PowerPoint or No PowerPoint: That is the question

During every coaching session, the question is sure to come up. “Do I have to to use PowerPoint in my presentation?” PowerPoint has become almost synonymous in some circles with the modifier “boring”, but that’s not the fault of the tool. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of that tool’s purpose.

Before you toss the tool, ask yourself whether you’ve been using it effectively. Are your slides packed with text? Is the point of each slide difficult to follow? Are the slides chiefly there to help you communicate your points? Are you using your slides both as presentation tools and as handouts for the audience to read and refer to later?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may not be using PowerPoint very effectively.  Remember, if your audience can see and hear you, you need to be communicating differently than if you sent your information in an email, or mailed out printed material. Oral communication demands something different from both the presenter and the presentation. [Read more…]

Do Presentations Or Public Speaking Terrify You?

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” ~ Mark Twain

I offer communications training, including business writing, presentation skills training, and media relations. The latter two, I’ve found, have much in common in that they force one to stand up and talk to strangers who may or may not be receptive. Over the years, I’ve come up with several teaching points, largely by watching accomplished professionals draw audiences in and make them comfortable, open to new ideas, and eager to share in what becomes a productive conversation. [Read more…]

Tips for a Winning Welcome Speech

We work with a lot of executives at The Pincus Group who are called upon to deliver welcome speeches at industry conferences and major events. Usually, we’re working with these executives on honing key note speeches or business presentations. During that coaching, they’ll often casually mention the welcome speech they’ve been asked to deliver but usually consider it a far lower priority.

Here’s why that’s a mistake. Don’t minimize the opportunity you have in that welcome speech to make a first impression with your audience that will shape their views of you and the entire conference. In his book “Blink”Malcolm Gladwell explores the power of what’s known in psychology as “thin slicing”, the ability we all have to make sense of situations on the “thinnest slice” of experience. Gladwell details fascinating examples of that phenomenon at work, but anyone who engages in public speaking needs to understand the opportunity it presents. [Read more…]

Business Writing — An Opportunity, Not A Chore

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” E.L. Doctorow, novelist

For nearly three years, I’ve been traveling around the country teaching a course called “Clear Writing Through Critical Thinking.” So it was gratifying to pick up a USA Today article that cited a survey by the Social Science Research Council concluding a liberal arts education can “provide a leg up in a down economy.” It turns out that recent college grads who  scored highest on a standardized test to measure skills most associated with a liberal arts education, were much more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest. [Read more…]

There’s Money To Be Made Via Productive Business Communications

Experts in the dismal science of economics can argue about the timing, but the rest of us know one thing: This economy is on the mend. Still, I’m not sure that companies are falling all over themselves to hire at a rate that will get us back to pre-Great Recession levels. It seems that what I said in this blog more than four years ago still holds true: Many businesses emerging from the severe downturn have gotten leaner in order to survive.

How can they make that happen? There are, of course, economies in shop floor scheduling, parts ordering, distribution, and all the other factors that go into being competitive. But for my part, as a communications trainer, there’s another way to view productivity, particularly in white-collar office work. It’s about writing so efficiently that — internal or external — it goes out with a minimum of fuss (editing). Here are three crucial writing guidelines: [Read more…]