Archives for August 2013

Where Do You Rate On 5 Presenter Success Factors?

It’s usual in the world of psychology to refer to five personality traits as determining most of the differences among our fellow human beings: Openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism

If you imagine each of these as a continuum and place yourself on it, you’ll quickly get an idea of how you shape up as a human – and as a speaker too. The list is useful for the insights it gives us into what makes for a successful public speaker.

1.  A speaker should be highly open to experience.  If you’re open to experience, you’re flexible in the face of change, and ready to cope with people and circumstances you weren’t expecting. That happens at least once a speech.  I showed up to a speech once expecting 100 people; there were 600 hundred in the room, and another 200 very cranky individuals in the overflow room where I was on speakerphone.

It was a test of my openness to experience, and I admit to being rattled. I got through it, but not gloriously.

2.  A speaker should be highly conscientious.  Back in the 90s, I gave my first overseas speech.  This was the era of VHS tape, and I had video clips all cued up and ready to go.  Imagine my surprise when I found that my VHS tapes didn’t play outside of North America!  No videos.  I had to give the speech cold and without the examples and comic relief I had prepared.

And the audience, a roomful of engineers, had a hard time believing that I didn’t know the difference between PAL and NTSC.  I learned from that to focus relentlessly on the details in speaking.

3.  A speaker should be highly extroverted.  Of course introverts can be great speakers, and many are.  But it costs them much more than an extrovert, because they are depleted by human interaction instead of energized.  If you only give the occasional speech, you’ll do fine.  But if you’re a professional speaking once a week or more, you’re going to be very, very tired if you’re introverted.

At the close of a speech, an introvert only wants to get to the hotel room – or the bar – and relax.  An extrovert can handle – even enjoy – the stream of people that come up to the speaker and want to relate their impressions, ideas, pet concerns, and peeves.  It’s often extremely valuable information.  So you should still be on your best game while it’s happening.

4.  A speaker should be highly agreeable.  Too many successful speakers become prima donnas requiring certain kinds – and temperatures – of bottled water, hotel suites of a certain size, and other amenities. Otherwise, they’ll throw a hissy fit and make everyone miserable – and greatly reduce the chance that they’ll be rehired. Dick Cheney purportedly had to have a minimum of three TVs, all tuned to Fox News, the room set a certain (chilly) temperature, and Cold War bottled water. I’m making the last one up.

I once worked with a well-known speaker whose expertise was in interpersonal dynamics.  Yet he left a trail of angry support staff in his wake wherever he went.  The hypocrisy was not lost on anyone, and his bookings suffered accordingly.

5.  A speaker should be minimally neurotic. Speakers need to be resilient and thick-skinned. They need to be able to take criticism easily and hear it dispassionately. They need to be clear about their own faults and tolerant of others’.  They need to be patient and quick to forgive.  And they need to be highly resistant to road rage, air rage, and TSA rage – indeed, of rage of any kind.

That’s what it takes.  Where do you rate yourself?

About the Author:

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and presentation skill 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.  For more information on his company, visit

Aspect Ratios: Should You Switch to 16:9 Slides?

One of the big changes in the latest version of PowerPoint is that the default aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) for slides is 16:9. In all previous versions, the default aspect ratio was 4:3. Why the change? Because widescreen formats are becoming more popular for projectors and TVs used in presentations.

So should you change your slides to this new format? Here are some tips for knowing when to make the change.

This topic was prompted by a question from a fellow professional speaker and marketing expert Steve Slaunwhite. He was preparing for a set of upcoming presentations and asked me what aspect ratio he should use for his slides. His question made me think about what the best approach would be. After some thought, here’s what I suggested to him.

First, ask the organizer of the event or the venue you will be speaking in what aspect ratio the projector or screen will be using. At the upcoming Presentation Summit conference, the organizer, Rick Altman, has already let us know that all the screens will be using the 16:9 aspect ratio. In those cases, the decision is easy: Use the aspect ratio that matches the projector or screen.

What if the organizer doesn’t know or you don’t know what projector the room will have? This happens quite often if you are doing presentations at client sites or even in different rooms/buildings in your own organization. As many facilities switch over to the newer 16:9 standard, we’re in a period where we will have both ratios in use in many facilities.

I have run into this at client sites where one projector is in 4:3 ratio and another is a 16:9 projector and it depends on which one the facilities team puts in your room that day. What do I suggest in that case?

My suggestion is to stick with the 4:3 ratio until you have over 50% of your presentations being done on 16:9 projectors or screens. Why do I say this? Because it will be easier for the audience. Let me explain.

When a 4:3 ratio slide is shown on a 16:9 projector, there are black bars on each side of the slide because the slide does not fill the entire width of the screen. While this is not ideal, the slide is still full height and the text on it is the tallest it can be. When a 16:9 ratio slide is shown on a 4:3 projector, there are black bars on the top and bottom of the slide because the slide does not fill the entire height of the screen. This makes the text on the slide smaller than planned.

I think that having a more readable slide is better, so my suggestion is to use a 4:3 ratio slide so that, even if the slide is shown on a 16:9 projector, the text on the slide is as readable as it can be and the graphics are as large as they can be (for a research based approach to determining how big a font you should use on your slides, use these tables).

When the majority of your presentation rooms and equipment are in the 16:9 format, make the switch in your slides. By the way, when you do make the switch between ratios of your slides, use the latest version of PowerPoint to do so. The previous versions horribly distort the graphics and text, leaving you with hours of re-formatting.

What am I using? I still use 4:3 ratio slides for the reason I stated above. It is still quite rare, outside of conferences, for me to run into a 16:9 projector in a presentation, especially in corporate meeting rooms. As older equipment gets replaced, this will change, but for now, I am sticking with the 4:3 ratio.

About the Author:

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

What to Do if Your Presentation Bombs

Let’s face it – you can’t hit every presentation out of the ballpark. What do you do if your presentation bombed? I don’t mean in your mind it bombed. I mean it unquestionably, without-a-doubt bombed, and you’ve got the feedback forms to prove it.

How do you recover from a bad presentation?

Stop beating yourself up. A bad presentation traumatizes. My clients tell me stories of bad speaking experiences that happened one year, five years or even 10 years ago. From that time, they started avoiding presentations like Adam Sandler movies (which historically traumatize movie goers everywhere).

That’s far too long to be hanging on to a bad experience. Speaking is like falling off a bicycle – you’ve got to get right back on. When you’ve screwed up a presentation, it does no good to ruminate about how much you suck.

Get back on that bike and start figuring out how you can rock it out next time. When you are asked to speak, say a resounding, “YES!” instead of slinking off resolved never to speak again. If Adam Sandler can keep making craptastic movies, surely you can give another speech.

Presentation autopsy. Grim, dark — and time for a bit of brutal honesty. The upside of giving a presentation that sucked is it’s a great learning opportunity.

Now ask yourself, “Did I do everything in my power to prepare for this presentation”? Did the words, “I can totally wing this,” ever fall from your lips? Here are several digging-in-the-dirt questions to ask yourself:

1) Did I really understand my audience? Did I know what they believed about my topic? Did I meet their expectations? Did I answer these three questions about the audience?

2) Was I clear on the goal of my presentation? Did I have a BIG IDEA statement? Did I begin the presentation with the end in mind?

3) Did I know my stuff?

4) Did I practice my presentation? If you need help with practicing techniques, download my guide to practicing your presentation, located in the right column of my home page

5) Did you know how you were going to close the presentation?

6) Was I prepared for the audience’s questions?

7) How was my delivery? Polished or rough or somewhere in between?

Be honest. Giving yourself feedback will help improve your next presentation and increase the odds of success.

Bad Presentations Happen To Good People. Realize that bad presentations do happen to good speakers and amazing people. Sometimes you can do all of your homework, be clear on your big idea statement, practice, know your material backwards and forwards and still the presentation misses the  mark.

Once I was invited to give a presentation on cultural trends. I worked closely with the meeting planner. In fact, she approved every slide I was going to present. This was an executive-level audience and she wanted the content to be perfect. I researched, I prepped, I practiced, I had great examples.

Five minutes into my presentation, one executive raised his hand and asked “Are these trends based on quantitative research?” My reply was, “No, they are qualitative cultural trends.” He and half the room tuned out. The presentation flopped. My mistake was basing my whole speech on information from one person. That question killed me and there was no way to save the presentation in the moment.

Looking back, I see that I could have reached out to some of the executives as part of my preparation instead of leaning on the meeting planner. Great lesson. Now it’s time to move on.

I recovered. You can too when your presentation sucks. The most important point is: Keep speaking. Learn from your mistakes and don’t let them hold you back.

About the Author:

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a speech coach and presentation skills trainer who guides driven-to-succeed business professionals and independent business owners to ignite the smoldering fire within to speak up, speak out and make their impact – one compelling presentation at a time. For more information, visit

No One Loses When Presentations Finish Early

Next time you’re planning a presentation consider finishing at least five minutes early. Most presenters shoehorn 60 minutes of content into a 60-minute time block and it rarely fits. The audience’s lasting impression of you becomes that of a presenter clicking feverishly through slides, speaking at a break-neck pace and being obsessed with your watch.

A better approach is to take the pressure off and plan to finish five minutes early. That gives you two appealing options. First, you can simply give that time back to your audience, and they’ll remember you favorably as the only presenter in recent memory who let them out early. Second, you can provide additional time for always-valuable Q&A or a relaxed summarization and close.

Either way you’ll set yourself apart from the mass of presenters who race against time or exceed scheduled speaking slots, leaving audiences feeling they’re unprepared or simply unprofessional.

14 Ideas for Better Sales Presentations

Sales presentations are important, but thousands of people each day deliver material that is tired, ugly, and ineffective. These 14  ideas will help you easily improve your sales presentations, stand out from competitors, engage your audience and sell more.

Prioritize Your Messages

If you have a long list of reasons prospects should choose you, chances are that your prospects will get lost and forget half of what you tell them. Worse still, you won’t know which half of your sales messaging will be forgotten – and buying committees will have divergent views about the value that you bring.

See if you can focus your sales message on three key reasons to buy, and place everything else into one of those main categories. It will make your sales presentation far more persuasive.

Be a Challenger

Since Dixon and Adamson found that sales reps who challenge and teach things to their prospects sell more, everyone wants to be a “challenger.” What’s one of the best ways to challenge your prospects? Start your presentation by looking at why what everyone has always done doesn’t work and won’t work, and what that costs.

As an example, our own pitch explains why arguing over slide copy is pointless because text-heavy slides all suck.

Cut Half Your Material

It’s very rare indeed that prospects complain that a sales presentation got to the point too quickly, or didn’t go on for long enough. So why is cutting material from your sales presentation such a hard idea to implement?

Most sales presentations cover ground that’s unnecessary, list too many features, and confuse ‘why change?’ with ‘why us?’ Edit your presentations aggressively – try cutting half the material, tell your story pithily, and make certain to address the decision your prospects are making at the right stage in the sales cycle.

Lose the Text

No, don’t shorten your bullet points. Don’t even limit yourself to one line of text per slide on a beautiful photo background (even if you have seen this idea used at conference presentations). Don’t use text to communicate at all. Just use photos you took or that are really relevant, graphs, charts, and other visualisations.

People can’t read and listen at the same time – so stop undermining your sales presentation with lousy text-heavy slides.

Use a Physical Prop

Find a prop, pass it around, talk about it, show it, let your audience hold it. The prop can be your product, or an object that helps explain what’s different or important – a kitchen funnel if you are talking about your impact on the sales funnel, a broken part if you are going to emphasize what’s wrong with competing approaches. 3D props help to make presentations compelling.

(For a famous example, check out Richard Feynman explaining why the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded at 2 minutes into this video.)

Mix Your Media

Don’t just use slides, or a whiteboard, or video, or pitchbooks. Mix it up. Use a variety of media, as appropriate, as part of your sales presentation. Each time you change the media you are using attention levels rise. So, mix things up to help make your presentation more compelling.

Create a Hyperlinked Interactive Menu

Plan out the sections in your presentation, and then create a small navigation bar at the bottom of each slide. Hyperlink parts of the relevant slides, and click on the menu when presenting to skip to that section. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Record an On-Demand Version, and Track It

Forget providing a printout of your slides – it won’t help you to sell. It just gives an excuse for a gatekeeper to stop you coming back to pitch to the real decision maker, and it’s as-likely-as-not going to get copied to your competitor.

Instead, use a tool like Brainshark to record a narrated version of your sales presentation, and then track exactly who watches. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your sales presentation go viral through an organisation, selling for you while you sleep. Now there’s an idea…

Video Yourself Delivering Your Sales Presentation

Your slides aren’t your sales presentation. A presentation needs a presenter too, and presenting confidently and clearly can make all the difference. Video yourself presenting and try to (1) say “you” not “we” (2) explain clearly what the benefits for prospects are by using phrases like “which means you get…” (3) eliminate your verbal ticks and (4) interact confidently with your visuals.

Stop Half-Way

This next sales presentation idea is based on the insight that your sales presentation doesn’t need to be a monologue. Having a discussion can really help. Try presenting only your introduction – describing the problem and the cost of not solving it – and then stop presenting and start questioning. Then, once you reach a natural pause, present your solution.

Have a Conversation

One-way sales presentations make sense in a formal pitch situation where the prospect doesn’t want to talk, and is insistent every presenter follows a clear formula. Otherwise… What sales person doesn’t want to listen and adapt to what a prospect is saying? Why plan out  a 20-minute monologue when you can present a few slides, talk, then follow-up with whatever’s relevant? A true visual conversation.

Have a clear message you want to get across by all means, but be flexible about when you say what.

Annotate Your Slides

A lot of people don’t know about PowerPoint’s annotation tools. In show mode, hover your cursor over the near-transparent pen at the bottom left of the screen. Then just write on top of your slides using the mouse. Annotate photos, populate charts, or even ask your prospect to take control and sketch out their own situation.

Hand Over Your iPad

There’s been a lot of hype about iPads in sales, but more Angry Birds and email than sales conversations and enablement. But the iPad can work excellently for sales conversations. Divide your sales presentation into short sequences, and present with SlideShark. Use a sketching app such as Bamboo to share ideas.

Sit on the same side of the desk. Hand the iPad over to your prospect. Be conversational and interactive.

Get Help From a Professional

If you really want to get your sales presentations right, consider bringing in a professional presentation agency to help you. An outside view can help bring consensus about what’s important. Presentation design expertise can protect your brand and deliver compelling visuals. A persuasive sales presentation pitched frequently can bring a rapid ROI.

About the Author:

Joby Blume is a managing consultant with BrightCarbon, a company that helps sales and marketing teams create effective sales tools. That primarily means presentations, but it can also mean dynamic animations or visual conversations – anything that uses BrightCarbon’s visual storytelling abilities. For more information, visit


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