Sunday, May 29, 2016

Don’t Start Your Presentation by Admitting You’re Unprepared

I once saw a speaker start a presentation by saying, “When I did my research for this presentation, just now in the parking lot, I found that…” With that line, he instantly undermined his credibility and caused his audience to question whatever he said next, if they were still listening to him.

Was he trying to sound “authentic” or to be funny, or worse, was he telling the truth? Whatever his reason, as an experienced professional, he should have known better than to start by announcing that this speaking engagement was not important enough for him to take the time to research the group and the topic.

It was insulting to the audience and to the people who had brought him in (and paid him) as a subject matter expert.  (And no, this was not a last-minute engagement; he had plenty of time to prepare.)

Even it were true that he hadn’t made the time to prepare his remarks or customize them to this specific group, why would he broadcast his ignorance of the topic and his lack of preparation to the audience? At the very least, they would be unimpressed and at the very worst, they would be offended and stop listening to him.

I would have thought these best practices about presentation skills were obvious: Prepare your presentation ahead of time.  Don’t insult your audience.  Don’t start your presentation by admitting you’re unprepared. 

How was the rest of his presentation? I don’t know – I stopped listening.  But I doubt it got better from there.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gilda's workshop was excellent - fun and engaging!

"It was great to meet you and thanks so much for presenting at the National Speakers Association 2015 Convention!  You workshop and your presentation skills were excellent.  Yours was one of my favorite workshops.  You were fun and engaging and put the audience at ease. You also demonstrated to us how improv exercises can enhance our presentations.  And the exercises you led enabled me to make great connections with my two partners.  Well done!"  
Emily Ballance, MEd, LPC, Certified Speaking Professional 

To see more testimonials about Gilda's work, visit

Friday, May 20, 2016

2 Key Elements of Presentation Skills

A colleague recently asked me what I consider to be the 2 key elements of good presentation skills.  Here is my response:

A presentation is not about you dumping everything you know about a topic on the audience.  You have to consider what the audience needs to know – what is important to them and why should they care about your topic.  Follow what I call The Golden Rule of Communications™ - communicate unto others as THEY want to be communicated to, not as YOU want to be communicated to.

Thinking about your presentation from the audience’s point of view helps you to organize your material and make sure your message is customized to this specific audience, including visuals, examples, stories, etc.  It also allows you to figure out what to eliminate so you make sure you stay within your time limit.

Don’t expect that you can just throw together some slides the night before a presentation and just “wing it.” Most people will be unsuccessful.  Effective, clear and memorable presentations take more practice than that, especially if there is something different about the presentation (new content, in front of a new audience, in a new environment) or if it’s high stakes (in front of the Board of Directors or your key client).

Practice by speaking the words out loud in as close to the real environment as possible (standing, in a conference room, using a remote to control the slides, etc.) and making sure you can communicate your ideas clearly within the time limit.  It also helps to record yourself (audio or video) and review. 

And if I could add a third element, it would be CONFIDENCE. Believe that you have something worth saying (and I’m assuming that you do) and that you are the right person to share that message with this particular audience.  Make sure that your words and your body language communicate confidence and trust that your preparation and your practice will allow you to deliver the best presentation you can under the circumstances. 

Gilda Bonanno's blog 

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Using a Presenter Cheat Sheet to Deliver Better Presentations

During a recent presentation skills training, a participant shared that her company has a “presenter cheat sheet” to help employees who have to present to the company’s executives.

For each executive, it lists the name, title and photo, as well as his or her frequently-asked questions and pet peeves.  For example, the head of R&D always asks, “how long will it take to develop a version that we can sell?” and the CFO hates it when you use “impact” as a verb rather than a noun.

While you may argue that an executive shouldn’t base his or her decisions on the perceived misuse of one word or phrase during a presentation, unfortunately, that is the reality in some organizations.
That objection aside, I think it’s a wonderful idea that allows the presenter to “know the audience,” which can be particularly helpful if you’ve never presented to that person. 

A presenter cheat sheet can help focus on what is important to your audience, following what I call The Golden Rule of Communications™ - communicate unto others as THEY want to be communicated to, not as YOU want to be communicated to.

Knowing what’s important to each person can help you organize your material and better anticipate questions.  You can deliver a more effective presentation if you know that the Vice-President of Sales always wants to know how a product change will affect customers in a particular region or that the most important consideration for the COO is cost. 

What do you think? Does your company have a “presenter cheat sheet”?

Gilda Bonanno's blog 

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mom, I Love You

Today is Mother's Day so here is my annual reprint of a blog post I wrote about my Mom and all the wonderful things I have learned from her.  Here they are, in random order:

Snacking is good.  Mom loves to snack and had a simple rule for my brother and I when we were growing up: as long as you brush your teeth, it's ok to eat potato chips, ice cream and chocolate.  When we played outside, Mom would call us in to give us ice cream.  And during our marathon Scrabble sessions, there was always a snack break or two.  No snacks were forbidden and no food was "evil," so we developed a healthy relationship with food.  And all that teeth-brushing must have worked because I have never had a cavity in my life! 

Talking to strangers is ok.  Mom talks to anyone, especially in the grocery store.  All it takes to start a conversation is an observation about the size of the iceberg lettuce or shared commiseration about the long checkout line—and then the conversation is off and running.  Today it would be called "networking."

Dollars are stretchable.  Growing up, we did not have a lot of money.  Mom managed to keep a family of four afloat on very, very little money.  She did this by working hard and spending only on necessities.  And even when we didn't have a lot, she enjoyed volunteering at church to make food baskets for people who had less than we did.  She made sacrifices for us; in fact, I don't recall her ever buying anything for herself.  We often joke that we should send her to Washington, D.C. to help the government balance the budget.  

Coupon clipping is an art.  Mom checks the sale papers and clips coupons religiously.   Then she calls and tells me how much money she saved in the store.  I expect to get a phone call from the police one of these days, informing me that they've arrested her because she saved so much on one item that the store had to pay HER for it.

Projects can be fun.  Organizing the file cabinet? Unpacking boxes?  Cleaning out the basement? Call Mom.  She loves doing work around the house especially if she gets to use the paper shredder or go to the dump (or "transfer station," as it's called in my town).  During her last visit, she helped me organize my office closet, which had been so crammed with stuff that I hated opening it.  It took hours.  And when I inevitably got tired of doing it, looked at all the junk that we had piled on the floor and the desk and said "I don't want to play this game anymore," Mom said "it's ok, we're almost done" and kept me going.  Now everything is in its place and properly labeled and I love opening the closet.  And some of the neighbors want to rent her out to help with their projects.

Humor helps.  Mom always has a positive attitude and loves a good laugh.   She loves the Pink Panther movie and recently laughed hysterically at the dance scene in Johnny English, a spoof on spy movies starring Rowan Atkinson (from the "Mr. Bean" series).  We played the scene over and over, just to make her laugh more.  She will be delighted to know they are releasing a sequel.  She also has the unfortunate habit of laughing whenever I am up on a chair, taking a box down from the closet – I don't know why.  She is supposed to be holding the chair for me and instead, she starts giggling just as I'm trying to lift a heavy box  and then of course, I start laughing… luckily, no one has gotten hurt…

Simple things can make you happy.  Mom doesn't need a "spa day" or a meal at a fancy restaurant to be happy.  She is what we fondly call "low maintenance."  She enjoys the little things – like watching an old movie starring Robert Taylor or Joseph Cotton (extra points if it's set during World War II), going grocery-shopping at the Shop-Rite store near my house, eating ice cream outside on a warm day and of course, eating a Hershey's chocolate bar. 

Complaining is not helpful.  Not complaining is easy when life is easy, but Mom never complained even when life got hard.  When family members were sick or even when my father died, Mom didn't complain or ask, "why me?" She just kept going forward, with a strong spirit, a smile and a desire to help other people.  I'm still learning that lesson.

A few weeks ago, I received a big envelope from Mom in the mail.  Inside were packages of one of my favorite candies – the dots of colored sugar stuck to long strips of paper.  (Yes, you get some of the paper stuck in your teeth when you eat them, but that's half the fun.) She knows that I couldn't find them locally, so she looked for them on one of her grocery trips and sent them to me. 

I'll be seeing Mom today for Mother's Day.  What am I bringing her? Flowers? A gift certificate for a massage? Nope.  I'm bringing her all my love – and chocolate brownies.  Thanks, Mom, and I love you. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

WICT-New England "Communicating With Confidence"

I had a wonderful time as the keynote speaker for the WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunications) - New England chapter's Keys to Leadership event in Boston.  Over 120 women and men gathered for the day to hear me speak about Communicating With Confidence and to get advice from a panel of experienced professionals.

Reminding the audience that confidence means  "I know what I'm talking about -
I am prepared - I earned my place at the table"
(photo courtesy WICT- New England)

A privilege to share the stage with the
"Prepare & Persevere" panel of experienced industry professionals

Great view of the Charles River from Microsoft's NERD Center
(New England Research & Development Center)
where the program was held
(photo courtesy WICT- New England)

With the wonderful WICT-New England Chapter Leadership team:
Gianfranca Focareta, Donna Capone, Brittany Lahm and Laura Ausmus
(photo courtesy WICT- New England)