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How to avoid a damp squib ending to your presentation

Sudden endings can ruin a presentation

Sudden endings can ruin a presentation

The end of a presentation can feel very much like falling off a cliff: you’ve got some solid content that you tread through,  then suddenly there’s nothing.   Often you’ll find yourself calling into the gap beyond with ‘Any questions?’

Although dealing with questions is a separate post,  one way to avoid this call into the abyss is to ask a question that reinforces your key point, such as:

“I’m often asked whether we need to change strategy at all if what we have is getting us by.   And that’s the point… We can more than ‘get by’:  diversifying  offers an exciting opportunity to grow,  learn and secure a more profitable future.  Who wouldn’t want that?”

The 3 point closure provides a neat conclusion, using a rhetorical question as the full stop.   Do ensure that the key message re-emphasises what’s in it for your audience.

Avoid self-aggrandising ‘questions’, as in the following example:

‘People ask me why I’m so brilliant.   It’s partly nature and a bit of nurture.   Thanks and goodbye’.

Looks like there’s a humility drought here in a desert of ego.   Where’s the reinforcement of audience benefit?

This is not dissimilar from a real example I recall from a motivational speaker:

“People ask me how they can be more like me…” I can’t remember the rest.  I think I was out the room by then.

 

A word about the 3 point closure:

The three point closure allows for a distinctive end to your presentation.   This avoids having it hanging incomplete in the ether, leaving your audience confused as to whether you’ve finished or not.

For example in Winston Churchill’s famous blood,  sweat and tears speech, what he actually said was “I can promise you Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears”.   We lost the toil and actually only recall ‘blood,  sweat and tears’  for the same reason that we remember ‘A Mars a day helps you work,  rest and play’. (or ‘your teeth rot away’ although that calls upon rhythm and rhyme more as a mnemonic).

 

To sum up:

  1. Ask a question that reinforces the key benefit to the audience
  2. Use a rule of 3 within the answer
  3. You can also add devices like rhetorical questions or quotes to provide a clear ending.

So these 3 devices will give your words more weight….and who wouldn’t want that?!

 

3 reasons you blank and what to do about it

 

blankingdog

If blanking had a picture…

Blanking during a presentation is the mental equivalent of your clothes falling off in front of the audience.  It’s the moment you stop speaking, as does your ability to think.  I don’t mean, ‘think clearly’, but actually the ability to think at all.

 

This is sometimes accompanied by the disturbing sensation of floating out of your skin to watch your ‘other self’ helplessly freeze in front of the audience.

 

 

 

The reasons we blank

Here are the three most common reasons for this brain-jam:

  1. Awareness of being looked at:
    sudden awareness that we’re being watched by countless pairs of eyes,  judging performance and personality.
  2. Trying to remember a script:
    the total stress of trying to remember lines, when bullet points acting as ‘landmarks in the road’ would have done fine.  Unless you’re a politician or giving police reporting on the progress on a crime, ditch the script.  It’s a security blanket.
  3. Unnatural introductions:
    beginning a presentation with your name often feels like the equivalent of opening your coat to reveal a target: ‘you know who I am now, so you know who to hit’.

According to reviews in Scientific American, research has recently discovered that stress impacts on the pre-frontal cortex.  The pre-frontal cortex aids short-term memory, concentration on the task in hand and choosing appropriate actions.  It’s the command centre of the brain.

Under stress, the captain of the command centre can misread a situation as one of danger, triggering the hypothalamus, the primitive part of the brain.  The hypothalamus will, in response, release adrenalin causing a ‘fight or flight’ response.

This isn’t very useful if your audience want to understand how the new IT change programme is going to support the company strategy.

 

How to deal with ‘blanking’

 

I’ve read ‘Tell yourself you’re fab/the audience loves you/your presentation is amazing”, and other such nonsense.  Well, I’ve had stage fright and I can tell you this: you can’t tell yourself anything because that part of the brain is out for lunch, given up, shut down.  Dog gawn.

 

  1.  Gesture:
    Gesture to draw out words from your head – something will occur to you until you find the next point.
  2. Move your feet:
    Move from one position to another. If you move you’ll breathe, and this will clear the thought process, buy you time and make you look more confident.  As this action usually builds in a natural pause, it will add presence and control, even as your mind is flipping like a Roladex.
  3. Mentally shift:
    Do what you do when you lose your house keys: retrace your steps.  Recap what you said when the pre-frontal cortex was in control and it will lead you to pinpoint what to say next.  You can do this aloud: the audience will often help you! As it happens to everyone, it actually helps you to become more engaging.  (Please note, however, I’m not encouraging you to make a habit of this.  There are other ways to be engaging!).

 

Now, when you look at the reasons for blanking, such as scripting, there are many ways to avoid it in the first place.

Using theatre improvisation techniques is essential for confident presenting: very little will phase you as the command centre of the pre-frontal brain will always be in control, increasingly unphased by the unexpected.  It won’t go AWOL: you can avoid brain-jams and out of body experiences.

The habit of risk taking in this way, breeds a sense of calm and trust that won’t be read as a disaster situation but as an opportunity to make your point and let your personality shine through freely.

 

 

How to stop shaking when you present

Get shaky arms and legs when presenting? Here’s how to stop the quivering and feel freer.

Why stories work

tell them your story

A story replaces information overload

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,”

(Robert McAfee Brown)

There are two ways to share knowledge: either you can push information out or you can pull people in with a story.

Whether you need to sell a product or change behaviour, stories are vital to your success.  Here you’ll find 5 reasons why having an anecdote up your sleeve will immediately change how people perceive you.


1. Stories can simplify the complex through a metaphor.

For example, the tale of the pig farmer who realised that overnight his stock was worth half .  On the strength of the potential sale, he’d taken out loans for barn repairs and equipment.  The debts stayed the same but his income was halved, pushing him into further debt.
This story was used to explain the effect of the devaluation of oil in Russia.  A metaphor that those unfamiliar with macro economics would be able to digest.


2.  They make no claims so aren’t threatening.

So instead of saying, ‘If you don’t buy this anti-virus package for your computers, you’ll be in trouble’, you can tell the story of how using BungleBoo Anti Virus system allowed a virus into your computer like water though a sieve, destroying your client base, all your documents and forcing you to have to purchase a watertight new laptop.


3.  Want to change the way someone is doing something? 

Tell them about the time that you didn’t buy travel insurance, broke your legs in Albania and ended up paying an arm and another leg to get home .   Much better than dishing out the advice with ‘you should/shouldn’t’, which just tends to get up people’s noses.


4.  If you want to make a strong point, this becomes easier to internalize and remember by building a sense of anticipation.

When I give short seminars on cross cultural presentations, I tell half the story of Richard, who worked for a large US bank and was trying to tie up a deal in the United Arab Emirates. He had to fly to Abu Dhabi several times before he won the deal.  However, it wasn’t his PowerPoints that won the day but 3 small adjustments he made to how he communicated.  I start the story at the beginning of the presentation, and by the end, they’re dying to know what happened to him so that’s when I complete the tale.

If you make your audience want to know the outcome, they’re more likely to remember it.

Click here to see me telling the story.


5. Fires imagination and provides role models for action.

For those that need a bit of encouragement being resourceful when resources are limited, the story of Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, could be encouraging.  The logo of the Body Shop is entirely down to the fact that when she opened her first shop in Brighton,  it was cheaper and easier to find a green colour to match the mould-riddled signage.  Purchasing new signage wasn’t in her budget.  That decision gave birth to the globally recognised Body Shop brand.

Such a story of resourcefulness can make you think  ‘Goodness, if she can do it, so can I.’


6. Potential customers can identify with an issue and are more likely to then want to buy from you

Instead of ‘selling’ a product or service you give a case study of a problem that existed before e.g. boring presentations or bullish managers.

People can relate to a commonly shared problem and will act on an issue to which they can relate.  If they empathise with it, you only need to say how you’d work with them because they have an instant picture of what you do and the challenges you can help them overcome.
By the way, the tales you tell reflect your experience, knowledge and what’s important to you, adding to your credibility.
And for those of you who say you’ve got no stories, I bet I could help you find one, even if it’s not your own…

Look on the courses page here or contact me and I’ll help you find your story.

 


‘It is what it is’ and other meaningless palliatives

Forgotten how good it can be?

Forgotten how good it can be?

Years ago I saw the film, Baraka.  It’s a visual treat, showing some truly beautiful aspects of nature and culture alongside the ability of ‘civilisation’ to destroy what is precious.

I remember one scene in the film showing a native tribe in Brazil, rowing along the Amazon. Next shot, native tribes boxed in tatty blocks of dark flats, squeezed against each other, perching precariously on a deforested mound.

Yet those families, who had been running free not so long ago, looked quite content in their cramped homes. It’s a testament to the enduring human spirit or rather, how we can get quite used to a crappy situation.

What we are often seeing is not the victories of the human spirit but the amnesia of the human mind.

We forget how great we can be, how rewarding our jobs can be, or, our lives, affecting the possibility of businesses and individuals to more than just ‘manage’.

 

 

1. Hit ’em in the gut

Persuading people to change means showing reminding them of two factors:

1) Exactly how crappy things are now;
2) Exactly how great it could be for them.

When presenting and persuading, you need a balance of the analytical – facts, data, evidence – and the emotion.

The reason for this is that although the numbers will convince, we’re ultimately stirred into action by emotion, a concept that Chip and Dan Heath wrote about in their book, ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’. They picked on a Deloittes survey that analysed the decision making process of 400 people in 130 companies across four continents and proved that when you hit people in the gut, those feelings will be more likely to generate action.

 

2. Make it tangible:

Something that can be seen is more persuasive than concepts.  In trying to prove how having numerous suppliers for any one item was reducing a company’s ability to attain competitive prices, a graph plotting the expenses could be projected on the wall.

Alternatively, throwing the identical and variously-priced objects on the board table,  the point of wasting money through decentralised purchasing decisions is made more succinctly.  It’s visual and real, allowing people to see and feel, in both senses of the word.

To read a case study of Joe Stegner did this at Deere, go here.

 

3. Focus on the individual:

When charities plead for money, they don’t show you a matrix of data but a face of a child (usually). In their literature, they will then focus on the story of this one individual to explain the issues. Take us for a moment into the life of another and we can walk in their shoes without having to take ours off.

 

4. Build an imaginary contrasted future

Paint a vivid picture of the situation now:

a) What are you seeing now that isn’t working?
b) How will this problem make everything worse?
c) What else will go wrong if we carry on like this?

Paint the enlightened future:

a) What would we see that will tell us the situation has improved?
b) What else would get better as a result of this?
c) What are the first steps to make this change easy, whereby we’d get our first small wins?

 

How to use these techniques:

You could apply them:

  • in a pitch or presentation
  • to change behaviour in feedback situations
  • in persuading teams of the benefits of forthcoming change
  • for marketing or advertising products

 

So when will you use one of these methods and how will you apply it?

Let me know here!

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What’s More Important in Your Presentation? Content or Delivery?

Rubbish wrapped in a ribbbon?

Rubbish wrapped in style?

Presentation day looming? You’re Eddie Izzard, you’re Margaret Thatcher, you’re a children’s storyteller! Unless your aim is to induce a coma on your poor audience, your presentation needs to be more than just words. Your job is to entertain, to enlighten and most importantly, get your message across.

It’s not uncommon to be nervous about speaking in front of a group, but a sizeable chunk of these nerves can be put to one side if you’re prepared and know your stuff. You want to be able to walk out in front of your audience and before you’ve even said a word, convey the message – “shut your mouths and listen to my face, I’m wonderful!”

Of course, you should never say this out loud.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas that emphasise the importance of the delivery.

 

Does Your Powerpoint Presentation Have More Personality Than You?

Slideshow software is fantastic for demonstrating key points and showing information in a clear and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s a substitute for human interaction and end up giving their audience nothing but lumbar pain and an unnatural compulsion to book in with a Swiss clinic.

In the world of academia, Stephen Ceci, a university professor at Cornell improved his evaluations over two terms simply by changing the way in which he delivered the content. What’s noteworthy is that the content did not change, only the delivery. In the second term of teaching, with a new group of students, he added more gestures, used his tone of voice tactically and generally become more enthusiastic when lecturing.

After he introduced new delivery techniques, the following happened:

  • The professor was perceived as being a more effective lecturer
  • He was considered to be more open, to others’ ideas
  • He was viewed as being more organised
  • Even Ceci’s textbooks were perceived to be 20% better than with previous classes
  • The students’ believed had learned more

But the content didn’t change, just the delivery. Are you getting the point?

 

Men! Evolution Not Your Cup of Tea?

According to primary school history lessons, men used to spend their days fighting wild animals and eventually eating them. But unless you’re from certain parts of the country, chances are you’ve evolved and now chase fewer beasts through the street.

Men, unless an irate pterodactyl is gazing at you from behind the whiteboard, there’s really no need to cover your throat with your hand. This is a primitive gesture that men make when faced with a threat, which a few thousand years ago may well have been an angry bird with serrated teeth but nowadays it could equally be Jane from accounts who is eager to talk to you about the Weatherspoons receipts you submitted on expenses.

Either way, when you’re trying to instill a sense of confidence in your audience, gestures like this will not be welcomed. Another example is the “penalty shoot out pose” where your legs are shoulder width apart and your hands covering your crotch. This is absolutely fine if you’re delivering your presentation 18 yards from the goalposts at Wembley, not so great if you’re living in the real world.

 

Women, Are You Shrinking?

Standing with your feet together like you’re in choir practice is not a confidence builder for your audience.  And while we’re at it, leave your hair alone! Women tend to be guilty of this sin and often need to be told to adopt a more authoritative stance.

 

To Sum it All Up

The fact of the matter is, your audience is human and as such will fail to separate the delivery from the content, which is why it’s your responsibility to deliver the right content in the right way. A presentation should be seen as a way to add some flavour to what you’re trying to say so there’s no excuse for delivering what could be said using words on a page. Text is vanilla, presentations are mint choc chip.

 

To see what we did to shape up content and delivery in academia and business, click here for the case studies

 

8 ways to get what you want from presentations

follow uupYou’ve just finished a fantastic presentation and people are gurgling with joy about you/your content/your services.

You get back to base expecting the phone to ring, your diary to be heaving at the seams and working out whether you need an office in New York and Hong Kong.

But it all falls flat as a pancake. Nothing. Nichts. De Nada. And you think ‘Was I imagining that enthusiasm?’

It’s very likely you weren’t but we’re goldfishes: as soon as we come away from the context of the talk, we remain with the shadow of the impact, not the full-on spirit of the moment. This means that you need to be proactive, if you want to pick up on opportunities to:

1. gather support for a plan;

2. acquire further knowledge or spread your own;

3. win business;

4. build networks of influence.

What I’ve gathered here are 8 ways you can create opportunities to get what you need.

The presentation may feel like a main course but often it’s the starter: the prelude to actually doing business. In conferences, you may have so many speakers that they all blend into each other.

Make yourself stand out and keep in the minds of your audience and influencers. Here are several ways that you can do this:

  1. use slideshare.com to post slides to them (the transcript of the slides appears underneath);
  2. post a survey.  Surveymonkey.com can do this easily and send it out to social networks;
  3. send an opt-in form to register interest in products or services. Research has shown that by getting people to indicate interest before you start ‘the sell’, sales can increase by as much as 50%;
  4. write a blog or, even better, have a member of the audience write and post one for you if you don’t have time. Sharing your knowledge with the audience, means that you can then catch it in your own blog, in the time it takes to buckle a belt;
  5. offer a follow-up webinar with a small group, individuals who want to go further into the details;
  6. arrange one to one’s with interested individuals or individuals you’re interested in meeting up with (scanning the audience list for opportunities before the presentation will allow you to catch your prey);
  7. catch names of attendees and have them on your mailing list so you can keep them as warm leads, instead of waiting for them to go ‘cold’;
  8. set up and invite attendees to a forum – online or offline – to exchange ideas and opinions about your content;

One or any combination of the above can help you to benefit from the opportunity of presenting so, no matter what happens on the day, you can still seize the moment and maintain the momentum, and who know: New York and Hong Kong may just be starting points…next, The World!

 

547 confusing graphs – yippee!

graphThe Devil’s in the Detail

It’s so easy to get trapped in the detail when that’s how you earn your money.  So when presenting to an audience, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a financial analyst, engineer or consultant, PowerPoint can easily become an onslaught of bullet points, dry data and confusing graphs: all qualities that muddy your message.

 

When a picture says a thousands words – or numbers

Research has shown that ideas are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented as pictures instead of words or pictures paired with words.

Psychologists call this the Picture Superiority Effect (PSE), the point of which is thus:

 

If information is presented orally, people remember about 10% of the content 72 hours later. That figure goes up to 65% if you add a picture.

 

Visuals that work

A picture saves a thousand words:

rhino

Suzanne, the IT Director of a national retail organisation, knew her audience of in Marketing and Business Development where going to be challenging.  She flashed up her slide of huge white rhino.

 

“So often,” she began, “The IT department are seen like this rhino:  thick-skinned, short-sighted and charging all the time.”.

A barrage of data versus one point

If you’re presenting to those dealing with data every day, seeing more of it in a presentation, can give that audience sort of  data death.  If you’re not there to persuade your audience to act on something, then it’s a report, not a presentation.  Your audience want to see the key message, the one point.

One utilities company that I was training, needed to do a presentation to their investors.  Their point: invest in us: we’re on the up, and you’ll see returns, guarded against risk.

It was a team ‘performance’ to a very financially astute crowd.  They had this brilliantly colourful slide of a ship and lifeboats, a dynamic cartoon, which was a great metaphor for the way they were operating.

We crafted a message around this picture that had such an impact on the audience, that the share prices shot up (so it wasn’t a picture of the Titanic, that’s for sure).

Numbers were mentioned in a way they got remembered but there wasn’t a bar graph or pie chart in sight and the investors loved the refreshing and memorable way this team conveyed a message clearly, with humour and the evidence to prove their success.

There’s nothing to prove so put it away!

If you feel that you need to put so much data on your slides, ask yourself if there’s perhaps a little urge to prove that you’ve done your homework as an analyst/number cruncher?

By shoving so much detail in your audience’s face, they are not only more likely to forget what you’re talking about but why.  The information you give to your audience needs to make a difference to the world in which they function.

If people want more detail, wave your report at them, but don’t give it out until the end.  That way, they’ll know you’ve done your homework, and that they can get to the nitty gritty when they want, but you won’t be hearing the rustling of pages while you present your message.

When you give the facts that your audiences need to make the changes that will impact their world, you’ll be seen as an expert and a trusted advisor.

 

What’s the best use of visuals you’ve seen?  Comment below and we’ll swop tips!

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How to increase your ‘Presence’

 

It's all about connection

It’s all about connection

Some people seem to find catching the attention of others effortless, be it in a job interview, presentation or a meeting.

What is it they’ve got that other people haven’t?

Charisma?

Presence?

What are the qualities that make some people more trustworthy, authoritative and persuasive?

The good news is that these qualities can be learnt…read on if you’re interested in getting other’s attention (without shouting or doing the Shimmy Shake).

Let’s imagine Eugene needs to stand in front of his business partners and persuade them to pool resources on a new venture.  He needs to appear more authoritative, trustworthy and persuasive so what qualities do you think are vital?

According to work conducted at the University of Lausanne. lead by Professor John Antonakis,  there are a set of twelve communication habits that Eugene would need to adopt.

When Antonakis was conducting the study of what would give people like Eugene that extra ‘zing’, he was actually looking at ‘charisma’.

The Latin root of ‘charisma’, ‘charis’ means ‘favour’ and the whole word therefore translates as to ‘exhort favour’.  In other words, ‘being influential’.  Not every leader or manager needs to be – or can be – ‘charismatic’ with its ‘wow the room’ implication but to be engaging is vital.

Eight of the techniques of engaging others, are verbal:

  1. using metaphors;
  2. easy-to-remember three-part lists;
  3. telling stories;
  4. drawing vivid contrasts;
  5. asking rhetorical questions;
  6. expressing moral conviction;
  7. reflecting an audience’s sentiments;
  8. and setting high but achievable goals.

The rest are non-verbal: raising and lowering your voice, letting your feelings show in face and hand gestures to reinforce what you say.

All these skills are based on Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric that can be broken down thus:

  • Ethos – establishing your credentials and building rapport;

This could be done during a presentation, by Eugene sharing his experience through anecdotes, for example, and reflecting the audience’s concerns and language.  Credibility may be established beforehand through reputation. Eugene may have a harder job if his audience think he had his hand in the pension fund, in which case, establishing credentials through colourful stories may be as productive as skiing uphill in slippers.

  •  Logos – persuading through logic

By showing cause and effect, before and after, theory next to experience, Eugene will be using logic to influence.

  • Pathos – persuasion with emotion

Try talking about something your are looking forward to in a flat, unmodulated voice with no movement. Then do this with gesture to underline points your emphasise with vocal colouring.  That is the addition of ‘pathos’.  Do be aware of cultural variations, though.  For example, more open, expressive movement would be expected in southern Europe than Northern Europe.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter,  a Professor from Harvard in her blog ‘Why you need Charisma’,  says that it’s how well you listen as opposed to being heard, that will make you influential.  For her, ‘charisma’ is the quality of silence as well as speech.

According to Professor Kanter, active listening is vital:  the questions you ask to seek understanding, reflecting back key phrases, steering a conversation through non-verbals.

Whether in a presentation or the Q and A afterwards both the verbal and non-verbal engagement will be vital.  In meetings, pitches, and interviews getting the balance between active listening and speaking in an engaging way will mean that you have presence.  Both Professors Antonakis and Kanter are spot on.

 

 

 

How to Pitch in the Middle East

Here’s a short video I’ve put together to give you:

5 Top Tips to Win Pitches in the Middle East

…after a client of mine was struggling to win business in Abu Dhabi.

Tip no. 4 came as a shock to him:  I might as well have said, “Richard (not his real name!), take your head off and throw it down the drain.”  However, he adapted and…well, you’ll hear what happened.

So ‘Hadi!’, ‘Yellah!’, Let’s go!

See you in the comments…