Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Mixed Signals from Your Audience

In Presentation Tips on February 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm

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Dude Falls Asleep During Kelly's Rehearsal

This is our dog Dude.  He’s a six-month-old Humane Society rescue – part yellow lab, part golden retriever, and maybe a little something else that accounts for the freckles on his nose.  One thing Dude and I have in common is we’re both light sleepers.  He can be snoozing on the other side of the room, but when he hears me stand up, he opens his eyes and lifts his head.

A few weeks ago, I was practicing a speech in my office.  I was standing up, speaking the words aloud, and clicking through my slides.  At first, Dude thought it must be time to play.  He brought me one of his squeaky toys and pressed it against my leg.  I politely explained that it wasn’t playtime, it was time for mommy to practice.  (OK, I actually said, “No, Dude!” and I wasn’t that polite.)  After a few minutes of standing there, waiting to see if I’d change my mind, Dude climbed up on one of the sofas and fell asleep.  Mr. Light Sleeper Dog fell asleep during my speech.  Not exactly the morale booster I’d hoped for!   I snapped this picture after I was done practicing.  He woke up to have his picture taken.

Maybe Dude was bored with my speech or punishing me for not playing fetch with his squeaky toy.  Luckily for us, our audiences usually don’t curl up in their seat and start sleeping during a presentation.  But can we read their body language and learn what they’re thinking?

Read Your Audience

One of the most important things that a presenter can do in the midst of a presentation is to read the audience.  Any experienced presenter will tell you he watches for cues in the body language of his audience to let him know if his content is connecting or not.  Lots of yawning and glazed over looks, the audience isn’t connected.  Lots of smiles and nodding heads, he’s on the right path.  The presenter can keep going or adjust based on the signals he receives. But what if the body language is sending mixed signals?

Mixed Signals on Smart Phones

A few years ago, I coined the term the N & N Response when it came to audiences.  I figured if the Nodding their heads and taking Notes, then they’re tapped into my message.  But with smart phones, laptops and tablets in the laps of audience members, we can’t always tell if our message is connecting or if the audience members are just seeking something else to do with their time while stuck in our presentation.  What’s a presenter to do?

Don’t Assume the Worst

Imagine yourself delivering a presentation.  You’ve researched your audience.  You’re talking about a subject that is relevant to them.  You’re using stories and you can tell you’re connecting with the audience.  And then you spot her.

She’s off to your right.  Her arms are crossed.  Her face scrunched in a scowl.  Everyone else seems to be tuned in but she seems — what… angry? … offended? … bored?  You keep giving it your all but you find it distracting that one person is clearly not engaged with your presentations.  It’s human nature to obsess over the one wrong thing.  Even though that one person doesn’t seem connected, you really don’t know what’s going on in her head.

Every professional speaker I know has had the same experience described above – AND – had at least one person who they thought was hating their speech come up to them afterwards and say how good the speech was, how great the content was, how meaningful and helpful the information was.  That’s not to say at every arms-folded audience member has complemented the speaker.  But we’ve all had one person who we totally misread their level of involvement in the presentation.

The same can be true of your wireless-devise-using audience members.  I’ve gotten so that I take notes via Twitter and I know others who are doing the same thing.  In fact, if you don’t see me tweeting during a presentation, it’s probably because I’m not finding anything interesting enough to tweet about.

Consider this.

If your audience member that you thought was taking notes was actually making a list of items he needed to pick up at the store on the way home, you wouldn’t know it, but would blissfully go along thinking that he was hanging on your every word.  Don’t assume that just because their eyes aren’t glued to you that the audience members aren’t engaged.  Just like with the woman with the folded arms being misread, you could be misreading the person on her smart phone.  And you might be pleasantly surprised about what she tweets!

What do you think?

Do you agree?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!  Dude & I thank you!


Get a Second Opinion

In Presentation Tips on February 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm

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A Little Help Here

Call me stubborn… though I prefer the term independent… but I like to do things for myself.  I don’t want to depend on anyone else for anything.  I hate to ask for help which of course is ridiculous!  Even the Beatles know we all need a little help from our friends.  I’m still learning that lesson.


I took Jeff Justice’s Comedy Workshoppe – a class that takes people with varying levels of comedic talent and teaches them how to write and deliver stand up comedy.  Jeff taught us how the tools but also encouraged us to write together.  Out of character for me, this time, I took the advice to get help from others.

One woman in particular gave the pivotal idea which was the foundation of my routine.  Gianna Messina is the most amazing, undiscovered modern comedic writer of our time!  She could be the next Tina Fey – heck, some day Tina Fey could be working for Gianna!  She helped me marry the idea of management with being a kid.  I’m not comic genius, but I think my final routine turned out pretty good – you be the judge…


Kelly Vandever at the Punchline Comedy Club Atlanta, Georgia

Great Presenters Ask for Help

Regardless of how good you are as a presenter, you can always get better if you ask for a little help from your friends.  Yes, you should record and watch yourself.  But there’s no substitute for an honest friend who can give you feedback – and better yet, make suggestions for improvement.

Practice in a Toastmasters Club Near You

Believe it or not, a Toastmasters club is a great place to try out new material.  While the level of feedback at any particular Toastmasters club may vary, getting any kind of feedback is better than no feedback at all.  Try different Toastmasters club and see which provides you and other speakers with the best feedback.  Watch how the audience reacts to your speech.  Are they laughing when you thought they’d laugh? Do they seem bored?  Engaged?  Confused?  Entertained?  Even if the formal feedback you receive is not as helpful as you may have liked, seeing how an audience responds can be extremely helpful.  Of course you have to join a club to give speeches.  But small amount you pay in dues will more than pay for itself as you have the opportunity to try your material on a friendly audience… before you take it out into the business world.

Ask for What You Want from Your Practice Audience

If there are particular parts of your presentation you want feedback on, ask for it!  Worried that you may be confusing the audience with a part of your charts and graphs?  Ask for feedback on your charts and graphs.  Worried that you’re sending the wrong message with your story?  Ask your practice audience what message they got from the story.

Keep Learning

If you’ve read my Twitter for Presenters series, you know I love the idea of reviewing what people tweeted about your presentation as a way of looking into the minds of your audience.  As you get feedback from practice audiences and real audiences, open yourself to up to the continuing learning.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are you doing to get feedback for your presentations?  Are there any special questions you ask of your practice audience?  Do you get feedback from your formal audiences?  What questions do you ask?  Share with us here so we can all learn!


Presentation Skills Are Overrated

In Presentation Tips on February 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

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Twitter - Kelly Vandever's Note Taking Tool of Choice

CAUTION:  Kelly Vandever Tweets at Conferences!

If you follow me on Twitter @KellyVandever, you may notice that on some days, I tweet a lot.  Invariably the reason is, I’m at a conference or professional association meeting.  As it happens, Twitter has become my note taking method of choice.  As I listen to the presenter and hear things that catch my attention, I tweet out a message to capture the idea, attach the conference hashtag (or make one up if they don’t have one) and include the Twitter handle for the presenter (if he or she has one).  It’s become a great way to electronically capture the great ideas and give a shout out to the person and organization that help me gain them.

#NSAUN – The Hashtag for the

National Speakers Association UnConference

On February 19th, I attended an event sponsored by the National Speakers Association called the UnConference.  I tweeted this during one of the breakout sessions:

@nametagscott – most underrated piece of advice is that presentation skills are overrated – I actually agree, ask me why! :0)

@NameTagScott is the Twitter handle for a speaker by the name of Scott Ginsberg.  His session was great!  Scott is an expert on approachability.  I tweeted several sound bites from Scott’s talk.  After the session ended one of my friends, who was in the same audience, came up to me and said, “Did you hear what Scott said.  Presentation skills are overrated.  I guess you’re out of a job.”  I told him not only did I agree with Scott, I’d tweeted about it.

Why I Agreed

Here’s what I meant by agreeing with Scott’s statement.

I think most presenters, professional speakers or not, obsess more over the mechanics of their presentation – the gestures, the ums and ahs, the PowerPoint slides – and their own nervousness when they should be focused on content and their audience’s needs.

Think about it.  Have you ever been in a meeting where the presenter’s delivery (the use of their voice and body language) was only so-so… and she seemed a little nervous… but you got so much out of what she was saying that you took tons of notes?  All of us have.


Audience & Content Matters Most

What’s most important to an audience is to receive valuable content in a manner that we can follow and understand.  Sure we may enjoy the presentation better if the speaker is engaging and uses his body and voice in a way that enhances his message.  But if a speaker spends the time to learn about their audience and focuses on delivering information that is relevant and meaningful to the audience, the audience is willing to forgive weak delivery and nervousness.  However, if a speaker wastes the audience’s time, even if the speaker has great style, the audience will not be so forgiving and will likely resent the speaker.

I’m Not Worried about My Job

Most presenters, particularly business presenters, learn how to do presentations by watching other presenters.  And that maybe fine for most business presentations.  My clients hire me because they need to influence a decision and they know their current presentation is boring.  And if boring weren’t bad enough, they’re not getting the results they need for their business.

I still have a job, because most business presenters don’t know how to break out of the comfort of doing presentations the way everyone else does.  I show them practical ways to speak so that their audience will not only understand… they’ll actually like the speaker better too.

What Do You Think?

Now, I don’t know if that’s what Scott Ginsberg meant when he said he thought presentation skills are overrated.  But that is why I tweeted that I agree.

How about you?  Do you agree or disagree?  Let us know below!





Meet Them Where They Are

In Presentation Tips on February 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

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Meet Your Audience Where They Are

I attended a recent ASTD Atlanta chapter meeting where representatives from Turner organization talked about how they rolled out a comprehensive Talent Management System.  (For those unfamiliar with HR jargon, that’s how corporate America now refers to everything human resource related in an organization – performance reviews, compensation, succession planning, training, etc.)   Turner underwent a massive overhaul of their systems.  It was very impressive to hear how they managed the process.  In the lessons learned review, one of the key factors that they felt lead to their success was that they always kept their audience – the employees of their many companies – in mind when they were planning and rolling out their enormous overhaul.  They knew how their employees like to consume information.  And rather than saying, “Well, they’ll just have to adjust to a new way,” Turner leaders said, “Hey, we know how our employees act.  Let’s adjust our plans to what’s going to work best for them so that they’ll adopt these new systems.”

How often in communications do we think, “How can I modify this message so that they can hear the information in a way that makes sense to them?”  It’s natural to default to our own perspective.  In one-on-one conversations, we get feedback and can adjust our message.  But when it comes to a presentation, we’re so much better off if we really know the audience and how they want to consume the information.  One critical way to be the most effective with an audience is to interview potential attendees as you prepare your presentation.

What to Expect When You Ask to Interview Prospective Audience Members

If you’re new to the idea of interviewing potential audience members, here’s what you can expect.

No One Has Ever Asked Me to Do that Before

When I begin working with a meeting organizer, I ask for the names and contact information of some of their people who will be attending the event.  The most common thing I hear is, “Oh.  Um?  OK.  No one has ever done that before.”  Even though I know the interview process will make my presentation more meaningful for their audience, I still get a little self-conscience when I get that response.  So brace yourself for it.  Trust the process and ask for the names and contact information.  With all the clients I’ve done this process, I inevitably find out key information that makes a significant difference in how I address the issues of the audience.

Spam Alert

One professional association I worked with told me that the last time a speaker asked for names and contact information, she put the people on her email list and started spamming them.  In that case, I assured the meeting organizer that I would only be contacting the individuals so that I could customize the presentation to make it relevant to her audience.  She reluctantly agreed and of course, I kept my word.  She was extremely pleased with the presentation I gave to the group.  And now, whenever I see her at networking events, she always makes a point to say hello and she’s always wearing a big grin when she does it.

I learned from that experience so that when I’m working with a new client, I preempt the question by letting the meeting organizer know right up front that I promise not to use the information for any other purposes – in other words, I promise not to spam them!  I also ask the organizer to give the individuals a “heads up” to let them know I’ll be contacting them.  That way, they also don’t think I’m spamming them when I actually call!

You Won’t Reach Everyone on the List

Don’t stress out if you aren’t able to speak to all the people whose names you receive.  In an earlier post, I talked about the fact that while I request 10 names, I usually only talk to 5 – 7 people.  People are busy.  They have higher priorities that talking to you or me.  Don’t be offended.  Just go into it knowing that you won’t reach everyone.  Believe it or not, you can find out a great deal from talking to as few as 4 people.

Expect to Find the Unexpected

Meeting organizers and managers, no matter how well intentioned, will often leave out important information that is relevant to your presentation.  But here’s the cool thing.  Because someone from their organization told them to expect your call, you’ll be amazed at how candid perspective audience members will be when you talk with them.  You need to have a good set of questions (see this post for some suggestions), listen very carefully, ask clarifying questions (such as what do you mean by XYZ – it’s usually not what you think of by XYZ) and then listen very carefully again.  People love to talk about themselves and their work.  You will be astounded and grateful for what you learn!

The Payoff When You Meet People Where They Are

Like the good people at Turner, you will find the rewards for meeting people where they are well worth the extra time and effort you spend in your research.  If you’re speaking because your message matters, it’s important to do your homework so that you can help your audience.  Meeting people where they are will demonstrate very clearly why, with presentations, it’s not about perfections…it’s about connections.  See how well you connect when you meet people where they are!

What’s Your Story?

Have you done your homework and been astounded by what your perspective audience told you?  Tell us about it in the comments below!




Improve Your Presentation – Be Sincere

In Presentation Tips on February 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

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Don't Leave Your Audience Up in the Air - Be Sincere

If you haven’t seen the movie Up in the Air with George Clooney, there is one part of the film that they didn’t mention in the blurb describing the movie on Netflix.  In addition to firing people for a living, George Clooney’s character is also a “motivational speaker,” though his audiences didn’t seem highly motivated when the camera flashed to show them.  One reason he might not have been a good motivational speaker is that he didn’t believe in his message.

3 Things the Most Effective Speaker Do

I’ve often said the three things that make speakers effective is (1) they have great content – the information they deliver is meaningful and relevant to the audience (2) they have great delivery – they use their body and voice in ways that enhance their message and (3) they’re sincere – as you listen to them you know that they really believe in their message.  Sincerity is what George Clooney’s character was missing in the film.  He spoke about the importance of the people in our lives while he himself had purposefully kept himself isolated from others.  His message was incongruent with the life he was living.  The character wasn’t being sincere.

OK, so this was just a movie.  And George Clooney was only acting.  But have you ever seen a speaker who didn’t seem to be buying what he was selling?  Have you ever looked at a presenter and thought, “She should take her own advice”?   Has that speaker ever been you?

One of the reasons people get nervous about speaking in front of a group is the idea that people are judging them.  And while I truly believe audiences want us to succeed, I also know that audiences are judging us when we speak.  So one way to make sure that we’re being effective is to be sincere with our message.

Be Yourself

Many sales organizations have a standard script that they require their sales staff to use in their sales process.  I get that.  Having a script makes the sales process more predictable than haphazard, off-the-cuff, sales pitches.  But unless you as the sales person can make that script “your own,” you won’t have the success that you could.  If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, that shows through to your prospect and audience.

When you are delivery a presentation, be your best self.  If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, DON’T SAY IT.  Either find another way to talk about the subject that you do believe or start looking for another job.  You’re not doing yourself or your employer any favors by being insincere in representing your organization.

Don’t Let Your Nerves Rob You of Your Sincerity

There are many reasons that some presenters come off as insincere, even when they do believe the words they are saying.  Most of those reasons for the incongruence stem from the nervousness that comes from speaking in front of a group.  Here are some reasons and some tips to overcoming them.

Words and Body Language Doesn’t Match

If this woman below said to you, “I’m so excited to be hear.  I’ve looked forward to this day for weeks,” would you believe her?  Why?  Because her facial expression doesn’t match the words that she’s saying.

Do Your Eyes Believe What Her Words Are Saying?

Of the five senses, sight is the sense we believe most.  When a speaker says one thing but either her facial expression, her vocal expression or her body language seem to be saying something else, the audience members are left trying to reconcile what they’re seeing with what they’re hearing.  And because we tend to trust our eyes more, audiences will on some level doubt the speaker’s sincerity.

Ensure Your Words and Your Delivery Match

Practice and record yourself on audio and video.  What do you see?  Are your expressions and your voice matching the words you speak?  Ask others to watch you present and ask them to give you the truth as to whether or not you are coming across in a way that is consistent with your message.  Don’t kid yourself.  If you’re not believing your message find a way in which you can, or move on.

Worrying about How You Are Being Judged

It’s natural to worry about how people are judging you when you speak.  Believe me, I know what it is to obsess over what people think about you!  But when you worry about what people are thinking about you when it comes to speaking, then it’s about you, and not about them – the audience.   The most effective presenters focus on their audience.

It’s All about Them (the Audience)

If you are selling a product that you sincerely believe will help the client’s condition, then focus on that message.  Talk about the things they care about and that are relevant to them.  Instead of obsessing over what they’re thinking about you, obsess over how you help that audience address their needs.   Make it about them.


Using Your “Speaker” Voice

Maybe we all love the guy who does the voice over for film trailers… “In a world where there can only be one winner…” (read that line in your deepest, most serious radio voice).  But no matter how much we might want a cool voice like that, no matter how much we might laugh at ourselves trying to imitate a voice like that, we’re not that guy.  (At least I don’t think that guy reads this blog.)  Putting on a pretentious “speaker” voice because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do, isn’t fooling anyone.  It actually comes across loud and clear as insincere.

Be Conversational

Instead of trying to be something you’re not, try to imagine the presentation as a conversation.  Speak as you would in your living room.  Yes, you should be more prepared.  Yes, you may need to speak louder to be heard and use bigger gestures to be seen.  But still, think of it as having a conversation with the people in the room.  If you are yourself in the presentation, if you match the person they see when you’re not in the front of the room, the audience will be more trusting of you message

Be Sincere

It can be nerve racking giving a presentation.  Focus on your audience.  Focus on what you believe. And you won’t leave your message up in the air.

Please say a prayer for the people of New Zealand – especially our friends Olivia Mitchell, Murray & Virginia Mann, and all their friends and families.

Improve Your Presentation by Giving Specific, Personal Examples

In Presentation Tips on February 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

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Give a Specific Example

I spent this past weekend with my friends at the National Speakers Association’s winter workshop.   On Saturday night over dinner another colleague and I were talking to our friend Wendy Kinney (   For those of you who don’t know Wendy, she is a very wise woman.  Wendy was trying to explain a concept to us and it was clear that neither I nor the colleague were understanding Wendy’s point so we asked for an example.  Wendy gave us a generic example, and we still just weren’t getting it.  Since we both understood Wendy’s business, we asked her to tell us how she says it for her business.   Finally, after she was very specific with an example from her business, we got it.

The Power of Examples

There’s something about the human brain that we intuitively understand.  When we’re being taught a new concept, it helps if we can relate the new information to what we already know.  I’ll never forget the example one of my colleagues shared from my days in software development.

I was still new in the software development world and one of our clients was asking the question, “Why does it took so long to develop the software when that’s all you do?  Why it wasn’t like an assembly line for cars?”  Tim, one of the brilliant guys I worked with, asked me to imagine that I was given the opportunity to build a new car from scratch.  (This example seemed to work since our software was highly customized for the client.)  He said imagine having to design all the different parts.  What do you know you need?  Four wheels, doors, steering wheel, etc.  Then imagine we’ve got it all together for you and you realize, “Oh yeah, backup lights would be helpful.”  Imagine us having to pull apart the chassis to put in the wiring and systems for the backup lights.  That’s what it’s like in software development.  You’ll often get all the components together, then the client will say, “Oh, yeah, I guess it would be helpful if we do this” and the “this” is as important as backup lights to a car– you have to have them.  Well, metaphorically speaking, the chassis of the code has to be pulled apart so the new pieces can be put in.

While I’ve never build a car, I certainly know enough about the pieces and complexity of a car that Tim’s example made sense.  When we speak and we’re talking about concept that’s new to our audience, it’s very helpful to ask ourselves, “What’s this like?”  If we can find an example from real life or an analogy such as Tim’s, we can help our audience understand the new concept by relating it to something they already understand.

When Generic Examples Don’t Work

That night with Wendy, Wendy was trying to tell us how we could rephrase how we spoke about our businesses based on some new research.  The idea was we needed to talk about our business from the perspective of the client’s outcomes not what we do.  We’d heard this before and understood and agreed with the concept but based on something Wendy said, we didn’t get exactly the point because we thought we were already doing that.   Wendy tried to use an example from the colleague’s business, but we didn’t grasp it.  She tried to reword the example from the colleague’s business… nothing.  Now if it had been someone else, if I had been listening to a speaker I didn’t know, I would have smiled politely and tried to find a way to leave the conversation.  But because I know Wendy is brilliant, I didn’t want to give up.  I thought what she was trying to explain would be very helpful.

As speakers, we need to remember that sometimes, a generic example just won’t work.  Have you ever tried to make up an example on the fly with an audience and you could tell by the non-verbal cues that the example didn’t work.  It happens.  But with an audience, the danger is that, unlike the situation with Wendy, they may not know, love and respect you enough to stick around and work as hard to understand.  You could lose your audience at a point when you know you can really help them.  That’s when you know for sure you need to bring out a specific, personal example.

Specific Examples

We finally asked Wendy, “How does this sound when you say it for your business?”  Wendy had the answer to this question and gave the example.  I pulled out my audio recorder and made her say it a second time.  Here’s what she said:

In certain fields, people take the job thinking that the only responsibility is to do the work.  But in professional services firms like accounting, inherent in the job is the ability to bring in new work.  I work with CPA firms who just celebrated their 25th anniversary and bought out their first partner.  They hire me because they realize they lost a rainmaker and that unless the new associates learn how to bring in new clients, they won’t be able to buy out the next four partners.

In 30 seconds  (literally 30 seconds, remember, I recorded it, I can show you it was exactly 30 seconds) Wendy explained her concept with a personal example that we could grasp.

When I asked Wendy if she would mind me blogging about this example, she shared that she had resisted telling us her example because she didn’t want it to be all about her.  She’s a very giving person and she wanted to help our colleague.  But by giving a specific personal example, she helped us more than she was able to in more than 5 minutes of trying to create a generic example.

The Results

Because Wendy gave us that specific example, I was able to share the same concept with a man by the name of Jeffry Tobin whom I sat next to at a session the next day.  He was telling me about his business, and I reworded what it was he does using Wendy’s example.  Here’s what he had to say after I reworded how he describes his business.

Jeffrey Tobin - http://www.The

OK, maybe Jeffrey is exaggerating – it’s not like I gave him a kidney or something!  But because Wendy gave me a specific example, I was able to turn around and apply it to Jeffrey’s situation.  But now the important part.

Now Jeffrey is going to be able to help more people because he can present information in a way that is going to connect better with their need.  His good work will help other people and businesses thrive.  It takes paying it forward to a whole new level.  And it’s all because Wendy gave a very specific, personal example.

Your Turn

As you do your presentations, think about how a specific example from your realm can help your audiences grasp a concept.  Be willing to share the specific example so they can learn too.  Make the examples tight and compact like Wendy’s and watch the body language shift as your audience “gets it.”

Share your examples in the comments section below!

Being Vulnerable in Front of an Audience

In Presentation Tips on February 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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Be Vulnerable in Front of Your Audience

My hubby Rich and I had just finished watching a movie on Netflix.  When we switched back to TV mode, it was about 9:45 PM.  I started flipping through the channels and came across the last part of an episode of Undercover Boss.  The male CEO was standing in front of a large group of employees, tears in his eyes, speaking with such emotions and sincerity.  The camera cuts away to show the employees, some of them with tears in their eyes and several nodding their heads.  I got the impression that the employees were feeling more connected to their boss and to the company than ever before.

One of the things that business presenters, and business leaders in particular, shy away from is being vulnerable in front of an audience.  Far too many presenters want to have the appearance of being “strictly business” on the platform.   The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t connect you more deeply with your audience.  Your message is more memorable and your relationship with the individuals in the audience enhanced when your audience feels an emotional connection with you.

So if building a relationship with the people in your audience is important… If having your message be more memorable is important… how do you do that in a business presentation?

Tell a Personal Story

Tell a story about yourself that relevant to the point you’re making.  By making the story personal, it’s certain to be original.  And you give your audience insight into who you are as a person and how you think.

The story needs to make a point and it’s helpful for the story to be on a subject to which your audience can relate.  But it doesn’t necessarily need to be linked to business.  Stories help engage and audience and tap into their emotions.  It doesn’t need to be a sad story to tap into emotions.  Humor is an emotion too.  And people love to laugh.  Personal stories are a great way to connect with an audience.

Whoops Moments

Don’t be the hero of every story.  Audiences love to know their presenter isn’t full of themselves, especially if the presenter is their boss.  Audiences love to hear the personal stories where things didn’t go so well.  So tell a story or two where you messed up.  Be vulnerable.  Poke fun at yourself.   Let the audience know that, yes, you are human.  We’ve all got those stories that were embarrassing at the time, but which taught us a lesson.  Share those stories where you screwed up and your audience will love you for it.

Your Heroes

Another way to not be the hero of every story is to make someone else the hero of the story.  If you’re trying to make a point, think about how you learned the lesson you’re trying to share.  Tell a story about the person who taught you that lesson.  Let the audience see how you came to that particular lesson through the wisdom of someone you respect.  Seeing how you were willing to learn from others will help your audience to be more open about learning from you.

Take a Lesson from Undercover Boss

When I saw that last 15 minutes of the Undercover Boss episode, it was obvious to me that the CEO cared about the people in his company.  If you care about your co-workers and your organization, let that come through in the words you use and in the way in which you deliver your message.  Be passionate.  Be emphatic.  Be vulnerable.  It seems to me the bosses that have appeared vulnerable on the Undercover Boss show won more respect than they lost by being vulnerable.  If it worked from them and if you’re sincere, it can work for you.



Slides with Pictures and One or Two Words – Not Only Does It Look Better… It Works Better!

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

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The Presentation that Inspired the Post

I did a presentation called “Connecting the Dots through Stories” for the Greater Atlanta Chapter of ASTD.  The presentation was geared around helping trainers find and use more stories in their training.  After the presentation, I was approached by a training manager from a large Atlanta-based company.  She didn’t ask me about the storytelling topic.  Instead she asked me how I developed my slides.



Creating Great Slides

When that training manager asked me about how I developed my slides, I recommended Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen and she quickly wrote down the title and author.  She commented that her VP of Learning wanted the training department to stop doing slides with lots of bullet points and instead do their PowerPoint slides “more like Steve Jobs.”  When she saw my slides, she thought of her VP’s direction.  A few weeks later, she called me and asked if I had a training program to teach people how to do their slides like Steve Jobs’.  The two training sessions I did for the department were well received.


The Slides that Inspired the Question:  How Did You Develop Those Slides?

Below is a sample of some of the slides from the Connecting the Dots through Stories presentation.  What do you think of the approach?

I knew when I saw my first presentations using the approach recommended in Presentation Zen, I liked the slides much better than the bullet point slides that I’d seen in business presentations and training classes.   Once I started applying the principles to my speeches and training, the feedback was extremely positive.  And while I love the beauty of this approach to slides, what really excites me is that research shows it’s actually better for the learner!

The Science behind the Approach

In a 2008 article published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Richard E. Mayer and Cheryl I. Johnson of the University of California, Santa Barbara, discuss research which demonstrates a good scientific reason to take this approach.  In studies, students retained information longer and were able to apply the information in other circumstances better when the instructor supplemented an oral presentation with pictures and one or two key words rather than with no pictures or with slides polluted with text.  Not only does eliminating bullet points feel better!  It helps the learner retain the information better and aids in applying the same information under different circumstances!  How cool is that!

Free Yourself of the Bullet Points!

Break the mold!  Stop using the bullet point default in PowerPoint that we all learned.  Create slides of beauty.  Your audience will appreciate the break from bullet points, but more importantly, they’ll retain and use your information better!



The Glazed Over Look

In Presentation Tips on February 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm

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The Glazed Over Look

“Kelly, tell me one thing… How can I avoid getting the glossed over look from my audience?”  That question came from Don, a gentleman I know through a networking group.  Don is in a highly specialized field.  Yet most of the people he works with as clients have no knowledge of his specialty.  “When I talk to a group, their eyes kind of glaze over.  How do I get their attention back?”

What Don wanted when he asked the question were techniques he could use to change up the way he was speaking to catch their attention — using props, changing up his vocal inflection, etc.  What he needed to hear is this.  If you don’t lose them in the first place, you won’t need to get them back.

Two Main Causes of Glazed Over Looks

There are two primary causes of the glazed over look – Jargon-itis and Content Disconnect


Don is in a highly competitive field.  His credibility is extremely important to him.  By throwing out jargon while he speaks, he thinks he is impressing his audience with his vast knowledge.  But what he’s doing is spreading Jargon-itis among his audience members.  When a speaker throws out so many industry terms that the audience has no way to follow what he’s saying, of course, they’re going to zone out and get the glazed over looks.

The cure for Jargon-itis

The cure for Jargon-itis lies with Don as the carrier.  He needs to remember what it’s like to not know all that he knows.  He needs to provide the information in terms his audience can understand.  And he needs to do that while avoiding the second primary cause of the glazed over look…

Content Disconnect

Don loves his field.  He is proud of his expertise.  Don can talk for hours about his field and his experience.  The problem is Don’s audience doesn’t care about Don, his field or his expertise.  They care about themselves.  When Don spends his time talking about himself and what he can do, it doesn’t take long for the audience to get the glazed over look.

Content Connect

Don can definitely help his clients with their problems.  But Don needs to talk about their problems.  He needs to provide them with valuable information that will tell them how they can solve their problems –and here’s the key part – regardless of whether or not they ever hire Don.

If Don is talking about something the audience cares about relative to their lives or their businesses, then not only will the glazed over looks go away, the audience will pick up a pencil and start taking notes!  Will some of those people try to do the work themselves?  Probably.  But for those that have the budget, which version of Don’s audience do you think would be more likely to hire Don?  The ones who have the glazed over looks on their faces because they don’t understand the jargon and could care less about Don and his expertise?  Or the ones who are taking notes and appreciate that Don is explaining his field in a way that they can understand?  Who would you want to work with more.

Ironically, by talking in terms that people can understand about things people care about, Don will get more business when he addresses his audience than he would if he talked about how great he is and tries to dazzle his audience with his expertise.

Engage, Don’t Glaze

Eliminating the glazed over look doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks and techniques.  Engage people by giving them information they value in a way that they can understand and they will listen.

Wow! I Didn’t Know That! – Presentations that Promote Your Business without Turning People Off – Part 4 – This is the start of a beautiful relationship

In Presentation Tips on February 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

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Your Presentation - The First Step in Building a New Relationship

Has this ever happened to you?  You build up in your mind that a particular presentation is going to be THE most important presentation of your professional life.  If you nail this presentation, then prospects will instantly turn into customers and customers will turn into raving fans.  You get yourself so worked up into the importance of the presentation that you have too much riding on the presentation.  In my case, I either get so stressed that I start sabotaging myself by procrastinating my preparation or over researching the topic or over analyzing the situation.  Then I start to worry that I will come off as waaaay too desperate once I get in front of the audience.  What inevitably seems to happen in my case is that the audience isn’t the perfect, career-changing audience that I thought they would be.  And while I work hard and ultimately seem to deliver a presentation of value, I don’t get the amazing results that caused me the great pressure the I put on myself.  But maybe that’s just me.

What I’ve decided though, is that there is no single presentation that’s going to make or break me and my business.  Yes, presentations are an amazing way to speed up the getting to know you phase with a prospect or client.  But I find if I don’t put all the pressure on myself to think of this as my one and only chance, but rather as a step in a longer process, I actually deliver a better presentation that gets me closer to my goals.

Wow, I Didn’t Know That!

The name of this blog series is “Wow, I Didn’t Know That” because one way that we start the relationship is that we provide the audience with something of value.  Whether it’s a new piece of information that they can apply within their business or a new way of looking at an existing problem, we can start our business relationship out best if we are helping the client or prospect more than they expect.   The best place to start with building a trusted relationship is showing good faith by giving away something of your business.

Will everyone repay the trust you’ve given in providing them with value by becoming your customer?  No.  But everyone is not going to be a good customer for you.  Do the right thing by the right people, and when it comes time to make a buying decision, you know that you have behaved with integrity when you land the deal.

Find Ways to Stay in Touch

Once you’ve started this relationship, you want to find additional ways to stay in touch.  Here are a few that I’ve used.  What have you used?  Add your wisdom in the comments box below.

Newsletter or Article

If you offer a newsletter that provides additional value, offer to put audience members on your newsletter list.  I prefer to take the initiative on this.  With the appropriate audience, I will tell them to give me a card and put newsletter on the back.  I also bring along sign up sheets that can be passed around to those who don’t have cards.  I don’t want to count on the audience member to get back to their desk and remember to sign up.  They are busy.  They have bigger priorities.  I want to be the one who does the work because I have a greater incentive to make sure it gets done.

Similarly, I might offer instead to send an article or white paper related to the presentation topic.  Again, I’ll ask for a card or pass around the sign up sheets.  I don’t usually offer both the newsletter and the article in the same presentation.  Sometimes, an article is a more appropriate follow up.   Other times the newsletter makes more sense.  It depends on what’s in the best interest of the audience.


I consider the handout another way to keep in touch with an audience.  I try to put something of value on the handout so that it makes it difficult for the participant to throw it away.  Key content ideas, website addresses, cool quotes, and reference material are among my favorites.

Once I’ve created the desirable handout, then I put all my contact information on every page of the handout.  That way, if the pages get separated, or if someone makes copy of one of the pages, every page has the ways they can reach me.  I put all the ways they can reach me because different people have different preferred communications styles.  I include my email, phone, website and Twitter name.  I want to make it as easy as possible for the person to find me if I can be of further help to them.

Consolidated and Returned

Occasionally, I will have an exercise in a longer session where I’ll break people up into groups to work on a portion of the material.  If the exercise will provide valuable information to the organization, then I offer to consolidate the individual pieces and send a summary back to the group.  This provides them information of value and me another way to keep in touch.

This Made Me Think of You

The best way to keep in touch is to provide information the audience cares about but didn’t ask for.  When I read an article that reminds me of an individual, I love to send them the article with a note.  Whether it’s electronic or a physical article and note, it just feels good to know that someone was thinking of you.  I know I always appreciate notes sent to me.  It’s a pleasure to be able to send something to someone else as well.

Know – Like – Trust

A presentation is an excellent opportunity for an audience of your prospects to get to know you, to like you and to trust you.  Leave the sales pitch behind.  Talk about what your audience cares about.  Provide them with value.  Tell your stories.  And remember, the presentation is just the first step in building a relationship.  And in this way, you’ll promote you business without turning people off.