“Should we be using Prezi?”

I was sitting across the table from a colleague yesterday and we began talking about presentation skills. When our conversation turned to PowerPoint, I shared this presentation with her:

She looked it over and felt that the concept made sense: PowerPoint slides, when projected, are meant to augment a presentation and enhance the audience’s experience through a powerful visual journey. If people want a bunch of data and statistics and content, then save it for a handout.

Then she asked: “Should we be using Prezi? What do you think of it as a tool for presentations?”

I was honest with her, Continue reading

5 Sources for Free Fonts

Whether you realize it or not, the font you use actually says a lot about you.

Using Calibri in a handout or a PowerPoint presentation says:

Fonts_-_Calibri

Using Comic Sans says:

Fonts_-_Comic_Sans

Choosing the right font can help set the tone for your communication and further capture your audience’s imagination when it comes to your topic. Take a look at the following example, which one evokes more of an emotion?

Fonts_-_Example_2

Fonts_-_Example_1

If you’re looking to change up your fonts and you’re not quite satisfied with the fonts that are pre-loaded on your computer, here are 5 sources that are loaded with free fonts for you to install for your next project.

  1. 1001 Free Fonts. This is the first one that will come up in a Google search. If you can’t find the font you’re looking for here, I’d be surprised, but just in case here are some other places to dig…
  2. FontSquirrel. I first found out about this site from Phase(Two)Learning’s Michelle Baker. If you’re into curly fonts, I highly recommend Pacifico.
  3. 11 Stunning (and free) Fonts You Should Download Right Now. HuffPo considers typography and font design news! This is a short, fun article with links to 11 cool fonts. Let me know if you figure out something to do with Typode.
  4. California Fonts. This site boasts 20,000 free fonts to download. The holiday selection caught my eye. Definitely some fun fonts on this site.
  5. FONTastico.com. Another free font site featuring fonts by category and an easy search function to find just what you’re looking for. The graffiti fonts make me wonder if it’s possible to go out and virtually tag a bunch of boring PowerPoint presentations. Hmmm, the possibilities…

A word of caution: I’ve found myself spending way too much time browsing some of these font sites, loading up my computer with lots of fonts. That naturally leads to the desire to put way too many fonts into some of my work products. So, have fun with these fonts… but in moderation.

Have a favorite font? I’d love to hear why you love that font in the comments section below.

Want to let your entire social network know about all these cool fonts? Tweet this post. Or Share it. Or Press It. Or Pin it. Or Scoop.it. Or even go the old fashioned route and email it. But be sure to share it!

Trick Out My PowerPoint

PowerPoint is such an easy tool to use. Just because we use it, however, doesn’t mean we use it well.

The Challenge: Trick Out My PowerPoint!

The Trick Out My PowerPoint Challenge is an attempt to walk the everyday presenter through some very easy steps that can transform a normal (and mostly forgettable) PowerPoint deck into something a little more visually appealing, a little different, a little more interesting and a little more memorable.

Trick-out Artist #1:

PowerPoint Trick Out Artist 1

By day he’s a global training manager. By night he blogs and huffs Mr. Sketch markers (generally the cherry red or the blueberry blue). He’s never taken a graphic design course in his life. He just wants learning to be engaging and thinks anyone can do it. Give it up for Train Like A Champion blogger Brian Washburn!

Trick-out Artist #2:

PowerPoint Trick Out Artist 2

She’s a corporate learning leader and the voice of the phase(two)learning blog. She is just tall enough to get onto the Space Mountain ride at Disney World, has a slight shoe addiction, and has been bringing progressive learning experiences to the workplace for 15 years. Let’s hear it for Michelle Baker!

The Target:

A presentation Brian co-facilitated in 2008 at the Association for Experiential Education International Conference.

Some Initial Thoughts from the Trick-out Artists:

Brian: Honestly, the deck was serviceable. People came up to us afterwards and told us how much they enjoyed our presentation. Although I have to say, looking back on slides I created five and a half years ago, it seemed a bit like looking through an old high school yearbook. Sure, the spiked hair, skinny tie, pegged jeans and sweater vest worked for me back then, but in hindsight I probably could have (should have) done better. Same with these slides.

Michelle: Ha! Yes, this definitely looks like something from days of yore. The template is about as fresh as big, aqua-netted hair and stonewashed jeans. (Not that I’d know anything about that!) So, if you were going to freshen up these slides, what would you do?

Brian: If I was to take an hour or two to re-visit this slide deck and to trick it out as best as a non-graphic designer could trick something out, this is what I’d come up with:

Three simple things that I’d change about the original slide deck include:

1) Eliminate the template. There was a time when PowerPoint templates (just like pegged jeans) were the in-thing. Now templates that come loaded with PowerPoint are pretty stale and their pre-built borders and images take up valuable screen space.

2) Eliminate the clipart. I’m not sure if clipart was ever “in”. I’ve removed any vestiges of it and added several images of experiential education to give the audience an image to which they can relate.

3) Reduce the words. In an attempt to de-clutter the screen, I’ve removed several text-laden slides. I think a lot of the points from the slides that were removed could be delivered by the facilitators during the session (or better yet, they could be brainstormed by the audience and written on flipchart).

Michelle: Nice! I like the vivid imagery on the first several slides and the simplicity of the shapes and text throughout. Now it’s my turn… if you want to see something tricked out tricked out, then keep reading…

Here are three easy things I did to trick out these slides:

1) Don’t settle for the “default” font.  Did you know that hundreds of free fonts are out there for the taking? Two great resources are fontsquirrel.com and Google Fonts. The large block-letter font is called BEBAS and the script font is called PACIFICO. I stuck with trusty Arial for standard text and bullet points, for easy readability. A word to the wise: Find 2-3 fonts that complement each other – do not go crazy! 

2) Ditch the template. Like Brian, I also unpegged my acid washed jeans, de-AquaNetted my hair and opted for a blank slide over a PowerPoint template. For some weird reason, a blank slide can be intimidating.  A simple tip to help align your text, images and spacing is to utilize the “view gridlines” feature: Under the “View” tab, simply check the “gridlines” checkbox. This has helped me many times!

 3) Let the visuals do the talking. In the “welcome” slide (slide #2), for example, I could have just typed the word “welcome”. Instead I used a large, simple graphic of a welcome mat to convey the same message in a more appealing way. On the next slide I used a man with a question mark over his face. When you look at the text (“What is the role of a facilitator?”) the learner is drawn into that simple graphic. After all, as facilitators, haven’t we all wondered what our role should be? That question mark over the face tells a story that doesn’t require bullet points. It doesn’t require an abundance of text. Looking at the photo, you just get it. Strategically placed visuals can replace the need for words. Your presentation should work in tandem with your slides. If you’re looking for free images, try Flickr’s Creative Commons licensing or Google Images. Just remember to give credit where due.

What did we miss? Is there something you’d have done to better “trick out” this deck? Let us know in the comments section.

Have a slide deck you’d like us to trick out? Drop a line to bpwashburn@gmail.com or phasetwolearning@gmail.com.

Know someone who could use some ideas to improve their PowerPoint skillz? Pass this along.

Training Tip: PowerPoint as a Photo Editor

When Tom Kuhlman recently posted his 7 reasons why PowerPoint doesn’t suck, I was skeptical.  But as usual, he’s right.  Using tips from his blog post, I was able to quickly turn this image…

I Am Not A Role Model

…to this image in order to remove the background and create the look and feel I wanted…

I Am Not A Role Model (no background)

…with two clicks of the mouse.

I Am Not A Role Model - PPT

PowerPoint is actually an amazing tool… I’d love to see more presenters take advantage of its features to create amazing presentations.

Related Posts:

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

The Art of the Flipchart

As I wrapped up a day-long training session, a participant came up to me and said: “I don’t know why we don’t do more of this kind of thing.  Such little changes make a world of difference.”

She was talking about my flipcharts.

I like using flipcharts because they can stay on the wall for an entire session (with PowerPoint I lose my image as soon as I advance a slide), I can add to them at any point (with PowerPoint, I’m mostly stuck with the slides I’ve created in advance) and anyone else in the room can add to them at any time. Here are three major factors I’ve found to good flipchart design:

Advanced Preparation: When participants walk into the room and see flipcharts prepared and hung in advance it sends the message that I’ve invested some time in preparing for the session.  I find that my handwriting is much neater when I can take my time, so preparing the flipcharts I plan to use in advance creates a better visual experience and just seems more professional than last-minute, ad hoc creation of flipcharts.  In addition, having flipcharts prepared in advance allows me to go right into the next topic without having to use valuable class time to (sloppily) create the next flipchart.

As a participant, which kind of visual imagery would you prefer to have hanging around the room?

Flipchart created in the moment

Flipchart created in the moment

Flipchart prepared in advance

Flipchart prepared in advance

Basic Design: Another small addition to my flipchart design that I find makes a big impact is to illustrate my key point(s).  Below are two examples of a welcome flipchart with instructions.  If you were a participant, would you think there’s a different tone that’s set by these different flipchart examples even though they’re using the exact same words?

Flipchart 3Flipchart 4

Content Creation: One of the great things about flipchart is that it can be used to create content during a training session.  When I divide people into small groups, I’ll often have clear instructions written at the top of the flipchart to provide structure and clarity to the group discussion.  If I’m capturing participants’ thoughts on an easel at the front of the room, I’m sure to write down their exact words. And when listing various points, I make sure to use alternating colors so that each point is easily distinguishable.

Flipchart 5Flipchart 6

Have additional ideas on flipchart design?  Add ‘em to the comment section below!

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

PowerPoint Slide Design: How Simple is Too Simple?

All of the books, all of the blogs, all of the top Slideshare presentations on slide design make this common plea: simplify.  But how simple is too simple?

I had this conversation with a non-training colleague of mine a while back.  “Yes, watching someone read off of their text-heavy, bullet-pointed PowerPoint slides is a waste of time,” he told me.  “But so are these artistic slides that replace all words with pictures and images.  I have a tough enough time interpreting poetry.  I don’t want to have to work that hard to interpret what you’re trying to represent on your slides.”

During a recent presentation I attempted to apply the simple-but-not-too-simple principle to my slide design on the key points from Malcolm Knowles’ adult learning theory.  Below is the content I wanted to turn into a slide (click here to download a Google doc of this information):

06142013 - ALPs

I know enough about slide design to know that just copying and pasting this document would certainly not be the way to go.  While this is a nice handout, it’s not appropriate to drop into a slide.  I also wanted to turn some of Knowles’ key points into questions that presenters should be able to answer.  So I simplified the information and designed these four slides:

06142013 - Slide Evolution A  06142013 - Slide Evolution B

06142013 - Slide Evolution C  06142013 - Slide Evolution D

When I practiced the presentation in front of several co-workers, one colleague noted that he liked the simple presentation of these questions.  But he was distracted by my attempt at simplicity.  As I advanced the slides and went on to the second and third and fourth questions, he stopped paying attention to the new questions because he was trying to remember what the first question was.  I modified the presentation to include all of the information on one slide through a series of animated text boxes.  The final product looked like this:

06142013 - Slide Evolution 1  06142013 - Slide Evolution 2

06142013 - Slide Evolution 3  06142013 - Slide Evolution 4

06142013 - Slide Evolution 5

Effective slide design is all about experimenting, reviewing, asking whether or not a particular visual aid will really aid the audience, then if necessary refining the design.  Effective slide design certainly takes time and effort and at times can be tedious, but the end result is an amazing experience for the learners.  And without an amazing learner experience, there’s not much reason to actually give a presentation in the first place.

Related Posts:

Using PowerPoint?  Take Some Ideas From These Spectacular Examples

Five Outstanding Presentations Skills PowerPoint Presentations

Three Simple PowerPoint Tips To Improve Your Slide Design

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Three Simple PowerPoint Tips To Improve Your Slide Design

“Pardon me, is that Prezi you’re using?”

“No.  Actually it’s PowerPoint.”

This was an actual conversation I had with a participant during a recent training session.  Prezi has carried the label of “the next big thing in visual aids” for some time now.  I’ve tried to learn it a few times, but it tends to make me dizzy.  So I’ve stopped playing around with it.

I’m constantly on the lookout to find a better way to present visual information.  I’ve highlighted some amazing Slideshare presentations in previous posts.  Though I’ve pointed people in the direction of some amazing examples, I still can’t design amazing and engaging slides like some of those examples which have been produced by people with a graphic design background.  But, I’ve found that a few simple tweeks to the way I’ve designed my slides can make my PowerPoint presentations a lot more interesting.

  1. Slide Transitions

I first noticed the difference that this element can play when I attended a session delivered by the chief operating officer of my organization.  Instead of clicking the next button and having a new slide appear, he clicked the next button and one slide gave way to the next similar to the way a film strip would advance.  It was a small touch, but it was unexpected.  It was different.  I liked it so much I started playing with the slide transitions element on a few recent presentations, and that’s what led one participant to ask if I was using Prezi.  Be careful though, don’t overdo it on the slide transitions.

  1. Drop Clip Art, Use Simple Shapes

I have a limited budget and can’t spend much on artwork.  Which means that often I can’t find free clipart images that express exactly what I want to express.  Recently I’ve found that I can drop the idea of an image all together and use a simple design by inserting a few text boxes, a few shapes and lots of white space.

Look ma, no clip art!

Look ma, no clip art!

  1. Animate The Screen

This final tip uses a little more advanced PowerPoint design skill; it’s a trick I learned as I was trying to design a Family Feud-style board using PowerPoint for an activity (read more about it here: Survey Says! Creating Training Games Like Family Feud with PowerPoint).  Beyond a game of Family Feud, this design element allows a PowerPoint presentation to be much more dynamic.  Instead of simply animating a bullet-pointed list wherein each click of the mouse leads to a pre-determined order in the way things appear on the screen, using this design element allows a presenter to reveal concepts on the screen in the order that your learners mention them.

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list...

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list…

...or you can set custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

…or you can set dynamic, custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.