How to Make a Presentation That People Actually Want to See [Slideshow]

Presentation slides once evoked the images of disconnected overdone slides that either made your eyes bleed from too much going-ons or made them close from sheer boredom. But one look at the presentation slides on SlideShare, the world’s largest community for sharing presentations, shows you that presentation slides can be an engaging, fun, and gorgeous communication tool.

Proving that point, Kapost recently published this fantastic slide show of tips from SlideShare enthusiasts—such as Jonathon Colman of Facebook, and Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners, and Michael Brenner of SAP—who make creative and entertaining slideshows.

(Disclosure: I’m in the presentation… and blown away to be among such amazing people.)

What strikes me as the most important aspect of the slideshow is its emphasis on the readers. The advice was not about how to best pitch your company or how to show off your assets… but the advice focused on what readers want in a slideshow (such as readability, quick info, crisp images), how to best honor the readers’ time (such as in giving them a reason to look at your presentation), and how to make information beautiful for them via captivating images and ideas.

Your presentation should honor the time that a reader has given you. Even if you only receive a glance, make sure the glance makes the time worthwhile to the viewer. Think I’m exaggerating? Remember when you were in high school and had a huge crush on someone. Can you recall how much work you put into your clothes, your hair, your fragrance, everything when you knew you’d have a .0000001% chance of seeing your crush that day?

You made the most of the time given to you—even if just a split-second look. And you packed that moment with all you had to transform that cursory glance into a conversation and  eventually a relationship.

The same is true with your time on SlideShare. No one owes your presentation a look. Unfortunately, myriad slideshows forget that very fact. The slapped-together-eye-killing-text-overkill slides tell the reader, “I’m complicated. I’m self-absorbed. And I don’t care a fig about you.”

Avoid making presentations that lack heart. Instead, find out how to capture longer, interested looks by checking out Jesse Noye’s post at Kapost and the SlideShare Masters presentation.

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Cary Grant Breaks Through His Writer’s Block

“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” (1948)

In “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) is an advertising writer who can no longer stand the cramped quarters of his New York apartment and decides, for the sake of his family, to build the ultimate sprawling manor in the country.

What I found most interesting in an otherwise pedestrian movie is the subplot: Jim has a deadline to write a slogan for Wham Ham. The slogan doesn’t come easily to him (nothing in this film does), and the viewer gets to go through the emotions of a hard case of writer’s block along with him.

Here’s a look at Jim’s journey to and through writer’s block.

1. He can’t believe his assignment. When Jim walks into the office, he sees a cheesy poster for the Wham Ham product line, and he’s delighted that he’s not working on the campaign. In two beats, he finds himself on it. Relief becomes disbelief. He would rather not do the work, but he must do what pays the bills.

2. He knows he’ll do a great job! Jim decides that he isn’t worried about the assignment after all. He goes about his life, heads to the office, does the research. In knowing everything about the product, he assumes that the slogan will practically write itself. He feels fairly confident that, yes, by gum, he’ll be able to write that slogan. Sure, the deadline is fast approaching, but he’ll be fine. Really.

3. He knows he’ll do a horrible job. He tries so hard to come up with something new, but all his ideas have been done before. He comes up with a slogan that he likes. It’s a rip-off of another account’s slogan. He grows restless and fusses with his tie, wanders around the room, talks to his secretary. He is desperate for inspiration. He hates not being able to come up with something. Jim’s mind is just blank.

4. He gets distracted. Forget the stupid slogan and campaign. Jim wants to be home with his wife, curled by the fire during a rainstorm, enjoying life in the country.

5. He gives up. Wham Ham is stupid. And worse, so is he. He is the world’s worst ad writer. Being fired is inevitable. He feels enormous pity for himself and feels like a big fat loser. No one understands. Writing sucks.

6. He finds inspiration around him. After all hope is lost, Jim focuses on other aspects of his life, especially his wife. And in the last moments of the film, Jim hears someone make a comment about Wham Ham that suddenly sounds like the best slogan ever.

7. He immediately gets the writing done. Once he hears the line that works, he doesn’t waste time. Jim knows it will be perfect for this campaign, and he rushes to the office to tell them all about it.

Despite the ending being a bit too neat and the fact that Jim’s writing block isn’t quite as nightmarish as it can be (he didn’t want to throw his typewriter out the window, burst into tears, or jump from the nearest ledge unlike, ah, other people I know), Jim shows the most important trait of a true writer: perseverance.

Jim pushes through writer’s block. Even after he quits and declares that all hope is lost, he remains vigilant for when inspiration decides to send him a gift. And when it does, in the form of a helpful person in his life, Jim is ready to receive it.

He is a writer, and professional writers are always vigilant—even when it feels like everything he’s writing is lousy. It’s writing through all those bad slogans and crummy lines that allows for the brilliance to finally shine forth.

How do you navigate through writer’s block?

On Pablo Picasso’s Birthday: A Memory of Guernica and the Power of Art

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We had made the two-hour road trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York for the specific purpose of seeing Pablo Picasso’s Guernica before it was sent to Spain. The painter had requested for Guernica to be displayed there once the country was a republic. So, finally, in 1981, the art-world-shaking painting was heading to Picasso’s homeland.

The politics of Spain, however, were beyond nine-year-old me. As I finally stood in the gallery where Guernica was displayed, I only knew that the painting before me was unlike anything else I’d seen. The canvas seemed gigantic, sprawling its chaotic scene of sorrow and agony to every corner of the museum.

At first, I felt breathless and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the drawing. I had considered angles nothing more than dull lines, but the slashes and angles of Guernica felt bold, passionate, outraged. The black, white, and grey colors cried out their hurt.

And as the curator explained all the gritty details of the painting, I felt the lamenting, angry hands raised upward, heard the mourning of the gaping people, sensed the chaos and devastation all around me. Picasso’s masterpiece was inescapable.

Guernica gripped my shoulders and shook me.

The painting didn’t look like the flat, soul-less flowers in still-life paintings of school art books. Nor did it have the drenching colors, whimsical intelligence, and soul-deep warmth of my beloved Marc Chagall‘s works. Chagall’s paintings and sketches had always left me with the desire to jump into the paintings…. Picasso, however, made me protectively hug my arms around my waist.

This mad work felt too much.

The curator and the adults around me spoke of lights and shadows, the different periods of Picasso’s life, his turbulent life, the sheer vanity of the man, and the audacity of his work. I listened the best I could, trying desperately to remember all the facts, for this felt like a pivotal moment in my life… The Afternoon I Saw Guernica.

Of all Picasso’s work, that painting remains most in my memory, even now, nearly three decades later. Amid all Picasso’s monsters and nudes and angular faces, Guernica always stands out for me… the painting that was so much more than what it was.

The painting that rattled a nine-year-old with its power. The one that has burned into her memory.

Good art stays with you, but masterpieces burn into one’s brain, making its creativity, its power, its awesomeness part of the person who gazes upon it.

And you are never the same after you are touched by a masterpiece.

On Picasso’s birthday, I thank him for his work, his genius, his celebration of creativity.

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Remembering Editorial Great Richard Thien (and What Makes an Inspirational Mentor)

Photo used with permission from Newseum Institute/Chips Quinn Scholars program.

Photo used with permission from Newseum Institute/Chips Quinn Scholars program.

When I first heard that Richard “Dick” Thien, the newspaper great and Chips Quinn scholar mentor, died, I immediately said a prayer for him and his family then wondered, “Did he know how influential he was? Did he know how many people he inspired to be better journalists, better writers, better participants in life?”

Judging from the various tributes, such as those by the Newseum Institute and the Associated Press, he must have known. Who could influence that many people without knowing it?

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Dick reminded me of Thomas Mitchell.

I first met Dick Thien when I became a Chips Quinn scholar in 1994. After enduring an intense orientation in Arlington, Virginia, then arriving in Nashville for my grueling and wonderful newspaper internship, I found myself under Thien’s protective wing. I immediately liked him, for he reminded me physically of Thomas Mitchell, the ol’ timey actor. He was a portrait in circles, a round body, a round face, a round nose—but his look was intense, direct, and, best of all, mischievous.

Under Thien’s guidance that summer, I grew as a writer and journalist and also learned how to observe the world better. He saw my flowery first drafts of articles and sliced through them with his red pen of doom. The girl who always got sparkling grades in journalism now had to work intensely for a flicker of approval from one of the toughest editors I’ve ever known. By the end of summer, however, I knew my writing was sharper. He taught me to see everything around me and glean what was needed to make an article shine. I didn’t have to write everything; I just had to write what mattered most.

That sweltering summer is gone, but Thien’s influence on me colors much of what I do daily. As an editor for the Daily Fix, I work with writers and even mentor a few. From Thien, I learned to be tough but not cruel, caring but not indulgent, and constructive rather than destructive.

He was what great mentors are…

  • Passionate about his craft
  • Determined to help others
  • Unable to tolerate crap
  • Honest and open
  • Able to laugh at himself
  • Encouraging
  • Inspiring folks to drive themselves harder
  • A lover of chocolate chip cookies
  • Champion of writers

I wrote more about Thien for the Newseum Institute site. Read more about why Dick Thien was a great mentor and how he touched the lives of other journalists and Chips Quinn scholars.

Three Short Must-Read Ragan Articles for Writers

Ragan.com: News and Ideas for Communicators is one of my favorite places for information about writing, social media, and communication arts. (This week, I was happy to see my article, 7 Traits of Press Releases That Actually Get Read, published on the main page and Ragan’s PR Daily.)

If you’ve set aside some time today to brush up on your editing and tighten up your editing, be sure to check out these fantastic articles:

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Freeing the Little Artists Pent Up Inside Us [Video]

“If you continue to act like an artist as you get older, you’ll increasingly feel pressure. People will question your actions and ask you to act properly.” (Young-ha Kim, writer)

When people find out that I’m a writer and an illustrator, they often have something to say about it. Of the myriad oddball reactions I receive, the one that often saddens me is when they tell me that they once wrote, once drew, once made cartoons, once did this, once did that. In my mentioning something creative, they reflect, often with great fondness, on their creativity as children. My heart hurts for them because, in listening to their joy in being artists as children, I realize that the little artist has been dormant for far too long within them.

Recently, I heard a TED talk by Korean author Young-ha Kim that explored what happens to little artists when most of them face adversity (in the form of adults and adulthood). His delightful, inspiring, and humorous TED talk focuses on the spirit of play and creativity in children and what kills that joy in adults. He ponders aloud the battle that adults face to be creative.

Among memorable quotes from his talk…

  • “Unfortunately, the little artists within us are choked to death before we get to fight against the oppressors of art. They get locked in. That’s our tragedy. So what happens when little artists get locked in, banished, or even killed? Our artistic desire doesn’t go away. We want to express, to reveal ourselves, but with the artist dead, the artistic desire reveals itself in dark form.”
  • “It’s not the hundreds of reasons why one can’t be an artist, but rather the one reason one must be that makes us artists. Why we cannot be something is not important. Most artists become artists because of the one reason.”
  • “When we put the devil in our heart to sleep and start our own art, enemies appear on the outside.”

Creativity Lessons From Legendary Skateboarder Rodney Mullen [Video]

This post is an excerpt from my Daily Fix article, “Six Creativity Lessons From Bones Brigade Legendary Skateboarders.”bones-brigade-poster-new

Recently, Stacy Peralta, a legendary skater of the 1970s now working as a filmmaker, produced a documentary film about the Bones Brigade, the legendary Powell Peralta skateboarding team that produced some of the biggest innovators in skateboarding history.

In watching the “The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography” documentary, I was as intrigued and entertained by their stories, passion, and creativity as I was back in the 1980s.

The creativity, passion, and fun that the young guys showed in their work back then still shine in what they do today.

For example, take a look at Rodney Mullen.

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Rodney Mullen is known as the godfather of street skating. During the 11 years that he was a freestyle skater, he won every contest he entered except one (thirty-five out of thirty-six).  Later, as freestyle skating died out, he turned his attention to street skating and invented tricks that are staples of modern street skating. For example, he invented the flatground ollie, which transformed street skating, as well as the kickflip, the heelflip… and this list could go on. Today, Rodney skates, gives TED talks about creativity and skating, and heads up the Almost Skateboarding company.

How do you get to be this good? One reason is the constant practicing… even now as an adult, as a professional, as a legend. Every night, he practices for two hours. No matter what. The habit of constant practice began when he was a child and now, he continues it. As he said in a Huck Magazine interview when asked about his two hours:

It’s not because I’m so structured that I have to be this way or that way, or that I’ve got to be better. That’s a huge part of it but the whole time thing, it’s more representative of ‘don’t be weak’. That’s how I look at it. It may be overstated but that’s a lot of who I am and what I expect from myself. Like, on a rainy day, or when you feel tired or a little bit sick, the guys I respect are the ones who go out and do it anyway. Not because I think I will get better – it’s just a commitment to what’s made me. Skateboarding helped me discover who I was and become who I always wanted to be. Just free. The time stuff is just a commitment to that.

Of the six legendary skateboarders in Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade, Mullen is the undisputedly most eloquent one. His thoughts about creativity were recently captured in a TEDx talk called, “How Context Shapes Content.”If you have time, check it out below.

Networking Tips for Introverts (and Shy Folks): Visual Sketchnotes

Jill Foster, founder and blogger for LiveYourTalk, was a recent guest on the Marketing Smarts podcast, hosted by Kerry O’Shea Gorgone. Foster focused on tips for establishing genuine relationships at industry events—especially for introverts.

Here are my visual sketchnotes from podcast.

Production Notes: This slide show reached the “Hot on Twitter” category.

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10 Marketing Buzzwords to Stop Using Right Now [Illustrated Slideshow]

The first buzzwords slideshow (15 Marketing Buzzwords to Stop Using) that I illustrated for MarketingProfs brought many comments, so I thought I’d create another slideshow of 10 more buzzwords from the comment section. This illustrated slideshow features a chicken with a tiara and an elephant quoting Hamlet. (Yep, you read that correctly.)