Presentation Skills: Getting Off to a Good Start

In public speaking you only get one chance to make a first impression. In a presentation you may have no more than 10, and at the most 30 seconds to make an impression on your audience. The opening to a presentation is in many ways the most critical part and it always pays to plan it particularly carefully.

In the opening you need to set the tone for the presentation, attract the attention of the audience and orient them to the topic. From the very beginning you also need to start developing rapport, or a connection, with your audience. There are a variety of techniques you can use.

It is tempting to start a presentation by telling a joke or a funny story. If you are good at telling stories or jokes, and you get all the words right; and if the audience understands and appreciates the joke, then this can be a very successful way to get going. But the risks are high. If you are nervous at the start of a presentation, it is easy to forget the punch line. You also run the risk that some people in the audience may not understand or enjoy the joke.

Unless you are a highly skilled presenter, you will probably be safer using an alternative means of opening your presentations.

You could present an interesting news item, some facts that are not well known, or a quotation. These are all safe ways of making an impact at the start. Asking the audience a rhetorical question is an excellent way of gaining their attention.

Whatever technique you choose, keep it simple and safe so you get off to a positive start from which you can continue. There are few things worse than a joke that falls flat at the start of a presentation, leaving everyone embarrassed and the presenter lost for words.

Book Review – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is a book that a speechwriter can love. Gallo quotes from sources such as Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology and Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen. He even has a sidebar on JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen’s influence on Barack Obama titled, “What the World’s Greatest Speechwriters Know.

The message of this book is that Jobs’ extraordinary impact is based on his authenticity and his passion for his company’s people and products. Most presenters can’t claim to be the CEO of an archetypically cool Silicon Valley company.

Neither can they get away with wearing faded jeans, sneakers and a turtleneck onstage. But simply everyone with a product or service that improves people’s lives has a story to tell. Gallo’s book explains in detail how Jobs presents his story so that his passion shines through and ignites the audience. It’s Gallo’s claim that anyone can learn how to deliver an “insanely great” presentations.

The “secrets” that make Jobs so effective onstage include the usual stage tips taught by presentation coaches: Make eye contact with the audience, use vocal variety and know the power of a well-timed pause. But the majority of the book analyzes the structure, rather than the delivery techniques, of major keynotes Jobs has given at Macworld and elsewhere over the years. This makes the book of inestimable value for anyone who needs to understand the nuts and bolts of writing a speech.

Performance piece

When Steve Jobs takes to the stage he often tells dramatic stories, so it’s appropriate that the book itself is structured as a three-act play. Act 1 tells how to create the story, Act 2 tells how to deliver it, and Act 3 stresses the importance of rehearsal. Gallo adds “Director’s Notes” that summarize each chapter (or scene), and he introduces a cast of supporting characters.

Organizing the book in this way also reinforces the importance of telling a story in three parts; of delivering a speech with three messages. In fact, Gallo concedes, the chapter on the effectiveness of breaking a speech into three “could easily have become the longest in the book.”

Speechwriters’ playbook

The book is a playbook for writing a great speech. Jobs and his team start scripting a speech long before firing up PowerPoint or, in their case, Keynote software. They settle on an attention-grabbing headline (“The world’s thinnest notebook”); then they decide on the three key messages; develop analogies and metaphors; and scope out demonstrations, video clips and cameo guest appearances.

Next they develop the “plot” of the speech, setting up an antagonist (Microsoft or IBM in the early days), dressing up numbers and including plenty of “amazingly zippy” words. Finally, they script a memorable “holy smokes” moment that people will talk about long after the event ends. The slides they eventually create are heavy on images and light on text and bullet points.

Live action video

A book alone will go only so far. If you’ve never actually seen Jobs present in person, then you haven’t experienced the “reality-distortion field” his charisma and eloquence creates in the auditorium. Gallo has this covered.

The book’s end notes provide URLs for some of the 47,000 YouTube and Apple.com video clips showcasing Jobs and clearly demonstrating the techniques discussed. Viewing the videos compensates for the poor-quality monochrome photos of Jobs onstage-the one disappointment in the book.

Learning from his mistakes

To counteract any feelings of inadequacy you might have after watching Jobs deliver a flawless keynote, do a quick search on YouTube for “Apple Bloopers” and you’ll see that, even for Steve Jobs, things don’t always go well onstage. Demos fail, screens freeze, and he stumbles over words. But as with any masterful presenter, Jobs remains calm. 

Even if the speeches you write or deliver are not destined for “insane” greatness, they’ll be much, much, better for having read Carmine Gallo’s insanely great book.

Fashion and Lingerie – The Present and Past

Lingerie is an integral part of every women’s wardrobe. Whether an undergarment, sexy attire, a fashion statement, or the answer to a comfortable night’s sleep, sexy and intimate lingerie is a part of feminine history, present and past.

Today, lingerie is part of every women’s attire, subtle or sexy. The choice is dependent upon her personality and purpose. Whether she wants to advertise her feminine attributes or simply have adequately supportive undergarments, department stores are filled with everyday generic lingerie. However, if a woman really wants to feel ultimately sexy and unique, she will choose to shop in stores totally dedicated to specialized lingerie and accessories.

Presently, to have lingerie, or not to have lingerie, is a personal choice. However, in the past, what a woman wears is much more than fashion. A lady’s social status depends on how she presents herself. For instance, in the feudal days, peasant women are not allowed to wear high heeled shoes. In fact, doing so is a criminal offense, not simply a blunder of social status.

In contrast, the social elite proudly wear high heels. Even some men don heeled shoes. Supposedly, in an effort to outdo each other, the aristocracy take great pains to have the most unique and personal heeled shoes created. While researching the subject, a picture is displayed of a woman with approximately two-foot heels. In all seriousness, the heels are so high she has to walk with canes in order to maintain balance. In addition, servants walk on either side of the woman to keep her steady and prevent a fall.

Nevertheless, despite the apparently utter stupidity of wearing shoes you are on capable of walking in, the era of the boned corset is not only insane, it has proved fatal. For example, the television show The Little House on the Prairie depicts a time when a slim waistline is the fashion, at all costs. You may have seen other westerns where women will actually brace themselves against another female to pull the corset even tighter.

Unfortunately, the practice is not only extremely uncomfortable, it can be lethal. The extremely tight undergarments will cause a lady to faint, simply because she does not have enough oxygen to her brain. Women are thought to be the frail gender, until a doctor discovers the problem.

Although a physician may recommend not wearing a corset at all, the fashion is to have a tiny waistline at all costs is not easily altered. Unfortunately, at least one case is reported of a woman whose corset is so tight, she impales her liver with one of the whalebones and succumbs to mortal injury.

In the past, a woman may not be able to breathe, her bust may be close to exploding, and she cannot walk independent of aid, but she sure is fashionable. In the present, thank goodness women have come to their senses. Feeling beautiful, feminine, and alluring is impossible when in pain. Fashions and sensual lingerie should be fun, sexy, alluring, playful, and pretty, yet remain comfortable.