Learning Every Day

April 13, 2008

I’m preparing for a presentation in San Francisco next weekend. This is at an important meeting — where a large organization is talking about change, and bringing in participants from all sectors. This particular group is a bit stuck in terms of growth. As a designer I’ll be talking about how team members can be incredibly empowered by first having great material to use, and then knowing how to use appropriate media for each specific target audience.

Since my first real Powerpoint presentation back in August last year, I’ve researched a great deal, My wife knows when I get that Powerpoint look, and doesn’t want to hear ANY MORE about it. (Except when I’m helping her with hers!)

First In the Alphabet Doesn’t Mean More Important

I’m struck by how many people write and publish on Powerpoint, but more importantly on the art of good presenting. Its as though we’ve got our P’s mixed up. PRESENTING is all caps and powerpoint should be subscript. We’ve got things in the wrong order, thinking that a good powerpoint makes a good presentation. While there’s some truth to this, a poor presentation will never be rescued by a good powerpoint, but I think a great presentation will not necessarily be killed by a bad powerpoint.

Great Teachers

When my kids were a little younger, I got really involved with our local school district. We were always talking about change, and I went to endless committee meetings about curricula, curricula curricula. If we could just get the right curriculum for math, for reading . . . The older teachers would nod, knowing that they’d heard and attended meetings with exactly the same discussion ten years, fifteen years before. If you think back to your favorite teacher, or the teacher who managed to make a difference in your school life, you’ll quickly realize that your recollection has nothing to do with what curriculum your teacher used — it was all about the teacher as a person.

Each time I present, someone will nudge over a little jump drive, saying, “could you put that on my drive for me . . ” and I always oblige. Now I understand, however, that its me I want them to listen to, not just be wowed by the pretty stuff on the screen. So no, I won’t give them the material, but I will be very happy to meet with their particular organization.

Owning Your Presentation

We had a conference call last weekend to prepare for San Francisco, and one person, who has important stuff to contribute, can’t make it. The coordinator then asked her to send that Powerpoint, so someone else can present it. Good idea?
One of my wife’s good friends, was asked to speak at a big conference. The organization had spent a good deal of money and time making a series of killer powerpoints (although perhaps not the type of “killing” they had envisaged). It emerged that being asked to speak really meant just giving one of these powerpoint presentations. Time to disengage! She didn’t though, and struggled to make sense of material that she didn’t know, necessarily completely agree with, and definitely nothing that moved her in a way she felt she could passionately present.

On to SF, with a BIG THANKS to all the authors/presenters I’ve been reading. I don’t know if I’m a better presenter for all this, but I love what I’m speaking about, and I feel great about my materials.


Seemed like a good idea at the time…

April 10, 2008

Industrious types in Japan attach boxes to the vine…this is the result Good design? You decide whether we might want all our fruit and produce this way.

WORD VS. INDESIGN and other common first-time author questions

April 10, 2008

Last week I got an e-mail from a first-time author. He asked a lot of questions that are really common from these people, so decided to post this.

Q: I spoke a few weeks ago about laying out my MSWord file into 5.5×8.5 book format. I would like to get some clarification on a few things. Other publishers or printers are telling me that typesetting is needed because a number of glitches could occur with the file conversion from my Word file to whatever you use to work in. True or not?
A: Word is not a layout program. If you can find one book from one major publisher in a major bookstore that’s done in Word then congratulations. If you don’t care about looking a little self-published, or your book is not going to be for bookstore distribution then fine — go ahead with whatever you have if you’re happy with the way it looks. Just convert to PDF.

“If you can find one book from one major publisher in a major bookstore that’s done in Word — congratulations.”

Apart from file glitches, why is it felt by printers that typesetting is needed? Does it have to do with character spacing, kerning and those types of technical details of design that my Word file would not be able to do?
A: Yes. Its like using Powerpoint to make a bookcover. Powerpoint is 72dpi presentation software. If you want professional results, then you need to use professional tools.

Is the difference between typesetting or using my Word file with Times New Roman going to be noticeable to book buyers, distributors, etc.?
A: Can’t answer for the book-buying public. What we don’t want to do is give bookstores reasons to say no to your book.

Reading about proofreading makes me think that what a proofreader and what a designer does would overlap quite a bit. Isn’t widows and orphans, end-line hyphenation, etc. something you look for when designing the interior?
A: There’s a certain amount that a good designer and good software programs catch — and look for, but even the best program is not a physical person, reading and checking.

I don’t know if you also incorporate the cover art into your design or not, but, if so, a question: If I send a file with the cover art, but my designer and I have estimated the wrong page count, can you adjust the spine size on my art file before it goes to the printer?
A: Probably — depends a little on how its done, and what’s supplied — and how much things might need to be adjusted. We want pdf files for print here. If you’re willing to pay to have adjustments, then fine, otherwise our program does work very well if followed carefully.

I guess I will need to get my ISBN, EAN, SAN, LCCN numbers to my designer or do you provide a service to secure some or all of these numbers? I guess the ISBN I need to secure separtely since you are not a publisher. (I’m still trying to decide whether to self-publish wholly or let a small publisher with an imprint do some of the work.)
A: ISBN is crucial, completely forget about EAN and SAN unless you’re planning on selling tens of thousands of copies to big chains. ISBN is publisher specific — you’re the publisher and you need to get it. http://www.SelfPublishing.com is authorized by Bowker to sell one-at-a-time, and the link is on our home page. If you’re doing more than one book, then its much more economical to buy a block of 10 numbers directly from Bowker: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp. LCCN is nice if you want to pay for it, and looks good on your copyright page, though it has nothing to do with whether a reader will pick up your book in a bookstore.

What I’ve learned over the last six months

April 10, 2008

I always thought that Powerpoint was an unnecessary evil. As a designer here in New York I do tons of book covers, and people often send in Powerpoint stuff, thinking it will work just fine for cover design. Explaining that Powerpoint is the WRONG place to design doesn’t seem to always land correctly.

In the last six months though, I’ve been asked to present at several conferences, and have a new-found respect for the power of Powerpoint. I’ve managed to do a good deal of reading and research in these months. I’ve come across some of the worse Powerpoint stuff imaginable, and some of the very, very best. Just today I was sent a 115-slide text-heavy presentation that would turn the world’s worst insomniacs into Rip van Winkles! it wasn’t just text heavy — it defined the term, almost threatening to slide off the screen. I’d love to put up an example from this, but I may be in trouble, trashing it, then displaying it.

My eyes were opened! I was happy to find that I’d already done some of the things that Garr Reynolds suggests, www.presentationzen.com, and avoided some of the worse mistakes.