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fun Presentation

Top 3 Ways Presenters Can Make Sex Boring

Let’s imagine that you’re asked to give a presentation about sex. Really!

Your audience of adult coworkers are eagerly anticipating the fascinating insights you’re going to share with them in your one-hour presentation.

I’m seriously asking you to imagine this. Go ahead. Giggle, blush, scoff —  but ask yourself:

How might you prepare? What might you say? How will you handle Q &A? What props will you use?

boring presentation

As exciting as the topic is — and as riveted as you know your audience will be to hear you talk — there are three pretty typical ways a business presenter can make even sex boring! Here are the top 3 ways you can make any presentation deadly dull — even if the topic is incredibly provocative.

1. Tell the audience everything you know. Let’s say you  know quite a bit about the topic. You have a list of facts. You know the latest research. You’ve read volumes of historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives. Jamming it all into one short hour is going to require fast-talking and lots of bullet points.

Instead, resist the urge to sound like a smarty-pants. You’ve only got an hour. Pick a narrow niche. Go deep, not broad.

2. Share facts, not stories. You don’t want your presentation to get too personal. People need solid information, not jokes or anecdotes. Every second you spend sharing a story or a smile is just a lost opportunity to cram in another important fact.

Instead, try the exact opposite approach. Your audience is more likely to learn from a story than from swallowing a list of facts. Tell a story that relates to your topic. People will do more than learn: they’ll remember.

3. Disconnect yourself emotionally. If you want people to take you seriously, you’d better play it straight. Divorce yourself from your emotions, and read stoically from a teleprompter. Use a monotone. Do not make eye contact with the audience.

Instead, try using some emotional range. Good news may require a display of cheer, bad news may go down easier with an honest display of concern or remorse. You can even spruce up an emotionally neutral topic with some sincere enthusiasm or humor.

Business presenters seldom get to deliver a presentation on a topic as exciting as sex. However, “The Top 3 Second Quarter 2010 Business Unit Challenges” can be a downright amazing presentation if you pick a niche, tell stories, and deliver your presentation with passion!

How else can presenters make sex boring?

Categories
fun PowerPoint Presentation Presentation

Professorial PowerPoint Humor

I’ve only been teaching at the college level for a few terms. One of the chief complaints I hear from students about PowerPoint lectures (from other instructors!) is the unbearable boredom when a professor uses the pre-packaged presentations included with the course textbook. These CDs contain mostly bullet-point outlines of the entire book.

Yes, you read that right. Bullet-point outlines of an entire textbook.

Professors read this mess for an hour or two. In front of their classes!

Unbelievable!

With all we know about learning and cognitive function, you’d think that professors — dedicated to a career of imparting knowledge — might spend a minute or two understanding that this approach doesn’t help students understand course material. You’d think that textbook publishers — also dedicated to the art of imparting knowledge — might actually read a book or ten about brain function.

PowerPoint expert Ellen Finkelstein poses an excellent question in her LinkedIn group, Great Communicators! Effective Presenting & PowerPoint. Ellen asks,

With so much information about good presentation techniques available, why are there so many Death by PowerPoint presentations given every single day?

Great question, Ellen. You can read some of the answers on her LinkedIn Group… and chime in with your own answers, too.

If you’ve ever experienced a bullet-point textbook presentation, you might enjoy this classic video on YouTube that parodies the horror. Wait for the Q&A session near the end — classic.

Enjoy!

Categories
content ideas PowerPoint Presentation Presentation

What is the most interesting part of your presentation?

Let’s say you’ve been asked to stand & deliver a one-hour presentation to a large business audience. So you craft a presentation. You rehearse.

At this point, it’s time to deploy an old speechwriter’s tip. Ask yourself: “What is the single most interesting part of my presentation?

Answer honestly. Your response should give you some profound insight.

I like asking this “single most interesting” question. It gives me amazing ideas for re-crafting, editing, or restructuring a speech or presentation. When I ask the question and get a shrug, “nothing”, “everything!” or “I don’t know” — I have my work cut out for me!

exciting interesting presentation

But here are 3 other answers to the “most interesting” question that indicate a speech or presentation is in serious trouble:

  • “Why, the incredible design and nifty animations in my PowerPoint slides, of course!”
  • “The overwhelming amount of facts and statistics that support my main thesis.”
  • “That part in the middle where I share an emotional & dramatic anecdote.”

If your slides, stats, or center are the most interesting or exciting parts of your presentation, uh-oh! You’ve got troubles, my friend! Why?

Good storytelling always trumps fabulous design. You can design the most beautiful slides your audience has ever seen. But in the absence of a good story paired with outstanding delivery, all the audience will be able to remember are pretty pictures + special effects. Remember, design supports the story — not the other way around!

No one likes being slowly clubbed to death with facts. I like facts. And I like statistics. I just don’t like be repeatedly clubbed over the head with them. If you aim to overwhelm your audience, overwhelm them with emotion. In a heightened emotional state, your audience might be more predisposed to accept your logic… or maybe even a fact or two.

Audience attention wanes about every 9 minutes. If the most exciting part of your presentation is in the middle, for heaven’s sake — move it to the beginning. Start strong! Then, craft at least 5 more compelling stories to tell for the duration of your 1 hour presentation. No matter how exciting you are, audience attention wanes about every 9 minutes.

Of course, what you think is the most interesting part of your presentation and what your audience thinks may be two different things entirely! That’s one reason why planning to talk for only 35-40 minutes out of your allotted 60 is generally a swell idea. When you open up the discussion for questions and answers, you’re more likely to find out what’s really most interesting to your audience.

So go on. Ask yourself:

What is the single most interesting part of my presentation?

You’ll be amazed at the insight this simple question will give you!

Categories
Presentation

How much health info should you share on FaceBook?

Stop discussing your family’s medical conditions on social media channels like FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Stop blogging about your children’s illnesses. Please.

You want support and information?

Pick up the phone and talk one-on-one with medical professionals. Join a confidential support group. Discuss your concerns over dinner with your family and loved ones. Get counseling.

Sharing Health Info on FaceBook

FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are completely inappropriate communication channels to bandy about personal medical and health issues. Personally, I don’t want to hear about your teen daughter’s battle with depression, drug addiction, and bulimia. It’s none of my business. Telling stories about your grandmother’s dementia helps you deal with caretaker stress — but probably at the expense of her dignity and privacy. Pimping out your baby son as the face of a chronic disease — not to help him personally, but to “raise money to find a cure for all those afflicted” — is particularly despicable.

Knock it off.

On a certain level, I understand how tempting it can be if you are going through a difficult time with an ailing family member. You want to reach out and feel the love. But laying out others’ illnesses (or your own!) on social media channels to get pity, support, sympathy, or money from strangers and near-strangers can seriously limit opportunities.

Let me summarize a few stories I’ve heard from employers. The stories, in essence, go like this:

“We had a great job candidate. We did a search on FaceBook. Found out through a family member that he has diabetes / arthritis / cancer / high cholesterol / etc. We know this shouldn’t matter, but we also know that we need to keep our health insurance costs down. A well person is likely to be more productive than a chronically ill person. But we don’t have to tell him that. We can just say: ‘Sorry. We found another candidate that more closely met our needs.'”

It’s pretty to think that we have laws and policies to safeguard against this kind of discrimination. It’s wonderful to believe the hiring managers are nice people who can be counted upon to rise above such obvious prejudices. It’s also a sad reality that getting health insurance or even a job is a struggle for many in the United States. Why make it even more difficult?

I don’t want limit the career opportunities of the people I love. I don’t want to narrow their choices for accessing health care. And I don’t want to put their private matters into the hands of strangers so that I can selfishly squeak out a little sympathy for myself. How about you?

How much family health information do you share on FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? What’s in it for you?

Categories
Presentation

How Twitter is like a Native American Talking Circle

What if you were to approach Twitter as if it were a Native American Talking Circle? In the Talking Circle format, you value every voice equally. You listen respectfully. Everyone can contribute. You share your soul, learn from others, and make decisions. You build ideas and relationships in a collaborative environment.

Twitter Talking Circle

The Talking Circle uses a simple format that loosely models the synapse and spark of your brain. Ideas bounce from one part of the circle to another. The Talking Circle is often leaderless, but may deploy the use of a talking stick or talking feather (or hashtag!) to help facilitate respect for those who are speaking. Modern teams may toss balls or Frisbees as fun, concrete tools to help keep order while inspiring ideas.

And because Talking Circles and Twitter encourage talk with no apparent purpose other than the act of talking and sharing, they are often dismissed as a valuable business format. But discussions in Talking Circles and Twitter can be oddly transforming. Open discussions can generate new ideas. They release creativity. Open dialogs using a Talking Circle format can foster community, trust, and respect.

And I have to admit, tossing around ideas on Twitter and in Talking Circles can be fun. I also enjoy the element of play — when we toss about a brightly colored Koosh ball, we not only keep order and focus, but we add a bit of levity to a creative meeting. When we banter on Twitter, we not only generate more ideas, but we simultaneously build relationships.

In modern business, new-fangled concepts like open innovation and crowdsourcing are gaining momentum and respect. However, these new buzzwords seem to be based on old-fashioned notions like Talking Circles and Coffee Klatches. (Note the growing popularity of ‘doing business’ in wireless coffee houses.)

What if we ran more meetings and presentations in this time-honored format? Open and leaderless, allowing meaningful ideas to emerge organically? Would we improve collaboration, trust, and creativity? Or would meetings degenerate into endless meetings for the sake of meetings?

How are you using old-school open collaboration formats like Talking Circles in modern environments? How is it working for you?

Categories
Coaching fun public speaking

End hiccups instantly with this amazing mind trick

I haven’t suffered from a case of the hiccups in over 40 years. And I have helped dozens of people end bouts of hiccuping instantly — without props, goofiness, or drama.

All you need is the power of your own mind.

Here is what you do if you ever get a hiccup: talk to yourself, mentally.

Tell yourself,

“OK, for my next hiccup, I will concentrate on making it the LOUDEST hiccup ever!”

Concentrate on making it really loud.

Then wait.

You will not hiccup loudly.

In fact, you will not hiccup again!

The mere act of concentrating on making a LOUD hiccup lets you regain control! It’s that simple.

Try this phenomenal trick, and you may never endure a case of the hiccups again. You may hiccup once, but once you deploy the mind trick — you’ll never have another “case” of the hiccups.

Ah, the irony! Every now and then, I’ll run into someone with seemingly unstoppable hiccups. I’ll tell them to concentrate on making their next hiccup super loud. If they comply, their hiccups end. Many will say, “Oh, wait, my hiccups went away… I never had a chance to try your trick and make a loud hiccup!”  The funny part is that they think the hiccups went away without using the trick — when in fact, it was the mind trick that made the hiccups end!

Alternately, I’ll run into a neurotic hiccup-er who says, “Absolutely not! I will NOT make my next hiccup loud. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself…” And so, they will hop up and down, hold their breath, drink water, plug their ears and noses with their hands, twirl around in circles, or beg their friends to find a way to scare them.

And yet, they say they don’t want to appear foolish. Irony at work, again!

If you’re serious about ending hiccups instantly, permanently, and without drama — try my little mind trick. I doubt you’ll ever have a case of the hiccups again.

Categories
content ideas Presentation

Be yourself? Why not be someone else?

Say you’re giving a live presentation to a large audience. And let’s say this is not something you do on a regular basis.

You might be a little nervous about your presentation, so you turn to friends or the internet for some public speaking advice. As you do, you’ll undoubtedly hear or read this strange bit of folkloric wisdom:

Just Be Yourself! Act Natural!

The problem with this advice is that you’ll find yourself in a completely unnatural environment — alone in front of a large group of people, lights shining in your face, a mike wire dangling from your lapel to your fanny, monster visual displays behind your back — just exactly how do you go about acting “naturally” in such an unnatural situation?

And suppose your “natural” self is rather shy, nervous, or introverted? How does that help?

Telling a nervous neophyte speaker to “act naturally” on stage sets them up to flop. Rather than trying to “act naturally” — whatever that is — why not try one of these three more specific courses of action?

1. You can make the environment seem more natural. Nothing takes the jitters out of a presentation like a real, live, full dress rehearsal. Get lots of practice! Physically walk on the stage. Feel the lights on your face, the fanny pack on your belt, the video remote in your hand. Once you’ve experienced your surroundings, the stage environment is going to seem more natural — so there’s a better chance that you can act naturally, too.

2. If you’re going to be yourself, be your best self. There’s really no point in being yourself if you’re naturally dull. Getting up on stage will only amplify your natural witlessness and bore your audience. Instead, natural dullards would do well to work with professional speech writers and coaches. Professionals can help buff a dull personality or presentation so that it shines on stage. If it’s an important presentation, don’t mess around — hire a pro.

3. You can be someone else.
OK, you can’t really BE someone else. But you can channel the spirit of someone you admire, and project their personality when you speak. This actually takes a speech out of the realm of “presentation” and into the realm of “performance.” It’s called “acting” — and you may have heard that many audiences find a good performance highly entertaining and enriching.

If you know who you are and are completely comfortable with the stage — you might do well to act naturally. You might do even better to act appropriately for the audience and the situation.

And hey — what exactly does it mean to “be yourself?”

Categories
Presentation

What’s your trademarked hand gesture?

Sarah Palin writes notes on hers. Bill Clinton is famous for the modified fist with the softened thumbs up gesture. TV pundits vary their hand gestures for emphasis and interest.

hand gestures in presentationsWhat do you do with your hands during a presentation?

For the past year, I’ve seen an alarming trend in presentation hand-gestures — especially by young men during technical presentations.

It’s the lackluster “hands in pockets” gesture made popular by the slacker dufus in those “I’m a PC” commercials. He’s the guy whose posture represents disinterest. He has nothing to do, so he stands with his hands in his pockets, listening to what the more entertaining fellow has to say.

“Hands in Pockets” might be appropriate during the “Q” part of “Q and A”. It can signal, “I’m open to listening to you”.

But it’s not a polite posture to adopt while speaking.

Worse, I frequently see the “hands in pocket” presenter fidget on stage. The hands start to dig deeper into the pockets. Fiddling commences.

I like to imagine the presenter is toying with his keys or a thumb drive, but I’m not entirely sure what he’s playing with down there. It makes me uncomfortable. I tend to lose focus on the presentation, worrying about what he might pull out of his pocket. Curiously, I seldom see women thrust their hands in their trousers while presenting. It seems to be a guy’s gesture.

What do you do with your hands? During your next presentation — watch what you do with your hands. Avoid inadvertently rude gestures. Vary the gestures throughout your speech.

And what’s your “trademark” gesture — the one gesture you can become famous for?

Just keep your hands where the audience can see ’em, please!

Categories
Presentation social media Twitter

Why You Should Never, Ever Crowdsource Your Presentation Title

  • Intro to X
  • X 101
  • X for Beginners

Ugh.

What presentation titles could possibly be more overused? If you’re going to a presentation with one of these titles, you can be almost certain that the presentation is going to be every bit as boring and cliched as its headline. These kinds of titles are a red flag that show a lack of creativity and imagination on the part of the presenter.

In his hilarious + helpful book Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun states very clearly that taking a strong position in your title is utterly essential. In his chapter titled “Eating the Mike”, Mr.Berkum states that with a weak position, your talk may become…

“Here is everything I know I could cram into the time I have, but since I have no idea if you care, or what I would say if I had less time to talk, you get a half-baked, hard to follow, hard to present, pile of trash.”

No kidding!Presentation Title Do
I’ve had to fight these “Naming the Presentation” battles over the past decade. I’ll come up with a wonderfully effective and entertaining title, and the conference organizer will bill it as “X for Beginners”.

I hate it when my name and face gets positioned next to that turd of a title. I sometimes fantasize about clearing things up with the audience:

“I know you think the title of this session is “Introduction to Social Media for Conference Planners 101”, but that’s a misprint. That was just a description of the TOPIC and AUDIENCE PROFILE that I discussed with the organizers so that I could build a relevant presentation for you. The actual TITLE of my presentation is “The Top 5 Most Horrifying Mistakes Conference Organizers Make and How to Fix Them Fast.”

Yeah, I don’t say anything like that.

What I do instead: Happily, I learned an important lesson from Mr. Berkun’s book. I’ve been enjoying frank conversations with event planners about the importance of the title of the talk. I’ve made it clear that the topic, difficulty level, and audience profile may not have anything to do with the title we choose for the presentation. (They might, but they might not.)

For the moment, this approach seems to be working. Fancy that! Conference planners seem delighted to hear that the person they’ve hired is thinking about the audience, presentation content, marketing viability and title.

It seems that they’re a smart bunch that values professionalism and creativity.

What doesn’t work? Lately, I’ve actually seen speakers try to crowdsource their presentation titles on Twitter! How much of a bad idea is it to tweet:

“I’m giving a 101 presentation to a group of widget manufacturers. What should I call it?”

Honestly. Think about it. How the heck should someone who hasn’t seen the content know what to name the presentation?

I suspect that presenters who crowdsource their titles have constructed a presentation so generic and half-baked that it could actually be named…

…anything.

How about:

“Here’s some crap I know a little bit more about that you…”

Make no mistake: Cliched titles and crowdsourced titles are huge red flags that the presentation is a stinker. Don’t crowdsource a title. Don’t go to a presentation with a crowdsourced or cliched title.

Instead, take great care to construct your presentation content carefully — and name your presentation effectively. If you don’t know how, read Mr.Berkun’s book. It’s a very entertaining read — but imparts helpful and practical advice along the way.

Categories
Presentation public speaking social media Twitter

How Twitter is Like Public Speaking

  • “I just don’t know what I would say…”
  • “I can’t believe anybody would care…”
  • “I think I’ll make a fool out of myself…”

Speechwriters and presentation coaches often hear these three objections from new clients. Today, I hear the same objections from clients when they talk about approaching Twitter.

Stage fright? It’s being replaced with Twitter fright.

It makes sense, in an odd way. Twitter, in part, is a public speaking platform.

It’s much more, of course: it’s a public listening platform as well. And it’s much less, of course: each Twitter utterance is limited to 140 characters.

Fundamentally, Twitter is a new and growing communication platform. Learning to communicate well on Twitter may be every bit as essential as polishing and honing your public speaking and presentation skills.

When I hear someone who has yet to try Twitter say,

“I just don’t know what I would say…” — I often ask them to listen first. Use Twitter Search to find people who are Tweeting about topics that interest you. Or use Twitter Search advanced to find people in your local community who are tweeting about local events and issues. It’s easier to enter a conversation that’s already in progress about something that’s inherently interesting to you – than it is to be the one to start the conversational ball rolling. Eavesdrop on an interesting conversation already in progress. Ask a question or show support. Later, when you’ve developed some rapport, you might find that you have plenty to say — and you’ve got an audience that’s more predisposed to listen.

“I can’t believe anybody would care…”
— Why is this so hard to believe? Here’s a timeless truth: people care about people they know, like, and trust. And people care about their communities. And ideas they find interesting. People like to discuss topics of interest with others. And yes, it sometimes includes recipes and food and music. Sometimes it includes humor, jokes, and talk about the weather. Oh, and from time to time, the conversation turns to talk about business. If you really “can’t believe anybody would care…” — make them care. Get to know them first. Get to like them. Get to understand them. Be a mensch. Get personally involved. Chances are, if you genuinely care about people and let them know it with a few minutes of chat or a link to an interesting idea, they will come to care about what you say.

“I think I’ll make a fool out of myself…”
— Don’t worry. You’ll make a fool of yourself at some point or another in your life. No one’s immune from foolishness. But the people who look like the biggest fools are people who claim knowledge without experience. As in the people who routinely say, “I think Twitter is stupid. It’s a waste of time, so I’m not getting involved. But I will keep telling everyone I know how stupid I think it is…” It’s hard to convince me that Twitter is stupid when millions of people use it to a) find real-world friends b) get breaking news c) brainstorm great ideas d) build relationships that lead to new opportunities e) spread news about great causes and ideas… and a whole bunch more.

You’re a social human being that longs to connect with other people. Twitter is a communication platform that can help you do just that. Don’t be scared or intimidated. You’ll find the people and ideas you care about being discussed on Twitter. Join the conversation, develop rapport, and start building relationships.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter. I tweet under the handle of @maniactive