Do you remember these 8 past presentation pointers? Still quite valid. And worth another shout-out.
1) Buzz words do not build a connection because they are obscure and calorie-free. If you want people to focus on what you say and not switch to checking mobile devices during your presentation, avoid lazy clichés and greasy corporate talk in your presentations. Post
2) When someone asks you a question, repeat it (specially if you present to a large group). Post
3) Advanced presenters create smooth transitions after the introduction, between each main point, and before the conclusion. Post
4) People remember the unusual. If everything in a presentation is equally intense (color, graphics, in your face), or equally bland (text, indentations and bullet points), we have no control over what, if anything, people will remember. Post
5) When answering questions, move toward the person asking the question, and square your shoulders to him or her. Post
6) One of the greatest assets that any of us can posses in [the] battle for audience attention, is a great title. Unfortunately, few presenters put much effort into starting a presentation by creating a strong beginning. Post
7) Don't feel you have to fill every second with information - sometimes you need to trust the silence. Post
8) Consider using visuals not only to help illustrate a concept or a process, but also to constantly invite the audience to focus on your presentation by igniting their thinking. Post
A client recently lamented, “when so much of my presentation is verbal, there seems to be little value in leaving the attendees with just a copy of my slides. What should I leave behind instead?”
It’s a good point because the slides are often meaningless without your accompanying narration, interpretation and storytelling. So don’t do it. A better option is to provide a copy of the slides with speaker notes included, or save your PowerPoint and speaker notes to a Word file and issue as a document. [In the latter case, it’s often best to distribute as PDF in order to protect your original content from unapproved editing!] But regardless, this is all extra work for you, creating a document which still might not actually be read.
What if we could get attendees to remember your proposal without any physical leave-behind?
Let’s say your original presentation was about convincing the audience to buy software that improves analytics in the client’s marketing efforts; something that integrates with Salesforce. If you leave behind a PDF, you’re relying on people’s memory to remember this document in reference to a presentation that promised to improve something. Unfortunately, memories are fairly feeble. But they can be strengthened by “triggers.” In this example you would use triggers by:
Thinking before the presentation: “What is something that my client uses daily?” (In this example, Salesforce)
Answering: “How can I associate concepts I want them to remember with Salesforce?” (for example, by associating parts of your product with pages on Salesforce).
Repeating this association throughout the presentation.
Reminding them of the association once the presentation is over.
In this way, you prime your prospect’s brain to remember what you proposed each time they visit that page on Salesforce.
This memory trigger method is certainly more powerful than your standard leave-behind, making breaking-up much less hard to do.
[Image courtesy of Annetaintor.com]
If you host a webinar but nobody pays enough attention to hear it, did it ever happen at all?
Let’s face it, for the vast majority of webinar attendees, that one hour slot on the calendar is an opportunity to catch up on some email, retire that pile of ironing, or tinker with their fantasy league roster. And while they might think that’s time well spent, it’s really a whole 60 minutes wasted by everyone. Especially you.
What if you could stamp out multitasking by grabbing attention in the first 30 seconds, and then holding it, vice like, for a full 30 minutes? Or even an hour? What if you and your audience were comfortable with the web cam, not hiding from it? And what if you could truly measure the effectiveness of a webinar where you might not make eye contact with anyone?
Join our free “what makes a good webinar” session on Tues October 8th at 10am PST by registering here. Then clear your calendar of any conflicts - there’ll be no time for multitasking.
A client of ours, let’s call him Steve, said this on the phone yesterday: “Carmen, I appreciate that you preach memorable presentations and how it’s profitable for audiences to remember your stuff. But what happens when your boss mandates that you include 14 things in your presentation? You said people remember 4 things max. How do I handle my 14?”
This question stems from recent research we published at Rexi Media, confirming that attention and memory have limited capacity, and typically your audiences will remember up to 4 items from your presentations. The label I used during the research was “the magic number 4”. This was a spin from the “magic number 7”, based on research in the ‘50s, according to which people keep in their working memory about 7 items (such as someone’s phone number). The more realistic number for long-term memory and for business presentations is 4 items.
Steve’s question prompts us to think: what happens when you have more than 4 items to present and a mean boss who makes you do it? Here are some things to consider.
Ask yourself: Do you want your audience to remember specifics in the long term? Sometimes, the purpose of a presentation may be to simply inform. You don’t want the audience to remember any specifics in a few days or weeks, but rather to have a general feeling of what is going on, to get the gist of things. In Steve’s situation, it is possible that the boss simply wants the audience to walk away feeling that innovative things will be happening. 14 of them. So the feeling would be that of excitement. Or maybe the boss expects him to answer in the presentation the typical “what have you done for me lately?” After seeing the 14 good deeds, the feeling would be of abundance and a job well done.
Is remembering feelings as important as remembering facts? Yes, because it is hard to completely exclude the audience’s emotions from a presentation. This is one of the biggest mistakes business presenters make. We think of what to say first, convert that into slides, and then, if we have time, we might wonder how the audience will feel.
Some presentation coaches will remind you that it’s important to ask: what would you like your audience to be able to do, think, or feel at the end of a presentation? Notice how “feel” comes as an option in itself, separate from the other two. For your next presentation, rephrase this question based on scientific recommendations. People will feel something regardless of what you enable them to think or do. This is why catering to emotions is as important as catering to facts. I would maintain that there is no such thing as a pure thought or action. They always serve (consciously or unconsciously) an emotional agenda. Ask first: “what do I want them to feel?” or “what should be the feeling they remember?", knowing that emotions will be integral to thinking or doing.
How do you get them to feel the right things…because people might walk away with negative feelings? For example, in our research, when participants looked at 20 slides, 48 hours later, 23% reported: “I don’t remember much from the presentation but I remember that it was a good presentation.” This was an important finding because in the absence of specifics, at least they remembered a pleasant experience.
How do you get an audience to feel good even if you know they will remember little information (such as it will be the case for a 14-topic agenda)? Ensure your presentation is well organized (group the 14 points into smaller categories); if you’re using slides, ensure they are designed well. If you’re taxing attention with 14 points, the best you can do is make the information easy to process during the event. Insist on the importance of experience more than the importance of recalling facts.
So Steve, if your presentation is strictly informational (as any ambitious 14 points dictate it would be), and you’ve concluded that getting the gist will be sufficient for a memory metric, strive for only one factual thing to be memorable: how the audience can access the information you presented on their own. Repeat this fact in the beginning of the presentation, a few times in the middle, and at the end. You will be well remembered.
Guest post by Carey Hilgartner
Open Learning has arrived. Thomas Friedman’s New York Times article, The Professors’ Big Stage, highlights how education has flipped – a change driven by the students. He cites the example of the Justice professor delivering his course on the MIT-Harvard edX online learning platform. He explains that the open access to quality education has made him a celebrity in China and South Korea. The course has filled a need. Adults chose to access the course as part of a real need. Open learning, whether part of a MOOC or other delivery allows adults to choose the learning they need.
Where have all the students gone?
He talks about the flipped classroom at San Jose state offering MIT course materials to students outside of the classroom and access to the teacher for questions and problem solving inside the class. Results improved significantly. Students were more engaged because they were given choices. They were given access to quality materials. They were respected as learners with more meaningful classroom interaction, focused on questions and problem-solving, activities done well in the classroom and not in the instructional video.
At Bow Valley College, the Anytime Online program has structured its content, tools and processes around open learning to reach and engage students at a distance. The program uses Google Apps for Education as its central tool for staff and students. Instructors and students converse with gmail. Assignments delivered with Google Drive and many completed in Google Docs. The courses exist in Google Sites and are open to the public. Students can sign in and see the assignments, can write the tests, contact the instructor, and receive feedback. That interaction with the instructor is what they pay for. That instruction is what we focus on in our open learning approach.
MOOCs have arrived
As part of this move to open learning, the program has placed and emphasis on the creation of quality instructional media. The program has developed PowerPoint presentations and used Camtasia Studio to convert these presentations to instructional videos for distribution on the program’s YouTube channel. To make this happen, the program has solicited the expertise of RexiMedia to ensure that the media is both engaging and meaningful. Carmen Simon, from RexiMedia, visited the program to provide direct coaching to the faculty on effective presentation skills. With new competence and revised confidence, faculty have been able to collaborate and efficiently create instructional presentations and videos for use by students. Students have come to expect media as the central part of their online courses. They can pause, rewind and replay the video on their own time and at their own pace. They are thus engaged. Participation in other course activities and completion increases as a spillover of this engagement.
Colleges, universities and technical institutes need to follow the examples quickly. The “tipping point” has arrived for open learning. Further delay will mean loss of enrollment and relevance in the post-secondary education world.
Centre for Excellence in Foundational LearningBow Valley College
During 2012, Dr. Carmen Simon carried out a major research study on memory – specifically, on how many slides people actually remember from a typical PowerPoint presentation. The study was based on significant changes in information processing and delivery that have taken place in the past decade:
- An exponential increase in the amount of information delivered, and the time spent consuming it
- A sense of being overwhelmed by the quantity of information available, while still craving more
- The ubiquitous use of PowerPoint, or PowerPoint styles (landscape slides, templates, bullet points) to deliver information
- Presentations that all look the same, making it very difficult for messages to stand out.
Over 1,500 participants were invited to view a short, online PowerPoint presentation of 20 slides. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 26 conditions, which included different versions of the presentation. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall anything they could remember about the presentation. There were several key findings
- Participants remembered on average 4 slides out of the 20.
- Neutral images helped recall when compared with text only, but not to any great extent.
- Participants remembered content according to a pattern, not just random slides.
- Significant changes every fifth slide tended to aid recall.
What does this tell us? How can we use this information to improve our presentations? Carmen suggests that there a number of important clues.
The Magic Number Four – studies suggest that people can only hold about 4 or five items at a time in short term memory. The important thing is therefore to make sure that we point them at the right things to remember.
People remember the unusual. If everything in a presentation is equally intense (colour, graphics, in your face), or equally bland (text, indentations and bullet points), we have no control over what, if anything, people will remember.
Concrete visual language aids recall – the most remembered slides in the study were those about what colors to wear or not to wear when presenting online (don’t wear red, don’t wear black, white or stripes, but pastel colors are good). In these cases, pictures might help, but most people can picture the text anyway without much help.
Color co-ordinate your slides
Grouping your slides, "chunk" your presentation. Sometimes this can be done by the colour of the text or the background, or maybe by the use of a different set of images. Well thought out connections between different parts of a presentation are more important than just pushing more content.
People crave novelty - if you want a presentation to attract attention, find out what your audience would consider to be novel. People are more likely to remember what they find new and surprising, rather than what they find familiar. Where information differs from what we would expect, we sit up and take notice.
Repetition aids recall
Repetition and alliteration helps. The most memorable slides in the research all used the word “wear”. Using the same word, or finding three or four words that begin with the same letter to stress your key points will probably make the ideas stick in the mind.
People remember negative advice (what not to wear) better than neutral or positive content. However, at the same time, it played on their vanity – do this, or don’t do this in order to “look good”. Another frequently remembered slide suggested presenters should not lean back in their chairs as it made them appear short and fat. In a society that craves positive images, ego enhancing content attracts extra attention, and aids recall.
You can read a more detailed summary of Carmen’s research findings on Poll Everywhere –
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.
You can also download a fully referenced paper on the research.
Want to learn more? Sign up now for an exclusive online seminar, What is Your 5th Element? on Tuesday 26 March.
There are many ways to implement engagement in a virtual session, but there is one way to ensure it: you must have participants' attention first.
Psychologically speaking, there are various types of attention. Here are 2 types we can consider because they dictate the type of enagement we deliver.
1. Experiential attention.
You know this type of attention if you’re involved in a project you’re particularly fond of, or if you play a musical instrument, or hear a piece of music that touches you – this is involuntary attention. Some people like Van Gogh or Virginal Wolf were entirely immersed in what they were doing; for them an event would be a state of rapture. Some people have experiential attention each time they hear a bubbling brook, or see a sunset: it is an almost mystical moment. But realistically, how often does that happen at work or more so, how often does that happen in a virtual session?
Engaged in rapt contemplation
Obviously, you would not want this type of experiential attention in the workplace all the time: it would be dangerous if an airline pilot suddenly engaged in rapt contemplation of the starry skies. Or some of your employees become completely fascinated by the aesthetics in your PowerPoint and did not focus on your message.
However, every so often, it is important to consider that it is possible and beneficial to use a virtual platform to provide an experience versus merely catering to just a goal–oriented, task-focused meeting.
2. Instrumental attention
Some people are very pragmatic, turned on by goals and checklists and agendas. They don’t get carried away by feelings, thoughts, or sensory stimulation. Their attention is very instrumental. You've wittnessed this type of attention when a presenter started with: "Let's get right to it: the objective for this meeting is..."
Which attention type is more important to attract in order to generate virtual engagement? Consider including a mixture of both, in different percentages, depending on what you wish to achieve during your sessions. A combination is possible.
Mozart traveled to Leipzig once and heard Bach perform for the first time. He immediately asked “What’s this?” and then became totally immersed in the sounds. After a while, he exclaimed: “this is a person a fellow can learn from”. Mozart listened to the music both experientially and instrumentally because after this moment, even though he got lost in the sound, he could produce what he heard note by note from beginning to end.
How does this relate to virtual sessions? Consider the contrasting list below:
Experiential virtual session
- Asking Qs is essential
- Chat box, polls
- Longer session
Instrumental virtual session
- PowerPoint is essential
- Scripted, linear
- Less flash
- Shorter session
When you’re after the experience, you ask questions because questions are more important than the answers, and the process of asking is more important – these are brainstorming, highly collaborative sessions, more fluid, with no strict sequence or agenda. This is when PowerPoint is not important. You take advantage of the chat box, polling questions – the interactivity level is high and because of this, the sessions can be longer.
By contrast, if you have an instrumental, pragmatic purpose, the answers are more important, PowerPoint is more important, you’re likely more scripted, rehearsed, formal, and linear. There is less glitz and flash to what you show and say and do. And because of this, consider making sessions shorter!
Appealing to both attention types impacts memory
What I am noticing in many virtual presentations is that many presenters err on the side of calling for too much instrumental attention, and not enough for the experiential type. Attendees will grant us attention for pragmatic goals but that type of attention does not always convert to long-term memory. Experiential attention influences feelings and because of the emotion involved, long-term memory is impacted more. This means that hours or weeks after your session, viewers may not remember much of what we said (when we instrumentally appealed to their attention), but they will remember how we made them feel (when we experientally appealed to their attention). If the latter is missing, the result may be: an entirely forgettable presentation.
At a time of unprecedented technology development and information distribution, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any presenter to deliver information in such a way that an audience easily processes it and remembers it. Every time we ask an audience what they remember from a presentation they viewed weeks ago, we see blank stares. Ironically, some people remember bits and pieces from what they saw years ago, but not weeks ago.
For the past five years, Carmen Simon has been researching techniques to make presentations memorable, and will shortly be sharing her research findings. Meanwhile, what do you still remember from a presentation you've viewed a few weeks ago? Why do you think it's still in your mind? We'd love to hear from you.
There seems to be no end to the metaphorical use of chess in describing business, politics,
life, in fact - just about anything. Comparing the success in virtual education with winning in chess is very tempting. However, things happen differently in real life compared to the chess board. Wouldn’t it be great if in the virtual space, we only competed with two players,
operated within a pre-deﬁned space of only 64 squares, played by a few rules in complete
transparency, and each time we lost, we got the chance to start from scratch?
Virtual education . . .
The real life in the virtual education space is quite different. We operate in a complex
environment, in ﬁelds that are loosely deﬁned, where players often create rules of their own, handling pieces that come in all colors and forms. Wining in such a context is difﬁcult, especially when there are struggles with things like
- Converting face-to-face materials into virtual offerings without regard of educational
- principles or accumulation of proper skills.
- Not investing in the quality of virtual offerings
- Thinking in words, instead of ideas and images
- Not knowing how to prevent multitasking and how to increase the rate of engagement
At Rexi Media, we've researched the most effective and empirically-driven techniques for creating the type of online education that leads to two important metrics in real life: outstanding student performance and overall retention. The Rexi Media Virtual Presentation Curriculum gives you a daring and real advantage to make a difference in the virtual education space.
. . . how many moves ahead are you?
We can help you with the challenge of virtual presentations - the illusion of attention, the illusion of memory and the illusion of knowledge that they convey.
You'll learn about the psychology of annoying presentations - how some of the most positive traits of a virtual presentation can become annoying over time, and how to avoid the three cardinal sins of annoying virtual presentations
We'll teach you best practices for converting materials from face-to-face into the virtual world - how to structure a virtual presentation to attract and sustain attention, how to balance simplicity and complexity and how to use words with a higher attention-grabbing and persuasive power
Learn why visuals are more memorable than text and auditory information, the four visual areas that are mandatory for any virtual presentation, and why authentic visuals get you more attention. We'll help you to include creative graphics even if you’re not a designer
Virtual Presentation Training from Rexi Media will connect you with your invisible audience, and prevent your virtual students from multitasking by using the technology effectively to increase engagement.
There's more about our Virtual Presentation Training offererings in the attached leaflet. Why not contact Rexi Media today for more information?
Rexi Media chose the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in San Franciscio to announce its Certified Virtual Presenter Program. Carmen Taran gave a presentation, "Virtual Presentations Can Make or Break You", which was very well attended, and the Rexi Media booth attracted lots of visitors. Participants tweeted, "@carmentaran was awesome", “After their #s20c #presentation today, I think @RexiMedia might have the answer”, “Great tips from Dr Taran of Rexi Media on polishing your virtual presentation skills”, and “Great session by @RexiMedia”.
Rexi Media Virtual Presenter Certification
Paul Clothier of Rexi Media, who is working on Rexi Media’s Certified Virtual Presenter Program talks about the conference.
"As I walked around and talked to attendees and speakers about virtual presentations I asked the question, "Have you ever attended a boring webinar?" The response was typically "Of course - aren't they all" - as if it was somehow predetermined that webinars were dull, uninteresting and an opportunity to multitask. This is similar to the reaction many people have with PowerPoint presentations where they blame the tool for poor presentation experiences. It was great opportunity to engage people in a conversation how webinars could be different – how to create webinars that really engage interest and grab attention.
One thing was evident as I talked with people - that most knew very little about winning techniques that can be used to get participation online. Some used the occasional polling question, but very few people took full advantage of the chat box, whiteboards, collaborative note taking or interactive simulations. The reasons given were usually that they didn't understand how to use all the features of the tool or that they didn't have (or make) time to really plan their sessions beforehand. Time often seems to be a factor (or and excuse) in why people give boring webinars.
Sales 2.0, San Francisco, 2012
What surprised me was the number of people I talked to who admitted that not only did they attend boring webinars but that their company's own webinars and virtual presentations were poor. However, to create engaging, memorable and persuasive virtual sessions takes a bit of training - not just in how to use the software, but in how to make a presentation come alive.
We often think of a virtual presentation as being a less effective than a face to face session. I had a conversation with one of our Rexi Media partners who deliver sales training who confirmed that their virtual sales training was actually more effective than when they provided in-person training.
Sales 2.0, San Francisco, 2012
They replaced a full day in-person sales training with a one hour virtual training session once a week for one month. The participants had homework where they were required to practice what they had learned when they were on the phone to prospects. They discovered that four short sessions with on-the-job assignments were much more effective than eight hours of face to face training. Spaced learning online plus targeted application can be extremely effective - not to mention the huge savings over the costs of face-to-face training."
Rexi Media's Certified Virtual Presenter courses are available now. There are three levels - Silver, Gold and Platinum. Register with Rexi Media for more details and learn how to deliver winning virtual presentations.