Archives for December 2013

Do You Really Need to Give A Presentation?

I have quite a few clients who come to me with presentations that are completely encased in PowerPoint. That is, everything that needs to be said is delineated on the slides, either in bullets, graphs or actual word-for-word paragraphs.

Frequently, these clients are themselves perplexed about why a meeting or presentation is necessary, when all they’re doing is reporting numbers or giving updates that could easily be e-mailed in a brief report. Especially when a presentation is delivered by webinar to people spread around in distant offices and there’s no live gathering of people in the same room: Could the same goals be achieved by delivering material another way?

Maybe they don’t have a choice, but do you?

Are you the one calling an information-transfer meeting concerning data that could easily be e-mailed to others in a document?

Here are some questions to ask when you’re considering scheduling a live presentation:

1. Is there a human element necessary to give context to the numbers on the slides? Are there stories or analysis behind the data that a person needs to speak about that can’t be otherwise written in a report?

2. Is there a purpose to the meeting beyond the mere transfer of information, like brainstorming or group decision-making that will be based on the data in the slides?

3. Are there objectives and action items that will be addressed? Are there specific results that are expected to come from the meeting?

4. Is there a persuasive element to the presentation where a live speaker is necessary to convince and convey the importance of the material to the group?

If you answer “no” to all of these questions, then please send your material by e-mail, and don’t waste your group’s time making them sit and listen to a speaker who is simply repeating the information on slides that the audience is looking at on a monitor — or worse — already holding in printouts.

If your group can look at the material on its own, at its convenience, and respond in an appropriate time frame to the necessary colleagues, isn’t this a better use of everyone’s time?

About the Author:

Lisa Braithwaite is a public speaking coach and trainer based in Santa Barbara, CA, and author of the Speak Schmeak blog. For more information, visit

The 3-Minute Storytelling Lesson You Won’t Forget

I was working recently with a team of executives on storytelling and delivery, and in one of the exercises I pressed them to present their pitches faster and in a more compressed style. The world is impatient and you need to hook your listeners quickly.

The executives struggled – and mostly succeeded – to tell their stories in 2 to 3 minutes. They gave me a little pushback, saying that I was asking too much. They wanted more time.  My response was “Yes, this is difficult, but important to be able to do.  No one is as interested in your story as you are; you’ve got to be able to get it done.”

And then I saw this video. Too late for my executive seminar, but not too late for you, this 3-minute ad from Thailand packs a powerful wallop in a very short space.  And it suggests several lessons for good storytelling.

Watch the short video here, and then consider these lessons from it.

1.  Avoid the intro. There’s virtually no preamble here, just an immediate incident to get the story going.  Skip the opening stuff and get right to the point.

2.  Go for the emotion. The emotions invoked in this video run deep and involve social norms, family, debt and honor – nothing trivial.  Don’t waste our time with trivial pursuits. Get to the good stuff.

3.  Make it about life and death. Stories that hold our attention involve not only strong emotion, but big stakes.  If you’re going to keep us watching, or listening, go for the gut level.

4.  Give us texture. If you’re trying to tell a story quickly, you might be tempted to give us a vague fairy tale, in order to save time and effort.  But don’t. This video throws us right into a milieu and expects us to keep up. It feels real, not imaginary.   

5.  Complete the arc. What ultimately satisfies in a story is completeness. The rest of our lives may be chaotic, fragmentary, and unfinished, but give us a story that isn’t.  Give us the full narrative.  Even in three minutes.

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

4 Powerful Tips for Speaking Off the Cuff

If there is one thing that some people fear even more than public speaking it’s speaking off the cuff. Impromptu speaking can turn confident presenters into gibbering wrecks. We’ve all been there. You are sitting in a meeting and suddenly your boss turns to you and asks for a quick update on a project you’ve been working on. You weren’t expecting it and you have nothing ready.

Your mind goes blank, your throat constricts and everyone is looking at you.

I know it’s scary, but speaking off the cuff doesn’t have to be difficult.  Much of your terror comes from the initial adrenaline surge you get because our mind perceives such situations as a threat.  Here are four ways to improve your ability to speak off the cuff.

1) Change the way you think about impromptu speaking

Off the cuff speeches are actually a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your expertise. Think about it for a moment.  You are normally asked to speak about stuff you actually know about, aren’t you? Why would anyone at work ask you to speak about something that they know you know nothing about?

2) Start with a pause

Don’t start speaking immediately. Pause, take a breath and get your mind into gear before engaging your mouth. As well as buying you valuable thinking time, a pause creates more credibility as it shows that you are thinking before speaking.

3) Trust yourself and turn off your internal critic

I believe that our brains are amazing and that they will, if you trust them, feed you with everything you need to speak confidently and coherently. The problem is most people have an internal critic which judges our ideas before we express them.

The critic’s intention is positive in that it wants us stop us from saying anything stupid, but if we give it too much credenc its effect is to shut down our creativity. Experience has taught me to trust my first ideas and you will find the same. It takes a little courage and a lot of practice, but it’s the key to becoming a confident off-the-cuff speaker

4) Use a simple framework to organize your thoughts

Speaking off the cuff, like any other type of presentation, benefits from a logical structure. In other words it needs a beginning, middle and a conclusion.

I use a formula called PREP to help me organize my impromptu speaking. This is an acronym for Position, Reason, Example and Proposition. I start by stating my Position, go on to explain the Reasons for this position, give one or more Examples that illustrate my position and then finish by either restating my position or making a Proposition for further action.

Speaking off the cuff is a learnable skill like any other. When I first started I was terrible,  but now I believe and am pretty good at it. I continue to use and practice all of the above tips and I am confident that you will benefit from using them too.

About the Author:

Gavin Meikle is a presentation skills trainer and coach with Inter-Activ Presenting in the United Kingdom who’s mission is to change the way the world communicates. He runs workshops, courses and one-to-one mentoring programs for business owners, managers and executives. For more information, visit

How to Survive Watching Yourself on Video

Do you hate the idea of watching yourself on video? Most people do. But in our courses it’s one of the most powerful tools for helping people reduce their fear of public speaking. Watching yourself give a presentation can actually give you a tremendous confidence boost.

That’s because the way that you come across is often better than the way you imagine you come across. While you can feel your nervousness, the audience can only see it or hear it. Mike Bogle from the TechTicker blog writes:

“In listening to the recording I was amazed how relaxed I sounded relative to the whirlwind of anxiety that was actually going on inside my head.”

So your audience is not nearly as aware of your nervousness as you are.

There’s only one way to prove this to yourself and that’s by watching yourself present on video. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to watch yourself. So here are some tips to not only survive watching your video but to give yourself a boost of confidence:

1. Watch with an honest and compassionate friend

Choose a friend who was at the live presentation when you were videoed. That’s because there are some things which stand out in a video that the audience wouldn’t have noticed during the live presentation. Your friend can guide you as to what was noticeable during your live presentation. Otherwise there’s a risk that you may get fixated on something you think you did wrong – but which the live audience didn’t notice.

2. Be aware that it can be a little weird

“Aargh! I look like my mother”

Most people find watching themselves on video to be a little weird. Watching yourself on video is very different to seeing your reflection in the mirror – you see different angles of your face, you see yourself moving. And you may suddenly realize you look just like your mother, or your brother or whatever!

“I hate my voice!”

Your voice also sounds different. You probably already know this from hearing yourself on your recorded messages. The explanation for this is that when you hear yourself normally (i.e., not recorded) you’re hearing yourself through your skull bones and your chest cavity. Therefore your voice sounds deeper and more resonant to you. The way you hear yourself on the video is the way that other people normally hear you…sorry!

3. Get over it!

Give yourself a few moments to notice these weird things – and then realize that these things are only of any interest to you. Your audience doesn’t care whether you look like your mother, and they’re used to hearing your voice. Your friend will corroborate this – ask them.

4. Don’t get concerned that you’re waving your hands about

On video your gestures look bigger than they do in real life. That’s because of the frame provided by the video. That amplifies your body language. It’s most likely that your gestures were fine during the live presentation. Gestures add energy and show enthusiasm. Ask your friend how your gestures came across in the live presentation.

5. Don’t get hung up on little things

You may notice things (scratching your nose, saying the odd um and ah) that were not that noticeable in the live presentation. Again, when you notice these things, pause the video, and ask your friend whether it was distracting in the live presentation.

6. Pretend it isn’t you

Now I want you to have an out-of-body experience. Imagine the person you’re seeing on the video is not you. Imagine it’s a colleague. And answer these questions:

a) How nervous do they look?

If you had no knowledge of this person would you think they were nervous? Now you may know that your voice felt shaky – but don’t listen for it.  If you were an ordinary member of the audience would you feel at ease with this person as a presenter? If you’re not sure – ask your friend.

b) What are they doing well?

Your instinct is going to be look for all the things you could improve. You’ll notice these things anyway. So discipline yourself to look for what this presenter is doing well (you’re still pretending you’re watching someone else). If you’re having difficulty finding positive things ask your friend and then take the time to really notice them.

If you watch your video with these tips in mind, you’ll see that you don’t look as nervous as you feel. Enjoy the confidence boost.

About the Author:

Olivia Mitchell is a presentation skills trainer with Effective Speaking consulting firm in Wellington, New Zealand and author of the Speaking About Presenting blog.

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