Monday, March 31, 2008

Your Repeatable Message

Your message should endure long after your presentation. What is it that you want others to repeat when they leave the room? For someone to hear a message from you, and then have the capacity to tell others, it must be a message that is easy to receive, remember, and repeat.

When presenting, you are probably trying to persuade someone to respond. It might be to think differently, feel another way, or purchase something. Some of the decision makers may not be in your audience. For someone to be your advocate, they must be able to go out and repeat your message.

You can say something like, “The most important point to remember is…” or, “If you remember just one thing today, make it…”

It will be easier to remember if you keep it clear and concise.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Impressions

How much money do you think is spent managing the impressions of the US presidential candidates?

People judge our competence, our reliability, our product, our company - even our entire industry - based on how we present ourselves. Major decisions are made and careers advanced (or slowed) based on first impressions.

Here are some of the components of impression management:

• Eye contact connotes trust, interest.
• Facial expressions convey enthusiasm and seriousness.
• Movement and posture convey confidence.
• Touch and handshaking give a feeling of openness.
• Appearance and clothing show professionalism.
• Personal space impacts audience comfort.
• Voice qualities convey confidence.

First impressions are not drawn from content or subject matter expertise. First impressions are made when the presenter has the highest level of adrenaline – the first two minutes (or less)!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Avoid anything that anyone might consider profane, vulgar, or in bad taste. This can include words, language, or jokes that may be perceived as racist, sexist, or a put-down. An innocent “hell” or “damn” might be terribly offensive to someone in the audience.

Pay attention to special concerns and taboos in certain cultures, companies, or nations. Keep your entire content rated “G” for General Audiences. The Mother Rule may help. Would you say it in front of someone’s mother? All right, I admit some mothers use language that could embarrass Eddie Murphy. The point being it is not worth the risk.

If you are presenting to a culture other than your native culture, consider the book, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison, Wayne A. Conaway, and George A. Borden.

Many years ago, I used the word “panties” while telling a story during a presentation to a large audience at a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest. I did a lot of business with that company until that day. The word “panties” offended one person in that audience. That person happened to be highly influential at the company and made sure I was not invited back.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fear Of Public Speaking?

I once read that the word “fear” is an acronym for “forget everything and run.” Not much help if you are speaking in public.

Fear is not in the vocabulary of an outstanding presenter. If the thought of speaking in public causes a few goose bumps, then you are not alone. A normal physical reaction to speaking in public is the release of adrenaline. Ironically, this is just what you need to deliver an outstanding presentation.

You can learn to release this magnificent natural chemical in beneficial ways. Start by replacing the word “fear” with the word “excitement.” Learn to channel this energy into enthusiasm and passion. This is a mental game that you can win!

A few practical tips to help manage adrenaline:

1. Stay active prior to your presentation. Stand in the back of the room until you are introduced. This gives you an opportunity to walk to the front and release some excess adrenaline.
2. Increase the volume of your voice (without shouting). This helps to release excess energy, and it makes you sound more confident.
3. Come out from behind lecterns and podiums. Unlock your arms/hands and use gestures that match your words.

Most of all, REPLACE the word "FEAR" with the word "EXCITEMENT." You will be amazed with your results!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Basically, What?

Have you noticed the number of people prefacing their statements with the word “basically?” Just what do they mean when they say “basically?” Basically, what? Such as, “Basically, we are having a meeting in the morning to discuss blah, blah, blah.” Are we having a meeting? Yes or no? Basically has nothing to do with it. It adds no value to the statement whatsoever. According to the dictionary on my word processor, the word “basically” means “when you come right down to it.” Well, when you come right down to it, I’m basically fed up with the abuse of the word “basically.” Do we use it because it contains four syllables and might make one sound articulate? Basically, yes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Obama's Presentation Skills

Regardless of your political persuasion, this man CAN speak. Compare his skills to those of the current leader of the free world. Actually, all of the leading candidates are far better. So, please educate me, how did GW get to the White House?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Attention Management Tips

Manage Self
1. Segment your attention and set one specific goal for each segment. For example, focus your attention on driving home from work.
2. Remove unnecessary items from your desk, office, and other work areas.
3. Unsubscribe to magazines, newspapers, and other content streams that generally go unread.
4. Set up email filters for “friendly-spam.” For example, arrange a separate folder for the daily jokes from your brother.
5. Customize the ringtones on your phone(s).
6. Transfer thoughts being juggled to a notepad.
7. Disable auto-receive on your email. Set it to check at specific times during the day.
8. Ask a caller to hold until you can provide your full attention. “I’m in the car, please hold for a moment while I pull over so I can give you my total attention.”
9. Know when to turn off your cell or PDA. Learn to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that will happen?”
10. Remember to set your instant messenger (IM) to “away” status.
11. Set up separate IMs for your office hours and your personal hours.
12. Remember to set your email to “Out of Office” status.
13. Set aside a specific time each day as uninterrupted reading time.
14. Close unused windows on your computer.
15. Openly state a response time in your voice greeting and email signature area.
16. Re-condition your thinking about responding to unexpected phone calls, emails, IMs, and text messages. Once again, ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that will happen?”
17. Close the door to your office or hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your cubicle.
18. Consider mono-tasking instead of multi-tasking.

Manage Others
1. Prepare your 10-second elevator pitch about yourself so you don’t bog down in unwanted details.
2. Suggest when to switch to a different mode of communication. For example, when an IM session starts to become a novel, recommend a phone conversation.
3. Develop a Web site for common resources and frequently asked questions.
4. Close blinds in office or meeting rooms to avoid outside interference.
5. Erase/remove unrelated info on whiteboards and flipcharts.
6. Distribute reading materials after or toward the end of your presentation/meeting. Let your audience know they will receive the details.
7. When using PowerPoint, switch to a black screen (“B” key in presentation mode) when the visual is no longer supportive.
8. Arrange chairs for your visitors so they are not facing windows, toward attractive artwork, or anything else that competes for attention.
9. Keep what they are seeing in sync with what they are hearing.
10. Set aside expensive and attractive jewelry for social occasions.
11. When presenting, remove change from your pockets. Actually, remove everything from your pockets.
12. No heavy perfumes or colognes.
13. Give others time to read things, fill out forms, etc. before you continue talking.

Bottom Line: Pay attention to what you are paying attention to.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Microsoft Discontinues PowerPoint

MS announced that it is pulling out of the presentation software business. It's popular PowerPoint application will be discontinued. Version 2007, included in MS Office 2007, will be its final release.

The impact will be felt worldwide.

  • Presenters will no longer have the ability to project their speaker notes to their audiences.

  • Audiences will no longer enjoy chasing text as it flys in from the left.

  • Speakers will have to become experts in their subjects.

  • Lights in meeting rooms will be needed.
  • Business professionals will have to sit idle in airports waiting to board flights.

  • The RANSOm NoTE slide with seven different fonts will become a thing of the past.

  • Presenters will have to face their audiences and make eye contact.

  • 3D effects will be limited to the real world.
  • Meaningless animations and sound effects will become homeless.
  • Presenters will be forced to draw attention to themselves and become "trusted advisers."
  • Meaningful dialogue between the presenter and the audience may take place.
  • The linear "presenter focused" presentation may change to a dynamic "audience focused" presentation.
  • Millions of disengaged hours sitting in darkened rooms will be converted to productivity.
  • Visual learners will be pushed to paint powerful pictures in the right hemispheres of their brains.
  • Presenters will have to revert to the time-proven method of persuasion called "storytelling."
  • School students will have to give book reports the old fashion way, i.e., stand in front of others and develop self-esteem.
  • Only optometrists will have use of eye charts.
  • People will be less likely to communicate using long bulleted lists.

Okay Mr. Gates, this is just a bit of humor. PowerPoint will continue to proliferate throughout the world. We can only hope that more presenters learn to use it as a support tool, and not a crutch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PS - According to Merriam-Webster, both are correct, "advisor" and "adviser."

A Critical Point About PowerPoint

PowerPoint can be a useful support tool when used correctly. However, in most cases, PowerPoint slides scream, "I want you all to see the 3x5 note cards I prepared for you last night, which I rehearsed at Starbucks an hour ago." (Thanks Steve Cruz.)

Forget the long bullet points and power-paragraphs. People of all cultures and backgrounds think in pictures. Use graphics to support your message. People are persuaded by "trusted advisors," not PowerPoint. How will you become the trusted advisor if your audience is reading slides during most of your presentation?

Not sold? Try looking away from your screen for a moment and recalling what you remember from it. The text or the graphics?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tips To Manage Attention During Your Presentation

Here are three tips to help manage attention during your next presentation:

  1. If you use PowerPoint, replace text with simple graphics. Your audience can process graphics much faster than text. This is especially helpful with multicultural audiences. Remember, you are the messenger, not PowerPoint.
  2. Close window blinds to hallways that have people walking by. Some folks can be so nosy!
  3. Don't hand out stacks of papers until the end of your presentation. If you must hand them out, do so in small chunks so what your saying is in sync with what they are seeing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Value Of Attention

Attention is more valuable than time. Which do you prefer? Thirty minutes of time with someone and five minutes of his or her attention, or ten minutes of time with someone and all ten minutes of his or her attention.

The competition for the attention of others is fierce. If you fail to win, then you become "background noise," much like the music in a hotel lobby or a coffee shop. We all know it is there, yet seldom do we actually remember the drone. Our capacity for attention is limited.

Learn to manage your own attention when communicating with others. Pay attention to them before asking for their valuable attention. You've probably heard that "time is money." However, when communicating with others, attention is gold.