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June 2008

Slideshare's World's Best Presentation Contest

As I sit here waiting for a flight to Wellington via Sydney, here are a few things...

(1) Slideshare announces another "Worlds Best Presentation Contest"
Slideshare announced the "World's Best Presentation Contest" again. Entries are due by July 31st. Judges include Guy Kawasaki, Bert Decker, Nancy Duarte and me. The prizes include a MacBook Air, Amazon Kindle, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and  even copies of Presentation Zen. Check it out.


(2) PZ in Sydney on the 4th of July!

Wow! I am humbled and honored that the response has been so big in Sydney (and Wellington as well; first seminar sold out). I'm really looking forward to presenting In New Zealand and Australia. I know I'm going to fall in love with both countries (can't believe I have not been Down Under yet).

(3) Lessons are all around you.
The mantra I repeat always: the lessons are all around. So here are a few snaps I just took in the airport in Tokyo a few moments ago. It is said (and Nancy Duarte does say it in her new book) that presentations slides have a lot in common with billboards (they need to be big, get the message across, be clear, easy to understand, etc.). 


Above: Here is one that is a good reminder that black and white photography makes for really good contrast with warm, big, sans serif text on top.


Above: Proximity.Text elements (or other elements) which are close together will be seen as being part of the same group, so make sure you are clear when a text element belongs to another group (through spacing, color, size, etc.). This sign above looks OK you may be saying (and I suppose it is OK), but while walking fast and being just a big confused, I at first made a mistake. The space indicates that the numbers belong to two different sets (go left or right). For me the spacing was not enough to prevent my confusion (though as a photo frozen in time it looks fine). But the sign below has better spacing between the sets making it clear that there are two different sets even when you are rushing.


Webinar: Creating Powerful Presentations with Nancy Duarte

More about Nancy on the Duarte Design site The VizThink people hosted a cool Webinar recently with Nancy Duarte and it is now online for all to see. Lots of good tips in there by Nancy and some good Q&A at the end. (Here's a photo I snapped after Nancy's talk which she made live from her office at Duarte Design in Silicon Valley. Notice the audience she assembled above her display. I dropped by to get some pz books before heading to HP in Palo Alto and Nancy's assistant Paula prepared healthy snacks for me — such nice people!) Watch the webinar now.

Slideology_book on Amazon Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
In the webinar it's also the first time Nancy talked about her new book and gave the title:
Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations (O'Reilly). I received a pre-release copy a few weeks ago and loved it. Slide:ology is not a how-to-use-slideware book, but it does teach solid fundamentals of how to make fantastic visuals that support your narrative. And Nancy knows what she's talking about. If she can help turn Al Gore into an Oscar-winning presenter, imagine what she can do for you (see sample slides from Al Gore's deck). Slide:ology is in full color and is as beautiful as it is illuminating and instructional. An absolute must-have book that will not only enhance your presentation and presentation-design skills but will make you a better visual-thinker in general. It's a good idea to pre-order it to ensure that you can get it as soon as it's released in September. This book is definitely going to make a dent in the universe...a very big dent. (By the way, notice anything about the front cover?)

A couple of more things...

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)
This is an updated version of the 'ol Where the Hell is Matt? video. (I first linked to Matt's original video presentation a couple of years ago in this post called Balls, cheekiness, cogs, independence, travel, & high boots). It appeals to me somehow (and many others). It's a simple video montage of his travels yet it touches and inspires viewers. So simple, so visual, so memorable. Evocative and inspirational. You'll enjoy it I'm sure (in high-rez this time).

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Presentations Roundtable podcast: Comedy and the art of presenting.
Podcast_ms While I was in Silicon Valley earlier this month I was able to chat again with Microsoft's Ric Bretschneider and Howard Cooperstein (I appeared with Nancy Duarte and Howard on Ric's first Podcast in December). This conversation went long so Ric edited it into two separate podcasts. This is part I. (Part II is coming soon.) We focused on the issue of stand-up comedy and how we can learn a lot about presentation in general from that art form. Howard knows a lot about the stand-up comedy world and is actually very funny. Ric and Howard are very smart and creative; it's a lot of fun to hangout with them. Kind of makes me want to go to work for Microsoft. (I mention at the start of the podcast the 12 or so languages that Presentation Zen will be translated in so far; that number will likely go up soon. Korean looks to be one of the first to come out.). Listen to podcast.

(Note: It's odd timing that I point to this podcast today. Last night one of America's greatest comedians George Carlin died of heart failure. He was just 71. Carlin was the first guest host ever on Saturday Night Live and I still remember how popular he was in the 60s and 70s when I was a kid — and he's still popular today. He was a true legend in his own time. Very sad to see him go. (Time Magazine: How George Carlin Changed Comedy.)

Logos, seals, & your identity

Obama_in_chicago It seems that every two years I comment on a logo in the news (see this post I wrote on the World Cup logo in 06). A logo, of course, is part of the presentation of your brand and it matters (though I'm not fond of logos on slides used in live talks). Today (at least back in the USA), the blogosphere is abuzz with comments about the Obama Campaign's "new logo" (though I can't confirm if this seal/logo is more than a one-time thing). On Friday, according to CNN, "Barack Obama sat down in discuss the economy with visiting Democratic governors, but all eyes were on the Illinois senator’s podium bearing, what might be described as, a quasi-presidential seal – a new Obama campaign logo."

The reaction to the seal (above left) — even among his supporters — is generally not good. I don't think Obama was involved in this or even knew much (if anything) about the logo on his lectern in Chicago. Perhaps because his talk was with fellow Democrats and in his "home" of Chicago they were just having a little fun (or testing it out?). CNN, the New York Times, etc. made it sound like this was a new official logo, yet Obama's website does not mention the logo as far as I can tell. Hopefully that was the first and last time we see that logo/seal. I do not have an issue with the design of the logo per se except that it's just too close to another famous logo, the presidential seal. Part of me likes the simple design and the chutzpah, but my first gut reaction was "hmmm...just a bit over the top?" I assume it's legal, but what about this?) Obama has a good campaign logo already, I'd stick with that. My guess is this is the last we'll see of the seal (but who knows?), but it brings up the issue of logos that look suspiciously similar to others even if they are different enough to survive a legal challenge.

Distinctive and unique
Logos should be distinctive and unique, and if you're lucky enough to have a powerful brand, you'll work hard to protect your unique image including your logo. Starbucks is a good example of a brand that has had to defend its logo quite aggressively (some say too aggressively). You may be familiar with the case of the cafe in Shanghai called Xingbake (roughly meaning "star" plus "ba-ke" which is phonetically close to "bucks") which got into trouble a few years ago. Seems pretty comical, but according to this article the owner says it was all just a coincidence and that he'd never even heard of Starbucks (you start a cafe chain in 2000 and you never heard of Starbucks?). Here's how it went down.
 Starbucks_copy      Photo: East Midlands China Business Bureau

In Japan, many cafes sprang up after Starbucks became big here about ten years ago, many of them such as Excelsior, were seemingly inspired by the Starbucks brand, but their trademarks I assume were different enough not to cause confusion. But one that always seemed odd to me is the Mt. Rainier logo used by the company Morinaga Milk for their popular coffee drink brand called Caffé Latte (see the Caffé Latte homepage featuring a full page video commercial staring Scarlett Johansson). The logos may look different enough (or do they?), but when you consider that Mt. Rainier has a strong association with Seattle (photo) you find yourself saying "what the....?"


Compare The Mt. Rainier logo is not used for cafes which is perhaps why it was allowed to go unchallenged. But now that Starbucks sells latte drinks in convenience stores on the same shelves as Mt. Rainier in Japan, it seems like people would be easily confused. I can not confirm it, but I heard rumors that Starbucks may go after them on this one. So what's the moral of the story? I say be different, find your own voice and your own identity, and that goes for logos and other forms of identity including the design of your presentations. It's great to admire the leaders and the front runners, but who needs another Nike, or Starbucks, or Apple, or Sony, etc. As the Funky Business cats say, "Being different is key."

Learn more

Logo design and corporate identity is very specialized work, but it is something all entrepreneurs should have at least a fundamental understanding of. Below are links to a plethora of discussions on what makes a good logo. (Here's one on trademarks called "Think Locally, Protect Globally.")

Design and the World Cup: what can we learn? (PZ)
Famous logos (on the LogoBlog).
Top 10 logos of all time.
What makes a good logo design? (David Airey)
What makes a great logo? (Logoworks)
What Makes a Great Logo? (code-interactive)
What makes a great logo? (Light box graphics)
Keys to a great logo.
Key features of a great logo.
Great Logos Are Key to Success.
Brand Channel (everything about branding by Interbrand)
Seattle Trademark Lawyer blog


Creativity, nature, & getting off the grid

Cannonbeach_slide I talk a lot about the importance of getting away from the computer, getting off the grid and finding time alone. This is crucial to keeping the creative spirit alive. Time alone is necessary, and time alone with nature is even better. It's important for fueling and nurturing the creative spirit to take the time to be completely present and appreciate nature's unaffected beauty and simplicity. The famous Zen scholar Daisetz Suzuki (1870-1966) often discussed the importance of being connected with nature and how the yearning for that connection was something deep in all of us (even if all too often neglected in modern life). An entire chapter is devoted to discussing nature and Zen and the special affection Japanese have for nature in his book Zen and Japanese Culture:

"However 'civilized,' however much brought up in an artificially contrived environment, we all seem to have an innate longing for primitive simplicity, close to the natural state of living."

                                                          — Daisetz Suzuki

While in one of my favorite spots in the world yesterday, I took out my tiny handheld Nikon camera and recorded this one-minute spot belowto give you a feel for the location (Ecola Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon). 


Note:The digital postcard was made in Keynote (three slides). The video was shot with a tiny Nikon Coolpix. Video is imported as a Quicktime movie. The images of masking tape are set to about 70% opacity in Photoshop (could have been done directly in Keynote as well) and sit atop the video. Recorded with "Record Slideshow" feature (File menu) and exported as a Quicktime movie. Simple. The final slide says "From Oregon with Love" (Oregon Kara Ai) which was the title of a famous TV show in Japan in the '80s. 

Next stops: Osaka, Wellington, Sydney

info on the seminars in Wellington Just wrapped up the Voices That Matters Web Conference. My presentation today was the last one of the week. Just a fantastic conference with some really great people (New Riders did an excellent job!). Nashville is an incredible place for a conference (had a terrific early morning run on the campus of Vanderbilt University across the street from the conference site; beautiful campus. I'm going to the beautiful city of Wellington in New Zealand soon for two 6-hour seminars (June 30, July 1) hosted by the cool people at Webstock. Here is a seven-question interview I did with Webstock a few days ago. And below is one of the questions from the Webstock interview:

Webstock: Good presentation skills and presenting well are well and good, but it’s really just the sizzle added on top of the substance. If you’ve got a good idea or the right information, that’s all that matters in the end.” What’s wrong with that viewpoint?

GR: Good ideas and information are a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. It is not about dazzle, and sizzle, nor slickness — these are words I abhor. But it is about clarity, and evidence, and engagement, and story. If the content has structure and is true and honest and designed with the audience (or end user) in mind, then chances are it will be a beautiful design as well. It’s not an issue of substance over style. The issue is how do we design visuals (and other messages) that are in balance and in harmony with our narrative in a way that amplifies and augments our spoken words. The best style is the one that is a result of careful reflection on the material and the audience and the selection of a creative approach that is the simplest without being simplistic. “Too simple” can be just as confusing as information overload. The key word is always balance. In all things: balance.

Read the rest on the Webstock site.

Sydney Australia is on!
Thank you to all the people who expressed interest in hosting an event in Sydney. I may be speaking around the 3rd or 5th at the Apple Store in Sydney if we can swing it (Topic: the process of writing/designing a book), but for sure there will be one public presentation on the 4th of July in downtown Sydney hosted by Step Two Designs. Step Two made this short Slideshare with the details or go here to register. It's a two hour event, but I'll be in no rush if people want to hang around and talk more after the two-hour seminar and discussion.

Presentation Zen at Microsoft

Garr_microsoft The PowerPoint Team Blog wrote a nice article about my second presentation at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus last week. That was a really good audience with lots of questions. We did an interesting podcast after the presentation talking about standup comedy and presentation with one of the Microsoft managers who does standup for fun and knows a lot about it; standup has a lot to teach us about presenting better. (Podcast available soon.)

Steve Jobs in 60 seconds (WWDC 08)
I've talked about the solid presentation skills of Steve Jobs so many times (example, example, example); let me just point you to this 60 second highlight real of Steve last presentation at the WWDC in San Francisco earlier this week. Go here at Apple to see the whole thing.

New Alltop topic: presentations & speaking

Alltop A couple of months ago I talked about Alltop, which is something I use like an online magazine rack. Alltop collects stories from “all the top” sites on the web and they group these collections into individual Alltop sites based on topics such as environment, photography, science, celebrity gossip, Macintosh, politics, etc. One of the new categories is called Speaking which is a collection of the top sites on the net that focus on presentations and public speaking. (I didn't know there were so many sites dedicated to talking about speaking and presentation.) The Alltop Speaking page makes it easy now to scan the latest posts across a variety of blogs and sites related to this genre. Check it out.

The future of presentation?
(Below) Cisco CEO John Chambers was live on a Bangalore stage when he ‘beamed up’ Martin De Beer and Chuck Stucki live from San Jose, California. Chambers then had a "face to face" discussion with De Beer and Stucki on the same stage. Not sure what this means for the future of presentation, but it is very cool. Watch it.  (H/T Guy Kawasaki.)


Summer update

Up on the Oregon coast now for some family time and a chance to prepare for Nashville later this week. Below are a few photos to summarize the past week or so. (Here's a 30 sec video I shot yesterday of my favorite places to get off the grid; been going there since I was a kid for some "alone time.")


Above. First stop in the USA was a few days "going analog" in Hawaii. I took some time mostly *off* the grid to think about future projects and spend some alone time. Above is a pic I snapped while reading and sketching ideas near the foot of Diamond Head. This storyboard pad from Muji in Japan is a wonderful tool for less than ¥100 (about a dollar).


Above. How is a Korean plate lunch in Hawaii like a good presentation? Looks good, but more importantly, it *is* good.


Above. My week in Silicon Valley started off with breakfast with Guy Kawasaki in Palo Alto near Stanford. In this pic above we are posing with some of the official Japan Hockey team jerseys I brought back for Guy (Guy's crazy about hockey as you may know).


Above. I got a kick out of Guy's meishi (business card). It's very simple with only a cell number, email and web address on the reverse side. A good lesson about branding and also typography: Think big. Notice by contrast my business card.


Above. After breakfast with Guy, I spent six hours straight in a meeting with Nancy Duarte discussing many things like her amazing book (coming out in September), trends, strategy, etc. Because we are very different people who share a similar philosophy about design, communication, business, etc. we get along great. Every time we get together we can talk nonstop all day about presentation (how crazy is that?). In the photo above you can see Nancy at the white board (we hardly ever opened the computer and never slideware).


Above. A pic of our table top that started off empty and ended up like this as the conversation flowed in many interesting directions (and the snacks came out).

Below. On Thursday I made a 45-minute presentation followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus. It was a terrific, receptive audience which had tons of questions. Had a great time. Wonderful people at Microsoft. Later that day I did a 50-minute podcast with two Microsoft managers that will be available in about a week or so.


Above. Mingling with the crowd just before I went on. It's good advice not to separate yourself from your audience. As much as possible, greet them and mingle with them before you take the stage. If you do this then you'll feel more comfortable and you are not a "stranger" and the audience may even warm up to you better as well. Below. Talking a little about how to make PowerPoint better and sharing some advice from Dr. John Medina, etc.



Microsoft_theatre1 Microsoft_theatre3


Above. I spent three days with a 2-person film crew (hired by the publisher) in a studio in the Petrero district of San Francisco. We filmed in the studio and in the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park and a bit on the streets of San Francisco. The DVD will be coming out later this year and will also feature some Pecha Kucha presentations and an interview with Nancy Duarte in the Duarte offices, etc. Film maker Doug Weihnacht is behind the camera. Mary Sweeney was the creative director.


Above. It's San Francisco so why not go Vegan for lunch? It was colorful and delicious (and good for you).

Below. On Friday, Slideshare put on a great little party that started off with a nice presentation by Nancy Duarte and then a 30-min presentation by me. It was a marvelous crowd with fantastic questions. Curious George was even in the audience and you can see the photo he sent in here.



Rashmi (Slideshare CEO) kicks off the event.


Above. Nancy presents to a standing-room only crowd.



The back of the napkin

Napkin_bookcover Brain Rules may be my favorite book of the year, but The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam is also one of the most important business books of the year (educators will find it valuable as well). The Back of the Napkin is an incredibly useful and practical book. Remember, using multimedia is not the only way to present, whiteboards, flipcharts — and for smaller audiences — a legal pad or even a napkin at the bar can be used well as a way to illustrate your ideas. Even if you do ultimately present in slideware, you can use the techniques Dan Roam discusses to illustrate your ideas in the preparation stage, and I've even seen some people scan their hand-drawn visuals and use them in PowerPoint or Keynote later.

In The Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam says that we're all born with a talent for visual thinking, but we were often not encouraged to develop it. In the video below, the author shows how anyone with a pen and some paper can use their imagination to work through any business problem in a visual way.

Below is a video clip on Dan's appearance on Fox Business.

Here's Dan
on MSNBC's "Your Business." Checkout The Back of the Napkin website (and link to Dan's blog).

Now for something completely different
Sound_off Later this week I'll have the pleasure of speaking at Microsoft again about some of the ideas behind Presentation Zen, etc. So I have a question: If you could say anything (constructive) to Microsoft about PowerPoint and presentations, etc., what would you say? This includes the good, the bad, and the not so attractive. What's your opinion? What do you like about ppt? How has it improved over the years (or not)? If you no longer use the tool, why not? As a longtime user of PowerPoint — and someone who made multimedia presentations before PowerPoint was invented — I have a pretty good feel of what people like and where they struggle, but I'd love to hear from you. In fact, your input is vital. I would love to incorporate your feedback into my talk. Please feel free to use the comments section below or send me an email directly. Thanks very much!