Archive for the ‘Speeches’ Category

Useful new angle on managing nerves before a presentation

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


Psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s interesting TED Talk  provides a very different and constructive message that helps with managing those nerves before a presentation. She advocates viewing stress as the body helping you to rise to a challenge, rather than a total negative that should be avoided.

This reflects what is possibly an urban legend I heard about Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen told an interviewer that he didn’t get nervous before a big concert. Later in the same interview, he said that when he was preparing for a concert he needed to be near a toilet because he sometimes vomited. When the interviewer reminded him that he had said he didn’t get nervous, Springsteen apparently said: ‘Oh, that’s not me being nervous. That’s just me getting  excited!’

Here’s the McGonigal presentation:

Great tips for livening up a boring presentation

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Slideshare last week had an excellent and brief set of slides called How to save a lifeless presentation.  

It has a great set of slides and the content applies to the whole presentation, not just the slides. Grab it and do what it says, even with your most technical content.

How to Save a Lifeless Presentation from Bruce Kasanoff

The key to making a technical presentation more engaging

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Last week I was working with a client on a very technical presentation. He  had managed to lift it into something that would really communicate to any interested group, even if they didn’t have his technical background. He’d commented that he’d watched:How great leaders inspire action


The client realised that if he applied Sinek’s principles to any presentation it would lift it into something more special.  The technical content is the ‘what you communicate, the logical explanation is the ‘how’ but the real lift comes from the ‘why’ you are communicating .  So next time you are presenting material that involves reasoning, add in the heart stuff and you will improve it out of all sight.  Get your material together, then check that you have connected through your head, your hands and most importantly, your heart.  Apply a dose of Simon Sinek’s advice and watch your material come to life!

Great talk on presenting technical stuff to non-technical people

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Jean-luc Dumont presents a very useful lecture on Communicating Science to Non-scientists.  It applies equally well to technical non-science material and is worth the 1 hour listen. My stimulating friend Lesley Moffatt sent me the link because we are both involved in the Rotary Club of Wellington Eureka Science Communicators awards

Great fix to build your confidence before you speak in a group

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Need to speak up in a group and find the thought terrifying?  There’s a very interesting TED Talk to help you along.  Amy Cuddy  in, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, talks about the impact of body language on the hormone balance in our brains.  Apparently the use of passive body language increases the stress hormone levels in the brain. Use of ‘power’ body language increases the testosterone levels. If you take up a power body posture for two minutes before you need it, you get a wonderful rush of power hormones and will feel much more confident. I suggest you hide yourself in the bathroom while you do that! This victory image is interesting. According to Cuddy, we take up this position when we’re winning, even people who have been blind from birth still use it, though they have never seen it.   There’s a lot more to it than this, how you project makes a big difference to the audience, but Cuddy’s information is about the impact on us.  Give it a go!

Simple three way test for communicating with staff

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

One of my clients is working on her leadership skills in a major corporate organisation.   A recent session focused around getting key partners and managers to buy into a new strategy for the business unit.  In the end it came down to a  whole series of individual conversations – with other partners and with the managers.

How do you get those conversations ‘leaderly’? Run your conversation plans past this three-way leadership communication test:

1. Is what I am going to say going to be inspiring?

2. Am I being a good steward of the people?

3. Am I solving the problem?

There’s a lot more depth in Kouzes and Pozner’s book  ‘The Leadership Challenge’.  We also need to remember that leader communication is a mix of what leaders say, the communication behaviours they model and the decisions they make supporting a communicative culture matter too.  The three way test is a good simple start though.

Use stories to engage your audience

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Today a client and I were discussing technical and strategic presentations. She had recently heard a very good presentation at a conference in Australia.  Afterwards she found herself working out what made the communication so good, because the presenter wasn’t charismatic and she wasn’t particularly funny.  Although the presenter did have excellent visuals, it sounded like her very human story was what made it special.  One important aspect of the story was that the woman told  about her failures and moments when she felt daunted,  as well as talking about her successes with the project.

Audiences desire to   connect with a speaker, and sharing our weaknesses as well as our strengths can build a very human connection.

Don’t think that your story has to be very dramatic and set on an Mount Everest type of scale.  Sometimes the very ordinary human tales can be powerful for a group. I was practising story telling with a group of young military people a while ago. Some of their stories were set in exotic locations, others were tales of human courage, but the most effective story was a very simple one about the young recruit going home after her first three months of army training and realising she had outgrown her no-hoper mates.

Write your stories down, you never know when they will be useful. There’s a delightful post about the value of working on the wording of your stories at: iggypintardo’s posterous

You can help your story-telling ability by collecting four different types:

  1. Successes: We all like to be associated with success
  2. Failures: This creates real human sharing and can lead to what you learnt
  3. Funny stories: When an audience laughs they build a sense of belonging in that group
  4. Legends: These provide a very attractive shortcut to meaning.  legends can be true legends, urban legends or stories about famous people that have become apocryphal.

Good luck with using your own life to source transformational stories.


Get your presentation working well through story boarding

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Today I worked with a client who had written quite an academic paper for presentation at a conference. Our challenge was to turn that paper into an engaging presentation.  Story boarding was the answer.  This technique enabled us to quickly turn his complex academic content into a much more straightforward and stimulating presentation.

Storyboarding is often used for development of the plot  for movies or writing a novel and so on.  It appears to have been widely adopted after Disney studios started using it. The image here is one from storyboarding a movie, but you will get the idea of how it might apply to a presentation, plus how it doesn’t have to be great artistry to be useful.  Just as well in my case!

With storyboarding, after having clarified your purpose for the presentation, you work out the three or four major points that will enable you to achieve your purpose. Then you tease out each of  those major points into a series of sub-points, again relating them to your overall purpose.

My story boarding is very basic:

  1.  I grab a blank piece of paper, turn it into a series of boxes, similar to the image.  I write topic headings for a series of slides that communicate the points I want to make. Sometimes I need to add more slides, so I just add them in.  If you are preparing a group presentation, sticking Post -its on a wall is good for this stage (one slide per post-it) because you can move them around and add in more slides as the group discusses the presentation.
  2. Once I think I have about the right number of slides, I rough out a title for each one and make sure that the title reflects the key message of the slide.  At this stage I also jot down ideas for visuals that would best convey the message of the slide.
  3.  I then turn my storyboard slides into a series of draft PowerPoint slides.  You could do that earlier, but I find I think more creatively on paper.

There are a number of benefits you will get  from storyboarding your presentation:

  • Thinking the messages through very clear
  • Creating a better sequence of ideas once you have seen them all laid out in front of you
  • Becoming more creative about potential visuals, rather than just getting stuck in bulleted slides
  • Tightening  up the presentation because you can see any repetition and over-done detail.

Just try it out as a technique. You will be amazed how fast and productive it is.  The excellent Garr Reynolds has written a more sophisticated version in: Make Presentations that People will Remember: The Process and if you Google ‘storyboarding for presentations’ there are heaps of good tips.