Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Keys to Making Effective & Interesting Presentations

Most of the people I watch doing sample presentations in workshops and coaching do very well in the technical aspects of presenting. But one area where nearly everyone could improve is in the basic foundations that hold the presentation up;

You can still take care to master techniques like how to point correctly, but you can make a much greater difference by mastering three key concepts that will define the direction of the presentation and its alignment with your goals. Learn to manage these basic concepts effectively and all the rest will either come by itself or be easy to add. Without them you risk making a superficially elegant show that doesn't have any impact.

These key concepts are: Purpose, Focus and Structure

1. PURPOSE: EVERY PRESENTATION MUST HAVE ONE. Like any other communication, a presentation should start with a purpose. If you don't know what you want yourself how will your audience know? Even if you do have a clear idea it can be hard to communicate it, but without one you have no hope. Always take the time to define a purpose for each presentation, make sure that it is feasible and aligned with your overall goals. Sometimes you need to proceed in steps so you might have a limited goal for the next presentation. Or your goal might just be to learn more about what the others think, so your presentation is more a stimulus to generate feedback. But whatever your purpose you have to have one, and you should craft your messages to address this purpose.

2. FOCUS: STAY ON TOPIC AND MINIMIZE THE NOISE.  Once you have defined your goal and your key messages be ruthless in eliminating distractions. Use only the words you need, the illustrations you need, the examples you need, the arguments you need and eliminate everything else. Keep slides simple and keep it as short as possible. It is tempting to show some extra content that is interesting or that you are proud of, but if it isn't really needed cut it out.  Short, focused presentations are easier to remember, easier to deliver and more effective. Say 21 different messages and maybe your audience doesn't retain anything; focus on two or three messages and you have more chance they will cut through the noise.

3. STRUCTURE: ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT INTO A FEW KEY IDEAS.  Take your messages, your data points, your examples and your anecdotes and group them together into a small number of sections where everything is related in some way. An easy way to do this is to write all your points on post-it notes and move them around until they are arranged in coherent groups. When you have done this you can give your presentation a simple, robust structure that makes it easier to remember, deliver and understand  There  will always be more than one way to structure your content but just pick one that works for you. If you have time try testing a presentation with 21 ideas and another with three key sections each with seven ideas. The structured version will always be easier to follow. People like structured content and it will also make your delivery more confident, making your message more compelling.

Once you have the basic foundations of a presentation you can then improve it by using all the other tips and techniques you have heard of, but at least you are building on a solid base that will keep you on the right track. And remember always that once the presentation is prepared you have to practice the delivery, even if only for five minutes. It makes a difference.

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Media Relations: Three Social Media Hacks to Find Media Opportunities

Over the years I have worked in media relations and later also in freelance journalism. Now I have realized that one of the best ways to understand how a journalist works is to try it for yourself, and doing freelance work I have discovered some tricks that will be useful for anyone in media relations who hasn't tried it yet.

Many journalists today rely on social media and social networking sites to some degree, even if it just to find sources. By being present on these sites you have an advantage over those that don't. But apart from that there are some techniques you can use to make sure that your company is more likely to get coverage. Some are pretty obvious -- like following journalists that work in your field -- but some are not so obvious. Here are three of them.

1. SCAN TWITTER FOR KEYWORDS AND HASHTAGS. Like many others I often tweet when I am writing about a subject.  If you work in that field you might see this tweet, respond to it and soon you will be setting up an interview. So, for example, I tweeted once that I was writing about how tablet computers are used in hotels. A social media savvy PR person at a company called Intelity responded to this tweet, set up an interview and they were mentioned in the piece. In other cases people have seen my tweets and forwarded them to people in their network that they knew would be interested.

2. ANSWER QUESTIONS ON QUORA. Some journalists now use the question and answer site Quora to find information and, perhaps more often, to identify sources for interview. Some of these questions will be clearly labelled as being media questions, but many more are not. You will see questions where a journalist asks if anyone knows an expert on a certain topic, or they might just ask a question and then wait to see who provides an interesting answer. That person will then be contacted by private message for an interview. In some other cases the journalist doesn't ask any questions but scans the answers to existing questions, looking for experts who are good at explaining  Answering questions related to your competence or the business of your company can thus lead to media contacts later. It is not certain but it costs little and boosts your reputation.

3. POST USEFUL IMAGES ON PHOTO SHARING SITES. Another way to get your company or product into an article is to make sure that good photos can be found easily using image search engines like Google Images . It would be very useful if your company's own website had well-labelled photos that could be easily extracted by image search engines, but most likely if you are in media relations you have little say in how the website is made. What you can control, though, is the company account on Flickr and other photo sharing sites. A good picture, clearly identified and labelled and with a Creative Commons license might get at least your photo into an article and probably get you a mention, too. If someone has to choose between two otherwise equal companies and one provides good photos they are more likely to be picked.

These techniques can actually be more useful than just following a list of journalists because most people write about many different subjects and the next person to write about your business is maybe someone you have never heard of. They are also especially useful for smaller companies. If I were to write about electric vehicle technology I would think of contacting Tesla Motors, but maybe you have a small startup I haven't heard of yet but you can still make it into the article if you know how to use social sites effectively.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Presentation Technique: Pointing Without Pointing

One simple way to make your business presentations look more professional and polished is to throw away the pointer. There are good reasons for this. First of all just holding a big stick or one of those telescopic radio antennas makes you look like a Victorian-era schoolteacher. Using a laser pointer is perhaps slightly better but I would still not recommend it because the little spot always wobbles and this has the subtle effect of making people feel you are uncertain. Worse still is to use your hand, because in a typical meeting room this means walking into the beam of light from the projector. This is distracting because you will have light on your face and also cast a shadow on the screen, covering the content you are trying to highlight.

Luckily there are many ways to eliminate the need for a pointer. Use these techniques effectively and you will only ever need to point in rare cases where there is some confusion.

DESIGN FOR CLARITY.  By far the easiest way to avoid the need for pointing is to make the presentation simple and to keep the slides uncluttered. If the content on the screen is simple enough people will have no trouble working out what to look at without the help of a pointer. If you feel you need a pointer this means that the presentation probably needs reworking.

ADD ELEMENTS ONE AT A TIME. In more complex slides you can focus attention on one thing at a time by using a slide that "builds", where you start with one element, then you add the others gradually. This is the simplest and probably the most common approach but the downside is that you need to prepare well so that you know what is coming next.

HIGHLIGHT ELEMENTS ONE AT A TIME. A much simpler way is to show all of the elements on the screen from the beginning, but to highlight the part you are talking about in some way. For example, if you have a bulleted list you can start by showing the full list in a normal font, then you make the first line bold and talk about that, then make the second line bold and so on. You can do this in many ways: making the hghlighted line bolder, by making it larger, by making it darker or by doing the opposite -- "lowlighting" the things you are not talking about by making them gray or smaller. If they are visual elements you can do something similar -- making the one you are talking about normal contrast and making the others lower contrast. This way lets you focus attention on one thing at a time while leaving everything there so you know what comes next.

ZOOMING IN ON AREAS. You an also highlight elements of a slide by zooming in on them, one at a time. This is very common using presentation tools like Prezi and gives a more dramatic visual effect. It is extremely effective in focusing attention on one thing at a time, but it does have the drawback that some people find the abrupt movements distracting and annoying.

Whatever technique you use, always be careful to minimize the distraction of excessively elaborate transitions. When you are switching from one highlight to another the best way is usually to use just a direct cut or a cross-fade. Every time you use complicated movements and animations you risk distracting attention from your content and your message. For the same reason you should always use a presentation remote, so that you can advance the presentation to the next cue without having to walk over to your computer to press a key.

While you are ordering the presentation remotes for your company, check out the cost of equipping at least small and medium meeting rooms with very large monitors, which solve at least the problem of having light on your face when you stand in front of the screen. They are also a lot quieter than a projector. And when tileable large-screens become affordable consider convincing your boss to replace the projectors in large rooms, too.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

If you would like to learn even more about advanced speaking and presentation techniques perhaps I can help you with lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing. For more information visit, email or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Some Related Posts About Speaking, Presenting, Influencing

How to Add Passion to Your Presentatons and Speeches
What Romney's Jet Window Story Teaches About Jokes in Public Speaking
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking
Influencing: Three Reasons Why You Should Be Talking To Adversaries

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Add Passion to Your Presentations & Speeches

How do you get passion into your speeches, lectures and presentations?  And is it something you need to be born with or is it learnable? These are questions I am asked often in workshops and coaching sessions for speaking and presenting..

Perhaps some people are born with more innate passion that others, and perhaps some show their passion more than others, but the answer is yes, it is something that you can learn to do better. To do it well enough to impress people takes practice and commitment, but you can make a difference just by following these three methods:

CREATE CONTENT TO BE PROUD OF. One of the easiest ways to feel good about what you are saying is to have content that you are actually proud of. You will need to make an effort to develop, verify and structure your content so this can hardly be called a short cut, but it works. When you have very strong messages then you will automatically feel more confident and this will be obvious to your audience. This means that you need to put more effort into the planning stage, crafting two or three key messages and supporting them with good, well-researched examples. You should also be testing your ideas on other people to make sure that they make sense and to hear what people don't understand or don't find compelling. This way you will also find out what questions are likely to come up so you can research obvious side issues.

KNOW YOUR MATERIAL AND MORE. Spend some time to learn your content so that you can deliver your speech or presentation without notes, without hesitation and without getting lost. Hint: this is much easier when you created simple, clear messages. Just being able to deliver a lecture confidently without notes gives you much more credibility and it gives a clear sense that you believe in what you are doing. It also makes it easier to focus on the delivery, making eye contact with the audience and giving the impression that what you say comes from the heart, not from your notes. And unless you are a professional actor you are not going to be able to read things so that they sound natural. To really impress people you will need to know all of the content you plan to use plus some more in reserve that can help in answering questions.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE. Finally, the most effective "short cut" to speaking with passion is simply to practice your content again and again until it sounds natural. Depending on your experience this may take more or less time. Maybe you don't have so much time but use what you  have. Always run through a speech at least once speaking out loud and focus your attention on the beginning and end. You should always be able to do at least these without looking at any notes or slides. If you are in a situation where you can't practice out loud, either find a corner where you can or at least speak silently, moving your face muscles without making sound.

When your content is weak you will struggle to sound like you believe it yourself. When you don't know it well you will come across as uncertain and doubtful. And without that essential practice you will get tangled up, lose your way or forget things, shooting your credibility to pieces. Just by following my three-step recipe you can avoid this and maybe earn yourself a reputation as a passionate speaker, whether you were born that way or not.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

For information about lectures, workshops, coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit, email or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.