Master Your Message Blog


I’ve been a director for countless corporate conventions filled with speaker after speaker. Some of them are real pros and some of them  … are not. And you can tell just by the way they treat the crew. There are conventions … at conventions – things you should do as a presenter … before you go on.

One convention is to give the director or technician a script of your talk, complete with a list of visuals on the left hand side. If you’re really classy, you’ll provide a print-out of the visuals themselves, but a script with a word description on the left works just as well.

Why would you do this? – provide a script, that is?

Several reasons.

  1. Stuff happens. I’ve seen Read More …

Point form seems to be highly misunderstood. I often see screens of text using full sentences.

If you’re going to use full sentences, you’re better off going home. That’s because you’ll read them and THAT is the thing audiences hate the most! The number one thing! I’ve done it  … so I know!

And why would you need to be there anyway? – your audience can just read your presentation.

Even more important – if they’re reading, they’re not listening to you!

So … you need to get your points down to their absolute essence. Use the fewest number of words you can use to support or reinforce your point.

Let’s get rid of as many articles, prepositions, pronouns … the little words …

Read More …

What to do with handouts? Do I give them out before I speak, after … during?

Here’s the traditional handout. Three slides to a page – a place for notes on the right hand side.

The pros – an appropriate place to write notes – right next to the visual they relate to. People remember things they think about and write down. That’s good!

Cons – rustling papers, which can be distracting. People flip ahead. And after your presentation, maybe one percent ever look at them again. So you do all that work, kill a tree or two and it generally ends up in the round file.

More cons than pros.

If it’s just a simple print-out of your presentation screens, they’re usually hard to Read More …

The Ultimate Screen – what a title! Makes you think I’m going to show you the most wonderful, most powerful screen of all! Well, I am!

However, you have to buy into a simple, radical concept … pictures are more powerful than words.

We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words. In fact, our brains only see pictures. We see words as lots of little “letter-pictures.”

Get this book: Brain Rules by John Medina. It’s full of lots of facts as to how we learn, particularly in presentations.

And get this … if we say something important in a presentation, 72 hours later, people will remember 10%. That number goes up to 65% if we add a picture.

Better still … Read More …

This weekend, I received a copy of another PowerPoint presentation that consists almost entirely of black text on a white background. The bottom line? It’s a no-no.

Think about looking at the text on a light bulb. When it’s on, it’s incredibly difficult to read! It’s almost the same as trying to read a projected screen of black text on white.

You’ve got black letters surrounded by all that intense white light blasting out at you. Because the projector is shooting intense light at the screen, which reflects it back into your eyes.

The black letters themselves are affected by that beam of bright projected, light. They appear to become thinner. That’s because the bright, white light “bleeds” onto them. They aren’t actually thinner. However, Read More …

Here’s a simple tip that will give your graphs much more impact.

Make the titles “active.”

Now … I don’t mean “animated.” I mean active. When I refer to a title as “active,” I mean that the text helps to advance your position, rather than just stating what the subject matter is. Most of the time, it means putting a verb in the title. Let’s look at an example.

Here’s a nice looking graph of Gross Monthly Sales.

Starting Slide

OK … so what? What about them? What is that graph trying to tell me?

First of all, let’s get rid of all the clutter.  3D looks pretty, but most of the time gets in the way of the message. Get rid of that, too. Read More …

There’s nothing that makes me crazier than to see really bad grammar in two foot high letters on the screen.

Here’s an example: 5 DVD’s.
I see this all the time. But it’s incorrect. The apostrophe means it’s possessive … NOT plural.

If it’s plural … it should look like this: “5 CDs.” 5 DVDs – the same thing. Now, if I said “I put the DVD’s cases in the trunk,” it would be correct with an apostrophe “s” … You see, the cases belong to the DVDs – and so it’s possessive. Although it’s kind of a weird sentence.

So … apostrophes do not generally denote plurals. But there are exceptions … After all, it IS English.

Single letters and numbers require an apostrophe “s” Read More …

Words actually don’t exist … to our brains, at any rate. We don’t see words as a series of letters. We see them as pictures.

I know … that changes things. When we read a word, we actually see it as a whole bunch of little tiny pictures. We look for features like horizontal or vertical lines, rounded corners, etc. and then we think back to our library of letter images and match it up to what we’ve stored from the past.

Over time, we get pretty darn good at this process and it takes us milliseconds to do all the calculations and read a sentence. So reading text is highly taxing on our brains. As a result, text presentations are simply not very effective 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 …