The tips cover the following categories: Message, Media, Mechanics and More,
and are coded as follows:

S - for Scripting (message)

V - for Visual design (media)

D - for Delivery skills (mechanics)

L - for Logistics ("more" - such as technology, environment, etc.)

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A Matter of Contrast - (V)

The paper-white display of your PC is not a distraction because you can look away whenever you want, or switch to a different program to alter your view of content. But when you watch a presentation, you are being asked to keep your attention fixed for a longer period, with no ability to change the display to the next image. To maintain attention, proper visual contrast is necessary in the design.

When information is displayed from a distance, the rule of contrast is that the background should be darker than the objects in the foreground. Color theory teaches us that black absorbs all light and white reflects all light. The darker an object’s color, the more light absorbed, giving the object the appearance of greater distance. The lighter the color, the closer the object appears to the eye. In presentations, the contrast between foreground elements and background is critical.

Items in the foreground are meant to appear “closer” to the viewer than items in the background. Highway signs have brighter letters on darker backgrounds for visibility from a distance. The credits at the end of a movie are on a black screen. Even the crawl at the bottom of the newscast is a black strip with bright text.

When it comes to light absorption, black-on-white visual presentations are less effective. The contrast is opposite the norm. The data (foreground) on a black and white image — is black. By absorbing all the light, the information moves away from the eye. But the white background reflects all light back to the audience. The eye cannot handle reflected white light for very long. It’s too distracting.

Hence, use darker-color backgrounds and lighter-color foregrounds for optimal effect when displaying content from a distance.

Using Virtual Space - (D)

Virtual space lets you connect the audience to invisible objects. In essence, you use virtual space to show the audience how you visualize the concepts you’re explaining. Although you see the concepts in your mind, the audience has no idea how to distinguish among them. Virtual space helps.

For example, let’s say you mention to the group that three separate departments will be involved in a decision: marketing, sales, and finance. To get the audience to see the three different departments using virtual space, you physically place the departments in the air for the audience to reference.

As you say the word “marketing”, your right hand places the word in the air to your right. As you say “sales”, your left hand places the word in the air to your left. As you say “finance,” you might use both hands to place the word in the air in front of you (below your face), as if cupping the word. The three departments are now floating in virtual space and you can immediately reference any of the three by physically retrieving it from its floating position.

Until you move your body, the audience will remember where you placed these references because the points of reference have been established. The concepts are floating in virtual space for the audience to “see” and they are easier for you to reference, as well.

You must be consistent and remember where you “placed” a reference. If you placed “sales” on your left, you cannot gesture to that virtual space and then say the word “marketing” because the audience will be confused, thinking that the space to your left temporarily refers to “sales”.

Similarly, multiple gestures to the same virtual space using different references will make the references seem equal, even though you intended them to be different. Thus, by saying the words “sales”, “marketing”, and “finance” while moving only one hand into the same place several times, will suggest the three words are all the same, because they will appear to occupy the same virtual space.

Once you move your body to another physical location, even a step or two away, the virtual space falls to the floor, allowing you to use new space to reference new objects.

Observing Body Language - (D)

Your hands are used to support your vocal expressions by creating emphasis, showing distinction, demonstrating progression, etc.

To help visualize these concepts, an excerpt from a Charlie Rose interview of Bill Gates is used to discuss three body language issues (Conversational-izing, Virtual Space, and Timelines), which tend to challenge all of us, from time to time, when we speak.

To watch the short video, click on the link below:


Let Conflict Enhance the Message - (S)

If you want your message to have the most impact on the greatest number of people then you must match your message to what is most basic to your audience. One way to achieve this is through the use of CONFLICT, because people have some type of “conflict” in everyday life.

There are three “dramatic perspectives” or types of conflict --- global (man against nature), local (man against man) or inner (man against himself). There is only ONE type of conflict used in any given story.

If you identify the overall message or theme, you should dominate your stories with the type of conflict that matches the theme or the objective behind the message.

For example, a message targeting an “industry” practice is an example of global conflict. A message focusing on abuse in the workplace can be inner conflict (to the organization itself) or it can be shaped as local conflict between people (superior/subordinate). An introduction of a new software program to increase group efficiency is an example of an inner conflict, as each person identifies with the need to self-improve by learning the new process.

Know the message and you will be able to build stories using the type of conflict that matches the message.

The Three Little Smiles - (D)

Once upon a time… a speaker claimed it was difficult to get an audience excited about information simply because the content was so boring. Content is never boring --- people are boring. A boring presenter delivers boring details. While there are a number of ways to bring content to life, the most obvious method is to smile. You can choose from any of the three kinds of smiles: outside, inside, and in-depth.

The OUTSIDE SMILE is with your TEETH, and is “reactionary” to either your own words or to the words of others, expressing happiness, indicating joy, and obvious to everyone.

The INSIDE SMILE is with your HEART, revealing your personal stories and heartfelt experiences that somehow relate to the given discussion, linking emotion to content.

The IN-DEPTH SMILE is with your EYES, a window to your soul that engages people in a willing belief of your own beliefs. Some call this credibility, others call it charisma, you can just call it convincing.

Use the outside smile, and the boredom will disappear. Use both the outside and inside smiles, the engagement level rises. Use all three and you will have the audience "in the palm of your hand."

If you can use one or more of these smiles, periodically during your talk, you will be more effective.

Make Better Connections in Online Delivery - (D)

Using our research-based assessment tools, which measure the effectiveness of presenters, there appears to be a significant drop in quality when even highly rated “live” speakers deliver online content, specifically webinars, where the venue is limited to voice-over driven content.

Two reasons for this appear to be physical. The online presenter is likely sitting when delivering the content and likely looking at the PC screen (content) while speaking. Both of these actions are not typical of effective speakers when engaging a live audience, where the presenter is usually standing and making eye contact with people.

However, if a person is able to stand (or at least sit up straight) while delivering online content, then the body is less restricted and the vocal tones resonate with proper “swells” (highs and lows) to create “visual interest” in the ear. In other words, there is more energy in the voice.

If a person places photographs of people (loved ones, friends, colleagues, etc.) in the work area while delivering the online session, a momentary glance to a familiar face creates an “inside smile” and the voice expresses a kind of joy that mimics the eye contact of a live audience (to some degree). Telemarketers often surround themselves with photos of familiar people to mask the initial discomfort that sometimes arises from talking with strangers.

So, to be more effective when delivering online content, consider elongating the upper body (standing is better) and having pictures of familiar people to glance at periodically as you speak..

Depth-Charge Your Talk - (D)

The DEPTH of your space is the most critical element to consider when positioning yourself in front of an audience. The only dimension that adds value is depth. Height and width are accepted instantly, but depth perception requires concentration and therefore creates an enduring effect.

For example, you can watch a movie on a big screen (cinema) or on a small screen (TV) and you can adjust to the height and width of that venue immediately. The issue that matters most is the depth of the action --- that is, what's happening ON the screen.

Since depth has visual value, then you can use the dimension of depth to create impact. A move TOWARDS the audience signifies something different from a move AWAY. Likewise, any move from side to side in front of people will have little effect. This is why crossing from one side of the room to the other is hard to justify, especially if the audience has no clue as to why the cross was made.

But depth is an automatic perception for everyone. So, once you select the area of the space to present within, use the depth of that space to add value to your words by moving towards or away from the audience.

Red-Green Deficiency - (V)

Certain color combinations may pose a problem for some people, particularly men. Some studies show that nearly 15% of men have a red/green deficiency. Other research suggests that close to 22% of men have some form of this deficiency.

Women do not suffer from this problem (in any significant numbers), but they should be aware of this fact when selecting colors for visuals, especially because women see the brilliance of all colors.

If you happen to have this deficiency, certain “rods and cones” in your eyes may be missing, thus making it difficult for you to pick up the red or green colors of the spectrum. For example, you might see purple more as blue, because you can’t see as much of the red portion of purple. You may see brown more as a green because you can’t see all the red parts that mix with green to make brown.

The deficiency is not as noticeable with large areas of color as it is with small areas.

For example, suppose a line chart has three lines with one line beige, one line tan, and one line orange. It’s possible that someone with a red/green deficiency will not be able to tell the difference between the three lines. The result will be confusion and a loss of attention.

Try to avoid red-green color combinations, especially in small areas.

Watch Those Typos - (V)

Having a typographical error, or typo, on a slide is not only embarrassing but distracting as well. Although some audiences may tolerate minor speaking blunders, very few, if any, will forgive spelling errors. Yes, we all make mistakes, but first impressions of printed errors leave many viewers unhappy.
Typos make you appear unprepared and uncaring to the audience. People may perceive you as not having full knowledge of your subject, and the typos may cause viewers to lose their focus. In fact, the audience may even start “looking” for more typos instead of paying attention to you.

Obviously, the best way to avoid typos is to proofread your slides. Don’t depend solely on a software “spell checker” since its “dictionary” may be limited. A good way to proofread is to read your text backwards, one word at a time.

For example, in the paragraph above, start by reading the last word of the paragraph, and, working your way backwards, reading each word until you get to the first word of the paragraph. By focusing on each word, one at a time, you’re more likely to spot an error, because the phrases will not make any sense when read in reverse.

(See visual examples)

However sometimes, no matter how many typos there are in the text, you can still understand the message.
See if you can read the text below.

Aoccdrnig to rsceearh at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the entrie wrod as a wlohe.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod atlcualy uesdnatnrd waht I was rdeanig!

Amzanig ins’t it??

Earth-to-Sky Theory - (V)

When you have related elements in the foreground of a chart, arrange them in a darker-to-lighter pattern from the bottom of the chart, upward. This "Earth-to-Sky" pattern is the way we view color naturally; that is, from the earth to the sky. The earth is darker than the trees, which are darker than the sky, which is darker than the clouds. So, when you have related foreground elements that may use different colors, you should choose an order of those colors from darker to lighter. Keep in mind that the elements must be related to one another, as in a group.

For example, in a segmented vertical bar chart you can use the darker-to-lighter Earth-to-Sky pattern for the segments within each bar. If there were three segments per bar, then the bottom segment would be darkest, the middle segment a bit lighter and the top segment the lightest. If the top segment had been the darkest color, the chart would appear top-heavy.

When displaying clusters of bars, choose a darker-to-lighter pattern starting from the left-most bar in each cluster. Don't use the "piano-key" approach by putting the lightest color between surrounding darker colors.

When looking at a related set of items from left-to-right, or from bottom-to-top, the eye scans colors more easily when the arrangement is a dark-to-light pattern. A faster scan gives the audience more time to listen to the message. Since the order of the colors can make a difference, why not use this to your advantage?

(See visual examples)

More or Less Eye Contact? - (D)

The common belief is that when interacting with someone, you should always make as much eye contact as possible. This is true when you are LISTENING. You would like to appear 100% attentive, so making eye contact with the person is critical. But what about when you are SPEAKING?

When you are speaking, break the eye contact with the listener, from time to time, in order to increase the attention to your words. If, while you speak, you keep your eyes locked on another person all the time, they will have no choice but to look away to avoid the constant eye contact. This means another object will have caught their attention, even if for only a brief moment. It is at that moment that they are not attentive.

But if you break the eye contact every now and then, the listener begins to make more of an effort to find those moments of eye contact you make with them. To do that, the listener must stay focused on your eyes and thus will be more attentive to everything you say.

You can easily see this work in a group situation. The person speaking makes eye contact periodically with each person in the group, while everyone in the group remains focused on the person speaking. Thus, the listeners make more eye contact with the speaker than the speaker makes with any one listener. The same holds true in a one-to-one situation.

So, when you are doing the talking, periodically break the eye contact and you will increase the attention to your message.

Take a MINUTE to Relax - (D)

Some say the nervousness before a performance is both natural and necessary. While nature may create the feeling, it is certainly not necessary. If you can eliminate the jitters BEFORE a presentation, you will be able to deliver your message more effectively. The easiest way to reduce the adrenaline rush and rapid heartbeat is to create some activity (action) as a way of relaxing --- physically.

A limber body is always more relaxed under any pressure. Stretching exercises and other minor aerobic activities will definitely help you to relax before giving a presentation. Here is a ONE-MINUTE warm-up routine to do, before presenting.

The UPPER body can become less tense by actually using tension (isometrics) where you press your palms against each other, across your chest (as if your arms are fighting with one another). Create the tension for 10 seconds and release. Do this twice (20 seconds in all).

The LOWER body can relax in 15 seconds. Wiggle your toes for 5 seconds, tighten your leg muscles for 5 seconds, and shift your weight to either foot about four times, which should take another 5 seconds.

The CORE of the body gets loose by holding your hands on your lower back and bending slightly backwards and holding that position for 10 seconds.

The NECK muscles need to stretch by pretending you are the needle of a "compass" --- look straight up (North), then straight down (South), then side to side (East/West), all this for about 5 seconds.

The MOUTH area is the most important. Stretch the jaw muscles horizontally by saying the word "See". Then, stretch the muscles vertically by saying the word "Saw". Repeat the "see-saw" phrase slowly 5 times, which should take about 10 seconds in total.

Add them all up and this one-minute drill uses external actions to take the focus away from thinking too much about the opening moments of your presentation, thus reducing tension and nervousness.

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