Fastcase logoSome easy watching for your Monday.

Fastcase has been a free member benefit of State Bar of Arizona members since, well, for years really.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, the Fastcase folks have created a video—90 seconds long—to urge you attorneys to make use of the member benefit.

An aficionado of digital presentations, I’m pleased to see that the Fastcase people have used Prezi (I’m pretty sure) to create their offering. Here it is:

Let me know if it pushes you over the edge and gets you to try it.

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Self-portrait: Gaining management Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Self-portrait: Gaining management Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Every market has a vacuum that agile providers seek to fill. So if there has been a giant sucking sound in the presentation industry, eagerly filled by upstarts and platforms like Keynote, Prezi and Emaze (among others), that sucking must be attributed to one lethargic giant: PowerPoint.

I wrote yesterday about what comprises a great presentation, and I said I would offer some additional thoughts about PowerPoint.

My rule of thumb regarding PowerPoints is illustrated by the opening image of this post, and it falls along these lines: If your PowerPoint is entirely understandable to an uninformed audience simply by looking at your slides, and without any additional explanation, you’re probably doing it wrong. Just. Stop.

If, however, viewers were to gaze at your slides alone, without your explanatory presence, and as a result they experience some psychic discord and confusion, and if they begin to mutter “wtf” and scratch their collective head, you may (MAY!) be on the right track.

So, again, that opening image of the bottom of my shoes. A wtf moment.

Hmmm? WHAT is he saying about President's columns? (wtf?)

Hmmm? WHAT is he saying about President’s columns? (wtf?)

Why would that be? How can I claim that ready comprehension and ease of reading are markers for a sucky presentation?

Why? Because:

  • Because you are not charged with creating a shopping list. You are charged with informing and inspiring.
  • Because a presentation is not about reading. (It so pains me to point this out in 2014.)
  • Because you (the presenter) are supposed to bring something to the whole presentation deal-io.
  • Because if I can view your slide deck and master the subject easily, you probably have packed it with too many words (a premier suckiness marker).

But … if your presence enriches and illuminates your points, that tells me you have value, and it tells me that you are not simply using your PP as cue cards to be read to snoring people.

My title mentions “tone.” Know your audience, which may even include sober-minded (and perhaps sober) lawyers. But know that even serious folk are swayed (just like real people) by brevity, wit and humor. Your takeaways may be recalled better if they are encapsulated in an image rather than in 7,000 words.

Well, I complained about too many words and then proceeded to give you a 420-word blog post. But I’ll end with a few slides I have offered before on the topic of providing stellar content and even better social media engagement. In each instance, I made the point as the presenter; the image merely got the assist.

Don't work harder; work Corgi-er. Or something. Attendees had to listen to me (not my PowerPoint) to get my point.

Don’t work harder; work Corgi-er. Or something. Attendees had to listen to me (not my PowerPoint) to get my point.

Atticus Finch is prized by lawyers. But my use of him in a PowerPoint was to illustrate a non-Mockingbird point.

Atticus Finch is prized by lawyers. But my use of him in a PowerPoint was to illustrate a non-Mockingbird point.

Show of hands. How many people are tired of PowerPoint?

I know, it’s not fair to blame the technology for the content. Or, in this case, the medium for the message.

But there is something about PowerPoint that invites abuse. Law firms are pretty bad offenders when it comes to this. They share volumes of detailed information via a channel that is most adept at sharing visual information. A generation of lawyers have been trained to perform the PowerPoint move: Read the long paragraph to which they are subjected as quickly as possible, marvel at the fact that the presenter is reading the entire slide aloud, and dream of life outside the conference room.

I would recommend a new functionality, one that can sense when a user has inserted, say, 200 words onto a single slide. At the point, a dialog box would pop up, reach out, and bludgeon the user senseless.

You’re right, you’re right: Violence is never the answer.

But until people learn to wield PowerPoint more effectively, the answer may be … Prezi.

Have you Prezi’d? I did, twice now, and I’m still grinning.

Prezi is just another apparatus that allows you to convey presentation information. It too utilizes a slide-based format. But because it zigs and zags while PowerPoint shuffles, Prezi encourages the user to get jiggy with it.

Here is a video about it:

The slides themselves may turn and wheel in and out of view, at the presenter’s discretion. That allows you to insert the element of surprise into what used to be an uneventful slog. Prezi even allows you to let attendees finally see the “big picture” you’ve created. For example, in a Prezi I did for law school students, I literally punctuated my discussion of the state of the legal economy with a question mark—comprised of all the slides together.

Want to see a Prezi I built? Go here. To advance, just click the arrow in the center beneath the window.

Because Prezi is a sketch and not a novel, though, you may not understand the “show” without me, the presenter. But that’s how it’s supposed to be. Attendees at a gathering should watch the speaker develop his points, rather than race him to the end of a text-laden slide.

Prezi is pleased to announce it has surpassed 10 million users. And they even let us know that a new functionality is available: You may upload your PowerPoint slides and have them be transformed into Prezi slides. (I had limited success with that. My PowerPoint came in fine, but some of the PP bells and whistles did not; clearly, I should read the manual.)

Who else has Prezi’d? Care to share the show you built? And what did you think? Will it help you engage listeners more effectively?

The “big picture” of my Prezi “canvas” (click to make it larger)

I have to admit: I’ve been overcome by a sudden crush, one that defies common sense and all reason. But there it is: I’m wowed by Prezi.

Prezi’s a looker—like any presentation software should be. It grabs a viewer like a suitor singing “I Can Show You the World” in Aladdin.

Here’s an example of what it can do.

OK, that was pretty sales-y. So how about something with illustrations?

 

This new tool would make anyone drop PowerPoint, and makes PP feel like the “safe” date your parents may like.

I first saw Prezi last week at the SPJ convention, when CNN’s Victor Hernandez gave his presentation on All Platform Journalism. It was a great seminar, revealing some of the cutting-edge work that their correspondents are doing. But that wow-inducing opener will likely stay with me longer than the urge to apply for a CNN gig.

Why do I say that my Prezi crush is without reason? Merely because I rarely create e-presentations. And when I have, I’ve found the industry standard to be pretty lackluster. But so strong is my Prezi attraction that I may seek out some more speaking gigs. Why should Victor get to wow everyone?

I’ll let you know how my new love and I progress.

While I’m treating you to some video tours de force from the Las Vegas convention, let me mention two others that brought a response from attendees, either applause, smiles or gasps.

The first is one you’ve probably seen. A Google representative shared a TV commercial that told a love story in 53 seconds, from a brief trip to Paris to a lifelong affair of the heart.

 

Yes, it was charming, and it did make many people (even mildly boiled reporters) grin like schoolkids. But the reason I share it here is because of its story-telling quality. Most of us struggle to create a full-blown world in 20 column inches. But 53 seconds, and no images? Bravo.

The last video turns us from marketing back toward the best kind of journalism.

Rob Curley of the Las Vegas Sun presented on what we sometimes still call “new media,” and he demonstrated that paper’s mastery of multimedia platforms.

But for anyone caught up with the technology, he reminded us all that it is the story and the writing that matter. As an example, he showed us a series on gambling addiction the paper did that really can’t be beat (and in fact has won an award). One of the many stories they told was captured in a video, made by a man whose life was crumbling, and then edited into a short film by the paper. (The series opening page is here. Tony McDew’s story of his own addiction is here and here.)

It’s the best marriage of tool and story I’ve seen in a long time. After you watch it, traipse around the Sun’s website for a bit—I guarantee you’ll stay longer than you planned.