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Who uses presentation design agencies?

By Cornerstone,

Presentation design agencies didn’t exist a couple of decades ago. And when we started Presented, back in 2009, there were very few other companies offering PowerPoint design services. Although the number of presentation design companies out there has increased considerably since then, we’re not alarmed by the competition. In fact, it’s all rather good news.

It shows that more people and businesses are actively looking to outsource to a presentation design agency.

In those early years it was a challenge to describe what I did for a living. People often ask out of politeness and expect a one word answer, not something along the lines of “we improve PowerPoint presentations through a mix of communication science and good design”. The reaction I generally received was one of confusion. “You can make a living out of that?” someone once asked me. They simply didn’t believe that there would be any demand for a presentation design service. Surely everyone is capable of using PowerPoint by themselves?

Indeed, so capable that it’s lead to the well known disparagement of “Death by PowerPoint”. And rightly so. Brain science is widely ignored, we both overwhelm and bore our audiences. Resonance and engagement are end-of-the-rainbow type concepts that have hardly been associated with your typical presentation.

Which brings me back to the competition: one of the reasons we’re not alarmed is because so many of these new presentation design agencies simply aren’t very good. They are capable of applying a new design, but not at transforming content by making it engaging or simple to understand. And sadly most graphic design companies who offer PowerPoint templates rarely build them correctly. Indeed, a good portion of our clients are graphic design houses and PR companies – see the purple section in the pie chart.

Design and PR companies use presentation design agencies
pie - presentation design

Graphic designers outsource to us for their PowerPoint needs because it saves them time, we have the right software and expertise that their end-clients expert. We work as a white label service as well as being up front as a presentation partner. We troubleshoot problems, fix issues and offer bespoke training.

The pie covers the last financial year and also shows that 17% of our income is from clients who use us just one time only (so far). We have an 83% rate of return from clients however – so they know we’re useful!

It really is great news that people are looking for presentation design agencies – just as well!

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Brain rule #10: Visual presentations are better

By Cornerstone,

brain rule #10: vision trumps all other senses.
Visual presentations are better because, according to brain scientist John Medina, vision trumps all other senses. It’s brain rule #10 in his series, and it’s easy to apply this rule to presentations.

Here’s a quote from their website:

“We are incredible at remembering pictures.
Hear a piece of information, and three days later
you’ll remember 10% of it.
Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

But here’s the really juicy bit from this rule description:

“Toss your PowerPoint presentations.
Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based
information and the incredible effects of images.
Burn your current PowerPoint presentations and make new ones.”

This is a great instruction, burn them indeed and come to us for your images and visuals! We really know what we’re doing when it comes to applying brain science to presentations. It’s not as simple as whacking in a few pretty photos. Photos can be incredibly distracting to your audience, and badly chosen ones can leave your audience really confused about your key messages. Photos provoke quite a subjective response in our brains, so each audience member will have a different take away from each image.

We prefer diagrams and bespoke illustrations. Visuals that demonstrate the point you are trying to make. Visual presentations are better because you can tie in your heading, narration and visuals to each key message. It really can be powerful stuff.

We’re also quite good at helping you to distill your key message into fewer words, to craft compelling messages, and to use conversation language that your audience can more readily understand. You need your information to be simplified but not made to be simplistic.

Visual presentations are better also when good animation is applied to help control the flow of information. Whilst it’s good to not overwhelm your audience, animation also attracts attention. It’s another visual device that gets your brain involved. So well timed, well designed animation is a visual enhancement that can really pay off.

Whether you are convinced or not – why not talk to us to find out more?

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There’s no I in team

By Cornerstone,

At some point in your career you are likely to have to deliver a presentation as part of a team. Whilst to some this may sound more appealing than presenting by yourself and being the sole focus of everyone’s attention, it can also have many disadvantages such as conflict of interests or inconsistencies in the design.

Here are some tips on how to create an effective group presentation:

1. Give everyone a job to do. Decide early on which team members will be responsible for which parts of the presentation to save duplication or rework, and to make sure each person pulls their weight.

2. Choose a leader. We’ve all seen Sir Alan Sugar asking teams to pick a Project Manager on The Apprentice, and it’s a good idea to name someone in your team as the project owner. This person can be responsible for checking that the others are on track, ensure everyone understands what they are supposed to be doing and knows who to speak to if they have any queries

3. Create a template. Before you get started, the team should decide on the layout, colours and fonts for the slide set and one member of the group should have the job of creating a template. This will ensure that there is consistency in everyone’s slides and you won’t need to waste time reformatting at the end.

4. Meet regularly. Whilst you don’t want to waste valuable time by having meetings for meetings sake, you do need to get together with your team mates regularly to double check that everyone is on the right lines and on track to meet your deadline.

5. Allocate sufficient time for compiling the slides. If each team member is working on their own part of the presentation you are bound to encounter a few issues when you bring all of the slides together into your final presentation, so make sure you leave enough time at the end for this. It will work best if one person is assigned the job of collating and compiling all of the slides.

6. Rehearse rehearse rehearse! When working in a group you are bound to need a few run throughs to work out timings, transitions and script. It may be a good idea to film yourselves so that you can watch back together to see where adjustments need to be made.

We hope these tips relieve some of the stress that naturally comes with working in a team. Good luck for your next group presentation!

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The science of presentations is a big deal

By Cornerstone,

A lot of scientific research has been done into how our brains retain information and how this can be used can be used to our advantage when presenting information that we want people to remember. Unfortunately most of this scientific research is ignored in the business world as most people are concerned with relaying the maximum amount of information possible within a certain time slot.

We strongly believe that science is vital to getting your message across. In this blog post we will look at some ways in which you can use brain science to help you present your ideas.

Exercise improves cognition by increasing oxygen flow into the brain. Admittedly it’s very hard to get people moving during a presentation, but if you can arrange the room so it is less like a classroom format where people are under the impression that they have to sit completely still for the entirety of the presentation, then you may find that your audience’s minds are less likely to wander.

Stressed brains don’t perform the same way as non-stressed brains. Stress damages memory and executive function. Obviously you have no control over a person’s mood when they walk into the room, but making the atmosphere a bit light hearted by greeting people and telling a few jokes or interesting anecdotes may make them feel more relaxed, and ultimately listen and remember more of your presentation.

After the 10 minute mark audience our attention plummets. To stop your audience from losing interest, try to do something emotionally stimulating every 10 minutes as emotion makes the brain pay attention. You could tell a joke or story, show a video or embark on a bit of audience participation. The brain is not capable of multi-tasking and you make on average 3 times more errors on a task when you are interrupted. Don’t make your audience multi-task by making them try to listen to you whilst also reading blocks of text on the screen or on a hand out. Put just a heading on the screen along side some visuals, and leave the hand-outs until the end so the audience listens to you rather than reading the information for themselves while you speak.

Vision is the most dominant sense for humans. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Avoid lots of text within your slides and use relevant imagery to help people associate the pictures with the details.

Try to bear some of this scientific research in mind when creating your presentation. If you would like more advice on the science of presentations, get in touch with us.

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10 PowerPoint tips

By Cornerstone,

You have thoroughly researched your subject, your content is superbly written and you have all the visual aids you need – but actually creating the slides in PowerPoint leaves you stressed and shouting at the computer screen.

If this sounds familiar, here are 10 PowerPoint tips that might make life a little bit easier….

1. Learn the shortcuts –  knowing the main keyboard shortcuts will save you a lot of time. For example Ctrl+S will save your work, F5 will let you view the slide show and Ctrl+Z will undo the last action. A full list of       PowerPoint shortcuts can be found here:

2. Customize your slide sizes – you don’t have to stick with the default PowerPoint size option for your slides. To alter simply go to File, choose Page Set Up and enter the dimensions you want.

3. Alter the transition duration – if you want the transition between each slide to be faster or slower than the default you can alter this. Click on Transition and to the right you will see options to increase or reduce the timings.

4. Use picture borders – If you have a range of images that vary in size or shape it can make your slides look a little messy. By adding the same style of border to each image you can add uniformity to an array of images. To do this go to Format, select a picture border and apply the same border to all images.

5. Choose a colour scheme – applying your company colours to each slide in your presentation will give it a consistent and professional feeling. To change the background colour of a slide go to Design, then Background and click on the style you want to use.

6. Using graphs – Blocks of texts and tables full of information are hard for an audience to follow, instead you can create graphs and charts from Excel data. To insert a graph go to the Insert tab and choose Insert chart, you can then choose from different types of graphs including bar charts, line graphs and pie charts.

7. Line up your objects – Lining up images and/or text makes slides look a lot neater but it’s often quite fiddly to do by hand. Instead, select each object by clicking the first and then pressing Ctrl while clicking on the other objects to select all. Once selected, click on Draw and select Align. You can then choose whether to align to the left, right or centrally.

8. Turn off your pointer – Seeing your mouse pointer whizzing around the screen can be distracting. You can stop it from showing by pressing the Ctrl+H key during Slide Show view.

9. Create handouts – handouts can be useful for your audience to take away at the end of a presentation. To create handouts of your slides go to Print Preview and choose Page Set Up. Click on Print What and choose a handout layout.

10. Compress your slides – If you have lots of slides containing a lot of imagery, your PowerPoint presentation is likely to become difficult to work with and run slowly. You can fix this by compressing the media in your presentation for a smaller overall file size that runs much quicker. To do this go to File, click Info, and then in the Media Size and Performance section, click Compress Media.

We hope that these tips will help you when working on your next presentation!

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It’s all in the planning

By Cornerstone,

Getting started on your slides can sometimes be as daunting as actually giving the presentation. A big part of giving an effortless presentation is in the planning, here are some tips on how to plan a great presentation…

1. Objective

First things first; you need to have an objective! What is the purpose of your presentation? What are the main points that you are trying to convey to your audience? What do you want them to take away from it?

2. Audience

Once you know what you want to get across, you need to think about your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they already know about the subject? Defining your audience will help you to decide on the style, format and content of your presentation.

3. Story

Every presentation should tell a story – what story do you want to tell your audience? Every story has a beginning, middle and an end so try to format your presentation in this way so that your audience can easily follow.

4. Layout

The layout of your slides is just as important as the content. Badly designed slides can confuse, bore and distract your audience. Make sure that you use relevant imagery and don’t fill your slides with too much text. If creativity isn’t your strong point consider getting someone with design skills to give you a hand.

5. Visual Aids

Most presenters will need visual aids to assist them; it makes it easier for the audience to get the message. The most common aids are powerpoint slides for which you will also need to make sure you have a reliable laptop and a projector. You may also want to use music or video to enhance your presentation. Decide on this early on and make sure you can get hold of the equipment at the venue.

6. Practice

Practicing your presentation is essential, nerves can ruin even the best set of powerpoint slides. Practice in front of a colleague or friend, or if no one is available practice in front of the mirror! Speak loudly, try to curb negative body language and don’t just read from the screen. Practicing your presentation will also help you to make sure that you can get through your slides in the allocated time.

If you follow these steps you should be well prepared next time you face your audience – good luck!

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It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

By Cornerstone,

Most of us will have attended a boring presentation, and if we are truly honest many of us will have also given a less than interesting presentation at some point in our careers!

Just because a subject matter isn’t the most exciting, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your audience interested.

But why do so many people give boring presentations?

  • A big factor is nerves. 74% of people have a fear of some kind of public speaking, so if giving a presentation fills you with dread then you aren’t alone.
  • If you are really passionate about your job then you aren’t likely to find it boring so may forget that your audience doesn’t naturally share your passion for the subject.
  • Not everyone is a natural public speaker. Some bosses may not realise that their staff need to be taught how to present.

So what can you do to make your subject more interesting for your audience?

Body language is just as important as the content of your slides.

  • Words only account for 7% of human communication.
  • Tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language accounts for 55%.
  • Positive body language is crucial in public speaking and presentations.

Making eye contact with the audience from the start and smiling directly at people as you look at them will give a good first and your audience will focus more on your message if they feel you are speaking directly to them.

Try to gesture with your arms and hands as you make your points. It goes without saying that crossing your arms will make you look guarded and putting your hands in your pockets makes you look bored – if you appear bored your audience are going to be as well!

Try and control your nerves. A few butterflies are ok but if you’re too nervous you won’t get your point across effectively and risk rushing through your slides. Take a few deep breaths before starting.

Project your voice. If you speak quietly not only might the people at the back of the room struggle to hear what you are saying, they might also think you aren’t enthusiastic about the message you’re selling.

Keep your slides to the minimum amount needed to get your message across. Research findings advise that we keep content on slides to a minimum – ideally one point per slide.

Don’t just read from the slides – your audience can do that for themselves. Clean, well designed slides with 1 message and visual per slide rather than just blocks of text mean that you can expand on your main points and have your audience focus on what you’re saying rather than reading the information for themselves.

Using eye catching visuals will give your audience something to look and will keep hold of their attention – just make sure the images are relevant to the message.

If you try to keep these tips in mind then you’ll be on your way to giving a more interesting presentation. For more advice on how to make your presentations more effective get in touch with us here.

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A picture is worth a thousand words

By Cornerstone,

In our last couple of blog posts we talked about using a story format to help your audience remember as much of your presentation as possible, but what other methods can you use?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and research certainly shows this to be true:

> Visual information is 3 times easier to remember than oral information and visual and oral information used together is 6 times easier to remember.

> Three days after hearing a piece of information we will only remember 10% of it. Add a picture and we can remember up to 65%.

> 90% of the information transmitted to your brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster by the brain than text.

With research like this in mind, using both imagery and text in your slides can help your viewers to retain more of the information that you are presenting to them.

If your presentation is full of slides packed with bullet points and blocks of text, your audience’s attention will quickly drift and you risk losing them for good.

As human beings the better we are able to visualise something the better we will be able to remember it in the future. Using visuals alongside the main points of your message with help the audience to visualise the information later on.

Of course, you need to keep any pictures relevant to the subject matter and not distract from the main message if you want your audience to follow and be able to recall the message as well as the visual! Adding visuals for the sake of it or just to make a slide look pretty will just confuse your audience and make them wonder why the visual has been used in the first place – ultimately distracting them from what you are trying to say.

But creating the right visuals and using your visuals in context can greatly impact the effectiveness of your presentation. So try deleting any surplus text in your next presentation, adding in some visuals, and let us know how you get on!

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Tell a story: we’re British, but emotions are OK (part 2)

By Cornerstone,

In our last blog we talked about using the familiar shape of a traditional story to give your presentation a clear, easy-to-follow structure.

Stories stimulate the emotions, and scientific research shows that memories connected to strong emotions remain vivid for longer; they can come to mind years after the event, while our memories of dry facts and figures quickly slip away.

I know, I know… a presentation about your company’s performance doesn’t provide too much scope for emotional stimulation… but even just raising the emotional bar a little will help keep things fresh in memory for longer.

If you start your presentation by talking about the main problem to be solved, especially a problem that affects the audience, you will grab their attention and engage their emotions immediately; and using anecdotes and stories will bring each point even more vividly to life.

Most presentations incorporate a number of problems, providing ample opportunity for you to build and release tension several times – okay, we’re not talking Hitchcock-type tension here, but as we said even just a little raising of the emotion will help (if you can also integrate jokes or surprises into the presentation, so much the better, but I appreciate this isn’t always possible!)

The end of your presentation should round everything off nicely, leaving the audience feeling satisfied and clear about what you want them to understand.

Tension, resolution and, where possible, the element of surprise can all enhance your presentation and ensure that your key messages stay in mind for longer.

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Tell a story: use a clear, familiar structure (part 1 of 2)

By Cornerstone,

In our last blog we promised we’d look at different ways of ensuring your audience remembers your message….

Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel are all childhood stories we love and remember well. We may not have heard these stories for years, yet we can still remember the general storyline and most dramatic events.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if our presentations were just as memorable? Well… the content of our presentations may not always be as thrilling, but we can certainly mimic the structure of fairy stories to make our presentations easier to grasp, follow and remember.

Because we grew up reading stories the classic structure of beginning, middle and end is embedded in our mental DNA. At the beginning the scene is set, and you meet the main characters. In the middle the action happens: problems arise, drama ensues and solutions are found. At the end there is a summing up and sense of resolution.

Structure your presentation like a story and your audience is far more likely to follow, understand and remember your message – and they’re more likely to enjoy it too!

So begin by setting up all the key story elements, including the main characters, the issue(s) and desired outcome. Don’t forget to make it very clear why the story is relevant to your audience (the beginning), raise and resolve all the issues one at a time (the middle), and resolve everything to summarise and wrap up concisely and clearly (the end). This will serve to reinforce your key points and also bring a sense of clarity and completeness to the overall story.

Use this familiar story structure and you will be helping your audience to follow and remember your presentation, so give is try! Part 2 of “Tell a story” to follow soon…

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