Presentation skills

Beyond the job description – your unique value proposition

As a meetings facilitator and trainer, I am a regular observer of the one-minute introductions that invariably kick off group sessions. And I am always struck by how little people say about themselves that distinguishes them from anyone else.

Very rarely do these introductions venture beyond the basic job description, except for occasional forays into the extra-curricular realms of hobbies and families.

The problem with most job descriptions is that they are generic and impersonal – and could apply to any number of people.…

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Presentations: never save the best for last

Working with a client recently on an important presentation he was preparing for internal stakeholders, I was astonished when a ‘big reveal’ about a notable past achievement came in the final minute of a fairly unremarkable pitch.

Once I pointed out the much greater impact he could achieve by reversing the order and using the reveal in his opening, he was happy to comply, and his presentation packed a much bigger punch as a result.

Presenters neglect openings at their peril

I am regularly surprised by the extent to which presenters neglect their openings which are, without question, the most important part of any presentations.…

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Four fail-safe routes to presentation stardom

The problem with many of the presenters I coach is diffidence. Often, they are so self-effacing that they write themselves out of their own story.

Before we had presentations, we had public speaking – a performance art on a par with drama, ballet or opera, in which personal magnetism played a prominent role.

But public speaking has been largely displaced by PowerPoint presentations, where the slides take centre stage and the presenter is reduced to acting as voiceover – a role that is all-but redundant when, as is often the case, all the text to be presented is on the slides and the audience can read it for themselves.…

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Five ways for experts to fight fake news

The latest scary statistics about the resurgence of the measles virus, due – at least in high-income countries – to vaccine refusal, highlights the various ‘cognitive biases’ that lead people to base their decision-making on unfounded fears and beliefs rather than top-level scientific evidence.

They act as a timely reminder that it takes a lot more than facts to change people’s minds and move them to action.

According to a new report from UNICEF, an estimated 169 million children worldwide missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, with the predictable result that ‘widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today’.…

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Why communicators should always start with ‘why’

Working with a series of groups last week, I suddenly understood that the essence of my communication skills training can be summed up in one word – WHY.

When I am preparing people to communicate with media or other stakeholders about a product, a service or a function they nearly always want to start by talking about what the product is for, who the service serves, how the function works.

But all this is meaningless unless you start with why. To take one typical example, a journalist cannot hope to grasp the significance of a new drug for a hard-to-treat disease unless they are first confronted with the unmet need – the suffering that drug is designed to alleviate or remove.…

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Overcome presentation nerves with ‘3 Ps’

 What does a communication skills trainer say to a professional who is so terrified of the prospect of giving a presentation – a requirement of her job, no less – that he or she can’t even be persuaded to give it a go in the safe space of the training room?

This was the problem that confronted me recently when not one but two participants in my group training session were happy to listen to my words of wisdom on the principles of effective presenting but were adamant that they could not get up on their hind legs and put theory into practice.…

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8 presentation hacks for holding attention

Presenting is a difficult business and presenters face numerous challenges if they are to be engaging, memorable and influential – the three key objectives of presentations.

Of these challenges, none is more critical – or more tricky – than holding the attention of the audience.

If you Google ‘audience attention span’, you will find endless dispiriting graphs of average attention, like this one from the Netherlands-based Syncat Academy for scientific leaders of the future.

Image result for Syncat Academy audience attention graph

You can see that practically everyone is listening at the start, hoping against hope that the talk will be inspiring and entertaining.…

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End every presentation with a call to action

In my last blog I talked about the importance of making a powerful first impression when you present to an audience.

But endings are just as important as beginnings, and the professionals I coach seem to find them just as challenging.

Typically, they get to the end of their slide deck, summarise the data (although not invariably) and then end with a slide that reads ‘Thank you – any questions?’

The crucial step most, if not all, ignore is the ‘call to action’ – the compelling statement that tells your listeners how you want them to change their behaviour and/or their attitudes in the light of what you have said.…

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Presentations and the crucial importance of first impressions

Of all the suggestions I make to people on my presentation skills training courses, the one they find hardest to follow is to seize the audience’s attention from the get-go.

They usually pay lip service to the idea that first impressions are vital, and you don’t get a second chance to make one; but when given a chance to put theory into practice, they still revert to something like the following:

‘Good morning, my name is [title] from [Institute] in [country], and today I am going to talk to you about [topic].…

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The six worst forms of PowerPoint abuse

Is it the TV’s fault if a programme is boring? Surely not! Is a drill to blame for a poorly hung picture? Hardly! So why is it that PowerPoint is so often forced to take the rap for the dull, uninspiring and unmemorable presentations delivered daily in meeting rooms, conference halls and lecture theatres across the land?

I believe that PowerPoint is a useful and versatile tool when used as designed – as a visual aid for audiences. But it is a lethal weapon in the hands of its growing legions of abusers, which is why we now face an insidious epidemic of ‘death by PowerPoint’.…

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How to be persuasive in 3 simple steps

How to be persuasive in three simple steps

 Of all the forms of torture inflicted in corporate life, Death by PowerPoint is the most pervasive.

It’s not just because the software encourages a lazy approach to presenting, with the speaker usually playing a poor supporting role to slides loaded with text, dripping with bullet points and peppered with impossibly complex visuals.

It’s also because PowerPoint presentations tend to rely on factual information alone to convey their messages and move their audiences to action.…

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Persuasion: why facts don’t work

As a communication skills coach I work regularly with individuals and groups to identify, prioritise and illustrate the key facts that support the arguments they need to put forward in presentations, media interviews, negotiations and other critical meetings.

There is an assumption that facts are the ultimate, undeniable persuaders, in the face of which the strongest opposition has no choice but to melt away.

But in our ‘post-truth’- era, the power and the primacy of factual information is looking increasingly dubious as a tool for persuasion.…

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