Can we learn anything about multimedia and presentations from (gasp) TV commercials? The creators of TV ads have similar challenges to the typical conference presenter. And that is, how to connect with the audience and get the message across in a short amount of time? Yes, conference presenters have more important, complicated subjects than soap or beer or auto insurance, and they have a little more time (though 20-30 minutes is not much more time). But the goals in many ways are similar: Get noticed. Be understood. Be memorable. Get people to take action.
Often, the best commercials appeal to humor; many of the best presentations too use a bit (or a lot) of humor. Let's face it, humor is visceral, it connects with people. The other thing that good TV ads have in common with many of the best conference presentations or keynotes is that they are highly visual. Given the high quality of multimedia support at most conference venues (corporate and university auditoriums, etc.) there's no reason why our conference presentations can not be highly compelling visually as well.
Present like Joe: Simple, visual, memorable
Ozgur at Marketallica in Istanbul sent me a link to an older Canadian beer commercial which, although clearly tongue-in-cheek, is actually a pretty good example of how one could present on stage for a larger audience. If there is a "Garr Reynolds method" I'd have to say that this is pretty close. The "presenter's" large screen in this ad incorporates the use of photography, large text, animation, and video. This is my preferred style as well. The man ("Joe") and his message are front and center, but the visuals bring it all together in a big way.
Joe goes all "Takahashi Method" by keeping the text large.
Using high-quality photos, large sizes and full bleeds.
Videos start in-sync with his talk.
Simple animation (in fact, this is video too, but you get the idea).
When a guy in a beer commercial makes better use of on-stage multimedia than most CEOs and executives, it's time to rethink conventional wisdom on what is truly a kick-butt presentation with multimedia support.
The "conventional" approach. Safe, easy and expected. But is it effective? Is it remarkable or memorable?
Unconventional approach. Takes a little — sometimes a lot — more time and thought to construct, but the ROI can be huge on presentation day and beyond.
OK, I know what some of you are saying. It's unfair to compare a Bill Gates technology-related PowerPoint presentation to a guy in a beer commercial, right? They are different. I get that. All I'm suggesting is that in this era, your presentations should be utterly unique visually and your media support should look more like Joe's than Bill's. It's just a commercial, but it is a creative piece of work. Here are the takeaways that we can apply to our real-life presentations.
Tips for making killer presentations with impact (Canadian style?)
• Make it visual.
• Make it large.
• Make it high-rez.
• Mix in photography, text, video, perhaps a small bit of animation.
• Synchronize visuals with the spoken word.
• Make it vocal. Your voice is a powerful tool. Your presentation is not a "slideshow with narration." It is you telling your story with compelling visual support.
• Be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but honestly different. Get in touch with your "inner presenter" — everyone has it inside them somewhere, and it's different in each of us.
• Stand front and center, don't look back.
• Be proud of your topic. Don't be arrogant (duh), but be confident and show it.
• No one should have a clue how many slides were used. If they are counting, you've already lost.
• No one cares about your software. At the end of the day, no one should really know or care what software you used. No PowerPoint clichés, tired templates, etc.
• Never, ever go over your allotted time. Period.
All of this assumes, of course, that you have compelling, well-organized content with the appropriate depth and scope for the occasion. If you don't, even nailing every one of the items above will not insure success. But if you do have great content, then presenting "different," big and visual like "I-am-Canadian" Joe just may make your presentation unforgettable.
• John West Salmon TV ad. (This is a bit off-topic, but I love this commercial and always thought of fishing up in B.C. when I saw this ad. In fact, I think John West is an Australian company with English roots. The short ad gets the point across in a memorable way, to be sure.)