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.
Some agency IT staffs arrange for a different reminder message to appear each time employees log into their computers. These messages usually deal with IT issues or management priorities. Some ethics officers get their messages into the rotation. Here’s an example on the theme of personal use of government resources.
Presentation Zen has some thoughts on keeping our audiences wanting more:
Japanese have a great expression concerning healthy eating habits: Hara hachi bu. Hara hachi bu means “Eat until 80% full” (literally, stomach 80%). This is excellent advice and it’s pretty easy to follow this principle in Japan as proportions are generally much smaller than in places like the US. Using chopsticks also makes it easier to avoid shoveling food in and encourages a bit of a slower pace.
Here are some ways to implement the idea:
Hara hachi bu is one simple principle that can help you have a much healthier life. It’s also a principle that can be applied to the length of speeches, presentations, and even meetings, etc. My advice is this: no matter how much time you are given, never ever go over time, and in fact finish a bit before your allotted time is up. How long you go will depend on your own unique situation at the time but try to shoot for 80-90% of your allotted time. No one will complain if you finish with a few minutes to spare. The problem with most presentation is that they are too long, not too short. Performers, for example, know that the trick is to leave the stage while the audience still loves you and don’t want you to go, not after they have had enough and are “full” of you.
In Western terms, “Less Is More.”
Do you ever segregate senior officials for ethics training targeted toward their special needs and interests? A Government Executive Article, What Is a Leader Without Character? – Promising Practices could be useful in developing a rapport with this type of audience. Here’s the lead:
Character is a concept that can be difficult to understand, but leading business executive J. Phillip “Jack” London says it’s the most important trait for leaders of organizations. “Good leaders aim to do the right thing,” London says in his book, Character: The Ultimate Success Factor. “They respect and trust the people they lead, empowering them to achieve their best.”
In his book, London says character is “a complex aggregate of mental and ethical traits that form the nature of a person” and the most important indicator of an individual’s success. He says people with strong character also tend to be fulfilled in their life.
The Washington Post got Hollywood speech-writer Jeff Nussbaum to critique Oscar winner Jared Leto’s acceptance speech. The best nugget:
Nussbaum says Leto started off oh-so-right, with a lovely little anecdote about his mother. “He began by doing what I advise speakers to do all the time — start with a story to capture the audience’s attention,” Nussbaum says.
Narrative is one of the best tools in the trainer’s tool chest. Pick stories that are relevant and tell them in an engaging way. Don’t be afraid to borrow Jared Leto’s technique.