Tag Archives: Prepare

Be Over-prepared

Don’t allow your next presentation to be scuttled by unforeseen circumstances. Be over-prepared.

computer-823613_640It’s April, another winter has passed, we have our eyes peeled for that first robin of spring, and then… snowww.  It came as a complete surprise, it was totally unexpected, and it caught a great many of us unawares and unprepared.  On the night of that first unexpected snowstorm I walked out of a movie theatre and remember being amazed at the number of people I saw cleaning the snow and ice from their car windows with their hands, or a piece of cardboard, or the credit card being used by one unfortunate fellow.

Now, I’m not surprised these folks no longer had snow cleaning utensils in their vehicles.  We had, after all, had a fairly mild winter and the previous day’s temperature held the promise of a mild spring to come.  They were prepared for the weather they expected and I completely understand that. But, the situation also brought to mind one of the tenets we preach at Sliding.ca: always be over-prepared.

This tenet, always be over-prepared, isn’t just for movie theatre parking lots on cold snowy nights.  The tenet also holds true in the world of presenting.  One of the things an experienced presenter will tell you is that problems can and will arise from the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times.  Experienced presenters will also tell you that there’s nothing worse than having to explain to an audience why you can’t deliver the whole experience you were hoping to and the experience that they deserve to receive from you.

So, how do we over-prepare?

The first thing to do is ask yourself “what can go wrong today.”  This is like a pre-threat assessment of your day as it unfolds before you.  A presentation can be spoiled by something as simple as not checking a public transit schedule to make sure everything’s running on time.  Nothing takes a presenter out of the zone faster than having to rush to get somewhere or not having enough time to settle in at a speaking venue.  Little things can create big problems.

The next thing you do is ask yourself “what steps can I take to mitigate threats to my presentation.”   The answers to this question can come in many forms; the three main ones we focus on are the presentation, the venue, and the equipment.

When it comes to your presentation you can never be too prepared.  By learning your presentation inside out you not only improve your delivery, you also protect yourself from the possibility that something catastrophic can scuttle your presentation.  If you know your presentation well enough you can present it under any circumstances, even by candle light, should there be a power failure.

We also suggest you break your presentation into easily defined sections and learn each section as a standalone piece of material.  By doing this you inoculate yourself from the vagaries of time constraints; if you have to delete a section to stay on time you can easily do that.

When it comes to venue we suggest you learn everything possible about where you’ll be presenting prior to the event.  Does the venue have a power supply close to where you’ll set up your computer, do they have an in-house public address system, are their dead spots for sound in certain parts of the room, or a restricted view for some of the audience?  These are not things you want to find out once you take the stage.  And, regardless of whether you can get the information you need about the venue, always do a thorough walk-around before taking the stage.

I recall a situation when Gerardo was presenting at a local venue as I sat at the back of the audience monitoring the room.  He couldn’t understand why I kept signalling for him to speak louder. It wasn’t until after his presentation that I was able to explain to him that the air conditioning was turned on soon after he began speaking and the white noise from the overhead vent completely drowned out what he was saying for a segment of his audience.

When it comes to equipment, always assume the venue won’t have what you need. When we at Sliding.ca do a presentation we carry a large bag, actually a plumber’s tool bag, filled with everything we might need from cables to connectors.  The bag is heavy and cumbersome but the peace of mind it brings is well worth the effort of lugging it around with us.

When I remember those moviegoers in the parking lot that night I think “what a shame to have a nice night spoiled because they were only prepared for what they expected.”  Golly, if they’d taken one of our Sliding.ca presentation courses they’d have known “what can go wrong will go wrong, and it’s better to be over-prepared than prepared.”

Cheers, Patrick

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The Importance of a Clear, Concise and Compelling Main Message

Never lose target with an effective message

MessageOne can never stress enough how critical a clear, concise, and compelling main message is to the success of your presentations.  In this article, I’ll share with you what a main message is, why it is important and, finally, how to construct an effective main message so that your audience will remember it and make it a success.

 

What is a main message?

It is a well-known fact that most people only remember a fraction of what you, or any other presenter, convey in a presentation.  Therefore, it is crucial to make every effort to ensure that your audience walks away with the most important message from your presentation… your main message.  The rest they can learn later from your handout.

A main message is a short sentence of no more than 15 words that describes the core of your presentation.  It is the message you need your audience to take away if they’re only going to remember one thing.  It has to be clear, concise and, preferably, compelling.

 

Why is a strong main message important to the success of your presentation?

Every time you create a presentation or speech you are faced with the challenge of deciding what information to leave in or out of your presentation.

A strong main message will act as a filter or firewall to guard the content of your presentation; this makes the process of selecting the content for your presentation much easier and much more effective.

In fact, the first test of a good main message is to gauge how easy it is for you to decide what to leave in or what to take out of your presentation; if you find yourself doubting whether a specific idea belongs in your presentation it means your main message is not robust enough. When that happens I strongly recommend you to go back to the drawing board and fine-tune your main message.

So, a clear and concise main message will help you to:

  1. Ensure that your audience will remember your idea, product, solution, information, et cetera.
  2. Greatly simplify the selection process for ideas and supporting points within your presentation or speech.

 

How to create a strong main message?

After years of helping our customers to craft effective main messages I find that it is easiest to imagine the following scenario: You are about to deliver your presentation when you find that a key member of your audience has to leave. While leaving the room, he or she says you, “before I live you have 10 seconds to tell me the one thing that is the keystone of your presentation today.”  You have to be razor sharp and your message has to be razor sharp.

To create a clear message, use simple and explicit words.  To create a concise message, say only one thing, no more.  To create a compelling message, talk to your audience’s needs, dreams and pains.

 

Is the main message the same as the foundational phrase?

It is common to mistake both terms, but they are not necessarily the same.  A foundational phrase is a saying that you will repeat several times through your presentation to help your audience remember your main message —not specifically to filter the information you’re presenting.  The main message is a filter; a foundational phrase is a mnemonic tool.

Having said that; if your main message is compelling, catchy and sticky, as a foundational phrase should be, you could use it as such.

 

In conclusion

A clear, concise and compelling main message is the first, and probably, the most important step in the creation of a presentation or speech.  It takes time to create a short phrase that will contain the core of your presentation (with our coaching clients, it can often take between one to two hours of intensive work), but is time well spent.

So, if you don’t have a strong main message, stop, don’t go any further in the process of creating your presentation. The chances are very high that you will just be wasting your time.

 

 

Cheers, Gerardo.

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Create a Presentation as you Travel

By using the SLIDING method you can create a presentation anytime, anywhere.

Create a Presentation as you Travel
Image by Cicava via FreeImages.com

I was speaking with two presenter friends of mine, Alan and Barbara, about the problems we all face when it comes time to create a presentation.  The first presenter, Alan, said that the biggest obstacle he faced was finding the time to create a presentation because he travels so much.  In response to this, the second presenter, Barbara, who travels even more than Alan, said she was actually at her most creative when she traveled, and came up with some of her best ideas while sitting in an airport lounge.

As we talked further I realized why their responses were so different.  When it came time to create a presentation the first thing Alan did was turn on his computer and open a presentation software app, like PowerPoint or Keynote.  Meanwhile, Barbara wouldn’t even look at her computer until well into her creative process. At Sliding.ca we subscribe to the process used by Barbara.  And, not surprisingly, to the use of our SLIDING method as a part of that process.

The SLIDING method:

  • Search for any information or materials that can be used to convey your message.
  • Learn about your audience; what is it they need and how can you help to fill that need.
  • Identify the information that directly relates to those needs.
  • Delete any and all information that doesn’t fully support your message or distracts from your message.
  • Integrate the information so that it is grouped logically and concisely.
  • Navigate through the information so that it has a sense of flow and rhythm.
  • Gauge your results and then go back and repeat the process.

The beauty of the SLIDING method is that most of the steps can be utilized anytime and anywhere.  In the early stages all you need to create a presentation is a piece of paper and a pencil.  This is the Search step of the process. By its very nature it is a relaxed, informal, free-flowing process.  Unfortunately, the moment Alan took out his computer his creative process became subservient to the mechanical processes of the machine and the constraints of the environment he was required to work within.

Barbara, on the other hand, found herself free to create in a much more organic and open way.  Whenever an idea would pop into her head, she would simply pull out her notebook, jot it down, and go back to whatever she was doing when inspiration struck.  The beauty of Barbara’s approach was that any idea that popped into her head could apply to and be used for any one of a myriad of topics she might be working on, or might work on in the future.

Conversely, the process Alan used to create a presentation forced him to think in a much more linear fashion.  It became about the words and how one sentence followed another instead of being about the ideas and, ultimately, the message he hoped to share with his audience.

Sitting in an airport lounge energized Barbara.  She loved the hustle and bustle and told me how she would get many of her ideas from watching the travelers pass by and wonder where they came from and where they were going to.  She would jot down descriptions of the passersby, notes about where she imagined they came from, and story lines about where she imagined they were going.

After gathering all this material, without ever needing to go near a computer, Barbara would draw on the ideas she had written down in order to create analogies and metaphors designed to help her to connect and communicate with her audience.  The next step of her process, and the SLIDING method, would be to Learn about her audience and which of the many ideas she came up with that would apply to their particular needs.

Whether sitting in an airport lounge, sipping coffee in a quiet café, or hard at work at the office you can begin to create a presentation without ever having to take out a computer or type a single word.  Then, when you are finally ready to commit words to screen and build the visual portion of your presentation, your message and your plot will be clear in your mind and you’ll have a story to tell. And, as we all know, in the 21st Century if you don’t have a story to tell, nobody’s going to listen.

In this article, I’ve focused on the Search portion of the SLIDING method. If you’d like to learn more about the entire SLIDING method and the seven key elements of a well structured, memorable, and effective presentation, go to our Sliding.ca home page and register for our monthly newsletter.

And remember, the next time you have to create a presentation, begin with paper and pencil; you’ll enjoy the freedom.

 

Cheers, Patrick

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Prepare for an Interview

Three key tips on how to prepare for an interview

Prepare for an interviewThe other day I was involved in an interesting debate with a friend of mine regarding the differences between how you would prepare for an interview for a job compared with how you might prepare for an interview for television or some other medium. My contention was that, regardless of the medium and the purpose of the interview, the way you prepare for an interview remains the same. My friend differed with me in that he felt that the purpose of the interview should dictate the method of preparation and how the person being interviewed should interact with their interviewer.

More specifically, our discussion centred around Rachel Parent a fourteen year old teenager who was interviewed on the Lang & O’Leary Exchange, a CBC Canada television program. The show is hosted by Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary of Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank fame and Rachel was invited to appear on the show after she challenged a Kevin O’Leary pronouncement regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).

Ms. Parent turned up well prepared and ready to discuss the issue with Mr. O’Leary and Ms. Lang and, in the opinion of most of the people I spoke with after the show, she acquitted herself very well.  Our discussion arose from my friend’s contention that Ms. Parent had missed an opportunity to teach Mr. O’Leary and his audience an important lesson regarding GMO’s and that she did not, in fact, acquit herself admirably.

One of the main things that impressed me about Ms. Parent’s performance on Lang & O’Leary was her ability to repeatedly return to the main point of her position that GMO’s should be labelled in the name of freedom of choice and that consumers should be given the information they need to decide for themselves whether they choose to buy GMO’s or not.

A number of times during the interview Mr. O’Leary tried to characterize Ms. Parent as some sort of GMO Luddite but she never once took the bait.  Each and every time he baited her she would calmly return to her argument regarding freedom of choice and the need for full disclosure when it cam to product labelling. When that didn’t sway her from her position Mr O’Leary would try to change the parameters of the debate and, when that didn’t work, he even tried to play the age card and suggest that Ms. Parent’s position would change when she grew up; all to no avail.  Rachel stuck to her guns and firmly, gently and repeatedly reiterated her position that GMO’s should be labelled as such and that the consumer should have the freedom to choose for themselves.

My friend disagreed with this strategy.  He felt that television was too powerful a medium to waste and that Ms. Parent had squandered a rare opportunity to provide the audience with a comprehensive lesson on the ills of GMO’s and, in so doing, take Kevin O’Leary down a notch or two.   And that brings me back to our tips on how to prepare for an interview?

The amount of information one can present to an audience or an interviewer is much less dependent on the ability of the presenter to deliver a plethora of data as it is on the audience/interviewer’s ability to absorb that information. The Lang & O’Leary Exchange is a business news show.  The odds are pretty good that the audience was not overly familiar with the issue of GMO’s and, besides, that’s not why they were watching in the first place.  Had Ms. Parent tried to over-educate that particular audience she might well have confused them or simply caused them to tune out on the conversation.

Presenter’s Rule #1: Know your audience. Ms. Parent understood that her audience was not, primarily, interested in GMO’s so she framed her position as being in favour of “freedom of choice,” a stance everyone understands and, whether politically left, right or centre, can support.

Presenter’s Rule #2: Stick to the point. Most television interviews are not about discussing all sides of an issue; they are about promoting or advertising a position.  As any advertising executive will tell you; one simple, straightforward mantra repeated ten times will be much more memorable than five points repeated two times each.

Presenter’s Rule #3: Keep smiling.  Had Rachel Parent showed any signs of resentment towards Mr. O’Leary or had she tried to out-debate him she would have lost by default.   Nobody likes a bully, even a fourteen year old one.

Rachel Parent did win her debate with Kevin O’Leary.  But, she won because she and her coaches knew how to prepare for an interview.  She knew her audience, she stuck to the point, and she did it with style and grace and a smile on her face.  She should be congratulated for her extraordinary performance and for showing us that, whether your goal is to prepare for an interview that will land us that perfect job or to prepare for an interview on national television, the rules are the same.  Good luck with your next interview.

Let me know what you think.  Cheers, Patrick.

For more information about how to prepare for an interview please contact us at: info@Sliding.ca

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