Don’t forget or confuse your purpose

By on November 17, 2015

One of the most common mistakes we make is that we forget what we’re trying to do. Most people can identify with that moment when you find yourself peering into your guest room closet or turning on the light by the hot water boiler, and you have no recollection as to why you ventured there in […]

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 […]

How Not to Bore an Audience (2 of 3)

By on January 28, 2015

Remember, your goal as a speaker should be to have inscribed on your tombstone, “He Made His Point, and Bored Them Less.” To accomplish this lifetime achievement, review part 1 for our first 3 tips: Ditch the slides, Stuff the Bag, and Begin, Be Brief, Be Seated. Then, dig in. 4. So, How to Begin? […]

Show, don’t tell to be an effective speaker

By on September 9, 2014

We are animated, lively speakers in real life. Why not bring this to your next presentation?

More ways to be a rock star speaker

By on August 26, 2014

We’re looking at ways you can pump up the “AWESOME” of your presentations.  Surprisingly, we’re not scrutinizing the communication techniques of Steve Jobs–we’re looking at a guy from the 1850s named Henry Ward Beecher. It isn’t crazy.  Beecher was a rock star of a preacher whose church in Brooklyn seated 2,800. In the 1850s, he […]

How to be a rock star speaker

By on August 12, 2014

When Steve Jobs got into high gear as a speaker, many people reported that he seemed to have a reality-distortion field around him. No matter how unrealistic his claims at any given moment, people said they couldn’t help being mesmerized: his enthusiasm could suspend their disbelief. In the 1850s, there was another spellbinder not unlike […]

Capture Attention–4 Ways to Get Through to Your Listeners

By on July 29, 2014

Every speaker struggles with a balance:  A talk needs to be brief enough and interesting enough to ensure an audience will hear it, but it also needs to contain all of the information that the audience needs to know. Use our pointers to gain “neck down” attention as you keep your presentation lively and informative. […]

More Ways to Capture Attention

By on July 15, 2014

In this series of posts, we’re looking at ways to capture attention and keep it. I make a distinction between “neck up” attention and “neck down” attention.  The former is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. The latter is the kind we’re going for here:  when the listener is riveted to […]

Ways Great Speakers Capture Attention

By on July 1, 2014

In my mind, there are two kinds of attention: neck down, and neck up. Neck-up attention is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. Neck-down attention is when the listener is riveted to the speaker: she can’t help but pay attention. Please note that, in our language of English, attention is […]

Business Communication: You Are a Professional Speaker

By on September 25, 2013

If you work for a company, and your job entails public speaking, you are paid to speak. That’s right, you are a professional speaker–in the same business as Anthony Robbins, Jack Welch, and Malcolm Gladwell. Your company is paying you to make something happen when you stand up to address a group.  They are paying […]

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 […]

Pickpockets, magic, and the art of getting attention

By on July 7, 2011

I was told to watch out for pickpockets in Athens, in particular the mustard trick, how on the metro they spill mustard on you, apologize, and wipe it off with a dirty napkin while their co-conspirators take advantage of your confusion and remove items from your pockets. Or the friendly conversation trick, in which he […]

Stillness: A very cool presentation skill

By on November 22, 2010

I want to sing the praises of stillness.  I used to love, and aspire to, extravagant energy and zeal.  Arms waving, voice elevated, eyes wide open and shining with conviction. Now I enjoy stillness, a sense of calmness in a speaker.  Of course, I don’t want him or her to be calm all the time—the […]

Getting permission to coach

By on November 16, 2010

A very thoughtful client, and subscriber to our Presentation Pointers, sent me this email: I have a question – Can you offer me 1-2 tips for giving presentation feedback for senior and mid-level managers?  Examples of areas where feedback is needed – reading the slides or notes, talking too softly and refusing to use a […]

How to Raise Money from Venture Capitalists and Other Investors

By on November 4, 2010

In a recent article in Harvard Magazine, Amy Cuddy, who teaches at Harvard Business School is quoted as saying that the success of venture-capital pitches to investors apparently turns, in fact, on nonverbal factors like “how comfortable and charismatic you are.  The predictors of who actually gets the money are all about how you present […]

Don’t read this one

By on June 21, 2010

After seeing David Mamet’s play Race on Broadway, Sharon and I had half-an-hour until our train left New York’s Penn Station for our home in Montclair, New Jersey. We went to a bar.  I ordered a Heineken and she a glass of wine.  We were sitting next to a drunk who began to sing, so we […]

Speech Training: The sound of confidence

By on April 19, 2010

Last week, I had the chance to sit through another LP meeting and hear the presentations of various managers from the same firm. I was struck by one simple thought.  A soft-spoken manager gave me cause to suspect his level of confidence and decisiveness. His colleagues who spoke before him were more senior and they […]

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 […]

No Excuses in Public Speaking

By on April 4, 2010

You can’t make excuses for yourself when you’re in front of an audience.  You have to do the best you can without divulging your aches and pains. There’s a tradition in show business:  “The show must go on.”  Actors and performers have a code of honor: They are not going to deprive their fellow performers […]

Effective Presenting: You are a visual aid.

By on February 2, 2010

You are a visual. Every move you make, every step you take…they’ll be watching you. This is good news because once you know this, you can take control of the message you send by aligning your gestures, movements, and facial expressions with your words. Who you are speaks more loudly than what you say. Actions […]

Meditations on the perils of presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

By on January 11, 2010

The perils are listed in no particular order. Needle in a haystack The audience will be drinking data from a firehose.  The savvy presenter recognizes this peril as an opportunity. To capture attention—do something that stands out from the environment.  The opposite of getting attention is camouflage. Being attention-getting is not a quality; it is […]

Public Speaking Training: Figuring out the point

By on January 10, 2010

And you thought your job was to stick to the facts! Here are the Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, making a strong point about making a point in their wonderful book Made to Stick. Nora Ephron is a screenwriter whose scripts for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle have all been nominated for […]

Presentation Techniques: In Praise of Informality

By on December 2, 2009

I’ve been introduced with fanfare, and I’ve been introduced with a kind of shrug in my general direction, as if to say, “Hey Sims.  You’re on.” I like fanfare, pomp and circumstance.  But when it’s touting my resume and puffing me up to make me look important, I’m embarrassed.  I wonder if I’m going to […]

Persuasion and Influence: Competing for Internal Resources

By on July 1, 2009

Suppose you work for a large pharma company that historically makes its profits from blockbuster primary care products, and you work in oncology. When you present your plans to the senior people, it’s evident that they don’t understand your specialty, and what’s worse, they don’t seem to care. They grew up in the company selling […]

Presentation Skills: Selling Your Process

By on July 1, 2009

In financial services, every firm has a process for making decisions about investments. The process is usually designed to ensure that there is due deliberation about decisions, and that no money manager is allowed to invest without periodic oversight from a board or committee. This is sensible, since one person, left to his own devices, […]

Communication Skills: Listening for the New

By on June 11, 2009

I just came back to work after dinner, where, over roast chicken and salad, my wife began to explain to me why some people try too hard. I felt obliged to listen, but I was also tired, and had consumed enough wine to permit myself to disengage and become impatient.  I waved my hand and said, “You’re […]

Communication Skills Training: How to Give Good Webinars

By on May 23, 2008

Webinars seem to be a promising, cost-effective way of building relationships with prospects, but they’re hard to do well. As a medium for communicating with groups, they have their own quirks and require a lot of preparation. Here are a few rules of thumb. First, define your desired outcomes in terms of what the audience […]

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 […]

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 […]

Presentation Training: A Play on Words

By on January 11, 2008

Let’s take the word presenting. Let’s play with it. Could it mean bringing ideas, and information into the present? For instance, could we say that the job of a candidate for office is to make real the information about her past (her track record, how we got in this pickle), make palpable the dangers from […]

Persuasive Speaking: Language and Experience

By on January 2, 2008

In a political revolution, insurgents quickly target the media outlets. Their reasoning? He who controls the language controls the thinking. Now comes another study to suggest that insurgents may have it right. In this experiment, one group of volunteers was shown a shade of yellow on a strip of white paper for a few seconds. […]

Presentation Coaching: Presenting Outside the Comfort Zone

By on July 20, 2007

I occasionally hear from clients that they don’t want to change their style as presenters.  The implication is that any behaviors I recommend that are outside their range of normal will be artificial and ineffective.  They just want to be themselves. I know how they feel, and focus them on the flow and logic of […]

Presentation Skills: The Bang at the Beginning

By on March 24, 2007

You will have noticed, if you’ve read through these postings, that I am a fan of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the greatest speakers in American history.  Even Lincoln looked up to him. Here is a description of Beecher written by Milton MacKaye and published in The New Yorker. Henry Ward Beecher had a genius for […]

Presentation Techniques: 8 Tools for Getting and Keeping Attention

By on February 19, 2007

Presenting ideas is largely about getting and keeping attention.  Most of us are ambivalent about being the center of attention, but we have to be willing and able to focus many minds at once if we want to be convincing. Here are a few techniques to capture and hold attention. Say something unexpected.  Start with […]

Public Speaking Training: A Great Book to Own

By on December 27, 2006

The title of this blog is the title of one of the best books on presentation ever written.  It’s by Henry M. Boettinger, and it’s pretty hard to find.  It’s been out of print for quite a while, it’s expensive, but you can get it at Amazon by clicking this link To give you […]

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