Archives for February 2013

Countering the ‘Habituation Principle’ in Presentations

The principle of habituation means that audience brains begin to check out when the stimulus in front of them doesn’t change for extended periods. When they hear a monotone voice or see a relentless series of bullet slide after bullet slide, they start to tune out.

To counter habituation, change the nature of your presented material every seven to eight minutes. Use audience interaction, slip in a compelling photograph in place of a text slide, or introduce video clips, audio, personal stories, props or other messaging vehicles to change up the stimulus and keep your audience engaged and participative from opening to close.

One single approach almost always guarantees audience boredom and detachment, the death knell for any presenter.

13 Best Practice Tips for Presentation Handouts

Your presentation handout is the lasting concrete manifestation of your presentation. It’s an important part of the total experience for the audience. But most of us focus only on preparing what happens during the presentation, not what happens afterwards.

Here are some tips for creating good handouts.

1) Prepare Your Handouts in Plenty of Time.

Don’t leave it till the last moment to create your handout. I’ve been guilty of this. We’re most concerned about the actual presentation and not making a fool of ourselves up on the stage so we work on what we’re going to say and the slides, and then 30 minutes before your presentation you realise you should have a handout and hurriedly put something together. Handouts are much too important to be relegated to an afterthought.

2) Don’t Just Print Out Your Slides.

This is lazy and not effective. If your slides are bullet-point slides (not recommended) then they will often be cut-down sentences which will no longer make sense to the reader a week later. And if they are visual slides (recommended) then they’re also unlikely to make sense without additional text.

If you’re presenting with visual PowerPoint slides, one of the easiest ways of creating a handout is to type the text of the handout in the “Notes” pane of the PowerPoint edit screen. Then print your slides as “Notes.”  You’ll have an effective handout.

3) Ensure Your Handout Reflects Your Presentation

Audience members should be able to relate the handout to the presentation they’ve just attended. If you use the Notes pane of PowerPoint as I’ve suggested above this will happen naturally as you’ll be guided by the visuals you’re using in the presentation. Your handout should have the same title as your presentation and should follow the same structure so that audience members can easily find the information they want.

4) Add More Information

Presentations are not a good format for transferring a lot of information. However, they are good for inspiring people to find out more about a topic. That extra information can be in the handout. And if you’re the sort of person who wants to tell the audience everything you know about the topic…you can put it in the handout.

5) Include References

If you’re citing research do include the references in the handout. For most presentations (scientific presentations to a scientific audience would be an exception), don’t clutter up your presentation or your slides with references.

But do be able to say: “The reference for this research is in your handout.” Let your audience know where they can find out more: books, websites, blogs etc.

6) Consider Creating an Action Sheet

Handouts are a great place to help people put ideas from your presentation into action. You could either list a series of actions that people can take, or provide a worksheet that people fill in on what actions they will take as a result of your presentation. Have people fill in the action sheet near the end of your presentation.

7) Make Your Hand-Out Stand Alone

The handout may be passed onto people who were not at your presentation. Or an audience member may look at it a year from now when they’ve forgotten most of your presentation. Make sure that it will make sense to them. For people who weren’t present, include some brief credibility-establishing information about you.

8) Provide White Space

Some people like to take notes during a presentation. Provide plenty of white space (or even some blank pages at the back) so that they can take notes on the handout and so keep all the information related to your presentation in one place.

9) Make Your Handout Look Professional

The handout is the concrete reminder of your presentation. It may also get passed onto other people who were not at your presentation. So it should enhance the perception people have of you:

  • Have someone proofread it
  • Create a consistent look and feel with your brand (this may include a logo and colors)


10) Consider What Additional Resources You Can Provide Your Audience

You’re not limited to paper. My bioethics teacher friend who presents at bioethics and education conferences across the globe provides each of her attendees with a DVD featuring lesson plans and resources.

11) Consider Creating a Web Page

Cliff Atkinson suggests creating a “home page” for your presentation in his book The Backchannel. If you don’t have a website, you could create a squidoo lens or a Facebook Fan page. Or if you’d like to do more than that, create a wiki website (try pbworks or wikispaces) or use blog software. Both of these can be done for free and just a little technical courage (techphobics shouldn’t try this).

All of these options allow readers to comment on what you’ve written, so it’s a great way of continuing the conversation with audience members. For instance, audience members can ask you questions they weren’t able to ask at the time.

If you decide to go the web way, you can cut down the hard copy handout to one page with the most important points from your presentation, your contact details and the web address.

12) Distribute the Handout at The Beginning of Your Presentation

This is a perennial topic of debate amongst presenters. Some people are concerned that if they distribute the handout first, people will stop listening and start leafing through it. The problem here is not the handout, it’s that your presentation is not engaging enough.

Not distributing it until after the presentation suggests that you think you know best how people should pay attention to your information. Let your audience decide for themselves.

Recent research suggests that providing handouts to university students before the lecture does not harm their learning.

Note: Readers have since pointed out three reasons for distributing your handout after your presentation. I’ve highlighted these reasons in a new post: Three good reasons to distribute your handout after your presentation.

13) Do Tell People if it’s Not in the Handout

Finally, if you go off on a tangent in reply to a question, do let them know that the answer is not in the handout.

About the Author:

Olivia Mitchell is a presentation skills trainer and blogger. Visit her blog Speaking about Presenting for many more valuable presentation tips.

A Review of the PowerPoint 2013 Interface

The PowerPoint 2013 interface is similar, yet somewhat different than the interface of PowerPoint 2010. The biggest change is that 2013’s interface is primed for use on tablets, touch-screens and smart phones (other than conventional desktops). Thus, you can swipe and tap your way through a presentation — and also make several edits without the need of a cursor.

Instead of opening with a blank presentation, PowerPoint 2013 opens a Presentation gallery as shown in Figure 1. The Presentation gallery provides several ways to start your next presentation using a template, a Theme, a recent presentation, a not-so-recent presentation, or even a blank presentation. Once you make choices in this Presentation gallery, you see the actual PowerPoint interface.


Figure 1: PowerPoint 2013 Presentation gallery

A quick walkthrough of PowerPoint 2013 reveals some new  features. Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the PowerPoint 2013 interface — each part of the interface is explained later in this article.


Figure 2:
PowerPoint 2013 interface

  1. File Menu and Backstage View: When you click the File menu, you see the Backstage view that contains all the creation, save, share, and print options for your presentations, as shown in Figure 3. Learn More about File Menu and Backstage View in PowerPoint 2013.
    pptinterface2013-03Figure 3: File Menu leads to the Backstage View
  2. Quick Access Toolbar (QAT): Is  a customizable toolbar placed by default above the Ribbon — here you can add icons for your often used commands. Also the QAT can also be placed below the Ribbon. Learn more about Quick Access Toolbar in PowerPoint 2013.
  3. Ribbon: Ribbon has tabs which in turn contain groups of buttons for various options — some groups also contain galleries (for example galleries for Themes and Theme Colors). Learn more about Ribbon and Tabs in PowerPoint 2013.
  4. Slides Pane: Located on the left side of the interface, the Slides pane shows thumbnails of all the slides in the open presentation.
    Note: If the Slides  pane is not visible, click the Normal button in the View tab of the Ribbon.
  5. Slide Area: Displays the active slide.
  6. Task Pane: The Task Pane contains more options and appears when you choose an option in one of the Ribbon tabs — for example if you click the Format Background button within the Design tab of the Ribbon, the Format Background task pane opens (refer to Figure 1).
  7. Status Bar: A horizontal strip that provides information about the opened presentation like slide number, applied Theme, etc. It also includes the view and zoom options. The View buttons  are explained below (see point I).
  8. Notes Pane: Right below the active slide, this is where the speaker notes are written for the current slide. Note that none of this content is visible on the actual slide while presenting — although it is visible in both Notes Page view and Presenter view.
  9. View Buttons: Essentially there are three view buttons on the status bar displayed towards the left of the zoom-in and zoom-out options:
    • Normal: If you are in some other view such as Slide Sorter view – click the Normal button on the Status bar to switch to Normal view, Shift-clicking this gets you to Slide Master view.
    • Slide Sorter: Click this button to switch from any other view to Slide Sorter view. The Slide Sorter view  displays zoom-able thumbnails of every slide in the open presentation. Shift-clicking this button gets you to Handout Master view.
    • Reading View: Click this button to switch from any other view to Reading view.
    • Slide Show: Show the presentation as a full screen slideshow from the current selected slide. Shift-clicking brings up the Set Up Show dialog box.
  10. Mini Toolbar: This toolbar is not shown in the Figure 3,  above. It’s a semitransparent floating toolbar that spawns right next to the cursor — and it is also available instantly with a right-click (highlighted in red within Figure 4).pptinterface2013-04

Figure 4: Mini Toolbar

About The Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download.

Repetitions and Reputations

A few years back I was cajoled by some buddies to be in a golf tournament with them. First of all, I never golf enough to really get better. And if I would have thought for a second, I would have realized their motivation wasn’t to just hang out with a good friend for a few hours, it was to wax my sorry…

But they underestimated a deeply rooted competitive streak in me.  So a week before the big tournament I scheduled a golf lesson to fix, what was up until then, a mild slice. It meant that when others were playing in the sun and enjoying the fairway, I was usually searching for my ball in the woods.

The golf pro showed up and I was pretty excited.  A few quick fixes and I’d be good to go! (I hear a few of you chuckling already.) During the course of the next 60 minutes, I would have a number of things “corrected.” First my stance. Then my swing path. And finally my hips and my head.

One hour and $75 later, my mild slice had morphed into what golfers affectionately refer to as a “duck hook.”  I’ll save you the description. Suffice it to say it’s not very pretty and now meant I would not only be playing in the woods, but most likely the next fairway over.

Power of Continuous Improvement

What happened to me is what happens to many presenters today.

They get a little presentation skills coaching, feel some momentary discomfort because their existing habits are so deeply entrenched and then abandon their important new skill set before it can effectively take root.  (The same skills, by the way, others admired so much at the end of their training day.) For this reason, far too many presenters never get to the level they aspire to and the presentation process has just become a necessary evil.

But from time to time we’re reminded of what can happen when someone is willing to lean into this important life skill. One of our executive trainers, Fred, was back in Boston working with a senior manager at a global sporting apparel company. And every time we were in town, this manager had requested a personal coaching session with us.

Because he was so bad and desperately needed the help?  To the contrary, because he was so exceptionally good as a communicator.

When we asked him why he kept signing up for personal coaching, his answer was refreshing. He had been a professional tennis coach at one point in his life and knew first hand that it took a thousand conscious repetitions of a new movement before it became second nature.  “That’s why I keep coming back – to get more reps.”

There’s a lesson in this for anyone who aspires to be an exceptional communicator.

If you’ve had some personal coaching, are you applying the skills at every opportunity or do you just expect them to magically show up on presentation day?  If you haven’t received training in this critical area, are you willing? If you are passionate about being the kind of presenter who is remembered at the end of a very long day, take to heart what every professional understands about the nature of meaningful personal change.

You’ve got to want it.

You’ve got to commit to it for the long run.

You’ve got to believe that the benefits of mastery are well worth the time and effort to get there.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about his company, visit

Increase the Likeability Factor to Make Your Message Matter

To be heard, you have to make people like you. You need to create chemistry—with your staff as a manager, with your team as a project leader, with your boss, with your customer, with your strategic partners. People believe people they like.

That’s not a news bulletin. Great communicators develop The Likeability Factor—your personality and the “chemistry” you create between yourself and others. Just as many roads lead to success in the workplace, many different personalities attract followers.

But the following traits seem universally to attract people and open their minds and hearts.

Be Vulnerable: Show Your Humanity

In speaker training 101, people learn to tell failure stories before success stories. Generally, audiences have more in common with those who struggle than those who succeed in life.

If you worry about whether your teen will graduate from high school without getting involved with the wrong group, say so. If your father-in-law drove you nuts during the holiday weekend, it’s okay to mention to your colleagues on Monday morning that you might not have been the storybook spouse.

If you lose a customer, regret it rather than excuse it. If you miss a deadline, repair the damage and catch up. If you miss a payment, make it, with interest. If you make a mistake, own it and correct it.

If you misjudge someone, apologize and make amends.

People respond to humans much more favorably than machines. When you communicate with colleagues, never fear to let them see your humanity.

Be Courteous—Remember to Kick the Copier

Day in and day out, it’s the small things that kill our spirit: The sales rep who empties his cold coffee and leaves the splatters all over the sink. The manager who uses the last drop of lotion and doesn’t refill the container. The analyst who walks away from the printer, leaving the red light flashing “paper jam.”

The boss who walks into the reserved conference room in the middle of a meeting and bumps everybody out for an “urgent” strategic planning meeting. The person who cuts in line at the cafeteria cash register. The guy who answers his cell phone and tries to carry on a conversation out loud in the middle of a meeting.

So even the smallest courtesies kindle a fire that ignites chemistry and builds kinship. The courtesy of saying “hello” when you come into the office after being away. The courtesy of letting people know when you’re going to be away for an extended period.

The courtesy of honoring policies about reserving rooms, spaces, and equipment for activities. The courtesy of a simple “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” for small favors.

Share a Sense of Humor

No matter whether people agreed or disagreed with former president George W. Bush’s political positions, they typically admired his self-deprecating humor. At one of the Washington correspondents dinners, that ability to poke fun at himself seemed to be the primary thing the media responded to favorably.

Bush said at the lectern, “I always enjoy these events. But why couldn’t I have dinner with the 36 percent of the people who like me?”

At one such event, Bush even brought along his “double,” comedian Steve Bridges, to make fun of his frequent mispronunciations: The double modeled for him one of his most difficult words to pronounce correctly: “Nu—cle—ar proliferation….nu—cle—ar proliferation. Nu—cle—ar proliferation.”

Then Bush tried it, “Nu-cle—ar pro-boblieration.” The crowd went wild.

Self-deprecating humor can open hearts and minds to make people receptive to ideas in ways words alone cannot.

Show Humility

Power can be seductive. Praise pushes people’s buttons, elevating peer pressure to feel important. And just as suddenly as lightning strikes, an act of arrogance can destroy an otherwise credible communicator.

Refusing to acknowledge people when they speak to you. Failure to respond to people’s suggestions. Haughty body language. Time spent only with those of your “rank and ilk” at a social gathering. An amused smirk in response to an idea expressed in a meeting. An upward roll of the eyes meant to discredit someone’s comment in the hallway. A talk jam-packed with jargon meant to confuse rather than clarify. Insistence that things must be said one way and one way only.

Credible communicators show humility in innumerable ways:

  • They let others “showcase” by delivering key messages instead of always having to be “on stage” themselves.
  • They let others feel important by “interpreting,” “passing on,” and “applying” their goals and initiatives.
  • They get input from others—and consider that input worthy of a response. (They don’t ask for input “just for drill” if they don’t plan to consider it.)
  • They excite others by asking for their help, cooperation, and buy-in.
  • They share the limelight by telling stories about star performers.
  • They share leadership roles by telling success stories of other leaders.
  • They communicate awareness and appreciation of the efforts and results of other people.

Certainly, credibility involves a balancing act between establishing a noteworthy track record and fading away into the furniture. People do want to know that you know what you’re talking about. But arrogance antagonizes them. Expertise tinged with a touch of humility goes down far better.

Your look, language, and likeable personality will have a huge impact on whether people accept what you say. If your message isn’t sinking in…if you’re not getting the action you want… maybe you should take it, well…personally.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase productivity and effectiveness through better communication: oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational. For more information visit



An Easy Way to Spice Up PowerPoint

Most of us won’t be abandoning PowerPoint any time soon, what with the ongoing expectations — corporate or otherwise — to use the standard slide format of headline-and-bulleted text, and given the ease of crafting such content. But there are plenty of simple ways to keep audiences from tuning out during what they can perceive as a numbing parade of text-only slides.

Replacing even a few slides with visually-stimulating images is one way. For example, one slide with a picture showing a tornado in Oklahoma can communicate infinitely more than a half-dozen bullet slides describing the destructive power of Mother Nature. Project the picture and then add the spoken narration: “The winds associated with a Level 3 tornado can drive straw through a 4-inch post. And they can toss a 2,000-pound car a quarter mile.”

Adding such slides doesn’t take much extra work, and it pays off in refocusing audience attention. It also communicates to viewers that this isn’t just another cookie-cutter presentation created the night before it was delivered.

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