New Type for the New Year

You’ll have documents and presentations to prepare in 2012. Instead of using the default fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Tahoma), try something different. Here are several classics recommended by acclaimed designer Massimo Vignelli:

  • Garamond
  • Bodoni
  • Century Expanded
  • Helvetica
  • Optima
  • Futura
  • Univers
  • Caslon
  • Baskerville

If they’re not installed on your computer, you can purchase these at FontShop. Of course, there are many other choices besides these (and that’s kind of the point). Remember that each font has its own distinctive characteristics and “voice,” so use the right tool for the job.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the fuss over fonts?” then check out the BMW logos below. Only one uses the correct type and your impression of the company wouldn’t be the same if they used a different typeface. Bonus points if you can name the impostors.

The Secret to Success

Surprise: there is no secret to success.

My friend Mark builds beautiful, hand-crafted furniture in his workshop. He didn’t learn to do that overnight. Kerry makes delightful art in her studio. Each piece takes her weeks (months?) to create and she spent years developing her skill and vision.

Anything you want to do well requires you to show up and work. A strong marriage, raising a child, creating change at your office, building a business. No magic bullets.

If you want to know how successful people got that way, check here.

“Boring to Bold” Highlighted on the Interwebs

Since I posted my “Boring to Bold” slides on Slideshare in October, the presentation has been picked up by two business web sites, The Big Picture and Econsultancy. Here are the links:

Thanks for the links and thanks for passing on the word. Here’s to better presentations.

A Few More Thoughts on Student Presentations

The other day, I offered an incomplete list of presentation suggestions for college students. Since that list was incomplete, here are a few more ideas, specifically on your presentation slideshow:

  • Don’t use a PowerPoint template; instead, look for design inspiration on Slideshare. It’s a little like the Internet in general: there’s a lot of bad stuff but some good stuff too. Pay attention to the colors and typefaces. Here are a few of my favorite designs on Slideshare¬†and here are two slidedecks I’ve posted there: Time Management for College Students and Boring to Bold: Presentation Design Ideas for Non-Designers.
  • For small rooms, consider light background colors; for large rooms, dark backgrounds.
  • Don’t steal images from Google Images (or other places). Either buy them from iStockphoto or get free Creative Commons images from flickr. Compfight is the best way to search the flickr Creative Commons pool. Make sure the images have enough resolution so they don’t have jaggies.
  • One idea per slide.
  • To see some outstanding presentations–both with and without slides–spend some time watching the videos on TED. It’s an excellent investment of your time. You could also watch a Steve Jobs presentation or two.
More to come…

Students: How to Present to Grown-Ups

As the semester is ending, I’m sitting in on a number of student presentations. These are typically done by teams of college juniors and seniors in various classes: marketing, project management, and others. The teams present research and case studies before panels of faculty members as well as local community and business leaders who offer feedback on the students’ work.

I often see students make the same kinds of mistakes every semester so here’s an incomplete list of some ways to improve.

  1. Don’t address the panel as you guys, as in “I’m sure you guys know how this…” The panel members are not your peers; address them respectfully with appropriate titles (Dr., Mr., Miss, Sir, Ma’am). Doing so will separate you from the vast majority of your peers who don’t understand these professional boundaries and it will help them (the panel members) regard you more favorably. Larger point: this will also prepare you for life after college.
  2. Don’t bluff or BS. The panel members typically have years of experience and education beyond yours and they’ll know if you’re bluffing. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
  3. Distribute your handouts at the end of the presentation. If the panel has your handout during the presentation, they’ll read it and ignore you.
  4. Offer explanations and reasons backed by evidence. Be sure to tell how but also explain why.
  5. Use stories. Data is good and necessary but you need an emotional hook to really sell your presentation.
  6. Remember that you have about ten seconds to make your initial impression. Be prepared, rehearse, and start strong.
  7. Have the strongest presenter in your group deliver the presentation. Other team members should be specialists in a particular knowledge area and can speak up during the Q&A period following the presentation.
  8. If the panel offers ideas and suggestions during the Q&A or debriefing, take notes. It shows that you listen and respect their ideas.
  9. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
  10. Test your technology in the conference room before the presentation. You don’t want to fumble around with computer and projector settings and lose valuable time–and even more valuable attention–on your big day.
David Rose’s presentation on How to Pitch to Venture Capitalists is a great place to start, even if you’re not presenting to VCs.