Monday, March 29, 2010

Garr Reynolds and the Power of Stories

By Gilda Bonanno LLC

Here is a great reminder from Presentation Zen author Garr Reynolds about the power of stories in presentations; "Stories, that is, that illustrate the content and bring people in, enabling them to "experience" the material in an engaging, visual, and imaginative way.... Stories have an emotional component and when you engage people's emotions, even just a little bit, you stand a better chance of them paying attention and remembering your point (whether or not they agree with you is another matter entirely)."

Read his whole "We Remember from Stories and Experience" post here:
And if you haven't read Presentation Zen, it's a fabulous and beautiful book that challenges the idea of presentations as boring, bullet-heavy slides.  No, I'm not an affiliate for it, but I should be, given how often I recommend it and how much it has influenced the way I create slides.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, March 25, 2010

40 Fatal Public Speaking Mistakes from John Watkis

By Gilda Bonanno LLC

Check out this useful list of 40 Fatal Public Speaking mistakes, compiled by professional speechwriter John Watkis.  It includes my personal pet peeves:

1.) Don’t practice. Just wing it and hope everything falls into place.

23.) Go over the time you’ve been given to deliver your speech. This works well just before lunch.

40.) Don’t practice. I know this was #1, but it’s important enough to repeat again. Failing to prepare for your speech is the most fatal public speaking mistake you can make.

Read the rest of the list here -

Gilda's blog

Monday, March 22, 2010

What to Do if You Make a Mistake While Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno

It happens. Despite your preparation and practice, you make a mistake during your presentation. You quote the wrong statistic, mispronounce the product name or stumble over your words while providing an example. What do you do?

First of all, remember that it seems worse to you than it does to the audience. In some cases, they didn't even notice your mistake. Don't call attention to it by stopping in mid-sentence, looking horrorstruck and apologizing profusely. Simply pause, take a breath, restate the statistic, word or phrase correctly and keep moving forward. There is no need to dwell on it or make a big deal out of it. Keep going with the rest of your presentation as planned.

Sometimes the mistake is obvious to everyone in the room and it's not small. For example, at a presentation early in my speaking career, I ended with a handout that misspelled the client company's name. I didn't realize it until I heard some laughs and someone in the audience pointed it out to me. I immediately turned the microphone back on and admitted that I had made a mistake spelling the company's name. I apologized and then made a humorous comment about needing to hire an assistant to proofread. It was such a glaring error that I could not ignore it; even if everyone hadn't noticed it yet, they would when they read the handout or when someone else made a joke about it. By taking responsibility for my mistake and apologizing, I was able to salvage the situation and no permanent damage was done. (And you can be sure that the experience taught me to triple-proofread my handouts, especially the company name!)

We are all human, which means that we make mistakes – how you handle your mistakes is what matters. When presenting, your goal is not to be perfect – that is unrealistic and unnecessary. Your goal is to communicate and that does not require perfection.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What to Do When the Executive Interrupts Your Slide Presentation

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently, participants in one of my training programs complained that they spent weeks to prepare long, in-depth PowerPoint presentations to sell their ideas to a senior executive. But he stopped them on the first slide and asked them so many questions that they didn't have time to go through the rest of the slides. While I initially shared their indignation, here are some suggestions about how to view the situation in a positive light:

• Remember, the point of the presentation is to communicate your information to your audience; in this case, your audience is the executive (and his team) and your goal is for him to understand your project and make a decision about it. Whether he does that by looking at all your slides or listening to the answers you give to his questions, you have achieved your goal.

• Slides are just the visual aids – you are the presentation. It is better that the executive asks you the questions rather than asking you to be quiet so he can read each of your slides. Your ability to answer the question demonstrates that you have command of the information. The slides are just there to provide you backup, rather than the other way around.

• The exercise of constructing the slides is useful in itself. Even if you don't get to show all of them, just the fact that you spent the time to prepare them means you know the information well.

• Be selective in what you include in your presentation and on the slides. Just because you know all the details doesn't mean you have to say them or put them in the slides. Focus on the big picture in your presentation and keep the details available to answer the questions.

• Creating effective and focused slides takes time – so build that time into your schedule.

• You will be interrupted with questions – expect them and be prepared for them. You can try to respond with, "I have a slide later that answers your question," but if the executive asks for the information, it's not usually a good idea to make him wait for it. Remember, you are there to communicate to your audience in whatever way the audience wants.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, March 15, 2010

Knowledge + Communication = the 2 Components of Success

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

There are two essential components for success in your career: knowledge and the ability to communicate that knowledge effectively.
We all know people who are experts in their field, but who are unable to communicate their knowledge effectively. Their expertise takes them to a certain point, but then they hit a roadblock; for example, the salesperson who won't be promoted because she is uncomfortable presenting to large groups of potential clients or the computer programmer who won't be asked to lead projects because he is unable to communicate his ideas effectively to the project team.

On the other hand, we also know people who are not experts and don't know what they're talking about, but who are "good talkers." Their communication ability takes them to a certain point, but then they also hit a roadblock in their success. For example, the manager who is comfortable giving presentations but doesn't actually understand the details of what he's presenting or the consultant who tells funny stories but doesn't comprehend the client's processes.

In order to be successful in your career and your life, you have to know something AND also be able to communicate it effectively. It's never EITHER/OR - it's always AND.

Knowledge + Communication = Success.
Which is your roadblock on the path to success – and how can you overcome it?

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

I recently heard from a small business owner who wrote, "I am one of those people who hate standing in front of an audience… I am finding that my fearfulness is preventing me from marketing my business the way I want to; for example, I avoid going to business association meetings where I have to introduce myself." Sound familiar?

This statement is not surprising, since the fear of public speaking is consistently ranked as people's number one fear. That fear becomes a roadblock on your path to success and an obstacle that prevents you from growing your business, getting a better job or feeling more confident.

I had a similar case with a client last year. Let's call her Rachel. Rachel is a life coach whose fear of public speaking was preventing her from giving the presentations that were required to grow her business and attract new clients.

In order to overcome Rachel's fear, we worked on the following three steps:

1. UNDERSTANDING what she was afraid of (looking like an incompetent fool, having her face and neck turn completely red)

2. PRACTICING her presentation (writing it out, rehearsing it so she could communicate her message within the time limit, practicing it in the clothes she would be wearing for the actual event, getting comfortable making eye contact and smiling, etc.)

3. EXPERIENCING SUCCESS one step at a time - starting off with delivering a 5-minute introduction about life coaching (that we worked on for hours) and progressing to running a 1-hour workshop for an audience of twelve.

Fast forward several months and Rachel has had several successful speaking engagements. She even had a PR person tell her that she is ready to be interviewed on television because she projects an air of confidence and competence! And all because she decided to face her fear and spent the time and effort necessary to improve her speaking skills.

It is my firm belief - and experience has not contradicted me - that while some people are more naturally comfortable with public speaking, EVERYONE can become competent at it, IF they spend the time and work on the right things. Yes, this means YOU, too! Make this the year you overcome your fear of public speaking and eliminate the roadblock in your path to success and confidence.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Voice Power: Speak Loudly and Slowly Enough to Be Heard

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A key component of non-verbal communications is your voice. Along with eye contact, gestures, movement and facial expression, your voice can communicate meaning and help your audience focus on your message.

Your voice has an incredible range and ability to convey meaning and emotion, yet most of us use only a small part of that range. Use the following guidelines to unleash the power of your voice so you can deliver your message effectively and connect to the audience:

*Speak loudly enough. How loudly? Loudly enough that people can hear you without having to strain. How loudly depends on the room size, whether or not you are using a microphone, the acoustics, etc. Most people think that they are already speaking loudly enough. In fact, it's the opposite – most people need to speak louder.

I remember working with someone who had an inspiring speech to deliver, but he spoke too softly to be heard. He had grown up being told that he should never raise his voice and he had to work very hard to overcome that belief. Eventually, he realized that speaking louder was actually a service to the audience since it would make it easier for them to listen – and that it was not shouting.

If you think you speak loudly enough, record yourself or get someone you trust to sit in the back row, or the other end of the table, and give you an honest assessment of whether you speak loudly enough to be heard easily. Chances are, you don't.

*Speak slowly enough. How slowly? Once again, it depends on many factors. What is the normal rate of speed for your audience? If you're speaking to native New Yorkers in New York, a much faster speed is allowed – and expected – than if you're speaking just about anywhere else in the world.

Likewise, if you're speaking in a language that is not native to the audience, or if you're presenting complex information that is new to them, you'll need to speak slower, so they have time to digest it.

Your voice has incredible power to communicate meaning and connect you to the audience. Learning to tap into that voice power will enable you to become a more effective communicator.

Gilda Bonanno's blog