What Kind of Background Should You Use When Delivering a Presentation Via Webinar?

Not too long ago, I was creating a webinar when I ran into a minor problem. I had to choose a new background because the one I had been using had a number of issues. It made me think about the problems involved when choosing your slide backgrounds.

In this article, I’m going to share five rules to help you select a background for your presentation slides when you deliver a webinar.

1. Keep it simple. I’m not referring to visually simple (at least not here) but rather physically simple. One of the most powerful techniques for creating backgrounds consists of layering flat colors, photographs and effects. This can create very flexible and visually stunning backgrounds. Unfortunately, some of the webinar hosting companies are unable to properly process these backgrounds. Remember that none of the hosting companies have access to the actual software used to create presentation slides. They are attempting to emulate it. That means that some effects at the edge of capability may not reproduce properly.

2. When creating your background go for high contrast colors without being garish about it. Colors which are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered high contrast. Black on white, white on black, red on green, orange on blue are all high contrast. As a result words are easy to read because lines stand out on them. Effectively, your audience won’t have to expend as much energy to read your slide. However, watch the colors and the intensity as some combinations may be too vibrant. The result will be just as exhausting.

3. Don’t let the writing overlay any pictures you use. To a certain extent you can overcome this by tinting the picture. This hints at a picture by using different shades of the main color as shadows or highlights. Unfortunately, this means that lettering may become lost in the shadow or highlight. Very few colors for the lettering will display clearly over multiple shades of a base color. If you are going to use a picture — and there are many reasons to do so — keep the picture to the corners where they will not have to have lettering placed on them. This applies equally to logos as well!

4. Don’t be too strong with your background color. Light shades and low intensity colors are more forgiving than high intensity or dark colors. Use the dark, high intensity colors for the lettering. That way your words will be much easier to read.

5. Remember that you don’t control the actual colors seen. The actual color seen will be interpreted by the hardware on the viewer’s desk. There is a great deal of variation in the colors displayed by different makes and models of terminal. Even one make and model may vary from unit to unit. So be careful when picking colors where precision is required. It won’t happen and your slide may be unviewable.

Read This Or One Day The MD’s Presentation Could Flop Because Of You!

Musa’s gets an email Monday morning from Sarah – MD’s Personal Assistant. It’s about the much expected presentation on a new company strategy which the MD is scheduled to deliver next Monday. Sarah’s email ends with the words: “I am confident you will ensure this very important presentation goes without a hitch. Thanks in advance“.

Musa Dele Anicho is Training Manager in the eastern branch of a large corporate multinational. Apart from providing needs-based training for the site staff/managers, his job involves coordinating briefings/presentations etc that have a way of occurring at short notice – with the key actor often being a top man, for example in this case, Mr. Samuel Okocha, the Managing Director.

Musa grimaces as he reads the last line of Sarah’s email but seeing in it a tacit “warning” immediately sets out to make all necessary arrangements. It is the first time since becoming Training Manager that he would be personally responsible for preparations towards the MD’s presentation.

By the end of the week his boss had contacted him more than 10 times about preparations and each time Musa had told him all was set. Indeed, “as far as he could see” everything was set.

a. He had copied the PowerPoint Presentation to the Toshiba Satellite laptop supplied by the IT department and test run it over and over again – with speakers/projector.

b. He had double-checked the lighting in the Training room to be used and ensured the seating arrangement would not prevent people seeing the projector screen.

c. Refreshments had been booked and all other routine arrangements made. All was set!

BUT why then – after all this work by Musa, did the following unfortunate event have to occur? And how did Musa via quick thinking eventually save the day – and himself?

It’s 10.00 am Monday morning and Mr. Okocha(the MD) is on the 3rd slide of his presentation with all staff and Managers in the eastern branch listening with rapt attention to the high profile presentation with serious expressions on their faces.

The MD just finished giving an overview of the new strategy and then says “Let me now move to the most important part of my presentation which is: The breakdown of our new Corporate Strategy including the Action Plan for its implementation”.

He clicks on the mouse but nothing happens(Musa’s heart misses a beat). The MD clicks again, this time twice, thrice..yet still nothing happens – A frown now appears on his forehead(Musa on his part is already beginning to sweat even though the room is fully airconditioned).

The MD grunts a bit inaudibly saying “Sorry I think there’s a problem” and looks around as if asking for some help. Musa’s boss, Mr. Lateef scowls deeply at Musa and motions with his eyes for him to do something!

Musa gets up, his mind racing, and walks with shaky legs towards the MD, who with characteristic calmness at this point casually carries on with his presentation using the printed paper version he had brought with him as a reference
(Lesson: Anytime you have to give a PC presentation, endeavour to carry a printed copy (printed version) with you as a backup. Technology is reliable but not error-free: Anything can happen, so be prepared!)

He realises he must find a very quick solution that will enable the MD deliver this important information to the large audience in a way that ensures they all get a sound understanding of the subject. He forces himself to calm down and think (even as one teasing voice tells him “There goes your career down the drain -all that hard work from all those years gone!”).

Musa suddenly remembers that while preparing for the MD’s presentation, he had taken pains to save a backup copy of the PowerPoint Presentation on his PC desktop in his office. An idea occurs to him, and he bolts from the hall and up to his office in the Training block in seconds.

He tries to copy the file to a 1.44MB floppy disk, but gets an error message: “not enough disk space!” The file is 1.65MB! He curses under his breadth, checks his watch: now almost 2 minutes since the MD stopped using the PC.

Some more thinking leads him to recall that right-clicking on a file in Windows XP and highlighting the “Send To” shortcut menu item brings up a short cut menu item called “Compressed(zipped) folder”. This useful feature is an alternative for when one does not have utilities like Winzip, Winrar or other file compression software on their PCs. Typically compression of up to 40% is achievable with this Windows XP version(Why not try using it now and see what you get?).

He right clicks the Power Point file, and applies the command. The resulting compressed .zip file easily copies to the floppy. He sprints out of his office and back into the hall where everyone turns to look at him as re-enters. He avoids his boss’ glare and walks to the Laptop, heart pounding, barely hearing the MD’s voice.

With the PC projector lights still switched off, he copies the zipped file to the desktop and right clicks on it.

a. He then clicks on the “Extract All..” shortcut menu item to bring up a “Compressed (Zipped) files extraction Wizard” welcome screen.

b. He clicks “Next” twice and watches as the wizard copies a folder containing the powerpoint file to the desktop.

c. He clicks “finish” and the folder (by default setting) automatically opens to reveal the uncompressed PowerPoint Presentation.

He quickly launches the presentation and clicks through slides 1 to 3, then holding his breath clicks to continue. There is a short delay, then the 4th slide appears! He clicks again, and the 5th appears, till all 10 slides are complete.

Musa looks up at his boss whose piercing gaze he has felt on him all the while and nods to indicate all is well. He puts on the Projector lights to reveal the 4th slide at which the MD turns and says “Ah, looks like we can continue!”. The presentation continues smoothly to the end. Musa looks at his watch: It had taken 3 minutes!

After the presentation, some of Musa’s colleagues asked him what happened. He had no answer for them as he had checked the bad copy again and again and could simply not explain what had caused it to go bad or “corrupt” at the transition to slide 3. It could have been the power glitch during the test run he did – but he could not be certain.

He did tell them two things however:

a. First was that keeping a back up copy of the file on his PC(and close to the presentation venue) made it possible for him to replace the bad one – in time.

b. Secondly, knowing about the Windows XP file compression utility enabled him get around the twin problems of the file being too large to fit on a disk + his not having WinZip installed on his PC.

One could argue that he could have used a Flash pen, but what if he did not own one, or could not find anyone who did or even worse(and quite possible), what if the flash pen went bad or missing at that point when he needed it? Things like this have a way of happening, so one is better off considering all possibilites and preparing for them.

The most important message here is that you need to take time to acquire new/relevant knowledge and skills to enable you become more productive and efficient on your job. The little things you can learn about technology available in your office to get more done in less time, will set you apart from the crowd and make you look good more often. The quote below, in our opinion summarises it well:

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write. They will be those who cannot learn, un-learn and re-learn” – Alain Tofle

A Negotiator’s Work Is Never Done!

Recently, I came across this nifty business quote: “Every job involves negotiating.”

To a seminar provider and keynote speaker specializing in best practices in negotiation and innovations in negotiation, this isn’t a revelation, but it is a good reminder of the significant role negotiation plays in our careers.

We negotiate all the time, mostly unconsciously.

Just this morning, for example, I was doing some goal setting for the day, against the backdrop of an azure Pacific Ocean.

“How many cold calls should I make?” I prompted myself, being in the midst of a business-building program.

“How many follow-ups should I make?” I wondered next.

Then I thought about what my family will be doing at the same time I’m selling away.

School is out and my brood is likely to want papa for chauffeuring or bankrolling a day of diversions.

“No avoiding that,” I mused.

All the while these thoughts and plans were percolating I was negotiating-with myself.

Any kind of prioritizing, goal setting, and time management activity is a form of bargaining. We make deals with ourselves, and with our jobs, and we do it constantly, re-calibrating what matters, what we’ll put into a given commitment to get out of it a certain amount of value, utility and pleasure.

Indeed, the entire work/life balance equation that most of us try to nuance is an ongoing negotiation, giving up a certain amount of this to get more of that.

And as we can falter in an official negotiation, for a job, a car, a house, or an education, we can also stumble when bargaining with ourselves.

(1) We can err when setting our aspiration levels. Aiming too high or too low can spell disaster in a negotiation, as can aiming not high or low enough, depending on whether we are buying or selling. Selling yourself or your products and services too low, cutting too deeply into profits, or setting them too high, scaring away buyers, can put you into the poorhouse. When negotiating your personal aspiration level, deciding “I can never make that kind of money,” even though this is a major goal, is defeatist, and you’ll probably despise yourself for settling for less out of life.

(2) I love that disclaimer to be found in most prospectuses from Wall Street. “Past performance is not a promise of future performance.” Things change, and so do we. Zen practitioners might say, “You never step into the same negotiation, twice.” Military strategists warn against “Planning for yesterday’s wars.” This means you have to press the reset button with each new day and negotiation partner. Speaking of the work/life balance, you may have decided long ago, before you entered a serious personal relationship, to put in 14-hour days or to travel 75% of the time. Will that work into the indefinite future? Something has to give.

(3) One of my elementary school teachers had a sign made to fit around the class clock: TIME PASSES: WILL YOU? I’m reminded of this by those that decide that they’re “Only going to give so much” to their employers while at work. These are the folks that avoid taking on more responsibilities while quipping, “That’s above my pay grade,” or “They don’t pay me for that.” Strictly speaking, this is correct, yet by cutting such restricted deals with their jobs some people are limiting their experiences as well as opportunities for training and promotions. They’re also diminishing their odds of being able to jump ship for a better deal. Lest you think this kind of “slow-walking” is relegated to the lowest paid ranks, study the behavior of certain multi-million dollar athletes during or after their negotiations. If they think their employers are stingy, many can’t resist seeking revenge, which typically ruins their careers. It’s almost impossible to play 20% under your potential. It’s a lot easier to give 100% all the time. By the way, if we withhold our efforts, we’ll get into the nasty habit of doing so, and then, when we want to excel, we will probably sputter because we’re out of practice.

(4) We negotiate on the job when we need to get cooperation from other people and departments. When we seek raises, recognition, and promotions, we’re obviously doing the same. Getting and keeping customers involves nonstop negotiations.

In fact, it is hard to find a time when we’re NOT negotiating, before, during, and even after work.

It might help to heighten awareness of and respect for this activity if we simply say a negotiator’s work is never done!