Don’t leave customer relationships to chance

Successful customer engagement takes strategy, not luck. Being wishy-washy about social media is so 2010. Now, it’s time to have a social media strategy that connects with your business goals and ultimately delivers results. Customer engagement, quality content and constant monitoring of your brand’s social media presence are all now a part of marketing’s daily vernacular. So, if you’re not sure where to start, or you need help fine-tuning your strategy, the experts at Customer Insight Group have got your back.

Customer Insight Group’s three-part webinar series walks you through current social media trends, getting executive buy-in for integrating social media into your overall mix, and how to plan and amplify your social media strategy. Key takeaways of the webinar series include:

  • Clearly define what social media success looks like and quantify your key performance indicators.
  • Discover how to use your social media initiatives as a competitive differentiator in 2012.
  • Learn how to successfully integrate social media into your multi-channel strategy for the most highly targeted impact and revenue growth.
  • Deliver relevant content at the optimal time.
  • Accurately track the reach and results of your social marketing efforts.

Register for the webinar at:


Melanie is rounding her third year at ReadyTalk.  She works closesly with the sales department to coordinate and excute ReadyTalk’s tradeshow presence. She’s also the goddess of ReadyTalk schwag and party planning.  In her free time, you’ll find her spending time with her husband and dog.

How-to: Making your Powerpoint presentation have more impact.

For many, creating a Powerpoint presentation is at the bottom of a long list of things we'd rather be doing, falling somewhere between preparing taxes and being attacked by a Honey Badger.  Because of that, many webinar presentations end up looking like this:

A basic Powerpoint presentation slide

Its layout is simple, it provides data in a bullet-list fashion, has incredible clip-art and more importantly, uses Comic Sans.  However, if you've been on the audience side of a presentation (virtually via a webinar or in person) using slides like the above example, then you know the problem: the information while at its core is exciting (2012 Marketing Goals, 70% increase in Webinar traffic, etc)  but these messages are often buried in text that, while important, isn't usually the key message the presenter is trying to convey.


To give an example of how you can make your PowerPoint presentation more visually attractive while maintaining your message, I wanted to start with a simple guide on some PowerPoint basics to showcase what you can do with PowerPoint if you know some simple tricks. Through future posts, I'll show more complicated tricks in regard to laying out more complex information, but to start, I wanted to showcase some simple and easy tips with the assumption that if you're reading this, you've used PowerPoint to some degree in the past.

Below, I'll show you how you can take the above slide and split it into a title slide using Microsoft PowerPoint 2010.

Final Powerpoint presentation slide

Finding a relevant background image.


Creating a presentation with visual impact isn't just about using fancy background images. Your slide should speak in simple terms, through both written content and imagery. This doesn't mean that your images have to beat your audience over the head with obvious imagery to match your text. A slide about Dog Ownership with a background image of a chewed-up remote communicates a different message than one with a background image full of adorable puppies.

The goal, when finding a suitable background image, is to find one that both speaks to your slides message and  is simple and clean, providing an obvious area where your text or data can be placed in a legible fashion.

As we're looking to make a title slide for ACME's 2012 Marketing goals, I decided to go with a stock image purchased from iStockphoto of a dartboard with a large dark gradient background that provides ample room for text. As well, it being a dartboard makes me look incredibly clever.

Dartboard image care of iStockPhoto

Cropping and positioning.


Once you've decided on a background image, import your image by:

  • Selecting the Insert tab.
  • Click on Picture.

Position your background image on your slide, keeping in mind its relation to the PowerPoint slide frame below it. In this example, I made sure my stock Dartboard image would cover the entire slide so that I'd have some liberties in regards to positioning and how far in I zoomed my image. Depending on the size of your background image, you may need to spend some time scaling your image until you find a suitable size that makes the full use of your available slide-canvas. (Presentation Zen has a great article on using the Rule of Thirds in your image positioning ).


Once you've determined your layout, you'll want to crop your background image to remove any overlap of your image. To crop your image:

  • Click on your background image.
  • Select the Format tab.
  • Under Size, click Crop.
  • Grab the Crop Handles that appear around the edges of your background image.
  • Crop your borders until they snap to the slide canvas in the background.
  • Once satisfied with your adjustments, click Crop to finish.


Cropping a background image in Powerpoint

Tip: Cropped background images can quickly make your PowerPoint file become bloated in terms of file-size based on how PowerPoint crops images. PowerPoint allows you to compress your presentation file to help reduce its size which becomes especially crucial if you need to email your finished presentation. To compress your images:



  • Click on the Format tab
  • Under Adjust, click on Compress Pictures



Compressing Pictures in Powerpoint



Text formatting and layout.

The trick to creating a powerful slide is to resist the urge to data-dump. As in this guide, we're just making a title slide, this may seem less an issue but you'd be surprised in how often people feel pressure to over-inform. Keep your text simple and to the point so your audience will focus on the message of the webinar, not digesting a page of text.



When creating your text layed over a background image, you'll want to pay close attention to contrast. Obvious examples to avoid are  white text/white backgrounds but also keep in mind that depending on your background, the busier the background, the harder it will be to find both a size and color that allows your text to be legible as well as pleasing to the eye.

As my Dartboard background has a dark blue area, I went with the Tahoma typeface using a white font color.

Inserting text into Powerpoint slides

Alternating layouts often gets overlooked when entering text. Usually, its easier to  use a large text box and enter your text in at the same size and move on. However, if you have the time, providing slight alterations in size, emphasis (bolding, italics) and colors can help with making a slide more engaging in terms of design.


PowerPoint also has some helpful layout features that make on-the-fly alignment easier. In the below example, I added a second text-box with Tahoma at a smaller size, dragging the text box until it aligns with the 2012 above it correctly, using the auto-align guides in PowerPoint to help.

Lining up text in Powerpoint

Something you may have noticed in PowerPoint is that text can be oddly spaced when entered by default. To combat this, PowerPoint has a spacing option under the Home tab that gives a set of quick spacing pre-sets that can help when your text spacing just doesn't seem right.


Text spacing in Powerpoint

Breaking up your text using shapes. To break up the text, I decided to add a background rectangle below 2012 Marketing Goals where I wanted to place the name of Company and Team giving the presentation.



Creating a rectangle in Powerpoint

However, I wanted to make the background rectangle subtle and instead of using a stark white background, PowerPoint allows you to adjust the transparancy (opacity) of a shape using the Format Shape menu. To format your the transparancy of a shape:



  • Right click on your shape.
  • Select Format Shape from the menu.
  • Under Fill, adjust the Transparency slider to the % desired.
  • Click Ok.



Formatting the transparency of a shape in Powerpoint

Layering in PowerPoint.



Something to keep in mind with PowerPoint is that items added to your slide (images, text, shapes, etc) exist in a certain layer order. Because of this, a shape added after text can mean that the shape itself, even if opaque, will sit on top of your text. While not always an issue, if your background shape is transparent white, it can dull the text below it by overlapping colors. In PowerPoint (versus programs like Photoshop), adjusting the layer position of a selected item exists through sending an item forward or backward. To send your background rectangle backward:

  • Right click on your shape.
  • Select Send to Back.
  • Select Send Backward.
  • Repeat this process until the shape or item is in the layer position you desire.


Send Backward in Powerpoint

Sizing to match.



While you can enter text into a shape, I prefer to separate my elements in case I decide at a later time that I want to change a specific element (ex: Deleting a background shape, adding more text, etc). This allows your elements to act independantly which can save frustration down the road.

Text over transparent shape in Powerpoint

Final thoughts.


While of course, I only covered taking a busy slide and separating a part of into a title slide, the same practices shown above can be used to create additional slides from our original. Again, the key take-away should be identifying the key message in your slide and making it prominent and simple. Below is an example of taking our original slide and one of the powerful statistics mentioned (70% increase in Webinar attendance) and making it a prominent message not buried in text. The below example was created using the same tricks above but shows that often, with PowerPoint presentations, less is often more.

Statistics slide in Powerpoint




Brandon Hess works at ReadyTalk as a Product Marketing Manager.  Starting his initial career as a web designer, Brandon eventually decided that the web could design itself just fine and that his true interest was in marketing. Following his passion through the agency, startup and newspaper industries, he eventually found his way home inside the wonderful walls of ReadyTalk.  In his free time, he enjoys debating why Lord of the Rings is superior to Harry Potter, collecting all things Batman and answering questions about his height (6'8" by the way).

Inside Edition with Pete Kinser, UX Design Engineer

This week’s Inside Edition with ReadyTalk Engineering highlights a day in the life of our UX Design Engineer, Pete Kinser. Pete has been with ReadyTalk for almost 4 months and brings more than 10 years of experience in the field to the team. He has been an awesome addition, and even though he did go to theUniversityofMissouriwe have high hopes for him here at ReadyTalk.

Inside Edition with Pete Kinser:

  •  Describe a typical day for you at ReadyTalk
    My day usually begins by grabbing a quick snack in the kitchen (banana, almonds, green tea and the occasional yogurt). I settle into my desk and chat with the other UX guy at ReadyTalk. Generally, we regroup over what's happened the day before and talk through potential design solutions for various projects. The bulk of my day is spent meeting with various teams to learn about new projects, to understand potential roadblocks and to contribute to the development discussion form a user experience perspective.


  • Why do you think ReadyTalk is the #1 company to work for in Colorado?
    There's a sense of shared optimism in the work we're doing. No idea is too big or too small. The teams are focused on executing at a high level. The customer is always the priority.



  • Tell us about your favorite day at work….
    My favorite day at work is full of tests. Usability tests. Working with users to better understand how our designs work, or don't, helps to bring a lot of insight and energy to the design process. Being able to integrate user feedback into our designs helps build highly useful, usable and desirable products.



  • If someone were interested in working on your team @ReadyTalk what advice would you have for them?
    Love what you do. There's a lot of passion with the walls of ReadyTalk. I'd wager most people invest time outside of ReadyTalk to continue to learn about their discipline. We're engaged with our professional organizations, actively pursue continuing learning opportunities, and contributors to the knowledge bases for our communities.



Catherine Harrison is part of the ReadyTalk Recruiting Team (AKA the Beaphins). She has been seeking out the top talent in the industry for 5 years now. Finding the geekiest engineers in the industry to join the ReadyTalk team is her top priority. When she is not on the prowl for Geeks you can find her hiking, rafting, snowboarding, and camping…anything outside!

Engage Your Audience: First Things First, KNOW YOUR STUFF!

Have you ever attended a presentation where the speaker was just reading the bullets from the PowerPoint slides? Or maybe they just rambled on and on about the same simple idea or topic? You may have felt like saying, “Tell me something I don’t know,” or “I can read slides, why didn’t you just send them to me?” Over the years, I’ve recognized that when a speaker doesn’t feel really confident about the subject matter, it’s easy for them to slip into a comfort zone to just get through the presentation. Often times it’ll sound monotone, lifeless and boring.

When presenting, whether on a webinar or in person, in order to sound confident and engaging: Learn it, Live it, Love it.

Learn it: Understand the topic and identify the underlying message you want to deliver (what your webinar audience needs) and know every single nuance about it. Don’t let the audience stump or intimidate you. You have to be adept at smoothly talking slightly off-topic and be able to come back to center. If you do get stumped, don’t ramble on with a non-answer; get the answer, add it to your follow up messaging.

Live it (aka Practice!!!!): Of course you can practice in front of a mirror and that works. But, I think a better way to get your material down is to talk about it with your peers, colleagues, friends, etc. Get comfortable delivering the webinar content and underlying message with a smooth conversational flow. Pretend you are at a social gathering and this topics just happens to be something that comes up in the conversation. Learn how to cohesively transition from one idea to another while making your point clear.

From a remote presentation standpoint, you have another variable – the web conferencing software. They best way to feel fully prepares is to practice just the presentation material, then practice using the web conferencing software and then practice with both together. Do that several times.

Love it: “Do what you love, love what you do,” or at least fake it for the duration of your webinar. When you know your material and have enthusiasm for the presentation, you will naturally be in the moment and enjoying delivering the message, which engages the audience. If you do need to fake it, at least try make it sound sincere. Don’t overdo it or there’s a chance you’ll sound like an infomercial.

How do you prepare to engage the audience? What tips would you recommend?


Shawn Cardinal is ReadyTalk’s training guru. He’s hosted hundreds of webinars and train customers (and employees) on best practices for hosting polished webinars and engaging audiences. When he’s not on a webinar, you’ll likely find him spending time with his family, off-roading, or taking photos.

Gaffe of the Month: Using Manual Confirmation

Accidents happen. At ReadyTalk we’re committed to helping our customers prevent accidents and mistakes. Each month, ReadyTalk’s Account Managers share a recent accident and tips for how to avoid it in the future.


When planning an upcoming webinar, ReadyTalk customer Joe opted to use Manual Confirmation when setting up his invitation options.  Manual Confirmation allows the event organizer to confirm individual attendees rather than have it happen automatically. An attendee doesn’t receive the event details until the organizer confirms their status. Joe’s webinar was a pay-for event, and he didn’t want any registrants who had not yet submitted payment to receive a confirmation email along with login instructions.

Joe’s webinar featured a distinguished guest speaker, and Joe thought it would be insulting to ask him to register for the event.  On the morning of the webinar, Joe logged into his ReadyTalk meeting controls 15 minutes prior to the start time of his scheduled event.  When the guest speaker tried to log in, he was prompted to register.  If this webinar had automatic confirmation, he would have simply been directed into conference.  However, with manual confirmation, his registration went into ‘awaiting confirmation’ status.  Joe didn’t understand why the speaker couldn’t get into the conference, and he began to panic.

After a couple of minutes, Joe contacted ReadyTalk customer care.  The representative was quickly able to discern that the guest speaker’s registration was waiting to be manually confirmed by the chairperson.  After this step had been done, he was able to get into conference and participate in what turned out to be a very successful webinar.

Joe could have avoided the confusion and delay by ensuring his speaker was pre-registered and manually confirmed ahead of time.  Since Joe did not want to ask the guest speaker to register himself, Joe could have done so on behalf of the speaker, and then when he manually confirmed him, the speaker would have received his confirmation with the login link.

Are there accidents or tips you would like our account managers to address? Share your questions below and we’ll provide some insight. You can also check out the best practices section of the website for more ideas.