Pointing the Way to Success

 January 2016 – The Design Pointer: Control Your Fonts

How many fonts on one ad, flyer, etc. are too many? My own feeling is that one or two is usually best, even three can be okay… but after that, you’re going down a dark road. If you’re using four or more fonts, you begin detracting from your message in favor of looking cute or trying to jazz up your piece just for fun.

One of the most common mistakes in using fonts is to use a TITLE font as a body or paragraph font. A title font is designed to grab attention. It’s got style or power to be used for effect. Readability is often secondary to it being used as an attention-getting device. Body or paragraph font should be the exact opposite – designed for legibility. Many body fonts have style and can affect the tone of your piece but not at the expense of clarity.

An easy rule of thumb for what is a title font versus a body font is what size is required to make it legible. Title fonts are often unusable below 16. The nuances of the style start to become hard to see at a smaller font size, losing the effectiveness of the font. Body fonts can usually go to most any size (below 6 is rarely suggested) but often lack a sense of style when made large. This can be solved by good design but most non-designers will usually default to a title font for the larger text, usually the headline.

Some designers mock the use of certain fonts, such as Comic Sans, Trajan, Bleeding Cowboys, Papyrus, Hobo, and others. I’m not making any judgments on which font to use, except to consider how appropriate it is. Is the font the right choice for your piece? A whimsical font like Hobo can be fine for announcing a potluck, while Papyrus would look a bit odd. Trajan feels important and is often used on movie posters but would look too serious for baby announcements. Try to match the font with the tone you’re trying to achieve.

Just remember when choosing fonts that less is more. Your main goal is to communicate effectively. Overdoing it with your fonts will only muddle your message. There may be a time when you want to get creative with your text and I will not stand in the way of a little fun with fonts but try not to go too far overboard.


 December 2015 – The Life Pointer: Shine A Light

So many awful and amazing things have happened in 2015. From the horror of terrorist attacks to the outpouring of support I personally witnessed after fires in California destroyed people’s homes. I was able to help in small ways, such as donating my time in creating flyers for events to raise money or awareness. When tragedy struck much closer to home, I was awed and humbled by the support of friends, family and the community – confirming my belief that it’s the people in our lives that make what we do matter. Whatever you do in this coming year to be successful, make sure you find the time to remember why we spend all these hours taking care of clients and putting out our products and services. Take the time to shine a light on the things that matter most to you and help others out of their own darkness. Give when you can, whether it’s time or money or both. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”



  November 2015 – The Ad Design Pointer: Engage & Intrigue

I see a lot of ads that go to extremes – they provide so much information that I am not intrigued enough to find out more or they provide so little information that I am not engaged enough to care. Some ads that are so full of fluff that you’re not even sure what they’re for – specifically, ads that talk about “loving” something or just “happiness” in general because of a company. Often it’s not even about a particular product, but just the company itself that is supposed to make you content. Last time I looked, there’s not a single company that made me happy just by existing. It’s the services they provide or the product they offer that convert to my happiness. Be careful of thinking that your company is just so darned awesome that people should love you just for being you. People need a reason to find out more, to visit your company or website. Give them a specific, concrete reason why you’re going to make their life better and they’ll have a reason to act. Similarly, overloading an ad with so much information that someone is able to make a decision right then and there about your product means you have no chance to intrigue people. An ad shouldn’t make a viewer’s decision – it should engage them enough to want to find out more. If you want to get your customers off the couch, you have to engage AND intrigue them enough to move!


 October 2015 – The Presentation Pointer: Stop Slide Slop

I was recently at an event where the group putting it on had gone to great lengths to ensure everything went well. They had binders of information, food, rooms for breakout sessions, solid speakers…you name it. The one thing they didn’t have: good slides. They were, in fact, just plain bad.

This month’s Pointer isn’t about HOW to make good slides; it’s about WHY you should make good slides.

There’s a perception that having bad slides isn’t a problem. Everyone has such low expectations of PowerPoint slides that you shouldn’t do anything but do the minimum. Why invest the time and energy? My response: be professional, be helpful, and be memorable.

Be Professional: I’ll never understand why someone will spend 30 minutes on what outfit to wear but has no problem being on stage with bad visuals behind them. Your entire presentation, from entrance to exit, should be slightly more professional than your audience. Rushed or bad slides make you look ill-prepared. The audience may assume you didn’t care enough about them to make the effort. That’s never a good reaction, especially from potential clients or business partners.

Be Helpful: Slides won’t take the place of your speech but they should support it with interesting images and basic text that underscore your point or give needed clarification or data. Confusing or ill-conceived slides serve only to muddle your message and distract your audience. Strong slides will clarify your points and help keep the audience focused.

Be Memorable: When other presenters are doing the minimum, you have the opportunity to outshine the competition simply by investing some time and energy in creating strong visuals. Many people have slideshows that are memorable for the wrong reasons – you can be memorable for the right ones.

When I tried to talk with the person behind that event about how they deserved better slides, they were dismissive. They felt their presentation was “good enough” and saw no need to change. In the competitive and noisy world we work in, is “good enough” really good enough any more?

Treat your audience with the respect a well-conceived presentation communicates. Leave the slide slop behind and make a good presentation great.



September 2015 – The Social Media Pointer: Time to Commit

Social media is a great way to communicate with your clients and the world at large. However, once you commit to it, it is something that requires constant upkeep. Some refer to it as, “Feeding the Beast,” meaning it has to be constantly fed or your message will be lost amid the cacophony of posts and words competing for attention. Here are a few things to consider with social media:

Time: If you’re planning on creating a social media presence, review what kind of time you can commit to it. Look at your schedule – everyone’s day is already full so you’ll need to create the time your business needs for this communication. Once you commit, treat it as important as any other part of your marketing strategy.

Consistency: How often are you going to post? If you’re an every day sort of poster, then Twitter is a great outlet for you. If you’re less constant, consider a blog or Facebook. They all require a monthly update, at the very least – more often being better. For monthly or quarterly communications, consider a newsletter or email communication. Again, once you commit to a certain time frame, keep on it. Posting every month? Pick a specific date each month to post. Posting once a week, pick a specific day. Hold yourself accountable because your client base will notice if you drop off after a couple months.

Content: Do you have enough to say to warrant all these updates? People I talk with often have 4, maybe 5 ideas for publishing. That won’t get you very far if you’re not able to come up with something new and interesting after those things. Try to map out 6 months worth of ideas to see how much you’re really able to contribute. If you have less than you thought, you might reconsider how often you’re going to post. Additionally, the less often you post, the richer your content should feel. Daily Tweets can be fun and frivolous but a monthly message should have a lot more meat to it.

Social media is a great communication tool. If you can’t commit the time to it, consider engaging a company who specializes in social media. It may cost money but they will absolutely save you time and provide the consistency you need. Remember, everyone’s time is important so make it count!



August 2015 – The Logo Design Pointer: Leggo Your Logo

Logo design is like mountain climbing. There’s a lot you can do on your own but at some point, you may need a professional to show you the way.

A big issue with logo design is a lack of planning about how the logo is going to be used. This is also where some online logo shops struggle since they aren’t in a position to ask some key questions. Here are a few areas to consider when looking at a new or revised logo for your business.

  1. It’s a Business: Please notice I say a logo for your “business” – not for you. It’s important to remember that these are two distinct, if intertwined, things. A lot of people will confuse their own sense of self or their personal aesthetic with representing their business successfully. Just because you have a love of ancient Greece, your online teddy bear business doesn’t need to be represented by the Parthenon.While there may be a connection in your mind, there won’t be for the general public or, more importantly, your potential client base.
  2. Your Client Base: Your logo should appeal to your clients. That sounds like a simple thing but it takes some consideration. If your main clientele is older, you may need to keep your text larger for older eyes. If your clientele are active people, your logo should have more energy to it than one offering meditation classes. Think about what your clients will be looking for and make sure your logo isn’t completely out in left field.
  3. Partnerships: Consider your business connections. Will your logo fit in with shared advertising space? If your partners are edgy, a more conservative logo may be jarring. On the other hand, your avante garde logo could look quite out of place when partnering with more traditional companies. It’s not bad to be a little different but out of harmony is a whole other thing.
  4. Growth Areas: Where are you planning or hoping to grow your business? Your current logo may have served your needs well but now that you’re changing direction, perhaps it’s time to consider who will be looking for your company in the future. This is especially crucial if you’re hoping to attract investors and a more serious-looking logo may be needed.
  5. Competition/Business Type: What is your competition doing with their logos? This can often be a catch-22: you don’t want to look like everyone else but if there’s a theme in your industry, you might need to include it just so you don’t get overlooked. Does every solar company use a sun? Does every eco-themed company use a green leaf? Of course not! However, a LOT do use them; it makes them easier to find when a potential client is looking to fill a need. Don’t be too quick to dismiss something just because everyone else is doing it. There could be valuable reasons behind it.

Not every logo needs to be a huge, dramatic affair. It should, however, be an effective way to promote your business. Take the time to consider the guideposts above and you’ll be heading in the right direction in creating the best look for your company.


July 2015 – The Networking Pointer: Mingle Hell

Mingle hells, mingle hells, mingle all the day… Along with being a bad version of a Christmas classic, mingling at networking events was never my favorite activity. I found people irritating, self-absorbed and, worst of all, I didn’t get any business from them! I had the wrong expectations and the worst approach possible when it came to “working a room.” I had to stop being ‘that guy’ who just kept looking for people who wanted my business. Instead, I began talking with the other attendees as if they were friends of a friend I just met at a party. Instead of an opening line like, “How do you know Fred?” I would open with, “How long have you been interested in…?” and bring up whatever the event was for. Usually people respond with something that can segue into more interesting areas. I’ve learned about people’s pets, their kids, upcoming weddings, travel plans. I’ve had people whip out their phones to show me their latest building project, their niece’s graduation, even an example of someone’s weight loss journey! It wasn’t always easy to find something in common but there’s usually something, if only the connection of being at the event. When I get their business card, I write down that connective point. If we talked about pets, I’ll jot down what kind of animal they have. If we talked about travel, I’ll write down where they’ve been. That little piece of information provides a personal opening to the follow-up email or phone call. “Hey there Maria, I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I enjoyed hearing about your cocker spaniel, Charli. I’ve  been looking for a new dog groomer and Charli looks great! Do you have someone you can recommend?”  I’ve created a connection, showed that I listened, established they have value to me and given them a chance to create a referral. Maybe I’ll never get a referral or business from them but I’ve created a positive experience for both of us. I’ll take that as a win!



The_Pointer_humorJune 2015 – The Presentation Pointer: Make ‘Em Laugh

In selling any product, making the target audience smile and enjoy your product goes a long way in making a sale. The same is true for selling that most important product: you! When you give a presentation, you are selling yourself just as much, if not more than, the product you’re pitching. Making your audience laugh gets them on your side and keeps them engaged. You shouldn’t be funny the entire time; you’re not a standup comedian. Pepper your presentation with humorous points throughout. Each piece of humor should support or at least not detract from your final goal, whatever that goal is. If your presentation is especially detailed or, let’s face it, boring as some topics are, work extra hard to give your audience a mental break by throwing in something to make them laugh. A smiling face doesn’t mean a sale, but a frowning one rarely signs a contract.





May 2015 – The Business Card Design Pointer: Less is More!

There’s nothing wrong with having your information on a business card. A lot of it is vital – your name, your business, how to contact you. But that’s really all it needs. Some industries need more information or different things than other industries, so pay attention to what your colleagues are doing. However, there’s a lot that can be stripped out such as a fax number. Most people rarely fax anymore but if they do, it’s generally to send you something you’ve supplied to them – a form, an authorization, etc. – which should have the fax number on it already. Very rarely will people be turning to your business card to look for your fax information. Over communicating what you do is another issue for a lot of cards. If your services are so specialized in your profession that you need a list, limit it to 3 or 4 at most. Listing all the things you are expected to do as part of your business is not necessary. Consider your clientele. If the information on your card really isn’t of use, take it off. That way your card can focus on the most important things: you and how to contact you. Less is more so keep it simple.




 April 2015 – The Speech Writing Pointer: Finish Strong!

Writing a speech does not come easily for most people. Whether in front of business associates or speaking at a function, everyone wants to create a strong, competent impression. The last thing you say can be vital in creating that impression. Consider what you want the audience to do when you’re done. Buy something? Call someone? Invest? Donate? Volunteer? Whatever the action, you need to wrap up with a reminder to do those things in a positive way. Try writing you last few sentences first. How will your audience react when they hear it? If it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s not going to make sense to them. Having a strong ending will also help you structure the rest of the speech now that you know where you’re headed. Finish strong and make them remember you!





March 2015 – The Presentation Pointer: Use the Space!

PowerPoint has sadly become synonymous with ‘boring’ when it comes to business presentations. Part of the reason is how badly the slides are constructed. Print is too small, too much text on the page, and other mistakes make it easy for slides to become more of a hinderance than a help to your presentation. A great way to increase attention and make a more vibrant presentation is to use the whole screen/slide for your images. I often see photos with 3 inches or more of empty space around them for no reason. Use the space! Use high quality, large images that project well. Make them interested and dynamic photos or illustrations. Slides are there to help your presentation, not replace it. Images that support your verbal message are much better than text repeating it. Go big and get a big response.