May 24, 2012

5 Ways to Deliver a Better Speech/Presentation

I posted the book review of How to deliver a TED talk recently. While the book review talked about the book in general, in this post I share with you five lessons from the book. These five things will help you improve your next speech/presentation.

#1 Choosing a topic for your talk
You have been asked to give a speech or make a presentation. You have to choose one topic and give a 10 minute talk. What do you speak about? You want to inspire your audience and want to share a story. Which story will you share? Don't ask yourself 'What is the most amazing story I can tell?' Ask yourself 'What is the greatest lesson I have learned?' or 'What is the greatest joy/misery I have experienced?' This will guide you a much better topic to speak on. Once you have found it out, encapsulate the topic into one core message. The crux of what you will speak about. Once you have a single message, build a story around it.

#2 Connecting with your audience
You want your story to connect with your audience. You want the audience to care about you, listen to you and do something about it. In order for all of this to happen, you need to connect with their inner need. The author has identified four needs which a speaker can harness and address.

  1. Physical health and safety
  2. Love and belonging
  3. Desire and self interest
  4. Hope in a better tomorrow
You need to address atleast one of the needs in your talk. When Obama spoke he spoke of a better tomorrow. If you are going to talk of overcoming challenges, you will target desire and self interest.

#3 Opening your talk
There are three ways to open your talk. First, share a personal story. Second, make a shocking statement and third, ask a powerful question.

Share a personal story - Watch this opening by Richard St. John. The entire presentation is only three minutes and Richard starts with a personal story. When sharing a story, ensure it is your personal story and the story directly relates to the core message of your talk (as discussed in point 1 above). Make sure the story is emotional and has a few dialogues and not totally in passive voice.

Make a shocking statement - Jamie Oliver, a chef gave this opening statement at TED 2010. He made a shocking statement. In the time that he will complete his talk, four Americans would have died because of the food they eat. When you start with something shocking, you are assured of getting your audience attention. What's important is to ensure the statement relates directly to the theme of your talk. The statement should also be relevant to your audience and it should target one of the four needs mentioned in point 2. In Jamie's case it was about physical health and safety, something very relevant to everyone in the audience.

Ask a powerful question - In this opening by Simon Sinek, he asks a question to his audience. When we ask questions which are interesting, we make other crave for answers. It is what is called 'opening up knowledge gaps' by Chip and Dan Heath in their classic book Made to Stick. When we ask questions to start a talk, we must ask 'Why' or 'How'. These are more enticing.

#4 Getting introduced
Every speaker gets introduced and most of us do not worry much about the introduction. No one plans and gets worried about how to get introduced by the host (emcee). Jeremey Donovan insists we start planning the introduction as well. Your introduction is where your audience starts its journey. The introduction should be short, should talk about things which are relevant to the main message of the presentation, should focus on the benefit audience is going to get out from your speech and should not put you on a high pedestal.

We trust people who are like us. We are more likely to act on a message if it comes from someone who was one of us before he took this step and achieved something extraordinary. Write your own introduction and give it to the organisers and ensure you are not portrayed as a super human.

[I have chosen this point above many others in the book because this is something unique and we must not ignore it. Most of us never bother to plan out our introduction and our organisers take too much liberty and talk too much about us. Let's take charge of what is going to be said about us]

#5 Storytelling
This is the biggest challenge for most presenters. We know we have to narrate a story in our speech. Stories make people pay attention, makes them care and makes them remember and take action. But how do we say a story?

A story is a hero's journey. He is a person like us. He has needs and desires. He faces some obstacles, makes a choice and comes out victorious.

Start with introducing a hero. He should not be you. You should act as the guide. The hero is someone else. Someone who the audience can identify with. Then only will they get moved by the whole thing. Start by elaborately describing the hero. What does he do, what does he want and what he looks like. Make him come to life visually. Once the needs and desires are established, bring in the obstacles and at the end the hero needs to overcome each obstacle one by one before he comes out victorious. Stories with a positive ending are good for inspiration and ones with a bad ending good for teaching (what could have been avoided).

May 22, 2012

Book Review: How to deliver a TED talk

I received a free copy of this book 'How to deliver a TED talk' from Jeremey Donovan and finished it super fast. The best part about the book is that it has got only 107 pages. So if you have to deliver a talk in a few days time, just pick up a copy of the book and within hours you will get lots of ideas to improve your talk.

In this review I cover the contents of the book, who is this book for, how good is the book and what are its drawbacks. I recommend the book for speakers who are preparing for their first TED talk or any other short speech or talk. If you are a veteran speaker, skip this one.

Contents of the book

1. How to choose a topic?
2. How to make it memorable?
3. How to get introduced?
4. How to open your talk?
5. How to construct the body of your talk?
6. How to conclude your talk?
7. How to tell stories?
8. How to verbally deliver your talk?
9. How to add humour?
10. How to deliver your talk (gesture & body language)?
11. How to create visuals?
12. How to overcome stage fear?

The starting portions are pretty good especially on how to get introduced, how to open your talk and how to structure the talk. I wish the book elaborated more on the humour and stories part. It is always a challenge to understand how to narrate stories.

Compliment reading the book with watching the TED videos mentioned in it to really get the most out of the book. Reading about Sir Ken Robinson's humour is one thing and watching him do it is totally another. Watch his TED talk here.

This book is not for you if
If your presentation is just a normal information sharing one or it is very slides heavy. This book is really about talks which are more of you and very very less of slides. The way most TED talks are. So if you are looking for some more tips on slide design, go for something else. Why not The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, my last reviewed book on presentations or the evergreen classic from Garr Reynolds. This book is for ordinary people with extraordinary ideas. Someone who is looking to inspire people. To touch them and to make them act.

Overall I recommend the book and give it 4 stars out of 5. Read it if you are nervous about yout upcoming talk. Read it if you want to quickly improve yourself. This book does not contain everything that can be said on this topic but is definitely a good place to start, especially if you are an amateur. It costs only $9.95 on Amazon. The Kindle version is only for $2.99. If you are in India, you can buy it here for Rs. 420 on HomeShop 18.

Disclaimer: I do not get any commission when you click on these links and buy.

May 19, 2012

Interview with Deepa Kiran, a professional storyteller

Why do stories appeal to us?
Stories are how we experience life and how we store the experiences. Yesterday is a story. Tomorrow is a story. Stories are how we connect with ourselves, with the world and with life itself. There is therefore an intrinsic appeal in sharing stories. The medium of sharing varies. Sometimes it is print (books) sometimes multi-media (movies) and sometimes sheer oral medium. Oral storytelling invites you to journey through time and space simply using the power of the listener’s mind to creatively visualize and craft almost-real experiences. It is such a fascinating and magical trip that it becomes infectiously engaging.

Experts say we should say stories in our presentations to engage people. But most people don’t know how?
Communication experts the world-over wholeheartedly advocate employing the potential of storytelling in all rungs of the corporate ladder. What is being recommended is not just including ‘stories’ but imbibing ‘telling……storytelling’. Which means there are two things to it:

  • Including stories in our presentations, speeches etc.
  • Constructing a ‘mode’ of sharing information which is akin to telling a story. 

These two together are integral to corporate storytelling, considered the key to effective presentations as well as effective leadership.

The beauty and power of stories which is primarily put to use in corporate storytelling is the strength of ‘realization through revelation’.  Reason being stories ‘reveal’ and ‘unravel’ truths rather than ‘tell’. Given a choice anyone prefers to ‘figure out things’ for themselves rather than be ‘told what is right and what is to be done’. And so your listener is taken through a trip where she/he gets to discover new insights by herself/himself from the story and not a trip where they are given a list of information and suggestions by the speaker!

Being able to incorporate stories and ‘make stories’ out of the ‘business’ material is a skill that needs to be developed. This can be done on one’s own through self-study and practice or with the help of professionals who would facilitate exploration and development of effective storytelling skills through workshops and courses.

How can professionals tell stories in business presentations?
There are stories for every occasion, subject and issue. Depending on the theme and focal points of the presentation, one can search and build in stories, anecdotes, analogies which either directly convey the needful or are related to the theme.

How do we create stories from supposedly business events?
A business event/subject would have ‘logic’ integral to it. In a presentation our aim most of the time is to simply transmit this logic and understanding expecting the audience to be impressed. But facts and figures can also bore and overwhelm. The purpose of a presentation/speech is to urge the audience to act/take decisions.  This is where storytelling comes into play. Making the message simple, giving clarity in the details, tugging at the heart in the course of the delivery, building in message-retention, and following a systematic methodology in achieving this. These can help in ‘creating’ a story out of a business event.

What are the essential ingredients of story? What are its stages? What is common to all stories?
Without going into technical and literary details I will jump to the point that is most significant to the readers. Any good story is inevitably about a journey and the best story ever is ‘the hero’s journey’- A story where the protagonist/s that faces some situations and learns to transact these eventually evolving in the process. Stages of any story basically are the beginning, the main plot and the end, and this is common to all stories. It is as simple as that.  It is up to the storyteller (the presenter/speaker) to make the beginning and end effective and to flesh in as much or as less into the skeleton called the main plot based on the target audience and the outcome desired.

Can storytelling be learnt by anyone? If yes, how does one start?
Like any other art form storytelling is both inherent and acquired. Every individual has the potential to tell stories and tell them well. Some people already do. Some tell stories after some assistance from alcohol and some prefer not to! But the truth is we can all tell stories. One can definitely explore and work on the skills on our own or through workshops and programs designed and facilitated by professionals, aimed at equipping the participants with tools and techniques of storytelling.

About Deepa Kiran
Deepa Kiran is an Education Consultant, a professional storyteller and a freelance writer who works with children and teachers. She has been doing storytelling sessions and workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, libraries, cultural centers, publishing houses, corporate and NGO such as DPS, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s, Scholastic, Pratham, Microsoft and Genpact. She builds in music and dance in her telling to bring alive the story time. You can find her storytelling on her website
She truly believes in the magic and healing power of arts and weaves music, dance and drama into her story sessions. She loves the energy sharing of communities, especially children and enjoys exploring the same in her travels. Her two sons are a constant source of inspiration and the testing ground for her storytelling and have recently begun to volunteer as her assistants.

May 15, 2012

Find free icons at

Icon Finder is a easy to use website where you can get good quality icons for your presentations. The user interface is simple (like Google). Click here to visit the website. Type in the keyword (search term). You get a list of icons from which you can choose.

Few years back I made a presentation for a technology company and needed small icons of computers. Let's say if I needed it today. I can go to icon finder, type in computer and I can choose from various images.

What about license? We can filter these images and choose 'Allowed for commercial use (No link required)'. You can now use these images and don't have to provide a link as well. You can also forget about any license infringement. However, I suggest providing a link wherever possible to promote a site which gives you cool stuff for free. To filter by license, look at the drop down menu at the top right corner of the page.

We can also filter images by size and background colour. These options are there on the top just below the search box. Once you click on an image, you can download as PNG. PNG works just like a JPEG or GIF file. Once you download on your system, you can insert it in your presentation.

What do you think about this site? Do you think you will need it in your presentations?

May 13, 2012

15 Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs [Book Review]

In his popular book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo shares techniques which made Steve Jobs a great presenter. The Steven Spielberg of presentations is what Gallo calls Steve Jobs. So what made Steve Jobs great? The answer is simple. While most other professionals share information in their presentation, Jobs created an experience. An experience which left his audience informed, entertained and thrilled. You too can rise above the ordinary and present much better if you follow what Steve used to do.

The book is divided into three parts; Create your story, Deliver the experience and Refine & Rehearse. I have carefully chosen 15 things which you can start doing immediately. If you are excited by what you read next, go ahead and buy the book. It's worth it. I give it 5 stars out of 5 because the book is full of practical ideas which can be used by any one of us.

1. Plan in analog: Steve Jobs never started with the software and neither should we. Start on a piece of paper and plan out everything. What will you say, how will you say and when you will say that. Once you are completely ready, open the software.

2. Have a headline: Every presentation has one big idea. Find out what that is and articulate it in one sentence. If your audience could remember one thing, what will it be? For Mac Book Air it was 'the world's thinnest notebook". For iPod it was '1000 songs in your pocket'. This is the crux of what you have to say. Write this and share it multiple times in your presentation.

3. Why should I care?: Your audience is asking itself this question as soon as you start your presentation. Why should I care to what is being presented? Give them the answer and give it early in the presentation. Tell them how you are going to make their life better (or solve their problems).

4. Be passionate: This is perhaps the single biggest reason by Steve Jobs was the best presenter. He loved what he did and he did what he loved. Only when you have passion will you touch your audience emotionally. Passion is infectious. Have passion and you're already 80% there.

5. Twitter-like headlines: We talked about one big headline. This point is slightly different. For every aspect of your presentation have a simple one sentence explanation. You must be able to explain every idea, chart, graph or concept in one simple sentence. This enhances audience understanding and make messages memorable.

6. Roadmap: The audience needs to know what's in store. Help the audience keep track of what you are going to say and what you have already said. Jobs did not use agenda slides. He used to share it with words.

7. Introduce a villain: Every story has a villain. Find yours and introduce it to your audience. It can be a competitor (like IBM for Jobs) or a problem (like rising costs in your company). Start with the bigger picture and bring the villain. Now go ahead and show them how to conquer the villain and bring in the hero (the idea you are selling).

8. Ten minutes: The attention span of your audience is only 10 minutes at a stretch. After every ten minutes, change track. Introduce a video, give a demo, bring in a new speaker or make the audience do an exercise. Do what applies to your case but understand that holding attention for more than 10 minutes on one thing is impossible.

9. Simplicity: Simplicity has been the central theme of all Apple products and it shows in Jobs' presentation as well. Use simple English words, no jargon. Use simple slides. The lesser the words the better. Have only one thing to say per slide.

10. Slide tips: Research has proven that words and pictures used together are better than words alone. It is called the Picture Superiority Effect. Pictures are superior than words. When using words and pictures together, place the words closer to the picture. Use very few words and pictures on your slide. Jobs never used to have many words on a slide and almost all his slides had a picture.

11. Dress up your numbers: Numbers by themselves are tough to comprehend especially if they are big. Convert your number into something specific, relevant and place it in a context which is easy to understand. Jobs did not say iPod had 5 GB storage. He said, "1000 songs in your pocket."

12. Use props: We started by saying our presentation should be an experience. Using props will make your presentation a multi-sensory experience. Why only hear and see why not touch and feel as well. Find out how can you engage the other senses. Jobs could circulate the new Mac Book Air and let people touch and feel it. What can you circulate in your audience? There has to be something.

13. Rehearse & rehearse: This is the biggest secret of Steve Jobs, the presenter. He practised very hard for every presentation. He did mock runs many many times over until he perfected it. It is better not to have notes. Never read from notes or slides. Rehearse so well that you know the content. While rehearsing you can use notes which have only keywords. Later get rid of the notes and rehearse without them. Video record yourself and improve your body language and voice modulation. Seek feedback from friends/colleagues.

On body language: Establish eye contact with your audience. Have an open gesture. You can move around. Do not get stuck behind the podium. Move hands as your normally do. Be totally normal as if you are talking to a bunch of people in your canteen.

14. Be natural: When you present you must remain who you are. No fake accent. No unnecessary jargon. Speak the way you speak always; simple English words. Don't be too fast. Stay calm and composed.

15. Have fun: No matter what enjoy the presentation. Not everything will happen as per plan. It's okay. Don't get tense and don't worry. If you have practised enough you will not have stage fright. You will do well. If something does go wrong, move on. Don't focus your audience on the problem at hand.

There is so much stuff in this book that I would like to dedicate a few more posts exploring it. As of now, all you must do is to buy the book. Click here to buy on Amazon and here to buy from flipkart.

Carmine Gallo, the author, has recently shared 10 tips from the book. Click here to read his article. Tell me how you feel reading the techniques which Steve Jobs used? How will you apply this in your next business presentation?

May 11, 2012

Sponsorship Proposal Template

Sometime back I received an email from a reader Renee. She wanted a ready-made Sponsorship Proposal Template something which can help her make proposal quickly and ensure she is not missing out on anything important.

Since I did not have one already and could not find anything fast on Google, I decided to make one. This one is a basic template which ensures you cover all that is important in your sponsorship proposal presentation. You can view it below and download (for free) this template from slideshare.
Here are the headers for your ready reference. Your sponsorship proposal presentation must cover the following:

1. Basic information about the event (what/when/where)
2. About the organiser and their credential (and experience)
3. Who is the target audience (who is going to attend the event)?
4. How will you market the event so as to ensure the target audience comes?
5. What are the benefits of sponsoring? Why should a brand sponsor?
6. What are the sponsorship options and their cost/benefit?
7. Who are the other sponsors?
8. How old is the event? What happened last year? Share images and information.
9. Call to action (what you want the sponsor to do after he/she finishes reading the proposal?)

This is a good list to start working with. What can you add to this list?

May 6, 2012

How to cut down excess words from your speech?

We all know we should not be verbose. We should be able to say 'more' using 'less' words. But what if you are by nature verbose? I am actually a person who tends to speak more. I use more words in my day to day conversations (at times I repeat myself as well :-). I write so much in my diary that I need many diaries in one year. Luckily I am not verbose with my slides because I know that doesn't work.

If you are verbose by nature and you are giving a speech, you will always end up speaking more. That's your nature and its tough to change yourself overnight. When you speak more, you will speak many not-so-important stuff.

How can you then cut down the number of words you use in your speech?
There is one technique I know of and its simple. The trick is to condition yourself over time. Force yourself to use less words. Example, If you use a big size notebook or diary, buy a smaller size diary. Something very small like size A6 (around 6 inch by 4 inch).

I tried this technique on myself with successful results (so far). My new green notebook is so small that I hardly have any space to write (I was earlier using those large stylish notebooks). When I now take notes in a meeting or write notes to myself on some topic, I am forced to cut down words to a bare minimum. Thus I end up writing what matters and chop off the not so important stuff. Once your verbosity in writing goes down, your verbosity in speech will also reduce.

What technique would you like to use to cut down words from your speech?

Image: nuttakit /

Agency Pitch Presentation: How much to talk about your company?

Few weeks back I attended three back to back presentations. Three different agencies were pitching for our business. This post of mine is about 'how much time should you talk about your company in a pitch presentation?' It is applicable  to all sorts of presentations. These agencies could have been advertising agencies, social media marketing agencies, outdoor agencies or any other agency. Whenever you are pitching for someone's business you will have to share something about your own company.

How much to talk about your company?
Talk only what is important and relevant in the presentation and give a small handout about your company for anyone who wants to know more. Share what is important and puts your organisation in the right light.

In this case, the agency could talk about:

  • Basic information about the company (one slide) - offices, services, started in...
  • What's special about the company (one slide) - what makes you special and desirable?
  • Top clients (one slide)
  • The team which will work on the account (one slide)
That's about it. Try to wrap this up fast because the prospective client is not interested in how big and great your company is but what can you do for them. Back to the three agencies and their pitch presentation. Few weeks have gone by. The second agency which pitched, an agency of great repute, kept on talking about themselves for 15 minutes at the start and we had to ask them to stop and move on. That's how bad it was.

Image credit: imagerymajestic

May 2, 2012

Product Review: Slidevana

Slidevana is a collection of 140+ ready-made slides which aims to make life easy for presenters. I received a free copy of Slidevana sometime back and was asked to review it. So here is my take on this rather new stuff.

My initial reaction to Slidevana was "will people pay for this"? Slidevana costs $69 (Rs. 3650). Not a very hefty amount. But that's not the point. You have some ready-made slides and you can copy paste them onto a new slide deck and start editing them. Kind of saves your time preparing and designing slides. Overall I am a bit sceptical. Unless you are poor at PowerPoint you should not be needing such a product. Just take out some time and design your own slides. But then I know of many people (mostly senior in age) who are not good at PowerPoint and might want to check this product out.

What does Slidevana contain?
Slidevana comes in two themes; Light background and Dark background. Both have the same set of slides but only the colour varies.

There are various kinds of ready-made slides which you can use. There are ready-made agenda slides, slides with bullet points, slides with bullet points and photos, slides which only have one photo. Take a look:

The slide on the left has four agenda items. All you need to do is to type in your text in place of the existing text on the slide. Same for the slide on the right. Delete the photo and replace with what you want there. Replace the text with what you want. All you have to do is type.

There are various slides which help you make lists, tables, diagrams, charts and other standard frameworks. Click here for a detailed tour.

Last week I was making a presentation and tried using Slidevana for it. The timeline diagram  (top left) was of help indeed. Did save some of my time.

Overall, this concept seems new to me. Ready-made slides for people who have less time. Will that help? You need to decide whether it works for you or not. Atleast you now know something like this exists.

How did you find this concept? I really want to have your feedback. By any chance, if anyone has ever used Slidevana, enlighten us with your feedback. Did you find it useful? Do you use it often?