Category Archives: presentation

Inspiration, not information

At every presentation, the level of understanding of the subject matter by the audience varies widely.

If you’re giving a presentation on social media, some people are well educated and understand it’s place in business (and it’s not always the people live-tweeting your thoughts). There are others who know a little but are less familiar than the first group. Still others may know little to nothing.

The audience’s knowledge and experience lies along a wide spectrum.

So what is a good presenter to do? How do you make sure that the experts aren’t bored and the others aren’t left behind?

Use inspiration, not information.

Use the information to illustrate a key point or concept. Tell a story. Take them to a place.

Sir Ken Robinson presented to a room full of TED folks who knew (in varying degrees) that our current education system is sub-optimal.

Steve Jobs presents to hundreds of thousands of people, in person and online, who have literally been predicting and prototyping what he’s going to tell them.

Don’t give information. Give inspiration.

Then, you’ll have the whole room.

5 Days in Italy, for free


No passport required. You just need a mouse and your imagination. (turn your speakers on)

Their Circular Life is a beautifully designed, Flash + photo + audio project that displays 24-hour stretches in the life of five Italian locations.

Use the little yellow onscreen speed dial to whisk through the buzz of activity at Modena’s railway station, or to check out the traffic at one of its crazier intersections. Enjoy the sound of water lapping the shore of Lago Santo, and watch an Italian park transform from daytime playground to twilight teen scene.

Of course, this doesn’t compare to actually being in Italy, but it costs less than a cappuccino. And if you ever make it to Modena or Venice, you might just experience déjà vu.


Context matters

Imagine you’re on your morning commute, hustling through the train station, thinking about the day of meetings ahead of you and how you wished you had prepared more.

A musician in jeans and a T-shirt is playing classical music on a violin.

Do you stop and listen? Throw a five spot in his case? A dollar? Change from your morning cup of coffee?

What if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you?

What if I told you that the musician was Josh Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made?

Surely you would notice, right?

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, 2007, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as Josh Bell performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them as they walked by, for a total of $32.17.

The $32.17 is skewed, however. Stacy Furukawa gave him a $20. That’s right. 62% of his take was from the one person who recognized him.

1,070 people hurried by, oblivious, only feet away, few even turning their head.

It was an experiment put on by the Washington Post. Gene Weingarten wrote Pearls Before Breakfast, the excellent article covering the entire, astonishing event. You can read it here.

The video from the hidden camera, sped up to show the indifference of the passerbys, is below.

Remember, context matters.

16 Keys to Better Presentations

Presenting is important. 95% of presentations are terrible. Yours don’t have to. With a little practice, you can be in the top 2% of presenters in the world.

Seth Godin recently wrote an excellent post on the two elements of a great presenter. Here are the original two and 12 more.

1. Give love (to the audience)

2. Gain respect (from the audience)

3. Transfer emotion (to the audience – and receive it back from them)

4. Sell one idea (to the audience)

5. Have a strong posture. In the lobby of the VC’s office, you get in the zone. Orchestrate your mental posture to be “Before you got here, you didn’t know about my company. When I leave . . . you will be begging to give me money.” Then don’t tell them, show them.

6. Presentations are better than sales calls. With sales calls, they might be looking at you, they decide when you start, they decide the pace and they decide when you end. With presentations, everyone is looking at you, you decide when you start, you decide the pace, you decide the end. That’s magnificent. Don’t waste it. They won’t let you waste it twice.

7. Make it worth their time. Make it interesting.

8. Offend some people.

9. Change the way some people think.

10. Sell them on something. It doesn’t have to be a product or service. Sell an idea. Sell change. But if you’re not trying to sell them on something, you’re wasting their time. Please go home.

11. Determine the vernacular. Then shatter it.

12. Watch presenters like Ken Robinson, Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell.

13. Read and learn from Garr Reynolds book and blog Presentation Zen. Read Nancy Duarte’s book, Slideology. If you have the presentation of your life, hire Nancy.

14. Surprise them. If you want VC’s to think that you’re willing to do ANYTHING to get their money back, take an egg and slam it on the table and exclaim confidently, “It’s broken”. I can fix it . . .

15. . . . then pause for 5 full seconds, while they decide if you’re a psychopath or not. Be willing to pause. At moments when the audience doesn’t want you to pause. Pause to increase the tension in the room.

16. Make an extraordinary amount of eye contact. If you’re sincere, you can create an emergency.

Remember The Milk

No, I’m not talking about the excellent, GTD-enabling task management tool or the amazing performance by Sean Penn.

I’m talking about crystallizing and being able to articulate your one key message.


If your spouse sends you to the store just for milk, you bring home the milk.
If they ask you to pick up milk, Cheez-its, Windex, apples, paper towels and oh yeah, make sure you pick up the dry cleaning, you might remember everything except the milk, which was the most important item.

The same is true when you’re giving a presentation or are in a sales meeting.

The client or audience is going to remember the one thing you tell them.

If you only tell them one thing.

If you drone on and on about how great you are and how many services you provide and how many features your product has, your main point will be forgotten in the grocery bag of stuff you just dumped on the table.

Identify your ‘milk’.

Sell just the milk.

Forget about the Windex.