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Speaking — Renovate Communication Design, LLC

9 Steps to Better Presentations: Part 2 – Your Presentation is About One Thing

9_-_A_Simple_Guide_to_Better_Presentations.008NOTE: This is the second in a series of posts taken from our guide 9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations. Can’t wait and want to get it all now? Download the eBook for FREE here.

A lot of presentations try to cover too much ground. You may think you need to tell your prospect (or team or students) everything. You don’t.

Some presentations, on the other hand, are about nothing. They don’t have a point.

Your presentation should be about one thing. People have a hard time remembering so make your presentation about one big idea.

Just give them one thing and leave them wanting more.

Insights on Sales and Presenting from Dan Pink’s New Book, To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink - Renovate Communication Design, LLC blogYou’ve probably found that a good part of your day is spent persuading others. Bosses persuade (or tell) their employees to get things done. Workers cajole their colleagues. Parents implore their children. My kids seem to possess a persuasion gene when they want something from me. If I had that gene, it’s apparently recessed over the years.

If you present or speak regularly, you already know this because you’re in the persuasion and marketing business. That’s the perspective we take in our Presentation Renovation approach.

So if we’re all attempting to influence those around us, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to do that well?

Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human, is like a toolbox packed with the stuff you need to effectively persuade and influence others. The key here is effectively.

Like Dan’s other books, TSIH is built on loads of interviews, observation, survey data, and social science research. He convincingly makes the case that, while 1 out of every 9 workers in the U.S. is “in sales,” the work environment has changed enough over the years that many of us spend up to 40% of our days in “non-sales selling:” persuading, influencing, and convincing others in non-purchase situations.

So you may not be Willy Loman but you’re still likely selling–whether you sell for a living or not.

TSIH is divided into three parts. Part One explains how this new world of selling/persuasion came to be. The second and third parts, briefly summarized in the video below, help equip you with the tools you need to work effectively in the new world.

Although the book won’t be available for another week, I’ve read a pre-release copy and it’s full of good stuff. (By the way, if you preorder before December 31, 2012, and send Dan your receipt, he’ll send you a nice little bundle of goodies for free.)

Here are just a few of the surprising insights you’ll find (with a view especially toward presenting).

Extraverts don’t make the best salespeople (or speakers)

It seems to be one of those unspoken truths: you have to be outgoing to sell or speak. If you beat yourself up because you’re not a back-slapping glad-hander, relax. In fact, research shows that people who ride the fence between introversion and extraversion—ambiverts—do better than either group because they can both listen (which introverts do well) and respond (which extraverts do well—see TSIH, chapter 4).

This results from what Dan calls attunement, the ability to see things from a point of view other than your own. It’s about getting inside the head of your audience–something that good speakers and presenters do even before they hit the stage.

Pumping up with positive self-talk is less effective than peppering yourself with questions

If you’ve felt stage fright before a talk (we all have and do), maybe you’ve given yourself a little pep talk: “I can do this, I’ll be great, they’ll love me!” Instead, interrogative self-talk—asking yourself questions—may be more effective.

When you ask questions, you automatically start seeking solutions (see TSIH, chapter 5). This is the quality of buoyancy, the ability to keep going in the face of rejection—an essential skill for salespeople and presenters alike.

Next time you prepare a talk, don’t give yourself a pep talk (“This is going to be a great talk!”). Rather, ask, “How can I make this a great talk for my audience?” Then figure out how to do that.

Uncovering problems for your audience/client may be more valuable than offering solutions

A good speaker (or salesperson or consultant) should be an expert at asking questions. Why? When you’re awash in information and data, what you really need is someone to help frame the problem you’re trying to answer. Asking good questions reveals the problem that ultimately needs to be addressed. Clarity is the quality that helps you do just that (see TSIH, chapter 6).

Some compelling research shows that creativity is really about finding problems, not finding solutions:

[the] people most disposed to creative breakthroughs in art, science, or any endeavor tend to be problem finders. These people sort through vast amounts of information and inputs, often from multiple disciplines; experiment with a variety of different approaches; are willing to switch directions in the course of a project; and often take longer than their counterparts to complete their work. (TSIH, 129*)

If you regularly present or train on a certain topic, incorporate ways to ask your audience questions–not necessarily for the sake of providing answers, but for provoking and gaining insight. Let your audience work a little bit.

Learn to persuade with the new ABCs

To Sell Is Human contains a number of practical exercises and tools to help you learn attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. In addition, presenters and consultants will find a great deal of application (not to mention thought-provoking ideas) in the last three chapters which cover pitching, improvising, and serving. For example, instead of a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch, can you pitch your business or idea with just one word? And could studying improv help you with your persuasion skills? Interestingly, speaker Scott Berkun and coach Nick Morgan have recommended improv lessons/workshops as well. And, at its heart, selling is really about serving: making the world a better place. Isn’t that why we present as well?

Treat yourself and your team to Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human. Highly recommended.

*Page numbers based on the pre-release copy. The published page numbers may differ.

An Unconventional But Surefire Way to Overcome Stage Fright (And Other Anxieties)

Stage FrightYour palms are warm and damp. Beads of perspiration appear on your forehead. Your pulse quickens. You feel like fleeing for the restroom.

These are all symptoms of stage fright, a common social phobia. Whether known as nerves, butterflies, performance anxiety, fear of public speaking, or the technical term glossophobia, stage fright affects most people at some point in their lives. As Steven Pressfield reveals in his book The War of Art, even a seasoned actor like Henry Fonda was throwing up before each performance—at the age of seventy-five.

So now you’re thinking, “Great. Henry Fonda couldn’t control his nerves; what am I supposed to do?”

There are some specific techniques you can apply when you feel that nervousness before you speak. Communication pro Nick Morgan offers these five suggestions and you’ll find a few ideas in our book as well.

But what about the long-term? Is there anything you can do that will help you feel less nervous over time?

Yes—I believe there are some concrete steps you can take that will help you get past your fear of speaking, and probably some other anxieties as well. But let me share a story with you first.

Why I Didn’t Want to Go to Disney World

A few years ago, my wife and I made plans to take our three young children to Disney World during their spring break. We’d fly from Illinois to Florida, stay at a Disney hotel, and spend five days at the different Disney parks. A perfect family getaway, right?


Shortly after we left our home to drive the 45 minutes to the airport, I had to pull over and let my wife drive. My stomach was tied in knots, my breathing was rapid and shallow, and I was on the verge of passing out.

What was going on?

At the time, I wasn’t sure. Fear of flying, maybe? Looking back, I see a number of factors:

  • Apart from visiting our families in Indiana and Oklahoma, we didn’t travel much
  • I’d been in the same job, teaching at the university, for over ten years
  • We’d lived in the same house during that time as well
  • I was approaching my fortieth birthday

As I shared this experience with some older mentors, the term “mid-life crisis” arose. More than that, however, I think it came down to one thing:

My life was static.

For nearly a decade, little in my life had changed.

But when change showed up in the form of a seemingly harmless family vacation, my well-ordered world was turned upside down.

Don’t Let Fear Move In

I had a few more episodes like that over the next several months but I didn’t want my life to be defined by fear. If given the space, fear and anxiety will move in and take over. And I’ve got work to do, a family to love, change I want to make.

You probably do, too.

At their core, social phobias are about public embarrassment. We don’t want to appear stupid or awkward before others. And this is exactly why giving a speech or presentation can be so frightening: everyone is looking at you and you’re thinking, “What will they think of me if I screw up?” I’ve certainly felt that way before a presentation and most people have.

It’s helpful to realize, though, that people want you to do well. The audience, in most cases, is on your side. So relax.

In some cases, your anxiety may be significant enough that you need a professional’s help. Many of us, though, just need some direction and a push.

An Unconventional Regimen for Dealing with Your Public Speaking Fear

Are you ready to move past your fear? Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Take cold showers for a week
  2. Break something that has little value
  3. Talk to a stranger



These are a few of the exercises that Julien Smith suggests in his book The Flinch. It’s free, short (you can read it in an hour) and available for the Kindle. You don’t need a Kindle to read it–you can read it on your computer, phone or tablet with one of these free apps.

The flinch is our response to change and pain, and it shows up in our fears and anxieties. We’re comfortable where we are and change is hard. That vacation to Disney World meant change for me, and it was hard. If you don’t give presentations often, they’re hard. Actually, even when you do give presentations regularly, they’re still hard. Remember Henry Fonda?

When you do the exercises in The Flinch, however, you train yourself to be uncomfortable. The exercises will teach you that being uncomfortable won’t kill you. They will help you build a resistance to the flinch as well as a catalog of memories from which you can draw when you feel fear. They will help you learn to recognize the flinch and then push past it.

Start doing the opposite of your habits. It builds up your tolerance to the flinch and its power. —Julien Smith

If you want to overcome your fear of public speaking in particular, I’d add these two exercises to your anti-flinch training:

  1. Practice – Many people never practice their speeches or presentations. Rehearsing, though, is one of the best ways to prepare. The more prepared you feel before the “real thing,” the less fear you’ll feel.
  2. Speak – Practicing will only get you so far. You’ve got to get in the game to get good. Does that make you uncomfortable? Good! That means you’re on the doorstep of change and about to get better. Teach a lesson at your church, speak at a business club meeting, talk about what you do at your kids’ school. These are all opportunities to get better.

No one else can say what you have to say. Get The Flinch, face your stage fright and tell us your story. The more you do it, the more the flinch loses its power and the more comfortable you’ll become.

Just so you know: I wouldn’t ask you to do something I hadn’t done already. I took the cold showers.

By the way–if you’ve read this far and you still think this is a dumb idea, you’re flinching.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook

How to Prepare a Talk Like Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels

“Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” –Bill Hybels

The world desperately needs better leaders and better communicators. Your business, your school, your church, your family–all would benefit from better leadership and communication.

So how can you improve your leadership and communication skills at the same time?

One idea: by attending the Global Leadership Summit.

The Summit is hosted annually by the Willow Creek Association, a non-profit that helps develop church leaders. The event is held in South Barrington, Illinois, at Willow Creek Community Church and simulcast at hundreds of churches around the world. World-class speakers share their leadership insights for an audience of ministry professionals, lay leaders, and business people. This year’s faculty, for example, included Condoleezza Rice, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, and William Ury.

And, of course, Bill Hybels. Bill is the founder and senior pastor at Willow Creek, and he is passionate about developing leaders.

Deanne and I decided to attend the Summit this year after a consultant colleague, Jim Connolly, recommended the conference to us. We’re always looking for opportunities to get better and found several at the Summit. Last week we made the short drive to Bloomington/Normal where we caught the simulcast at Eastview Christian Church.

Five things Bill Hybels taught me about preparing a talk

Bill gave the opening talk on Thursday. His talk was really more like three separate talks, though, since he 1) introduced the conference, 2) talked about the need for leaders to develop good work habits, and 3) discussed the need for churches and leaders to prepare for the future (succession planning).

While I appreciated the advice that was shared, I also learned a few things about how Bill presents a message. Here’s what I observed:

  1. It’s OK to use notes – Bill referred to his notes (probably handwritten) on the lectern while he delivered his message. In fact, almost all of the Summit speakers used notes. If you’ve seen any TED Talks, though, you know that those talks are memorized. Either approach is fine as long as it’s done well.
  2. Rehearse – Even though Bill used notes, his delivery style was natural and conversational–he didn’t sound like he was reading from a manuscript. This comes from decades of preaching weekly sermons, no doubt, but also rehearsal. It was evident that Bill was not delivering this talk for the first time; he had practiced so that his delivery–his presence–wouldn’t get in the way of the message.
  3. It’s OK to make fun of yourself – Leadership is serious business, right? After all, there’s a lot at stake: if you screw up, people’s jobs are on the line. Well, yes, but a good sense of humor–especially self-deprecating humor–may often win over the skeptical. As he opened the Summit, Bill shared a story about preparing a Thanksgiving turkey that revealed his “awesome” leadership skills but also reinforced the need for leaders to remain humble and teachable.
  4. You don’t have to use PowerPoint – In many instances, it’s assumed that presentations = PowerPoint. Bill, however, used an easel pad to draw simple diagrams that illustrated a few key points. The visuals were helpful (since you remember more when you see and hear content) even though Bill is no Rembrandt. But that’s fine. I’d rather see a rudimentary drawing than an overused bullet-point-laden PowerPoint slide. And since good leaders and speakers seek ways to connect with their audiences, creating imperfect drawings makes the leader more accessible to common folk like me.
  5. Be passionate about your topic – Bill’s enthusiasm for leadership and his desire to help leaders improve were evident throughout his talk. His content, preparation, and the depth of emotion in his voice all point to one conclusion: this is something about which he cares deeply, and you should too.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, consider attending the Global Leadership Summit next year. And if you pay attention to both what the faculty say as well as how they say it, you’ll pick up some valuable speaking tips as well.

Here’s another way to improve your presentations: get our eBook. It’s free for a limited time and will be available soon.

Thanks to the Lincoln Rotary Club

Yesterday I had an unexpected opportunity to speak at the Lincoln Rotary Club.

A colleague called me on Tuesday afternoon. She said she had been scheduled to speak at the Rotary meeting the next day but hadn’t realized it conflicted with another appointment on her calendar. Since she couldn’t be in two places at once, could I fill in for her at the Rotary Club?

You bet.

The Club meets weekly and members as well as folks from outside the Club are invited to speak to the 30-60 active and retired businesspeople who attend. I put together a short talk on–what else?–giving better presentations.

So Deanne and I joined the Club for lunch and participated in the meeting. Once the regular business was concluded, I gave my talk. In the short space I was given (20-25 minutes), I offered up some simple suggestions for delivering better presentations: plan away from the computer, focus on one main idea, use pictures, keep to one idea per slide, rehearse, tell stories.

Afterwards we chatted with a few of the members. I talked with Ed, a retired seed company salesman, who used to give presentations around the world on behalf of his company. In retirement, Ed has taken up hot air ballooning (which is a big deal in Lincoln). We also talked with Jim, an attorney, who uses TrialPad, an app customized for courtroom presentations.

We’re grateful to have had the chance to spend an hour with the Lincoln Rotary Club. Deanne and I would especially like to thank Dave, Kirby, and Marcia for welcoming us so warmly.