Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Lerner’

Sick of Speaking

Sick of Speaking: PowerPoint Training Turns Terrible


Senior EVP and presentation trainer exchange Flu Virus during coaching

Sick of Speaking

Call it coincidence.  My Thursday afternoon appointment with Dr. Wong had been on my calendar for months.  Just a routine checkup the young physician liked me to have…as a requirement to renewing my asthma inhalers.  Now I’d conveniently have him quickly restore my voice, now barely a loud whisper following two days of focused presentation coaching and training.  

So when the good doctor told me that I had The Flu, I could barely believe it.  He counseled me, reassuring me the Tamiflu he was prescribing would be helpful since we caught it early.  I went home and proceeded to descend into two of my grimmest weeks, as the virus tightened its grip.  But not before I picked up the phone to call my client with a message of warning and concern over this surprising and grim news.

My most prominent client to-date

Kevin & GE Executives at TrainingTwo days earlier, I had been coaching and collaborating with a Senior Vice President of General Electric Healthcare.  He and his senior business analyst colleague, a charming younger woman in her 30s had traveled from Chicago to my Washington DC-area office on a mission to improve their presentations.  He was the most prominent executive I had ever worked with; finding time on his busy schedule took weeks of planning and scheduling.  

We greeted each other on Tuesday morning with a warm and gracious welcome, toured our office, chatted about the weather, and then settled in the conference room to get started on creating magnificent PowerPoint slides.  I shared ideas and strategies on how to improve their charts, create focused headlines, and working more effectively with Master Slides for greater efficiency.  They ate it up.

The VP emanated brilliance; his questions were targeted and relevant.  As we all worked, he multitasked, responding to emails and texts, yet maintaining a sharp focus on our training.  

The obvious warning

We should have seen it coming.  Or at least he should have; he himself was an esteemed medical doctor.  By the middle of our first day of training, my voice was turning hoarse.  I struggled increasingly for my small audience to hear my words of presentation wisdom.  

They both commented on the immense value and depth of information.  And we all mentioned on how we felt tired.  The older man and I also mentioned that we felt warm; we were both starting to break a sweat.  By 5pm, my voice was almost gone.  I rattled out how great they were doing, and we broke for the day with a satisfied sense of accomplishment.

I returned home for a silent evening of sipping hot tea and honey.  Simple laryngitis, I thought.

The second day we returned. More in-depth presentation training, collaborative PowerPoint design and coaching.  They commented how this will transform the way GE does its presentations.  My typical high-energy style was more subdued.  The woman commented how we both looked pale.  The older man listened and worked, with an increased level sneezing and wheezing.  My voice was softening and I struggled to stay professional and focused.  The man and I joked that we’re “getting sick of this!” as our energy steadily diminished.  

The woman, later priding herself on her daily intake of vitamins and health elixirs, just sat on the sidelines watching us slowly slide into sickness.  

By the middle of Day-Two my voice had all but disappeared.  I shared a few more techniques, and then encouraged my two clients to apply the techniques to improve their PowerPoint presentations, as I acted as a mute one-on-one coach.  By noon, their presentations looked amazing.  Feeling tired and filled with valuable information, we all decided to wrap-up early.  They caught their flight back to Chicago, and I made the short drive back home.  

It’s hard to conduct business and training without a voice.  So I fell asleep early, around 7pm, confident my doctor would cure my laryntitis in the morning.

Worse than I thought

Doctor delivering news of fluThe next morning, I whispered my story to Dr. Wong.  “I fried my vocal chords from two days of speaking!”  

The doctor suggested I take a Flu Test.  I scoffed.  But I willingly complied, as he gagged me with a half-foot skinny swab down my throat.  

While I waited for my results, my phone chimed with an email from my younger GE client, thanking me for the great training, and sharing how her presentations are already looking better.

Doctor Wong returned.  “I have some bad news,” the doctor shared. “You have The Flu.”

Where or how I got this nasty bug it isn’t clear.  I can blame the GE guy.  He can blame me.  I feel I did a good deed by warning them of my diagnosis and encouraging them to seek treatment.  For two of us it was too late; he and I descended into a deep and dark convalescence.  

For me, my work came to a grinding halt, made even more grim by the cold, dark, and snow of a wintery January. My voice- and health- steadily recovered throughout late January and February.  The GE guy also took off several days.  

The GE team and I can now look back with relief, and the knowledge that these two days of PowerPoint training could help us make one terrific presentation about our shared experience.  But that’s the past. It’s now time to focus on presentations about a bright bold future.  Spring Forward.

Short! Keeping Presentations Brief


The increasing trend toward succinct and brief writing

Is brevitity beneficial or is it dulling our dendrites?

Short. It’s the new in thing. Blogs. Tweets. iPad. YouTube. Facebook. HLN. Push to start. Short and simple tidbits of info in easy-to-digest sizes. But is this brevity beneficial? Or is it dulling our dendrites?

Twenty years ago, I was college student writing for the Independent Florida Alligator in Gainesville. One of my articles was about human rights issues at the community college. My first draft contained flowing writing, interviews, and hard-hitting research. The editor rejected it. He said it was too short. Nowadays, if you can even find a newspaper reader, chances are they want their news short. In an article on Forbes.com, Alan Jacobson- a newspaper design specialist shared that readers “don’t want more. They want less.”

A 2007 survey discovered an average 55 word decline in the length of an average 720 word news story…That’s over a 7.5% reduction in length.

But it’s more than news articles. When websites first appeared in the mid 1990s, most articles were crammed with wordy comprehensive mini-novels of text. Nowadays, the sites that get the most visibility are easy on the eye and light on the text.

People lead busy lives. They don’t want the stories. What’s your point and what’s in it for me?

My mother says, “I don’t have time, interest, or patience, in reading long emails,” and adds that Toastmasters is a great venue for helping people to get to the point.

To that point, technology has been a great guide for brevity. Text messaging on the cell phone has invented a new lexicon of acronyms, symbols and abbreviations.

Facebook and its 1.5 Billion users are constrained to their communications in a 512 character window.

Twitter is even more rigid. Just 140 characters to say what’s happening. The New York Times claims that Twitter has “fundamentally transformed the nature of news.”

At first, I didn’t get it. When these micro-blogging tools first appeared, I had lots of trouble fitting my thoughts into a box of just 140 characters. Or even figuring out anyone would want to! I like my writings to be flowing and articulate, infused with vibrant adjectives, tangential stories, and a creative richness made possible by a wonderful language.

But…over time I began to discover how – from a website and marketing perspective – shorter is better. It allows us to trim the fat from the story. “Just the facts, ma’am”

The late great author Ernest Hemingway was regarded as a master of simplicity. Hemingway was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with flowery adjectives and got straight to the point. One of Hemmingway’s finest demonstrations of his short sentence prowess was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words. Anyone know what he came up with?

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

Hemmingway was a trailblazer for today’s bloggers and new media writers. I’m sure he would have fit right in with today’s tweeters and one-liners.

Yes, this focus toward simplicity is helping us to cut the fat away from the story and get to the point. But, in our push to say more with less, are we actually getting more? Is this shift toward shortness and brevity a good thing?

The lonely adverb, minimally applied. The colorful adjective…often too bulky for a text message. Our richly textured language, stories, and colorful anecdotes, all swept aside by the mass media of minimalism.

The fact that people – including myself – don’t want to take the time to read a lengthy article – or spend an afternoon watching a classic 3 hour long movie – is a testament to our love affair with short things. Simple, short, and to the point. Our texting…the younger generation’s short quips and retorts born out of an effort to consolidate their comments – can be heartless and cold. The media embraces it.

The TV show Glee is pampered with snappy retorts and one-liners that may be numbing our brains…dulling our dendrites, and cooling our true human spirit and interaction.

My point here is that our language- our culture- is shifting solidly toward “verbal conservation.” Whether or not this proves valuable for human communication and interaction in years to come remains to be seen.

Yes. Short’s in. At 5-foot-4; I think short’s better. Conscious or not, people look at me and think “Kevin is the short guy.” I stand out. But I only stand out because I’m outside the average height. If everyone was short – if everything was short – and abbreviated – nothing would stand out.

Perhaps the 18th century clergyman Hosea Ballou summed it up best with these words of caution. “Never be so brief as to become obscure.”

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  • ADB
  • ADP
  • ADT
  • Accenture
  • American-Express
  • Aramark
  • Carvel
  • Comcast
  • Costa
  • Cox
  • DAI
  • GE-Healthcare
  • GTE-Financial
  • Gtt
  • Johnson-and-Johnson
  • Markem-Imaje
  • Motorola
  • NASA
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  • Oracle
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  • Whirlpool
  • “We engaged The Presentation Team to do a Presentation training for our team and he did a great job. He spent time understanding our requirements and the skill level of our team members and created a course which met our expectations and goals. I highly recommend The Presentation Team as a Presentation (PowerPoint) trainer.”

    Navdeep Sidhu
    Senior Director, Software AG

  • “Kevin Lerner provided best-in-class services when hired to work on promotional materials for the launch of a key product at Motorola. The expertise and quality that he brought to the project were second to none and as a result, he delivered a top-notch presentation that was quickly adopted throughout the organization. Kevin is great to work with, delivers on time, is a great team player and is always willing to go the extra mile.”

    Maria Cardoso
    Motorola

  • “Kevin has been a working with Cox Communications to deliver world-class PowerPoint presentation visuals since 2009. His ability to meet our specific needs, timeframe, and budgets has been exceptional. His professional interaction with our team reflects his deep expertise in the industry, superior presentation design skills, and commitment to superior service.”

    Jonathan Freeland
    VP, Video Marketing at Cox Communications

  • “Kevin is an enthusiastic, creative, and passionate presentation guru. Our company was impressed and felt the value of his training in 2013 that he was invited again recently to again share his knowledge. Both times he has been energetic and addressed many areas for presentation development. From planning to follow-up Kevin is personable and easygoing, motivating our teams to take their presentations to the next level.”

    Yoshimi Kawashima
    Project Coordinator, Nissin International

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from tips & tricks to aesthetics, all with the intent of getting the message across crisply and creatively. I’ve already received praise for decks that incorporate the skills obtained from his training. I highly recommend Kevin’s services.”

    Era Prakash
    General Electric

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from “The PowerPresentations seminar opened my eyes to all the limitless possibilities in presenting.”

    Leah Gordillo
    Saint Francis Medical Center

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from “[Kevin and The Presentation Team have] always delivered 110% in terms of meeting our objectives for finished product and budget”

    Paul Price
    Watsco Corp.

  • “I had more people come up to me after I spoke, commenting on the visuals you created, than I did on the subject matter!”

    Andy Smith
    Smith & Robb Advertising

  • “As a Fortune 1000 company, we sought to produce a classy, yet conservative presentation for our shareholders. It was evident that you and your team listened to our thoughts as you developed the presentation…”

    Will Flower
    Republic Services

  • “Your expertise in the filed of PowerPoint and general presentation techniques helped elevate us to the level necessary to beat the competition.”

    Mike Geary
    James Pirtle Construction

  • “Kevin brought a high level of creativity, enthusiasm, and deep multmedia experience to our team. He worked dillegently with the team to produce an outstanding proposal which we subsequently won.

    Jeff Keller
    Accenture/L3

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