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PowerPoint and Movie Stunts -- Use Graphics to Create Continuity: Guest Post by Jerry Weissman

Thursday, May 26, 2011
posted by Geetesh on 9:30 AM IST





Cinema and presentation graphics, although miles apart in complexity, share many common aspects. One is movie stunts. Matt Zoller Seitz, a freelance film critic, wrote an article about movie stunts on Salon that provides a valuable lesson in presentation design. Mr. Seitz noted that the latest cinema technologies, while creating imaginative and exciting action, have lost the important element of continuity. He wrote that the modern movie “seeks to excite viewers by keeping them perpetually unsettled with computer-enhanced images, fast cutting and a camera that never stands still.” As a result, he claimed, the film denies “the viewer a fixed vantage point on what’s happening to the characters.”

In contrast, Mr. Seitz cited a 100-year old silent film of a man jumping out of a burning hot air balloon into the Hudson River. Although the film itself is lost, the key shot lives on in a Topps bubble gum card. The point of Mr. Seitz’s historic reference is that the image is “a sustained wide shot that showed the diver in relation to the balloon and the Hudson River,” thus providing context for the action and for the viewer. If that scene were shot today, he added, “We'd more likely see a flurry of shots, only one of which showed us the big picture.”

The operative words above are “in relation to.” In today’s films, computer animation and fast cutting move the story along so quickly, audiences overlook or are unaware of the lack of context. In today’s pitches, presenters hurriedly cobble together a set of their company’s existing slides, giving their presentations s a one-after-another sequencing, in which no slide has any relationship to the preceding or following slides—and therefore no continuity for the presenter or the audience. At first, an audience might try to figure out what one slide has to do with another but, after a very short while, they give up and turn their attention to their smart phones.

One solution is for the presenter to make verbal links between slides; another is to create continuity in the slide design using a technique called Anticipation Space. In the slide below, you see two boxes side-by-side, one filled and one empty—the empty box creates a sense of anticipation.


When the empty box is filled with a set of parallel items, it sends the message that your company’s solution fulfills every requirement.


Anticipation Space creates relationships, continuity, and much more: it makes your presentation easy for your audience to follow. So easy, they might even look up from their smart phones.

Presentatons in ActionSpecial Offer: Order Jerry Weissman's new book, Presentations in Action, between May 20 and June 10 to receive a free copy of the In the Line of Fire: How to Handle Tough Questions DVD and 40% off another Weissman publication from FT Press.

About Jerry Weissman:

Jerry Weissman is among the world's foremost corporate presentations coaches. His private client list reads like a who's who of the world's best companies, including the top brass at Yahoo!, Intel, Intuit, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Netflix and many others.

Jerry founded Power Presentations, Ltd. in 1988. One of his earliest efforts was the Cisco Systems IPO road show. Following its successful launch, Don Valentine, of Sequoia Capital, and then chairman of Cisco's Board of Directors, attributed "at least two to three dollars" of the offering price to Jerry's coaching. That endorsement led to more than 500 other IPO road show presentations that have raised hundreds of billions of dollars in the stock market.

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