Chapter 25. The Media”Designing Visual Support
by Tom Mucciolo
In this chapter
Bringing Your Story to Life
"Image is everything," "Seeing is believing," "You oughtta be in pictures" ”you've
For instance, I can look at any presentation and within the first three visuals, I can tell how bad or good the presentation will be, just from a media viewpoint. Want the truth? In most cases, the visuals are pretty bad. Is it that people just don't get it? Is it that they are just not
Face it! A well-conceived script containing a clearly defined objective should be enhanced with good visual support. The features and functions of PowerPoint help bring your outline and storyboard to life, giving you the opportunity to create visuals with impact! This chapter focuses on the effective design of the support elements used to direct your message.
Real-world experience is the best teacher. Since 1985, MediaNet has designed over 3,500 business presentations and
Many of the principles, guidelines suggestions, and visual concepts discussed in this chapter are also referenced in MediaNet's original publication
A lot of people take for granted the importance of having well-designed visual support for the presentation. The
Choosing a Medium for Your Message
When Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message," he was referring to the power of television and its influence on how we interpret information. Television is one type of media used to express information. Canvas is one type of media for a painter's artistic expression. The medium of expression is basically the link between the message and the mind.
Media is plural and medium is singular, but sometimes media is used as a collective noun to describe a larger set (the newspaper media, for example). Okay, okay. Rather than asking you to consider semantics and form, from here on out, I will refer to everything as simply media, including flip
The media choice represents the physical form of the message. It definitely affects the manner in which the presentation is delivered. For example, using overheads requires a different approach in delivery than an electronic presentation simply because the
Although your delivery style is affected by the media choice, your objective should
With that in mind, choosing how you expect to support your message involves the following:
Understanding Media Types
Presentations involve a number of support options including transparencies, 35mm slides, and electronic visuals. I place them in the order from most to least hands-on for the presenter. Overheads will require changing, slides may involve changing carousels, and electronic presentations are mostly hands-free. Multimedia is just an extension of the electronic presentation, although a degree of interactivity does occur when using elements triggered by the keyboard or mouse.
Flip charts and videotapes are omitted to limit this discussion to the most likely media types you would consider when using PowerPoint to design your presentation.
PowerPoint calls the visuals you create "slides." However, in their electronic form (on your PC), they are really "visuals" or "images." If they are produced as 35mm chromes, only then do they become slides. If they are printed to transparency film, they become overheads. In fact, I always describe an electronic presentation as a screen show, not a slide show.
I am not trying to change the software, but throughout this part of the book, I will continue to use the words "visual" and "image" when referencing the media.
Overheads and slides are
Okay, by now, you're probably aware that I think overheads and slides come in second in the media race. Electronic presentations work best. They offer so much more in the way of variety, interactivity, portability, and flexibility ”just to
There, I said it. Right now, the people who make
I'm not saying never use slides or overheads, but I am saying that an audience of visual creatures has come to expect more. It used to be that presenting
You may even have to explain it environmentally. Electronic presentations are "green" ”that is, nothing has to be discarded at a later point that would affect the environment. Slides and overheads are not biodegradable. This is just one of many of the arguments for using electronic presentations.
In keeping with the notion of a visual presenter, you cannot ignore the growing acceptance of electronic presentations over slides and overheads. In fact, black-and-white overhead presentations are the most difficult for an audience to observe and still remain attentive to the message.
If you evaluate types of media based on overall impact, color always supersedes black and white. In fact, if you're not using color, then you shouldn't even be thinking about 35mm slides or electronic presentations. Instead, you should stick with overheads. With color, however, the impact is greater, depending on the media type. The more flexibility you have with the media, the better the presentation.
Currently, electronic images offer the greatest flexibility when compared with slides and overheads. If you have several media choices available to you, choose the one with the most flexibility, which I find in most cases is electronic.
If you are already convinced of the benefits of presenting electronically, then you can skip the rest of this section on media types. But, if you need to justify a media choice, take a look at the following comparisons.
Flexibility in media can be examined based on the CCC Model, or Cost, Convenience, and Continuity. These three major considerations can help you decide which media choice to use for your color presentation. To better understand media types, we can apply the CCC Model to overheads, slides, and electronic images.
Cost of Overheads
Sometimes referred to as transparencies, foils, or acetates, overheads are one of the most commonly used, yet least flexible, media types in business.
Often a company will try to use existing audiovisual equipment before investing in new technology, and the overhead projector is the most common in business. This makes sense. Moreover, for black-and-white presentations, the simplicity of inserting transparency material into a printer makes this choice an easy one with minimal cost.
The easier it is for you to prepare the presentation, the harder it is for the audience to stay attentive to your message. If you quickly create a few transparencies with lots of lengthy phrases, you create a presentation meant to be read and not viewed. Easy for you, tough for us. But, if you take the time to design effective visuals, the audience will find it easier to watch the presentation.
But, when overhead presentations involve color, the cost issues change. After you prepare your presentation in PowerPoint, you can outsource the production of color overheads to a creative services company, or you can use in-house equipment.
The cost of outsourcing the production of the overheads may appear to be higher because the price is reflective of the original investment in equipment, the
In-house production of color overheads involves a cost of acquiring a color printer and a recurring cost of supplies. In addition, the cost of time associated with the output process itself is a factor as well.
The factor of time is associated with equipment-related issues and not the time it takes to create the visuals in PowerPoint. That effort is
Let's use the same type of example for the comparisons to slides and electronic images. Say, for example, that a company makes only one 20-minute presentation each week. That's our reference point: one 20-minute presentation per week.
For 20 minutes of presenting, you'll create about 10 color overheads. Over one year, that's 500 overheads. The supplies aren't free. You have to buy them. You can be more exact on supplies cost if you know the actual cost of the transparency material (film) and color cartridge (toner, ribbon, or ink). On average, each color overhead costs about $1.00. If you also factor in the cost of the equipment, even a $500 color printer adds another $1.00 to the supplies cost, if you spread the cost of the printer over a single year.
Ah, but we have one other cost factor. In addition to supplies, you need to consider the cost of time to manage the process of producing the color output. Someone has to do this, whether it is you or some other member of the company. The process includes setup of the printer, maintaining supplies, fixing jams, and waiting for each transparency to print. I've seen people on a Saturday afternoon waiting for stuff to print. What's sad is they actually started the printing on Thursday!
If you count changes, mistakes, setup, and other interruptions, about 30 minutes each week is required for the 10-overhead presentation we've been discussing. Although the hourly wage of whoever is managing the process makes a difference, even a $10 per
So, the cost of producing 10 color overheads, in-house, might be as much as $2.50 each, when you factor in supplies and time. That's $25 a week. And this is
If you outsource the color overheads by sending a PowerPoint presentation to a service
Cost of 35mm Slides
For 35mm slides , the cost of production also includes investment in equipment, plus the actual cost of developing and mounting the slides. Some companies have in-house equipment to complete the entire process, but many own a slide-imaging device (film camera) from which the 35mm film is sent to a local development lab for processing.
Although the time to maintain the equipment and manage the process is far less than for color overheads, the number of slides needed to make the same points is much higher. If you have 10 overheads in your 20-minute presentation, the same 20-minute presentation using 35mm slides would require you to use about 30 slides. The reason is simple. You use media types differently. Slides in a
MediaNet designed ShowSTARTER
as a planning tool for a presentation. One of the calculations made by this software utility is to estimate the number of visuals you should have based on the length of the presentation. That's how I know you'll need about 30 slides or 10 overheads for the same 20-minute presentation. The actual
You might ask how these calculations are derived. We studied over 1,500 presentations over three
In addition, builds are used in many slide presentations, which
With electronic images the choice of using builds and overlays to reveal information in stages increases the number of visuals beyond that of slides simply because there is no limitation as there is with a slide carousel tray.
This is why the number of visuals is dependent on the media choice, even though the length of the presentation is the same, regardless of the media choice.
Even though film
If you sent a PowerPoint file to an imaging bureau, the cost of production will be somewhere between $5 and $10 or higher per slide, depending on turnaround time. Obviously, because you are using their camera equipment, their personnel, and their profit margin to image the slides, you will pay a higher cost.
Cost of Electronic Images
One important advantage with electronic images is that they require no additional production output, as with slides or overheads. This is important if you're like me ”time-starved!
It's true. I know I wait until the last minute to do stuff because there's always too much stuff to do. If I can work on my presentation and fine-tune the images on the plane, that's a better use of my time than sitting around waiting for film to develop!
The good news is that after you complete your PowerPoint presentation, you can use your PC to launch the screen show (slide show) using a display device . Nothing is free, however, and you need to consider the cost factor of the device used to project or display the image. Typically LCD projectors are used with notebook computers to present electronic PowerPoint presentations.
For cost analysis, you should only use the cost of the projection device. Don't add the cost of the PC because the computer has many more business uses beyond presentations. Also, you can't really assign a cost to each image because there is no extra charge to make 10 more electronic visuals in a presentation.
Using ShowSTARTER to calculate the number of visuals, our 20-minute presentation will require 35 images as compared to 10 overheads and 30 slides. This is because the change from one electronic image to another is a little faster than with slides. Hence, more visual impressions are possible when the duration stays the same (20 minutes).
Looking at cost per presentation, the equipment needed to project the image can be in-house (owned) or outsourced (rented). An LCD projector varies in price depending on feature/function issues, but if we assume owning one requires an investment of about $4,000, your weekly electronic presentation will cost about $80 ($4,000 divided by 50 weeks). Compared to 10 color overheads ($25) or 30 slides ($75), this appears to be the least
One way to know if you should buy or rent the display device is to estimate the minimum number of electronic presentations you expect to give in one year. Divide that number into the cost of a projector. If the answer is lower than a typical rental charge for that type of projector, then you might want to consider a purchase.
For example, you plan on giving 50 presentations this year. You set your sights on a shiny new projector that costs $8,000 to buy. $8,000 divided by 50 is $160. If it costs more than $160 to rent the same kind of projector, then it makes sense to buy the unit.
Use a one year scenario even though your equipment will naturally last longer. To remain current with technology you would have to upgrade every year, so the rent or buy comparison is done against a one-year time frame to take the most conservative view. A five-year comparision would surely make you choose to buy everytime. In fact, most rental prices are based on the equipment paying for itself within one year.
One big issue is that electronic images have no incremental costs per additional visual. Thus, your hard disk can store hundreds of visuals, any of which can be accessed as backup or support information. Electronic presentations offer the flexibility to make changes, updates, create builds and overlays, and even allow for more advanced activity using multimedia and
From a cost standpoint, that kind of flexibility makes the electronic visuals the better choice.
Convenience of Overheads
Convenience is about portability and relevancy. I mention portability because overheads are tangible. You have to carry them around and handle them. The handling factor makes overheads a less attractive media choice.
A three-ring binder of 50 color overheads in vinyl protective sleeves weighs about five
Another issue of convenience is relevancy, or keeping things current. Many presentations,
One other issue involves the lack of convenience in printing color overheads. After your visuals are created in PowerPoint, you typically have to leave your desk and go to the location of the color printer. In larger settings, this type of printer is not the office printer located a few steps from your desk. Instead, it usually resides in a more central location and may end up being shared by a larger number of users. More people waiting to use the same device will result in longer lines!
Convenience of 35mm Slides
Here's one for you: There are eight different ways to load 35mm slides into a carousel and only one way is correct. This can pose a problem if you are running out of time.
The fast way to load 35mm slides into a carousel is to face the carousel so the first slot (number one) is to your left. This would be the same as if you were standing in front of the lens looking down at the tray. Take a slide and hold it up to the light so it appears correctly oriented as you look at it. Now simply flip it backward (which will
Remember that convenience is about portability and relevancy. For slides, the portability issue is not so much that they are heavy (like carrying 100 overheads). Instead, you have some limitations concerning how many you can use.
For instance, the number of slots in a carousel limits slides. When glass-mounted, slides are limited to 80 per carousel tray. With cardboard or plastic mounts, you can use a carousel that holds 140 slides, but the risk of the slides getting
As far as relevancy goes, you actually have less flexibility for making changes when using 35mm slides. It's not that you'll have trouble finding a development lab to process 35mm film; rather, how will you get the slides shot in the first place? The good news is that you can electronically send your PowerPoint file to 24-hour services for processing. But, turnaround time is at least a day if you are out of driving range. The bottom line is that it is not likely you'll be able to make changes to the slides conveniently.
Okay, it's not all negative with slides. (No pun intended.) For certain presentations, the slide's emulsion, a maximum of 5,200 horizontal lines (resolution), offers the best contrast for color and image definition. If you are giving a medical presentation and the audience needs to see the changes in skin
High-color definition requirements, such as images rendered in computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD-CAM) applications, would be another instance where I would recommend 35mm slides over electronic images.
Convenience of Electronic Images
When your images are stored on your notebook computer, you are ready to present! Now that is convenience. When you look at portability and relevancy, electronic images pass those two tests with flying colors.
Portability regarding storage issues for visuals is virtually non-existent. Your notebook computer doesn't weigh more each time you add more images. That would be like saying every time you learn something new, your brain gets heavier and you gain weight. That means the
As far as limitations go, you can store as many visuals as your hard disk can hold. There is no slide carousel to limit you.
But electronic images address portability in a different way. It has to do with transfer. The ability to transfer or disseminate information through other electronic
I think relevancy is the best quality of this media type. Instant updates,
The electronic presentation format also offers the convenience of instant access. Action
So, from a convenience perspective, electronic images have too many advantages to ignore.
Continuity of Overheads
The real clincher when deciding on a media type for the presentation is continuity, which is really about keeping the attention of the audience. If there is any break in the action ”any interruption of the flow, any distraction at all ”the continuity of the presentation will erode. This
From a continuity viewpoint, color overheads carry a limitation during the actual presentation process itself.
For one thing, the audience is subjected to the "blast of white light" each time there is a change to the
Even if the transparency is
Finally, continuity is broken if a presenter has to search for support information. I've seen so many instances where an audience member
Continuity of 35mm Slides
You have fewer continuity problems with 35mm slides simply because there are no handling issues. Yes, slides can get jammed occasionally in a projector, but for the most part, this media type addresses the continuity issue nearly as well as electronic images.
One difference is quantity of images. The carousel is limited (80 to 140) and changing carousels during the presentation breaks the continuity. Of course, you don't want to keep an audience without a break for more than an hour, so 80 slides in a carousel should be more than enough to make it to each break.
The only minor continuity problem that 35mm slides pose is the on/off transition to the next slide. But, audiences get used to the pattern after a while, and it's not really a big deal.
In fact, many slide presentations
But if you go to that extent, why not use the computer?
Continuity of Electronic Images
Certain continuity issues demand the use of electronic images. They include builds and overlays, action buttons and hyperlinks, live applications, and multimedia options.
Builds and overlays, which reveal segments of information (text or graphics), help an audience understand more complex information. These techniques are most effective when done electronically. You can use slides for these effects, but you are limited in the number per carousel. You can attempt a text build with overheads. You know, the magic piece of paper that reveals yet another bullet! Ever notice how the paper always
Naturally, action buttons and hyperlinks allow non-linear navigation using the computer. This, by definition, requires electronic presentations. However, the instant access is what maintains the continuity of support information to the central theme.
The issues of cost, convenience, and continuity seem to point in the direction of electronic images as being the most effective media choice for business presentations. Selecting the proper media should be your first consideration, before you start designing any visuals.
Working with Design Templates
You already learned about templates in Chapter 2, "Creating a Basic Presentation," but I want to make a point about the relationship of the template to the readability and to the simplicity of the message.
Readability from a Distance
A clearly defined purpose needs the support of clearly readable visuals. Will everyone in the room be able to see everything on the screen? Whether you use overheads, 35mm slides, or electronic images, the audience must be able to read your support information or why show it to them? You can use several ways to test whether your images are going to be readable from a distance, even before you consider templates.
For overheads, place a transparency on the floor and stand over it. If you have no problem reading the text, then the audience member in the back of the room will not have a problem reading the information when projected.
For 35mm slides, hold a slide up to the light at arm's length. If you can read all the information clearly,
For electronic images, we use the "8 to 1 rule." The rule states that eight times the height of the image is the maximum viewing distance for the audience to read small-
So, if your image is 6 feet high, people sitting 48 feet away can read text with a font size of 24 points. If the font sizes are smaller, people will have to sit closer to the screen.
The height is based on the image, not the screen the image is projected on. You may have a 9-
You can't control where people sit if you haven't planned the seating in advance. Sometimes you get to an event and the audience looks like they are sitting on another planet! You need to consider the sizes of the elements on your visuals.
Run your slide show in PowerPoint and stand back about eight feet from your computer, assuming your screen is about one foot high. Can you read all the text on every visual? Wherever you have trouble, go back and check the font size. You may have to make some adjustments.
Knowing the importance of visibility and readability from a distance, you can examine the use of templates in PowerPoint.
The templates are very helpful because they make choices for you and let you do your real job rather than the job of a graphic artist. But, you may need to make modifications in order for the templates to be effective.
In general, I find the templates in PowerPoint are designed more closely to the media of print than they are truly designed for presentation. I'll tell you why. It has to do with point size. That's the measurement
The slide layouts that accompany nearly every template in PowerPoint tend to use the same font sizes, from 44 points in the title to as small as 20 points in the body of the layout. From an electronic visual design standpoint, you don't want to have font sizes less than 24 points on any image. This should already tell you that any text below the template's third level is probably unacceptable for your screen show.
But why dangle over the threshold of 24 points? Why push it? Set your sights on 36 points or higher. Adjust the template before you get started and make the titles 60 points and the first level 40 points. This will force you to use fewer words, making the visuals more conceptual and therefore easier for the audience to grasp and the presenter to deliver.
Simplicity in Design
The templates offer a variety of graphic elements, geometric
When you work with templates, see if the design is generic or specific. Generic templates contain very simple geometric shapes. Specific templates contain more complex and noticeable designs. Complexity forces the brain to interpret and think. You don't want the background design in your visuals to get more attention than your message. If you're marveling at the costumes, you can't be listening to the lines!
Over the years, I've learned to simplify themes. For example, at MediaNet, our Electrifying Templates ¢ for PowerPoint is a collection of very simple geometric PowerPoint presentation designs that fit the generic model of almost any topic. When designing so many presentations for so many different companies, it's easier to start with a very simple template and then add the complexity only to the visuals that require it. You can create your own templates using the same logic ”simplicity!
Overall, templates should not hinder readability from a distance nor contain specific design elements that cause the audience to be distracted from the message. The presenter delivers the message; the visuals only support it.
Creating Handout Materials
Almost every presentation has some form of handouts. The nature and the timing of these materials are two very important issues. When you decide to give people information to walk away with, you have to think about exactly what they will be given and when they will receive it.
Nature of Handouts
The handouts should always be different from the presentation. I know this breaks your heart to think that you now have extra work to do, but you really need to consider this point. Let's think about the relationship between the handouts and the presentation. Typically, you might fall into the trap of printing out a hard copy of your visuals for the audience to take away with them. You can look at this in two ways ”conceptually or
If your presentation is designed for a visual presenter, it is conceptual in nature. The images are clear, readable, easy to understand, and very supportive of the stories and
Same scenario, except the handout reads like a book. Lots of text on each image, very wordy phrases, full sentences, extremely detailed charts, and complex tables of numbers. The handout is designed specifically. Nice handout and useful for a long time, but I pity the person who attended that presentation! It was probably a data dump on the audience with a presenter who simply read from the visuals most of the time. I have seen so many of these that one look at the handouts, and I can pretty much know how the presentation went.
Do you see how you can't win if you try to do two things at once? Handouts must be different from the presentation in the same way a book is different from the movie. How would you feel if you went to a movie and the book was on the big screen? That's right, the entire book ”huge pages turning slowly while you gaze in amazement, then turn to a friend, and say, "Wow, look at the size of those fonts!"
Use the notes feature (see Chapter 10, "Creating and Printing Presentation Materials") to enter the concept or actual script for each visual. If you print a set of these for the audience, then they can review the comments long after the presentation is ended. This makes the handout more useful.
If you plan on having the audience take notes, then you can consider note-taking handouts. You can make these handouts in PowerPoint (see Chapter 10). They should include a combination of your visuals and an area for note-taking so that the audience can create personal references for later review.
To leave people with supporting documents is better than to bombard them with tons of data on every visual. Specification sheets, detailed charts, advertisements, articles, even free samples are just some of the support items that you can provide to tout your message long after you're gone.
Timing of Handouts
A lot of people ask me, "When is the best time to distribute handouts ”before or after the presentation?" I pause, look away for a second, and answer, "Yes." That's not an answer because there is no definite answer, one way or the other. It depends on your objective and your ability to keep the attention span of the group.
I start with a very simple question. Do you think the handouts will distract the audience from your presentation? If the answer is yes, distribute handouts at the end. If the answer is no, you can give them out at the beginning or the end.
For example, one of my
Check out the
You have to examine the handout materials and judge how critical a role they play in the presentation. Can the audience respond to your "call to action" without the handouts in front of them?
Regardless of when you distribute handouts, always announce them at the beginning of the presentation. Let people know what you have, what it covers, and when they can expect to receive it.