Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Words of business wisdom

Originally posted at my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

Google's lesson on presentations

Presentations matter, and this week we have been provided with a good example that proves the point well.

This week Google have entered the mobile phone market. Their phone, the Nexus, is the company’s bid to join the likes of Apple at the top of the smart phone market. The launch took place at Google’s Mountainview campus in California and… well… it sucked.

Above you can see a picture from the “big” event. I am not really quite sure what Google were thinking of when they decided to launch of the Nexus in this manner. To begin with it appears as though they had no more than a few dozen reporters and bloggers in the room, they also appear to have used a screen completely incapable of projecting pictures with any sort of clarity or contrast and finally, the presenter appears to have resigned himself to standing behind an old overhead projector/lectern which isn’t even in use. The whole affair seems awfully amateurish.

Compare this to the launch of a similar phone 2 years ago. Mr. Jobs always puts on a show and didn’t disappoint with his launch of the iPhone. Jobs’ presenting style is the stuff of legend and has even been the subject of one or two books. He practises tirelessly and makes sure that everything is just perfect… he most certainly doesn’t stand behind a podium. He also ensures that his slides are perfect… I can’t imagine that Steve Jobs would have settled for a small room with a screen washed out with too much light.

Some people might say “hey it’s just a presentation, what’s the big deal”, well the problem is that these product launch presentations are a vital piece of the marketing process and like it or not journalists who are uninspired or confused by your product launch pitch will write uninspired and confused articles about your product. Or perhaps write nothing at all.

When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone tech bloggers and journalists whipped the web up into an utter frenzy with articles about the new phone, when Google launched the Nexus with their lukewarm presentation the journalists appear to have relied with a collective shrug of the shoulders.

CNBC’s “Fast Money” news segment even took time to actively slate the presentation (one of the analysts even called the presenter a “Johnson”, an American reference lost on me perhaps), the presentation has now not only created little interest it has attracted negative coverage… this really isn’t the way things should have gone.

This week Google taught us a lesson, presentations matter.

Originally posted on my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

World's worst slides award goes to...

My interest in this topic stemmed from a tweet posted by Garr Reynolds @presentationzen: “Holy what’s the plan in Afghanistan, Batman!” Does this PowerPoint clear things up? http://snipurl.com/tyvxc h/t @Durf


We have all seen our fair share of bad presentations, if you have not yet been subjected to many bad presentations then you are privileged individual indeed, just don’t expect it to last.

In reality, although bad presentations might put us to sleep, waste our time and be totally ineffective all they really do at worst is waste our resources – be they time or money – but hey at least it’s not a case of life or death, people still leave the boardroom alive, bored… but alive.

If a presentation were to be dealing with a topic sufficiently important that it could potentially result in the life or death of numerous individuals you would surely expect that the presenter would want to ensure that the slides used got the information across in the most effective, understandable and memorable way possible… right?

Well, it would seem that not everybody thinks like that. In the past few years a number of internal presentations from the United States Army have been leaked into the public domain and my god are they bad. These slideshows do not just exhibit the normal levels of incompetence that we have come to know and… love, but instead take powerpoint (and audience) abuse to whole new levels.

Take for example the slide below, there is a message there somewhere in the slide, really there is… but the chance of every member of the audience achieving an understanding of this message by the time the presenter has moved on to the next slide is surely as close to zero as you can get.

Exhibit 2 (below) is – although you might have thought it impossible – even more ridiculous than the first. I understand where the presenter is coming from though, I believe I used to draw diagrams like that when I was younger. I would sit at the kitchen table with a box of crayons and a juice box and just keep drawing swirls around the page at random, however at that time I was 2 years old… and I wasn’t trying to run an army engaged in a war.

Now while I make fun of these very poor powerpoint slides, there is a serious point to be made, if your audience can’t understand the message you are trying to tell them, you need to change the way you are telling them. These US Army slides are so ineffective that I find it hard to believe that they are any use to anyone whatsoever, and although the issues they are dealing with are undoubtedly complicated they still need to be communicated well. Perhaps they should all sit down together, watch this talk by Hans Rosling and read some books by Edward Tufte to get a crash course on how to communicate complex information.

Originally posted at my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why less is probably more when it comes to presentation length

From a young age we are led to believe that more is more, that is to say that your essays should be as long as possible, your projects should be far in excess of the minimum length requirement and your show and tell should be as lengthy and detailed a talk as possible.

It is rather unfortunate that we are allowed to believe this from such a young age as it results in what only can be described as truly awful speeches and presentations!

When it comes to giving a presentation LESS is often more, the reality is that people have limited attention spans and their brains can only absorb so much information in one sitting, therefore they will remember the first and last few minutes of your hour long presentation... and no more than that.

Great public speakers across the board from politicians to comedians recognise this fact and put it into practice when they talk to their respective audiences. They recognise that a presentation is about the audience, not about them. They recognise that it is their job to get the message across in a way that will be memorable and that will result in an action, not to stand atop a podium and show off how eloquently and comprehensively they can discuss an issue.

Abraham Lincoln is best remembered for his “Gettysburg Address”, a speech which is widely regarded as being one of the best speeches made by a US president. And while many people have heard of this speech, they have most likely not heard that Lincoln was not the main speaker at event, and more importantly that his speech was under 275 words and lasted less than three minutes.

Edward Everett was up before Lincoln on that day, and delivered a speech that was 13,500 in length... I have never heard of Mr. Everett and his role in the Gettysburg Address, in fact I doubt very few non-historians have heard of his speech.

Length is often not everything, if you can get your message across in a short concise talk, like Mr. Lincoln then you should probably do so!

Originally posted at my presentation blog www.clearlypresentable.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The reality of meetings

I found this beauty on the 37signals blog. Very true stuff.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clear Presentation Design - an exciting new direction

After much thinking on the matter I have decided to try putting my presentation skills to some use and start up my own presentation design business. Clear presentation design, found at www.clearpreso.com is my main website. Clear presentation design will offer services such as presentation makeovers, content generation and video presentations to begin with.

I am really looking forward to overcoming the challenges of self employment and directing my efforts towards this venture. I hope I can help people develop and deliver high quality presentations and we can all wave goodbye to the crappy, awful, horrific and ineffective slides that we see from day to day .

I have also started a new blog found at www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com, it will discuss all things presentation related.

So go on, give them a look!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meetings are expensive... very expensive

It might not occur to most people, but meetings are expensive, very expensive. I am not talking about room rental, equipment rental, the cost of the tea and the chocolate biscuits that Doris the tea lady brings in to the meeting room (although add this in later if you really want), nope I am in fact talking about the cost of the time wasted in the vast majority of meetings.

Although you may think that meetings are just part and parcel of the way your business operates and therefore should not be subjected to criticism, I must tell you that the cost of most meetings is easily calculated, and absurdly large and underestimated.

Let’s imagine that Mr. Director of company X would like to call an internal meeting to discuss the launch of the company’s wonderful new product. The next afternoon all 50 employees shuffle into the large meeting room to hear the Director talk about the new product. The presentation is quite awful, it is poorly structured, conveys little to no information and does little to clear up uncertainties about what the new product will mean for various employees’ roles.

Let’s imagine that this presentation droned on for an hour, a very reasonable estimate. That was very much a completely wasted hour for each employee in attendance, 50 working hours are now firmly down the drain. If you were even more adventurous with your analysis of this meeting you could try and put a financial costing to it. Assuming that the average per-hour wage of the employees is €30 (very conservative here) that meeting has cost the company €1,500 in potential working hours and has given the audience little or no real value or information.

The lesson to be learnt here is that presentations are often an inappropriate form of communication. The Director could have chosen to send around a Word document in this situation describing the details and consequences of the launch. Or, if the Director was hell bent on making a presentation out of it, he could have at least practised out his presentation several times, been clear on the facts and trimmed the presentation down to a reasonable timeframe.

While this might go unnoticed in internal situations, the same will not be true for external meetings. People don’t like having their time and money wasted, so calculate the value of your next presentation (time x people x average wage per hour) – is it worth it? Have you worked hard enough to deliver real value and information? If not… START WORKING ON IT

Fox news try to display info. Fail!

Worst. Piechart. Ever.

From Fox news... who would have thought that all the segments should add up to 100%?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good graphs are like good jokes

Best graph related quote I have ever heard:

Good charts are like good jokes (they don't need to be explained)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thierry Henry's little "mistake"

After last night's Ireland versus France game concluded with a frankly absurd judgement by the ref with regards to Theirry Henry's handball some are calling for a boycott of Gillette products if Mr. Henry continues to be one of their cover boys.

Mr. Manuel Yoacham, wrote on this blog : "I think Gillette needs to implement some damage control, and quick" and to be fair he has a point, a lot of Irish people are calling for him to be banished to a dark hole somewhere.

I think the problem is that while this memory will last forever in the hearts and minds of the Irish, I suspect the distaste with Henry will by temporary elsewhere. Gillette create adverts that can be run anywhere in the world because they have some pretty recognised cover boys. This means they only have to make one advert to satisfy most of their advertising needs, will they care of piddling Ireland stop buying their razors? I suspect not. However we will see what happens.

Ireland played the best I have ever seen them play last night, we should all be very proud, and in terms of the boycott, I haven't used a Gillette razor for a few years now, my views were obviously ahead of their time!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Flashmob" in Cork

I found this by way of the wonderful http://www.pkellypr.com/blog/ a blog worth visiting for definite.

The following wonderful video is one filmed in Cork City center of a group of 800 or so people getting together to spread the word about the National Campaign for the Arts, if you like the song Mr. Blue Sky, or you like smiling, I suggest you watch this video.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Aer Lingus Rant Continued

I mentioned previously here that I would continue my rant on Aer Lingus, so I will.

I have been searching around for a particular few lines that I read not too long ago in a George Orwell book that reminded me of the Aer Lingus situation. Unfortunately I never found the lines but I remember what the jist of the matter was.

It was referencing his time in Spain where he fought in the civil war, here he witnessed in-fighting on the side he was fighting for just at a crucial time, I believe he compared it to starting a civil war when the murderous enemy is knocking at the city gates... not the best timing.

I like to think that this is what is happening with Aer Lingus, with the unionised staff provoking the civil war. Given that the staff appear to be vowing to fight all cutbacks and layoffs survival is looking very slim... are they really so foolish as to want to stop all changes? Option A: Some people get cut, working conditions change - Option B: Stay the same and everyone loses their job (perhaps an odd show of solidarity?) - Those are pretty much the two option Aer Lingus have... do they really want to commit industrial suicide?

Madness I tells ya.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pretty Pumpkin

Well pumpkin carving time comes but once a year, and after the initial gutting of the pumpkin -which I really hate - it's actually quite fun to carve this vegetable/fruit/not too sure into a nice design.

I present to you my pumpkin for Halloween 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The missing office floor - floor 13

I am very probably one of the least superstitious people you will ever meet, this is a fact I am rather proud of, I walk under ladders and regularly laugh in the face of black cats.

I would like to think that most people that most semi-intelligent people also lend superstition very little time and attention, however I increasingly think that perhaps I could be wrong about this.

The last place you would expect to find a fear of absurd superstitions is the business world, however as a little experiment, if you happen to find yourself in an office building in the United States go into the lift and ask to go to level 13... I think you will find there is no level 13.

Check out the picture below, floors in this Chicago office building go from 12 straight to 14(a). You may insist that this is surely just a mistake on the part of the lift manufacturer... unfortunately not. It seems that all over the US businesses are very reluctant to rent out floor space on floor 13's around the country, so in an attempt to shift this "unlucky" floor number many offices are now just calling it the 14th floor... this sort of logic worries me.

(Plus if you are on the "14th floor" and ARE a superstitious indidivual, surely you know exactly what floor you are on - the horrific, deadly, unlucky, haunted one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Images from the road 9

The Bean, Millenium Park, Chicago
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Monday, October 19, 2009

2 Facts about trains

While listening to "The Bottom Line" a BBC business podcast I heard some information that both shocked and appalled me regarding trains. They may just shock and appall you also.

The UK Chief Executive of Bombardier, the Canadian based airplane and train manufacturer, was being quizzed on the ins and outs of the train manufacturing arm of the company and was asked to estimate in rough terms how much a train costs the buyer.

The answer? 1 MILLION POUNDS! and that's PER carriage! It is therefore little wonder that train operators are doing so abysmally in these rough times. Let's imagine that you want to buy a brand new 8 carriage train for a busy route, that's an instant £8 million you have to recoup to break even... absurd.

The second fact, which quite amused me, was that because of the lack of foresight on the part of the nice folk who built England's (and presumably Ireland's) train infrastructure, we can only have trains of a certain height (too low) and width (not wide enough). Anything in excess of what they thought we would need in the 1800's would simply scrape off the sides of tunnels etc. resulting in what we can only presume would be a rough journey. That is why everyone trains often feel far too cramped...

So there you are, 2 interesting train related facts.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Images from the road 8

Washington DC, Obama in his limo leaving the back of the Whitehouse. It was followed by about 30 blacked out SUV's (oddly enough I'm not exaggerating).
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Rants

In the last short while I have been hearing a few stories about Ryanair and Aerlingus in various newspapers and radio programs and the like and unfortunately for you I can hold my silence no longer!

Unfortunately these issues drive me so up the wall that I don’t think I can put them together in a coherent flowing manner, so in place of a well written article, I present to your a series of points that have been grinding my gears for the last while.

1. People saying have to support Aer Lingus “because they are Irish”
This one is particularly stupid as it tends to be used most often in conversations that also make reference to the Ryanair vs Aer Lingus debate. To WHAT extent could Aer Lingus be considered any more Irish than Ryanair? Is it because the planes have a green colour scheme? Because the tail fin has a shamrock on it? Because they were a (but are now a failed) airline set up by the state? I really don't know...

Now correct me if I’m wrong but Ryanair is Irish too, and rather than being a dismal financial failure like other (unnamed...) Irish airlines Ryanair is turning a profit in a time when all around them are doing poorly.
Also Ryanair is Europe’s biggest airline in terms of passengers, so why aren’t people supporting a Irish company that has become the leading force in European aviation, a globally impressive example of how Ireland can take on the big players and win. This make my little brain angry.

A quick scan around the board room of the two airlines would also be advisable to those who are emotionally attached to the “Irish element” of Aer Lingus. CEO of Ryanair = Michael O Leary, a successful Irish businessman – CEO of Aer Lingus = Cristoph Mueller, a successful German businessman.

2. People thinking Ryanair owe them anything
Watchdog, the BBC consumer issues programme contained a piece on how Ryanair were to double the cost of checking in baggage on planes, and do away with manned check in desks starting in the near future.

Members of the audience were asked what they thought about it and as per usual the usual assortment of anti-Ryanair folk chipped in their 2 cents about how awful it was, that Mr. O’Leary could do such things. They then had a satellite conversation with O’Leary who told the audience, and viewers of the programme, that he basically couldn’t care less if they didn’t want to fly with his airline, there would be 67million people willing to take their seat.

Why do people feel that Micheal O’Leary and Ryanair owe them anything? They don’t owe you cheap flights, cheap added extras, cheap anything. They are a business, and a successful one, not a charity.

More to come on this later in part 2... I must go calm down somewhere nice and quiet.

Friday, October 9, 2009

They weren't going to miss out on this one

More thoughts about Ryanair on the way soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Images from the road 7

Ireland Park, Toronto
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Death rates of various diseases visualised

Well I think the graphic below offers an insight into how unbelievably over the top the hype and hysteria surrounding swine flu has been. I have personally become very, very sick (not of any type of flu) of the whole thing and wish the newspapers, news channels and general public would stop giving it so much coverage.

Take a little look at the graph below and make your own minds up about what you want to be afraid of. (You may need to click on it to make it a reasonable size for viewing)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Job hunting in a recession

Here is a presentation from the presentation/career guru Mr. Rowan Manahan on how to hunt for jobs in a recession. Well worth a look!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cheating with charts

Great post at the Duarte Blog (found here) about how people cheat with the charts to make information fit with their version of events.

By simply manipulating the length and height of axis units you can tell what look like very different stories. As Duarte describe it:

"The flexible grid: One of the easiest ways to give more or less movement to the trend of a curve is to expand or contract the horizontal or vertical axis of the chart. The chart below shows a correctly scaled trend and six ways the visual image changes by expanding or contracting the grid layout."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Slideshare competition - How did I get on?

Well the 2009 Slideshare competition is coming to an end, the public vote is now over and the control is now in the hands of the very qualified judges (including one Mr. Guy Kawasaki - who as you might know is a good friend of mine that is to say I met him once).

So how did my presentations do in the public voting I hear you ask with baited breath... well Let me tell you...
Out of the 3,000 entries I had presentations that placed @ 9th, 60th, 94th, 153rd and 167th (all in the top 5.5% for you stats people out there).

I am pretty happy with how I got on although I do realise that the public voting didn't always reflect the quality of the presentations so I will leave it to the judges to decide if any of mine were actually any good!

If you voted for me, thank you, if not... damn you :-)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Steve Jobs: Back in action (for now)

Well Steve Jobs is officially back in action with Apple and he took to the stage this week to launch a few new (but very minor) products.

I am happy to see Steve back on stage again, but I must say that he still doesn't look, or sound, like a particularly well man which makes me a little sad.

Below are two pics of Steve, at the top is one of when he was healthy (albeit a tad overweight), below this we have Steve Jobs in Sept 2009, I think he looks very very frail and if I was an Apple shareholder I might be getting a tad worried.