PLA Conference Workshop Summary: Secrets to Powerful Presentations by Dan Albert

Library marketers often find themselves speaking to boards and community groups about library products and services. Good presentation skills are an essential skill for library marketers. Former Leo Burnett executive Dan Albert’s program on effective presentations was very popular at the October 2014 ILA Conference. For those who were unable to attend the October conference, a summary of Dan’s remarks follow.

Dan Albert learned about the importance of good presentations when he worked at the Leo Burnett ad agency. Dan knew if he could make his presentations more engaging, the agency would be more successful selling its ideas and winning new clients. Here’s what he learned.

On Presentation Excellence
Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, said “What I hate more than anything is the feeling I get when I realize I am at the beginning of a wasted hour ahead of me.”

Seth Godin wrote, “PowerPoint could be the most powerful tool on your computer. But it’s not.” Godin’s argument is that the fonts, animations and templates are all a distraction from giving great presentations. Presenters become engrossed in the “bells and whistles” rather than communicate simple ideas that use emotion to convey ideas and persuade audiences.

Guy Kawasaki wrote that “99% of presentations suck,” because they are long, boring, contain bad slides and are content-free. What presentations need to be is short, simple, legible and engaging.

Slide Design
Design is not about decoration or ornamentation. It’s about simplicity and economy of expression

1-7-7 Rule:
Came out when PowerPoint was introduced

  • One main idea per slide
  • Only 7 bullet points per slide
  • Only 7 words per bullet point maximum

However, results in slides filled with text from top to bottom and side to side

OR follow Dan’s 1-0-0 Rule:

  • Only one idea per slide
  • Minimum bullet points/text
  • Single bold visual

The general rule of thumb is that it takes approximately one minute to cover the content in a single PowerPoint slide OR follow Dan’s visual-oriented principles: results in up to five slides per minute of content

Be Simple

  • Less is more
  • For a helpful model, think of a great billboard ad:
  • Eye-catching visual
  • Simple short headline

Be Visual

  • Visuals help minimize text and are great for keeping audience engaged and interested
  • For a text-heavy slide with the headline: “Blogs Are Like Sharks” change the slide to simply show a picture of a shark with the same headline
  • “The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.” Paul Arden
  • Picture Superiority: Pictures are remembered better than words
  • A picture is worth 1,000 words

Make Your Presentation Naked

  • Strip away unnecessary words
  • Seek simplicity
  • Seek clarity

Dan’s rules for presentation success:

  • Simplify
  • Edit
  • Avoid too much information on a single slide
  • Avoid all text slides
  • Avoid small font
  • KISS – keep it simple, stupid

3 Secrets of Powerful Presentations

  • Simplify: Eliminate boring text by simplifying
  • Visualize: Incorporate bold visuals into your presentations
  • Engage: Interact with your audience and use storytelling

Presentation Style

  • Engage – incorporate personal stories and anecdotes
  • Incorporate storytelling – it’s critical to a presentation
  • “Be interesting, or be invisible.” Andy Sernovitz
  • A good presentation should include a little bit of theater

Storytelling

  • Illustrate your points with stories:
  • Stories define us – they provide meaning and context
  • The best presenters today illustrate their points with stories, often personal ones.
  • The power of narrative is so great that it can be a tool to change deeply entrenched views

Dan’s Do’s & Don’ts

  • Create visual slides that reinforce your words
  • Don’t use cheesy images – Avoid clip art! Use free stock photos
  • KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
  • Create a written document for your audience – a leave-behind
  • Don’t use decorative fonts – they’re hard to read. Stick with simple sans serif fonts like Arial, Calibri, Gill Sans, and Tahoma,
  • Don’t use: ALL CAPS, underline and bold.
  • Not necessary if you’ve minimized the text on your slides
  • If something’s really important, it should be a headline
  • For easier readability use either black font on a white background, or white font on a black background.
  • Use PowerPoint animation to tell your story
  • Animation can help you direct focus of the audience by only showing them what you’re talking about
  • Do use a hand-held remote to advance slides – it’s “man’s best friend”
  • It allows you to work the entire room, making eye contact with your audience instead of looking at your slides
  • Leave the lights on – helps you to make eye contact with your audience
  • Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates
  • Jobs’ presentations displayed mastery of the KISS principle and of using story and emotion to persuade listeners
  • Gates’ presentations had slides that had too much text
  • Make numbers meaningful
  • Have fun
  • Challenge yourself

Elizabeth Neill is a current member and former co-chair of the ILA Marketing Committee. She is extremely active in advocating for Illinois libraries and loves to talk with people to determine how libraries can serve their communities better.

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