What is You Ask We Anwer?
On this page you will find answers to questions people send in to The Presentation Maestro.
Michael shares more than 30 years of experience and knowledge in answering.
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Hi there, one of the things that people often say to us is that I’m fine talking one-to-one across a table with somebody, but if I have to talk to a roomful of people, it’s a completely different matter and I go to pieces. So what’s the difference in dealing between the two?
Well one thing that might surprise you, is that there is surprisingly little difference. Well, first of all – he’s Michael, and I’m Helen and we are The Presentation Maestro – In our own special way – Yes – surprisingly little difference, and in fact both are very conversational, or need to be conversational. One to one is likely to be interactive, two-way conversation – and to a bigger group well a small group or a bigger group it’s more of a one-way conversation- but still very conversational. And we’ve got three tips for you on how to make the difference, less of a difference.
And the first one is we’d encourage you to be natural but plus a couple of clicks. So what do we mean by that? Well you talk louder than you normally would, you vary your pace a lot more than you normally would, you vary your intonation more than you normally would, and you certainly pause for longer than you would in a conversation. So it’s still you – but it’s a slightly heightened version of you. So that’s the first tip.
The second one.. well that one is all about volume. Now the first thing to say is if you are going to be miked-up, get to the venue early, find the sound person, find out the type of mike they’re going to ask you to use and have a play.. have a practice – and preferably if they give you a choice go for a lapel mike like this one, or one of those little “Madonnas” as they call them that
come around here, avoid if you can the ghastly handheld one. Yes, because then you end up talking… very quietly..( they’re a bugger, I’d avoid them)… okay.
So that’s if you’re if you’re being miked up – get there early, find the sound person, play with the equipment – and make sure you’re comfortable. But if you’re not being miked-up – then you have to talk a lot louder than you think you might. We’re all used to talking in a conversational tone most of the time. And the about the only time we really get our volume up is if you’re in a rugby crowd or football crowd or something yelling for your team. Most the time we don’t raise our voice – or in a bar trying to chat someone up – Particularly if you’re in Madrid! They talk rather loudly in Spain, or the Oktoberfest in Munich.
But you’re probably not at either of those venues, and so you’d have to talk louder. And as a rule of thumb we’d say over about 20
or 30 people, you probably have to about double your volume. Yup. It’ll be uncomfortable for many of you and extremely unfamiliar but get used to it, practice it, otherwise they’re not going to hear in the back.
Okay so that’s tip number two that’s about volume. Now on to tip number three – and this is all about engagement, and one of our pet things – absolutely – eye contact. Absolutely and if you’re going to a large-ish venue, as Helen said earlier on with a mike, get there early. Get there early – get on that stage and look where the audience is going to be so you can get your sight line.. of
where to look with people. Because don’t expect it to be all right on the night. Because a lot of the time and particularly on bigger stages – is that the lights go down on the audience and they go up on you – and you’ll just be looking out in blackness and it’s pretty unnerving. But if you’ve got your sight lines, then you can look everywhere there are people. And to use that old adage “If
you can’t make it, fake it.” If you can’t see the audience just look in their direction and they will love you for it. Because they’ll feel you’re talking directly to them and you will be – you just can’t see them! It’s a bit weird, but it works.
But avoid trying to use these these patterns that a lot of people teach you, you know, like you’ve got the N or W or the upside-down C or whatever it is or you split your audience into three… there’s enough going on up there without you having to worry about that. yeah. Just look in every direction there are people yes – And particularly bringing in the wings – extreme left and right – those are the ones that often get missed.
Okay and finally to wrap this up. Finally taking it back to the beginning – there are more similarities than differences. You still need a clear Aim. You still need a clear message. You still need eye contact. You still need to make it conversational yes and to engage with everybody.
Hope you found that useful. See you on the next one.
Technical, longer, slide driven presentations can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to them more tolerable.
Hi. Today we’re going to start off talking about suffering and pain! And how to avoid it, particularly in the context of
long, over detailed, slide heavy presentations. Because God knows you’ve had to sit through enough of them.
Well first of all, how to avoid the pain for yourself if you’re having to listen to them. Really easy, get a set of these or the
non-Apple equivalent if you’re not an iPhone holder. Stick them in, and listen to some thing soothing or uplifting…..while the garbage just rolls over you from the stage, because they’re nice and discreet.. the speaker probably won’t see you wearing them!
But quite seriously, if you are in a position because, you’ve been told by someone senior……. to fly in from somewhere to some
unsuspecting group and dump a whole load of stuff on them for an hour, we’ve got a few tips here that might make it a little less painful for them, and easier for you to keep their attention.
Yes – it’s more about what your audience can take, rather than what you’ve got to give. Think about your audience first.
And as part of thinking about your audience definitely, definitely, definitely – the NUMBER ONE thing – what is your aim? What do you want your audience to think, do, or feel differently as a result of you talking to them? And also…. first of all get that together first …then create your talk on your content first, and LAST OF ALL create the slides. And if you can have some say in designing and creating those slides, it’s much better. It may take a bit longer, but if you’ve had a hand in designing them it’s much easier to speak from, because you have a sense of ownership. It’s damn difficult to talk from somebody else’s turgid deck that they’ve landed on you and say “Talk about that.” But also Helen’s got a little tip about slides too –
I have. Once you finish creating your slides, or once you’ve you’ve been given your slides, don’t just look at it on a small computer screen on your MacBook on your laptop or even on a phone… actually have them projected and go to the back of the room and look at them there and see…can you read everything on that slide? If you can’t, change it!
Yeah definitely. So that’s tip number one. Tip number two …is it needs to be high energy you may think the content is fabulous, the audience probably don’t – and you need to be enthused and high energy all the way through it. Because if you’re even vaguely bored with any of it, it’s going to leak! And they’re going to get bored too. And if there are parts in the talk where you’re not engaged yourself, or you don’t believe in, or you don’t like – either be very brief indeed…or don’t talk about them at all. [get somebody else to do it ] because it’ll leak. Know this now!…. So keep it high energy.
And the second thing really, third, third sorry, is to do lots of this …- Not staring at a camera! – .. Pausing. Most people never do enough of this in any talk, but particularly if it’s a long and highly detailed technical talk, you need to leave plenty of time for your audience to go “uh-huh”, “okay”, “that makes sense”, “not quite sure about that”, link it to what they know already… next… and however intelligent, or highly educated your audience, there’s only so much the human brain, or the human buttocks can take at any one time. So lots, and lots of pauses.
So that’s the third tip. Now you’ve all heard the expression “A picture’s worth a thousand words”… this leads us on to the fourth tip. And the fourth one is using imagery using pictures. Now if you consider, for a moment, the Chancellor delivering the budget. He will stand there and he will talk for an hour, possibly two, and how much of it do you actually take in?Pretty much nothing! What happens is..after the budget.. after he’s delivered it, packs of the budget are sent out and journalists scurry around and accountants
scurry around…all to bring you the highlights and what it means for you. Contrast that with somebody like Brian Cox, – or David Attenborough – I’m going to go with Brian Cox for now – who can stand stand and talk about the enormity of the universe and the size and the weight and the distance of planets. But he can do it all.. in a really engaging way is because he uses not only images
behind him but he uses images in his language. He uses comparisons to real things that we can relate to.
A very important point Helen made there at the end, because you may say well Brian Cox has got millions of pounds from the BBC to go filming around the world and make incredible visual images and graphics. Yes he does. – Wouldn’t we all like that? – But he also stands by a log cabin in Lapland or something looking at the camera describing these things using visual images… imagery in his speech. And it’s really, really important that you do that. Because if you think about it most business communication is deadly dull. Why? Because it very rarely uses any sensory specific language. And by that we mean there’s no touching, feeling, hearing, smelling,
tasting words in most business communication. It’s all just anodyne really… there’s nothing… it’s not human…so above all you need to make this talk human and come alive. Not pretend anything….. but you’ve got to put in the hard work to make it human and acceptable and easy to understand for your audience.
Yes And that leads onto the fifth point which is……. one of the things that’s going to make it really easy or easier for the audience to retain it – are frequent summaries. If you’re talking for 40 minutes or an hour I mean.. it’s not going to stick. But if you frequently throughout your talk summarise what you’ve talked about so far before moving on to the next part that will aid their retention. There’s also another good thing to do, very few people do this, along with the summaries, have frequent breaks.. just because you have to talk for an hour does not mean you need to talk for the full hour. And if you have frequent short breaks [two minutes or something] means that your audience can retain things. Now the way to do it is is to say to them “Okay – stand up and stretch”.. invite them to stand up and stretch or sit and stretch… or even “Turn to your neighbour and tell them your key takeaway from the last section the last point that you have given them… and get them to share theirs because you’ll both have different recollections of it you’ll have both remembered different things. And that summarising things is another way that helps your audience get
things embedded in their head.
And don’t just spring this on them, although it could be fun to try! As part of your introduction, tell them you’re going to be giving them regular breaks about every quarter of an hour 20 minutes or so… but not sending them out the room…. no, you’ll never get them back… no, tell them you going be doing this so they know it’s coming – they’ll love you for it – and then towards the end of that little two-minute break just signal to them from the stage “Okay… 30 seconds more”… or “15 seconds more… just wrap up what you’re saying and come back.” Yes. And then you can start again so you’ll gently leading them back in again.
So in summary – there are five points.
Number one…Design the talk first and do your slides last of all. Exactly,
number two, keep it high energy.
Number four…imagery and pictures.
And number five…. summarise regularly and give little breaks.
That’s it. Hope you found it useful, see you on the next one
So how do you talk slower, or get other people to talk slower during a presentation? Oh by the way I’m Michael, part of The Presentation Maestro.
Well let’s start by recognising why most of us speed up and it’s to do with adrenalin. If you’re slightly keyed up, a little uptight, a little bit wired, like most people are during and before a presentation, one of the side-effects of adrenalin is that it completely distorts your sense of timing. And a) one tends to gabble, but what also happens is b) is that pauses just seem to disappear. So what give the effect of gabbling and talking very fast is A) talking fast, B) not having any pauses in there. So how do you get round this?
A couple of ways. Number one I’d get used to doing some breathing exercises before you present. And the one I’m going to suggest is really really simple. Just do four or five deep breaths through your nose into the bottom part of your lungs like this [DEMO] Through your nose right down into the tummy [DEMO]
Four or five of those will get you into a state of nice relaxed alertness, where you tend not to gabble too much. Secondly I would actually raise your own awareness of how much you are gabbling or talking too fast. So take the recorder on your smartphone – you don’t need to use the video recorder just use the voice recorder – and record yourself next time you’re giving a talk or even practising for it, and particularly if it’s a real one when the adrenaline is going a little, you’ll hear how fast you are, you’ll hear how few pauses there are. And when you listen to the take afterwards your unconscious brain will be listening to it as well as your conscious brain and it’ll go ‘ah, I need to do something about that.’ and the changes start to happen.
But thirdly, let’s acknowledge something, you may be like our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has actually a habit of talking very fast indeed as you probably noticed. But what he does do is actually….. pause….in the middle of sentences…. quite a bit. I’m not suggesting you emulate his style, but if you’re a naturally brisk, fast, speaker just putting a lot of pauses in there can give the illusion of slowing down a bit – and it’s a lot easier for the audience to take on board.
So in summary, how do you slow down when talking? Number one, do some breathing beforehand into your lungs; Two raise awareness of how fast you are and how little pauses you’ve got by taping yourself, and three put pauses in there anyway – If in doubt PAUSE.
See you on the next one.
Hi, well how do you use emotion to captivate an audience? I’m Michael, part of The Presentation Maestro.
Now this is a big question, and there’s many many views on it and we could take forever talking about how to use emotions in a talk, but I’m going to boil it down to a couple of points:
Number one, I think it’s easier to let your real emotions come out if you have a decent structure underneath supporting all your thoughts and your thinking and a decent and useful way of installing everything you want to say into your head so it comes out in the right order and you don’t have to remember it, memorise it – it’s just natural, it’s like a titanium steel safety net and that’s what we teach in our Masterclasses and our coaching and it’s in my book Blow Your Own Horn.
But let’s look at a couple of other things, number one I think the emotion should be natural whatever you are wishing to portray whether it’s sadness or outrage or enthusiasm but let it be natural. There’s nothing more repellant I think than bogus emotions. And that comes to another point – I was working – if I can just share a little story – I was working a few years ago with a guy, lovely guy, in a branding agency and he was getting really worked up in his talk and I said “what are you doing?” and he said ‘I’m being passionate about my brand.’ And the brand he was talking about was a can of carbonated drink and I said ‘well a couple of things: number one it’s not your brand it belongs to somebody else; secondly, you drink enough of this stuff it’ll kill you; thirdly you can’t be passionate about some s*it like this! enthusiastic, yes, but passion – real passion is reserved for art, for food, for sex, for love for passion’ and I think it was misplaced in this case – and I think I’ve seen an awful lot of people and I hope you have too, not hope you have, but I think you might have as well who get over passionate about things that really are not deserving of passion. Enthusiasm yes, passion no. And I’m not being frightfully British about this, I can be as passionate and over the top as the next man, but I think it’s reserved for the right things.
And above all, one wants to be, I think, natural. And it’s when one’s being natural and mostly authentic that’s when people connect and engage with us and want to hear more.
Hope you found that useful, see you on the next one.
“How do you use body language to create an impact? I’m Michael Trigg part of the Presentation Maestro.
Now there’s so much tosh written about body language, volumes have been written about it. Most of it is inaccurate. But I want to give you three tips today to help you make an impact – all quite natural.
The first one is stand still. It’s amazing how many people, given a stage or in front of a group with a space there, they’ll use it! And they’ll walk up and down and think they’re Michael McIntyre the comedian. Well Michael McIntyre’s a comedian and he’s paid a very great deal of money to make you laugh. But actually you have a far greater sense of authority if you stand still – and on both legs – not shifting from one to the other. All your energy and your expression should come from the hips upwards. In other words through your face and through your hands. So that’s number one – stand still and let your energy come out through your hands and your face.
Second thing, since we’re talking about it up here is to use facial expression, lots of smiles. Preferably not forcing them, but smiles to the audience and LOOK at them everywhere, everywhere there are people in the room – look at them. And the typical traps are fixing on the friendly face or missing out the wings left and right – bring in everybody who’s in the room. So that’s two – standing still, smiley face and look at everybody.
And the third one, and it seems so obvious, but it’s making use of these things [showing hands] every one of us, every human being is hard wired in their neurology to use these things to express themselves. Everybody does it differently so have them in a neutral resting place for when you’re not using them but they won’t stay there for long you will use them. And you won’t need to think about using them, they just work. And we’re all more engaging and people connect with us better when we’re using our hands naturally and not using any archetypal or false gestures.
So those are some tips I’d give you to use body language naturally to make an impact. See you on the next one.”
“Hi and this question is “How do you use gestures in a presentation without them looking contrived?”
“Great question, by the way I’m Michael…. and I’m Helen… and we are The Presentation Maestro. And we are asked variations on a theme of this question so often, you know what do you DO with these things that are perfectly normal when you’re sitting down, but as soon as you stand up they become [gneaaaa].”
Well let’s answer first of all by looking at some things that are NOT useful that some people think are:
“For example Tony Blair who’s a very good speaker but he used this gesture and awful lot around the podium or something. Now, this isn’t a natural gesture. Would you come home at the end of the day and say “Hello Darling, what’s for dinner?” or in a pub would you say “Would you like a pint?” I mean you wouldn’t, would you? And, you’ll notice a lot of politicians, I have done for some time, using this gesture when they’re really trying to make an important point – the thumb is crossed over the rest of the fingers – and again this gesture isn’t useful is it? or it isn’t natural or useful. Do you want a gin and tonic?” – YES PLEASE – “Typical….Gin, she’ll do anything for a gin. It’s not natural. And the more natural you are, the better it can be.”
“Now, there are some certain gestures that are taught out there that have a reasoning behind them.” “They’re taught for a particular purpose but they can be really really difficult to use them in a natural way.” “They’re archetypal gestures – we’re going to show them to you now rather lightheartedly – a couple of them….”
“So here we go….. first one….. steady…. First one is ‘thinker’…. mmm I’m thinking about this. Next one is ‘distractor’ …..ooo search me I don’t know. This one is really serious because this one’s ‘leveller’ … mmm I really want you to take this in. Is there another one you’ve got? …. Oh yes… put your hand up if you came by London Transport to this workshop today.”
“Now they’re not wrong, but they are somewhat artificial, they are archetypal gestures. And as Helen mentioned earlier, they’re very difficult to bring off naturally. And after 30 years or actually combined 50 years of doing this we genuinely utterly truly believe that the more natural you are and the less artifice you’re using the more powerful, and the more engaging it is.” Yes.
“So how do you do that? Well very simply you keep your hands in a resting place round about your navel and then whenever you want to use them, just let them come apart and they do their own thing. Because each one of us, every human being on the planet, is hard wired in their brain in their neurology to use these things to communicate with. And there’s been stacks of research done into this that shows if you trap your hands, it actually gets in the way of articulating and free-flowing of thought. So just let them do what they do naturally, but let them rest in between when you’re not using them – real simple – and it works so easily. Hope you found that useful… see you on the next on.”