Top 5 Takeaways from the Presentation Summit 2017

By Sally Koering Zimney

Ah, the Presentation Summit!

by Sally Koering Zimney Presentation Coach, Speaker and Podcast Host

I’ve had the most exciting September… sharing about the top 10 essential speaking lessons from the STORY Gathering in Nashville – and I went straight from Nashville to Tampa. I was met with gorgeous beaches and weather. Not bad for a work trip. 🙂

But here’s the deal: I wasn’t sure I was going to like this conference.
Last spring, I got an email from this man named Rick Altman, the creator of this conference and CEO of Better Presenting. He said, “Hey, you should come to this conference I put on!”

Now, I had HEARD about this conference as a great conference for PowerPoint users and designers, but because I’m not a PowerPoint designer, I thought it wasn’t for me. Not only am I not a designer, I’m not a huge fan of PowerPoint. I recognize it is a powerful tool – and a tool that many, many of my clients use. But I really wasn’t sure there’d be much for me at this conference.

But Rick said – HECK NO – it’s for any presentation professional. Well, ok!

So, off I went! I had no idea what to expect, except that a few people I had connected with online couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were for it! Well, that’s a good sign…

And can I say?

I loved it.

It was FULL of insight, powerful tools that I need to be aware of for my clients and that might be useful for YOU, and AMAZING PEOPLE. So, win-win-win. And, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference, ever.

So – here are 5 of the most important takeaways from The Presentation Summit:
#1: Memory is Emotive

Dr. Carmen Simon from Memzy, the first keynoter of the Summit and a cognitive neuroscientist, was someone I had heard a lot about. Before the conference, she and I had exchanged some emails because we were going to sit on a panel together, and were feeling out differing viewpoints on several topics.

She had written, “It’s a myth that we remember stories better than facts.”

Well! I wasn’t sure I agreed with that, and I couldn’t wait to hear her speak…

And guess what? She’s right.

Well – sometimes we remember stories better than facts – and sometimes facts better than stories. And the reason is emotion.

Now, this is not news to me – it’s why I think stories are more easily memorable because they more easily have emotion baked in. But, it was a powerful reminder of how our brains work.

We have the power – with our words – to trigger a sensory memory and emotion. And one of the big takeaways for me is that it’s MORE powerful for our audiences to create an image in their minds than for us to create it for them.

As a speaking coach, I call this the “imaginative connection” – because when our audience can see it in their own heads, they will remember it.

(Now, they may not remember it correctly; and they may only remember the generalities and get the specifics all wrong… but they will have made a connection with it.)

So – whether you’re sharing facts, or data, or knowledge, or stories, or ideas – your job is to find the emotive connection. That’s our way into our audience’s brains!

#2: Be the most important issue, or they’ll take their focus somewhere else.

Dr. Nick Morgan from Public Words – a long-ago guest here on This Moved Me – and a presentation coach I admire greatly – was one of the keynoters at this Summit this year. I got to sit in on one of his workshops, and then also soak in his insight during his keynote.

And one of the things Nick and I have always connected on is persuasion. I studied it in grad school (yes, you can do that), and I think it’s at the heart of speaking. What’s the point, otherwise – yes?

And I love how Nick framed the question I am always asking my speakers to make crystal clear: “What’s at stake?”
Nick put it this way: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs makes it clear that just above our physical needs is safety. So we have to speak to these needs. You have to make the point of your talk about something that affects their safety – or their attention will go elsewhere.

Not that you make it up – but that you dig deep enough to crystallize for yourself and your audience what really matters. Why might this matter to them? And it’s essential that you speak to this at the beginning so they understand why their attention is better spent here than on the text that is coming in on their phone…

So – What’s the safety issue you are trying to make real for your audience?

#3: There’s power in the push-back.

The third morning was keynoted by Sam Horn, a presentation coach that has coached a lot of TED talks, and the timing was perfect as I work on my own TED Talk (THAT WAS LAST WEEK. PHEW!!)!

One of the most important takeaways from her talk was about the power of the push-back. The moments when someone has poo-pooed your idea, or questioned it, or the moment when your legs were pulled out from under you – and then how you made your way through those questions.

Not only does this make a good story (people love a comeback story!), but it gives your idea grit.

It also helps voice the cynics in the room – and speak directly to them, which is so important because it shows that you ‘get it’ and aren’t naive or overly idealistic… a fair critique of many TED talks!

So – where was your faith challenged? What is your cynic success story?

#4: There are some really cool tools out there.

This was one of the most unexpected and delightful parts of the conference: to be turned-on to all kinds of tools that I didn’t know existed. I thought of many of my clients – but also for you, dear audience. There may be some great tools here for YOU! (Note: I’m not getting anything for including these. Maybe I should? hahaha. But nope – click away and check them out and know that I love you.)

Presentation Management Software. There are EcosPrez and Shufflrr and Empower from Made in Office. All 3 seem to do similar work, and I think it’s so important! It houses the library of slides that a marketing team might create – and allows the sales team (or fundraising/development team!) to pull together a presentation without going too… rogue. 🙂 I’ve seen it happen. You create a slide deck and hand it off to a team to present… and it gets adjusted and the changes never quite get back to the rest of the team, and eventually, everyone’s giving differing talks with crappy slides that don’t represent your brand well. THIS IS COOL, I thought. Check ’em out!

Audience Interaction Tools: like Sendsteps and Poll Everywhere. I’ve seen these types of tools used and honestly sometimes I think it’s cheesy and just a techy distraction. But in the right context? It could be really powerful and cool.

Immersive Technology! I can’t even begin to comprehend HOW to do this, but it’s coming. I heard Lia Barnakova (P-Spice!) talk about virtual presenting on Facebook Spaces, which freaked me out… and I got to play with Inscale Interactive‘s mixed reality presentation tool. It’s CRAZY, and cool, and kind of blows my mind.

Professional Associations: If you’re a presentation professional that supports presentations of any kind – you should join the Presentation Guild! An incredibly supportive group of people who care deeply about this profession and want to raise the bar. I’m with them.

Online Mags and Resources: Presentation Xpert…. how did I not know about this? I dunno, I’ve been living under a rock. 150,000 people read this magazine every month. Do you? (Probably!) And also finally found the Presentation Podcast – very design focused, but with tons of great resources for those who obsess about this kind of thing. 🙂

Design Resources: For slide design – for the professional, as well as the lay-person non-designer to make design easier… there’s Slide Genius, and Nuts-N-Bolts Speed Training and P-Spice’s YouTube channel and eLearning Brothers‘ graphics, led by the kindest human ever, my conference pal Curtis.

Technology: LOGITECH! They gave me a Logitech Spotlight Remote, and I’ve been using it to practice for my TED talk. Awww yeah. It’s reallllly coool.

Other random resources!

#5: This is fun! – and fun matters!

I think one of the most wonderful elements of this conference is that it was FUN. I had heard it was fun… but WOW! It was fuuuuun!

And aside from the fact that fun is always fun – here’s why I think it’s important: because it builds community. This is a smaller conference – with only 180 or so people. And so you do get to know people.

Case in point… my first night there – the night before the conference – I met this lovely woman named Judy. Turns out Judy is also a presentation coach, and we quickly bonded over a glass (or two) of wine.

After dinner, I was exhausted and ready to head to bed – and she said, “No you don’t. Come on, let’s go to the beach!”

I am not one to turn down an invitation – don’t want to be rude!

I stood on the beach with my new friend Judy and soaked in the sounds of the ocean. We couldn’t see a thing, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Thanks for the memory, Judy!

I heard about a scavenger hunt (I got tired again but no one stopped me from going to bed this time) that included Twister in the elevator, doing an impromptu speech in the lobby to strangers, jumping in the pool with your clothes on… and more. (Wish I would have stayed up for that one!


There was basically a wedding reception – minus the wedding – that included dancing and food and more happy hours. I love to dance. It made me so happy to dance with all those wonderful strangers that became friends. Until we got kicked out.


And then about 50 of us jumped in the pool – until we got kicked out. And so walked across the beach to the ocean where we stood knee-deep in the ocean and talked for hours. It was one of those nights that you know is rare, and so I will remember it.

(I also got bit up pretty badly by something in that ocean that left me itching for days – but I don’t care!)
I’ve always been a proponent of playing. We, adults, need to play more! That the Summit encourages play says so much about the joys of this work – and the people who care about it.

Honorable Mentions:

There’s more good stuff that’s worth mentioning –

  • Taylor Croonquist from Nuts & Bolts Speed Training is a freaking genius. I don’t really ‘get’ PowerPoint, but watching him work his magic literally made the audience go “whoaaaaaa!!!” Me too.
  • Tom Howell from Synapsis Creative is not just a super smart expert on presentation design, but he can also carry a tray of 30 beers out to the ocean (not a short walk)! TALENT. Thank you, Tom!
  • Mike Parkinson from Billion Dollar Graphics was my favorite presenter of the conference! He has so much joyful energy, I loved watching him. I missed his session on 3 Ways to Engage the Audience, so I’m hoping to have him on the show to share them with all of us…
  • Stephy Lewis – a kick-ass problem solver (check out her awesome website) – who will be on the show next week! –  is my new bff.
  • Nick Morgan says there are only 5 stories worth telling: The Quest, The Stranger in a Strange Land, the Revenge story, the Rags to Riches story, and the Love story. (I think I need Nick back on the show to explain more of this!)
  • Did you know that the “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, Tell ’em, and Tell ’em what you told em’ comes from WWII military strategy, so that the soldiers would remember their orders? (Thanks, Nick!)
  • There’s a way to have a stellar Speaker Ready room! Who knew?! (Thanks, Echo!)
  • In Doug Thomas’ awesome session on authenticity, he reminded us to “try the dark side.” Anger taps into something real!
  • And to Tony and Stephy and Echo and Julie at The Presentation Guild – thanks so much for the warm welcome!
  • And… I could share more…but this is already too long. 🙂

Thanks to the unending energy of Rick Altman, this conference comes to life. I am so excited to be bringing some of these voices to you on the show over the next few months.

Until next year, Presentation Summit!


About Sally
Sally is an award-winning speaker and a presentation coach/consultant with two decades of experiencing helping people create talks that move the world.

Join her for This Moved Me, a weekly podcast about the art of public speaking – or across social media to stay inspired and inspire.


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