Better than Text

It never ceases to amaze me that I will be sitting in an audience listening to a speaker and people are either texting, reading their e-mail, or surfing the net on their cell phones.  It happens at my Rotary Club all the time, and I think it’s rude.  That being said, there are three realities you as professional speakers, trainers, and presenters need to know:

  1. You need to be more engaging than the person texting (includes everything I mentioned).  People make priorities all the time, and their listening time is one of them. If you are more dynamic and interesting than what’s on their phone, they will listen to you.
  2. No matter HOW good you are, the world of technology has made some people ADD.  No matter how good you are, they will continue to text as if it’s a sickness or addiction (maybe both).  Don’t let it disrupt your presentation. There are plenty in that audience that need what you’ve got, so give it to them.
  3. If you’re bold (and why shouldn’t you be), you can use it as a humorous opportunity.  Never embarrass anyone, but come up with a line that you can use that will bring levity. You might be able to make it self-deprecating which will endear you to your audience.

Bottom line – You have to be more entertaining and engaging than the audience members cell phone.  The burden is on you!

© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Biggest Mistakes Made with PowerPoint ® Slides

The Biggest Mistakes Made with Slides:

  • Reading the text to your audience. Don’t insult them; they know how to read.

  • Not fully understanding your presentation because you thought you could skate through the slides.

  • Not checking to see if the equipment works before your presentation.

  • Not having a back up plan in case it fails.

  • Too much text, not enough images.

  • Just plain “too much” on any given slide.

  • Leaving slides visible during your story.

© 2010 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved

Record Your Presentations

Self-awareness is an important thing in business and life…

When I coached high school basketball, we video recorded every game.  The coaching staff would always watch it to learn what the team did well and what it didn’t do well.  Often, I would have the players watch.  My favorite phrase to them was, “The video never lies.”

The same is true in speaking.  I video record all my presentations.  The one I just watched this morning helped me uncover a bad habit.  The bad habit is the word, “and.”  I used “and” way too much in a recent presentation.  I now have something to work on improving.  The only way I knew that was because I recorded the presentation and then took the next step and watched it.

Do you want to improve your speeches and presentations?  If so, then record yourself every time.

The video never lies…


PowerPointer #2 – Images Say 1000 Words

HeroesPlease, please do your audience a favor.  Don’t fill up your Power Point ® slides with text.  Even if you don’t read it to them (see PowerPointer #1), there’s nothing more boring than a bunch of text.

Just like stories are critical in speeches, images are also important to conveying your message.  If you have images that will enhance your message, then this is an ideal way to use slides.  For example, the image you see in this post resonates with Americans over 10 years old.  Words will never have the impact this image does.  This is the type of image you can use to advance your message.

Please note – I’m not talking about falsely moving your audience.  That’s simply manipulation.  Images should enhance your message to help improve them, not you.  Use images that will positively impact your audience and make your presentation better for them.


PowerPointer #1 – Stop Reading

Last Saturday, I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my daughter who got the flu.  The tech at the window showed me the box and said, “The pharmacist will be right with you to go over the instructions.”  I glanced at the box and it said – Take 2x times a day.  “Hmm.  There must be something special to this,” I thought.  The pharmacist came over, looked at the box, looked at me, smiled (and I know this has happened to you) and said, “Pretty simple.  She needs to take this twice a day.”  I waited 5 minutes to have him read me the box!

How many times have you been to a presentation where someone used a PowerPoint ® slide show as their notes?  What’s worse, they think you don’t know how to read and read the screen to you!  It’s the same as having a pharmacist read you the directions on a box, but at least there I could walk away.  In your case, the audience can simply mentally fall asleep.

Don’t read slides…please.  Use thought-provoking images, simple (emphasis on simple) graphs, and other stimuli that advance your message, but NEVER read slides to your audience. In addition to being demeaning, it’s outright boring.

You need to practice your presentation and be a speaker that attracts attention.  Don’t leave it to the slides or else your audience will have more fun reading their prescriptions.


Wardrobe Malfunction…

Here’s a best practices for all you speakers, trainers, and presenters.  Bring an extra shirt.

I’m in Leavenworth, WA about to give a training on leadership, team building, and goal setting.  I am just getting into my suit with about 2 hours to go before start time.  I avoid eating breakfast with my “good clothes” to miss the inevitable spillage.  Here’s a new one…

I put on my favorite blue mock sweater to go with my black suit.  I love that outfit.  To my horror, I notice a tear on the seam of the sweater under my left armpit!  OUCH!  I brought no other shirts other than the golf shirt I wore to drive in yesterday and that won’t work.  After a call to my wife, she assures me it won’t tear further and I don’t need to rush and uy a new shirt.  I guess I’m wearing my jacket all day.

The morale of the story is this…

Bring an extra dress shirt to your presentations.  You never know when you will spill, stain, or tear.  That will now be added to my checklist!


Questions and Answers Strategy

I gave a 60-minute presentation this morning for the Nursing Management students at Olympic College in Bremerton.  One of the questions was on dealing with questions and answers in a presentation.  Here are a few strategies to consider…

– Never end with Q&A.  I know you see it about 98% of the time, but it’s wrong.  As Patricia Fripp says, “Last words linger and you want them to be yours!”  If you leave Q&A until the end, you are subject to the quality of the questions.  That’s how your presentation will be remembered and if the questions are bad, it hurts your presentation. You want your carry-out message delivered with strength and conviction so your audience is improved.

Here’s what you do.  At the 10-minute mark of your presentation, say “Before I give my closing statement, we have 5 minutes for Q&A.  I’m happy to stay after to respond to any questions that we don’t have time for here.”

– Always repeat the question.  Many audience members may not be able to hear it and will appreciate it.  In addition, it gives you a chance to make sure you understand it.

– Be in the moment.  Listen attentively and try not to come up with a response in your head while the question is being asked.  It’s okay to pause after the question for reflection.  The audience wants the best answer; not necessarily a quick one.


The Back Story

Last Tuesday, I watched the season premiere of my favorite television show, NCIS.  The executive producer, Donald Bellisario used a time honored and very effective method for telling the story.

The story starts out with one of the protagonists, Tony DiNozzo in a jail cell.  We have no idea how he was captured or ended up there.  During the course of the program, the back story is related so we can catch up. With about 10 minutes to go, we get to “current” and then watch the climax and conclusion unfold.  Of course, the good guys prevail, the damsel is saved, and all is good in the world.  Even though we guessed this might happen, the curiosity was killing us!

You may recall a similar strategy on the big screen a decade ago with Forrest Gump.  That picture didn’t turn out to badly, either.

Here’s the good news if you are a speaker.  This is an excellent technique for telling stories.  Find a place in your story that you can begin from that will need back fill later.  You will capture the curiosity of your audience, and they will be engaged in your story as you get them to “current.”  Here is an example…

“There I was, sitting in a puddle of mud next to the train station while the rain pelted me.  I couldn’t believe how my journey unfolded and led me here.  Just three days ago…”

You get the point.  Put your character into a situation that your audience MUST hear.  It’s effective on television, the movies, and your speech.


Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

Talk about speaking to influence…

Here’s a great example from 70 years ago.

I’m kind of a baseball historian and it was very cool to read that Major League Baseball is honoring Lou Gehrig on the 70th anniversary of his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. It will be read at every ballpark tomorrow during the 7th inning stretch. Interesting that the actual speech was slightly altered for the movie, The Pride of the Yankees. In his original speech, he gave the famous phrase about being “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” as the second line. In the movie (three years after his speech), the writers felt it would have more impact for Gary Cooper to read it at the end.

Gehrig was no dummy. He was a Columbia grad but I doubt he thought his speech would live on like it has.

To read the speech or watch footage of it, go to