Monthly Archives: November 2007

Don’t let them see you sweat!

How to handle nervousness before and during your presentation?

First thing to remember: Don’t let them see you sweat.  The best antidote to nervousness is a combination of knowledge and preparation. If you know the topics being presented, you will be able to speak about it with confidence. If you have done your homework and have thought about the questions that might be asked of you at the presentation, you will be less nervous. It is common to have stage fright. Even accomplished public speakers feel that anxiety pang before getting on the podium. They have butterflies in their stomachs and sweaty hands – just like everybody else. The nervousness comes from a fear of the unknown – of not knowing how a group of strangers will react to their presentation. It is a very natural and normal response. All speakers have it. What sets the good speakers apart from the crowd is that they are able to manage or minimize that fear. Here are some practical ideas on how to do just that: 

  1. An effective way to overcome your nervousness is to think about the last time you accomplished something with great confidence. Relive that moment in your mind. Some people have found that if they “anchor” that feeling of confidence to some tangible action like tucking at their sleeves or holding onto a pointer, they can relive that same confidence moment during the presentation. 
  2.  Another very effective way to overcome stage fright is to get to know your audience. Try to learn as much as possible about your clients and their organization. At a minimum, get background information about the company. Find out what products it makes or service it provides. It is exactly like going to a job interview. You want to impress your future employer with your knowledge of his company. If you know the names of the people on the selection panel, Google them and find out more about them. The point here is to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible about the people to whom you are going to be presenting. It makes your future clients a little bit less like complete “total strangers” to you. This is the reason many successful public speakers make a point of mingling with the audience before getting up on the podium.

  3. Try to focus on the presentation and not on yourself. It is not all about you. Remember that your future clients are judging your presentation based on your knowledge and ability to answer their questions. They are not there to rate you as an orator.

  4. Establish and maintain eye contact with your clients. Speak to them as if they are your colleagues or friends.  The more “contacts” – both verbal and non-verbal – you have with your audience, the less they seem like “total strangers” to you.

  5. Remember that stage fright is most pronounced before you speak. It is a feeling generated by uncertainty. People who are not able to overcome their stage fright often believe erroneously that the fear they have before they speak will get worse once they get on the podium. The reverse is true. The butterflies in your stomach will fly away and your sweaty hands will dry up once you get into talking about topics that you know so well. Also remember that very often your audience will not even notice how you nervous you are. That’s why you don’t want to let them see you sweat! We are often a much harsher judge of our own performance.

 Note: This is an excerpt from Norman’s book “Connecting with Your Future Clients”.

Words that work …… a pretty good book

I have just started to read Frank Luntz’s book “Words that Work”. Frank is a Republican political pollster and consultant. But never mind that. His book applies to all walks of life and is all about communicating ideas effectively. His famous quote is “It is not what you say; it is what people hear”. That’s so true when we make a presentation to a group. We often are so focused on what we want to say and forget about how the message will be received on the other end.

Rehearsing your presentation – be careful!

The conventional wisdom is that you should rehearse, rehearse and rehearse your presentation. I say: Not so fast! Be very careful that you do not over rehearse your presentation. Remember that your presentation is a conversation with your audience. If you come across as someone who is reciting a speech from memory, you lose that spontaneity and connection with your audience. Smooth is good. Too smooth is not so good. And slick is bad. It is not what you say; it is what your audience hears.

It goes without saying that you should know the topic of your presentation to the point where you do not need to refer to notes to speak. Once you master that, your “conversation” with your audience will be natural and spontaneous and your audience will sense it and accept you right away. It will connectwith you. Allow me to make a point: Let’s say someone gives you a set of PowerPoint slides with detail notes on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. You rehearse it twenty times and now you can recite every word from the notes. Will you be comfortable to go out and present it to a group of theoretical physicists? I hope not. 

Moving Mountains – the art of letting others see things your way

If you are held captive and your captor tells you that you are allowed to read only one book, which book would you pick?

For me, the choice is “Moving Mountains” by Henry Boettinger. It is by far the best book on communication. It was written back in 1969 by an AT&T executive in England. The language is a bit dated but the advice offered there is timeless.

Peter Drucker’s review appears on the book cover as follows: “A first-class and highly original, but also highly practical, treatise both on how one thinks and how one presents thinking.”

On presentation, Boettinger states that each person listens for his own reason. So it is not what you say that matters; it is what people hear. Before you make a presentation, you need to really try to understand the various reasons people show up to hear you.  

On elegance, Boettinger says that it “exists when a great many aspects of a subject or person are expressed in the simplest possible way.”

On passion, he writes that “you can never affect others if you yourself are not affected by the idea”. That’s why people who read from their speeches or presentations can never convince their audience because there is no passion there. The audience can sense it right away.

Boettinger also says that you should always “treat the audience as equals during the presentation”. If you talk down to the audience, they become resentful. If you try to kiss up to the audience, they despise you.

The best quote from the book is what Boettinger says about making presentations: ” Presentation of ideas is conversation carried on at high voltage — at once more dangerous and more powerful.”

This book is 340 pages of great practical and timeless advice. The bad news is that it is out of print and it is a bit hard to find. Some libraries carry them. You may find it at Amazon or EBay. 

Those 10-point lists

Have you ever noticed that most lists provided in those self-help books often contain EXACTLY 10 points? Ten ways to lose weight…ten ways to improve your presentation…etc.

Whenever I see a list of ten items, I often wonder if the author has either  shaved off or added a point or two just so the number comes to 10. Why is it not 11 or 9? Is it mere coincidence that there are exactly 10 ways to lose weight?

What do you think?

Hello world!

Welcome to our blog! This blog is all about how to make effective PowerPoint presentations without using these dreadful comma-inducing bullet points. I feel a bit sleepy right now just thinking about those ten bullet points on a single slide!

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Norman Wei

Author of “Connecting With Your Future Clients”