Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

The 5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Business Presentation the Most

In Presentation Tips on August 31, 2011 at 11:50 am

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Too Much Book Learning?

I’ve read a lot of books on presentations skills and public speak.  A lot.

And I love them.  I learn new things.  I receive validation for what I already believe.  I get another perspective on why certain things work and others don’t.

One thing I’ve noticed in these books on presentation skills and public speaking is that they include EVERY possible thing you could possibly do to improve your presentation.  One author in fact lists her tips numerically… there are 497.  That’s a lot of information to digest.

But when it comes to business presentations, I don’t think most people have the time to read and digest every possible option they can do to improve their presentation.  I think they want a shorter list so that they can spend their time on just the most important elements that will make a difference.

So I’ve come up with 5 – 5 things you can do it improve your business presentation the most.  I don’t know if they’re the right 5 but in my experience, these seem like the 5 that can make the biggest impact.  See if you agree.

#1.  Give a darn about your audience

Quit thinking about you and the agenda you’re trying to promote.  If you don’t know why your audience should want to listen to you … if you can’t quickly reveal to them why they should care, then save everyone the heartache and don’t talk to them!

#2.  Add stories to your presentations

Stories make life more interesting.  Stories make abstract ideas more concretes.  Treat your audience to stories.

#3.  Don’t use the default bullet point in your slides

Don’t list everything you plan to say in bullet points on your slides.  Instead, cover only one point per slide and put a picture to convey your idea along with two or three words.  Have the picture fill the entire frame, rather than the tiny portion of the slide given to you by the default template.  Live a little.

#4.  Rehearse your delivery

Don’t practice on your audience.  Rehearse what you plan to say out loud, clicking through slides, standing up.  Record yourself.  Watch the recording.  Yeah, it’s painful.  But better one person (you) suffer than having many people suffer (your audience).

#5.  Interact with your audience

Involve your audience in your presentation.  Have them answer meaningful questions.  Create fun games that may be silly but make a point to reinforce your message.  Show your audience that you value their wisdom and experience.

So what do you think?

If you could improve your business presentation, are those five things that make sense to you?  The next time you watch a business presentation, ask yourself “If this person followed Kelly’s 5 recommendations, would that make the presentation better?”

If you think I’ve missed the boat, then add your comments below!  I want to interact with YOU and know what YOU think!!



In an attention-deficient, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-my-Facebook-page kind of world, the typical business presentation is lame.  Do you want to change that for yourself and your staff? Professional speaker, trainer, tweeter and blogger Kelly Vandever is here to help!  An award winning speaker herself, Kelly helps organizations crank up their content and create killer interaction using old school and hi-tech techniques, all while annihilating bullet points and making this a better world for business audiences.  Find out more at Communications for Everyone.


Technologists Are Humans Too

In Presentation Tips on August 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

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Just Because Technologists Think Logically, Doesn't Mean They Are Robots. Appeal to Them as People Too.

I was presenting at a local technology association event on a topic related to tweeting during presentations.  At this particular event, another person also presented to the group.  When he learned that presentation skills was my expertise, he said he’d welcome feedback on his presentation.

After the evening was over, I gave him some feedback.  He done a lot of things extremely well and I offered him a few suggestions.  Then I asked him about his PowerPoint slides.

“I notice on some of your slides you had a lot of bullet points and a lot of words.”

“Yeah, I normally don’t do that.  But I figured this was a really left-brained audience and so I thought I needed the bullet points.”

“Here’s the thing, technologists are humans too.”


People Are People

I went on to explain to him that the using slides with lots of bullet points doesn’t help the technologist any more than it would help someone we traditionally think of as right-brained.  It’s a human thing.  Pictures with two or three words help all brains retain the information better than a slide full of words.  Pictures help all brains transfer the information to other situations.  Pictures are more visually appealing to all brains.

Last time I check, technologist enjoy good movies just as much as the next guy.  Technologist are extremely creative problem solvers.  Technologist put a lot of heart and commitment into their work.  Technologists are proud of their work.

So if you’re presenting to an audience of technologists, don’t assume because they’re smart and logical that a impactful presentation, with an appeal to the emotions and visually appealing slides won’t work with that audience.  Technologists are humans too.

What Do You Think?

Did I get this wrong?  Do you think you need to present differently to a technology audience?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experiences.  Leave notes in the comments below.

Sometimes It’s OK If Your Audience Misunderstands You

In Presentation Tips on August 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

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Marry Rich! Marry Rich! When Have You Misunderstood? When Have You Been Misunderstood?

I admit that sometimes I interpret what I’ve heard differently than it was intended.

As a kid, my mom used to tell me, it’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man… Marry Rich!  Marry Rich!   Have you met my husband?  His name is Rich.

My mom told me I couldn’t drink and walk at the same time.  I thought she meant that humans, as a species, can’t drink and walk at the same time – you know, like you can’t sneeze and keep your eyes open at the same time.  A few decades later, I’m pretty sure what she meant was that it’s not a good idea to try and drink while you’re walking.  But to this day, if I’m walking somewhere, have a cup in my hand and want to take a drink, I come to a dead stop, take a sip, then keep on walking.  Rich thinks it’s hilarious.

If you have family and coworkers, you know what it’s like to have someone misunderstand what you said.  If you’re honest with yourself, you also have misunderstood as well.

But it’s my contention that sometimes, misinterpretations are OK.  Yep, I’m saying that sometimes, it’s OK if your audience hears you wrong.

Serve the Audience

I think the best presenters are those who are there to serve the audience.  Sometimes that means that the words you use will inspire seemingly unrelated thoughts that are only connected in the mind of the listener.

Face it.  People come to your presentations with their own lives, their own baggage.  Of course the things that are on their minds are going to distract them from listening.  There’s nothing you can do about that.  Sometimes that means that the brilliant concept that you’ve tried to convey won’t reach them, but instead will spawn another idea that does help them.

If you’re there to serve your audience, you should be happy they got something out of your presentation… even if you have no idea how they came to that conclusion!

It’s a Gift to Know When Your Message is Misunderstood

Early in my professional career, I confused the fact that I have no problem in coming up with words to spill out of my mouth that somehow I was a good communicator.  If it had only happened once that I was misunderstood, I might have chalked it up to poor listening skills on the part of the listener.  But after it happened a grunch of times, I had to start looking at the common denominator – me!  I wasn’t as clear with my message as I thought I was.

Finding out that your message didn’t come through as you’d intended is a gift.  If it truly is one of those times where it’s really important for your audience to get your message, then be grateful when someone lets you know that they’ve misinterpreted what you’ve said.  Because if that one person misunderstood, chances are there were others who misunderstood too.  See what you can do to clear up that misunderstanding so your message can be better the next time as you take into consideration how others are actually hearing you.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Obviously, you don’t want to ALWAYS be misunderstood!  Yes, you’re there to serve your audience.  But chances are, you have something you want to accomplish too.

It matters that you’re a good communicator.  Otherwise, why would you be reading this blog?

But sometimes, it’s OK if your audience misunderstands.   My husband came from a poor family but marrying him was one of the best things I’ve ever done.  Even if he does crack up when he sees me stop walking before I take a drink.

What’s Been Your Experience?  When Have You Misunderstood a Presenter?  When Have You Been Misunderstood?

Add your experiences in the Comment section!

Be Original Already

In Presentation Tips, Storytelling in Presentations on August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

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Original Blogging... Original Presenting

When I first started earnestly blogging this year, I created an elaborate two-part post based on a presentation I’d just watched.  The person who was doing the presentation is well known in her industry and for me, the blog post served as way to help me learn and reinforce the lessons I’d learned from her.  Take my word for it – the presenter gave great information and I wrote a brilliant accounting of her wisdom…

You have to take my word for it because of what happened next.

As I was finishing the post, I realized that much of what I was saying was her intellectual property.  While the information may be around in other forms, the way she packaged the information using trademarked acronyms and methodologies was thought up by her.  So I sent her a nice email, told her what I’d done to reinforce my learning, sent her a link to my posting – which by the way provide multiple links back to her website – and asked her if she minded me talking about her intellectual property.  I told her if she had a problem with the post, I’d be happy to take it down.

She had a problem with me using her intellectual property.  She asked me to take it down.  I did immediately.

I’d like to think that if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t have asked her to take the post down.   The way I figure it, if people are spreading my ideas and pointing them back to my site, that’s total gravy.  But she didn’t see it that way.  But it’s a good lesson to learn not just in blog posts but also in presentations.

Original Stories

One mistake that presenters sometimes make, particularly when they’re new to public speaking, is to repeat stories that they’ve heard or read.   They do it (or maybe I should say I did it) mostly because the story is funny or it illustrates a point.

I suppose it’s OK to tell someone else’s story if you give credit to the person whose story it is.  But consider that the story isn’t yours.  You can’t tell it as well as the person who originally told the story.  It’s THEIR story.  So find your own stories.  Many things have happened to you in your life.  How can you make the same point but by using one of your stories?  Challenge yourself to come up with your own material.

How Do YOU See It

One of the things I noticed in the text we used at Kennesaw State when I taught public speaking was that there were endnotes throughout practically every paragraph.  I understand with an academic setting perhaps it’s important to stress the sources of information but you know, someone had to originally come up with that thesis or had the original idea like Aristotle or Monroe.  I wondered what the authors actually thought about public speaking.

If you’re giving a presentation where you are always crediting some authority on the information, then where do YOU come in?  When does the audience get to hear your original thoughts?

Give your opinions.  Talk with conviction about how you see the world.  You’ve had experience.  You have a mind.  Talk about where you stand.  Let your audience know what you think.  After all, you’re who they came to listen to.   So tell them what you believe.

 Write About It

When I first started blogging this year, I was bummed that this person who I wrote about asked me to take down my blog posts.  But she probably did me a favor.  It forced me to think about how I felt about presentations and how to be more effective in communicating a message to an audience.

If you’re not sure how you feel about the topic you’re presenting on, force yourself to write about it.  And find a way to hold yourself accountable.  I used a blog because it was a way to hold myself accountable.  If I don’t write regularly, my blog hits will fall. You don’t have to do a blog.  Maybe it’s an accountability partner or a writers group.  But force yourself to write down your thoughts and holding yourself accountable for doing it.

What Do You Think?

Do you disagree?  Do you think it’s important to you as a presenter to use other authorities to support your point?  Do you as an audience member need to have other validation?

Please add your comments below!