Monthly Archives: December 2009

An interesting presentation

Here is an author who gave a talk on his book. The subject is kind of irrelevant. Let’s look at how he delivered his talk. It is obvious that he used speaking notes because we can see him refer to them frequently. But not so frequently that he was reading his notes to the audience – a cardinal sin and a big no-no in presentation. His delivery was not smooth. Nor was it slick. It was not over-rehearsed. He was having a conversation with the audience on a topic he knew very well. He was telling a story.

Just watch a few minutes of it and you will see what I mean.

An answer from Tom Peters on “rehearsal”!

I recently posted a question to the staff at Tom Peters’ website as to whether Tom rehearsed before his made his video. His staff checked with him and here is his answer:

“There’s less of an easy answer than you’d imagine. I do not rehearse in the formal sense. On the other hand, I come close to staying up all night before a speech going over my slides—over and over and over. Perhaps over 100 times???? Of course I formally modify the slides, to the point of de-emphasizing one word and emphasizing (italics) another. But as I go through the slides I am also sub-consciously, semi-consciously going through phrasing I might use. So in a way it’s damn near rehearsal, though you’re also right in that the main rehearsal is 3,000 or so speeches over about 31 years.”

As he said, he does not “rehearse in the formal sense”. What he  does – in my opinion – is that he gets VERY familiar with what he plans to say to a particular audience the next day.

KeyNote from Apple

I have recently switched to a MacBook Pro from Windows. Just got tired of rebooting my Vista-based computer 3 or more times a day. So far the transition has been relatively painless. That is not to say there isn’t a bit of a learning curve.

All my presentations are now done with Keynote. That’s the same program that Steve Jobs used for his presentations. It is by far much better than PowerPoint.

As part of my transition, I purchased a copy of “iWork 09 – the Missing Manual” by Josh Clark. In this book, Josh includes many tips on how to make great presentations – like the ones Steve Jobs gives. Here are just a few samples from the book in quotes:

  1. “Plan your talk from the get-go as a spoken presentation. Think about it as if you were having a conversation with just one member of your audience.” Why? The truth is that the words you use in conversations are very different from the words you use when you write an article or paper.
  1. “Your slides should be as simple and uncluttered as possible. Think of slides as illustrations for your talk, images that complement your (spoken) words”. That’s what I have been preaching all along on this blog.
  2. “It is fine to show nothing at all during portions of your presentation. Displaying a blank slide puts the focus back on you.” This is a very useful tip when you are talking about a fairly complicated topic. Never show a busy slide or diagram because it is a big distraction to your audience.
  3. “Know your subject thoroughly, but don’t feel you have to say everything you know.” People have a tendency to cram everything they know in a single slide and in bullet points. In reality, they are using those bullet points as speaking notes or reminders to THEMSELVES. There is nothing wrong with having speaking notes. But You do NOT and should NEVER share your notes with the audience. Both PowerPoint and Keynote have the capability of showing two screens. One screen shows the speaker’s notes to the speaker only and one screen shows the presentation to the audience. It is called the Presenter’s View (PowerPoint) and Presenter Notes (Keynote).

PowerPoint is too many points without power!

I can’t take credit for this heading. It came from a very interesting post by Kathy Reiffenstein concerning her recent presentations in Nigeria and Kenya. She reported that bad PowerPoint is just as viral over in Africa as it is here. One of her fellow presenters gave her this quote: “PowerPoint is too many points without power.”

An observation Kathy made during her trip is that people over in Nigeria are very formal in their presentations. They always address one another as Mr. or Mrs. during their presentations. This of course reinforces the cardinal rule about when in Rome (Nigeria in this case) do what the Romans (Nigerians) do.  Always follow local tradition and protocol. In many cultures, it is rude to address people you do not know well by their first name.

Another observation Kathy noted was that Nigerian moderators forcefully enforced the time limits for the speakers. I wish more moderators in the U.S. would do the same. Unplugging the speaker’s mike would be a good start. The use of a taser should not be ruled out entirely on those recalcitrant gas bags.

I wonder if Kathy picked up the $30 million promised her in those ubiquitous emails from Nigeria.

PowerPoint’s 25th birthday

This is a slide presentation from Rowan Manahan. Very funny and insightful. I love the quote from Churchhill: “Up with which I will not put!”

Seven phrases to avoid in your presentation

We often say strange things without being conscious of them. Here are seven phrases that you should not use in your presentation:

  1. “Going forward”. Just what the heck does that mean? Is it the opposite of “going backwards”? Instead of saying:”I think the market is going to crash going forward”, why not try “I think the market is going to crash.”
  2. “Quite frankly”. I used to have a boss who would use this phrase every time just before he told a lie. It was a dead giveaway.
  3. “To be honest with you”. Gee…I am glad you have decided to be honest with me. Thanks. So what you don’t say this again, does it mean you are not being honest with me?
  4. “At the end of the day”. You really mean to say “finally”, right?
  5. “Uniquely qualified”. No one is really uniquely qualified to do anything.
  6. “Full service firm”. There is no such thing. No one firm can do everything. Not even Wal-Mart.
  7. “My friend”. Unless you have been living under a rock, I bet you heard this repeatedly during the last presidential election. Stop already! I am not your friend. You don’t even know me.

Let me know if you have more of these. I know you do. So post a comment!

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner

Boeing’s new aircraft took off recently on its first test flight. It is supposed to be revolutionary in its design in terms of noise, safety and passenger comfort. The aircraft manufacturer released a YouTube video touting its new and improved features. Let’s look at it and see if the presentation tells you anything.

No it does NOT. Do you see the new arrangement of the seats in the coach section? No!

Does it show the new and improved leg room? No! It shows some seats in the business or first class.

Almost the entire video is made up of self-congratulatory hype by its employees – telling us how wonderful and responsive they are to their customers.

It doesn’t really tell us anything new. Does it?

Saying it differently every time

I have been thinking about what Olivia said in one of her many thoughtful comments here. She mentioned that presenters should “say it differently every time.” That is so true!

Unfortunately, many speakers don’t do that. They pull out their good old standard speech that they have given 30 times before and proceed to do it again for the 31st time – same delivery, same tone, same pitch, same old jokes, blah blah blah. They don’t know the audience. Worst yet – they don’t care. They don’t gauge their delivery AND content to the audience. They don’t realize that every audience is different – even though they may come from the same business sector. The whole presentation becomes a one-way conversation – from the speaker to the audience.

The best way to gauge an audience is to talk to them before your presentation – if you can. If you can’t, you can do a QUICK poll before your talk. I do that with my seminar participants. These are environmental managers with varying background and experience. Every group is different. I always go around the room after a very brief intro and ask them to answer three questions: what do you do? why are you here? what do you hope to get out of this 2 day seminar?

I then tailor my presentation accordingly. (By the way – no amount of rehearsal can prepare me for this!).

I know I know – I had said in an earlier post that you should not do polling. But that was for a one-hour webinar. For a 2-day seminar, it is OK to spend several minutes polling the audience. It also gives the audience a chance to know who their follow attendees are and begin the all-important process of networking among them.

An example of an excellent presentation

Here is a Keynote presentation made by Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPod back in 2001. It pretty much set the standards for good presentation. Not a single bullet point in sight. The most complicated slide is at around 2:50 when he showed a 4 x 4 comparison matrix that is easy to read and elegant. It is a joy to watch. We should all study it and learn from it.

See for yourself. As they say – the rest is history.

You are all in Sales! Period.

I just love Tom Peters. He is the best speaker (sorry – I meant to say salesman) I know. Bar none. Listen to what he has to say about sales:

When you make a presentation, you are selling something to someone. You are selling an idea to your colleagues. You are selling your business proposal to potential clients. If you are a teacher, you are not really teaching – you are really selling your knowledge to your students. If your presentation sucks, your students turns you off and nothing is taught.

The term “salesman” or “sales” has gotten a bad rap. It is not cool to be called a salesman. We sometimes associate sales to used car salesman. And that’s not fair to sales. We refer to used car salesman as those people who are too slick and too unethical in their dealings with customers. It is the same in the presentation world. If a presentation is too slick or comes off too smoothly, we become suspicious of the speaker. We think he is not one of us – and rightly so too.

So that’s another reason why you should never over-rehearse your presentation to the point where people think you are too slick. It needs spontaneity. And from it comes sincerity and credibility. Without credibility, no one will buy from you.