March 04, 2011
A friend recently lamented to me that every time she presented, new slides needed to be built.
Of course, such is the life of presenter world! We should always customize talks, and when necessary, build visual support to illustrate our messages. As I've said in previous posts, I'm not a fan of using power point as your speaker-notes (eg. bullet points with builds, quotes, etc.) - but there is a good place for great slides with images or key takeaways...
Here's the problem: When you put together a deck, you likely spend too much time surfing through all decks to find 'that slide' that you are thinking about. Every time I open a PPT deck, my computer places it at the top of the "Recently Modified" or "Last Opened" heap, so I ended up having to sift through dozens to find 'that slide.'
Recently, I found a simple solution: Maintain a master deck, with all the slides I build. After I create a new presentation, I copy all newly created slides into the master deck, sometimes using simple slides with titles as placeholders (eg., Customer Experience set of slides). Now, when I'm working on a talk, I start with the master deck, which contains everything! Sure, it's a mega file at this point (about 100 megabytes), but it's not like I'm going to email it to anybody!
For a great book on slides, read: Slideology by Nancy Duarte
January 04, 2011
I introduced myself as a fellow speaker and we shared a glass of wine. During the course of the conversation, he shared his favorite piece of public speaking advice: "Be brief, be seated."
This quote, originally from Franklin D. Roosevelt, underscores the secret effective meetings of all types: Practice radical brevity. This concept bears true today, more than ever. Time is at a premium. One of the biggest roadblocks to meetings these days it the lack of time to hold them! Still, we schedule one hour keynotes, ninety minute breakouts and four hour dinners! In the brevity economy, this does not add up.
The solution is to shave down the allotted time for meetings and speeches. The annual TED talks, launched by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1990, sported a novel format of an 18 minute keynote. It was enforced with an active moderator and a public countdown timer. The TED talks rank with some of the best of our time. The format works because it forces the speaker to tell a single story and focus on takeaway advice instead of padded premises and never ending stories.
In Brief - The takeaways:
1. When you plan your next meeting, whack all the presentations down to 30 minutes, including the breakouts -- especially the breakouts! This will allow you to compress a three day meeting into a two day meeting (saving some serious cash along the way.)
2. Next time you are asked to speak, offer to do a compressed talk in 30 minutes sans power points (unless you have some compelling images to show.)
3. Take this to your bizlife, shortening internal meetings to 30 minutes (small group) or 45 minutes (large group). Bring a stopwatch to the meeting and have the most senior person in the room serve as timekeeper and enforcer. Develop a reputation as a minute miser and you'll get standing room only crowds.
One of my favorite Mark Twain stories involves the first time he attended a lecture by contemporary philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Twain attended at the urging of his wife, Olivia Langdon. Fifteen minutes into his sermon, Twain turned to Olivia and remarked, "he's great!" Thirty minutes deeper into Emerson's screed, Twain shrugged his shoulders and muttered, "He's alright, I guess." One hour later, as Emerson mercifully concluded his remarks, Twain took five dollars out of the collection plate!
November 23, 2010
Building on Chris Brogran's recent post related to this subject, I want to offer an alternative to the "death by power point notes" approach that most speakers take in this situation. Sure, it's hard for you to remember all the details of your talk, especially if you are integrating research you've done for this talk. There are new terms, statistics that will be fact checked and unique points you want to make. You may not be comfortable shuffling notes around in your hands, and it's true, you look less professional when you do.
While you are adding value by giving a one-of-a-kind talk, asking the audience to read and listen to you makes the presentation long and according to Nick Morgan, straining on the audience. When you use 'overhead-notes' you are making your memorization problem your audience's as well. I'm talking about those text-heavy slides with bullet points and builds. They require many audience to have what I call the eye-exam-keynote-experience.
OK - you actually know that words on screen is a crutch and not a visual 'aid' for the audience. How can you possibly remember your points without using power point slides as your prompts?
1 - Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. Give your custom talk at least two times (all the way through) prior to giving it for your audience. Give it one time the day of your talk, even if that means you have to get up at 5:30! If you really want to commit this to memory, give your last rehearsal....to yourself in the mirror.
2 - Create an outline on 11 x 17 paper, much like a set sheet that a band uses. Use bold magic marker, and write down cues (see the picture above, from my recent talk for Rich's Products). The audience won't notice you are occasionally looking down at them, all they know is that you are giving them a talk that's written for them.
3 - Make every power point slide beg for it's life. In my situation, I only use slides that illustrate a point graphically. The acid test is this: Can I make the point without showing the power point. NOTE: If a picture saves a thousand words, that's also a good use of power point. Karl Meisenbach (HDNET) and Seth Godin do a great job in this area.
4 - Carry around a one page outline of your talk (mine from today is here) and read it from top to bottom for the last hour before you go on. Test yourself, reciting the bullet points absent your notes. Include any key words that are new to you.
The audience, like a customer, responds to a good experience. When they get to listen, and only view essential images, you are maximizing the experience. But to quote Pine and Gilmore, customization is the ultimate experience!
November 12, 2010
This is the central message of my keynote speech for a corporate event next week. The company has a lot of bright people, from HQ out to the edges, and it's more important than ever for everyone to feel empowered. They need to believe they can make a difference via individual contribution and especially, innovation.
During my keynote, I'll explain that one person (or a small group) can move the company forward either by process innovation (save money, increase quality) or value creation (find new ways to make the customer happy, beyond price cutting). In other words, come up with new ways to increase the health of the business.
I think the leaders are smart to bring me to in talk about this because it's a very important topic these days. The economic environment has beaten us down, putting us in survival mode and leading us to believe that we are only a small part of the puzzle. It's very natural to feel that way, especially if you work at a mid-large company in the field or a far flung office.
But if you look at the history books of companies that were turned around or propelled forward, they are filled with stories of non-executives that led an innovative revolution at work. One engineer suggested that Google's mission statement be "Don't Be Evil." One store manager in Mississippi inspired a CEO to push-the-button on the largest corporate sustainability program in history. The power of one is irrefutable. The problem remains, though: "How does one person change the world at work?"
This is something I've been researching, giving keynote speeches on and consulting with companies about. It's really a matter of personality, passion and process. During my talk for this company, I will focus on the process side of it -- How do we innovate the business?
1 - Keep your eyes open for solutions. Your ears (and your inbox) will be full of details RE the problem. Everyone likes to talk about that. If you dig hard enough into the details, like Don Ostler did at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, an obvious solution will jump out of the pile.
2 - Tie it to the business, and keep-it-short. Solutions should either save money or increase revenue. If you aren't doing one or the other, you aren't going to be strategic to the Finance function of your company. And believe me, you need a friend at the bank. In the case of Diane Ball at Delnore Community Hospital, she sold the leadership stress management for nurses with a case built on retention (there was 30% turnover in nursing) and how it saves money on recruiting and onboarding. The COO jumped on a plane, attended a Heartmath training session, and implemented it immediately.
3 - Build a team and spread out. This is how Joan Krujewski did it at Microsoft: She had an agenda to make the company the greenest one in the world. She started in the hardware B.U., using a power point presentation to get green-minded softies to identify themselves. She corralled them into a network that represented key functions of the unit: Sales, engineering, packaging, etc. Then they spread out to other BUs (operating system, software group) and in the end, several hundred people innovated product packaging and environmental management.
4 - Go Martin Luther on the brass. This is a last resort measure, but works in a pinch. At Motorola, sales director Art Sundry got fed up that the Japanese were killing his business due to quality and price (which was virtuously dropping due to good quality and low rework). At a national leaders summit, he raised his hand and asked Paul Galvin Jr. (son of founder) why the meeting was spending more time on quality. When asked why, Sundry shouted, "Because we make junk!" The rest of the meeting centered on quality and within a year, Six Sigma was born.
I can't wait to give this talk, as The Power Of One is one of my favorite subjects to evangelize. If you'd like to spark this thinking inside your company, please contact me with suggestions of meetings you are having where I'd be a fitting keynote speaker.
August 24, 2010
Never have a meeting or make a presentation without doing your homework.
What is your homework? Context. This is a habit I developed at Yahoo!, and recommend to everyone I know. When you are going to make a sales call or take a meeting with a new company/person - do some background research so you know the context of the situation.
For example, at Yahoo!, every time we'd engage with a new prospect, we'd fully research their history (via Hoovers, stock ticker, their website), news coverage of the company, bios of individuals in the meeting and the competitive landscape. I'd budget about three hours for a thirty minute meeting. I'd combine all the research into a 'parse' - short for a parsed up brief of the company and participants in the meeting.
The point wasn't being a know-it-all, it was about knowing the context so I could tailor my remarks or presentation to the situation. After a while, I started to send the parse to my contact at the prospect company to see if I got it right. You'd be surprised that in many situations, my contact didn't know half of that I'd dug up! In every case, my confidence was higher because I had the power of knowledge.
Same goes with any presentation. Always research your audience: Their emotions, the context they are working in, their competitive situation and trends in the industry that impact them. Show up the night before and talk to your future audience to verify your understanding. The most important piece of intel to gather is the business model they're operating under, and where their upside and leakage occurs. This information allows you to point remarks to action items that make a difference. This will dramatically improve the effectiveness of any presentation you make.
August 17, 2010
If you want to perform at the highest level, do just one thing at a time.
Today I had a very successful speech at a financial services conference. For the last 48 hours, it was all I thought about. I didn't blog yesterday, my few tweets were actually part of today's talk (making it connected) and I didn't work on any other projects.
As you know, I'm writing a new book and have a training business too - It's easy to fall into the multi-tasker's trap, seducing myself into believing I can excel at all - at the same time. To be effective, I need to focus on the thing on deck, and wall out any other opportunities (distractions with upside). I didn't check my email this AM, and poured all my focus in final rehearsal steps ... then execution took care of itself.
Now that I'm done, I'll focus the rest of today on one thing - editing a piece of my new book. That's it. For authors, I cringe when they tell me they are carving out an hour or two every day to write. It's not a winning strategy for ultra-high performance. David Lynch once said that "it takes at least four hours to get one creative hour of work done." True. When I write, I block out a unit (1/2 a day) and wall out any other distractions. Eventually, my subconscious rewards me with insight, which helps the final product sing.
Try this starting with your next important performance (speech, sales pitch, what ever). Don't try and balance it between other tasks. Really, you aren't that good, I know I'm not. You might say, "well, my kid can email, text, watch TV, listen to music, talk to his friends and still finish his homework." To that I say, he's been doing it his whole life (unlike you) and he's not performing as well as he would if he applied single tasking focus to his studies.
August 03, 2010
Last week I had an inspiring lunch with comic Kyle Cease.
He's recently come into my life via a Lovecat introduction by radio personality BJ Shea. Immediately, Kyle and I hit it off, exchanging stories and tips. There's just something about how breaking bread brings out rich dialogue and useful information.
Kyle's had great success, producing one of the top Comedy Central TV specials in the last five years and continuing to 'kill it' for audiences throughout North America. One of his success secrets really resonated with me.
"I don't tell jokes to a group of people," he said. "I tell them to individual people in the audience."
"I can see how that works in a comedy club, but how do you do that on TV?" I asked.
"It's about the person you have in your mind. Your perfect audience member. On TV, I look through the camera and into the mind of the person I'm trying to connect with."
Makes total sense to me. It's more than eye contact, it's intentional contact on an individual basis. A great speaker, comedian or performer gives his/her audience the individual feeling of receiving a gift. This helps the performance touch people on a personal basis. It drives Kyle to remain conversational, just like he's talking to friend or lunch companion.
Talk to an audience like a group, and they'll act like a group: Collectively groaning or clapping at certain points. Treat them like individuals and they'll act like people. They'll recall your jokes, how they made them feel and they'll tell all their friends about you. A standing ovation comes from an intense connection with a few people, hopefully close to the front, that leap to their feet - inspiring the rest of the 'group' to follow.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you give any type of performance, first lock into the person you imagine you are giving it to. Find some anchors in the room if it's small (a few faces that fit that profile) and speak to them like you'd talk to someone over dinner. As Nick Morgan would say, "you don't make a presentation. you give a speech!"
May 24, 2010
Here's a tip from Nick Morgan: Rehearse your speech the day you give it.
That's right, no matter what time you are going to speak, budget time for a full run through. In many cases, you don't have access to the room or the talk kicks off the day at 8:00. That is no excuse, just a challenge.
For the last few years, I've taken this advice to heart, and whenever I do this I am always more prepared. In many cases, this means that I get up at 5:30am, get ready and give the run through right up to the 7am sound check. It's not easy, and requires going to bed early the night before, but it is worth it. PS - Always give the speech into the mirror, making eye contact with yourself. This technique will also help you make quick adjustments to the talk as your subconscious mind will play audience or critic.
This is especially true if this is a new talk, contains one of a kind content or is being tailored to a unique audience. No amount of mental run throughs will ever replace a real talk through when it comes to getting these word right. If you have already given your talk once, then during your second run through (the actual presentation), your reptilian brain will be available to observe the audience reaction - instead of trying to think about what you'll say next.
Visit the new TimSanders.com to see my latest video clips!
May 10, 2010
A well rehearsed person is a prepared person.
This mantra applies to any type of human performance: Conversation, presentation, task completion, ideation session, customer meeting or demonstration. The trick, though, is to actually rehearse under real-world conditions. Sure, you may conjure up a crowd of insiders to pose as the audience or environment and sometimes they pepper you with distractions to see if you can weather them. Mostly, though, the real distractions on game-day leave you ill prepared, knocking you out of your groove.
You shrug your shoulders and say to yourself, "there's not way to create the real distractions I'll likely face, so I'll deal with them as they come up the best way I can." Hmmm, doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me! Instead, let me offer an obvious but helpful solution -- Practice dealing with distractions in your regular life.
For example, you are on a crowded plane, trying to answer your emails (or write a blog post for later). A baby across the aisle is screeching and a grammar school brat behind you is kicking your chair. Breathe deeply, and continue you work. Don't cheat and put on headphones, you don't get to do that in your 'performance life.' Tune out the noise and the back of your seat and defiantly tune into your task at hand - creative typing.
At first, you'll find it a bit unnerving, trying to do two things at once. Soon, your 2nd brain (the reptilian brain) will take over the task of filtering out stimuli, while your 1st brain resumes your task of tapping out ideas on your keyboard. Try this exercise every time you are faced with a highly distracting environment and it will become 2nd nature to you. Then, when you are actually giving that presentation at work and someone is checking his blackberry, another person's phone is going off and there's a fire engine siren blaring on the street -- you'll tune it all out and make a stellar presentation.
In his fabulous book, The Power Of Now, uber-guide Eckhart Tolle says that distracting noises irritate us because we have a wall that catches them (our attention). Instead, he offers, "let the baby's cries pass right through you, no wall to catch them." Much like you learn to deal with pain at the dentist's office, you can over time deal with distractions in your life.
As a professional speaker, my life is filled with distractions that can either take away from my focus (as well as my audience's) or just pass through us unnoticed. I've had gun shot sounds in Bogota, a fire alarm go off at a hotel in Las Vegas and multiple phones ring during the key moment of my signature story. I was blissfully unfocused on all of them. But it required some exercise!
The added benefit to this strategy is an improved quality of life. Up until now, daily distractions (crying babies, ringing cell phones, loud noises, rude people) are a source of anxiety and irritation in your life. Being interrupted in a task creates what psychotherapists call "decision shift," a stressor that can lead to depression and anger. By looking at distraction as an opportunity to rehearse, instead of an annoyance, you are transmuting it from a problem into a solution. Now, as I travel and attempt to write, the same annoyances that make every one around me c-r-a-z-y just make me smile, bear down, and take in a very necessary distraction-rehearsal session.
For more on this topic, read: The Value Of Rehearsing
April 19, 2010
Many of you give presentations, be they for work or in the community.
Regardless of what kind of presentation you give, you need to focus on:
1. People (Your audience, and why you care deeply about them) - How can you 'give' a presentation if you are not connected with your audience?
2. Purpose (Why are you there? What is the desired outcome of your talk?)
3. Punchline (Can you summarize your talk in less than 30 seconds?)
Here's a video I shot in Bogota last week about this subject. You'll note, at the end, the meeting manager gives a testimony about the talk's effectiveness. You'll see how important those 3 P's were to him. Bring me in to talk with your group too!