Presenting for Results

Don’t Forget “For Instance”

By on September 12, 2017

Recently I was asked to help two executives get ready to sell their company, so we needed to perfect the sales pitch. Within a week they would be putting their company on the chopping block.  It was time to get busy. After a long drive and a wakeful night in a hotel,  I arrived at […]

Guest Blog by Jonathan Li, President of The Expressive Leader

By on December 29, 2015

The first time I spoke in front of a group, my hands were shaking and my legs were trembling. “G-g-g-g-good morning everyone,” I stuttered my opening.  “Today I will talk about…” This was a terrible experience, and it motivated me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I read books, I watched TED talks, and […]

Think twice about the topic and length when you present

By on October 20, 2015

When invited to speak or present on a topic chosen by someone else, it’s time to negotiate the topic. And when invited to speak for 45 minutes, it’s time to negotiate the length of the talk. I was recently asked to speak on the subject of differentiation in a sales presentation. I didn’t think that was a […]

Drill down.  Dig deep.  Zoom in.

By on March 10, 2015

Persuading someone to buy a commodity requires a microscope. Let me explain. Suppose you sell pencils.  Your buyer sees your pencil as a commodity because it looks like every other pencil he’s ever seen. But that’s because he’s not a pencil specialist.  He’s looking at your product from a distance, through binoculars.  He can’t see the deep down goodness of […]

Put Power Point to Work for You

By on February 24, 2015

When you need to use powerpoint slides, keep it simple, and use images to help you tell a story. Often, clients ask me to help them knit together a talk with some slides. Once, I was asked to develop a presentation to introduce a major Human Resources initiative across a global company. When I arrived, […]

Eloquence is reason set on fire

By on April 30, 2014

Every idea is an incitement… Eloquence may set fire to reason. –Oliver Wendell Holmes Gram Parsons, an extremely influential musical artist credited with helping to found country rock, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. He played with the Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Emmylou Harris.  Rolling Stone ranks him 87th in a list of their top 100 […]

Rehearsing Presentations: Is there a better way to practice?

By on April 23, 2014

Creating 10,000 presentations in the course of your career and rehearsing them all with great care will not necessarily guarantee you presentation mastery. Neuroscience, and common sense, show that factors other than blind repetition must prevail. For example, if your golf swing isn’t any good, and you hit the driving range everyday of the summer, […]

Two ways to structure a speech or presentation

By on March 25, 2014

I was looking for my childhood home on Google Earth, caught a glimpse of it from 30,000 feet, then zoomed in and saw my mother’s herb garden at the bottom of the lawn. My Mom and Dad are gone now, and I saw cars I didn’t recognize in the driveway. I knew the image was […]

Find the middle ground

By on December 18, 2013

When I was ten, my childhood friends dared me to ride my bike down steep and winding Garfinkel’s Hill with no brakes and no hands. I took the dare, lost all the skin on my left knee, and for the first time saw the whiteness of bone. Riding your bike down a steep hill with […]

Mind the Gap

By on October 23, 2013

“Stars can be trillions of light years distant from each other, but maybe nothing is so distant from anything else in this universe as the expressed thought of person A from the understanding of person B.” -Reid Buckley Reid Buckley is a renowned speaker and teacher of public speaking.  He is also the author of […]

Story, Story, Story!

By on September 4, 2013

We never get tired of stories.  We read them, watch them, listen to them and tell them every day of our lives.  We even tell them to ourselves. I think science has established that we are not the only creatures with language, or the only creatures that use tools, or dance.  But so far, I […]

How to control negative questioners

By on August 28, 2013

It’s not often that a business audience will go negative on you, but it happens. Here’s how to stay in control of your listeners and yourself: 1.  Prepare key messages for your talk so you can find your way back to those messages when the tough questions start making you feel lost. 2.  Listen to the question […]

The Best Way to Lose an Audience

By on August 21, 2013

In 80 BC, Cicero, the great Roman orator and statesman, set off for the Eastern Mediterranean on something like a cross between a gap year and oratory boot camp—showing, again, how he regarded oratory as a physical more than simply an intellectual craft, and one that benefited from a long and various apprenticeship: I always […]

Use the hook and eye technique

By on August 14, 2013

To make the complex clear, use the hook and eye technique. The hook and eye technique makes the object of the preceding sentence the subject of the following sentence. Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds. Here’s an example: “Rupert hit the ball into the crowd. The ball landed in the palm of McKenzie’s mitt.” […]

Build a logical link

By on August 7, 2013

One technique for developing a good talk is to know what you’re trying to say, not just for the whole presentation, but for every slide. And once you’ve done that, you have to know how each slide relates to the one before it, and the one that comes next, so your logic is a clear […]

Make it more strategic

By on July 31, 2013

A client was asked by his CEO to make his presentations to the company’s Board of Directors more strategic. The client, a charming, personable guy, tended to fill his slides with evidence of all the work his department was doing. Since he had less than ten minutes to update the Board each quarter, he was […]

Lend Me Your Ears!

By on July 24, 2013

A few years ago, my wife and I took our 3-year-old daughter Georgia shopping for her Halloween costume. She wanted to be a black cat, so we got her a black leotard, white gloves, black velvet cat ears, and a cat nose with whiskers. We stopped at home to put the costume away in the […]

Presentation Pointer: Find the magic 20

By on July 15, 2013

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people, and that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.  He invented the 80/20 rule, more formally known as the Pareto Principle. It’s now a common rule […]

Internal speakers bureaus make good business sense

By on July 10, 2013

A client company was preparing to deliver a one-day seminar to its major clients. Let’s call it the Acme University. “It’s time to give the sales guys a rest,” said the new VP. “Let’s show off the brainiacs who invent our products.” In a moment of brilliance, he then suggested that the firm use these people […]

Guest Blog: Good Questions Uncover Value

By on June 18, 2013

Those of you who don’t know my colleague Patricia Fripp are in for a treat.  Fripp is a former President of the National Speakers’ Association, and is a member of their prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame. Not only is she a great speaker, she is also a great coach, which is not all that common.  […]

Scientific and technical presentations: Wise Whys

By on June 4, 2013

My aunt and uncle just moved into a retirement community in New Hampshire. Going through their books, they found one my grandfather had given to my mother. The book is Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.  “To Nancy, from Daddy, with love & Merry Christmas.  1934,” is inscribed on the inside cover.  My mother was […]

A movement becomes a racket

By on May 21, 2013

Matt Latimer, a Republican speech writer for Bush and Rumsfeld, has written a very entertaining book called Speech*Less. In it, he chronicles his misadventures as an idealist in a palace of racketeers. Here he is describing the 2008 campaign from inside Washington. …I was at a dinner party with four or five Republicans who’d been […]

Rehearsed vs. extemporaneous speaking

By on May 7, 2013

A few years ago I attended my aunt’s memorial service, where anyone was invited to say a few words.  I felt the need to tell a quick story that would remind everyone about her contagious enthusiasm for birds.  No matter the difficulties in her life, and there were many, she would practically burst with delight […]

Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking

By on April 24, 2013

You must know what TED Talks are.  If you do, skip the rest of this paragraph.  If you don’t, please go to and click on any one of the videos that you see.  Or go to one of my favorites, such as any talk given by Hans Rosling or Rory Sutherland.  I’m sure you’ll […]

10 Commandments of Great Business Presenters

By on April 10, 2013

Define a problem that your audience faces.  Then solve it.  The human mind tends to fixate on problems: rubber-necking is a case in point. Presentations about problems have both emotional and intellectual appeal.  The problem, well-defined, elicits our feelings; the solution elicits our thoughts.  Everyone has problems, so why not tickle, then soothe their anxieties. […]

What’s the Difference Between a Speech and a Presentation?

By on March 27, 2013

With the arrival and success of the TEDTalk, we are losing some public speaking distinctions.  For example, what’s the difference between a speech and a presentation? I’m not sure if anyone cares, but I have always felt that each is a separate tool designed for different jobs. So, if you are concerned about whether you […]

Intellectual Combat in the Corporate Trenches

By on March 13, 2013

In the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by two marketing support functions to help them deal more effectively with the people they serve and support. One is a market research function, the other a business intelligence group.  Both report that confrontations and debates at meetings with product teams and other senior staff are difficult […]

Guest Blog: Being Vocal Against Vocal Fry

By on February 27, 2013

I heard from several readers after my blog about vocal fry.  This response, from Eva in Portland, is a great rant–and, of course, I feel the same way. Anti-vocal-fry enthusiasts, take heart!  Our numbers are growing! From Eva in Portland: Thank you for your blog about Vocal Fry.  I found it via another one I […]

Your voice and speech

By on February 13, 2013

I have a client—let’s call him Drew—who is a successful consultant.  He works with small companies to improve their sales results, but he’d like to move up in the world, work with larger companies, and speak at more prestigious events. His message is good, and his slides are effective.  He has a sense of humor and […]

Know your audience

By on January 30, 2013

I recently spoke at an industry event on the subject of differentiating your message.  I was invited to speak by someone who knows my work as a communication coach who told me that there would be a variety of people from the industry there; those who call on large organizations, and those who meet with […]

Words Pack a Punch

By on January 23, 2013

Over forty years ago, drifting through my undergraduate years in my ratty easy chair, I came across three words that lifted the veil from my eyes.  Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the Three Musketeers of rhetoric, seemed to me to be so comprehensive, so simple yet so profound, that I literally had a physical sensation as […]

Voice and speech training: The whole voice

By on January 17, 2013

There are millions of people from all over the world and from every corner of this country working in our North American companies, and in companies all over the world–companies that use English as the global language of business. Many of the people are highly educated, highly motivated, and highly valuable human assets–to their colleagues, […]

How to project authority

By on January 10, 2013

I had the privilege of helping a young man with a sales presentation.  He had already been delivering it for several months on behalf of his investment firm, but he thought we could tweak it.  The slide deck introduced the firm and went on to describe an alternative strategy they used to diversify client portfolios.  […]

Manna falls

By on January 3, 2013

I’m on my way to the office from the gym, feeling hungry and wondering what I can have for breakfast that won’t take too much time, when I pass the Hunger Construction Baked Potato Food Truck.   Two guys in the truck are arranging homemade goodies wrapped in cellophane in the high display window.  One of […]

Public Speaking: Reading a Script vs. Internalizing a Message

By on November 15, 2012

What are the pros and cons of reading a script to an audience, and what are the pros and cons of internalizing a message so that you don’t have to refer to a script? Positives about Reading a Script Your ideas are laid out clearly–in black and white–so that you can deliver your complete message […]

8 Great Bold, Stern and Wise Presentation Tips from the Supremes

By on November 6, 2012

You want to get ready for prime time as a persuasive speaker?  Then read these instructions to lawyers, issued by the Supreme Court, on how to address the Justices.  The rules are highly relevant for any business speaker who is addressing a group of senior decision makers. Speak to be heard The document gets right […]

PowerPoint Slides: A good technique

By on October 12, 2012

Sophisticated presenters introduce the next PowerPoint slide before they leave the current one.  They do this to orient the audience to what is coming next. For instance, they might say at the end of their budget slide, “So our marketing budget is 10% greater than last year, and the main reason for this is the […]

Make it look simple and easy

By on October 10, 2012

I subscribe to Lapham’s Quarterly, a magazine you should get if you have an appetite for a perspective beyond the micro-moments of our digital age. As you know, I’m in the business of helping knowledgeable people sell themselves and their ideas.  As we count down to the next presidential election, this is a timely topic […]

Persuasion, Influence and the Fear of Loss

By on October 4, 2012

On Thursday night I listened to a show called Radio Lab on National Public Radio. Anyone interested in trying to close the gap between intention and action, whether in yourself or others; anyone who seeks to be persuasive and gain influence over themselves or others,should go to the website and download the broadcast.  It’s a strong […]

Dress for Even More Success

By on October 1, 2012

They say clothes make the man (or woman)–actually, they don’t.  They only protect the man (or woman) from making a poor first impression. But when you’re occasionally thrust into the spotlight, like my fabulous friend Jim Colby, you may need a wardrobe makeover.  Or at least a wardrobe migration from good to great. Jim manages […]

Public speaking: Off the cuff is off limits

By on September 18, 2012

A gaffe has been described as “speaking the truth by mistake.”  Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.  It’s more like saying what you really think at that point in time, which is different from speaking the truth. Both the Romney and Obama camps have had occasion to point fingers.  One said poor people […]

How to prepare a presentation

By on August 31, 2012

Presentation skill is a broader topic than you might think.  It goes beyond content expertise, slide design, stage presence, etc, to include how to prepare an effective presentation.  Battles are won or lost before they start, and the same can be said about presentations. It can also be said that everyone prepares their own way, […]

Public speaking skills are beautiful

By on August 9, 2012

On Saturday, August 4th, 2012, I was a judge at the Queen of the Fair pageant at the Sussex County State Fair in Augusta, NJ. The 20 young women were introduced to the crowd one at a time in the Horse Show Ring by Tammie Horsfield, the Director of the Fair, who read their resumes […]

How you should look for a speech coach

By on August 8, 2012

First of all, to admit you need a speech coach is a kind of confession—a confession that you need help. Some of us don’t like to ask for directions when we’re lost, and some of us will struggle on our own for years before surrendering to some speech coach who’s going to tell us things […]

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