Is Your Presentation PowerPointless?

You’ve heard that your bodyBusiness presentation language and voice can make you persuasive. Maybe you’ve also found that a certain presentation structure can help you be more convincing. But what about your visual aids? Can they help you persuade? Absolutely!


Your PowerPoint (or any other presentation software) should help you focus on making points rather than simply covering content. Presentation software is far less effective when it simply has a topic for a title and bullets for the body. That approach is what prompted the now-trite phrase, “Death by PowerPoint.”

Your visuals can aid in your persuasiveness by following Assertion-Evidence format. This format was studied at Penn State School of Engineering in 2002 by Michael Alley. It was shown to increase audience retention by 17%. This format is useful far beyond the field of engineering. To use it, don’t title your slides; make an assertion about the benefit(s) of applying the content of your presentation. This often means that your “title” is a complete sentence and is longer than a standard slide title.

The content of the slide then proves the assertion with a chart or a graph. Or it illustrates the point with a photo or diagram. . Avoid bullets as much as possible! Bullets don’t aid audience retention and often trigger Redundancy Effect.This type of visual aid construction will focus you more on making points and cause you to be more persuasive.

Ultimately, your PowerPoint should help you focus on claiming a point (the assertion for the slide title) and making points (the chart or image in the body of the slide), not just talking about content. Here are some examples of “topic titles” and their assertion counterparts:

  • Market Share (title) – New Products are Gaining Market Share (assertion)
  • DFW Facts (title) – DFW Is Centrally Located for North American Business (assertion)
  • Sales Data (title) – Pacific Northwest Region Meets Quota Every Quarter (assertion)


“If your business keeps you so busy that you have no time for anything else, there must be something wrong, either with you or with your business.” – William J.H. Boetcker (religious leader and speaker)

Sticks and Stones…

StonesSticks & stones have broken my bones (golf carts and parking meters too) and names have probably hurt me. I’m not talking about names other people have called me, rather the names I have used to refer to other people.

During times of conflict, I’ve used unflattering terms to describe people. I’ve come to realize that those terms kept me from improving the relationship and sustained the bad feelings. We’ve all had relationships end and sometimes they end with a bang and not with a whimper. When that happens, we sometimes refer to the other person derogatorily. While that is natural initially, continuing to use those terms in the long term can poison the relationship. Or worse.

I got divorced in 2010. While it wasn’t the most acrimonious of divorces, there were still hurt feelings on both sides. For my part, I continued to think and talk about my ex-wife negatively for too long. This kept me from moving past the ended relationship and re-making it so that it served me better. Eventually I realized this and changed the phrases and words I used to refer to my. I simply started thinking and talking about her in ways that were neutral. I think that trying to make the huge leap to using glowing, positive references would have been a “bridge too far” for me.

But by refusing to talk negatively about her, I changed the way I perceived her. At least a little bit. This shift also changed the way I treated her and that correspondingly improved the relationship! Is there someone you often refer to in a negative way? If so, how might you tweak that a little?


“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso

Not So Fast My Friend

PauseAt the end of a recent yoga class, the instructor finished by saying, “The light in me honors and respects the light in you. Namaste.” Before she finished saying “Namaste,” a couple of students responded with their own “Namaste.” It struck me that they sent the message that they were simply in a hurry to say their peace without regard to the instructor.

I’ve seen presenters do something similar during Q&A. They are in such a hurry to answer a question, they don’t even let the questioner finish! While I applaud the speaker’s excitement to answer the question, it’s also important to show the questioner, and the whole audience, that you’re paying full attention to them. After all, it’s the audience who decides how well your presentation goes.

This is one of the simplest tips I have for speakers: pause after the question for a beat before answering. You can even gently nod your head (if you want extra credit) while pausing to demonstrate that you’re welcoming the question. If you naturally have fast rate of speech, this will take some practice. What’s good is that every time you talk to someone, you have the opportunity to practice pausing. As Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” As a speaker, your job is to do both, but you need to do them in order!

By pausing after your audience’s questions, you show them that you’re honoring “the light” in them! Namaste!

Gratitudes…Schmatitudes (not really)

ThanksUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard about the benefits of regularly acknowledging your gratitudes: 
* Improved physical health 
* Improved emotional/mental health 
* Increased empathy 
* Enhanced attractiveness and success (just having fun, but you never know!)

I’ve read about and researched the benefits of gratitude for several years. When I first found out about it, I started including three gratitudes in my journal. Initially I loved doing it and found it helpful. But after a while, it lost it’s magic for me. It began to feel tedious and obligatory.

I recently found out why the romance had gone out of my relationship with gratitudes. When I wrote them, I attributed my feelings of gratefulness to external sources. For example, I often wrote, “I’m grateful for the beautiful weather today.” This meant that the source of my joy wasn’t my doing. According to research done in 2005 by R.L. Maddux, people are happier when they express some personal responsibility for their gratitude.
With that in mind, I’m better served by writing, “I’m grateful that I took five minutes of my day to enjoy the beautiful weather.” Here are some “before (B) and after (A)” gratitudes:

  • B: I’m thankful for my friend, Mike. 
A: I’m thankful for Mike’s friendship and that I made time in my day to have coffee with him.
B: I’m glad I have my health. 
A: I’m glad I made a workout a priority today.

My gratitudes are now my responsibility and I’m grateful that I’ve made the change. Give it a try!

3 Kinds of Lies…


Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I spent several years in market research and saw my share of numbers that, at the very least, misled.

However, in business, numbers are critical. P&L can determine compensation, market research can alter product plans, and crime statistics can change the number of law enforcement officers. While numbers have power, they aren’t as persuasive as we have been led to believe. If you want to change someone’s mind, you’d better have a story.

If you’re like me, you remember seeing anti-smoking commercials that spouted statistics about health risks for smokers. You’ve probably seen the latest wave of commercials sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Tips from Former Smokers.”

Without going into gruesome detail, the commercials graphically show what has happened to former smokers. Each 30-second spot tells the story of one former smoker and the devastating effect on his/her life. The stories include amputations, heart surgeries, breathing stomas, and difficult pregnancies. If you’ve seen the commercials (started in 2012), you know  how powerful and effective they are.

As a presenter, follow the CDC’s lead. Instead of showing a slide with your corporate history, tell the story of the company’s formation. Follow the hero’s journey model ( This model is elaborate, so you may need to shorten it. If you are citing successes of past clients, tell one customer’s story rather than just showing their before and after P&L.

To convince someone to take a new step, you must appeal to their emotional brain as well as their rational brain. Remember that humans generally don’t have emotional responses to excel spreadsheets!

Do Less to Do More

Brain WorkoutFor years I’ve talked about how taking 10-minute breaks about every hour can benefit memory. It turns out that a similar formula is also the key to your productivity. According to some research done by the Draugiem Group, the formula is even less intense than that!

The Draugiem group found that the most productive 10% of workers employed a pattern of working intensely for 52 minutes and then took approximately 17-minute breaks. This is very similar to the exercise program I love/hate, burst training. In burst training, I exercise very intensely for a short time (the duration depends on the complexity and difficulty of the movement) and recover until I’m ready to go again.

Keep in mind that 52 and 17 are averages. You should find what works best for you and for the projects you’re working on. What’s critical is that the breaks you take give you energy back. Get away from your computer and your office, when you can. Visit a colleague, go for a walk, call a friend meditate for a few minutes or exercise a little.

Try it out for a week. Here are a couple of tips that may help:

  • Schedule breaks in your calendar when possible. We all have times when we have back-to-back-to-back meetings, but do what you can.
  • Set a timer for 52 minutes and take a break around that time.
  • Make your to do lists realistic and break large jobs into smaller tasks.

Intrigued? For some more information read this (or cut and paste