Now Presenting…Four Experts on Powerful Presentations

I’ve been giving business presentations for nearly 20 years. The more I do it, the more I appreciate just how hard it is to do it really well. Today’s blog post features four resources to help with various aspects of speaking and presenting. Please add your favorites!

Get it Together

The same ol’ same ol’ approach to designing your presentation may not be getting the results you want. Nick Morgan (@DrNickMorgan) shares 5 Quick Ways to Organize a Speech.

Nick says:

“Too many people structure their presentations by pulling together slides and then assembling them like a deck of cards, in what seems like an OK order.  That usually means that no one except the presenter can divine where the speech is headed.

“That’s a bad idea.

“At the heart of a successful presentation is a clear structure.  Which one should you use?  The best structure for what you’re trying to do depends on the nature of your talk.“

Nick then shares five possible situations in the organizational world for which you might be called upon to present, with a suggested outline for each.

Present with Presence

Sims Wyeth (@simswyeth) writes regularly about a variety of delivery techniques like pausing as a presentation skill.

Sims says:

“Taking time to think when you’re on stage makes you more interesting to watch. It gives you presence and gravitas. It fills your body with a mysterious power-electric activity under the skin.”

Who doesn’t want a little mysterious power-electric activity under the skin!

(By the way, I recently signed up for Sims’ weekly Presentation Pointers and am really enjoying them. They are brief, insightful, and usable—a great combination.)

The One “Thing” to Avoid

Patricia Fripp (@PFripp) writes about the importance of being deliberate with the words we choose in How to Sound Intelligent in a Speech or Sales Presentation.

Patricia says:

“The one thing you should always avoid when you speak is—“thing.” What a fuzzy, flabby, non-specific word! Never be vague if you want to be believed. Use exact, precise words—words with power and value.”

Yes, ma’am.

Kill the Presentation Altogether

You wouldn’t treat a job interview like a sales presentation, complete with 40-slide deck, would you? S. Anthony Iannarino (@iannarino) turns our traditional ideas of how to conduct a sales call upside down in You Think You Are Presenting. You Are Being Interviewed.

Anthony says:

“Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you absolutely must present your company using your standard slide deck and when you must share some basic history. Even then, that presentation should not dominate your time with your dream client.

“Your dream client considers you a candidate for hire. They are considering making you part of their team and giving your responsibility for some outcome. The reason they need a dialogue instead of a monologue is because they are trying to get to know you. They are trying to make a good decision.”

Goodbye presenting, hello listening.

Great Resources for Improving Your Presentations

Giving great speeches is all about combining form and content. All content and no form is boring. All form and no content is fluff.

Those who focus on form—the really good ones—respect this balance, and have created their own content around form. I’ve had the pleasure to know two: Sims Wyeth  and Patricia Fripp.  Let me introduce them to you.

Sims coaches presenters. He also sends out newsletters and articles about the craft of speaking–communiqués that are themselves little gems. They are short and to the point. But they are provocative. And they are elegant.  The messages themselves represent the marriage of form and content.  If you’re going to tell people how to communicate—then communicate that message well.

Here are two examples from Sims:

The DNA of all reasoning is the syllogism. Given A, and since B, therefore C. For instance, given "All men are mortal," and since "Socrates is a man," therefore "Socrates is mortal."

Can you use this as the structure for a presentation? I think so. You could say: Given the situation we find ourselves in (and here you describe it in detail), and since we agree that our goals are XYZ (and here you describe your goals), therefore, this is what we should do (and here you elaborate on your solution.)

See? Logic is the language of presenting.


Variety is the difference between a river and a canal. The river offers a surprise around every bend–calm pools, sounding cataracts, deep gorges, spreading fields. A canal is straight, plodding, dull.

Good presentations are like rivers; bad ones like canals. Your listeners want variety–broad truths buttressed by homely examples. Solemn purpose marbled with wit.

Variety perks things up!

Years ago, Patricia Fripp gave me a speaking structure in two days that I’ve used ever since. We should all aspire to a page of testimonials like this one of hers.

She also respected my content.  She was fully capable of grasping my content; she offered her content expertise, in service to me, as a means to support my content. 

She had her own content too.  Like Sims, the subject of her content is form. How many of the “8 Mistakes Made Using Powerpoint”  do you commit? I reviewed them tonight and found three—and I’m pretty good at this stuff!

Fripp’s business is speaking, and training others to speak. Zero content stuff? No way! Her website is loaded with topical programs, discussions, articles, videos, insights.

One tiny example: if you were interested in booking Fripp herself as a speaker, eventually it would dawn on you that you’d want to promote the event. You’d want her bio. You’d want a suggested introduction. You’d want pithy quotes; a set of sample speech topics; a sample brochure for advance promotion. And of course—it’s all there, right on her website. Because Fripp is a content pro—about the content of form.

The people I’ve met who are worldclass in what they do–Sims and Patricia in speaking, for example–do not see a “form vs. content” issue. They find the two mutually reinforcing.