It was the most important presentation of her life. Not just of HER life. Of the lives of every single one of the people who worked for her, too. After all, their jobs at her company were how they put food on the table to feed their children. But they weren't going to...
Don’t feed the monster
Don't feed the monster. Kill it. You don't need prettier slides. You don't need fancy animations or most of the bells and whistles that are built into PowerPoint. You probably don't need to spend hours and hours preparing, if you're already an expert on the subject....
You don’t need more noise
Slides are noise. There are 30 million new slides made every day. No one wakes up in the morning and says, "You know what I need more of in my life? PowerPoint slides." What the world needs more of is the ability to take a one-hour idea and crush it down into 3 or 4...
Tech spend and second marriages
They say that 60% of tech projects fail or underperform. (That number varies, but it's usually north of 50.) Which means tech spend is, like a second marriage, the triumph of hope over experience. Your budget committee presentation is going to be mostly numbers, team...
A lot of public speaking coaching is directed at speaking to large groups. You know the images: A speaker, holding a microphone, standing in front of hundreds of people, usually on a stage or something like that. But most big decisions are not made by hundreds of...
What does ChatGPT mean for my presentations?
The short answer: Nothing. If you're a CTO, ChatGPT and AI are helping your coders a lot. They probably save them boatloads of time. They might even be helping clean up their code or even write blocks of code that would be a waste of time for a human. But when you're...
Make your headlines tell your message
Make sure that if someone reads only the headlines of your slides, and nothing else, they will still get your message. For example: Slide 1 headline: Sales are up Slide 2 headline: But average pick lines per order are too Slide 3 headline: So to protect profitability,...
Was Don Draper cool or not?
Elsewhere, I've held up Angus Young, admiring him for his complete lack of detachment. Today, I hold up the opposite, a King of Cool, Mad Men's Don Draper. When you need to be cool and collected in a hot environment, channel your inner Don Draper. But now that I think...
Let your freak flag fly
Look at that guy. He's sweating, he's drooling, he's desperately sucking oxygen through a tube. He's the uncoolest guy that ever existed. And yet… There are tens of thousands of fans calling his name, straining to touch him, like he is a god. You don't need to be...
Key flagging phrases
Flagging is a way for you to call attention to the main point of your message. There are some key words and phrases that wake people up and tell them to listen carefully. Here are some of them: If you take just one thing away from this, it should be... The most...
Kill your darlings
Before all the other important stuff you might want to know about presenting, the single most important step is a brutal one: “Kill your darlings.” This phrase, often attributed to author William Faulkner, means get rid of the things that mean a lot to you, but that...
It’s not that faces are good or bad
It’s not that faces are good or bad, it’s just that they’re very distracting. One thing that we see often in almost every corporate presentation is there’s an introduction of the company. In that introduction, there will usually be a couple of slides with pictures of...
Yes, X, but the bigger picture is Y
When you want to persuade somebody to choose your argument over another, one of the things that you can do is tie your argument to a bigger picture. For example, we had a client recently who worked for a European bank, and there was an internal debate within the bank...
Fielding challenges from an angry audience member
Sometimes when an emotionally-stated challenge comes from an audience member, as much as 50% of the emotion behind the challenge might be the audience member feeling unheard. They don’t feel like their opinion is understood or being listened to, even if you think it...
“Stories are good” is not actionable advice
"Stories are good, you should use them more often. And it's important to put yourself in your stories." That’s good advice. But these days a lot of people pass out advice like that, and then you ask them to explain themselves, and they tell you stuff like, "It makes...
Don’t bury the lede
When you list things, put the most important thing first. Don't save the best for last: --Most important thing--Second most important thing--Third most important thing--Fourth most important thing Someone in your audience might get called away, your boss in the back...
The “political changes” question in emerging markets
A question that often comes up in investor conference calls, especially with emerging markets companies, is "How are political or regulatory changes affecting the business environment?” The way your company chooses to answer this question is a stylistic difference....
They don’t know nearly as much as you think they do
Our clients often think that when audience members are high up in the industry or in the company, they already know everything. This is completely wrong. Yes, they are experts in something you are not. But you are an expert in something that they are not. That’s why...
Get to work
Steven Pressfield, the author of The War Of Art, one of my favorite books, once said: “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.” Since you’re a professional, you know what...
The most effective presentations are not presentations at all
The most effective presentations aren't presentations at all. They are conversations, and you probably already have all the skills you need, they just need to be unlocked. Let's say the Big Boss from Headquarters is coming to your regional office for a full day of all...
Wherever you look…
Wherever you look, your audience is probably going to look there too. This is a human trait. You're not going to get around it. There's no amount of presentation training that is going to help you overcome it. If your audience sees you looking at your slides, they...
The CEO on the conference call: Stick to your style
Every CEO has a different style when it comes to handling investor conference calls (for example, an annual earnings report). The styles lie on a spectrum. On the one end, you've got a Jamie Dimon style, which is where the CEO will just say two or three sentences...
“Can you do an unplanned talk for 10 minutes?”
The other day a reader said, "My boss asked me if I could do an unplanned talk for 10 minutes. What do I say, how can I organize my thoughts?" Here's what we suggested... Two things humans almost always find fascinating: 1. Change or movement (think of early humans...
Cultivating audience participation
When the speechwriting is almost done, it’s time to move on to the delivery training. Why do we say “almost done”? Because we need to make sure the speech we’ve written is going to work in real life, and we can’t start to gauge that until we start the training. Does...
How to ask difficult questions?
A reader asks, “How can I ask difficult questions?” You know the kind of questions, the ones where you wonder beforehand if you dare ask them, the ones where you stop first and think things like is that question too forward, or too bold, or is it too early in the...
Swim in my ocean, or splash in my puddle
Before they realize there is huge power in deep preparation, some of our clients at first resist the idea of practicing a lot. They think practicing a lot is going to kill the spontaneity in their speech. What they haven't realized yet is that you will never give the...
Stories happen in the listeners’ heads
There’s a story about Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway is in a bar with a bunch of other writers. They make a little bet with each other. They say, “How many […]
The moral of the story
Here we dive deeper into one of the five elements of story structure. This one is perhaps your speech's most important element, but it's usually the most difficult element to communicate clearly... Notes: HGOMM (5 points of story structure) Jesse Jackson speech...
The fastest way to say more
Go slow and speak less. Yes, I know it's counterintuitive. I can barely believe it myself, even though I see it happen almost every day. Here's an example: These days I'm helping a client prepare for a speech at a major committee meeting. It's an important meeting,...
Reader question: example of a marketing story
One of our readers had an excellent question about HGOMM... (HGOMM: the five elements of a marketing story, outlined here: https://recipientlabs.com/hgomm/) His question: Can you send an example of a short marketing story with these 5 components? Yes, of course. An...
Feel sense describe about numbers
One of our readers had a very good question. She watched the Feel Sense Describe video, and asked, "That's nice, but how do I do that when I'm talking about numbers?" Good question. Here's a voice response with two suggestions: By the way, we love to get followup...
More on stories happening in the listeners’ heads
In another blog post, we mentioned that stories happen in the listeners' heads. In presenting, do not underestimate the power of this dynamic. It is a special talent pretty unique to humans. It allows us to organize into groups of millions (nations), or even billions...
Work the crowd
Three tips for working a conversational style into your presentation: 1. In the first 30 seconds of your presentation, ask a couple audience members a simple yes or no question related to your topic (If you are speaking about nutrition: “Murat, did you eat breakfast...
The Curse of Knowledge
Actually, attention spans are not shrinking…
At about minute 34:45 in this speech... ...Kevin Spacey makes a very good point: Many people complain about their audience’s shrinking attention span, and yet people still find 12 hours to binge-watch a TV show. So instead of trying to trim things until you can meet...
Start with a joke. But how?
You don't always need to start with a joke. After all, you are probably not a professional comedian, and no one expects you to be. And starting a speech with an irrelevant joke, no matter how funny it is, like "Two men and a dog walk into a bar..." is almost...
Boy meets girl
American author Kurt Vonnegut diagrams some basic, but very classic, story structures... Believe it or not, the structures he outlines here even work for speeches about corporate debt and global financial crises.
When you use video in a presentation
Videos can make an excellent addition to your presentation. Most of the time they work, but every once in a while they don't, and then you're left there on the stage feeling embarrassed and saying something lame like "Hey, there's supposed to be a video here, but I...
You’re going too fast!
A common issue we see is people speaking too fast, trying to cram too much content into too little time. Fortunately, there’s a very natural way around this. It’s something we’ve been practicing our entire lives, and we do it so naturally we don’t even realize we are...
Check out this short list to learn more about the simplest explanations of the components of a story.
Game tape: Guy Kawasaki, TEDxBerkeley
Guy Kawasaki speaks at TEDxBerkeley, about the 10 points of innovation… Notes: Local references: In this speech, he makes a lot of references to local universities [Stanford, Cal (local nickname […]
Do the Flesch-Kincaid
As a speaker, there are a couple numbers you should know. One is your average WPM — how many words do you speak per minute (the average human speaks about […]
Sidestepping the bomb
Here’s a tip for those times when you’re speaking to a potentially hostile audience, or coming dangerously close to a hot, explosive topic: In your opening sentences, remind the audience […]
When you can’t avoid the avalanche
Yes, you compete with your slides for the audience’s attention. When the audience is looking at your slides, they aren’t listening to you. So we preach, over and over, keep […]
The Sullivan Nod
Here’s a body language tip: It’s called the Sullivan Nod. When you are talking to an audience, and you are listing three or four or five options, smile and nod […]
Review of a Jesse Jackson speech
In this speech Jesse Jackson, campaigning for US President in 1984, speaks at a church. There are two things I would like to point out in this speech, and they […]
Reduce your ahh count
For you, as a listener, what’s easier to understand? “I… went… to… the… store…” …or… “Uhhh, I, uhhh… went, uhhh… to, uhhh… the, uhhh… store, uhhh.”? Which one was easier […]
Stick to the delta
When you’re organizing your presentation, the Rule of Three is a good place to start. For example: We’re going to do A. We’re going to do B. We’re going to […]
What should I do with my hands?
When you’re on stage, what do you do with your hands? It’s one of the most common questions we get. Personally, I suspect you already know what to do with […]
Chat with a couple audience members
Before your speech, meet some of the members of your audience. Talk to them, get to know them a little. It’ll make you a lot less nervous when you’re speaking, […]
Have a friend video you while you’re speaking. And yes, watch it! I’ve never met a person who liked to watch himself speaking. Not once. But there’s something magic about […]
Practice 25 times
When professional actors prepare for a role, they usually rehearse for hours, or days or weeks, learning how to make a particular facial tick appear at just the right time. […]
The first three questions
Doing the Bob Dole
To change the world
President John F. Kennedy once said, “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” When I first heard that quote, I thought, “Wow, that’s a high […]
And then we did this, and it was cool
Recently I was watching a TEDx speech video with a client of mine. The speaker was a designer with a doctorate from MIT, talking about research he’s doing into innovative […]
Don’t stare at people
People are like dogs. If you stare at one long enough, he’ll attack. When you are giving a presentation, if an audience member gets aggressive and starts challenging you, resist […]
The famous 70%
The other day, a few of a client’s employees went to a presentation skills training. The trainer told them 70% of presentation is body language, voice tone, etc. My client […]
Like saying, “If the sex is bad…”
There are many ways to start a speech. One of them is outlining what you're going to talk about. Watch how Guy Kawasaki does it in the first 90 seconds of his speech... He tells us that he's going to cover 10 points, and that telling your audience you're going to...
Reader question: Is it possible to be a good speaker without perfect language
Put politics aside for a second. Listen to the patterns in this guy's speech, there are a couple things I would like to point out... Below is an anonymized version of the email that points those things out... Hi XXX, I agree completely, you don't need perfect language...
I feel camera-shy
One of our clients asked what he called a “million-dollar question”… He asked, “I feel very shy in front of a camera. How can I improve? Any tips?” Here was my response: “Here's what I do, try this... “Humans naturally relax and light up when they talk to other humans...
What do you want your audience to do?
Transcript: Rule number two. Something to remember before you even start outlining your speech. Rule number two or question number two is what do you want your audience to do […]
Eye contact is good, but not always
As presentation trainers we tell our clients over and over, “More eye contact, more eye contact.” But sometimes you’ve got other stuff to do, and it’s okay to look away. […]
No soggy noodles
The other day I was working with a client on her PowerPoint slides. We looked at the first slide, then the second slide, then the third slide. She asked me […]
Spill your blood onto the floor
There’s a scene I love from the movie Cadillac Records. Beyonce plays Etta James, and she is in the studio recording the famous tune “All I Could Do Is Cry.” […]
You’ll probably never not be nervous
People make a big deal out of being afraid of public speaking. When somebody tells me that they’re afraid of public speaking, I just want to tell them, “You know, […]
Talk to the wall
Transcript: Talk to the wall. What does that mean? Sometimes when you’re doing a speech, before you’re even writing the speech, when you’re just at the very beginning and you’re […]
Feel, sense, describe – don’t just tell!
Transcript: When you’re practicing and when you’re standing right there on stage, imagine the stuff that you’re talking about. Visualize the things you’re talking about, see them. When you’re talking […]
Put some Tuba in it!
Transcript: This one is called, “Put Some Tuba in It.” When you’re mentoring somebody, I recommend that you tell your mentee to put some of them into their speeches. If […]
Talk to the dog
The other day, I was helping a client with a presentation. He was an engineer for a solar power company, and he was going to introduce his company to some […]