Smart Talk: Making Powerfully Persuasive Presentations

In this talk, you’ll learn Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and how to practically apply these principles to persuasive presentations. Ultimately, facts are not the way to best lead, motivate, and inspire. Powerful persuasive presentations instead, rely on effective audience analysis, solid storytelling, and figurative language.

PowerPoint – Turn it on and then turn it off

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The most common scenario with presenters with PowerPoint is on before they start speaking and never off until they are done. The projection area is always filled with an image or text that competes with the presenter. Try this technique. Do not show your first slide until several minutes into your presentation. Let the focus of attention be on you and your message. Once the audience is familiar with both, then introduce your slides. The end of your presentation should get the same treatment. End your slides before finishing your presentation. Let the focus be on you and your message as you wrap thing up.

Charles Greene III
Presentation Magician
Washington, DC
CharlesGreene.com

An Easy Way to Spice Up PowerPoint

Most of us won’t be abandoning PowerPoint any time soon, what with the ongoing expectations — corporate or otherwise — to use the standard slide format of headline-and-bulleted text, and given the ease of crafting such content. But there are plenty of simple ways to keep audiences from tuning out during what they can perceive as a numbing parade of text-only slides.

Replacing even a few slides with visually-stimulating images is one way. For example, one slide with a picture showing a tornado in Oklahoma can communicate infinitely more than a half-dozen bullet slides describing the destructive power of Mother Nature. Project the picture and then add the spoken narration: “The winds associated with a Level 3 tornado can drive straw through a 4-inch post. And they can toss a 2,000-pound car a quarter mile.”

Adding such slides doesn’t take much extra work, and it pays off in refocusing audience attention. It also communicates to viewers that this isn’t just another cookie-cutter presentation created the night before it was delivered.

PowerPoint Makeovers – Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable (Slide Design for the Non-Designer)

Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP who shows us how to dramatically improve our PowerPoint slides. Watch and learn as Ellen transforms slides from the audience. See the difference in “before” and “after” slide designs and learn easy tips on how to do it on your own. She shares lessons learned including how to improve slide design; de-clutter text-heavy slides; edit complex slides for clarity; and communicate more effectively with graphics.

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About Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen_smallEllen Finkelstein is a recognized expert, speaker, trainer, and best-selling author on PowerPoint, presentation skills, and AutoCAD. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newsletters, and blogs. She is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional).There are only 37 PowerPoint MVPs in the world, and only 9 in the United States. Her Web site, http://ellenfinkelstein.com offers a hug assortment of tips, techniques, tutorials, and articles on these topics.

The Secret to Storytelling is in the Editing

Presentation lessons abound in the cinematic arts. Many producers and directors will tell you that what can really make or break a film is the editing. You have probably never heard the names of even some of the most prominent Hollywood editors, even though their work is absolutely crucial to the success of your favorite films.

This week I took some time to watch (twice) a documentary called The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Making. Although it is a film about the role of editing in filmmaking, the lessons and principles are applicable to other creative work such as writing, and storytelling of all kinds, including presentations. (Watch a short clip from The Cutting Edge .)

“Murder your darlings”

Arthur Quiller-Couch’s famous advice that we should “murder our darlings” suggests that we be very careful examining those bits of our story that we love the most. Our attachment to a line or a scene or a clever visual treatment may blind us to the fact that its inclusion, no matter how cool or impressive it may be, does not help the overall message.

Objectivity is key, and this is why it is useful to remind ourselves to think like an editor. Because a film editor is not usually involved in all the things that lead up to finally getting the footage in the can (casting, storyboards, weeks/months of shooting, etc.) she maintains the most objectivity and can focus on making the story flow and use her gut too to manipulate shots for emotional effects.

“You don’t need what you don’t need”

In his autobiography, Something Like An Autobiography, legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa spoke briefly on the editing process and the lessons from his mentor Kajirō Yamamoto.

“Yama-san in the editing room,” Kurosawa wrote, “was a bona-fide mass murderer.” It’s difficult for us to dispose of pieces that we worked so hard on, but the value of a bit’s worth—whether it’s in film or literature or multimedia presentations, or even writing software for that matter—should not be measured merely in terms of the labor we put into it. The only question in measuring its value is: from the point of view of the audience, does it work in support of the story?

Below is an excerpt from Kurosawa’s autobiography on the difficulty of cutting what you worked so hard to create:

I even thought on occasion if we were going to cut so much, why did we have to shoot it all in the first place? I, too, had labored painfully to shoot the film, so it was hard for me to scrap my own work.” Kurokawa goes on to say, “When you are shooting, of course, you film only what you believe is necessary. But very often you realize only after having shot it that you didn’t need it after all. You don’t need what you don’t need. Yet human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them.

In film editing, this natural inclination is the most dangerous of all attitudes. The art of the cinema has been called an art of time, but time used to no purpose cannot be called anything but wasted time. The most important requirement for editing is objectivity. No matter how much difficulty you had in obtaining a particular shot, the audience will never know. If it is not interesting, it simply isn’t interesting. You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.”

It’s About the Story

“At the end of the day,” says Hollywood film editor Zach Staenberg, “all this stuff [filmmaking process/editing] has to work to tell a story. If you’re not telling a story, it doesn’t matter how much razzle dazzle there is. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the story.”

Every frame matters and the inclusion or exclusion of the little things makes a difference. “The difference between a few frames was a scary shark and a big floating turd,” says Steven Spielberg in The Cutting Edge documentary. Spielberg also admitted that it was very hard for him to let go of as many frames of the mechanical shark in the final cut of Jaws as he ultimately did because he had worked so hard to get the shots. Thankfully he listened to his editor, Verna Fields.

Editors are the unsung heros of film, but if we take a closer look even those of us outside of film can learn valuable lessons from their creative work. Whatever the medium, the key in storytelling is cutting the extraneous and the superfluous, keeping in only what helps tell your story.

About the Author:

Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen and other best-selling books related to presentation and presentation design. He is the former manager of the Worldwide User Group Relations at Apple Computer and is now an associate professor of management at Kansai Gaidai University, where he teaches marketing, global marketing and multimedia presentation design.

 

Make Life Easier with 3 Changes to PowerPoint’s Options dialog box


By Ellen Finkelstein
I’m starting to use the upcoming PowerPoint 2013 quite a bit and doing so has reminded me of some of the default PowerPoint settings that I hate. Here are three simple changes you can make that I think will make you a happier PowerPoint user. They apply to PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 as well.

No, you don’t want to automatically select the entire word!

Have you had the experience of trying to select a few characters in a word to change them? You drag across those letters, but PowerPoint jumps to select the entire word. But you don’t want to select the entire word! (This happens in Microsoft Word, too.) Grrrr! To be more specific, this behavior happens after you select one word, then as you move the mouse to select additional letters, PowerPoint selects the full preceding or following word; you cannot easily select individual letter of the words.

If you want more control, here are the steps to take:

  1. Choose File> Options. (In PowerPoint 2007, choose Office button> PowerPoint Options.)
  2. In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, click the Advanced category.
  3. Uncheck the “When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word” check box.
  4. Click OK.


No, you don’t want PowerPoint to change the size of your text!

Let’s say that you choose a theme or format a Slide Master for a slide title of 36 points. You choose that size because you like how it fits on your slide. Then, you type a long title and PowerPoint decides to make the text smaller to fit the title placeholder. All of a sudden, you have slide titles of different sizes and as you go from slide to slide, you don’t know what you’ll get. It looks very inconsistent.

The same automatic resizing can happen in the body text placeholder.

Here are the steps to stop PowerPoint from resizing your text:

  1. Choose File> Options. (In PowerPoint 2007, choose Office button> PowerPoint Options.)
  2. Click the Proofing category.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button.
  4. Choose the AutoFormat as You Type tab.
  5. Uncheck the last 2 options on the tab: Autofit Title/Body Text to Placeholder
  6. Click OK twice.

 

So what do you do when you have a longer title or your text doesn’t fit? Here are some ideas:

  1. Edit your text so that it’s shorter.
  2. Expand the size of the placeholder slightly.
  3. Reduce the placeholder’s internal margin. I explain how here.

Of course, you can manually reduce the size of the font; sometimes you have to. But reducing the font size should be a last resort, so you shouldn’t let PowerPoint do it automatically.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a noted presentation design consultant, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and a multi-published author in the presentations field. For more information, visit http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/

From Mediocre to Memorable: 3 Slide Makeovers

By Dave Zielinski

In the inaugural event of PresentationXpert’s new Webinar Wednesdays series last month, titled Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable, PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein presented a number of compelling slide design tips and “made over” slides submitted by webinar participants.

Ellen stressed that even though most PowerPoint users aren’t professional designers, they can still create lively, high- impact, visually appealing presentations. Part of that is understanding that audiences remember pictures more than they do words, since the part of the brain devoted to visual input is much larger than the part for auditory input.

That means nobody, but nobody, loves slide after slide of bulleted text.

In Ellen’s Tell ‘n Show method, slide design is much more simplified. Text and visual, text and visual is the cadence. In this method a simple, explanatory heading goes on each slide, and there is often only one point per slide, meaning you may need to expand one slide to four.

Also, when you have text on a slide, think about how you can convey the concepts visually. Try to use photos that are literal or symbolic, or use iconic line art.

Here are makeovers of three different slides that demonstrate some of these concepts:

1) The Before version. Notice the lack of appealing graphics and text-heavy approach in this slide. To make the slide more compelling, Ellen converted it to SmartArt for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, added a photo and rearranged some text. Used wisely, SmartArt can add color, shape and emphasis to data and text.

 

The After version:

 

2) The Before version. This slide not only is difficult  for audiences to read with its small font sizes, it’s text heavy. Ellen again used SmartArt to convert this slide to a more visually-appealing and easily-understood alternative, and made some changes in Excel as well.

The After version:

 

3) The Before version:

The First After Slide:

 

The Second After slide:

 

Secrets to Practicing Your Presentation When You Have No Time

By Michelle Mazur

By far, the most popular post on my site is 8 Steps for Practicing a Presentation. To me that means you are looking for help on how to practice a presentation so you can execute a successful speech. We know we have to practice, but practice seems like an abstract, daunting task. The biggest objection I hear from clients about practicing a presentation is…I don’t have time to practice. I understand the problem. I don’t have time to practice my presentations either…and frankly I am the type of presenter who does not enjoy practicing at all. My little hater comes out in full force! Let’s go through step-by-step and discuss some strategies that will save you time.Step One: Divvy Up Your Presentation into Bite-Size Chunks.

If you are doing a 30-, 60- or even 90-minute speech, you do NOT have to practice your presentation all at once. Repeat you do NOT have to rehearse your entire presentation in one sitting. Break-up your presentation in small bite-size chunks. Divide it up by introduction, each main point, and your conclusion. If it is a longer presentation, break the body of the speech down into its sub-points.Think of this as portion control for practicing your speech. It makes practice less daunting.

Step Two: Find small chunks of time.

Now that you know that you don’t have to practice the presentation all at once, start finding pockets of time for small presentation practice sessions. This means driving in your car is a great time to practice. 10 minutes between calls – practice. Taking a shower – forget singing – try practicing.

There’s all kinds of time to rehearse when you don’t have to find a huge chunk of time!

Step Three: Don’t always start from the beginning.

You need to know your introduction well!  However, don’t always start your rehearsals at the beginning. Every time you are practicing think about what you need to go over the most. In which part of the presentation is the information most difficult for you?  Which part of the speech have you not practiced yet? Start there!

Step Four: Practice does not always have to be out loud.

Practicing your speech out loud is a must. However, you don’t always have to practice out loud. Visualization is a form of practicing. Going through the speech in your head is a way to rehearse. Even if you just want to write the speech out – guess what you are practicing.

Step Five: Do one complete run through with tech.

You have to find the time to do at least ONE complete run through with your tech (microphone, PowerPoint, media, whatever). This insures that you are staying within the time limits, your transitions are good and that all your technology is in working order.

About the Author:

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a public speaking coach, communication expert and author of the Relationally Speaking blog.

4 Presentation Strategies for a C-Level Audience

By Rick Gilbert

When I joined Hewlett-Packard as a quality assurance training manager 20 years ago, I had zero business experience. I had been a college instructor, a consultant, and a psychologist, but I had never read an annual report or laid eyes on a spreadsheet. I didn’t know the difference between ROI and an IOU.

After six months on the job, I secured a brief meeting with the general manager and his team. I urgently needed their support for a quality training program I was launching. I strode confidently into the meeting clueless about who was going to be there and their job titles or hidden agendas. I may as well have been blindfolded; I was in the dark.

I helped myself to a pastry, and took a seat at the table—my first two mistakes. I had prepared 50 overhead slides (before the days of PowerPoint) for my 20-minute presentation, which amounted to 49 more slides than anyone wanted to see. I opened the presentation with a long story to warm up the audience. (Note to self: Senior executives do not need or want “warming up.”)

The general manager ended the meeting after just seven minutes, and I failed to get support for that critical training program. While riding the elevator down to my office after the meeting, I was haunted by a nagging question: “What just happened?” It was 20 years before I would answer that question.

Different presentation rules

If you are in middle management, ambiguity and chaos are daily realities. Additionally, you must gain approval from the people at the top to get things done. Resources are limited. To make matters worse, colleagues in finance, IT, and marketing are after the same resources. You know what works in team meetings at your peer level: stories, PowerPoint slides, one-way communication with minimal Q&A, and no interruptions.

You realize that the rules for presenting to top-level leaders are different, but what are they? If you solved this mystery, you’d be more likely to receive the project funding and support that you need.

To uncover these rules, I’ve interviewed 50 executives during the past 10 years. These leaders shared how to effectively present to the C-suite: know the people and big picture, make the bottom line your first line, deliver with confidence, and facilitate through improvisation. I only regret that I didn’t know these strategies years ago.

Know the people and big picture

Find answers to the following questions before the presentation: Who will be in the meeting? What are their titles? What are their agendas, and how do they feel about each other? Who will support you and who will oppose you? Typically, you will have a sponsor—for example, the director of human resources. That person can tell you what to expect, and can get the meeting back on track if it derails.

C-level leaders are a unique audience. They are bright, competitive, and analytical. They never have enough time in any given day, must meet their numbers, and have little job security.

An executive stays in his position for an average of 23 months. One study shows that if a company’s stock price increases after its CEO has filled the role for one year, 75 percent of new CEOs keep their jobs. If the stock price goes down, 83 percent do not keep their jobs. The C-suite is often a revolving door.

Additionally, it’s important to understand the expenses accrued from a top-level meeting. Assembling five C-level leaders from a $5 billion company costs shareholders $30,000 per hour. CEOs report that 67 percent of the meetings they attend with subordinates are total failures—resulting in a huge productivity loss for the company.

Make the bottom line your first line

“You have 30 seconds to get my attention and tell me what you are here for. If you don’t, I’m on my smartphone, and you’ve lost me,” says Steve Blank, founder and former CEO of Epiphany.

The first rule of content development for a C-suite presentation is to position the bottom line as your first line. Immediately tell the audience why you are there and what you want. If you want money, include ROI calculations so the executives will know what they’ll get for their investment in your training project.

Skip the storytelling that works so well at your peer-level team meetings. Executives simply don’t have time for it. Get right to the point, and do so with data.

Be careful with PowerPoint. Using PowerPoint in an executive meeting is a sure way to run your career into the ditch and lose support for your program. The C-suite wants a discussion, not a slide-driven lecture. In fact, Ned Barnholt, chairman of KLA-Tencor, says he doesn’t have confidence in a speaker who can’t talk without slides.

To increase your credibility with a C-level audience, decrease the number of presentation slides. When you are finished with the slides, ensure that the screen is blank—this will refocus the attention back on you.

Deliver with confidence

Strategy and content trump delivery style every time at senior meetings. Your delivery pales in comparison with the importance of your content.

However, executives have no time for poor presenters. They are looking for a confident, energetic, committed presenter, but not a slick, motivational, inflated presentation. Polish your basic delivery skills: practice eye contact, vocal projection, and gestures.

Stand tall and be expansive. Not only will such body posture show executives you’re a horse worth betting on, but it also affects your biology. A recent Harvard University study shows that physically filling space has positive effects on one’s hormones: The stress hormone cortisol decreases 25 percent while testosterone increases 17 percent.

Facilitate through improvisation

According to one CEO, “Eighty percent of your success at the top is your facilitation skills. Only 20 percent is your content.”

Facilitation includes listening and improvising. Listening means not only paraphrasing what people are saying to confirm your understanding, but also “reading the room.” As you present, watch the reactions of your executive audience. Be willing to address what you observe happening, and if necessary, take action to correct it. In a word, improvise.

Below are the most common facilitation challenges and the solutions.

  • Time cut. Be prepared with a shorter, five-minute version of your presentation.
  • Disengaged executives. When people start checking their email, reconfirm that the topic is still important.
  • Decision maker leaves. Before this person gets out the door, ask her what to do next, such as wait until she returns or move forward with the decision.
  • Topic change. Be prepared to improvise the agenda and change directions.
  • Side talk. Refocus the audience on the agenda. Request help from your sponsor or the most senior person.
  • Energetic discussion. When executives are fully engaged and throwing out new ideas, capture what is said and then reconfirm after the meeting.

Lessons learned

Years ago, when I sat at the table during my first executive presentation, I implied a peer relationship with the leaders. And when I ate one of the group’s snacks, I was driving nails into my own coffin. I was a “dead man walking” before showing my first slide—and I didn’t even know it.

Learn from my mistakes. Remember that you are a guest at the C-level meeting, not a member of this high-powered club. Know who is there, and their relationships with one another. Have a sponsor to help you out of any possible meeting train wrecks. Keep your questions focused and immediate and the PowerPoint slides to a bare minimum. Finally, constantly listen and improvise.

Had I known any of this at my first meeting with the general manager, I may have received support for that critical training program. With these tools, now you can improve your chances of success.

About the Author:

Rick Gilbert is the founder and chairman of PowerSpeaking Inc., a speech communications company  that has worked with Silicon Valley companies since 1985.  He also is creator of the award-winning program Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives,  and author of Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations. Reprinted from ASTD.org

 

 

Kill Your Darlings

by Jon Thomas

When you’ve spent time and energy designing a PowerPoint presentation, it’s not easy to see your effort disappear with a swift stroke of the delete key. But in order to build a truly effective presentation, one that offers the audience exactly what they need (and nothing more or less), you’ll have to kill a few of your darlings.

It’s not simply about shortening a presentation, or finding reasons to negate all the hard work you put into crafting your presentation content and visuals. It’s about giving the audience only what they absolutely, positively NEED to hear and see. Anyone can dump all the information in their brain onto a bunch of slides. It takes intelligence and restraint to include only what is necessary.

Your audience wants the most important and useful content that matters to them. I can’t tell you what that is, but after years of designing presentations both for others and for myself, I know that the perfect presentation is always at least a little bit shorter than the one originally intended.

Steven King has some great perspective on the topic here. An editor once said to him, “2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

It hurts. I know. I’ve been there and had to leave some of my most beautiful slides and useful content on the bench. But like cleaning a wound, sometimes you have to go through a little pain if you want the pleasure of wowing your audience.

About the Author:

Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on the company’s services, visit www.presentationadvisors.com

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