Kill “The Deck”, Win The Audience

deckimage“The Deck”, in corporate lingo, has come to take on a meaning away from its original, intended purpose: a set of presentation slides designed to highlight (not overtake) a speech.  In many companies, “The Deck” has now become a project bible, a handout with dictionary-level complexity, outlining, in detail, the philosophy and strategy of a brand.  Executives pour over the pages of “The Deck” in meetings, discuss tactics, and forget that “The Deck” was never meant to act as a handout.

Then “The Deck”, for no discernible reason, reverts to its intended purpose, and is presented to an audience.  The results are usually disastrous.  The audience strains to understand the complex images in front of them, the speaker feels compelled to read off “The Deck”, non-verbal communication (tone of voice, gesture, etc.) gets put by the wayside, and the presentation sucks.

What to do?  Don’t allow your team to create a project handout using PowerPoint or Prezi.  PowerPoint is for designing images for speeches, not for writing out copious text.  It’s a painting canvas, not a piece of paper.  Create a handout in Word or Pages.  It seems like a simple thing, but by highlighting the difference between the spoken and the written word, you can begin to improve the quality of your team’s presentations.

Next, outline for your team what makes for a good speech, and what makes for a good slide.  A good speech is loose and not spoken by rote.  A good speech entails not reading off of your PowerPoint.  A good speech has novel ideas.  A good speech has added interest like stories, quotes, examples, metaphors, contrasts and comparisons.  A good PowerPoint slide has four or five pieces of data on it tops, is full-bleed, and largely visual.  It is simply a marker, a highlighter.  You, the presenter, are the main focus.

So kill “The Deck” and win the audience!

Three Signs Your Presentations Need Help


Do you feel that your presentations lack spark? Are your colleagues nodding off in the middle of your speeches? Here are a few signs your presentations could use an overhaul:

1) No Preparation – If you haven’t done the preparation work on a presentation, culling together the material, designing your PowerPoint, agonizing over the premise, rehearsing it out loud in front of a coach or colleague, then you can’t expect the presentation to take off. There’s no excuse to wing it.

2) Your Absolutely Sure Your Presentation Is AMAZING Nope. I find that the people who are most sure about their presentations are often the ones with the worst presentations. I’m not sure why this is, but I think a little self doubt is good. It forces you to work hard, think creatively about each slide, and really do your homework.

3) No Follow Up Questions – It’s always best to end a presentation by asking for follow up questions. You can be sure you’ve bombed if no one has any! It’s generally an indication that you have not been clear enough with your material, or that you have not presented your material in an interesting enough manner.

How to Incorporate Technology into your Presentation

This summer I had the opportunity to work with John Shammas and many other wonderful speakers at TedX Navesink, a Ted event organized at the Jersey Shore.

John is a computer programmer, and I think he did a particularly good job of incorporating technology into his presentation.  If you watch the video above you’ll notice at the end of his speech he asks the audience to snap a selfie and send it to an email address.  A program he created aggregated the selfies into a mosaic online.  This was a wonderful way of engaging his audience while making his point; that coding will soon be a ubiquitous skill, made useful by young and old.

Not all of us have the same level of computer prowess that John has, but we may know someone who does.  Ask your computer programmer friends for advice about how to do a little bit of coding and weave it into your presentation.  You may find yourself enjoying your newfound skill, and engaging your audience in new and exciting ways.


Speak Clear Partners with TedX

Speak Clear is thrilled to partner with TedX Navesink for the first TedX conference ever on the Jersey Shore!  Speak Clear coaches will be providing coaching to select speakers at the event.  Get your ticket soon!


Sep 20, 2013 at Brookdale Performing Arts Lincroft NJ

TEDxNavesink: The Next Wave is the first TEDx event on the New Jersey shore.

Our goal is to bring world-leading TEDtalks to Monmouth County in an all-day live event that inspires us to learn and think about the future of our home on the shore.”

Got a big presentation coming up?  Contact us to set up a free twenty minute consultation.  We will help you to sharpen your message, enhance your PowerPoint design, and project authority.


Four Tips for Succesful Q and A Sessions

q and aLeading Q and A sessions after a presentation is completed can be difficult.  It requires impromptu speaking skills, tools not readily available in the tool kit of many executives.  If you feel your hands shake before Q and A sessions, try these four simple tips:

1) Tell your audience early in your presentation that you intend to answer questions.  This will give the audience time to formulate appropriate questions and avoid a long silence at the end of your speech.

2)  Restate each question.  This is especially important if you have a big audience.  Otherwise, someone in the back will yell “WHAT DID HE SAY?!” at the end of each question.  In addition, be sure to address the entire audience after a question is asked, not merely the questioner.  Remember the answer is for the group.

3) Rehearse questions you know will be asked.

4) Anticipate loaded questions.  If you are a web project manager speaking to your over-taxed team about a new product roll-out, and you are asked about a completion time frame, craft a response like “we understand our design team has a lot on their plate.  We plan on doing x,y and z to free up some time for you”.  This way you diffuse a potentially heated exchange.

Do you have a Q and A session or job interview coming up?  If you have used any of these tips, comment below on how well they worked for you.