Key flagging phrases

Flagging is a way for you to call attention to the main point of your message. There are some key words and phrases that wake people up and tell them to listen carefully. Here are some of them: If you take just one thing away from this, it should be… The most...

Kill your darlings

Before all the other important stuff you might want to know about presenting, the single most important step is a brutal one: “Kill your darlings.” This phrase, often attributed to author William Faulkner, means get rid of the things that mean a lot to you, but that...

It’s not that faces are good or bad

It’s not that faces are good or bad, it’s just that they’re very distracting. One thing that we see often in almost every corporate presentation is there’s an introduction of the company. In that introduction, there will usually be a couple of slides with pictures of...

Yes, X, but the bigger picture is Y

When you want to persuade somebody to choose your argument over another, one of the things that you can do is tie your argument to a bigger picture. For example, we had a client recently who worked for a European bank, and there was an internal debate within the bank...

Fielding challenges from an angry audience member

Sometimes when an emotionally-stated challenge comes from an audience member, as much as 50% of the emotion behind the challenge might be the audience member feeling unheard. They don’t feel like their opinion is understood or being listened to, even if you think it...

“Stories are good” is not actionable advice

“Stories are good, you should use them more often. And it’s important to put yourself in your stories.” That’s good advice. But these days a lot of people pass out advice like that, and then you ask them to explain themselves, and they tell you stuff...

The “political changes” question in emerging markets

A question that often comes up in investor conference calls, especially with emerging markets companies, is “How are political or regulatory changes affecting the business environment?” The way your company chooses to answer this question is a stylistic...

They don’t know nearly as much as you think they do

Our clients often think that when audience members are high up in the industry or in the company, they already know everything. This is completely wrong. Yes, they are experts in something you are not. But you are an expert in something that they are not. That’s why...

Get to work

Steven Pressfield, the author of The War Of Art, one of my favorite books, once said: “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.” Since you’re a professional, you know what...

The most effective presentations are not presentations at all

The most effective presentations aren’t presentations at all. They are conversations, and you probably already have all the skills you need, they just need to be unlocked. Let’s say the Big Boss from Headquarters is coming to your regional office for a...

Wherever you look…

Wherever you look, your audience is probably going to look there too. This is a human trait. You’re not going to get around it. There’s no amount of presentation training that is going to help you overcome it. If your audience sees you looking at your...

The CEO on the conference call: Stick to your style

Every CEO has a different style when it comes to handling investor conference calls (for example, an annual earnings report). The styles lie on a spectrum. On the one end, you’ve got a Jamie Dimon style, which is where the CEO will just say two or three...

Cultivating audience participation

When the speechwriting is almost done, it’s time to move on to the delivery training. Why do we say “almost done”? Because we need to make sure the speech we’ve written is going to work in real life, and we can’t start to gauge that until we start the training. Does...

Reader question: How to ask difficult questions?

A reader asks, “How can I ask difficult questions?” You know the kind of questions, the ones where you wonder beforehand if you dare ask them, the ones where you stop first and think things like is that question too forward, or too bold, or is it too early in the...

Swim in my ocean, or splash in my puddle

Before they realize there is huge power in deep preparation, some of our clients at first resist the idea of practicing a lot. They think practicing a lot is going to kill the spontaneity in their speech. What they haven’t realized yet is that you will never...

Stories happen in the listeners’ heads

Transcript: The title of this segment is The Story Happens In The Listener’s Head, Not In The Teller’s Head. There’s a story about Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway is in a bar and there are a bunch of other writers at the bar. They have a little...

The moral of the story

Here we dive deeper into one of the five elements of story structure. This one is perhaps your speech’s most important element, but it’s usually the most difficult element to communicate clearly… Notes: HGOMM (5 points of story structure) Jesse...

The fastest way to say more

Go slow and speak less. Yes, I know it’s counterintuitive. I can barely believe it myself, even though I see it happen almost every day. Here’s an example: These days I’m helping a client prepare for a speech at a major committee meeting. It’s...

Reader question: example of a marketing story

One of our readers had an excellent question about HGOMM… (HGOMM: the five elements of a marketing story, outlined here: https://krauseenglish.com/hgomm/) His question: Can you send an example of a short marketing story with these 5 components? Yes, of course....

Reader question: feel sense describe about numbers

One of our correspondents had a very good question. She watched the Feel Sense Describe video, and asked, “That’s nice, but how do I do that when I’m talking about numbers?” Good question. Here’s a voice response with two suggestions: By...

More on stories happening in the listeners’ heads

In another blog post, we mentioned that stories happen in the listeners’ heads. In presenting, do not underestimate the power of this dynamic. It is a special talent pretty unique to humans. It allows us to organize into groups of millions (nations), or even...

Work the crowd

Three tips for working a conversational style into your presentation: 1. In the first 30 seconds of your presentation, ask a couple audience members a simple yes or no question related to your topic (If you are speaking about nutrition: “Murat, did you eat breakfast...

Actually, attention spans are not shrinking…

At about minute 34:45 in this speech… …Kevin Spacey makes a very good point: Many people complain about their audience’s shrinking attention span, and yet people still find 12 hours to binge-watch a TV show. So instead of trying to trim things until you...

Start with a joke. But how?

You don’t always need to start with a joke. After all, you are probably not a professional comedian, and no one expects you to be. And starting a speech with an irrelevant joke, no matter how funny it is, like “Two men and a dog walk into a...

Boy meets girl

American author Kurt Vonnegut diagrams some basic, but very classic, story structures… Believe it or not, the structures he outlines here even work for speeches about corporate debt and global financial crises. About Matt KrauseMatt began his professional life...

When you use video in a presentation

Videos can make an excellent addition to your presentation. Most of the time they work, but every once in a while they don’t, and then you’re left there on the stage feeling embarrassed and saying something lame like “Hey, there’s supposed to...

You’re going too fast!

A common issue we see is people speaking too fast, trying to cram too much content into too little time. Fortunately, there’s a very natural way around this. It’s something we’ve been practicing our entire lives, and we do it so naturally we don’t even realize we are...

Game tape: Guy Kawasaki, TEDxBerkeley

Guy Kawasaki speaks at TEDxBerkeley, about the 10 points of innovation… Notes: Local references: In this speech, he makes a lot of references to local universities [Stanford, Cal (local nickname for University of California Berkeley), USC (University of Southern...

Do the Flesch-Kincaid

As a speaker, there are a couple numbers you should know. One is your average WPM — how many words do you speak per minute (the average human speaks about 120-130 words per minute). You do that so when you are writing a speech, you know about how many words you...

Sidestepping the bomb

Here’s a tip for those times when you’re speaking to a potentially hostile audience, or coming dangerously close to a hot, explosive topic: In your opening sentences, remind the audience you share common ground with them, but also acknowledge the debate....

When you can’t avoid the avalanche

Yes, you compete with your slides for the audience’s attention. When the audience is looking at your slides, they aren’t listening to you. So we preach, over and over, keep your slides simple, keep your slides simple. But in real life, you don’t...

The Sullivan Nod

Here’s a body language tip: It’s called the Sullivan Nod. When you are talking to an audience, and you are listing three or four or five options, smile and nod when you’re describing the one you want them to choose. Chances are pretty good that they’ll choose it. The...

Reduce your ahh count

For you, as a listener, what’s easier to understand? “I… went… to… the… store…” …or… “Uhhh, I, uhhh… went, uhhh… to, uhhh… the, uhhh… store, uhhh.”? Which one was easier to understand? Probably the first one, right? Both of them took the same amount of time — the...

Stick to the delta

When you’re organizing your presentation, the Rule of Three is a good place to start. For example: We’re going to do A. We’re going to do B. We’re going to do C. The human brain loves things that are organized into threes. It tends to forget point #4, but it can...

What should I do with my hands?

When you’re on stage, what do you do with your hands? It’s one of the most common questions we get. Personally, I suspect you already know what to do with your hands, but the best answer is actually kind of zen, so we reserve it for more advanced courses. In the...

Chat with a couple audience members

Before your speech, meet some of the members of your audience. Talk to them, get to know them a little. It’ll make you a lot less nervous when you’re speaking, because you’ll be talking to friends, not a bunch of nameless, faceless strangers. How can you do this? At...

Video yourself

Have a friend video you while you’re speaking. And yes, watch it! I’ve never met a person who liked to watch himself speaking. Not once. But there’s something magic about it. Every person who ever watches himself on video decides to become a better speaker. It’s like...

The Curse of Knowledge

The “Curse of Knowledge” is the inability to clearly explain something to another person, because you know the subject so well. Not a clear explanation as defined by you. A clear explanation as defined by the other person. Why is it so hard to clearly explain...

Practice 25 times

When professional actors prepare for a role, they usually rehearse for hours, or days or weeks, learning how to make a particular facial tick appear at just the right time. When she was preparing for the movie Gravity, Sandra Bullock practiced one of the moves for...

The first three questions

Opening PowerPoint is one of the first things people do when preparing a presentation. However, it’s the wrong place to start. Opening PowerPoint first is like buying paint for the living room before you’ve even started building the house. Asking three particular...

Doing the Bob Dole

We all have “tics,” little things that we do, little habits. Some presentation trainers tell people to get rid of their tics, but tics aren’t always that bad. Take, for example, Bob Dole. Bob Dole was a famous United States Senator in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. He...

To change the world

President John F. Kennedy once said, “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” When I first heard that quote, I thought, “Wow, that’s a high bar to set.” People who change the world are people like Winston Churchill, or Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma...

And then we did this, and it was cool

Recently I was watching a TEDx speech video with a client of mine. The speaker was a designer with a doctorate from MIT, talking about research he’s doing into innovative mechanical solutions. Here’s the video: Neither my client nor I liked the speech. We both came...

Don’t stare at people

People are like dogs. If you stare at one long enough, he’ll attack. When you are giving a presentation, if an audience member gets aggressive and starts challenging you, resist the urge to spend too much time looking at that one person. Address his questions, but...

The famous 70%

The other day, a few of a client’s employees went to a presentation skills training. The trainer told them 70% of presentation is body language, voice tone, etc. My client asked me if I agree. This is what I told her: That 70% figure is bullshit. It’s not bullshit...

Like saying, “If the sex is bad…”

There are many ways to start a speech. One of them is outlining what you’re going to talk about. Watch how Guy Kawasaki does it in the first 90 seconds of his speech… He tells us that he’s going to cover 10 points, and that telling your audience...

I feel camera-shy

One of our clients asked what he called a “million-dollar question”… He asked, “I feel very shy in front of a camera. How can I improve? Any tips?” Here was my response: “Here’s what I do, try this… “Humans naturally relax and light up when they talk to...

What do you want your audience to do?

Transcript: Rule number two. Something to remember before you even start outlining your speech. Rule number two or question number two is what do you want your audience to do at the end of your speech. The other day somebody said, “Oh you mean, what’s my...

Eye contact is good, but not always

As presentation trainers we tell our clients over and over, “More eye contact, more eye contact.” But sometimes you’ve got other stuff to do, and it’s okay to look away. Not to read your slides or look at your shoes, no. But to visualize...

No soggy noodles

The other day I was working with a client on her PowerPoint slides. We looked at the first slide, then the second slide, then the third slide. She asked me what I thought. “Should we add this?” “Should we take that out?” The thing is, she had...

Spill your blood onto the floor

There’s a scene I love from the movie Cadillac Records. Beyonce plays Etta James, and she is in the studio recording the famous tune “All I Could Do Is Cry.” The producer tells her it’s not good enough, that she isn’t putting enough...

You’ll probably never not be nervous

Transcript: People make a big deal out of being afraid of public speaking. When somebody tells me that they’re afraid of public speaking, I just want to tell them, “You know, you’re never going to get over it.” I’ve been going to...

Talk to the wall

Transcript: Talk to the wall. What does that mean? Sometimes when you’re doing a speech, before you’re even writing the speech, when you’re just at the very beginning and you’re outlining the idea, sometimes a real rational approach, a really...

Feel, sense, describe – don’t just tell!

Transcript: When you’re practicing and when you’re standing right there on stage, imagine the stuff that you’re talking about. Visualize the things you’re talking about, see them. When you’re talking about flowers, don’t just say,...

Put some Tuba in it!

Transcript: This one is called, “Put Some Tuba in It.” When you’re mentoring somebody, I recommend that you tell your mentee to put some of them into their speeches. If their name is Ayşe, or Mehmet, or David, put some Ayşe in it. Put some David in...