Presenting

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How experienced presenters do it

There are presenters out there who seem to have it all. They speak, the audience listens. They make a joke, the audience laughs. They don’t umm, they don’t ahhh, and they speak clearly, sharing their message and reinforcing it just enough throughout. By the end of the presentation, their audience is informed, educated and leaves the room with all their questions answered. How? This blog shares 4 simple tips and includes 4 extremely useful presentation eBooks.

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Know your whats and whys

This is incredibly obvious, perhaps even to inexperienced presenters – but it probably the most overlooked element during the design stage. When you ask them, experienced presenters tell you that the very first thing they do is crystallize what they want to achieve with the presentation.

These questions will help you get started:

  1. What do I want to achieve?
  2. Why should people listen to me?
  3. What do I want the audience to know after the presentation?

An excellent tip is to write down in a single sentence what your presentation is about and why you are presenting. If you can’t do it in 14 words or less, rewrite it – and one of the 14 words needs to be the powerful “so”. e.g.  “I’m sharing how experienced presenters do it, so you can improve your presentations.” That sentence then gives you a very simple framework and clear criteria for what I want to put in and take out.

“Designing your presentation well lays the foundations for your success.”

Scott Levey

Powerpoint doesn’t make the presentation

Perhaps the comedic writers Steve Lowe and Brendan McArthur[1] best summed it up – “PowerPoint: The Microsoft tool that encourages people to think and talk like ********s.” You make the presentation. Powerpoint is a supporting tool. We’ve all done it. We find a set of existing slides and copy and paste our way to a new presentation. We think in slides and we build what we say around what’s on the slides. Experienced presenters build the presentation slides after they have planned the presentation, when they know what they are going to say and have a clear structure in mind. They use as few slides as possible because they want the focus on them and their message. This way, the presentation has a better chance of becoming a visual aid, rather than the main feature.

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Get comfortable

Have you noticed it? The best presenters are in control and entirely comfortable with what they’re doing. Wow. How do they do it? They practice. Out loud, probably. Practicing is not thinking to yourself what you will say – it’s actually saying it. Recording yourself and practicing in front of a mirror will tell you exactly what your audience will see and hear as you present your content. When you come across as unsure of yourself or uncertain of your content you are creating barriers to success. And don’t focus on “learning it by heart” – focus on the big messages and the important bridges.

“Practice your presentation a day before you hold it -if you start practising an hour before you run the risk of deciding to change things around which makes things harder.

James Culver

 

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Don’t lose yourself, but if you do…

Your mind draws a blank. You’ve forgotten to make an important point. You just realized you’re babbling away. You don’t know the answer to the question. The audience looks at you like they don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say. Now what?

We all make mistakes and “owning your mistakes” helps build credibility . Smile. Don’t wind yourself up. Move forward. Say it later. Focus on the next point. Say that you’ll find out the answer but you don’t have it right now. Ask the audience – what have you understood so far? – and take it from there.

Moments when things go wrong happen – so remember they are only moments. Even the most experienced presenters draw a blank sometimes. If you look carefully, you’ll see that they have developed techniques that work for them (they take a sip of water while gathering their thoughts, they make a joke out of it, etc.). Experience taught them that.

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If you’d like to benefit from practical training then take a look at our training solutions for presenting across cultures, presenting in a virtual environment and our challenging Presenting with IMPACT


[1] Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?: Insanely Annoying Modern Things – By Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur with Brendan Hay (Grand Central Publishing)

Delivering your first virtual presentation – useful tips for beginners

No matter which system you are using, many people find their first virtual presentation to be an uncomfortable experience. Firstly, remember that the fundamentals behind what makes an effective presentation are generally transferable. Secondly, making changes to the way you plan your virtual presentation is where you set the scene for success. In a previous blog post”Your first virtual presentation – practical planning tips for beginners”, we looked at some key questions, including “How am I going to keep their attention in a virtual presentation environment?”, “What can I do in advance to feel more comfortable?” and the dreaded “What if something goes wrong with the technology?”. This post focuses on tips for actually delivering your first virtual presentation.  Contact us now

Build all-round confidence in the technology when you start

Start by demonstrating to yourself (and others) that the technology is working. This could be as simple as “Before we begin I want to take 30 seconds to check everybody is up and running technology-wise”. Check people can see the same thing, that they can hear you, and you can hear them. If you are expecting people to use other system functions e.g. comments, then this is the stage where you clarify this.

Remember that body language and eye-contact are even more important when presenting virtually

  • Position the camera so that either a) your audience has a good close up of your face, allowing them to see your eyes, smile and other facial movements, or, b) your upper torso so they can see your posture, arms and hands. Avoid the dead zone of  “head and shoulders”. They’ll see your head but can’t see the important facial details, nor the arms and hands.
  • When presenting look directly into your camera and not at the person you are talking to (as this will look as if you are actually looking away from them!). Although you won’t be making eye contact, the “illusion of eye contact” is important when presenting virtually.
  • If possible present standing with your laptop and camera at head-height. Its hard to maintain energy levels sat down.
  • If you are going to use notes, then have your notes at eye-height. Do not put your notes on your desk.  Looking at the top of your head doesn’t help your audience feel connected with you.
  • Always use a headset whenever possible. Mobile phones rob you of your hands and body language. And try to avoid talking over a speaker phone as this always impacts sound quality.

Virtual presentations aren’t natural for many of us at the very beginning.  I recall a purchaser sharing that “she felt like an idiot talking to herself”. But as with any communication skill if you integrate tips and advice and practice, practice, practice then they become less daunting and more effective.  Plan, practice and perfect -your audience will thank you.

Focus on bringing life and intimacy into your voice

  • Make an extra effort to speak with enthusiasm – if you sound nervous/ awkward/disengaged what are you expecting them to feel?
  • Use your hands naturally when you are speaking (even if the camera is focusing just on your face). Again, it will help you sound more natural and human. It will also help you feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Smile when you are presenting – even if the cameras aren’t on! This may sound strange but we can hear smiles, and a smile will always come through in your voice.
  • Consciously vary your pitch, volume and speed. If you are tend to speak fast then slow down for effect. Make your voice interesting to listen to.
  • Actively use pauses and “uhmms”. This remind your audience that this is a “live” presentation and that you aren’t a recording.

Build intimacy through questions and answers

  • Make a presentation – don’t read from your slides. Your audience can read faster than they can listen.
  • Encourage and take questions during the presentation. This is a huge step as it makes the interaction feel more personal, natural and fluid.
  • Use your audience’s names whenever possible. Again, this helps to make the presentation feel more conversational plus will strengthen their attention
  • Look for examples that create personal connections. This will make your presentation sound more like a dialogue vs. monologue.

And the most simple but often forgotten …

  • Keep a glass of water at your side. You’ll need it
  • And you’ll get better with practice!

 

 

6 Reasons Why You Should Eliminate Jargon From Your Presentations

Presentations are all about communicating your message efficiently to your audience. You want to be considered as an authority on the subject matter. You might think that using jargon – shorthand words that are used in companies that operate in particular industries – will impress your audience and get them engaged. It’s more likely though, that they are having the opposite effect, especially if your audience’s second language is English. Target Training previously discussed the use of silence in presentations, and the same applies in eliminating jargon. To know more, below are the reasons why…

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1. You Will Be Difficult to Understand

When used in the context of a work environment, technical terms act as shorthand between team members that make them work faster. Forbes notes that it’s a quick way to communicate. But when presenting to other departments or people outside your company, they are just words that typically sound complicated and daunting. . Menlo Coaching emphasised that you need to say exactly what you mean by using words and phrases that your audience will easily comprehend. Try to keep them as concise as possible.

2. Your Presentation Will Have No Recall Value

Even if there are people in the audience who are familiar with the technical terms you use, they will see right through you. They might get the notion that you are using catch phrases to make the topic (and yourself) more impressive. They will walk away from your presentation learning nothing new. If you really need to use jargon, make sure to elaborate on what you are trying to explain or give an example.

3. Jargon Will Lower People’s Opinion Of You

If you are the project leader and you’re teaching your team, the use of jargon might demoralize them. At best, they will see you as someone not considerate enough to deliver a talk that they can clearly and easily understand.

4. Your Audience Will Get Bored

When your presentation becomes incomprehensible due to too much jargon, boredom will soon set in. Their minds will wander to matters that take more priority. It may also lead to audience members chatting, which can generate noise that distracts others. Get their attention by stringing along words in a new way that they haven’t heard before. You have to be creative – and perhaps entertaining – to gain the audience’s attention.

5. You Will Alienate Your Audience

If you are trying to rally the members in the audience to a specific goal, you will lose them from both an emotional and logical standpoint. Even if they understood the message, they won’t have the drive to achieve it and vice versa. Leadership trainer Alan Matthews recommends stating your message in definite terms and allowing your audience to formulate the necessary actions/response. This will make them feel personally involved in the presentation.

6. The Presentation Will Waste People’s Time

Using generic and non-contextual phrases that confound the audience will make it seem like you’re just droning. You need to prioritize re-evaluating your presentation. Filter out all the jargon and try to limit the number of words in each sentence to deliver their basic meaning. Members of the audience may ask you to expound on some parts, but that’s better than leaving them drowning in a flood of corporate speak.

If you still think your use of jargon is effective, at least send a survey to the audience to get a gauge on your presentation style. If there appears to be a mismatch between the messages you are conveying and their perceptions, then maybe it’s time to toss that jargon glossary out the window.

About the author

Jean Browne works as a researcher and fact-checker for a career coaching firm in England. She occasionally engages in public speaking when giving seminars. In her spare time, she does freelance work as an events host and bingo caller, among others.

What should I do with my hands during a presentation?

Whether you are presenting, telling a story or just talking, how you use hands (or don’t use them) is important. An analysis of TED talks found that the most popular TED talkers were using 465 hand gestures over 18 minutes – compared to the least popular using just 272. Other research shows that gestures – more than actions themselves – impact our understanding of meaning. Put simply, you need to unleash the power of gestures when you present.

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Your hands give you away (4 things not to do)

We have all seen somebody standing in front of a large group of people, trying to remain calm and hide their nervousness, and their hands giving them away. We can see they’re nervous and uncomfortable. When presenting, don’t:

  1. Keep them in your pockets. This will usually come across to your audience as too casual and is often perceived by people at as you trying to hide your hands because of nervousness. Like it or not, it is best to keep your hands out in the open for the world to see.
  2. Keep them in behind you. Hiding them behind your back can this makes you look distant and reserved or even uninterested in the people you are talking to.
  3. Place them on your hips. A stance with both hands on the hips will, more than likely, seem aggressive or authoritarian and definitely will not win you any friends in your audience.
  4. Hold them together. You’ll look as if you are defending yourself and come across as unconfident and vulnerable. Crossing them can achieve the same result too.

4 Things to do with your hands when presenting

When you are presenting, the focus should be on you. Therefore, use everything in your arsenal to ensure your audience is interested and informed. By using your body to help emphasize your words, your presentation becomes more dynamic, and your audience is more likely to remember your message. Use your hands and arms; don’t leave them at your sides. Be aware of your body and how it can help you.

Open up

If you maintain a closed stance, the audience may suspect you are hiding something and won’t trust you. Remember not to cross your arms or to keep them too close together. You are not a T-Rex, so don’t keep your elbows glued to your ribs. Claim the space and show your hands.

Use broad gestures

These should fit with what you are saying and not be used randomly. You know what you are going to say, so now decide how you are going to say it. Your body is an extension of your voice, so it is important to use confident gestures while you are practicing your presentation. With practice, the gestures will become more natural and a part of your dynamic speaking style. Use your hands to emphasize, to contrast or even to convey emotions in your story.

Show an open palm

By keeping your hands open and showing the audience your open palms, you are showing you have nothing to hide. The audience are more likely to feel they can trust you, and that you are sincere in your message.

The Palm Sideways

This is like holding your hand as though you were going to shake another person’s hand. This gesture is used to impress upon the audience the point you are making. You are opening up your message and showing them what is inside. You can also use this to point … without using your finger.

Videos

And keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be flamboyant and bounce around. You just need to be authentically you! This Target Training video from James Culver on storytelling  is a great example of how smaller and gentle movements can be natural and still reinforce the message.

What to do with your hands when you’re presenting

Two excellent and short video displaying tips and tricks.

 

4 essential tips

From the 2014 Toastmasters International world champion of public speaking Dananjaya Hettiarachchi.  You may feel that Hettiarachchi is a little theatrical for a business scenario, but the 4 tips are directly transferable!

Body language

This video is longer (just under 14 minutes) but comprehensive.  It covers all areas of body language when presenting and is definitely worth watching.

If you’d like more tips on presenting in general…

We have 37 blog posts related to presenting on our blog. Two further eBooks on presentations are available to download in the sidebar: “Presentation Models” and “Presenting with IMPACT.” Or, one of our seminars on this topic might be just what you need:

 

Your first virtual presentation – practical planning tips for beginners

The move to delivering presentations virtually isn’t natural for most of us.  Put simply, it feels weird. So here’s the good news. Most of the core principles behind what makes an effective presentation still apply. You need to know: what your message is, reflect on who your audience is, merge your message with their interests, have a clear structure, etc. In many ways delivering a presentation virtually requires the same knowledge and skills … but there are differences too. If you are a beginner to making presentations online there are 2 areas to think about –preparation and delivery.  Our clients often tell us the delivery stage is the area that worries them most BUT we can’t emphasize enough that making changes to the way you plan your virtual presentation is where you set the scene for success.  This blog post looks at the planning stage. 

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When you start planning your virtual presentations the 3 big questions to ask yourself are

  • How am I going to keep their attention?
  • What can I do in advance to feel more comfortable?
  • What if something goes wrong with the technology?

How am I going to keep their attention during my presentation?

Your audience’s attention span (how long they’ll concentrate on you and your message ) is shorter online than off line.  This is partly because they won’t have you to focus on in person, partly because they will have other distractions tempting them away (emails, watching colleagues etc) … and partly because they can pay less attention and you won’t notice.  So, to keep their attention you need to

  • Make your virtual presentation as short as possible. No advice we can give you will help your audience stay focused for 2 hours. Aim for 40 minutes maximum and break it into 2 parts if it’s longer.
  • Stay away from text heavy slides. We can read at least twice as fast as we can listen to you speak [http://www.humanfactors.com/newsletters/human_interaction_speeds.asp] This means if all your information is written on the slide your audience will have read it before you are even half-way through talking about it. Your audience will then tune out and start doing something else while you tell them what they just read.
  • This means you need to rethink the way you design your slides. Your slides will often be the primary visual link you have to your listener. This means your slides need to be very visual – one powerful pictures is better than many, unusual images will recapture their attention and diagrams need to be clear.  Compare the 2 examples below.

What can I do in advance to feel more comfortable?

If this is your first time presenting virtually then

  • Know your content! This is obviously equally true when you make a presentation “in the flesh” but our experience is that presenters are more likely to turn “knowing content” into lots of notes and then read from them when they present virtually.  I remember one purchaser who wrote a complete script including notes when to pause!  Reading rather than speaking is going to really impact your energy levels, make you sound less natural and ultimately encourage your audience to start multi-tasking. You need to know what you want to say so you can focus on how you say it. (more in part 2)
  • Practice and practice again – If this is your first time then you can’t spend enough time practicing with someone else or set up a second computer so you can see what they’ll see. This will help you feel in control, more confident any your audience will thank you for it. Keep in mind that this is a learning curve and the sooner you start the better. DO NOT just work it out as you go along!
  • Think about the environment you’ll be presenting from and try to limit distractions and interruptions. If you can, present from a meeting room which is quiet.  Presenting from your desk in a large open office is going to be tough no matter how much experience you have.
  • Finally, you need to invest time in knowing your web or video conferencing platform really well! This is where a practice runs adds value. Almost all conferencing tools have getting started tours, how tos and tips and user guides. Some even offer free online courses. Use them and become comfortable with your technology.

What if something goes wrong with the technology?

This is less likely than you think but something going wrong with the technology is often top of most first-time presenter’s fears.  Here are 3 things you can do …

  • Practice using the system. The more practice you have the more you’ll trust it. I know I’m repeating myself and I’ll do it again … practice using the system.
  • Make sure your computer is updated, that you have a second power source (don’t rely on just your battery) and that you’ve closed any programs you won’t need
  • Organize for a more experienced colleague to be on hand (sometimes called a “producer”). When you are making presentations to larger audiences this “extra pair of hands in cyberspace” is essential.  You focus on the presentation and they focus on the technology.

To summarize

Success starts with planning your content, adapting your visuals, knowing your content so you can speak naturally, controlling your environment and being ready for the dreaded technical problem.There’s a lot more to presenting in a virtual environment and some of those things will be discussed in a future post. In the meantime, here’s an eBook that will help you deal with all of your presentations stress – virtual or not.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

6 reasons why silence is golden in presentations

I recently delivered a two-day Presenting with IMPACT course for a group of highly-talented professionals, all of whom came from different countries and had different job functions.  Their levels of English varied slightly, as did their age, work experience and confidence.  The one thing this highly diverse group did have in common was their tendency to talk too much during their presentations. Why is that a problem you ask?  Aren’t we supposed to talk when presenting…isn’t that the point?  Of course it is, but there is a time when silence, or a nicely timed pause, works in your favor as the presenter.  We spent a lot of time working on the usage of pauses and silence in their presentations with great results.  So, I’d like to share with you 6 practical ways that silence can improve your presentations:

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It slows you down

Many people struggle with speaking too quickly when they are presenting.  This can be due to nerves, having a lot to cover in a short period of time, etc.  Building planned pauses into your presentation allows you to slow things down, collect yourself and focus on enunciating your message to the audience.

It helps your audience absorb and retain your message

Using a strategic pause after stating your walk away message can allow it to better ‘sink in.’  I’d suggest doing this more than one time throughout your presentation at it will reinforce what you want the audience to do/think/feel after listening to your presentation.

It helps non-native speakers ‘catch up’

Many of our clients present in their second language, English, to an audience who are receiving the message in their second or third language.  Regardless of how talented someone may be in a second or third language, they still need more time to process things compared to their native language.  Using pauses can give the audience ‘space to breath’ and make sure they fully comprehend what you are saying.

 

“Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

It shows willingness to listen and take questions

When a speaker is ‘speed-talking’ through their points, an audience can feel that things are rushed and there is no time for questions.  Fielding and asking questions in a presentation can work in the speaker’s favor if handled correctly.  It involves the audience and gives the presenter a chance to reinforce their walk away message in a context that matters to the audience.

It emphasizes important points

Silence is an effective tool to emphasize important points, build positive suspense and highlight things that need to be clarified.  Mark Twain once said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

It shows confidence, control and poise

Most of us get nervous and experience stress when speaking in public.  The important thing is not show it when presenting if possible.  Using pauses and silence throughout your presentation will give you the breaks you need to collect yourself and refocus if need be.

Try it for yourself…

Using pauses and silence when speaking doesn’t come natural for a lot of people.  It takes practice and being open to feedback from colleagues or friends.  One quick and easy activity to practice using pauses is as follows:

  1. Write down 2 sentences on what you will do after work today. For example: I will finish work at 6pm and head to the supermarket. After shopping, I will go home and cook dinner for my family.
  2. Read the 2 sentences out loud as you normally would.
  3. Now, read the 2 sentences again out loud, but this time with a 3 second pause in between them. (count to 3 in your head between the sentences)

It sounds like a simple exercise, but many people have a hard time waiting the full three seconds to start the second sentence.  Try this with a colleague at work over lunch.  Ask each other how it sounds and how you feel.  Try it a few more times and then try using it at least once the next time you speak in front of people.

We have all heard the phrase ‘Silence is golden’.  Whether you agree with this or not, try to use a little bit of it in your next presentation.  I think you will be pleased with the results, and your audience will be too.

Presenting in a foreign language

I’ve been involved in business English training since I left university, and over the years I’ve helped hundreds of executives, managers and experts improve their presentations in English. I’ve worked with confident presenters, nervous presenters, boring presenters and inspiring presenters. Some of them have struggled with their presentations skills, others with their content and many with their English skills. All of these people came to mind when I was preparing a presentation in German. It was a sure case of the shoe being on the other foot for once and I was quickly reminded that knowing what to do and doing it aren’t the same!

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The challenges

The presentation I needed to make was  part of a kick-off event for an exciting new Blended Learning project with Global English at one of our clients. I was going to be one of three presenters, speaking to a group of around fifty German HR specialists and managers. As this was a high profile flag ship project, the kick-off needed to build interest and motivation. Doing it in German didn’t worry me too much – but I knew it was going to be functional rather than elegant. Having learnt most of my German by “doing” rather than “studying”, I sacrifice accuracy for communication. (My German trainer tells me my German is CEFR B2. I think she’s just being nice – my grammar ist nicht gut.)
So the first thing I did was sit down to consider the advice I’d give a client faced with the same situation in reverse:

  • Identify my key messages before I do anything else – and make sure I can phrase and rephrase these
  • Keep it relevant by using examples and stories
  • Don’t try to learn the presentation word for word – it will make me nervous and inflexible
  • But do think through and practice my introduction in advance – by getting off on the right foot I knew I’d relax
  • Never rely on prompt cards – they’ll just get in my way and stop me building rapport with audience – and for the same reasons don’t read from my slides
  • And most importantly – don’t get hung up on the language – they are there to hear what I’m saying – not how I’m saying it

The presentation

After some preparation and practice I drove to Bonn to make the presentation. I felt that my message was clear and the audience seemed interested and convinced. There’d been some nodding heads, some laughter in the right places, and a few questions. Job well done, I thought.

The feedback

Reflecting and debriefing is always important if you want to get better, and there were a couple of people in the audience who I knew and respected. With this in mind, I asked them how they felt I had done, and what I could do better next time. Their answer was clear and consistent – “Sometimes you spoke a bit too fast” and “It was hard to hear you in some places”. Ouch! I thought about the feedback – and then replayed my presentation in my mind.

Upon further reflection, I realised that when I began to struggle with my German I unconsciously began to speak a little quieter. Although I knew what I wanted to say I wasn’t sure about how I was saying it – and without realizing it I turned the power down. I also realised that when I began to struggle with my German I unintentionally spoke faster to hide my mistakes.

Because I’d forgotten to remind myself about a common problem that many people face when presenting in a foreign language – nerves mean they forget the 4Ps.

The 4Ps

  • Power – speaking audibly and clearly
  • Pitch – using the stress and tone of your voice to emphasize key points
  • Pace – matching the speed at which you speak to the message and the audience
  • Pause – playing with silence and breaks to draw attention to build suspense, interest, draw attention to key points and signal thematic changes

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Train the trainer: Interactive presentations

Internal training is often done via presentations and companies often use an internal “expert” to deliver training to other members of staff. Slide after slide appears on the screen and by the end, there’s a handout with the most important points and perhaps a summary. The upside of this type of training is that the information is first hand from the expert. One of the downsides is that the trainer often doesn’t have experience in training. He/she doesn’t understand how to make learning stick, or that only 10% of learning happens through structured training. (Read more about the  70-20-10 model.) Here are a few ideas to make your presentation based training interactive. 



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Who are you and why are you here?

A trainer always explains the objectives of the training session. The objectives need to be relevant to the audience – you need buy-in for learning to take place. Everything that happens in the training should link back to the objective. The participants have objectives too – but they might be different to yours and you need to align the two sets. This is often done through a warmer activity – who are you and why are you here? A warmer activity can be done as a group, in small groups or in pairs. At the end of the activity, everyone has shared their personal objectives (ideally they are visible for everyone to read). The trainer then paraphrases the personal objectives and links it in to the objectives of the session. If there are objectives that can’t be aligned, the trainer points them out: “Sorry, we won’t be covering that in detail today”, or “There might be time to do that at the end of the session.”

Get people up and moving

If participants don’t know each other very well, a few icebreakers are necessary. A game called ‘find someone who’ can be adapted easily to any audience and topic. Beyond that, you can bring discussion cards, or tasks that participants have to do between slides. Especially when people’s interests are fading, stop the presentation and get them up and moving around the room. Ask them to brainstorm in groups, to summarize in pairs, to troubleshoot, or ask them to pick a position in the room based on how strongly they feel about a company/work-related statement. Ask them to present some of the key learning points of the presentation back to you half-way through and use it as an opportunity to align participant knowledge.

Involve your audience

Closely related to the above, even when the training material is dry, full of facts and technical jargon, your training can be interactive. You can engage participants in almost a thousand different ways. Ask them for their experience or opinions, ask them to read out the information on the slides, or prepare a quiz or a competition (with a token prize). Open a debate, do a shout out round of questions or get them to walkabout the room to examine information on the topic at different stations. (Here are 25 ideas on making training active.)

Ask for commitment

When the participants leave the training room, what are they expected to do? They learned something but how will they transfer that to their job – that’s a good question to prepare yourself for. Before the training session finishes, take enough time to ask participants about their ideas, and also to give advice on making the learning stick. You may also consider a Personal Learning Plan.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic. We also offer a range of  Train the Trainer and Workshop Facilitation seminars.

 

The elevator pitch

For a lot of us it’s a fact of life: you always think of the things you should have said after the conversation finishes or the moment passes. Why is it that when you need something brilliant to come out of your mouth, it doesn’t come out, or it comes out wrong? The name ‘elevator pitch’ is based on the idea that it should be possible to deliver a summary of your conversation in the time span of an elevator ride (thirty seconds to two minutes). If two minutes are all you have, what will you say? 

 

“A while ago I shared an elevator with a Board member of a major multinational. He had no idea who I was. But I knew exactly who he was and unfortunately, it was going to stay that way.  Apart from a “Good morning” and a “Goodbye” we rode the elevator in silence. I literally had my moment to speak and I did nothing with it. Of course, afterwards I thought of about a million brilliant things I could have said, but didn’t. I fluffed it.”

Seminar participant

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Forethought and planning

The participant from the above quote didn’t think to prepare for such a moment. Perhaps she thought she would just “wing it” if the moment ever arrived. But it requires real forethought and planning to get your message across concisely and engagingly, especially when you only have two minutes to do it.

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Mark Twain

How to get key points across in two minutes

A great elevator pitch has one aim. To appeal to someone you want something from somewhere in the future. When the doors open you want to be walking away with some kind of commitment. At the very least, you’re hoping for a business card. So, absolutely everything you’re going to say has to generate interest – there’s no space for fluff and waffle. That can be pretty tough, and that’s why it’s all about the preparation and thorough, personalized practice with tough and challenging sparring partners.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you prepare your elevator pitch, starting with the GOALS model that we use in our training sessions:

  • Goal – Know what your goal is from the outset

  • Opening – How will you open your elevator pitch and make it topical and relevant?

  • Attention – How will you keep their interest in what you’re saying?

  • Language – Don’t be tempted into using jargon and complex words.

  • Steps – What are the next steps?

An elevator pitch is (should be) a two-way conversation

Talking for a minute without interruption is a long time, have you tried it, or listen to someone do it? Say your elevator ride takes as much as two minutes. In that time you’re building rapport, you’re allowing the other person to answer and ask you a question or two, etc. It’s not a monologue. Brian Walters calls it verbal ping-pong. So in fact, you might only have the chance to say three or so “meaningful” things. Having an (important) elevator conversation with someone you don’t really know can go one of many ways in between going terribly wrong and going absolutely great.

Final tips for your elevator pitch

Be interesting, whatever you say. When possible.

  • Use similes when describing yourself.
  • Compare yourself/the situation to someone/something recognizable or a cross between things.
  • Create surprise.
  • Listen.

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Asking for feedback

1001meetingsphraseslargeI recently asked a colleague for some feedback following a presentation which I thought had been a bit shaky. ‘You did great’ was the reply, and the conversation moved on. Later on, when the warm glow of being told ‘well done’ had faded, I asked myself what I had actually learnt from that feedback and how would it help me improve. I realized that apart from thinking what a nice person my colleague was, I’d actually heard nothing which would help me do better next time. It then dawned on me that this was because of how I’d gone about asking for it. If I wanted to get meaningful feedback, then the way I asked for it had to be structured too.

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Basic steps to get the feedback you want

Getting feedback from peers is one of the most useful tools we have for enhancing our performance. Peer feedback is in real time, looks at learnt skills being used in real situations, and it’s from ‘end users’. But how we go about asking for this feedback has a huge influence on how useful what we hear will be. No more ‘Do you think my presentation was OK’? type questions, what do you really want to know?

Check with your peer that they are comfortable giving you feedback

If they say no, it’s not necessarily because they have nothing good to say! Not everyone is comfortable giving feedback, and those that aren’t tend to give the type of empty answers such as ‘great’ or ‘it was fine’.  A few ways to ask could be:

  • “I’m really hoping to improve my presentations skills and could use your help.  Do you mind giving me some feedback after my presentation?”
  • “Could you give me some feedback on my presentation afterwards?  It would help me a lot in improving my presentation skills.” 

Be specific about what you want feedback on

When asking for feedback, briefly explain what you would like to cover, and why it’s important to you.

  • “It would help me a lot if you could specifically pay attention to my body language during my presentation.”
  • “Could you try and focus on how I transition from point to point during my talk?”

And, if the other person is struggling to think of something to say, ask two basic questions:

  • “What did I do best?” 
  • “Is there something I can improve?” 

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper

For example, I was told that I had lost the audience in a presentation. By asking where I had lost them, why did they feel this had happened and did they have any suggestions for what I could do differently, I was able to think of ways to prevent this happening in my next presentation.                            

Since following these steps, I’ve found feedback far more useful and an increase in respect from both sides. There have only been a couple of times that I’ve winced at something somebody has said, but what they said was true. Ultimately, audiences at future presentations have benefited. So, take a big breath, smile and ask the question – could I ask you for some feedback?

The three basic rules to capitalization

Speaking a language involves understanding, recognizing and successfully using a set of grammar rules. However, when writing in a language, a whole new set of rules have to be learnt and used. English is no different. One question I get quite often from my participants who are writing a report or preparing slides for a presentation is when to capitalize a letter. Because we are speaking about English, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. There are a few basic rules, but the rest are a matter of style. As usual, the most important thing is consistency. Remaining consistent makes your writing more professional and polished. Otherwise, your work looks lazy and shoddy.

That said, the three basic rules to remember can be broken down as follows:

  1. Capitalize the first word in a sentence. This is an easy one that is pretty consistent across languages with Latin-based alphabets.
  2. Capitalize the pronoun ‘I’ in any location. Remember that you are important! You are so important that you use a big letter when talking about yourself.
  3. Capitalize all proper nouns. If it is the official word for something, capitalize the first letter. This goes for cities, countries, companies, brand names, days, months, people’s names or nicknames, etc.

That seems pretty basic and covers just about everything, so what else is there to worry about? Well, what about titles of reports and presentations? Here you can do it one of two ways. Either capitalize only the first letter of the title, or the first letter of each important word, like in the below example.

  • A study on customer behavior with supporting data
  • A Study on Customer Behavior with Supporting Data

Once again, consistency is key. After you have picked your style, make sure you use it on each subsequent page or slide. If you are preparing a presentation, the same rules apply for each bullet point. Thus, is it important to use the same style for your bullet points as you are using for your titles. This will give your final presentation a polished and professional look.

What other grammar problems do you come across when you write in English? How are the rules for English different than for your native language? Let us know in the comments box below.

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Building authentic intercultural business relationships – part 3

The 7 dimensions of culture, and how does intercultural theory actually help you in business?

Why is the contract often seen as the end to a negotiation to Germans yet viewed as part of the negotiation process in China? If you are presenting, where do you put your summary? Sounds obvious – but is it? Why should you put your summary at the front when presenting to Americans (bottom line up front) And why would you start big picture and then summarize at the end if your audience was French?

Few things are as complex as human behaviour, and understanding cultures beyond a superficial level is never easy. This is where a little practical theory comes in.  If you know that specific cultures like to get to the specifics quickly via an “executive summary” (US, Dutch) and that more diffuse cultures want a holistic view, with a big picture (France, Japan) then you can structure your presentation to be successful, regardless of the nationality of your audience.

In this interview, Dr Fons Trompenaars, the best-selling author of Riding the Waves of Culture and one of the world’s leading management thinkers, explains how theory can concretely impact tangible business scenarios such as negotiating, presenting and leading others.

Effective intercultural training needs theoretical models which work hand in hand with practical exercises and activities – and this is where the 7 dimensions of culture adds real value. It can simplify complexity, and is easy to recall and explain. If you’d like to know more about the model check out mindtools.com, for a great explanation and practical advice.

And we’ll leave you with a final few words from Fons on how culture and communication are entwined.

Interview with Dr Trompenaars

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Powerful Communication – The Power of the Purpose Pyramid

listening skills target trainingThe purpose pyramid is one of the simplest and yet effective communication models for introducing a presentation, opening a meeting or organizing your thoughts that there is. It is so simple, in fact, that no one seems to take credit for it though you will find it in the work of many communications gurus. The four questions in the pyramid aren’t special by themselves, but together they offer a powerful way to connect what you want to do with the goals and needs of your organization, no matter what business you are in or function you perform. Why? + What? + How? + Who? = Alignment. The Purpose Pyramid makes it easy for you to structure your communication – in any situation.

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Why?

Why is where you share or remind your team about the deeper meaning and purpose of the organization. This is the reason that energizes you and your colleagues as well as your customers. What’s your why? Your purpose is best when it brings the energy of your team together and they can all see themselves in it. It should also attract internal and external customers to your work.

A band plays music, by definition – but wouldn’t you rather see a band whose purpose is to give you high energy and a memorable musical experience?

At a more nuts and bolts level, you can also apply the why to day-to-day interactions and situations. An example could be to state the purpose (why) of a meeting on the agenda for everyone to see. If there is a question about being on track, the team can refer to the mutually agreed purpose of the team.

What?

What refers to the tasks you and your team need to get done to contribute to making your purpose a reality. At their best these tasks are things you can track and observe easily so all can know when it is accomplished. For example, to have better meetings is not a clear task. Having everyone contribute to the meeting is a clear task. The SMART principle is a great model to use, just remember they should in some way contribute to achieving your purpose.

An example could be to make task identification a two-step process. Instead of automatically identifying who should complete a task at the same time as identifying the task, outline just the tasks first. Going through the how before identifying who will help team members to know what they are committing to.

How?

How is where you turn to your method, approach or process, How will you get your tasks accomplished? For example, sticking with the “better meetings” example, if my task is to have everyone contribute to a meeting, I could tell the team members I expect them to contribute and hope for the best or I could use a polling technique in the meeting to give each attendee the space to speak uninterrupted.

If a task is complex, the “how” could be a process or procedure that helps to complete the task effectively and efficiently. If you have standard operating procedures in place, this is the time to stress their use.

An example could be to identify the resources and process necessary to complete a task before asking who will do it. Leaders get a chance to offer support to the team and may encourage team members to accept a stretch task because they know how they will be supported.

Who?

Who refers to the individual and collective commitments or expectations that match your team to the tasks at hand. In most meetings the who stage tells how well we’ve done the other stages. If team members recognize and connect with their purpose, the necessity of a task and the process and resources to get it done, it’s a lot easier to agree to do them. With the clarity you’ve built earlier, it is easier for you to ask for what you want while committing to do what is necessary to support your team. A great question at the end of a meeting is “what have we agreed to do?” to check agreements without sounding like a task master.

Browse our blog for more tips and tricks

And/or let me know of any other useful communication tools that always work for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

Storytelling in presentations

What makes a presentation memorable?

I think you’ll agree with me that a memorable presentation has more to it than the introduction, some main points, a summary, a conclusion and time for questions. The presentations I remember best and enjoyed the most have all had one thing in common – a story. Stories have been used throughout history to teach and using them in a presentation makes it more memorable and more interesting for your audience.

Personalize it

As a company of trainers, we know that personalization is key to successful learning. This is a very sound piece of advice which applies to any form of learning. Personalization draws the audience in, it makes them feel involved. People who care about what you say will listen to you and remember your message. This may be hard to do when reporting on last year’s figures, but with a bit of imagination, there’s always a way.

Watch the experts

The rest of this post is dedicated to the great presenters of TED. This playlist on storytelling has six great videos. The first video in this post is a presentation by Andrew Stanton. It has a particularly interesting opening. The rest of the video is worth watching too. The second video is by Simon Sinek, who talks about inspirational leadership and the golden circle.

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Giving presentations scares me to death!

Presenting under pressure. Performance anxiety. Stage fright. Call it what you want, but the incredible nervousness some people feel as soon as they stand up in front of an audience is real. And if your audience is your boss, it can really affect how you present. Unless you’re prepared for it.

“You’ve felt it. The knot in your stomach. The sweaty palms. The general disorientation. The feeling you have when someone asks, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘NO, I’m not ok. I have to give this presentation to my boss and I’m terrified!’ You can rest assured. I promise you, you are not alone!”

I am not a fan of the old advice, ‘Imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear.’ Depending on who’s out there, it could get distracting! Most people manage their jitters by doing one thing: They prepare.

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Know your material

There is no greater tool you can have in your toolbox. Having a good handle on what you’re talking about gives you confidence, gives you the knowledge you need to handle any question that comes your way. Don’t just have a ‘general idea’ of what you’re going to say. Script it, if necessary. And whatever you do, don’t just ‘wing it.’ Lots of people try it. And frankly, it fails far more often than it succeeds.

Prepare your material

The old joke goes, ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?’ ‘Practice, practice, practice.’ Try your presentation out for people. Ask for their feedback. It seems simple, but asking for help is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Do it in front of a mirror. Save it on a voice recorder and play it back. Ask people to look at your slides (Here’s a good guide to building excellent slides).

Trust your material

Most of the time, your nerves are lies! Believe it or not, most managers/bosses/audiences/groups/colleagues want you to succeed. Do your work before you go in and know (and I admit there is no magic way to do this) that the stress and anxiety you feel is NOT REAL. Take a deep breath and know your audience wants you to do well. And if you feel those nerves again and it feels like the words are coming out of your mouth and you have no control over them, just stop a second, take that deep again and carry on.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.

 

Sex, stress and public speaking

How can you take the stress out of public speaking?

Being afraid of public speaking is common. It’s even common in the business world where presentations are a regular part of life. It’s (wrongly) assumed everyone can do it. So what can you do if you are nervous about presenting? Here are 2 great tips for calming your nerves before your next presentation and a 3rd tip which I came across while doing some research on this topic.

1. Know your content

Knowing your content is a must if you want to stay cool, calm and collected when presenting. Conversely, not knowing your content will always create anxiety and stress. You need to take the time to identify your key messages, connect these messages to your audience and build an engaging and easy to follow structure. If you know:

  • what you want to say,
  • why you are saying it,
  • how you’ll say it,
  • when you’ll say it,
  • what your audience might ask,
  • and how you’ll answer these questions…

…then you’ve reduced the chances of something going wrong – and you will have reduced your anxiety and stress levels. This sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in a presentations coaching session only to discover the manager hadn’t really invested enough time in thinking about the content. Knowing your content is key!

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2. Practice your delivery – and practice it out loud

Another obvious, yet often ignored, tip is to practice your presentation aloud before you deliver it. Planning it in your head or on paper is great – but it’s not enough.  I remember learning from a German executive the idea of practising your presentation front of the mirror in the bathroom. He told me that it helped “to see if the words fit his mouth” and “to test the rhythm”. Others who have since adopted this approach have mentioned that they found themselves watching their own body language and it helped them with posture and hand gestures.  If standing in front of a mirror feels a little uncomfortable, then try:

  • recording yourself on your phone,
  • asking somebody you respect to be your audience,
  • or just closing the door and speaking aloud.

3. Have sex, lots of it

In 2006, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in the UK, examined the relationship between sexual behaviour patterns, blood pressure, and its reactivity to stress. Stress was provoked and evaluated through public speaking and mental arithmetic activities. Publishing his finding in the renowned New Scientist magazine, Brody found that having regular penetrative sex can help keep stress at bay. Volunteers who had had intercourse were found to be the least stressed, and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who had engaged in other forms of sexual activity.

In a nutshell, those having lots of sex were comparatively less stressed by public speaking than those who didn’t. In fact it might be reasonable to conclude that not only can sex help reduce your stress levels but, if you can find a willing partner, it might actually encourage you to make more presentations.

A final word of advice

Each of these 3 tips can help reduce the sense of anxiety and stress that many people feel when having to speak in public. The less nervous you are, the more confident and successful you’ll be on the day.  Just don’t do try all three at the same time.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.

Learning to listen: lessons from baseball, TED talks and an alien life form

How well do you listen?

Sound matters. In work. In life. Sometimes we forget that. I heard a story recently that was told by a former Major League Baseball player. He talked about a manager he once played for. During practice, the manager would put players in the outfield with their backs to home plate. A batter would stand at home plate and have someone pitch the baseball to him. Baseball bats are made of wood and are roughly 30-34 inches long. The cork-filled, leather-covered ball is thrown anywhere from 80-100 miles per hour. The batter would swing the bat and hit the ball. Now here is the important part:

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Because the player in the outfield had their backs to home plate they had to train their ear to know what part of the field the ball was travelling to, based on the sound created when the baseball made contact with the bat. If you’ve ever seen a baseball game (or cricket) you know you can hear when a ball is hit solidly. But you can’t determine where it is going to travel. This manager wanted his players to hear the contact, and make a split-second decision to race to the position they believed the ball was going, without even seeing it. With practice, players knew exactly where the hit ball was going.

They had to learn to listen.

Are we “losing our listening”?

TED, the great, freely accessible online source for learning, has what I think are two of the best talks around on how to achieve excellent communication. Both are by Julian Treasure, author of an excellent book on the impact sound has on our working lives called ‘Sound Business,’ and both are well-worth watching. In one, he talks about speaking well and in the other, the one I suggest below, he talks to us about listening.

Of his five tips on how to listen better, the final one – an acronym, of course – RASA, the Sanskrit word for ‘juice’ or essence’ is exactly that when it comes to business communication: listening is important, it’s the essence of effective business communication. RASA stands for:

Receive

That is, actually pay attention to what they’re saying.

Appreciate

By making natural small noises or utterances like, “ah” or “hmm” or “okay.” You may have also heard it referred to as active listening.

Summarise

Very crucial to all sorts of business communication, from presentations to negotiations and everything in between. Here it’s critical you are authentic and summarise what you heard – NOT what you wanted to hear.

Ask

And finally, ask questions. Find out more. Learn as much as you can about a situation, a trend, a project, a risk, or an opportunity.

ALF

Learning to listen starts with recognizing all the barriers we create for ourselves. This is where ALF comes in, and no, we’re not talking about the sitcom character that chased cats. ALF means Always Listen First. Julian Treasure warns us at the beginning of his TED talk that ‘we are losing our listening.’

Don’t lose yours. Listen like a Major League player. And Always Listen First.

Effective introductions when presenting in English

If you are nervous about presenting in English, making an effective introduction is especially important. An effective introduction will help your audience know what to expect and it will help you feel confident.  Once you’ve started well it is easier to keep going – and don’t forget that your audience is there to listen to what you have to say and not your English!

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Effective introductions for beginners – the 3 Ps

This simple technique always works. When you are presenting in English (or in any language) your introduction needs to answer three questions:

  1. Why are you standing there presenting? What is the purpose of your presentation?
  2. What are the steps in your presentation? What is the process you will follow?
  3. Why should your audience listen to you?  What is their payoff?

It doesn’t matter if you are introducing your team, presenting a process or giving an update on a project – the structure is the same. The 3Ps help you remember this structure, and if it helps you when you are nervous, why not use the three keywords?

Presenting in English – an example of the 3Ps in action

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  The purpose of my presentation today is to update you on the factory acceptance test.  The process I will follow is to first review the agreed schedule, then talk about the tools we are using and finally we will look at two problems we have found and how we will solve them.  This will take me 10 minutes. Why should you listen?  Well, your payoff is that you will be confident that we can complete the FAT on schedule and that everything is under control.”

Simple, clear and effective

If you follow this structure, your introduction will be simple, clear and effective.  Most importantly you can concentrate on what you want to say, and stop worrying about the English.

Good luck, and why not let me know how it works for you?

Presentation Fillers: 4 Quick Tips to Help

Are you using too many presentation fillers when presenting?

Have you ever given a presentation and started using words like ‘umm’, ‘erm’, ‘well’, ‘I’m not sure’, ‘maybe’, ‘how can I put this’, etc. because you didn’t know what to say or how to answer someone’s question? Have you thought about the effect this has on your listeners? You want your listener to think that you know your topic very well, that you are well-prepared and that your English language skills are very good. Unfortunately, words and phrases like the ones above (which are called fillers) can leave your listener asking themselves why they should listen to you if you don’t really have anything important to say. Even worse, your audience might start focusing on these words instead of the topic of your presentation. That’s why it is important to know how to act when giving a presentation. Here are some tips for you to remember so your audience doesn’t get distracted by your words instead of hearing and remembering your intended message.

4 Tips to help decrease presentation fillers

1.  Know your material. This includes your slides, but also the English words you use on them, other jargon (or specific language) which is important to explain your product or strategy as well as verbs to make your presentation active. Using all of these correctly will reduce the need to use fillers because you are knowledgeable about your subject.

2.  Anticipate questions. Think about possible questions the audience might ask and the answers you might give before the day of the presentation. You might think this is a waste of time, but if you can anticipate the ideas and the vocabulary you might need in advance, you won’t need to use a filler phrase to gain time.

3.  Practice your presentation in advance.  While you might not need to memorize the presentation, you should go through it at least once before giving the presentation, (the more often, the better, however). Practicing the presentation means that you have said what you want to say out loud, that you have thought about your introduction and conclusion and that you have practiced using the visual aids, (slides, props, flipchart etc.) while speaking. This is not always as easy as it looks, especially while doing everything in another language! (For those of you who have a Target Incorporate Trainer in your company, you can ask them to help you with this).Contact us now

4.  Be comfortable with silence. Perhaps this sounds silly to you, but some people use fillers simply because they don’t like silence. In today’s world of constant sounds, it is an easy trap to fall into. This doesn’t mean, however, that saying something without content is better for your audience than saying nothing at all. Everyone, including your audience, needs a chance to think and organize their thoughts before responding to or asking a question. Allow them to do this without interruptions!

 

Finally, some words of advice. Don’t worry if you still use presentation fillers occasionally. Even native speakers sometimes use them. What’s most important is not to overuse them. Let us know if you have any comments below and good luck on your next presentation!  Also, check out our seminar on Presenting with IMPACT to get better results with your presentations.