Three Keys to Compelling Presentations

May 8th, 2014 by Christina Canright

“The music is not in the piano.”

I once saw this quote by Clement Mok on a poster and have never forgotten its message, particularly when I see speakers giving presentations with highly bulleted PowerPoint slides. Know what I’m talking about? Slides with graphics pulled from the web with list upon list of bullet points and text galore. The speaker sure gets through each and every point, but often loses the audience early on. The focus of the talk from the speaker’s perspective becomes the slides rather than the speaker’s message. And that core message has to work that much harder to get through.

The slide portion of your presentation can be a powerful instrument, like the piano, and can actually be a great partner: reaching your audience, compelling them to pay attention. Here are three key things I remember when creating slides for presentations we do with our clients:

1. Simplicity always, always trumps complexity in a talk.

Simplicity is a key element in doing an effective and compelling presentation. This does not mean simple. A well-designed slide is one that has clarity—the arrangement is well thought out, words are pared down to their essence, and concepts are prioritized.

At the same time, the presenter fills in relevant information—often with a story from his or her own experience. The content becomes personal and grounded in the speaker’s experience. That way, the audience can connect and relate more authentically with the speaker.

2. Know precisely what you want your audience to take away.

Keeping it simple, with just two to three points you want to be remembered, also serves another purpose: You increase the odds that your audience will remember what you said. According to Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, “There is simply a limit to a person’s ability to process new information efficiently and effectively.” When you have too much information, your audience has to cope with what Garr calls “excessive cognitive strain,” and your message, even though it may be a good one, gets lost in the clutter of too much information. Have two to three concepts or take-aways you want them to remember. The clearer you are, the more likely you and your message will be remembered.

3. Spend the time to make it yours.

Too many people wait till a few days before the talk to do the “PowerPoint” portion and undercut themselves in having their presentation be a partner, rather than an afterthought. Steve Jobs is known for spending many hours on his presentations, both on the visuals and on the words, so that they appeared effortless in the delivery.

So construct each slide with care to make sure it communicates efficiently and elegantly. Then, remember that the audience is there to hear what you have to say about the topic. Because, when it comes down to it, the presentation is not about the slides, it’s really about you and the experience you bring.

The slides are a partner to your message. The slides can either underline what you have to say or get in the way. Think again of Steve Jobs, a master of presentations who famously valued design—and thought like a designer. Most people remember him, the experience he created, and how he spoke about Apple’s products. The slides, which were beautifully done, added substance to what he was describing. The slides were his tools, but he was the show.

Christina Canright

PS. Need help getting started creating your compelling presentation? We’ve partnered with associations, entrepreneurs and corporate clients on making their presentations great.

Call me at 773 220-9433 or email me at

The Popularity of Plastic Payments

May 4th, 2014 by Collin Canright

The future of payments may well reside on mobile devices, but today’s mobile payments consist of the plastic cards in your pocket or purse. Card payments now make up more than two-thirds of all noncash payments, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve.

In the same vein, my last several articles for Independent Banker magazine have dealt with the following card topics:

Profitable prepaid cards remain mostly elusive, but their potential still glimmers
Prepaid card use is soaring, and the checkless account cards are expected to help banks attract millennials and other underbanked customers. As of now, however, prepaid cards are not providing easy money to many community banks.

Four principles of the top-producing credit card programs
Community banks with highest producing credit card lending programs keep cardholders close to home. They also tend to use their card programs as part of their overall relationship-building activities, in many cases offering simple, stripped-down programs that solidify their customer relationships and their community bank brands.

Making the most of your card program year round
Community banks with successful credit and debit card programs plan their success. They understand that getting customers to use their cards consistently requires more than the occasional statement insert or special event promotion.

The New Integrated Marketing: Content-Focused

April 30th, 2014 by Collin Canright

Canright worked with BMA Chicago to develop a campaign describing the elements and process of the new integrated marketing for B2B marketers. The result is this infographic on the elements of the new integrated marketing, along with a comprehensive ebook.

Click to download the infographic:









As we wrote in the BMA Chicago’s email on the campaign:

Marketing today requires a 360 degree  view, with a complete holistic approach to communications. In addition to the thinking of a marketer, B2B marketing now requires the pizzazz of a media publisher, the analysis of a data scientist, and the creativity of a copywriter and designer. All combined with intuition and response of the exquisite conversationalist.

Download the infographic and visit the BMA Chicago’s page for details on how to get the ebook.

Graphic Design Trend of the Year

February 2nd, 2014 by Collin Canright

Flat design went from Microsoft’s operating system to mainstream print in 2013, making flat design our pick for graphic design trend of the year.

Flat design eschews the 3D look of beveled edges in graphics, featuring a distinctly two-dimensional look, often with bold colors. It emphasizes typographical simplicity and readability.

The flat-design look and probably the term originated with Microsoft in its mobile and Windows 8 user interfaces, as explained in our post “Design Fashion: Flat design for flat screens.” 

This year, the design approach informed Apple’s operating system and Google’s logo, making it a bona fide user interface design trends. At the same time, however, flat design informed print design as well. Here are examples of flat design in print I collected over the past few months.


GQ Layout Excerpt


Xerox Ad in FastCompany


Amtrak Posters









Goose Island Brewery 25th Anniversary logo


Brooklyn Oktoberfest beer label

Bell's Oberon










Oberon Ale packaging

Design Fashion: Flat design for flat screens

November 3rd, 2013 by Collin Canright

The fall fashion weeks showed highly textured fabrics with geometric patterns and shapes. The year’s graphic design fashion, however, is decidedly flat. Flat does not mean uninteresting and boring. It means direct, clean, minimal, and readable with a high-tech edge.

Apple’s new iOS7 is flat. You can clearly see what “flat design” means in these snips from the iPhone running under iOS6 and iOS7. Before the Apple release, Google launched a new version of its logo. It’s flat.




The Gizmodo blog, in speculating on the flat factor for iOS7, gives a good summary of the design trend in “What Is Flat Design?” It was the third thing I read on flat design, and as a journalism school grad, I knew I had a trend.

What’s even more interesting is that these technology leaders are following a trend created by a technology company not lately known as a design powerhouse: Microsoft. Windows 8 is flat.


Windows 8 grew out of the Windows Phone 7 OS, the first major appearance of the flat Metro design language. Metro, as Gizmodo says, “values typography—or the delivery of information—over graphics, that help the user understand what type of content they’re reading.”

In Microsoft’s words, it’s “fast and fluid, immersive, beautiful, and app-centric.”

Flat design is not new, Microsoft notes, but grew from a story of 20th century design history. In creating the flat Metro design style, the company’s design team took as influences modern design (as in Bauhaus), international typographic style (as in Helvetica and Univers) and cinematic motion design (as in credits by Saul Bass), writes Steve Clayton, editor of Microsoft/next, in “Modern design at Microsoft: Going beyond flat design.”

Microsoft sees flat design as one point in an evolution toward “authentically digital” design. Software interface design (OK, “user interface” design) works best when it goes beyond the physical, as when calendars scroll beyond the month into a flowing time stream, with the months indicated but not set as they were on paper. To quote from the Microsoft article:

In software, traditional visuals such as beveled buttons, reflections, drop shadows and the use of faux materials such as simulated wood grain, brushed metal and glass are attempting to mimic real-world materials and objects. Microsoft is pushing those notions aside — our designers are celebrating the fact that software is digital and made of pixels and elements such as typography, color and motion-enabled experiences that aren’t possible in the real world. As content comes to life, the user interface gets out of the way.

Scroll through Clayton’s article, an interesting online reading experience because it moves horizontally, rather than the traditional digital vertical scroll. It’s also a living digital piece. In the months since it first appeared, it’s been updated to mention Widows 8.1 and last summer’s xbox release.

Need more evidence that our our visual world is trending to flat? Flat design has been moving beyond technology. From the packaging world, this beer display in a Jewel supermarket back in September shows flat design in print:



Several years ago, the Goose Island goose logo looked nicely 3D. Now for the 25th anniversary it’s not only flat but black and white. The other two brands (all local Chicago, by the way) are all flat as well.

The world is indeed getting flatter. Check  back in a few days for more examples of flat design online and in print.

Additional Sources

“When design turned flat,” a post in the New York Times BITS blog.

“Designing for Metro style and the desktop,” a blog post in the development of Windows 8

“Designing Metro style: principles and personality,” a 2011 talk at Microsoft’s BUILD conference.


Google Gets Personal

October 25th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Engineering-oriented Google gets more attention for the way it uses personal data to generate ad revenue—the face-on-the-ad story I read the other day kind of creeped me out—but I was pleasantly surprised at today’s Google Doodle.

Wow, that’s great! How did I get Google to do this on my birthday? I wondered.


I hovered over it. “Happy Birthday, Collin!” says the message.

It even clicks through to my Google+ page (reminding me that I hate the photo and had a difficult time changing it last time I tried, many months ago).

Of course Google would know it’s my birthday. They have my data.

With all the discussions about privacy these days, best to remember that most of what’s discussed is from an outdated framework, like it or not. Personal birthday greetings from impersonal machines , even if from impersonal machines, still make me smile.

Thanks for the birthday wish, Google!

The Canright Guide to the Pitchfork Music Festival 2013

July 3rd, 2013 by Katy Myers


Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

You may remember that last year we at Canright created an easy-to-read schedule for Pitchfork Music Festival. Well, we’ve done it again! We created a very basic schedule that you are free to download, print, mark up, and take with you to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. It has times, stages, a handy map, and even some aftershows clearly laid out to help you make the best of the fest.

Read about what music (and Pitchfork) means to us here at Canright and enjoy the fest!

Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

Once Again, Email Rises from the Presumed Dead

May 12th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Today’s cool new social technologies are once again discovering that nothing gets attention like plain-old email. As social and media aggregation technologies evolve into powerful tools of personal news delivery, email remains one of the most effective means of personal delivery.

PandoDaily did an article on retiring RSS feeds as Google retires Reader, the RSS reader that Google will discontinue on July 1. The author, Mike Tatum, quit using RSS readers and decided to look at alternatives. His article lists several, one of which is Pulse, which currently is my favorite way of reading news. Tatum complains, rightly in my view, that Pulse does not feel comprehensive, with its push methodology. You can add almost anything to Pulse; I find it awkward—but not so awkward that I’m currently looking for an alternative.

Tatum realized that the best alternative he’s found to RSS is plain old email: he’s reading more more email newsletters.

Tatum is not the only one. This week, Wired writer Ryan Tate published, “Why Email Newsletter Won’t Die,” which features the social media aggregation tool RebelMouse. RebelMouse provides a service that aggregates all of your social media activity, especially the links you share, into a single page.

I’ve been experimenting with the service on and off since it launched nearly a year ago, and it’s sweet. My tweets are automatically posted, including a picture. The idea behind the service is to provide “a social media front page,” a term they use that I like. Here’s my page:


I use RebelMouse’s Embed function to feature my RebelMouse feed at the top part of my personal blog. This screenshot from my blog shows how it looks on the post, in contrast to the native RebelMouse page above. Contrast the posts from RebelMouse on the left to my complete native Twitter feed on the left to see its appeal.


Now the company has launched “RebelAlerts,” which works over plain-old email. The service allows people to sign up for a daily newsletter feed. As of this week, you can integrate with MailChimp. And I’ll bet that future email-list integration options are in the works.

I am very likely to use this version, though I don’t use MailChimp, because, as Tate quoted Jake Levine, general manager at Digg, the news aggregation service that recently launched a daily email service: “If something is important to you, e-mail products are the one reliable way to make sure you’ll see it.”

Finally, Matthew Ingram, media writer at GigaOm, reported last week about LinkedIn’s evolution as a media entity. In the last few months, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Today, which posts news updates on profiles. Last week, LinkedIn refreshed LinkedIn Today by launching “content channels” that individuals can subscribe to, sending an aggregated feed from multiple publications.

Along with LinkedIn’s purchase of Pulse, it’s part of the company’s strategy to become a media company. LinkedIn’s new magazine-style custom news channels, as Ingram writes, “has the potential to become a real competitor to other news aggregators and providers.”

And, yes, LinkedIn sends LinkedIn Today updates using plain-old email.

Every now and then, a piece will appear on the death of email, a more than 40-year-old technology. It hasn’t happened yet and is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Email remains the best way to put content in front of a potential reader, whether that content originates from an individual, a brand, or a media outlet—and whether it’s distributed through a website, social media channel, or individual.

Read our past posts on email delivery and marketing:

Email Powers Wires the Social Media Buzz (ebook)

Email: Content Marketing’s Workhorse


Capturing the ‘Wired’ Consumer: Leading-Edge Banking Technology

April 18th, 2013 by Collin Canright

As every business becomes a digital business, to borrow from Accenture’s technology vision for 2013, the leading edge of bank technology seeks to serve customers whose velocity of need increases with the speed and power of their personal digital technology. The digital revolution is shaping banking and providing opportunities for competitive differentiation.

In three recent articles for Independent Banker magazine, I detail three digital business technologies that are, in Accenture’s words, “well past the point where they should be areas of exploration and experimentation and are quickly becoming practical, available tools. . . ”











Payments Proliferation. Is person-to-person (P2P) a valuable canary in the payments mine? Consumers have more ways to make purchases than ever and will have even more choices over the next few years. This is creating a highly fragmented marketplace in which it’s difficult for any single payment option to gain traction. “My biggest issue is nonbank competition. If we lose customers to another payments solution, we will not get them back,” says Bob Steen, chairman and CEO at Bridge Community Bank, Mechanicsville, Iowa.

The Next Step in Mobile. Prepare for the impending shift to mobile, from basic banking to payments on the go. “Increased balance sheet and income pressure, mass consolidation, and heavy regulation mean we need to move fast to correct some glaring holes in bank strategy,” says Bradley G. Leimer, vice president of online and mobile strategy at Mechanics Bank, Richmond, Calif.

Self-Service Technologies. To complement brick-and-mortar storefronts, kiosk stations offer cost-trimming retail growth and customer-driven service. “Everyone is so busy, and people want to bank just like they shop. They want to do anything at any hour,” says Patricia Koczera, senior vice president, Lowell Bank, Lowell, Mass.

API = Freedom

April 5th, 2013 by Collin Canright

The Obama for America Campaign took the technology used to run an election campaign a step or two forward—at least for now—by building an API-based platform to manage the campaign. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama campaign, boiled the reason down to a two-word formula: API = Freedom.

“We needed to build a platform,” Reed said the January 29 Technori Pitch, a start-up presentation event held each month in Chicago. Called Narwhal, the platform formed the basis of dozens of software tools and systems used to run the campaign, everything from a call scheduler to advanced data analytics tools. The GigaOM blog proved more details on “How Obama’s tech team helped deliver the 2012 election.”

“We built an API to have freedom,” Reed told the audience of start-up aficionados and fans. Technori Pitch is monthly showcase of Chicago start ups, which present their companies to the audience and take questions.

The concept the Obama engineering team followed was that a platform with an API would allow the flexible development of integrated products and tools that would help campaign staff and volunteers reelect the president. Reed hacked the first API of Chicago Transit Authority data, which became the data engine powering CTA’s innovative Bus Tracker app.

Reed gave the Obama technology effort a start-up feel by using a suite of systems and tools familiar to most start-up engineers, including Github, Macs, Linux, and Amazon Web Services. In the end, however, it was not the technology that made the difference. As in most businesses and organizations, it was the team, the entire team, from campaign staff to phone volunteers.,

“Technology doesn’t last,” Reed said, “but we had the right people.”