New Presentations Book

New Orleans lawyer Jeff Richardson, of iPhone J.D., diagnoses some all-too common problems-and the beginning of a possible cure:

Most lawyers that I know give presentations from time to time, whether they be formal opening statements or closing arguments to a jury, teaching a CLE, client presentations or even just running a small meeting.  Considering this, you would think that most lawyers should be pretty good at it.  But I am amazed at the number of presentations I see in which lawyers use PowerPoint slides with almost every word of the presentation typed, typically in a small font to fit all of those words on the slide (so the audience can barely read them anyway), and then the presentation consists of little more than reading those slides.

The possible cure? A new $10 ebook by California attorney David Sparks called Presentations. We’ll be reviewing this book but note the publication because of Richardson’s high assessment:

I assumed that the main value of the book would be to teach those PowerPoint-reading speakers how to do a better job with their presentations.  It certainly does that, but to my pleasant surprise, the book is packed with tips that even the most seasoned public speaker would find useful.

One of the biggest weaknesses of most slide show books is an emphasis on slide show technology. This new book sounds like it has a better balance.

How Not to Introduce a Speaker

Are you ever one of multiple presenters, as at a conference like the Office of Government Ethics conference scheduled for this fall? An excellent Government Executive article develops three great tips for those introducing speakers. Here’s the first:

Don’t read the speaker’s biography. Much of the time, introducers walk up to the stage with a written biography, and proceed to read it verbatim. This is a mistake for several reasons. First, it’s boring. Bios are usually written to inform, not fascinate. Second, a typical bio is far too long to hold the audience’s attention. The goal is to pique the audience’s curiosity, not cover the speaker’s entire life history.

Third, even if introducers are armed with a short, punchy bio, they usually trip up when trying to read the words. This often happens to me when I’ve tried to read introductory remarks, leaving me mystified: why can I give a 45-minute speech from memory without missing a beat, but stumble through reading a few words that are right in front of me? (One explanation comes from classic research by psychologist Robert Zajonc: the presence of an audience enhances performance for well-learned tasks, but hinders performance when we’re novices. We’re used to reading silently, not out loud in front of large groups, and the arousal interferes with fluent processing.)

Instead of reading a bio, I like it when introducers highlight a grand total of three or four interesting tidbits about the speaker. Here’s one of the best intros I’ve ever received: “Adam Grant is a Wharton professor who has advised leaders ranging from Google to Goldman Sachs to the U.S. Air Force. He’s the author of Give and Take, and he used to perform as a magician.”

Using A Remote Control for Projector

Remote controls free presenters from the need to stand near their laptops. It’s liberating to be able to move freely around a room. I take presentations seriously, so I decided to get my own device. After some research, I selected the best I could find, the Logitech Professional Presenter R800.

Aside from controlling the display of slides, this unit features other handy features, including

  • A timer that vibrates in your hand to alert you that you are almost out of time, and
  • A green laser (much better to me that the red one I used to use)

Are you a serious instructor who presents frequently? A high quality remote may be just the tool you need.