How to Become a Microsoft MVP

One of the questions Microsoft MVPs like myself get asked all the time is, “How does one become an MVP?”

Well, fellow MVP Kevin Kline just wrote up a really nice explanation from his vantage point. Though Kevin is an MVP in a very different category than I am in (I can’t really tell you what “Microsoft Data Platform” exactly is…), pretty much all of his advice applies to PowerPoint and any Microsoft category.

Take a read!

Categories: PowerPoint.

Visual Thinking by Emma Bannister

There are endless books on the scene covering presentation, but I can’t remember one quite as beautifully designed as Visual Thinking, the brand new addition from Emma Bannister.

Emma is the founder and CEO of Australia’s Presentation Studio, the largest presentation firm in APAC. And, full disclosure, she’s also just one of my favorite people in the world. So I forgive her insistence on incorrect spellings like “colour” and “practise”…

Visual Thinking is not a comprehensive manual on design, but rather a concisely assembled guidebook on what goes into a well-designed and effective presentation. The focus is largely on speaker-guided projected presentations that aim to persuade. Emma doesn’t quite assume that all presentations should fit a TED Talk model, but she does avoid addressing the challenges of many business presentation needs with statements like “It’s important to remember that you’re not putting together a report.” That’s one of the few disagreements I would have with the approach of the book, but then maybe we wouldn’t have the nicely focused and easily digestible one that we do. The focus of the book is squarely on producing tight messages and visual communications in a presentation context. 

There is some familiar territory covered and reinforced (Nancy’s Duarte’s Resonate sparkline story structure, John Medina), but ultimately Emma manages to avoid overwriting and endless references making points with just a sentence and graphic or two (such as with discussions of white space, color and contrast). Not only is she practicing with the book what she is preaching about presentation, but she’s taking Saint-Exupery to heart. And I don’t think any design book is complete without a reinforcement of his all-important advice, which is, of course, included here:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

If there’s anyone on your Holiday Gift list that needs a little convincing or opening of the eyes on what effective visual presentation should be, this is the book to get. Easily finished in a single setting, it’s really a wonderful visual read.

And, of course, it’s an excellent calling card for the work that Emma’s studio does as well. If you’re not familiar with their work, just take a look at a bit of their portfolio.

Not available on Amazon just yet, but you can order direct here.

Categories: Books, Design.

Conversation with Tom Howell & Mike Parkinson: The Presentation Podcast Episode #42

The Presentation Podcast


Episode #42, A Conversation with Tom Howell & Mike Parkinson is live!

Recorded at the Presentation Summit in Clearwater, FL, Troy and I chat with the two newest Microsoft MVPs, Tom Howell of Synapsis Creative in Australia and Mike Parkinson of Billion Dollar Graphics.

Don’t forget to give us a rating on iTunes if you like the Podcast and want to help spread the word!

Subscribe on iTunes and check out the show notes for more info.

Categories: Design, PowerPoint.

TalkTime: A Free Presentation Time Management Add-in for PowerPoint

I speak and give trainings often, and it’s not unusual for me to have a 400-slide deck from which I need to pull 60 or 90 minutes of material. Like many presenters, I’m not always perfect at managing the time of my talks, and until now, I have relied on Excel to calculate the running time of my slides. But now, thanks to a brand new PowerPoint add-in called TalkTime, I know instantly the total time my slides will take to present even as I add or delete material. And you can too, because I helped develop it and we’re giving it away for free!

Jamie Garroch of YouPresent is one of the best add-in developers for PowerPoint around. He steps in and creates Office solutions for clients when Microsoft can’t quite get the job done. One of my favorite add-ins (which you can download for free here) is Text to Outline which can turn all of a given font in your presentation into outlines, allowing you to use non-standard fonts in shareable presentations.

It was at the recent Presentation Summit that I casually mentioned my desire for an add-in that could calculate the total time of a presentation based on times assigned to individual slides. Literally a few hours later, Jamie sent me a prototype that blew me away. We then spent the next couple of weeks going back and forth and dramatically improving the functionality well beyond what I thought possible.

The result is TalkTime, a free and simple add-in that adds a small set of tools to the transitions tab.

These tools let you copy PowerPoint’s rehearsal times into TalkTime, enter them manually for each slide, record timings from a normally delivered slideshow or even copy times from audio narrations. TalkTime keeps track of the total time you plan to spend delivering your presentation and even takes into account hidden slides. And it shows you the times of individual sections, letting you manage large chunks of content.

Watch the above tutorial video to see what it’s all about or visit Jaime’s page for more info and screenshots.

You can download TalkTime or grab it anytime from this site’s Goodies page which also includes tons of other great free tools and assets to make you a better presenter. You can access the Goodies page by subscribing to this blog.

We would love to know what you think and if TalkTime helps you stay on time. Use the feedback button in the “About” section of the add-in or drop me an email.

If you’re looking for other PowerPoint add-ins or customized solutions, definitely check out YouPresent. And, of course, if you’re looking for a speaker or presentation trainer who never goes over his time, call me!


PowerPoint for Digital Signage

One of the things I look forward to each year at the Presentation Summit is meeting new people, discovering what’s new in the world of presentation and learning how people are using PowerPoint in surprising ways. This year I saw some absolutely incredible video animations authored in PowerPoint, delivered a talk myself on how to create print documents with the software, and I got to meet Kurt Dupont from Belgium-based PresentationPoint.

Kurt produces a few different custom software solutions for PowerPoint, but his flagship offering is DataPoint, an add-in that transforms PowerPoint into a powerful digital signage solution. And after a demo and learning more about DataPoint, I came to realize that I have probably been staring at PowerPoint out in the wild far more than I realized – and you have as well. When you walk into a hotel lobby, or visit a factory floor or pass by any screen offering you information, there’s a good chance that you’re looking at PowerPoint.

There are many competitors that offer various digital signage solutions, but most are closed systems with their own design tools. DataPoint lets you design and author all of your visuals right in PowerPoint. And then, all from a PowerPoint interface, you can connect live data feeds such as weather or financial information plus proprietary and local databases containing just about any information you can imagine. Need a real-time scroll of your daily conference schedule? Connect DataPoint to your Google Calendar. Need to see current inventory? Connect DataPoint to your in-house Sharepoint database. Just want a rotating list of clients? Drop them into an Excel file and connect.

My favorite example of DataPoint in action is Sotheby’s. Yeah, you know when you see those screens behind the auctioneer indicating current bids? That’s all PowerPoint/DataPoint pulling information real-time from connected databases.

And if you’re worried about the logistics of connecting a computer to the actual screen, many users have fixed that problem with the Intel Compute Stick attached discreetly to the back of the monitor. Again, something I didn’t know existed.

And maybe the best part is that the software is a one-time purchase at a ridiculously low cost. Seriously, when you look at their client base (NASA, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, NYSE, Boeing, etc.), I’m even more amazed.

My only disappointment is that I just don’t get called upon to create digital signage all that often by clients. But if you’re looking for a really slick solution yourself, definitely take a look!

Categories: Design, PowerPoint.

Creating PowerPoint Presentations from Excel Outlines

I have long used Excel to outline my presentations. I love the program’s ability to color code, hide, apply hierarchy, move things around and maybe most importantly, get an accurate sense of timing.

My outlines tend not to be as granular as one row per slide, and I don’t actually write slide content in Excel, but if you did want to do that (and I see no reason why not to use Excel for this), Indezine has put together a nice tutorial on the workflow for going from Excel straight to slides.

It has long been a little-known workflow to outline in Word using paragraph-styled headers and bullet point and then with a few clicks, converting the Word document into actual slides. Apparently, you can do pretty much the same thing with Excel.

It’s a two-parter from Indezine:

Setting up an Excel outline

Importing into PowerPoint

Categories: Visual Thinking.
visual training presentation