8 Presentation Tips to speak like Coleridge wrote!

If you got my newsletter earlier this week, you know I promised today to give you some presentation tips and techniques to help you speak the way Coleridge wrote. You have so many opportunities to get it right, that with some concentration you can make every presentation compelling and helpful, and enhance your reputation in your company and your field.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedHow many times have you heard, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.”  This is pretty much true, but the devil is in the details, so here are eight tips to make you a star.

1)      You know that almost all plane crashes happen at takeoff and landing and it’s the same with making a presentation. Don’t tap the mike, ask “is this thing on?” or “can everyone hear me back there?” Make the assumption that whoever set up the sound has taken care of all this for you. Walk up to the mike and begin speaking.  If it’s not working you’ll know it immediately and you can pause while the sound guy turns on the volume.

2)      If you’re wearing a lavalier or lapel mike, then agree with the sound guy what your cue will be.  Usually there is a brief pause just before you speak. Look at him and nod. He will know to light up your mike.)

3)      If you’re sick that day, had a horrible trip in from the airport, or are otherwise distracted, don’t say anything about it.  Your audience doesn’t care and it’s a silly diversion.  How many times have you heard a speaker begin with, “If my voice sounds a bit scratchy it’s because I’m just getting over a cold.”  Who cares?

4)      If you’re using Power Point, do NOT read any slide to the audience.  Your slides should have quick, short phrases or concepts that complement your presentation.  The audience is there to hear you speak. When you put up a lot of text, they’ll read it, and won’t listen to you. So keep your slides snappy and short.

5)      Never tell an audience member who asks a question that you’ll get to it later. Be thrilled you got a question. Answer it right away and show you want to engage your audience. You were given a gift with a question, so thank the donor!  And while I’m on that, always repeat the question for the rest of the audience, before you answer it.  It’s a courtesy and promotes understanding for all.

6)      If you are ever asked to kick off a training program, perhaps as the executive in charge of those being trained, your presentation should always contain these two elements, and nothing more:

A             How the content of the training ties to the strategy of the company or the group.

B             What you expect the group to do differently as a result of the training.

All too often I’ve been the victim of poor training kickoff speeches, in which the exec uses the time to talk about how the training will be fun, asks the group to pay attention, and other housekeeping issues that do not befit the role.

7)      Never begin by telling your audience you are going to be brief.  It’s irrelevant, and it suggests you won’t be brief at all.  Most people take twice as long as they think they are going to need. Why set yourself up to disappoint if your promised ten minutes turns into twenty?

8)      Use notes. Professionals speak from notes, so why shouldn’t you? When you speak from prepared notes, your audience believes you have planned seriously for this talk, which is desirable. There are few extemporaneous speakers who present in an orderly manner. I’m not one; I use notes.

Remember that in a way your audience are like customers as you are trying to sell them on your ideas, so

Think Like Your Customer


Can you inspire your team without giving them opium?

In today’s Fable Friday we’ll go back to 1797 and the Romantic Period in English literature, with a story about the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  You probably remember him from high school when you had to suffer through the long narrative poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Coleridge had wanted for years to write a long poem about ancient China, and good scholar that he was, he had done a lot of reading and research. No Google for him!

But as they say on the internet, “There was a problem!”  Coleridge suffered from tuberculosis, called consumption in those days, and he was sickly and weak all his life.  There were no antibiotics or modern medicine for help, so he tried to relieve his discomfort with frequent doses of laudanum, a tincture of opium dissolved in alcohol. So it’s fair to say that Coleridge often had quite a buzz on, and his addiction caused much heartache for him and his family.

After a long day of reading about China, Coleridge took a dose of laudanum, and fell into a dreamlike sleep, in which he conjured up the most beautiful visions of Kubla Khan’s domain, and the imagery and language to describe it.  He woke with these images still in his head and immediately sat down to write.  His first lines of the poem, written in iambic tetrameter, are so beautiful and melodic you can almost sing them:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.”

And as Coleridge feverishly wrote in this dreamlike state, he was interrupted by a knock on his door, the tailor returning a suit he had sent to be mended.  After accepting the suit and paying the man, he sat down again to resume his work, and to his horror realized the vision was gone. He barely recognized that which he had written.  Bitterly disappointed, he stuffed this brilliant poetic introduction of just 54 lines into his desk drawer, revisiting it from time to time over the years, but never completing it.

It was a much younger aspiring poet, the great George Gordon, Lord Byron, who upon reading the fragment, encouraged Coleridge to have it published, which he did in 1816.  It was immediately a popular work.

I often think when I read this poem and the history behind it, that all of us are capable of great achievements if we are properly inspired.  For Coleridge, the combination of immense literary talent, a Cambridge education, and the intake of opium resulted in the brilliant Kubla Khan.

But the people who work for you today are not Coleridge, and let’s hope they get no inspiration from drugs!  So how do you inspire them?  As a coach, what do you do to bring out the best in your people, so they come to work in the morning with a clear vision of how to make a difference, and let nothing distract them?  Because you have to figure that out you know.  It’s your job.

In my newsletter on Tuesday I’m going to share with you a story about Lou Holtz, the great college and NFL football coach and some of his techniques for getting the most from his people.  I hope you’re signed up for it. If not just click on ActionSystems Training on the right, and when you get to my website mouse over the N at the top right for “Newsletter” and click on it, then send me your email address.

Think Like Your Customer