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Communication – the future of business

Archive for February, 2008

Presenting in the Boardroom

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 25, 2008

The most common form of public speaking and presenting occurs across the table, or in a clients Boardroom.

Presenting in the Boardroom requires a special understanding of certian unwritten rules and territorial factors.

Seating.  Before taking a seat, wait for your host to direct you. Never assume a position around the table.  When preparing, ask permission as to where you should set up, and if it is OK to set up now.  If you do need to sit down, ask if it is OK to sit in a particular seat. 

Respect the status in the room.  In some organisations there will be a very clearly defined hierarchy.  This may even include calling someone by their title such as “Mr”.  Make yourself aware of what is happening along these lines and follow suit.  In some groups, people will have clearly defined roles.  

Know your audience.  Do as much homework as possible on your audience.  Know what their hot-buttons are.  Know what they like and dislike, and tailor your presentation accordingly. 

Help them save face.  Ensure that you do not cause your host to lose face.  If you suspect that your host does not fully understand what you are saying, try re-phrasing your point another way.  If you are not sure if they understand, try something like, “Have I made that clear enough?”, as opposed to, “Do you understand what I am saying?”  This lets them feel that the reason they don’t understand is not due to them.  This is very important when dealing with Eastern Cultures.   

Be adaptable.  Be ready to bounce off what the people in the room do or say.  Being able to incorporate this into your presentation will give the impression that this is a completely unique presentation. 

Study the room dynamics.  In any group of people there will be some that are closer friends than others.  Some may even dislike each other.  If this is evident, avoid being drawn into it. 

Don’t skip slides.  If using PowerPoint, never skip a slid in front of a customer.  If you do, you will give the impression that you are hiding something from them.  If you need to tailor a presentation for a prospect, hide any unnecessary slides before you get there. 

You are there to make a sale.  Regardless of what you are presenting, you will be making a sale.  You may not be asking for an order number there and then, but if you want to have a future relationship with this audience, they will have to buy your credibility.  As in all sales situations, keep the following in mind:

  • K.I.S.S.  Keep it short and simple.  Attention spans are only getting shorter.  By getting to your point as soon as possible you will avoid wasting everyone’s time.
  • Understand what they want, and know what they need. Many people in a buying situation know what they want, but are unaware of what they really need.  Find out what their needs are, and fill them and you will have a better chance of success.
  • Use feature and benefits.  People do not buy the features of any product.  They buy the benefits those features give.  For example, people don’t buy a car with a V8 engine (feature) just because it has a big engine.  They buy a car with a V8 engine because of the power it has (benefit).  Understand the features of your product, and what benefits it brings to your client.
  • Use Questions.  A great way to understand more about your audience is to ask questions.  By asking questions, your audience will give an insight to what they really want.
  • Don’t over answer.  If you are asked a question, avoid the temptation to give a long answer that leaves no stone un-turned.  Answer as much as is needed to satisfy the person who asked the question.  If they ask more, great.  If they are asking questions, they are showing interest.
  • Leave questions to be asked.  By carefully omitting some information from your presentation you can prompt a question about it.  Some audience like to ask questions.  It lets them show that they understand what you are presenting.
  • Don’t finish with a Q&A.  Avoid finishing on with a Q&A session.  After you have dealt with all the questions, give a brief summary.  This allows you to have the last word and control what happens next.

 ‘Til next time,


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach

Posted in Donald Trump, PowerPoint, presentation skills, public speaking, Understanding your audience | 1 Comment »

Presenting vs. Speaking

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 23, 2008

Although people often speak about a PRESENTATION and a SPEECH as if they are the same thing, they are quite different. They have different goals.And they use different techniques to achieve their different goals.

The primary goal of a PRESENTATION is to communicate information or to teach people skills. When you’re giving a presentation, you are in effect a teacher or a trainer.

A PRESENTATION can be as brief as a two-minute update at a staff meeting or as long as a five-day or two-week seminar.

Status reports, briefings, training seminars, breakout sessions, product demonstrations, sales presentations, round-tables, research paper presentations, lectures, chalk talks, teleconferences, and webinars — all are PRESENTATIONS.

To improve the PRESENTATIONS you give:

* Keep them practical. Provide information or skills that will help your audience solve a problem or achieve a goal.

* Give participants a say in determining what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.

* Build on people’s experience and knowledge.

* Make your session highly interactive, with time for questions, discussion, and activities.

* Make use of all audio-visual resources available: PowerPoint slides, handouts, flip charts, white boards, video, and the like.

A SPEECH is less about imparting information and skills and more about creating a change in how your audience thinks and feels.

A SPEECH should always be brief, rarely — if ever — exceeding 50 minutes. Most speeches, especially those given by leaders, should be 20 minutes or less. (Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech lasted six minutes. The Gettysburg Address took two minutes. Roosevelt’s address to the nation after Pearl Harbor — “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” — was seven minutes.)

Toasts, acceptance speeches, keynote addresses,  commencement addresses, eulogies, tributes, after-dinner speeches, motivational and inspirational speeches, pep talks, and political speeches — all are SPEECHES.

To improve the SPEECHES you give:

* Develop one — and only one — idea. (But make it a good idea.)

* Keep it short and simple. Use a clear outline and parallel structure. Repeat yourself often.

* Use visuals aids in small doses, if at all. (Avoid using PowerPoint as much as possible.)

* Tell stories. Stories help make any speech come alive in the hearts and minds of your audience. They are the most effective tool in a speaker’s toolbox.

* Be personable. (Your relationship with the audience is paramount.)

* Appeal primarily to people’s imaginations and emotions.

These ideas are courtesy of Chris Witt from www.wittcom.com

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach

Posted in presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | Leave a Comment »

What are You Thinking … Before You Stand to Speak?

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 21, 2008

What are you thinking in the moments before you open you mouth to speak? You could be presenting at a team meeting , speaking to a client on the phone, or addressing an audience of 100+ people?

The thoughts that you have just before you go up will have a massive impact on how you perform.

Many inexperienced speakers focus on how nervous they are, and say to themselves, ‘I hope I don’t forget what I have to say’, or, ‘I hope I don’t stuff this up’. With thoughts like this in their head is it any wonder they are nervous?

When I speak in competitions – or any high-pressure environment – I adopt a different mindset. I say to myself, ‘This is what I do!’ and start to revel in the opportunity to speak. This gets me to focus on the strengths that I have and forget about my weaknesses. Granted I may like speaking more than most, but you can adopt this same attitude too.

You may not want to focus on the fact that you are speaking, but rather on the great ideas that you can share with your audience. Focus on how much better off they will be after you have spoken. Will they have an easier job , a better understanding of what is happening or renewed enthusiasm for the project they are involved in.

In the same way that an Olympic athlete focuses on their strengths before they perform, you too can focus on your strengths before you perform.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach

Posted in Eulogies, nervousness, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips | Leave a Comment »

Rudd’s Sorry Speech – A Lesson in Arguing.

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 17, 2008

It is not often that a national leader gets to choose the moment that defines their leadership. Kevin Rudd has been fortunate in that he choose the time, place and topic for which he will be remembered. In the first of many looks of this speech, I want to examine the skill that Rudd’s speech writers used to attack the previous Howard government that refused to say sorry.

(For the international readers, from 1901 to the early 1970s, the Australian Government had a policy of systematic forced removal of indigenous children from their parents. It is estimated that about 50,000 children were removed from their parents. These children are now known as the Stolen Generation.)

When Rudd stood to say sorry to the stolen generation, he was taking the exact opposite position of former Prime Minister John Howard. Whilst it would have been tempting to say that he was going to right the wrong that Howard would not, he was more tactful than that. Instead he attacked the argument and some of the key terms that Howard relied on.

Then first was that the Stolen Generation were in fact real people. He told us the story of Nanna Nungala Fejo. She was taken from her parents when she was just 4 years old. He told us her story of being removed, living in missions and how she and her sisters were randomly placed in 3 lines and split up again. Eventually Nannas’ mum died, never having seen or heard from her children again. By giving us a real story, Rudd was able to get us to see a glimpse inside the stolen generation.

Secondly, he attacked the in-actions of previous governments, but not Howard directly. He criticised how previous governments had suspended their ‘… most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong,’ and treated the episode as an, ‘intellectual curiosity.’ He also pointed out that there had been ‘stoney silence for more than a decade’ about the need to say sorry. This is a referral to Howards term in office, and set the stage for the next line of argument.

Finally, Rudd hit on Howard’s stoic argument of ‘intergenerational responsibility’. Howard argued that as it was not our generation that had committed the acts, we should not have to say sorry. This was Rudd’s shortest argument, but most directed at Howard. He simply stated that these atrocities were happening as late as the … ‘early 1970s.’ He then followed this up with ‘There are still serving members of this parliament who were first elected to this place in the early 1970s.’ This was a direct reference to the fact that Howard was in parliament when children were being removed. This attack was short, sharp and well aimed.

So what can we learn from Rudds’ speech? The first is how to structure a line of argument. By having the longest argument first, Rudd set the ground work for what was to come. Secondly, he appealed to our emotions with the use of the stories that we could relate too. Finally, he showed us that you can make pointed and direct attacks on your opposition without mentioning their name. This way you do not stoop to the lows that you are attacking.

How can you use this today at work? When you are pitching products, ideas or plans, put thought into how you will structure your argument. Never directly attack another person, product or company. Instead, show how you are the alternative to other options. Show your benefits and what they can mean to those you are trying to impress. USe stories to appeal to your audiences emotions, and follow that up with good sound logic.

‘Til next time,


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach


Posted in John Howard, kevin Rudd, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Darren Fleming and Executive Speaking

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 10, 2008

If you’re looking to improve your presentation and communication skills, you need someone who has spoken to large audiences, can show you how to use humour and can give you the skills to think on your feet.

Darren Fleming from Executive Speaking can teach you the skills that you are after.

Are you WOWing your Audience?

Get these skills from


Posted in Executive Speaking Video, humour in presentations, nervousness, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking courses, public speaking tips | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Controling Your Thoughts When Speaking

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 6, 2008

Thinking clearly whilst presenting is essential to ensuring your message is delivered in a powerful way.

Your thoughts can be side-tracked by many things and having a plan to counter these challenges is essential. 

First of all, it is important to realise that our thoughts wander all the time. This is caused by our brain working much faster than any other part of our body, including our mouth!  To allow our mouth to ‘catch up’ to our brain, the brain has to temporarily stop its train–of–thought. When this train–of–thought stops, another thought has to take its place. This could be anything from, ‘What will I have for dinner tonight?’ to, ‘What does the audience think of me?’  When the mouth does ‘catch up’ with the brain, the brain is often on another line of thought and has to get back to where it was.  It is the inability to get back to where your thoughts were that causes people to lose their spot.  

This is also why concentrating for extended periods of time is so exhausting; the brain has not had its usual rests! 

What Hinders the Return?

There are many elements that stop your thoughts from getting back on track whilst speaking. These include:

  • subject knowledge
  • amount of preparation
  • nervousness
  • expectations for your self
  • expectations of your audience
  • what you think your audience wants
  • subject knowledge
  • room factors – temperature, noise etc
  • what is riding on your presentation and
  • many others.

These elements combine to distract your thoughts when speaking, and the more salient the element, the more influential it is.   

The distracting elements can have either a positive or negative influence on your thoughts. For example, the more nervous you are, the more difficult it may be to return to your original train–of–thought, but having greater knowledge of your topic, you are more likely to return to the desired thought. Each of these elements will work in different ways for different presentations and different audiences. 

But there is some good news!  Thinking is like any skill or behaviour. The more you practice it, the better you will become. Therefore, the more speaking you do, the more likely you will be to return to the desired thought! 


‘Til next time.




Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach


Posted in nervousness, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips | Leave a Comment »

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking: Book review

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 3, 2008

I have just finished a great book on public Speaking, The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking.  The author Craig Valentine is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking and a highly paid keynote speaker in the US.

What sets this book apart from others is that it focuses on the basics.  From speech structure to how to use the rule of three to gte your point across with more impact, this book has it all.

There is one fantastic section that I loved.  It was on finding the magical moments from your own life that will bring your speech alive.  These are the parts of your speech that the audience will hang off.  Despite what we think, we all have an enormous amount of stories that we can draw upon to help us illustrate our points.  This section is well worth the cost of the book alone.

If this book could be improved anywhere, it is that there is no index or detailed table of contents.  This is a great reference book, but the lack of an index makes it difficult to reference!

Over all, a great book, and you can order a copy from Craig here.  Just tell him I sent you.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming

Australian Toastmasters Champion

Posted in humour in presentations, Martketing your speaking skills, nervousness, presentation skills, public speaking, Public Speaking books, public speaking courses, public speaking humour, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | 4 Comments »

Great Speakers are Great Persuaders.

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 3, 2008

If you have to persuade anyone, you will need this! 

When a great speaker stand to speak, they have a whole arsenal of tools that they can use to persuade you to their message.  One that we can all use is the “Push and Pull” method.

Put simply, the “Push and Pull” refers to how you structure the features and benefits in your message.  (Understanding the difference between features and benefits is a basic sales technique.  For example, the feature of the car is that it has an air-conditioner; the benefit is that you can travel in cool comfort on hot days.  People will always buy the benefits over the features)

You can use the Push and Pull to deliver your benefits in different ways:

  • The Push – The air-conditioner is great because you can travel in comfort.
  • The Pull – The air-conditioner is great because you don’t want to be hot and sticky when you arrive at your destination.

Both the Push and Pull give the benefits of having an air-conditioner but they are worded differently.  The Push a positive approach while the Pull has a negative approach.

You can use these two techniques individually or together.  If you were to use them together you could say something like, “The air-conditioner is great because you can travel in comfort.  After all, who wants to arrive all hot and sticky?”

So how does this apply to today’s work place?  When structuring your message, look at how you can use the positive and negatively worded benefits in your message.  This can apply to anything from change management, the need to increase sales or even in training sessions.  Simply focus on your message and how it benefits your audience and use the “Push and Pull” to get your message across.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming

Australian Toastmasters Champion

Posted in presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking courses, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | 2 Comments »