Monthly Archives: June 2005

The Presentation Index

A select group of publicly traded stocks is often used as an index to assess the health of an industry or economic sector. I was looking over one of these indexes today and started wondering what group of stocks might be put together to form a presentation services index? Would it be worth pulling together a short list of presentation hardware, software and service related stocks to form and informal index? Would plotting this on a weekly basis be of any value to those of us working predominately in presentation media? What company stocks would you include?

Does anyone know if anything like this already exists?

Tiny Movies to Go

One of the points made in our SuperTuesday Technology Session at InfoComm was that presentation media will be moving to smaller and smaller screens… that there is relatively strong and rapid convergence taking place between communication and presentation technologies. Here is one example from China where film makers are talking about producing movies from scratch for cell phones.

Meeting at the Beijing Film Academy yesterday, directors representing several generations of Chinese cinema discussed plans to shoot movies expressly for viewing on mobile phones. They believe that the time is ripe to take advantage of the technology, despite the graininess, high compression, and poor sound quality of most mobile phones. This follows the big cell-phone media story from last year, fiction serialized over SMS.



Going Visual

I’m not about to write a review of a book I have yet to read but, if the synopsis and current endorsements are to be believed, this book looks like a promising addition to the library of every visual communications specialist and commercial photographer.
Going Visual, by Alexis Gerard and Bob Goldstein, with a forward by Guy Kawasaki, appears to tap in to the notion that information overload and presentation burn-out can be mediated by judicious use of imagery (primarily digital photographic) to communicate ideas, products and messages. But hey, surely ‘one picture is worth a thousand words‘ has been around for a while now? Well maybe it has, and maybe this book takes it a step further and rewrites the dictum, I’ll have to wait until my copy arrives to find out. If anyone out there has already read this book, please comment.

Piling on PowerPoint

Maybe I am just in a bad mood… but I am so tired of superficial condemnations of PowerPoint. I read another one tonight here. I don’t know Kathy Sierra… and I am sure she is a swell person… but I don’t understand why people feel compelled to write these kind of articles. Kathy acknowledges that she is not an expert in this area, so why bother. She quotes Tufte’s writing quite a bit whose work is interesting, but is unsupported conjecture without any solid scientific foundation.

The truth is that there is absolutely no empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of various kinds of PPT visuals or the effectiveness of PPT versus other presentation mediums. You may suggest that a bullet list or other text-based visual is not effective… but it is only opinion because there is no scientific evidence to support this. There have been some limited, superficial attempts to study the effectiveness of certain types of presentations… but these efforts so far have not been very satisfying. I think some thoughtful and well designed foundational studies need to be done in this area.

Sorry for the rant. Chock it up to a long hot North Carolina day.

Death by Meeting

I have enjoyed Patrick Lencioni’s books The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable… so I was intrigued by the title of his 2004 work: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. Like all of his books it is an easy read in an allegorical style.

In Death by Meeting Lencioni tackles the problem of ineffective meetings. He suggests that like movies or television shows, meetings should have drama that is born primarily out of healthy conflict. He also suggests that different types of meetings should be organized around different contexts in the same way that headline news, sitcoms, dramas, movies or mini-series all serve different contextual needs.

Although this is not a book about presentations or visuals per se, Lencioni offers lots of ideas about leading successful meetings. Death by Meeting is well worth the relatively short amount of time it takes to read.

Help for PowerPoint Movie Codecs

Thanks to PowerPoint MVP Kathy Jacobs for a link to the site of PFC Media. They make an inexpensive (free to try) add-on for PowerPoint that makes it easier to ensure that media files that are sent out can be played by recipients.

I will review the product in the near future, but this is a cool idea because the failure of the recipient to have a codec is one of the main reasons a movie or sound file will not play properly.

(The other one is broken links).

RSS Popper

Although using a separate RSS feed aggregator has suited me well for home use for some time now (I use Bloglines) when I’ve tried to sell the concept of RSS to work colleagues I’ve met resistance along the lines of “not another application to install and learn!”. Also, in a corporate environment where downloads and personal installs are disallowed, it’s not a good idea to promote rule breaking.

There are occasions when I would like to check feeds while at work however, so for a while now I’ve been looking for a solution that integrates seamlessly into the ‘standard corporate desktop’ we all use, in the hope that we may persuade the guardians of our infrastructure that RSS is a useful tool we should be using rather than the ‘spawn of the devil’ that many of them believe it to be.

This week I’ve been investigating RSS Popper, an RSS reader that integrates very neatly with Microsoft Outlook. It is a small freeware application, still in development but stable, that seems to work extremely well in my tests so far. It can be set up to use a corporate firewall, via an HTTP proxy, and so is subject to the usual security measures that protect our network.
Because it sits right there in the e-mail client many of us use, you can choose to read the feeds if you want when you check mail – no additional application to open and manage.

You can also tune it to your needs through an easy to use interface (accessible from the Outlook toolbar) and it places all its retrieved items neatly in a folder of your choice, separate from your main e-mail Inbox area if you wish. It supports multiple feeds from the same source (such as Gmail accounts) and – if you are an IE user – right-clicking on a feed button on a web page allows you to subscribe directly to the feed in RSS Popper via an added menu item.

I will probably keep using Bloglines because I’ve a whole host of feeds in there, but the key ones – like Visual Being – I’ll be checking in Outlook as well.


Dropload seems like a really handy way to move files between you and your clients or coworkers when other network options such as FTP aren’t available. Might also be a good way to store yet another backup copies of your files when you’ll be on the road.

Dropload is a place for you to drop your files off and have them picked up by someone else at a later time. Recipients you specify are sent an email with instructions on how to download the file. Files are removed from the system after 7 days, regardless if they have been picked up or not. You can upload any type of file, mp3, movies, docs, pdfs, up to 100MB each! Recipients can be anyone with an email address.

InfoComm 2005 Wrapup – Super Tuesday Part 1

Some memebers of the Presentation Council hosted a major Super Tuesday event this year. The attendees were extremely happy with the day’s content and the presenters and the ICIA seemed equally happy with the attendance figures.

The event had 4 parts:

    Technology presented by Bob Befus (a Visual Being contributor)
    Design presented by Nancy Duarte
    Coaching presented by Fred Barnes
    Consulting presented by Jim Endicott

Bob started off by discussing the role technology can play in helping presentation professionals to move up the value chain. He also took care to remind us that although technology is great for extending our capabilities, isn’t always the answer (Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible. (Frank Moore Colby, 1865-1925)). He then went on to outline the technologies that presentation professionals need to be paying attention to. These included web conferencing, Flash, PowerPoint alternatives, eXtended events, and mobility. These all boiled down to three key communication trends:

    Go Everywhere
    Experience Anytime

Bob was followed by Nancy Duarte who gave a great nuts and bolts workshop on graphic design considerations particular to presentations. She covered templates, branding, aesthetics and motion (although that doesn’t really convey depth of the material). There were a number of really wonderful examples of work her firm did for major corporations. We were all pretty amazed at quality of the graphics they somehow coaxed out of PowerPoint’s drawing tools. Quotes from her talk:

It’s a palette, NOT a painting.

Without contrast, you’re dead.

A projector makes your audience color deficient.

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. (Ansel Adams.)

I’ll conclude this tomorrow (I hope) with Fred Barnes’ and Jim Endicott’s presentations.

Thank You-Comm

It is hard to believe that InfoComm ’05 is here and gone. It seems like just yesterday that many of us in the Presentations Council were brainstorming about SuperTuesday and the possibility of building a presentation presence on the InfoComm show floor. We have accomplished so much in the last few years! I want to just briefly thank the SuperTuesday presenters, Nancy Duarte, Fred Barnes and Jim Endicott. You all did a spectacular job and it was so much fun working with you on this project. Robert Short, Andrew Quan and Mary Waldera all helped with member coordination and activities…. and our own inimitable Todd Dunn once again led Council members on a show floor tour. Lee Potts has been the backbone of this blog and promoted it heavily in Las Vegas, and Rick Altman was crucial in making our first stab at a presentation technology pavilion a reality… Thanks so much to all of you. This Council is truly an unusual group. It was really great seeing you all last week in Vegas!!

Already the ideas for future Council projects are flying. We will be setting up both a steering committee and a Council-wide phone conference for the end of this month.

Four Universal Axioms

Having returned from a thoroughly enjoyable four days of InfoComm, thought I would share an undercurrent of one of the seminars that I delivered. It was entitled “Avoiding Obnoxious Bullet Slides,” and it was a typical be-loud-and-flamboyant-from-the-show-floor type of seminar, lest nobody will stop and pay attention. But I might have hit upon the basis for an interesting article or discussion when I introduced four statements and then brazenly referred to them as “universal axioms of PowerPoint usage.” They go as follows:

1. If something moves on screen, members of the audience have no choice but to look at it. It is virtually impossible for you, sitting in the audience, to not look at the screen if something moves, flashes, pops, spins, or even just appears there.

2. In the history of PowerPoint usage, no contract has ever been lost, sale not made, or job not offered because a slide used wipes and fades for animation. They are the quintessential chicken soup.

3. If you create bullets that are complete sentences, it is almost impossible for you, the presenter, to not read them word for word.

4. When you do this, you sound like a complete idiot.

They were designed to be not altogether connected, but upon reflection, I think I can connect the dots and make a pretty good case for these serving as fundamental pieces of advice. I will try to do that very thing in Presentations magazine later in the year…

Rick A.