Browse Category: Presentations

Keeping cool when technology lets you down

Technology is not a faithful friend – What do you do when technology lets you down

Technology is the lazy presenter’s crutch. Good presenters are able to survive and win even when technology goes AWOL. When I was A Conservative Party Association Chairman I attended a National Convention meeting of the great, the good and the pompous at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool. Stephen Gilbert, who now works in No. 10 and who probably hasn’t had a holiday since May 5 2010, was set to give a presentation in huge theatre to an audience of around 1000 “senior party activists” – an audience not famous for being forgiving or understanding.

He was presenting data, polling, statistics and strategy. Powerpoint was poised to help and underpin his presentation. I was quite far back in this huge room full of harumph-ready impatience so I couldn’t see whether the guilty piece of technology was the projector or the laptop. But something failed, the title slide disappeared and Stephen was in the middle of the stage in front of an audience of 1000 diverging opinions. He was armed with a handful of papers.

He didn’t skip a (visible) beat. He didn’t lean over the laptop and mutter. He didn’t apologise for the problem or make a joke about technology. Hardly appearing to ever refer to his notes he started his presentation with just his voice and what was in his head.  He spoke fluently and at length to the audience – brushing off the technology betrayal with impressive nonchalance. After the presentation everybody was speaking about what he wanted them to speak about – the technology failure was forgotten. Perfect result.

How did his presentation survive the technology failure?

I have never spoken to him about it. But he survived and won because he knew his stuff backwards. Most presenters would have crashed and burned – and then blamed or tried to kill the IT guy instead of blaming themselves for lack of preparation.

Stephen knew his message, the data, the strategy, the polls. You could almost argue that he was more fluent without the Powerpoint as some visual aids confuse rather than aid.

This video is quite fun – it is a Fox News weather man living the advice of “just keep going and don’t panic when things go wrong.”

P.S. I wrote for @CityAM on which visual aids you could, or should, use in speeches and presentation. You can read the article here.

Articles published in City A.M. this week

CityAM Screenshot

I am delighted to be writing for City A.M. again. Here are the first three articles I have done for them this year.

The top 10 interview questions you really should know the answer to

Interviewers like consistency, they enjoy being able to judge each candidate by a set benchmark. This is why the same interview questions come up time and time again.


The rules of successfully asking for a pay rise

Ok. You want a raise. Who doesn’t? But you are different. Obviously. You deserve it. Your friends and family have told you that you do for all the hours and effort you have been putting in.


How to handle “Do you have any questions?” in a job interview 

This is your chance to demonstrate that you have thought and processed what has been discussed, to show that you have done your research and to demonstrate your determination and interest in the position.


See all the articles published on the blog this week 


really bad PowerPoint

How to make really really bad PowerPoint presentations.

I hate PowerPoint. Or more exactly I detest the over reliance of so many presenters on PowerPoint. People who use PowerPoint as a crutch, who start their presentation prep by opening their laptops rather than getting out pen and paper.

We can’t all afford to hire Nancy Duarte and her team but we don’t have to bore people to death with really bad PowerPoint presentations.

How to avoid making a really bad Powerpoint Presentation

  1. Powerpoint bulletpoints! enough said (and yes I KNOW this is a numbered list – irony?)
  2. your Powerpoint fonts are hard to read
  3. your Powerpoint slide colours are awful
  4. awful Powerpoint slides – get good pictures!
  5. your slides have too much data
  6. your messaging is unclear
  7. do you want to persuade or inform?
  8. ….

The PowerPoint sin-list goes on and on – things you really should not do in a PowerPoint presentation – but if you insist should at least be done better. I could bore you for hours about this but this guy does it far better than I could so watch and enjoy! It’s a few years old but just as good and as valid as ever!



AGM speech

What to put in the AGM speech plus 15 Questions for Shareholders to ask

Getting the Board and the CEO ready for the AGM

AGM speeches are not what they were. Volatility almost everywhere and in most sectors; tightened or non-existent credit; reduced or reducing asset valuations; uncertain domestic and international markets; a financial cliff; a probing press; picky customers.

Delivering the AGM speech used to be much more fun. Shares used to increase in value, dividends went up, the champagne was being chilled. Those were the days…

So what needs to go in the AGM speech in 2013?

Shareholders and commentators need to hear evidence that the company and its leaderships fully understands and can articulate its past, present and projected financial performance.  Boards will be questioned on growth prospects, costs, debt, capital management, human resources and the general financial future of the company.

The AGM should give comfort, build confidence, indicate direction, demonstrate control and reassure and build stock valuations. The AGM speech, and the Question and Answer sessions that follow, often represent the most important day in the calendar. If the Chief Exec and other Board members perform badly, it can be bad for the company. It is always bad for those who perform badly.

15 Basic Questions for shareholders to ask at the AGM

Most issues should be addressed during the AGM speech, reducing the pressure questions. These are some basic questions or themes for shareholders to ask/raise. Board members need to know their stuff and be prepared. 

  1. Current financial position? Clear, truthful and easily digestible figures.
  2. Has the Board checked its figures – how was it done, show how it was robust?
  3. How has the Board minimised/limited/managed possible exchange rate fluctuations?
  4.  Does the Board’s plan for the future need working capital – how will it raise it?
  5. Has the Board identified under-performing assets, operations or divisions? What are they doing about them? Keep, fix, sell? Strategic importance?
  6. Inventory levels and annual turnarounds? Comparisons with industry averages/competitors?
  7. Outline credit management, debt chasing, early warning alarms.
  8. Recently checked reliability and expected trends of bank guarantees and credit limits. Implications and remedial action? How recent?
  9. Accuracy of current asset valuations? Remedial action?
  10. Have last years investment plans been reviewed where/if the financials, liquidity, debt, valuations etc have changed?
  11. Relationship with bankers/lenders, the media, analysts, rating agencies etc?
  12. Any scary covenants close to being breached – how are they monitored?
  13. Debt risk management: explain and demonstrate? Issues arising? Actions taken?
  14. Review/consolidation/support of supply chain?
  15. Any planned redundancies? Costs? Sufficient? Measures to retain key staff? New pension legislation – impact and cost implications?

If you have an AGM coming up, I can help you prepare for your AGM speech and for the Q and A session.

Mental Strength – Focus on the next point – lessons from Tommy Robredo

Mental Strength – Your Head Needs To Be In The Right Place

Tommy Robredo gets it and I admire him. He understands that each point is worth the same as any other, that the match is only over when it is over and that every point is worth fighting for. And he keeps plugging away at every point.

In the French Open this year he fought back and won – THREE times – from being in the head-destroying position of being two sets behind to get to the quarter finals. Apparently that doesn’t happen very often. In fact it has happened twice. Ever.

Those who play will know that the pressure of being two sets behind even in a game of social tennis is immense. When you have a coach, salaries, it is your job, the game is being filmed and commentated and the tennis media is watching… it is 9 different types of HUGE!

This was also after he had dropped from his number 5 world ranking and been written off by almost everybody due to his injuries from 2011. Maybe he had stuff to prove – but don’t we all? He just didn’t let his head get in the way. He focused on moving that mountain  – one small stone at a time.

The beautiful forehand passing shot he used today against Andy Murray in the last game – when he was 2 sets down, 5 games all and 40-LOVE down – to get to 40-15, was another example of his never giving up and playing hard to the last.

Successful people in politics and business share this characteristic – often described (by others) as sheer bloody mindedness. They refuse to give up and they keep practicing and doing the basics better and better and better.

To do this, you need to ignore the commentators (including the one in your own head) and focus – intensely and with all you have – on the task at hand. Ivan Lendl, who is Murray’s coach and an icon from my tennis playing youth, used to fiddle with the strings on his racket between EVERY point. The strings were fine – it was a focus thing. It kept away the noise of the crowds, the shouts and the visual distractions. I understand from reading about him at the time that he used the time between points to focus on the next point. He didn’t beat himself up about the point just lost or revel in the point just won – he focused on what he was going to do next. Where the serve would go, where he would push the ball, stretch his opponent and find the gap in the court.

When I coach, I get “in the room” and ignore all else. I switch off my phones and ignore iPads and laptops. It is intense – but I am totally with my client. I will have no-one else in the room. No spectators or distractions. Full immersion. It is exhausting for both of us – but it seems to work.

To perform well  when speaking, negotiating, presenting or interviewing – full, deep, intense concentration is needed. It wakes up all the senses – it gets you in the zone. Afterwards it sometimes feels like having been in a film or having experienced an “out-of-body experience”. Whatever. It gets you to perform where you should be performing and prevents you short-selling yourself. Worth doing.

Public Speaking or Giving Presentations – 3 Things to Learn from Ant and Dec

What do Ant and Dec know about public speaking?

Why should anyone interested in improving their public speaking pay attention to Ant and Dec?

Let’s put this into context. Are they worth copying?

Ant & Dec got their first presenting (or public speaking) job nearly 20 years ago, in 1994. Since then, Ant & Dec have won the National Television Award for Best Entertainment Presenter(s) eleven (11) years running 2001 to 2012.

Eleven times! That is huge! Add to that a career of nearly 20 years either on a stage, on camera or speaking in public – and still being marketable in a very competitive field.

Although, like everyone, they have had failures and setbacks, they are still on our screens after a joint career of nearly 2 decades AND they enjoy significant and widespread popularity AND  are widely known by their first names.

There are very few, IF ANY, politicians or business leaders with the same levels of name recognition and popularity. So, they must be doing something right.

Public speaking is tough for most people. Some say that public speaking is as stressful as getting a divorce or moving house. It is true that very few people are any good at it. This is often because people focus on the words and forget the delivery. People who write speeches sweat and debate over every word and every phrase. This is true for both professional speechwriters and the pencil-chewing wreck who suddenly realises they have to actually stand up and give a speech or presentation. Minute for minute, more time is almost always spent on the words than on the delivery.

Of course, the words count – otherwise why speak? But unless your delivery DELIVERS the message (gettit?) to the audience, preferably undiluted and intact, you may as well have not stood up and opened your mouth. It is probably right to spend more time on the words than the delivery – but spending no time on the delivery is looking for trouble.

Your speech delivery or your presentation delivery DELIVERS your message.

Would you write an email or a letter and not send it? Or send one that doesn’t say what you mean?

OK – let me labour this point – what words you use and what you say is a fat lot of good if your delivery sucks.

A speech is supposed to move people, leave them with a message, or an emotion or even (Hey – you did your job!) a triggered action. But if the audience are wincing or uncomfortable during the speech – that is ALL that they will remember.

Speechwriters love great speakers – but great speakers are not born great. Great speakers practice and polish their delivery and they practice the speech. Speechwriters hate writing and putting blood and soul and guts into a speech that is delivered by someone who doesn’t practice the speech, care about the message or bother to pay attention to their delivery.

So what public speaking or presentation tips can we learn from Ant and Dec?

  1. They Have Fun.  Ant and Dec take the mick out of each other, the judges, the camera crews, the audience, anybody – they revel in the occasion and are visibly enjoying themselves. Either that or Ant & Dec are amazing actors. They SMILE! All the time. Just for a second – close your eyes and think of Ant and Dec – I bet your mental picture is of them smiling. They are comfortable with each other, comfortable in front of the camera and not overly or visibly concerned about getting everything right or saying the right words. Even when they make mistakes, lose their place, or generally are human, they ride the mistake and, ripping each other or themselves for doing it, get on with the gig. No awkward silence or uncomfortableness for the audience. Just fun.
  2. They are Informal and Real.  Authentic is the trendy word for this. It just means being human and being yourself. Which is why, unless you are an amazing actor – if you want to lead and/or represent people – a good place to start is actually liking people. Otherwise you are going to have act damn well for the rest of your professional or political life! Ant and Dec do this really well.
  3. They Connect with People as People. Ant and Dec connect with the contestants, the audiences, the camera, the judges and the audience. They take the time. They engage and smile and use different words and phrases when talking to people. There is none of the American retail Have a nice day plastic insincerity to their comments or how they interact with people.

A few politicians are similar in their outlook and approach. It is no surprise that they enjoy unusual and extra-ordinary popularity, at least in part, because of it.

Steve Norris, Boris and Bill Clinton are all liked by more people than people like their political party or their positions. They almost always appear to be having fun or at least enjoying the moment and are totally at ease on the stage. They all are relatively informal and often self-deprecating. They all connect with real people – as real people. They treat people as people and talk to them like normal people too. They are also happy to be themselves and their personality is allowed and encouraged. If only there were more political personalities like them.

NB. I have used one of the official pics from their official website – I hope they (and their management) will be ok with my using it!

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