Presentation magician at the summit

Most of my professional life has been spent at conferences that dealt with a wide variety of subjects — neo-natal urology to snack vending machines to vintage magic posters.  As a presenter or participant I’ve spent an unimaginable amount of time involved with presentations during 25 years of global convention hopping.  However, nothing prepared for the lessons that I learned and the people that I met at Rick Altman’s Presentation Summit 2011 in Austin, TX.  I was blown away.

The Presentation Summit is the leading users conference for presentation specialists and PowerPoint experts.  Each year the conference draws an international following to a different US city where they share their passion for corporate story telling.

This year’s conference was in my favorite Texas city of Austin.  From Rick’s pre-conference letters to the final educational session, the conference met my expectations and delivered more.  In the first session of the first day I learned things that made the whole trip worth it.  And there was still three more days to go.

To the conference I brought my new program, “Three Magic Keys of Successful Presentations.”  Thanks to sessions and conversations with Dave Paradi, Lisa B. Marshall, Connie Malamed, Lisa B. Marshall, Olivia Mitchell, Nick Morgan, Garr Reynolds and Julie Terberg, the program went to a new level of refinement.

So what items can I pass onto you from my time is Austin?  Here are five.

1 – When presenting, focus on your audience.  It’s always about them.

2 – Frame your presentation with a story.  Pick one of several, “The Journey”, “Love”, “Revenge” or “Stranger in a New Land.”

3 – Have fun while teaching and learning (Thanks, Nigel).

4 – PowerPoint animation can be used for good, but clip art is always evil.

5 – Speak from your heart.  Although nothing substitutes for solid preparation and practice, telling your own story with passion will enliven any presentation.

I learned many things in Austin.  However, the one thing that I appreciated most was Rick Altman’s permission given to all of us that it was okay to fail – as long as we failed forward.  Rick, thank you.  I can’t wait to fail forward at next year’s Presentation Summit in Scottsdale, AZ.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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The power of 3 – Your public speaking APP for better presentations

I’m home.  I’ve just returned from a two week, three-city work tour in Europe, London, Amsterdam (actually, Geleen), and Paris.  In London and Paris I did presentations for two different clients.  In the Netherlands I lead a presentation skills workshop.  I love my job, but it’s always good to be home.

On the flight back I was struck by the many times and various ways that the number 3 came up during the trip.  From using PowerPoint in a large lecture hall to presenting at a trade show to teaching corporate managers how to be better presenters, the number 3 and the concept of thirds was always reappearing.

Over the next few months, probably 3, I’m going share my observations on the power of 3 and how you can to use it to make your presentations more focused and effective.  You’ll see how the power of 3 can be applied to improve your message delivery, your slide deck, your images, your use of technology, and much more.

To get things started here’s a quick one – I call it my presentation APP.  It’s an acronym for Audience, Preparation & Practice.  These are the “3 magic keys to successful presentations.”  Focus on these 3 areas and your next presentation will be better than your last one.  I promise.

Audience:  Focus on your audience’s top 3 concerns.  Learn them and provide answers to those concerns within your presentation, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your audience’s expectations of a successful presentation.  According to Woody Allen, 80% of success is showing up.  In presenting, I believe that 80% of success is answering your audience’s top 3 questions.

Preparation:  Gather, refine and align.  Gather all of your facts, photos, and stories before you create your slide deck.  Refine your materials to have the fewest words, the strongest points, and the most human stories possible.  After creating your slide deck, make sure that your slides align visually by looking at them in the slide sorter view.  This should leave you with a slide deck that has a clear message with good visual flow.

 Practice:  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  It’s still true.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Every uber-person in sports(Michael Jordan), performing(Lady Gaga) or presenting(Steve Jobs) knows that practice is an essential key that keeps them at the top of their field.  According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to reach the level of mastery in most areas.  That breaks down to 3 hours of practice every day for a decade.  Yes, that’s a lot of time, but the pay-off is great.

Learning to use the power of 3 can advance your presentation skills in many ways.  And, as learning should never stop, my next stop is Austin, Texas for the Presentation Summit.  I’ll be on the learning side of things, meeting with presentation trainers from all over the world.  How long will I be gone?  That’s right, 3 days.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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4 easy back up options – Preparing for the Fall

This week in Washington, DC we’ve experienced two events that will make the end of this summer quite memorable–a 5.9 earthquake and hurricane Irene.  Those events and an imminent two week trip to Europe (It’s all for work.  Really.) made me think of data loss and recovery.

When the earthquake hit DC, I was on the third floor of my house.  It felt like I was riding the Cyclone at Coney Island.  I went downstairs and told my wife to stand in the doorway and ran into the kitchen to grab my daughter.  Then we headed out of the house.  On the way out I did manage to grab my wallet.  My IPhone was in my pocket, but in the rush I left my MacBook Air on the table.  Okay, I had my precious family with me.  However, if the house had actually caved in, where would I have been from a business standpoint?

Four days later hurricane Irene now knocks at DC’s doorstep as I prepare for the European trip and I ask myself the same general question.  What would happen if my computer gets lost, stolen, or damaged on the trip?  Could I still complete all, most or any of my presentation workshop tasks?  How would I function?

Before the earthquake I was in an okay situation.  Most of my important files were on IDisk, the Apple cloud storage area.  Using Mac address book, Google Mail, and DropBox, I could access to my contacts, e-mail, and other key files via the internet from anywhere.

As for the European trip, the work files will be on the computer as well as on an 8GB thumb drive.  To the cloud storage of ICloud, Dropbox, and Evernote I’ll upload my needed docs, travel plans, slide decks, photos, and PDFs.

On a bigger scale, I need off-site back-up of all of my files, including 160GBs of photos.  Having all of my back-up drives in the same location is not really a credible back-up plan against fire or earthquake damage.  Thus, back to the clouds.

I’m signing up for Carbonite Online storage.  For only $59 a year, they offer unlimited on-line storage that can be accessed from any computer, IPhone, Android or Smart phone.  All new files created or modified are automatically synched, backed-up, and available through any web browser or smart phone as you go.  With ICloud, DropBox, Evernote, and now Carbonite, all of which have mobile apps, I should be covered.  What a deal!

The bottom line is that you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Who knew DC could be rocked by an earthquake?  Fortunately, there are many free and low cost options that make back-up easy.  Here are the sites for the above mentioned services.

  • ICloud (5GBs of free space plus more for photos.)
  • Dropbox (2 GBs of free space.)
  • Carbonite (Unlimited back-up for $59/year.)
  • Evernote (Unlimited, upload 60MB/mo of free space. )

Hey, is that Hurricane Irene at the door?  Gotta go.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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4 insights on successful presentations – Angklung anyone?

Guinness World Record angklung eventAt the invitation of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, DC, on July 9, 2011, I was one among 5,182 who set a Guinness World Record for the largest angklung ensemble. Never heard of the angklung?  Neither had I until two weeks before the event.

The angklung is a one-note musical instrument that comes from Indonesia.  It consists of two or more movable bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame.  You play the angklung by holding it with one hand at the top and shaking it with the other hand at the bottom. It takes eight differently noted angklungs to play a scale.

To help set the Guinness World Record, the Indonesian Embassy had flown in angklung maestro Daeng Udjo from Jakarta, Indonesia.  He directed the novice, but enthusiastic group by using hand signals.  He demonstrated the hand signals as he taught us how to play a scale.  The final test for us was following his hand signals to play the official song, “We are the World,” to set the world record.

Yes, we did!  An official adjudicator from the Guinness Book of Records watched the performance and then announced that a new World Record for an angklung ensemble had been set*.  She said, “You’re unbelievable.  And to think that you have never played the instrument before.”

Being part of setting a Guinness World Record was an amazing event, but it also provided me with four insights that directly relate to successful presentations.

1) Team effort – You’ll never see a one-man Angklung band.  Playing a song with the Angklung always takes teamwork and cooperation. Our group used a series of 10 differently noted/tuned angklungs.  And, as our Guinness World Record was about number, having a cooperative team of 5,182 was critical.  The best presentation is a team effort between the speaker and the audience.

2) Visuals speed learning – Our angklungs had labels at the base with images of the hand signal assigned to each instrument’s note.  When the director gave the corresponding hand signal, you shook your angklung.  These labels also helped to orient the instrument.  When the sticker was facing you, the Angklung was held correctly.  Visual learning made for faster comprehension of the task.

3) Practice increases confidence – Angklung maestro Daeng Udjo made us rehearse by leading us through playing scales several times.  Then we played a full song several times.  That really gave us a sense of how this was going to work.  Finally, we were introduced to the song we’d play to attain the record, “We are the World.”  We rehearsed the complete song several times before performing it for the record.  With each practice, our confidence improved.

4) Being fully present counts – Because of the nature of the event, most of the participants possessed cameras or video recorders.  All of us were admonished that for the world record attempt to count, no one could be caught videoing and not playing their instrument.  For the five minutes of the attempt, all of us would need to be fully present and engaged in the task at hand, establishing a Guinness World Record.  Being fully present and focused on the task at hand was the only way we could achieve our goal.

* My World Record holder status, like any good presentation, is highly ephemeral.  If 5,182 people can gather to set a world record in Washington, DC, I’d imagine that this record would be topped when/if they attempt this in Jakarta.  Until then, I’ll enjoy my status as a Guinness World Record participant and thrill in the memory of an amazing event.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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3 books for better PowerPoint – Design your slides in the sand

It’s summer time!  Even if you don’t have the summer off like school kids, hopefully you’ll eke out some extra time for some fun in the sun with family and friends.  Each summer our family sneaks out to Dewey Beach, Delaware, to put as much sand between our toes as possible.

Along with some new tunes, swim goggles and sandals, I’ll put a few books in my beach bag.  In the spirit of the season, here’s my recommended summer reading list to improve your presentation skills.  Read just one of these books, apply their methods, and you’ll be a much better presenter by the Tuesday after Labor Day.  For a gold star, read all three and then watch each author’s TED talk.

1) Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

2) Resonate by Nancy Duarte

3) The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

Have a great and safe summer!  Enjoy every precious moment of fun that comes your way.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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Life is Good. Just ask Bert Jacobs.

Bert Jacobs, Co-founder of "Life is Good", Charles, Jake, and Rocket the dog at the ASAE conference

At ASAE’s Springtime in the Park I had the pleasure of witnessing Bert Jacobs, co-founder of Life is Good, give the Keynote speech.  Bert told the amazing Life is Good story.  Besides the business side of things he revealed his deep commitment for helping kids overcome life-threatening challenges through his program Life is Good Playmakers.  Take a look at the program –

So how was the presentation?  Awesome!  It was a perfect example of someone at full comfort on stage and with his story.  Few CEOs could give a credible keynote in jeans and a t-shirt.  Being a passionate Ultimate Frisbee devotee, Bert kept the audience wide awake by tossing out Frisbees from stage every now and then.

After the presentation I asked Bert about the challenge of speaking to a large audience in a big hall.  He said that it used to bother him, but he learned the technique of selecting 5 specific people in different parts of the room and telling his story directly to them.  No matter the size of the audience, especially when it is very large and everyone can’t be seen, he engages with those 5 people and talks to them.

As for those tossed out Frisbees, sadly the association execs couldn’t catch a single one.  However, I’m sure that everyone in the room caught Bert’s enthusiasm for helping kids while having fun.  Life is good.  Pass it on.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician


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Presentation magic revealed

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician










Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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Presentation Magician

public speaking, illusion, magician, speaker, power point

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