NPD Framework


Authors Background

NPD Framework

Slide Design

Slide Objects


Quite often we hear people are bored with PowerPoint presentations, which is clearly the message being sent by the comment, "death by PowerPoint". As valid as that statement may be, I'd like to clarify that it is not PowerPoint or any other presentation tool that is at fault. Nor is it the product, the technology, the software but rather the format of the content and the deliverer's approach. As such, whatever we can do to improve delivery, to enhance format, and to make the content interesting will greatly enhance the desired "take-away" from the presentation/communiqué.

Interesting enough, we may have had a similar issue in antiquity. I would tend to believe that once the verbal language was alphabetized and being written down there where naysayers said this was horrible for humanity. If we write everything down, we’re going to be shrinking our brains because we will no longer have to memorize anything. Thus, a written form of language is not good for society, it's not good for humans and it will destroy storytellers by simplifying the delivery. The written form does not phonetically embellish the story; it merely recounts it. What would this do to, say Homer, who may have heard the Odyssey from another storyteller? Instead, Homer, in this new world, was given a copy of the story on parchment or papyrus possibly clay. How would that effect his verbal retelling? Would there even be a need to have storytellers if everything was written down? What would happen to our oral traditions? I can only imagine the anguish of our ancestors when they heard about the written form. Needless to say, we now know none of those concerns were realized. Just go to a movie theater and you will experience some great stories. Therefore, it is not the technology that creates the problem, but the effort employed by the storyteller. The key to crafting and telling a great story is not only a good delivery mechanism and content, but the manner and flow in which it is presented to the listener.
Thus, when presenting information, we need to make it interesting. To merely have a series of slides that are boring bulletized text, with animated fly-in and fancy disappearing animation is boring. The key is to liven up the text, to add narration to that text, to have the text/slide speaker to the listener. To place the individual into a more receptive state, we possibly can add background music, maybe incorporate some kind of dynamic, interactive objects to enable the listener to now become a participant, possibly add or remove content that is being delivered, even change the wording all in an attempt to make the presentation interesting. Yes, the material is important but so is the delivery. There are individuals that will tell you certain topics are extremely boring and there is no way to enjoyably present them other than to just push through it and endure it. However, I have a tendency to disagree with that belief. I think there are many methods we can employ to embellish content and add some interesting elements. For example, we can discuss the concept of core rigidity in business. It's obviously a boring topic; in a nutshell core rigidity is where a company does things so well, they don't want to make any changes. The question posed is how do we embellish that topic? One way is to tell a story that illustrates the topic. For example, everyone has heard that the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English. Most likely, it had to do with the weather event that took place, but in reality, that is not the main cause of their defeat. Believe it or not, it was core rigidity. So, let me explain the concept of core rigidity by telling a story. What I have done, is I have taken a topic that could be considered extremely boring and have hopefully made it more interesting by changing the perspective from Core Rigidity to why the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English. At this point, you the listener, are hopefully intrigued by the defeat of the Spaniards and want to know why the Spanish Armada lost. The Spanish fleet was still fighting like the ancient Greeks and the Romans. The battle tactic was to get as close as possible to their adversary’s ship and then hook their enemy's ship so they could board and fight with swords as they would on land. The English, on the other hand, had evolved into using cannons which required the English ship to be within 10 miles or so of their adversary. From this distance the English could lob cannonballs onto the Spanish ships and sink them, with no need to board. So who do you think would win in a battle with these very different tactics? Those who were trying to get close to board were definitely at a disadvantage, (remember core rigidity; the Spaniards were so good at what they had been doing over the past millennium that they'd felt no need to change). The English on the other hand had progressed to a new method of warfare that favored distance resulting in their success. Therefore, by changing the actual story, we were able to explain a topic that would otherwise have been boring. For a moment imagine if you wanted to present the concepts of core rigidity and instead of discussing a historical event wanted to use corporate examples. You could use IBM and Digital Equipment Corp as an example of core rigidity using mini and microcomputers. Possibly Xerox and Canon in the personal copiers market would be another case of core rigidity, but would these examples be more interesting than the Spanish Amada and the English? That would depend upon the audience. Using the NPD Framework, one of the initial elements would be to determine the audience and then you would be able to select from many other examples how best to illustrate core rigidity. Interestingly, the NPD framework would allow you have multiple sections for different listeners, a form of interchangeable parts. So, what you really need to do in your presentation is liven up the content by changing the story - Core rigidity: The Austro-Prussian war of the 1850s effectively illustrates this topic. The Prussians were using rail lines to move troops whereas the Austrians were using horses. Always remember, there are many stories telling the same thing. You can add automation, flashy animation, color schemes, etc. but the key is to use interesting content that elicits feelings of curiosity and interest from the listener. You are telling a story, you are weaving a tale and, in that tale, there may be some statement, some remark, some moral but the bottom-line is the viewer's interest. To keep them interested you need to tell a compelling story. If your presentation is delivered in an interesting fashion, the user is going to be more apt to concentrate and listen.The user is going to be more apt to act, and that's really our objective with all presentations or communiques: to get the user to perform what we are subtly recommending (call to action).

As we will discuss in the NPD Framework, the middle section is the longest component of our presentation and truly must retain the audience's interest while presenting the facts or developing the "plot." You do not want to minimize the action or slow the presentation down since this will allow the audience to perform other tasks. The middle must keep them interested by answering the questions that were posed in the opening segment of the presentation. You don’t want anyone to leave; you want them to be anxiously awaiting the next topic/slide. This is the section where the storyboard road map comes into play, ensuring the smooth flow from one topic/slide to the next. As such, it is one of the most important outcomes of the storyboarding efforts. The middle is where the substance of our presentation/communiqué is presented to the audience. Unlike the opening which is where we attract the audience’s attention ("The Gotcha Moment"), the middle is where the plot, where the subplot, etc. is described, where the presentation/communiqué answers the hypothetical questions the listeners may have, where the "meat" of our story is told. Yet this segment of our presentation/communique is the most nebulous to formulate.  We may have to display tables of information, bulletized lists of facts, charts and graphs, or explain complex concepts. The middle segment of our presentation is the most difficult and challenging of all sections even though it is the most mechanical. If it is too long the listener will lose interest, if too short they may not be able to understand the "take-away." As previously mentioned, it is also audience-dependent. Presenting to peers is very different from delivering material to an audience that is not knowledgeable in the subject matter. The middle section is also where the format of the slides is crucial to the successful transfer of the desired knowledge. We need to carefully word the text, select the appropriate font, the right text color, the screen positioning, the timing, etc. so as not to compete with the narrative.  Decisions will have to be made on whether to use decorative text or diagrammatic text or plan text, the types of graphics, images, diagrams and charts to be incorporated, the interactions of the slide objects, etc. with a desire to support the narrative rather than overshadow it. What type of audio (narrative and background) should be incorporated, where should it be placed, and how will it interact with the other objects on the slide? Should snippets of video be added or interactions embedded that allow the audience to "direct" the flow of the presentation?  If we think of these objects as actors on a stage, then we must also craft their entrance and exit onto the slide, their transition during the entrance and exit, the timing, the sequence, the layering, etc. All of these are extremely important elements in the middle segment of our presentation since we are transferring knowledge of our story and must not confuse the audience. There are many other factors to consider, especially in the middle section. What object types should be incorporated onto which slides, should there be "scenery: on the slide, what type of slide transition, etc. This is the breadth and scope of the middle portion of the presentation. It is as if you were writing a screenplay and have to design the design the set, select the actors, where they are positioned on the stage, the interaction of the actors, the dialogue between the actors, the entrance and timing of the actors, the exit and timing of the actors, the attire of the actors, and the background scenery. The middle segment is the most difficult because we must answer the questions that have been alluded to in the opening segment while the leading the audience towards the close and always keeping them interested in what is going to happen next.

The types of objects that can be placed on a presentation depends upon the software being used. For example, if you are using the Adobe Presenter add-in to PowerPoint, quizzes can be incorporated, the presentation can implement redirection, etc. If Techsmith's Camtasia is employed, a variety of objects can be embedded into the presentation. This is how the NPD Framework assists in the creation of the final presentation/communique. We may not be as knowledgeable in the features of the software packages available and thus would not have an idea on the types of objects we could use. However, the creative arts department within our organization would have this knowledge and could suggest enhancements. That is why I separated the Design (D of the NPD) from the Planning (P). Effectively, creating the "script" but leaving the mechanics to the experts. For example, depending upon the products, the experts could suggest interactive objects that allow you to simulate the user keying information into the presentation, allow the presentation to capture data, or give the user the ability to redirect the presentation based on their interest.
Since the presentation’s "creator" may not be aware of these features, they normally are explained during the Design Phase. For example, we may wish to have our communique offer five unique options that the user/viewer would choose from. In a static presentation, we would list the options and then review each. However, remember our previous discussion about the middle section where we must keep the listener interested. This static approach would be a very quick way to lose our audience. So, our design would have a redirect request and the experts during the Design stage would implement it. We would not be interested in how it was performed only that the communique had the ability to allow redirection. Based on the product, the design team could embed this interactivity using a series of hot spots, or "buttons" on the slide to create the redirect. The user can mouse over the hot spot or click on the "button," sort of emulating a menu item.
Features such as redirection are typically incorporated into standalone presentations where the user has the ability to move throughout the content as they see fit. In a traditional human narrated presentation, the individual presenter is typically managing the flow. There are many different types of objects that can be incorporated into a presentation: interactivity, highlights, emphasis, zooming, etc. All of these additional tools and objects provide you with a more extensive set of techniques to emphasize the content in the communiqué. The more objects you may wish to incorporate the more effort must be made during the planning phase. Therefore, it is important to have a general understanding of the available capabilities so that they may be considered for inclusion.

Believability of a communique is a very important characteristic that needs to envelop the presentation. No outrageous statements, no extreme word puffery, no unsupported facts, nothing that would imply to the viewer that the truth is not being told. Even if one portion of the communique goes beyond acceptability the listener may judge the entire presentation as unbelievable. To give you a real-world example, say you pass a retail store that has a going out of business sign. However, the sign has been up for six months, so to say, "I don't think it's really going out of business, I just think they want to attract individuals by thinking the store is going out of business and there will be deeply discounted products." This does happen to be a marketing strategy in areas where the customer base turns over quickly. Similarly, we have a sign announcing large markdowns on inventory. If a customer comes into the store and realizes the products that are supposedly on sale have been markdown a dollar or two after being marked up, then obviously we're not providing a believable communiqué. So, it is very important we design our presentation to be believable.
Thus, it may not be the obvious elements that invalidate the communique, but rather subtle problems that are not so obvious. Inappropriate colors for the intended message, a misleading background, animation that highlights an obscure or irrelevant fact, non-approved branding, etc. Therefore, when designing our communiqué, we need to think of believab
ility, realism and most importantly sending the message we wish to send.