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Powerful Pointers for Presenters

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell

August 2005

By now, PowerPoint is (or should be) a ubiquitous part of any law practice. Lawyers are now using presentation software on a regular basis to make electronic presentations at trial, mediation, arbitration, firm meetings, or to clients.

Although it is clear that Microsoft PowerPoint dominates the landscape and is here to stay, it is alternately loved and hated by everyone who uses it or watches a presentation.

PowerPoint, however, is fundamentally just a tool. What matters is how well you use the tool. Lawyers are well known for producing very busy, text-intensive slides that frankly do not make effective use of the PowerPoint platform. For an eye-opening view of how lawyers might better use PowerPoint, we recommend that you take a quick look at Cliff Atkinson’s blog post called “Beyond Bullet Points on Trial” at http://www.beyondbullets.com/2005/07/beyond_bullet_p.html.

This month, we wanted to help both you and your audience by pointing you to some of the most helpful resources we have discovered on the use of PowerPoint. We scoured the Internet this month to find sites of use to PowerPoint users, novices and experts alike; these links offer templates, add-ins, tips, blogs, and more than you really want to know about PowerPoint and presenting in general.

The Basics.

PowerPoint 2003 Home Page (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/FX010857971033.aspx) – This is the place you’ll want to start; it provides loads of great information. In addition to templates, clip art, and other media, you’ll also receive support and training from the Microsoft Office experts. Add-ins to make PowerPoint more versatile are also available.

Microsoft Office Online (http://office.microsoft.com/) – Although, as a practical matter, this page overlaps the PowerPoint 2003 Home Page we just mentioned, it’s worth taking a separate trip to this site for more ideas, articles, templates, clip art and the like and for the always important Office Update tool.

PowerPointAnswers (http://www.powerpointanswers.com/index.html) – Kathryn Jacobs, a Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional), offers basic information about PowerPoint, including presentation tips and tricks, reviews of various presentation products, sources for finding new templates, and other great resources.

Ten Tips to Improve Your Presentations with PowerPoint (http://www.denniskennedy.com/products/free-samples/pptips.aspx) – Dennis’s PowerPoint tips article has been reprinted in many places around the world, including on the Microsoft website. It’s a good overview of helpful techniques to jumpstart your PowerPoint efforts.

Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)

(http://www.sethgodin.com/freeprize/reallybad-1.pdf) Best-selling author/marketing guru Seth Godin, whose book Free Prize Inside!, says the PowerPoint slides have become the presentation, rather than reinforce it.

"If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report," he writes in his e-booklet, Really BAD PowerPoint (and how to avoid it). "Do it in PowerPoint if you want, but it's not a presentation, it's a report. It will contain whatever you write down, but don't imagine for a second that you're powerfully communicating any ideas." But don't delete your PowerPoint software just yet. In this e-booklet, Godin offers five rules to create amazing PowerPoint presentation.

Presentation Resources.

Presenters University (http://www.presentersuniversity.com/) – School is in session, and you’re certain to get a great education here. Best of all, it’s free (or mostly free). You can download free trial versions of presentation software and add-ins, as well as free templates for PowerPoint and masters for Corel Presentations. The Courses section provide free, easy-to-read articles with tips and tricks for improving your presentations and your presenting style. The “Ask the Professor” feature is actually a user forum you can use to ask questions and get support from other PowerPoint users.

Presentations.com (http://www.presentations.com/presentations/index.jsp) – Another great site on giving presentations, with less focus on PowerPoint and more on the actual process. The pages are divided into several areas. Creation provides helpful articles on putting your presentation together. Delivery covers speaking tips, handling your audience, the speaking environment, and presentation mastery. Technology discusses display and projection, digital imaging, audio and video, software, and computers/peripherals. There’s even a Buyer’s Guide where you can search for products, manufacturers, and dealers.

Beyond Bullets (http://www.beyondbullets.com/) – Cliff Atkinson is an expert in helping people communicate with other people using PowerPoint. His weblog contains some terrific ideas on how to improve your presentations – in fact, you may find some of his recommendations somewhat revolutionary. In addition to the great information on the blog, you’ll also find articles by Cliff, as well as the opportunity to buy his highly-recommended book (called Beyond Bullet Points –see Dennis’s comments on the book at http://www.denniskennedy.com/archives/2005_02.html#a000647) or a special add-in that will help you implement Cliff’s theories on presenting into your own presentation.

Projector Central (http://www.projectorcentral.com/) – All the hard work you devote to your presentation will be wasted if no one can see it. Projector Central will satisfy all of your display needs – projectors, screens, and all the attendant accessories. You can check out current prices, read reviews of recently released models, or peruse the buyer’s guide for practical advice on the right projector for you.

Presentation-Pointers.com (http://www.presentation-pointers.com/index.asp) – The four areas of this site include Communicating Effectively, Building a Presentation, Planning a Presentation, and Communicating in your Specialty. Each category includes loads of helpful articles on becoming a better presenter.

SpeakerNet News (http://www.speakernetnews.com/) – Here’s a website with tons of great resources for speakers and an excellent free weekly email newsletter. You should learn at least one very helpful tip in each issue of the newsletter and we recommend that you subscribe to this one.

Tips, Techniques and Templates.

Brainy Betty (http://www.brainybetty.com) – Finding quality free templates is tough – fortunately, sites like Brainy Betty are around to help out. Here you’ll find some very creative, professionally-designed templates and free fonts, as well as tutorials and tips on preparing your presentation.

Communicate Using Technology (http://www.communicateusingtechnology.com/index.htm) – Dave Paradi calls himself your “PowerPoint Lifeguard,” and he provides free tips by newsletter on using PowerPoint as well as other components of your Office suite. In addition to the free newsletter, you have access to free articles, some great learning tools, and a sizable list of presentation technology links.

PowerPlugs (http://www.crystalgraphics.com/powerpoint/presentations.main.asp) – Crystal Graphics offers this nice set of plug-ins for your PowerPoint presentations. The fifteen plug-ins that are offered will provide 3-D charts, video/animated backgrounds, Flash animation, templates, animated photos, quotes, headings, and several add-ins that enhance your slide transitions. The collection is not cheap; you can order the entire set for $699, or separate tools at prices between $49 and $99.

Getty Images (http://creative.gettyimages.com/source/home/home.aspx) – Tired of the same old clip art in MS Office, and willing to pay a bit to get the good stuff? Check out this site, which is the world’s leading provider of imagery, film, and digital services. You can search for both rights-managed and royalty-free images – the quality here is much better than you’ll find at the free sites, and you won’t have to worry about whether you’re violating copyright when you cut and paste images into your presentation.

Powerpointed (http://www.powerpointed.com/) – Here’s a great place to buy PowerPoint-related tools and accessories: backgrounds, textures, templates, add-ins, books, companion programs, and more.

Advanced Resources.

PowerPoint News Group
(http://groups-beta.google.com/group/microsoft.public.powerpoint?hl=en) – This newsgroup for PowerPoint is hosted by Google Groups. The board is very active, with over 100 posts a day. If you have a question about PowerPoint, this is a great place to ask.

RDP (http://www.rdpslides.com/index.html) – Steve Rindsberg is a Microsoft MVP, and he’s putting his PowerPoint skills to work for you. In addition to the PowerPoint FAQ (http://www.rdpslides.com/pptfaq/) which answers hundreds of presentation questions, Steve has created a set of PowerTools for PowerPoint (http://www.rdpslides.com/pptools/). The tools super-charge PowerPoint with some terrific enhancements, allowing you to optimize your files, export images, merge presentations, convert them to PDF, and much more. The Starter Set Plus is offered for a reasonable $19.95.

Indezine (http://www.indezine.com/) – Those Microsoft MVP sites just keep a’comin. Geetesh Bajaj provides this site as a platform for PowerPoint presentations, image editing, and clip media. He’s also got two blogs – The PowerPoint Blog and PowerPoint Notes – to which you can subscribe for regular tips and advice on PowerPoint.

Michael Hyatt’s Favorite PowerPoint Resources (http://michaelhyatt.blogs.com/workingsmart/2004/06/my_favorite_pow.html) – A terrific list of PowerPoint resources. A great starting point in general, but this list will take you to many places to further your education on PowerPoint.

A Short PowerPoint and Presentations Book List for Lawyers.

Ann Brenden and John Goodhue, The Lawyer’s Guide to Creating Persuasive Presentations (Second Edition)
Ellen Finkelstein, How to Do Everything with Microsoft PowerPoint 2003
Tom Bunzel, Tech Yourself PowerPoint 2003 in 24 Hours
Cliff Atkinson, Beyond Bullet Points
Jerry Weissman, Presenting to Win
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

PowerPoint Alternatives

If you are serious about using PowerPoint for presentations, then get serious and get a copy of PowerPoint 2003. If you are using early versions, you undercut the professional message that you are trying to send. There are many good reasons to use PowerPoint 2003 and your IT department should be done “testing” PowerPoint 2003 by this point and be willing to let you use a copy of this now two-year-old software.

We occasionally still see people using Corel Presentations as an alternative to PowerPoint. That might make sense if you thoroughly ensconced in the WordPerfect world, but PowerPoint is as close to a universal standard as any software you will find these days.

Other options include the Impress presentation program in OpenOffice (which is FREE – http://www.openoffice.org) and the new Keynote presentations program for the Macintosh platform (http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote/). Don’t overlook the fact that there are many other ways to create presentations without presentation programs – HTML, Adobe Acrobat, screen capture programs, Macromedia Flash, and the list goes on. PowerPoint is a great tool, but must be used well and in the places where it makes the best sense to use it.

Conclusion

The tools and help you need to create great presentations are out there and easily available. Let’s use them and try to improve the general state of presentations by lawyers.

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Dennis Kennedy (dmk@denniskennedy.com) practices information technology transactions law and provides legal technology consulting services. A frequent speaker and an award-winning author, he covers law and technology topics on his blog (www.denniskennedy.com/blog/). He is a member of the ABA Law Practice Management Section's Council, and Webzine Board.

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson, P.C. in Dallas. He has published the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter since 2005, and the weblog Inter Alia since 2002. He is a member of the 2006 ABA TECHSHOW planning board.