Presentation social media

Which audience are you really addressing?

“The real leader serves truth, not people.”  -J.B. Yeats

You have many audiences, all at once.

You have the audience that is in front of you as you speak.

You have the audience of people that will hear about your message from the first audience.

You may even have media coverage of your message, which gives you a whole new audience.

Further, your message may even have an audience long after you’re dead: a historical audience.

Which audience are you presenting for? The audience in front of you… or the audience who heard about you from the first audience? Or a historical audience?

What message will they hear?

All these audience research questions are worth considering as you craft and deliver a speech or presentation.


How to stop a boorish Q&A Hog in 3 easy steps

I recently attended a terrific, high-powered panel presentation that unfortunately became hijacked by what I’ll call “a Q&A hog.” You’ve probably witnessed a Q&A hog in action at a conference or presentation.

Q&A Hog, defined: an annoying creature that rambles incoherently during the Question and Answer period of a presentation. The hog typically takes up to 5 minutes to ask the presenter a very specific or off-topic question that no one in the audience has any interest in discussing. Q&A hogs usually have some personal agenda or simply love to hear the sound of their own voices.

The panel presentation I witnessed? The Q&A hog actually grabbed the floor mike and took over. It was a bad scene, man.

The hog held the entire audience hostage with non-stop rambling. The panelists and audience members started shuffling and checking their smart phones. The moderator looked wild-eyed around the room, vainly searching for armed gunmen with tranquilizers to shoot the beast down.

Q&A Hogphoto credit: Sheep Purple

Boors don’t pick up on obvious visual cues of disinterest. It’s not in their nature. They’re going to keep talking — until you shut them down. Mere body language and facial gestures won’t do the trick.

If you’re the speaker or moderator, you must shut down the hog.

And you must use words. Firm, direct words. It’s the only way.

Here’s a sample script you can try:

“Pardon, I’m going to cut you off. We have a limited time for Q&A. I want you to sit down and think about how you can ask your question in 30 seconds or less. Until you do, who else has a short question for me?” (Body language — scan the room with your arm raised.)

This direct method may seem harsh if you’re a sensitive sort. You may feel that you’re being rude to the hog. But you’re actually protecting and comforting your audience, which is far more important.

And actually, you’re not being rude to the hog at all. Unlike most people, hogs don’t seem to understand the “sit down and shut up” subtext of the above above script. Instead, many  seem to like the challenge: “What fun! I need to solve a puzzle! How am I going to reword my question to meet the time frame?”

You can try variations of the direct approach, but stick to three basics.

  1. Tell the hog you’re going to interrupt. Important point: never ask a hog if you can interrupt. Tell them that you’re cutting them off. If you ask “can I interrupt you?” — they’ll probably say “no, bear with me,  I’m almost done.” Then you’ll get 300 more hours of rambling incoherence.
  2. Align yourself with the audience. Remember, the audience wants the hog to shut up, too. By using the code phrase “limited time”, you’re signalling to everybody that unlike the bore, you respect their time. You’re going to honor and protect your audience.
  3. Move it along. “Who else has a short question?” while scanning the audience works wonders. During your scan, you will make eye contact with someone who is eager to shut down the hog, too. Giving this person ‘the nod’ is all the encouragement they need to get up and ask…anything.

I always recommend the direct approach for shutting down Q&A hogs. What’s your approach? What works for you?

Presentation Twitter

Your final words: how NOT to close a presentation

I asked folks on Twitter:

“What’s the worst way to end a presentation?”

My own personal pet peeve is ending with “Are there any questions?”  Q & A is such a weak & wimpy close. Regrettably, I hear it far too often.

However, within 12 minutes of my Twitter query, I received even more brilliant answers — brainstorms from the gang on Twitter:

End Presentations Well

A few more minutes go by, and I get a few more brilliant answers.

How to Close a Presentation
(Thanks to S_Vandergriff, FensterV, Admore, Clairecelsi, jbrons, boyink, bisquiat, mbresnahan, alissajean, and doctorzen for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and sense of humor!)

What’s the worst way to close a speech you’ve ever witnessed — or heard tale of?


My Guiltiest Twitter Pleasure:

OK, I’ll admit it. Very few days go by where I don’t check into Why? Because I like a good grin. And I like to find humor in offbeat and unusual places.

Favstar is like an underground Twitter subculture of frustrated writers and wanna-be comics. A Twitter companion site, you can simply go to and sign in with your Twitter account. On a completely selfish or business level, you can use the Favstar service to discover who has starred or “favorited” your Tweets. But there’s more to favstar than vanity searches for your surreptitious gold stars. Me TabBut first, why star instead of RT? Sometimes you really think a tweet is perky, funny, or entertaining — but you can’t retweet everything you think is great. That could really junk up your timeline. And it might not be relevant to your followers. Instead, you can give props to peeps who give good Tweets by bookmarking the Tweet with a star. This also lets you curate interesting Tweets as well as build relationships with people you think are witty.

I’ve been visiting for some months now. The people who are active on Favstar have formed something of a clandestine Twitter counter culture. They Tweet for the gold stars. It’s like applause to them.

At Favstar, you’ll find categories for funny, tech, and celebrity tweets. You’ll discover the NSFW — Not Safe for Work — section (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Favstar also helps you curate your own lists at Twitter, as well.

Favstar Leaderboard

All that said, I’m not terribly active on Favstar — I read & giggle & applaud by giving out gold stars more than anything else. Going to to read the “Leaderboard” is my guilty pleasure — as is curating a list of warm & witty Twitter newcomers to my Favstar lists. I’ve found fun people to connect with who excel at using Twitter for self-expression and pounding out one-liners.

Favstar is my guilty Twitter pleasure — what’s yours?

fun Presentation social media

Steal This Press Conference!

Actually, the title of this post should be:

“If you don’t like the news, why not go out and make your own?”

The above question is a quote from “Steal This Book“, a social instruction guide written by Abbie Hoffman in the 1970’s. Hoffman was a master at getting free publicity for his causes in the 1960’s and 70’s. He didn’t have the power of Goliath on his side — large corporations and governments certainly did not appreciate his approach! Instead, Hoffman used the stealthy power of a David to successfully change the course of the Amerikan conversation.

Abbie Hoffmancredit: osbomb

In one paragraph, Hoffman describes timeless presentation techniques for snatching free publicity using the conventional press conference system. With the popularity of social media channels, Hoffman’s techniques may be even more effective today than they were over 40 years ago.

The paragraph, in its entirety, is in italics below. I broke up the paragraph with free (stolen?) images from Flickr, for your viewing enjoyment.

Everything about a successful press conference must be dramatic, from the announcements and phone calls to the statements themselves. Nothing creates a worse image than four or five men in business suits sitting behind a table and talking in a calm manner at a fashionable hotel. Constantly seek to have every detail of the press conference differ in style as well as content from the conferences of people in power.

DSC_0069.JPGcredit: Andrew Feinberg

Make use of music and visual effects.

Bidê ou Balde - Natal da Integração Campo Bom - Dez 2008credit: Tiago Zaniratti

Don’t stiffen up before the press. Make the statement as short and to the point as possible. Don’t read from notes, look directly into the camera.

ACORN press conference 12/18/08credit: ProgressOhio

The usual television spot is one minute and twenty seconds. The cameras start buzzing on your opening statement and often run out of film before you finish. So make it brief and action packed.

GAW: Massive Dynamiccredit: Giant Ideas

The question period should be even more dramatic. Use the questioner’s first name when answering a question. This adds an air of informality and networks are more apt to use an answer directed personally to one of their newsmen.

TR20081106-011credit: Menlo School

Express your emotional feelings. Be funny, get angry, be sad or ecstatic. If you cannot convey that you are deeply excited or troubled or outraged about what you are saying, how do you expect it of others who are watching a little image box in their living room?

Bumper Sticker Wisdomcredit: Kevin Krejci

Remember, you are advertising a new way of life to people. Watch TV commercials. See how they are able to convey everything they need to be effective in such a short time and limited space.

A Christmas Present for My Snow-Bound Friendscredit: Caveman 92223

At the same tune you’re mocking the shit they are pushing, steal their techniques.

Keeping it Real, West Jerusalemcredit: David Masters

How many of Hoffman’s techniques can you “steal” to help promote your own worthy cause? And how astute is  “the establishment” (politicians, governments, large corporations and organizations, etc.) becoming at using Hoffman’s style to promote their own agenda?

How many of these techniques have you seen successfully deployed lately? Book burning, anyone?

PS — If you’d like to steal Hoffman’s book, I found it as a free pdf download here: I wonder how long before it will be a free Kindle download on Amazon… it only seems fitting.

fun Presentation social media Twitter

Holy Mackerel! What’s the Best Speaker Gift Ever?

Recently, I received a can of mackerel as a gift. It wasn’t a speaker gift. It was, however, an unusual gift.

It was also an unusually thoughtful gift. How so?

A week earlier, I told an off-topic story. I heard an interview on NPR that fish at the bottom of the food chain — sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel — are nutritious and better environmental choices than salmon and tuna.

However, most Americans haven’t developed a taste for these “lower food chain” fish. I mentioned that the NPR interview gave me the inspiration to try to develop a palate for these fish:

  • Herring, I already like.
  • Anchovies, they’re OK to cook with occasionally.
  • Sardines, meh. I had a sardine bake last week. It was OK, not great. But I love canned sardines on rye! Bonus points for hot sauce.

As for mackerel, I’ve been warned against it repeatedly. I’ve never tried it.

Holy Mackerel Speaker Gifts

That was the gist of my off-hand story. A week later, I received the can of mackerel as a gift, with the challenge to try it. I love a challenge, so I’m going to do it. I’m going to eat that can of mackerel.

More than anything, I love that someone was listening to my offhand comment, and took the time to respond with a thoughtful — albeit unusual — gift.

This made me think of business and speaker gifts I’ve given and received over the years. I once gave a man a smoked salmon as a speaker gift — long story, drug dogs at the airport went insane, security guards drawing weapons — but in the end, it all worked out. The guy’s secretary probably loved the story of temporary airport incarceration more than the actual salmon. But ever since, I’ve been leery of giving the gift of fish. It’s an act of crazy bravado.

However, you’ve really got a challenge when you give a speaker gift. How can you top an unusual, personalized gift like a can of mackerel or a story of incarceration?

The Best Speaker Gift Ever! One of the keys of giving a truly thoughtful gift is to listen to your speaker. If you’re hiring someone to speak at your event or for your organization, read their blog. Follow them on FaceBook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Watch for that offhand comment — it may be about a mackerel, a passion for falconry, adventures in beekeeping — who knows? Once you know a little bit more about your speaker, you can find something more personal that the leftover SWAG that’s been gathering dust in your office.

It may not be the actual gift that’s treasured — but the story behind the gift. Give the gift of listening and storytelling. Those are the best gifts any speaker can receive.

That, and cash.

PS — What are the oddest — and best — speaker gifts you’ve ever given or received? (And if you have any good recipes for canned mackerel, I’d love to read them…thanks!)

social media Twitter

How can you help the socially tone-deaf?

I’m not a sports fan. There! I’ve said it! However, I know that appreciating sports is a big part of international culture.

To this extent, I am mildly conversant in the language of sports. While I don’t enter into sports-related conversations with any depth or passion, I can listen. I can value the enthusiasm of those who do. I can ask questions, and often receive lengthy and fervent responses from people who genuinely love their sport!

World Cup Vuvuzela Soccer FunPhoto credit: Axel Bührmann

I don’t try to fake a sports-passion I don’t feel. But there’s one feeling I don’t have to fake — I genuinely admire the passion of others.

I empathize with fans when I hear cheers over a gain — or groans over a missed goal or bad call. I smile at the smack-talk and bravado of my friends who are earnest sports fans.

Perhaps there’s a major cultural topic where you feel similarly. For example, you may not be a fan of Reality TV, Twitter, Hip Hop Music, Smart Phones, or vampires. Yet, when you recognize that these are major interests in our cultural landscape — you might choose to learn a little bit about these topics by asking questions and showing interest when you encounter friends and family who are fans.

You may never fully treasure the topic of a fan’s ardor. You may never be a convert. But as a sentient human, you probably feel moved by their spirit and enthusiasm. You can feel your creative juices bubble when you let your brain and soul attempt to connect with another’s exuberance.

That’s one reason why ignoring major cultural movements is a tragedy. When people dismiss the major interests of others in their culture, they risk becoming socially tone-deaf. They fall into a creative slump. By failing to listen and ask questions, they can’t seem to appreciate new language as it evolves. They don’t seem to know what people are talking about. They seem woefully out of the loop of social and cultural evolution.

They start sounding and looking old. They create work that seems sad and antiquated. Out of touch. Or even culturally insensitive.

If the term “socially tone-deaf” seems callous to people who are actually tone-deaf, I apologize. Truly tone-deaf people are those who are unable to appreciate music. Similarly, the socially tone-deaf seem unable to value the culture and society that thrives all around them.

You’ll often hear the socially tone-deaf say culturally ignorant things like:

  • “I don’t understand all this fuss about the World Cup. It’s stupid.”
  • “Who is this Justin Beaver guy that all the girls love? It’s stupid.”
  • “I don’t get Twitter and FaceBook and blogs. They’re stupid.”
  • “Let’s get some intern to manage our Social Media. It’s stupid.”

There’s a whole lot of “stupid” in conversations with the socially tone deaf.

The next time you hear a major cultural phenomenon described as “stupid” or “crazy” — please stop to consider whether the person speaking those epithets might be socially tone deaf. Sometimes, I am moved to remind such a person that while they may be unable to appreciate a popular topic, it’s important to consider that other people around them do. Trying to empathize with another’s interest may open their ears to a whole new language.

Being connected means more than being online. It means caring enough about others to listen and ask questions. It means being able to understand a little inside joke — or maybe even crack one. It means being able to extend and add to a conversation.

The next time a business person asks you, “Why should I get my business involved with social media?” — perhaps it’s time to stop quoting facts and figures about the sheer numbers of people who are involved in these online activities.

Instead, perhaps it’s now time to say,

“Because if you don’t care enough to listen to your customers, you’re not going to be in business much longer.”

Is it time for this kind of tough-talk yet? Or is it still too soon?

How else can you help the socially tone-deaf more fully appreciate what others all around them can easily hear?

What can you hear all around you that others may not? How can you help them hear?

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?

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!


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.


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!