Almost every time I give a presentation on how to “Communicate Better to Grow Your Business,” someone asks for advice on how to use PowerPoint effectively. My basic response is, think about all the terrible PowerPoint presentations you’ve sat through, and don’t do what those presenters did.
More seriously, I tell people that there are a ton of excellent articles, posts and even presentations on the Web describing the good and bad ways to use slides and other visual elements. Here are three I find especially useful:
- My friend and true “trade show magician,” Charles Greene, wrote this terrific blog post a few years ago. He offers very clear, pointed advice on how to avoid “death by PowerPoint” and instead take your audience with you on a pleasurable road trip through your presentation.
- It makes sense that the American Speech Language Hearing Association would know a thing or two about effective presentations. Here they boil their PowerPoint advice down to a terrific list of Do’s and Don’t’s.
- Finally, you should definitely read this e-booklet by marketing guru supreme, Seth Godin. With witty prose, and plenty of examples, he describes how to avoid “Really Bad PowerPoint.”
With CEO firings peaking in 2014, top executives have to be thinking about how best to protect their jobs. In my latest Thought Leadership post for smartCEO, I point out how critically important to CEO job security is the ability to communicate a clear vision. You’ll find the article here.
Thank you, Vital Speeches! Truly an honor to win a 2015 Cicero Award for best speechwriting. And thanks to super energy executive George Biltz, who was so great to work with as we prepared his keynote for this year’s Pittsburgh Chemical Day gathering.
Scott Span, MSOD, CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions, wrote an interesting post for his company blog that got picked up by several other high profile business cites. The title says it all, 5 Hard Truths About Leadership That You Never Stop Learning.
In his truth #2,” Leadership isn’t management,” Span argues that one of the qualities that sets leaders apart is the ability to create a vision of the future and rally people around it. “Leadership,” he says, “connects the big ideas to what matters to the people around them: employees, customers, and stakeholders. Leadership sets direction, builds agreement, influences and motivates others, and inspires commitment.”
And he makes clear you can’t rally the troops around a vision unless you know how to communicate. The problem, he warns, is that “just because you may be in a leadership role doesn’t always mean you are an expert communicator. … Truth is, this is not a skill obtained by title alone. Some leaders have the gift for communication, some can learn, some may just never master the art.”
I would object slightly to that last sentence. While it’s true that not every CEO can become a master communicator, every CEO can learn to do a better job communicating his or her vision.
I believe in the power of a great script – I am a speechwriter after all. But I also know a terrific script can’t guarantee a great speech if you’re scared to death to stand in front of an audience. And the fact is, most of us start off feeling pretty scared and have to find ways to calm down, if we want to speak effectively.
Presentation coaches can help. Practice, practice, practice did the trick for me (along with getting in touch with my inner ham.) But the most interesting and unusual cure for sweaty palms has to be the one discovered by Earl Furfine, a serial entrepreneur, IT professional and… endurance racer.
Furfine wrote recently about his first real open-water swim, part of an Olympic distance triathlon. He entered the water nervous about swimming in Atlantic’s waves. About a third of the way through, he caught a glimpse of something swimming by that scared the daylights out of him. He stopped, screamed, but couldn’t find the creature. He resumed swimming BUT THERE IT WAS AGAIN. This time he reached out to grab the beast…and snared his right wrist in his left palm.
The creature was his own hand, obscured by the murky water.
And exactly what does this have to do with speaking? Furfine reports that he used to get very nervous when he had to speak publicly. But now when that happens, he grabs his right hand, the way he did in the water. It makes him smile, and gets him breathing calming again as he heads for the podium.
We can’t all be triathletes, but if we can find a way to remind ourselves that fear of speaking is self-induced, it can help make that fear go away.