Archives for June 2013

The Principle of Inoculation

Psychologists call it the principle of inoculation. When there is some pre-existing issue that’s known to your audience that threatens to undermine your presentation message, address it early to defuse its impact.

Here’s one example: “Last quarter we missed an important product introduction deadline. But because we delayed introduction, we were able to create a higher-quality product that has several important features our customers desperately wanted…”

If you don’t deal with the issue directly and take a more evasive approach, you can bet someone will ask an embarrassing question during Q&A that may be your audience’s last impression. After all the hard work and preparation you put into your presentation, that’s a risk you can’t afford to take.

Presenters, Be Prepared: VGA is Going Away

For many years presenters have walked into a room and connected their laptop to the projector using a VGA cable. All that will change in the next two years. The VGA port is being phased out by computer manufacturers. Here’s what you can do now to prepare for this change.

Why are computer manufacturers making the change? It was announced in December 2010, so it is not breaking news. VGA is an analog technology which was good in its time, but better technology is now available. Digital technology provides a better quality image and supports higher resolutions. If you have a flat screen TV, you are likely using an HDMI cable to attach your devices. HDMI is a digital format and it is the primary way that video is transferred between devices and TVs today.

I started to notice the changes that presenters need to be aware of more in the last six months. One of my clients in the media business only has flat screen TVs in its meeting rooms. There are no projectors around. The TVs have HDMI inputs as well as VGA. When I used the VGA connection in one room in San Francisco, it reset the input every two minutes, causing a momentary blackout of the screen. This was very annoying to the audience.

When I switched to the HDMI input (my computer has both), the image was higher resolution and rock solid. The first lesson for presenters is that the native digital connection for flat screen TVs will usually work better than the VGA connection, which has to be converted by the TV. With more and more organizations moving away from projectors to TVs in meeting rooms, presenters will want to make sure they can connect using digital connections.

When organizations still use projectors, the new ones they are installing are set up to use HDMI connections. I have had this happen twice in the last six months. One client installed a new boardroom projector, and the primary connection is HDMI. Another client has a portable projector that gives a higher resolution image when connected via HDMI.

So even if your room has a projector, chances are that when the old one is replaced, the new one will expect digital connections to give the best image and performance.

Steps to Take

So what do presenters need to do? Be prepared to move from a VGA connection to a digital connection. Look at your laptop. Does it have an HDMI or Mini DisplayPort connection? If so, you can output a digital signal that connects to the HDMI input on a TV or projector.

If you don’t have a full sized HDMI port, you will likely need an adapter to convert from a mini or micro HDMI to full sized HDMI or an adapter that converts from Mini DisplayPort to HDMI. I have found reliable adapters for a good price at The Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter that I bought works very well.

Get the correct adapters now and make room in your laptop bag to carry them so you have them when needed. For those using Mac laptops who have been using the Mini DisplayPort adapter to connect to VGA cables, it is time to get the adapter to connect to HDMI cables. The Monoprice adapter I got for my MacBook Air works perfectly and it cost one-third of the price of the adapter Apple sells.

If you don’t have one of these digital ports on your laptop, you will want to start looking at a future laptop that does. While there are USB to HDMI adapters, the USB speed will likely make any videos in your presentation not run smoothly. Any time you convert from analog to digital or digital to analog you will reduce the quality of the signal due to the processing that must be done on the fly. A much better solution is to plan now for a laptop that has a digital connection built in.

Once you do have a newer laptop, how can you connect to an older projector if the laptop no longer has a VGA port? You will need an adapter to convert from Mini DisplayPort to VGA to bridge the years that projectors will still be using VGA connections.

The transition from VGA to HDMI connections will take place over the next few years. Presenters need to start preparing now to be able to connect to both during the transition. Get your adapters or cables now so you don’t run into any connection problems in your next presentation.

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).

Practice Makes Perfect…or Does It?

A lot of people will tell you to “practice, practice, practice” because “practice makes perfect.” When it comes to presenting, this is some of the worst advice you can get or give.

Practicing a presentation cannot possibly lead to perfection. Here’s why.

Effective presentations are not speeches (which I suppose could be perfected). They are conversations. Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. They involve other people and are therefore unpredictable. They twist and turn. They stop and start. They go back on themselves. They jump forward.

You can’t predict any of that. Therefore, practicing a presentation until it is perfected is a foolish exercise.

The desire to be perfect and the pressure of other people telling you that you can be (should be) perfect puts the bar too high. And here’s what happens. You put too much energy into reaching the bar, which:

• leads to nervousness
• disengages you
• puts you in your head trying to recreate the script you etched into your brain during practice
• leads to a dull, lifeless, uninspiring presentation or meeting.

Hardly perfect.

It’s more than bad advice, though, it causes damage. Strong words, I know. But I’ve worked with enough presenters to know that they drag around a lot of baggage from the bad advice and training they’ve received over the years. A lot of my job when coaching them is to undo the damage. I help people see things in a new way and I give them a new set of skills and techniques that will work uniquely for them.

If I were your coach,  I’d start by asking you to redefine your next presentation as an Orderly Conversation. An Orderly Conversation is one that is carefully organized and flexibly executed.

When you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, it changes how you think of (and use) your slides. They become thought starters that will trigger dialogue. They become support for the conversation rather than being the presentation. This new thinking will change the information you put on your slides and how you arrange it.

Let’s assume that your slides are complete and you feel that they will support the conversation you want to have. Now it’s time to review. Notice I said “review,” not practice. As you review your slides, look at each and grab a thought. That thought should launch the conversation you intended. If not, change it until it does.

As you think through each slide, avoid scripting yourself. Think of different ways of explaining each slide. Remember you’re not striving for perfection. You’re working toward flexibility.

Once the conversation begins, let loose and enjoy it. Trust that your slides will be there to support the conversation. Let it get a little messy, follow your listeners’ lead for a bit, bring it back around. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun presenting can be.

About the Author:

Greg-Owen Boger is a vice president with Turpin Communication, a leading presentation and facilitation skills consulting company in Chicago. For more information, visit

4 Traits that Distinguish Confident Speakers from Nervous Nellies

Back in 1990, Ron Hoff wrote a popular book about public speaking entitled I Can See You Naked.  The idea was that if a speaker looked out at the audience and imagined everyone sitting in their birthday suits, he would take a scary crowd and turn it into a docile nudist colony, thus defusing their power to intimidate.

For many people, that kind of visualization worked wonders in building confidence. But for the Nervous Nellies among us, it actually backfired. For them, the image is reversed. Instead of the speaker looking out at a group of meek naked people, they imagine an entire audience who can (gasp!) see the speaker naked!

That’s what can happen when you let your nerves get the best of you and put your anxiety on parade.

When you act like a Nervous Nellie, your audience really can see you naked. But when you act like a confident speaker and do the things they do (even though you may still be nervous), the audience feels more comfortable and responds accordingly.

Here are 4 traits that distinguish confident speakers from Nervous Nellies:

1. Confident speakers are proud.

They stand erect, hold in their stomachs, pull back their shoulders and lift their torso. They stand tall and strong, showing the audience by their posture that they are poised and credible. The confident speaker is aware of the positive impact of strong posture on others and expresses their personal pride through posture.

2. Confident speakers are compassionate.

They pay attention to the audience as a person, not a crowd. They don’t categorize or stereotype. They care about others. This means the speaker looks at people’s faces, uses penetrating eye contact, shows a blend of serious and lighthearted facial expressions, and tries to connect at every level—verbal and non-verbal.

3. Confident speakers are spontaneous.

They plan and prepare their presentation and put in many hours of rehearsal, but they also know that is just the beginning. Once on-stage they follow their intuition, understanding the importance of “reading and relating” to the audience in the moment.

They comfortably adjust the planned speech whenever necessary to make it more relevant and meaningful.

4. Confident speakers are generous.

There really is something to the phrase “giving a speech.” The world has been turned in a more positive direction because of brave people who spoke out—think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Meade, Eleanor Roosevelt, just to name a few.

But it has also been turned by the everyday speaker who decides to be more persuasive and passionate.

All of us have a point of view and set of beliefs that can also change the world. So the next time you give a presentation, if picturing the audience naked helps, by all means do it. But if you’re a true Nervous Nellie, keep your audience fully clothed and make a commitment to use the traits and strategies that confident speakers employ.

Be proud, compassionate, spontaneous, and generous, and then dare any audience to see you naked. That’s the surest way to conquer your fears in the midst of any crowd.

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 helps business leaders find solutions to their presentation challenges so they can successfully compete in a demanding marketplace. For more information, visit

Avoid These Don’ts During Presentation Q&A Sessions

Recently I covered how to handle a Question and Answer session with grace, and highlighted exactly what to do to keep yourself out of hot water and get through the Q&A session intact. In this article I address the Don’ts of Q&A:

1. Don’t say, “Good question.”

Tons of people do this, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Saying “good question” isn’t a good idea for several reasons:

a) It’s a big, fat, umm. It’s used to give the speaker a couple of seconds to think of an answer. Instead, simply pause and answer.

b) Not all questions are good! You’re putting yourself in a position of judging questions, and audience members do pay attention to whether it’s said or not. Avoid a sticky situation by simply pausing before answering.

c) If it’s such a good question, why wasn’t this point covered in the presentation? Enough said.

2. Don’t unnecessarily repeat the question.

Repeating the question is usually another big, fat, umm to give the speaker time to think. Again, pause and then answer.

There are two main situations when repeating the question is appropriate: a) You’re speaking in an enormous room and you’re repeating the question so the entire audience knows what you’re answering. b) You have a questioner who’s going on and on, complicating the question. Politely interrupt them and repeat your interpretation of the question to be able to move on and answer.

3. Don’t argue.

Seems obvious, but if you have a hostile questioner, it can be tempting to try to appease or get that person to see your viewpoint during Q&A. You may find yourself arguing your point before you know it, but in most situations, you’re not going to pacify a hostile questioner in the short course of Q&A.

Save yourself from letting that person commandeer your session by saying something like, “Sounds like we have a difference of perspective. Let’s discuss afterward.”

4. Don’t change from your original presentation style.

You’ve had engaging, energetic behaviors for the whole presentation, and then Q&A comes along, and you’re sitting on the edge of a table, casual, with a piece of straw in your teeth. Don’t let there be a change between your presenting self and your Q&A self!

Q&A is still part of the experience you’re creating for your audience. It’s still part of building your credibility. So maintain your effective behaviors and content through to the end.

About the Author:

Ben Decker is president and CEO of Decker Communications, a firm that consults and trains businesses in communications – both in what they say and how they say it. Decker programs create focus and confidence, helping leaders close the deal, launch an initiative or motivate action. For more information, visit

Huggable Online Presentations: How to Make A Personal Impact Even When You’re Not There in Person

We hear the rule of thumb all the time: PowerPoint slides should support your face-to-face presentations, from the background. Fair  enough. But what about the exploding number of livdog_huge and on-demand presentations viewed online? How do you best engage your audience when you’re not there in person, and when they receive your message over their laptop, tablet or smartphone?

In this high-energy webinar, Matt Gambino, author of “50 Minutes to Better Software Demos”, shows you surprisingly easy ways to make your online presentations so caffeinated and actionable, that your audience will want to reach out and hug you.






MMatt_Gambino- 99 x 100att Gambino helps sales and marketing people deliver compelling, jargon-free presentations and product demonstrations. In the course of his work for Thomson Learning, one of the world’s largest educational publishing organizations, Matt helped grow a small portfolio of digital learning products into a ten million dollar business through key roles in sales, marketing and product management.

Throughout his career, Matt has provided thousands of presentations and software demos to buyers, clients, colleagues, and vendors. Today, he actively keynotes and trains worldwide. Matt’s clients include Pearson Education, Vista Higher Learning, John Wiley & Sons Publishing, Cengage Learning, Jones & Bartlett Learning and many others.

Besides presenting to educators, Matt has also been one himself. As an adjunct computer instructor for Bunker Hill Community College, Matt has taught with and about the newest technology-based tools and resources.

Matt is also Vice President of Marketing and Inside Sales at Catapult Learning, a leading provider of instructional services to elementary and middle schools.



Art of Motion: PowerPoint Animation without Embarrassment !

Take your pick, PowerPoint’s animation engine can be seen as one of the finest works of digital engineering ever…or as one of the most loathsome creations in history. Or both. That’s a pretty powerful software application that can evoke such a wide range of responses. As always, the real control is in the hands of the violinist, not the violin, and the type of concerto that you choose to compose has everything to do with your ability to recognize the true purpose of animated objects in your presentation. This session will help you appreciate properly-conceived animation.

Topics will include:
• The power of movement, for better or for worse
• When in doubt, use wipe and fade
• Sequencing data chunks for better understanding
• Creating trust with your audience

About Rick Altman: 
Rick Altman

Rick Altman is one of the most prominent commentators in the presentation community today. He is the author of 15 books. He is the host of the Presentation Summit, the internationally-acclaimed learning event for presentation professionals (  An avid sportsman, he was not a good enough tennis player to make it onto the professional tour. All the rest of this has been his Plan B,




Creating a Lasting Impression

“People will not usually remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

That maxim holds as true for presentations as it does for other interactions in our work or personal lives. Presentations created to have more than short-term impact are usually about changing or moving an audience’s belief system. Beliefs about your ability to meet a goal, create change, solve a vexing business problem or sustain excellence.

Before you get too far into planning your presentation or creating slides, write down your thoughts about what you want your audience members to think or believe differently when they leave your presentation. Then craft a plan to create the feeling you hope to leave them with as you go your separate ways.

Use Simple Images In Powerpoint Presentations

Use images that support your talking points. A picture tells 1000 words. People are much more likely to remember your talk if you use interesting images instead of bullet points.

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