Tag Archives: Presentation Delivery

A Case for Growth Mindset

Change your Mindset and grow

Image by Allan Ajifo, via Wikimedia Commons

In her influential study, Dr. Carol Dweck (one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation), defines the important and deceivingly simple concept of Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset.

Essentially, a Fixed Mindset is the traditional way of thinking and giving feedback in which you are either good or not in a specific area of knowledge or skill; probably the most common example would be the overly popular expression: “I’m not good at mathematics.”

On the other hand, Growth Mindset reminds us that we are not intrinsically good or bad at a given task or subject, but that we might not be where we want to be… just yet.  If we take the example I used previously, with a Growth Mindset, the same phrase will be something like: “I’m not at the level in mathematics that I want to be… yet.”  Reinforcing the importance of constant improvement as a process, not the mentality of being intrinsically good or bad per se.

In her study, Dr. Dweck, realized that kids that were told they were good at a specific task, didn’t want to try more challenging tasks for fear of “losing” the already gained status of being good at something.  On the other hand, kids who were congratulated for trying hard (in contrast to being good) welcomed new and more demanding tasks as part of that process of constant improvement.

At first sight, the concept of Growth Mindset might seem complacent; however, it’s the other way around; a Fixed Mindset is essentially complacent.

In the world of presentations, we are constantly faced by the situation in which a presenter perceives himself or herself as being intrinsically good or bat at presenting his or her ideas in public.  Something we constantly reinforce with our clients is the fact that everybody is just at a different point in their own process of becoming a better presenter.

We just have to be willing to “fail,” to be wrong, and learn from that experience.

With a Growth Mindset applied to presentation skills:

  1. We can always do better… and that’s okay.  Nobody is intrinsically a good or a bad presenter.
  2. Improvement is a constant effort.

Instead of “declaring” yourself a “good” or “bad” presenter —regardless of the level you are at any given moment— the next, and every, time you are given the opportunity to convey your message with a presentation embrace the planning, rehearsal, delivery, and debriefing, as a process of constant improvement.

I’d like to invite you to check Dr. Dweck’s research and to apply a Growth Mindset to all the aspects of your professional life.

Happy constant growth!

The Terrible T-Rex, A Connection Killer

Is this predator killing your connection with your audience?

The terrible connection killer

As some of you may know, I teach Presentation Skills at a prestigious college in Toronto, Canada. As the semester ends I feel humbled and proud for the improvement shown by all my students in their own journey —there are few other things more personal in an academic environment than exposing yourself to your peers and a professor, to be evaluated on your delivery skills, not your content.

It’s amazing to see the progress from their very short first presentations (30 seconds to three minutes), just a few months ago, to their comparatively longer final presentations (five to ten minutes).

During the early presentations, some of them barely make the minimum time, good body language is nearly non-existent, and filler words are so persistent that some of them seem to be speaking a language from another planet.

Now, at the end of the semester, it’s a joy to hear almost no filler words, great use of rhetorical devices, natural and logical use of the stage, intimate eye contact, very effective slides and data representations, and beautiful handouts. And, most of them make the time with ease or even go happily over time.  It is, truly, a joyful experience for their professor.

Except for that little giant, the terrible T-Rex —a pest that’s very hard to exterminate.

So, what is the T-Rex? In public speaking and presentations, the T-Rex is when you have your elbows glued to your ribcage throughout the presentation, making you look like the fearsome and long extinct Tyrannosaurus Rex.

On balance, the T-Rex is better than keeping your hands in your pockets or behind your back, but it hinders your connection with your audience.  And, as we all know; no connection… no communication.

The next time you rehearse for a presentation try filming your session and check to see if your T-Rex is alive and kicking.  If you see it, banish it.

How?  Two words: mimic and amplify.

Mimic your words with your hands.  If you ask for a show of hands, show your own hand — this will also increase the response rate to your questions.  If you talk about the “three elements required to achieve success,” show three fingers high in the air. If you are telling a story about running away from a dangerous situation, mimic the action of running. Mimicking can be applied to many of the words we speak without seeming stilted or forced. Try it, you’ll be amazed.

Amplify all your gestures; be expansive.  If you point to something on the slide, a reference point, or a member of your audience, do so with your arm fully extended.  If you say something like “all together,” expand both arms as if you are trying to hug them all at the same time in a huge group hug. Don’t be afraid to go big, gestures rarely look as big to an audience as they do in our mind’s eye.

The advantages?  One advantage is that you’ll appear more confident. A second, even more important, advantage is that your audience will feel as if they’re part of the conversation. And, it gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience on an ongoing basis throughout your presentation. As we all know; no connection… no communication.

Remember, tone and body language account for the mayor part of your communication with your audience.

Protect your audience from the scourge of the T-Rex. Mimic your words and amplify your gestures.

Cheers, Gerardo.


Image by myfavoritedinosaur.com and LadyofHats (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

Big Beginnings

Make all your beginnings big

Justin Timberlake - BeginningsLast month I had the opportunity to go to a Justin Timberlake concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.  When I go to events like this I often find myself as fascinated by the mechanics of the concert as I do the songs or the artist performing before me.  Having an interest in presentation (big or small, every presentation is a show) I find that, whether the show was bad or good, there’s always something I can take away from the experience that I can learn from to improve my own presenting skills.

Fortunately, the Timberlake show fell well above the “good” category on the concert rating scale and actually soared to the level of “spectacular” and “OMG, I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing.”  The Timberlake show was fantastic with many, many takeaways that can be applied to presentations of just about any kind.  In future articles I’ll talk about the takeaways I got from later in the concert but for this particular article I’m going to focus on the way Justin Timberlake began his concert.

Prior to the actual concert itself Timberlake had a DJ set up on an elevated platform at the opposite end of the arena from the stage.  From the moment the doors opened, the DJ played dance music, worked the crowd, and made sure everyone knew (and felt like) they were integral to the show.  This went on until just a few minutes before the lights went down.

As the lights went down in the arena, the huge screen behind the stage came alive with images representative of the 20/20 theme of the concert.  These images danced around the screen for a period of time, and then a woman’s voice proclaimed, “20 seconds.”  The 20-second countdown had begun. As the numbers counted down, aloud and on the screen, the excitement of the audience increased.  Five, four, three, two, one… a pause, a huge flash-bang, and the images onscreen become instantly replaced by a silhouette and sounds of an orchestra string section, and then the looming silhouette of Justin Timberlake in a tuxedo adjusting his cuff links and straightening his cuffs.  He’s ready, we’re ready; a few seconds pass… a massive flash-bang and there he is, in the flesh.  A beautifully choreographed and truly spectacular opening.

So, what does this multi-million dollar extravaganza have to do with the presentations you and I find ourselves tasked with on a daily basis.  In a word: Preparation!

When I say preparation I don’t mean the preparation that went into the show; I’m talking about the preparation of the audience that began from the moment we walked into the venue.

The DJ wasn’t there just to keep us occupied pre-show, he was there to make sure we were engaged and ready for what was to follow.  The graphics displayed behind the stage were there to remind us that this was the 20/20 Tour, and we were in the right place to have fun.  When the disembodied voice called out “20 seconds” and the countdown began we were being put on notice that something extraordinary was about to happen, and it was time to begin raising our energy level to the appropriate level for launch.  And, when the orchestra appeared in silhouette followed by Justin Timberlake, also in silhouette, we were being given a chance to acquaint ourselves with our hosts for the evening prior to being blown away by what they had to offer.

You, too, should prepare your audience.  Many people think a presentation begins after they’ve been introduced and after the first words are uttered.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. From the moment your guests enter the room they should feel they are a part of the event.  By doing this you will increase their enjoyment of your presentation and you’ll definitely increase the enjoyment you’ll have presenting to them.

Remember, big or small, every presentation is a show.

Cheers, Patrick