Why do so many people hate PowerPoint presentations?

Who’d have thought that a topic as mundane as, “I dislike PowerPoint presentations. They are impersonal and only help those who have difficulty speaking in public. Am I wrong on this? Must PowerPoint be the only way and light?” on LinkedIn’s PR & Communications Professionals forum would garner 129 comments!

Many people mention the obvious: speakers who use PowerPoint slides as a crutch, slides that have too much text, presentations that overshadow the presenter, etc. However, that’s not the fault of the tool, it’s the fault of the presenter.

Very, very few people now are good presenters. Partially, this is because companies no longer offer the same level of training. When I worked for a PR agency (many years ago), presentation training was standard. We learned to be comfortable in front of audiences of any size, how to make eye contact and engage the people we were speaking to, rather than at.

Our clients hired us to train their staff before they presented at trade shows and conferences. We also designed their slides (real slides, not PowerPoint) so that they were clear and entertaining. We listened to our clients present, told them what we heard (versus what they thought they said) and helped them present information so that people could listen to it and absorb their message.

The results were more polished than many of the presentations I see today. They weren’t thrown together on the plane to the conference; instead they were designed to complement and enhance the subject. Many times now when I see people present, I doubt that they have ever practiced it. There’s a world of difference between the information that people can absorb when they read it versus when they hear it. When you don’t practice a speech or a presentation you risk losing your audience because they can’t follow you.

PowerPoint has made it too easy to cheat, too easy to cram too many words onto a slide, and too easy for the presenter to hide behind the slides.

In the end, it comes down to the presenter. Presenting to an audience is an art. But too often it’s become an afterthought.

How good is your back up system?

A colleague recently experienced a hard drive failure. No problem, he thought, since he backed up his drive nightly.

However, when he went to restore his data he discovered that although his Seagate drive had been making reassuring noises and then delivering a “backed up” message, the newest data on his drive was a year old.

A quick visit to a data recovery center indicated that they could probably get the data back — to the tune of $2500 and more than a couple of new gray hairs.

Even though most people have gotten better about backing up their data, there are probably things that most of us could — and should — do better. Checking the integrity of the data is one. Using redundant sources is another.

I lost my data about 10 years ago when I stupidly opened an email with a virus. I, too, had a Seagate back up system and I too was surprised to find that my data was not current (tape was full). Operator error is a hard pill to swallow and since then I’ve become more religious about keeping my data current.

I have three back up systems for my hard drive. Two are online systems — with different companies (Mozy Pro and iDrive). One backs up nightly, one backs up weekly. I also have a portable hard drive on which I use Apple’s Time Machine to back up every day or so.

In addition to that, I have all of my business emails archived both on a server and on a separate gmail account. Maintaining records of my correspondence with clients can be critical when reconstructing projects.

In fact, I thought about dropping one of my online services just recently, when it came up for renewal. On balance, I decided, the investment was worth the peace of mind it gives me. Now that I heard what happened to my colleague — I’m glad I made that decision!

Beam me up! The changing tools of our trade.

This week I flew to Las Vegas for a conference. When packing, I realized that I was bringing more electronics than clothes. Macbook, Ipad, Nook, Ipod, Flip Video camera, and digital recorder! Back in the “old days” I used to write with fountain pen and carry a Moleskine notebook!

However, the public relations professional today has the opportunity to communicate in so many ways that my “tool kit” has dramatically expanded. Podcasts are a great way to capture information that people can listen to while they travel. Flip video cameras make it oh, so easy to grab an interview and have it up on your website in minutes. And Ipads are great as presentation tools or to watch video. Certainly, my shoulders appreciate how much lighter they are to carry around than my laptop. In many cases I can now leave the laptop at home but when you need to crunch numbers and share documents the lack of a USB port on the Ipad is still too limiting.

In terms of lightening my load I also really like the Nook. Yes, I can read books on my Ipad, but not library books. The Nook is still the only mainstream e-reader that allows you to take advantage of books from your public library. It’s pretty cool to bring five or six of them along with you on a device that weighs less than a paperback.

If only I had room in my carry on luggage for a few more personal items!

Turn your blog into a book . . . in less than five minutes

If you’ve been blogging faithfully you’ve probably amassed quite a lot of content. That’s content you want to safeguard, save or maybe repackage it.

But, it’s trapped in WordPress or Blogger so what can you do that’s quick, easy and free? With http://www.blogbooker.com you can turn it into a pdf file that can then be bound into a book or edited and used in other ways!

This program is way cool and, even better, it’s free. First you export your blog files (in WordPress, that’s a tool function), then you upload them onto BlogBooker. Your PDF book is ready almost instantly.

I used it to create a PDF book of the first year of posts from http://www.equineink.com. The book ran slightly more than 450 pages and it includes the text, the images and the comments.

Some people may be able to run with the copy just like that but I’m now editing and reorganizing the files to make them work better in a linear format.

While this is fun for your personal project, think of how it can be applied to professional or client blogs . . . it has never been easier to make your blog into a book.

BlogBooker
Turn your Blog into a PDF Book/Archive.

BlogBooker

www.tineye.com help track where your graphics appear

Let’s face it, “borrowing” images off the Internet has become rampant. It’s bad enough for photographers to find their images posted (without credit) but what if you found your logo gracing someone else’s site?

I read about this happening to someone recently and when she contacted the designer of the website that had illegally used her copyright protected logo, the designer had the balls to respond:

I received this graphic hrough a graphics group I was a member of. I made a logo for xyz.com out of it unaware of the copyright. I was recently informed of this and wanted to contact you and ask if they can continue to use the logo since it’s been over 2 years. Here is a copy of the log [sic] so you can see it.

No apology. No contrition. Just a request to keep using the logo!

After several more exchanges, the owner of the logo got a bit more of an apology but revealed something more concerning. He had received this logo through a graphics group at Yahoo where, it appears, people have been stealing artwork off of website for several years and then distributing it to their membership. Not an excuse in my book. Any web designer worth his salt should not be using artwork with unknown provenance.

I did not take this off your website. I received it from a yahoo graphics group a long time ago. There are literal thousands of people who have this and are using it. I am sorry for using your graphic, I did not know it was copyrighted. As soon as I found out I wrote to you so hopefully we can work something outs o my friend can continue to use her logo. I am sure you are upset and it is understandable. I hope you will see this truly was something that I had no idea about. I have approximately 10,000 graphics on my computer that I have collected over the last 10 years of graphics design. Unfortunately yours was one of them that was given to me through tube-time@yahoogroups.com Please, forgive me for this infringement as it was totally unintentional. I was given the graphic with the understanding that it was not copyrighted. Again, I am sorry for all of this.

So what can you do to protect your graphics? Apparently specifically forbidding the use of the image doesn’t help (it was on the original site). But there is a search engine for images that you can use to see if it appears anywhere else. It’s called http://www.tineye.com and it works!

Wave Bye-Bye, says Google

So much for being an early adopter. After signing on to use Google Wave, a multi-platform collaboration tool for the past few months, Google has now decided to discontinue it. The company will support it only until the end of the year.

Okay, so it was free — the investment was only in time.  But as we all know, time is at a premium and learning something new and getting your partners up to speed as well, takes a lot of time and a certain amount of frustration.

Okay, so it did crash a lot — but I thought Google would figure it out. The Wave was a useful tool that allowed multiple participants to maintain an on-going record of a project and keep up to date on the latest decisions.

Okay, so it was clunky — I spent the time providing feedback on ways that I thought it would work better and did see some improvement.

Now I’m wishing that I’d spent the time finding a program where the developer has demonstrated commitment to keeping it going. Because I do think that this type of collaboration software has a place. It’s just not going to be hosted by Google.

Ford’s Social Media Success with Fiesta Launch

Here’s an interesting interview I read in Larry Chase’s newsletter. It really underscores the power of social media when it’s used correctly. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Using Social Media to Pre-Launch a Car in the US

Larry Chase: I saw a statistic about the upcoming US launch of the Ford Fiesta. It said there’s already 37% awareness among those in Generation Y, even though you haven’t spent any money promoting it via paid media. How are you getting that kind of awareness without any media spend?

Scott Monty: The current number is 38% awareness of a vehicle that is not in the market, which is equivalent to the awareness level of vehicles that we have had in the market for two to three years.

Our 100 “agents” out there have produced over 700 videos total. [Note: “Agents” are the 100 people, called “Agents of the Fiesta Movement,” whom Ford chose to drive a Fiesta and to blog about their experiences and create online videos.]

We’ve had over 4.8 million views of the agents’ YouTube videos, over 600,000 views of their Flickr photos and over 3.2 million impressions on Twitter.

LC: How did you get the word out? Did you give these cars away?

SM: They were lent to people for six months. We did a grassroots effort where we used connections we had and connections our agency had and basically got the word out online.

We got over 4,000 applicants for those 100 slots. We narrowed it down, using a number of factors to determine whom we actually selected.

LC: What were your criteria for choosing them?

SM: We looked first and foremost at their ability to create a monthly online video, because that would be a requirement of every agent.

We looked at their “social vibrancy:” how connected they were across a number of social networks and how many connections they had within those social networks. We also looked at the geography of each person.

In reality, this is not just an online campaign. These people are out driving on the street. We needed to think about where they actually were around the country so that we had a pretty good spread out of home as well as online.

LC: How do people find out about these first-person videos about the Fiesta in the United States?

SM: We have aggregated them on FiestaMovement.com. As you can imagine, each of these agents has a significant social network. They all know people who know people who know people. It’s a matter of word of mouth just working its way around.

Cumulative Effect of Paid Media, Earned Media and Owned Media

LC: Tell us about the cross-pollination of Ford’s digital media spend and how the social component is folded into that.

SM: We look at the social component through three forms of media: Paid media, earned media (blog posts, news items and whatnot) and our owned media, material that we produce on a regular basis.

If we can get the three of those interplaying together, it’s going to have a much more powerful effect than relying on social as a grassroots, bottom-up kind of approach and relying on PR and paid ads doing their own thing.

Measuring the Social Media Investment

LC: How is Ford measuring its social media? Are they asking, “Are we getting a proper bang for the buck based on the amount of money we’re paying Scott Monty and his staff and the time and attention of our employees worldwide? Are we getting more out of it than we’re putting in?”

SM: I was the only social media staffer here for a year, so the notion of a global manufacturer having this huge effort is not necessarily the case.

Yes, we’ve had agencies support us, but ultimately, 90% of social media is just showing up, to borrow a phrase from Woody Allen.

A lot of the credit we’re getting for social media is because we (Ford) are showing up. We’re present.

Our social media activities are really geared more around awareness and changing perception and the broad end of the sales funnel rather than the narrow end. It’s not that we put out a Tweet and we sell a car although we have had instances of it.

Humanizing Ford

LC: Somebody bought a car because of Twitter?

SM: In one Twitter conversation, one person says, “I only bought a Ford because of Twitter.” And then he goes on to say, “I bought the Ford because my interest was piqued because of Twitter, and a relationship was created, and they make a great Escape.” And then he responds to someone, “… They built a relationship with me, and I trust Ford.”

Ultimately, we want to break through that barrier of trust. If you look at the Edelman Trust Barometer, it shows that 77% of people trust corporations less in 2009 than in 2008.

Whom do they trust? They trust third-party experts such as Consumer Reports and The New York Times, and they trust people like themselves.

This whole notion of humanizing Ford is to show consumers that there are people just like them at Ford who are intelligent, talented and passionate about the company for a very good reason.

Resource List

Follow Scott Monty on Twitter: @ScottMonty.

Read his personal blog, The Social Media Marketing Blog.

Add your own images!

WordPress templates make creating a blog or a website incredibly easy. There are many choices available at WordPress.com and even more at wordpress.org (.com represents sites hosted by WordPress; .org is where you can download the platform for self-hosted sites).

However, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean you should be lazy. A fairly high percentage of the blogs I see using WordPress still have the template header photos intact. The whole point of these templates is that you can upload your own images! Talk about making your site generic. Every person who has browsed through the WordPress templates knows what you’ve done.

One of the worst abusers I saw was a self-styled social media maven who left the lovely image of a Caribbean island as her header.  Come on. If you’re going to preach the benefits of blogging, at least learn how to upload an image. Or, if you prefer, use a template without one.