Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Public Speaking: Death by PowerPoint

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I just came back from the HIMSS trade show in Orlando. Many of the larger booths had presenters using PowerPoint to sell the benefits of their featured products and services. Not one presenter was using PowerPoint effectively.

Every presentation had either too many bullet points or cluttered graphs and most of the presenters were reading from their slides. These professionals must have taken a training course on presenting at some point, right? Probably, but it is simply easier to read your presentation off the slides, and since everyone else does it, why not?

FACT: Every presenter I saw was losing an opportunity to persuade their audience to invest in their solutions. Many of the audience members were “zoning”, and they were missing the message.

In this imbedded video, Don McMillan will make you laugh and remind you how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

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Public Speaking: Enthusiasm or tone it down?

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

What do YOU think?

While coaching a top executive on presentation skills, I commented that the enthusiasm he exhibits in one-to-one conversations was not being conveyed in his presentations to the group.  His response: “as a company leader, I need to be taken seriously; so I tend to tone it down when speaking to my group.”

Of course, if a presenter is delivering bad news, such as layoffs, a subdued style is appropriate.  In general, however, is the assumption that when one speaks with enthusiasm he or she appears less serious or businesslike?  Does a more animated speaker seem any less credible to you?  Take our poll and leave a comment below:


After weighing in, then check out this related blog entry on the cartoon factor.

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Public Speaking: “Ums” and “Ahs”

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

“Ums” and “Ahs” – don’t fight ‘em

If you are among the 95% of people who “um” and “ah” when they present, then you will benefit from this blog.

As a public speaking trainer, I am appalled by the throng of “experts” who suggest that when making a presentation, the speaker should concentrate on not saying “um” and “ah”.  Wrong.

I recall watching a high school student making a presentation.  He was using “ums and “ahs” in some moderation, when a peer hollered, “Greg, ease up on the “ums and ahs”.  It’s easy to predict what happened: Greg’s reliance on the filler words doubled.  Now that he was aware, he became more nervous, and actually focused on the words he was trying to avoid.

In addition, when I was a member of BNI, I counted the number of “ums” and “ahs” each person said in their 60-second commercials, and it averaged five incidences.  The next week, I “educated” them on how much filler detracts from their message.  I asked them to endeavor to omit the filler from their commercials.  What happened?  Despite their sincere efforts, the average rocketed to nine occurrences.

Why does this happen?

I learned the secret at Ananda Yoga Studio  where Tish Roy  shared a story about an instructor who told his student, “Whatever you do, do not think of a monkey while meditating.” After sometime the instructor asked the student how he was doing.  The student replied, “All I could do was think of that Monkey!” 

Case in point: The worst thing you could do when you are about to present is concern yourself with filler.  If you use fillers, no worries, just focus on your message, and you will be better off.

That said, it is important to note that “ums” and “ahs” drastically undermine your credibility and impact.  The time to fix the problem, however, is not right before you present.  It is in your everyday speaking.

1.   Stop saying “um” and “ah” in your everyday conversation with friends and family. Offer them a dollar whenever they catch you.

 2.   Pause when you think.  While it may make you feel awkward and insecure, others will perceive you as very confident and thoughtful.

 3.   Listen to the voice mails you leave to others by pressing the star or pound key. See how many times you “um” and “ah”.  Keep leaving the message until there are none.

Here is the bonus:

Stop the filler and you will speak with authority and confidence in both your presentations and in your personal conversations.  You will always appear in control even when you don’t feel it.  What a great return for such a small effort.

Here  is an excellent blog on “ums” and “ahs” from one of my favorite sources of public speaking wisdom: Six Minutes Speaking and Presentations Skills.

Leave a comment below if you have any strategies to help stop the “ums” and “ahs”.

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Public Speaking: Special Delivery

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

theater 2Recently, I attended one of the famous Highland March Professional Development Series featuring master networker Jason Kallio, President of ExpoVantage.  Did he have great content?  Yes. Was he prepared and organized? Yes. But that’s only part of the reason he won the crowd.  He was funny, entertaining, and engaging.  He made us laugh and he talked with us, not at us.  He was in the moment and built on the comments that people shared.

As a public speaking expert, anytime I’m in the audience, I spend up to half the time looking at the audience to see how effective the presenter is.  The answer lies in their focus.  If their eyes are glued to the presenter, that’s great; otherwise there is a problem.  All eyes were glued to Jason throughout the entire presentation.  I have seen other prepared, organized, and structured presenters in that same room lose the audience.  Why the difference?  Content is a commodity; delivery is everything.

Jason is also a professional magician; so he adheres to the philosophy that every presentation is a performance. He realizes that excellent content that is well prepared is NOT enough to earn the audience’s attention.  Great content must be delivered in a performance.  Here are some of the reasons people loved him:

1) He opened with a magic trick that conveyed a major point about networking.

2) He invited participation and wove that participation into his presentation.

3) He was very much in the “here and now”.  He used appropriate humor to respond to audience remarks, and got to know the members of his audience as he went along.

4) He spoke to each member individually, focusing his eye contact on one person at a time instead of doing the common superficial scanning.

5) He was excited because he knew he had prepared for a performance, rather than a presentation.

After watching and analyzing thousands of presentations, here is something I’ve learned: presenters who think their only responsibility is to disseminate information are usually painfully boring – irrespective of their content. Presenters who understand that their presentation is a performance usually win the crowd.

Make your presentation a performance by avoiding these 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

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Power of Persuasion: Look Like a Big Fish Part III

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Power of Persuasion instant download – BUY NOW

Three more tips in our top ten ways to make your small business look big.

I) Your email address communicates the size of your business.  Want a big fish image? You need a big fish address.

  1. Tiny fish: frank1257@yahoo.com. Any of the “freebie” emails (gmail, hotmail, etc) scream that you are a solopreneur working from home.
  2. Small fish: frank@targetintellect.com is more professional because a company domain name is in the address, however it indicates a small company because it uses only the first name. A small company will count on the probability that no two employees will have the same first name.
  3. Medium fish: damelio@targetintellect.com reflects a medium sized company as it uses the last name to avoid using duplicate first names of company employees.
  4. Big fish: fdamelio@targetintellect.com indicates a large company because it requires each employee to use the first initial. With so many employees, there are duplicate last names.
  5. Giant fish: frank.damelio@targetintellect.com is the address type that most national and multinational companies use to help differentiate addresses among their massive pool of employees.

Which email type you use depends on the image you wish to portray.

II) “WE” is the word that distinguishes you from the small fish. When people network, a common question is “tell me what your company does?” A big fish will almost always begin responding with the word “we”, while the little fish will open with the word “I”, which sends a clear signal that he is likely a solopreneur.

III) Free work? Many will disagree, but this proved to be a great investment for me in the early days. Big companies tend to choose other big companies as their vendors. Once you get work from a nationally recognized brand, be sure to weave it into your networking conversation.  Why? First, it shows that you are established if “national corp” found and hired you. Second, “national corp’s” credibility transfers to you by association.

Your track record doesn’t include any big businesses? Court them, make your proposals, and by all means charge for your goods and services. However, if you get close to a sale and there is a “no go” decision based on budget, then offer to do the work at a deep discount or free. In return ask for a video testimonial, letter of recommendation and that they be a standing reference for you. While many disagree, I say this does not devalue what you do. It is an investment in your brand that will give you credibility to sell in the future; plus once “national corp” sees how good you are, they may buy your goods or services in the future.

As always, my caveat here is for you to be aware of the difference between image management and gross exaggeration.  Use your judgment and that of those you trust when making your company look like a bigger fish.

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Power of Persuasion: Look Like a Big Fish Part II

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Two-hour instant download on Persuasion lecture: BUY NOW

In certain industries, looking like a small fish gives that “personal touch” advantage. This series, however, is for companies that need to look bigger to court the business of larger companies. Here is tip number four in our top ten ways to make your small company look bigger.

Your business card design says a lot more about you than you think. After sorting a pile of over 130 business cards by company size, it becomes immediately clear as to why small company cards look SMALL.

Here are the common denominators to consider when designing a business card that you hope will make your company look like a BIG fish in the business pond.

1) Include a business address.  ALL of the big business cards I sorted had addresses, while only 18% of the small businesses did so. Residential addresses sound, well, residential. P.O. Boxes are okay, but suites are better. We have heard that some will rent a P.O. Box and call it a Suite anyway. We make no guarantees about that strategy. The best solution is to have a business address, which can be economically obtained by using a virtual office.

2) List more than one telephone. Most small companies only list one number, usually a cell phone. The majority of big businesses have two or three numbers – typically a main number, direct number and cell number. You can use your land line and cell.

3) Have a fax number: We realize that with email and PDFs, the fax is becoming obsolete, but this is about perception. All big companies list a fax, and if you want to appear big, you should too.

4) As counterintuitive as it is, small companies use big font and large companies use small font. Big font makes more sense because it is easier to read, but large companies want consistency with their font style and size; so the point size they select must be small enough to allow for the largest name.

Other things to consider: a professional logo that is not too big; thickness and quality of paper; professional printing.

Look forward to our upcoming five tips on making your small business look bigger, and forward this to anyone you know who is starting a business.

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Power of Persuasion: Look Like a Big Fish Part I

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009


Catch 22: Small business pursues big business clients.  The challenge? Big businesses tend to select other big businesses as their vendors.

Solution: Look bigger.

Lisa Kirby Gibbs of Highland-March Office Business Center and I just gave a presentation at WPI on how a budding entrepreneur can appear larger.

Today I will share with you the first three of the top ten tips to appearing to be a bigger fish:

1) While there is nothing wrong with working from your home office, never appear to be working from your home office.  A virtual office is an inexpensive way to appear established.

2) If you are a male, have a female leave your outgoing message on your voice mail.  If you are a female, have a male deliver your message. Never use an answering machine as callers can tell, and it communicates that you are working from your basement.

3) Think about your title. Something I learned too late. Putting “CEO” or “President” on you business card actually makes your company look smaller.  Giving yourself the title “Director of Marketing” or “SVP Sales” makes your company look far bigger.

A caveat: there is a difference between managing your impression and over spinning.  Always be guided by your ethics.

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Hiring a Public Speaking Trainer: Top 5 Mistakes

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

dreamstime_10861117[1]There is no one best public speaking trainer, because groups vary in size, personality, culture and needs. The challenge is to select the best trainer to connect with your team. Here are the five most damaging mistakes people make when choosing a trainer.

5) Not customizing the training program. Don’t just accept the provider’s one-size-fits-all program. While there are many common denominators in the realm of public speaking, there are also big differences between what would benefit a group of HR professionals vs. your sales force. Unless your company is cookie-cutter, do not accept a cookie-cutter program.

4) Lowest bidder. Sometimes you can strike oil by going with the lowest bidder, but in most cases you get what you pay for. Price should be an important factor, but don’t make it the only.

3) Not checking references. Some ask for references, but few follow-up. Assume that whomever the trainer offers as a reference will speak nicely about the service, but here is a good question to get a better sense: “what about trainer X makes her different and better than other trainers you’ve seen?”

2) Requesting training materials, then basing your decision on which seem the best. Here is the truth about most training: content is a commodity; delivery is everything. Books, magazines, internet blogs have almost infinite wisdom on public speaking. You need the right trainer to cull what fits your needs and present it in an inspiring way to your particular audience.

1) The most essential, yet least-followed advice: meet the trainer before your final decision. The brand and reputation of the training company are a far less important the one person who will present your training. If you can meet the prospective trainers, you will instantly know which one has what it takes to connect with your group. Some common requirements are confidence, personality, and enthusiasm. Depending on your audience you may or may not prefer funny, authoritative, conservative, flamboyant or serious.

A small investment up front will ensure that you select the best public speaking trainer for your group.

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Public Speaking: The Rule of Three

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

rule of 3My college roommate, Sean Cusick, was an English major, and he enlightened me about the rule of three. Your writing will have more impact when you use three nouns, adjectives or adverbs together. For example, it is more compelling to say, “this course will give you the skills, confidence and motivation to catapult your speaking career,” rather than saying “this course will give you the skills and confidence to catapult your speaking career.”

Little did I know, however, that I was only scratching the surface with respect to this amazing rule of three in public speaking. Here is a fascinating, in-depth look at the RULE OF THREE by Andrew Dlugan and how to apply it. Enjoy!

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Public Speaking: Speaking from the Heart II

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

73976251This is the second time I’ve witnessed a speaker ditch the notes and speak from the heart. Once again, it was a huge success.

In a previous public speaking blog entry, I recounted how a presenter’s computer quit, and she was forced to complete the rest of her presentation without her Powerpoint notes.  It proved to be the best thing that happened to her, as she recaptured and maintained the audience’s attention.

Recently, I witnessed a best-man toast.  As is typical, he unfolded a piece of paper and began reading – boring. After a few sentences, he paused, looked up at the guests and said, “I’m going to just speak from the heart, how about that?” The audience applauded, he folded the paper, and placed it in his pocket. There was a small pause, and you could feel how every person was eagerly anticipating his next words.

He went on to speak in a conversational tone about the groom. He earned a ton of laughs and many “aawwws” from the guests. His speech moved everyone in attendance. It was one of the best I’ve seen, and I know he wouldn’t have had nearly that reaction had he simply read his notes.

Once again, case-in-point, when you choose to “talk with” instead of “read to” an audience, you will make a connection, and they will remember you and your message. You might think that it’s a daunting task not to read from your slides and notes, but the beauty is that your audience gives you tons of leeway when you are speaking from the heart. They will simply like you more, and likeability is one of the six pillars of persuasion.

Clearly, when you are giving a training or a much longer presentation, you may need to refer to your notes or slides to make sure you are on track. That’s okay, as long as you are using them as a guide, and not for the verbiage of the presentation itself.

Nothing will endear your audience more than speaking from the heart.

For training on public speaking see our programs here.

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