No Swings & Roundabouts, It’s The Slides You Need To Watch

I was watching someone give a talk the other day and, like most people nowadays, they were using a projector, screen and were displaying various bits of their talk on the screen, including text and statistics that applied to their subject. I’m being deliberately vague about it all, because I don’t want to identify the person themselves. I spoke to them about it afterwards, but I’d hate to publicly embarrass them in any way.


So, they had a slide that looked like this:

You will have seen a million of these. However, where have you seen them? If you’ve seen them on a presentation thats been emailed to you, that’s fine – but if you’ve seen them whilst someone stands in front of it with a laptop and a laser pointer – well, that’s all kinds of wrong.


PowerPoint presentations (or Keynote, or whichever program you use) are meant to be an aid. They’re meant to enliven your presentation, to add something to it. They’re not meant to be your crutch. If you’re saying EXACTLY what is on the slide, then you need to change the slide. Sadly, that’s exactly what this speaker was doing – just reading to us all, like we we’re 6-years old


If you are a compelling, entertaining speaker – you don’t need a slide presentation, apart from some very specific circumstances. If you need to show a photo of someone, to illustrate your story; to display your company logo; to highlight *one phrase* or *one word* of what you’ve just said or to show a specific infogram or statistic.


Oh, that leads nicely onto my next point.


I’ve also seen slides like this one:



Stats, numbers, figures, quotes, percentages, fractions – all in different colours and, sometimes, different fonts. Gaahh! So frustrating.


Obviously, everything in the above slide is a load of tosh – but the presentation I was watching had *fourteen* stats on one slide. Honestly, I couldn’t recall one of them if you had me in a darkened room and shone a light in my face – and I spent time counting them!


As I tell my clients – unless you are delivering a company’s end of year results – there should be no more than THREE statistics in any one presentation. And, out of those three, how many do you think the audience take away with them? One. That’s it – just one. How can you possibly make sure that the one they remember is the one you *want* them to remember? By cutting down on the clutter.


Another way – is by talking. If you give a great speech that’s based around one phrase, one statistic, one stream of consciousness – you’re guaranteed to be remembered. And by that I mean remembered as a good speaker – not as someone who read out their PowerPoint presentation.


It’s called a ‘talk’ or ‘speech’ not a ‘read’. Get talking, and stop clicking for the next slide…

I Can Make You A Good Speaker


In my many years of working in communications, I’ve come across so many people who say “Oh I could never stand up in front of a room full of people and give a speech or a presentation” or “I don’t know how you could do that, I would just die!”


My response to this is always the same “It’s all about confidence, time and prep”. And I say that because I believe that I can help anyone, yes ANYONE become a good public speaker.


Ooh, don’t you just love it when someone makes a bold claim like that? The cynics start to come out, saying things like “What about people with severe speech defects, or people with debilitating diseases?”. Yes, yes you’re very clever for spotting the hole in my plan – but did you really think that I meant every single person on Earth today? If you did, well I think that makes you a bit of a fool.


So – for the pedants (and fools), I’ll rephrase:- I believe that I can help any person who has a good grasp of their language and also has a relatively expanded cognitive functionality become a good public speaker. Happy? It’s not as snappy, but it’s factually accurate.


Of course, at the beginning of it all is the desire. You have to WANT to be a good speaker. I can’t force it upon you.


Second is the confidence. I’m always a little wary of confidence. I can’t decide if it’s one of nature’s greatest gifts – or one of the biggest swindles that we’ve ever fallen prey to. What does confidence look like? How do you get it? How do I get it? Can I bottle it? Can I sell it? Can I fake it? Can people tell if I’m faking it? To answer those questions – We don’t know, you’ve already got it, various ways, no, no, absolutely, absolutely not.


I want to just stop on that second answer for a second. In response to the question “How do you get it?”, the answer “You’ve already got it?”. It’s true because you have. Making a cup of tea, for example. Are you confident that you can do that? Of course, you’ve done it hundreds of times. Instead of ‘making a cup of tea’ substitute driving, or packing a bag, or putting on socks – you’ve done those things, so now you’re confident that you could do them again. So, when it comes to the question as to whether confidence is a gift or a scam – I guess it’s a little of both.


Confidence is all about knowledge. If you know something, then you have confidence in it. So, when it comes to speaking in public – if you’ve never done it before, then it’s likely that you’ll have very little confidence in your ability to do it. What do you do then? How do you get around that Catch-22 situation? To get confidence, you need to know or experience public speaking – but you can’t give a speech in public until you have confidence. To quote one of my favourite TV characters of all time, Leo McGarry from The West Wing “Act as if ye has faith, and faith shall be given unto you, or to put it another way ‘Fake It Till You Make It’”



That’s right – fake it. Become a great big faker. A big phoney, faker who’s faking and phoneying all over the place. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to present something – whether it’s an awards show, a variety evening or a radio show – and I’ve faked it. Not faked the content, that was already in place – but I’ve faked how confident I was about being there as the host.


Ask any speaker, any actor, any singer, any radio host, any TV presenter and a large majority of them will tell you the same thing – at one point or another, they’ve faked it.


Faking it is a necessary point you have to go through to arrive at the destination of being a good public speaker. One of the things I teach is HOW you get there; what you need to fake it; and how do you know when to stop faking it.


Once you’ve got the confidence (or you’re faking it – wink wink), you need the time and the prep. These two kind of go hand in hand. You absolutely should do some preparatory work for any kind of speech or presentation you’re giving – and you need time to do that prep. As far as public speaking goes, and this is covered in the training I give, this is the immovable object. Before your warm-ups, before you see the room, before you decide if you’re going to stand or sit – you need to do the prep. Do the prep and so much of what goes into being a good public speaker will just fall into place. Your confidence will start to grow because you know the material, you’ve done the prep; you can think more about the crowd, the room, the structure of your speech, the pacing, the tone, the big ending – because the prep has been done.


Confidence, prep and time. These are the three pillars that I use as a starting point for any public speaking training that I do. Where I go from here depends on what the client wants.


So, what do you want when it comes to being a public speaker? If the answer is “I want to be a good one”, then we should definitely talk. Email me on