Friday, August 28, 2015

5 PowerPoint Crimes (and how to avoid committing them)

PowerPoint doesn’t ruin presentations; Presenters do. That’s right.  PowerPoint gets an endlessly bad wrap, but let’s be honest – the software can’t create slides on its own.  Presenters do that, and unfortunately, most of us do it badly.  Here are the five biggest PowerPoint crimes. Stop committing them and you’ll be heard!

Crime #1: Filling your slides with lots and lots of text.  I know, I know, you have to put all of the information on the slide so that your audience will know it. Here’s the thing; audiences read and listen with the same side of their brains.  So when you put a slide up on the screen that forces them to read, you’re requiring that they make a choice.  They are either going to read or listen.  They cannot do both at the same time.  Thus, they’ll do one of three things: they’ll ignore you and read the screen (making you superfluous), ignore what’s on the screen and listen to you (making your slides superfluous), or read the screen as quickly as they can and then listen to you (at which point you’ll have been talking and they’ll be lost.) none of these scenarios maximize understanding for the audience.

Instead of lots and lots of text, how about a graphic that shows what you’re telling? How about a chart or graph? Maybe even an evocative photo? Something that visually reinforces what you’re talking about will not only help your audience understand it, it will increase their remembering of it. 

Crime #2: Reading the lots and lots of text you’ve put on your slides. News flash: YOUR AUDIENCE CAN READ. They don’t need you to read the slides to them. (And they can read somewhere between 7-10 times faster than you can read it to them, so…) If you have all of the information you’re going to present on your slides, do your audience a favor – email them your slide deck and let them read it themselves at their convenience.  Let’s not drag a group of people into a room to watch you read slides aloud. Don’t they have better things to do?

Crime #3: NOT being a control freak. Yes, you read that right.  When it comes to PowerPoint slides (or any visual) you want to control when and how the audience sees the information. You want to give them information to look at one bit at a time.  If you put up a slide with lots to look at, who knows where they’ll look first, or for how long? Instead, make good use of the animation tool in PowerPoint to control what they see and when.

Crime #4: Making it fancy. When it comes to PowerPoint slides, plain is better.  NOT uninteresting; your slides should be visuals that provoke thought and interest. By plain, I mean they shouldn’t be wild colors that don’t match your brand, you shouldn’t use every kind of image known to man; a photo here, a drawing there, clip art (ick) anywhere… Your slides should not bounce in, or checkboard in, or zoom in.  Fonts should be sans serif (like this one) not serif (like this one).

Crime #5: Cramming too much on one slide: I’m asked all the time, “How many slides should I have in a 20 minute presentation?” My answer is, “As many as you need to illustrate your important points.” More important than your number of slides is your number of big ideas per slide. Think ONE: one big idea per slide. Sometimes we have to make a slide look like it’s building when PowerPoint’s software won’t do it for us by creating multiple slides.  Who cares?  The audience only sees it as one slide that’s building information in a way that’s easy for them to digest.

Take a good look at your slide decks.  Are you committing any of these PowerPoint crimes? If you are, I implore you cease and desist immediately.  I promise you and your audience will have a much better experience.  And you’ll be heard.

Monday, August 10, 2015

5 Rules for a wedding toast that NAILS IT

1.)    Watch the comedy: Humor in a wedding toast (or most anywhere else) is great, but you want to be certain your comments will in fact be funny to the bride and groom and their family and friends. This means no inside jokes, no spilling of secrets, (this is not the time to tell the bride she was actually the groom’s second choice, or to tell the groom the bride is marrying him against her family’s advice…) no snarky comments and please, no bathroom humor, people are in tuxedos for heaven’s sake.

2)    Run it by one (or more) people you trust.  It may sound hilarious and /or touching to you, but to an objective ear, not so much, or even “What were you thinking???”  Best to know that before the big day. If you can, run it by someone on both the bride and the groom side. People of different ages will hear your toast differently as well, so if you can have a 28 year old, a 58 year old and an 88 year old test it out so much the better.

3)    Keep it short: People are socializing, eating and drinking.  They will stop doing those things to hear you speak.  Be kind.  Be brief.

4)    Do NOT Read: I’ve said it before, and it applies here as well, it is impossible to look sincere when you are reading the words, “I’m so happy for my dear friends…” It’s OK to have notes! Just don’t make them whole sentences.  Think phrases or even key words to keep you on track.  When my sister got married I had an index card with five words on it: Joy, Her birth, Lucy, Frank.   The theme of my toast was the Joy my sister had brought to our family.  First, when she was born, second, her cat, Lucy, and third, her husband Frank. I knew with those key words I could elaborate without getting off track. And even though it was only a three minute presentation, I knew I had to do step #5 – the best way to insure I would nail it.

5.)    PRACTICE OUT LOUD: Yep, just as you would for any other important presentation, you’ll want to practice this little speech over and over and over. That way, no matter how nervous you may feel, the words will form nicely and flow easily because your brain and your mouth have practiced.

Implement these 5 rules before your wedding toast. You’ll be giving the bride and groom and their family and friends a cherished memory. (And you’ll NAIL IT.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The MOST offensive thing Donald Trump said at Thursday night's debate.

As a public speaking coach, I absolutely positively forbid my clients (those that are not running or in office) from mentioning anything even remotely political. After all, when you make a statement or joke that comes down on one side or the other, odds are good you're offending about half the people in the room.
So I want to be clear; this post is not meant as an opinion or viewpoint on the Republican party - or any other party for that matter.  I am appalled by something Mr. Trump said in Thursday night's debate that no one seems to have picked up on.

When asked by Megan Kelly to address his jabs and name calling of women, Mr. Trump responded, "It's fun. It's kidding. We have a good time."

Calling women "fat pigs" "dogs" and "disgusting animals" is not "fun".  It's bullying, plain and simple. Mr. Trump explains it away as "kidding".

But that's what bullies do, right?  They name call, taunt and tease and then claim to be "kidding", they say it's all in "fun". These explanations of Mr. Trump's are not unfamiliar to anyone who was bullied as a kid. As we felt the sting of the insult, the bully tried to absolve him or herself of  any wrongdoing with the toss off, "Only kidding." In other words, blaming the victim for taking the name calling to heart.

 As someone who (chronologically) is an adult - Mr. Trump should have abandoned this kind of "fun" long ago. As someone running for office - ANY office, I find it abhorrent. I cannot imagine any American wanting to be represented by someone who thinks name calling - bullying - is "fun". It may be a "good time" for him. Being on the receiving end of his "fun" in not only not a "good time" for the recipient, it is not a good thing for our country.