Making Friends with PowerPoint 2013

I fought over where to put this post since I usually blog about technical stuff in other places. But, since I think it will save some of my fellow speakers some aggravation, I’m putting it here. There are three things you might want to change in the newest version of PowerPoint (2013).

No, thank you, to Backstage View on launch

If you don’t want to open PowerPoint with the Backstage view (a.k.a. Start Screen) showing, click File, Options and uncheck Show the Start screen when this application starts.

turn off show start screen

4:3, not 16:9, please

16:9 would be great if all presentation portals and projectors supported wide format. Because they don’t, I still need to create most of my presentations in 4:3. On the Design tab, I clicked the Slide Size button on the right side of the ribbon and select 4:3. Then, I clicked the More button on the Themes gallery and chose Save Current Theme. Clicking the More button again, I located the new theme in the list and right-clicked it to choose Set as Default Theme.

4:3 Slide Size

Presenter view, not your cup of tea?

Many people like presenter view in PowerPoint where you can see your notes and the slides, but the image projected on the screen is only the slide. My brain doesn’t work that way, so I just like to see the same think on my screen as my audience does. On the Slide Show tab, in the far right Monitors group, you’ll see a check box field for Use Presenter View. Uncheck it. I don’t mind telling you this one made me mad! It should have been a lot harder!

turn presenter view off




Pause for the Cause

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a speaker was how to shut up. When your job is to speak, not speaking seems counter intuitive. Thanks to some great coaching and the opportunity to witness some pretty great speakers, I learned that the pause is crucial to truly helping audience members make a decision to change.

For example, someone asks you what you think. And, before you have a chance to draw breath, they’re telling you what you should be thinking. If you’re a type A personality, you know you’ve done this. Often it is with good intention. However, unless someone can really feel the discomfort of their current situation, there will be no impetus to consider a change. The simple, and somewhat snarky, “How’s that working for ya?” can even be used with a pause to help people see that they way they’ve always done it isn’t serving them. Give them no time to consider it, and that realization will never occur.

Even if you just make a statement, the following pause can determine how that statement is heard. When talking about my experience of plummeting myself into an empty job market in the 80s, the statement, “No one wanted what I had to offer” goes from a commiserating, “I know what you mean.” To, “WOW! that must have been awful! What did you do?!” After the pause, the desire to know the solution is at a peak.

Silence doesn’t always mean the absence of substance. It can mean time to process what has been said, and to reflect on what it means to the listener. For the speaker, it gives you a moment to see through audience expressions whether or not the desired message was conveyed. If you zoom through your presentation as a one-sided talking head, you will miss moments of real impact.

So, shut up (sometimes) and be awesome!

Not too busy? Well, why not?

If the biggest challenge you have isn’t juggling your calendar to make room for all those people who want you to present or train, then there is work to be done on your training/speaking business. Many of us, especially those of us who train and speak on technical topics, spend a great deal of time becoming more knowledgeable about our subject-matter, but only scraps of time on running our business, or getting better at our craft (speaking/training). Personally, I spend more time on managing the money part than nearly anything else.  What about all that other stuff? You know, the icky things, like sales.

It might surprise you to know, I spend very little time on marketing, advertising and selling. That said, I have processes in place that insure that marketing is perpetual, advertising is targeted and selling is nearly imperceptible, but effective. I realize not everyone has the right combination service offerings and opportunities to pull this off. But, I bet you have more than you think!

How do you advertise your services? Are you spending lots of time and money on planted ads, click-through and boosted posts? If the return on investment is working out, you probably didn’t get this far down in the post.  I advertise in session by using business examples in my presentations that provide attendees with an idea of my experience and capabilities. “Oh! She’s worked with manufacturing businesses!” “She must understand something about not-for-profit to use that example.” “Hmmm. She teaches SharePoint, too!”

Where do your attendees find you after the program? Make sure you have an active (not obnoxious) social media presence. Stay top of mind with your followers by putting out useful how-to content mixed with some information about where you will be next, or have just been. Staying top of mind is key, because you never know when that buying decision is going to be made. Invite interaction and follow your follower’s companies and organizations to spot possible opportunities. Not good at this part? This would be a good place to get some help from someone who is. A good social media consultant can help you get set up properly and show you how to manage your effort easily. If that’s not what they’re offering you, keep looking.

What does your sales process look like? Where are your leads coming from? How do you “close”? If questions like that make you cringe because you hate selling, you are in a vast majority of people who must, ironically, get past this part in order to be successful. Hopefully, all the hard work is done by the time you step in front of your audience. Careful preparation usually means a successful outcome for the presentation. I mean, to put it bluntly, if you suck, nothing else matters. But, what are you doing to leverage that precious time in front of people? “I have a solution that might be interesting for that, please catch me after the program.” “Here is an example from ‘Title of My Most Recent Book’…” Then, after the session to your host contact: “Thank you so much for the opportunity! I am looking forward to receiving your feedback on how it went. I have some ideas for another program that might be interesting to you.” You should never leave an engagement without attempting to book, or at least start the discussion process, on a follow-up booking. And, I don’t mean, “Please let me know if you would like me to come back and do another program for you.” Consciously avoid the word “if” where you can in discussing your next opportunity. It’s weak and suggest”no” as an answer.

Mind your follow-up. The last thing your host contact should hear from you, should be “Thank you!” not, “Here’s my bill.” Be sure you keep those separate and mark the date on which you booked this engagement one year out. Then you have a good idea when to contact them again for a possible repeat engagement.

It’s Sunday. Do you know where your trainer/speaker is?

On any given Sunday, trainers and speakers are packing up, hugging their families and getting on planes, trains and automobiles for their Monday morning gigs. Yes, I realize it’s Super Bowl Sunday, today. There have been more than a few of those where I’ve been on a plane or driving a long stretch on an obscure road on my way to an engagement city the night before to make sure I’m bright and bushy tailed first thing in the morning. I remember almost driving off the road in Feb 2007 in rural Missouri, listening to the game on satellite radio, when my beloved, beleaguered Chicago Bears ran some ridiculous number of yards in a kick-off return for the first touchdown in the first few minutes. By the time I reached my hotel, of course, things had soured… for the Bears anyway. I watched the last 30 minutes of the game on an old, small hotel TV. No wings, no beer, no friends to console me.

Why do we do that? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me and many of the fabulous folks I’ve had the privilege of knowing over the years, it’s because we love you! Perhaps not in the romantic or even family/bosom buddy way, but we really do cherish the opportunity to be in front of the room watching you learn something that can save you time and frustration, improve your career outlook, or even your personal life. Sound corny? OK, I’ll give you that. But, it’s true. When I tell people about my road warrior career, I get a lot of “Are ya nuts?!” The answer, I guess, is: yes, a little.  But, I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. I live for those light bulbs!

So, thanks for dragging me out of my nice warm home all of those Sundays.

NOTE: If you are a speaker/trainer reading this and thinking to yourself, “Ew! I don’t feel that way about my audiences!” I can say that it’s possible that your audiences may hold you in similar regard.

Book Review: Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts by Andrew V. Abela, Ph.D. and Paul J. Radich

I just finished reading Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts, by Andrew V. Abela, Ph.D. and Paul J. Radich (Soproveitto Press, Great Falls, VA). As a fan of Abela’s Chart Chooser ( ), which I use often in Excel training, I had great expectations for this book. I was not disappointed!EOSLcover

In addition to teaching a lot of Excel, I also teach a lot of PowerPoint. Microsoft introduced SmartArt way back in Office 2007. And, still I’m amazed at how many people don’t know it’s there. Even if they do, many folks are not just sure how to use it. This book is the key to that and so much more. For me, the subtitle states the real value of this content: “Inspiration for Visual Communication.” Indeed, it is.

One of the things that hooked me into this book was the acknowledgement that “presentation” doesn’t always mean projected onto a screen. One of my pet peeves has always been content on a screen that the audience has to squint at to read. I tell my students that while that’s happening, all the audience hears from the speaker is “blah, blah, blah.” If the message is important (which hopefully it is, or why would you be going to all this trouble?), knowing the best visuals to support it is a presentation design imperative. The book begins with Abela’s trademarked Extreme Presentation Method as a backdrop to choosing slide layouts. One is give a good foundation for using the book in these first pages. So, don’t skip the Roman numeral pages in front!

Another bonus here, is that in a world ruled by bad PowerPoint presentations, the authors acknowledge other visual-aid design tools, such as Chartco, Diagrammer, PowerFrameworks, as well as SmartArt found in PowerPoint (Office 2007-2013). You’ll learn what a “squint test” is why you want to do it before you ever put your visuals in front of an audience. One of my favorite new terms is “chart junk,” which is basically anything that may look cool to you in the moment, but serves no real purpose on a slide or handout, except to muddle its message and bleed printer ink.

Very business-centric, the book features real-life examples from The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), BusinessWeek, and others. Some examples can get a little mired down in advanced business principles. For the average information worker, though, it’s worth slogging through, even if you have to break out your old books from college as reference. I promise after using this book, you will be looking at your own presentations and those of others, critically. That’s not a bad thing!

The book is available from and starting 1/23/2015.


When You Have to Say No

We’ve all been there. We hear the “no” and then whatever the rejecter is saying, it sounds like “blah, blah, blah.” As speakers and trainers, we find ourselves in the position of saying no to speaking offers, individual coaching sessions, restrictive contracts, and engagements that do not fit in our calendars. In nearly all cases, there is a relationship to preserve. That should be the focus as you craft your message.

Let us say you are presenting on behalf of a company with whom you have a non-solicitation agreement. A seminar attendee approaches you about coaching her one-on-one after the session. She agrees to pay whatever your rate is and refer you to colleagues. Of course, you must refuse because of the agreement you have with the company you are representing. However, it may indeed be possible if she contacts the company to arrange it. You don’t even have to say, no, here. You can refer her to a contact at the company. Contact your contact, in advance of this person’s call, to explain the situation. In some cases, the company may choose to arrange the session for you. In others, they may connect you back to your attendee with permission to pursue the business. “No, I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to do that in these seminars” would have obviated both of these possibilities. (Since I’m addressing a professional group here, I’m sure I don’t need to extol the virtues of complying with a non-solicitation agreement. If you have any doubt, consider this: I’m always amazed how fast the news of a “stolen” lead travels among those who hire speakers and trainers. The speed is truly mind-boggling! Don’t do it!)

Perhaps you’ve been approached by an organization who offers you exposure to their hundreds of members, if you will speak for free at their next event. When your calendar is comfortably full already, it’s clear, at least to you, that a payment in exposure is not that enticing. Instead of, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t speak for free, my calendar is too full,” saying, “I would love to address your membership! I do offer complimentary services a few times a year for charitable causes. However, for this type of engagement, my fee would be $x.” If their experience is that they can get lots of speakers for free, then the conversation pretty much ends here. If their experience is that they can only get some speakers for free by offering exposure, first, you may find yourself with a paid engagement!

If your “no” is a no, with no room for a “yes with conditions,” as in the above situations, then be honest and kind in your response. “I would really like to be able to help you. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to do it. Thank you so much for asking!” sounds much better than, “No, I don’t do that sort of thing!” If the person is asking for something that you know someone else does, refer it! Whether you choose to refer it for a fee or not, you have maintained your credibility with the inquirer as a person “in the know” and preserved a cordial tone between you.

Thinking on your feet can take careful preparation. I know that sounds contradictory, but try this. Take some time to think of all of the awkward moments after seminars or conference speeches when you are approached an offer you must refuse. Write them down and craft relationship-preserving responses. Have a look at them before you start your engagement day.

I wish you great success!