Blog Archives

Communication – diverse references

After a fun 2 days full of communication exercises and learning with IT consultants last week, I delivered the following references to the participants. Maybe there is something in here you can learn from?

General references

Basic communication

“Advanced communication”

Commercial communication

Presentation skills

Assertiveness/Stress

  • Book on “ego states”, how you build your own “story” and all things “transactional analysis psychology”: TA Today
  • 10min video on “ego states” – how your perception of the other person impacts your ability to behave in the way you want

Thanks for reading!

@dan_steer

Make Effective Tables for your Presentation – 8 Simple Tips

Too many numbers, lack of focus and bad formatting make tables impossible to understand and energy consuming for your audience. Follow these 8 simple tips to make effective tables that you can use with pride in your presentation.

 

If you need to present numbers, you may believe (like me and Gene Zelazny) that graphs and visuals are the best way to go. But if you (your company or audience) are number-hungry, maybe you’ll still need to include a table in your presentation from time-to-time.

 

But PLEASE: Don’t let it look like this…

 

Bad table formatting

 

This is the kind of table that might drive Don McMillan mad in “Death by PowerPoint” . It is bad because there is no message, there is too much data and nothing stands out.

If you insist upon including such a “raw-data” table somewhere in the appendices or giving it as a hand-out for the finance guys, then at least make it look like this:

 

raw-data table with good formatting

 

…or this, if you like a bit of colour …

 

raw-data table with good formatting - 2

 

To achieve an effective raw-data table like the ones above, consider the following 5 tips:

  • Differentiate row and table headers with different font formatting
  • Add background colouring to cells to seperate columns or distinguish headers from data
  • Put totals in a different font, or in bold
  • Use more white space to separate chunks of data
  • Make cells large enough to have some white space around the numbers

…now you have a nice raw-data table for your appendix or hand-out.

 

But if you are presenting numbers with tables as an integral part of your presentation, you cannot drown your audience with large data like the tables above. Follow these additional 3 tips to bring a clear message and focus to your numbers:

  • Identify your main message and make it the title for the table
  • Remove any irrelevant data – other numbers can always be seen in the appendix
  • Highlight anything that needs to stand out using formatting

 

Applied to the numbers in the raw-data table above, with a specific message in mind creates a table more like this:

 

good table formatting

 

So, if you want to make effective tables that you can use with pride in your presentation, concentrate on your key message, reduce useless data and bring more focus to what counts.

 

Thanks for reading!

Got any more examples? Share them please!

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5 reasons why Dan Steer and Barney Stinson are the same person, by Christophe Schmitz

During a recent presentation skills training, one of my participants suggested I was like Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother”. At the time, this meant nothing to me, as I had never seen the sitcom. 2 weeks later, I received a spontaneous email from another participant of that training, Christophe Schmitz, containing this text-based presentation…

As a side note, I’d say he learnt well 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

Presentation by Christophe Schmitz…

Hi and Welcome to this absurd “presentation”.

One well known rule to make a high impact presentation is “know your audience”. Dan spoke about this during his presentation skills training at CSC.

And what better way to know people in the audience than knowing their entertainment interests? It could be a song, a book, a movie or even a sitcom .. whatever … People like and retain such things because they recognizes themselves in it …  And it probably reflects their personality.

 

Most of Dan’s training “audience” at CSC were born in the 1980’s (except me and Dan himself). They didn’t know “Top Gun” [we will talk about this later ] but they did know “How I Met Your Mother” (HIMYM)

During training  … one of them said:

 

You know Dan, you kinda look like Barney Stinson in the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”

 

..but Dan didn’t get it. He’d never seen it. Hence this “presentation”.

 

So: Does Dan Steer look like Barney Stinson ? Let’s see…

 

 

5 REASONS WHY DAN STEER IS BARNEY STINSON

 

 

Similarity number 1: They both like tweetable messages .. and both love how the word “Awesome” sounds

 

barney stinson awesome

 

Barney Stinson once said awesome is the answer to everything (video)

What does Dan say?

Here’s just 2 excerpts from his blog

  • “Follow my blog by entering your email address… Its free and its awesome “

 

..and if you’ve ever followed Presentation Skills training with Dan, you have heard this word a hundred times!

 

 

Similarity number 2: They both have “Awesome” presentation skills

If you’ve ever seen Dan present, you know he’s great.

…but Barney Stinson elevates presentations to a religious level. For example in his insane theory called the “Ewok appreciation” he explains the only obvious reason why his girlfriend Nora couldn’t like possibly like Ewoks (video)

As a side-note:

 

 

Similarity number 3:  They both “Air graph” [*]

(*) Air graph” is to presentation, what “air guitar” is to rock ‘n roll : It’s the ability of an individual to draw graphs in the air using nothing but its fingers and arms to mime an invisible graph.

We all know Dan Steer does this regulary in training 🙂 Often in our late-night CSC training sessions, lazy-Dan would stay seated and sketch out an entire graph or model with only his hands.

..and Barney Stinson definitely has the same skill (video)

 

barney stinson air graph

 

Similarity number 4:  Awesome Synthesis capabilities

Just like Dan Steer can resume your entire presentation of 15-or-more minutes in one minute, Barney Stinson can recap the entire sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” in less than one minute (video)

Similarity number 5:  They are both huge TOP GUN fans

If you’ve never seen Barney suit-up Top Gun style, watch the video here

…and everyone knows Dan Steer’s famous iPhone ring: “Top Gun Anthem Instrumental”

As I said in the introduction, movie interests can tell you a lot about people’s personalities 🙂

And so, to end this “presentation” (as Dan told us to), let’s summarize the 5 similarities:

  1. Tweetable awesome expressions
  2. Awesome presentation skills
  3. Awesome air graphs  !
  4. Awesome synthesis capabilities
  5. Awesome TOP Gun passion

In conclusion… Dan Steer and Barney Stinson are the same person !

And that is why knowing your audience entertainment interests can be of major importance

Thank you for your attention

Christophe Schmitz

 

 

ps from DAN: When I read this post, I thought I must check out HIMYM and I’m hooked. Thank you Christophe 🙂 Barney IS awesome 🙂

4 personal memories of Bob De Groof

Tomorrow the Belgian media and learning world will say goodbye to Bob De Groof, deceased earlier this week. Much has been shared and said about Bob this week via Twitter and at the end of this post, I will direct you to those “in memoriams”. If you knew Bob, I invite you to think of him tomorrow morning and if you want to know how I knew him, read on…

 

Read the 2005 article “Wie is Bob De Groof?” from De Standaard  and you will see that by the time I was watching Star Wars for the first time, Bob had already done so much as a media-man in Belgium. I can’t add anything to his career notes, as I simply don’t know enough. I just wanted to share 4 of my own Bob stories, to share what Bob means to me. These stories remind me of an inspiration, an industry standard and one of the world’s last true gentlemen.

 

Bob is an early morning chat about what’s important in life, about following your dreams.

I first met Bob in 2006 at Logica, when I hired his “Presentation Skills” training services with Kluwer. As “Training and Development Manager” of that company, I was looking for the highest standard of trainer to help the top managers in the company to improve their ability to pitch, tell a story and sell a solution. Enter Bob. At 7.30am.

Aside from me and Bob, no-one was generally around at that time in the office, so we got to chatting. (Don’t tell my ex-boss!). In fact, every time Bob would come to Logica, we would spend about an hour before the working day waxing lyrical about everything from the day’s news to my kids or his, travel or everyday stuff. One day, I told him I wanted to be a “Presentation Skills” trainer myself and he encouraged me to follow my professional dreams. If I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing, I should change it. Simple as that. Extremely polite and “correct” in his speech, I found in Bob a certain “direct authority” combined with the kind of objective but caring friendliness you might expect from a favourite uncle.

Bob is one of 3 or 4 people that really inspired me to make the decision to go it alone and do my thing. I’m very grateful.

 

Bob will always be THE standard. The point of reference for excellence in his domain.

At the end of the very first training Bob delivered at Logica, 2 of the manager/participants came to see me. I was worried. Had I made a mistake? Did Barbara Verscheuren sell me a dud? Far from it! They came to tell me that it was amazing to have such a trainer. “How could one man have SO MUCH experience to share?” Despite their years of pitching business, Bob was able to bring real value and improve their presentations. He was a master in “Presentation Skills”.

Jump forward to 2010: Kluwer asked me to pick up some of Bob’s training. What a compliment! I remember telling my wife that I (yes, little me!) had been asked to take over for Bob. (Yes, for Bob!!). I never pretended to be able to fill his shoes, but I was damn-well going to do my best to fly his flag high! I still am.

 

Bob makes you feel good about being whatever you are.

That’s a rare talent, I think. I do know one other person who comes close, but its still rare. When I was with Bob, I felt like I was the most important person in the world. Not because I was, but because he made me feel like I was. I don’t know if he consciously made an effort to find and tap-into the things that made people tick, if he knew he did it and did it on purpose, or if that’s just Bob. But it was the same everytime.

In particular, I remember one evening where all the Kluwer trainers got together on a barge in Leuven for a cooking party. As I left the boat, I bumped into Bob and Helena Van Caekenberge from Kluwer. Seeing me, Bob announced: “Ah, the rising star of Kluwer”. Again, I went home and told my wife. What a compliment!

 

Bob makes you raise your own standards. Or wear different shoes 🙂

As I already said, Bob De Groof was an excellent trainer. You follow his course, you improve. Simple. But it doesn’t stop there..

Last year, I was invited by Kluwer to speak at their evening Trainer’s Lounge on the usage of “Social Media for Training”. I saw Bob just before, dressed (as ever) in his suit and tie. Having myself had the day off, I was dressed in what I call my “Zuckerberg plus-1” conference look of jeans, trainers and a shirt (the shirt being the “plus-1”). Having always been troubled by how one should dress for a presentation, I shared my thoughts on the topic and asked Bob what he thought. His reply was simple: “Always dress a little bit better than the audience. And at least wear a nice pair of shoes.”

I can’t say do the first part, but I definitively swapped the trainers for a good pair of shoes the very next day.

 

So that’s “my” Bob: An inspiration, THE standard, a motivator and all round smart gentleman.

If you want to share your own ideas, please comment below.

Thanks for reading.

 

If you want to read more, here’s a selection of this week’s “in memoriams’:

 

 

Connect to your audience, like Yannick Noah

Several years ago, my wife’s company invited its employees and family to “Roi Baudouin Stadium” in Brussels to see Johnny Hallyday in concert. Now, I’m not going to mention his name again, or (dare I say it in Belgium) mention how terrible that entire experience was for me. But I would like to say something about his support act, Yannick Noah.

 

Noah was a tennis player first, but now makes music. Opening for Johnny, he was wild. Hs music was full of energy and so was he. And then it happened: With his cordless microphone in hand, he jumped off the stage and ran into the crowd of 60,000 people, running around singing IN the crowd. I’ve never seen anything like it. 60,000 people and he still jumped in. It was awesome!

 

Now, I don’t think this was a pre-thought strategic move from him. i think he did this out of pure excitement. It not as if he was greeting his fans – they were there for Johnny (or because they were Belgian, or out of some kind of “wifely work obligation”). But what he did was brilliant and a good lesson for any presenter: Get in there. Be with your audience. It breaks boundaries, creates dynamism and connects you to the people you are talking to.

 

Here are a few simple ideas to try out the next time you speak in public:

  • Don’t stand in the same place all the time. If you read “What you can learn from Dora-the-Explorer about presenting” you already know that movement can reinforce presentation structure. But it can also improve audience relations. Movement will change the room dynamics, the connections you have with one or other audience member…
  • If you are presenting to a large audience (a big room, say 200 people) use whatever you can from the room layout to add dynamic movement to your presentation. If you can walk up an aisle to get closer to someone who asked a question, do it.
  • Don’t forget that movement goes up and down as well as left and right and back and forth. I like very much to squat down or perch on the edge of a table when listening to a long comment or group discussion during a presentation in a small room. I’m trying to send the message that its not about me anymore, so I get a bit more out of the way.
  • Meet people at the door. I’m sure if Yannick Noah could have shaken hands with the 60,000, he would have. The last time I spoke at a conference as part of Epsilon2012, I shook hands with every one of the 200-odd people coming into the room, looked them in the eye and thanked them for coming. Get in contact with your audience!

 

Almost every presentation you never see is either exactly the same as the last one, or a minor upgrade in terms of performance. Try these tips to make a mark on your audience and really connect.

 

 

i’m currently researching for more content for my e-book “Build and Deliver Awesome Presentations”. What else should I include? Please leave me a comment with ideas…

 

 

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A few of my favourite posts for today’s new visitors

If you’ve just read Juana Lloren’s “Inside L+D” emailing to the ASTD Learning and Development Community, thank you for clicking on my name.

Wondering why she says I’m a “just a really good writer” (me too!)? Or interested to see a little more about from that wide variety of L+D posts? Have a look around or subscribe via the menu on the right.

In this short post, I’ve collected some of the more popular resources I think might be interesting to new visitors… Some of my favourites too.

 

L+D general resources

 

Social Media for Learning

 

Gamification

 

Prezi, presentation and communication skills

 

(Self) Leadership Resources

 

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to share…

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Leave a comment below…

 

 

Turn horrible text driven PowerPoint slides into awesome big bold visual messages

During Presentation Skills training, we learn all about the 4 pillars of an effective presentation: Message, Structure, Content and Style. In content and style, we also look at how visual supports are used to support and message and speech: What would be the minimum effective dose when it comes to discussing a certain topic? Is a chart a better way of showing growth than a table? Should I add some images to my PowerPoint? And what kind of visual style should I use?

In my other post “9 PowerPoint Essentials for Real Business People”, I listed some very simple pointers for fixing PowerPoint slides. In this post, I develop one PPT slide example to show how we can turn bad text-driven slides into awesome big bold visual messages…

 

First, let’s look at the original slide in question:

1

This slide comes from a PPT deck in support of a presentation explaining how a particular bandage is better than another. One of the primary reasons is because this bandage doesn’t hurt when being taken off an abrasion-injury…

 

What’s wrong with this slide?

If you appreciate the 9 PPT Guidelines then its clear:

  • There’s too much text
  • The title is bad
  • The colour contrast is not effective
  • Its not very visual

 

Let’s see what we can do. First, to get to the minimum effective dose of text, take out anything that doesn’t have power (that’s why they call it PowerPoint, after all!):

  • Look for what words carry the structural and content “weight”
  • Take out useless prepositions (if, by, and, of…) and articles (a, the, an…)

 

You might end up with something like this…

2

That’s already a lot better!

 

One the ideas I like a lot about PowerPoint is Vinod Kholsa’s 5 second rule – if you can’t tell what a slide is about in 5 seconds, then its not good enough. A good next step to helping solve that is to add a message-driven title that actually says something. Try this:

 

3

..now, in the context of the greater presentation, we know immediately what this slide is about. What next?

 

Personally, I think a better colour contrast on PowerPoint slides makes a big difference to how physically easy it is to look at something and how aesthetically pleasing it can be. Keep the following in mind:

  • Contrast is important to create good easy readability: Be sure to have light on dark or vice-versa
  • Your eye will focus on whatever is brightest. This means that a bright white background is going to get all your attention… that is tiring and leads to headache. Better to have a dark background…
  • …but if you do that, bear in mind that your printing costs will be higher. Consider having a dark-background for the wall and a white background for the handout.

 

Here is the new improved contrast version:

4

…immediately much better. Of course, don’t forget to customise your colours to suit the company branding, or your marketing guys will be really unhappy !

 

OK – its getting better. We are close to the minimum (maybe…) but its not very visual. A visual slide will work much better for the majority of people.

Here’s some basic guidelines for getting visual:

  • Avoid old boring dodgy clipart – we’ve all seen it all before and it doesn’t make you look clever!
  • Don’t draw things yourself unless you want to be “quirky” (like I did here) or you’re a really good artist
  • Don’t opt for the first results you find in Google – chances are everyone else already used that as well
  • Make sure your images are high quality – use the “other sizes” link bottom-right underneath Google thumbnail images to find better quality pictures
  • If you are going to steal copyright (which I know you wouldn’t do…), don’t take the image with a watermark for copyright on it. It just looks lazy.
  • If you are talking about numbers, pimp your table (blog-post to follow), use one of the right 4 chart types (blog post also to follow) or maybe even consider just showing an image which tells the story without reverting to numbers (you can put the numbers in a handout)

 

In this slide, the presenter added in an image that really shows you what he means by abrasions:

5

…but he kind of just slapped it on there without thinking. #Fail

 

Where should you put images when there is text on the slide?

Answer = left of the text block. Why? Its simple, because it lines up more nicely to the text block, like here:

6

 

Now, there are exceptions to this rule and the above example is not finished yet, so bear with me…

If you have text which is justified to the right, then of course you could line your image up better on the right. And if you have just a few bullet points that can be creatively placed to line up better, go for it. Click here to see one of my own examples.

 

In the slide above, the image is in the right place, but it is not looking beautiful yet. I think it would be much better to increase the size of the image to match with the size of the text block, like here:

7

 

Personally, I think we’ve come a long way from our original text-driven slide. We have gotten rid of a load of text, we’ve made more contrast and added a message-driven image, which is in the right place. Some people would stop here and depending on your style, that might be the right choice.

 

But personally, in terms of minimum effective dose (within the greater framework of the entire PPT) we can do a lot better.

First, let’s get bold with that image:

8

Hurts to look at? It should! That’s the point!

 

..but hang on a minute: The text says that an example of an abrasion is road-rash or something you get from sports + play, that’s its a superficial wound, that it hurts and that its prone to infection. Doesn’t the image already say all that? Wouldn’t the following do just the same?

9

For some people, this is too much. For me, it really is the minimum effective dose. For me, its an awesome big bold visual message.

 

The advantages of awesome big bold visual messages are many:

  • It will be understood more quickly by the majority of people
  • It will stick in people’s heads a little bit longer (certainly in THIS example!)
  • It will oblige you to talk around your point instead of reading from the slide
  • People will think you are awesome 🙂

 

Thanks for reading – I hope this helped

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Have fun

Happy Christmas 🙂

 

 

Presentation Skills training with @dan_steer 21st and 28th March 2013

If you want to learn how to architect and deliver awesome presentations, join me in Brussels for the this training. Read on for more information…

..but if you just want to keep self learning, skip to the references at the end of this blog. There’s a lot of great content!

 

Training, 21st and 28th March 2013 – What’s In It For Me?

  • Improve your presentation messages in order to better inform and convince your audience
  • Be able to efficiently build a presentation that creates maximum attention, understanding and recall
  • Learn about the 4 pillars of an effective presentation: Message, Structure, Content and Style
  • Boost confidence and fluidity …even when facing audiences of different types
  • Be able to confidently deal with whatever comes your way during your presentation… (Questions ? “Difficult people”, experts in the room.. “Blank faces staring back at me”)

 

Practical information

  • To book a place, contact me by email mail @ dansteer.com or call 0472-36226
  • Dates = March 21st and 28th 2013, from 9am to 5pm each day
  • Location = Brussels
  • Language = English
  • Small group – max. 5 participants
  • Everyone will present several times
  • ½ day trainer-led start = assess current approach vs. best practice with specific exercises
  • 1½ days participant led learning = starting from your presentation(s), you receive complete constructive feedback and relevant techniques to improve your performance regarding the 4 pillars of an effective presentation
  • Participant pack includes: USB with filmed presentations, workbook, copy of “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo, after-training email with all specific learning points + additional references
  • Pre-work includes:
    • Survey of current competence, experience + expectations
    • Share thoughts on keys to effective presentation via wallwisher.com
    • Invitation to join LinkedIn group to meet other participants prior to day1
  • Investment = 1100euros HTVA per participant

If you know someone who can profit from this training, please feel free to share the link.

Thanks in advance..

D

 

..now, for those of you who wanted references to keep on self-learning:

Have fun!

 

 

Storytelling increases recall

I received this email yesterday, spontaneously, from a Presentation Skills training participant. We had discussed the power of storytelling, including how it increases recall… For more on this topic, follow this link

 

Dan,

 

I couldn’t find your business card straight away for your email address so I picked this one up at your website.

You challenged each of us at your training to remember your bee story. I don’t remember it completely but I do remember the moral of the proactive bee story. If they would’ve carried bags as the proactive bee wanted, they could have been more efficient in their harvest, meaning that proactivity could lead to improvement.

 

 

 

 

Make a presentation in 5 steps: Overview

Trainees sometimes ask me: “What is the most efficient way to make a presentation?” Follow these 5 steps and you will know the answer… Objective, Audience, Message, Structure, Content !

 

The pages linked above outline what to do at each step – follow the links and follow the instructions and you will be able to make a great presentation.

Don’t cheat on these steps. The next time someone asks you to make a presentation, just follow one at a time… Don’t go adapting previous presentations and PPT documents you have already made, start from scratch…

 

…and even if you prefer other ways to make your presentation, you will still need to deal with 5 basic steps. I can tell you now that the most efficient way is not opening PPT and just getting started on your visual support! Design your presentation first!

NOTE: This is not about making nice PPT documents, but building the whole presentation. PPT is referenced in the entry on building content…

 

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me: mail@dansteer.com

If you have comments, add them.

And if you want more ideas, follow me on Twitter of subscribe to this blog by entering your email address above/right…