Archives for November 2012

PowerPoint Makeovers – Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable (Slide Design for the Non-Designer)

Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP who shows us how to dramatically improve our PowerPoint slides. Watch and learn as Ellen transforms slides from the audience. See the difference in “before” and “after” slide designs and learn easy tips on how to do it on your own. She shares lessons learned including how to improve slide design; de-clutter text-heavy slides; edit complex slides for clarity; and communicate more effectively with graphics.

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About Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen_smallEllen Finkelstein is a recognized expert, speaker, trainer, and best-selling author on PowerPoint, presentation skills, and AutoCAD. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newsletters, and blogs. She is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional).There are only 37 PowerPoint MVPs in the world, and only 9 in the United States. Her Web site, http://ellenfinkelstein.com offers a hug assortment of tips, techniques, tutorials, and articles on these topics.

From Mediocre to Memorable: 3 Slide Makeovers

By Dave Zielinski

In the inaugural event of PresentationXpert’s new Webinar Wednesdays series last month, titled Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable, PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein presented a number of compelling slide design tips and “made over” slides submitted by webinar participants.

Ellen stressed that even though most PowerPoint users aren’t professional designers, they can still create lively, high- impact, visually appealing presentations. Part of that is understanding that audiences remember pictures more than they do words, since the part of the brain devoted to visual input is much larger than the part for auditory input.

That means nobody, but nobody, loves slide after slide of bulleted text.

In Ellen’s Tell ‘n Show method, slide design is much more simplified. Text and visual, text and visual is the cadence. In this method a simple, explanatory heading goes on each slide, and there is often only one point per slide, meaning you may need to expand one slide to four.

Also, when you have text on a slide, think about how you can convey the concepts visually. Try to use photos that are literal or symbolic, or use iconic line art.

Here are makeovers of three different slides that demonstrate some of these concepts:

1) The Before version. Notice the lack of appealing graphics and text-heavy approach in this slide. To make the slide more compelling, Ellen converted it to SmartArt for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, added a photo and rearranged some text. Used wisely, SmartArt can add color, shape and emphasis to data and text.

 

The After version:

 

2) The Before version. This slide not only is difficult  for audiences to read with its small font sizes, it’s text heavy. Ellen again used SmartArt to convert this slide to a more visually-appealing and easily-understood alternative, and made some changes in Excel as well.

The After version:

 

3) The Before version:

The First After Slide:

 

The Second After slide:

 

Secrets to Practicing Your Presentation When You Have No Time

By Michelle Mazur

By far, the most popular post on my site is 8 Steps for Practicing a Presentation. To me that means you are looking for help on how to practice a presentation so you can execute a successful speech. We know we have to practice, but practice seems like an abstract, daunting task. The biggest objection I hear from clients about practicing a presentation is…I don’t have time to practice. I understand the problem. I don’t have time to practice my presentations either…and frankly I am the type of presenter who does not enjoy practicing at all. My little hater comes out in full force! Let’s go through step-by-step and discuss some strategies that will save you time.Step One: Divvy Up Your Presentation into Bite-Size Chunks.

If you are doing a 30-, 60- or even 90-minute speech, you do NOT have to practice your presentation all at once. Repeat you do NOT have to rehearse your entire presentation in one sitting. Break-up your presentation in small bite-size chunks. Divide it up by introduction, each main point, and your conclusion. If it is a longer presentation, break the body of the speech down into its sub-points.Think of this as portion control for practicing your speech. It makes practice less daunting.

Step Two: Find small chunks of time.

Now that you know that you don’t have to practice the presentation all at once, start finding pockets of time for small presentation practice sessions. This means driving in your car is a great time to practice. 10 minutes between calls – practice. Taking a shower – forget singing – try practicing.

There’s all kinds of time to rehearse when you don’t have to find a huge chunk of time!

Step Three: Don’t always start from the beginning.

You need to know your introduction well!  However, don’t always start your rehearsals at the beginning. Every time you are practicing think about what you need to go over the most. In which part of the presentation is the information most difficult for you?  Which part of the speech have you not practiced yet? Start there!

Step Four: Practice does not always have to be out loud.

Practicing your speech out loud is a must. However, you don’t always have to practice out loud. Visualization is a form of practicing. Going through the speech in your head is a way to rehearse. Even if you just want to write the speech out – guess what you are practicing.

Step Five: Do one complete run through with tech.

You have to find the time to do at least ONE complete run through with your tech (microphone, PowerPoint, media, whatever). This insures that you are staying within the time limits, your transitions are good and that all your technology is in working order.

About the Author:

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a public speaking coach, communication expert and author of the Relationally Speaking blog.

4 Presentation Strategies for a C-Level Audience

By Rick Gilbert

When I joined Hewlett-Packard as a quality assurance training manager 20 years ago, I had zero business experience. I had been a college instructor, a consultant, and a psychologist, but I had never read an annual report or laid eyes on a spreadsheet. I didn’t know the difference between ROI and an IOU.

After six months on the job, I secured a brief meeting with the general manager and his team. I urgently needed their support for a quality training program I was launching. I strode confidently into the meeting clueless about who was going to be there and their job titles or hidden agendas. I may as well have been blindfolded; I was in the dark.

I helped myself to a pastry, and took a seat at the table—my first two mistakes. I had prepared 50 overhead slides (before the days of PowerPoint) for my 20-minute presentation, which amounted to 49 more slides than anyone wanted to see. I opened the presentation with a long story to warm up the audience. (Note to self: Senior executives do not need or want “warming up.”)

The general manager ended the meeting after just seven minutes, and I failed to get support for that critical training program. While riding the elevator down to my office after the meeting, I was haunted by a nagging question: “What just happened?” It was 20 years before I would answer that question.

Different presentation rules

If you are in middle management, ambiguity and chaos are daily realities. Additionally, you must gain approval from the people at the top to get things done. Resources are limited. To make matters worse, colleagues in finance, IT, and marketing are after the same resources. You know what works in team meetings at your peer level: stories, PowerPoint slides, one-way communication with minimal Q&A, and no interruptions.

You realize that the rules for presenting to top-level leaders are different, but what are they? If you solved this mystery, you’d be more likely to receive the project funding and support that you need.

To uncover these rules, I’ve interviewed 50 executives during the past 10 years. These leaders shared how to effectively present to the C-suite: know the people and big picture, make the bottom line your first line, deliver with confidence, and facilitate through improvisation. I only regret that I didn’t know these strategies years ago.

Know the people and big picture

Find answers to the following questions before the presentation: Who will be in the meeting? What are their titles? What are their agendas, and how do they feel about each other? Who will support you and who will oppose you? Typically, you will have a sponsor—for example, the director of human resources. That person can tell you what to expect, and can get the meeting back on track if it derails.

C-level leaders are a unique audience. They are bright, competitive, and analytical. They never have enough time in any given day, must meet their numbers, and have little job security.

An executive stays in his position for an average of 23 months. One study shows that if a company’s stock price increases after its CEO has filled the role for one year, 75 percent of new CEOs keep their jobs. If the stock price goes down, 83 percent do not keep their jobs. The C-suite is often a revolving door.

Additionally, it’s important to understand the expenses accrued from a top-level meeting. Assembling five C-level leaders from a $5 billion company costs shareholders $30,000 per hour. CEOs report that 67 percent of the meetings they attend with subordinates are total failures—resulting in a huge productivity loss for the company.

Make the bottom line your first line

“You have 30 seconds to get my attention and tell me what you are here for. If you don’t, I’m on my smartphone, and you’ve lost me,” says Steve Blank, founder and former CEO of Epiphany.

The first rule of content development for a C-suite presentation is to position the bottom line as your first line. Immediately tell the audience why you are there and what you want. If you want money, include ROI calculations so the executives will know what they’ll get for their investment in your training project.

Skip the storytelling that works so well at your peer-level team meetings. Executives simply don’t have time for it. Get right to the point, and do so with data.

Be careful with PowerPoint. Using PowerPoint in an executive meeting is a sure way to run your career into the ditch and lose support for your program. The C-suite wants a discussion, not a slide-driven lecture. In fact, Ned Barnholt, chairman of KLA-Tencor, says he doesn’t have confidence in a speaker who can’t talk without slides.

To increase your credibility with a C-level audience, decrease the number of presentation slides. When you are finished with the slides, ensure that the screen is blank—this will refocus the attention back on you.

Deliver with confidence

Strategy and content trump delivery style every time at senior meetings. Your delivery pales in comparison with the importance of your content.

However, executives have no time for poor presenters. They are looking for a confident, energetic, committed presenter, but not a slick, motivational, inflated presentation. Polish your basic delivery skills: practice eye contact, vocal projection, and gestures.

Stand tall and be expansive. Not only will such body posture show executives you’re a horse worth betting on, but it also affects your biology. A recent Harvard University study shows that physically filling space has positive effects on one’s hormones: The stress hormone cortisol decreases 25 percent while testosterone increases 17 percent.

Facilitate through improvisation

According to one CEO, “Eighty percent of your success at the top is your facilitation skills. Only 20 percent is your content.”

Facilitation includes listening and improvising. Listening means not only paraphrasing what people are saying to confirm your understanding, but also “reading the room.” As you present, watch the reactions of your executive audience. Be willing to address what you observe happening, and if necessary, take action to correct it. In a word, improvise.

Below are the most common facilitation challenges and the solutions.

  • Time cut. Be prepared with a shorter, five-minute version of your presentation.
  • Disengaged executives. When people start checking their email, reconfirm that the topic is still important.
  • Decision maker leaves. Before this person gets out the door, ask her what to do next, such as wait until she returns or move forward with the decision.
  • Topic change. Be prepared to improvise the agenda and change directions.
  • Side talk. Refocus the audience on the agenda. Request help from your sponsor or the most senior person.
  • Energetic discussion. When executives are fully engaged and throwing out new ideas, capture what is said and then reconfirm after the meeting.

Lessons learned

Years ago, when I sat at the table during my first executive presentation, I implied a peer relationship with the leaders. And when I ate one of the group’s snacks, I was driving nails into my own coffin. I was a “dead man walking” before showing my first slide—and I didn’t even know it.

Learn from my mistakes. Remember that you are a guest at the C-level meeting, not a member of this high-powered club. Know who is there, and their relationships with one another. Have a sponsor to help you out of any possible meeting train wrecks. Keep your questions focused and immediate and the PowerPoint slides to a bare minimum. Finally, constantly listen and improvise.

Had I known any of this at my first meeting with the general manager, I may have received support for that critical training program. With these tools, now you can improve your chances of success.

About the Author:

Rick Gilbert is the founder and chairman of PowerSpeaking Inc., a speech communications company  that has worked with Silicon Valley companies since 1985.  He also is creator of the award-winning program Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives,  and author of Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations. Reprinted from ASTD.org

 

 

Emergency Surgery: How to Cut (or Stretch) Your Speech at the Last Minute

By Laura Stack

You’ve prepared for weeks to dazzle an audience with your brilliant 45-minute speech at a big conference…and then, 30 minutes before show time, an apologetic organizer approaches you. He explains that because they got a late start and an earlier speaker went on longer than expected (Mortal Speaker Sin), they can only spare you 20 minutes—so you’ll have to cut your speech short. What do you do now?

You can’t just toss your note cards in the air and stomp out.  Obviously, you have no choice but to remain professional, smile, and reply pleasantly, “Don’t worry—leave it to me.” And then conduct some emergency speech surgery! On exceptional occasions (though rarely, in my experience), the opposite may occur: An organizer may ask you to stretch your speech further than expected to fill a time gap. Again, not an easy task; you have to fill the time with relevant information, not just fluff.

Since you can’t predict in advance the fate of any given speech, always be prepared to cut or stretch it—especially if you find yourself at or near the end of a session lineup. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for both cases. Let’s start with stretching a talk, since it represents the rarer of the two possibilities.

Stretching Tips

1. Over-prepare. If the organizers have promised you 30 minutes, don’t just do the minimum amount of research and preparation necessary. Prepare to speak as much as 25 percent longer than expected, just in case. Leave the least important points, extra stories and examples, and summing up for the end of the speech. If you don’t need to stretch, you can easily cut from the bottom up without decreasing the impact of your presentation.

2. Add some extras. Have some reserve stats, quotes, anecdotes, and examples on hand, so you can drop them into the flow of your speech as necessary. Make sure they fit the topic and back up your points—don’t use just any old story to stretch your length. If you picked up anything during your pre-speech mingling that seems relevant, use it.

3. Take questions during the speech. Before you begin, state your willingness to answer questions during the speech rather than just afterward. Let the audience do some of your stretching for you!

4. Speak more deliberately. If you absolutely must, slow down your talking speed slightly and spend more time making eye contact with individual audience members. But don’t speak so slowly that you feel awkward, or your listeners might focus on that instead of your message.

Cutting Tips

1. Start cutting right away. As soon as you get the news, accept that you can’t say everything you wanted to. In your head or on note cards (if you have them), start weeding out less important points, graphics, slides (if applicable), examples, and stories. At the very least, keep your opening and closing statements and emphasize your core message.

You might only have time to open, make one really solid point, and close.

2. Don’t panic. Just present your most relevant points in the time allowed. If you get the two-minute warning before you expect to, segue into your closing and wrap it up. Never just stop in the middle of your speech, or that’s what people will remember later—not your takeaway message.

3. Don’t force it. I’ve seen speakers kick it into overdrive and click frantically through their visuals in an attempt to cram the original speech into the time provided. Don’t be tempted to try this even for a second! You may get in too much of a hurry and flub it; and even if you don’t, you still need to speak slowly enough and remain coherent enough for listeners to absorb your message. Always cut rather than cram.

If you’re running your slide show, you can simply type in the number of the slide you want to “jump” to and press enter (you don’t have to click through them). So always print an outline of your slides!

4. Maintain your professionalism. Do your best with what you have. No matter how angry or frustrated you feel, accept the situation gracefully. Don’t become defensive, and never ever complain or make snide comments to the audience about the organizers’ poor planning if you ever want to be asked to speak there again.

5. Ask the audience to hold all questions until the end. If any Q&A was planned, I’d cut it out altogether and invite the audience members to come up front to chat with you afterward, as you don’t want to leave out any important points. You can even provide your social media coordinates or contact information for later follow-up.

The Bottom Line

Whether you end up cutting or stretching your speech, strive to do so without damaging its effectiveness—either by diluting its impact with extras or by trimming it too much. Exercise flexibility and always have a Plan B ready. Use this unexpected situation as an opportunity to show how well-prepared and professional you are. The organizers will be both grateful and impressed, and if you do it right, your audience will never know your talk didn’t go precisely as planned.

About the Author:

Laura Stack is an expert in productivity, and for more than 20 years her speeches have helped entrepreneurs, leaders, teams, and organizations improve output, lower stress, and save time at work and in life. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides time management workshops around the globe that help attendees achieve maximum results in minimum time. Reprinted from Training Magazine

 

3 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Communication Skills

By Nick Morgan

Leadership communication always needs to be a two-way activity. Leaders, to be blunt, need followers, and a smart leader wants to know what those followers are thinking and doing. Moreover, leaders are in the business of persuasion, and you need to be listening to the people being persuaded or you won’t know how you’re doing.

There’s an even deeper reason that you need to be in the listening business as a leader. I believe that it’s the responsibility of a leader to return the courtesy of your followers by making an equivalent effort to listen as hard to them as they do to you. It’s courteous and it’s right — and it’s necessary in the long run if you’re going to fulfill the leader’s full set of obligations.

Good listening, then, is a profound activity. People need to be heard to be validated as human. We’re a social species.

Increasingly, though, listening is a forgotten skill.  No wonder — we’re constantly awash in information. Why should we voluntarily listen any more? There’s simply too much to take in. And yet, listening to the people close to you — your team, your company, your sphere of influence — is more important than ever. Here’s how to do it well.

Feedback

At its most basic, listening offers feedback. Feedback, which is often critical, is simply a response, usually involving evaluation of some kind.  Many leaders, in fact, consider (critical) feedback the beginning and end of their job communicating to their followers. I worked with one CEO who believed that it was enough to tell his executive team when they had screwed up. “They have a job to do; they’re paid a salary. Why should I praise them?”

I finally persuaded him to broaden his communications palate for the purely transactional reason that it would get him better results. He was dragged kicking and screaming into a more enlightened version of communication, but he wasn’t thrilled about it. It seemed like work to him.

Nonetheless feedback both good and critical is an essential part of listening. Here’s how to do it without destroying the ego of the receiver and ultimately the relationship.

Begin by describing the actions of the person to whom you’re giving feedback: “You completed the task on Tuesday.” If your purpose is critical, relate the action to the standard: “It was due on Monday.” Then describe the consequences of the behavior, and the reasons for them: “Being a day late leads to bottlenecks at the plant and will cost us forty-five thousand dollars each time. We can’t afford that kind of cost and stay in business.”

Then make your request: “I need you to complete the task on time in the future.” Finally, check for comprehension and agreement:  “Do you understand? Can you commit to getting the task completed by Monday from now on?”

The key is to avoid all the tempting analyses and speculations on the motivation of the receiver. “You always turn your project in late! Are you deliberately trying to sabotage us? Do you want to screw us? Are you trying to bring the organization down? Are you drinking again?”

These sorts of communications, satisfying as they may be, crowd the channel with emotional baggage that ultimately gets in the way of persuasion. It’s difficult, but don’t tell the person that he or she is bad. Instead, stick to the facts and the consequences.

So it‘s possible to give feedback well, both the good and bad variety. But if you want your audience to feel that it has been heard, feedback isn’t really enough. Too often, it feels punitive, despite your best efforts, and it certainly feels like it’s judgmental.

To up the ante on good listening, here are a couple of other ways to listen that will let your audience know that it has truly been heard.

Paraphrasing

To go a little further as a good listener, try paraphrasing what your audience is saying. This activity is surprisingly difficult for the poor listeners of the world. For the rest of us, it’s easy enough if we can swallow the temptation to give our own opinions. Paraphrasing means simply saying something like, “So let me be sure I’ve understood. What you’re saying is that the green ones are tastier than the brown ones?”

The point is to play back, like a recorder, what the person has said to you. That’s all. Resist the temptation to embroider (“But that’s ridiculous! That can’t be true!”); that will undo all the good work of the paraphrase.

Paraphrasing is a powerful technique because it gets your receiver agreeing with you. He or she nods and says, “Yes, that’s correct. That’s what I said.” From that simple agreement, you can build a persuasive relationship because you’ve begun to create trust and liking. It’s impossible to hate or distrust completely someone whom you’ve just agreed with, especially in the act of replaying your wise words back to you.

Active Listening

Finally, let’s take the listening game higher. The most powerful form of listening — the one that people most strongly react to, feeling that they are both heard and understood — is a form of empathic listening where you identify the emotion and state its underlying causes without trying to solve the problem: “So, Bill, what I hear you saying is that you’re angry with me because I haven’t fully appreciated the lengths you’ve gone to in trying to win over our Latin American customers. Those efforts have caused you a lot of sleepless nights, time away from the family, and marital problems. Is that right?”

Don’t try to solve the problem at this stage. Just acknowledge it fully, and you will be surprised at how powerful that acknowledgment is for the other person. The key elements are the correct identification of the emotion; the reasons for it, including your own personal responsibility, if any; and a full statement of the facts of the situation if those haven’t been brought up openly before.

This form of active listening — active because you’re acknowledging your own role in the situation — is the hardest to undertake. In a contentious situation, it can feel as if you’re giving in to openly express how the other is feeling. But you’re not; you’re just stating the other’s position as fully and honestly as you can. Agreement, compromise, or resolution will come later. For now, active listening is a powerful first step toward solving any serious problem in a communication.

What you will find is that if you’ve done it well, people will agree profoundly and powerfully with you. Of course, to accomplish this form of listening effectively, you must be good at reading the emotions of others, and those come chiefly from the nonverbal conversation. What you’re doing is translating the nonverbal into the verbal, and that is an important skill for any leader to employ with wishes to have a full set of tools for persuasive communications.

About the Author:

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication, and the good and bad speakers of the day. His passion is to connect the latest brain research with timeless insights into persuasive speaking in order to further our understanding of how people connect with one another. For more information on his company, visit www.publicwords.com

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