Archive for the ‘General information’ Category

Story Season – Science and Stories

Friday, February 20th, 2015 by Matt<

We continue our journey through Story Season now by taking a dip in the mysterious pool of Science and Stories. You’ll come out refreshed, thinking differently and in more detail about your presentations in the future.

Which in turn will lead to you becoming a better presenter, who has a higher chance of getting the end results that those other ‘death by PowerPoint’ presenters can only dream of.

In short, to avoid these horrible gut-wrenchingly awkward situations, we respectfully suggest you use parts of ‘story science’ to help you construct more engaging and compelling presentations.  Here’s how…

THE SCIENCE OF SUBTEXT

Subtext is the story within the story. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a book, watching a movie, or receiving a presentation – subtext is right there.

Think of it as levels.

Level 1 is the story being told out loud. The words we actually hear and the visuals we actually see.

Level 2 is the subtext. The story underneath this that the audience creates based on what they experience.

In regards to the subtext in presentations specifically, our very own Simon Morton’s book, The Presentation Lab, has a chapter dedicated to ‘The Super Powers of Visual Subtext’.

In this he focuses on how slide visuals, such as a photograph or graphic, can illicit different emotional undertones with the audience. The choice of visual though really depends on your audience – more on this in a moment.

In regards the context in stories, in story development consultant, David Baboulene’s blog, he discusses subtext using (allegedly) the shortest story ever written by Earnest Hemmingway.

“For Sale. Baby’s Shoes. Never Worn.”

Ok, so ‘War and Peace’ it isn’t, but for such a short, nay minute story it certainly evokes a strong response from the reader.

There’s the melancholy interpretation, where you think that a baby has sadly passed away – or there’s the more positive humorous assessment, where you might think the baby was born with huge feet and grandma and granddads first gift was just way too small!

It all depends on how youthe audienceinterpret the story and create the subtext.

AUDIENCE CENTRIC STORIESheatmap 3

And this is where when it comes to presentations you need to be so careful and really consider your audience (and when we say ‘consider’, we mean more than just a passing thought – truly ponder what makes them tick, the dynamics within the group and why they are listening to you in the first place).

Again the ‘The Presentation Lab’ book recommends that you need to consider the type of personality the key members of your audience are and which group of Visionary, Factual or Emotional they sit in – in the book Simon uses something called Audience Heat Maps which can help build this picture for you easily.

Once you know what makes your audience tick it’s time to start thinking about what you are going to say and what you are going to show in order to create the right message and subtext.

THE SCIENCE OF STORIES

And this is where the science of story really comes into play…

Your audience, for the most part, will be living, breathing, heart pumping, brain controlled human beings. And it’s in the grey matter department that your presentation needs to be the equivalent of a Red Bull overload.

There is a part of our brain called Broca’s area. This gets switched on when we either hear someone speak or read some text, as it interprets and makes sense of the words.

Now that’s nothing to get too excited about. More interesting things start to happen when we get past this area to the Primary Olfactory Cortex (linked to smell) and the Motor Cortex (which is for planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements), with more and more areas of our brain working we start to really listen, understand, engage and get excited about whatever it is we are experiencing.

To get these areas started though, you need to really think about what’s coming out of your mouth and what’s written on your visuals.

Boring, flat, uninspiring words won’t get much past the Broca…

But start thinking a little bigger and adding more meaningful content and using words that really mean something then this is when things start to happen.

Talking about things with odours such as describing the smell of fresh coffee, or the smell of a new-born baby’s head – these will get the Olfactory Cortex activated, whereas the Motor Cortex is stimulated by words relating to movement, so perhaps relating to sport, or as specific as kicking or running.

Now it’s merely a case of marrying up the right words to get the audience’s brains going and turning it into presentation content that’s relevant…get the mix right and you’re onto a winner.

And if you package this up in a story, the audience will find it easier to digest and the scientific content of your presentation will see them constructing the information and subtext you want and heading towards the target outcome of your presentation.

Net result?

Improved engagement. Increased message retention. Presentation success.

You are now a million miles ahead of those presenters currently sitting in front of the TV creating tomorrow’s death by PowerPoint.

If you need a hand in putting this all together, just give us a call, we’re ready to help keep your presentations ahead of the competition.

A presentation tool that helps you NOT look daft, NOT lose a deal and NOT get shouted at by your boss in one easy step…

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 by Matt<

Something really embarrassing happened to me at the weekend. Perhaps in time and with counselling I’ll get over it. But all I’m saying right now is that it was in front of a LOT of people, and I looked really daft.

Standing up in front of people and looking stupid happens to us all at some point, but thankfully for presentations, there is a failsafe.  The Review and Compare feature tells you in just a few seconds if any changes have been made to a PowerPoint file since its last version.

That’s useful because, let’s face it, if you just go and grab a file without checking it and then go into an important meeting you – and your audience – might get a few surprises…

Anything from a graph with a few zero’s added here and there, or perhaps a scattering of old prospect logo’s, or something even more random like a photo of a child’s 7th birthday party (trust me, it happens..!)

You get the picture. If this happens, it’s just not going to be your day – you’re going to look bad, lose the deal, damage your reputation and your boss will probably shout at you.

An easy way to avoid such an uncomfortable fate is to always simply run through the PowerPoint before your next presentation.

Obvious, yes. Necessary, yes. A pain, yes – but it doesn’t have to be…

When you open up the file to run through it, use the Review and Compare feature, because rather than staring in detail at every single slide, in just a few seconds it will highlight where things have been changed.

To use the Review and Compare Tool just go to REVIEW on the ribbon at the top, then hit COMPARE and select a previous version to check it against.

Review and Compare

Image changes, text being added or deleted and changed graph figures are all pointed out in just a few seconds, so save your eyes from straining at slide after slide and avoid looking daft in front of lots of people in one easy step!

If you find this is useful, or know of a red faced friend, share liberally and advise them to keep an eye out for more useful tools, tips, gadget and gizmo reviews from Eyeful. Why? Because we love to discover new handy things to make your presentation life that little bit easier…

 

Story Season – Talk About Who Did What To Whom

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 by Simon<

65% of the time we are speaking informally, we’re talking about who did what to whom…

Dunbar, R (1996), Grooming, Gossip & The Evolution of Language, Harvard 

Businesses thrive on successful communication. A simple concept but incredibly difficult to pull off. For it to work, it has to be clear, engaging and have a purpose but, a cursory review of the e-mails, presentations and meetings that swallowed up your diary last week will demonstrate that the ideal is a long way off the reality.

In my opinion, much of the problem lies with the way we’re conditioned to behave at work. Armed with impressive sounding TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), an unquestioning adherence to business etiquette and ready access to technology like PowerPoint, Keynote and Excel, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of speaking as business robots whenever addressing an audience. The net result is that we gum up the cogs of business communication and ultimately grind to an unsatisfying halt. 

Story Season 1So how to ‘un-gum’ communication to your audiences, be they internal or external? Well, one of the options is the use of story. Used carefully and selectively, story can break down the barriers built up through corporate waffle and engage your audiences in a refreshing and effective way.

Let me share a very personal story to demonstrate my point…

A couple of years ago, my business went through an unprecedented and, frankly, unplanned growth spurt. On paper it looked like great news – the numbers were growing at a truly remarkable rate and we were winning new customers left, right and centre. The reality within the business was somewhat different – the stresses of demanding customers, changing goalposts and ever tighter deadlines made working at Eyeful less than fun for a while.

The first casualty was communication – and in retrospect, the signs were there for all to see. People began resorting to email more and more. This inevitably led to people misconstruing one another’s emails more frequently, which resulted in some tense conversations. The consequence was that, in a frighteningly short period of time, key people were not really communicating or engaging with each other at all. It was horrible.

I knew I had to address the issue. So I did it with storytelling.

With so many people now dotted across the world, we had no alternative but to schedule a conference call. Not my preferred method of communication, but necessity compelled us to do so.

We had no formal agenda. No slides. No spreadsheets. No visuals whatsoever.

I also set a limit of ten minutes for the entire call.

I started by thanking people for joining the call and then recalled the vision I had for the business when I started it back in 2004: to build a company that would deliver the best possible presentation services to it’s customers through a mix of great people, smart thinking and the need to ensure that each and every member of the team feels valued, respected and engaged with the business. 

I told a few short stories of how we convinced longstanding team members to join us in the first place – Sally over a cheap pizza in London, Liz through a series of increasingly bizarre interviews and the embarrassment of having my dog pee on poor Vicki when she first visited the office. I spoke of the excitement we all felt when moving to our company headquarters, “Eyeful Towers”, the peculiar novelty of our own dedicated server and the buzz we all felt when winning each new customer.  

I underlined that these everyday things defined “Eyefulocity” and made our company a special place to work. Our customers frequently commented that they felt this in the way we supported them and each other on projects. We were living the dream.

I then shared more recent and slightly less uplifting stories – when a team member was reduced to tears as a result of receiving an angry e-mail from a colleague; when a team felt demotivated by unrealistic deadlines; and the awful feeling of fear I had one morning when arriving at the office and sensing that we were slowly morphing another “normal” company.

Ultimately the presentation was little more than a series of heartfelt but authentic stories – stories that, frankly, I’d chosen to pull at the team’s heartstrings and ensure they felt the same pain and disappointment I was feeling.

IMAG0148_1It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of authenticity in the stories I chose to share – they were stories that everyone could relate to immediately. The raw sense of disappointment expressed through the stories allowed the audience to reflect on how the changing behaviours described had impacted the business’s culture, and their colleagues and friends’ happiness. With authenticity and emotion comes real power.

Without a solitary PowerPoint slide, the presentation touched everyone on that call and set the more positive agenda going forward, something we still feel today across the business. People still refer to the “Eyefulocity presentation” today as a crucial point in our business’s development —one that, appropriately, relied totally on authentic storytelling.

So ask yourself one simple question – how can you incorporate story into the next communication you share with your audience?

For more insight into the use of story, structure and visuals as part of improved communications, check out The Presentation Lab: Learn The Formula Behind Powerful Presentations

Story Season – A Prologue

Monday, February 9th, 2015 by Simon<

Occasionally the team at Eyeful Towers gets a bee in our collective bonnet. A couple of years ago we went all out to stem the overly effusive praise for Prezi* and a while before that we were getting ourselves hot under the collar about the curse of OSMCs (Old School Management Consultants).

The topic that has become the focus of our attention? Stories.

Story Season 1Now don’t get us wrong – we LOVE the smart use of stories and story structure in presentations. They’ve formed some of the most compelling, engaging, passionate and memorable presentations ever created. The use of ‘story’ in presentations makes a lot of sense – get it right and you’re onto a good thing…

Yet there’s a problem…and it’s not too dissimilar to the Prezi fanboy postings that created such a fuss back at Eyeful HQ.

Our issue is that people understand the IDEA of story in presentations but have little or no sense of how to INTEGRATE them into the finished product.

The net result is lots of noise, opinion and phrases like ‘narrative arc’ being thrown around with little real understanding…and minimal improvement to presentations.

Well…we’ve had enough. So over the next 6 weeks we’re going to share our views on the good, the bad and the plain confusing of story in presentations. In weekly instalments delivered via the Eyeful blog and LinkedIn, we’ll ask the people on the front line to share their experiences, look at the science behind it all and provide valuable ideas and structures for business people just like you.

In short, Eyeful’s Story Season will help you step back from the hype and take time for figure out how it can truly help you, your presentation and, most important of all, your audience. We think that’s something worth sharing…

* In summary, Prezi is great when used appropriately and designed sympathetically BUT it is far from the presentation panacea so many people proclaim it to be. Nuff said.

Breaking News! New version of PowerPoint…

Friday, February 6th, 2015 by Matt<

PPT

Sorry if I seem like an over excited 5-year old on the night before Christmas, but I’ve just heard there is a new beta version of PowerPoint to play with!

You may have heard recently how Microsoft have decided to skip Windows 9 and move straight to Windows 10 – apparently they have this great idea to integrate a start button?!

Well it’s not just Windows that’s getting re-worked, the full Office suite of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are getting updated too – and as Eyeful’s resident ubergeek you can only imagine how excited I am to put a new version of PowerPoint through its paces.

For many people reading this, there is a reasonable chance you are still running Office 2007 or 2010 – if it’s 2003 your IT department should bow their heads in shame. And you might not yet have tried out the rather excellent PowerPoint 2013 (see here my review part 1 and part 2).

Microsoft really made some waves with PowerPoint 2013 so I’m very eager to see if they read my PowerPoint wish list in a previous blog and actually implemented any of my ideas for the new version?

If you fancy road testing the new Office Beta – it’s a requirement to sign up to Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview. The website categorically states you should…

Really know your way around a PC and feel comfortable troubleshooting problems, backing up data, formatting a hard drive, installing an operating system from scratch, or restoring your old one if necessary

And even says…

We’re not kidding about the expert thing. So if you think BIOS is a new plant-based fuel, Tech Preview may not be right for you.

Ok then! I’m now off to find a VERY OLD computer to put the new Windows 10 and PowerPoint through its paces.

Watch this space for a full review.

 

 

The Presentation Lab gets a Winning Edge

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Matt<

Presentation lab soft copy
Since the release of ‘The Presentation Lab’, we have received some great feedback and it’s always nice to hear lovely things said about the book (even though it still makes Simon blush like a proud Dad!)

However, when Journalist, Marc Beishon, from the magazine Winning Edge put pen to paper it was not just a quick 30 seconds saying how great the book is, blowing Eyeful’s trumpet and pointing you to your nearest bookstore. Marc has written a great article so, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, wondering whether or not to get the book, then hopefully this will help you decide.

Here is just a snippet from Marc’s in depth review;

Morton homes on what is undoubtedly the core business of today’s ‘presentations’ — how to construct engaging messaging using storytelling and conversational styles that suit the audience and situation you are dealing with at a particular time, which more commonly now are not ‘formal’ situations at all.

It also talks about the changing world of sales, interactive engagement and sales enablement.

If your appetite is duly wetted, you can find the full article in Winning Edge magazine which is part of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. ISMM provide lots of information and tips on sales and marketing

Or simply click here to view the article on our website…

An Open Letter to all Business Presenters

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Simon<

Hello you…

How are things?

We’ve been meaning to drop you a line for a while now but held off sending anything too close to the chaos of Christmas and New Year for obvious reasons. The festivities are now likely to be a dim and distant memory… as are the long list of New Years Resolutions (don’t sweat it – we think a little bit of extra padding looks rather good on you, if we’re honest). Now all of those pressures are out of the way, we’d like to ask you a favour… actually, three favours. And they all centre around that one part of your job that you find uncomfortable to the point of palpitations – business presentations.

Don’t worry – we’re not after the world… just three small things that will make all the difference to your presentation, and thus to your audiences.

1. Go on, go 16:9

Let’s start with an easy one – it’s time for you to move over to widescreen. Your laptop, your screen and your projector have all made the leap over to 16:9 ratio – it’s time you took the plunge too.

Have you noticed how old films and footage looks, well, ancient on TV when it’s shown in the old ratio and has big black bars down each side? Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re stuck using 4:3 ratio for your PowerPoint and Keynote, your presentations are going to look equally old fashioned.

But it’s more than simply keeping up with the Joneses. Blog picMaking the move over to 16:9 gives you more room to play with on your slides – create white space and let your slide breathe! Use the extra width to develop visuals that engage your audience! Heck, deliver slides that look like they belong in this decade!

If you’re responsible for stuff like corporate PowerPoint templates at your workplace, sort it out pronto and your colleagues will love you forever more. If you’re one of the users stuck with ye olde PowerPoint 4:3 template, harass the marketing team until they see the error of their ways (perhaps send them a link to this blog to speed things up) and make the move over. If they dig their heels in, whisper in their ears that the default ratio on the latest version of PowerPoint is now 16:9 – the world has changed and it’s time for them to catch up.

 

2. Don’t lose your nerve

We’ve spotted a bit of a pattern on important presentations. At the very start of the process, presenters (yep, you) are full of good intentions. You embrace the concept of ‘less is more’ both in terms of content on a slide and slide count, full of vim, vigour and determination that this time it’ll all be different – no bullets, valuable visuals and a clear audience-centric message. It’s shaping up to the best presentation you’ll ever deliver – happy days.

The problem is that as time marches on, you start to lose your bottle. You start to sprinkle a little more detail here and there, sticking in a complex diagram to demonstrate that you’ve really put the hours into the research and tweaking your message so as not to rock the boat.

Often, because the stakes are so high, you make the fateful mistake of opening up your presentation to committee. This truly is the death knell to any chance you had of developing a powerful presentation. By all means, call upon your colleagues for feedback and collaboration but never EVER rescind control – it’s your presentation… own it.

Collaboration = good

Committee = unmitigated disaster

Now don’t get us wrong, friend – we know that standing up and delivering a presentation this important is gut-wrenchingly stressful but don’t fall into the trap of compromising and diluting it as D-day approaches. Go back to the ideas that were the catalyst for version 1 of your presentation – the structure and message, the carefully chosen supporting content and the simple but effective visuals. Granted, they may not have been perfect but they’re likely to be a much purer more focused set of slides than the watered-down, ‘safe’ and ultimately homogenous presentation you’ve ended up with.

Go on – be brave, have faith and don’t compromise (your audience and your message deserve it).

3. There’s more to life than PowerPoint

Granted, this one might require a small leap of faith (call it a leapette). PowerPoint is not the only tool available to you as a presenter. There – we’ve said it…

Presentation Landscape WheelArmed with nothing more than a good understanding of your audience, a strong message and structure and, when required, the ability to visualise key elements of your story, you can deliver a presentation armed with nothing more than a pen and napkin/whiteboard/notepad.

If you wish to get fancy, you might want to dust down the tablet you were given a couple of years back in a pique of technological excitement (it’s not just for Angry Birds). Or you might want to try the multitude of other options out there (Prezi, Powtoon, Keynote, SlideRocket…the list goes on).

We’ve never had so many options to consider as presenters so have a look around and see what works for you and your audience…and what doesn’t. And it’s this last bit that is soooo very important. Whatever option(s) you choose, it is imperative that it works for your audience.

Not you – your audience.

Playing with new technology is always fun but if the net result of your experimentation is a presentation that bamboozles your audience or leaves them thinking more about the animation effect you used rather than your message, you’ve messed up.

So there you go…three simple changes to the way you approach presentations that will make all the difference. A difference to the way you engage with your audiences, a difference to the clarity and impact of your message and a difference in the results you’re likely to get from all your hard work. What’s not to like?

Have a wonderful 2015…

The Eyeful Team x

The Power and Privilege of Presentations

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Simon<

Ours is a ruddy wonderful job. Every day is different, every project a new opportunity to do something extraordinary.

But sometimes, certain projects jump out at you… We get the chance to work with amazing individuals who are making a massive and palpable difference to the World and the people in it. We also get a chance to flex our creative muscles, think outside the corporate box and develop something that does more than make us proud – it brings a lump to our throats.

Our recent work with MRC Technology is a case in point. Their unstinting energy and enthusiasm to work alongside peers to address the spectre of dementia is awe-inspiring. The fact they came to us to help them spread the word to the most influential medical professionals and government ministers is a privilege we don’t take lightly.

#thepowerofpresentations

Cult TV – GamesMaster (or should that be PresentationMaster?)

Friday, December 19th, 2014 by Simon<

It’s the Friday before Christmas and there’s a very good chance you’re doing one of the following:

  • Tearing around like a wild thing in an attempt to get everything completed before the festivities truly kick in.
  • Nursing a sore head and vowing to never attempt ‘Wuthering Heights’ again at the company Christmas karaoke.
  • Warming up for a day of gentle social media-ing accompanied by a sprinkling of computer solitaire whilst hoping in vain that the phone will ring.

Whichever pre-Christmas state you find yourself in, the Eyeful Elves are here to help make the day fly past a little quicker. Our design team decided to have a play with green screen video-ing and the video capabilities of PowerPoint and pay homage to one of the finest TV shows to ever hit UK screens – Gamesmaster.

If you’re a Brit of a certain age, the memories will come flooding back. If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck we’re talking about, Wikipedia is here to help.

Either way, grab a coffee/antacid, sit back and relax as we welcome you to the unnerving world of PresentationMaster:

Merry Christmas!

 

The Eyeful Gift Picker Guide

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 by Simon<

You braved the Black Friday crowds yet came out with nothing more than a few bruises. You scouted the net on Cyber Monday, contributing to servers falling over left, right and centre yet your shopping basket remains empty.

There’s no doubt – finding the right gift for your loved ones at Christmas can be stressful however the team at Eyeful bring good tidings! We’ve created a Gift Picker that will point you to some very fancy present ideas for your nearest and dearest. Simply click here to download the PowerPoint show (yep…PowerPoint!) and let the shopping begin!

The Technical Stuff

Yep, this was all done in PowerPoint by Hannah, one of the lovely and rather talented Eyeful Design Team. We could bore you with the incredible clever way we used triggers and hyperlinks…but it’s Christmas and you should be either getting drunk with colleagues at the company party or dressing a tree in tinsel whilst listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas Album.

Tell you what – why don’t you book yourself on one of our technical training days and we’ll tell you all about it then? In the meantime, enjoy the eggnog (and stay away from the photocopier).