The internet is full of great advice how to use presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote. There are many great books available to help presenters create more effective and powerful slides. Yet looking at a typical presentation, it seems not many presenters are paying attention.
Perhaps it helps if the message is delivered with a bit of humor. Watch Don McMillan tell the world how to NOT use PowerPoint. As funny and as relevant as ever.
Many years ago, when I still lived in Switzerland, I attended a technology convention with a great line up of international speakers. My English was still very limited at that time. Yet the presenter I remember the most was an American presenting in English. He started his talk with a joke:
How do you call a person who speaks two languages?
How do you call a person who speaks several languages?
How do you call a person who speaks only one language?
After the laughter subsided, he continued with an apology that he was a “typical American” and thus only spoke English. He then launched into his subject and I understood him better than any of the other English speaking presenters. He was clearly a person who was sensitive to his non-English speaking audience and did his best to convey his message in a way that was easily understood.
When you present to an audience abroad, an audience whose mother tongue isn’t English, you need to change your style a bit to really get your message across. Although most people in business have at least a basic understanding of English these days, you need to consider a few points you don’t have to think about when you present to a native-English speaking crowd.
1. Slow down your speech
Even if your natural rate of speech isn’t all that fast, remind yourself to slow down a bit. If your audience’s level of English is rather basic, they will translate everything you say internally. Speak short sentences without too many long, difficult, or unusual words. Use pauses between sentences to give your listeners a chance to translate your words.
2. Speak clearly
Be extremely articulate. The more clearly you speak, the higher chance you’ll have to get your message across. Practice parts of your speech with a cork in your mouth. Put the cork between your front teeth and say a passage a few times before removing the cork. Try your best to say the words as clearly as possible while having the cork in your mouth. Then say the same passage again without the cork. Notice the difference? It’s an old trick stage actors use and it works because you become aware of the muscles in your tongue…and really use them.
3. Use body language and gestures
This is a tip that’s not only relevant when you speak to a foreign audience. Dynamic and enthusiastic speakers use body and hand movements to illustrate key points with any audience. I have some Italian blood running through my veins and I guess that becomes obvious when you see me speak. I speak with my hands and body. I’m not really aware of it unless somebody points out that I’m quite animated when I talk. It has come in rather handy when I speak to people with limited English. They seem to understand my language rather well, I believe in part because my body language and gestures.
4. Avoid slang and idioms
Words evoke internal internal imagery. Non-native speakers of English may take your idioms literally. Until I reached a certain level of proficiency in English, I scratched my head trying to figure out idioms like “get your ducks in a row” (I didn’t own any ducks), “raining cats and dogs” (huh? how is that possible? what did those animals do in the sky in the first place?), or ”knock ‘em dead” (come again? isn’t that illegal?). Idioms are culture oriented and what may sound perfectly good to you might be a most confusing statement to somebody from another culture using a different language.
5. Use local terminology, stories and metaphors
When you talk about measurements, understand the local terminology. Not everybody measures things in inches, yards, or gallons. Most of the world uses the metric system. Presenters also often use sport metaphors to make a point. Be aware that baseball and football stories don’t have the same impact outside of the United States. When the rest of the world hears football, they typically think of what you may call soccer, and baseball metaphors are typically quite lost on an audience outside of the USA.
6. Learn some local key vocabulary
By the time you take the stage, you most likely will already know the local words for hello and thank you. Use them! If you feel extra adventurous, practice the phrase “It’s nice to be here.” Starting your speech by using the local greeting carries a lot of weight even if your pronunciation may not be perfect. You show your audience that you respect them enough to learn some phrases in their language.
7. Use image dominant slides
This tip is not just for presenting to an audience abroad. I’m glad to see more and more people using picture superior slides after reading Carmin Gallo’s bestselling book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Don’t put too much text on your slides. Use images to make your point, but be careful to only use images that are universally understood and not part of an idiom that may get lost on your audience.
I hope these 7 tips will help you make your next presentation abroad as memorable as the one I’ve seen back in Switzerland so many years ago. What tips do you have to make presentations to a foreign audience more effective?
Could it be that some of the most memorable speeches have a common structure? They most definitely do according to Nancy Duarte. She uncovers a secret structure that move the audience repetitively from “what is” to “what could be” states of awareness.
Duarte compares Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech to Steve Jobs’s iPhone launch. Her research paid attention to when the speakers were talking about the status quo versus an improved future. The way she uses graphs to display how the speakers involve their audience (by evoking laughter and applause) is superb.
The reason I find this presentation so worthwhile to watch is not its content, the graphics, or the knowledge that great presentations share a common structure. My reason for liking it is the way Duarte delivers her message. Pay attention to her voice inflection, the rate of speech, and the pauses she makes. I believe if you can deliver a presentation with the same skill and enthusiasm, your presentation will have a great chance to be remembered. If, in addition, you deliver it with a similar structure as outlined by Duarte and sprinkle some interesting stories in-between, you’ve got it made.
Leave it to the ultra democratic Swiss to come up with a political party that wants to minimize (or even eradicate) the use of PowerPoint* in today’s business, government, and educational environments.
The Anti PowerPoint Party is open for people from all over the world. Its defined goal is a referendum in order to seek for a prohibition of PowerPoint* during presentations. The real aim of the referendum, however, is to lift the PowerPoint* issue, both to the awareness of the Swiss people and to the awareness of the world population. They don’t really want to prohibit anything to anybody – through this virtual claim they only want people to have a look at the existing solutions and consider alternative approaches for their presentations.
In the words of Matthias Poehm, the party’s founder: “In over 14 years of public-speaking training, I have noticed that the use of a flip chart beats PowerPoint in 95 out of 100 cases. This is not wishful thinking on my part but proven experience.”
As someone who has sat through too many boring presentations — and helps presenters to make theirs more interesting — I can only applaud this move. Naturally, I’ve joined the APPP. Head over to the official website to join as well.
*PowerPoint is mentioned as the representative of all presentation software
There are hundreds of books available for people wanting to improve their presentation skills. It’s difficult to choose. Here are five books, published within the last three years, that I consider “must reads” for every presenter:
This is Nancy Duarte’s first book, although it has been published two years after her “slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations“, which taught presenters how to give more visually appealing presentations.
In “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences,” Duarte shows just how important stories are for compelling presentations. She has studied great presenters and their presentations and suddenly it clicked: Those presentations all followed some form of pattern. A pattern that is not just found in great presentations, but also literary work and blockbuster movies. Drawing from this research, Duarte outlines these patterns and gives useful tips on how to add that special something to your presentations.
One of the most profound tips in the book is what Nancy calls the intentional placement of a S.T.A.R. Moment: Something They’ll Always Remember. This moment should be so profound or so dramatic that it becomes what the audience chats about at the water cooler or appears as the headline of a news article. Planting a S.T.A.R. moment in a presentation keeps the conversation going even after it’s over and helps the message go viral.
Presentation designer and internationally acclaimed communications expert Garr Reynolds, creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net — presentationzen.com — shares his experience in a provocative mix of illumination, inspiration, education, and guidance that will change the way you think about making presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote.
Presentation Zen challenges the conventional wisdom of making “slide presentations” in today’s world and encourages you to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of your presentations. Garr shares lessons and perspectives that draw upon practical advice from the fields of communication and business. Combining solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity, this book will help you along the path to simpler, more effective presentations.
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is as close as you’ll ever get to having the master presenter himself speak directly in your ear. Communications expert Carmine Gallo has studied and analyzed the very best of Jobs’s performances, offering point-by-point examples, tried-and-true techniques, and proven presentation secrets that work every time. With this revolutionary approach, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to sell your ideas, share your enthusiasm, and wow your audience the Steve Jobs way.
The author, Carmine Gallo, writes a bi-weekly column for Businessweek.com and has been a featured contributor to several other major websites including MSNBC, Military.com, Always On, AOL and Yahoo Finance. Gallo personally coaches leading executives for keynote speeches, media interviews, product launches, and book tours.
To read my detailed book review, click here.
Presentation Skills 201 is for the good presenter who is determined to get even better. Containing over 70 pieces of detailed advice for higher performance, Presentation Skills 201 can be read from cover-to-cover or used as a reference guide. It includes valuable, easy-to-implement tips for every facet of the presentation process from planning to delivery. It’s all here at an advanced level for high-performing professionals who desire that extra edge by increasing confidence and engaging audiences.
Readers will learn how to increase both the impact and memorability of their presentations. Included with the tips are scores of real-life examples and stories from the author’s over 16 years of helping highly-accomplished presenters find that one more thing that they can do to take it up notch and build their careers by making strong, positive impressions on their presentation audiences.
Scott Berkun is a former Microsoft executive who turned writer and professional speaker. Confessions is Berkun’s first-hand account of many years of public speaking, teaching, and television appearances.
In the book, he shares his successes, failures, and some frustrating experiences, to help readers with their delivery of their own presentations. Confessions contains practical advice in every chapter of the book. It teaches what to do when things go wrong: whether it is a tough crowd you are facing or technical difficulties you encounter.
Apple’s former chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, recently published his 10th book: Enchantment. In the book, Kawasaki shares his insight about the art of changing hearts, minds, and actions. This book is all about influencing others. Kind of a modern day version of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. Because presenting is influencing at its best, there are some great tips in the book to make your presentations more compelling, more effective, more enchanting.
Watch this short SlideRocket presentation to see Kawasaki’s advice to become a better presenter:
The 9 key points made by Guy Kawasaki:
Customize the Introduction
Kawasaki tells the story of a trip to Brazil during which he had to present to LG. Since he owns an LG washing machine at home, he had one of his sons take a photo and send it to him. He then started his presentation with the photo of his washing machine and giving praise to the product. Another way he personalizes his presentations, especially in foreign countries, is to do a bit of sight seeing and then have someone snap a picture of him. One of the images will become the opening slide showing him as a tourist in his audience’s environment. A perfect backdrop to tell an ice-breaking story to which the audience can relate. There is hardly a better way to build instant rapport with your audience!
Make a Duchenne Smile
This one resonated strongly with me: I live in Thailand, nicknamed “Land of Smiles”, and know from experience that a smile can go a long way in building a trusted relationship. Not any smile though… It has to be a genuine smile that is made not only with the mouth. It also involves your eyes conveying a smile and getting a spark of confidence and joy across. A smile known as the Duchenne Smile.
Dress for a Tie
Although we all have been told before to not judge a book by its cover – it’s hard not to do it. We automatically get an initial impression from somebody’s dress and as a presenter, you need to be ultra aware of this. Underdress and you will give your audience the impression of not caring. Overdress and you will give your audience the impression of wanting to be better than them. Dress like your audience, and you’ll build rapport.
This one is such a no-brainer, I was surprised to see a slide and Kawasaki spending time to go into at all. But it’s often the most obvious that is being overlooked and I’m therefore glad he did. Provide your audience with information, give them insights, and offer assistance and they will find value in your presentation.
Tell a Story
The best presenters are story tellers. They understand that an audience is not interested in numbers and facts. It’s the stories that people want to hear. It’s the stories that people remember. When you have personal and emotionally charged stories, people will be more inclined to remember you and your product. It’s the stories with purpose and relevance that people love to hear and that help them identify with you and your products.
Sell Your Dream
Your audience doesn’t really care about your company or your products. They care about themselves. They care about their dreams and their hopes. When you present, do not sell your product and its features. Sell your dream of greater creativity or greater productivity. Sell your dream of how you and your products and services are making the world a better place.
Use Salient Points
Give meaning to numbers by putting them into a context your audience can understand. Instead of talking of Giga Bytes when you discuss storage capacity, talk about the number of songs or photos or documents that can be stored. Steve Jobs does this extremely well. Whenever he presents Apple products, he always breaks down numbers to make them more visual. He turns numbers into meaningful Information…
Many presentations are way too long and verbose. Kawasaki offers a simple rule: 10 Slides / 20 Minutes / 30-point Font. Do not use more than 10 slides (or deliver more than 10 major messages), because your audience will not remember them all. Be prepared to deliver your information in less than 20 minutes. Shorter is better! And use just a few words with a font size of at least 30 points to support your verbal message. Less is often more, especially when you want to make your presentation memorable and compelling.
Suck up to the AV Guys
Watching a presentation is a multi-sensory experience for your audience. The way you sound is as important as what you say and how you say it. Making friends with the AV folks will ensure that they will make you sound good and give you the necessary attention if you should encounter any technical difficulties. Kawasaki’s advice to bring your own Countryman Microphone is right on. It will show the AV crew that you are a professional who knows what you are doing.
If you follow just some of the advice Kawasaki has given in the presentation above — and in his new book — you will improve your presentation. If you take all of his advice to heart, you are guaranteed to enchant your audience.
Through the wonders of web video, the entire speech is now available on YouTube. Watch it below to see Carmine Gallo in action and see him demonstrate what he teaches. Pay close attention to how he uses body language (eye contact, open posture, and hand gestures) and uses his voice and rate of speech for impact.
Key messages in the video include:
Passion is Everything
You cannot inspire unless you are inspired yourself. Carmine Gallo demonstrates this with two video clips at the beginning of his talk. The first clip shows Steve Jobs talking about the role of passion in an informal staff meeting. The clip ends with Steve Jobs saying “People with passion can change the world.”
The second clip is of Richard Tait, developer of the game Cranium, who displays a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for what he does. He has the interviewer visibly excited within a few sentences. Yes, passion is contagious.
Create Twitter-friendly Headlines
John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant, wrote in his book Brain Rules that the brain ignores subjects without contextual meaning. In an interview with Business Week in July 2008, he explained, “We didn’t care about the number of vertical lines in the teeth of the saber toothed tiger. We cared about whether it was going to clamp down on our thigh. We were more interested in the meaning of the mouth than the details.” And we are no different today. Our brains crave meaning before detail.
Reducing your message down to one short statement that explains what your product means in a real life context will not only capture your audience’s attention, it will make your message memorable. In his presentation, Gallo reminded people of just how powerful Apple’s Twitter-like headlines for new products are. Statements like ”Apple reinvents the phone,” or “The world’s thinnest notebook,” provide meaning and as a result will get attention and be remembered.
Present with Picture Superiority
Steve Jobs uses extremely powerful visual slides with just one word or short headline. He uses the slides as a backdrop to support his words — and not the other way around. He only uses high resolution photography, not clipart. Jobs understands that ideas are better remembered when they are presented with an image and his slides are a reflection of that knowledge. In the video, you will see Carmine Gallo show the contrast between a standard bulleted slide describing the MacBook Air and the way Steve Jobs did it: with just a photo of the world’s thinnest notebook on top of a yellow envelope. This is the difference that makes the difference between a mediocre and a superb presentation.
Create an Antagonist
In every classic story, the hero fights a villain. Carmine Gallo shows how Steve Jobs uses this formula and positions Apple as the protagonist in all his stories. When creating his presentations, Jobs thinks of Apple’s products as the hero that saves the world. Every story Steve Jobs creates has a villain, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a competitor. It can be a problem in need of a solution. What’s important to him is to have an identifiable enemy.
Inform, Educate, and Entertain
Through a couple of video clips, Gallo shows how Steve Jobs makes all of his presentations informative, educational, and entertaining. And of course, as a master presenter himself, he followed the lead and made this presentation at Stanford’s GSB a highly enjoyable experience with many snippets of wisdom that are guaranteed to make you a better presenter.
I hope you enjoy watching and learning from Carmine Gallo as much as I do.