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 […]

More Ways to Be a Highly Persuasive Speaker

By on June 3, 2014

Lately, I’ve been noticing principles that great speakers use to guide them.  I’ve talked about this before.  I like when speakers start by answering a question for the audience:  “Why is this important to me?”  I also notice when speakers find their passion for the subject, and use it to bring the ideas to life. […]

Business Presentation Success: Hamlet the Speech Coach

By on April 15, 2014

The inspiration for business presentation success can come from anywhere. Hamlet, for instance.  Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s play called Hamlet, written around 1603. In the play, Hamlet retains a troop of actors to stage a play he’s written, and gives them coaching on how to speak their lines. Four-hundred and eleven years […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.  […]

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 […]

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, […]

Telling your story: Tips for success

By on July 12, 2012

Wired for Story:  The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence comes out today.  Its author is Lisa Cron. I have only read the Contents section and a few pages of the introduction, but nevertheless I am buying the book on Amazon NOW, and if you’re serious about […]

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, […]

Public speaking error # 17

By on July 6, 2011

Just sat through a talk with a long and useless introduction concerning what the speaker had considered saying but decided against, how he stumbled upon his approach to the topic, and finally, the five elements of it he planned to discuss.  I still didn’t know a thing about his point of view. Ten minutes of […]

How science presentations should work, but don’t

By on February 16, 2011

In the idyllic vision of the uninitiated, a scientific presentation tells a story, starting with a clear description of a problem, then outlining a series of steps taken to address that problem, and ending with a special reward: a glistening kernel of new knowledge. The speaker tells the story using a vocabulary accessible to anyone […]

Storyboarding your presentation

By on February 1, 2011

I recently came across Lillipip, a company that creates animated videos about your product, service, or concept.  Check them out. They have a simple storyboarding template of four blank squares.  In the first, you draw or paste a picture of your client in pain, along with the exclamation that’s coming out of your customer’s mouth.  […]

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 […]

Movie Review: The King’s Speech

By on January 3, 2011

It begins with an agonizing silence–The Duke of York standing at a microphone in Wembley Stadium trying to bring the world’s greatest exposition to a dignified conclusion for the entire British Empire listening on the radio.  His stammering and stage fright make him unable to speak. In the historical moment, when the new medium of […]

Over-pursuit of goals

By on December 2, 2010

Suppose you went to a workshop and the leader threw a balled-up sock on the floor about eight feet in front of you. “Visualize the path to the sock, then close your eyes, walk to the sock and put your hand on it,” you are told. Your fellow work-shoppers watch in silence as you move […]

Better Investigator Meetings

By on November 17, 2010

I recently had the privilege of sitting through four investigator meetings, two in the United States and two in Europe. They comprised speaker after speaker with slide after slide.  Topics included the disease, the drug, the PK, the efficacy and safety, statistical modeling, and then the process by which patients were to be enrolled and […]

Ideas for better Investigator Meetings

By on November 17, 2010

You may be aware that I’ve been going to investigator meetings and finding them kind of out-of-date. We’ve got to get away from what’s easy for the sponsor, and instead move toward what is effective for the investigators and their associates. What is easy for the sponsor is to have the usual cast of characters […]

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 […]

How to clarify complexity – Part Two

By on November 10, 2010

As I said in another recent blog on complexity, most knowledge workers have to find the signal within the noise.  In other words, we have to gather information, sift through it, and decide what is important and what is not, draw some conclusions, make recommendations, and defend them. We often have to do this quickly, […]

How to Clarify Complexity

By on November 4, 2010

To clarify this complexity, I have to step back, calm down, and ask myself a question, such as, “What seems to be the problem?” Then I have to look at the rat’s nest of black wires, and begin the delicate surgery of extricating one wire from the clutches of the other...

What’s the point you’re trying to prove?

By on November 4, 2010

Right now I’m sitting in the back of a hotel meeting room near Washington, DC, where two dozen physicians are rehearsing for a presentation to the regulatory authorities. They are debating what point they are trying to prove. The question has to do with the use of a certain methodology to measure, in clinical trials, […]

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 […]

Welcome to the game

By on October 27, 2010

On a train to New York, I saw a man unpack a portable electric guitar, assemble it, plug earphones into it, and begin to play.  He was sitting at the window with two people packed next to him.  No one heard a sound. On the way out of the train, I asked him how long […]

Presence is knowing what to say

By on August 20, 2010

Robert Selander, the former CEO of MasterCard, had a thing for “presence.” When asked what he looked for in those he hired, he said, “Leadership, results, and presence.” About presence he said, “At varying levels of the company you deal with different stakeholders.  Having somebody spend time with a member of Congress is very different […]

The New is hard

By on August 19, 2010

On the first day of a workshop, an accomplished client delivered an effective presentation with verve and style.  On the second day, I asked him to reorganize his talk to make it more customer-centric, a challenge he embraced with enthusiasm.  However, when he delivered it, he was tentative and less effective.  Why? The simple answer […]

Fierce Conversations

By on August 4, 2010

I read the following in The Alternative Board’s newsletter today and want to pass this on to presenters and persuasive speakers. What conversations are you avoiding?  Maybe it’s with a good friend you don’t want to hurt.  Maybe it’s with a difficult person and you are concerned about their response.  Or maybe it’s with a […]

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 […]

The Youie Youness of You

By on July 21, 2010

Gary Forman is a speech writer I work with.  He was developing a stump speech for himself, and he came over to read it to me and get my feedback. It was fabulous, and so was he, although I did have a few nits to pick here and there.  (It was a little long and […]

The fourth wall or not

By on July 20, 2010

Over cigars and Chivas on Sunday night with Dikki Ellis, Michael Christensen and Zach Grenier, we came across an interesting distinction between clowning and acting, and one that is helpful to business speakers. Michael is a Co-Founder of the Big Apple Circus and the Founder of the circus’s Clown Care Unit.  Dikki is a senior […]

Scientific research on communication

By on July 12, 2010

I was steered to a web video the other day by an e-mail from a friend, and found myself in a garden of presentation skills coaches (also on video), many of whom quoted research done by Dr. Albert Mehrabian of Stanford University. You may be familiar with the data, which suggests that voice and body language […]

Your speechwriter: How to get the most out of him

By on June 22, 2010

A good speech has a voice.  It sounds like an individual—specifically, the individual who is delivering the speech. It should not sound like the speechwriter. And yet us speechwriters are often given only a brief time with the speaker to determine what she wants to say.  From that brief meeting, we are expected to extract […]

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 […]

The Perfect Pitch

By on June 7, 2010

Under the shadow of Armando Galarraga’s stolen perfect game, and umpire Jim Joyce’s human imperfection, I am moved to ponder the word pitch. In baseball, when a pitch comes at you, it is meant to either intimidate, bamboozle, or go by too fast to hit.  All pitches come with spin, except for knuckleballs, which float […]

Facts Make the Speech Writer

By on June 4, 2010

The famed defense attorney, F. Lee Bailey, was once asked what the key was to a successful case.  People expected him to say a spellbinding closing statement or a good jury selection process or an impressive cross-examination of a crucial witness. Instead his answer was “investigation”—knowing the facts of your case up and down, forward […]

The Bush Doctrine on Speech Writing

By on June 4, 2010

The Bush Doctrine on Speech Writing In his entertaining memoir Speech*Less, speech writer Matt Latimer reveals something about the speeches developed for President G.W. Bush.  By the way, he was one of the speech writers. ‘I quickly discovered the answer to a question I’d been asked by people since I’d arrived at the White House:  […]

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