Enthusiastic trainer calls experience “out of this world.”
A NASA contractor recently engaged The Presentation Team to conduct an Advanced PowerPoint Training program. Presentation consultant Kevin Lerner spent two days working with an employee to sharpen PowerPoint skills and presentation development techniques.
The two-day training program was conducted at NASA’s headquarters in downtown Washington, DC in late June 2014.
Presentation Team president and trainer Kevin Lerner called the experience, “out of this world.”
“Simply being at the headquarters of the nation’s space program was exciting enough. But helping to improve the quality of their presentations was an honor,” explained Lerner who confessed that there’s little chance that any of his presentations or work will make it beyond the beltway.
The client said that the training had an immediate impact on the speed and quality of their presentations, adding that the training was focused and customized.
Lerner says he’s hopeful that the PowerPoint training engagment will be the first of many with NASA and other agencies, while his firm continues on its global mission to provide superior presentation services.
How public speakers can speak more clearly to be heard
Tips on making your speech sound less boring and monotone
I went to a seminar recently, and listened to three presenters speak on a truly interesting subject. 30 seconds into Speaker #2, my mind started wandering and I totally lost interest. When Speaker #3 took the podium, I was back on target, attentive and involved in the message. What was different? I couldn’t hear Speaker #2! His voice was soft, causing me to strain to hear him. He mumbled his words so his message was lost. Other times he spoke so fast that his words bumped into each other, making them unintelligible.
The speaker had Monotone Mumble! These 4 easy tips can help you avoid Monotone Mumble:
1. Loosen up your Articulators
Your tongue, lips and jaw are all part of the articulators, the physical structure that produces speech. It is important to keep them relaxed in order to produce clear speech sounds.
A tight jaw produces careless, sloppy speech.
Open your mouth. Keep your lips flexible. Be sure your tongue is positioned where it needs to be to produce the sound that you want. As you’re practicing your speech, spend some time relaxing these important speech articulators. Pay as much attention to the clarity of your words as you do to the structure of your text.
A good way to do this is to practice your speech out loud while slowly exaggerating the individual sounds of the words. Make sure you are well hydrated. Exaggerate your words, exercising your articulators into the optimum position for speech production.
Remember Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady? Henry Higgins had her repeat “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” for hours at a time. It was only after endless repetition and exaggeration of the vowel sounds that she got it.
It takes practice to develop clear articulation, but the results are well worth the effort.
2. Vary Your Rate.
Some people speak so fast that it tires you out. Others plod along at such a slow pace that you fall asleep waiting for the next word. What’s a speaker to do?
If you speak too slowly your audience will be bored, their minds will wander and their thoughts will race ahead of your words. If you speak too fast, the audience doesn’t have enough time to absorb the impact of your message. They may still be trying to savor the implications of your story while you are rapidly moving on to another point.
To be most effective and avoid a monotonous delivery, you need to vary the rate of your speech. Achieving a perfect balance of rate of speech can be a challenge.
Generally, your pace will coincide directly with the mood of your message.
A slow rate conveys contemplation, nostalgia, and dreaminess.
A rapid rate conveys urgency, fear or excitement. You can change the meaning and importance of words by saying them quickly or drawing them out. For the greatest impact, vary your rate by slowing down and speeding up at critical points.
Slow down when you are making an important point or when you are about to deliver a punch line to a joke. Use a more rapid rate when you are relating something that happened quickly or listing minor, non essential elements to your message.
By varying your rate of speech your audience will stay awake, alert and attentive. Stop. Go. Slow down. Speed Up.
3. Speak Up.
All that time you spent writing and practicing your speech, making sure your words are pronounced clearly, and matching your rate to your message will be wasted if your audience can’t hear you. Before you take the stage, make sure you can be heard throughout the room.
A good sound system is essential. I’m sure you’ve taken time to test the microphone, but a great deal of the volume of the vocal output depends on you. Breathing is necessary for producing and sustaining sounds. Failure to breath properly is the leading cause of poor volume.
Many speakers speak from their throats. The breath should start in the diaphragm with the air moving into the lungs and out of the throat where the sound is produced. Many breathing exercises are available to help you regulate your breathing to produce a pleasant volume.
All of them start with a well hydrated throat and a relaxed jaw and body. Practice keeping the sound out of the throat to avoid vocal strain and hoarseness.
Stand tall. Breathe and speak on the breath. Be sure to position the microphone in such a way that it does not pick up your breathing sounds.
4 Record & Listen to your Speech.
Your words sound very different to you than they do to an objective member of the audience. Read your presentation aloud. Record it. Then take a seat at the back of the room and listen to you as an objective observer. Pretend you had never met the speaker or heard the presentation. Be totally objective and honest.
Were there any boring sections? Did your mind wander? Did you understand each word? Were the words pronounced clearly and distinctly? Did the rate keep your mind interested? Did the rate of speech reflect the tone of the message? Was the volume appropriate?
By listening critically you can identify some of the weak areas in your speech, correct them, evaluate your delivery and avoid monotone mumble.
Remember: If your audience doesn’t understand what you are saying, your message is lost.
Training Workshop helps employees from FedEx, Whirlpool, Dart Container, American Express and Aramark create world-class presentation visuals.
Like her employer FedEx, Valarie Thomas helps companies improve efficiencies and save time and money. But back in April, 2014, Valarie looked inward and discovered inefficiencies in her own process of creating presentations.
“They were taking too long to create and they looked cheap,” the senior strategic sales analyst explained. “Management was satisfied with things, but I wasn’t.”
So Valarie invested $500 of her own money for a four-hour, two-part web-based PowerPoint Training Workshop, focused on advanced PowerPoint techniques and skills. The return on her investment were immediate and measurable.
“My productivity improved, and my manager even commented on how much better my slides looked,” she boasted.
A passion for helping people present
For Presentation Team trainer and founder Kevin Lerner, sharing his knowledge and 20 years of experience is personally and professionally gratifying. “I’m blessed to have a job where Im able to help people,” he shares, adding that, “I’ve had clients hug me after our workshops.”
Lerner founded The Presentation Team in 1995, built upon a lifelong passion for presentation design and communications. Over the years, the firm has worked with some of the world’s largest companies, including Oracle, Motorola, Tyco, and Verizon. More recently, the firm has augmented its presentation design services with PowerPoint Training and Presentation Skills Coaching services, which in 2013 accounted for nearly half of their revenue.
A Popular Program…Poorly Practiced
With over 300 million users and a market-share of 95%, PowerPoint is the presentation standard.1 And yet, most people have a general working knowledge of it. Most people are left to learn it themselves, or take a basic class. Simply knowing how to use the program doesn’t make a person a presentation guru.
That’s exactly what compelled General Electric Executive Vice President Michael Dahlweid to seek the coaching of a PowerPoint Presentation expert. In January 2014, he and a colleague traveled to DC for a two-day coaching program designed to sharpen their skill and expertise in presentation design. By the end of the second day, Dahlweid was creating top-quality graphics with the ease and efficiency of an expert.
To some companies PowerPoint is embedded within their culture; a meeting without PowerPoint is tantamount to a student not doing his homework. And although some companies have dedicated departments or individuals focused on presentation graphics, most employees are on their own for presentation production. Employees who have mastered PowerPoint to support their communications are often recognized as stronger leaders or managers.
A measurable and valuable ROI
And there’s often a great disconnect between a company’s brand image, and a company’s typical internal PowerPoint presentation. Some companies are recognizing the importance of improved presentations, and investing time and money to train their employees.
Katie Farmer, an senior executive assistant at Whirlpool traveled from Benton Harbor, Michigan to work with The Presentation Team, spending two intense days learning the intricacies of PPT, practicing keyboard commands and sharpening her skills. She returned home with a cadre of skills and resources to help her create better presentations in shorter timeframes.
The payoff on presentation training can be immediate and significant.
“If our training can help a client create a presentation that helps win a multi-million-dollar contract, we’ve accomplished our mission,” explains Lerner, who adds that many clients have shared stories of presentation success.
Best presentation practices with hands-on learning
The Presentation Team’s training is more than just a PowerPoint 101 class. The interactive workshop emphasizes effective design strategies and creative techniques to help make presentations more impactful and memorable. Some benefits include:
- More focused headlines with reduced body text
- Greater emphasis on clean design with respect to white-space
- Telling story through bold iconic imagery
- Increased Use of Title & Section Slides for improved flow
- Spanning key messages across multiple pages for greater memory retention
Under the hood of PowerPoint
The PowerPoint Training workshop also gets “under the hood” of PowerPoint, demonstrating technical strategies, and lesser-known features of the program including:
- Use of Keyboard shortcuts control keys
- Development of Themes, Masters, and Layouts
- Customization of PowerPoint ribbon and shortcuts
- Resources for finding graphics and digital content
- Improved development efficiency and better time management
Training that sticks
Most students will they forget the majority of training material. But for students at The Presentation Team’s Advanced Training Workshops, their training is long-lasting. Beyond a program that’s fun and memorable, the classes apply easy-to-recall techniques. Additionally, students have the full 500-page training program to review long after the course. And every engagement comes with a several coaching calls. Clients can check-in to sharpen their skills or gain feedback on a presentation up to one-year after their training.
Kevin Lerner is burning the midnight oil, working at 12am to customize a training curriculum for an upcoming class. He says the preparation has gotten easier, but he still spends time preparing each training workshop for his clients. He says he’s proud of his accomplishments, and has great visions for the future of The Presentation Team. But his happiness for now, he says, is in the joy he brings to his clients helping them do their job better through great presentation skills and design.
1 Indezine Issue 22
Dating guru Evan Marc Katz hires The Presentation Team to create a dynamic 150 page webinar presentation to launch his new dating program, Love U.
150-page presentation developed in 7 days; re-worked from previous design agency.
When Evan Marc Katz called, he was in a panic. “My webinar is in less than a week and the PowerPoint is awful.”
Yes it was. “This is not me!” he insisted. His presentation- created by a low-cost overseas design agency- was littered with formatting inconsistencies, low-resolution clip art, and over 400-pages of bland bullets and spelling errors. I reviewed his website, asked a few clarifying questions, pitched an agreeable price, and got to work on creating a fresh presentation focused on helping him launch his new Love U web-based dating service.
Evan Marc Katz is a modern-day pricing charming, helping deliver dream-men to women through sage advice, inspirational messages, and modern-day magic. With a long-list of recommendations, accolades, and online following, his track record and reputation is respected in the dating circles. But these days, Katz is in high demand. So he worked with colleagues over the past year to create Love U, a self-paced romance/dating training system. Katz promises that- if followed- Love U will help deliver the “man of your dreams.”
Design to match the brand with a fresh, friendly, and warm image
Katz is proud and protective of his brand. Before starting the presentation, we created a template reflective of his image, including fonts, colors, and graphical elements all used in his existing marketing material. In addition to sharing screen shots of his colorful Love U website, we designed the presentation to display data through a series of techniques:
- Healthy white space between bullets and objects; at least 1″ margins on left and right.
- Where possible, words and companies replaced with icons and logos.
- Freestanding elements integrated into rectangles for unity and visualized grouping.
- Hair-thin skinny lines replaced with heavier lines for visual prominence.
- Section slides added to create improved flow and comprehension to message.
The 10 colors of the template Theme included 4 shades of purple (light to dark), plus the 3 colors of Love U’s logo; teal, white, and black. It may seem limited, but the colors created unity and consistency through the presentation.
The background was a light-to-medium-light-grey texture to give depth and dimension from the original flat-white background.
And the fonts were defined in the Slide Theme as Oswald (for Headings) and Open Sans (for body). These fonts projected a level of conservative strength, level of unique freshness, and effectiveness for easy viewing in webinars.
Reduced text + screen shots for supporting information.
Like most great presenters, Katz knew that he is the start of his presentation…not his PowerPoint. So we worked to reduce the text-heavy bullets, and emphasize key words of action and benefits. His first live presentation had several hundred atendees. After the second live webcast presentation, Katz recorded the 60-minute program for on-demand playback.
A Call to Action
Like most great sales pros, Evan wastes no time in asking for the order. A good portion of the presentation was spent showcasing the benefits of his Love U program, as well as encouraging participants to take action.
Evan Marc Katz’ Love U presentation is a case study in balancing creative presentation design and clear content with efficient development. Time and costs were controlled, but everyone worked efficiently within the scope to meet the needs and create a dynamic presentation…that’s online now and helping women to find true love.
Strategies for keeping time and costs down and working more efficiently on PowerPoint presentations. Great for freelancers and outside agencies.
If you’re concerned that your presentation will take too much time or energy to create, here are some strategies for keeping time and costs contained and working more efficiently.
Often a designer or presentation design firm will be open to price negotiation, especially on a new project in order to win your business.
Aim to work toward a middle-ground that’s fair to your budget, yet respectful of the designer’s time and outside costs.
Some designers will even work on traded services. It’s rare that I do this, but several years ago, I designed a narrated video and PowerPoint presentation for a cruise affiliate. My compensation: A free cruise for two to Alaska.
#2: Do some of the work in-house or on your own.
By doing the initial layout or first draft of the presentation, you can save a lot of time and money on revisions or edits with a Presentation Designer.
Or, if you’re stuck, call the presentation designer for some ideas and strategies. Some of the more experienced presentation experts can listen your goals, and within a few minutes have several inspiring ideas for you to run with.
After you have the core concepts and outline, then turn to the presentation specialists to assist with the complex graphics, template, and hard-stuff.
Updating or redesigning a basic presentation is much more cost effective than hiring someone to do it all from the start.
#3: Build a library of presentation visuals and stock images.
There’s no need to design that chart again. Chances are, you’ve done something like it before.
Where relevant, you can copy and paste and just update the info.
And just because you used that icon or graphic in another presentation, doesn’t mean you can’t use it again.
Share your work- or work that you’ve seen and would like to emulate- with your presentation designers.
#4: Be clear in your communications.
Many presentation projects take extra time because the scope of the project changes.
Do your best to explain- or document – what you need, from the beginning to avoid costly edits and “Scope Creep.“
Ask your presentation professional if the information you’re sharing is making sense. Have him/her echo your concept and strategy. On big projects, a project workplan created by your presentation designer is a good way to ensure a clearly-understood gameplan.
Be a good manager, but not a control queen.
Working together with your presentation specialist can be the most efficient way to produce a presentation.
Your presentation specialist may provide ideas and insight to make your presentation even better and refined.
Also, revisions made on-the-fly (in-person or via WebEx conference call) are much faster than writing and emailing notes.