inCredible Messages Blog

Latest "Secrets to Powerful Presentations" Posts

Is That PowerPoint Slide a Risk You Should Take?

Some professional presenters refuse to use PowerPoint. These speakers know PowerPoint slides can act like a magnet, drawing audience attention away from the speaker. Other professional speakers use PowerPoint with care, exploiting the strengths and minimizing the dangers of this tool.

As business professional, you might not have a choice about PowerPoint. Use of this medium may be an expected part of your professional culture. Next time you use PowerPoint in a presentation, remember the following guidelines. Adhering to these rules will help you maximize the strengths and minimize the dangers of this tool.

Use PowerPoint for a Purpose

Since each visual you use has the potential to take attention away from you as the speaker, consider each PowerPoint slide a risk that must be justified. You can justify a slide in one of the following ways:

The slide visually reinforces a key point. Audience members are able to retain only a small portion of what you say.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Move Your Business Presentation from Good to Great: Rehearse

The various keynote speakers, trainers, and consultants who make up the National Speakers Association don’t necessarily share the same business model. They don’t agree on all aspects of the speaking business. They do, however, agree on one fundamental thing.

Members of the National Speakers Association agree that in order to deliver a great presentation, you must rehearse.

The best keynote speakers, the ones internationally recognized and sought after, will tell you they leave nothing to chance. They rehearse every word, every move, and every gesture. If professional speakers seem spontaneous, it is because they have rehearsed until delivering the presentation is as comfortable as walking in their own shoes.

Business professionals, on the other hand, are not known for extensive rehearsal. Many don’t think rehearsal is necessary, and many allow themselves to run out of time. Nick Morgan, editor of the Harvard Management Communication Letter, thinks these business presenters make a critical mistake:

In my seventeen years of preparing, teaching, and coaching presentations and public speeches ranging from client sales pitches to campaign kick-offs and State of the Union addresses, I have seen more speeches fail from lack of rehearsal than any other single problem.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Four Ways to Give Your Presentation Away

A successful presentation is one in which audience members are changed by what we say or take action because of it. If audience members go away disinterested or unmoved, we still own the presentation. Don’t allow this to happen. Design your speech to be given away.

Here are four techniques you can use to hand ownership over to your audience:

Use a Matching Model

Speakers often unwittingly prepare from their own vantage point, without thinking of the audience’s different point of view.

For example, a speaker who has managed a technical project for a year is prone to begin chronologically—with more background than the audience wants or needs. Audience members prefer to start with project outcomes or benefits. If they must suffer through tedious background, audience members become bored and tune out. At the end of the day, the presentation still belongs to the project manager. She failed to give it away.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

A Good Speech Doesnt Stop on a Dime

Have you seen the movie, The Manchurian Candidate? If so, what did you think of the ending? Sitting in the theater as this film came to its close, I felt my jaw drop open. Beside me, my husband shook his head in disbelief, “Is that all?” The movie had ended abruptly. The hero (Denzel Washington) stood gazing blankly over the ocean, his feelings and his future unresolved. There we were, still on the edge of our seats, and the movie was over. It had stopped on a dime.

Shuffling out of the theater, I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. A thoroughly suspenseful movie had left me hanging at the end. Testing out a theory, I asked my husband about his feelings, “Do you feel angry?” “Yes,” he answered, “I do.” I realized that I felt angry too.

What holds true in a movie holds true in a presentation. An audience expects an ending.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Facing an Audience? Perform a Background Check On Yourself!

An accomplished medical researcher told me about a presentation she had recently made. “I gave too much background and had to rush when explaining the clinical implications.” “Who was the audience?” I asked. The answer: “A group of clinicians.”

It’s natural for a researcher, project manager, or technical specialist to structure a presentation chronologically. It’s natural to expect the background information to lend weight to the finale—the conclusion or recommendation. It’s natural, that is, if you’re thinking from a speaker’s perspective.

From an audience’s perspective, this “natural” approach can be boring and unproductive. Chances are you’ve had the experience—as an audience member—of feeling your eyes glaze over when a presenter droned on about background or technical details that seemed irrelevant to you.

The audience comes for the finale. They are interested in background details only to the point that the details clarify or support the recommendation or results. Provide a taste of the finale at the start, even give the punch line, and you grab the audience’s attention and provide a framework to put the details that follow into perspective.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Use a Seven-Second Rule for Presentations

On television, images change approximately every 7 seconds. Yet, in organizational settings and conference presentations, we expect audience members to watch the stationery body of a presenter, speaking from behind a podium, for long periods of time. What an incredible disconnect!

To be effective as a speaker, you have to recognize that our culture is increasing fast-paced and increasingly visual. Here are some tips to build changes into your next presentation:

  • Give up the podium. It’s okay to use the podium as a home base. Just don’t plant yourself there! Plan times to move. For example, move away from the podium when you make a key point, or when you ask for audience participation.
  • Add vocal and visual changes. Tell a story to illustrate a point. Use photographs and dramatic graphs in your PointPoint. Raise the volume of your voice to emphasize a point. Try a stage whisper to draw the audience into a little-known fact.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Skip the Apology: Retain Your Credibility

An accomplished physician and researcher from Puerto Rico was presenting at a conference of her peers in the United States.  “First,” the doctor began, “I want to apologize for my English.”

Sitting in the audience, I wanted to rewind the tape and skip the apology.  Like other speech coaches, I advise against apologizing in a speech—especially during the introduction.

A primary goal of an introduction is to establish the speaker’s credibility.  To begin with an apology is to begin by undermining your own credibility.  Not only did the doctor’s apology expose a lack of confidence, it diverted attention from her expertise.  The apology was entirely unnecessary—the doctor’s skills as a clinician and a researcher had earned her the right to present.

It is appropriate to acknowledge an obvious difference that might distract audience members from your content, something like a heavy accent or the presence of a wheelchair.  The doctor might have begun, “I’ve come from Puerto Rico to report significant findings from my research. 

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Think Twice about that Thank You

According to Granville Toogood, author of The Articulate Executive, most people decide within 8 seconds if you, as a speaker, are worth listening to. We can quibble about the exact number of seconds the average person takes to make such a decision, but experts agree that you get precious few seconds to make a good impression.

You know from experience, of course, that most speeches begin with predictable phrases, like “It’s an honor to speak to you today….” or “How about that sports team?” or “Thank you for the opportunity….” No one faults a speaker for saying “thank you,” and no one leaves a presentation because the speaker is polite. Even so, predictable openings waste some of the most important seconds of a speech.

Most people feel uncomfortable about skipping the “thank you” at the beginning of a speech. We are so used to the amenities that it seems unnatural or impolite to eliminate them.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Plan Question and Answer (Q&A) as an Integral Part of Your Presentation

Many competent speakers dread the question and answer session (Q&A) following a presentation. The Q&A Session—usually a required element in a formal presentation—does leave the speaker vulnerable to contradiction or attack. At the same time, Q&A provides a perfect opportunity to strengthen a connection with audience members and to reinforce your main points. Here are some tips to help you stay cool and in control during Q&A.

Think of the Q&A Process as a Segment of the Speech

One secret to an effective Q&A session is realizing that Q&A is not something that happens after the presentation. The speech isn’t over with the last PowerPoint slide or your concluding remarks. The speech ends when the speaker walks away from the stage and audience members leave the room.

Plan your Q&A session as an integral part of the presentation itself. For the purposes of this article, let’s think of Q&A as the last 15 minutes of a 60-minute speech.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Keep Your Audience Engaged: Add Variety to Your Presentation

It has happened to you. You have sat in an audience, listening to a monotone presentation, after lunch, with a bloated stomach. This is an experience to be endured rather than enjoyed, even if you are interested in the speaker and the topic.

Our culture dictates that we must politely sit through boring presentations. It doesn’t dictate that we have to generate such presentations. Try these tips to make sure you are NOT the one subjecting others to a boring experience.

Put Limits on the Best You Have to Offer

Speech coach Ron Arden says, “Sameness is the enemy of the speaker.” To understand this truth is to revolutionize the way you present. I’m learning to look for “sameness” in my presentations at the points where I least expect it.

For example, we all know that the monotone of an inexperienced speaker is an enemy. We may not realize that the strengths of a good speaker can become an enemy too.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.