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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Follow these 4 simple rules to make PowerPoint your new superpower!

Rubbish slides are rubbish.

Audiences hate seeing them.

Presenters hate presenting alongside them.

In fact, my biggest Pet Hate with communication is when a presenter shows a slide and says “You won’t be able to read this but…”.

But what?

Why are they showing me something I can’t read?

So, here are very quick, very simple ways to improve your PowerPoint.

Make sure your slides are good
That means you’ll need to follow these four rules: 

  1. An interesting title. “Update” isn’t. “A simple way to enjoy your job more” is 
  2. Minimal words. Audiences will hear your messages when you speak. They don’t need to see the exact same messages on the slides as well (trust me on this: they do not want to watch you reading them). So take words off the slides and put them into your mouth 
  3. Interesting visuals. Don’t use boring lists of bullet points. Slides are a visual accompaniment, not a document blown up onto a wall. Source an image from Google. Or use PowerPoint’s Smart Art function which gives lots of alternatives to bullets 
  4. Use slide-builds. If everything on a slide appears at the same time, people read ahead. And if it’s a complex diagram, they don’t know where to look first. But if you click to bring up each separate point, you manage the way they absorb the information (but don’t have your new points whooshing in from the left. That’s just plain irritating. Especially if it has a whoosh sound as well) 

And then, when you’re presenting, use slides well


  • You’re more interesting than your slides. So make sure you say most of the content 
  • Interact with the slide. Tell the audience where they should put their eyes – “if you look at the numbers on the left hand side, you’ll see…” 
  • When you start your presentation, to go straight into Show Mode, click the function key F5 
  • If you want people to look at you and not the slide, press B or W on the keyboard to black/white the slides 
  • If you want to jump from one slide to another, use the keyboard. For example, if you’re currently on Slide 2, and want to go to Slide 8, press “8” and “Return” (this is a very useful technique) 

If it helps, assume your presentations have three people in the room – your audience, you and the slides. And treat them in that order of importance – your audience is most important, you’re next…

… and the slides are the least important person there. So, shut them up. Allow you/your audience to do most of the talking. You’ll both enjoy it more when you do.

Action point

For your next presentation, review your slides and ensure each obeys the above four rules.

Then, use PowerPoint shortcuts to deliver them in the most impressive, influential way.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Want your next workshop to be a runaway success? Change your focus!

What’s the aim of a workshop?

  • To teach people stuff? 
  • To think about things? 
  • To learn? 

No. It’s none of those.

Instead, it’s to cause improvement.

A training workshop should improve delegates’ skills and confidence outside the room.

A brainstorming workshop should improve decision-making.

In other words, the aim of a workshop is not just to transfer understanding. After all, you don’t just want to make people cleverer; you want something to improve as a result.

But look at most Workshop Objectives, and you’ll see the word ‘understanding’ all over the place.

For example, a pharmaceutical company recently asked me to improve their sales training programme. Lots of things were good about it - for example, the Happy Sheets showed delegates loved it. But there was a big problem: delegates didn’t sell more after attending. So…
  • I looked at the course objectives. They said ‘after attending this course, you’ll understand our sales model, understand our six-step process, understand how we do X, Y, Z’ 
  • I then reviewed the last slide of their training material. It said ‘key learnings’ (in other words, ‘this is what we want you to understand’) 
  • I then read the Happy Sheet questions – ‘Did you understand everything you heard today? Was the trainer good at explaining things so you understood them?’ 
  • Finally, I checked their follow-up support from the trainers. There wasn’t any. In other words, the trainers’ mind-set was ‘Information swapped. Understanding transferred. Training complete’ 

So we removed the word ‘understanding’. We started focusing on action.

And, all of a sudden, everything changed:
  • The objectives became: ‘After this workshop, you will sell more, because you’ll 1) see more customers, 2) have better conversations with them, and 3) have conversations that always lead to next steps’ 
  • The final slide talked about Action Planning - in other words, what you’ll do to increase sales. In fact, we inserted a few more ‘What are your actions so far?’ sections throughout the material, to keep post-workshop actions front-of-mind 
  • The Happy Sheets changed to ‘What action will you take first? What support do you need, to ensure you sell more? How will you recover if you revert to pre training ways?’ 
  • And then we had loads of follow-up - debriefs with managers, trainer check-in surgeries, coaching support, observation sheets that helped them master the course’s best practices, and so on 

And guess what?

Sales shot up.

By more than they’d imagined was possible.

Because they were now running a workshop that delivered improvement rather than just transferring understanding.

So, when you run your next workshop, will your main focus be on what you’ll cover? Or on what you’ll cause?

Action Point

For your next workshop, start your prep by visualising delegates leaving the room at the end of it and doing…

…well, what?

What will they be doing? What will you see? How will you measure they’re doing it? How will you help reinforce things, so they keep doing it?

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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Guaranteed Results - a quick and easy tip that gets your emails read instantly

People read emails in this order:

  1. Sender’s name 
  2. Email title 
  3. The email itself 

This makes sense:
  • Get an email from someone important – a friend, your #1 customer, your boss – and you’ll open it immediately 
  • But get one from someone who isn’t – a stranger, the Office Bore, the pestering salesperson – and you won’t open it now… or maybe ever 

You then read the title. And your eyes are drawn to the most interesting ones. For example, I’d always open an email titled “Making sure you get paid this month” before all the “Updates” and “FYIs”

And finally, if – and only if – the sender’s name and/or title interests you – you’ll open the email and read it.

So that’s what readers do. But what about writers?

Well, when writing emails, people spend most time on their content, and virtually none on the title.

But doing this means your titles might be boring. And this means people mightn’t even open your emails at all.

So include something eye-catching in your title. Not so it looks like spam. But have something that grabs attention. For instance, these words work well:
  • Quick 
  • Easy 
  • New 
  • First 
  • Guaranteed 
  • Surprising 
  • Secret 
  • Exclusive 

Or you might use a half-sentence that intrigues them, so they want to open your email to find out more. For example:
  • Can I ask your advice about …? 
  • A favour, to help with…? 
  • A quick question to ask about… 

A few seconds ago, you opened this email for a reason.

A few seconds from now, you’ll be emailing someone. What reason will you give them to open it? 

Action point

When you write your next email, tweak your title so they want to open it. 
The words above will help.

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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

4 simple steps to making your next presentation as powerful as TED presentation

Watching a presentation isn’t easy.

After all, we just aren’t wired to…

  • sit in the same position 
  • watching the same person 
  • discussing the same topic 
  • in the same way 
  • using the same voice 
  • with the same gestures 
  • accompanied by same-y slides 

When everything’s the same, our brains get bored. They wander off. What’s for tea? Who’s picking up the kids? How can I leave this boring room without anyone noticing?

So, when you’re presenting, everything can’t be the same. If it is, your audience will definitely get bored.

This makes these three words very important:

Change something. Anything.

It’s easy to add variety into your presentations. After all, as long as you change something every now and then, you’re shaking things up. Some simple examples:

  • Vary your delivery. Don’t just talk. Ask questions, so they interact with you. Put them in pairs, so they interact with each other. Give them an exercise, so they interact with that 
  • Vary your body language/voice. A recent study into what makes certain TED videos go viral found a huge correlation between the two V's – variety and viral. In other words, use varied hand gestures/modulate your voice etc and people engage more with what you’re saying 
  • Vary your visuals. A simple exercise: use Slide Sorter to put all your slides up on your screen. This will quickly show you if they look the same. If they do, change some of them. An easy technique: use SmartArt. This gives you lots of alternatives to the dreaded bullet point lists 
  • Vary your content. Don’t just present facts. Instead, include things like stories, analogies, quizzes, trivia, puzzles, jokes, videos, imagery, and the like. You don’t have to use all these, of course. But do use more than none 

And, of course, variety is important with all presentation types - from big PowerPoint-y, arm-waving formal things to when you’re presenting your case at a meeting.

After all, when people engage, they listen.

And when they listen, they’re more likely to act.

Action point

What’s your next presentation today? Is there enough variety in it? If not…

Change something. Anything. 

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

'Change', and how to communicate it correctly in 5 simple steps

People don’t like “change”.

Or so I keep hearing.

But, four years ago, I moved to Spain. That was a change. And I loved it.

A year after that, I went from working in the real world to working online. That was a change. And I loved it.

More recently, in the last month, I started working with a client on a new business project that is challenge every aspect of my business knowledge and requiring me to learn new skills. That’s a change. And I love that too.

So, I think “change” can be a good thing…

…if it’s communicated properly.

In other words, such that people see the benefits it will bring them.

So, when you’re selling ‘change’ to others, here’s a great way to do it. It’s a combination of some Harvard research, plus things I found worked brilliantly with my customers. There are five steps:

#1 Why it’s needed

Start by explaining the driver for change. In other words, why change is better than staying as you are. This will be one/both of:

  • the problem with the way things are now and/or 
  • an opportunity to take advantage of in the future 

And, as you explain these, be crystal clear on how they impact the people you’re speaking to. Remember: you want people thinking ‘I’ll be better off if we make a change’.

#2 The future vision

Now, explain what their world will be like after the change. In other words, be clear on the future state they can expect once the change has happened. Again, adapt your messaging so people understand how this future will benefit them personally.

#3 How we’ll get there

The third step is to explain the journey – how we’ll get from the present (#1) to the future (#2). Maybe use a timeline, showing who’s doing what, by when.

#4 How we’ll overcome our obstacles

Any change will have obstacles you need to overcome. And, if you don’t pre-empt what they are and how you’ll overcome them, people will worry about them. So, an important topic is ‘here’s what could easily get in the way’, followed by ‘and here’s how we’ll ensure they don’t’.

#5 Our immediate next steps

End by ensuring everyone knows their actions, to take things forward. Two important points:

  • Make sure everyone has an action. If someone doesn’t, they can feel the change is happening to them, not with them. So they all must contribute to it in some way 
  • Remember START and STOP. It’s easy to list loads of actions for people to start doing. But, unless you also specify what parts of their current role they should stop doing, they’ll feel you’re adding work to their already-hectic lives 

So, for the next ‘change’ you have to sell…

Action Point

… Identify the “change” you want people to buy into. Then, ensure your communications contain some/all of these five steps. After all, “change” can be a great thing… if it’s communicated right.

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