Case Studies in Presenting

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 […]

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.  […]

How to be a great panel moderator

By on December 4, 2012

There is very little drama in panels.  I’d like to see panelists a bit more feisty, eager to engage in debate and debunk…but they rarely are (or do). Polite and well-mannered is more like it–don’t want to rock the boat or roil the waters. Keep it nice and tidy, which often means boring. Paul Kedrosky […]

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 […]

What do I do with my hands when I present?

By on July 20, 2012

Mike Blechar of Gartner is a powerful speaker.  He recently sent me this note after he read one of our Presentation Pointers on the subject of how to point to data on slides. It seems he has programmed his arm and hand to gesture to slides, which is something that he and I debated years […]

Customizing yourself into a corner

By on April 21, 2011

A client I hadn’t worked with in 15 years called and asked me to work with 30 people in his new company. Naturally, I was delighted that he thought enough of our work to get in touch with me. I proposed a two-day process for getting the work done, which he and his colleagues accepted. […]

Cam Newton’s body language

By on January 13, 2011

In case you missed the BCS Championship Game on Monday night, or you don’t follow college football, or any sports for that matter, but you do take an interest in performance under pressure, please watch Mr. Cam Newton in action. I had never seen him play before last night, when I watched the National Championship […]

Empathy in Action

By on August 18, 2010

Years ago I splurged on a course at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where, among other things, I learned that leadership is a constant tug between assertiveness and empathy. Assertiveness without empathy, I learned, leads to conflict with followers and damaged relationships, while empathy without assertiveness is weak and undermines a leader’s status. I was […]

Forever young and distrusted: The five languages young professionals need to know

By on April 28, 2010

You may be familiar with the prayer-like song that Bob Dylan wrote in which he wishes that someone, or all of us, can “stay forever young.” May you always be courageous Stand upright and be strong And may you stay… Forever young. It turns out that, while a youthful spirit can enrich our lives, young […]

Sales Presentations: Selling by Doing

By on February 3, 2010

Meghan called.  She was a high school senior, my daughter’s friend and highschool classmate.  She had a summer job selling for the CutCo Knife Company, and wanted to make a presentation to us in our home. I said, “Yes,” although my wife was uncomfortable that she might have to say, “No,” to Meghan.  So she […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

Public Speaking Skills: After Dinner Speaking

By on June 6, 2008

I just finished working with a client who had to prepare and deliver an after dinner talk to clients in a museum. Her firm planned to take the clients on a private tour of the museum, feed them dinner, and then she was to stand up and offer them a short talk on investment opportunities […]

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: Blinded by the Light

By on May 21, 2008

What should you do when the lights are so bright that you can’t see your audience? 1. Make sure you know where the audience is and look in that general direction with focus and confidence. The audience won’t know that you can’t see them. In other words, press on. (This seems obvious but see story […]

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 […]

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 […]

Sales Presentations: The Biggest Mistake

By on December 29, 2007

Let’s call her Sheila.  Like many in the financial services industry, she sells with the aid of a pitch book, printed in landscape format and containing information about the history of her firm, her team of colleagues, their range of services, the historical performance of their funds, and their fees. It’s a handsome piece, with […]

PowerPoint Presentation Skills: PowerPoint’s 20th Birthday

By on July 22, 2007

As PowerPoint reaches its 20th birthday, Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal reflects on our love/hate relationship with “one of the most elegant, most influential and most groaned-about pieces of software in the history of computers”: While PowerPoint has served as the metronome for countless crisp presentations, it has also allowed an endless expanse […]

PowerPoint Presentation Skills: PowerPoint’s 20th Birthday

By on July 22, 2007

As PowerPoint reaches its 20th birthday, Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal reflects on our love/hate relationship with “one of the most elegant, most influential and most groaned-about pieces of software in the history of computers”: While PowerPoint has served as the metronome for countless crisp presentations, it has also allowed an endless expanse […]

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 […]

Facilitation skills for medical liaisons at ad boards

By on June 18, 2007

With the average sales call in the pharmaceutical industry now shrunk to less than 30 seconds, medical liaisons have an important opportunity to engage the interest of key physicians at advisory board meetings. However, there are several common problems. First, facilitating ad boards is not presenting. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of presenting. Presenters […]

Communication Skills: The Head Waggle

By on June 12, 2007

Keep your head relatively still most of the time when speaking! A case in point. My daughter took me to see Romeo and Juliet at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park on Father’s Day.  Juliet waggled her head to express emotion.  We both get distracted by it.  The waggle was a personal mannerism that didn’t communicate effectively to […]

Effective Presentation: Quick! Name three talks you can remember!

By on June 8, 2007

When I ask people to remember three talks they’ve heard or seen recently, most people have to think long and hard. I asked myself this question a few days ago, and this is the third entry in my response. I remember Chris Myers, an author and illustrator of children’s books. He was speaking to honor […]

Effective Presentation: Quick! Name three talks you remember

By on June 1, 2007

When I ask people to name three talks they can remember, they seem to have a brain hiccup. The most common response is to talk about the most recent one they’ve seen. At this moment, if I asked myself the same question, I would say, “The Reverend Diana Clark, Dean Richard Brodhead, and illustrator and […]

Scientific and technical presentations

By on May 30, 2007

Last week, in New Jersey, Denver, and New York City I ran into the exact same problem in three different industries–a consulting firm, a pharmaceutical company, and a hedge fund.  The problem was this:  People were having trouble beginning their presentations so that they inspired curiosity and interest in their listeners. Of course I saw the obligatory title […]

Presentation Tips: The Thoughtful Presenter

By on May 26, 2007

There are men and women who live on the back porch of their souls, and when you walk up on the front porch and knock on the door, they take a long time to open up.  You can hear their footsteps echo as they come cautiously down the hallway of their lives.  They open the door […]

Speech Training: Speaking Above the Speed Limit

By on May 11, 2007

They are mostly women. I have now spent 20 years in the speech trade, and most of the people I run into who speak too fast are women.  I have no idea why.  I can only speculate. they are more ambivalent than men about being the center of attention, meaning they simultaneously want to be […]

Business Presentations: Women Admire Men Who are Good Speakers

By on May 9, 2007

Science is making progress in understanding sexual desire. Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek the Keys to It by Natalie Angier was published in the New York Times on April 10, 2007.  It’s fun reading, and should provide even greater motivation for men to become more effective presenters. Stephanie Sanders of the Kinsey Institute and Indiana […]

Presentation Coaching: Presentation Pants

By on April 25, 2007

On Tuesday, April 24th, The Wall Street Journal ran an article on men’s health.  A key indicator of a healthy man, it turns out, is a waist size under 40 inches. One of the doctors quoted said that men don’t measure their waists properly.  As our bellies get bigger, he said, we lower our pants so […]

Speaking Anxiety: The Conference Room Comment

By on April 18, 2007

One of my consulting firm clients came to me with a problem that surprised me.  Although they hire the most accomplished students from the most competitive colleges and B-schools, the firm is concerned about their unwillingness to speak up at meetings during their first two years. I recognize that it’s human nature to sit back in a […]

Technical and Scientific Presentations: Engineering Better Talks

By on April 13, 2007

People make fun of engineers–ribbing them for their introversion and poor communication skills.  I don’t feel that way.  Whenever I work with them on their technical and scientific presentations, I find them to be eager and open to new ideas.  When I give them a process to follow, they try to make it work, and […]

Public Speaking: A Stunning Moment of Authenticity

By on April 6, 2007

Last week I went to the third and last day of a meeting for engineers.  After lunch, one of their senior leaders stood up and summarized every presentation they had experienced during the past three days.  As he began to speak about each presentation, he put up a new slide, and each slide was a beautiful […]

Persuasive Speaking: Medical Liaisons Tweaking Content

By on February 5, 2007

When Medical Liaisons in big pharma are launching a drug with a major study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, you’d think their job would be easy.  But it’s not. One way it’s difficult is in the variety of audiences they have to educate. They have to speak to senior executives in their […]

Communication Skills: Madmen Admen in Boston

By on February 2, 2007

Installing forty blinking boxes around Boston to promote a TV show for Turner Broadcasting is like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.  In this case, Marshal McLuhan is wrong.  The medium (boxes) was NOT the message.  Our interpretation of the boxes was the message. Context matters.  Since 9/11 we find ourselves in a dangerous situation, […]

Public Speaking Skills: Inner dialogue during the State of the Union (SOTU)

By on January 25, 2007

Let the pageant begin. The dignitaries, Secretaries, and adversaries, enter, stage left. The attendant lady and lord, Sergeant-in-waiting and Sergeant-at-arms, say the ceremonial to introduce the President of the United States (POTUS), who looks small and determined. I check out his muscles, knowing he pumps iron.  No gut on this dude.  Under all that pressure, and […]

PowerPoint Presentation Skills: Features to Benefits

By on January 23, 2007

I just finished an engagement developing a presentation to introduce a major Human Resources initiative across a global company.  When I arrived, the client had close to 50 bullet powerpoint slides.  When I left this morning, he had eleven slides, and not one bullet point in sight. I think what made the difference was moving away […]

Listening is persuasive

By on July 10, 2006

Companies are finding that people in Call Centers are not well equipped to work in Save Centers. Save Centers help retain customers who are ticked off and want to cancel their contracts and get their money back. To staff up these Save Centers, companies tend to look for high-performing agents from traditional Call Centers. Surprisingly, however, these employees tend to […]

Business Presentations: Scientists as Speakers

By on June 1, 2006

I just spent a few days with several scientists from the pharmaceutical industry.  Their company wanted them to be more persuasive when presenting their research to business decision makers. To prepare for the assignment, I conducted a series of interviews to determine what they thought they needed, and what the decision makers thought they needed.  The two groups had very different […]

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