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Microsoft PowerPoint Online

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PowerPoint presentations vary in quality, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sales people, instructors, corporate managers, consultants and network marketers deliver an estimated 40-million PowerPoint presentations every day. Many of these are totally effective, meeting the needs of both the audience and the presenter. But many more are only moderately successful, with monotonous media that leaves the audience bored and unfocused. And many others appear to be thrown together, undermining the presenter and destroying his or her entire message.

Many presenters have access to professionally designed media, but create their own, despite an obvious loss of quality. Although they may take this route due to time constraints, their choice is often because they are not comfortable with stock media that is available to them. Although it may have a professional appearance, it usually doesn’t fit the individual presenter’s personal style.

Most presenters personalize stock presentations, usually by eliminating some slides, adding a few new ones, or editing wording. The result unfortunately is often a patchy presentation that spoils an otherwise professional appearance.

Either approach—professional design or “roll your own”—has definite advantages and disadvantages. Professional designers can produce attractive slides with aesthetic appeal for audience members. But many presenters feel that they don’t tell the story in a way that matches their needs. Yet few front-line presenters have the training, patience or time to produce high quality media.

Some professionals argue that the best way to improve quality is to provide PowerPoint training for presenters. This approach may sound OK to people inside of company headquarters, but has little appeal to people on the front line who don’t have the time or patience for additional training.

The best approach is for design professionals to provide media that has strong, ongoing input from presenters. Although they may get their initial marching orders from internal managers or marketers, they need to have presentation content that actual presenters have approved and want to use.

Small companies—even home-based businesses—may have the best opportunity to use high quality presentation media. Since they don’t have in-house design departments, they can find a professional service that meets their budget, yet customizes presentations that are directly defined by the presenters who will use them.

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Most of us watch television and claim to ignore the commercials. Yet even small companies spend a great deal on TV commercials for one reason: they work. Large national or global companies spend an average of $350-thousand dollars to produce elaborate videos with sophisticated special effects. However, small companies in local markets with much smaller budgets still create effective commercials by following some of the same rules on a much smaller scale.

Online presentation creators can learn a great deal from small-scale commercials that produce substantial financial returns. Whether we present through live webinars or on-demand website presentations, TV commercials offer valuable lessons.

Lesson number one: Keep it simple. Successful commercials—even infomercials—seldom introduce multiple ideas. Whether they are promoting a restaurant, a tax prep service or a tire store they state their basic message in as few words as possible and then offer several proof statements to support it. Invariably they end with a call to action like, “call now”, or “stop in and talk to us”. They don’t make the fatal mistake of many PowerPoint presenters who try to tell a complex story by including a deluge of details.

Lesson number two: Use multi-media to deliver ideas. Some viewers absorb information from a narrator’s voice. Many people need to see the same words written onscreen. Still others relate only to pictures. Most effective commercials use all of these, along with graphics because each of these media forms strengthens understanding of all of the others. Most commercials also use background music, because the human brain retains more information, both consciously and subconsciously, with musical accompaniment.

Lesson number three: keep some form of motion on the screen. Low-budget commercials can seldom afford cartoon-style animations, but they continually change parts of the viewer screen by fade-in or fly-in of new pictures, new text, or new graphics. These changes keep viewers focused.

Online presenters can follow all of these rules with effective use of PowerPoint. That usually means that we need to eliminate some of the typical parts of PowerPoint presentations, especially the ones that bore audiences. Smart commercial creators never use screens full of static text bullets. When they use text it fades in or flies in to support the narrator’s message and disappears in a few seconds. Good commercials never dwell on a single picture, but constantly change to multiple views. Graphs and charts are used in their simplest forms and seldom dwell onscreen for more than a few seconds. If charts need to make more than one statement, they appear in segments as animations.

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Total online traffic for on-demand presentations can be huge. But if presenters don’t capture viewer interest or imagination immediately, their messages may never be delivered. Online audiences bail out quickly. So continuing our discussion of “Do’s and Don’ts” for on-demand presenting…

DO: Begin with an intriguing attention step.

The powerful ocean wave pictured above kicks off a presentation, along with sounds of crashing ocean surf. The narrator picks up the theme by using the phrase “new wave” in discussing newly launched products. Another presentation we recently hosted began with a 10-second video clip of hectic nighttime traffic whizzing through city streets, and added the background sounds of beeping horns, emergency vehicles, etc. The narrator begins by emphasizing stress in daily life, and works into a pharmaceutical product to relieve stress and anxiety.

Other examples include humorous pictures, heartwarming kids, or beautiful scenic photos. These and many other attention-grabbers create audience interest and maintain viewer focus for the main content of an on-demand program.

After delivering their primary messages, presenters can close presentations by re-visiting their opening attention-grabbers, and tying their final remarks back to the original theme. The final scene doesn’t have to be identical to the opening. For example, a humorous cartoon opening can result in an alternative cartoon closing, while obviously relating to the central theme.

Attention grabbers usually need more than a single image. Sounds, background music, animations, and other devices enhance the effect and subtly build viewer interest.

But here’s our first “DON’T.” Poorly conceived attention grabbers can also make a presentation appear amateurish, and undercut its credibility. A few examples we’ve seen include clip art depicting fireworks, gunshot sound effects, mushroom clouds or suggestive photos.

DON’T present anything that doesn’t directly relate to the central presentation theme.”

Effective use of attention grabbers is an important part of creating effective on-demand presentations. Posting a slide presentation on a website or on a public slide-sharing site seldom works well without narration, background sounds or music. And a typical PowerPoint title slide will seldom excite potential viewers.

Initial attention grabbers are only one of several items that make on-demand presentations different from standard PowerPoint files. On-demand presentation must move quickly. To effectively deliver their messages, they require more photos or graphics and less text.

Internet viewers treat an online presentation somewhat like a YouTube video. They expect slides to change automatically. If they need to click to advance them, they won’t keep watching for long. They will either move on, or click ahead looking for something more interesting. This generally means that brevity is important, and every slide must be narrated and understood in a minute or less.

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First impressions count, and a great Welcome Slide makes a great first impression. But a Welcome Slide can do a lot more.

Many viewers initially log in with only lukewarm interest, wondering whether the scheduled webinar will be worthwhile or a waste of time. If they log in a few minutes early they need to see more than a plain screen or the presentation’s opening slide.

The Welcome Slide example illustrated above tells audience members that they are in the right place, and that the event will soon start. It also adds to the organization’s overall branding strategy. The slide prominently displays a logo and a distinct color scheme that consumers associate with the organization.

More importantly, it reminds viewers of the subject that originally attracted them, and introduces the presenter. Offering her picture, the slide is presenting her as a real person to whom the audience can relate. It offers the presenter’s credentials as well, with her degrees and current job responsibility. Finally it provides a call-in number and PIN, for use by viewers who will not be listening by VoIP (voice over internet).

This example also takes advantage of PowerPoint animation capabilities to provide an accurate countdown of minutes before the webinar will begin. The initial view of this animation is blank, but the presenter resets and starts animations five minutes before the program starts. Timed animations then change every minute, counting down to zero. This simple device keeps audiences onscreen, rather than departing to other tasks.

Many users leverage PowerPoint to make their Welcome Slides more elaborate. Some add an audio file with five minutes or more of wait-music. Others use animations to create a mini photo show on the screen, running through a few minutes of dramatic photos. Others make the Welcome Slide interactive, asking a poll question, and capturing answers from viewers as they log in. Any of these devices may serve to build interest and engage viewers until the actual presentation begins.

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Microsoft PowerPoint is a great tool for telling a detailed story to any audience. But getting that story to work effectively and smoothly on a Web site is challenging. PresenterNet On demand Showrooms provide a low-cost way to get the job done. And any PowerPoint user can add, edit or change their online content, without a Webmaster or tech support. For more details go to:
http://www.presenternet.com/advantage/microsoft-powerpoint-online.php

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