30 Oct 2012

Book Review: Speaking Up without Freaking Out

Speaking up without freaking out is a special book for presenters. It talks about only one thing; how to reduce your anxiety (nervousness) before a presentation and while presenting. I received a free review copy of the book from Matt Abrahams (the author).

Matt Abrahams shares 35 techniques to help reduce your nervousness. Why so many? The assumption being you can pick up techniques which you feel apply to you.

What's inside?
The book is divided into 5 chapters.

1) What is speaking anxiety?
2) Why we feel anxious before a presentation and how to deal with it?
3) How to better remember your presentation content?
4) How to stop some self-defeating beliefs which increase your anxiety?
5) How to put all this learning together?

There is an interesting thing about the source of anxiety in this book. If you are anxious about making a presentation, it can be due to many reasons. One, you do not have the skill. Two, you have come to associate public speaking as something fearful. Three, standing in front of a crowd releases chemicals in the body and you feel afraid. Four, you do not know what a presentation actually you. You feel there is only one right way of doing it. Hence you memorise everything. You then fear you might not remember what you memorised and feel afraid. There is a solution for each type of anxiety. You first need to know why you feel anxious and then search for techniques which can help you. I will share a comprehensive summary of the major techniques in my next post.

What's good about the book?

  • 35 techniques to help you reduce presentation related nervousness. There will be many techniques which will benefit you.
  • Short book. Just 85 pages.

What could have been better?

  • The approach of the book is very academic. Parts of the book reads like a text book on anxiety.
  • There is jargon. Though the jargon has been explained in plain language, coming across jargon again and again makes it difficult.
  • There are few stories on actual people having used these techniques and got results. There could have been more stories.
If giving a presentation makes you sweat and makes you nervous, it would be a good idea to read this book. I compared its price to other books I have reviewed before and the price seems a bit premium. Rs. 745 on flipkart (India) is a bit costly for Indians. The pricing is premium in the US and the UK as well.

27 Oct 2012

4 Mistakes to avoid in your Corporate Profile Presentation

My last post was about how to go about making a corporate profile presentation. We have to start with our goal and write everything that can be shared about the company. We then eliminated not to important stuff and designed the final slides. What I did not cover in the post are the most common mistakes I have come across in most profile presentations.

#1 Focus too much on the company and too less on the audience

While it is true that the corporate profile presentation is meant to talk about the company, it does not mean you talk stuff which makes no sense to your audience. Your audience is asking itself; 'What's in it for me?'. Every slide in your presentation needs to be of use and interest to the audience. Why should they know this about you?

It is a common practice to have 'Mission, Vision and Values' in corporate profile presentations. 99% of the companies in the world have nothing unique to say here. It's all the same stuff. Every company's purpose is to enrich lives of its customers and enhance shareholder value. Every company's values are integrity, quality and innovation. Please ask yourself, what will my prospective customer benefit from knowing this? If the answer is nothing much, just keep it out of your profile. It will cause no harm to you.

#2 Lack of Credibility

Make no claims in your presentation without supporting it with evidence. Take the case of testimonials. Look at these two testimonials:

"XYZ company is a passionate group of people who have done a wonderful job for me. I recommend them to everyone." - Senior HR Manager at an Bank

"XYZ company is a passionate group of people who have done a wonderful job for me. I recommend them to everyone." - Mukesh John, HR Manager at Ceetee Bank [add person's photo]

Which one is more credible? The second one. The first testimonial was not untrue but fails to make the impact because it lacks credibility.

If you give data and statistics about your industry or market share, support it with the source. It is great if it can be validated by visiting a link which you provide. The taller the claim, the more the need for strong evidence.

#3 Lengthy Presentation

Since it is your company, you will have a lot to say. This might be fine with you but not with your audience. No one wants to sit through or view a lengthy presentation. If I send you a corporate profile presentation which is 25 slides long (and full of text), would you like to sit through everything?

Try to have no more than 10 slides. If there are some slides with only images, you might not want to count them and have 10 slides other than these in your presentation. The point is, be as crisp as you can. This is why 'thinking' is so important. Spend time figuring out how to say what's most important and skip the not-so-important stuff.

#4 One size fits all

Customisation is key. A corporate profile presentation can be made to a prospective employee, a prospective client, a government agency or a prospective business partner (advertising agency, consultants, etc.). One presentation cannot suit everyone's need.

It is better if you customise it everytime before presenting. A prospective employee will love to know your work culture but your customer would love to know what you do and why are you best at it. Prospective employees will love to hear your origin and milestones but not your legal consultant.

Open the corporate profile presentation of your company now and see if you can improve it using these tips. If you have anything to share/discuss, leave a comment. 

24 Oct 2012

7 Steps in Making your Corporate Profile Presentation

A corporate profile presentation is an introductory presentation about your company. These PPTs are generally found on company websites and are shared with prospective customers, new joinees, etc. This post describes how to make a corporate profile presentation for your company. I developed this technique recently when I was making a corporate profile presentation.


Step - 1: What is your goal and who is your audience?
Step - 2: Write down all the topics you can talk about?
Step - 3: Write down everything you want to say under each topic.
Step - 4: Group common topics together
Step - 5: Prioritise (Eliminate not-so-important topics and content under each topic)
Step - 6: Organise the flow of topics
Step - 7: Design the slides


Step - 1: Your Objective & Your Audience
The first step in making our corporate profile presentation is to understand why we are making it. What do we want to achieve and for whom are we making it. If you want to make a presentation to suit every kind of audience, then your presentation has to be very generic. A profile presentation for a prospective employee is different from a presentation for a prospective customer. Decide who is the primary target audience and tune your presentation to suit them.

Once we know, who is the main audience, we can now decide why we are making this presentation. If your profile is for prospective employee and you need to impress him/her that yours is a great place to work then focus will be more on 'culture' and 'awards and incentives'. If the same company is making it for prospective customers, the objective can be 'we deliver within time' so partner with us.

Step - 2: List down all Topics
Write down everything you want to write about in your presentation. Let the list be as long as it can be. Here are some common areas you would want to include in a profile presentation to prospective customers:

About us - Our products & services - Our specialisation - Our vision & mission - Our industry - Our offices/network - Why partner with us? - Our client list - Testimonials from clients - Milestones - Our founder - Our management team - Financial highlights - Future plans - Contact details - etc

This is the time where you can make the list as long as you can. Since we are looking at an exhaustive list, this step should be done by a group of people.

Step - 3: Generate Content under each Topic
We will now write down everything under each topic. It is better if you write down your topics on different pages of a notebook and keep writing your content as and when you can think of. Even this process is best done by a group of people (ideally from different departments of the company). Do not worry about what is important and what is not. Just keep writing whatever you can think of under each topic.

Step - 4: Grouping Common Headers
Not every header might be very different from the other. If there is something common between two headers, you might want to club them as one. For example, our services and our specialisation can be clubbed as one header 'Our services and specialisation'. Your business is social media marketing but you might be specialising in Google ads or Facebook ads. These two topics can be clubbed as one since they are related.

Step - 5: Prioritise (Edit Ruthlessly)
Editing is at the heart of any good movie and so is the case with presentations. Till now we had the liberty to write everything we wanted to. Not any more. Steps 2 and 3 ensured we miss nothing about the company. In this step we ensure we share what is crucial and throw off the rest.

This is the toughest part especially if you are the CEO or founder of the company. Your attachment with the company makes you include everything. You need a third person's view here who is not  so connected to the company. Try to include only what is really important else your presentation will be too long. You might also want to cap your presentation to say 10 to 15 slides. This will help you ensure you do not make a very long presentation.

Step - 6: Arrange the Topics in a Logical Manner
You might have 15 topics left after clubbing and elimination. You now have to arrange them logically so that it makes most sense. Who are you should come first and then a bit of detail on what you do. You then jump onto what is in it for the audience and so on.

Step - 7: Design the Slides
Step 1 to Step 6 was all on a paper (or whiteboard). Now is the time when everything is in place that the software is required. Design your slides and complete the presentation. It is better if you show it to 3 laymen (people who do not know anything about your company). Seek feedback from these people as to what they understand and remember. Modify the presentation based on their feedback. You are finally done!

If you have ever made a corporate profile presentation, I would like to hear how you went about it. If you are making a presentation now, share your doubts and questions here.


Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Oct 2012

Hosting an Event (Hello Mike Testing... Hello)

Last week I did something for the first time in my life. I was the master of ceremony at a press conference. The master of ceremony (also called emcee) is the host. The person who welcomes everyone at the start and calls upon people to speak.


This post is basically how I felt being the emcee and how I prepared for the new role.

The Preparation

Though an emcee is not a speaker at the press conference, he/she still does a lot of speaking. That is why it becomes necessary to prepare. It is the emcee who holds the entire event together and it important that the role is carried out well.


Step - 1 Flow of Events
The first thing I did was to decide the flow of events at the press conference. The flow of events was made and shared with everyone concerned. The speakers and the people backstage need to know what happens when. This is how the flow looked like:

Welcome all -> Invite the three speakers on the dais -> Introduce the speakers one by one and call them to speak -> Launching the book -> Prize distribution -> Question and Answers -> Thanks for coming

This flow was shared with others backstage. The guy who has to play music when the book is launched needs to know when to play. The guy who has to bring prizes also needs to be in sync. There is a lot of co-ordination in this job.

Step - 2 What to say? [The Script]
I wrote down what I was going to say under every item on the agenda (flow of events). I made a table in MS Word and against Welcome all I wrote down everything I wanted to say. This is what I wrote: "Welcome everyone to the XYZ's Healthy Book Launch..... Blah blah blah......................... It is a unique and innovative book...............blah blah blah."

This way I wrote down my script for every item on the agenda.

Step - 3 Practice
After writing down everything I wanted to say for each item of the agenda I started to practice. I used to do the complete dry run for the entire event. Then I would check what all I forgot. Was I missing any important point.

For example, the introduction of Speaker 2 had five things to be said about him. Was I remembering all the five?

I practised for almost 5 to 6 times. While practising I was not looking at the printed script. After the 5th time, I was very comfortable. Note that I was not cramming (mugging up) the exact lines. Every time I spoke a bit differently but I made sure I cover the important stuff. You need to be natural and yet cover things that matter.

Step - 4 Converting Script to Notes

Once I knew what I will talk about, I re-wrote my script. The same Welcome all script became a small list of bullet points. Just in case, I forget something during the event, I will quickly look at my notes. Here is the list of points:

Welcome

  • XYZ's Healthy Recipe Book Launch
  • XYZ promotes MNP
  • Unique and innovation book

This way the entire script was turned into bullet points. Why bullets? Because I can quickly glance through a list of bullet points.

Step - 5 Practice

I practised two more times just before the final event. Since the venue was full of journalists, I had to do it in the parking lot :-) I also tried out a trick. I practised the starting part a few more times so that I am very comfortable at the start. What are the first words I am going to say? Just ensure no goof-ups at the start.

Two more things

Pronunciation: During the course of my talk, I had to take names of 6 people. Out of which, one name was tricky to pronounce. I called up that person before the event and checked with her how to pronounce her name right. As an emcee, you need to take care of small things.

Posture: As a presenter I like moving around. As a host, I thought I will have a tough time standing at one place. When I was practising, I ensured I stood at one place and practised and become comfortable.

Introduction: Introducing the speaker is a major role of the emcee. Here again I gathered information about the speakers in advance and made a relevant and impressive introduction. It was short but relevant. I did not share the introduction with the speakers. I guess we must share the introduction and ensure the speaker is comfortable with it. Will remember the next time.

Being the host is not very different from being a speaker. You have a well defined role. Set the mood, ensure smooth running of the event and talk what you are supposed to. You have to talk and talk with passion.

If you have hosted an event, would love to hear about your experience. The next time you are called upon to host an event, do it. You will find the new role interesting. There is a lot that a good host can do. Remember to practise before you go on stage.

2 Oct 2012

Using charts to manipulate audience opinion

I am a regular reader of Trak.in. It is an excellent website to keep track of all business and technology news in India. They have carried this news today: Google beats Microsoft to Become World's 2nd Most Valued Tech Company.

If you read the news you will come across a chart. A simple bar graph which compares the market valuation of these two companies.



At first, I did not see it coming. Then something stuck me. Looking at the chart, it really looks like Google has surged ahead. You see the gap between the height of Google's bar versus Microsoft's bar. Now read the figures. Google is 249.13 and Microsoft is 247.23. Just a difference of 2 points on the chart.

What is happening here?
You would have seen by now that the vertical Y-axis starts at 246. Hence the difference is so sharp. If you make the chart again and start the Y-axis from 0, here is what you get:


No fun any more, right?

What is right?
As a rule, the axis must start from zero. Otherwise, you are not being fair to your audience. Whose responsibility is it to ensure the axis starts from zero? It is of the presenter. You are making the presentation and you need to stop manipulating the audience opinion (whether knowingly or by mistake).

Microsoft is also responsible for these mistakes/errors.

How? Open MS PowerPoint 2010 and insert chart. Feed in the numbers 249.13 and 247.23 and see the output. The chart produced by PowerPoint is the same as what Trak.in have published. The software automatically starts the axis at 246.

How to change the axis to 0?
Left click on the Y-axis. Then right click and choose Format Axis. Under Axis Options, go to Minimum. Select Fixed and set it to 0. You are done!



What is the conclusion?
As a presenter, always set the Y-axis to 0. In an exceptional case, when you cannot then let the audience know the axis does not start at 0. Resist the temptation to manipulate. To read more on how Statistics can fool people, read this old post of mine.

About Trak.in. Well it's an excellent site and you must subscribe to stay up-to-date with all the business news.