Don’t Boast

By on May 3, 2016

Whenever you give yourself a compliment in front of an audience, you run the risk of being seen in a negative light. For instance, telling stories about how you won a big piece of business by being a super salesman may be instructive for the audience, but it raises the likelihood that you may give […]

How Not to Bore an Audience (3 of 3)

By on February 10, 2015

We’re winding up our series on how to keep your listeners attentive, keep yourself energetic, and make the most of your time in the spotlight. We’ve covered 6 tips in our first two parts. Here’s the last 4: 7. Get Ready for Prime Time Rehearse. An audience doesn’t want to see you struggling to say […]

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 […]

9 Tips on How to Introduce a Speaker

By on May 7, 2014

For great advice on how to introduce a speaker, look no further than Richard C. Borden’s 1935 classic Public Speaking as Listeners Like It. Answer the following four simple questions briefly and skillfully, and you will effortlessly create a pleasant harmony between subject, audience, occasion, and speaker. Why this subject? Why this subject before this […]

7 lessons to help you ace any interview

By on January 15, 2014

Recently, I met with a young client who was preparing to leave college and begin job interviews. After our meeting, I wrote her a letter to reiterate the steps we agreed she should take to improve her presence and effectiveness. When I looked over the document, I saw that, while she had her own unique […]

5 ways to get smarter about public speaking

By on January 8, 2014

Is one of your resolutions to improve at work?  Maybe you’d like to be more organized, more proactive, a better manager, or a more inspiring leader.  Improving your communication skills can help you improve in all of these areas. To help you meet your goals, here are five excellent books on public speaking (available on […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Presentation Pointer: Second-guess everything

By on February 22, 2010

When preparing a talk, ask yourself if your audience wants to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity.  Maybe they want to do both.  Whatever the case, they’ll want to calculate the risks. Solving the wrong problem wastes time and money and leaves the real problem unsolved.  And whenever we pursue an opportunity, there […]

Presentation Skills: Best practices for meeting kick-off

By on February 10, 2010

We are often asked to kick-off meetings.  What’s the best way to get everyone focused on the task at hand, and demonstrate our own capacity for effective leadership? Start on time.  Or, if you must delay, acknowledge those who are present and inform them you would like to wait for a few minutes. Begin your […]

Presentation Pointer: Speak their thoughts before they do

By on February 9, 2010

“Every word uttered evokes the idea of its opposite. “  –Goethe In other words, when you assert your opinion, your listeners will reflexively search their own minds for a thought that could prove your idea flawed. To take the wind out of their sails, and to demonstrate that you have considered other perspectives, speak their […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Facilitation Skills: Making the Most of Your Role as a Panel Moderator

By on May 16, 2008

You’ve been invited to moderate a panel.  The question is: How can you do it really well so that the meeting is rated highly, you look good, and your chances of being invited back are good? First, you should look at the job of moderator as a great chance to create a host of positive impressions.  It’s […]

Business Communication: Sharing the Podium

By on May 9, 2008

Dividing the Dais Sharing a podium is a frequent method for by-passing yet another dry presentation and (we hope) generating heat and light between two or more people seated on stage engaging in friendly verbal exchanges. In my experience, each speaker prepares and delivers a short talk (less than 10 minutes) on the topic being considered, takes a few […]

Speaking Anxiety: The Mind/Body Toggle

By on January 2, 2008

Recently, a client of mine, who is also a childhood friend, left me a voice mail saying that he did not think my short article on the power of gesture to create emotion was appropriate for the market I serve. Essentially, the short piece tried to make the point that speakers can alter their inner […]

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. […]

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 […]

Sales Training: The Five Don’ts of Sales Presenting

By on October 1, 2007

When transforming your house into a dream home, talk to three architects. When getting heart surgery to transform the quality of your life, talk to three surgeons. And to transform your sales presentations, talk to three consultants. I have three people in mind. The first is Ford Harding, a sales consultant to professional service firms […]

Speaking Anxiety: A Loss of Confidence

By on September 10, 2007

A friend of mine, who is a very successful consultant, told me that she has lost her confidence as a speaker. For twenty years she has been speaking to large groups of clients and potential clients with success.  Now she feels very unsure of herself. She reports to me that she’s terrified of going blank.  While she used to […]

Effective Speaking: Keeping Attention

By on August 27, 2007

Back in the days before Gutenberg, it took months or years for a few dedicated scribes to create a single copy of a single book.  A literate medieval person, provided he or she was not interrupted by the Inquistion or bubonic plague, could probably read the book as fast as your typical modern high school […]

Voice Projection: The Power of Voice Tone

By on August 18, 2007

Many of us are familiar with the work of Dr. Albert Mehrabian of Stanford University, who demonstrated in his research that 85% of emotion is communicated through voice tone and body language. Many of us have read Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, who reported the work of Nalini Ambady of Tufts University, who discovered that some doctors who make […]

Public Speaking Tips: Persuasive Posture

By on July 15, 2007

Body language talks, or BLT for short. Something in the way we stand speaks volumes.  Good posture is not only good health, it looks good.  Why? Good posture communicates self-confidence and belief in what you have to say.  It indicates that you are willing to assert yourself and overcome the resistance of those who might […]

Presentation Tips: Think Forest, Not Trees

By on July 9, 2007

If you want to position yourself as a high-status individual with the capacity to lead, consider this:  Power comes from abstraction, not from facts. According to recent research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, abstract thinkers feel less constrained by details and prefer higher-power roles. Abstract thinking broadens options, while thinking concretely is more likely […]

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