Happy Christmas 2011!

December 5, 2011 by

Hello – we’ve handcrafted our own e-card this year! TURN UP THE SOUND – CLICK and ENJOY!

We’ve used Apple’s Keynote (their much more versatile version of PowerPoint) which is our favoured presentation aid for creating the visual aids that accompany our talks!

To Prezi or not to Prezi

December 1, 2011 by

The Presenter as Projectionist?

As Presentation Skills trainers we do bang on about the appalling use of the ubiquitous projector to blast screens full of words at long-suffering audiences. Using PowerPoint or Keynote is certainly slicker than the dear old overhead or indeed 35mm slide projectors but the ‘wow factor’ has long since vanished to be replaced by a weary, ‘Oh no! Here we go again’. In an attempt to the up the excitement, the animation and transition options have become ever more dramatic and ‘whizzy’. In practice the effect is even more wearying as the audience are now expected to marvel at the creativity of whoever put the show together. The presenter has become a projectionist.

Whilst it would be great to step back to first principles, and propose that Visual Aids MUST ONLY be used to help the audience to understand, to remember or to pay attention, so few presenters these days seem to have the time (or the inclination) to work from (to my mind much more professional) cue cards. We are probably stuck with the Visual Aid – not as an aid to the audience – but more as an auto-cue for the speaker.

So how can you (for a while) stand out from the crowd. Well there is a product called Prezi that you can find at www.prezi.com. This works on the premise that you start with a work area of infinite capacity and simply drop or import words, pictures, movies etc. onto the work area. Once they are in place, they can be rotated, moved and their size can be altered. They can also be grouped by placing them in frames. Once all the elements are positioned, you connect them by a path through the presentation. The presenter then simply moves through the presentation in the normal way. Interestingly, however big or however minute the text or images appear on the home screen, which shows the whole presentation, when projected they, or the frame they are in, will fill the screen.
There is a free version which allows you to create your presentation online and then either present from the web or download and present from the laptop. If you use the free version your work is available to be viewed by anyone and you cannot edit offline. The paid version allows you to create and edit on your PC.

The advantages of Prezi are that it is quick and easy to use  and you can be reasonably creative without being naff. Since it is not being used by many, it is still quite quirky and has some novelty factor. It’s brilliant for showing how elements fit into a bigger picture. The downsides?  The choice of fonts is limited  and that the programme does swoop from one element to the next. If you elect to set up the main screen with the elements rotated to fancy angles, the combination of spinning them back to horizontal and swooping combined, with a rapid transition, can engender nausea in the audience! Still, at least they’ll be awake while they’re vomiting!

There are some excellent ‘Prezis’ that you can view on their website and it is well worth playing with the free version to see if it suits the type of presentation that you deliver before electing to pay the modest user fee.

You could of course use a flip chart!

Great Service from GO Outdoors

September 21, 2011 by

What a joy to find a retailer that really gets customer service right!  As you may have gathered from our previous posts on the subject (How far do you spread the word… and Seven Ways to Lose your Customers Parts 1 & 2) we are passionate about customer service.

My trusty walking shoes finally gave up the ghost and so I took myself off to Go Outdoors in Oxford to buy a replacement pair.   Go Outdoors offer a huge range which is brilliant but choice can be overwhelming. Luckily their brilliant staff is there to help.  After the warm welcome I received on entering the store I took myself off to the footwear department. Once there a very knowledgeable sales assistant asked questions to establish my needs and price range and narrowed the choice down to three shoes. He explained the features and, more importantly, the benefits of each and helped me to decide on the shoe that met my needs. He was able to recommend from his own personal experience – which, to my mind, is always reassuring.  With the shoes selected it was off to the till where one of his colleagues was just as helpful and friendly.

As a trainer in sales & service this was all music to my ears. It’s a pleasure being “sold to”, when you are “sold to” well. So, I was happy to tweet about the service using our #bestservice hashtag and just as happy to pen this blog.

I enjoyed the whole transaction so much that I actually found myself standing in the car park wondering what else I could go in to buy!  I resisted the temptation on this occasion but, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ll be back!

So, people, who presses your “happy button” when it comes to #bestservice or, conversely, who gives the opposite #surlyservice?? Leave me your comments – I’d love to hear them

How Lovely to Listen!

August 22, 2011 by

I have been training to people to deliver presentations for some 25 years, and it dawned on me recently that the presentations I witness are getting duller and duller. You see, when I train people I train them to entertain and to inspire so that they are memorable for all the right reasons. I show them the best way to craft and structure presentations and then how to create and use the speaker notes to assist them with their delivery.  When I started training in presentation skills a speaker would very occasionally have a picture or an object to show the audience and back then these were ‘visual aids’.

Then came Microsoft with their programme PowerPoint. Now, of course PowerPoint can show pictures and objects – and when it is used for this purpose it is great. But all too often what I see projected onto a screen are words, words and more words which the ‘speaker’ uses as a very public prompt. So, they stop being a speaker and instead become a reader. How dull and boring is that?

However, just sometimes, it all goes horribly wrong. Their laptop won’t speak to the projector; the projector’s bulb blows; there is a power cut or some other joyous event that means that a speaker has to go ahead without their homemade autocue!  Now this isn’t always  fantastic, as often they don’t have back-up notes but where they are brave enough to carry on and SPEAK about their subject, something wonderful happens. No longer are we distracted by the whir of projector cooling fans; no longer do we have to squint at a bright screen; no longer, actually, do we have to decide whether the speaker or the screen gets our attention.

No, because suddenly we have the luxury of being able to focus our attention on the speaker. We can sit back and savour their words, their passion and their enthusiasm. We can enjoy the inflection in their voice, the words that they use, the verbal pictures that they paint in our mind’s eye. Suddenly they realise that they can’t drone on from bullet point to bullet point but that they have to use pauses to create paragraphs for us and summarise regularly to help us understand.

When they sit down to a thunderous round of applause there is always great respect for them. Others comment on how much they enjoyed the presentation. They recognise the joy of being able to simply listen to the speaker… and then they get up and boringly plough through screens of bullet points themselves!

The message is simple. Presenting, Public Speaking, call it what you will, is a great skill and each presentation (if it’s going to be truly effective) must be lovingly crafted. Each paragraph, each sentence, each word should be carefully selected for the impact that it will make and meaning that it will convey. Only when you are happy with the words that you intend to speak, only when you are happy with your prompt notes, only when you have practised and are happy with the passion of your delivery, then, and only then should you ask yourself whether you really need to use PowerPoint. Please, do your audience an enormous favour and consider the answer, “No”.

Old Dog Blog’s 2010 Review

January 4, 2011 by

Hello! Hope you had a good break!

The stats monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how our blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of our overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010 we uploaded 12 new posts, growing the total archive to 24 posts.

Our busiest day of the year was 13 December with 73 views. The most popular post that day was our on-line Christmas Card Happy Christmas Everybody! More people clicked on this photographp of David Beckham than on any other! Quite what they were hoping to see I can only begin to imagine!

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were our own site newtricks.co.uk, from my twitter feeds @normanken with the links ht.lyow.ly, at twitter.com, and lmodules.com (though I’ve no idea what that is!!)

Some visitors came searching, mostly for  sleeping audience and audience sleeping.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Happy Christmas Everybody! December 2010
2 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,


How to Remember People’s Names… February 2010


Top Tips for using a Flip Chart May 2010


Still Laughing all the way from the Bank? June 2010


Keynote vs. PowerPoint February 2010

Let us know what you’d like us to cover in 2011! We’d love to hear from you.

Our favourite Bloggers of 2011:

Professor Max Atkinson

Martin Shovel

Happy Christmas Everybody!

December 12, 2010 by

Nervous or “In the Zone”?

November 16, 2010 by

Over the last couple of days I have seen a lot of novice speakers at a couple of events. A number of them have been evidently nervous, bless ’em. It’s always alarming to be in the audience when a speaker would clearly rather be anywhere else! It’s likely that you’ll relate to this, whether you give talks or not, as BUPA suggests that over 90% of the British public suffers with glossophobia: the fear of public speaking. For many it’s a fear that they’re going to make complete fools of themselves,after all, nobody wants their audience to think less of them. They’d rather the Grim Reaper would come and take them away  (fear of death is only the UK’s number three fear!)

On our High Impact Presentation Skills training course we ask our delegates to make a list of what happens to their body when they stand up to present and the list invariably contains (but is not always limited to) the following:

Nervous speaker


  • shake
  • sweat
  • blush
  • butterflies
  • heart pounding
  • mind goes blank
  • feel faint
  • feel sick
  • stomach churns
  • knees knock
  • time slows down
  • time speeds up
  • mouth goes dry
  • ramble
  • fidget
  • need the loo

Even seasoned performers describe some of these feelings. Ian Holm famously gave up stage acting for a while, such were his nerves. So, if most people experience nerves, why don’t most speakers appear nervous? Well, it’s because they’ve found ways of hiding the signs of nerves. In actual fact many of the signals are internal (butterflies in the stomach, a feeling of nausea) and therefore just aren’t visible anyway.

Here are some of our Top Tips for dealing with signs of nerves:

Shakes – Copy your notes on to index cards rather than using A4 sheets of paper which can magnify and indeed amplify the shaking. Grip the cards and brace your elbows against your sides. If you make just a few notes by annotating the cards with Key Words only – NOT your full script, you’ll be tempted to read it verbatim – should your mind go blank you’ll have something to refer to and get back on track.

Blushing – is more of a problem for women speakers rather than it is for the gents (your skin is thinner – that’s all.) Exposed flesh blushes (so cover up as much as you feel comfortable covering. We occasionally get a lady speaker who will say “my chest goes red and blotchy when I stand up to speak.” “Well, cover it up, then, madam.” We reply.” One way of covering up is to use a green tinted foundation. (Seriously.) There are a number of make-up solutions that can counter the red blotching associated with nerves. Boots No 17 Colour Corrective Fluid is just one.

Time slowing down or speeding up – are sensations caused by adrenaline coursing through your body. As long as you have rehearsed, rehearsed and rehearsed, you’ll know how long your talk lasts. Providing you stay on track (stops you rambling) you shouldn’t add too much to this (if you finish a little early – no one will mind!) Try to catch sight of a clock in the room or take off your wristwatch and lay it before you – for reference.

Fidgeting – remove all temptations – jewellery etc.

Mouth dries up – this is a real problem for many speakers and the most commonly used solution – having a drink of water is not at all effective! The problem is that if you start sipping water, it washes away any saliva (which is what you need to keep your mouth lubricated!) If you watch speakers who drink water you’ll notice that they have to continue doing so throughout their talk. There’s another problem – you have something to knock over! By far and away the most effective solution is to BITE THE SIDE OF YOUR TONGUE. Not so hard as to draw blood – just a little nip. Before you know it you’ll have more saliva flowing and that’s what you need.






In the Zone


Needing the loo – another reason why drinking water is not always a good idea. Go before you start. Then XYZ! EXamine Your Zip. If you go out with your flies undone (or your skirt tucked into your knickers, for that matter) the audience will be mightily distracted.

As for the other things on the list, well the audience cannot see them – no matter how peculiar they feel.

Asked whether or not he suffered from nerves, Bruce Springsteen denied that he ever did. He added that before he could perform, however, he had to be “in the zone.” Asked what that felt like, he replied, “My heart beats faster, my stomach churns and my hands shake.” Nerves can be a good thing. They are a healthy sign that you care about how you and your presentation come across.

Knowing that you have a well structured, well rehearsed talk that research tells you is what your audience wants to hear is a great confidence booster that means your nerves can be held in check.

Lecturers as Presenters? 5/10

July 30, 2010 by

For three years Grant Thornton the accountancy firm has booked us to run our Powerful Presentation Skills workshop for its summer intake of interns. This year there are fifty really bright, sparky and enthusiastic interns from universities across the UK (the firm’s recruiters are to be congratulated, we were really impressed with each and every one of the students we met.)

A couple of common (and I would suggest, worrying) themes are emerging. Firstly, that at school, students are often asked to present using PowerPoint. They are instructed to use slides that contain “words only ” (“no pictures please”) and that those words should be “black text on white background.” Like a man breaking wind in a lift, this is wrong on so many levels! It transpires that the reasoning behind this is that the presentation will ultimately form part of  their “exam assessment” and, therefore, a transcript is needed. Great for the examiner – not so great for the audience watching the presentation!

Good place for a nap!

As much as anything, projecting a white background at an audience for long periods can cause photokeratitis (or snow-blindness).  So, imagine what might happen if students have to watch an hour or two of back-to-back presentations given by their fellow pupils… the symptoms include pain, redness, swollen eyelids,headaches, halos around lights, hazy vision and in extreme cases temporary loss of vision. These symptoms may not appear for 6-12 hours. (A warning here then for companies that hold conferences and project bright screens at audiences in darkened rooms all day!)

Words do not make for good “visual aids” they are not visual and don’t necessarily aid the audience’s understanding or recall. No wonder PowerPoint gets misused when school students are taught to use it in this way.

But what worries me even more is the second theme that has emerged in our time training university students: those of their lecturers that use PowerPoint mostly do the same thing; fill up their slides with words.

Research at The University of South Wales showed that whilst we are happy to process either the written or the spoken word – we’re not good at doing both at the same time. Therefore, we’ll tune out one or the other. If the lecturer’s any good and there are too many words – we’ll tune out the slides (the slides are pointless!) If the speaker directs us to read them (usually by turning their back on us and reading them out loud (and boy, don’t you just hate that) then the speaker is tuned out!

But it’s not just many lecturers’ propensity to use PowerPoint as an auto-cue that worries us. On seeing our training the interns are telling us that their lecturers are committing other cardinal sins, but in particular:

Essential reading

Not giving an overview or review of their lecture. Stavros Sophocles, one of the famous Greek Orators, intimated that if you want an audience to remember what you’ve said to them (surely one of the key points to giving a lecture) that you should, “Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, tell the and then tell them what you told them.” Apparently this doesn’t happen terribly often. It’s a fundamental that Tony Buzan covers in his brilliant books on learning and in particular in “Use your Head“. I think that anyone involved in learning (pupils and students too), lecturing or teaching should read this book.

BoredomOther crimes cited include (but not limited to): reading from notes or books for extended period of time; not engaging with the audience; staying behind a lectern; distracting fidgets; mumbling; erming and erring, not giving eye-contact and so on. No wonder then students often resort to passing notes to each other, twittering during lectures and playing “DISTRACTION!” an interactive game played on the internet by students against fellow classmates during their boring lecture classes. The DISTRACTION! website says the game, similar to Bingo, is used as a way to stay occupied and have fun during class. Students have to watch out for events such as “Lecturer gets ahead of himself on PowerPoint,” “Student asleep,” “Projector doesn’t work,” “Lecturer throws chalk” etc.

Invariably when we collect in our feedback forms in at the end of our course a common comment is, “Our lecturers could do with coming on this course!” You’d think that ,surely, a pre-requisite of allowing anyone to teach would be for them to undergo some basic presentation skills training – apparently not.

Score for presenting

Of course, we did hear of the rare inspirational lecturers who were brilliant at engaging with their audience, who used anecdotes and stories to bring alive their lectures, who did use PowerPoint to show great images and interesting graphs & charts, and who did introduce and conclude their lectures well. It’s just a shame it’s not the standard!

Asking our students to score their lecturers against our course content comes up with a score of 5/10. Must do better.

Are you Networking or just Connecting?

July 7, 2010 by
Networking is a funny old thing and often hugely misunderstood. I recently heard a self-appointed networking ‘guru’ tell an audience of aspiring business professionals that had they not got business by the second visit to a networking group, to abandon it. “Move on, ” he said with a sweep of his arm, “don’t waste your time.”


“Rubbish!” I thought. But thinking about it I guess he was talking about connecting – not networking. A connection is merely  a link between two points and can be a perfectly valid way to seek business. You identify your market and then organise, or seek, a gathering of your potential customers or introducers. Get it right, do a good job and it could generate business. If you find that there is absolutely no connection then certainly move on. But why limit yourself to just a few (or four) connections.

Networking is quite different; it is not just a connection between two points but links between many, many points. When you are networking you have to recognise that your job is not to try to sell your product or service, rather to sell yourself. It isn’t just about the people in the room, it’s also about all the people that they know and, indeed, all the people known to you. That means that given everyone has roughly 250 acquaintances then anyone you’d like to meet is only five contacts away.
A Network

A Network

Only after a period of time (i.e. more than two meetings) do you start to develop deep relationships with people who you like as you get to know them better. Once you have established a good level trust others become confident in you and thus more likely to introduce you to the folk in their network. And, of course, you become actively excited to seek opportunities for them. This inevitably takes longer to develop but instead of a one-off sale from a connection (if you are lucky), you’ll find yourself involved with a network of friends and referrers that will deliver business, yes, but also information and support for years to come.

And then we come to the other thing that got my goat about this ‘guru’s’ talk – he said, “Networking is about one thing and one thing only… Business.” Really?

What I do know is, that like many people, if I meet someone who focusses purely on pitching their product or service I metaphorically “run a mile” (I could just about manage it literally but it would be terribly inconvenient.)

Had I been training that room of fledgling networkers I’d have said completely the opposite. That networking is NOT just about business. It’s NOT about selling or badgering people about your business nor is it about putting people on the spot. If you do that then please don’t come back for a third meeting – you’ll not be welcome  – you’ll need to find somewhere else to go!

People buy from people that they know, like and trust, so that’s the primary objective of networking, surely, getting people to the stage where they know you, like you and trust you. Once you have established relationships and given of yourself then a whole new world opens up: you find new suppliers, you meet new friends, you get free advice, you get market intelligence, you get useful information, you gain support, encouragement, feedback for your ideas, solutions to your problems, the list goes on.


There, I’ve got that off my chest.

The Tie as a Giant Arrow

June 29, 2010 by

Tie = Giant Arrow

When we run a presentation skills training event at New Tricks Training we are amazed at how much time is taken over the “Tie, or No Tie ” debate (considerably more time than the “Trousers, or No Trousers” debate, I can tell you.) The opinion as to whether you should, or shouldn’t (wear a tie – not trousers) is divided – probably 50:50. Even www.tieguide.com doesn’t join that particular debate.

A point we always make is that presenting is about “Distraction Management.” If your audience expects you to wear a tie – then do so! (This point clearly isn’t just confined to ties. You can substitute the word tie here with suit, jacket, skirt, trousers, etc.)

If your audience expect you to look smart then, if you don’t, they will be distracted – probably to the point of not listening at all. They will become fixated on the fact that you don’t look smart. I remember one presenter (a very senior manager of a bank’s Franchising outfit) not for what he spoke about but because, I noticed, he had on scruffy shoes that had huge holes in the sole. I was livid. Surely on his salary he can afford a decent pair of shoes? “Sorry, what was it you were  talking about?”

Leave it!

Of course you could argue that, “This is who I am and this is how I choose to dress,” that’s absolutely fine (I defend anybody’s right to wear what they want) but be prepared for an uphill battle to win over the audience. If you’re brilliant you can wear what you bloomin’ well like – look what Eddie Izzard gets away with.

There’s something that says that if you adopt a quirky dress-code then you’ll be remembered. That’s absolutely true – but be careful that you’re not known only for your whacky dress-sense.

Before you go on to give a presentation look yourself over in the mirror to check for malfunctions in the wardrobe department. If your flies are undone, or your skirt is tucked into your knickers, then it’s doubtful that anyone will pay much attention to what you’re saying. (If your tie is tucked in your knickers, you’ll really set tongues wagging.)

So, Gents, please make sure your tie is tied to the CORRECT LENGTH, and ladies you can get involved here by making sure the tie-wearing men in your life take heed. Whilst our friends at www.tieguide.com show you how to tie a Four-in-Hand or a proper Windsor knot they make no reference to the length of the tie.

You see, the tie is a giant arrow that points at one of the three B’s. Your Belly (yes, I know it’s a status symbol in some countries, but we don’t want to see it), your Buckle or your (and whilst it points at exactly what you’re thinking – we’re in polite company here so we’ll say…) Boots.

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For “Distraction Management” purposes it’s much better that the arrow stops at the buckle on your belt – it draws a line under it. Now you know this piece of presenting etiquette you’ll know it can take quite a few attempts to get it tied the right length – a major contributing factor as to why I personally fall into the “NO” camp –  the 50% of people who reckon it’s best NOT to wear a tie!