PowerPoint slide synchronisation. My interview with Indezine

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By Peter Watts

This week it’s been my great pleasure to be interviewed by Geetesh Bajaj at Indezine. We discussed the level of synchronization that should take place between a presenter and their slide deck.

What happens if a presenter becomes over-synchronized, and how can you avoid this risk as you plan and prepare for your presentation?

Indezine is packed with ideas and tips for anybody who finds themselves using PowerPoint. Recognized by Microsoft as an MVP, or “Most Valuable Professional”, Geetesh advises large corporate clients on how to get the best from this most ubiquitous of presentation graphics tools.

Our interview, and Indezine itself, can be found by clicking this link.

Please do take a moment to go and visit. If you’d like to join the discussion by leaving a comment, then Geetesh and I would love to hear from you.

Sales pitch strategy

By Peter Watts

To succeed in your sales pitch, use common ground

Audiences like to believe that presenters see, hear, and feel the world as they do. When this occurs they become more inclined to give credibility to the presenter’s sales message.

How much thought do you put into selecting the most appropriate persona for your presentation?

Persona is the technique of deciding which personal or professional characteristics will give you the most connection to the customer audience.

Ask yourself two questions:

1. Where do I have common ground with my audience?

2. In which areas am I different from the audience, thereby signalling incompatible agendas?

Successful sales presentations amplify similarity, while minimising difference.

Let’s take a ten second case-study: Imagine you are the Sales Director of an IT company. We’ll call it TekHouse. You’ve been invited to speak to a conference of IT Directors on the subject of data security. If you win them over, this audience could represent a sea of new business.

Step 1. Identify the optimal persona for the audience

We naturally have multiple persona that we slip into throughout the day. Think of the subtle variations in behaviour and attitude that you would demonstrate when alone with your partner, or alone with your children, or alone with your boss, or with your colleagues, or with your friends from outside of work, or with your parents. Shakespeare had it absolutely right: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”

Whilst remaining true to who we are, we naturally swap the masks of our persona in order to match with whatever audience is before us. Except, when we make a sales presentation. Then we tend to forget all about persona, and instead go with the role of “company representative”. That particular mask however, is not the only one that we could select, and might not offer the best match with the audience.

For example, as Sales Director of TekHouse, you have multiple persona possibilities:

TekHouse Representative: This will win you points with audience members who are already fans of TekHouse, but distance you from anybody who prefers your competition. From the perspective of winning new customers, all you’ll achieve is preaching to the converted.

Sales Director: All of the audience are IT Directors. None of them are Sales Directors. Majoring on the fact that you are “Sales Director of TekHouse” will therefore only create distance.

A business user of IT products: This persona identifies you as part of the pesky community that your audience has to support and police. Not good.

A member of the IT industry: This persona brings you closer to the audience. Everybody in the room is a member of the the IT industry. This persona allows you a modicum of common bond.

A business director, with all the people issues, budget issues, and time pressure that the role of being a director involves: Managing people, budgets, and time is a topic that unites everybody in the room. A pitch constructed around this area of shared ground will maximise the audience’s view of you as somebody who shares their concerns and day-to-day reality.

Step 2. Adapt your presentation to that persona

Without radically altering the sales presentation that you intend to make, channel it towards the focus-point of that shared persona. Which of your talking points can be illustrated by speaking from the view of a business director? Where can you include broad collective pro-nouns that start with phrases such as “We can all understand…”, or “We’ve all experienced..”

Step 3. Having picked the persona, stick to it

Personas need to be consistent. If you decide to make an ad hoc quip about how annoying  you find it to remember IT passwords, then ask yourself which persona you’ve engaged. Who complains about changing passwords? Users do, and for this particular audience, “users” is the collective noun for folks that life would be easier without. Especially users who forget their passwords!

Identify what common characteristics you share with your next audience, and then let those characteristics become the basis for shared success.

Step 4. Remember: It’s child’s-play

Think about how much pleasure small children get from simple shape-matching games. Maybe you’re even one of those people who can remember that far back into their own childhood. Shape matching is something that we started to do naturally from the age of two. As adults the same aptitude continues. We verbalise it with phrases such as “a square peg in a round hole” when we want to denote a situation that doesn’t work.

To bring the skill of persona into your pitch strategy is fundamentally as simple as asking what shape the audience is, and making yourself into as similar a shape as possible.

Create common ground, and the common ground will create pitch credibility.

Papal Update: March 14th

A new Pope has been announced and much press comment has been attracted by his conscious usage of the little used title of “Bishop of Rome”.

Like any vast and hierarchical bureaucracy, the Vatican can either support or frustrate a leader in their attempt to realise their vision for the Church. In selecting this persona, we’re seeing the new Pope exercising strategic awareness of which audience he must first win over, that being the Cardinals and Bishops of the Catholic Church.

The persona chosen is saying “I am one of you”.

Visited by Captain Chaos? Resistance is futile

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Dealing with the Unexpected? Go with the flow

By Peter Watts

Shit happens.

Two little words that while vaguely profane, sum up most of the misfortunes that befall and befuddle presenters.

I don’t normally advocate dwelling on the nature of what can go wrong, but for the purposes of this post, it would be helpful.

  • The audience could be scarily bigger or depressingly smaller than expected
  • The venue could have a sub-optimal or non-negotiable room layout
  • The main target for your presentation could walk in 15 minutes late or have to leave 15 minutes early
  • And don’t even get me started on what can go wrong with the technology!

Thoroughly plan and prepare your presentation by all means. It’s essential. Only a fool walks onto a stage unprepared. At the same time though, when the circumstances around you unexpectedly change and Captain Chaos flies across the room, be ready to embrace your own inner Captain Chaos and improvise like a pro.

Planning and preparation is a life-jacket not a strait-jacket. When your presentation has to make an emergency landing on water, that life-jacket of preparation acts purely as a buoyancy aid to keep you afloat. You then have a choice; lamely bob up and down in the tide or use the power of free will to pick a new direction in which to paddle.

Stay loose and start paddling and you’ll survive.

One of the best presentations I ever had the privilege to witness was from the Chief Operating Officer of a major multinational brand. Known for his clinically organised and analytically thorough presentations, precision and planning were his watchwords.  And then one day, a minute into a critical presentation, the bulb in the projector popped.

Hotel staff scurried in every direction, but a replacement bulb was nowhere to hand.

The presenter looked at the audience and uttered the same opening words that I used to open this blog. He then delivered one of the best presentations I have ever heard.

This incredibly senior, and incredibly organised gentleman had not been thrown off balance by Captain Chaos, but instead had cheerfully embraced him.

Control-freakery is a form of perfectionism, and perfectionism doesn’t belong in the realm of the presenter. Audiences are human and they respond to human and as we all know, humans are seldom perfect.

When Captain Chaos strikes, it’s your heaven-sent opportunity to shine.

Shit happens. Stay loose. Set a direction and start paddling.

The audience will love you for it.

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.

Presentation books: The Pin Drop Principle

The Pin Drop Principle

David Lewis and G. Riley Mills

Published June 5th, 2012

by Peter Watts

“Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

It’s my favorite quotes from George Burns, and for “The Pin Drop Principle” it sums up both the book’s number one strength, and its number one weakness:

Strength:

The book is written from a strong acting and stage perspective, by two gentleman who clearly know their art, and how to apply it to business presentations.

The acting insights throughout the book serve a purpose, are relevant, and offer pointers and ideas.

Weakness:

In places the book does indeed seem to tell you how to fake not just honesty, but any number of different emotions. If you place emotional integrity near the heart of your delivery, then there are bits you’ll find yourself disagreeing with.

It’s also worth noting that this is a book based around a successful commercial training concept. The introduction is so laden with marketing plugs for that concept that I almost didn’t get past page ten.

I’m glad I did though, because the authors, David Lewis and G. Riley Mills, have good ideas to put across.

One of the founding concepts of The Pin Drop Principle is being aware not just of your objective in a presentation, but also your intention; the emotional impression that you want to bring to your delivery. Are you seeking to challenge? To involve? To calm? To warn? Even to manipulate?

If you think of a cliche grand actor wandering the stage during rehearsal demanding “Yes, but WHAT’S my motivation???” then you won’t be far off the general concept.

The book suggests identifying those motivations, or your intentions, and then demonstrates how you can put them front and centre of your public speaking.

If you have had some experience of presenting, and are looking for the next stage, this book will help you put the 3D of emotional intention into your delivery.

The authors also combine a couple of topics that many books leave out. There is a section on the inner workings of storytelling, an excellent section on the importance of listening as a presenter, and some strong insights into getting the best out of your voice.

Certain fundamental subjects however are under-represented. Controlling nerves is one, and the structure section is another. Both are short. It’s as if the authors had in mind a reader who had already gone through a basic training course. That’s why I would say this is not a book for the novice presenter.

If you have already had some professional training and plenty of real-time practice, then this is an ideal book to give you ideas for how to get to the next level.

For the experienced presenter there is something to be gained as well. I found the sections on intention, story-telling, and voice to be particularly interesting.

I’ve presented a couple of times since reading the book, and on each occasion found sections of it’s content staying with me. The concept of “intention” has led me to consider my daily deliveries from a different angle. Basic tips, such as remembering to protect the voice by drinking plenty of water, have also come as useful reminders for this coffee-addicted presenter.

For the final words, I return to George Burns and to a quote that the authors use in the book:

The secret to a good speech is…. “ to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible.”

Getting the beginning and the ending close together is something that Lewis and Mills do well. “The Pin Drop Principle” is a lean book, that is a quick read, and importantly, is available as an e-book.

For an experienced business person, looking for an easy-to-action evolution in their delivery style, “The Pin Drop Principle” is ideal.

Steeplechase presenting? Try trick-jumps

by Peter Watts

Easter Sunday at our local church started with a 7:00 a.m. service; the first of five Easter services for the Reverend Louise; three in the morning, and two in the afternoon.

For a busy Vicar, Easter Sunday must feel like a steeplechase. One service falls directly after another, and each congregation, whether the first or the last, regards it as a special time they have cleared in their day just to come and hear the Vicar’s message.

As presenters, our world is sometimes the same. It might be the third, fourth, fifth,tenth or twentieth time we have delivered our presentation, but for the audience, it is always the first.

To join with that audience, we must approach with the same freshness, the same beginners mind as the people in front of us. By approaching something with a beginners mind, we keep it alive.

Try adding new twists to your content. Maybe a new perspective, a new anecdote, or a slightly different sequence of topics. Perhaps take advantage of your comfort level with the topic to take a little risk, and experiment with a new technique you have’t tried before. If we continually ski the same old slope to the point where we individually recognise each and every pine tree along the way, it leads to boredom with the message and neglect of our audience.

By slipping in the occasional trick-jump, we keep things fresh.

Presentation nerves

Nine proven routes to calm and confident presenting

by Peter Watts

Beating presentation nerves can seem like a battle; a no-holds-barred FIGHT to overcome your fears. Bosses and colleagues, like drill sergeants, urge us from the trenches and up onto the no-mans land of the stage.

“You’re team needs you. Get out there soldier!”

This approach is completely wrong.

First point to be aware of: Presentation nerves can never be eliminated, and it would not be desirable to do so. Controlled nervous tension can promote excellence.

Second point to be aware of: The tangible bodily sensations that come with presentation nerves, can be easily managed if we understand the mechanics that create them.

That’s what this article will help you to do. I’m not going to tell you how to beat presentation nerves, because I believe that as a natural bodily reaction we should work with our jitters, not against them. When we focus on beating nerves we just drive them deeper into our psyches. Instead, we can understand them, and adopt simple measures that make presenting a significantly easier process.

Do any of the following affect you when presenting?

  • Tightness of breath
  • Rapid heart-rate
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Cold or clammy hands
  • Trembling
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Tension headaches
  • Loss of concentration
  • Dry-throat
  • Scratchy voice
  • Low self-esteem

If yes, then within the following articles, you will find practical measures that work with your body to overcome those reactions. Each heading is a link. Simply click on it to review the associated article:

Breathing yourself calm

Sensations associated with presentation nerves are soothed by effective breathing. Find out how controlling your out-breathe lowers your heart rate to control sweating, blushing, trembling, blood-pressure, and nervous tension.

Calming the butterflies

Presentation nerves suppress appetite, so that when we approach a presentation we are more in need of food than we realize. As blood sugars collapse, our concentration collapses with them, and our stomachs develop those familiar butterfly wings.

Find out what to eat, what not to eat, and when to eat, in order to calm presentation butterflies

Dealing with dry mouth

Voice rapidly heading for a croak? Or afraid it might? In this post we solve the dry-mouth issue, and identify the best drinks to keep your voice flowing smoothly.

No sweat

Sweating can be an unpleasant presentation issue, and one we become acutely aware of.  Basic preventative measures help mitigate the problem.

Cold hands

Colds hands are a standard stress response. Find out why this is, and how something as simple as holding a warm cup can be an instant cure.

I think, therefore I am

How to control the messages we give ourselves before a presentation, to ensure we remain calm and in control during the presentation.

Puncturing perfectionism

Preparation is essential for presenting, but when we topple over into perfectionism, we create an impossible mountain to climb. This post discusses how to reduce those mountains back into molehills.

Taking the plunge

The first plunge can be the toughest. The more often you take it though, the easier it becomes. Repetition is the most sure-fire way to becoming a confident presenter.

Coaching yourself after a presentation

What happens after the presentation? How we coach ourselves once the event is finished will set up our confidence for next time. Find out how to be your own personal coach after every presentation.

Fear of public speaking is perfectly natural, and you are not alone in experiencing it. Indeed, some surveys have shown that for many people it isn’t just a fear, but their number one fear, and that’s why becoming a confident and competent public speaker is such a wonderful goal. If you can achieve this goal, then what other goals also become so much more achievable.

I believe public speaking is therefore a gateway activity. Once we prove to ourselves that we can successfully speak in public, we are empowered onwards to achieve so much more.

Enjoy all the articles linked from this blog, and if there are any areas of presentation nerves not dealt with here, that you might like help with, then please do post a comment.

It will be my pleasure to forward you the extra ideas that might help you forward into the highly rewarding world of presenting.

Does my but sound big in this?

by Peter Watts

Using “but” in business presentations reduces your influence.

    • It raises defensiveness in others by implying disagreement or excuses
    • The word sounds dull; consider it’s phonic counterparts: gut, cut, hut, shut

In business presentations, it’s fundamentally a defensive, whiney word to avoid

Wherever you use “but”, the word “and” can usually be deployed instead. As a tool “and” is a constructive joining word, as opposed to the wet blanket “but”.

Consider these examples to see how the deployment of one or the other changes the tone:

“We want to expand but competition is increasing. How do we do it?”

The use of “but” depresses the call to action: “How do we do it?”

Instead try:

“We want to expand and competition is increasing. How do we do it?”

Replacing “but” with “and” shifts focus from let’s whinge, to let’s win

Now consider these two:

“Our community is growing but our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Whinge

“Our community is growing and our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Call to Action

“Climate change is a threat but we need fossil fuels” = Whinge

“Climate change is a threat and we need fossil fuels” = Call to Action

While the b-word does have it’s uses when consciously deployed in speech-writing, it’s the unconscious usages that we aim to zap.

Try recording your next piece of public speaking. When you play it back, count how many instances of “but” that you bought into your speech, especially during Q&A sessions. If there are more than five, then your influence level will be improved with a but-reduction.

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