Monthly Archives: September 2011

Vaughan Gordon

Is PowerPoint Sounding The Death Knell For The Art of Presentation..?

By Vaughan Gordon

“Death by Powerpoint” is an expression you may well have heard.
Well, I speak from experience when I say that I have survived (only just) some of the most excruciating presentations, mainly because I sat too far away from the exit. How often have you sat through presentations, bored to tears because the presenter has broken some of the cardinal rules of presenting.
Not sure what I mean..?

  • There are too many slides.
  • The slides only have words. Lots of them.
  • It takes five wordy slides to make a point.
  • The presenter cannot connect with the audience.
  • The presenter reads every word on every slide.
  • The presenter does not know the slide order.
  • The presenter does not know how to use the remote controlled clicker.
  • There are too many “clever” custom animation builds. Oh, and sound effects.
  • Terrible image choices…the list goes on…

The whole experience should be enjoyable and, at the very least, informative. To be fair it’s not Powerpoint’s fault, it’s just the tool used to deliver the message. The problem usually lies with the presenter. Like any seasoned stand-up, you practice and adapt your material and presentation style to what works for your audience.

Moreover, having the ability to write your every thought on each slide can be seen as quite lazy, where presenters no longer feel the need to perform or connect because they can just read the slides. I recently read that any presentation has to connect with both sides of the brain, emotional and logical, and that your audience would have already judged whether or not they want to listen to you by slide two.









I have, however, been lucky enough to have witnessed some incredibly powerful performances, each of which have the same fundamental characteristics which clearly work. Seth Godin, in his e-booklet Really Bad PowerPoint and How To Avoid It*, highlights the key components to a really great presentation and the rules to live by when creating powerful, memorable slides:

Key Components:

  • Map out the key points before committing words to any slides. Know what you want to say and the order in which this should be presented.
  • Create cue cards to use as prompts and to ensure you actually say what you intended to in the first place (I find that Mind Maps work well too)
  • Make slides reinforce your words, not repeat them – demonstrating that what you’re saying is both true and accurate.
  • Create a leave-behind and tell the audience this at the beginning of the presentation. That way, you have their undivided attention throughout.

Five Rules For Memorable Slides:

  1. Keep the word count to six words per slide (Steve Jobs likes to use few words or a single image…)
  2. Use professional images that set the tone and make the point.
  3. Forget custom animation.
  4. If you’re going to use sound effects, do so sparingly using sounds and music from CDs and not from the programme.
  5. Create a leave behind but not print-outs of your slides, because you need to be there to present the detail.

Simple..? Not really.
Like anything it all takes patience, practice and a great deal of Dutch courage, but the key is knowing your subject in the first place. Some of the best presentations can be based on a single word or image. It’s what you say and how you say that really makes the difference.

*Source: Seth Godin – Really Bad PowerPoint (And How To Avoid It)


Vaughan Gordon, Director – VG&A

Nicola Peaty

Another New Website from VG&A…Sarah Kearn’s Cakes

By Nicola Peaty

From publishing giants to the ‘not-quite-so-big’, but equally exciting launch of Sarah Kearns Cakes! VG&A has designed a brand new logo and website for local Surrey cake maker and budding entrepreneur, Sarah Kearns. Her new website aims to raise Sarah’s profile within Surrey as she promotes her fantastic wedding and party cakes. Believe us when we tell you they taste as good as they look!

Creating a website for any new business may appear to be an obvious thing to do, but not everyone knows how to go about it or what it involves. Sarah Kearns, had similar issues and came to VG&A for help with her ever-growing cake business.

Being incredibly organised, Sarah knew exactly what she wanted to say and already had photographs of the beautifully designed cakes she had created, but didn’t know how to create an online brand. We helped by designing her brand new logo and building her website.

One of Sarah’s fabulous children’s cakes!

Here’s what Sarah has to say about working with VG&A:

“I would like to say a massive thank you to Nicola, Mel and Simon at VG&A. They have helped me find a “corporate me” and set up a fabulous new website, which I hope will be the beginning of the marketing for my small business. They have given me exactly what I have asked for and have been a delight to work with.”

Take a look at what we did for Sarah Kearns Cakes here.

For more information about creating / updating websites or for marketing help generally, call Vaughan on 07590 468918.

Vaughan Gordon

Five Secrets to Successful Design

By Vaughan Gordon

We asked one of our designers, Mel Rees, to have a think about what clients can do to help designers meet their creative objectives and make the whole process as smooth as possible. We think they’re pretty straight-forward, but not thinking them through at the outset can make the whole creative experience slightly more stressful than it need be – for both parties!

See what you think…

1. Make sure you know what you want: It may sound obvious, but many people without marketing experience (and some people with it!) begin the design briefing process without having a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Write down your objectives for any campaign so you are able to explain them clearly and succinctly to yourself before trying them out on anyone else.

2. Make yourself easy to understand: Your business and brand is obviously clear in your mind, but it may not be clear to anyone else. Don’t expect your designer to be a mind reader. Tell them all about your business – even if you think it’s irrelevant. Many descriptive words and expressions are subjective. What is ‘funky’ to one person may be ‘traditional’ to another. If you have specific design preferences, be clear or better still, use visual examples.

3. Let your designer be the designer: Don’t commission a designer and then immediately start designing the project yourself. When writing your brief, concentrate on your marketing objectives and allow your designer to interpret them. By all means be a part of the creative process and never let your designer bully you – but make sure your roles are properly defined.

4. Write it down: Have you ever phoned your designer, given them a 10-20 minute spiel and then expected them to deliver an award-winning campaign? And have you ever received totally unexpected results following this conversation? It simply doesn’t work. A written brief gives you both a point of reference when evaluating creative work. And it encourages you to explain your requirements in depth.

5. Plan ahead and understand your budget: To achieve value for money and the right results you need to understand how much bang you’ll get for your buck. Agree exact costs for each design element up front. Give your designer a really accurate project plan and check each element off, making sure you both understand where you are in the project at every stage.

Do you agree..? Let us know your thoughts!


Mel Rees, Designer – VG&A


Vaughan Gordon

Top Tips…Contagious Social Media Content

By Vaughan Gordon

I received an interesting email from Hubspot recently (and I must say that their posts are always good), based on something called Zarella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness. For those who may not know who Dan Zarella is, he is an award-winning social media guru who, much like Maslow before him, offers another hierarchy but this time within the field of social media. All very sensible and there may be a few surprises too…
You can read more about the article itself here, but in essence he discusses his three-step hierarchy in terms of myths and takeaways thus:

  • Exposure:
    Myth: “Engaging in conversation” is the most important thing in social media
    Takeaway: “Engaging in conversation doesn’t work. Publishing interesting content does.
    Myth: Don’t call yourself a guru
    Takeaway: Identify yourself authoritatively. Bio words that lead to more Twitter followers include “official”, “founder”, “speaker”, “expert” and “author”.
  • Attention:
    Myth: Friday, Saturday and Sunday are bad days to publish.
    Takeaway: Use contra-competitive timing. In reality, re-tweets on Twitter spike on Friday and Facebook shares spikes on Saturday.
    Takeaway: Don’t crowd your own content. Spread out the sharing of your own material.
  • Motivation:
    Myth: Novel ideas are contagious
    Takeaway: Write simply and plainly. Content heavy posts with nouns and verbs lead to more Facebook shares than adjective and adverb laden text. Sharing goes down as the reading level of content goes up and people don’t want to read overly flowery content.
    Takeaway: Utilise combined relevance. Two seemingly unrelated items or topics can join to uncover a unique market.
    Myth: “Please re-tweet” doesn’t work.
    Takeaway: Don’t forget social calls to action. In fact adding “please re-tweet to a Twitter message generates four times the re-tweets than posts without those two words.

Smart thinking, methinks and points I will be taking onboard for my future posts.
For more information about this, take a look at the Hubspot blog.
Source: Hubspot, Dan Zarella
Vaughan Gordon, Director, VG&A