Discover how quotations can add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority…and open new doors to your speech and writings.
“A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.”
Quotations have always fascinated me. As a child, I spent hours upon hours reading my parent’s copy of the Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. It gave me insights and intrigue. Words from famous people I had only heard or read about in school.
George Washington: “It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
Or Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”
So when I was called on recently at a Toastmasters Meeting to deliver an improvisational talk about dealing with the good and bad of life, I was prepared with a clever quote. Or so I thought. The “Tabletopics Master” singled me out to address “the meaning of life.” I boldly stood and delivered a meaningful message from memory.
“The tragedy of life is not that we wait so long to begin it but that we wait…” No.
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but we begin it too late…” No.
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” Yes!
Yes, three times to deliver those simple words, and by the time the correct quote trickled off my tongue, the meaning was lost. Everyone was focused on how I was saying it than what I was saying.
I believe quotations are the icing on a cake for a good talk. Great leaders, politicians, businesspeople, and entertainers, weave them into their words. Indeed, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Quotations add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority. Research and insight. They can open new doors to your speech. And these quotations need not be only words by famous people. They can be lines from movies. Lyrics from songs. Quotes from poems. Statistics from studies.
“In the magazine Science, it was reported last year nearly 45,000 people died in auto collisions, the equivalent of a fully loaded passenger jet crashing with no survivors every day for a year. If everyone wore seat belts, more than half of these deaths could have been avoided.”
This is a jarring statistic! And notice the imagery used in conjunction with the statistics. If properly assembled and presented, statistics and quotations can be powerful verbal tools. Quotes add meat to a speech or article in many ways. Here are four:
- They add dimension and richness to a speech, injecting your talk with a unique perspective, refreshingly different from your standard speaking style.
- They show your talk has been well-researched…not just something quickly crafted and rattled off the tip of your tongue.
- They add credibility to you and your talk, especially if you’re quoting a well-known and admired historical figure.
- They reduce the amount of individual creativity you – as a writer – need to create. This article is only 66% my own content; the other 33% is only borrowed.
Combine the words “wise old man,” and the images of a bearded sage speaking softly to a young man comes to mind, offering words of wisdom.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”
“Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.”
This is not to say that quotations are not universally adored and treasured. When asked about the impact of quotes in writing and speaking, Ralph Waldo Emerson rattled, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
W. Somerset Maugham was a bit more biting:
“She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.”
Quotes resurrect a person, place, or time. And as speakers or presenters, we should strive to frame them in their original context. Act them out, put them in an overly dramaticized style. Amplified accents. Distinct delivery. If you’re using visuals or a PowerPoint, put the quote on screen, along with the attributed person’s photo, name, and lifespan.
Perhaps my strongest point about using quotes in speeches is that they should be well-rehearsed. Memorized. Prepared and in-context. I would love to be able to just rattle-off quotes like wise leaders like Winston Churchill or Bill Clinton. Or snappy comebacks like some witty Hollywood comedians.
To master this craft of “quotations in speaking” takes attitude, practice and time.
You can find thousands of quotes on attitude. Here’s a favorite of mine by Lou Holtz: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
And on the subject of practice: “If practice makes perfect, and no one’s perfect, then why practice?”
Time and again, read these quotes, recite them. Pin them up in your office walls, see them, repeat them. Live them. The words of the leaders of the past can be reborn and requited by the leaders of today.
Composer and musician Leonard Bernstein has always an icon to me. As a child, I loved his music from West Side Story (together with Stephen Soundheim), and would sing the poetic lyrics of this popular musical from the 1950s. As I work to build my professional speaking career, and The Presentation Team, I am often kept focused and on-track by this simple single quote by Mr. Bernstein…something that we can all relate to, as we strive for greatness in our increasingly busy world. I could easily share a few personal insights on what I think it takes to achieve greatness. But isn’t it more powerful to hear words resurrected…quoted…from someone who isgreat? In the words of Leonard Bernstein:
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.
Ten Simple Tips to clean-up those boring PowerPoint slides
You’ve worked and worked on your presentation…but it still looks cluttered and ugly. Here are 10 quick and easy methods to improve busy and ugly slides, reduce on-screen clutter and improve boring boring presentations.
#1: Simply provide more breathing space.
Rather than cramming all the graphics and text items together, taking up all the available space on a slide, bring the items into the center a bit…shrink them down to a reasonable size…and provide at least 80% “white space” around the items. It creates a more clean and inviting look.
#2: Group bullets and objects into shapes (SmartArt).
Rather than having a whole page of bullets or graphics, try grouping the points into a few colorful rectangles or squares. That way, they’re psychologically percieved as a collective entity. Also, we remember graphics more readily than text, so work to find a graphic from a stock photo collection or a scanned photo that will support the bullet and make it come alive with graphics.
#3: Eliminate the template.
On slides where there’s no way around the busy-ness (like an organizational chart), simply place your graphics or text on a pure black background. Though templates are great for creating a consistent look, there’s nothing bad about deviating from it once in a while with a non-competing image to get the point across.
#4: Span Bullet Points Across Multiple Pages
It’s a good idea to limit your bullets no more than 6 per page. But this may not be practical in all cases, so rather than cram them all on a single page, split them over 2 or 3 pages. You may consider creating a separate page for each bullet point with related graphics. Though it can add many pages and take longer to develop, the fast-moving graphical pages work to maintain a strong level of interest with the audience. And don’t get worried that you’re adding so many pages to your presentation…it’s virtual! With this method, it’s not uncommon for a 30-minute presentation to have more than 90 slides.
#5: Create a video montage of your graphics.
Instead of a single page comprised of many images, edit a brief video in Google Picasa or Adobe Premiere,(or any other video editing program that imports still images), with each of the graphics moving and dissolving from one to another. Remember to include this video file if you distribute your presentation.
#6: Print Handouts for Complex Concepts
#7: Use animations to introduce text and elements.
Bringing items in one at a time helps to keep the eye focused. Take the time to add transitions and entry/exit effects to your text (dimming bullets after they’ve appeared is also effective), and they’ll flow easier on the eyes of your audience.
#8: Reduce Text, Merge Points, and Edit your text.
Bullet points should highlight key words…not showcase entire sentences or paragraphs of text. Let the speaker elaborate/expand upon each bullet point rather than having the audience read the whole speech on screen. Work to reduce your text to only the crucial information. And then work at it again.
#10: Drill-Down and Create Interactivity
By using drill-down “hiearchtical navigation,” you can navigate from a high level overview (main menu), to different sections of your presentation, with each bullet, title, or graphic, serving as a link to another page with more detailed information.
Though many of these techniques may add time to your development, it’ll pay off in the end with a more memorable and effective presentation.
Awesome Animation and Terrific Transitions make PowerPoint presentations more memorable
Don’t let your presentation go to waste by having your slides appear all at once with static items on screen. Deep within PowerPoint are features that can make your presentations jump to life. Dynamic animations, captivating transitions, and lively sound effects are all available to the savvy presentation developer. All it takes is time for preparation and a desire to push the envelope of average presentations. And more than just making the slide easier on the eyes, studies show that audiences remember information better when it is introduced progressively.
Adding animation and movement not only makes your presentation more dynamic and interesting but also more memorable. Here are 7 secret strategies for working with animation in PowerPoint:
1. Guide the eye along with animation.
Bring in each item (or groups of items) one at a time with fly/zoom animation effects to cooincide with your speech.
2. Build-in across pages.
Sometimes PowerPoint’s animation feature complicates things. By bringing in elements page-by-page you can keep the animation simple and easy. It’s like the old-fashioned way cartoons were made, page by page.
3. Where appropriate, add mild sound effects to each effect (like a whoosh or click).
Be cautious on this; sometimes sound actually detracts from a presentation.
4. Keep your transitions consistent and tame.
Just because PowerPoint has many effects doesn’t mean they all need to be used in your presentation. Don’t jump from dissolve… to wipe…to boomerang…to spiral in, etc. And don’t go crazy…avoid the randomize effect.
Introduce large blocks of text letter-by-letter with a Zoom animation and 10% delay.
The fade-in effect or dissolve works gracefully for graphics and text.
And don’t forget the basic dissolve
And simple wipe for no-nonsense displays.
5. Highlight blur or dim to draw attention
On screens that are already fully displayed/animated (or a full page graphic), use a rectangle filled with 50% yellow to simulate a highlighted block and animate it over items that you want to highlight.
6. Budget your time.
Leave enough time during development to add effects. Whether you add the effects all at once, or as you’re working on each slide, try not to get caught with having a great looking presentation without the effects to match simply because you ran out of time.
7. Build your animations in the master slides and layouts.
Animations and transitions are the icing on the cake to a presentation. They’re fun and they add sizzle, but too much (tumbles, crazy colors, etc.) can make you look like a PowerPoint novice…espeically if you’re presenting to a conservative audience. Be consistent and make sure they reflect the image of your company or audience and you’ll be making a memorable and moving presentation.