Is this still working? Do you hear me?

August 6th, 2014

So I have been so busy helping people with their meeting communications. I have had no time to do any blog posts here. eSlide has been super busy until last week when the summer slowdown seems to have taken hold. I guess everyone is taking vacations. This is just a test to see if the site still works. If it does I’ll start posting again.

Here’s a photo of where I am writing this post. I’m holding a meeting with what ever fish care to join me here on the Navesink River in NJ.

Footwear for this meeting is optional. 


Why Edward Tufte is Wrong

October 18th, 2013

“I think what I say here is true, both of the government and many big companies. The average… technical presentation involves a Dell laptop screen, showing a powerpoint slide, designed by focus groups, to accommodate the disabled, and the PR staff, which wants 3 logos on each slide, and no more than 20 words per each slide, and it has 42% administrative debris, 10 mysterious features, and uses proprietary formats, that are proprietary, even to themselves. What have you all gotten yourselves into?”

This anecdotal observation may well be correct. We’ve all attended boring meetings with boring presentations, but Tufte needs to cover more ground if he wants to indict Microsoft PowerPoint. Blaming PowerPoint for a bad presentation is only semantically different than blaming the bad coffee served or the bland furniture. Although Tufte points out many legitimate problems with certain, perhaps even most, presentations, his accusation is spurious.

Death by PowerPoint? Unlikely.

Sometimes the content is incomplete. Sometimes the equipment is faulty. Sometimes the presenter is inexperienced. But often, the design itself is bad. On this topic, Tufte is 100% correct.

This image was taken from Tufte’s polemic, “PowerPoint Does Rocket Science.” In it, he asserts that the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was, in part, due to NASA’s use of PowerPoint.

There are several large logical jumps which Tufte makes here. Assuming NASA could accurately identify the extent of the damage, and could eliminate all other errors in communication, decision-making, and time or technological limitations— that’s a lot of assuming, mind you— why blame the presentation software? Do you blame canvas for bad paintings? If anything, the takeaway from this tragedy at NASA, on the presentation level, is that effective presentation skills, especially design, are essential to communication.

His criticisms of the presentation itself are accurate. Inconsistent units of measurement, pronoun-antecedent conflict, or confusing hierarchies are neither new problems, nor PowerPoint-specific problems.

Let the data speak for themselves

“This is a big idea in all my work, which is basically trying to zero-out the interface, and have full data screens as much as possible.”

Tufte encourages designers to get rid of administrative debris, and put the information in the hands of the user. Although he seems to quote Jonathan Ive quite often, he had much to say about iOS’s “PowerPoint-like” appearance.


Really, either of these images could easily be part of a PowerPoint.

PowerPoint isn’t the problem, but it might be the solution

As I watch his Data Visualization keynote from Tech@State, I’m struck by how many of Tufte’s criticisms are easily addressed in well designed PowerPoints.

For instance, he stresses that the data should determine it’s own medium. A process, he argues, which is much more natural than an arbitrary system of apps to open and close. Different programs to individually address and categorize images, spreadsheets, maps, text, charts, or graphs only complicates the process of understanding the underlying information. Tufte calls this “segregating information by means of production.”

Ironically, PowerPoint doesn’t segregate information by means of production— that’s its’ beauty. A slide may feature an image, or text, or a spreadsheet, or a topographical map, or a video— it could even be completely blank. The program itself doesn’t require three logos on every slide. PowerPoint’s strength is that it allows you to convey any assortment of audio or visual material, depending on what’s needed.

Want an image with no frame? Fine. A slide with only one image? Great. We encourage presenters to communicate effectively, and we’re glad PowerPoint provides such a flexible platform.

Tufte, in context.


Photo by Phil Hawksworth

Of course, the ultimate irony is that Edward Tufte’s presentations are basically slideshows— because slideshows work. Because Powerpoint adds life to data.

He may capitalize on his audience’s frustration with bad design, or boring meetings, but that doesn’t mean that Powerpoint can’t be extremely effective. He certainly grabs attention with his condemnation of the world’s most common presentation software, and sells a lot of books (I personally have 4 of them— great works of art in themselves).

However, his vitriolic marketing campaign against PowerPoint is, simply put, misplaced. For presenters, who may already be overstressed, the stigma of using this program is strange and counterintuitive. PowerPoint is installed on one billion desktops around the globe, and is probably being used in almost every hotel conference room, every day.

Stop blaming PowerPoint

Don’t throw out PowerPoint with the bathwater, Tufte. Stop using your efforts to bash it and focus on bringing us great new visualization tools (like Sparklines, a Tufte creation, which is now available in PowerPoint).


Informal Chat Does Not Work For Keynote

June 19th, 2012

I went to Blogworld recently to see a friend speak. I was also looking forward to catching the keynote speaker Chris Brogan at the end of the day. I’m a big fan of Chris’s blog posts and his book. I’ve seen him present via online stream and the occasional video that he posts.

The conference was kind of interesting. It was smaller than I expected for a event like this in New York City. I like blogging. I have two blogs. You are reading one now. Chris’s blog is one of the few blogs I read regularly. I admire his knowledge and writing style that has won him thousands or as he mentioned maybe 200,000 blog followers. That is a  big audience.

I can never find the time to write. Chris says there is no excuse not to write. I’d like to say to Chris that there is no excuse for not taking his presentation skills and style to the next level. I found his “talk” amateurish and looking unprepared. There were only a few thousand live people in the main conference hall of the Javits center, but maybe a much larger audience on the live stream.

I know from watching some of his past speaking engagements that his style is more of a personal chat with his audience than a formal presentation. He usually adds in some crude comments about having to pee or a poop joke for some shock value. The shock to me was how his informal approach in this large venue felt so disrespectful. I gave up my afternoon to stick around and hear some of his words of wisdom mixed with his personal chat style and to learn from the king of blogging and guru of social media.

To me, his talk came off as a bit pompous, unprepared, and lacking of much useful or even entertaining information. His preparation seemed to be writing four or five notes or key words down on the back of a business card, which he possibly finished minutes before, while doing his business on a bathroom throne.

I will still continue to follow Chris’s blog post and buy his next book. He has a brilliant mind when it comes to social media and the future of marketing. To me, he still remains the king of blogging and social media but I will not go out of my way again to hear him speak live or online until I read in one of his blogs that he’s getting some coaching on his presentation skills. He needs to get his speaking skills on par with his writing skills.

Now I may be alone in my disappointment at the keynote today at the Javits center. Maybe the audience of bloggers and new media love this impromptu, minimal prep attitude of  “I’ll just ramble on about a few key points that I wrote down before I came up on stage” kind of style. Maybe this is why big corporations pay him $20k to do a “chat session” – to just get up and speak from the heart.

But for my $20 NYC cab ride over to see him, I’d like to see more. Chris is talented at communicating with written words and I’ve seen him do some great talks. If he only got serious about being a speaker in front of live audiences, he could be an awesome presenter. What do you think of a “chat style” keynote presentation?


Facebook IPO Video – do you like it?

May 8th, 2012

The Facebook IPO video is an excellent video production, but did they produce it because they were afraid of Mark Zuckerberg going off script in a traditional IPO road show presentation?

I have produced and attended many investor road show presentations over the years and it was always fun to watch the Investment bank managers in the back of the room pull their hair out as the CEO diverged from their well prepared and practiced script. Maybe this Facebook video presentation is the answer? But does it sidestep the primary reason for the IR Road Show – for the potential investors to get a first hand, face to face view of the leadership qualities of the company executives?  I don’t think I’d invest in Facebook even if I had the opportunity to buy the crazy prices the IPO numbers will hit, but I would invest in the video production company that produced the Facebook IPO video.


Good enuf Presenting is Not Good Enough

April 12th, 2012

In today’s competitive environment, you need to be the best you can be. You may only have one chance to have an impact and get the results you need from a presentation. Yes it can be stressful, but let that stress drive the energy to practice and practice again – until you are so well rehearsed and confident that you look as if you are naturally a pro, and as if you don’t ever need to practice.

As for visuals – remember that your audience spends half their life in front of a screen of some size these days, you had better have some good looking visuals projected that assist in keeping your audiences attention and communicating important messages. I deal with presenters every day and yes, the stress level seems to be at an all time high – because the stakes are higher than ever. All the more reason to practice one more time and spend a few more hours tweaking the PowerPoint so it delivers and does not distract. Today “good enuf” is not good enough – you need to be the very BEST.


Ballmer Bombs at CES with No PowerPoint

January 17th, 2012

Did you get a chance to see the Microsoft keynote presentation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show? If you didn’t yet, don’t bother. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft was making one of the most prominent keynote presentations of the year and he chooses to use a lame, over rehearsed sit-down interview format, rather than a powerful stand up and deliver, visually exciting, information packed, fast moving PowerPoint slide slide show on the future products of Microsoft – including the future direction of one of their anchor products Microsoft Office and . . . PowerPoint!

To me this was like the CEO of Ford Motor Company traveling to the Detroit Auto show on a motor scooter rather than their latest super looking, power dripping, hot Mustang.

On top of that the choice of interviewer was wrong. Now, I like Ryan Seacrest on American Idol. My 12 year old daughter loves the show. He is clearly the number one TV show master of ceremonies, but he did not fit the part for an interview show at CES. They should have used Walt Mossberg, or David Pogue. It would have come off much less rehearsed and stiff.

Steve Ballmer had the opportunity to do what Al Gore did for the cause of climate change, and Steve Jobs did for Apple at every keynote presentation with powerful, exciting visual supporting slides – got the audience engaged, excited, buzzing and motivated to take action with the peek into the future. In Gore’s case it motivated more people to be involved in the climate change issues, and in Steve’s case it motivated people to RUN out to buy Apple products.

What better opportunity to promote a key Microsoft product by not just making a slide of bullet listed features (which might be all they know how to do), but use it in a way to show off how it can be an incredibly powerful communication tool!


How Many Types of Meetings?

December 7th, 2011

Although experts frequently suggest that effective PowerPoint presentations should not include “bullet points” or that presenters should only be using less than 15 slides – these rules are just guidelines that vary depending on the type of meeting. If you have an hour to persuade an audience of 500 that your Fortune 500 company is a good investment, that is a different type of meeting than if you have 10 minutes to pitch your new startup to a group of angel investors.

The type of meeting is an important factor which helps determine the content, number and type of slides that will help you get the results you need. I thought I’d try and come up with a comprehensive list of types of meetings. Please comment or email me if you can suggest additional meeting types. Here’s my list:

Types of Meetings by Marsh

1. Board Meetings

2. Brainstorming Meetings

3. Breakout Meetings

4. Combination Meetings

5. Conference Call Meetings

6. Emergency Meetings

7. Evaluation Meetings

8. Event Planning Meetings

9. Feedback Meetings

10. Financial Review Meetings

11. Financial Update Meetings

12. First Meetings

13. Holiday Meetings

14. Information Sharing Meetings

15. Introduction Meetings

17. Investor Meetings

18. Keynote Speeches

19. Large Conference Meetings

20. Leadership Meetings

21. Management Meetings

22. Manager Meetings

23. Meetings to Plan Bigger Meetings

24. New Business Pitch Meetings

25. New Product Launch Meetings

26. Online Meetings

27. Organizational Meetings

28. Party Meetings

29. Pitch Meetings

30. Planning Meetings

31. Political Meetings

32. Problem-Solving Meetings

33. Production Meetings

34. Project Planning Meetings

35. Religious Meetings

36. Research Review Meetings

37. Sales Meetings

38. Shareholder Meetings

39. Small Conference Meetings

40. Staff Meetings

41. Stakeholder Meetings

42. Strategy Meetings

43. Termination Meetings

44. Training Session Meetings

45. Trip Planning Meetings

46. Update Meetings

47. Year End Meetings

48. Year Beginning Meetings

49. Family Meetings

50. School Meetings

51. Class Meetings

52. Public Relations Meetings

53. Sports Meetings (and Events)

54. Team Meetings


No time to blog at the Summit

October 7th, 2011

The Presentation was great. But there was little time left to blog while attening. I did take plenty of notes – I will attempt to share some here once I get a chance to review them


7 Tips for PowerPoint presentation success

September 8th, 2011
  1. Plan your PowerPoint production ahead of the night before you present, the less you plan ahead, the more pain ahead
  2. Start with a good looking and functioning PowerPoint template. It makes the production more efficient with better results
  3. Begin developing your content from the view of your audience and results you want – what do they want to see and hear? Details or summaries?
  4. If you’re not a graphic artist – call one. PowerPoint is easy to use, but it can’t make you an instant designer.
  5. Keep it simple and short with more visuals than just text. Humans are visual animals.
  6. If you are presenting live, be sure your technology works well before the meeting (check laptop with projector, and audio in the room)
  7. Practice. Practice. Practice. Present.

We’re Banning all Swiss Made Products

July 7th, 2011

A media hungry Anti-PowerPoint maniac hit pay dirt with the idea to start a political party in Switzerland based on banning the use of PowerPoint throughout Switzerland.

So I’m thinking of starting a Pro-PowerPoint group. If some stupid law was passed to ban PowerPoint in Switzerland, the Pro-PowerPoint movement would ban the use of all Swiss made products for fear of a major quality drop – a direct result of companies in Switzerland not being allowed to use one of the key business communication tools in use by millions of people – PowerPoint.

No more Swiss chocolates, Swiss watches, Swiss cheese, or Swiss knives.  Banning PowerPoint is like banning email – it’s just a modern communication tool. It’s like banning the use of pliers in the production of Swiss watches. If used correctly it’s a great tool. If used incorrectly it can cause problems.

The founder of this new Anti-PowerPoint party is promoting a new book called something like “The PowerPoint Fallacy” but many news articles and channels left out that bit of information.

The only fallacy I see is how he’s able to get so much news attention to drive book sales when only a few hundred people have joined his Anti-PowerPoint political party – probably all people that have been bored to death by his own poor PowerPoint skills.

He claims use of presentation software costs the Swiss economy 2.1 billion Swiss francs (US $2.5 billion) annually. How ridiculous. I’d bet PowerPoint presentations have contributed to millions of dollars of closed deals, maybe even a few billion dollar deals.

I’m looking into starting a PAC (Political Action Committee) here in the States that supports candidates and politicians that use PowerPoint. I’d like to see a law that forces all Senate and Congressmen to use PowerPoint slides with all important speeches they make so they can more clearly layout the issues and solutions rather than the usual double talk. It may also force them to be more accountable for what they say in a speech. It’s worked for the business community for decades now.

For now, I’m hoping Swiss companies known for their quality precision do not turn into Swiss PowerPoint-less panderers.