Master Your Message Blog

getting attention

When I speak to a group, I try to speak in seven minute segments MAX. That’s Magic Time! Because after seven minutes of information battering our little brains, our eyes roll back in our heads and we shut down.

And where has this come from? Television, of course. Because a program segment is about 7 minutes … then there’s a commercial .. unless you zap it .. but you’re still programmed to take a break.

Today, attention spans are getting even shorter. So, it depends on your audience. The younger, the shorter … generally.

The point is, “think in modules.” If your talk is longer than 10 minutes, you need to break it up. It should be at least a two or three module talk. That Read More …

When I was younger (much younger), I had a friend who used to put mayonnaise on everything. Not just a little dab ‘l do ya, but a whole whack of the stuff. It was gross … and it obviously destroyed the underlying taste of the food.

So what does that have to do with your presentation?

Well, there are people today that animate just about everything in either Powerpoint or Keynote – or whatever flavour they use for visual support. They’ll fly text in; they’ll fly it out. It will zoom; it will blow up. Just about every effect available will be considered, if not used.

Then there are those that will have beautiful visuals (sometimes cut to a piece of pastoral music) and they’ll Read More …

Make your presentation facts interesting and memorable.

Ever have a presenter give you a fact during a presentation and you had no idea what it meant – how it related to you or anything else, for that matter?

If you’re like me, the answer is “all the time.”

There are technical presentations in which presenters ream off fact after fact after fact with no indication as to what’s really important and how it relates to what you already know. At the end of the presentation, you leave the room wondering what on earth it all meant, unable to remember even a single number or point.

The most error I see most often is the presenter who throws out a number without the context. For Read More …

You get judged by your opening

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”

In the first few seconds, as you walk on stage, your audience is “sizing you up.” They’re figuring out whether they like you and are going to listen to you. They’re also making a decision as to whether you’re funny or not and whether you know what you’re talking about. There’s a great book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell about that split second when people subconsciously judge you. We all do it.

The opening of any presentation is THE most important element. It can make or break you as a presenter.

So, it’s important to think about your first few seconds on stage. I recently critiqued a new professional speaker who started her talk by coming on stage all smiles and giving Read More …

Virtually every presentation has to persuade someone of something.

Now you might argue that point by saying that some presentations are informational. That may be true. But there’s usually a desire on the part of the presenter to persuade the audience that the information is important, or that they should do something with that information after the talk is complete.

Setting up a persuasive presentation is actually relatively easy. You want to make sure your audience knows why you’re all assembled there – usually there’s a problem or opportunity. It’s your job as the presenter to state what it is so that you and the audience are “on the same page.”

Once the problem is on the table, it’s time to deal with the solution. Read More …

Ever heard someone at the lectern read a speech? I mean a dull, boring, lifeless verbalization of just what’s on the paper in front of them, without any attempt to embellish it whatso ever or bring it to life?

My guess is probably … more often than you’d like to admit. And what does it do for you? Probably not much. It’s forgettable, right?

Well, it doesn’t need to be that way.

speech script marked with lines and slashes

In the world of professional narrators lives the marked script. Now, narrators are people who make very lucrative livings off their ability to read a script in front of a microphone naturally.

To do that, they mark up their scripts. A vertical line is a full pause. An underlined word is emphasized. It’s Read More …

There is one word that’s the most important word in any persuasive presentation: You.

If my speech or presentation is about me, it may have interest, if it’s a good story, but if it’s about you … out there in the audience … there is nothing more interesting on earth! To you at least! Right?


Your presentation belongs to your audienceThe most important thing I learned on my journey to speaking professionally is that my presentation belongs to my audience. Now, I might have personal stories to illustrate a point, but the point has to relate to my audience … you. It has to, to be of interest and for me to be successful.

In fact, the objective of any talk has to center on your audience. If you’re Read More …

This past week, I attended a “pitch” competition called “The Doghouse” at the Global Petroleum Show, in Calgary. It was for start-up companies to try their pitches in front of potential investors.

Five different companies on two consecutive days pitched their product or service to five potential investors. They were each evaluated and one winner was picked from each group. But here’s the kicker—each presentation could only be three minutes in length. They really had to have their acts together!

It was gratifying for me to see that the ones that followed the “tried and true” persuasive presentation structure won. They had done their homework and had specifically targeted their presentations to that particular investor audience. The others—not so much.

As I’ve helped take a number of well-known Canadian companies public (some of them are listed here), I sat in the audience, taking notes. I sent a short evaluation to each of the presenters afterwards by email to let them know what I thought they had done well and what they might do to improve their message. Read More …

stool-webToo often our nervousness gets the best of us and we destroy what would otherwise be a very powerful opening.

I often evaluate speakers in contests. I evaluated one again last night. Great fun; great speeches!

This was a contest involving emerging professional speakers. The prize was the opportunity to speak in front of a regular association meeting of about seventy people. Last  night’s audience was about forty or so. There were four judges, American Idol-style.

One speaker, who has a very compelling story as part of a speech on the importance of safety, weakened the opening by:

  • coming on stage and setting up a chair and some props
  • making some off-handed remarks while doing so
  • “puttered around” trying to make sure everything was just Read More …

Close-up shot of roaring lionBusinesspeople are mounting more and more presentations every year. Surveys tell us this.

They also tell us that audiences know … with utmost certainty … that 90% of what they’re going to be subjected to is downright boring … served on a thick foundation of PowerPoint crap—in other words, designed to suck any remaining energy out of an otherwise pleasant, uplifting day.

Here’s a fact: The number one thing audiences hate is for presenters to stand in front of them and read their text-packed, full sentence slides.

So don’t do it. Roar like a lion!

If it’s a report, email it to your audience and save you and them a whole lot of pain.

 I’ll never forget a morning a few years back in Read More …