In more ways than one it’s been a steamy summer in Washington, DC. To escape the heat the Greene family will venture to some new North American destinations.
Our first trip was to Martha’s Vineyard via Providence, RI, and Plymouth, MA. Although it was a short stay, we managed to cover a lot of ground on the island. Our favorite spot was The Flying Horses Carousel, to which we made a daily quest. Yes, we caught a few brass rings.
Later this summer we’ll head back to the very familiar lakeside cabin near Hackensack, Minnesota. From that northern location we’ll make a trek up to Winnipeg to see what’s going on in Manitoba. I’m sure that it will be cooler up there.
In the Vineyard I selected three books for the seventh edition of the Presentation Skills Reading list. Hopefully they’ll provide you with some new thoughts and ideas for improving your presentation skills.
Read any one of these books, apply the methods, and you’ll be a much better presenter by the Tuesday after Labor Day. To catch your own brass ring, read all three.
There’s been a lot of heat in the United States of America recently, so the Greene family is on the road in Europe. Once again Paris will be our base for a month, but we’ll make sojourns to the watery city of Venice, Italy and the Medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the south of France.
While in Venice I created this latest edition of the annual Summer Presentation Skills Reading List. These three books provide fundamental information that, if followed, will make you a better speaker. Add these three books to your summer reading and become an improved speaker by the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Get a gold star: Read these three books and an additional one from any of the previous Summer Presentation Skills Reading Lists. Have a summer filled with good friends, good food, and good times. Stay cool. Ciao for now.
Previous Summer Presentation Skills Reading Lists, 2011 – 2015
Wow! This is the sixth year of the Summer Presentation Skills Reading List.
2015: Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck and How You Can Make them Better by Rick Altman; Perfect Medical Presentations by Terry Irwin & Julie Terberg; The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
President Barack Obama, as America’s Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World, gives a lot of speeches. According to my White House sources, President Obama has given more than 3,600 speeches since his first presidential inauguration in 2009. With so many speaking opportunities, does President Obama use any specific speechcraft? Yes, he does. President Obama builds his words, topics, and messages on a framework, a presentation structure.
Recently President Obama spoke to an audience of over 4,500 in Kenya. The President thrilled and inspired the stadium-size audience with humor, local greetings, and personal stories. How did the President deliver a heartfelt speech that won him global praise? He employed a presentation structure of four simple steps.
President Obama’s Four Step Speech Structure
Introduction: Greetings & Warm-up Past: Stories of Obama, his Grandfather and Father Future: Envisioning Kenya’s Future Closing: Success Stories – Call to Action
President Obama’s Hierarchy of Structure
President Obama’s speech uses different levels of structure to support his main points. A clear example of this is when the President talks about Kenya’s future. He builds a base with three main ideas that serve as pillars to shore up the topic.
Pillar 1: Democratic Governance Pillar 2: Development for All Pillar 3: National Identity
Structure Creates Efficient Presentations
A presentation framework will let you prepare your speeches more quickly. The structure will guide you as you decide where to place your information within your speech. Employing even a simple structure will make your delivery more logical and your message easier to follow.
The presentation structure that President Obama used in Kenya could be used for many topics and circumstances. It provides a natural progression, ends on a high note, and leaves the audience with a clear understanding of its role in creating a new future. Apply this structure to your message.
Your Four Steps to Structure Success
Introduction: Greet and engage your audience Past: Tell stories of your past situation and challenges Future: Give your audience a vision of a successful future Closing: Deliver a direct call to action
Presentation structure is essential to clear delivery of information. If you listen to the President’s speech, you’ll probably notice a secondary structure of, “What is/was” vs. “What could be.” It’s a back and forth play between the challenges of the past and the successes of the future. This presentation structure works well to create positive responses to the call to action for a future of “What could be.”
If the structure of “What is/was” vs. “What could be” sounds familiar, it should be. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used it in his “I have a Dream” speech. Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate and Slideology, mapped Dr. King’s speech with the presentation structure of back and forth tension between the past and the future.
When you create your presentations, choose a structure first and then build on it, adding your own stories and insights. You might not speak on the world stage, but using presentation structure will help your presentations to flow more smoothly.
If two Noble Peace Prize winners use presentation structure, you might want to give it a try. Not every structure will work in every situation. However, the basic Four Step structure that President Obama used in Kenya will work for most situations. The critical tip to making a rigid presentation structure more fluid is to fill the framework with personal stories to which your audience can relate.
Visit PodiumWisdom.com for a deeper breakdown of President Obama’s structure as well as other elements of the President’s speech in Kenya. Podium Wisdom, a rich resource for information on speaking and presentation skills.
By the temperature, the daylight hours, and the lack of politicians, I can tell that it’s summertime here in Washington, DC. I started my summer journeys with a trip to Denver. I was there as a session speaker at the annual meeting of HCEA. I was only in Denver for two days but managed to pack in some time for creative adventures: renting several Bcycle bikes, visiting South Pearl St. Market, eating lunch at Snooze Union Station, seeing the Cirque du Soleil show Kurios, and filming the video for the 2015 Summer Presentation Skills Readings List.
I presented on the “Three Critical Skills for Successful Public Speaking.” HCEA gave me a big room, and it was packed with attentive and engaged participants. It was my fifth time presenting at HCEA in six years, and many of my friends and colleagues returned to share in the experience of the session
As for the Greene family’s summer plans, we’ll miss out on the fun of Hackensack and Bemidji in Upper Minnesota and venture overseas. I’ll not reveal the location, but we’ll be in my favorite city in the world.
Video was created in Denver, Colorado.
Summer is always a bit more casual, but there’s always time for some reading. To become a better speaker by the Tuesday after Labor Day search out and read these three great books on the 2015 Summertime Presentation Skills Reading List. Three of the authors, Rick Altman, Julie Terberg, and Guy Kawasaki, will be at this year’s Presentation Summit which will be held in New Orleans. Read the books and start designing your slides in the sand.
For bonus points and a gold star, read these three books and an additional one from any of the previous Summer Presentation Skills Reading Lists. Have a summer filled with good friends, good food, and good times.
Presentation Skills Readings List
1)Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck and How You Can Make them Better
by Rick Altman
Previous Summer Presentation Skills Readings Lists, 2011 – 2014 Wow! I can’t believe that this is the fifth year of the Summertime Presentation Skills Reading List.
2014:The Message of You by Judy Carter; Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo; Smart Talk by Lisa B. Marshall 2013:The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds; Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun; Paid to Speak from the National Speakers Association
2012:Presentations in Action by Jerry Weissman; Boring to Bravo by Kristin Arnold: Mastery by George Leonard
2011:Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds; Resonate by Nancy Duarte; The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo
Presenting to distracted people means that you must work harder to gain and maintain their attention. Some of your energy will be wasted combating distractions and competing for your audience’s attention.
“We have so many distractions today it is very hard to focus on one thing.” Marina Abramovic.
We have become distracted people. From cubicles to conference halls, speakers fight against a flood of distractions as they work to engage and connect with their audiences. Some distractions will be totally out of your control, but you need to be aware of their existence and how they affect both you and your audience when you speak.
So how many distractions could there be that prevent your audiences from listening to your message? Take a look at the top 15.
The Top 15 Distractions for Presentation Audiences
Your message – Presentation audiences begin tune out when the speaker’s message does not involve their concerns or address their needs. Keep your message on “WII-FM” (What’s in it for me?), and your audience will stay tuned to your presentation message.
Clothing – Your inappropriate dress for the occasion can be a distraction to some in your audience. Excessive, flashy, unusual, or noisy jewelry can be a problem for both genders. Google glass distracts. Even a small watch can send out blinding flashes of light from a well-lit stage. TED conference dress guide.
Charles with David Datuna’s “Portrait of America” – Google glass project
Your mannerisms – You’ll only know if you have odd or distracting actions if you video your speaking and then watch the video with the sound off. Look at your gestures and movements and then decide if they detract from or compliment your speaking.
Slides – By their nature, slides are distracting, but do yours have too much text? Do you use fancy slide transitions? Go easy on the eyes of your presentation audiences. Create slides with less text and choose simple transitions.
Laser pointer – Is your use of a laser pointer a little too frequent? Could you reduce those times by adding a more detailed slide to your presentation?
Handouts – Is your audience flipping through your handout while you are presenting? Could you reduce the page-turning noise by passing out your handout after the presentation?
Technical snafus – Tech gremlins can pop up at anytime to blow a projector bulb or cause microphone problems. Dealing with a tech problem in the midst of your presentation is a huge distraction. Spend no more than one minute trying to resolve the problem while in front of your audience and then move on.
J.A.C.O.Ws – Jargon, Acronyms, Clichés, & Overused Words, can be distracting to your audience. Here’s another reason to video your presentation. Review the audio of your video and listen to what you say.
Video: J.A.C.O.Ws = Jargon, Acronyms, Clichés, & Overused Words
Seating – Will your audience be comfortable for the length of time that you are speaking? Does the seating arrangement allow you to be seen by all? You can’t redesign the room, but rearranging the chairs or moving more in the provided space might increase audience engagement.
Lighting – Are the lights in the room aimed appropriately? Do they cast awkward shadows? Do they beam toward the eyes of your audience? Are there lights outside of the space that are distracting? Sometimes a drawn curtain can make a huge difference.
Sound – Is your microphone volume appropriate? Can you hear the presentations from the room next door? Does the door to your room close loudly?
Phones – Remind your audience to put them on silent/vibrate. Ask them to take calls out of the room.
Keyboarding clicking – Lots of people take notes on a keyboard. Sitting between click and clackers can be distracting. Some conferences ask texters to sit in one specific area to minimize the noise distraction.
Food & Beverage – Speaking at a lunch program could mean that the dessert is being served and plates cleared during your presentation. Try to present after all food service has been completed.
Room temperature – Is the room too cold or too hot? Is your audience shivering or sweltering?
Yes. There are lots of things that could distract your audience from your presentation message. Be kind to your audience. Consider the issues and think of possible solutions in advance. Reduce the number of distractions. This will let your audience keep their eyes directed on you and their ears focused on your presentation message.
Authentic Presentations – If your presentation style were a meal, would it be an authentic, unique offering or more like a chain restaurant experience?
I hope that when you travel you take the time to seek out dining experiences that are unique to your destination. Chicago has amazing deep-dish pizza; New Orleans, spirit-lifting creole; and Philadelphia, renowned cheese steaks.
Video: Be an authentic speaker
Charles Greene III in Austin, TX
Yes, you could fry beignets at home. However, they’ll pale in comparison to the experience of sitting at Café du Monde in New Orleans and being served a plate of warm beignets topped with a mountain of powered sugar. Substitutes for authentic food experiences can’t replace the “real deal.”
Do you give your audience the very best of you? Do your presentations offer the “real deal?” Follow the menu below for ways to serve up a more authentic you.
4 steps to serve up authentic presentation experiences.
1) Discover the real you. You can’t present your authentic self if you are currently presenting like someone else. See what your audiences see. Video yourself presenting. Video will reveal what you really say and do when you present. Reviewing the video will let you see the areas that need improvement. Yes, watching yourself can be difficult and boring. However, it’s the fastest way to see the reality of your presentations.
2) Make your style unique. As with food, it’s sometimes not what’s on the plate, but how it’s delivered to the table. Does the steak of your presentation have any sizzle? Do your words come with a side of awesome sauce? Listen closely to the audio of the video. Does your message speak more about you than about the needs of your audience? More customization to their needs would help. Do you speak in a monotone? Work on changing your pitch, pace, and tone when you speak. Customization and vocal variety make your message unique and more appealing.
3) Deliver quality, not quantity. Most speakers try to fit too much information into too little time. Do you find yourself constantly going over your allotted time? Are you always talking faster to squeeze in all of your slides? You may be offering your audiences a smorgasbord of TMI – Too Much Information. Less is more. Pare your presentation to the critical elements. Using a slide deck? Narrow down its size. Using less information and fewer slides will give you a more focused presentation with more impact.
The choice to be a better speaker is always yours.
It’s your turn now. Lots of speakers want to be more memorable and engaging, but few do the off-stage work needed to evolve their presentations. You can reach that point of offering more of your true self. Leave the “chain restaurant” experience to the masses. Be an authentic speaker.
Charles Greene III Presentation Magician Washington, DC