For some speakers building slide decks can be difficult. They spend hours crafting them. They add images, they add text and in some cases too many bullets. When they then get on stage, the presentation doesn’t work.
They don’t work, not because the speaker isn’t good, but because the slide deck isn’t working.
These speakers don’t know how to use slide decks to benefit their talks. Instead, the slide decks prevent them from doing a good talk!
These speakers often don’t understand why they have slides in the first place. With some changes however, they could make their slides work for them.
I want to point out three important elements when it comes to slides to you. If you stick by these rules, your slides will instantly become better.
You’ve only got 30 seconds to grab the attention of your audience. That’s a very short time. It means you have to do it right!
In the first 30 seconds, the audience is going to decide whether or not they will trust you. They will make up their minds in regards of like-ability, trustworthiness and whether or not you are worth their time.
This means you have to pay attention to the first 30 seconds!
The World Champion Public Speaking 2015, Mohammed Qathani, uses some smart techniques that help him capture the attention of the audience early.
In this video, we break down three steps Qathani used in his winning talk. You can use these steps to right away capture the attention of your audience.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of advice to speakers who were preparing their decks. Some of them were preparing for a conference. Others were preparing for workshops. And there were even those who were preparing for online courses.
It was a lot of fun to do, and there were some great decks sent in. Of course, there were also quite a few things I could suggest for improvement. There is one thing that kept coming back when analysing the different slide decks: the text.
A lot of speakers still put a lot of text on their slides. Because they want to share as much information as possible. This isn’t always the best approach though. Let me explain why. After that, I will explain how you can handle slides that do have text on them.
Why is having too much text on a slide a bad thing?
Before you go and change your behaviour… Of course, you want to know first, why is having too much text on a slide a bad thing? After all, you are trying to give your audience as much information as possible. Aren’t you helping them?
As well as the intent often is, it isn’t helping them. For a lot of reasons.
Have you ever been to a bar where they had TV’s hanging on the wall? You will have. And you will have experienced that it is hard to keep your eyes off the screen. Even though your conversation partner has something interesting to say. You can’t keep your eyes off it.
The same thing happens with the screen(s) that are behind a speaker. People can’t take their eyes off it. At least, not until their brains have digested what is on the slide.
So what happens to a person when they see a lot of text on a slide? They start reading what is on it. Because they need to digest it. That means their attention will stay on the slide until they’ve read it all.
When your audience reads, they don’t hear you
Now try this: have someone tell you something, while you are trying to read something for the first time. You will either fail to read or fail to listen. You can’t do both.
The same will happen with your audience, they will focus on one thing. And that one thing is going to be the text. Their eyes will be drawn to the screen and will read, and won’t listen to you.
Your audience starts writing
I’m assuming that what you put on your slide is valuable information. Information that will help your audience. Your audience will feel the same way. It must be important because the speaker has put it on there!
When people come to an event or when they are listening to a speech, they want to remember things. And to remember, they will write things down. This means that when you put text on a slide, chances are your audience will write down what’s on your screen.
And you’ve guessed it. When they are writing, it’s hard to listen to you!
Especially when you have quite a bit of information on your slide, it will be hard for people to keep track of what you are saying. Chances are they will still be writing when you click to the next slide. That will mean they won’t hear the first things you are saying on a new topic.
They are playing catch up
The result is that people are playing catch up all through your presentation. They want to hear everything you say. They want to write down your message and your tips. But let’s put it bluntly: you’re not letting them.
The more text you have on your slides, the more your audience is playing catch up with your words. And that’s not something you want happening!
How much text can I put on a slide?
The question now of course arises, is how to handle the issue of too much text on a slide. And how much text should be on a (Powerpoint) slide anyway? There are a few things that you can do.
Give them short bites
The simplest solution, of course, is not to put too much text on a slide. But the truth is that you sometimes do need text. Also, because you sometimes WANT people to write something down. Or to tweet something.
The best way to do that is to use short bites. Short sentences that don’t take too much time to read or write down.
How much? I use the rule of the ‘old tweet’. Meaning around 140 characters. That is enough to digest. It will also make that it will be easier for people to share your quotes, using your name in it as well.
Don’t use text, use images
I don’t have much text on my slides. I use a lot of images. Using images prevents them from reading. I use images to represent what I am talking about. They support my words. They help my audience visualise my words.
If you do need to share more text, give them time to read. Pause your speech. Tell them they can read the slide if they want. Just don’t talk through it if you don’t have to.
Share the slide!
It’s common use to share slides afterwards with audiences. Even though there is discussion about whether or not this is a smart thing to do. Especially when you are using a lot of images, it won’t make much sense to those who haven’t seen your presentation.
When you have a lot of text on your slides, it might be wise to share your slides. When you get to a slide with more text, tell your audience they will get that slide. Tell them they should write down some important words, but they don’t have to copy the entire slide.
Powerpoint math: the 1-6-6 rule? No.
Finally, there is the 1-6-6 rule. This rule is very simple. You should include no more than six words per line and no more than six bullet points per slide.
They invented this rule to prevent people from using too much text. Unfortunately, it does the exact opposite. It encourages people to add text, a slide with six bullets and six words each, is still a lot of text! So when you think this rule is the way to go. Go up, and read the post again!
The essence: think about their attention
When it comes to text on slides, there is no set number of words or characters you can or cannot use. The essence of it all, is to think about your audience. Understand them. And understand the attention curves. If you understand those, you can help your audience digest what they need to hear.
It turns out that when we talk on a lower grade level, more people will understand and love what we say. It’s part of the success of the speeches of Donald Trump.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many people believe every word Donald Trump says, the answer might be simpler than you think. A large part of the reasons lies in the way he talks.
During the 2016 election, research showed that Donald Trump was speaking on a 4th or 5th grade level. That means the level of an 8 year old. Why is that important? Because he kept it simple.
Whether or not he did this on purpose, we don’t know. But the results were great for him. By toning down his language, he was able to reach a much larger group of people. And more important: he was able to persuade them. To make them believe his words and his ideas.
As a speaker, we can learn from this. Because too often, speakers use language that is too difficult for their audience. We have all been guilty of using jargon in our talks. But using difficult language is likely to make your audience fade out. They will stop listening.
When speaking in public. Try to keep it simple. Use words people understand. And if you want or need to use jargon, explain it. You can do that using the ‘Kinda like’ theory.
This theory means you create an analogy. Are you talking about something difficult? Compare it to something everyday. Something everybody will understand: “It’s kind of like riding a bike: hard at first, but you’ll get it.”
People don’t like to be wrong. And most people believe they are right. Tell them they aren’t, and you are the bad guy…
This means there is a really important thing you need to remember when you are on stage. Especially when you want to convince or persuade people. If you want to convince them about something that is your vision, you will need to make sure that you start off on the same side as those people.
There is one thing that people really want when you describe a problem or when you describe a situation. That is that they feel like you’re talking about them.
Their feeling should be: “Hey that’s me he’s talking about!”
As soon as people have the feeling that you are talking about them, about their situation, they will give you 100% attention.
And that is when they will feel that you understand them!
And when they feel you understand them, they will feel that whatever you have to say will help them. And therefore they will believe you!
As long as you can get that recognition element from your audience, you can convince them about anything you want.
In the video below, Bas van den Beld explains the importance of making people recognize themselves:
If you are struggling to structure your story, use The Story Pyramid. It guides you through the story. And we have a template for it!
Storytelling. We all want to do it. It’s one of the most asked about topics in relation to marketing these days. Of course, it’s also a huge element of any presentation. It does wonders when you are speaking at a conference. And it’s a big asset when you are pitching or speaking in front of small groups.
There are various ways to structure a story. They all have a beginning, middle, and end. But what structure is the best? One way to make sure you have the right structure is to use The Story Pyramid.
What is the Story Pyramid?
This method is often used for summarising. It also is useful as a tool to write, especially when it comes to business stories.
Why is it called a ‘pyramid’?
If you look at the storyline, it has a rhythm. You work up to a climax, followed by a falling point going towards the new situation. In the new situation, everything calms down. If you picture this, it looks like a pyramid.
How does it work?
The Story Pyramid shows the structure of your story in one view. The Pyramid has 8 steps in three categories. The main categories are the start, the middle and the end of the story. In each step, you write down the essence of that step.
At the beginning of the story, you introduce the characters. You explain the situation they are in and what conflict they need to overcome.
In the middle part, you describe the ‘rising action’. This is what happens in the lead up to the climax.
In the last part of the story, you describe the ‘falling point’. This is what happens after the climax and how your character takes action on the situation he or she is in. You then describe the resolution and you end with the new (successful) situation.
Once you have written down the essence, you can start writing the details of the story.
The Pyramid makes sure you have all the important elements embedded, in the right order. This way you are sure you have everything that makes a story interesting. In one overview, you show the storyline by writing down the key elements.
Step by step
The Pyramid has 8 steps divided into three categories. The main categories are the start, the middle and the end. In each step, you write down the essence of that step.
The eight steps are:
Introduction, in which you introduce the characters of the story;
Situation: you describe and explain the current situation the main characters are in;
Conflict, which describes the most important problems;
Rising Action, where you are working towards the climax;
The Climax shows how the hero handles the problems;
The Falling Point shows the action
In the Resolution, we see how the characters change their lives
In the New Situation, we see the new and improved situation.
To help you structure, we’ve created a template to use this method.
The Story Pyramid Template is a step by step approach to crafting your story. We guide you through the process.
What’s in the template?
In the template file you can find:
The Pyramid Timeline: a template to help structure
The Pyramid Details: a template to write out the details of your story
An explanation of how to use the template
This WILL be useful to you! Your storytelling skills will get better!
As a bonus: this method is not only great for using in your talks, you can use this method in your blogposts, in your social media and content marketing in general. You can even use it when writing a book or short story!
And if you need any guidance or help, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
You can download your FREE Story Pyramid Template below
A great presentation has got as little text as possible. Bullets are ‘death by powerpoint’. So what most presenters do, is create slide decks with a lot of images. And they are right. After all, an image says more than a 1,000 words.
Images can tell a story on its own. But more important: images can support what a speaker is talking about. I would argue that images beat text on a slide deck every time.
When building the deck, you need to find the images that work best. There is a lot you need to think about, one of them being: where do I find the images?
Of course, there are a lot of stock photo websites, full of images you can use. But which ones are any good? And which have free stock photos? Because for most images on the web, you need to pay royalties. After all, the photographer needs to make a living as well!
There are many speakers out there that don’t have the budget to buy high-quality images from stock photo websites. They need to look for a cheaper alternative. Which is when often they turn to Google Images. Unfortunately, most images found through Google also have copyright restrictions. You can’t use most images.
Finding royalty free images for a presentation isn’t as simple as it sounds!
Four great resources to find images
Fortunately, there are some good websites that offer great stock images to use in your slide decks. You only need to know how to find them. Below I’ve listed a few that offer great material. I’ve used them often! These websites offer a library of free images, in the creative commons public domain. That means you can use the images for free and you are in the clear.
First up is Pexels. Pexels.com is a search engine for “CC0 images”. This stands for “creative commons zero”. Meaning they are free. You can browse through the images as you go. Or choose one of the categories they picked for you, such as “holiday” or “water”. The best thing is the search engine which is prominent on the site. Type in a term and find related images. Be careful: they also show sponsored photos, these you do have to pay for!
Like all others, Unsplash shows a search bar on the front page. This will help you find the right images for your presentation. And when you do start searching, you will find some amazing images. They are some high-quality images there. Unsplash also offers some
Like the others, Freeimages.com offers a huge number of images to use for your presentations. Freeimages is somewhat easier to work with because of the way they structured the site. It has collections (categories). It has a search bar, but it also offers insight into what others use with ‘popular photos’ and editor’s picks. On Freeimages you can also search for photos made with a specific camera. And you can even search through pre-fabricated lightboxes.
One of my personal favourites is Pixabay.com. Pixabay does more than offer a set of great photos. It also has illustrations, vector graphics and even some videos. This makes it a resource where you will find what you are looking for. Another benefit is that you can search by filtering on size, orientation and even colour.
The key to using these sites is knowing how to search. You need to understand what you are looking for and describe that well. Otherwise, you will find the stock photo that everyone uses. Don’t use the first picture you see, but browse around. Find comparable images and see which one fits best.
Finally a pro-tip. Look at the name and description of the images you like. Then do a search that mirrors that text, which will make that you find related images.
There are many more websites that offer free photos you can use in your slide decks. You only need to look for the right ones. The three mentioned above to me are the ones that I use most. They never fail in finding me the right image.
Of course, finding the image is one thing. The most important thing is to understand what to look for in a picture you use in a presentation. Don’t take any picture. Think about it. Use one that ads value to the deck.
When you are doing a presentation you always have a goal. You are trying to get a message across. You are trying to teach your audience. Or you are trying to sell something. There is always a presentation goal.
There are different goals for a presentation. Here are six types of goals. Each of them has their own purpose. And each of them should be handled in a different way. In this article, I will explain how they work and how you as a speaker can benefit best.
Most of the presentations in business are about informing the people in the room. A client or your manager asks you to come and present on the progress of the project. What they expect is to get informed. They aren’t looking for inspiration or funny videos. What they want is a clear explanation of what the status of the project is.
There are more examples of presentations that are about informing the audience. Like presenting financial results or presenting the findings of a research. Or when you are a teacher and informing the parents of all the things that are going on in your school.
These talks are often short and to the point. If there is too much information, people won’t remember much. They should be easy to understand for those in the room.
The talks focus on the facts. The goal is to give the audience these facts.
When the talks become a bit more complicated, that is usually because they aren’t only to inform. They are to educate. The goal is to have the audience go home understanding more about what they heard. They need to leave knowing a lot more.
This goes beyond stating facts. You want the audience to learn, so you have to pay attention to this. You need to teach or instruct the group of people in front of you. That means you need to know a lot about your topic.
There are many different examples of this talk. A workshop or training session is the most logical one of course. But also instructing your staff on new policies is an example.
Presentations to educate are often longer. Because you want the audience to remember what you teach them, you will use more examples and go more in depth. Often they are also more interactive since interaction helps the understanding. What is more important than the length, is how thorough you are on the topic.
To persuade or convince
There are a lot of presentations that have the goal of persuasion. Speakers want to convince the audience to understand or believe their stand on a topic. Or simpler: to buy a product or service.
These types of presentations you can often see in politics. The politician wants to convince the listener to vote for them. But you can see it as often in business. Each sales presentation is about persuading the potential client. You want them to choose your product or service.
A persuasive speech is working towards a solution. You show the problem. Then offer the audience the solution by presenting your views and methods. A persuasive speech offers evidence, logic and has emotion in it.
Close to persuasion is activation. These speeches present the audience with information that makes them want to take action. Fundraising presentations are good examples, but you can see them in politics a lot as well. Politicians want people to take action. Or vice versa, people want politicians to take action.
To make this type of presentation work, one of the most important ingredients is to tell them what to do. If the audience doesn’t know what to do, why would they act? Another important ingredient is passion. You are trying to make people move. They will only do that if they feel you believe.
To inspire or motivate
In essence, every speaker wants to inspire. Inspiration, after all, is one of the most powerful emotions. It is great if you are able to inspire people to think, move or change their behavior.
These types of speeches are often seen at TED Conferences. More often you see them at events aimed at personal improvement. There are many motivational speakers there. You can also see motivational speeches within businesses. When management is trying to inspire the staff to work harder or better. The best examples of motivational speeches you find in locker rooms. When coaches are trying to get their teams out on the field full of positive adrenaline.
Talks that are inspiring are often very personal. Overcoming hardship usually does very well. But it doesn’t have to be about something bad that has happened. It can be about the future. The speech Martin Luther King gave was about a dream. In the future. That can be just as inspiring!
The last type of presentation is to entertain. Everybody likes to be entertained. And one way of entertaining is to have a great speech.
Many of these types of presentations are done in personal settings. When you are entertaining guests for example. Or when you are doing a speech at someone’s (or your own) wedding. But you can see the entertaining speeches in many places. Stand up comedy, theatre, but also presentations at an opening of an event. They are meant to entertain. To make the audience laugh and feel happy.
To make this presentation work, you have to give the audience what they are looking for: a good feeling. Sometimes you can accomplish this by telling jokes. But be careful, not everyone has the same humor. And especially these days, people are hurt easy.
To be able to make people feel good, you need to understand who is in the room and what makes them tick. You need to do your research here!
To conclude: your goals
Now that we’ve looked at the different types of goals, it’s time for you to determine your presentation goals. Have you figured them out yet? Make sure you do before you create the presentation! That way, you can work towards the goal.
And remember, when you are thinking about your presentation goals, think first about your audience. What should they get out of it? Because for all the different types of talks, the secret to all success is to understand your audience!
You need to define your goals. That means you need to take a few steps.
When you are speaking in public, you might be inclined to share as much information as possible. That, however, might not be the best choice. People only remember three things.
Here’s the transcript of the video:
Hello! I hope you’re doing well and I hope, you are planning on doing a lot of speaking this year. Maybe you are already doing it!
One thing I wanted to talk to you about today is “how much you put in your presentation?” Because what I’ve learned: a lot of the times when I’m at a conference or listening to talks, is that so many speakers put too much information in their slides or in their presentations.
It’s a tendency which is explainable because a lot of speakers feel like they should give away as much information as possible as they can. However, when you do that, the chances are very high that your audience will “lose” you quite quickly.
There are only three things in general that people take away from a talk. Only three things that they will remember! And the longer the time is between your talk and when they are actually doing something with it, the less they will remember.
That’s why you need to really think about what you put in your presentation. And don’t put in too much.
Try aiming for three things that you want people to take away from your talk. And emphasise those three things. Explain those three topics. And give examples of it. But don’t try to give lists of 10 or even 20 or 15 or whatever kind of number of things you want people to take away. Because they won’t remember.
Most speakers use images in their Powerpoint presentations. A lot of them look great, but it doesn’t end there. Many speakers talk ABOUT the image. But that’s wrong. The image supports your story. It’s not a story on its own.
We’re giving you 25 minutes of tips! On Storytelling this time. This is the presentation I (Bas) have done at the Benchmark Conference in Manchester in September. The talk was recorded by Omi Sodi. Enjoy!
When speaking in public, it is very important to have the right timing. This doesn’t just mean, stay within the time of the presentation. It also means saying the right things at the right time and the right speed.
In this video, we look at timing.
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These days you hear a lot about storytelling as a marketing strategy. Many marketers, therefore, believe they should ‘do storytelling’ as well. Whenever you do something, you want to know they ‘why’ (as Simon Sinek told us).
So, you might wonder why storytelling is such a powerful tool. What makes storytelling worth it? Do you invest time in it? And in what way? It’s important to know why it is powerful to be able to do storytelling right.
In this article, I’d like to dive into those questions. We will look into the power of storytelling.
The number one reason why storytelling is such a powerful tool has to do with the recipients’ mind. The minds of those that hear the story. As recipients, we can’t resist a good story. Stories are deeply wired into our minds.
It’s been like that for centuries. Humans have been telling each other stories forever. Even in the stone age, people used stories to send messages to other people and help and teach them. Cave paintings are a great example of that. They tell a story that has to help the next person that passes that cave.
We are basically raised to learn from stories. Have you ever thought about why you can still remember most of the fairy tales your parents told you?
As soon as we hear the words ‘once upon a time’, our brains are ‘in’. From that point on, we can’t resist. We have to hear what happened. It’s in our DNA and, of course, we are trained to listen and interpret stories. All the stories our parents told us when we were kids, made us crave for more.
We don’t only love stories, stories helped shape our minds. That’s why most fairy tales have lessons in them. Stories go directly into our brains. That means the best ways to give children messages, is through stories. The message behind the story of Cinderella is to not take food from strangers. The message behind the three little piglets is to not be lazy. And so do all fairy tales have a message.
Imagination gets us involved
When we listen to stories, we need imagination. In our brains, we picture what we hear. Good stories are crafted in a way that, when they are told, we can ‘see’ them. The stories come alive in our brains. We picture the lead characters, we ‘create’ the environment. This makes us part of the story. Imagination makes co-creators of the story. And since we are part of the creation, we remember better and feel more ‘close’ to a story.
With imagination also come emotions. It brings the same emotions shared by the characters in the story. When we imagine things, they almost become real. What you hear comes alive in your brain. And when it feels real, it has more impact. It will be easier to remember more. You will also, and especially, remember the feeling the story. If the feeling is good, it will make you happy.
In marketing, this means that when we are part of a story, we are closer to a product or brand. And when we are closer, we buy easier.
A story benefits the storyteller as well
For listeners, stories give joy and structure to a story. But storytellers also get a lot of benefit from telling a story. They have the chance to send a message and have that message resonate. Besides that, it makes the storyteller important.
You can say stories bring status to storytellers and actionable insights to the good listeners. It’s good for everyone!
Where is storytelling useful?
Powerful stories can be used everywhere. Whether it is for teaching children, marketing or other purposes. You can see the power of stories in presentations from politicians, tv, music videos, movies and books. Even commercials are stories.
As marketers, we can use stories in many different settings. We can use it when we are pitching. We can use it in a presentation, or as marketing material.
To create a connection, personal stories work best. But don’t overdo it. Important is to realise there has to be a message in it. Stories which show a struggle and are authentic are the best.
As you can see, the power of storytelling is big!
How to create that story?
There are many ways for crafting a story. But it is important to realise that building a story needs close attention. It’s easy to create the wrong story. A lot is also in the execution. How the story is told, determines a lot of how it is received.
To learn how to craft that perfect story, the one that everyone loves, the one that has real impact, next to the email course, we created a Storytelling Class. Sign up now!
“You have to connect with your audience”. It’s a sentence you can read in almost any book about public speaking or hear at any training session. You want the audience to get involved.
Why do you want the audience connection?
The books and the trainers are right. It’s good to get a connection with the audience. Once you have the connection, the audience is much more inclined to believe what you are saying. They trust you, so they will be more open to you. If they don’t trust you, your story, no matter how good, will not “do” anything. It won’t “live” and the audience won’t remember your important messages.
I always try to find the connection with the audience. Sometimes that is easier said than done. But I try.
At a conference a few years ago, I tried out something new. I asked my audience for help. Let me explain.
My talk was about Understanding your audience using data-driven marketing. It’s a topic I speak about more often and help businesses with.
As a speaker, it sometimes can be difficult to get a grip on your audience. They always come from different backgrounds. So they will perceive your talk in different ways.
In this case, I wanted to make an effort to understand my audience. That’s why I asked my audience for feedback. Right there and then. Asking for feedback is difficult. When asked, most people won’t tell you the truth. Or they keep it too simple: good, medium or bad. This doesn’t help me much to understand what they are taking away from my talk.
So I asked the audience for their notes.
Every audience is always making notes. On their computer, tablet or on paper. I decided I wanted to see these notes. So I asked the audience to tweet out a picture of their notes after my session.
I knew that this was tricky to do in Sweden. The audience in the Nordics is often a bit more reserved than somewhere else. They are knowledgeable but less interactive.
In this case, the result was great.
I got regular tweets with feedback and feedback in person afterward. And even better: I got pictures of the notes from some nice and helpful people in the audience.
What I learned
Looking at the notes helped me figure out a few things about my speech. Things that can help me improve my talks for next times. Here are a few learnings from the notes:
The audience understood my message. The message was that we need to make a bigger effort to try and understand our audiences.
People understood the different groups you need to split up your audiences in.
People like tricks.
Stories ‘stick’, I have to make sure the message is clear;
The quotes I put on the screen come back in the notes;
People on average will take away 3-5 things. Don’t put more in;
The competitor’s data part in the presentation didn’t show up in the notes;
The audience ignored Social Media platforms like FB-groups, G+ and Linkedin in the notes.
Some nice learnings there for me. I already knew about some of them. But there was some refreshing new information. For me, it was a success.
And somehow (but I haven’t checked that) I think this helped the audience as well. They will hopefully look at their notes in a different way.
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