Tag Archives: speaking

Is It Time for a Refresh?

You are an expert in your field – you know the intricacies and the nuances of your product or service better than anyone. Thus, you are often asked to speak publicly about your area of specialty. And like anyone with a lot to do and little time, you have a stock PowerPoint that you have created that you use over and again. It saves time and it works pretty well. As you read this and think about that PowerPoint you have created, I would encourage you to go through it and dispose of many of those slides.

Why, you ask? Because with each day, you get better and so should your PowerPoint. Think of new and creative ways to present your key points. Brainstorm ways to make complicated topics simpler to understand. Come up with ideas on ways to better engage your audience. Think of areas that went over really well in prior presentations and maybe put more focus there and for those areas that didn’t go over so well, how about a new strategy or eliminating the level of depth in that section.

Of course, you will also want to add slides that pertain to relevant industry news, updated research, and your own headlines – new business, new people, new products, etc. The point is, as you evolve, so should your PowerPoint presentation. While it may save time reusing your old one, it is worth the energy and effort to rebuild and revamp every couple of months. It pushes you to be better and will ultimately leave a better impression on the audience.

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Take Control of Your Audience’s Memory…

161919220Wouldn’t it be great to control what your audience remembers after your presentation is done? Rather than them going back to the office with a memory of the great coffee or the attractive blonde in the front row or even the bad joke you told, they might actually remember key points you made. Here are a few ideas on how you can help improve retention:

  1. Have a key message. Decide what your presentation is really about. Have one key message (you can have sub-messages but only one key message) and build your presentation around this.
  2. Keep it simple. Just because you only have one key message doesn’t mean you have to pack everything into this one message. Keep it simple and it will be much easier to retain.
  3. Identify the key message. Make it known what your key takeaway is. Say “this is the key takeaway” or “this is the most important point” or “this is the key message.”
  4. Repeat. Do this throughout to remind the audience of what the key message is by coming back to it. If it’s your key message, your presentation should relate to it throughout.
  5. Leave it on the screen. Keep it up on the screen while you are talking so the audience sees it visually. This will help them remember. You may even try associating a picture with your message if one is relevant.

This form of mind-control is perfectly legal in all 50 states. So give it a shot and you will see your audience is much more likely to contact you the next time they need help because they remember that you offered a solution.

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Be Equipped with This Equipment…

Y166108959ou never want to be unprepared when presenting. This time, I am not referring to not knowing the contents of your presentation or not knowing your audience. These are the essential items you should have with you when traveling to do a presentation.

  1. A backup of your presentation. So many presenters will say they don’t need a copy because it’s on their laptop and they checked it before they left the office. Or, it’s on a CD that happened to get crushed in transit. Always have at least two versions – one on the laptop, one on a flash drive or on an online storage site, such as Dropbox.
  2. An extra power cord. This one actually happened to me. I went to plug in my laptop and the cord was not supplying power for some reason. “It happens…” I was told by the manufacturer. After time, the power cord can become ineffective. So, as I watched the battery drain, I rushed to get through my presentation. Now there is always an extra in my bag.
  3. A long VGA cable. At least 12 feet in length, if not longer. This way, you can set up your laptop where you want it rather than being restricted by the 3-foot cord the conference center provides for you. Whether you want the laptop up on a table in front or on a podium, etc., this cord will come in handy.
  4. A wireless mouse / remote. This will help with slide transitions and ease of walking through the presentation. You won’t have to keep walking back and forth to the laptop (especially if you don’t have your longer VGA cord).
  5. A USB-powered speaker. If you have audio in your presentation, this is essential. Imagine a room of 50 people trying to hear audio from your laptop’s tiny sound system… it’s not going to happen. With a small but powerful USB speaker, you can plug it right into the side of your laptop, you don’t have to worry about a power source, and the audience will be able to hear what you have prepared.

This is a good starting point so you don’t get caught unprepared. I am sure everyone has their own list (or at least they should). Leave me a comment and let me know what you always have in your travel bag.

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You Can’t Read This…

Large AudienceHow many times have you been listening to a presentation and the presenter gets to an extremely dense slide and says, “I know you can’t read this in the back, so I will read it to you…” Aaaggggghhhh (that’s my frustration coming through). I don’t know about you, but I sit there and think to myself, if you know I can’t read it, why didn’t you use a bigger font?

While we may think that jamming as much text as possible on a slide is the way to go, that’s not necessarily the case. Use big fonts, fewer words, and emphasize what is essential on the slides. Then discuss each bullet or topic. Use your words as the presentation, not the written words on the PowerPoint slide. Ten-point font is going to be too small… try 24-point or 32-point and keep your bullets short.

Remember, the goal is audience clarity and retention, not stuffing your slides full of words for you to read.

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Make Your Definitions More Interesting…

One of the more fundamental yet boring slides in a PowerPoint is the definitions slide. This may actually, in a really painful case, represent multiple slides. Here are some pointers for making the definition process fun and engaging for the audience.

Typically, you will see a slide that says “Definitions” in bold and underlined across the top. Then, listed underneath in microscopic font will be key terms and their respective meanings. Instead of using this method — which, by the way, is certain to bore your audience into a coma before you really even get started — try the following:

Let’s use the term “mammal” as an example. Across the top of the slide, state “What are mammals?” Open it up to the audience and find out what they believe the definition of a mammal is. This engages the audience, will certainly get some laughs, allows you to clear up any misconceptions, and gives you an idea of what you are dealing with in terms of your audience.

While getting audience input, add your own commentary. Correct what they are saying and add detail. Praise those who are accurate and reiterate what they have said to drill it home.

Next, on that same slide, use graphics to show examples of mammals. Introduce them one by one, focusing on the characteristics that make them mammals. Show pictures of humans, monkeys, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). This makes the concept real and relatable for the audience. And, again, keep things interesting and interactive.

Finally, end with the definition you want the audience to remember. It may be a simplified version of a standard definition, but it should be accurate and usable by the audience. This strategy will allow you to put your best foot forward with intriguing definitions that are memorable and meaningful to the audience.

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Finish Strong Every Time…

In any given week, I see dozens of presentations come across my desk. If you look at a random sample of 100 of these PowerPoints, I would estimate that 98 of them end with either “Thank you” or “Questions” as the last slide. Who made this the official last slide of PowerPoint? I often wonder that, because it really is not the best way to finish up.

After preparing for weeks, presenting for an hour, and doing an awesome job, what exactly are you thanking the audience for? For listening to you? I hope not. Also, the hope is that you allowed questions throughout if something wasn’t clear. So, finishing up with a big question mark in the center of a slide and stating “Questions?” is redundant and leaves the audience with nothing new.

Now to the good stuff. The best way to end your PowerPoint is with a summary slide of the key take-away points and/or action items for next steps. Assume your audience understood and followed your logical arguments up to that point. Assume they are ready to take the next steps and proceed. Lay the groundwork. Set forth those next steps and be prepared to discuss them one on one. Name your last slide “Discussion of Next Steps.” This moves the discussion forward and truly makes the most of the time the audience invested with you.

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Know Your Audience…

Imagine spending over 100 hours creating an incredible presentation. The images are creative and beautiful, the words powerful and inspirational, and the animations humorous and intriguing. You fly into town, put on your finest suit, shine your shoes, fix your hair, and get ready to present. Your first opening slide comes up and you are psyched to give your high-level sales-training speech. Little do you know, the audience is full of accountants who have never sold anything a day in their lives.

One of the greatest failures of presenter is not taking the time to know the audience and plan accordingly. Do the research beforehand – ask the key questions and play detective. Where are you presenting, know what is the topic for the day (if you are one of a panel of presenters), how many people are signed up, what’s the demographic, how much they are paying, who are the other speakers, and what are their topics, etc. This is so essential and often overlooked.

Completing your due diligence will allow you to create a better presentation overall. It will be more relevant to the audience, hold their attention, and ultimately, it will bring in more business (or buy-in) for you. By knowing your audience beforehand, you can use images that are appropriate (maybe a certain ethnic group or gender), you can adjust the wording of your slides (maybe more or less technical), you can gauge the use of humor, the overall time, the amount of time for questions, the way you dress, handouts, and so on.

Knowing your audience can truly make or break your presentation, no matter how great the design and the speech may be. Do the work when you sign up for the job… it will be well worth your time.

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The Rule of Three…

When giving presentations or public talks, the Rule of Three is a powerful rule to remember. You should commit this to memory and practice writing and presenting using this rule. The rule is simple: When making a point, use three words or ideas in a row. The audience is more likely to consume and comprehend an idea when it is presented as part of a trio.

Using the Rule of Three allows you to present a concept more clearly, concisely, and memorably. In his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark provides insights into the magic of the number three. He states, “Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness. Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, and expand.”

The rule of three has created timeless speeches, stories, and historical foundations. Some examples include:

  • From the Declaration of Independence – “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
  • From religion – “Father, son, and holy spirit”
  • From movies – “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
  • From children’s stories – “The Three Little Pigs” or “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
  • From real estate – “Location, location, location”
  • From Julius Caesar – “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”)
  • From entertainment – “Three-ring circus” or “The Three Stooges”

As you can see, the Rule of Three has a powerful history. It’s nothing new and has been used throughout time to make powerful points, in the formation of governments (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches), and to engrain concepts into the memory of generations.

So, remember in your next speech to use the Rule of Three… and that’s  the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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Follow-Up? What Follow-Up?

You just gave the presentation of a lifetime. You had a room full of top decision-makers from your all-time top prospects. You had their ear and they were eating up every word of what you had to say. These execs were engaged, their wheels were spinning, and they wanted you, your product, or your service. So, the presentation ends and what do you do?

I can’t even count how many times people come to me and we discuss presentation strategy and develop a great game plan and a fantastic presentation. And, a month later, they call me and are wondering why the presentation didn’t turn into new business. My first question is always, “What did you do after the presentation ended?” Did you have a follow-up plan of action in place or did you just let it go, thinking that the audience was going to call you?

Just as important as the presentation, if not even more so, is your follow-up. You must have a plan in place before you set foot into that room and start speaking. Without a good follow-up plan, you are basically leaving it all on the table, because I can pretty much guarantee that no one is going to be calling you without some further provoking.

There are many strategies to employ. Try collecting email addresses and sending a follow-up email. Or, ask if audience members want to receive your newsletter or blog posts. You can always try a good old-fashioned phone call. What about an invitation to your next presentation or even a webinar? The strategies are endless, but the key point remains – have a strategy and make it very specific. In addition to your actions, put a timetable together so you know that, for example, seven days after the presentation, attendees get a phone call. Seven days after that is a follow-up email. Ten days later is a snail-mail letter and an invitation to your next speech. Don’t let too much time pass as you want to hit them hard in the weeks immediately following your presentation.

What are some of your strategies for follow up? Share below… I would love to hear how others do it.

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Stop Boring Your Audience with Bullet Points…

We’ve all seen presentations loaded with slides that have too many bullet points.

The presenter has likely assumed that instead of sentences, bullet points can be shorter and bring forward the real information. But too often we see slides with more than 10 bullet points, each composed of more than 10 words. The presenter has inadvertently jammed too much information onto the screen in an ironic effort to cut back on the text.

In his book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Carmine Gallo points out that the late Jobs, often considered to be a master of message, delivered presentations that were “strikingly simple, visual, and devoid of bullet points. That’s right – no bullet points. Ever.”

That’s because Jobs was focused on one thing: making sure his message got across to his audience.

Your audience is bombarded by information all day, every day. It’s sensory overload. Give them a break and think about your message. Can you identify your main point with just one, two, or three words? How about an icon or image instead?

The less text you toss up on the screen, the less the audience has to read… and the more they’ll be listening to you and what you have to say.

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