Arranging Content

Content is King, But Focus is Key

By on February 9, 2016

When a projector is out of focus, the images on the screen are fuzzy, leaving the viewer uncertain as to what he is actually seeing. His mind darts from blur to blur trying to make sense of the shapes on the screen. But once the projector is in focus and the images emerge crisply, the viewer feels […]

Get Your Act Together

By on April 7, 2015

A revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I opened recently at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Yul Brynner, the great actor who devoted much of his career to The King and I, was known to prepare for each performance by trying to push down the brick wall at the back of the theater. If […]

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 […]

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.  […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

Communication skill includes words, voice, and body language

By on July 25, 2012

Here are two excerpts from an article in The New Yorker.  The article is entitled Words on Trial,  and its author is Jack Hitt.  It appears in the June 23rd, 2012 issue. The key idea is that words, by themselves, are necessary but not sufficient to create meaning.  The listener creates meaning through hearing the […]

Presentation Skills: Tell, Sell, Solve

By on June 8, 2012

There are some circumstances in which we can tell an audience what to do, some where we must sell them (or convince) them to do something, and then there are those times when we do not have the authority (or power) to either tell or sell and must ask them to  help us think through, […]

Losing your power to PowerPoint

By on January 3, 2012

Don’t think that your slides are your presentation. They’re not. Your slides are like beads lying on a table in a big messy pile until you assemble them into a coherent order and string them into a beautiful necklace. I like to watch Law and Order. There are a certain number of scenes in episodes […]

Presenting up the chain of command

By on March 2, 2011

A bunch of great people (and great presenters) in big pharma told me one of their challenges is re-doing PowerPoint decks for presentations to different levels of management. When they get a PowerPoint deck done to their boss’s satisfaction (they happen to work on reimbursement for a multi-billion dollar brand), that’s only the beginning. After their boss […]

Presenters should avoid this opening phrase

By on January 5, 2011

Many presenters begin their talks like this: “I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about…” Don’t do this.  First of all, what you would like to do at that particular moment is of considerably less interest to the audience that what they are concerned about. Second, such an opening is procedural […]

Information Design Disaster

By on November 11, 2010

Just this morning, I was rushing to catch the Metro in Washington, DC and found myself staring at a refrigerator-sized ticket machine with buttons, bells, arrows, windows, slots, writing and numbers all over it.  I had no idea where to look or where to start.  It had to be the worst design of a ticket […]

Two kinds of selling

By on August 4, 2010

I spent a day working on sales messages and presentation of those messages with a sales force, except the sales force was divided in two—half were an outside field force, and half were inside sales. We discovered that it was very difficult for the inside sales force to deliver a complete presentation because they were […]

Let us now praise specifics

By on June 2, 2010

We are entitled to our own opinions, but none of us is entitled to our own facts. In fact, most of us hold our opinions with little respect for facts.  For instance, when you ask a passionate partisan why she voted for her candidate, you are likely to hear slogans about small government or social injustice. Lots […]

An Emerging Problem at Limited Partner Meetings

By on April 14, 2010

At the annual LP meetings I’ve been working on, I have noticed that the senior guy wants to give his views on the macro economic picture. He wants to do this for good reasons:  To put the results his team will report into context, and to demonstrate his broad knowledge of economic cycles in order […]

Presentation Tips: Templates are useful

By on January 5, 2010

The arts of music, poetry, literature, and drama have been around so long that each of them has templates.  To dismiss templates is to ignore the wisdom of the ages. To name a few, music has verses and choruses, poetry has sonnets and haiku, literature has novels and short stories, and drama has setting, character, […]

When Scientists Present

By on December 1, 2009

When scientists present, they usually start with methods, then move to findings, conclusions and perhaps recommendations.  There are good reasons for this, and it can provide some drama.  Yet any communication we are willing to pay for is built in the exact opposite way. As consumers, we want the conclusions up front, and the facts […]

Fear and Hope in Presentation Skills

By on July 22, 2008

I am still holding my ground against Ford Harding.  We have been debating the relative merits of raising FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in persuasive arguments, or GOG (greed, opportunity, and glory.) For previous exchanges, please click on Fud, Gog, Ethics and Rhetoric and Fud in Public Speaking and Persuasion Ford seems to think that GOG […]

Scientific Presentations: Hitting the Audience in the Heart

By on June 30, 2008

Here’s the scenario. A bio-tech company will fly to Paris to convince influential French physicians to use their compound-in-development in clinical trials. The company has invited the French doctors to a nice meeting room in a nice hotel and plans to tell the doctors all about the compound. When asked, “What is the purpose of […]

Pascal’s Wager and Public Speaking

By on June 27, 2008

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematical genius who spelled out the laws of probability more clearly than anyone before him.  This was a watershed moment, because for the first time humanity had a systematic way of thinking about the future. Pascal was both a gambler and a religious zealot.  He wanted to know […]

Presentation Training: FUD, GOG, Ethics and Rhetoric

By on June 22, 2008

Ford Harding has lifted his pen to engage with me on a subject of profound importance to sales professionals, leaders, and anyone who seeks to influence others. That subject is the emotional sea on which all decisions float. FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) is one current in that sea. It drives most of us away […]

FUD in Public Speaking and Persuasion

By on June 17, 2008

FUD is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  I first heard the term when consulting at Gartner.  I was working with the analysts in preparing for a Gartner Symposium, and several of them used FUD at the start of their talks to engage the listeners on an emotional level. For instance, they might have said, “While e-mail […]

Public Speaking Training: The Dreaded just-after-lunch Slot on the Program

By on May 22, 2008

Effective speaking has many enemies. A partial list would include a speaker’s lack of experience, stage fright, lack of training, no clear point, too much information, and finally, no clear flow, or structure. We could go on. But the items on the list are only those enemies that hide within the speaker himself. What about […]

Presentation Tips: Listener-centric Messaging

By on April 10, 2008

I just returned from an engagement during which I was asked to give partners in a professional service firm 10 minutes to pitch the firm to a brand new prospect, played by another partner sitting across the table. Most partner/presenters were tentative at the start. They began by asking the prospects what they wanted to […]

Communication Skills: Why Mr. Smarty Pants Has His Knickers in a Twist

By on March 31, 2008

What makes smart people dumb? Elizabeth Newton, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on the curse of knowledge while working on her doctorate at Stanford in 1990. She gave one set of people, called “tappers,” a list of commonly known songs from which to choose. Their task was to rap their knuckles on a tabletop to […]

Public Speaking: Split Shot Audience

By on March 16, 2008

Like that moment in bowling, when your ball leaves two pins standing far apart, there are times when your audience is divided into two camps. One half is knowledgeable about your area of expertise, while the other half is green.  Or, one half is interested in the science, while the other half is preoccupied with […]

Business Presentations: Hedge Fund Capital Intro

By on March 2, 2008

Derrick called and spoke a mile a minute. His boss, the founder of a new hedge fund and the primary money runner had to speak at a capital intro in a week. Could I come and help? I asked if the boss knew what he wanted to say, and Derrick said yes, but the talk […]

Interpersonal Skills: the Placebo Effect

By on February 16, 2008

We often think that the placebo effect comes from the belief that a sugar pill is actual medicine, which leads us to the conclusion that if we believe something is good for us, we get a positive physiological response. I read of a double-blind study of hotel chambermaids in Paris who were trying to lose […]

Public Speaking Skills: Hillary vs. Obama

By on February 4, 2008

During the Clinton/Obama debate from California, Barack Obama seemed to get off to a good start, making his point (“I am the future, she is the past.”) at the end of his opening remarks. As I listened, I was made aware of the power of going first. I thought that Hillary Clinton would be at […]

A Recipe for Sales Presentations

By on September 20, 2007

Michael Blechar is a smart and thoughtful guy (and a very good writer.)  Years ago he told me about a good way to organize a sales presentation. Recently, we were swapping emails about one of my Presentation Pointers (the one called the Power of Words), when I remembered to ask him about his approach.  He […]

Presentation Skills: Doing it in the road

By on September 14, 2007

I believe one of the best models for presenting skills is the act of giving directions to someone who has stopped her car, leaned out the window, and said, “How do I get to Bloomfield Avenue?” If you’re standing in front of your house, and you know how to get to the desired location (your own version of Bloomfield Avenue) you immediately […]