Archives for June 2012

Use Pre-Made Slides to Slash Your Prep Time

By Dave Paradi

In a consulting assignment I am working on with a client in New York, we are developing a set of slides that can be re-used in many different presentations. It’s a good idea because it cuts preparation time dramatically. In addition to creating your own slides, you can also download pre-made slides from different sources. In this article I’ll discuss some sources of pre-made slides and what to do once you have downloaded them.

In my newsletter last September, I shared that Microsoft allows you to download pre-made slides that include some great animation effects. The slides I spoke about can be found on Microsoft’s site here. There are other sites that allow you to download pre-made slides. m62 is an international presentation consulting company that has created a number of slides for you to download from their site here. My friend Geetesh Bajaj also has some pre-made slides you can download from his Indezine site. There are also sites where you can purchase pre-made slides like and

The first thing you should do when you download any of these slide files is to save them to a spot on your computer that’s easy to access. I suggest a folder called Pre-Made Slides or something equivalent so you can always access all the files in one folder. Also, save the downloaded file with a meaningful name. Some of the files may have names that relate to a product code used by the site instead of a file name you can easily recognize later. Use a file name that indicates what is in the file, like Six Wedge Diagram, if that is appropriate for the file.

Open the file in PowerPoint, and view it in Slide Show mode. You want to first view the file in Slide Show mode so that you get a good feel for what the designer was hoping to communicate with the slide. You’ll notice what you want to change as you customize it to your situation. Exit Slide Show mode and look at how the slide is constructed. Check for any notes in the Speaker Notes section that will be helpful. Look at the different objects and look at the animation settings.

Once you have an idea of how the slide was built and how you want to use it in your presentation, it is time to customize the slide. Copy the slide into your presentation and it will adopt the colors and styles of the corporate template. You can edit the text if you need to, or add more text boxes. If you want to change an image, use the Change Picture function so that the new image– say your logo–comes in at the same dimensions and with the same attributes as the original picture. If you need to change all the text to a different font, use the Replace Fonts function to replace all of the selected font in the entire presentation, saving you a lot of time.

Finally, you need to test your new slide. You can preview the animations using the Play button in the Custom Animation task pane, or use Shift+F5 to start the Slide Show on that slide. Make sure that everything looks and works as you want it to. You likely will need to make some minor adjustments to get it perfect. Now, with all the time you saved, you can work on polishing your delivery with extra rehearsals.

These same steps can be used for any pre-made slides, regardless of the source – downloaded from one of the sites above, provided by your organization, or even copied from another presentation. You can take this idea to the next level by creating your own collection of pre-made slides that will save you preparation time with every presentation. Add notes in the Speaker Notes area so others in your organization can easily customize the slides for their presentations.

Pre-made slides can be a great advantage because they reduce the time you spend creating slides and give you time to spend on other aspects of your presentation.

About the Author:

Dave Paradi is the author of “The Visual Slide Revolution” and “102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively Using PowerPoint.” He is an expert at helping presenters communicate more effectively using persuasive PowerPoint  presentations. For more information, visit his web site at

13 Ways to Communicate Effectively by Telling Good Anecdotes

By Dianna Booher

Stories grab attention the way no other technique can. Your anecdote may be serious, sad, humorous, enlightening, or inspiring. It may serve as proof that a situation exists in your organization, an example of what excellent organizations do to lead the industry, the epitome of innovation, a thought-provoking “war story” from one of your front-line employees, or merely a momentary inspiration.

Even with a serious point, humor generally helps. Your purpose is not to bring down the house with wildly funny stories; the audience does not expect Jay Leno or David Letterman. Humor, however, anchors key points and makes your message memorable.

Slanting your story to your audience—their point of view and their mood—adds to the impact. When done well, a humorous story adds an element of class and distinction. Stories pack power.

Know Your Reason for Using a Story

To illustrate a point, to entertain, or to build common ground with your audience––identifying your purpose will make your selection much easier. You also will understand the length of time you should devote to telling it and the effort that should go into telling it well. Never use a $100 story in a three-minute time slot to make a nickel point.

Set Up the Anecdote in an Intriguing Way

Not: “Let me tell you about a manager in our Miami office.” But: “Managers sometimes exhibit their greatest leadership skills when they make a mistake. This was the case in our Miami office last quarter when . . .”

Choose Relevant, Appropriate Details

It is tempting to talk while you think. Don’t. Either work out your story by talking it aloud until you perfect it, or write the story and then edit out the garbage. Ask yourself with each word, phrase, and sentence: Does it add to the mood? Does it create the scene? Is this detail necessary to move the story forward and make the point? Weed out trivial details that detract or add only length.

Prefer Scene to Narrative

Recreate the movie scene, add the dialogue, and step into the story as a character, if necessary, to breathe life into the telling.

Not this narrative: “I had a terrible experience the last time I visited my doctor’s office. The receptionist was surly and kept scolding me and other patients for “noise” as if we were children. Customer service certainly isn’t what it used to be.”

But this scene: “I’m not one easily persuaded to see a doctor. And I get particularly upset about the lack of customer service in most medical offices. But last fall when my fever reached 103 degrees, I finally stagger into my internist’s office, dehydrated, dizzy, and green from lunch. And the receptionist pushes a clipboard toward me and growls, ‘You’ll need to complete this.’ So I’m sitting there with all the paperwork piled in my lap, scrawling in the blanks: Name, rank, serial number, referring physician, address of hairdresser, IQ. And the clipboard breaks and shoots the spring in the handle across the room into the water cooler with a loud zing.

“Then this lady beside me starts to sneeze and wheeze so loud that it catches the attention of the toddler with measles next to her. So then the toddler starts to screech at his lung’s capacity, ‘Mommy, what’s she doing?’ About this time, the receptionist opens her cubicle window again and says, ‘Could I ask you people to keep down the noise please. There are sick people in here.’”

Ensure that Every Story Has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End

See the scene in the previous tip about the surly receptionist in the medical office. You will notice that although the story is less than 60 seconds long when delivered, it has a definite beginning, middle, and end. Without all three, your listeners feel as though you are leaving something incomplete. Granted, you do not have to complete the entire story at one time. You may move the story along during an entire presentation to make several key points during your presentation.

Perfect Facial Expression, Voice Tone, and Body Language to Be an Essential Part of the Story

In the same way that both content and delivery work together to make your entire presentation either dynamic or distasteful, a story and its delivery work together to create the total impact. A raised eyebrow, a haughty tone, or a shrug of the shoulders can carry—or reverse—your point.

Let the Punch Line Stand on Its Own

If you have to explain the punch line, it does not work. Play with it until it does. Sometimes the substitution of one key word will make the difference between a laugh and blank stare, between an “aaahhh-haaa” and a “huh?” Practice the punch line and the punch word until others understand it. If they do not, delete it rather than explain it.

Don’t Rush the Laugh Lines or the Pregnant Pauses

Standing silent while a group responds takes courage. Such pauses may be the longest of your career. However, if you rush through them, the audience will take their cue from you and assume that you did not want or intend for them to respond audibly. Their non-response then destroys your confidence to try additional stories in the remaining sections of your presentation.

As a result, your delivery gets dryer and dryer. The presentation spirals downward to disappointment.

Remember, the Longer the Story, the Funnier the Punch Line Needs to Be

Attention spans are short. Lengthy stories can lead to big expectations. They end in disappointment with a poorly delivered or less-than-hilarious punch line.

Avoid a Big Buildup That Sets Up Disappointment

Inexperienced speakers warn, “Here comes a joke,” with a lead-in like, “That reminds me of the story about . . .” or “I’ve got a great story that makes a point about X. It’s so funny. You’re not going to believe what this customer really said to me. But I want to tell you about this situation just to illustrate my point about the type of demands our customers are placing on us these days. It’s hilarious. I couldn’t believe he really did this. This guy was really crazy. Just irate. Cursing. Yelling. The whole thing was so ridiculous. Here’s what happened. This customer calls up on our support line and. . . .”

With such a long buildup, the typical group reaction after you tell the anecdote will be, “That wasn’t such a great story. And it wasn’t so funny.” Just get into the story and then make your point. The audience will let you know if it was funny or not.

Perfect Your Timing

One word botched, mumbled, or out of order can sink the ship. Practice your delivery.

Here’s an example from Rich’s Current Humor Newsletter: “Our After Dinner keynoter comes to us from a humble beginning. He started out as an After Snack speaker.”

Another example by Michael Iapoce: “Most of the speakers you’ll hear today constitute a sort of who’s who in the industry. I’m more in the category of who’s he.”

You’ll notice that one word makes or breaks the entire story. You can’t fumble that word or line in your story.

Rework Your Story Until Perfected

Changing a single word, adding one specific detail, or changing a person’s name can be the difference between confusion and clarity, a laugh and a ho-hum, retention and oblivion.

Rehearse Your Stories and One-Liners “Off Broadway”

Before you use an anecdote “live” in a session or presentation, make sure that it works. And the best way to do this is to see how others react as you tell it. Tell it to your family and friends. Tell it at a cocktail party. Tell it at work in the cafeteria. Where do people laugh? At what details do people’s expressions change? Where do their eyes grow larger? Where are they shocked? Amused? Appalled? On the next telling, play up those parts. Create more suspense. Add more dialogue, less narration.

You will generally improve your delivery with each telling. Sometimes people laugh at things you did not think were the funny part—and vice versa. It is better to know this before telling the story “for real” in your presentation to drive home a key point.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase productivity and effectiveness through better communication: oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational. Her latest book is Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader. For more information visit

‘ConOps’ Can Make Complex Concepts Easier to Understand

By Mike Parkinson
Do you need to communicate complex information quickly? Is your presentation hard to follow? Then take a page from the U.S. government (yes, I said U.S. government) and use the ConOps approach.First I want to define ConOps for those readers unfamiliar with the term: Concept of Operations (ConOps) is a presentation or graphic that communicates the characteristics of a proposed solution or system from the stakeholder’s perspective (those who will use the solution or system).

ConOps can be a combination of quantitative and qualitative characteristics, and it shows how a set of capabilities may be employed to achieve desired objectives or an end state. Most ConOps solutions are complex, multidimensional and multivariable.Frequently, ConOps explanations are requested for Government proposal submissions. When done right, the audience quickly understands, at a high level, what the solution is and how the pieces work together.

Follow these three steps to clearly explain your ConOps in a way that will help your presentation succeed where others fail.

Step 1:
SimplifyWhy? Because your audience is not an expert with your information. Explain it in a way that the reader understands. Your presentation wasn’t created for you and your team to read; it’s intended for your audience.

Do not include content, acronyms and abbreviations that may confuse your audience. Keep it simple and clearly identify any benefits, outcomes and discriminators (things that set your solution apart from your competition).

Step 2:
Use a compelling graphicWhy? Because good graphics are easier to understand and remember than text alone. Additionally, graphics uncover omitted parts. For example, missing a step in a process is obvious when shown in a process diagram but might be overlooked on a bulleted list.

ConOps graphics are often a combination of multiple graphic types. The audience, content and message drive graphic type selection; however, most ConOps graphics fall into three graphic categories (see more samples at
1. Graphic types that show how parts relate to the whole process or system.Use this approach as a roadmap throughout your document. Highlight each element and explain each in greater detail at the beginning of relevant sections throughout your document (see the temple graphic below). The following are two examples of graphics that show parts relating to a whole:


2. Graphic types that literally show the system in use.








These graphics use photographs, drawings, schematics, floor plans, models and other visuals that remain true to reality to depict your ConOps. The following two examples illustrate how each system functions in a real-world scenario:


. Graphic types that show process.Show how your system combines data, structures workflow, allows for continual improvement, manages risk or offers a unique process flow using these graphic types. The following graphics illustrate the process through which the final outcome is reached:

Add other graphic types with your ConOps graphic as needed. For example, consider gauge graphics to show quantitative data (below):







Step 3: Validate your solution







Why? Because subject matter experts often miss or miscommunicate part of a solution due to over familiarity. Ask someone who is similar to your target audience to review and explain your ConOps graphic to you. Do they understand it well enough to articulate the presented solution? If so, you are on the right path. If not, use their feedback to improve your ConOps graphic.

The next time you need to share complex information, consider a ConOps approach and use these three steps to more clearly explain your solution.

About the Author:

Mike Parkinson is an internationally-recognized visual communication expert, trainer and multi-published author. Visit Billion Dollar Graphics ( and Get My Graphic ( for helpful presentation tools. Mike also is a partner at 24 Hour Company (, a premier proposal and presentation graphics firm.

3 Hidden Presentation Lessons From TED Talks

By Susan Trivers

A brightly lit stage, huge screen and one speaker in a circle of light talking to an eager audience for under 20 minutes. That’s a TED talk, and the model is very popular. Groups and associations are adapting this style to their own meetings and the phrase “TED talk” is it’s own definition.

What should you, the typical business speaker, learn from the popularity of the TED talk format? While most people mention the short time frame and the image-only slides, they usually don’t mention TED’s tag line: “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

“Ideas Worth Spreading” is about content! What made TED attractive is the concept that ideas–content–should be at the forefront of speeches and presentations. It’s not about slides or gestures or body language.

It’s about your ideas and how you craft your spoken content to share them. And it’s about your presence during your time in the spotlight.

How do you learn from TED Talks?

1) Have an idea that grabs people.

a. How can you think “inside” the box and see what others don’t see?

b. How can you reason against a popular theory or idea?

c. How can you help others imagine themselves becoming more like their dreams?

2) Use your own natural language.

a. Make an audio recording as you talk through your idea. This is informal, just to capture how you think when it’s freshest, and what that sounds like.

b. Listen to this again and again to keep the authenticity while you’re writing.

c. Trust yourself. Use only trigger words, not full sentences, when writing.

3) Practice and rehearse dozens of times

a. Practices are for you. Listen to yourself, love your own naturalness, play with your voice, only fix sticky parts.

b. Rehearsals change your focus to the audience: see them, imagine their excited responses, feel yourself being present in the moment.

c. Spend twice as long on practicing as you spend on writing. Spend another two times as much on rehearsing. You will not know the difference this makes until you do it, but afterwards, you’ll always practice and rehearse like this again.

Use the TED Talk format and the tag line “ideas worth spreading” to help you craft and deliver speeches and presentations that grab and engage your audience. Great content, delivered with passion and authenticity–now that’s an idea worth spreading!

About the Author:

Susan Trivers runs The Great Speaking Coach, a presentation skills training and consulting company.


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