Archives for June 2014

Surviving Handout Hell with Rick Altman

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Have you ever fallen prey to the conventional wisdom of printing slides to create a handout. Then this lively and interactive webinar with presentation specialist and author, Rick Altman is for you!

If the most annoying trait of all PowerPoint users is placing too much text on a slide (and it is), the leading cause of this offense is the printout. If you harbor the belief that you can create a slide that will be effective as your live visual and as your printed handout, this session attempts to disabuse you of that misguided notion. Responsible presentation designers must separate the tasks of creating visuals for their live presentation and creating printed handouts. In so doing, they distinguish themselves from 99% of everyone creating slides today.

Highlights include:

  •  How to move away from the Print button
  • Did you know that PowerPoint has a Handout master?
  • Too bad it’s useless for this purpose Learn how to create two documents within one PowerPoint file




He is one of the most prominent commentators in the presentation community today. Rick 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.

Want to Be More Memorable? Use Contrast in Your Presentations

We humans love contrast. We employ it in decorating (current hot trend: purple and green); in fashion (current hot trend: Placid Blue and Hemlock Green with a dash of Radiant Orchid); in story (long time trend: good vs. evil) and even in decision making (long time trend: pros and cons).

The reason contrast is so universal is because it highlights and creates memorability. Aren’t you more likely to remember a stunningly decorated room in purple and green than one in all grey? [OK, maybe that’s a female thing]. Contrast implies difference and difference is more memorable than sameness. We are wired to be particularly conscious of differences and they help create meaning for us.

So why not apply this principle to our presentation slide design to enhance the likelihood that our audience will better remember our message?

I’m not just talking about contrast between the background color and the font color, although having strong contrast here is indeed a good idea. I’m talking about using contrast in the size and placement of visuals as well as in color and font choice. Here are some ideas to shake up those slides and give your audience more reason to remember your meaning:

  •     Don’t make all your pictures or illustrations on a slide the same size. Enlarge the one that should have the most prominence in relation to the point you’re making.
  •     Use greyscale or black and white on the visual that signifies the “before” or the problem. Show the “after” or the solution in vivid color.
  •     Make the different elements on your slide very different, not just a little different.
  •     On a bar chart use the same color for all the bars except for the one you want to emphasize. Put that one in a dramatically different color.
  •     When using visuals to signify old and new or “then and now,” choose items that will implicitly communicate the message. An example would be a first generation cell phone and an iPhone side by side.

Fiddling with the placement, size and color of your images on the slides may seem like a small thing. But isn’t it worth trying everything we can to enhance the memorability and impact of our presentations?

About the Author:

Kathy Reiffenstein is the founder and president of And…Now Presenting!, a Washington D.C.-area business communications training firm that offers a suite of public speaking and presentation skills programs geared to creating confident, persuasive speakers. Visit Kathy’s website at to subscribe to her bi-weekly presentation tips or her blog where you’ll find fresh insights on public speaking.

How to Deal with Stress: 15 Tips for Presenters

In a recent blog post I discussed a study that showed that we leak our stress levels to other people. As I pointed out, if stress is contagious and we leak our emotions, then speakers need to concern themselves with their emotional states before and during their speeches.

A stressed-out speaker will induce stress in the audience. Imagine what that does for communication. When we’re stressed, we don’t attend as well, we don’t concentrate as well and we don’t remember as well.

So you need to get your stress levels under control as a speaker, not just for you, but for your audience. In my post, I discussed three strategies for reducing your stress – and your audience’s: the Tony Robbins method, the Method Actor method, and the Zen method.

For this post, I’ve combed the anti-stress literature for other ideas. The field is vast – and in fact I found myself getting stressed out over being able to absorb it all in order to write this blog post. But then I got a grip, and here they are – my further suggestions for ways to calm yourself down and have a better time while speaking.

Some of them are things you tell yourself, and some of them are things you might do, but they all help to varying degrees. So give them a try and see what works for you. And if I’ve missed any, let me know in a reply your approach to happy speaking.

1. Understand That the Audience Doesn’t Know What You Haven’t Said.  An approach that reduces stress in a number of clients of mine is to let go of perfectionism and just give the speech you can.  The audience doesn’t know if you miss a bit, so don’t make success dependent on getting it perfectly.

2. Realize That the Eighty-Twenty Rule Applies to Audiences, Too. Another mistaken effort centers on trying to make everyone in the audience love you. They won’t all do so, so give up on that, and concentrate on the ones who do seem to be responding favorably.

3. Avoid Controversy. This technique means wimping out, but it’s one that politicians use all the time (except when they don’t).  So avoid offending the audience, keep things happy, and you’ll head off hecklers from the audience, always a stress-inducing activity.

4.  Go for the Positive.  A variant of the Tony Robbins method, this approach involves relentlessly telling yourself that things are going to be great!  Every day and every way!  And so on.  It works; don’t mock it until you’ve tried it.

5. Watch All the Ancillary Stuff.  A lot of the stress of public speaking comes from the journey there, the nights away from the comforts of home, the indifferent food and accommodations, the loneliness (if you’re an extrovert), or the endless gladhanding (if you’re an introvert).

Whatever stresses you out about the run-up to speaking, and the wind-down, seek to minimize the bad and maximize the good.  Much of it can be negotiated with the organizers of the gig, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

6. Get Emotional. It’s essential for your continued speaking career to be professional and easy to work with at all times.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be a robot.  Expressing your feelings about how things are going can help you feel real and grounded. So keep it positive, mostly, but don’t be afraid to express disappointment, politely and professionally, when it’s there.

7. Give Yourself Plenty of Time. My speaking career and most of my clients’ careers are filled with stories of heroic attempts to pack a lot in to the schedule, whether it’s getting to that gig that has you flying the red eye to the coast twice in one week, or whatever.

You can consciously decide to reduce your bookings slightly and space out your schedule. Many won’t be able to resist the allure of more, but if you can, that will reduce stress.

8. Handle the Before and After Stress Levels.  You not only have the adrenaline beforehand, but many speakers experience the spiking adrenaline for several hours after the speech. That means that relaxing or quitting for the night can be difficult if not impossible. You need to develop routines to help yourself wind up and down.

9. Exercise Regularly.  Everyone else says this too, of course, but it’s just as important for speakers as for anyone else.  And it helps with #8.

10. Eat Healthily.  Same goes for diet.  It’s difficult to eat smart on the road, but it can be done. And it does make a difference.

11. Sleep Enough to Get the Rest You Need.  As the research now makes clear, we need sleep to ravel back up the unraveled sleeve of care. Don’t skip on the basic necessities!

12. Decide What to Stress About, and What Not to. When you get in adrenaline mode, one of its problems is that everything can stress you out. The TV isn’t set to the right channel!  The bottled water isn’t chilled!  The M&Ms aren’t color-coded!  If you keep clear about what’s important and what isn’t, perspective rules the day and helps keep you sane. Embrace it.

13. Don’t React.  I’m still working on this one, but plenty of saner people report to me that if you take a deep breath, think it over, and don’t respond emotionally instantly, life goes better.  Try it and let me know how you get on.

14. Detach. Somewhere between being present and maintaining a detached, Zen-like calm is the ideal temperament.  But most of us get worked up because we perceive in the moment that we have a great deal at stake in the outcome of the present going the way we want.

In fact, the number of times when the outcome really, truly, deeply matters is pretty small. Learn to recognize those times and let go of the rest.

15. Forgive Yourself – and Everyone Else.  A lot of stress comes from the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve, and indeed, achieve specific things in specific ways. Sanity consists of letting go of perfection and forgiving ourselves for being merely human – and granting the rest of the human race the same courtesy.

A part of this post is adapted from my new book, Power Cues:  The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact,  published May 2014 by Harvard.

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

3 Reasons Why Your Elevator Pitch Leaves People Confused

I heard her elevator pitch 100 times before. I knew she was smart, had big ideas about her industry and that she was good at what she does. The problem: I had no idea exactly what she did or who she did it for.

If you threatened to set fire to my whole collection of Duran Duran memorabilia and the only way you’d stop is by me telling you what this person did for a living, it would all disappear in a puff of smoke.

I wanted to refer her, to recommend her, to meet people and think  “Oh, I know someone who could really help you.”

But I couldn’t because I didn’t know how she served people.

Frankly, she was missing out because if I – one of her business BFFs – couldn’t talk about her biz, no one could.

The Problem With Pitches

Why was her pitch leaving me so utterly confused? Heck, it’s not just her – it’s an epidemic at the networking events that I attend. People just don’t do a great job describing their business.

There are 3 big reasons why your elevator pitch could be leaving people confused:

1) Trying too hard to be clever

When did it become a rule that we had to be clever to capture people’s attention?

There I was in the NSA (not the guys that spy, but the peeps who speak), and we were tasked with coming up with a WOW opening line for our elevator pitch.

I felt pressured, stressed, and worried if I would be WOW-worthy. I didn’t know what to say. WOW is a tall order.

The good news: everyone else was struggling as much as I was in looking for the holy grail of opening lines. What I heard made me realize:

Clever is not conversational.

Clever feels salesy.

Clever is freaking hard.

Stop being clever. Start being yourself and start a conversation.

2) Does your elevator pitch pass the “mental rolodex” test?

I was helping one business owner who said she worked with “people-centered leaders.”

I had no idea what that meant – worse I couldn’t access my mental rolodex and see if I knew anyone who would be a good fit.

So I told her “Imagine your favorite client and now describe her?”

“Oh that’s easy. She’s a newly-promoted VP in a Fortune 500 company and is struggling with her leadership.”

And there it was…

She helps newly promoted female VPs in Fortune 500 companies.

Hot damn!

Now, I can access my mental rolodex and see if I know anyone who fits.

If the person you’re giving the pitch to can’t visualize who it is you serve, you’re failing the mental rolodex test. Lose the jargon and describe who you serve in simple, relatable terms.

3) The curse of knowledge

It’s nearly impossible to describe what you do when you’re the one who does it.

You get mired in the details. What you do IS complex. There is nuance. It is hard to explain.

It’s the curse of knowledge. Once we learn something it’s darn near impossible to approach it from a beginner’s mindset. You’re just too close.

This is what happens with your elevator pitch.

The key is to simplify.

And the best way to simplify is to get feedback on your elevator pitch from other people. People who are not your best business friends, hubby, cats (their feedback sucks), but people who do not intimately know you.

Get their feedback. See if it’s clear who you serve, what you do and the results you get.

p.s. If you’re looking for feedback, want to craft a elevator pitch that feels 100% like you and creates conversation and connection, check out my Love Your Pitch classes. When you know how to talk about what you do, you transform business buddies into business advocates. Class starts June 23rd. Click here for more information.

About the Author:

As a Speech Designer and Idea Architect, Dr. Michelle Mazur guides introverted business professionals and entrepreneurs to ignite the smoldering fires within them so they can speak up, speak out, and make their impact—one compelling presentation at a time.

She is the author of Speak Up for Your Business and contributing author to the Amazon Best Seller Ted:ology: Presentation Secrets of TED Talks and Master Presenter: Lessons from the World’s Top Experts on Becoming a More Influential Speaker.  For more information visit her website at


‘There’s No Soul in Perfection’

I’ll admit it. I watch American Idol. I suppose I have a little bit of something in my heart for those kids. I used to be a young performer. I dreamt of stardom too.

Now that I’m older and have worked that dream out of my system, I’m far more interested in the coaching the contestants receive than the performances themselves. One recent show was a coaching bonanza.

Harry Connick Jr’s advice to contestant Sam was to make a connection, look at a single person (or the camera) and connect. He’s right about that. And it’s good advice for business presenters too. It’s not enough to say words, no matter how clear or persuasive (or pitch perfect) you are.

You need to say them to someone. Make a connection. Make sure you’ve been heard and understood.

Immediately following Harry’s advice, Keith Urban told Sam, “There’s no soul in perfection.” He wants Sam to let loose, get a little dirty, rough it up.

The same is true for business presenters.

We’ve posted a lot about the downside of striving for presentation perfection. It puts too much pressure on you and it takes you out of the moment. You can’t be “in” a conversation and reciting what you’ve rehearsed at the same time. It just doesn’t work.

A presentation audience wants to feel as if the words are coming out of your mouth for the first time. They want to feel as if they can add to the conversation rather than observe as you talk.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared. You should be. But you also need to react in the moment to what’s happening around you. Let the conversation get a little messy. Rough it up. Make a connection. That’s when the heart and soul of a business presentation shines.

About the Author:

Greg Owen-Boger is vice president of Turpin Communication, a presentation skills consulting company based in Chicago. He also is co-author of the new book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. For more information about the company or the  book, visit

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