Announcing: A Conversation with Shel Holtz

Shel HoltzI’ve long been an admirer of communication strategist Shel Holtz. who is a regular speaker on topics surrounding the application of online technology to strategic organizational communication. He speaks regularly at IABC and Ragan Communication conferences.

On Wednesday October 4th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Shel on a conference call. We’ll be discussing the ways in which social and digital media — which have given rise to content marketing — offer a host of options to speechwriters to draw attention to the speech before, during, and after its delivery. From repurposing parts of a speech to taking advantage of trends in online video and audio, Shel will discuss how you can get much more mileage from a speech today than ever before.

To register for this no-charge event simply go to the Roundtable Meetup Group and RSVP. We start at 11:45am (Pacific).

Shel is the author of a number of great books on topics such as podcasting, blogging and more.

Shel_Holtz_Podcasting

Shel-Holtz-Blogging

Guest Posting: How to be a Presentation Hero, by Adam Noar

Adam Noar is the founder of Presentation Panda. He’s an expert marketer, entrepreneur, and presentation design expert. After building a successful website in the sportswear industry, he’s refocused on what he loves most: Building and designing exciting presentations for clients. Presentation Panda uses a simple, clear, and vibrant approach to presentation design. This material is posted with his express permission.

Presentation Hero vs Presentation Zero

In today’s competitive world, to pull off a KILLER presentation you need to:

• Think creatively … no more lazy bullet points
• Use tools and shortcuts so you can spend your time on the important stuff
• Create clean and captivating slides that appeal to people’s emotions
In other words, you need to be a presentation HERO.

Here’s 10 clever tips on how to be a Presentation Hero displayed within a simple infographic from Presentation Panda.

Click on the image below to see the complete infographic.

Hero vs Zero

Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 presentation tips covered in the infographic:

1. Give yourself plenty of time to work on your presentation so you can go above and beyond

Set aside plenty of time to work on your presentation so you can make sure that everything looks great. Avoid slapping your slides together at the last-minute hoping that it comes together. By giving yourself time you will be able to make sure the flow, the theme, and the content goes above and beyond.

2. Use keyboard shortcuts to save time

PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts can save you valuable time. For example, if you need to select all the objects on the slide, don’t select all your images one-by-one with you mouse. Instead, press Ctrl+A!

Here’s one more:

If you’ve made a mistake, instead of moving your mouse to hit the undo button simply press Ctrl+Z.

There are many keyboard shortcuts to memorize. Start with the common ones and add new ones over time.

3. Practice the art of slide cleanliness

Organization and consistency are one of those details that fade to the background if you do it well, but stand out as glaring errors when you neglect them. By placing everything on your slides with intention and precision your audience will be focusing on your message and not on your untidy slides.

4. Forget boring bullet points

Bullet points are simply not fun to look at. They are usually heavy on text and light on visuals, which usually means that they will be forgotten by your audience just as soon as the next slide pops up. You can do better! Getting rid of bullet points can be a challenging task, but there is no reason you can’t have a great time flexing your creative muscles to come up with some stylish alternatives.

5. Use a consistent theme of good looking visuals

A theme encompasses everything from font, images, colors, layout, formatting, and even to a certain extent the content that you put on display in a presentation. Once you have landed on a theme to use in your presentation, making decisions on how to design your slides becomes much easier.

6. Save lots of time by customizing PowerPoint with the tools you use most

Customizing your PowerPoint setup with your most commonly used tools will save you tons of time. Why search for the same tool over and over within the menus of PowerPoint when you can put it in an easily accessible place where you can easily grab it?

7. Get inspired before you start designing your slide deck

Don’t stare hopelessly at a blank canvas. Instead, take action and get inspired by looking around for presentation ideas online! A blank canvas isn’t really idea inspiring – a lot of times it’s intimidating, overwhelming, and frustrating. Who wants to feel like that before they even get started?

8. Get to know the many tools that can help you create nice looking slides
Presentation professionals know that many tools are needed for the job. In other words they keep an extensive set of tools with them when creating slides. They know what tools to use to do all sorts of things that make their presentation stand out.

9. Practice your presentation many times before giving it

Once you have finished creating your awesome slide deck you now have to practice giving your presentation many times before giving it. When you practice, you get comfortable with your message, hone what you want to keep (and get rid of), and get an understanding for how well your slides and content are placed.

10. Invest some time learning about the art of designing presentations

You aren’t born a presentation hero! If you want to create great looking PowerPoint slides you’ve got to put in some work – and that mostly means learning from the right resources and putting what you learned into action.

Conclusion

I hope you found this infographic and presentation tips helpful. Here’s my question for you:

Do you have a favorite presentation tip that has helped you achieve great results in the past? Sound off in the comments below!

Infographic: The Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting

The good people at Walkerstone in the UK (a team of professional trainers who are also business writers and marketers) have produced a great infographic, with an informative preamble, on the Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting. This content appears with their express permission.

The Do’s And Don’ts of Presenting

There are two elements to making a great presentation: the first is what you say, the second is how you say it. If you have great content, your presentation has an excellent basis for success. As a presenter, it will give you confidence.

Your first few words are the most important. They need to be the most interesting, exciting and dramatic that you could possibly conjure up about your topic at that very moment. They set the scene for your presentation.

Words really do matter. According to a Microsoft study, the average attention span for human beings was eight seconds in 2016. It was twelve seconds in 2000. That means that what you say and how you say it, has a greater importance today than it had yesterday. Words mean the difference between success and failure – between winning and losing.

The words you choose must have energy to stimulate and inspire your audience into listening – into wanting more. Each sentence needs to sell the next sentence, and so on until the end. Ensure you deliver a strong finish.

Use concrete words and phrases. Generalities are sleep inducing. Facts and figures coupled to interesting narrative, stimulate attention. Content is always king. Great content which is logical, reasoned and well-structured, means that you will communicate with impact.

Channel your nerves. Take into consideration all three elements of physical communication – words, tone of voice and body language. All three elements must be in harmony with each other for effective communication.

For example, if you merely say that you are enthusiastic, but your tone of voice and body language says the opposite, your audience will give little credence to the words you use. Words need good support for great effect.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the Do’s and Don’ts infographic created by Walkerstone.com. It includes some facts and figures around getting your message across and keeping the attention of your audience. It includes some useful considerations to remember for your presentation.

Use it as a preparation checklist for your presentation. It will help you feel more confident, prepared, and able to deliver your message well.

Click to enlarge..

Presentation Infographic

Queen for a day

Sex PistolsI enjoyed a wonderfully eclectic article by Douglas Coupland in the Weekend FT on the Queen.

Since I make no secret of my age, I’m proud to say my life has been almost exactly coterminus with that of her majesty’s reign (with only my first four days on the planet spent when her father was on the throne, albeit on his death bed).

Coupland muses on the strangeness of the word Queen: ‘seemingly engineered by Scrabble technicians to allow players to shed excess vowels while at the same time affording them a well-deserved buzz while they deploy the Q-tile they’ve been hording…’. He recalls a time when the Queen waved at him, and him alone. On the relationship between punk rock (God Save the Queen) and the monarchy in British culture. On the differences between transvestites and drag queens.

But it is a wonderfully inspiring thought experiment that caught my eye, which is worth quoting in full:

I have this theory that there exists another universe which is just like ours except in that universe, different people became famous than did in this one. Jodie Foster is a Denny’s waitress in Bakersfield. George Clooney repairs engines at an Airbus facility but is off for a month because of a bad back. And so on. If you visited that universe, you could bump into Jodie and George and then . . . well, what would you do, really? Ask for their autograph? They’d call the cops. Ask them if they ever thought of acting? Stalker. There’s really nothing you could do except stare like a twit with a faint smile while you creep them out. If you ever want to make the world seem more interesting, just assume that everybody you see is a movie star in some other dimension.

Sometimes, I’ll see 90-year-old ladies and wonder if they’re actually the Queen in some other universe. What would I say to one of these women? “Hello. You look very regal today.” Clueless. “Like some tea, Ma’am?” Freak. The truth is that there’d be nothing much you or I could say, aside from platitudes and pleasantries — and then we’d sigh and realise that that’s pretty much what it would be like meeting the real Queen in our own universe. But one has to admit She’s done a magnificent job of maintaining an aura of mystery armed only with a signature hand wave and a roster of secret handbag codes used in conjunction with her security staff.

This would be an interesting executive communications technique.

Imagine

Imagine, for a moment, a speech by a senior leader that asks the audience to assume everyone in the company is a top manager in some other dimension. Treating everyone in the organization with the deference afforded top management would undermine many cultural norms, perhaps for the better. It could, for instance, relieve CEOs of the dysfunctional behaviors Rod Thorn identifies (a lack of honest conversations, too much political game playing, silo thinking, lack of ownership and follow-through, and tolerating bad behaviors). It would certainly, if carried out literally, put meat on the bones of the rather tired assertion that front line employees are more important than the CEO (which is clearly why they earn 331 times less.)

It might lead to greater empathy for the burdens the powerful bear, and the challenges underlings face, and overcome limitations in left-brained thinking that Daniel Pink has identified.

It might also help to develop the speech as a vehicle for constructive fantasy (‘what if?’), which speechwriter Brian Jenner lists as one of the jobs of the speechwriter (‘to manipulate the steady going, because we’re in the business of reconstructing the world with ideas’).

It would certainly take people out of their comfort zone, and, as ethnomethodology teaches, help everyone in an organization understand what’s going on when people in meetings pander to the CEO’s sense of humor and are more willing to laugh along at his jokes than they are with people of lesser status.

Abbey Road

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl,
But she doesn’t have a lot to say
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she changes from day to day

I want to tell her that I love her a lot
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
Someday I’m going to make her mine, oh yeah,
Someday I’m going to make her mine.
– The Beatles

Are you passionate about your job?

Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway gave the closing keynote at the International Capital Markets Association (ICMA) conference in Dublin this last May. Her presentation starts by asking the audience ‘how many feel really passionate about what you do?’ and then reminds those who raise their hands that the dictionary definition of ‘passionate’ is either (a) intense feelings of sexual attraction, or (b) the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, and that it’s enough to really to like a job, not to feel passionate about it.

Lucy continues by highlighting many of the examples of corporate bullshit she satirizes in her weekly FT column.

The full 20 minute keynote is well worth a listen.

NSA September Event: Make Your PowerPoint Slides Sizzle

Mike RobertsonThe Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA/NC) welcomes Mike Robertson to the Bay Area on Saturday September 10.

Mike is an author, gifted storyteller, and has more than 20 years of graphic design experience. He views his PowerPoint presentations as works of art, designed to entertain, inspire and dazzle audiences through his humor, insight and artistic approach to the visuals which accompany his words.

In his opinion, blaming PowerPoint for boring slides is like blaming the paintbrush for a lousy painting. His workshop will give you dozens of ways to transform your own slides into works of art that will delight your audiences and help them retain your information much longer.

Here’s a couple of examples of his work showing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of slides.

Mike Robertson PPT Design
Mike Robertson PPT Design

The event is being held at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay, 223 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood City, CA 94065.

Click here to register.

Improving Communication is Key to Closing Millennials’ Workplace Skills Gap

ToastmastersIt’s universally acknowledged that employers seek applicants with strong speaking and writing abilities. Despite being highly educated and armed with technical skills, many millennials lack the soft skills to compete in the workplace. A survey by the Hay Group revealed that 80 percent of employers are struggling to find graduates with the soft skills they need. Communication is the most in-demand soft skill in most industries, including engineering, finance, healthcare, information technology and sales.

Soft skills are defined by Oxford Dictionaries as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. In addition to communication, organization, writing, leadership, problem solving and customer service are among the most desired soft skills in nearly every occupation.

“Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college,” says Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer of CareerBuilder.

To help develop soft skills, millennials and all prospective employees are encouraged to focus on ways they can build the skills they lack. An effective method of developing communication and leadership skills is to join Toastmasters International. Toastmasters offers a supportive setting where people can improve these skills through practice and become more confident communicators and stronger leaders.

Corporate Clubs

Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies offer in-house Toastmasters clubs, including Apple, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Google and Microsoft. These employers have found the Toastmasters program to be an effective staff development tool that benefits their organization.

Many of these corporate venues welcome visitors from outside the organization, who are not employed there. I was a member of the HP Hilltop Club that used to meet just down the hall from Carly Fiorina’s office in the Hewlett Packard Headquarters building. It was open to anyone who wished to attend. I hasten to add that Carly herself was not a member.

Job Seekers

Millennials looking to advance their career should be aware that visiting a corporate club gives a unique opportunity to network with employees.

“Prospective employees, including millennials, should focus on building the skills that will give them an advantage over other candidates,” says Jim Kokocki Toastmasters 2015-16 International President. “Employers want to hire people who can communicate effectively and work well with others. Toastmasters offers a place to develop and strengthen these skills.”

If your company does not yet have a club, consider starting one. “Forming a corporate Toastmasters club is an effective and inexpensive way to develop, enhance and retain employees,” says Toastmasters Chief Executive Officer Daniel Rex. “We are experiencing record growth as an organization in part because of the large increase in the number of corporate clubs. We expect that trend to continue as the skills we teach are always in demand in the marketplace.”

Finding the Right Club

While they all follow the same structure for meetings, no two Toastmasters Clubs are the same. The members make the club. When looking for a suitable group, it’s a great idea to take the time to visit a number of different clubs. Since there are approximately 30,000 Toastmasters members in the U.S. between the age of 18 and 34 it should be possible to find a club with people of similar interests. The last thing you want is to make your Icebreaker speech on current topics to a room full of retirees.

To find a Toastmasters club near you, visit toastmasters.org/findaclub.

Book Review: Illuminate, by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

Casting Light on the Dark Arts of Communications

Any book on communications that starts out quoting 19th century French sociologist Émile Durkheim has my attention. The authors embrace his idea of ‘collective effervescence’ to describe the magic of a group sharing a common purpose.

Illuminate_CoverFor Duarte and Sanchez, the common purpose they champion in the recently published Illuminate is driven by leaders, whom they term ‘Torchbearers’, envisioning new possibilities. They ‘light the path’ as they set out to change the world and bring ’Travelers’ on the journey along with them. If this sounds like the plot to Lord of the Rings, well, in addition to Durkheim, they quote Frodo Baggins, Aragorn and the others as they motivate the hobbits to set out on the quest for the Ring.

However, this book is anything but a fairy tale.

Duarte, Inc is one of the premier communications agencies in Silicon Valley. Since it was founded in 1990, Nancy Duarte has built a stellar reputation as a PowerPoint guru (with her first book, slide:ology) and general communications consultant (cemented by Resonate, her second book). With ‘Illuminate’ she has broadened her scope to include not only presentations and speeches, but stories, ceremonies and symbols. These are all weapons in the ‘torchbearer’s toolkit’ that can be employed to affect what people think, feel and do as they move through what she calls the ‘five stages of a venture’: Dream, Leap, Fight, Climb, and Arrive. If this sounds like the content of a classic 4×5 matrix, well, you’ll find it summarized in a handy-dandy fold-out between pages 58 and 59.

A speech for all seasons

Using this taxonomy allows you to choose the right tool for the job depending which stage an audience is on the journey. While not a ‘paint by numbers’ approach to communications, after reading Illuminate you will know what to deploy if, say, you need to rally the troops. The advice is to deliver a ‘battle speech’ or tell an ‘overcome the enemy story’ or hold a ‘rally the spirits’ ceremony. What I really liked about the classification is that we’re not left with the usual Pollyanna advice that assumes everything is wonderful. Each stage addressees the negative as well as the positive. So if people in an organization are resistant to change we are told what we might hear them say (“I just don’t see how this could work”) and advised on how to craft and deliver a ‘revolution’ speech or ‘neglect the call’ story. By dealing with the dark side of communications Duarte & Sanchez have given leaders a robust set of guidelines well suited to the real world.

Peoplesoft DemiseSome of the most powerful parts of the book deal with how different organizations dealt with total failure: when PeopleSoft was bought by Oracle and the employees made the company sign into a makeshift memorial; how Coke reversed their disastrous decision to abandon Classic Coke; how Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, addressed her employees when they needed to recall faulty ignition switches that had caused deaths.

Rich Case Studies

I was struck by the degree of first-hand knowledge and insight in the case studies that conclude the main chapters. Each one includes an extensive narrative and quotes that make the study come alive. There’s a bonus a multi-point summary of highlights. Showing their Silicon Valley roots, Duarte & Sanchez’s case studies include the usual suspects— tech titans like IBM and Apple. But there’s also a floor-covering company, a non-profit, and a fast-food company. Most appropriately, the concluding study is of Duarte, Inc itself, detailing the transformation the company underwent as it pivoted to overhaul systems and improve operations.

Like her previous books, Illuminate is a beautifully designed, eminently readable, detailed account of the scenarios those of us in corporate communications face on a daily basis. Read it if your job is to enable the Torchbearer’s to ignite change, Frodo would certainly make sure it’s on his bookshelf back in the Shire.

Meeting Report: Success Secrets for Small Businesses

Rick GilbertPast NSA Northern California Chapter President Rick Gilbert presented ‘Mind-Blowing Success Secrets for Small Businesses’ at the Saturday Chapter meeting.

Back in the 1980’s Rick quit his job in Silicon Valley to found Power Speaking, an organization that delivers transformational workshops and executive coaching to turn people into world-class speakers.

His 2014 guest posting in this blog outlines many of the successful techniques he shares with middle managers who want to learn avoid common pitfalls when presenting to the C-Suite.

Rick shared the lessons he learned over the past 30 years, building his company from the proverbial Rolodex in the bedroom in 1985 to a company with 35 employees and a world-wide footprint. He found that much of the standard small business advice was not helpful. Such bromides as “winners never quit,” or “work/life balance,” or “have a positive mental attitude” are, Rick claims, mostly useless nonsense.

His uncommon strategies to help build a successful small business include:

  • There’s no such thing as ‘work/life balance’ and women who want to be successful business owners will need a supportive partner and plenty of help.
  • Avoid the wrath of the IRS and State Tax authorities and make everyone you hire a part-time employee rather than a contractor.
  • Think more like a a jazz musician than a classical musician and be willing to improvise.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses and build partnerships to compensate. Rick developed an idea that in the speaking business people are either a ‘Greek’ or a ‘Roman’. Those who are Greeks care about passion and poetry while the Romans are all about power and money. Greeks need to partner with a solid Roman to succeed.
  • Kill PowerPoint. Rick recommended Whiteboard Selling: Empowering Sales Through Visuals, by Corey Sommers as a more effective approach.
  • Being a quitter and a pessimist is good for business. Rick substuties ‘Insanity’ for ‘Success’ in Winston Churchill’s statement that “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Know when to quit.
  • Every small business owner should be slow to hire additional staff and quick to fire those who don’t work out.
  • It’s essential to take calculated risks to succeed. He quotes Orville Wright who, in 1910, took his 82-year-old father on his first and only flight. As Orville gained elevation, his excited father cried out, “Higher, Orville, higher!” Taking no risk is the biggest risk of all.

If you’d like to read more of Rick’s wit & wisdom I highly recommend checking out the social commentary and writing on his blog. After all, it’s not often an NSA member happened to be in Golden Gate Park one day in 1966 to take an incredible series of black & white pictures of the legendary Janis Joplin:

Movie Review: Steve Jobs

Steve JobsFor anyone who has worked in the speechwriting, executive communications or PR business and supported an executive who has presented at a major event, much about the new movie Steve Jobs will seem very familiar.

No matter how truthful a portrait it is of the man (played by Michael Fassbender) who founded Apple — debate rages among those who worked with him — it is an accurate account of life behind the scenes on the day of a product launch presentation. Actually, we are given a backstage pass to three events: the launches of the Mac in 1984, the NeXT cube in 1998 and the iMac in 1998.

Poetic license

At each event it is marketing VP Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet) who attempts to keep the tech guru focused on the product launch. His attention is continually distracted by a series of visitors to the green room, from angry and frustrated co-workers (chief among them Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and CEO John Scully) to angry and frustrated family members (chief among them his daughter Lisa and her mother Chrisann).

This is extreme poetic license. No executive could tolerate such emotionally charged conversations moments before stepping in front of an audience. Indeed, for the real story on the focus Jobs brought to his presentations, and the intensity of the preparation, read Carmine Gallo’s excellent analysis of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Familiar Details

Familiar details about life behind the scenes at a major event include:

  • The chaos of cables, monitors and cluttered hallways the audience never sees from the front of the house.
  • The auditorium before the doors open, with a random scattering of people watching the final rehearsal.
  • Swarms of black-clad, production people on headphones trying to keep everything on schedule.
  • The fruit baskets and cans of soda in the green room.
  • Techies frantically trying to get the demo to work.
  • The script outline spread on the floor, undergoing last minute edits.

The movie captures these universal aspects of the world of executive communications.

iBelieve

What is unique to Jobs and Apple was the evangelical fervor of the launches with enthusiastic audiences behaving more like those at a rock concert than the introduction of a new computer (one of which, in a memorable line, is accused of “looking like Judy Jetsons’ Easy-Bake oven”).

It also conveys quirky aspects of Jobs personality, such as using yoga poses to relax before going on stage; insisting the graphics person show him 39 images of a shark before selecting the specific one that he wants on the slide; and needing, over the fire marshals express prohibition, the exit signs in the auditorium blacked-out for a demo.

The movie is of the time and place that birthed Apple and revitalized Silicon Valley. We see flashbacks of Jobs and Woz arguing about the future in their Cupertino garage. The influences on Jobs — from the Bob Dylan soundtrack to knowing references to dropping acid and glorious images of the Golden Gate Bridge — are intertwined with the theme of reconciliation with his estranged daughter.

Much has been written about how confrontational Jobs was, and this film certainly highlights the difficult aspects of his personality. While not too many executive communications professionals have the challenge, or privilege, of working with as mercurial character as Steve Jobs, I believe all will enjoy this inside look backstage before the presentation starts.