Evaluation cards – Use them to quickly improve your presentation skills

Want to quickly improve your presentation skills? Use an evaluation card after every public speaking opportunity.  Evaluation cards are a great way to get real and immediate feedback from your presentation audience.

Charles Greene III Presention Skills

Evaluation cards let you know the true effectiveness of your presentation.  Did you grab their attention?  Did your message have value to them.  Did you connect with your audience? Regardless of how much work you put into your presentation, the audience always has the final say.

The key to an effective evaluation card is to have simple questions that can be easily answered.  My evaluation card has 8 questions.  The first five questions are short and can be answered with a numerical rating of 1 – 5, 5 being the top level.  Below the video, you can see my full evaluation card along with comments on each question.

 Speaker Evaluation: Charles Greene III Presentation Magician
Using the scale of 1 – 5, respond to each of the following statements, where:
1 = Strongly Disagree   2 = Disagree   3 = Neutral   4 = Agree   5 = Strongly Agree

The speaker grabbed my attention. How strong was my opening?

The presentation had value for my professional life. As a business speaker I want to know if my message connected with them on a professional level.

The speaker was able to stimulate and maintain interest. Did I keep them interested?  Attention levels always drop in the middle of a presentation, but what did they think?

Satisfactory explanations were provided to questions asked. How were my responses to their questions?  Did I give them what they requested?

I received value from this presentation. Was it worth their time?  Was it an educational experience?

What did you like best? What was the highlight?  What is the one thing that they’ll remember most?

What did you like least? What was the low-point?  Every presentation has one.

What question do you have now that you wish had been answered by this speaker?  Even though I allow lots of time for Q&A, there might be a topic that wasn’t covered or needed more time for discussion. 

The critical 3 questions – The final three questions require a little more thought, but provide me with the best information for future improvement and growth.

Question 6 “What did you like best?” The responses to this question rarely give me new information, but it sets up the next two questions, which are critical in providing the best evaluations for improvement of your presentation and professional growth as a speaker.

Question 7 “What did you like least?” Every presentation has a weak link.  Even though you may repeat the same presentation, the weak spot can change from audience to audience.  Sometimes it can be a specific message point.  Sometimes it can be a factor that is totally out of your control, like the temperature of the room.  Knowing what your audience like least will give you a sense of what they experienced while listening to your presentation.

Question 8 “What question do you have now that you wish had been answered by the speaker?” The responses to this question tell me what I need to address more closely in future presentations.  These responses have also given me direction for new presentation on a specific topic.

You might be thinking, why not use only questions 6, 7 & 8?  A three question evaluation card might work, but the additional questions will give you better vision of how an audience viewed your presentation.

Feed back from an evaluation card is invaluable.  Get it as often as you can.  It provides you with the best window into how your audiences view your presentation.  Reading the responses to an evaluation card will let you quickly improve your presentations.  However, it’s your job to decipher their responses, make adjustments, and then incorporate the revisions into your next great presentation.

If you have questions on how to create an effective evaluation card, simply send me a message and I’ll take a look at your work.

Have a super day!
Charles Greene III Presentation Magician
Washington, DC

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PowerPoint road trip — Slide your presentation skills into overdrive

PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker

Presentation Skills: PowerPoint has never killed anyone, yet millions have suffered from “Death by PowerPoint.”  PowerPoint has a 95% share of the presentation software market.  It’s the de facto visual aid used in corporate presentations.  Every day over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are created.  Unfortunately, most are awful.

There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint.  It’s a great tool — a hammer, a toothbrush, or a fork — make the tasks easier to accomplish; however, when used inappropriately, the tools work ineffectively at best and cause grave harm at worst.  Imagine using a fork to brush your teeth.  Ouch!  Great tool.  Wrong application.  Most people use PowerPoint as a glorified word processor, filling their slides with lots of text.  Great tool.  Wrong application.

Shift your thinking Let’s reframe a PowerPoint presentation as a road trip, a pleasurable drive on a wide-open road.  The presenter is the driver, and the audience is the passenger.  As the driver you invite your audience to join you on a PowerPoint road trip.

You should use slides that have strong visual images with few, if any, lines of text.  Imagine your slides as canvas to be drawn on, containing as little text as possible.  Think images.  Think pictures.

On a PowerPoint road trip, you’ll take your audience on a tour of your thoughts and ideas using highly visual signs.  You use each new sign as an opportunity to tell a story, and at the end of your trip,  you deliver your passenger to a new destination.  Hopefully, they’ve been transformed by the experience and share it with others.

Rearview mirror – If the story above is reminiscent of your slide deck, then your presentation skills get the checkered flag.  You understand how to inform your audiences with highly visual signs and guide them toward a clearly defined destination.  However, if your presentations seem closer to a rush-hour commute in heavy traffic, then it’s time for a tune-up of your slide deck.

Video – PowerPoint Road Trip – 5 point checklist

Speed read Your presentation slides should resemble interstate highway signs – clearly visible with highly legible text.  Presentation slides should provide essential information that can be absorbed in seconds.  Unfortunately, most presentation slides resemble historical markers – lots of small text meant to be read while standing still.

Consider the following signs.
PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker

Which sign can be read while traveling at highway speeds?

Look at the following three examples of presentation slides that feature Washington, DC.

The first one lays out the city’s story like a book.  It has a paragraph’s worth of full sentences.  It’s a document, not a presentation slide.  No presenter is needed to deliver this information.  The audience can read the text and understand the story.

PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker

The second slide is Washington’s story formatted with bullet points – too many. Although not a document, this slide still has too much information, which makes the presenter unnecessary.  Once again, the audience can read and understand the information on its own.
PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker

The third slide example is just the city name and an image.  It has the efficiency of a highway sign.  The slide is highly visual with minimal text.  This slide gives the presenter maximum flexibility.  The information can be absorbed in seconds, yet it requires a presenter to give it meaning and relevance.
PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker

Five point checklist for tuning up your presentation skills and creating a PowerPoint road trip. 

1) Know your destination – Have a clear and concise message.  Make sure that you know where you are taking your audience.

2) Be a responsible driver – Respect your audience.  Do not read your slides to your audience.  Connect with them with more than just your words.  Use eye contact, vocal variety and movement to reach out and engage them.

3) Create clear signs – Design slides that are highly visual and support your key message. Use as little text as possible, maybe two or three words.

4) Pack light and tight – Tell your story with only the essentials.  Use the fewest and strongest points to support your key message.  When in doubt, leave it out.

5) Fuel your presentation – All road trips should start with a full tank of gas.  Your personal passion is the fuel that will power your presentation.  Like a car without gas, your presentation won’t go far without passion.  So, fill‘er up with premium.
PowerPoint Road Trip Charles Greene III Business Speaker
Charles on the road in Morocco.

Happy trailsHaving been both a driver and a passenger with PowerPoint presentations, I know that it’s pleasurable to be in either seat when this checklist is followed.  My thoughts on PowerPoint have been formed from my use of the tool in presenting a wide range of information, my research on the subject, and my time spent in the company of true masters of the tool at the Presentation Summit.  My thoughts on road trips come from several very memorable experiences.

Driver’s manualsMake a pit stop and read the books of Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  No matter what your presentation software choice, PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi, their “less is more” thinking about presentation skills will point you in the right direction.


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4 tips on adding video to your PowerPoint presentations

When you’re giving a presentation, audience inattention is never far away.  It’s like gravity; it’s always there.  Fortunately, you can fight audience inattention.  Add video to your presentations and attention levels will soar. 

Adding video to Powerpoint and Keynote presentations is easy.  However, for your video to have impact, there are issues to consider beyond embedding a video file into a slide.  The following 4 tips and bonus video will make your use of video in your presentations more successful.

 4 tips on adding video to your PowerPoint presentations

1. Keep the video segments short.  Stay within the range of 30 to 45 seconds.  Think television.  Most TV commercials are in that time range.  The ones that are longer tend to have lots of action, and music.  Unless your video is from Steven Spielberg or Gordon Parks, use a short video to grab attention and make quick point.

2. Travel with slide and video files together.  Save your slide and the video files together in same folder.  Always keep them together. The same is true when you create back ups of your presentation, on a thumb drive or on the cloud.  Keep them together.  When you play the video during your presentation, your slide software will search for the video file.  If the file is not found, the video will not play.  That’s not good.

4 Tips on adding video to your PowerPoint presentation.

3. Check your audio.  Your video needs to be heard as well as seen.  Make sure that your audio is connected to a sound system.  If you are connecting your computer to a projector with a standard VGA connection, you’ll need an additional cable to get the sound out of your computer and into a sound system.  Even if you are using an HDMI connection, test the audio of your video before your presentation.  The key word is “before.”  Make sure that the audio can be heard and that the volume is set to the right level.

4. Create an entry slide. An entry slide is simply a photo of your video slide.  It’s placed it right before the slide that contains your video.  An entry slide allows you to have the video appear on the screen before it actually starts. This gives you time to introduce the video. To make the video play, simply advance to the next slide and the video will start automatically. This technique lets you to use a basic wireless remote and have better control of your video start.

These 4 tips are based on lessons learned from actual experience.  Hopefully, knowing these tips will let your avoid problems that I encountered.  Leave a comment and let me know how these tips work for you.

Bonus videoD0es your presentation need a TV commercial? – The video is from Carl Kwan.  Carl is a presentations, promo-video, and marketing consultant from Canada who has been based in Seoul, South Korea since 2004.

Carl gave me permission to share his video with you.  He’s got some great thoughts on adding video to your presentations.  For more ideas on presentation skills, check out CarlKwan.com.

Don’t forget, leave a comment and let me know about your experiences and how these tips work for you. Tweet these tips and share.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician
Washington, DC


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Houdini Pecha Kucha – Once more with the magic of a live audience

It’s Halloween week.  In Washington, DC and along the Eastern seaboard we’re all hunkering down and waiting for Sandy, Hurricane Sandy.  This could put a serious crimp in my daughter’s costume plans.  Getting dressed up is fine, but showing off your Princess-Spider-Ballerina costume in front of real people makes all of the difference.  It’s the emotional sensation of a live audience that makes everything different.

Live audiences energize performances.  In a former life I was a stage performer at a Six Flags amusement park.  I sang and danced as a  part of a twelve member cast in a thirty minute production.  After many months of practice and weeks of full-dress rehearsals, nothing beat the pulse of a live show.  There was always something different, something better, when there were people in the theater.  Receiving positive attention and hearty responses from the audience, the performers exuded greater energy.

Lift your presentations.  It’s is the same with public speaking and corporate presentations.  You can practice for hours, as you should.  You can do full dress and tech rehearsals, as you should.  But, there will always be something different, better, when you actually present in front of an audience.  They’ll give you a lift that can’t duplicated during your practice sessions with empty chairs.

“When the audience comes in, it changes the temperature of what you’ve written.” Stephen Soundheim

Dare to compare.  Take a look at a Pecha Kucha* presentation (6 min 40 sec) on Houdini that I recently delivered to a conference room packed with people.  Something truly magical was created by the audience’s interaction and responsiveness.

Eight months earlier I did the very same Houdini Pecha Kucha presentation.  On that occasion there was no audience, only an empty room.  Can you sense the difference?

Without side by side comparison you’d never know the difference of how good the presentation could be.  In isolation both presentations are fine.  However, seeing one than the other, one is clearly better.  Never underestimate the power of an audience.

Seek out an audience for your message.  Your presentations, whether to groups of three or three hundred, will be affected by the presence of people.  They’ll give you a lift that lets your presentation soar higher than during your practice runs.

*Pecha Kucha is a presentation structure.  Presenters must use twenty slides that auto-advance every twenty seconds.  Every Pecha Kucha is six minutes and forty seconds.  For details on how to create a Pecha Kucha presentation, visit 10 Tips to Create and Present Pecha Kucha by Geetesh Bajaj.  The article has tips from Geetsch Bajaj, Ric Bretschneider, and Charles Greene.  For more information Pecha Kucha, visit Pecha-Kucha.org

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4 Presentation skills that will make your day if you’re not Clint Eastwood.

Improvise with caution.Imagine being personally invited by Governor Mitt Romney to speak at a national conference.  Envision being introduced as the special mystery guest of the evening.  See yourself speaking to an audience of 10,000 people in the room while millions of others watched on television.  It would be an amazing offer for most speakers, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

If you accepted the invitation you would probably prepare, worry, prepare some more, and then practice a lot.  Right?  Not if you are Clint Eastwood.  For his speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, Mr. Eastwood did not prepare, practice, or worry.  Clint Eastwood is not “most speakers.”  He’s a living legend.

Go ahead.  Make his day.  Ask him for a copy of his speech in advance.  He’ll tell you that he doesn’t have one because he doesn’t know what he’s going to say.  Most speakers could never get away with that.  But then most speakers are not Clint Eastwood.

So ask yourself, do you feel that lucky in front of your audiences?  Would you wing it and let the chips fall as they may?  I hope not.  We mortal speakers must deliver presentations that are thoughtfully prepared in advance and fully vetted.  Here are four lessons learned from Mr. Eastwood’s turn at the dais that all of us who aren’t Clint Eastwood should apply .

1) Know what you are going to say long before you say it. Mr. Eastwood had three points that he wanted to convey: Not everybody in Hollywood is on the left, Obama has broken a lot of promises, and people should feel free to get rid of any politician who’s not doing a good job.  Mr. Eastwood had ideas in mind, but he didn’t think about how he was going to say them until after he took a nap on the day of the speech.  Because of a lack of preparation, when the speech ended everyone forgot his message points and remembered “The Chair.”

Preparing a speech takes time.  Begin your preparation as soon as possible.  Long before the big day arrives you should do the following presentation skill basics. Think about your audience.  Define your message.  Choose an appropriate story structure for your message and supporting points.  Make sure that all of your information supports your key message points.  This preparation and editing phase will help ensure that your key points, not furniture, gets the starring role.  (Learn how to prepare.)

2) Be aware of your time. Mr. Eastwood was originally told to speak for six or seven minutes.  His time was then cut to five minutes.  Mr. Eastwood spoke for twelve minutes.  According to Mr. Eastwood, “When you’re out there, it’s kind of hard to tell how much time is going by.”

Time warps when you are in front of an audience.  Ask for signals to stay on time.  Use a highly visible time marker.  Hit your key message point early.  The five-minute speech that you practiced in your office will be much longer when spoken “live” to a sizable audience.  You must make allowances for factors that will eat away at your time – spontaneous questions from the audience, interruptions of a ringing cell phone, or a previous speaker running long.

3) Practice.  Practice.  Practice. Mr. Eastwood admits that when it comes to giving speeches, “I really don’t know how to.”  As for the Tampa speech, Mr. Eastwood stated “I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it.” He hates teleprompters and chose to speak extemporaneously.  Clint Eastwood, a Hollywood legend, could wing it.

Until you become a cinema icon, practice your full speech at least fifteen times.  Know your presentation like you breathe, without thought or hesitation.  Don’t memorize your presentation word for word, but work to know the key words of your main key points and their supporting ideas.  This will give you flexibility when you speak while ensuring that you cover your key message points.

All good speakers became great by working on basic presentation skills and then applying massive amounts of practice.  Practice presentations aloud with all of your props — slides, white-boards, remote clickers.  You’ll discover little things that should be removed, changed, or adjusted when you give your presentation a full-dress rehearsal.  Think of these adjustments as massaging your talk into proper alignment.  (Learn how to practice.)

4) Improvise with limits. It was only in the last few minutes before walking on stage that Mr. Eastwood decided to use the chair.  He built his prime-time presentation on a last-minute improvisation.  He says that he was in the Green Room “when I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea.”

Be creative, but take measured steps to make each presentation fresh.  Presenters should take advantage of situations that can make their speeches better and more “in the moment.”  Improvising is a learned skill that should only be applied after lots of audience experience.  Even then, give serious thought and caution before improvising large parts of your presentation.  If you’ve never attempted a new idea and have not had time to work out the details, leave it out.  A good speaker knows his limits.

How you present is always your choice.  You can deliver your next speech like Clint Eastwood or you can be the new sheriff in town and give a presentation that’s prepared and practiced.  Follow the above four points and no one will wonder why you brought in the extra furniture.

Clint Eastwood’s interview with The Carmel Pine Cone (Sept. 7 – 13, 2012).  In the interview Mr. Eastwood reveals his thoughts on his RNC speech and “The Chair.”

Clint Eastwood is the former mayor of Carmel-by-the-sea, CA.  Mr. Eastwood’s next film, Trouble with the Curve,” is set for release on Sept. 21, 2012.  Get there early and get a good chair.

Presentation Magician
Washington, DC

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Presentation Skills: 5 tips to improve your Q&A

Dr. Henry Kissinger & Charles Greene IIIPresentation Skills: The Q&A of a presentation often stokes fear in seasoned public speakers.  Of all possible presentation elements – opening, stories, demonstrations, closing – the Q&A has the tendency to make even well versed speakers lose control and fall flat.  As it’s usually near the end of the presentation, a poorly handled Q&A session leaves the audience with a negative impression of the presenter’s message.  Don’t let this happen to you.

“Does anyone have any questions for my answers?”
– Dr. Henry Kissinger –

One common fear that causes many presenters to dread the Q&A session is the fear of unknown questions.  This fear, like most, is unfounded as the reality is that the presenter controls of the situation. The audience can ask any question, but the presenter chooses how to respond.

In general your answers should be brief and direct.  Your responses should not be mini presentations.   Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would begin his press conferences: “Does anyone have any questions for my answers?”  As Dr. Kissinger’s quote suggests, be prepared with your answers in advance of their questions.

Q&A sessions: 5 tips that will let you take control

1) Don’t end your presentation with Q&A.  Although most presentations end with the Q&A, superior speakers don’t.  Ending with Q&A might mean having to respond to a question that drags you on a tangent away from your main message.  The better strategy is to follow your Q&A session with a short closing that recaps your main message points.  Regardless of the last question asked, ending the Q&A with a brief recap will redirect attention back to you.  This means that the last impression will be your message.  You get the final word.

2) Know the top ten questions of your audience.  Regardless of your subject matter your audience will only ask a small range of questions in relation to your information.  To find these questions out in advance, meet attendees before your presentation and ask them their top concerns about your information. The same questions, usually 8 – 10, will come up again and again as you present to different audiences.  Learn the standard questions to your presentation information.

3) Prepare fifteen responses to the “top ten” questions.  Create a variety of ways to respond to your audience’s standard questions.  This will give you flexibility in how you answer.  As you learn your audience’s primary questions, prepare responses that are brief and direct.   Practice your delivery because how you answer a question is as important as what you say.

4) Repeat the question.  Repeating the question ensures that everyone hears it.  One technique of professional presenters is to restate the question to get to the core issue.  This requires that you listen to the question, summarize it and then verify that your restatement addresses the questioner’s central concern.  This technique allows you to strip away the extraneous parts of a question and go right to the heart of the inquiry.

5) Acknowledge when you don’t know the answer.  Yes, at some point you’ll receive a question to which you don’t know the answer.  It’s okay.  Just don’t fake an answer. You’ll lose credibility if you evade the question or fake a response.  First, acknowledge that you don’t have an answer.  Second, promise the questioner a follow-up response at a later time.  You could also address the question to the audience for an immediate answer.  As long as you’ve done well with the rest of your presentation, asking for assistance from the audience will display your confidence to handle the situation.

Your Q&A, like the other elements of your presentation, should be well practiced.  Familiarity with your subject and audience will give you opportunities to learn the “top ten” standard questions in advance and prepare the best responses.  Apply the above information and fear not the raised hand.  In a short time, like Dr. Kissinger, you’ll have the answers even before they know the questions.

To receive weekly tips on presentations skills, connect with Charles Greene III on LinkedIn or Twitter (@CharlesGreene3).  For his archive of presentations tips, visit his weekly presentation tips page.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician
Washington, DC

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