Archives for April 2013

Wow Your Webinar Audience with Next-Generation Polling

In his webinar on animation techniques this week, presentation skills guru Rick Altman of Better Presenting had the audience oohing and ahhing over a text polling tool he demonstrated during the session. The tool Altman used was Poll Everywhere (www.polleverywhere.com), which enables the webinar presenter to ask a question, have the audience answer using mobile phones or web browsers, and the responses are instantaneously revealed onscreen in PowerPoint, Keynote or the web.

Poll Everywhere replaces proprietary audience response hardware with basic web technology. In addition to posing audience questions, it can be used for things like texting questions to expert panels, texting feedback to presenters, brainstorming with large groups and anonymous polls for sensitive topics.

Poll Everywhere, just one of the polling tools on the market, is free for audiences of 40 people or less and has paid plans for larger audiences. For example, its Presenter plan for audiences of 250 starts at $65 per month.

Use Analogies to Lift Presentations to Another Level

During this past holiday season, my 8-year-old son, Jake, asked me why the story of Hanukkah was so important. I told him that Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that happened long ago in an ancient Temple. In the Temple they needed to keep the candles lit, but there was only enough oil to keep the lamps burning for one day. Yet, the oil lasted — not one or two, but eight days! It was a great miracle, which is celebrated every year.

Jake was unimpressed and returned to his cartoon. How could I possibly make this relevant and relatable to a modern day 8- year-old in terms he could understand?

I asked him to imagine that we were taking an eight-day trip. He’d brought along his iPod, but had forgotten the charger, and his battery had enough power for just one day. Surprisingly, the battery never died, and he had power for the entire trip to play games and listen to music.

In an instant, he got it. He said, “That would be a miracle!”

Power of Analogy

This is a perfect example of how analogies can transform a message, concept, or technical topic into terms someone else can understand. Analogies are powerful, because they allow us to convey complex or technical information and ideas to an unfamiliar audience.

Here are five benefits of using analogies. They:

1.     Make the complex simple

2.     Identify similarities and differences

3.     Bridge new ideas to familiar ideas

4.     Add believability

5.     Connect topics to the audience members’ lives

In her new and much buzzed-about book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg likens the careers of men and women to something we can all relate:  “Imagine that a career is like a marathon … a marathon where both men and women arrive at the starting line equally fit and trained. The gun goes off. The men and women run side-by-side. The male marathoners are routinely cheered on: ‘Looking strong! On your way!’ For women, however, the shouts are: ‘You know you don’t have to do this!'”

This vivid analogy creates a powerful mental picture that helps make her message stick.

Why does this matter?

Every day we need to inform and influence audiences through writing and speaking. In your career, the extent to which you are effective at doing both will be a major factor in your success.

Analogies are one of the more powerful devices in your arsenal of effective communications tools. By using them, you help make your message clear, simple, believable, relevant and memorable.

Your analogies will be most effective if they are:

•Visual – paint a picture the audience can connect with.
•Relevant to all audience members and diverse – use diverse analogies instead of just one type (like sports) to ensure that you connect with them universally.
•Memorable and repeatable – the more witty and provocative the better.

Consider the analogy used by economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight, when interviewed on NPR on March 8:

“The sequester is an unnecessary dose of cold water when the economy would otherwise be gathering steam.” He created a terrific mental picture to which everyone can relate.

Another example of a great analogy was used by Ellen Ernst Kossek, co-author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age.

Commenting on the decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to abolish telecommuting, Kossek said, “Abolishing telework is like canceling the prom because some immature people spiked the punch bowl.”

Wow! This analogy is impactful because it’s visual, relevant and memorable! It’s something that sticks in the mind, and is likely to be repeated.

About the Author:

Amy Glass is Director of Training and a Senior Facilitator at BRODY Professional Development, for 30 years providing professionals with a competitive advantage in the areas of presentation power, facilitation & meeting effectiveness, writing for impact and relationship management. For more information on BRODY’s programs and services, or to subscribe to monthly newsletters or receive a  free eBook, go to BrodyPro.com or call 215-886-1688. ©2013 Reprinted with permission

 

How to Thrive in a Challenging Speaking Situation

Not long ago I had the pleasure of working with Carolyne Stayton, the Executive Director of Transition US. Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate, or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process.

Carolyne was scheduled to give a speech at the Bioneers conference in Marin County, CA, and she needed help with her preparation. Bioneers is a non-profit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with nature-inspired approaches for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.

Carolyn’s topic was “Resilient Communities: Mobilizing and Equipping Local Citizen Action.” Here’s how she began her speech:

I’d like to begin by using the analogy of  “the story.”  In our climate story, we are entering the chapter where the dragon has arrived. He’s breathing fire and scorching our crops. He’s melting the ice and causing tornadoes where they’ve never been seen before. He’s flooding our rivers, our cities, and our towns. And he’s madly extracting oil from our fragile landscapes.

So where did this dragon come from?  He came from our decades of wonton consumerism. He came from our explosive carbon lifestyle. And he came from our blatant disregard for the laws of nature. This sounds like a pretty bleak chapter in the story, doesn’t it? It sounds like a story you want to put down and not finish.

But I’ve got good news for you. We are also at the point in the story where the hero arrives to save the day. And the best news of all is this: the hero is YOU!  My purpose here today is to give you the information, tools, and resources you need to confront the dragon head on, to slay him. To sauté him.  And to serve him up at a pot luck supper!”

The night before Carolyn was scheduled to give her speech, she sent me an email. She said she had the jitters and needed a last minute pep talk. I sent her a list of some things to do to further prepare her body and mind. Among them was to limit caffeine, drink plenty of water, sit quietly and breathe deeply, and visualize success before her talk.

Two days later I received another email from Carolyn. Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you so much for the last minute tips and for all of the wisdom you imparted. They really helped me.  Among other things, I was very conscious of my breath all through Saturday. I stayed away from caffeine and I did drink lots of water. But I do have a story for you.

Fifteen minutes before my presentation, I was sitting on a bench in the sun, feeling my heart and connecting right through my legs and feet to the earth. Unbeknownst to me, my water bottle had tipped and had poured all over my notes AND the back of my skirt. Basically I was sitting in a puddle!

I had to wring my skirt out, walk onto the stage, and stand before the audience with a skirt clinging to the back of my legs and wet underwear! My practice and work on the presentation saved me. But instead of being nicely grounded in my heart, I was definitely more in my head.  Apparently no one else noticed!  So to add to your book of what not to do (fig leaf, etc.) feel free to add “don’t pour water on your butt”! Geez. Without your help, having the water incident happen would have absolutely immobilized me. Fortunately, I delivered adequately and from some comments, very well.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

There is a lesson here. Even when you are prepared, confident, centered, and in control, things happen out of the blue. Good speakers take these unwelcome incidents in stride and roll with them, keeping perspective, going back to the long hours of preparation and planning, and moving on as if nothing had happened.

So the next time you’re ready to present and suddenly realize that you’ve just sat in a puddle of water, or that you forgot your slides at your office across town, or that your room set up is not what you expected, or anything else that could possibly happen, relax and rely on your practice, wisdom, and expertise to pull you through.

When you’re prepared and confident, you can thrive in even the most challenging speaking situations.

About the Author:

Angela DeFinis is the founder and president of DeFinis Communications, a presentation skills training company that offers a curriculum of professional public speaking programs and services for Fortune 1,000 companies in all industries. Specializing in Executive Speech Coaching, DeFinis Communications helps business leaders find solutions to their presentation challenges so they can successfully compete in a demanding marketplace. Visit her web site at www.definiscommunications.com

 

 

 

Visual Storytelling Goes Viral

While sifting through my Twitter feed I recently came upon a video about the distribution of wealth in the United States. I read and research various topics every day, but I have to admit, I’m more often reading about social media, advertising, design, storytelling and less often about finance and the economy (to my detriment—I only have so many hours in the day).

I didn’t know what to expect. The video was embedded on a site so I couldn’t see how popular it has truly become (over 4 million views). Within the first few seconds, I was hooked. The narrator tells a great story, and as a tax-paying citizen of the U.S., I was interested because I saw myself in the story.

Combine the story with beautiful and effective imagery (with little text), and it was a prime example of the power of effective visual storytelling.

Check out the video and I’ll discuss more following your viewing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oOwjN9qV2ls

Displaying Data Without The Dull

Every so often I receive emails that all ask a similar question: “I love the way you design PowerPoint presentations, but my presentations have a lot of data and don’t lend themselves well to full-bleed images. How can I effectively design my presentation without filling the screen with data?”

Effective PowerPoint presentation design isn’t just about slapping a full-bleed image on every slide. At its core, effective presentation design is about revealing the truth. It’s about utilizing visuals as a backdrop to your story in order to further engage the senses, turning your presentation into an experience.

Even if your presentation has loads of data that no photography could express, that doesn’t mean your presentation has to be boring. It just means you’ll have to commit to effective design and to think about your data not just as words and numbers, but as visual scenes.

The video in this story went viral, and for good reason. It proves that data CAN indeed be presented beautifully and effectively when told as a story and professionally designed with the audience in mind.

About the Author:

Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on the company’s services, visit http://www.presentationadvisors.com/

Improve Your Presentations, Two Slides at a Time

At the end of my workshops I ask participants if they have practical ideas that they can implement immediately to improve the effectiveness of their slides. Without exception, they all say that they have plenty of ideas they can use. In fact, the challenge is that they feel overwhelmed with everything they want to start doing to their presentations.

If they tried to apply all the learning to all the slides in their typical presentations, it wouldn’t work. They would end up spending too much time and give up with few, if any, changes being made. I want the participants in my workshops to apply what they have learned, so I share with them an approach that helps manage the work of improving presentations.

I call it the “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy. Here’s how it works. If you look at the average quality of all the slides in your normal presentation, it will be at a level that you know could be better. Some slides are good, some are average, and some are below average.

Chances are that there are a few slides, I use two as a typical number, that are the worst slides in your presentation. You don’t really like them, they are hard to present, and the audience doesn’t connect with them. What I suggest is that you work on just those two worst slides and improve them for your next presentation. Working on only two slides is a manageable amount and almost everyone says they can certainly redo two slides.

By improving the bottom two slides in your presentation, you raise the average quality of the entire presentation. Next time, work on the next bottom two slides. Every time you present, work on the worst two slides in the deck. After five or ten presentations, you will have addressed almost all the slides that need improving and your presentation will be much better than when you started.

It may have taken some time, but the results are worth it. By tackling the presentation two slides at a time, you break the work up into manageable chunks that anyone can handle.

This  “raise the average quality by working on the bottom two” strategy allows people to see a path for applying what they have learned. Start today by looking at the two worst slides in your presentation and improve them. If you are looking for other ways to improve your slides, check out the articles I have available on my site. They are organized by category so you can quickly find what you are looking for,

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs Think Outside the Slide web site, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and is a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

The Power of ‘You’ and ‘Yours’

It pays to remember that two of the most pleasing words in the English language are “you” and “yours.” Research shows that use of these two words during presentations will perk the audience’s ears and make them feel like recipients of personal appeals.

The words tend to be missing during sales demonstrations, since many presenters  try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible by using impersonal, cookie-cutter language. But when the speaker or facilitator says you, yours or even the customer’s name, they involve the audience as if its participating in the demo.

Instead of saying, “here are the benefits of the product,” try, “here is how you benefit.” Rather than saying, “here’s how it can boost a bottom line,” get in the habit of using, “here’s how it will boost your company’s bottom line.

It’s a subtle but important change that can have a significant cumulative effect.

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