Tag Archives: presentation design

Presentation Design: The Rule of Thirds

25 Jul

Have you heard of The Rule of Thirds?”

Unless you’re a designer, photographer or an artist, you probably don’t hear about it a lot.  It’s a standard in the design world, used by professionals in many fields in order to achieve harmonious, clear placement of a variety of design elements.  It’s a basic rule that, if followed correctly, greatly increases the value of images and text in any piece, (including a presentation) and the good news is that ANYONE can do it!

So, what is it?

Concerning presentations, The Rule of Thirds relies on the science of the human eye being attracted to certain “power points” (yes, this is just a strange coincidence) on the slides.  Below is a four-line, nine-square grid that is used as a guide for placing the various elements along lines and at points on the grid.

You can use the lines and points in a variety of ways.  For instance, you can place images or text along a vertical or horizontal line to showcase a very simplistic structure.  This option is best for basic imagery with little or no text.  In presentations, this style works very well for title slides, introductory slides or transitional slides.

You can also insert images or text directly on a power point to ensure that your audience’s eyes dart for the intended object or set of words.  This technique allows for an off-centered appealing style that places a huge amount of importance on the primary focal point.  Use this layout to make one very significant point to your audience.  This is meant to blatantly push your message out there, so choose your image wisely.

You can also insert text or images at a “common” point that intersects the vertical and horizontal lines in order to use multiple angles to declare your message.  This is a very useful way to combine words and pictures to fully illustrate a point while maintaining simplistic design.

Presentation guru and blogger Garr Reynolds weighs in on the issue on his blog, saying:

“The “rule of thirds” is a simplified version of the golden mean. The rule of thirds is a basic technique that photographers learn to frame their shots. Subjects placed exactly in the middle can often make for an uninteresting photo. The golden mean would be wonderful to apply when taking snaps, but obviously this is not practical. But a viewfinder can be divided by lines — real or just imagined — so that you have four intersecting lines or crossing points and 9 rectangles that resemble a tic-tac-toe board. These four crossing points (also called power points, if you can believe it) are areas you might place your main subject, rather than in the center.”

In order to properly obey The Rule of Thirds, you must first choose the right images to convey your message.  Then, you’ve got to determine the hierarchy of your images, meaning that you need to analyze the importance of the image as it concerns the entire piece.  Once you know what is most important to your central message, then you can designate where the element will be placed and how The Rule of Thirds can best bring out the meaning of each element. Now, all you’ve got to worry about is how the image will play along the power points and lines to be aesthetically pleasing.

So, what’s the best way to incorporate images into your presentation?

Well, there are 3 easy ways you can insert great graphics and text into your next presentation.

1. Find the image that already follows The Rule of Thirds

Most of the time, the image that you have in mind will not be your ideal choice for a design element due to size and quality restrictions. However, you may come across the correctly sized and positioned image, which makes the work that much easier.  As you go through images, just remember that the image must be cohesive with your message while resonating with your audience.  Always keep the feel and flow of your presentation in mind as you go through image selection.

2. Crop or scale the image to follow The Rule of Thirds

Whenever you come across the image that has your subject matter within its frame, but does not fit as a whole into your presentation, you will have to manipulate the image to fit into the frame of your presentation.  You can easily adjust almost any image to fulfill The Rule of Thirds unless the content of the image is too busy, resulting in a condensed, unusable version of the subject matter.  A simple image is a very versatile element that can be used as a supplement to your speech.  Use a striking or drastic image that works as a symbol to your message in order to make your words stronger.

3. Combine images and text so that one or both follow The Rule of Thirds

Using a combination of images and text allows for a flow of information and visuals to simultaneously enrich the slide.  You can place a set of words along a horizontal line, a single important word on a power point, or even the focal point of an image at a power point with accompanying text along an intersecting line.  There are tons of different directions you could possibly go, but just remember that the placement of images and text in The Rule of Thirds says a lot about your message.  In the end, it’s all about connecting with your audience.

So, there you have it.  This is an introductory explanation of The Rule of Thirds.  It is a very powerful tool that anyone can follow in order to provide an aesthetically pleasing slide while effectively showcasing and explaining your message.  Don’t hesitate to experiment, to try different images with bold text in new, exciting ways.  Always, always remember that your presentation needs to be an experience for your audience, not just a display of information and pictures.  Make them excited for the next slide.  Be wacky and crazy at times.  Be a riveting entertainer. Be bold!

What do you think?  Do you need any help following The Rule of Thirds?  We’re ALWAYS here to give you any tips or instructions whenever you need us!  If you’d like to see some of our work, contact our CEO at kenny@bigfishpresentations.com or view our YouTube channel.  Also, check out our Facebook page, tweet us or leave some comments below!



Preparing Presentations: 5 Ways to Practice ’til Perfect

20 Jul

“Practice makes perfect.”

We’ve all heard it.  Many, many times, in fact.

Although it has been repeated many times over your lifetime, it still rings truth.  In any skill that you choose to pursue, if you practice it enough, you will be nearly perfect at it.  There’s no way to get around it.  Unless you are naturally talented at something or get extremely lucky, odds are the only way to “sharpen your sword,” so to speak , is through repetition.  Now, we’re not going to lie to you.  It takes a lot time and dedication to be a disciplined practitioner of anything.  However, if you can sit down, focus and try your best, you will see clear results.

This mindset also applies to presentations.  For most people, presentations make them nervous, which is natural.  However, you can significantly decrease your nervousness by taking certain steps, carefully preparing yourself for the event to come.  At Big Fish Presentations, we encourage our clients to practice a variety of methods that ease nerves, which makes them more successful and confident in their presentations.  So, we’ve gathered five of these tactics to share with you today.

Here are five ways in which you can practice your presentation skills.

1. Rehearse in front of a crowd

Standing in front of a group of people, giving your speech and seeing their reactions is a great way to boost your confidence in your material and delivery.  Whether it’s a small group of your friends, co-workers, family or even a random group of strangers, the action of giving your presentation allows you to see reactions and get natural human feedback.  This will calm your nerves and make you more comfortable with the entire experience.  Many times, you’ll find that your worst mistakes will surface on this first go-around, leaving you with plenty of time and feedback to correct mistakes and re-organize your thoughts.

2. Take notes

As you practice, it’s very useful to stop immediately whenever you notice a mistake or an uncomfortable moment and jot down a few notes.  In any practicing situation, don’t hesitate to analyze and re-analyze your presentation as you go.  After all, this is why you’re practicing in the first place.  You can write down things like cutting down on time on certain parts, making sure you enunciate tricky words or refining the structure of your talk.  You’d be surprised by how many issues you can find when you take the time to look at yourself closely.

3. Experiment

Don’t keep repeating the same lines over and over again if you think it sounds boring or awkward.  Let loose and find ways to make your presentation exciting for your audience.  Experiment with variations of words, include a funny story, make a joke or two.  Relax!  Remember, the two most important things in your presentation are being clear and being relevant.  Use the stage or props to your advantage.  Ask a particular audience member a question.  Keep your audience guessing.  You can have a lot of fun if you free yourself from the boring presentation structure and have a little fun out there.

4. Time yourself

Timing is crucial in presentations.  It takes practice to nail down a solid time, but the general rule of thumb is to keep it short, simple and to the point.  Since your goal is to decrease time while maintaining quality, practice trimming your message to include the most important and relevant information without the fluff.  Set up a goal of the amount of time that you think is appropriate for your audience, then refine or beef up your talk accordingly.  The more comfortable you are with your time, the more flexible you can be as you give your presentation.

5. Record yourself

By hearing and seeing yourself, you can judge the inflection, speed and enunciation of your voice.  You always want to put yourself in your audience’s position, seeing and hearing yourself as they would see you.  It’s not so much about perfecting your orating skills, although that is important, as it is about showing your personality through your words.  In order to come across original and confident, you want to show your true character and that you’re comfortable in your speech.

All in all, it comes down to carefully observing yourself and constructively criticizing the elements of your speech.  You’ve got to take the time to truly grade yourself before you can expect to deliver a solid presentation.  The true masters of presentations, such as TED speakers, train themselves and prepare extensively in advance for their talks.  If you want to truly engage your audience, be yourself, but most importantly be comfortable with yourself. It’s all about blending your personality with your message and finding the happy medium between your goals and the outcome.

What do you think?  Was this helpful?  Do you have any additional tips or guidelines about preparing for a presentation? Let us know what you think in the comments below, on our Facebook page or tweet us!  Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more awesome content from the Big Fish team!

Presentation Breakdown: Rich Mulholland “Escaping Educational Legacide”

18 Jul

This week’s presentation breakdown features Missing Link CEO and former rock star roadie Rich Mulholland.  After operating lights for bands like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, Mulholland started South Africa’s first presentation company, Missing Link.  He is also an outstanding speaker and education activist.

In this TED talk, Mulholland speaks about his proposition of reinventing the educational system.  He believes that people should never stop learning.  The traditional model of education, one in which we attend school until our early 20s, then rely on this education to fuel our careers and minds for the remainder of our lives, is a flawed system.  Let’s take a look at the structure of this fun, engaging presentation!


Mulholland opens up the presentation by greeting the audience, but then he jumps right into a declaration of his personality.  He says that he always wanted to join the circus, but that he never wanted to actually follow them on stage.  This gives us a brief glimpse into his personality, which we will come to recognize as being light and humorous, but with a sincere glow.


Now, Mulholland jumps right into a new idea. Notice how directly he addresses the audience and how lively they become when he speaks to them.  He is very unorthodox in his approach at humor, especially for a TED talk.  Within the first minute of his talk, he has made the audience laugh, while truly engaging them in a scenario that he begins to play out.


As we dive deeper into this scenario, which is an interesting one I might add, Mulholland is amping us up with suspense about the “catch” of this “gift.”  He is clearly going somewhere with this, but until he finally reveals the punchline, we are clueless, but enjoying the ride.  He delivers the “catch,” and gets the reaction for which he was hoping.  The audience plays right into the joke.  However, it isn’t simply a joke.  We have been taught something through the joke, and we will spend the rest of the TED talk delving deeper into this idea.  He shifts into the topic of how things change.  Now, we will get to the meat of the piece.  He addresses this shift with the mention of education.


Once we have made the shift into the “real” topic of the piece, Mulholland is keen to run with it while he has our attention.  He doesn’t drag it out, waiting for us to wonder too much.  We’ve had a little of that already.  People want to get information when they want it, not when someone decides to give it to them.  By using the clothing scenario, Mulholland has opened our minds to this possibility, and now he has given us a token of wisdom concerning innovation.  He says, “Innovation isn’t about doing something new.  Innovation is almost always about stopping doing something old.”


Mulholland turns to giving us some visuals that we can use to compare and follow the points he is talking about.  He shows two graphs that differ drastically.  We see his points clearly and he conveys his message in a humorous way.  Then, he gives us some insights into his personal life as well as his father’s.  He backs up what he is saying by addressing his past.  We believe in this idea, we are on the same page because we see a an analysis of his life running parallel to his points.  He is living and working the way he says that most people are living and working.  After he has convinced us of this, and we see his point clearly, he moves on to another point by addressing the idea of Experience vs. Expertise.


Now, we’re getting into the heart of the presentation.  Mulholland digs deeper into the current problem of age and salary. While the former system meant that the older you are the more money you make because of the experience you have, the newer model suggests that expertise, not experience, is the more valuable asset for a company to have.  People are retiring earlier because they have been replaced by younger, more specifically talented and trained new employees.  After showing two more graphs that illustrate his point, Mulholland explains the bigger idea in terms of a real, current problem.  He directly tells the audience that they should be afraid of what’s to come.  By doing this, he is preparing a call-to-action and  instilling a tiny initiative into the audience in order to promote action.  We will see the development of this idea later on in the presentation.  As he makes the declaration, “I think every 30-year-old in the room should be crapping themselves,” the audience begins to laugh loudly, to which Mulholland responds with more humor.


Mulholland goes on to explain that everyone is plateauing earlier, including himself.  People in their 20s are so excited to learn and update their skill sets.  They eventually become less valuable to their companies due to more and more specialization by other, newer employees.  At this point in the presentation, Mulholland is once again bringing his personal struggle with this issue into play.  We are invested in the idea because we see that our speaker is also personally invested in the subject matter.


We are on the backward slope of the issue at this point.  We have come across the main topic, discussed and setup the climax and then revealed the true problem.  Now, Mulholland is explaining the effects of the problem, and how we can begin to come to terms with the issue.  He puts into perspective the central message: all of the rules have changed.  We can’t keep looking at our careers in the same, traditional way.  He is setting the audience up for a solution.  He uses passion and exciting body language to keep us interested in the subject matter, which will be crucial for him to do as he in the next few minutes.


Mulholland has reached a solution.  He has clearly stated the answer to this problem.  We have experienced the build-up of the issue, and now we are about to take action in order to solve it.  Mulholland displays a clear slide with the sentence, “We need to shorten the distance between education and execution.”  The structure thus far has been consistent.  Mulholland has given us examples of how each portion of the problem affects our lives, and now we come to see a possible resolution to the issue.  He proposes that we stop schooling earlier, begin working and then integrate education into the remainder of our lives.  We never need to stop learning.


As we wrap up the presentation, we are given a thorough, clear understanding of the necessary steps to change the system.  He gives us an original set of instructions that can be used to change the “business model” of educational institutions.  There are three main points: 1)Sell-by Date for degrees 2)Subscription model for learning 3)Relevance is Key for maintaining functional, efficient employees.  Now, we have a few concrete rules that we could follow in order to fully integrate education into our working adult lives.  Then, Mulholland seals his proposition with a quote.  This is a very good technique for concluding talks because it not only gives the audience a tangible piece of information, but a relevant quotation encompasses the essence of the overall idea.  It reminds and reinforces the goals that the speaker has laid out.  Mulholland closes the presentation in a quick, simple manner, which makes his last words easily digestible for the audience.

So, there you have it!

This piece is rather short, but informative, and most importantly, fun.  Mulholland is a lively, passionate presenter who goes in a clear direction, not stopping or lulling the audience to sleep.  He keeps the energy flowing and the thoughts brewing for his audience, and we are enchanted by his fresh approach to an engaging topic.  Overall, this presentation gives us a chance to experience and learn in a thrilling environment, and we walk away feeling refreshed and informed with a sense of joy at having been a part of it.

Now, the real question is: how do you feel about this presentation?  Are there any key points that we have missed or that you would like to discuss?  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel, leave us some feedback below or on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @BigFishPresCo!

Presentation Review: Jill Bolte Taylor’s “Stroke of Insight”

6 Jul

What would you do if you woke up to find yourself experiencing a stroke?

That’s exactly what Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor experienced on the morning of December 10, 1996.

As a neuroanatomist, Taylor studies higher brain functions, particularly diseases such as Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  When her brother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Taylor dedicated her career and her life to studying the disease and others like it.

In this beautifully orated TED talk, Bolte gives us a very detailed account of her thoughts and emotions as her brain hemorrhages and her consciousness blurs in and out of reality.  She walks us through the entire scientific process of the event, but the most interesting information arises as she discusses the semi-transcendentalist state she fades in and out of throughout this unique encounter.

Taylor is a fantastic speaker.  She fills each sentence with emotion and passion about the topic.  Just by watching her body language, we can see how deeply not only this event affected her life and demeanor, but also how much she cares about the subject matter.  She lives and breathes for brain research because she has a soft spot in her heart for the victims of brain diseases.

As she explains the sequence of events, she packs her story full of rich, often shocking, detail to illustrate the emotions associated with her thoughts and actions.  She approaches the event as a novelist would, carefully and expertly using descriptions to transport the audience into her body as she loses touch with reality.  As her mind begins to flicker into an alternate state of being, her left-brain pulses and her right-brain examines the molecular structure of the objects around her.  The audience is right there with her, thinking and feeling her thoughts and senses as if they are experiencing it themselves.

Her strongest asset as a presenter is her honesty.  Taylor has the ability to be truly honest in her words to the point of passionately expressing herself through re-living the event.  As she describes it, we can see the power in her words, feel the emotion in her voice.  It’s shaky, yet strong, and it makes us feel extremely on edge, but comfortably curious about the  nature of the stroke. We are entranced by her strong emotional tie to the science of this almost supernatural experience.

Not only is Taylor’s delivery spot-on, she has constructed her presentation in such a way that the audience can’t help but drool over the story.  She uses expert pacing and pausing to weave her experience into a three-act structure, almost like a play.

First, she begins the presentation with a preface about her personal situation with her brother, which plays a huge role in her career and also explains a lot about her personality.  We will hear about how these skills from her profession enhance her altered state later.  We get a glimpse into what her life was like before, and the reason she chooses to explore what became her passion.

Then, Taylor works to educate the audience on the science behind basic brain functions.  This setup is designed to prepare the audience for the story that comes.  Once we understand the mechanics of the brain, we can fully appreciate the story that is coming.  While we’re learning, we don’t know that we’ll be using this information later in the story, but it serves a very important purpose in the presentation.  During this portion of the presentation, Taylor uses two more great presentation tactics: the prop and the shocker.  She brings out a real human brain.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  As she holds it in her gloved hands, we can hear the audience groaning and laughing.  This is a great, real reaction that only increases the value not only of Taylor as a presenter, but also of the entire presentation.

After that, we enter the meat of the story.  We vividly re-live Taylor’s stroke and the emotions that follow.  We are in our seats, leaning forward, absorbing her every word.  As we’ve said before, this section really plays into Taylor’s role as a passionate storyteller.

She wraps up the presentation by going into an extremely in-depth description of the altered-state experience.  She builds up her words and her passion simultaneously, coming to a climax with the words, “I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is.”  She poses the question, “Who do you choose?” in reference to which side of the brain should we as humans trust and follow.  We use both seamlessly, but once we give ourselves to the feelings of our right-brain, we experience something larger than life.  We experience an open, free, calm beauty of the natural universe that is almost never felt by mankind.  To think that this “life-force” exists inside our own minds is a type of revelation that leaves the audience overwhelmed with a new sense of wonder.  And isn’t that the goal?  To change our audience, to make them leave the room feeling uplifted or in awe, to have given them an experience?

What do you think about this presentation?  Let us know what you think of our analysis, whether on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Presentation Styles: Old School vs. New School

21 Jun

It’s an age-old argument.  Whether it’s music, fashion or lifestyle, people are constantly debating the pros and cons of old vs. new.  Do fundamentals outweigh breakthroughs?  Is a fresh approach more effective than maintaining tradition?

These questions are often very difficult to answer.  However, they are worth exploring.

At Big Fish, we frequently ponder this issue when it comes to giving and designing presentations.  There are many different approaches to presenting, all of which can be very effective when executed properly.

For example, when presenting to a small audience it can be very beneficial to the speaker to go more old school.  Talk to your audience as if they are actually people.  A tech-show to 5-10 people feels impersonal and can seem like overkill.  Forget the fancy motion graphics and charts if you are covering internal information.  Flashy doesn’t impress everyone, especially if they are your co-workers.

On the other hand, if you’re presenting to a larger crowd, technology can play to your strengths.  Since you can’t fully engage everyone in such a massive group, using a digital setup is great for keeping your audience on their toes and entertained.

What about design?

A simplistic design (old school) is nice in almost every single situation.  Our job is to simplify content and break it down so that it is easily digestible for your audience.  A blur of color, sound and information loses retention with your audience.  Make sure to include all of the information, whether on the slide or in your own words, but don’t overload them.

A new school approach to design is to be loud and attention-grabbing.  This approach is effective if the tone of the content is in sync with your design.  For example, if you are presenting about next quarter’s projections, you probably shouldn’t use funky fonts and grainy textures.  You should keep it elegant and clean, just like the information.  However, if you are giving a presentation about a rock band, the flavor of the design should be that of the style – spunky, fun and entertaining.

There are always exceptions to these insights.  Don’t be afraid to try something new or out of the ordinary.  The only thing you have to remember is your target audience.  What would they respond to the best?  What are they looking for? Craft your presentation to their perspectives and then WOW them with your mad presentation skills!

Which style do you think is most effective at which times?  What is your favorite style?

Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page or by tweeting us! Also, check out our YouTube page and subscribe for our latest and greatest videos and projects!

Presentation Review: Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

4 Jun

This week we decided to try something new. Instead of breaking down a presentation in segments, we thought we’d review a popular TED talk and discuss it in a different form. This week’s presentation features the author of the mega-bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert, a former magazine writer turned novelist, delves into the concepts behind the roots and realities of the creative process. Throughout this talk, Gilbert reflects on her own success as well as that of others in order to convey her message.

Gilbert’s presentation is a very rapid and fluid one with a unique structure. Instead of hitting large, general points and pulling them together, she weaves them seamlessly and conversationally, like a close friend explaining her beliefs and theories to you in a coffee shop. She keeps it very intimate and personal. For instance, she is very honest when she speaks of her recent “freakish success” resulting from “Eat, Pray, Love.” She shows her humility in such an open and frank manner that the audience can’t help but enjoy her personality.

As she opens the presentation, Gilbert not only explains who she is and her past, but she also skims the surface of her central message, albeit in a very subtle way. She simultaneously identifies with her audience and addresses the topic. When she talks about people’s reactions to her success, she says, “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all…ever…again?” Gilbert is connecting her story with her audience through a humorous, slightly uncomfortable situation, which everyone has had and with which they can identify.


Gilbert references many interesting historical examples to convey her message. She provides an extensive amount of credibility in her reasoning, which, when combined with her experiences, allows her to establish herself as an expert in the field of creativity. Gaining the audience’s trust is the first step, followed by gaining credibility. As Gilbert continues to delve into the more psychological constructs behind creativity and society’s perception of “genius,” we see a slight change in structure. Gilbert slows it down and examines the historical progression of creative perception in Greek and Roman societies. She promises that her brief background explanation will come full circle to her central message.

As she explains the history of the term “genius,” she leads into The Renaissance, which was a turning point in the concept’s history. She provides commentary about the belief system changing to a more empowered, humanistic form of creativity and inspiration, saying she thinks it was “a huge error.” Gilbert has come full circle and connected the historical context with the overarching message. This is a clever tactic, and is rarely used so seamlessly. We can barely tell that we have just received a history lesson because Gilbert’s tone and direction are so smooth and rehearsed.

After Gilbert’s explanation and commentary about the past, we enter a new stage of the presentation. Gilbert gives us the big idea. She proposes that the reason for the deaths of artists/writers over the past 500 years is due to the burden mankind has placed on supposed “geniuses.” We gave them labels and now we are asking how to change it. Gilbert seeks to go back to the old way of thinking. She asks, “Why not?” This is a crucial moment in the presentation because it signifies that we have received enough information about the topic to answer this question. We are on the verge of receiving an answer, which Gilbert provides soon enough.

The answer comes in the form of two stories about different artists dealing with the “genius” concept. Gilbert explains her rationale through commentary about these anecdotes. She gives the audience the full-size answer and creates a subtle call-to-action in the process. By explaining the concept in such detail and providing examples and commentary, Gilbert has given the audience enough information to think for themselves. Once they have that knowledge and insight, she provides accounts of notable people who believe in this idea in order to provoke action from the audience.

Gilbert provides a solid, seamless argument for the nurturing of creativity by looking outside our perceived notions of “genius.” Her approach to the presentation involves three major tactics. Firstly, she uses humility to connect with her audience. Secondly, she provides historical context, which establishes credibility. Lastly, she uses a subtle call-to-action approach and anecdotes to get the audience thinking for themselves.

We give this talk a huge thumbs up. This is a great case study about the importance of careful, subtle, and even pleasant delivery of the message by incorporating anecdotes, history and a purpose-driven core into the fiber of the presentation.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion!  Please give us some feedback!  What do you think about this review?  Any thoughts about creativity?  Tweet us or comment below or on Facebook, and as always, subscribe to our YouTube page!