Posts Tagged ‘speeches’


Achieving Greatness Through Quotations

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.”

Brendan Francis

quotation-markQuotations 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.”

Quotation_Marks_on_Glass_DoorQuotations 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:

  1. They add dimension and richness to a speech, injecting your talk with a unique perspective, refreshingly different from your standard speaking style.
  2. They show your talk has been well-researched…not just something quickly crafted and rattled off the tip of your tongue.
  3. They add credibility to you and your talk, especially if you’re quoting a well-known and admired historical figure.
  4. 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.

Quotations-Qs“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”

“Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.”
Samuel Johnson

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.

Leonard-Bernstein-West-Side-StoryComposer 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.”
Leonard Bernstein

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.

IM - Steve Jobs died

Steve Jobs’ Presentation Power

One person’s perspective on the life of Steve Jobs.  And how his simple presentations style changed the way we communicate.

Watch this as a YouTube video presentation

IM - Steve Jobs diedI was walking in the neighborhood where I live in Delray Beach Florida this past Wednesday around 8:30pm Wednesday Night when I got a text message from my partner Rudy. “Steve Jobs passed away.”

Wow. I stopped my walk and paused and as I looked at the message on my iPhone I realized that I was reading of the death of the very inventor of my phone and a revolutionary in communications.

Steve had an Simplicity and Elegance.

From his products to his presentations, he worked hard to make everything…easy.

Steve Jobs giving a presentation on stage

From the first Apple computer to the MacIntosh…to the iPod, iPhone, IPad, and the first computer animated movie, Jobs revolutionized technology. Making it personal and personable.

He presented to the common person like a common person. But Steve Jobs’ impact on the world extended well-beyond his role as an inventor…but as a communicator. A world class presenter. But first, let me share a bit about my history with Steve Jobs and how his Apple inventions have impacted our world!


I was introduced to Apple computers in 1983.

Kevin Lerner in Middle School9th grade – 13 years old, I worked with an elite group of young geeky middle school kids in Mr. Zatrock’s computer class. Some of us were Apple fans. The more serious kids and programmers hailed the IBM PC as the computer of the future. Like most geeky teens, I decorated my room with geeky guy stuff…including my Apple ][e. I loved connecting with my computer friends online through my 1200 baud modem on Compuserve.

The Apple Mac: Too Simple!

First Apple Macintosh - Too Simple!In 1984 the Apple Macintosh burst onto the stage. Most praised it as a computer for the common person. Simple and easy. But to me, and many of my computer friends, we felt it was too basic. Like a toy.

Straying from Apple to seek power with Windows

Kevin Lerner working with Windows instead of MacAnd so I strayed from Apple. And found my niche with Windows. Even to this day, I still feel more comfortable, and in control, with the Operating System pioneered by Bill Gates. With the features of Windows, I felt like a power user, able to get under the hood and tinker wtih the computer to create anything.

But one of the prime reasons I worked in Windows was a presentation program called PowerPoint. We could easily create great looking visuals and then “print” them to 35mm slides. Plus, everyone else in the business world in the mid-90s created their presentations with PowerPoint in Windows! And the vast majority of computers sold today run on the Windows Operating System.

The Mac: A Clever Curiosity

Kevin and Neil at Apple StoreTo me, the Mac was a clever curiosity. But many of my friends were die-hard fans….including Neil. In 2005 we visiteda a Mac Store to get my PC to transfer files to his Mac. But despite my cynicism, the Mac was gaining prominence and presence in creative circles.

2005: Keynote makes presenting on a Mac powerful

Apple Keynote Presentation with Steve JobsBut it wasn’t until 2005 when Apple rolled out Keynote that people started to take notice of Apple as a Powerful Presentation Product. The graphics were clean and simple, providing an poetic backdrop for Steve Jobs as he gracefully presented Apple’s earnings. And people took notice.

Including Al Gore. The Former Vice President called on my friend and colleague Nancy Duarte to develop his visuals for his presentations on Global Warming. The talk became a movie and Apple’s prominence in the presentation market was solidified.

Presenting from the Palms of our Hands

Presenting from an iPhoneAnd when the iPhone was released, everyone had the power to create and deliver presentations from the palm of our hands. The iphone even serves as a remote control when playing a Keynote presentation.

Now I’m not the only person to call Steve Jobs a brilliant communicator. My colleague Carmine Gallo wrote a best-selling book in which he shared the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs. He says it’s vital that before starting to design a presentation, you should think it through, sketch it out, and brainstorm the ideas. Avoiding bullet points is also a critical component. And…practice, practice, practice. Mr. Jobs, Gallo says, would rehearse and practice for hours before any major speech.


Insights based on Steve Jobs’ presentations

Here are a few other ideas that I’ve seen over the years- not just with Steve Jobs- but with any great presenter.

Clean Simple Sentences.

You are the speaker, the center of attention. Not your words. The words are there to reinforce your messages…not as a script.

Look Common.

Steve Jobs was legendary for his common appearance…and his common speak. He dressed in a simple black turtleneck sweater, and wore every-day bluejeans. I’m not saying that professional attire is no longer in-vogue. I’m encouraging you to connect with your audience and reflect your inner persona or corporate brand.

Show it. (Rather than say it)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Stock art, video, and custom illustrations are easier than ever to find…and terrific tools to support a speech. Or call on a presentation professional. We make our money designing great graphics that support potent points.

Dream and Believe.

Your concepts and messages exist in the ethos of your mind. Presentation tools make it easier than ever to transform vision into reality. Steve Jobs knew the power of presentations…and great communications. He dared to dream and forge a fantastic future. We all have this within us. His technology and presentation skills are a gift that will live on…and allow millions of others- including you and me- to dream and believe…and reach the stars.

Watch this as a YouTube video presentation

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.

Help Me Present!


  • ADB
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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

  • “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

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    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

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