Seven points for powerful debating

The Presidential Debates 2012 have valuable pointers for sales presenters

by Peter Watts

If you cross chess with WWF wrestling, throw in battle strategy and forensics, then mix in the disciplines of public speaking, you get debate.

Based on what we’ve just seen during the 2012 Presidential Debates, here is The Presenters’ Blog list of the top seven things to be aware of in order to raise your debating game:

Answer the question on your own terms

During the debates we saw enough framing to raise an Amish barn. Time after time, both candidates pivoted debate questions around to their own talking points. For example, when President Obama was asked about Libya during the Foreign Policy Debate, he replied that the solution was all about “nation building”. Under this heading he included education, health, and a stable economy, and from there he pivoted neatly to how that was exactly what he was delivering to America. It might seem transparent when you see it written down, but on the debate floor it works. It’s time honored and essential.

You are NEVER above the fray

Trying to keep a lofty distance above all this messy debating is a strategy that never works, as President Obama so heftily discovered during the first 2012 debate. If you are on the stage, prepare to engage. You can show a profusion of emotional responses, as Joe Biden so fabulously did during the VP’s debate, but you can never show nose-in-the-air aloof.

Don’t whine

There may be debate rules in place, but if you think your opponent is overstepping them, then tell that straight to your opponent, straight to their face. The moderator will then step in to support you. Mitt Romney however made the mistake of taking his complaints direct to the debate moderator instead. The effect was of a small child running to Mom or Dad and whining that the other kid wasn’t playing nice.

Have a key message

Always have a key message and return to it as frequently as possible by as many routes as possible. Governor Romney showed us a masterclass in key messaging during Debate One, when somehow, almost all lines of discussion seemed to lead directly to “small business”.

Techniques work well when only used once

During Debate Two, we commented on the use of rhetorical techniques. The Romans called them the “hidden darts”; fabulously powerful, but only effective when kept, as the name suggests, hidden.

If you use a technique of rhetoric once only, then it will sit in your speech as an elegant jewel. If you use the same technique twice, the audience will recognize the repetition. Use it a third time, and not only will the audience recognize it, but your opponent will be ready with a kill shot.

During the first debate, Governor Romney used the technique of listing-off the points he would discuss during his answer. There would always four points in his list, and the fourth would be the pivot-point back to Small Business. By Debate Three, President Obama was ready for him. As Romney finished the list, predictably landing on “small business”, the President fired-back with a list of his own, detailing everything the Governor had ever done that had harmed small business, and then neatly pivoting back around to the President’s own talking points. Aim, fire, dead.

Planning and preparation are everything

More than anything else, the debate pointed up the importance of not only planning your own strategy, but also mapping out the likely strategy of your opponent. If we take the example of the President’s Debate Three kill shot to Governor Romney’s pivot on small-business, that kill-shot was the result of close observation of the Governor’s techniques, and where he would most likely attempt to go with them.

Keep it current

Under that same prep and planning heading, we see the importance of being up to date, not just on your own press releases, but  on your opponent’s. On the day of Debate Three, the Romney camp started making noise about increased spending on the navy. The Obama camp anticipated the topic would be dropped into the debate by Romney, and what was the planned response?

It was the brilliant “horses and bayonets” retort that went on to become the night’s most tweeted comment.

The Third Presidential Debate 2012. Analysis and Commentary. And Who Won?

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Up till tonight, it was one round each.

Both candidates had proved themselves. Governor Romney had shown himself an admirable debater when the battleground was formed of facts. He had shown himself credible as the next CEO of United States of America Inc. President Obama meanwhile had delivered the debater who could stir the passions. His greatest challenge had been to overcome his alter-ego as Professor and deliver Presidential. He achieved it.

That’s not to say it’s all been bouquets. There have been brickbats too. We’ve had the snoozefest of President Obama’s comatose comments during the Domestic Affairs Debate, and were then entertained by the binders full of blunders that opened during the Town Hall Meeting.

Tonight was the final round……

So who flourished in Florida?
Did the Sunshine State shimmer on someone’s parade?
Who was….. the strongest debater?

Gavin:
I’ll start by saying this wasn’t a fair fight. There’s a big difference between knowing your subject and learning your subject. I’d imagine that this was the debate Governor Romney looked forward to the least, and President Obama the most. Talking about action and fact is a strong position when things are going well. Obama generally did this. Words like we did and we are, are stronger than we should. The subject of foreign policy is high ground for Obama, and he had it all night.  Romney frequently had to make his positions seem the same, but with woulda-coulda-shoulda differences. To which Obama could frequently respond, with variations like, “I am pleased that you are now endorsing our policy.”

Obama practiced debate ju-jitsu all night — which he did very well. In response to Romney opinion about increasing the size of the Navy, Obama responded with a clever and well positioned rejoinder, “You mentioned the Navy and that we have fewer ships than we had in 1916, well Gov we also have few horses and bayonets.” It was a nice rhetorical comparison that made Romney seem outdated and misinformed.

He did it again when he compared his first foreign trips to Romney’s (which have been documented as gaffe-prone) “I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, to remind myself of the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.”

These and other comparisons let Obama credibly claim the central question of the night. “The central question is who is going to be credible to our allies and enemies.” In debating, pitching, selling, if you can define the frame by which the decision will be made, you win.

Peter:
Tonight could have gone either way, and when Governor Romney won the coin toss to go first, a subtle part of the power balance moved into his favor. When the first question turned out to be on Libya, which is currently the weakest topic for the President, the balance moved decisively into his favor. This was a chance to get his opponent on the back foot from the word go.

So what went so very wrong for the Governor?

To understand why Mitt Romney found himself so frequently on the ropes tonight, it’s necessary to look back over the past 12 months. There has indeed been a degree of the etch-a-sketch to many of his pronouncements, which in fairness, has been thrust upon him due to the necessity of initially appealing to one electorate during the GOP primaries, and then having to broaden that appeal to a wider and more disparate national audience. The President seized upon that weakness and ripped it apart live on national television.

The first signs of trouble were concealed in the early Obama sound-bite that America needs “strong and steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership”. This would turn out to be Obama’s key message, returning to it frequently as he laid out examples of Mitt Romney’s changed positions on multiple issues.

Romney’s response was weak, but also underlies his debate strategy. Referring to himself, he stated: “Attacking me is not on the agenda.” It was an attempt to rise above the debate. It was an attempt to strike a tone of consensus. All it achieved was waving a rather large white flag into the face of an already charging bull.

Both candidates frequently pivoted away from the subject of Foreign Affairs and headed back into Domestic Affairs. One such pivot yielded what for me was one of the President’s finest lines: “You seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.” This line also set the President up well for the first of several pivots to the topic of women, a key demographic in the undecided electorate.

In past debates, we’ve noted that Mitt Romney favors four-point lists as a speaking tactic, where the fourth point on the list will normally be his key talking point, and during the first debate, that key talking point was Small Business.

Tonight he returned to that key talking point, but sadly the President’s team had seen it coming and the President was uncannily ready with a list of negatives about Governor Romney’s record on exactly that subject.

This was another strong element working in the President’s favor: Incredible preparation and planning concerning both his own strategy, and his opponent’s.

Governor Romney did attain the occasional moment of glory. In particular, I thought his response “America has not dictated to other nations. America has freed other nations from dictators” was both clever and stylish. Sadly though, it was his only such moment.

It was an Obama victory tonight. And a victory that pointed up the importance of not just passion, but planning and preparation.

 

Debating the Presidential Debate. This week: Rhetoric

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Writing with Gavin over at the “Make A Powerful Point” blog, our continuing examination of the Presidential Debates. This week: Rhetoric

make a powerful point

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Over $1.1billion has been spent so far on this year’s presidential debate. The American public, tired of two wars, a recession and a flagging economy is also suffering from campaign fatigue. There’s an outcry against political rhetoric. Yet it’s rhetoric that moves the needle. Witness the debate in Denver where a surging Obama came up short, and a once DOA candidate has come back to life. Early on, Romney responded to Obama saying, “let’s look at policies as opposed to rhetoric.” Lovers of irony everywhere should appreciate this comment. The debate was chock-full of rhetoric.  So instead of looking at policy, let’s look at rhetoric. Specifically the rhetorical devices that both used.

“Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” This phrase opened up Obama’s response to…

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Making presentations with an iPad. It’s time.

Why the iPad is now a proven tool for presentations

by Peter Watts

Some months ago I blogged about presenting with an iPad. At the time I was still tiptoeing into the world of Keynote and tablet-based presenting.

I’m upgrading my recommendation from a cautious “give-it-a-go” to an enthusiastic “go-for-it”. After three months of extended experiment with the iPad/Keynote combo here are my thoughts:

All that’s in the news, in your presentation
I’ve come to value the way that iPad lets you flick mid-presentation between KeyNote and news/video apps such as the New York Times. Nothing adds currency to a presentation quite like current affairs.

Philips Bluetooth speaker. Much bang, little bucks.
For any presentations that require sound, I’ve added a Philips blue-tooth speaker to my kit bag. It’s small, while at the same time heavy enough not to vibrate its way across the table when you have the volume high. It’s also rugged, so you won’t need to worry about where in your luggage you’re chucking it. The Philips unit has a great battery life, and most importantly, the Bluetooth connection to the iPad is a ten-second snap.

Slimming Your Slides
Most of my original caveats about iPad presenting still stand. You can’t black-out the screen, and I’m still not convinced about using an iPhone as a remote control. The Bluetooth connection between phone and pad is temperamental, and at the end of the day, an iPhone is just too big to subtly use as a remote.

The snag does however have an upside: You produce simpler and less cluttered presentations. The discipline of having to walk to the iPad to advance your slides is a powerful incentive to strip-out unnecessary transitions or special effects.

All day battery
For all day presenting, just put the tablet into flight mode, and then reduce the screen brightness to the lowest point that you are comfortable with. When the show is over, you’ll still have battery life to spare.

Synchronisation at work. Beware
If you are a combination iPad / iPhone / MacBook user, then iCloud synchronisation is a powerful timesaver. Beware though. If you’ve been editing on one device, make sure you close the presentation before attempting to edit or view it on another. It’s easy to create badly-synced duplicates that don’t co-exist at all happily. If you accidentally make some of your edits on your iPad and then the rest of them on your Mac, then at least one of those two sets is going to be irretrievably lost when iCloud tries to synchronise it all back into one document.

Go for it
The iPad is a brilliant tool for presentations. It’s time to commit the bulky laptop carry-bag to history.

And Apple, if you’re listening, the option of iPad control from the standard Apple remote would be wonderful, and how about maybe a black-out option in the next update of KeyNote?

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The Presidential Debates: Round 1. Our Analysis

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

The showdown in Denver. To our right, in the red corner, wearing a red tie and US flag pin, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. To our left, in the blue corner, wearing a blue tie and US flag pin, President Barack Obama. If you are looking for insightful political analysis, if you (still) need to decide who you’re voting for, you’re in the wrong place. Go to CNN for that. If you believe that watching smart, well-prepared, talented people debate issues in the race for the highest office in the land can teach you a thing or two — how to present, pitch for business, sell. Then read on.

The Run-up

Medialand, Punditville and the Twitterverse have been buzzing with expectation. According to polling, the majority of the country has decided, leaving only 4% undecided. Each candidate had similar goals in last night’s debate: Appeal to the undecideds (especially in the battleground states) and motivate the already decided to get up and vote. Two conversations with the American public matter: the one that frames or reframes the way voters see the world, and the one that moves them to action. Obama, carrying a lead, had the goal of doing no harm. Conventional wisdom dictated that Romney had not only do no harm, but to also gain momentum for swinging the race to his favor.

For each candidate, we’ll take an example of the elegant, the obvious, and the ugly.

The Elegant

Gavin on Obama

Obama’s best turf, I thought, was healthcare. But I will single out a particular exchange, on social security and entitlement reform, where the President had his strongest moment. He summarised by looking directly to camera, speaking, and engaging the audience. “If you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen.” He went on to make a very clear statement, in plain language. “I don’t think vouchers are the right way to go…” contrasting his view of medicare with his opponent’s proposals. He then summed up with a little verbal seasoning, “I have become fond of this term, Obamacare.” That line, and the way he delivered it, drew a little laugh from the moderator and showed his human side. It was content free, but charming and disarming, a little verbal jiu-jitsu on a word that is often used by his opposition as an insult. The lesson for all of us? Always remember who the audience is. Engage them. Be Real.

Peter on Romney

Interestingly, I thought Romney also had his finest moment on healthcare. He also had his worst, which we’ll come to later.

For health care it was Romney’s turn to have the first say. He started with speaking about real people whom he had met and who were suffering. It’s an effective technique, and both candidates used it. Romney’s people however, most always seemed to be living in swing states. He clearly had his audience in mind. From here he moved into what became a signature Romney technique throughout the debate, listing his points. Points 1, 2, 3, and 4. It was point four that brought him squarely to, Small Businesses. This seemed to be Romney’s key talking point, and in most exchanges he logically segued to it. My third reason for picking out this moment was that he then linked across to all the other things the President could have focussed on during his first year in the White House, and by doing so diminished the achievement represented by ObamaCare.

Finally however, the reason Romney gets full points, was that he ended  with talking about his pride in how he created the Massachusetts health care program while he was that state’s Governor, and strongly framed it as being an example of cascading more power to the states.

The Romney team had identified “RomneyCare” as being an achilles heel Obama would go for, and through framing it as States Rights, Romney  took the sting out of some of Obama’s best lines.

That was the elegant. How about some examples of the obvious?

The Obvious

Gavin on Obama

Most of the Obama side of the debate was workmanlike. He answered questions, and then segued swiftly if not elegantly to his talking points. He explained more than connected. A typical moment was his summary of the first segment on taxes.

Peter on Romney

I’ve mentioned Romney’s habit of listing-off his talking points. Those talking points create a logical path of stepping stones, leading to point 4, which normally had something to do with small business. Like all techniques, it shouldn’t be overdone or it becomes obvious, and eventually annoying.

And finally, the ugly, where there was no answer to the question, but a brazen attempt to answer their own question rather than the one that was asked.

The Ugly

Gavin on Obama

Obama started the night poorly answering the jobs question. Prior to the debate, Obama’s strong point on the issue was who would handle taxes better.  He moved the jobs question quickly to a discussion on taxes, and then lost me and I am sure thousands of others in an unclear explanatory monologue of numbers and percentages. In that, he got professorial, and went in to a back and forth he said she said about Romney’s $5 Trillion tax cut. 78% of adults in the U.S* don’t know the difference between a billion and a trillion. It’s just a big number. The lesson to be learned here  — When you’re talking numbers, you have to make them relevant. He got close saying that his opponents bill would add $2,000 to every middle class voter. But pound it home by saying that’s a vacation you can afford. A down-payment on a new car. Putting of fixing up the kitchen for another year.

*Actually it isn’t true! In fact, it’s completely made up. But it seems right. It’s just a big number with lots of zeros. I know one is bigger than the other, but after that, I go into math class mode, and my brain quietly shuts down. Audiences do exactly the same thing.

Peter on Romney

For the ugly with Romney, it’s back to health care and an example of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. There was a noticeable moment when the President, de-fanged by Romney’s unexpected embrace of the Massachusetts health plan, suddenly had the wind in his sails.

Romney made the mistake of moving the frame to portray the President as having been non-bipartisan during the health care debates, by contrast to the Massachusetts debates. As Romney attempted to represent the Republican-led Congress as being the nice people seeking consensus however, Obama smiled. He was back into his old form. Romney had pushed the frame too far and lost credibility. The secret to good framing is that there needs to be at least a basis of logic in there somewhere, and this frame didn’t!

Our concluding comments

Obama was in ugly mode for most of the debate. When he spoke directly to camera, summed up and concluded, he was good. Unfortunately for him, that was rare. Mostly he took on the role of explaining.

Romney however, had a great evening. He appeared calm, in control, and from his first answer, fully in command of the facts and the frame.

On the downside, he came across as being aggressive at times. When there is a debate with rules about timing, one should really stick to them.

What did you think?
The TwitterVerse certainly had it’s say last night. What did you think to the debate? Post a comment and come join the conversation.

About us:


Gavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

Peter is a writer, trainer, and speaker on all aspects of Presenting. He coaches business executives in how to be at their best when on their feet. His bi-weekly blog, The Presenters’ Blog, examines core disciplines of public speaking and looks at how those disciplines are being illustrated by new stories around the world. You can follow his Twitter feed on @speak2all


A Note about bias. Neither of us can or will be voting in the US elections, but, like all humans, we have biases. We will try to look at the debates purely from a point of view of speaking, messaging and presenting, to see what the rest of us -— those that will never run for President, can learn.

Ed Milliband Conference Speech. Showing how it’s meant to be done!

 

by Peter Watts

Congratulations Ed Milliband. The leader of Britain’s Labour Party just delivered what can only be called a barn-stormer of a speech.

In the age of the bland and of the auto-cue, he just reminded us of what an old fashioned speech should look like, sound like, and feel like.

One speech does not an election win, but Ed Milliband has done himself a tremendous deal of personal good today. Had you asked me this morning if I thought David Cameron had anything to worry about in the next election, I wouldn’t have counted Ed Milliband as being amongst his troubles. This speech has just changed my mind.

Here are some of the reasons why I loved it:

1: It was all from memory!

Not an auto-cue in sight. For over an hour, the speaker spoke from memory, and with zero trips or hesitations. An incredible achievement under the pressure of audience, spotlights, and TV cameras that allowed him to….

2: Speak naturally 

Everything was aimed directly at the audience. Without an auto cue to look at, notice how easily the speaker can move himself around the stage, and his gaze around the entire audience.

3: Telling a story

Key to the whole achievement is the way that Ed Milliband is using a story. It’s his own story. What could be easier to hold onto for him? He also manages to achieve a full range of emotions, and those emotions are backed-up with…

4: Superb voice modulation

There are slow bits, fast bits, quiet bits, crescendoing bits, sad bits, and there are even….

5: Jokes!

Normally a no-no. Jokes can be so very dangerous, but he pulled it off. How? By a perfect choice of subject matter guaranteed to get a conference giggle.

6: Metaphors and allusions

From the word go, there were some wonderful allusions. My favourite was the oak tree reference in the first two minutes. A wonderful multi-level metaphor that set up the forthcoming….

7: Key message

You can never repeat a key message too many times, and even though some commentators are accusing Milliband of doing just that, with his 46 references to “one nation”, it’s interesting to note how his choice of trope is now broadbanding it’s way across every media outlet in the UK. By tomorrow morning there won’t be anyone within reach of a TV, radio, or newspaper who won’t have heard it!

8: Use of space

Last week I criticized Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for being perched on his little podium, a slave to the TV cameras. This week we saw Ed Milliband using a large square podium, and even though there were people sitting behind him, just take a look at the way he walks that podium, in the “Square Dance” method we mentioned last week.

A superb performance, and whether your passion is Public Speaking or Politics or maybe even both, do take a look at today’s speech on BBC.com.

It’s a master-class.

Round. Nick Clegg’s Conference Speech Problem

by Peter Watts

Nick Clegg of the British Liberal Democratic Party, chose yesterday to forgo the stage for his leader’s speech at the Party Convention and to instead speak from a little round podium that had been placed in amongst the audience. He spoke quite literally in the round, with people all around him.

Was this a good style for conference speaking?

In one word: No

It was a horrible, horrible mistake for anyone performing a keynote. If an organizer ever suggests it to you, fire them immediately and get someone who knows what they’re doing.

Here’s why:

Leader of the Band

We want leaders in both politics and business who look like they’re capable of striding the world stage. To speak from a little raised podium makes you look more like the guy conducting the village band in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

While speaking from “amongst the people” might appear to create a nice contrast to the big staging of the big political parties, the contrast fails because here it merely suggested that the Liberal’s are a little party. The corollary thought to this is that they are a little party, with little ideas. And having merely little ideas they are all the more likely to be shoved-around, sat-on, and eventually sliced-off by their far larger and more aggressive coalition partners, the Conservative Party.

They’re Behind You….

Golden rule of speaking: Always look at your audience. Speaking “in the round” like this guarantees that at any given moment, there are a chunk of them that you can’t see.

If you do ever find yourself in a position where you have to speak in the round, then one approach to still being able to look at the whole audience can be the Square Dance.

Rather than revolving on the spot, which looks odd, the speaker moves through the four points of a square. It’s walk two steps, speak 60 – 90 seconds. Walk two steps to 90 degrees, speak 60 – 90 seconds, and repeat. Just be careful with your movements. Get the timing or direction wrong and you fall off your platform.

For Nick Clegg however, the Square Dance wasn’t an option. The TV cameras were the true target audience, and because they were all pointing in one direction, the speaker had to do so as well.

I don’t know how Nick Clegg felt about having all those people behind him, but had I been the one speaking, they would have been making me feel mighty uncomfortable.

To speak from the floor and achieve that amongst-the-audience feeling is a tremendously powerful technique. Don’t throw away the stage though in attempting to achieve it.

Keep the stage. Come down from it. Stand immediately in front of it.

And keep the whole audience, immediately in front of you.

Changing minds, when minds are set

Don’t give battle in vain. When audiences hold entrenched views, full frontal assaults only deepen the entrenchment.

by Peter Watts

King Richard III causes just such entrenched reactions here in the UK, and it looks like we’ve just dug him up from his resting place of 500 years beneath a public car-park in the northern English city of Leicester.

When “bad King Richard” was originally interred, the poor chap had just suffered a particularly fatal piece of Tudor military hardware to the back of the head before being tied naked to a horse and put on public display for 48 hours. By that time very dead, the ex-King had been buried in what was then a Priory.

The rule of the Tudor Dynasty saw Richard III’s reputation buried along with him. Chief among the cultural stars of the period was William Shakespeare, and when he wrote his play, Richard III, it was with both eyes firmly set on pleasing his Tudor sponsors.

Shakespeare’s Richard was penned as as a dwarf and hunchback, with one arm shriveled to a stump. In the cultural shorthand of Tudor England, all three conditions were cruelly synonymous with evil.

The image stuck, and came to be regarded as fact. A neat demonstration that it is always the victor who gets to write history. Despite this however, a tiny minority have always continued to claim that Richard III was a good, if short-lived monarch. That he passed laws to protect the poor, and made early moves toward enshrining freedom of speech. The cult of good King Richard has always been regarded as a perverse, minority view.

If you wanted to stand up and present that minority argument for good King Richard though, how would you go about it when audiences have been conditioned to have closed minds?

Hyperbole will fail. Force will fail. Every blow you make will be met by an equal and opposite counter-blow.

Gentleness is the only solution, along with structural use of facts in such a way that they can create doubt.

For example, let’s take that skeleton of Richard III. If it turns out to be consistent with the physical descriptions of Shakespeare, then the Shakespearean portrayal may be true, but if the skeleton is that of a strapping man, then the Shakespearean version must be questioned.

We can express this with the rhetorical form if A equals B, then C. If skeleton equals twisted, then Shakespeare equals true (or at least more likely to be so).

If B however can be proved invalid, so that A no longer equals B, then the preposition C must also fall, and Shakespeare’s Richard III along with it.

There is a saying “tread lightly on my dreams, for they are my own”. The same logic applies to people’s deeply held opinions.

When you need to challenge those opinions, do not, as Richard III is said to have done, do battle in vain.

Tread lightly, carefully position new facts, and whereas it would be too much to expect to effect change in one blow, know that you may have opened up cracks that allow new insights to shine through.

PS: That skeleton? It turned out to be a tall, muscular man, with both arms very much functional, and only a slight deformation of the left shoulder, causing it to appear slightly higher than the right. Maybe that perverse minority were right, all along.

Held up? Time to resource a presentation web library

Turning stuck-time into presentation research time

by Peter Watts

Technology used well can bring extra impact to your presentation.

Take a look at TED and you’ll find people using laptops, tablets, and phones in new ways to help them tell their stories.

The trick to using technology is to reach beyond PowerPoint. Start by watching some TED talks and pick up ideas about how people put digital devices to dynamic use.

On first glance you wonder how these individuals get their ideas. Then you explore and realize that the web is swimming with creative possibilities, and that brings me to the point of this blog.

You can use moments of unexpected downtime to go out there and build your library.

At this precise moment I’m in Johannesburg, sitting in a hotel lobby, and waiting for my hotel room to become available. Housekeeping are currently attempting to wrestle the existing occupant out of it before the cleaners can go in and I can finally take up residence.

The hotel has WiFi. I have my iPhone. In just a short time I’ve been able to find new inspirations on TED, some new resources on YouTube, and a couple of press cuttings that I can build into my South Africa presentations to give my content a fresh feel.

I’ve also located several resources that although not applicable to what I’ll be doing on this trip, I can file away for possible future use.

Once you start to find dynamic new toys to build into presentations, your next goal is to build them into the presentation structure.

Any web-derived resource, such as TEDTalk, will operate in the same way as an anecdote would. Its deployment needs to be planned:

  • How does it support your story?
  • How will you introduce it?
  • How will you integrate it’s message into your presentation once the video has finished?

Once you’ve built the resource into your structure, the next step is to build it into your style. If you’re not used to deploying web resources mid-presentation, take it slowly. Build in a single item and be successful with it. You can scale-up as your competence grows.

Finally, you need to become comfortable with the technology itself, and in particular with downloading the resources from the web directly onto your presentation device. Sure you can always run video live across WiFi, but WiFi has an unfortunate habit of running slowly when you least want it to.

So next time you find yourself with an unexpected delay and an Internet connection, go on a web-hunt and find new ideas.

That Back-to-School Feeling. No kids required

The vibes of Back-to-School still motivate us. Even as adults!

by Peter Watts

Fresh paint is the smell of back-to-school. At least for me. It was always industrial yellow with raised lumps of white stuff. As you queued the corridor for lunch on the first day back, you could still chisel out paint patterns with your thumbnail.

That fresh paint smell is so imprinted on my mind as part of the Back-To-School that come September I now experience a primal urge to start decorating!

We live surrounded by artificial calendars. When exactly is the new year? The calendar tells me it’s January 1st. The tax year tells me it’s April 5th. The multinational corporation I spent 11 years working for used to insist it was February 1st!

The most powerful of all though is the new year that we grew up with: the September – July school year.

You don’t need kids in your life to experience the gravitational pull of Back-To-School. It’s hard-cored into us. That slight drop in temperature, the heavier dew on the lawns in the morning, the first tell-tale color-shift leaves and the shortening days. They all point one way.

Don’t under-estimate what powerful formative experiences those Back-To-School occasions were for you. There were new teachers, new subjects, and most scarily of all, there were occasionally whole new schools.

Take a moment. Put your mind back into those days.

That strange feeling that you’re getting, that sense of equal parts excitement mixed with fear, that’s the Back-to-School Feeling. It’s the feeling we get when we’re facing something big, challenging, and largely unknown. It’s the feeling we get when the only direction we can move in is forward, even though if we had a choice, we’d quite like to turn and run!

It’s a feeling that is priming us to be at our best in the face of challenge. It was actually a pretty cool feeling. If given the choice to click our fingers and physically return to those days, not all of us would do it (I for one am fairly sure I’d turn-down a time-ticket back to teenage), but still this time of year can deliver a major kick.

Think of your next presentation as being your very own grown-up Back-To-School. Access those old feelings that are just below the surface for you right now.

How can you give your presenting, and your presentations, that new paint smell?

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