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deanne — Renovate Communication Design, LLC
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Three Lessons for Speakers and Presenters from “Friday Night Lights”


Have you ever been a part of an activity that allowed you to work with an inspiring coach?

I enjoyed many sports and clubs throughout high school and college, but if I had to choose the one coach who made me want to play the hardest it was Jerry Logan, my grade school basketball coach.

Every practice was packed with instruction. I remember drills that were completed again and again. Having to shoot and make 20 free throws before we could leave the gym.

Every game was the opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication he was expecting and inspiring in us.

Coach Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler) in “Friday Night Lights” is that kind of coach. When his team, the Dillon Panthers, takes the football field he tells the boys:

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Coach Taylor’s advice works equally well off the gridiron and can help you make better presentations.

1. Give your audience clear eyes by focusing your message and making killer eye contact.

You need to have focus going into your talk. This could mean something as simple as turning off your computer and writing your thoughts down on paper.

Old school?


Less likely to be distracted by all that technology and social media has to offer?


Allow yourself to process the big idea that your talk is built around. That big idea is the main point you want your listeners to walk away with.

If they only remember one thing from your entire presentation, what do you want that to be? You need to build everything around that thought.

And eye contact is crucial not just for you, the speaker, but your audience needs it as well.

Make good eye contact and you’ll get instant feedback. Are they getting your big idea? If you can see their eyes, you’ll know.

Your audience expects you–wants you–to look them in the eye. Using great eye contact will show that you’re confident and that you want to connect with them.

2. Give your audience full hearts by moving them to action.

When you speak you have the opportunity to lead and inspire–don’t let that opportunity pass you by. You’re not just there to give information; no, you want your audience to do something, to move.

If you want action from your audience, you need to think about who they are. Speak to each person like they are the only one in the room.

Focus your talk by answering questions about your audience members that go deeper than their demographics:

  • What are their hopes, fears, and dreams?
  • What is their pain, need or frustration.
  • What do you want them to do?
  • Why might they say no?

The answers to these questions can make your presentations more relevant and powerful.

Write your talk to move that person who is sitting in the crowd with her arms crossed asking,“So what?” If you can reach her, the rest of the audience will be easy.

Fill their hearts by showing your passion as well. A great way to make your talk memorable is to use emotion. 

How do you want your audience to feel at the end of your talk? Inspired? Called to action?

Craft your message in a way that uses emotion. Consider the words you will use and the voice you will deliver them with. Varying your use of words, your volume and your pace will add contrast and make your talk more interesting to your listeners.

We remember more when we feel. If you can make your listeners feel, you can make them care. Choose words that will make an impact on your audience.

Make them care, and they will act.

3. Give a well-planned presentation that can’t lose.

A successful presentation, just like a great play on the football field, takes planning and practice.

Great teams scrimmage and so do great speakers.

Take the time to run through your talk from beginning to end a couple of times. Ensure that you can make it through your introduction using that great eye contact we already talked about. Connect.

And a team wouldn’t practice without its gear. Practice like you’re going to play. Use the tools you’ll be presenting with: your computer, your projector, your remote. Stand in front of a large room. Find a co-worker to listen. Run through your slides from beginning to end.

It’s like Coach Taylor says,

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.


5 ways to minimize distractions and gain more listeners

Distractions, just like life, are going to happen. But you can improve your delivery and remain connected with your audience by minimizing the distractions that may be in your presentations.

Here are 5 ways to get started.

  1. Eliminate unnecessary text – If your audience can read your entire presentation from your slide on the screen, you have made yourself unnecessary. It’s that simple. You hold all of the information and your slides are for emphasis. Make yourself necessary by putting the attention back on you.
  2. Clothes matter – Make sure that you can move in the clothes you are wearing for your talk. Clothing that needs constant adjustment won’t work. And men–remember that the day of your presentation isn’t the time to wear that overly bold tie. For the ladies–don’t put on those extra dangly or overly large hoop earrings. The focus should be on your face and not your accessories.
  3. Move on purpose – Your movements should be intentional and add emphasis to your presentation. You will gain more attention by standing still and directing your energy into your facial expression, voice, and gestures. A good time to move, a few steps to the left or right is during the transitions of your speaking points. This will help you keep your audiences’ attention and move them with you to your next idea.
  4. Project your voice – If people have to strain to hear you, they won’t for very long. Make sure the person in the back of the room is as engaged by your voice as the one in the front. You may need to lower the tone of your voice to help it travel farther.
  5. Acknowledge the distraction – Inevitably a loud air-conditioner will turn on at the moment you most need the attention of your audience or it could be a technical glitch that everyone notices. By drawing attention to the distraction with your words, you allow your audience to admit they were distracted and everyone can move forward together. Otherwise, they spend time wondering if you even heard it or how you could have possibly ignored it, taking their attention away from you and your message.

Paying attention to your presentation–in all its parts–will allow your audience to return the favor.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook

How to Earn Your Audience’s Attention in 30 Seconds Flat

It has been said that an audience decides in the first 30 seconds of a presentation whether or not to listen.

That doesn’t sound like very long but think back to the  last time you were part of an audience.

The speaker may have shuffled papers on the way to the front of the room with his face buried. Maybe he was still organizing his notes along the way. For some reason, he felt the need to look down while he was sharing his first thoughts. He looked unprepared, bored, and disinterested. You began to question his ability to even communicate on the subject and wondered what he could possibly know that you didn’t already.

How long would you give that speaker? It’s very likely that you wouldn’t listen much past his introduction, if you made it that far.

There are many  elements at work in those first few seconds, but remembering these three simple things will put you well on your way to earning the attention of your audience.

  1. Stand tall — We can tell if someone even wants to be in the room by the posture they use. How you hold yourself physically sends a loud and clear message to your audience without saying a word. Stand tall and hold your head high, even while walking to the front of a room. When an audience sees a confident speaker they see a credible speaker.
  2. Make eye contact — Are you introducing yourself, your topic, or taking the time to deliver a great attention-getter? It will fall flat if your eyes are not on your audience. Make eye contact with a small group of the audience for a sustained thought of your presentation. Then navigate the room, one small group at a time, one thought at a time. We trust and connect with someone who can look us in the eye.
  3. Use smile power — Don’t underestimate the power of a smile. Smiling people are generally taken to be more likable. Likability increases your credibility, as does being genuine. Forcing emotion won’t work. Use the natural expressions you would in a conversation.

You step confidently to the front of the room. Instead of looking at your notes, you know your first words and look directly at your audience, making sure to address the entire room. Your facial expression is welcoming, adding emphasis to your words and making it easier to understand your overall meaning. It is as if you are simply talking to the audience, holding a one-on-one conversation. You take the time to connect, and your audience responds by doing the same.

Chances are you’ll earn more than 30 seconds of your audience’s time.