Thursday, July 15, 2010

Get To The Point!

Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so much information. Practically everyone is using cell phones, email, and digital assistants to transmit data and ideas as fast as they can, meanwhile causing information overload. Therefore, the presenter with the message that is concise and easy to understand will win the fierce battle for attention.

Choose the shorter, more familiar word instead of the complicated one. Get to the point quickly. We form impressions in a matter of seconds. If that impression is blurry, confusing, or complicated, we may leave you – never to return.

Use visuals that illustrate what you are saying. A picture is worth a thousand words – make sure they are the right thousand words that support your message.

John F. Kennedy's speechwriter may have been thinking, “It is no longer appropriate for a citizen to ascertain the level of benefit which she or he might wish to accumulate from his geographic governmental unit…”when he had the President say, “Ask not what your country can do for you.”

In a world characterized by an information “glut,” it is the simple, timely, pertinent message that gets through and is remembered.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

PowerPoint: It's Going To Get Worse

In a recent workshop, one of my participants shared a story about his 7th grade daughter. She has to prepare and present a book report, and her teacher is requiring a minimum of 20 PowerPoint slides. What is the message being sent here?

More disturbing news. Young people entering the workforce have just been exposed to college professors who read from PowerPoint slides. Then they are bombarded during company on-boarding with PowerPoint slides. They witness their senior leaders abusing PowerPoint. What is the message being sent to them?

I'm afraid it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Now for the good news! It does not take much to stand above this valley of underwhelming presenters. When you know your topic, prepare well, and can make eye contact with people instead of a screen, then you become a powerful and persuasive communicator!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Close The Loop

At the conclusion of your presentation, your audience wants you to wrap up the loose ends and bring everything into perspective. I call this “closing the loop.”

Most mediocre presenters close their presentations by saying something like this, “Well, that’s it. Are there any questions?” There may be a question or two, then, realizing they are out of time (or have exceeded their time), presenters say, “It looks like we are out of time. Thanks for coming.”

The outstanding presenter chooses a different closing. Rather than closing on the thoughts of an audience member, the exceptional presenter stops for questions several minutes before the conclusion of her presentation. After responding to questions and inviting the thoughts of others, she delivers her strong closing (the message she wants her audience to repeat long after her presentation), and ends with a simple and powerful, “thank you.” Closing the loop can be as easy as rephrasing your opening statement. Here is how it works:

Opening (The very first words spoken):
“Organizations around the world suffer from a shortage of good presenters. If you can do well what so many others do marginally, then you will be more successful. Good morning, I’m Mark Tamer and welcome to Presentations from A to Z.”

Closing (The very last words spoken AFTER the optional Q&A session):
“Remember, most organizations around the world suffer from a shortage of good presenters. As you leave here today, you are fully prepared to elevate yourself above the valley of mediocre presenters, and deliver exciting, effective presentations that promote your success! Thank you.”

Notice that you end with the two words “thank you.” These are the perfect words to let your audience know that the presentation has ended. Avoid diluting these two words by attaching superfluous words such as, “Thank you for being here today, this has been great and I truly appreciate it. I’ll be in the hallway if anyone wishes to…blah, blah, blah.”These extra words dilute your crisp closing and create the Alfred Hitchcock mystery effect. You have seen it, the awkward time when you are left wondering if it is over, is there more, or is it time to applaud?

If you feel compelled to convey extraordinary appreciation or to provide public service announcements, do so before your closing statement and the final “thank you.” Then smile as you receive a standing ovation!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

3-Step Storytelling

When it comes to getting the point across, nothing beats a relevant story. Learn to be a good storyteller. Stories are what people relate to and remember. All good stories, from the beginning of time, contain the following three phases. (Think of your favorite book or movie and see how the phases apply!)
1. Start the Journey. Tell your audience about some of the details such as the when the event occurred and the first names of the people involved. Describe the location, name the city, describe the climate, etc.

2. Face the Challenge. What occurred that was unexpected or deviated from the norm? What were
the challenges and how did you proceed? What were the obstacles to overcome? To draw people in and maintain attention, spend most of your time in this part of the story detailing the struggle(s).

3. Find the Victory. What did you learn from your difficulty or success? Regardless of the outcome, let your audience know that you “landed on your feet.” Each member of your audience will find a part of himself/herself in your story. Remind your audience that success is not determined in the challenge. Success is created when we learn something that changes our lives forever, and when we “return to the village and live to fight another day."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Visual Clutter

Are you confusing your audience by using animation and slide transitions during your presentations? Chances are yes! Our brains are wired to synchronize what we see with what we hear. So if something is flying across the presentation screen, then it should support your verbal message. If it does not, then you are creating cognitive dissonance (confusion of the brain) and your audience will tune out.

Have you ever witnessed someone smiling while delivering negative news? (Former President G.W. Bush had a problem with this.) It can be pretty uncomfortable to watch. That's because what you are seeing does not match what you are hearing, and the left and right hemispheres of the brain become confused.

Workshop participants often tell me, "I use animation to wake them up!" If your audience is bored, then no amount of flashing text or graphics is going to achieve your presentation goal (unless you are selling the flashy features of PowerPoint). What your audience sees and hears should be in synch during your entire presentation.