[Garland] Hello I’m Garland Coulson from PresentationPoint and today we’re doing an interview with PowerPoint MVP, expert, speaker, trainer and best-selling author on PowerPoint Ellen Finkelstein. Ellen, welcome to the show.
[Ellen] Thanks Garland, thanks for having me.
[Garland] So Ellen, I know I’ve kind of introduced you already but can you just give our viewers a brief 30-second introduction to what you do.
[Ellen] Sure, I basically train people. So I train either individuals who need to do a presentation or who want to learn how to present or sometimes teams. Whatever it is but I train presenters just to communicate more clearly and persuasively and powerfully. And a lot of that does not have to do with PowerPoint necessarily. Sometimes we go over the content in this organization but a lot of it does have to do with PowerPoint in the slides and I would say that I sort of specialize in showing non-designers how to design clear slides that actually communicate.
[Garland] Yeah, because not all of us have a designer in our workplace or can afford to hire a designer every time we need to do a PowerPoint slide so it’s important that we learn to create clear ones ourselves.
[Garland] So how long have you been using PowerPoint?
[Ellen] I think it since 1995 that was when I was invited to write some questions or answers from it was an educational publisher from McGraw-Hill I think it was and they gave me the teachers manual and so that taught me everything I needed to know about PowerPoint. So they gave me the course and then I wrote a teachers manual and some tests so I think something like 1995. A long time.
[Garland] Very experienced. So in addition to helping people learn to use PowerPoint better and to do better presentations how do you use PowerPoint in your business?
[Ellen] Well I use it for myself. I create my own slides. For example, I do sales presentations for selling my programs and I do training presentations when people buy them so I do a lot of my own presentations as well both live but mostly online. Most of what I do is online webinars.
[Garland] Yeah and we’ve started to use PowerPoint a lot more for our online sales presentations as well and it works really well for that. So what do you love about PowerPoint?
[Ellen] Well I really love that I can do almost anything with it. It’s very full-featured and it’s really pretty solid there so I no matter what I want to do I can do it and it’s flexible enough for me to use different styles or whatever it is I can pretty much do it. I actually didn’t mention this but I actually use PowerPoint as a design tool, as a marketing tool to create graphics. In fact I have a course called PowerPoint for Marketing Graphics.
So when I want to put up a blog post and I need to put up an image and I need to crop it or whatever I just always automatically go to PowerPoint so I love that it really has all of those graphic tools as well so that I can really create my slides or graphics or whatever.
It is just a new thing it’s not so much about PowerPoint as a program but I really like the new subscription model. So that’s called Office 365 and the thing that’s so different about it the reason I like it is because in the past you know there was PowerPoint 2003 and then 2007 it’s like four years before you could get new features and then you know 2010. Then if there’s someone like that and now they’re putting out new features every month that is like crazy and I don’t know how they do it obviously they have everybody in the world working 24 hours a day to do it but compared to what they used to but it’s really nice that they’re putting so much attention on it and coming up with so many new features all the time.
[Garland] Yeah I use Office 365 as well and I like that I’ve always got the newest version of PowerPoint and as you say when they add new features, it’s right away. It was always annoying to have to go and shell out hundreds of dollars more to get the newest version and having one monthly fee where I get the office suite just makes a lot of a lot of sense for me. So what’s missing on PowerPoint? What else would you like to see PowerPoint do that it can’t do for you right now?
[Ellen] I think right now there are so many features that the things I want are like little things so for example you can customize the fonts and you can customize the colors but you can’t customize what’s called effects. So if I would want to create effects that you know shapes that don’t have an outline but by default or something like that. You can’t do that and so I think that’s frustrating and it’s there so it’s just somehow they never got to the customization part of it. You know that you can choose from some effects that you can’t create your own. So that’s one thing. I think that you know PowerPoint used to have its own image library and then they got rid of it and they apparently do this for legal reasons and they were legitimate reasons. There are now some add-ins that you can use to get images within PowerPoint but I would love the ability to have sort of like tag-based system so it sees what my text is and it looks at the words and suggests images. Maybe an add-in has to do that. And one of the things that frustrates me I use SmartArt a lot so I’m turning bullet points into smart art and the ones that I use aren’t necessarily at the top of the list when you click change to you know to convert to SmartArt so that I have to click more smart you know go through the list and I would love most-frequently used or last used right at the top.Wouldn’t that save you a lot of time?
[Garland] Those are really great points and I know the image search is often my longest part of my presentation. I actually do my presentations entirely in raw text first. I don’t even look for pictures until later because I find you can get so caught up in the picture search that you forget your presentation so that has a big impact. That’s interesting too you’ve mentioned before about using PowerPoint for marketing graphics. Now I suck at graphic design but I find I’ll use PowerPoint to do mock-ups and then pass it to designers.
[Ellen] Absolutely, yeah I just did that I just did that a few days ago I was doing some report and I mocked it all up in Point and gave it to Fiverr.
[Garland] So what impact does teaching and consulting on PowerPoint what impact has that had in your own presentation and PowerPoint skills.
[Ellen] Well I’m faster that I used to be and I’ve developed I think it’s a repertoire of slide layouts that I can always apply quickly. And I do makeovers for clients. I’m working with a client now and he’s a does a kind of holistic health kind of thing. You know I can go through slides really quickly and make them look good very fast and part of the way of doing that is that having a repertoire, some layouts and not layouts in the technical sense of PowerPoint but some formats or structures of slides that I know I can always go to. So I think that that’s really helped that I can always make a pretty much always make a good slide.
[Garland] Great so what is the worst mistake you see people make with PowerPoint?
[Ellen] Well I think we all know that because there was this one big mistake it’s the elephant in the room where we see it all the time and that it’s called death by PowerPoint. and it basically what it is is putting making all text slides putting a lot of text on the slides and then when you deliver it reading the slides. So it’s not only a matter of how the slide looks but you know it’s almost like thinking and outline. So you remember when we were in sixth grade and we learned how to do Roman numeral one and then a thing and then we did capital A but when we speak we shouldn’t be speaking in outlines. We should be speaking in concepts. And so basically when you have all this text on the slide people just go and read it and I’ve actually tested this I did this with a group of college professors and I created a slide like this and I went through it and I said so how did you take in the information. And most people read ahead of you so if you if they’re reading ahead of you then not only they’re not listening to you because they’re trying to understand what they’re reading but they find your voice annoying and this is just death for the presenter. You know it’s like shut up already let me read and then when they finish reading because people can read faster than you could speak then they could turn their attention to the speaker and hear that the speaker is saying stuff they’ve already read. This takes their attention away from the speaker. So this whole thing of thinking that what you say needs to go on the slide is really wrong. It’s just like a whole wrong concept.
[Garland] I understand that and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t give my presentation out ahead of time. I don’t give the slides out ahead of time. I don’t use my slides even as a handout for that reason because most of my presentations actually don’t make any sense without the speaker because they I just use a graphic to illustrate like a metaphor. It’s not meant to be a handout or something like that. So what additional mistakes do you see people make with PowerPoint?
[Ellen] Well let’s see what additional mistakes – oh, I know. For some reason I see this all the time you know people complain that PowerPoint’s default is to have the title and then bullet points below it but yet for some reason people tend to go to the blank layout and start putting text boxes all over the place and while this is okay for a designer who knows how to layout slides it’s not good for the rest of us we’re not designers and so just use the layouts if you want to have a point you know someone point and an image on it they use title only and then you just put the title there and you put the image on it. But when people use text boxes they jump from slide to slide there’s no consistency nothing is setting it up for it to look organized and clear. So I think not using the layouts is a problem that I see with my clients all the time.
[Garland] And it would make it tougher to say, apply SmartArt to the bullet points as an example like yeah I can see that. I use that occasionally but I don’t think I overuse it. It’s more what I want just a single slide that might be dramatic I might do that. But for the most part yes I still use the layout.
[Ellen] I mean I use text boxes in certain ways for example to label an image you know if it’s a picture of a person and I want to have a label below it saying who the person is. Or sometimes rather than if I have a shape red if I if it’s hard for me to put the text on top of the shape exactly where I wanted I’ll put a text box on top of it but just not for your all of your text.
[Garland] So what is something people could do withPowerPoint that most people don’t know you can do with it?
[Ellen] So let’s see what’s something that you could do with PowerPoint that most people aren’t aware of. I think that there are a bunch of people who some people noticed that you people don’t realize that you can turn it into a video. And how to do that. So you can create really nice videos with PowerPoint and there are various ways of doing it but in general you would probably use more animation because you’re turning it into a video and then you create some transition between the slide and you set up slide timings you might narrate it or add music to it and then when you put that all together you can export it to a video and create a really nice video with it.
[Garland] Great especially with the popularity of things like YouTube, being able to easily create videos using PowerPoint is quite useful. So what would be even a top tip you would have for people wanting to create better PowerPoints?
[Ellen] So I think my top tip is and this is a PowerPoint actually is to focus on your audience’s needs for content and the design should also focus on what they what’s easy for them to take in and the delivery should focus on being interactive with the audience and asking them questions and so I think in general with presenting you know that’s a big tip is to focus on the audience. And I’ve had the experience it’s not always easy to do that. So I’ve had this experience a couple of times of misreading the audience in advance because it was like a conference and I would come in and it wouldn’t go very well because I didn’t really understand the audience. It wasn’t easy to do that but I think by asking questions as you go along and making adjustments is one way of doing that so I think that’s my top tip.
[Garland] Yes, and that’s what’s really important is knowing the audience and making sure the examples, the pictures, the graphics, the message all matches with what the audience is looking for. So any additional PowerPoint tip you might be able to share.
[Ellen] Well we were talking about you know putting a lot of text on it but that’s a bad thing to do so I think I have something that I call the tell and show method. It’s basically you tell the point – and there’s some research this is research from Michael Ali and he did it in a college setting where he was trying to teach students something and then tested to see how much they understood and remembered. But basically you put a point on the slide and then you show the point with some kind of graphic and in his case he was in Penn State engineering school he was showing mechanical things but whatever it is it could be a diagram or a photo or mat or whatever it is somehow to show the point. And so I think that you know that’s an important way to do it now sometimes we need more text than that you know it just sometimes it happens and I think that’s especially true in training as opposed to other types of presentations that are meant to be more either persuasive or inspirational and so then I would say the basic guideline is to try to create a presentation with no bullet points, those little dots. And you can turn it into SmartArt we talked about that there’s a there’s a new phrase that I heard once icons are the new bullets. And so you can use icons and they’re very trendy right now they’re really in and in fact PowerPoint’s designer feature which opens up as a design the design pane at the right well now in office 365 if you have it will now actually turn bullet points into icons based on the terms that you the words that you have. It’s not always that accurate but that’s really cool so I think the goal would be to try to create slides with no bullets.
[Garland] And you gave one sort of great general tip about better presenting that you to know your audience and make sure that your message and your graphics match. Can you provide another tip on presenting that you might like to share?
[Ellen] Well you think this tell and show method you know it’s definitely one of them so it has to set this idea at each point basically you have one point on the slide you tell the point, you show the point, you tell the point, you show the point, and have a cute little system for choosing the right image. And this mostly deals with photographs but not necessarily. So I call it the BARE system so B.A.R.E. B is big. A is attention-getting. R is relevant and E is emotional.
I use an example of a slide it’s better when you see it but so I have a slide that we should reach out to our team members to work with them. That would be the point of the slide so reach out to your team members. And so you could create a little thing with two circles that overlap and make it small so that would be the first effort and the first thing you could do is to just make that big so it’s two overlapping each one represents a person so they reach out to each other. So you can make it big. But then it’s not very interesting or what I call attention-getting or arresting as another a word that you could use there so then I have a second picture which is kind of a funny picture but it’s a picture of a pregnant woman with her stomach sticking out and a man is reaching out to touch the baby so it’s very it’s big its arresting but it’s not relevant you know like I don’t really want to tell people to be going out and touching people’s bellies. So it’s not relevant to the meaning of that so then I change it. I have an overhead picture of people working together at a table and because it’s from the top it’s an unusual picture it’s big it’s attention-getting it’s relevant but it’s not very emotional. So then I finally come to a work image where I show a picture of you know how companies sometimes take their employees out to a team-building exercise kind of thing off-site so it’s a picture of something like that and then they you have these people on top of a wall and they’re trying to get their team members to they’re competing against each other to climb up the wall and come on you can do that kind of thing and so it’s really emotional they’re reaching out literally to try to get the heck know grab the hand of their their team member to bring them up so that that’s the point of it. Tthat it’s big and it’s arresting and it’s relevant and it’s emotional. So when you find a picture like that you’re spot on.
[Garland] Wow do you have an article like that on your blog, you should definitely should have. That’s a really good point. So is there anything else you’d like to share with our viewers today?
[Ellen] So I think that’s basically it. think that one of the main question I’ve shared some points that are in about PowerPoint that are more about knowing the audience and so on like that so from the point of view of delivery I want to say that the best way to become a good speaker is to practice and videotape yourself and then watch the video. And some people have a hard time but this is a really kind of scary kind of thing. But if you’re hesitant to go out there and speak then just you have to practice. I don’t consider myself a good speaker from the technical point of view. I pause, I say um, I can’t think of what I want to say next, and that’s hard for me to change my brain and make the words come faster to my brain. So there are always these pauses. And so I know that when I want to create a video let’s say that’s going to be for my website I’m going to have to do it 10 times before I’m going to get those three sentences out without weird pauses in them or something like that. So the same thing you don’t expect to be fluent a fluent speaker but you just have to be lively and have a good points be saying something valuable and eventually when you yourself and you record yourself and you do it again and again you become comfortable with it. And as long as again you have something good to say and your you’re interested, you’re enthusiastic about it you’ll be a good enough speaker.
[Garland] And I know as a professional speaker myself I’ve run into this lot. oO course we all hate to hear her own voices recorded because they never sound as good as we think they should – they just don’t sound the same anymore. But I know in one case I was watching a video online recently and the person made all the common mistakes, the uhms, the you know, but she was so engaging she was so authentic she was so passionate that I thought myself just thoroughly enjoying the presentation and my speaker critiquing hat just went off. Well this has been fantastic Ellen there’s been just a ton of great information that you shared here. Where could people go to connect with you further?
[Ellen] People can go to EllenFinkelstein.com and you said you’d put a link below because not everybody can spell that name and I will send you also the link to that specific blog post. About the BARE method of choosing the right image.
[Garland] Fantastic thank you so much for being with us today Ellen and you know it was great to have you and what a wonderful guest thank you.
[Ellen] Thank you very much I appreciate it and I enjoyed it as well.