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    Entries in presentation (7)


    How NOT to start your presentation on change 

    Senior leader... standing at the front of a room, about to announce some key information on a change and transformation piece of work. 

    The room is hushed. Everyone is waiting to hear why the change is happening and how it will affect them. You know the old 'WIIFM' 'What's in it for me'. You've got to hook them in first, before you even begin to blab on about how it will roll out and when it will happen. 

    So the leader begins... and the first words out of their mouth were: 

    'I have seven slides to present'.

    Yep, that was it. The number of slides. The number of times they were going to 'click' the clicker to advance the PowerPoint deck of pre-prepared numbness. Seven times. 

    THAT was the most important thing?

    That's what you wanted to lead with?

    That was going to frame the change, the message, the impact?

    The nervousness, uncertainty or anxiety was leaking out of this leader and their subconscious or unconscious was speaking: 'just get through these seven slides'. 

    The team thinking - 'oh great, seven slides.'

    After some wise counsel on how this leader could design, communicate and facilitate change through the rest of this national rollout, the start of the subsequent presentations changed.

    This leader started with a story, or a statistic, or a statement. It was inspiring, engaging and it captured attention.

    They didn't start with the number of slides. Not any more. 

    Know your message.

    Know your team and their 'what's in it for me'.

    Lead with that. Reinforce that.

    Share that and be passionate about that.

    Not how many slides you have. (zzzz)




    Do it with the lights on and the blinds open

    Yep, put it on show and make it visible.

    Stand out, loud and clear so people can see and hear you!

    Doing what and where ... you wonder?

    Last week I was working with a team on their leadership day. They put so much effort into making the conference room dark enough for the PowerPoint presentation and slides. I figured this was gonna be one heck of a deck. 

    But, well, it wasn't. It was a bunch of dot points on the company template. zzzzzzz, yawn and dull boring, #fail.

    This was a leadership team and a big event focused on communicating change, inspiring the team, getting everyone on the same page.

    A darkened room and a deck of uninspiring, forgettable bullet points. Yep, that's really going to have staying power... no.

    Leaders need to get real when it comes to communicating change. Turn the lights on. Let them see you. Keep the blinds open. Let natural light in. Be authentic - there's so much 'authentic leadership' talk going on, yet when leaders have the perfect opportunity to influence, persuade and deliver messages as a real human being, they sanitise themselves and hide in the dark, clicking and 'blah-blahing' through lists of linear nothingness.

    Stop spending so much time on your bullet points and slide deck and spend some more time crafting, rehearsing, speaking, engaging, sharing and humanising your leadership communication.

    Lights on. Blinds open. Now. 


    Careful of those unconscious 'commands'

    "I know you're tired after a long day today..."

    "We'll do this activity so it might feel like you're a kid back at school doing a test..."

    "I'm sorry if it feels like all of the speakers are droning on about this..."

    "You probably don't want to hear what I'm going to say next but ..."


    These are four real-life statements, made by team leaders, speakers, executives over the past few weeks ... people who should "know better".

    But often we don't know! We're blissfully (or dangerously) unaware of the words that leak out from our mouths from our minds and the power those words have on a team, an environment, a presentation, a project.

    I noted these four statements when I heard them and they all have a dangerous power to have the audience agreeing with you, under their breath, in their mind, or muttering to someone else.

    Let's run them again:

    "I know you're tired after a long day today..."

    <Yeah, so get off the stage and let me go and have a beer!>

    "We'll do this activity so it might feel like you're a kid back at school doing a test..."

    <So stop it! I don't need to do kids stuff. Let's do things that will actually create an outcome for this project!>

    "I'm sorry if it feels like all of the speakers are droning on about this..."

    <OK, so you're going to waffle too? Yes you've all been droning ALL day!>

    "You probably don't want to hear what I'm going to say next but ..."

    <You're right mate. I'm not gonna listen. Instead I'll think about ....>

    Be super careful about your 'banter' before you deliver important messages. This 'leakage' of uncertainty, apology or low levels of confidence can be turned around. 

    Instead, positively frame up what you're saying. 

    There's no need to use any of these waffle statements. Just deliver your content, your point, your story, your case study. And move on. 

    Set up the environment, the context and the team for a positive interaction, a creative environment with a strong 'why we're doing this', or 'why I'm here presenting this' or 'why this change is happening'. 

    They're the 'commands' you want people to buy in to and adopt. 

    That's a smoother path to change. 



    The Conference Cringe List - Part 2

    Following on from, curiously, Part 1, there are more things at the events I am often speaking at or graphic recording for that make me cringe. These spotted in the past fortnight. 



    • Why that uninspirining 'holding slide' of the event logo, name and the word 'Agenda'? Bluh. It's so uninspiring. Use full size visuals or some slides (plural) to outline the agenda or use none.  
    • The currency you need to focus on is time. That's what people are really spending when they're there. Make the event efficient, engaging, creative and 33 times worth the price they are paying to be there. 
    • That theatre-style seating you've arranged and the interactive speaker you've got on the program, are not a match. If the room is jammed with seats because the venue you have is too small, you've failed. If you've attracted more people than you thought, you needed a bigger venue. 
    • The long, seemingly unrelated items on the agenda are nauseating. Have section themes for focus and make it build up to a crescendo, not whimper off into a corner.
    • That awesome adventurer/motivational/inspirational speaker you paid for (wow they were good!) has just been negated by your dull executive who wanted some 'air time'. What a waste of time, money, energy and the result of your poor planning and flow. The mood has changed and it's on you to bring it back up again. Good luck!
    • And that dull executive that wanted the 'air time' - oh dear... so focused on trying to get a key message across, they had no heart, no soul, no passion. D-u-l-l. That equals no leadership. They're not as good as they think they are at presenting. You are stronger than you think you are to persuade and influence them to not do it or do it very differently.
    • Doh - You made it about you the organiser again! Why do you say 'when WE were designing this day we thought...'. Just deliver a brilliant event. You'll be thanked for it. You don't need to claim the designer kudos in the first three minutes. 
    • No I'm not going to 'bear' with you while you 'read this out' - and then you read a written story, list of points or other wad of information you're already feeling bad about reading out. Frame WHY you're reading it and then get on and read it with your best acting skills, as if you're an Academy Award winner on their 12th take. Sell it to me. I'm not bearing with you on anything, particularly if you ask me to.
    • Ok, you have a cold or flu. Gee, thanks for telling me as your first key point. Now I'm not going to shake your hand or be within breathing distance of you, all day. No need to apologise. Don't say a thing about how you feel. Get on and do great work speaking, presenting, leading and inspriring.


    Yeah, there are more. I'll definitely need a Part 3. 




    The Conference Cringe List

    Yes, there are some things to avoid when you next bring the team together to deliver some inspiration, motivation or realignment to the strategy.

    This list is from the intersection of some of my very specific experience as a facilitator, performer and MC. The job of the conference is to inspire participants, engage delegates and attendees, share knowledge and information. It’s not to serve the speaker, leader who is presenting or the organisers. 

    I’ve got a lot on my ‘cringe’ list that I’ve seen over recent weeks…


    The Conference Cringe List – Part 1

    • Why are the blinds closed in this room? Lighten it up. Your PowerPoint presentation is not THAT interesting that you need a darkened room. And a darkened room for a title slide? Oh come on! For a few minutes maybe, but not all morning, or all day.
    • Still, quiet, silent even. Yeah, that’s really inspiring. Put on some music and pump it up. It helps engage the ears of the audience, lifts the mood, sets the tone and can present a style, brand or theme for the rest of the event.
    • Announcements titled ‘Housekeeping’. Oh yawn! Yes there are important things to present and announce; don’t diminish them by lumping them together under ‘housekeeping’. Whoever listened up for important housekeeping announcements? It quite simply means ‘don’t listen to this.’
    • Amateur microphone technique. ‘Is this on?’ ‘Can you hear me?’ Stop holding it like it’s a bridesmaid’s posey and hold it more like an icecream – up near the speaking part of your body, your mouth! Your chest, stomach and groin don’t speak. Not in words people want to hear anyway!
    • Don’t aplogise for your PowerPoint slides. If you need to apologise, don’t show ‘em.

    • Stop stealing time from invaluable break, refreshment, nuturing and networking time because your agenda ran over. You stuffed up – someone spoke too long and was not politely reminded to wrap it up. Don’t make your delegates suffer for these amateur stuff ups.
    • Why did you promise we’d all be ‘up and moving soon’ and 45 minutes later we’re still seated? You may promise, but you need to deliver that promise real quick!


    Oh I could go on… I have another 25 points here but I’ll save them for parts 2 and 3...