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Present! Course Notes

Alison McEachern is the Director of McEachern & Associates Consultants Inc., and Groupatwork a company that specializes in assisting managers, facilitators and trainers to develop their ability to collaborate effectively and engage others through participation.


Alison offers her courses in both a traditional classroom format as well as in an innovative online learning format through


Alison’s unique approach to her work has been shaped through 22 years of public and corporate facilitation and training experience; graduate studies in education and counseling; and her early collaboration with some of Canada’s most talented trainers

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and facilitators. She has led workshops that have been attended by over 5,000 people throughout the United States and Canada.


Throughout her career Alison has been asked to work with a diverse client group, examples of which are the Nova Scotia Public Service Commission, the federal Depar tment of Fisher ies and Oceans, Halifax Regional M u n i c i p a l i t y, U n i v e r s i t e d e Moncton, Saint Francis Xavier University, Laidlaw Transit, Xerox, Aliant, NBPower, Capital Health, Ac a d i a U n i ve r s i t y, A m e r i c a n Intercontinental University, New Brunswick Forest Industries Safety Association, and Atomic Energy Canada (working with a group of trainers in a Russian nuclear power plant), as well as many others.


Copyright 2009 by McEachern & Associates Consulting Inc. and Groupatwork


Do not copy forward or redistribute without permission


Communicating as a Leader


What do you worry about most: your delivery or your design skills? Many talented communicators struggle with the delivery of their presentations. They fault their delivery skills when, in fact, they have designed a presentation that no mortal could deliver with ease. Jerry Seinfeld once noted that many people fear speaking in public more than they fear their own death. He therefore concluded that those who are asked to deliver a eulogy would much rather be in the casket.

Many talented and competent individuals lack confidence in their ability to speak publicly and this lack of confidence makes them reluctant to share their insights and ideas with an audience. Often their lack of confidence in their speaking skill is unwarranted. Their real concern should be with their design skills. Many presenters believe designing PowerPoint slides is the same as designing a presentation. It is not. A well designed presentation is easier and more enjoyable for the presenter and more effective and more enjoyable for the audience.

Our Objectives: 1. Clarify the purpose of your communication 2. Develop a strategy for communicating your message 3. Identify your communication objective 4. Design your communication for retention, clarity and engagement 5. Develop strategies for communicating change 6. Design effective discussions and participation 7. Practice and learn

Communicating as a Leader 1

Challenge Why are presentations challenging? “A speech is not an essay on hind legs.” - James A Winan There’s a reason why presentations are called ‘presentations’ and not papers or reports. Many presenters struggle with the delivery of presentations because they design something that is not easily ‘deliverable’. This has become increasingly true since the introduction of PowerPoint and Keynote (audio-visual software that most people have easy access to). In the 1980’s, presenters needed the assistance of graphic artists if they

wanted to include an audio-visual aid other than an overhead transparency. The graphic artist would create an image that contained the chart, graph, photo or text and convert it to film. The presenter would then take the film to a camera shop and get the film developed and turned into slides. The slides would be placed in a slide tray and revealed to the audience during the presentation, in much the same way we show our PowerPoint slides. The difference, and there is a big one, is that each slide cost approximately $50. Presenters would rarely spend more than $300 on slides. That meant that most presentations relied on a variety of audio-visual aids: flip

charts, white boards, a few slides, overhead transparency. The result: it was visually more interesting for many audience members and it was easier for most presenters to deliver. Presenters can now create as many slides as they want for their presentations. Often, presenters have a line of text for every point they make in their presentation.


PowerPoint or Speaker’s Notes?

Many presenters confuse the design of their PowerPoint with the design of their presentations. As a result, they use their PowerPoint as their speaker notes which creates an unfortunate chain of delivery events: they deliver too quickly, their delivery is uninteresting, they look at the screen more than the audience, the audience becomes restless, etc. Designing a presentation that is enjoyable for both audience and presenter takes a little bit longer, but, is time well spent.


Your Plan


Planning a presentation is a bit like planning a trip You have to figure out where you’re going, who’s going with you and plot the most interesting and efficient way of getting everyone to the final destination.

Rate of Speech in Ads “Consistent with previous

One of the first tasks that presenters must tackle is calculating their scope. Scope means the amount of words that you can realistically convey in your allotted time. Hoping that you can ‘cram’ more words into your time frame by speaking quickly, or not pausing for questions until the end does little to aid in your audience’s retention of the material or ease your delivery. Everyone gets frazzled. The recommended rate of delivery for presentations is approximately 120 140 words per minute. Our conversational rate of speech is faster than that at 180 words per minute (even

faster if you’re from certain parts of the Maritimes). The reason that the delivery rate is slower for presentations is that listening to a presentation poses challenges. “Studies reveal that listeners cannot process as much information as readers, they have difficulty staying oriented and, unless they hear something more than once, it is difficult for them to retain it.” (Speaking of Teaching, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2008) It’s important to design our presentation with our scope in mind, because trying to cover more results in covering less.

research by Moore et al. (1986), we show that the effect of increasing speech rate in broadcast advertising is to disrupt, rather than enhance,

Your Scope: Questions to Ask!

1 How many minutes do you have to present? 2 How many words does that require?

consumer processing of the

3 How many pages of ‘script’ is that?


4 What should I keep and what should I ‘cut’? 3

Identifying your key points requires some form of audience analysis.

Identifying your key points requires some form of audience analysis.

Audience Analysis Good Questions to Ask


1. What do they already know about the topic? It’s always useful to get a sense of what most people already know about your presentation topic. Since you can’t include everything there is to say about your subject, it’s important to ‘cut’ the information that would be redundant for most.


2. What do they want to learn? This question is helpful because the answers to it are often surprising. You may think you know what people want to learn about your topic, but you may be wrong. The safest bet is to consult with a few members and get their well-informed opinion.


3. How will they use this information? People appreciate information that they can relate to, that has relevance to their own lives. It’s important to get some examples from your audience about how they will use the information that you are presenting. If you then provide those examples in your presentation, people will likely be more interested in what you have to say.

Audience needs analysis doesn’t have to be a full-time research project We can rely on what we already know about our audience and answer these questions ourselves. If we aren’t very familiar with our audience, then we can collect this information using surveys sent out to all audience members or a sample. We can also conduct phone interviews with a few audience members and/or the client (the person asking us to present). We don’t have to consult every audience member. Even consulting one or two helps us clarify the aspects of our topic that are relevant and interesting for our audience.

Audience needs analysis helps us identify what most people want Presentations should address the needs of the ‘many’. If we design our

presentation for those who know the least, we will bore the majority. If we design our presentation for those who know the most, then we will baffle the majority. As Spock (Star Trek), most famously noted, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Audience needs analysis can be done before, or at the start of a presentation Sometimes we don’t have the time or the opportunity to speak with a few audience members before our presentation. In that case, we can always begin our presentations with a discussion of, “What are all of the questions you hope I answer today about this topic?” You can record participant comments on flip chart, or you can invite individuals to write their answers down on a piece of paper or share their responses with a partner. At the end of your presentation, you can ask people to revisit their original questions to identify which ones remain unanswered.


You have to start somewhere

Your rough outline

Once you’ve identified your scope, and your audience’s needs, you’re in a position to begin roughing out your script. It’s easiest to begin with a draft outline. Since many presenters know a lot about their topic, this part can pose a real challenge: of all the things you know, what should you keep and what should you cut? One way of approaching this task is to brainstorm a list of all the topics you could include in your presentation and record those ideas on separate sticky notes.

As you consider each topic under each category, ask yourself, “Do I have time to present this and is this absolutely relevant, necessary to include in my presentation?” If you don’t have time to include it or if it isn’t absolutely relevant, then you can remove it from your presentation or include it in your reference materials, but not include it in your presentation.

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Once you have exhausted your list of ideas, then you can pile your notes on a table... the sorting begins!

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Consider each sticky note and place it beside other notes that are similar in topic. Line up the notes according to categories. The categories that emerge represent the broad categories that your presentation could address. A rough outline is starting to present itself.

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Your Most Important Point A very effective way of introducing your presentation is to begin with your most important point... the one piece of knowledge, the essential fact, or the most important idea that you want your audience to remember.

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How would you complete one of these sentences: • “By the end of my presentation, you will be able to (describe, explain, communicate, etc)...” • “The one thing I hope you remember as a result of this presentation is...” • “By the end of my presentation, you will value the importance of...” If you don’t tell the audience how they can use the information you are presenting, they will spend most of their time trying to figure it out for themselves. Their attention will be divided between what you are presenting and their own questions about what they are supposed to do with your information. There’s a lot of competition for the audience’s attention. The presenter shouldn’t contribute to it.


Your Provocative Question Another effective way of beginning your presentation is to ask a provocative question.

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• “Have you ever wondered what would happen if...?” • “When was the last time you struggled with...?” • “Did you ever think about...?” • “What would you do if...?”

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What would be an interesting question to ask people at the start of your presentation?

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What would be a good question to conclude with? What question would leave them thinking more deeply about your subject?

People remember things that make them curious. By starting off with an intriguing question, you can ignite that sense of curiosity and increase their attention to what you have to say.


This is also an effective way of ending your presentation as it gives the audience something to think about regarding your topic even after your presentation has ended.

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What is your presentation’s most important point? 6



“A few weeks ago, no one imagined that we’d have accomplished what we did here tonight. For most of this campaign, we were far behind, and we always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes…”

Calculate your approximate rate of delivery President Obama’s average rate of delivery: 100 words per minute •If you delivered his excerpt in 15 seconds (approximately), then your average rate of delivery probably exceeds 170 words per minute. •If you delivered his excerpt in 24 seconds (approximately), then your average rate of delivery is close to 120 - 140 words per minute. •If you delivered his excerpt in 30 seconds, then your average rate of delivery is approximately 100 words per minute.

30 second excerpt from Martin Luther King’s

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.”

“I Have a Dream”




People don’t remember much from presentations and it’s not all your fault We work against our own objectives when we resist including interaction Even the best and most entertaining speakers begin to lose the attention of the audience within fifteen to twenty minutes. A well-known study of information retention supports this picture of what happens: immediately after a lecture, students were found to recall about 70% of the content presented during the first ten minutes and 20% of the content of the last ten minutes (Hartley and Davies, 1978). Brain research (Jensen, 1998) reinforces

these findings indicating that continuous, intense attention to external sources can only be sustained for 10 minutes or less. Also, in order to promote and focus attention that regular “mental breaks” lasting anywhere from five to 20 minutes multiple times a day are needed (Howard, 1994; Rossi & Nimmons, 1991).

In summary, people remember: 1. 80% of what is said in the first five minutes 2. What is repeated 3 or more times 3. Visual images (not including text on a slide) 4. What they have a chance to discuss 5. What comes last

Ways to make your presentation interactive • Give them time to write their notes, become familiar with their reference materials • Pause procedure: 2 minute partner discussions every 15 - 20 minutes to discuss what’s clear/not clear about what they’ve heard • Minute Paper: Give learners 1 minute to jot down what they learned as a result of the presentation

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Design Advice


1. Place your most important points early on Many presenters include their most important points in the middle of their presentation where the retention rate is low. The audience is most attentive during the first 10 minutes of your presentation.


2. Repeat important points Reinforce your most important points by finding creative ways of repeating them. Use your visuals, discussions, examples to repeat your key themes. Ask your audience to not only talk about what is unclear, but what is clearer as a result of your presentation. Enlist them in repeating your important points


3. Use pictures, videos more than text The audience won’t remember text on your PowerPoint slides but they will remember visual images like photos, props (be sure to check out Step 9: For Technical Presenters and Everyone Else for one of the best technical presentations ever starring Ikea boxes).


4. Incorporate brief discussions throughout One of the articles in your Additional Reference section of your homepage cites the positive impact of including 2 minute discussion breaks every 20 minutes over the course of a series of 60 minute lectures. It improved test performance of students by 2 letter grades


5. Do your own closing remarks Don’t delegate your closure to your audience by placing your Q & A session at the very end of your presentation. If it doesn’t go well, that is what people will remember.



Supports PowerPoint Tips


• Use visual images like photos or videos to emphasize your main points • Try to limit your number of slides to one every 3 minutes • Don’t use them as your speaker notes • Check out for a new alternative to PowerPoint • Watch the news tonight and notice how they use minimal text to emphasize their main points




Prezi offers an alternative to PowerPoint Fancy audiovisual aids do not make a poorly designed presentation effective, but they can make a well designed presentation fantastic If you’re interested in experimenting with new trends, visit

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Flip charts are a low-tech, creative choice for audio-visual aids With a little bit of effort, flip charts can easily match PowerPoint as an audio-visual aid

Benefits of Flip Chart

Flip chart tips: 1. Use dark colours for text (black, brown, dark green, purple) 2. Avoid using red, pink, light green or other light colours for text 3. Use bullets and clouds to separate headers from text 4. Use bullets to separate lines of text on your page 5. Ensure your letters are at least 2.5 inches tall (that will duplicate the size of text on a screen)

• You can record your speaker’s notes in light pencil directly on your flip chart pages. This gives you an opportunity to refer to your audio-visual aid and speaker’s notes at one time and your audience won’t realize what you’re doing. • They always work! • You can re-use them • If you’re worried that your PowerPoint might fail, you can email your PowerPoint slides to any Staples Print Centre and they can print your slides in poster size making them like flip charts 13



Discussion Types: Ask yourself, “Who’s doing all the work?”

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Large Group Discussions are the most common kind of discussions used in presentations. They can be an effective way of engaging an audience but they have two disadvantages: they require a lot of skill to lead well and they don’t offer variety to the audience. In a large group discussion, the presenter is still occupying ‘centre stage’, doing all of the work. That is why, as the day wears on, large group discussions generate less and less discussion. People become bored with the lack of change in scenery. Small group discussions offer both the audience and presenter a quick break from each other. It allows the audience to do something different for a moment. When they return from their discussion, the presenter has a new “first 5 minutes”. Also, the presenter gets a quick break from being ‘centre stage’.



When to use them...



1 2

Journal of Consulting Psychology, 1967, Albert Mehrabian, Vol. 31, No. 3, 248-252! Speaking of Teaching, The Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University;

Winter 2005 Newsletter; Vol.14, No.1! 3

Turtle Talk Wins the Race, Jane Taber; The Globe and Mail; February 22, 2008!


Bloom, B. S. (ed.)., (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook 1:

Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay! 5

Bloom, B. S. (ed.)., (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook 1:

Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay! 6

Transforming Classrooms Through Active and Collaborative Learning, Alice Udvari-

Solner, UdvariSolnerArticleNNorig.doc! 7

Ruhl, Hughes and Schloss (1987)

Present! Course Notes  
Present! Course Notes