Does Lipstick on a Pig Work?

Does lipstick on a pig work?

pig with lipstick

Consider this:

Let’s say you are the head of the Medieval French Literature Department at a well known university. Your best friend is the head of the Theoretical Physics Department. He is scheduled to give a talk on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to a group of physicists next week but because of a family crisis, he will not be able to attend. He gives you a copy of his talk and asks you if you will stand in for him. You agree. You spend the whole week memorizing the speech. You remember every single word. You find a YouTube video of him giving the same talk a year ago and you memorize every single one of his hand gestures. You now know when to look down, when to look up, when to breathe and when to pause. A vendor stops by and tells you he can sell you some fancy razzle dazzle animation add-ons to impress the audience. He tells you they will make your presentation “more interesting to the audience”. You pay him $20 and you now have razzle and dazzle on your side.

The day comes and you give a flawless presentation. That is UNTIL someone in the audience asks you a specific question about Einstein’s theory. You stand there with your mouth wide open, staring into space and everything goes black and you fall flat on your face on stage.

What is the moral of this story?

Never give a presentation or talk on something you know nothing about. All the coaching in the world about hand gestures, tonal inflection and articulation will not help you. Neither will any fancy razzle dazzle or animation.

Lipstick on a pig does not work. Period.

If you do know your topic, your razzle dazzle animation will simply distract your audience from your message

Steve Jobs – acknowledged by most people to be the best presenter of his time – never used razzle dazzle.. They will be sitting there wondering whether the next razzle will zoom in from the left or the next dazzle will drop in from the top.

He knew his topic. He used a simple picture as a background and he SPOKE to his audience.

By the way, there is an exception to the rule cited above. You CAN give a long talk on something you know nothing about IF you happen to be a ruthless tinhorn dictator in a banana republic. No one in the audience will dare to ask you any question.

Electronic Chloroform

I was reading a book on presentation and the author mentioned that PowerPoint is essentially electronic chloroform. It KNOCKS you out!!

People use bullet points as reminders of their content. And yet they show them to the audience in batches of 10 or more bullet points. As they read the first bullet point out loud, the audience is already reading point #7 and has completely lost interest in what the speaker is talking about.

So next time you use or see those dreadful bullet points in a presentation, think “electronic chloroform” and try  not to pass out.


One of the best presentations I know

This is by far one of the best presentations I know.

Marissa Mayer was Employee #20 at Google. She was a Vice President at Google before being hired as Yahoo’s new President and CEO.

Marissa (a self proclaimed geek) gave this talk to a group of Google developers (fellow geeks) in 2008. Here are some of the things she did:

  1. She was having a direct conversation with the audience all the way through. She asked the audience a couple of questions.
  2. She did not read from a set of notes. She didn’t have to. She spoke from her vast knowledge of the subject matter. It was clear to everyone she knew what she was talking about. (The flip side of this observation is that if a speaker does not know his topic well enough, he should just sit down and be quiet. No amount of “coaching” will him.)
  3. She used humor at times.
  4. She thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and she showed passion in her work.
  5. Half-way through her talk, her lapel mike went out and she transitioned to a hand-held mike without a hitch.
  6. She told stories throughout the presentation.
  7. She did not use a single bullet point.

 This IS how you do it.

A great video on how NOT to do PowerPoint

This is by far the BEST video on how NOT to make your PowerPoint presentations.

The Rule of Threes

There  is an unspoken and almost magical rule in communication that says that you should organize your thoughts and presentations in threes. Many Hollywood plays  have three acts. Most jokes are told in threes …Did you hear about the rabbi, the priest and the lawyer.?

It started with Aristotle’s Poetic with its beginning, middle and the end. Note that we have the three stooges, three little pigs, three musketeers, the holy trinity, etc. The porridge was too hot, too cold and just right with papa bear, mama bear and baby bear. The Garden of Eden had three players – Adam, Eve and the snake.

The Rule of Three is an excellent rule. I wish more presenters would make use of it. Many of them feel that they need to tell the entire history of the western civilization in 40 minutes or less. Engineers and scientists are notorious for that because they fear that the audience will fault them for “leaving something out”. So instead of conveying three main points in a presentation, they jam everything they know onto a few slides with those dreadful bullet points and expect the audience to digest it all.

So focus on three main points in your presentation.

Here is a little experiment. We are trying to fit several large pebbles and a whole bunch of smaller pebbles inside a glass jar.

The first picture shows what happens when you put the small pebbles in first. The larger pebbles cannot get inside the jar.

Now if you were to put the large pebbles in first and then fill the void with the smaller pebbles, you can fit them ALL inside the jar as shown in the second photo!

The moral of this story is simple: Start with your big ideas first before you run out of time (space).

A short video on why most PowerPoint presentations suck

I recorded this video using’s 3-D animation. I am not a big fan of cheesy clip art and animation in slides. But I am going to make an exception in this case. The 3-D stick figures are classy and are not obnoxious.

Surely you must be joking!

I came across the following comment on LinkedIn. The discussion topic is body language.

“Keep in mind, IF you do not know your subject well, you tend to do strange things with your body… other words, practice and make sure you feel like an expert on your topic. Confidence shows through your body language.”

The person who wrote this bit of wisdom calls herself “Executive Coach, Speaker and Trainer on Communication in the Workplace”.

She is saying that if you don’t know your subject well – meaning you don’t know what you are talking about – she can teach you to fake it and make you “feel like an expert on your topic”.

So maybe that’s why we have so many speakers out there who don’t know what the heck they are talking about but they blink their eyes the right way and contort their bodies the right way. Thanks to the “executive coach”, we now have all these circus clowns out there.

My advice is this: if you don’t know the topic well, get OFF the stage and LEARN the topic first and stop wasting your money on some self-proclaimed “executive coach”.