Archive | January, 2012

Simplifying Content in Your Presentations

30 Jan

You’ve seen it.

We’ve all seen it.

The cluttered presentation, packed tight with small text and bullet points.  You’re squinting to read while simultaneously trying to listen to the speaker.

Don’t worry.  We’ve all been there.

Whether it’s intended for business, education or entertainment, a presentation can be your worst nightmare when poorly executed.

If you’re a presenter, you feel heavily burdened.

As an audience member, you feel…well, bored.

Overcrowded and confusing information are the major factors in the disconnect that occurs between the message and the audience.  Slide design could be stellar and the speaker could be confident and passionate, but if an audience member can’t easily digest the information, then any other skills are deemed obsolete.

So, what’s the solution?

Simplify.

That’s right.  Simplify everything.

A good presentation doesn’t use jargon or formal speech.  The presentations that really stand out are the ones that are broken down to a basic level and handed to the audience on a silver platter.  Don’t make your audience decode the message.  They should receive it through osmosis.

Simplifying content is essentially editing on steroids.  Anything and everything that could possibly slow down the thought process of an audience member must be thrown away immediately.

Here are a few tips you can use to simplify the content in your next presentation: 

  • Avoid fluff

“As to the adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.” – Mark Twain

Overly descriptive words take away from the true meaning of something.  Instead of describing something in excess, go straight to the point.  For example, instead of saying, “The elderly woman was lavishly adorned in floral décor,” say “The old lady wore flowery clothes.”

  • Use valuable words

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson

Space is very valuable in a presentation.  If you are using “two words when one will do,” you are using unnecessary space.  The more space used, the more your audience is forced to retain.  They will be less likely to remember the content.  Use your space wisely.  For example, “Cop” is shorter than “police officer.”

  • Add slides, not bullet points

“Keep it simple, stupid.” – Kelly Johnson

In your presentation, less is more.  Keep each slide limited to as few points as possible.  The simple solution is to do away with bullet points and emphasize a single point on each slide.  For example, the human body prefers to digest food more often and in smaller increments.  In the same way, your audience will appreciate and retain content if it is broken up.   A longer slideshow means more time, but is loads more effective.

Simplifying content might seem daunting at first, but the payoff is immense.  A short and sweet message will allow you to win over your audience and make better use of your time and information.  If you want to truly make an impact on your audience, use these tips and adjust your game before your next presentation.

So, here are a few questions to ask yourself before your next presentation.

  • How simple is my content?
  • Can it be simplified even more?
  • If so, where and by how much?

Going through these types of questions while also applying the previously mentioned tips will make you a more effective resource and a killer presenter.

Sources:

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Company Culture: “Fun Work” Isn’t an Oxymoron

23 Jan

Is your office a dull work environment?

For many businesses, the workplace was and still is considered a very formal, quiet buildiing full of cubicles and filing cabinets.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, your company might benefit from a more relaxed, playful atmosphere.

Take Google for example.  Formed in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s company culture resembles a playground more than a workspace.  If you worked at Google, you could ride a bike through the 26-acre campus, play some volleyball with co-workers, play a round of pool, then slide down (literally) into the fully-functional cafeteria.

Not a bad lunch break, eh?

Now, you’re company doesn’t necessarily have to go this far (if you’ve got the dough, all the power to you), but this is just a good example of how the workplace is being transformed into an experience that heightens creativity, increases morale and improves overall performance of the company.

At Big Fish, we incorporate a few key elements into our company culture that have helped us thus far and we hope will help us to grow.  Our office, while small, allows our team to collaborate freely and share ideas seamlessly.  We are able to reach each other by literally turning around and saying, “Hey.”  We’d like to share with you a few things that we have learned and that work well for us.

Here are some ways that you can improve your company culture:

  • Create an open workspace

Instead of isolating your employees, tear down those walls and let everyone interact.  This is key for teamwork because it allows for a more relaxed, spacious place to think and share ideas.  Do your company a favor and trade barriers for collaboration.  We purposely don’t have cubicles because we encourage interaction among team members.

  • Start traditions

Implementing company traditions creates a sense of togetherness for your team.  It gives everyone something to look forward to and promotes unity in your company as a whole.  Have an annual cook-off or a weekly gathering at a restaurant or co-workers home.  At Big Fish, we have regular celebrations on Friday to end the work week.  We also try to eat together as a team once a month at the least.

  • Let every idea be heard

Every employee, despite rank and experience should be able to share a thought.  While you shouldn’t be a team of “yes men,” there should be room for ideas to be heard and thought about, even if it is a bad idea.  Shooting down an idea simply because a person has a lower rank or less experience only limits your company’s possibilities.  At meetings, we hear out every idea and as a team decide if it’s the best one or not.

  • Out-of-office bonding

Your team is a unit.  If you only spend time together in the office, the mood and relationships can become gloomy and impersonal.  Go bowling,  see a concert or just grab a drink together after work.  Bonding allows the team to learn about each other’s personalities, which improves overall cohesiveness and productivity.  We frequently attend concerts and play sports on the outside as a way to bond.

  • Make a creative board

Set aside a section in your office where anyone can draw, write or post anything they want.  A visual break from business jargon and symbols will refresh your team and give them the freedom to express themselves.  Inspiring quotes, cool drawings or even stick figure ninjas will make your team appreciate the workspace even more.  We have a huge whiteboard that is full of quotes and drawings as well as our goals for the week, month and year.  Also, all of our desks are glass, which allows us to doodle or make notes in a different way.

Your office doesn’t have to be like “The Office” or even like Google, Pixar or Zappos.  However, don’t make it like “Office Space” either.  Find a happy medium where your company can balance fun and work.  Yes, these two can function simultaneously.

Your company is a place where your team can be comfortable and focus on their individual tasks.  Don’t be afraid to have a little fun during your work day, but don’t make it all about the fun, either.  Having a good company culture is about getting the balance just right.  The successful ones are full of workhorses that respect the workplace, but are stimulated by a creative, open environment.  Be serious.  Be fun.

As the saying goes, “Work hard. Play hard.”

Big Fish Picks: 5 Awesome Motivational Presentations

23 Jan

Being a presentation company, we specialize in the structure, design and delivery of quality presentations.   We believe that a well-prepared and well-delivered presentation can transform any topic into a memorable, inspiring experience. 

 One of the ways in which we judge the power of a presentation is by breaking down the elements to see what enchants an audience.  Just as a filmmaker dissects his favorite films and emulates them in his own work, our team utilizes these elements in order to give our clients the edge in their next presentation. 

So for this blog post we’d like to share 5 presentations that we believe showcase characteristics that make presentations memorable and effective.

 

1. “Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki

           Simple and fun, Kawasaki’s most famous presentation combines a little storytelling and light humor to inspire entrepreneurs as well as give expert advice.   Humor is one of the hardest things to pull of in a presentation.  It’s usually a hit or miss, but Kawasaki delivers.  By speaking in a conversational tone, he easily develops a bond with the audience, as if he’ s talking off the cuff to them. 

 

Takeaway tip: Humor is extremely powerful, but difficult to execute.  Attempt at your own risk.  Make sure to rehearse and know your audience beforehand.

 

2. “Mystery Box” by J.J. Abrams

           This TED talk by the popular director is very heavy on storytelling and magical in its delivery.  Abrams’ electric personality allows him to combine his own personal story and the theme of mystery to form an engaging, inspiring presentation.  From the beginning, he establishes the character of his grandfather and makes the audience feel as if they already know him.  This allows them to join Abrams on a personal journey as if they are a close friend.

 

Takeaway tip: Characterization is one of the key points of storytelling.  Identify a figure in the beginning of your presentation that the audience can relate to in order to make the audience feel as if they are a part of the story.  Forge an emotional bond with your audience to win them over.

 

3. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

            Steve Jobs exudes confidence and inspiration in this 3-part story.  This presentation follows the storyline of a young, ambitious Jobs in several eras of his life. Jobs tells of his shortcoming and his successes and still finds a way to relate to college students despite being a billionaire. 

 

Takeaway tip: Make yourself relatable to the audience. You should be able to talk to your audience in a candid way without making them feel inferior.  Be humble.

 

4. “Schools Kill Creativity” by Ken Robinson

            Here’s another TED talk that delves into the heavy concept of education with light humor and many quick stories.  Robinson’s analogies and insights are playful, yet deeply thought provoking.  The key attribute in this presentation is the use of the narrative to illustrate particular points. 

 

Takeaway tip: Statistics and concepts can be hard to grasp.  Use various examples to increase your audience’s understanding of your message.  A simple story can transform a difficult notion into a simple idea that the audience can easily digest.

 

5. Benjamin Zander On Music and Passion

            As a composer and a teacher, Zander brings musical flare to the presentation, using the piano instead of words to tell his stories.  Full of passion and quirks, Zander keeps this presentation very entertaining from beginning to end.  This talk is an example of the effective use of stage props and dynamic movement.  By incorporating the message with a live performance, the audience is able to remember and enjoy the presentation more effectively.

Takeaway tip: Use the stage and props to your advantage.  While words alone are powerful, they are even more impactful when combined with additional movements, symbols and sounds.

 All of these presentations exhibit characteristics that we find capture audiences’ attentions, build suspense and deliver powerful messages.  The speakers are talented and experienced, and the structure of each piece is designed very cleverly.

However, the speaker doesn’t always have to possess such charm or wit as these do.  Anyone can do it with enough practice and passion.  All it takes is belief in yourself and your message, and you can deliver an excellent presentation. 

 

So, what do you think about these presentations? 

 

Are they as good as we say they are? 

 

Does one in particular catch your attention? 

Book Review: “Newsjacking” by David Meerman Scott

23 Jan
    

Here at Big Fish Presentations, we’ve adopted a new philosophy.

We’ve researched various ways to be heard as a credible source in our specific field (presentations), and we have found a method that combines public relations with real-time outlets.  

In any presentation, if you make a statement that no one has heard before, you become the credible source.  By providing the first insight into an event or a concept, you have opened doors for your content.  People will mention your take on the issue, quote your words and even write entire articles about your original content.  

Great presentations are an effective way to release this content because your audience’s reception is crucial.  If your viewers like the way they are being presented with information, they will spread it.  This means success for your marketing campaign and/or the general perception of your company.

So, how do you get this chance to say something new, to be on the front lines of your particular field?  The answer can come from many places, one of which is newsjacking .  Although it’s mostly hidden in the media, newsjacking is super effective and can make the difference between getting noticed and being left in the dust. 

One of our clients,  David Meerman Scott ’s “ Newsjacking ” explores a unique concept: the art of stealing publicity. Scott has published many books, including ” The New Rules of Marketing & PR ,” ” Real-Time Marketing & PR ” and ” Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead .”

Scott examines the current public relations model and then revises it.  The result is a fresh approach to the art of being taken seriously in your industry.  You become a valuable resource once you have newsjacked, and people always return for more.  

At Big Fish Presentations, we believe presentations are a key component in newsjacking.  The timely release of a well-done presentation can improve a newsjack because it lends credibility to the speaker.  A confident speaker presenting a sleek design with relevant, valuable information allows for optimal newsjacking.

Scott has written the manual on newsjacking.  At only 76 pages, this text is short and sweet, but packed with interesting and very useful information.  The case studies provide an easy way of translating Scott’s concepts into “real-life” scenarios.  From Rick Perry to Paris Hilton to Larry Flynt, Scott breaks down how each newsjack went down and the results that followed.

So, how do you “newsjack” something or someone?  

Well, I can’t reveal too much because you’ve got to read it for yourself, but the basic premise involves being on the brink of breaking news and sharing it with journalists.  When the press scrambles for the details and your information pops up, they now see you as a credible source.  This brings traffic to your blog, website, etc. 

However, the key element in newsjacking is timeliness.

Scott writes, “Newsjacking is powerful, but only when executed in real time.”  The quick actions require prior knowledge and planned tactics.  You’ve got to have an angle at the ready.  

Hone your skills before attempting the feat.  The name of the game is speed, but if you aren’t prepared beforehand, your newsjack could misfire. 

This book is essential for any and all marketers and PR practitioners, but it is valuable for anyone.  As Scott says, “literally anyone can newsjack.”  

We intend to newsjack.  Our expertise needs to be heard, and newsjacking via presentations provides an avenue for the exposure and education of our niche.  In the future, we think it’s appropriate to post not only presentation-related information, but also market strategies and techniques; these topics are relevant to our industry the same way that newsjacking is.

Go pick up a copy.  It’ll be worth your time.

Happy newsjacking!

Sources:

– “Newsjacking” by David Meerman Scott

– http://debbieweil.com/uploads/image/Newsjacking-cover-.jpg

5 Moments That Determined Our Startup Year

23 Jan

In 2011, we learned very quickly that running a business wasn’t as glamorous as we thought.  A startup takes drive, risk and a lot of sacrifices.  Being college students, we quickly learned the true definition of time management.  But just because it was rough at times, doesn’t mean we didn’t have tons of fun.  The journey was definitely the reward.

Here are 5 crucial moments that helped define the Big Fish Presentations Team in 2011 (not to mention the lessons we learned).

1) Finding the Right Business Partners

“Our first employees now partners.”

You need business partners that aren’t afraid to tell you that your idea sucks.  These are the guys that are going to weed out all your bad ideas and leave you with a couple of good ones.  Co-founders need to have a sense of trust and loyalty; the Big Fish co-founders all knew each other for seven years before they went into business together.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to listen to criticism from the people that matter.

2) Competing at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

“Running on 3 hours of sleep and 2 hours till competition time.”

Getting the acceptance e-mail for the GSEA in Times Square, NY was one of the coolest things to happen for Big Fish in 2011.  Being voted as one of the top promising student entrepreneur companies in the nation was a huge confidence booster for our first year.  Meeting global business leaders and other top student entrepreneurs inspired us to build a scalable company that could change the world.  Despite not winning the competition, it was very rewarding.  After we got off of the plane, we went straight to the office and began planning how to take our company to the next level, which led to rebranding.

Lesson learned: If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3) Rebranding

“Super smile right there.”

Our original name was Future Genius Solutions.  We hated it, but we stuck with it because we didn’t realize the importance of branding.   As a presentation company, we came to understand that we’re storytellers, and it’s difficult to tell a story when your company’s name doesn’t mean anything to you.  Employees Sam Claitor and Gus Murillo, now partners, came up with the idea for Big Fish Presentations.  They realized the story that we could tell.   We make small companies, “small fish,” look like “Big Fish” in a competitive market.  Before Big Fish Presentations, we had ideas for company names, such as Piranha Graphics, Shark Fin Graphics and Rendition Graphics.  We think Big Fish fits our style and our mission perfectly.  Don’t you?

Lesson learned: Branding defines how the public views your company.

4) Getting our own office

“Yes, we floored our own office.”

Originally, we shared a co-working space with other student companies at LSU.  While we had a lot of good friends over there, it just wasn’t big enough for our plans of expansion within the year.  We knew we wanted a private space to call our own.  Being five months old, we didn’t believe we were ready.  However, with stable contracts and wisdom gained from the GSEA, we trusted ourselves and made the leap.  It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Lessons learned: Trust your gut instinct. 

5) Recruiting the right talent; not settling for less.

“Apparently some of us tried to jump in this team photo…”

We needed a company that didn’t consist of “yes men,” that wasn’t motivated only by the paycheck, but by doing things that change lives.  For example, we’ve helped people with investment presentations, conferences and community movements.  We’ve got a rock star team that’s passionate about their work and refuses to do anything that they wouldn’t put their names on.  These are the A-players that we believe make a company succeed and grow.  This sets the standard for anyone working within our company.

Lesson learned: You can’t do everything yourself; hire people that are smarter than you. 

Over the course of our first year, we’ve had ups and downs, trials and errors, but the good times outweigh the bad times.  Through it all we became the company that we are now, not by luck or tricks, but through hard work and trust.  Our experiences made us stronger, and we’re ready for the challenges and successes that await us in 2012.

We’ve shared our experiences as young entrepreneurs, but what about your experiences in starting a business?  If you have any comments, advice or experiences you would like to share please post below.

Happy New Years!

– Big Fish Presentations team

5 Tips for Good Body Language

23 Jan

You walk on stage.

You begin your presentation.

It’s going great.  You’re hitting every point clearly and concisely, just the way you planned.

But something isn’t right.

Your audience isn’t responding well.

Your slides are eloquent, your message is interesting, but there’s something missing.

What is it?

Ever think it might be your body language?

Albert H Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, is best known for his expertise on human communication, specifically the 7%-38%-55% rule, which says:
Words account for only 7%

Tone of voice accounts for 38%

Body language accounts for 55%

As the figures above indicate, the subtle art of body language is absolutely crucial in the field of communication, but especially in presentations.

Here are 5 tips we share with our clients when delivering a presentation:

1. Remember to Smile

Your face is the first and most important attribute in making a good first impression.  When you begin a presentation with a smile, your audience will receive your message more willingly.  Keep smiling throughout your presentation, especially when you want to make people laugh.  People respond to a smile by smiling back.  Interaction is key.

2. Maintain Eye contact

A strong visual connection with your audience is crucial when you are illustrating a point in your presentation.  This gives the whole presentation a more personal feel.  Your audience will focus more on your message if they feel that you are speaking directly to them.

3. Use Hand gestures

Moving your hands throughout the course of your presentation packs every word with more meaning.  As you strive to make a particular point, emphasize your words with hand gestures.  A person remembers a fact or a concept better when they can attach it to a movement or specific action.

4. Keep an Open Posture

This is a subtle one.  An audience is more receptive to an open posture than a closed one.  Being open in the way you present your body opens a person’s mind to accepting your message clearly.  A closed, uninviting posture subconsciously blocks your audience’s receptiveness and can deter them from engaging in your presentation.  Don’t guard your heart.

5. Move Naturally

If you walk around stage as stiff as a plank, you are losing points with your audience.  Fluid, confident movement creates cohesiveness between the logic and the tone of your message.  An audience that feels that you are comfortable will be comfortable in turn.  It’s all about getting your audience on your level and keeping them there.

These tips will drastically improve your audience’s retentions, responses and perceptions.  It’s not about trickery or a quick fix to gain favor with your audience. It takes practice (Steve Jobs practiced for hours on end before every keynote) and patience to use body language effectively.

As the saying goes: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Additional tip:

  • Try videoing yourself and playing it back, whether by your lonesome or with a small group.  Get feedback and practice beforehand to learn your strengths and weaknesses as a presenter.  Watching a video of your body language is a humbling, educational experience.  You’ll be surprised (and maybe a little embarrassed at first) at the difference between self-perception and reality.

Sources: