Guide on the Side – Point, Click & Wow!: A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations

Previous Articles by Marie Wallace

Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O’Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries‘ highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute’s programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).

Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms “Life in Progress,” which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art. She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters International and is active with the American Society for Training Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her “free” time to various non-profit and civic activities.

There are many books about presentations, numerous ones about presentation software, and still others on designing effective visuals.Point, Click & Wow!: A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations is the only one that I know of to integrate all three topics into a single book.Each presentation step is included from planning your message and identifying your objectives through to design, delivery and, in the case of using a laptop, problem solving.In a very conversational-show-by-example style, authors Claudyne Wilder and Jennifer Rotondo guide speakers at any level to create presentations that “Wow!” their audiences.(Wow! is defined as connecting with your audience. )This book is a “must” for anyone who needs to put forward their ideas, services or products.

To illustrate this need, soon after I read the book I attended a forum on improving West Los Angeles’s transit system.According to the announcement, West L.A. is ranked number one in the nation for traffic congestion and pollution. Four highly credentialed authorities were on hand to present solutions to our lack of a mass transit system.I attended thinking I would find out what specific plans were on the drawing boards.Instead I got a vivid illustration of how and why the new and revised edition of Point, Click & Wow! by Claudyne Wilder and Jennifer Rotondo is desperately needed.

From the titles of the forum speakers and their introductions, I learned that they all speak regularly on Southern California transit issues representing large agencies or advocacy groups.All but one used presentation software yet they were all “presentation illiterate” by most standards.They could learn from Point, Click & Wow! just by scanning the Before and After slide illustrations and the cartoons.

The first transit presenter was a good example of some things that Wilder and Rotondo recommend such as using eye contact with the audience and talking without notes. However, he flubbed it on their advice to ” not use slides if they are not necessary.” He didn’t use slides at all even though charts and graphs would have made the demographic data, housing trends, timelines and comparative costs he presented much easier to comprehend and remember.

This speaker was far superior to the other three because he was relaxed and comfortable with the audience yet he could have benefited from many of the Point, Click & Wow! chapters, especially the one on Design Corporate Blueprints.He represented a major metropolitan transit authority and because he used no slides or handouts, the authority of the organization and agency branding was omitted.It was almost as if he were bored with his message because he had been giving it so often for the past five years.Graphics would have added to his credibility and explained his intermodal transit concept better.

The other three speakers used their laptops and spoke in the dark narrating slides that were walls of unbroken text.The few slides that had maps were reproduced from a Thomas Brothers city street map with too much street detail which obscured the main proposed transportation routes. You could tell by the monotone of their voices that they were reading a script.But the worst thing was that they had obviously made no effort to address the concerns of the audience.Instead of schmoozing with the audience before the meeting got started they were fiddling with their technology and huddled together near the screen.Consequently, they talked about the transportation needs of all of Southern California rather than specifically about West L.A. which is what the audience came for.

These speakers pointed and clicked their slides but they didn’t “Wow!” the audience as I could see by the steady number of people walking out.They mastered the basic technology (to turn it on and off) but not how to create a message or design slides.It was a case of for want of Point, Click & Wow! the transit kingdom was lost in West L.A.

Point, Click & Wow! is comprehensive, practical and full of examples as well as stories and observations contributed by over a hundred other presentation experts.Here is a comment that I agree with thoroughly:”The average presenter flashes PowerPoint on the screen and then delivers a message.That’s not good enough.The new generation of audiences grew up watching MTV, eating Taco Bell, and using the Playstation as entertainment and a way to sleep.They will be BORED with headers, bullets, text, and corner graphics.Keep them interested with DV clips, gif animations, and interesting sounds.BUT don’t put them there just because you can–make them fit with the message.”

Wilder and Rotondo know what they are writing about at the highest knowledge level. The reader quickly senses that they have developed the ability to think and create graphically (like movie directors).They begin with images, unlike many others who think in words and then secondarily decorate their text graphically (the ubiquitous clip art).

The Point, Click format is designed for use and learning.There are six chapters filled with instruction, stories and examples, and each ending with one or more handy checklists:

Connect to your Audience(“Nothing takes the place of a sincere, compassionatepresenter who really cares about the audience..”)

Organize Focused on One Objective(“You should have only one clear, conciseobjective for a presentation.”)

Prepare for Technology Success(“What’s different about electronic presentations”)

Design Corporate Blueprints (Value of templates and a corporate identity)

Create High-Impact Slides (When and how to use animation, video clips, builds,transitions, and sound clips, and when these features distract)

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse(Important with and without a laptop)

Other sections add dimensions to the book:

Resources (Other graphic and presentation websites)

About the Authors (Claudyne is President of Wilder Presentation and calls herself a “communication strategist.”Jennifer is the founder and president of Creative Minds, Inc. a presentation,multimedia and website design company.

Both Claudyne and Jennifer are columnists for Presentations magazine.

Index(I used it extensively and found it even included the definition of “Wow!”).

How to use the CD-Rom (Included in the book and which reproduce theslides in the book in color and the items below.)

How to Use the PowerPlug Demos (A separate optional unit demonstrating avariety of animations, quotation, templates and other assists for sophisticated users.)

Most of slide examples in the book are printed in black, white and gray but there is a CD that comes in the book containing the same images in color.This CD also adds significant content:

Four of Jennifer and Claudyne’s Presentations magazine “Before and After”columns, showing and explaining how they redid three slides accompanying apresentation.

Jennifer’s Creative Technique articles from Presentations magazine.

A demo of Slides that Win:Your Roadmap to Success, a CD that containsover three hundred before-and-after examples of slides

A demo of CystalGraphics Powerplugs.PowerPoint add-ons for special effects.

The book is reasonably priced at $19.95.Caveat:Some online vendors are still marketing the first edition.Make sure you get the more current New and Revised Edition, Second edition, 2002.

I find it remarkable that our culture is saturated with visual forms of communication (TV, movies, videos, computer games and graphics in print) yet most people are “visually illiterate” and visual communication is rarely taught in school.Point, Click & Wow! is valuable because it bundles the entire presentation process, including graphics, into a simple step by step procedure.It shows with examples how to prepare the visual dimensions of your presentations, starting with the importance of connecting with the audience.Wilder and Rotondo point out “You are the message.”This includes how you dress, your demeanor, your eye contact and your mental preparation.

Posted in: Guide on the Side, Presentation Skills, Presentation Software