Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Give a Killer Presentation - from TED's Chris Anderson

by Gilda Bonanno

Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, has written an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review, "How to Give a Killer Presentation." For the past 30 years, the TED conferences have offered a speaking platform to a wide range of speakers, including politicians, musicians, academics, writers and scientists.

Here is an excerpt:

"The biggest problem I see in first drafts of presentations is that they try to cover too much ground. You can’t summarize an entire career in a single talk. If you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to include key details, and your talk will disappear into abstract language that may make sense if your listeners are familiar with the subject matter but will be completely opaque if they’re new to it. You need specific examples to flesh out your ideas. So limit the scope of your talk to that which can be explained, and brought to life with examples, in the available time. Much of the early feedback we give aims to correct the impulse to sweep too broadly. Instead, go deeper. Give more detail. Don’t tell us about your entire field of study—tell us about your unique contribution."

While I don't agree with all of his suggestions - for example, I think that memorizing every word of your presentation can lead to you being "in your head" during your talk, worrying about remembering the words, rather than in the moment, engaged with your audience - he provides many useful points to consider when you have to give your next presentation.

Read the article here:

Watch TED talks here (content & quality vary):

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Patricia Fripp's Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in Public Speaking

by Gilda Bonanno

Master speaker and executive speech coach Patricia Fripp has written a very useful blog post about the ten pitfalls to avoid in public speaking.  I especially like her Pitfall #3 - No Memorable Stories:

"3. NO MEMORABLE STORIES. People rarely remember your exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images that your words inspire. Support your key points with vivid, relevant stories. Help your audience “make the movie” in their heads by using memorable characters, exciting situations, dialogue, suspense, and humor."

Read the rest of her post or watch the video here:

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Take Your Presentations From Okay to Outstanding

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Ever feel like you're presenting on "auto-pilot"? Or like you've gotten to the point where you present okay, but still feel like you could do better?

Here are four suggestions for taking your presentations from okay to outstanding, so you can really connect with the audience and convey confidence as you communicate your message.
Rethink Your Content
Don't overwhelm your audience with information and tell them everything you know about the topic.  Focus on the few points that they need to know and keep the details as backup material to answer questions or to hand out later as a supplement. 

Also, include personal stories that are relevant to the message and the audience.  For example, if you're talking to new project managers, share a story of how you learned from the mistakes you made on your first project, when you ignored the growing gap between the planned and actual budgets.

Rethink Your Slides
Before you automatically open up PowerPoint and start creating slides, think about whether you even need them.  How will they add to your presentation? If you truly believe they will be helpful in your presentation (or if they are – unfortunately - required by organizational culture), then rethink your content and formatting. 

Move beyond long sentences and cheesy clip art, and instead include high-quality photos that you've found online or taken yourself.  For example, in a presentation about conveying leadership presence, I included a photo of a peacock that I had taken at a zoo – with the words, "Be confident (not cocky)" in 40-point, bold font.  

Rethink Your Presence & Your Non-Verbals
Do you convey confidence, knowledge, sincerity and energy? Having a strong and confident (but not cocky) presence will make it easier for the audience to view you as an authority and respect your knowledge.   As one manager said to me, "When my team presents, I want them to have all the information and also look like they know what they're talking about."

Make sure that your non-verbals – your eye contact, voice, gestures, movement, posture and facial expressions – communicate the same message as your words.  For example, the audience will be less likely to hear, understand and believe you if your voice volume is too soft to be heard, you face the screen instead of the audience and you pace nervously in the front of the room.

Rethink How You Practice
When you get less nervous about presenting, it's a good thing! However, if it means you no longer spend any time practicing, it can prevent you from having more impact and taking your presentation to the next level.  

Practice out loud in as close to a dress rehearsal as you can manage.  For example, stand or sit based on how you will really present.  Record yourself on audio or video and then review it or get honest feedback from someone whose opinion you respect – and who also is a good presenter. 

The next time you have to give a presentation, follow these four suggestions so you can take it from okay to outstanding.  You'll be amazed at what it feels like to really connect with the audience as you communicate your message.
Gilda Bonanno's blog


Saturday, June 15, 2013

How to End Your Presentation so the Audience Knows You're Done

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you give a presentation, how does the audience know you're done? If you're half-heartedly saying, "any questions?" as a means to signal that you're done speaking, then you're missing the opportunity to finish strong.    

Here are techniques for ending your presentation strongly so the audience knows you're done:

Like your writing, your presentation should have an introduction, body (with your supporting points), and then the conclusion.  The easiest way to organize your material is to have a certain number of points, like three tips or four steps, so the audience can follow along and know how many more points you have to present.

Be clear and deliberate about what you're doing and tell the audience.  For example, in your introduction, you could say, "For the next 30 minutes, I'll share with you the five reasons we should replace our current paper-based process with the new electronic process.  Please hold your questions and I'll be happy to answer them near the end of the presentation and then I'll finish with one action step you can take to get comfortable with the new process."
Don't just suddenly stop speaking; instead give the audience cues that the end is near, such as "in conclusion" or "my final point this morning is..." (And avoid giving "false" cues, like saying "in conclusion," and then going on for another ten minutes.)

Pause before your final sentence and make it strong and declarative.  End with a powerful conclusion such as a call to action or a strong reiteration of your message and its importance to the audience.  Even if you end with a rhetorical question, ask it deliberately.  Use a strong voice that's loud enough to be heard, make eye contact, stand confidently and smile.  When you finish speaking, hold the eye contact and your posture for a few seconds.

·         "As I've demonstrated today, the three year projection for the business is bright and we expect to continue our excellent performance." 

·         "As we've discussed today, there are 5 steps to the process of preparing and delivering an effective presentation.  Following these steps will help you be a more powerful and effective presenter." 

Speak to the meeting organizer well before your presentation to understand what comes next and who you should transition to after you finish speaking. 

If at all possible, avoid taking questions at the very end of your presentation – doing so shifts the energy away from you and can also result in a negative conclusion, especially if you get an off-base or hostile question which you have to reply to defensively.  You also have lost the benefit of a strong close if the questions just trail off into silence and you have to say, "…ok, no more questions?"

Decide with the meeting organizer before your presentation whether you will have time for questions.  If so, take questions near the end of your presentation instead of at the end.  In order to do this, you'll need a mini-conclusion before you take questions so you can summarize your points and transition to the questions.  Then after you're finished answering questions, transition back to your presentation for a final conclusion, which allows you to have the final say and leave the audience with a strong restatement of your message.

So your presentation outline would look something like:
·         Introduction
·         Body

o   Point 1

o   Point 2

o   Point 3

o   Mini-conclusion

·         Questions and answers
·         Transition back to presentation
·         Conclusion

(Thanks to professional speaker and consulting guru, Alan Weiss, who first introduced me to the idea of not ending a presentation with the question-and-answer format.)

Some people and organizations are very strict about whether presenters should end by thanking the audience.  I think either way is fine, as long as it makes sense for that audience and your choice is deliberate. A feeble, half-whispered "thank you…" that trails off uncertainly at the end is not effective.

The next time you're preparing a presentation, also prepare and practice how you will conclude.  Ending your presentation strongly will improve the effectiveness of your presentation and clearly signal to the audience that you're done.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

4 Tips for Using the Microphone Effectively

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Many people who speak in front of groups could be more effective communicators if they used a microphone.   If the audience has to struggle to hear you, it will be difficult for you to communicate your message effectively.  Many things can make it difficult for the audience to hear you, such as a noisy air conditioner or a loud group in the adjoining room.  Hearing and understanding you can also be difficult if the people in the audience are not native speakers of the language you're presenting in, or if you're presenting new and technically complicated information.

Using a microphone effectively can help you overcome all of these obstacles by allowing the audience to hear you without difficulty.  Here are four tips on how to use a microphone effectively:

1.    Don't Ask the Audience if You Need the Microphone
This is one of the most common mistakes I see speakers make.  A speaker stands up in front of the group and asks, "can everyone hear me?" Now let's be logical; if people in the audience can't hear you, how can they answer that question?  The only people who can answer are the people who can hear you anyway.  And sometimes, even if people are having difficulty hearing you, they won't admit to it in front of everyone else.  Check out the sound system ahead of time to determine whether you will use the mike or have someone designated in the back of the room that will let you know if you can be heard.

2.    Rehearse With the Mic
If you don't rehearse with the microphone, it will be difficult to use it effectively in front of a live audience.  Rehearsing will allow you to get used to the sound of your voice coming through the speakers and find out if there is any feedback coming through the speakers (that awful, high-pitched whistling sound that will have your audience scrambling to cover their ears).

If you're going to use a handheld microphone, practice holding it close enough to your mouth so it picks up your voice while holding your notes or PowerPoint remote in your other hand.  If you're using a clip-on or lavaliere microphone, plan how you are going to wear it.  Ideally, clip it to the center of your shirt or jacket where it can pick up your voice regardless of which way you turn your head.  And the rest of the unit can clip to your waistband or slip into your pocket, with the wire coiled so it doesn't get in your way. 

3.    Know How the Mic Works
Before you use a microphone, ask the meeting organizer or the person responsible for audio-visual to show you how it works.  Find out how to change the battery and keep an extra one handy; nothing is worse than having the battery die in the middle of your presentation and not knowing where to get a replacement or how to replace it. Also get comfortable with the on/off switch; I've seen speakers get flummoxed because they can't figure out how to turn it on.    

4.    Remember to Turn Off the Mic
Remember to turn off the microphone when you're finished speaking or during breaks.  At a training program I facilitated, a fellow instructor forgot to turn off her lavaliere microphone when she took a quick break while the participants were quietly working on an exercise.  Through the sound system, I heard footsteps and the sound of a door – and I realized in horror that she was headed to the restroom.  I dashed out of the room, ran down the long corridor and ripped open the door to the restroom, where she stood washing her hands before she used the facilities.  I mouthed the words, "your mic is still on!" while gesturing wildly towards the green light on the microphone unit clipped to her belt.  Thankfully, she turned it off before the situation got worse.  

If you have the option of using a microphone for your next presentation, consider using it. Follow these four tips for using the mic effectively and you will make it easier for the audience to hear you which in turn, will make it easier for you to communicate your message to them.


Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, June 7, 2013

9 Tips for How to Present While Seated

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

"You can't start a fire sitting down" is an old cliché that I used in graduate school to explain to the supervising professor why I taught my American history class standing up.  The professor preferred that I sit down and teach, to demonstrate more of a peer relationship with the students.  At 5' 2" and only a few years older than the students, I thought I looked enough like a "peer" and wanted more authority - teaching while standing up helped. 

I still believe that standing up while teaching and presenting is a good idea.  Standing conveys confidence and authority, makes it easier to monitor the room and gauge audience reaction, helps you keep up your energy and allows you to use the full range of non-verbal communications, including gestures, posture and movement. 

However, sometimes it's not practical to stand up while presenting due to factors such as room constraints, organizational culture and the short duration of the presentation.  So if you must give a presentation while seated, here are 9 tips to help you present successfully:

1.    Make Eye Contact
It's important to make eye contact with everyone at the table.  Depending on the seating configuration, it may be difficult and you may have to turn your body to make eye contact with those people seated on either side of you.

2.    Speak Loudly Enough
You have to speak loudly enough so that people can understand you.  And in addition to speaking over ambient noise, you also have to be mindful of making sure people on the opposite end of the table can hear you clearly, especially when you're facing away from them to the other end.

3.    Use Gestures
Yes, it is still important to use gestures when you are seated.  Keep your hands empty and use them for above-the-table gestures.  Try not to pick up and play with your pen, notes and water bottle.

4.    Sit Confidently
Sit up straight, with shoulders back and maintain good posture as you present.  Demonstrate your confidence by taking up your space at the table instead of slouching or shrinking.

5.    Control Your Nerves
If you are nervous or anxious about presenting, don't let your nerves show through your hands grasping the table or playing with a pencil.  Even if you're tapping your foot or shaking your leg under the table, the audience can see the nervousness show in the rest of your body.   

6.    Prepare for Distractions
A seated presentation may be considered less formal so people may think it's okay to check email or their phones while you're speaking.  Ideally, whoever is conducting the meeting will have set up ground rules with the participants at the start, banning electronic devices of any kind during the presentations.  However, if that didn't occur and the company culture unwisely allows email/phones during meetings, then be prepared for the behavior and don't let it shake your confidence.

7.    Do You Really Need Slides?
Before you use slides, consider whether you really need them.  Sometimes I think people use PowerPoint during their seated presentations only so they don't have to make eye contact with their colleagues! Perhaps handouts would be more effective – or perhaps your presentation doesn't need any visual aids at all.

8.    Manage Questions
If you get a question, repeat it so everyone can hear it and you have a chance to think of an answer.  Direct your answer to the questioner and to the whole audience, so you keep everyone's attention.

9.    Practice
Sitting at your desk and looking at your notes is not the same as sitting at a conference table and saying the words of your presentation out loud.  So practice your presentation in as close to the real environment as possible.

If you follow these 9 tips, your presentation will be effective, no matter where you're seated. 

Gilda Bonanno's blog  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Video: 3 Quick Tips for Giving a Great Speech

Executive presentation skills coach and professional speaker Gilda Bonanno provides 3 quick tips for giving a great speech, whether you are presenting to an audience of two or two thousand. (5 mins, 18 seconds)
If the video does not play, click on this link to play:
Gilda Bonanno's blog