Make PowerPoint More Effective

Here is a quick tip to make your PowerPoint slides more effective. It is based on brain research into how to focus your audience’s attention on the key points you want them to remember.

According to Mark Murphy, founder of Leadership IQ, “spatial cueing is when you highlight a specific part of the slide, e.g. with a colored circle or zooming or fading out the rest of the slide.”

This is particularly relevant if you are showing a chart and you want to focus the audience’s attention on a specific part of the chart- or there is a bullet point that is more significant than others on the slide.

He also says that “it’s even more neurologically powerful when the red circle ‘appears’ around 200 milliseconds after the slide appears (two-tenths of a second).”

His assertion is based on the results of Harvard research that determined that brain cell activity spikes 200 milliseconds after seeing words. They interpret this to mean that the brain has recognized the words on the screen.

In the past, I have used a variety of approaches to highlight key information:

1. inserting colored arrows;

2. circling key information;

3. highlighting the information in a different color;

4. using a different font or style of font;

5. pulling the information out to stand on its own;

6. zooming out so that the key information is larger; or

7. fading out the rest of the slide so that only the key information remains visible.

However, my motive has been to make it easier for the audience to either focus in on and/or actually be able to see and read the key information.

It has never occurred to me to consider if these methods would increase the probability that the audience would retain the information. What a terrific side benefit!

A recent study conducted by French researchers found that a group of subjects shown a cued animation (of the inner mechanisms of an upright piano) scored as much as 75% better on a written comprehension test than the group of subjects who received non-cued instruction.

So, if we really want our audiences to learn and remember key points, we should:

1. determine what those key points are,

2. select a signaled cueing approach, and then

3. introduce the cueing two-tenths of a second after the text appears on the PowerPoint slide.

If you have experience with signaled cueing, I’d love to hear from you

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

5 Predictions for the Future of Animated Marketing Videos

It’s no surprise that animated marketing videos offer one of the best ways to immediately engage website visitors. As a popular tool in digital marketing, video conserves a website visitor’s time and effort and allows startups to explain their supreme benefits quickly.

Are you still under the notion that affordable, top-quality computer-assisted animation is the thing of the future? Well, the future is now, and the following 5 tips are for anyone making their first animated marketing video.

Whiteboard animation is losing out its popularity… fast and how!

Whiteboard animation is becoming a thing of the past now. At some point in ancient history (somewhere in 2007), a man with a vision discovered the wonders of whiteboard videos. “It’s just drawing in front of a camera!” were the magic words. And not only is the technique easy, but the effect is often hypnotic. A well-done video captivates viewers as you take your idea from a blank whiteboard through growth, evolution, and finally a fully formed product ready to invest in.

But then that’s when the dip came.

There’s a problem with innovations… once a trend catches on, everybody starts doing it. In no time, there was a glut of derivative, lazy, knock-off explainer videos crowding out legitimate content. How long can the viewers see the same thing, especially when they are bad?

Tell us, do you remember the last time you saw a whiteboard animation go viral on a social media platform? Maybe, someday whiteboard animations will rise again. But definitely not today!

What’s on the rise? 3D Animation.

In place of whiteboards, let’s look into the future of animation. Animated videos made in 3D is both better-looking and more affordable than it’s ever been. It doesn’t require a Pixar product to tell a riveting story anymore. So 3D might be right for your video! Good news isn’t it!

Some business concepts work better for 3D video than others. Keeping up with the cartoony familiarity of the traditional animation and also with the stark detail of 3D makes the most sense for businesses with a physical product. Using 3D animation, you can create a lifelike prototype of your vision. Throughout the video it interacts with other objects just like it would in real life.

How about creating different versions of the same video for different platforms?

Avoid making and paying for one single video, and then using that one video across all platforms. The scope of presenting the video to potential customers are endless, so don’t make the mistake of limiting it. To maximize your video’s effectiveness you need to tailor it to the platform it’s presented on.

Usually the norm is that an animated explainer video posted on a website should be 60-120 seconds long. The video features details of a product in an interesting manner, and leave the customer with a complete understanding of how your business helps them.

But a long-form video is never going to get played on a social media platform like Facebook.

Facebook viewers are scrolling through a massive feed, catching up with their friends and family, seeing various other sponsored content, instead of focusing on your one video. So, maybe they just catch some valuable insight from you. So, today’s leading content producers on Facebook are creating short and sweet videos (30 seconds or less). They are perfect for conveying the core principles of their message.

To combat the barrier that Facebook auto-plays videos with the sound muted, these videos are create short, punchy lines to hook the viewers. The goal is to catch the attention of those distracted face bookers as they scroll down through the feed. Once they’re lured into the short video, they should want to click through to the longer presentation on your website for more info. The best part is, once you’ve made the first version of the video it takes minimal effort to edit versions specifically crafted to the various outlets they will stream on. With the help of a good videographer you can edit down and rearrange the material he or she has already created until it’s ready to maximize its potential.

Design for Mobile Viewing

Now that we know folks at Facebook are distracted, you should also know most of them are watching on mobile devices (65% of Facebook video views are mobile). Your animated business video might be clear, catchy, and informative on a big screen, but how will a 6″ diagonal smartphone handle it?

For a marketing video to work on mobile, the text needs to be big, bold and to the point. Avoid the use of complete sentences, each screen of text should have 3 to 5 words arranged in a clear way for common, average viewers with less-than-genius understanding level to get the point before you switch to the next idea.

Keep the imagery simple. No small movements. No action off in the corners of the screen. People want to understand your message intuitively.

Integrate elements from your video into other campaigns, there’s a lot of work involved in creating a powerful, dynamic animated character. So once you have a lively company mascot everybody loves, it only makes sense that you should get as much value as possible out of it.

Always keep an eye on the next big thing

The first part of the animated video production is always the most expensive. Once you created your character, decided on your voice, and solidified your message everything becomes a piece of cake! Keep rolling, keep inventing, and build on what you already have. Soon, your video marketing campaigns will be running successfully, all with a little more effort!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

How to Make My PowerPoint Look Amazing – Without Being a Designer!

The presenter takes their place. Anticipation! The speaker fiddles around with the computer and then… their first slide! Oh, no, 10 bullet points, no image and more text follows as the presenter drones on, slowly driving a lethal stake into their presentation… and the audience.

Has this ever happened to you while sitting in an audience? Presentations have gained a bad rep-for good reason. At one point, we’ve all sat through those long-winded speeches and hot mess PowerPoints. Don’t fear, we’re here to help!

We’ve compiled a list of the top 7 mistakes to avoid and what to do instead to improve your next PowerPoint presentation. (These presentation tips can work beyond PowerPoint to Keynote, Prezi and any other presentation tool you use!)

Mistake #1: Not preparing

Decide on the goal of the presentation. By creating an outline first, you ensure that the content of your presentation is solid before you concern yourself with the visual elements.

Mistake #2: Too much text

Too much text is a design killer.

If you’re going to put word for word what you’re going to say, hand over the slides and take a seat instead. After all, if your audience is reading what you’re saying, then what’s the point of you being there? Remember you’re not giving a document, you’re giving a presentation.


Instead of full sentences, use bullet points to deliver the key ideas on your slides. On average, each bullet should have no more than 6 words and each slide should have no more than 6 bullet points.

When using bullet points, build them one by one on the slide using the simple appear animation effect. This way, you can speak to each point individually and talk about it without your audience skipping ahead.

Mistake #3: Not enough visuals

Even for well rehearsed presentations, a bad visual experience can ruin it for the audience. Plus, can you think of anything more boring than staring at pure text for an hour? Remember, a picture really is worth a 1,000 words!


When possible, look for ways to use a visual, such as a diagram or photograph, to illustrate the point you are making instead of text. Audiences respond better to visuals that get them thinking.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Ensure Your Case Study Is Relevant

For many years, I have used the same case study in a seminar to teach managers how to coach their employees to improve performance. Luckily, it has resonated with participants in the past, so I had no idea that it needed to be revised.

Recently, I had a rude awakening when the class (composed of participants with similar roles and responsibilities to previous participants) pointed out that the case study needed improvement to be meaningful for them.

Here are the changes that they requested:

1. Current Language: The employee in question is identified by name but not by title.

Recommended Revision: Include the employee’s title, so the participants have a clear idea of his role and responsibilities.

2. Current Language: The employee’s affected co-workers are identified by name.

Recommended Revision: Identify those affected by the employee’s behavior as “your team members and members” to reinforce the fact that his behavior also has an impact on the customers. (Note: The participants are from credit unions whose “customers” are actually credit union members.)

3. Current Language: The employee’s proposed solution for checking to see if he is at work on time is for him to walk by the manager’s office on his way to his desk.

Recommended Revision: Replace this proposed solution with a meeting to review his timesheet. Managers are often not at their desks and the timesheet will provide sufficient confirmation of the employee’s timeliness (or lack thereof).

4. Current Language: The manager says “I’d also like for us to meet in two weeks to discuss how things are going.”

Recommended Revision: Have the manager use a more directive approach, saying “Let’s meet in two weeks to discuss how things are going.”

The case study was intended to be as close as possible to the participants’ work reality. These recommended changes may seem minor, but they have a significant effect on the case study as a learning tool:

Providing the employee with a title helps the participants place him in the context of credit union activities and services.
Knowing the employee’s title and role helps the participants to recognize that the employee’s behavior has an adverse impact on everyone on his team as well as on the credit union members.
Using the timesheet to check on the employee’s timeliness is a more objective and reliable solution that the participants would be more likely to use with their own employees.
Making sure that the follow up meeting is stated as a clear expectation and directive rather than a vague proposal supports the participants’ understanding that a manager has ultimate control over the resolution of work performance issues.

I am so glad that the participants were willing to point out the flaws in the case study and work with me to identify more appropriate language.

This is a yearly seminar, so I can’t wait until next year to see how closely the case study aligns with the participants’ managerial reality. And if it needs more tweaking, so be it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What The Election Teaches Us About The Importance of Design

Politics seems like a rough road, filled with both questionable characters as well as honest civil servants. Design, on the other hand, appears to be just as it seems. A solid career choice for the modest, sincere, and creative thinkers.

Yet, the connection between the two is unavoidable. Design has always played a role in politics.

Well, it has at least since the 1960’s.
We’ve all been told at one point or another, “You’ve got one chance to make a first impression.”

What does that really mean?

It would be nice to glance at an individual and see their personality before their looks, but that is just not the case. So when we’re told to make a good first impression, we are essentially being told to look the part, as opposed to speak the part.

Case in point, the Presidential Election of 1960.

The election cycle of 1960 seemed like a no-brainer. Richard Nixon, an experienced congressman-turned-Vice President was up against a young, inexperienced John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But there was something JFK had that Nixon did not: appeal, youth, looks -Design.

On the evening of September 26, the two candidates arrived for the first televised presidential debate in American history. This was a game changer. Up until now, only rhetoric mattered. Now, looks mattered as well. Actually, not only did outer appeal matter-it mattered more.

After suffering a minor injury, Nixon appeared disgruntled and nervous. JFK seemed cool and confident. But while most radio listeners called the first debate a draw or pronounced Nixon the winner, the Massachusetts senator won over the 70 million television viewers by a broad margin.

The American public placed the exterior looks over the usual experience, and people came to the realization that appearance matters. Sometimes, even more than policies.

Fast forward, Election Year 2016.

Times have changed, but the methods still remain the same. The clothes each candidate wears are intensely scrutinized by the media- from Hillary’s pant suits to Donald’s baseball caps. The candidate’s position on stage and the amount of times he reaches for a sip of water, all make a difference. Their handshake grips, hair styles, and height sometimes seem to matter more than the policies they’re actually proposing. But this is age we live in. The age where optics matter.

Today, design has been incorporated into every field of work. The importance of an creating an appealing exterior is recognized by all as an important factor, whether it be on the debate stage or sitting on a store shelf.

Although kitchenware seems like a far cry from politics, we all use the same methods: Form a creative, outer appearance to hold a functional, trusty product.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off