Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Converting from Conventional to Convincing Slides

In Presentation Tips on June 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

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When People Turn around from Eating their Crackers and See Your Slides, Do They Gasp?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I plan my life around my meals.  Yesterday I started getting hungry at 10:30, but I knew I’d eaten breakfast so I forced myself to wait to eat lunch until noon.  At 11:45 a reminder popped up that I had a webinar at noon.

So I logged onto the webinar to make sure that it was working, then I ran upstairs, tossed some leftovers in the microwave, feed the dog, grabbed a plate and silverware, snatched some crackers from the cupboard to go with the little bit of hummus I wanted to finish off, then stacked everything together and shuttled it down stairs before the webinar even began.

The desk where my computer sits was crowded with paper, so I sat everything down on the 2nd desk in my office which is directly behind the desk with the computer.  While the people running the call were making their last minute arrangements, I was wolfing down a pile of dirty rice.

With my back to the computer screen, I turned my attention to the crackers and hummus.  I scooped up a dollop, crunched the cracker over my plate – must keep the crumbs from going everywhere don’t you know.  The session started, the speaker talked about himself and his company, so I continued with my back to my computer, devouring a few more dollops on a few more crackers hovering over my plate.  As the speaker started getting into the first piece of “real” information, I swiveled around in my chair — and gasped!

The speaker represented an IT company who was an early adopter of a very hot technology.   But the speaker’s slides were crammed full of soooo many words, it made me literally gasp!  How could a company that is so progressive from a technology perspective be using slides that were soooo 2001???

Let’s Say You Want to Change

The speaker I saw on the webinar was doing what so many business speakers do.  They’re doing things the way they’ve always done them.

But let’s imagine for a minute that you wanted to make a change.  That you’ve seen a YouTube video of Steve Jobs product demo and you want to break from tradition, to differentiate yourself in front of prospects and customers.  How can you make the switch from the corporate issued PowerPoints with lots of words to something better?

Here’s my recommendations on how to make the switch.

Copy Your Bullet Points (or Paragraphs) from Your Slides to a Word Document

Capture all that content that’s in the slides and create a Word document.  Just copy and paste it right in, adjusting the font size to make it easier to read.

More on what to do with that content later.

Put Your Bullet Points (or Paragraphs) in the Notes Section

Cut and paste all that content in your slides and move it to the notes section of the slide.

Copy the Slides with the Notes to Make as Many Slides as There Are Bullet Points or Topics

So for example, in this sample slide, there are basically 6 points so I’d want 6 copies of the same slide.

Convert Conventional...


One Point Per Slide

Then for each of the points, know that you’re only going to cover one topic for each slide.  So in the example, the point I’ll make on the first slide is that PowerPoint can help things stick.  The second slide will be about the fact that PowerPoint can help add an emotional element to a presentation.  And so on.

Find a Picture to Represent the Concept on Your Slide

Carrying the example along, if I want to make the point that PowerPoint can help make ideas stick, then I want an image that makes the audience relate to the idea of being sticky.  Dan and Chip Heath used duct tape to symbolize stickiness on their book, Made to Stick.  Garr Reynolds used an image of a sticky bun in his book Presentation Zen to expand on the Heath’s ideas.   In this slide, I’ve used glue sticks to represent the concept.

The point is – find a picture that will relates to the concept you want to convey on the slide.  For sources for pictures, see my earlier post Picture This.

Expand the Picture to Fill the Slide

Insert the picture that will represent your idea. Don’t live with the default photo size that PowerPoint suggests.  Expand the photograph to fill the entire slide.  It looks cooler and is more appealing visually.

Insert a Text Box

Insert a text box and put two or three words that are associated with your concept in the text box.  Make the words very large and easy to read.

If the words are hard to read because of the photo either change the font color or fill the text box with a color to offset the image and make the words readable.

Setting up your slides in this manner will help your audience understand and remember your points better.

... to Convincing


Repeat for the Other Slides

Go through your entire presentation, putting just one concept on each slide.

But What About the Company Issued Templates

If you work for a company that has a standard template you’re supposed to use for all presentations, use the template as your opening slide.

Use the default font choices they’ve chosen for the words you put in the text boxes.

Follow my directions above for all the slides in the middle of your presentation.

Use the company template for your closing slide.

The evolution of the company issued templates is an interesting enough topic that I’ll probably do a blog post on that in the future.  But for now, let me just say that the template idea has outlived it’s usefulness.  Placate the powers that be with using the template for the opening and closing slides.   Ignore it for everything in between.  Once people start seeing how much better things could be, you won’t get in trouble for not using the template.

You Don’t Have to Do It All at Once

Making a presentation in this way looks better, but it is time consuming.  Plus, you may be reticent to go against your company culture on such a big scale.  So try this approach with a few of the points you’re going to make within your presentation.  Maybe with the points that will lead themselves to humor.  Or the points that are very important and you want to put extra emphasis on.   See for yourself how the small scale changes are accepted and my bet is, the responses you get will incent you to make more changes.

Change Up the Word Document

Take the document that you created in Word and change it into a white paper or a report.  Use the bullet points to guide you through creating the document.  Turn the bullets into full paragraphs.  Create titles and subtitles from the titles on your slides.  Insert any complicated graphs and charts that can’t be read in a slide. Include information that you didn’t have time to cover during your presentation.  Maybe even insert some of the slides as pictures to go along with the fleshed out concepts in your written report.

Now, instead of sending people a copy of your slides, which will mean little now that you’ve taken out all the words, offer your audience reinforcement of the concepts they learned by sending them a white paper. This approach gives you and your audience a chance to connect again and provides those who want it even more value information.

So What Do You Think?

Does this approach make sense to you?  Could you see yourself applying it?  Will you apply it?  Or do you want to stick with the status quo?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section!


Want to Establish Your Credibility in a Presentation – Don’t Tell Your Audience about Your Accomplishments!

In Presentation Tips on June 22, 2011 at 10:58 am

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One of my friends sent some of her blogging friends this email today…

Are You Telling Your Audience about Your Accomplishments? Maybe You Shouldn't!

It does seem like a bit of overkill don’t you think?  I replied back to my friend that I hoped this person was a social media expert with a tag line like that!


My friend’s email got me to thinking about speakers that I’ve seen who spend an inordinate amount of time talking about their own accomplishments within a presentation.  It’s kind of like the social media icon overkill in the email.  I don’t think it sends the message that the speaker intends.


What message does it send…




Let Me Tell You How Wonderful I Am



Do you have any pet peeves where, if you looked at it closely you’d have to admit that you have the pet peeve because it’s something you don’t like in yourself?  OK, what I’m about to say I hate is one of those pet peeves I have to fight hard to keep from doing myself.


I hate it when a speaker spends the first few minutes of his speech (or the whole speech) telling us how wonderful he is.  I don’t mean that the speaker says the words, “I’m wonderful.”  But what that speaker does instead is talk about his many academic and business accomplishments.


This Is Not the Same as Answering the Audience’s Unspoken Questions – Why Should I Listen to You?


Now don’t get me wrong.  I do believe our audiences want to know why they should listen to us.  I think there are appropriate ways to answer the question and I’ll talk about those in a moment.


I know what it’s like to stand in front of an audience and question myself.  Afterall, aren’t we our own worst critic thinking Why should these people listen to me?  Many speakers (myself included) feel at times like they have to provide justification for why they were the ones chosen to speak.  So they provide their resume, talking about all their accomplishments to provide justification in their own minds and in the minds of the audience members.


But what spewing off your titles and your accomplishments is about is you and your own insecurities.  It’s not about the audience.  The audience is there to get value related to them.  It’s awful listening to someone brag about themselves.  Get over your insecurity!  Own the fact that you were asked to speak.  Feel good about it and serve your audience.  And use these tips to answer the audience’s unspoken questions, “Why should I listen to you?”




Establish Your Creditability in Writing


If you’re speaking at an event or in a meeting, chances are there is some sort of written communications that is available to those who will be in the room.  Use those forums to establish your credibility.


Provide the person who owns the meeting with a brief bio that highlights relevant information related to the topic upon which you’ll speak.  The meeting owner can then include that information on the organizational website, in a conference brochure or within a meeting invitation.




Let Your Introducer Establish Your Credibility


If someone will or could be introducing you, type up an introduction of yourself that includes brief biographical highlights that establish your credibility related to your topic.  Keep in short – less than a full page double-spaced with 16 – 20 point font.  Provide the introducer with the introduction before the event and bring a couple of extra printed copies to the event as backup.  Ask for an introducer if one hasn’t been specifically provided.  You can even recruit one before your presentation starts if need be.


Psychologically, hearing your accomplishments from a third person helps the audience feel more trusting of your credibility than if you were to say the exact same thing yourself.  Keeping the introduction to one page double spaced in a huge font will force you to resist the temptation of going on too long about yourself as well.



Deliver Value



The number one best thing you can do to establish your credibility is to deliver valuable content.  If you provide your audience with information that helps them, you won’t have to convince them you’re trustworthy.  They will see for themselves how wonderful you are.  And seeing it for themselves, believing based on their own experience, will carry the most clout and will have them singing your praises for you.


I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever talk about your experiences.  Your stories are great learning points for your audience.  But then it’s about serving your audience, see?  Not about tooting your own horn.




Are You Overloading Your Expertise?



So do you have a verbal icon list of accomplishments in your presentations?  Diligently look at what you plan to say.  Anytime you talk about yourself, ask yourself the question, “How does telling my audience this help them?  Why is it important to them?”  If you don’t know, then chances are, you’re justifying yourself and not really helping them so cut the material.


Keep focusing on your audience and they’ll be telling the world how wonderful you are!



What Do You Think?

Am I overly sensitive because I hate this about myself?  Do you think it’s OK for a speaker to talk a lot about herself and her accomplishments?  Please share your opinions and examples either way!

How Do You Say Thank You in a Speech?

In Presentation Tips on June 16, 2011 at 10:36 am

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There Were a Lot of People to Thank During the Unveiling of the Doreen Wilber Statue in Jefferson, Iowa. How Would You Have Handled the Thank You's?

This past weekend, I went to my 30-year high school reunion in my hometown of Jefferson, Iowa (if you’re trying to do the math, yes, that means I’m 48 years old).  The class reunions are always held the same weekend as the town’s annual Bell Tower Festival – a festival that honors the huge Bell Tower near the courthouse in the town square.  When the town has other occasions to celebrate besides class reunions, they are often scheduled the events on the same weekend as the festival in order to draw a crowd.


This year, there was a very special event that took place during the Bell Tower Festival:  the unveiling of a statue to the first Iowa woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Jefferson’s own archer Doreen Wilber.  At 1 PM on Saturday, the ceremony began.  Another chance for me to watch speakers!  (A presentation coach’s work is never done…)


I must confess, we weren’t there when the ceremony started at 1 PM.  We got delayed at the Elks club getting a hamburger and potato salad lunch (must support the annual fund raiser, you know).  When we arrived at the unveiling ceremony, it was about 1:10 PM and the statue was still covered in a blue tarp.  The speaker was thanking people when we arrived.  And he continued to thank people… for the next 45 minutes.


So this left me wondering…


How Do You Show Gratitude in a Speech without Annoying Your Audience?


Everyone I know who knew Doreen talked about what a wonderful person she was.  It wasn’t just that she brought acclaim to the small town by being a gold medalist.  It was that she was a genuine, kind loving person.  There was a great turn out for the unveiling and a great deal of pride in the event.


As you can imagine, it took time, money and talent to erect this statue.  I’m sure the speaker (who I think was the head of the committee who erected the statue) wanted to make sure that everyone one who had a hand in making this dream a reality was properly thanked.  He named people individually.  He gave specific details about their part in the project.  If I’d been one of the people he named, I think I would have felt properly thanked.


But you could tell that about 1:30, the natives were more than restless.


Yes, these are polite Iowans so there was no tweeting about how long the speaker was talking.  But conversations on the outlying areas the crowd started to pick up.  Parents tried to inconspicuously leave to take their small kids over to a nearby playground.  I heard more than one couple debating as to whether they should stay or come back when things weren’t so crowded.


I have to think that maybe there were better ways the speaker could have handled the thank yous.


What Would You Have Done?


How would you have handled this situation?  Would you have gone on for almost an hour to make sure everyone was appropriately thanked?  How do you think the “thankees” felt?  Would they have wanted it done differently?  How would you have felt as an audience member who was just there for the unveiling?


I’ll give my thoughts sometime next week, but I’d like to see what you think.


Please add your comments!


Thank you!  (Pun intended!)

How Apple Caught My Attention for Two Hours at #WWDC

In Presentation Tips on June 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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A picture of my first iphone taken with my iphone 4… but I don’t think that’s why I listened for two hours…

It started with my first iPhone.  I’d had it for a week or so, and I turned to my husband and said, “Have you heard me complain once about this phone?”


Every other time I’d had to get a new cell phone, I threw a major hissy fit within 24 hours – usually in my husband Rich’s direction.  I whined about not being able to figure out how to do what I wanted to do on my new phone.  That was, until I got the iPhone.  I never complained.  It just worked.


After the great experience with the iPhone, I decided to make the switch to Mac for my business computer.  (Anyone considering the switch… get the One-to-One training to learn how to transition from PC to Mac – best $99 I ever spent.)  I’m typing this on my MacBook Pro with my iPhone 4 to the left of me and my iPad (the first one…but I so want a 2) to my right.


Monday evening sitting on the living room soft, I was flipping channels trying to find something good to watch.  Rich was on his iPhone 4 and said something about Apple announcing a new operating system.  After giving up on finding something interesting on TV, I checked my email and saw the email Rich was talking about.  I clicked the link to the WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference) keynote address.


When I saw Steve Jobs, I thought (1) he’s gotten so skinny, I hope his health is OK.  And (2) as a presentation coach, I really should watch the presentation so I know what folks will be saying about Steve and Apple’s latest speech.


I noticed when I went to hit the play bar that it was almost two hours long.  I remember thinking, Geez, I don’t know if I can watch the whole thing – not just tonight but ever.  Turns out, I was wrong.  At different times on Monday night and Tuesday, I watched the whole two hours.


As a presentation coach, I asked myself, why did I feel motivated to watch the whole thing?  What did Steve Jobs and the other Apple presenters do that caused me to feel compelled to watch the whole thing?  What can I and other presenters learn from their example?  Here’s what I came up with.



How Cool Is That?


The first 6 minutes of the presentation (not counting the rousing round of applause that Steve Jobs received just because he’s Steve Jobs) were what I call the “about us blahs.”  I don’t care for “about us blahs” myself.  This is when a company talks about how wonderful they are and all the wonderful things they’re doing.  Me, I think so what when I hear the “about us blahs.”  Toward the end of the 6 minutes, I was tempted to tune out.  But when the about us blahs finally ended, and when Phil Schiller started talking about the changes to the operating system, I kept thinking, “Oh, that’s cool.”  But what I meant by that was, “That change will make it easier for me to do the things I do.”


We all want to know “what’s in if for us” when we’re a member of the audience.  When a speaker goes on with the about us blahs, he leaves the audience thinking “So What… why do I care?”  As presenters, our messages need to say, “…and here’s why that’s important to you.”  The Apple presentation was about how the changes would make my life better as someone who uses their product.  I wanted to watch the whole thing to find out.


As you talk about your product or service, are you spewing about us blah?  Are you trying to shove as much information about you and your business as you can to your listener?  Or are you telling them how your product or service will make their life better?  Drill yourself on every point.  Ask yourself, “How will this piece of my presentation be relevant to my audience?”  If you can’t answer that question, cut the piece from your presentation.




We’re Covering Three Things


Steve Jobs set the day up saying they were going to cover three things.  By setting up the three things, he quickly gave us a road map.  We knew there would be three things, and as the two ours unfolded, we always knew where we were relative to the three points that would be covered.  That helped us stay tuned in as the presentation went along.



We Don’t Need the Whole Story



There are 250 new features in the changed operating system.  Now theoretically, Apple could have covered all these feature in their presentation.  They covered 10.  Ten may have even been more than they needed to cover.  What they did cover were those changes they felt would have the biggest impact on the people using their products.  And they got me saying, “How cool is that?!”


Are you trying to cover too much material in your presentations?  Can you reduce it down to three to five points that make the most difference to your audience?




Mean It


All the Apple presenters were enthusiastic about their product.  They knew how helpful their features would be for people who buy their products.


Do you have enthusiasm for your product or services?  Does it show in your energy?  In the tone of your voice?  In the look on your face?  Mean it when you get on stage.




Yes, I’ve Drunk the Apple Kool-Aid


Yes, I may be a little punch drunk on Apple Kool-Aid.  Maybe I’m more fascinated by the new functionality than the average computer user.  But now that I’m an Apple convert, there’s also an air of hanging out with the cool kids.  My point is, they kept my attention enough that I kept watching until I was able to see the entire two-hour presentation.  With my self diagnosed attention-deficit, that’s an impressive feat.


So do your audiences hang on your for your entire presentation?  Do you keep providing them with what’s in it for them?  How can you serve up your own version of Kool-Aid?




So What Do You Think?

Did anyone else watch the keynote?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!



5 Golden Rules of Speaking to Promote Your Business, Without Turning Off Your Audience – Rule #5 – Don’t Use the Default Format in PowerPoint.

In Presentation Tips on June 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

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Don't Use the Default PowerPoint Approach!

I was preparing for a presentation for the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Technical Communications.  The name of the presentation was “How NOT to Give a Boring Technical Presentation.”  (Brief side note – what was I thinking with that title! It’s like presuming that I was NOT going to be boring!  Talk about a higher standard!  …But I digress.)


I tweeted the question, “What makes a presentation boring.”  @Mitch_Willis replied, “PowerPoint presentations!  As soon as I see powerpoint, my eyes start to bleed from boredom.”


Wow, Mitch has a strong opinion!


Throw Out PowerPoint All Together?  Not so Fast.


I know people who say we should ditch PowerPoint all together.  I think they’re over reacting.  Visuals help make the material easier to remember.  What annoys people are the bullet point default that we’ve all learned to use in PowerPoint.  Here’s my solution.


Rule #5 – Don’t Use the Default Format in PowerPoint.


Move your bullets to the notes section and start using pictures and two or three key words on each slide.   Put only one point per slide.  Enlarge the pictures you use to fill the entire screen.


Look, you know your material.   This is your business for crying out loud!  You don’t need the crutch of the words on the slides to tell you what you need to say.  Let the visuals make the concepts more memorable for your audience and remind you of the point you want to make.


Personally I like the approach discussed by Garr Reynolds in his book Presentation ZenLook at YouTube at Steve Jobs’ presentations.  Check out multiple approaches on Olivia Mitchell’s blog at  Or search my blog for “PowerPoint Slides” and see “how to” examples that will help you create better PowerPoint Slides.


What Do You Think?


Am I full of malarkey?  Should we throw out all PowerPoint slides?  Or do you think the default, bullet point approach works well?  What do you do?  Give us your experience and opinions in the Comments section!


Concluding the 5 Golden Rules to Promote Your Business Without Turning Off Your Audience Series


Applying the 5 Golden Rules to Promote Your Business Without Turning Off Your Audience isn’t hard.  Ultimately remember – don’t say or do anything that would turn you off if you were the person in the audience.  Follow these rules, and your audience will not only thank you.  They’ll give you their business.

5 Golden Rules of Speaking to Promote Your Business, Without Turning Off Your Audience – Rule #4 – Have the Introducer Do the Commercial for You

In Presentation Tips on June 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

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Not a Natural Born Sales Person? Try Rule # 4.

It’s a clique, right?  The entrepreneur who talks about getting his start even as a child selling lemonade or cutting lawns.


Yeah, that wasn’t me.  I’m not a natural born sales person.  I don’t come from a long line of sales people.  None of my people are sales people.  I didn’t marry a sales person.  None of my children grew up to be sales people.  Sales is not a language spoken at my dinner table.


So the last thing I want to do is “sell” people on purchasing products or services from me – even though people tell me that I need to in order to grow my business.


So what to do when you don’t want to sell from the stage?  Follow the next rule.



Rule #4 –  Have the Introducer Do the Commercial for You




If you’re speaking in front of a group, chances are there will be somebody designated to introduce you.  If the meeting organizer doesn’t provide an introducer, ask for one or find one yourself.  Provide the introducer a strong introduction which establishes why they want to listen to the presentation and why they should listen to you.   Don’t make the introduction too long.  As a rule, I use one page, double-spaced with 16-point font and with a new thought on each line.  That way I know the introduction won’t go on too long, it will be easy for the introducer to read, and they’re establishing the credibility for me.


Then at the end, ask the person who introduced you to say a few words, promote any product or website you want to drive people to.  If you’ve provided value throughout your presentation, it will be easy for the introducer to promote further contact with you.  And it will sound much more sincere than “selling” coming from you.


Your Turn

What do you think?   Does the approach of having the introducer do the commercial for you work for you?  Do you have another technique that you use that is more successful?  Share in the comments below.