bitterly the other day about a presentation he attended over east, where he had been subject to hours of complex strategizing presented on an overhead projector.

“Where were the animated flowcharts?” he moaned.

“Don’t they know a picture tells a thousand words?” he complained.

What is interesting is that my client has come to expect a level of sophisticated graphical presentation that would have rarely been seen five years ago.

For many businesses managers, multimedia presentations have become essential. But if you do not have the necessary skills, building your own multimedia presentation can do you more harm than good.

The following is a list to consider before setting out to build your own presentation.



WHAT'S IT WORTH?

If a million-dollar deal hangs on making a great presentation, it’s probably best to get the professionals in. If not, it may be best to build your own.



WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY?

You may be a whiz with PowerPoint, but if you do not get the structure of your presentation right, all the smart graphics in the world will not save you.

The most important aspect of planning your presentation is to decide what you want to achieve.



WHO SAYS WHAT?

If you plan to speak through the presentation, decide what you want to say and then use the presentation to emphasize important points or help explain complex ideas using flow charts.

There is one sure way to make an audience ignore you, and that is to put verbatim what you are saying on the screen.



CLEVER BY DESIGN

The basic graphic design of your presentation template will greatly affect how professional you appear to your audience.

The trouble with software such as PowerPoint is that it allows us to play at being graphic designer, and 90 per cent of the time that’s what it looks like — playing.

If you use a graphic designer to create your sales brochures it is a good investment to ask them to make up a few basic templates for you.

If you do not have these services available, study designs that appeal, and see what the designer has done with layout and typefaces.



DON"T USE EVERY FEATURE

Just because you can use a thousand different fonts, millions of different colours, hundreds of transitions and numerous animations, you do not have to.

If you look at most good design you will see the designer selects a very limited range of fonts and colours, normally only one or two.

Similarly, use text or picture animations to emphasize a point and use only two or three slide transitions at the most. Too much movement in different directions will only confuse your audience.



WATCH THAT SHADOW

While drop shadows are great for giving a presentation a feeling of depth, make sure you are consistent with their use.

If the shadows on your objects appear to have been lit from a number of different angles it makes the slide look messy and the shadows do not look real.



CLIP THE CLIP ART

Wherever possible, use photographs rather than clip art. Real pictures have considerably more impact than cartoons.

Today scanners, inexpensive CD photo libraries and digital cameras make it possible to introduce the power of a great photograph into presentations.

You may want to consider buying inexpensive software such as MGI PhotoSuite which makes it easy to introduce special effects or remove backgrounds from photographs.

If the quality of your pictures is very important it is probably best to get a professional to do any special effects or re-touching.



USE MULTIMEDIA

It is relatively easy to introduce sound and video into presentations.

If you are making a corporate video or recording a sound track, you could ask whoever is editing the material if it is possible to get the material converted to a format you can use on your computer.

While it may often seem to be the cheapest option to create your own presentation, it may not be the most cost effective solution.

Professional multimedia companies can produce a reasonable quality presentation for as little as $500, so it may be worth considering this option next time you’re rushing to put on a good show.



• Raphe Patmore is CEO of Internet consultancy Biz E Planet.

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