Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Archive for the ‘Presentation Tips’ Category

Speaking Practically Has MOVED!

In Presentation Tips on November 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I’ve done what many wise folks have done before me and combined my new website with my blog.

Please go to

for new presentation advice

and to add your voice to

helping us eliminate

boring business presentations

from the face of the earth!


Thank you for all your support and for reading this blog!!!

Please follow me to the new location!!



The Four Ways Your Marketing Department is Ruining Your Presentations – And What They (or You) Should Do Instead

In Conference Presentations, Presentation Tips on October 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm

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I worked as a waitress at the Truck Stop Cafe on Highway 30 in Jefferson, Iowa, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college.  I worked the graveyard shift from 10 at night until 6 in the morning.  It was my second summer waitressing there, but the graveyard shift was a whole other world for my naive 19-year-old self.

One night a customer came in with his arm in a cast.  I don’t remember much about the guy other than he had the cast and he was wearing a football jersey.  He seemed like a normal guy to me.

At one point during his visit, he said to me, “Ask that guy over there what he’s staring at…” and I did!

I thought he was just joking around!  I thought he was just playing a trick on a buddy.  I didn’t get that he was being antagonistic or looking for a fight until after I saw the expression on the other guy’s face!   I darn near help start a fight that night!

Man, did I feel like a dweeb.  I promise I had good intentions.  It had to be a joke right?  I really blew it.

Lately I’ve been interviewing technology presenters who speak at industry and company conferences.  One of the messages I keep hearing is that they “have” to use the presentation slides that their marketing department provides.  And they hate what marketing provides!  Just like my story above, I’m sure the marketing departments have good intentions.  But presenters are telling me they feel like marketing is sabotaging a major aspect of their presentation!  And they’re right!

I believe marketing was given the responsibility to do presentation slides because early in the years of PowerPoint, there were a lot of horrendously bad slides.  So marketing was asked to come up with standard templates, standardized fonts, and of course standardized branding for each and every slide.  And those changes were an improvement.  But now experience and research tells us there are better ways to connect with audiences and smart marketing departments should get on board!

The Top 4 Things Marketing Departments Are Doing to Ruin Your Presentation – And What to Do about It!

#1 – Slides Which Contain Everything the Presenter Should Say

People who speak on behalf of your company are subject matter experts.  They don’t need every word spelled out on every slide.  And there are two very good reason not to write everything on the slides…

Reason #1 Why You Shouldn’t Put All the Words on the Slide – Retention

Research done by Richard Mayer and others at the University of California in Santa Barbara indicates that when you have all the words on the slide that the presenter is going to say, retention of that information and the ability to apply that information to new situations goes down.  In other words, your wordy slides are making the presenter’s talk LESS memorable.

Reason #2 Why You Shouldn’t Put All the Words on the Slide – Temptation to Read

I don’t know if it’s been scientifically proven, but having someone read a business presentation aloud is far more boring than having your speaker share information and have a conversation with the audience.  Don’t tempt your presenters by giving them a screen with something they can read.  Boring presentations aren’t going to be remembered for any reason that will help your company!

What to Do Instead

Only put one concept per slide.  Use visuals to represent concepts with two or three words per slide.   For help, read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Or see several posts within this blog with helpful tips on creating slides with visuals.

Case in Point

Last week I gave a presentation on improving your slides to a group in Macon, Georgia.  I’d actually given the same presentation 17 months earlier to this same group.  (That’s what they’d asked for – and only a few people had seen the presentation when I’d done it last year.)  When making a point about putting pictures on your slides, I used the same picture that I’d used 17 months previous.  In fact, it was this slide that I showed them both times.

Retention of Information Increases with a Picture on Your Slide

Seventeen months ago I’d told the audience that the picture was of me when I lived in military housing as a kid.  But I didn’t mention that fact during the presentation last week.  Toward the end while taking some questions, a man who had seen the same presentation last year said, “And so you know this works, do you remember when Kelly showed us the picture of the slide… I still remember that picture was of Kelly when she lived in base housing.  And I still remember that over a year later.”  Pictures work!

Coach the Presenter through the Notes Section

If there are points you want your presenters to cover on any given slide, coach them through the notes section of the slides.  Don’t put all the words on the slides themselves.

#2 – Branding on Every Slide

Extraneous information on your slides, such as branding on the top and/or bottom of every slide detracts for your message.  Any of those detractors, reduce the retention of your information.

What to Do Instead

Brand the first slide and the last slide of your presentation.  There’s almost never a reason why you need branding on the other slides.

What to Keep Doing

I do believe for most presentations having a standard set of font that you use is a good thing.  Using consistent font types throughout the presentation gives the overall deck a more polished look.  There may be times when you want to use an exaggerated font to make a point.  But generally speaking, having a consistent font type will better serve the overall impression the audience will have of your slides.

#3 – Screen Shots & Diagrams No One Can Read

It’s insulting.  It’s annoying.  For the presenter and the audience.

What are you trying to achieve by having a slide that no one can read?  Do you really need the screen shot or the complex diagram?  Why does the audience care?

What to Do Instead

Determine what you’re trying to achieve and why the audience will care.  If the audience won’t benefit from that screen shot or complex diagram, then don’t use it!

If the audience will benefit, try to find another way to get the same information across.   Provide a handout.  Point them to a website.  If you absolutely must guide them through a complex maze, consider the handout combined with a series of slides, each highlighting small sections as you guide the audience to know where to look on the handout.  But seriously, seriously ask yourself “Is this really needed?”

#4 – Stifling Creativity

One of the best ways to help your message get through to your audience is through personal stories that the audience can relate to.  If you as the marketing department give the slides without allowing your presenters to add some of their own individuality and their own stories to the presentation, you’re actually doing the organization a disservice.

What to Do Instead

Give your presenters permission to add their stories.  Given your topic and the flow of the material, you might even be able to suggest different segments where the presenter can add stories.

One of my clients originally found me when I spoke to a group she’s a member of.  She actually called me to hire me 21 months after she’d seen me speak.  When she first hired me, she recounted a story that I’d told her 21 months earlier.   That story was a critical factor in why she hired me.

Yes, pictures work.  And so do stories.  Don’t let your presenters get so wrapped up with the corporate message that they don’t use tools such as stories to help make concepts and content stick.

Good Intentions

I know marketing people are good people with honorable intentions.  Having marketing do the slides has certainly made them look more professional.  But there are good business reasons why marketing departments need to modify the way they put slides together for their corporate presenters.  Just like I didn’t intend to provoke a fight at the Truck Stop Cafe, I know marketers don’t want to distance an audience from the corporate message.   So follow the advice above – do what makes the most sense instead!

Marketers Reply!

Do you agree?  Do you have evidence that proves otherwise?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Evaluate Your Conference Presentation Effectiveness – Content Evaluation Part 1

In Conference Presentations, Presentation Tips on October 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

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The Redwood Inn, Jefferson, Iowa - Courtesy of Google Maps

My first job for pay was in sales… as a telemarketer for Olin Mills.

There were several of us crammed into a motel room at the Redwood Inn in Jefferson, Iowa.  I had never even heard of Olin Mills before I’d answered the ad for part time work.  I was hired for 3 whole whopping days.

We sat in this room, inches away from each other, making phone calls to the 5,000 residents of this rural Iowa town, following the script they had provided us.  If one of us made a sale, you filled out the paper work, made the appointment and when you hung up the phone, you got to ding the bell to let the whole room know that you’d made a sale.  I got to ding the bell… once.

Perhaps I’m still not much of a sales person.  But I do understand that processes can help us to be more repeatable with our success – if the processes we’re following are good processes.

So are you following good processes with your conference presentations?

I’m in the process of developing a Conference Presentation Assessment Tool to help industry speakers evaluate the effectiveness of their conference presentation.  I guess it will become obvious to people answering the questions that there are some methods that I consider more effective than others in delivering a conference presentation.  My thinking is that if you don’t know what you don’t know, then how do you know how to improve your processes?  This tool when complete will help you affirm whether those best practices you are already following and identifies areas for focus to make yourself even better.

Here are a few questions to get the assessment started.  Let me know if you think of the questions and the options offered.  How do you rate?

Which best describes your conference presentation – only choose one:

  1. The audience is able to immediately use the information that I provide in my conference presentation when they return to their workplace.
  2. The audience is able to make better-informed decisions when they return to the work place because they attended my conference presentation.
  3. The audience is able to apply what they learn from my conference presentation if they purchase an additional product or service from my organization.
  4. The audience will be better informed about a certain aspect of their industry based on my conference presentation but may never use that information in their workplace.
  5. The audience finds my conference presentation interesting or entertaining, though probably not relevant to their work.

How do you customize your presentation for the conference audience:

  1. I don’t customize my presentation for each audience.  I do the same presentation at each event.
  2. I update my slides with the conference logo.
  3. I modify my examples or stories to match the industry of the organization I’m addressing.
  4. I ask the audience members the day of the session what they were hoping to get out of the session.
  5. I work with the conference leaders to better understand the attendees and make changes to my content based on that information.
  6. In addition to talking to conference leaders, I interview members of the prospective audience and adjust my content based on the information gathered.

How would you describe your background compared to the audiences you address:

  1. I’m in the same industry as my audiences doing similar roles.
  2. My audience members are typically customers or prospective customers.
  3. I have very mixed audiences, some with similar backgrounds and some with unrelated backgrounds.
  4. I rarely have the same background and experience as my audiences.

Which answer do you think lead to the most effective presentations?  Why?

You can probably guess by reading the questions which answers I think are the most effective.  Do you agree?  Where did I get it wrong?  I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments section!

Making an Impact: Steve Jobs. The Rest of Us.

In Presentation Tips on October 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

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You Were Here. We Noticed.

I heard that Steve Jobs had died through a tweet.   The hubby, thinking it was some reference to him no longer being the head of Apple, got on his iPhone and searched for a story.  He read the news.  Steve Jobs is dead at age 56. Fifty-six is such a young age to die.


I’m typing this on my MacBook Pro, my iphone to my left and my iPad to my right.  I’m an Apple convert. Steve Jobs had an impact on my life, on Apple, on technology, on an industry, on musicians, on millions of people across the globe.


I’ve already heard snippets on the morning news from his commencement address at Stanford.  Called one of the world’s best speeches, it certainly has poignant advice for us all.


Fifty-six is such a young age to die.


My mother died at 56.


My mom had an impact on my even having a life.  She impacted her family.  On her community.  On her friends.


My mom started a ministry in her church to drop off a small loaf of bread to people who visited the church as a way of saying, “We noticed you were here.  Welcome.  Come back.”


We Noticed You Were Here.


Isn’t that what we all want in some way?  For someone to notice we were here?


Yesterday I listened to an audio recording of a man named Doc Hendley talking about a non-profit organization called Wine to Water.  He talked about going to Darfur to drill wells for fresh water.


Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Lisa who is starting a non-profit and will be going to Africa to help children in PARENTLESS homes – helping them with life skills, working to educate people on AIDS that has taken away the lives of those parents.


I’m married to a man who gives a voice to the victims of crimes.


I’m feeling pretty small in comparison.  Am I having an impact?  Are you?



Fifty-six is such a young age to die.


I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with this feeling.  I don’t want to stop working on my business.  I genuinely want to help people give voice to the information that’s inside them and to be able to present that information to others who need to hear it.  Is that enough?  I don’t know.  Will I have an impact?  I don’t know.


I’m planning to live to at least 50 more years.  I’m 48.  My grandmother is 98 and doing well so I decided to take after her.  I don’t know what impact I may have.  Do you?



Thank you to Steve Jobs and Doc Hendley and Lisa and all those out there who do things that have an impact.  May the rest of us find a way to have an impact too.


Do you tell stories about working with prospects/clients? What’s your best advice on incorporating “I Was Working with a Client Who…” stories into presentations?

In Presentation Tips on September 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

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Stories Question from LinkedIn

I posted a question on a series of LinkedIn groups.

Do you tell stories about working with clients?  What’s your best advice on incorporating “I Was Working with a Client Who…” stories into presentations?

I believe telling stories about working with past clients during a presentation is a great way for audiences (prospects) to get an image of what it might be like to work with me (the speaker) too.

Do you agree?

If so, what advice would you give on the best way to use those client stories? What have you done that’s worked? Not worked?

If you disagree, then why?

I’d like to feature the best answers in a blog post. If you’re willing to let me repeat your advice in a blog post, let me know how you’d like me to reference you in the article (name, title, company) and any link back to your website/blog post you’d like me to include!



Here were some of my favorite responses on LinkedIn to the question.

There were tons of great replies to the postings.  Overall, the responses affirmed that stories are valuable tools both in relating to prospects and clients and in making us memorable.  Here are some posts that summarize several of the replies.  I’m in the process of getting a few more OK’s to post below and will keep adding them as I get the approvals.

John Zimmer

John Zimmer • Hi Kelly,

Telling stories about your clients and the work that you have done with them is a key way to build credibility with the audience and to help them visualize, in a concrete manner, the point you are trying to make. As for advice, I’ll start the ball rolling with two points:

(a) First and foremost, always respect the confidentiality and privacy of the clients about whom you are speaking. If you want to name them, check with them first. Otherwise, generalize; e.g., “I once worked for a mid-size company in the textiles business and they were getting squeezed on their margins because of the increase in the price of cotton …” It is basic respect for your clients, and demonstrates your integrity to the people in your audience (who will want to feel comfortable that you will not one day be telling stories about them without their permission).

(b) Make sure that the story is relevant to the audience. Talk about experiences with clients where the key issues were the same as, or similar to, those faced by your current audience. A simple, but effective structure is Problem-Assessment-Solution. Easy to follow and gets the audience thinking about how you can help them.

Hope this is helpful. Happy for you to use, as you see fit in a blog post. A link back to my public speaking and presentation skills blog would be nice, thank you:



Kelly Vandever

Kelly Vandever • John – Excellent advice! Thanks for contributing!

I like how in your first example you took out the name of the company but added details that made the example more concrete and therefore more credible. And great point about speaking to your integrity.

Interesting second point. Not sure if I fully agree. I agree that using examples similar to the problems that they have is good in that it connects with the audience and helps them with their problems.

But I think you can also use unrelated examples to make a point without hurting your relationship with the audience. In fact a few unrelated examples can give the impression that it’s not all about selling to the audience, it’s about making a connection and serving the audience. It’s not all about making me the hero of every story but it’s about connecting with an audience.

But I will definitely noodle on that idea for a while too and see if I can be persuaded otherwise!

Thanks again for chiming in!


John Zimmer

John Zimmer • Fully agree with you, Kelly, on your point about connecting with the audience and not just selling to them. My point, perhaps unclearly expressed, is that whatever story you are telling about a client, it should have some relevance to the audience (as should all aspects of your presentation). Shared problems are one example, but you rightly note that other possibilities exist. Ultimately, it comes down to: “Why should the audience care?”

Thanks for starting this discussion.


Michael A. Brown

Michael A Brown • Kelly, I was speaking yesterday with the founder of a new business about what “engagement” really means with prospects and customers. We swapped stories of good versus misguided attempts to approach, influence, advance, and sell. Your question has relevance in each of those phases! (Holy cow … I’m telling a story!)

During the approach, marketers and sales people often tell stories too soon, so they sound like pitches rather than empathy-generators. Example: “Our new state-of-the-art zinc-lined heimelbeffer has helped busy executives at other companies just like yours … “ Eyes roll and the conversation is over.

While trying to influence, reps must take care not to over-state their story, especially if it involves specific results with another customer.

When it is time to suggest the next forward step in the consideration (advance), and to actually consummate the sale, story-telling tends to slow things down, so I don’t recommend it.

Net: stories need context, relevance, and timing to be effective. 

Paul Boris

Paul Boris • A lot of very good comments here.

For my part, I think telling stories is very valuable as along as they are relevant, brief, add value to the discussion, incite conversation and plant the seeds of a message you want to leave behind. Good stories allow executives to retain the key message you wanted to deliver.

Things to avoid
– being verbose and irrelevant
– trying to top your best story, ie, know when to quit
– telling stories at the wrong time, ie, stop selling when the selling is done
– telling others stories as your own or fabricating. Remember, you might be called on to validate, ie, be prepared to hear “I’d really like to talk to that person/company”
– sharing proprietary information. This will destroy your credibility.

The best stories come from your personal experiences, because it is incredibly difficult for people to fake the body language that comes with the retelling of a personal experience. Have you ever heard a really compelling story and it just didn’t click for you ? It was probably a good retelling of a story that person heard elsewhere and did not actually experience.

Finally, stories let you bring yourself down a couple notches without losing credibility, “I remember my first co-op assignment at GM when I literally destroyed a brand new car body on the assembly line”. They also let you agreeably disagree, “I worked with one exec who felt exactly the same way, but let me tell you how that played out for them…”

Doing it well is a lot harder than it looks, but with practice and sincerity, anyone can do it well.


Story Question on LinkedIn

I Tweeted a Series of Similar Questions on Twitter

I also tweeted but with 140 characters, it was harder for people to respond!  So I’m tweeting to the people who responded so they can add their comments below.

What’s Your Best Advice?

Please join the conversation?  What advice have you received?   What have you learned for yourself?  Can you share some sample stories?

Love to see them in the comments below!!

Trusting the Human Experience: Why the Average Joe’s Presentation Advice Is Worth Listening to Too.

In Presentation Tips on September 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

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Do You Know Steve? The Human Experience Can Be Very Helpful in Seeking Advice.

“So do you know this Steve guy?”  That was the question a colleague in a professional association asked me on the phone after we exchanged the obligatory how-are-you-I’m-fines.


I had heard of the guy.  I didn’t get a good feeling about him the first time I came across his name and company.  You know how it is when you just get that feeling like “there’s something about this guy I don’t trust”?  Nothing I’d learned since that first impression had changed my mind.  So I briefly told my colleague why I had reservations about Steve.


“Ah OK.  Well then that explains this email too.”  My colleague then shared an email he’d received from Steve which was just one more piece of evidence that my initial suspicions that Steve couldn’t be trusted were correct.


There are certain aspects of the human condition that normal, healthy human beings share.  We healthy human beings get a gut feeling when someone isn’t really interested in us, but instead is interested in making money off of us (that was the case with Steve).  We healthy human beings know when people are being sincere with us and have the best of intentions.  And we healthy human beings know when we watch a presenter if the presenter did a good job or not.


While my business is focused on studying the art and science of public speaking and I’ve read more books, watched more hours of speeches, and listened to more podcasts presentations than the average Joe, that doesn’t mean that the average Joe doesn’t still have advice that can help a presenter improve.



Seek Out Average Joe’s Advice


Many presentations aren’t so critical that you need to hire a speech coach to help you improve your presentation.  Or maybe you don’t have the time or money to hire a professional.  You (and your audience) can still benefit greatly if you rehearse your presentation with one or two other people before you give the actual presentation.


Ask an average Joe in your life to listen to your presentation and give you honest feedback.  Stack the Joes in your favor — if you’re presenting on a technical topic to a business audience, seek out an average Joe who knows nothing about technology.  If the average Joe can’t understand you, then in all likelihood, neither will your business audience.  If you’re speaking to a group that’s made up of your peers, then find an average Joe peer who can give you advice on whether your approach is too basic or too far above the heads of your audience of peers.  Just running through your presentation with a supportive average Joe can help you feel more comfortable and confident when you present.


Average Joes Have Life Experience Too


If they’ve got both ears and both eyes or even a partial number of these four body parts, then the average Joe can comment on what he likes about a presentation.  He can comment on caused him confusion.  He can say what he didn’t like about the presentation.  You may decide to take the feedback with a grain of salt.  But getting that feedback in the first place will likely help you be better off in the long run.



What’s the Last or Best Piece of Presentation Advice You’ve Gotten From an Average Joe?


Probably one of the best comment that was the most helpful for me came from an average Jo Ann in this case.  She told me that she’d heard other speakers talk about presentation skills but she’d never heard it put like that before and that the information was helpful.


That was such a huge gift to me – it was a gift I didn’t know I wanted – but has helped me tremendously in my speaking, coaching and training business.  People aren’t looking for more of the same.  They want new insights that they haven’t heard, and I happened to have some.  Thanks, Jo Ann!


How about you?  What advice or comment have you gotten from an average Joe that helped improve one of your presentations?  Share in the comments below!

Doing Presentation When “They Need to Understand”

In Presentation Tips on September 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm

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Presentations Aren't There to Just Meet One Purpose

They need to understand how to use the new software.

Why do they need to understand how to use the new software?

Well it’s needed to do their job.





Later in the conversation…




My situation is a little different.  I’m working with the sales guys who sell our service. 

Oh, so does the software you’re training them on have to do with their role as sales people?


Do they put information about their sales into the software?


Are they paid on commission?


So could their personal reason for wanting to learn the software, beside just because someone told them they had to, be that they want to make sure their information is in the system correctly so they get all the commissions they have coming to them.

Aaaahhhh.  [dawning realization look coming across his face]

In the little scenario above, I was speaking to a technologist who had to do training within his company on the new software he was part of developing.  When thinking about the training, he wasn’t thinking about why his audience would care about learning the software.  He just knew he’d been assigned to do the training and the audience had to use the new software because that’s what the bosses wanted.

He’s not alone.  Most speakers fall into this trap.  I think one reason to blame is one of the biggest fallacies perpetrated about presentations.

Myth:  You Should Have Only One Purpose for Your Presentation

I believe there is a huge fallacy that’s been perpetuated in the world of public speaking and it’s effecting speakers’ ability to be effective speakers.  The fallacy -– that you should have only one purpose to your presentation.

When studying what others say about doing speeches or presentation, one piece of advice that was ALWAYS mentioned was that you need to have one purpose for your presentation.  At first glance, that seemed to make sense to me.  Maybe it seems to make sense to you too.  But since I really started studying the art and science of presentations – watching great speakers and speaking more frequently myself – I’m convinced that having one purpose for your presentation is dead wrong.

For one thing, “one purpose” is overly simplistic.  Life is messy.  Rarely are we doing anything including a presentation with only one outcome in mind.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, the “one purpose” approach encourages people to focus on themselves as a speaker and what they want to accomplish.  When you’re standing in front of an audience taking up the finite commodity of the audience’s time, it’s incorrigible to think only of yourself as the speaker.  It’s reprehensible to think only about what YOU want the audience to understand.  Not to mention that if someone else has asked you to speak, they have a lot riding on your presentation as well.

For these reason, I believe there are actually 5 purposes to  any presentation.

The 5 Purpose of a Presentation


As you read the purposes below, think about the next presentation you have coming up.  Ask yourself the questions related to each purpose.  Have you factored these considerations into your presentation?


#1 – General Purpose

This is just a word or two that generally describes what a speech is meant to accomplish. Is the purpose to inform? To educate? To persuade? To inspire? What, in a word or two, is the overall purpose of the presentation?

#2 – Specific Purpose

The specific purpose describes what the presentation will be about. This is the “one purpose” that textbooks talk about. Think of the specific purpose as the description you would use to inform your audience what the presentation will be about.  It would be the description that you would send in a meeting invitation or to the person organizing the event that they could put on their website or print up in their conference program.

#3 – The Meeting Leader’s Purpose

Assuming you were asked by someone to speak, consider what that person’s motives are for asking you to present.  Have you asked him or her?  Do you understand what the leader of the meeting hopes to accomplish?  How will the success or failure of your presentation effect him or her?  How will your presentation support his or her objectives?

#4The Audience’s Purpose

The audience’s purpose is the most overlooked yet is the most important factor to a presentation’s overall success.  Most speakers assume that the audience comes because of the specific purpose. Not so fast jack.  The thing the audience cares about most is themselves.  Have you asked representatives of the audience what your content will mean to their situation?  Do you understand why what you want to talk about is important to them?  How will your information be valuable in their lives?  Why should they care?  Understanding the underlying motives of your audience can be the real differentiator in your success.

#5Your Purpose

Why did you agree to do the presentation? Was it because your boss made you? Did you volunteer? How do you personally want to benefit as a result of giving the presentation?

Ask the Questions

Life – and presentation – are rarely ever simple, particularly when there’s a lot riding on the outcome of your presentation for you and for your audience.

Start by asking yourself the questions about and see how you can account for all these purposes in your next presentation.  Then let me know how it goes by commenting in the comments section below!

Presentation Skills Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, Blogger and Tweeter Kelly Vandever

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.

Disaster Preparedness … For Your Presentation – Part 1 – LCD Projectors

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

It looks so innocent doesn't it? When it works, a projector is a great thing. But when it doesn't, disaster awaits! UNLESS you're prepared!

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Do you ever have thoughts run through your head and worry that you just jinxed yourself?

I did.

I thought, “Gee, I’m glad I’ve never had a malfunction in showing my presentation slides.”  I knew immediately, that I’d just jinxed myself.

The very next time I presented, sure enough, I had a problem with my projector.

Turns out later I figured out it was user error on my part…perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Having a problem with your projector is no fun, that was for sure.

After spending a minute or two trying to figure out what was causing my problem, I went on to do my presentation without the slides.  Even though I know the audience missed out on some beautiful slides, they were still able to get value from the presentation and that’s what’s most important.

While certainly no comparison with the tragedy of a natural disaster, missteps in a presentation can really throw off a speaker off.  But just like being prepared for a natural disaster can help you cope with a hurricane or an earthquake, being prepared for presentation disasters can help you avoid making a bad situation even worse.

For the next few blog posts, I’ll touch on some disasters that can occur while you’re presenting, what to do to avoid them, and give you options on how to deal with them when they do.  First up…

Problems with Projectors

One of the most common problems for presenters is some sort of problem getting the computer’s screen sent through the LCD projector and onto the screen.

In the early days of LCD projectors, it seemed to be some sort of magic formula, which I could NEVER remember, about plugging the projector and the computer together.  One had to be off (was it the computer or the projector?), one had to be on, and then you plugged them together and turned on the other one?  Or were they both supposed to be off before you plugged them together?

Even though the order of plugging up and turning on doesn’t seem to be a big of a problem as it used to, hinky issues with projectors still happen often enough that we need to be prepared.

Arrive Early

Always arrive far earlier than you need to for the meeting or event.  If your event is out of town, arrive a day early.

Ask to get into the room with the equipment the day before if possible.  If not, get into the room one to two hours before you are due to present if possible.

This gives you time to plug everything up and make sure it’s working.  I recommend you click through your slides to make sure they look as good on the screen as they did on your computer.   If you’re using video clips, plug your computer into the sound system and play the clips so you can make adjustments for light and sound.

If you get there early and find a problem, then early arrival will give you more time to get the issue resolved before the audience starts filing in for the event.

Know Your AV Support Helpline

Get the name and contact information for the person who can help you with the equipment.   Even if you’ve gone in the day before and everything worked fine, you still want to know how to get a hold of the person or group that can help you if any problems occur.

I was presenting at a local conference and was able to get my computer set up, the LCD projector adjusted and everything ready to go a couple hours before my session was due to start.  But I still got the AV guy’s card, even though I didn’t expect to need it.

As I put on my microphone and started greeting guest right before my session was scheduled to start, the presenter in the adjoining room came in to say that my microphone feed was coming through the speakers in their room.  I called the AV guy and they took care of the problem quickly, I’m sure much to the relief of the people in the adjoining room!  I’m sure they were grateful that I had the AV guy’s card!

Have a Backup Plan

Always have a way to carry on with your presentation without the slides.  Assuming you’ve practiced your presentation (you have practiced your presentation, right?!) then you know your material.  Carry with you some hard copy materials that can help you carry on without your slides.  You can do that with a printed out version of your slides or with notes of your presentation outline.  If you have handouts that can serve as a guide, then use them.  Just be sure you have a way to still get your message across even if it’s not going to go as smoothly as you planned without the slides.

When It STILL Goes Wrong

If things start to go wrong despite your planning, then be real with the audience about it.  Try to relax and joke about it.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t apologize repeatedly.  Ask their forgiveness.

Try to correct the problem.  If you can’t figure it out quickly, say in less than two minutes, then stop trying and move on.  Gather up your confidence.  Remember that you know your content.  Deliver on the value you have to offer to the audience.

The audience will be grateful that you didn’t waste more of their time trying to figure out why your computer and projector aren’t talking.  And you may find that you do better connecting to your audience without the crutch of your slides – (especially if you haven’t read my blog posts on how to do presentation slides and you are still creating them with lots of bullet points and text).

Now It’s Your Turn

What did I forget?  What are some precautions you can take or things you can do when things go wrong with your projector to keep yourself and your presentation in tact?

Add your ideas to the comment section below.

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.

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.