Presentation Skills Myth versus Reality by Rowena Crosbie

02/20/15 | by Training Games | Categories: Play

Fire, electrical blackout, locust, earthquake..." Thus the apprehensive speaker prays. For him, speaking in front of a group is the experience to be feared most. More than fear of heights, fear of spiders and even fear of dying. The statistics indeed support Jerry Seinfeld's humorous claim that most people at a funeral would rather be the corpse than the person delivering the eulogy.

But, it's the ability to communicate effectively with individuals and groups that is cited as the number one factor contributing to the success of the highest paid people in America. So its definitely a fear worth conquering.

Like overcoming any fear, the solution lies in education, understanding and good ole repetition.

As in any industry, modern research and technology have invalidated much of what we took for granted five, ten and twenty years ago. Unfortunately, old thinking and myths have plagued countless presenters from developing this critical skill.

Myth #1
Start out with a joke - it gets the audience warmed up.

Although its certainly true that the release of adrenaline and endorphins into the system heightens learning and interest, a joke is seldom, if ever, appropriate. Too many speakers confuse comedy with humor. Humor is the relating of funny, relevant, non-offensive stories, cartoons or anecdotes to support the message. Unlike a joke, when they fail in their purpose, you don't. Leave the comedy to the professional comedians.

Myth #2
Write your speech out so the most powerful words are used.

Written communication and spoken communication are two distinctly different mediums. Taking one mode of communication (written) and translating it directly to another (spoken) without any modification is dangerous. The words, phrases and stories we all enjoy reading in our favorite novels are too windy when communicated word for word in a presentation.

Myth #3
I like to put my hands in my pockets. It makes me feel relaxed and makes the atmosphere casual.

Studies from UCLA and other universities repeatedly show the critical importance of the visual element in presentations. This includes eye contact, attire, stance, grooming and gestures. When a speaker's hands are buried in pockets (or behind their back) effectively one third of the ability to communicate is eliminated. Supportive gestures enhance the message and facilitate learning. And, if your hands are in your pockets because you're nervous - be careful - they'll find some keys or loose change to play with.

Myth #4
Scan your audience, everyone will think you're looking at them. That's important.

Our brains take in information through our eyes in the form of shape, movement, light and color. Our brain has to process information very quickly when the eyes are scanning the room allowing little time for thinking about this important presentation. Talk to one person at a time, holding your focus for several seconds and slowing the input to your already very busy grey cells.

Myth #5
An alcoholic beverage prior to presenting will relax you and make you sharper - just one!

Alcohol dulls the senses. Aren't you glad your airline pilot or surgeon doesn't have just one to relax them before they approach their job? Other no-no's in the food and beverage category prior to presenting include caffeine, dairy products and over-eating.

Myth #6
It doesn't matter if you run a few minutes long in your presentation. The topic is an interesting one and after all, they invited you to speak.

In a recent poll, 100% of the people asked said they dislike a speaker running overtime. 100% Even if the presentation is very interesting. Don't run long. Don't finish on time. Plan to finish early - five minutes early.

Myth #7
Tell them all the background information and all the factors considered and effecting the topic. It's very technical but very necessary.

Your audience only needs to know enough to understand your premise. Allow a question and answer period at the end of your talk to answer those questions the audience is most interested in. Provide detailed information in a handout.

Myth #8
You're there to inform them of progress and not trying to persuade anyone, so why worry about presentation techniques?

Many individuals and organizations and books and... will report that there are two types of presentations; one to inform and one to persuade. WRONG. There is only one type of presentation - the one to persuade. Whether you're selling a product, a service, an idea, or your own credibility, you're persuading and you need to know how people are persuaded.

Myth #9
Take questions during your presentation to be certain everyone is with you at all times.

Unless your presentation is several hours long or modular, this practice can be deadly. Questions from the audience can be hostile, get you off track or at best, be time consuming. Allow time at the end of the presentation for questions.

Myth #10
Practice makes perfect.

Perfect practice makes perfect. Practicing the wrong techniques makes for bad habits that are difficult to break. Learn techniques that work - practice those.

Myth #11
Use the techniques you've seen used by the late night talk show hosts. Its effective for them so it must be right.

Many factors affect our success in a presentation. I wouldn't want to assume my audience attaches the credibility and charisma to me that they do to the accomplished entertainer. Neither should you. Learn techniques that work and use them.

Myth #12
If you don't speak to groups often, don't waste time and money attending a development program on the subject.

The skills effective for speaking to groups are the same skills effective for speaking one on one. If you speak to anyone during the day - your boss, your co-workers, your spouse, your kids - you need to develop these important skills.

Presenting To Groups of People by Dr. Jon Warner

02/20/15 | by Training Games | Categories: Play

Very few people indeed can stand in front of a group and give a talk that appears to be spontaneous, relevant and informative. Those who appear not to have to prepare are those who have prepared the most, to the point where the preparation becomes invisible. Without any doubt, the secret is in the preparation.

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - Anon

Whether you are presenting information orally, in written form or through a series of pictures, the same outline structure for preparation is common. Although it varies a little form one individual to another (and how many new presentations the person may write) for every minute of presentation you need a minimum of 30 minutes of preparation. A fifteen minute talk should therefore take at least a day to prepare, especially if you want the message to be well-designed and relatively confidently delivered.

Structuring the information and the presentation are important for two reasons. It helps you to clarify the ideas and the format of what you are going to say, and it gives you the confidence of knowing that you know your material.

For most people, making a presentation is nerve-racking so if you are such a person you are by no means unusual. However, by following a few simple points the risk of failure is drastically reduced and the chances of success enhanced significantly.

Why are you doing it?

There are three basic reasons for giving oral presentations to groups of people:

To tell - to communicate information. The content tends to be factual and the audience is likely to be other managers, superiors or team members who need some information

To sell - an idea, a proposition or a product. The content is likely to be conceptual, with perhaps some factual supporting material and you have to give reasoned or compellingly put arguments to persuade others to your point of view

To impel - or to develop and generate enthusiasm, inspiration and positive attitudes. It is emotionally based and needs to excite the audience and motivate them to do something.

Before any development work is carried out, you need to be clear on the purpose of your presentation - and keep it in mind as you prepare and deliver your session.

Presentation skills are about the technique adopted to deliver a particular message. This technique involves both the environment (room, atmosphere and facilities etc.) and the individual or person (style, pace, clarity etc.). This is not to say that the message of the presentation itself is not absolutely crucial to success - poor thinking about content is always inexcusable and is a natural presentation killer.

Perhaps ironically, dull or poor or insubstantial content can be well delivered, well-received and have high impact, if presented well. This is not true of substantial, well-thought through content that can be completely destroyed by poor presentation preparation and organization skills or incompetent delivery.

Preparation or planning normally commences with looking for ways in which a future event can be handled effectively and efficiently. This entails thinking about or planning for whatever it is that requires organizing and then carefully detailing all the steps that are likely to be involved.

Focusing on your objectives

Presentations of course, come in all shapes and sizes and range from being short, simple and informal, to long, complex and highly formal. While the potential combinations are enormous, the first step in preparation is to focus upon your specific objectives from the presentation. This means assessing:

Why are you doing the presentation at all?

What am I trying to achieve?

Who is my audience?

What changes would I like my presentation to create?

To begin to come close to answering the above questions, it is well worth documenting the specific outcomes that you want to achieve. Of course, this will heavily depend on individual circumstances. There is a huge difference between selling an idea or a concept, getting people to understand a topic, or for that matter, suggesting a difficult decision that you would like to see supported. Hence, specific outcomes must be explicit in their written form.

At its most fundamental, any presentation is essentially about influencing people to change in some way, however small. This means changes in the way they think about something, do something or connect the information in some way. As a result, a presentation should make a general contribution to change or progress in the wider organization, or should create a feeling in the audience members that they are further forward in the long-term journey of understanding what is going on around them and what they might do about it.

About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon is Editor-in-chief of ReadyToManage, Inc. ( and can be reached at [email protected]

Are Humans Wired to Survive?

02/09/15 | by Training Games | Categories: Play

Below is an excerpt from an article by Charles Bryant that makes a clear case for our evolutionarily hardwired instinct to survive. I've been thinking about this lately and believe our instinct to survive may prevent us from "Living in the moment", something I believe we all strive for.

Our brains manage to keep us on alert and aware of what is around us 24 - 7. It is clear that this is an essential element of our survival mechanism, however it is also easy to see how this state of ever anxious anticipation might also prevent us from fully enjoying each and every moment of our lives (interesting right?). Our body and brain's "Fight or Flight" instinct is usually discussed in the context of our reaction to eminent danger, but actually our brain's our working all the time anticipating what is around the next corner or keeping us aware of the strange character sitting at the next table. It is this wonderfully complicated computer that keeps vigil over our environment every second of every day. My question is however, does the fact that we are continually "on guard" mean that we lose out on the ability to, as they say, "smell the roses" Here's the case made by the article....

"So are humans wired to survive? It sure seems like it. There are many examples of hard-wired human instincts that help keep us alive. Perhaps the most obvious case is the fight-or-flight response, coined by Harvard University physiologist Walter Cannon in 1915. When humans are faced with danger or stress, a biological trigger helps us decide whether to stay and fight or get the heck out of there -- flight.

When we're stressed or staring danger in the face, the brain's hypothalamus is activated. It initiates a series of chemical releases and nerve cell responses that gets us ready for the impending scenario. Adrenaline is released into the blood stream, our heart rate increases, blood is pumped more quickly into our muscles and limbs. Our awareness, sight and impulses all intensify and quicken. You can thank our caveman ancestors for this one. Early man faced a lot of dangers, and the fight-or-flight response evolved to help them evade or battle those dangers in order to survive. Today, it's what allows an ordinary Joe to rush into a burning building or a mother of three to lift a car off of one of her children -- a phenomenon known as hysterical strength. It also helps us out in non-life threatening situations like a boss screaming in your face or possibly fleeing -- or getting involved in -- a barroom brawl."

In the below quote, the Dalai Lama calls it like it is, but just maybe this is by design and not entirely our fault?


Taking the Learning Tablets

02/09/15 | by Training Games | Categories: Play

The latest innovations promise big improvements in teaching

WHO killed Edgar Allan Poe? The mysterious death of the 19th-century author features in a new online school curriculum from Amplify, the education arm of News Corp. Pupils follow clues that require close reading of Poe’s stories (the assassin’s identity varies, to prevent cribbing), and take machine-graded comprehension and vocabulary tests along the way. Another section teaches mathematics by setting quests, such as an Alaskan dog-sled race for which pupils must plan, budget and manage provisions.

Two decades of fitting classrooms with computers and whiteboards have gobbled rich countries’ school budgets and done little for attainment. But the latest technology promises to improve teaching methods, rather than merely shifting them from blackboard to screen, and to give all children the personalized education once only available to the rich. Game-style lessons let pupils progress at their own pace, getting instant feedback at every step. Even homework is more fun: when Pearson (a part-owner of The Economist) supplied tablet-based courses to schools in Alabama, they were such a hit that Wi-Fi was installed on school buses so it could be done en route.

When pupils work independently, teachers can spend time on individual coaching rather than routine tasks such as marking. The data captured as pupils progress are used to improve both the software and classroom management. InfoMentor, an Icelandic firm that works with schools in several European countries, crunches data to find out where pupils drift or stall. Teachers can see what has been learnt and who is struggling. Its software has been adopted by a fifth of Swedish, and almost all Icelandic, primary schools. Catherine Luthman, a head teacher in Kungsor in Sweden, credits it with helping her move her school from “poor” to “outstanding” in just three years without changing staff.

Universities are quaking at the thought of being replaced by tech upstarts. But few people think that under-16s can do without schools and teachers; it is just that new tools could help them do a better job. That may make them keener on ed-tech, and quicker to adopt it. Resistance is also being overcome by involving teachers in product design. Their fears that device-driven classes would curb spontaneity or cause pupils to ignore them prompted Amplify to include an override that lets them lock devices, so that pupils look up and listen.

The new chalk and talk

At $199 per pupil, per year, for tablet, set-up and software, Amplify looks pricey. But research by the Gates Foundation shows that spending on America’s schools has more than doubled in the past four decades, with much of the extra money going on textbooks and updating computer hardware. Hand-held devices that can be customized look like a better deal. Investors are convinced: according to CB Insights, a consultancy, American ed-tech start-ups attracted $1.25 billion last year.

Amplify is the first ed-tech firm to deliver a product pre-loaded with the middle-school curriculum for America’s Common Core State Standards Initiative, which specifies what pupils in most states must learn by the age of 18. It claims its system, currently being piloted, means children progress far faster through literacy and comprehension material. Indications from broader independent studies are promising. One from 2002-05 in Missouri showed that integrating technology into teaching helped children progress better, regardless of social background. A meta-analysis of online learning by Johns Hopkins University found small positive effects on test outcomes in reading and mathematics.

Five Fast Tips to Professional Presence

01/21/15 | by Training Games | Categories: Play

By Deborah Rinner Godwin

How many items are competing for your time and attention today? The pace of communication alone speeds up our processes and the demand for instant actions and results.

In a world where most things arrive on your desk as urgent and important, how do you make sure you are tending to them in a way that not only achieves the short term immediate goal, but promotes your professional presence over the long term?

Following are five fast tips for professional presence. No matter how busy you are, focusing on these fast five will make sure the product of your efforts will include a presence of professionalism and polish.

Tip #1 - Be Discreet

Being the person people can trust to keep a confidence enhances your credibility and trust factor. How you handle personal, company and client's confidential information matters. Are you careful not only with what you might hear, but what you may be overheard saying?

Technology makes it easy for us to breach confidentiality. Pushing the send button too soon on an email message without thinking of the recipient’s feelings or repercussions if it is widely shared, or talking over the phone in public environments are both easy opportunities to breach discretion. Carrying to others bits of information or gossip chips away at professional presence and leads to tip #2.

Tip #2 - Don’t Make Noise

We can make too much noise, non-verbally and verbally, and it can detract from our professional presence. U.S. business persons oftentimes are regarded by people from outside the U.S. as noisy. The volume of voices, expressions such as shouts of hello or loud laughter, can all come off as seemingly too noisy cross culturally. Even profuse gesturing can be regarded as too effusive and distracting.

Another way “noise” is detected is when we “react” rather than “act” in the office setting or anywhere for that matter. What if we have a complaint? Finding the appropriate person to assertively tell helps maintain an ability to be authentic in sharing thoughts while sustaining an essence of professionalism. The alternative is voicing opposition to anyone and everyone or to someone who cannot do anything about our concern. That does nothing but create unproductive “noise,” endangering productive processes and our image as well.

Being the person that develops and builds on others’ ideas and asks questions around issues rather than expounding on issues or complaining, creates a perception that no matter what is going on or how fast things are moving, we can be counted on to be professional. Which leads to tip #3.

Tip #3 - Walk Don’t Run

No matter how busy you feel, it will jeopardize your professionalism to “appear” too busy. Dorothea Johnson, the founder of the Protocol School of Washington, D.C., would give her students wise advice on how to appear professional. One such piece of advice went something like this, “In business, never run! Carry yourself elegantly to be perceived as competent.”

How would you look if the many competing events of the day made you so time results conscious that you physically ran, not walked, from obligation to obligation? What message would you send if you found yourself “running” in an environment that is looking to you for confident professionalism?

Chances are, you are thinking right now it would be a rare occasion where you would find yourself physically breaking out in a run to get from meeting to meeting. Yet there are a lot of ways you might find yourself “running” if you aren’t careful. Think about it. Talking too fast and too much is an equivalent to what we communicate when we run. Acting without thinking calmly first, giving others abrupt responses, finishing others’ sentences and physically appearing rushed, all give the message that there is trouble coping or handling what is on your plate.

That may be the case, but to maintain professionalism, never let them see you sweat. How can you avoid it? Consciously work on open receptive body posture and a calm facial expression and vocal tone. Carry yourself with gracious confidence, even if you are not feeling that way on the inside. This preserves an essence of professionalism for you in any and every situation. Which leads to tip #4 - how to use body language to look capable.

Tip #4 - Take Up Space

Walking into a meeting room we communicate to others immediately whether we have “presence.” Walking slowly and assuredly, greeting others with eye contact, having a smile and saying “hello” communicates confidence immediately - but it doesn’t stop there.

It will not help us to then sit down and relax for the duration of the meeting without a thought to posture. Just as it is in our best interest with regard to establishing presence to stand in an open receptive posture, it is in our interest to sit that way as well. The visual imprint of sitting in an open posture communicates credibility, receptivity and competence. Gesturing to enhance a point shows the palms of the hands - which psychologically communicates trust.

Most of us have been conditioned to minimize ourselves with regard to posture or to posture ourselves in a way that makes us comfortable. This works against us being seen as credible. Using and taking up space at the table with appropriate gestures and open posture enhances our visual imprint on others. This contributes to how professional we appear and what people will remember about us from the meeting. This is a kindness we can do for our own image and reputation. Which leads us to the final tip #5, be kind.

Tip #5 - Be Kind

It is easy to be more focused on ourselves in any given situation than on others. Yet those who are perceived as having professional presence show up in the world in confident ways that allow them to focus more on others. They have already given thought and attention to themselves and how they wish to appear.

Professionals that exude presence remember names and care about those they meet. They realize that respect is a demonstration of their values and they can give it to everyone they meet. They remain alert, conscious of themselves and those around them, and under control. Even when someone is difficult, the professional acts out of respect rather than reacting out of fear, dislike or aggressiveness.

Being kind allows us to be the consummate professional and people notice our unwavering consistency. The consummate professional is kind to the flight attendant, the CEO, the hotel service person, the receptionist, the client, and the competitor. Level or status does not dictate. When we are the consummate professional, kindness doesn’t have a limit or a shelf life. Thank you’s and gratitude are drivers. Sincerity reigns.

Be kind may be the last fast tip, but it is certainly not the least of considerations in making sure we are seen in every situation as the professional we wish to be.

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