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Not Your Art School Presentation Tips

June 14, 2011

A Letter from SMPS Boston President, Matt Hawk, Sr. Marketing Coordinator at Fay, Spofford & Thorndike

You may remember that I asked what you’d like me to write about. This post responds to our viewer, Valerie. She asks, “I’ve been hearing a lot about Prezi lately, making me realize that I may be behind the curve in what ‘new’ tools the industry is using for interview presentations. A ‘what’s hot’ and ‘what’s not’ look at presentations would be valuable. And, I’m never adverse to a good vinaigrette recipe.”

Well Valerie, I’m glad you asked. I hope you like Mae Ploy and strong opinions. A winning presentation and vinaigrette both rely upon a solid foundation and deliberate execution that brings together the components into a unified product.

A majority of the time, creating a presentation in the AEC industry is the result of an above-average statement of qualifications and/or response to the request for proposal. You have impressed the selection panel enough to give you further consideration, or someone else has impressed them enough to test your credibility. At this point, the project is yours for the taking. We have never been limited in our choice of presentation mediums. As technology has advanced, it made seamless transitions easier, and the “wow” factor has improved. My 15-plus years of professional experience have seen some advancement in technology from a blinking curser to cloud-based tools like Prezi.

So Prezi, what is it? Prezi is neat. Prezi allows you to create an online, non-linear presentation. In the third or fourth grade, I was introduced to the concept of the brainstorming web (left). Ideas and questions are linked creating a spider web-like visual of topics and subtopics. With that in mind, Prezi is a tool that uses an infinite canvas that you populate with text, images, videos, etc. and then groups them together. The effect of zooming in and out of a visual map via a path of objects that represents the order and relationship of the information to be presented. Whew, so I signed up for the free version and watched a video.

The tool itself is intuitive, and the sample presentations are dynamic. However, no more dynamic than a well executed presentation using more traditional and familiar means. Although, Prezi is a viable option that I am going to consider further, I think a well thought out PowerPoint can translate and be effectively repurposed in Prezi. In the AEC industry, we rely on our presentations as prompts to start and finish a topic. Therefore, we lose sight of the components’ relationship to one another and with the overall project. Prezi is adept at showing those relationships. Can I create a dynamic presentation with other tools? Yes, but if given the time to research and use Prezi, I would. Follow this link  for an article that identifies five presentation creation tools, including Prezi, and PowerPoint.

Whether you go to an interview with a Prezi, PowerPoint, or boards, you will win or lose the job at the hands of your primary presenter. I’ve won projects using an overhead projector and have lost projects relying on a combination of props, 3D modeling, PowerPoint, a massive aerial photograph of the project area with six months of preparation and a presentation coach. If you are not rehearsed, if your leader isn’t knowledgeable, if you are boring, then all the presentation crutches you have employed are worthless. The more prepared and rehearsed you are then the better your chances. Your client needs to be comfortable with the team they are going to work with, not just the technology employed.

Let’s close out by providing Valerie with a response to her second request. Vinaigrettes can make or break a garden salad still warm from the sun or upset the delicate balance of texture and flavor of your day boat diver scallops. So I empower and implore you to judiciously dress your dish. They say the ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar. Who are they anyway? I like my vinaigrettes to have flavor, not viscosity. It should compliment a dish as just another ingredient. Leave the cookbook behind and work your own magic and soon you will be asked, “Where did you get this dressing? I just love it!”

Mae Ploy Vinaigrette

Serves 4-8

2T Mae Ploy (mae ploy is a sweet and slightly hot chili sauce found in most grocery stores)

2T Rice wine vinegar

2t Soy sauce

1T mustard (I use as a binder and it adds a smooth texture, so type is up to you)

1 clove garlic, mashed

1t sesame oil

2T vegetable oil (or use any mild flavored oil like peanut or safflower,)

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a container with a lid, then shake it and serve on a salad, on fish or chicken. I like to use it instead of mayonnaise on any kind of sandwich you can dream up. I also like to use it to marinate fish of all sorts.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Valerie permalink
    June 14, 2011 2:30 pm

    You bring up an important point, which is so easy to overlook amongst all the shiny new tools. Without substance, even the most spectacular looking presentation is meaningless. Though, with substance behind it, a mind blowing presentation can make the difference between you and the other guys.

    Great timing on the vinaigrette recipe. It will be the perfect compliment to tonight’s CSA contents.

  2. June 15, 2011 11:18 am

    Great article Matt. We are a PowerPoint company so I have not worked with Prezi before and am looking forward to testing it out and bringing presentations to the next level. Many technical presenters in the AEC industry rely on slides to tell the story rather than the presenter, it is important to remind them that they are the presentation, not the slides.

  3. June 15, 2011 12:29 pm

    I have to agree with Valerie and Sarah – it’s all about the content and the presentation skills! Thanks for pointing this out, Matt – it can be easy to get caught up in fun new technologies, so this reminder is key!

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