Posts Tagged ‘Presentation Skills’

To Prezi or not to Prezi

December 1, 2011

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!

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Lecturers as Presenters? 5/10

July 30, 2010

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.


The Tie as a Giant Arrow

June 29, 2010

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!

Still Laughing all the way from the Bank?

June 2, 2010

Before setting up New Tricks Training in 2000 we had our equivalent of a “Gap Year.” Tim had had 29 years working for a bank and Ken had clocked up 19 years at the same organisation. Both of us were frustrated entertainers (hence our role in training!) and wanted to do “something completely different” before setting up our training business specialising in presentation skills. We both left the bank on 31 December 1999 and as the New Millennium kicked in we had real fire in our belly for an adventure.

Thus New Tricks Productions was born and we set about writing comedy sketches, learning to sing & tap-dance and before we knew it we’d hired Her Majesty’s Theatre in the heart of the West End (yes, that one!) home to Phantom of the Opera. And so began an incredible journey – if only twitter, blogging and iphones had been around then! Still we were flabbergasted to find so many of the stories still on-line ten years on.

Morecambe & Wise? No! It’s Norman & Lyon

We met a wonderful publicist named Tei Williams who specialised in arts marketing and she lined us up for a small article in the Daily Express and our world went crazy from that moment in May 2000! We became a National News story ending up with editorial coverage in The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The Independent – by virtue of the basic premise (and much used headline) “Laughing all the way from the Bank.” We were lambasted by Mark Steel (see Independent link) (for the sheer cheek of bypassing a gruelling and lengthy apprenticeship in comedy clubs) interviewed on Capital Radio by Paul Ross (charming) on Radio 5 Live Nicky Campbell (git) , on TV by Gloria Hunniford (lovely) and Esther Ranson (aloof), and featured on Channel 4 News and BBC’s Liquid News with Christopher Price (RIP). We were the Evening Standard Magazine’s Hot Tip of the week. The Guardian published an amazingly inaccurate article which muddled Ken & Tim’s back stories. Ken’s phone rang for days – family and friends wanted to know how his (Tim’s) divorce had passed them by!

We corresponded with Ronnie Barker (who lived near our home town of Chipping Norton) and he marked-up our scripts like a mad “Headmaster of Comedy.” We still possess those scripts and the pencilled annotations, “No! No!, NOOOO!” “Needs a stronger tag line!” “This one’s OK” make us smile to this day. Along the way we shared TV Green Rooms with the likes of Roy Hudd (fantastic bloke – great listener), Susan George (beautiful), Robert & Babs Powell (too good to be true), John Lenihan (hysterical), June Whitfield bloody marvellous) and Sir Norman Wisdom (nuts – completely nuts). And we met loads of other folk who made our journey such fun.

There was an inept photographer who just didn’t “get” us and consequently delivered some really “pants”publicity shots, Bernadine Sole who tried to teach us to dance, Robin Martin-Oliver who taught one of us to sing. There was Tei who for a small sum got us so much publicity, Mike Rowbottom of Central News who followed us around to make a “fly-on-the-wall documentary for itv,” Shane Barnes who, with his tractor, pulled our removal van full of props out of the mud and Richard “Minor Parts of Oxford” Plant who supplied and serviced the two Morris Minors we drove around in as characters Maurice & Morris. A good friend and ex-colleage, Martin (Martrain) Measures provided sound effects of a Deltic Deisel train for one sketch (very niche!) Ken’s sister Cathryn and her boyfriend (now husband) Tom did some amazing graphic design work for our enormous stage banners and programme. The costumiers at the RSC were fantastic and let us roam around their warehouse trying stuff on (sketches were written around some of the amazing costumes we discovered there!) The stage crew at Her Majesty’s were about as arsey as they could be to a customer paying nearly ten grand for a day’s hire!

We’d unwittingly chosen to put on our show in London slap-bang in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival 13 August 2000! Genius (we were about the only comedy on in London that night) and stupid (not a single agent, talent scout, comedy producer was in London.) We had but two reviews one by The Stage and the other by The Daily Telegraph who it seemed weren’t even there! Brian Marshall an agent who kind of took us under his wing in the build up to the event (“Yer’ll be alright with me I were script-writer to the Krankies”) offered us 23 weeks work on Babaccombe Pier (the apprenticeship Mark Steel thought we should do) but the picture here will explain why we turned him down!

No room for entertainers!

Still, ten years have slipped by (rather too quickly for our liking.) Goodness we had a laugh back then (much of the time we were crying with laughter) and whilst we get a buzz out of “performing” keynote talks at conferences and training others how to present – there’s a little bit of us that fancies giving it another go!

Perhaps we could be coaxed back out of retirement – but where should we play next. Having staged a show in the West End perhaps we should aim for Broadway. Broadway village hall in Gloucestershire! perhaps!

Delivery Skills from the Neck Up!

June 2, 2010

Well you asked to see Tim in action – here he is with his mate Pat Presenter.

In summary:

  • Ensure you give your audience eye-contact. Care when using PowerPoint! Many speaks gaze lovingly at the screen rather than at the audience.
  • Listen out for signals from the audience.
  • Remove distractions. Brush your hair and, on a similar note (below the neck) do up your flies, press your trousers/skirt and shine your shoes!)
  • For goodness sake, smile. Look pleased to be there. Unless of course you’re giving bad news in which case a maniacal grin just won’t do!
  • Use your voice. Vary the pitch, pace, tone and volume to keep the audience engaged throughout. If you can’t sound passionate (or at the very least, enthusiastic) about your subject – decline offers to speak about it!

You’ll find more Tips on our site’s FREE Downloads page

Keynote vs. PowerPoint

February 23, 2010

Almost as dangerous as PowerPoint

At New Tricks Training we have a saying… “PowerPoint is a powerful tool, but so’s a Smith & Wesson. In the wrong hands both can kill.”

Of course, it comes down to obeying some golden rules of PowerPoint:

  • Use no more than 20 words a slide over no more than six bullet points
  • Use high-resolution pictures to tell a story
  • Never use clip art (all the images have already been seen before)
  • Don’t apply in-house brand guidelines unless designed specifically for projection
  • Don’t put copy right messages on slides you intend to show to an audience – it just distracts
  • Choose your background carefully
  • Don’t use distracting animations.

Here’s an article from the BBC. But there again the tool you use to make your point powerfully can make a huge difference. Where we can we use Apple’s presentation software, Keynote.  Whether you use PowerPoint or Keynote (or even Prezi – more of that another time) we’re only too willing to help folk design a better presentation. Here’s a short demonstration of Keynote’s versatility.

The Perfect Pitch

February 22, 2010

In an ever more sophisticated and competitive world, increasingly businesses (even small ones) are being asked to tender for work, either through a formal process of submitting a tender document followed by a presentation, or by presenting their proposals in competition with others. This way in which business is won can create real problems unless the sales team learns to adapt their approach.

In business-to-business selling a transaction is often conducted technician to technician or specialist to specialist. As a result there is usually a common understanding about what the solution to be purchased needs to achieve and so the discussion can focus on the technical elements of the proposition.  However, if the buying decision is to be made by panel, it introduces a whole new dynamic.

Pitching to a panel?

Suppose you have been asked to tender for the supply of a new software solution for a large company; it is vital to recognise that you cannot simply submit a technical specification and expect to win the business. Your tender document and your presentation will be scrutinised by a group of people – all with very different agendas.  You may well find yourself having to satisfy the needs of the IT Director, the Sales Director, the Finance Director, the end user and the HR Director. What is more, it may be the absent Managing Director, based upon recommendations from the panel, who takes the ultimate decision.

We recently tendered to support a large organisation, who were in turn tendering for a major contract. As we were pitching for the business, our research quickly confirmed that their requirements went far beyond the initial request for help with just the delivery of the presentation, which is where they assumed they had been losing out.  In fact, they had been making the mistake of sending out the technical champion of the product who could (and did) talk about the technical features for hours, supported by his PowerPoint Presentation with 142 very wordy slides !

An “aha” moment for them came when one of the team used the analogy of selling a car: “You wouldn’t send out a mechanic to sell it, would you?”

They asked for one day of ‘Presentations Skills Training’ evolved into three days where the first two were used to analyse and understand the needs and aspirations of the individuals on the purchasing panel, before honing the message to satisfy them all.  By the end of our third day we had worked together, yes, on the skills to deliver a great pitch presentation but more importantly on its structure, the words to be used and the supporting visual aids. They are now winning the pitches they were losing before.

The moral of the story is this; tendering and competitive pitches are much more than just another sale and there is a path to follow that will give the best chance of success. Whatever you do: put yourself into the shoes of the individuals on the panel consider their concerns and then address them!

19 Top Tips for Successful Job Interviews

November 4, 2009

Last night we were invited to speak at The AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) Northampton & Bedford branch meeting. The Top Tips we shared with the audience went down a storm – so here is a summary of that talk!

“Excellent communication skills” is often cited as a key differentiator when it comes to choosing the right person for a job. But there are other things you need to get across in an interview – such as how well you are suited for the job, your technical competencies, your ability to grow in the job and how well you’re going to fit in with the business or the rest of the team. A bit of thought beforehand goes an awfully long way!

We’ll cover what needs to happen beforehand (the research & planning) and the day of the interview itself in 19 Top Tips:

RESEARCH & PLANNING

Tip 1:  Find out as much as you can about your potential employer and their market-sector as possible. What does their website tell you about them? What can you find out about the business owners and key personnel? Who do you know who works with them or is employed by them?

research

Do some research on your potential employer!

Tip 2:  Pour over the job description and person profile. If you need more detail or you have questions ring and ask for answers before attending. It will show that you have researched and taken an interest. Questions that you can’t find out answers to in advance -keep for the interview.

Tip 3:  Consider your own Strengths and Attributes and indeed your areas for Personal Development. Write them down. How can you get these points over in terms of how they would be of benefit to the potential employer?

Consider these fundamental questions (and how you would respond if asked them):

Why do you want this job, in particular?

What is it that you have to offer that would make you the ideal person in this post? In other words; “What’s your Unique Selling Point?”

How would you answer the question “What are your weaknesses?” It’s not a question that we would advise any interviewer to ask … but they do! So be ready with a response. Wear your heart on your sleeve, be modest but describe a weakness that shouldn’t have an impact on the job you’re going for. (Don’t answer, “My bladder!”)

Tip 4:  As far as negotiating terms is concerned again you need to be well prepared. List all the possible aspects and benefits of the role and align them with what it is you have to offer. Then list them in value order to you and anticipate their value to your future employer. Set your best and worst limits for each of these. Think about your best and worst case scenarios beforehand!

ARRIVAL – AND WAITING

Tip 5:  Your personal profile is exceptionally important. You are being judged from the moment you drive into the car-park, or walk through the door. (In fact assumptions will already have been made from your CV and any telephone calls.) So, think about the messages that the following send out about you: Your vehicle, time-keeping, general composure/demeanour, expression, confidence, attire, shoes, handshake, Ps&Qs, body language, personal hygiene, grooming, posture. The list goes on.

Tip 6:  Arrive at least 5 minutes ahead of time but no more that 15. Walk in confidently. Smile. Announce your name. Make small talk – show an interest in the business. Build rapport with anyone you come in contact with.

Tip 7:  Stay standing. Don’t accept a cup of tea at this stage. Be caught taking an interest in company literature, press cuttings in reception when the interviewer arrives to collect you.

Job Interview

Keep your nerve! Be prepared!

Tip 8:  Take some deep breaths whilst waiting. Calm your nerves. Think positive thoughts. Stand up straight. Look confident!

Tip 9:  Your handshake should be as straight as a die; firm, but not too firm and accompanied by a smile and good eye-contact

THE INTERVIEW ITSELF

Tip 10: Answer questions in terms of what you have achieved. Say “I” rather than “we”. Use action verbs;

Administered, Adjusted, Allocated,  Analysed,  Appraised,  Assessed,  Audited,  Balanced,  Budgeted,  Calculated,  Computed,  Conserved,  Corrected, Determined etc.

Tip 11: Give clear relevant examples of what you have achieved. Speak in the past tense. I’ve done this vs. I’m currently doing this .

Tip 12:  Use strong positive language: “my strengths include…” “I’m good at…” etc.

Tip 13: Avoid “floppy” language: “hopefully, I’ll fit in.” “I’m quite good at…” “Sort of…” etc.

Tip 14: Sit up straight. Smile.  Demonstrate Active Listening; repeat phrases, nod, maintain eye-contact.

Tip 15: Be careful with your body language.  It is easy to send mixed messages.  Keep open – don’t fold arms, cross-legs.

Tip 16: Take the opportunity to ask questions. Prefix questions with statements that indicate that you are interested. “I was reading your business’ statement of corporate responsibility … and wondered how…”

Tip 17” When negotiating use a structured approach: Discuss, Propose, Bargain, Close. See our Negotiation Tips.

Tip 18: Demonstrate that you are keen – without appearing desperate!

Tip 19: FOLLOW UP, even if you are unsuccessful, ask for some feedback. Use that feedback in your preparation for your next interview.

Other Tips Sheets – that can be downloaded FREE from our site – include:

21 Top Tips for Negotiators, 19 Top Tips for Networkers, 26 Top Tips for Presenters


Bra-tastic training

October 8, 2009

It is not every day that we get to deliver a course aimed at four pink bras!  But today we did just that to an awesome foursome with a mad mission in mind! The ladies in question (in the photo below) are Deb Hunt, Helen Taylor, Annemarie Smith and Audra Selley.  Their story starts (ironically) on April Fools’ Day 2008 when Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy she is well again and decided to do a skydive to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  After that amazing feat, the others, three of her friends, decided that they wanted to do something in support.  They became a sort of Three Musketeers to Deb’s d’Artagnan – the self-styled “Four Pink Bras” and they have embarked on a challenge to raise £20,000 by way of a sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Naturally they are looking for cash but were also asking seeking sponsorship in kind.

The Four Pink Bras

The Four Pink Bras, Deb, Helen, Annemarie and Audra

At NewTricks we know how vital it is for speakers going out onto the networking circuit – in order to raise funds – to deliver a cracking presentation.  However great the cause, nobody wants to be bored out of their mind at 7:30am!  And so with that in mind we offered one of pur Powerful Presentation Skills training course for the “Four Pinks Bras”… and what a great day we enjoyed with them all.

Four nervous ladies arrived at Bloxham Mill Business Centre – who kindly donated the use of one of their conference rooms – and four far more confident ladies have departed.

In our day together we concentrated on putting together a talk with a good structure and explored the ways in which they could hold an audience’s attention. We then focused on how to make the presentation memorable and achieve the objectives that they have set themselves.  Some time was spent on ways to overcome nerves and on delivering a presentation with real flair. Finally  (and vitally) we looked for alternatives to the dreaded bullet points in PowerPoint… see our twitter post on that very subject!

Good luck to the ladies with your fund raising (you can make a donation – dosh or services via their splendidly titled (or is that tittled) Twin Peaks website) and we are looking forward to hearing all about it when they return. That’ll be another presentation then – we’ve already booked them in to The 729 Club in Chipping Norton!

All for one and one for all!

Passion vs. “Going through the Motions!”

August 14, 2009

At New Tricks Training we go to a good number of networking events – and we see a great many speakers, good and bad.

At the 729 Club in Chipping Norton a retired couple, Sue & Tony Melia, recently gave a tremendous presentation about their personal experiences in Malawi. The couple devote months of their time and a deal of their own money helping out in the mountain village of Bwengu.

Tony & Sue Melia

Tony & Sue Melia

In fact their infectious enthusiasm means that they have been sought out by, and expanded the range of their support to, a total of nine villages in the vicinity. Their personal accounts and eye-witness reports of wastage by the major relief organisations backed up by photographs made for an enthralling and moving presentation. But it is the couple’s optimism and their own acts of fundraising, project management and inspiring the locals to help themselves see incredible results with minimal resources. This is in absolute contrast to the minimal results with incredible resources (4X4s and Ray-Bans) of the big boys! In a 40 minute presentation (backed up with before & after photographs) the couple recounted stories of refurbishing schools, transporting a million meals (which had just been sitting in bonded warehouses being eaten by weevils), setting up a “Women’s’ Centre,”  establishing a bicycle ambulance service and refurbishing the jail. And do you know what? They had the audience hanging on their every word – and the time just flew by. Sue got angry about the waste, laughed at stories of cheeky children, railed at corrupt officials and welled up as she recounted some of the terrible injustices against the women of the community. In support Tony quietly gave facts & figures to support their message and the odd word of caution about “not getting carried away” and a reality check on the extent to which they could continue to help as an older couple.

This presentation was strikingly different from another presentation we saw just a few weeks later at another networking event. A major cancer charity (a worthy cause – I have no doubt) sent out a “volunteer speaker” to read us a lot of statistics from an inordinate number of PowerPoint slides, to give us details of the current research into various cancers and to tell us about the phenomenal  budgets spent on each. Hats off to her for giving up her time, shame on the charity for not giving her some basic presentation skills training. What she spectacularly failed to do was to connect with her audience. We had no idea who she was, why she was speaking to us, what was her connection to the charity and as a result there was a tangible air of unspoken “get off” well before her 20 minutes were up.

The result? A whip-round of the 25 attendees at Tony & Sue’s talk raised £350, two laptops, three mobile phones and offers of support (including a website) whilst the major cancer charity managed just £60 from 55 people. The conclusion: if you want your audience to do something as a result of your presentation you have a better chance of success if you connect with them by speaking to them from the heart. Quite simply a higher value was placed on Tony & Sue’s passion than on our other speaker’s “going through the motions.”