Boosting Confidence

Public speaking instructor for lawyers Marsha Hunter has a tip on building instructor confidence: Strike a Power Pose:

Social science research … finds that an expansive posture, or “power pose,” actually results in a short-term testosterone boost that can make you feel more positive about yourself. So, the experts’ advice is, stand in such a pose for a couple of minutes before you have to give a speech. Preen in front of your bathroom mirror. Stride around your living room before a networking event. Gather yourself to your tallest, brashest self while walking to work. Dale Carnegie and generations of speaking coaches in the past 100 years would agree — at least in principle.

If the idea appeals to you, go for it! But remember to keep it behind closed doors. This stance triggers feelings of confidence — and swagger, too. You’ll need to modify your stance when you are actually in the courtroom or giving a presentation. But if it helps you to take it over the top and pretend when no one is watching, I wouldn’t dream of discouraging you.

Is PowerPoint Really That Bad?

Politico writer Roger Simon takes a Jonathan Swift approach to criticizing Paul Ryan’s use of a PowerPoint presentation:

A word about PowerPoint. PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets. After PETA successfully argued in court that PowerPoint actually was more cruel than iron mallets, the program was adopted by corporations for slide show presentations.

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair.

PowerPoint is usually restricted to conference rooms where the doors are locked from the outside. It is, therefore, considered unsuited for large rallies, where people have a means of escape and where the purpose is to energize rather than daze.

Is PowerPoint that bad? It can be, with presenters who are lazy, don’t understand the technology, or don’t care. Don’t let yourself fall into those categories.

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.

Slide for Encouraging Audience Participation

Most often, good ethics trainers will want to come across as authority figures. This is one reason why even if your audience is wearing summer casual, you may want to wear a coat and tie. In special situations, trainers may benefit by coming across more modestly. For example, some audiences may have significant knowledge of a topic. The instructor may believe it best to encourage audience contributions. Here’s a slide I developed to help in situations like this. I supplement it with this explanation.

This classic photo shows education assumptions from years ago. You’ve got one guy in front that’s supposed to know all the answers, and a lot of passive students soaking up all the wisdom.

I’m not sure that paradigm was ever completely accurate, and I know it’s not accurate here today. Some people in this room have lots more experience with these issues than I do. Let’s take advantage of it. This should be a discussion, not a lecture. Let’s hear comments, corrections and additions from the audience. That will make this hour more valuable for everybody—and I look forward to learning some things.

Like it? Steal it.

Eat Until 80% Full

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.”

“Ignite”: Enlighten Your Audiences at HyperDrive Speed

Would you like to shake up your audiences–in a good way?

Picking up the pace is one way, and the Ignite format takes it into overdrive:

Promoted under the slogan, “Enlighten us, but make it quick,” Ignite is a presentation format where a presenter speaks while slides advance automatically to support them. An Ignite presentation is exactly 5 minutes, and contains exactly 20 slides. The slides advance automatically after each slide is displayed for 15 seconds.

With fixed timing and clear constraints, the Ignite style is suitable for many situations, including classroom presentations, Toastmasters meetings, and both corporate and conference events.

Won’t fill up the time allotted for the training session? Complement the Ignite training with other types of training like teacher-led discussion, a video, a game, other Ignite sessions by you or co-trainers. Shake things up, make it fun.

The Ignite website will help you get started.

Tips for Training Senior Executives

Do you conduct separate ethics training sessions for senior managers? It’s a great idea if you can arrange for it. Managers have some special needs when it comes to learning about ethics. has some good tips in an article entitled How to Present to the Senior Executive Service – Promising Practices – Management. Here are my two favorites:

Bring your “Aha” moment to the front: You’ve spent months on research and preparation, and you want to end the presentation with a big finish. “In summary, we suggest…!” Although that approach is good in theory, surprises aren’t effective in practice. If you blow them away right up front, it will spur questions in their mind and they will be eagerly listening to your presentation for answers.

Rehearse: You’re a seasoned professional with 15 years of experience; you don’t need to rehearse, right? Wrong! The most articulate and persuasive orators rehearse their speeches and anticipate questions from the audience. The idea that you can be a natural public speaker is overblown and simply not true. Get ahead of the curve, and rehearse your presentation.