Posts tagged Public Speaking
Trauma, Trafficking and Public Speaking with Russell Strand
Nancy Hardcastle and Russell Strand for

Nancy Hardcastle and Russell Strand for

Russell Strand is easily one of the best public speakers I've ever seen. And he's not simply an expert in the field of human trafficking; he has also played a significant role in creating and educating law enforcement and service providers about better ways to respond to victims. He provides some fascinating insight on effective presentations, trauma and consent, but **TRIGGER WARNING** we do discuss specific examples of sexual assault, rape and child abuse in this interview.

Russell begins by explaining why he sometimes jumps on top of a table while he’s giving a presentation (no joke!), and his perspective on what it takes to be a truly effective public speaker.

Then we move on to a discussion of the complexities of sex trafficking and related issues, including:

  • the role that trauma plays in the lives of victims.  Russell explains why the general public often has difficulty understanding the behavior of a person being trafficked, and why they are often seen as a criminal rather than a victim.

  • rape culture, and how various aspects of our culture, such as certain music and movies, as well as pornography, have the effect of desensitizing us to dangerous and violent behavior.  

  • consent, how it’s defined and how the criminal justice system addresses this issue. We talk about why this is another complex issue, especially in long term child abuse and human trafficking cases.

Returning to the topic of public speaking, Russell talks about creating and delivering presentations as an “an art form”.  He also describes how he connects with and reads his audience and then responds accordingly.

Russell concludes with a strong call to action, encouraging us to find new ways of approaching these issues to bring about true change, and the importance of being transparent in the process.

If you’d like to know more about Russell’s work or get in touch with him for a presentation or otherwise, he can be reached at:



  • on Facebook at @strandsquared

Challenge Your Speaking Skills With an Open Mic

If you’re a speaker with a lot of experience but would like to challenge yourself, sign up for an open mic today!  It’s some of the scariest, most educational fun you’ll ever have!  Today I’m going to tell you all about my own personal strange and tricky open mic storytelling experiences, and the take-aways I gained along the way.And before you bail because this sounds too scary, consider this: the stakes are low.  Even if you crash and burn as a storyteller, unless your story is broadcast all over YouTube, it’s unlikely that your performance is going to negatively affect your professional life.  (If in doubt, don’t invite important clients, or, um, your boss.)  Yeah, you might embarrass yourself a little.  But think about it -  pride is a pretty small price to pay for mad skills.


One of my more recent distracting experiences involved an opera singer.  You don’t really expect to hear opera being belted out in downtown Puerto Vallarta, but if you were expecting it, it just wouldn’t be the same, now would it?

Here’s what happened.  I was telling an original story in a coffee shop located on a main street.  I was already having to deal with the waitress taking orders and coffee cups clanging, but it was fine. I’d found my groove and I could see by their expressions that the audience was with me.  And then from somewhere across the street, it started. An opera singer. In the split second when I realized what was happening, I thought about pausing. I thought about saying something about the elephant, I mean, opera singer, in the room.  But I was at a crucial point in the story. I didn’t want to lose momentum. Plus, she wasn’t that loud.  So I raised my voice just a tad and kept going. Gradually, her voice became louder.  Not to be outdone, I spoke louder, too. Our voices competed for what seemed like forever, and somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered if a glass was going to break.  Somehow, the audience was still with me, and finally, she finished the song! A few minutes later, I finished my story.

I thought about the incident later.  Would it have been better to stop? Did I do the right thing by forging ahead?  I decided that while it was a huge distraction indeed, the audience could hear me and more importantly, they were still paying attention.  Plus, it would have been very difficult to recover and help the audience “re-enter” the story if I had stopped. So it felt like I did the right thing.  But this tale isn’t over yet….


A few months later I was telling another story at the same place.  I kept thinking about that opera singer. I couldn’t help but wonder if, by some bizarre cosmic coincidence, it was going to happen again.  I even told my audience before I started how funny it had been, and that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, in the middle of my story, a remarkably loud bus passed by.  It was so loud, in fact, that I was forced to pause at a point in my story where I had just said “Weeks passed....” And so, after the bus went by and we could hear again, I gestured to the street and said “Busses passed.”  Everyone chuckled, and I continued.

I was glad that this time, even though I had no choice but to pause, I was able to be real, address the issue and move on.  Sometimes, as in this case, you might as well go ahead and acknowledge the elephant, because it’s essentially stepping on everyone’s toes.  It’s a judgment call, though, and you’ll get better at making these calls the more opportunities you have.


#1.  Sh*t happens. And since you just never know when something weird and completely out of your control is going to happen, do your best to roll with it.  If you don’t make it a big deal, neither will your audience.

#2.  Sometimes rolling with the weirdness means pausing, or stopping altogether, and calling it out.  Occasionally, if you pretend the weirdness isn’t happening, that just makes it weirder. If you can, make a joke.  Say that somehow your worst nightmares left out this scenario. Anything to remind your audience that they are in good hands and it’s all gonna be o.k.

In addition to busses and opera singers, people who scowl can also be very distracting. While they’re certainly not unique to open mic audiences, open mics are a great way to face the frowners and develop thicker skin as a public speaker.


A while back I told a story at an open mic while I was traveling.  This particular event is held in a theatre and feels like a proper show in which people are seated, the lights go down, and the artist steps on stage.  This is perhaps the easiest type of setting because generally speaking, distractions are limited and you have full visibility of your audience. But I still had to deal with the “frowners” in the audience.  There was one couple sitting in the front row, and the lighting was such that I could clearly see them absolutely scowling at me.

For a split second I was disconcerted.   Wow, they must really hate this story. Don’t they realize the negative energy they’re putting off?  Maybe they’re just concentrating...? Or maybe they’re thinking of something completely different and it has nothing to do with me at all?  After several failed attempts to “woo” them with energy and eye contact, I decided to move on and focus my attention on more receptive members of the audience.   


I can still clearly remember one woman from the audience in particular.  She seemed to never take her eyes off me and smiled and laughed with abandon.  I stopped looking at the scowly couple altogether, which made it easy for me to focus not only on this woman but also on others who appeared to be happy to go along for the ride.  The ironic thing about that night is that I was able to be present in my story and on the stage in a way that I had never experienced before.


#1  If you can’t get people on board, move on.  I did my best to draw that couple into the story, but when they didn’t budge, I stopped trying.  It’s better to channel your energy where it’s being received than where it’s being rejected.

#2 Don’t take frowners personally.  Maybe they were constipated.  Some motivational speakers say that you should never take anything personally, ever.  It’s something to think about.

Sometimes, though, there is no happy ending.  In fact, sometimes your audience actually gets up and walks out.  Earlier this year, I was telling that same story at another open mic here in Puerto Vallarta.  This venue is very casual - although there is a stage, there’s also a bar just next to the stage, people are being served food and drinks during the show, etc.  The logistics are also not great for a performer - the room is a long rectangle and includes seating on an outdoor patio. When I got on stage I immediately realized that I was going to need to have a “wide gaze” in terms of eye contact in order to not miss audience members sitting on the periphery.


As it turned out, that was the least of my challenges.  Just a few minutes into my story a couple of men at the bar started talking in very loud voices, so loud that I wasn’t able to hold the attention of everyone in the audience and people started looking in their direction.  Finally the owner of the theatre got up and asked them to keep it down. I avoided looking in their direction as all of this was transpiring so as not to be (even more) distracted.

While I continued, I could hear the waiters just to my left talking quietly to one other.  I doubled down on my concentration, focusing on a few couples who rewarded me with smiles and laughter.  Then one of these couples got up to leave. That’s odd, I thought. They looked like they were really enjoying themselves.  Then a few more people got up to leave. Wow, I thought - I have really misread this crowd. At the same time, more people wandered in, and one new couple in front of me didn’t even seem to be aware that I was performing.  I forged ahead, determined to deliver a good story no matter what, shifting and re-shifting my focus to whomever was obviously listening at the moment. By the time I had finished and stepped off stage, the audience had shrunk considerably.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t because I had given a bad performance, so I was confused, and trying not to take it personally.  (See previous take-away.)

The MC said I was a pro for not missing a beat with all of that commotion. While I appreciated his kind words, I mostly just wanted to know what had happened.  Later, privately, he explained to me that a lot of people had come to the bar for a drink before the concert downstairs began. When it was approaching time for the concert to begin, they had to leave.  He said one couple even asked him to be sure to tell me that they really enjoyed my story but needed to take their seats downstairs.

I learned a lot that night.  Here are my take-aways:

#1 - Don’t assume you suck just because people are walking out.  Boy, was I glad I hadn’t jumped to any conclusions.

#2 - The folks who stay from start to finish deserve your all, so bring it, even if there’s only one person left.  In fact, I was so grateful to that handful of people who stayed until the end that I was super motivated to deliver, just for them.

#3 - Fall in love as many times as you have to during a performance.  Here’s what I mean. In a situation with a lot of distractions, find those people who are smiling and clearly interested and pour your energy into them.  Then, if they get up and walk out, leaving you like a jilted lover on the stage, shamelessly rebound as fast as you can, finding someone else to love. If it happens again, as it did to me that night, rebound again!  The important thing is to not dwell on the who or why, but stay present in your story and with your (remaining) audience.

If you’re a speaker with a lot of experience but would like to challenge yourself, sign up for an open mic today! It’s some of the scariest, most educational fun you’ll ever have! Today I’m going to tell you all about my own personal strange and tricky open mic storytelling experiences, and the take-aways I gained along the way.#speech #publicspeaking #openmic #speechcoach #storytelling #publicspeakingtips #bodylanguage #learnpublicspeaking #ideasforpublicspeaking

Having said all that, would you still believe me if I told you that open mics are fun?!  Everyone is trying their best  and cracking up and forgetting and recovering all at the same time, and audiences are generally quite supportive and forgiving.  If you like telling stories, you've gotta do it! It’ll put you under a different kind of pressure that you might not be used to as a public speaker, and you’ll get even better than you already are.

And before you go, hit one of the share buttons ...after all, open mics are always more fun with friends.  :)

How to Easily Animate Text in Keynote
Animate Text horiz.png

Today I’m going to show you how to make words “drop in” point by point next to a photo in Keynote*.  This is a classic, basic animation that you’ll want to have in your toolbox of skills.  But don’t let the word “animation” scare you! It’s easier than you might imagine. In fact, if this is your first ever animation, you’re gonna be thrilled!  (*Keynote is essentially the Mac version of Powerpoint.)

Getting Ready


You’ll want to start by finding an image that fits whatever point(s) you are making, and download it onto your computer.  I got my photo from for free, and it doesn’t even require attribution. (And I’m not even getting a perk for promoting them, lol.)  My slide is about body language to avoid, so I chose a guy looking nervous and touching his face.

You’ll also want to have at the ready whatever text you’re going to use.  A word or short phrase for each point is  best. Remember, less is more here.

Adding the Photo


In Keynote,  open a blank slide in the template you’ll be using for your presentation.  In the menu bar, go to “insert” and then “choose” and then click on the image you saved earlier.   Position it on the left or right side of the slide, centering it vertically. If necessary, change its size by clicking on the image and then using the little white boxes on the perimeter to reduce or enlarge it.  Don’t worry too much at this point about getting the placement and size perfect - you can always adjust it later.

Adding Your Text


Click on the “T” in the menu.  This will give you a text box. Move it outside of your photo and paste in your first word or phrase.  Repeat with the next phrase, moving them along the photo but not worrying yet about exact placement. Repeat until you have all of your points in their own box.


If you’d like to adjust the size of the font, click on “format” in your menu bar.  Then, click on the text and in the dialogue box to the right, click on “text” and font options will appear.  To change the font of all the phrases all at one time, click on one, hold down the command key, and click on the rest.  Now whatever change you make in the dialogue box will apply to all of your text.


As you can see, I increased the size of my text until it felt both balanced and easy to read.   I also moved my text boxes around, taking advantage of the green lines that pop up, to place them evenly around the photo.   If you want, you can add a text box with a title, as I did. 

Animating Your Text


Now let’s consider how we want the text to appear.  I’d like to start with just the “Don’t” phrase. I’d probably say a few words about how even though these seem like really obvious things you don't want to do when you're standing in front of a crowd, they are common mistakes made by inexperienced speakers, mostly because they're done unconsciously.  Unfortunately, they can be distracting and reduce your credibility, so a little consciousness raising is a good idea here.  I'd also probably be playing with my hair the whole time,  just to get the laugh when the "play with your hair" line” drops in, 'cause, you know, that's kinda funny.

So here are all of my text boxes:       Title text: DON’T

  1. touch your face a lot

  2. pace nervously

  3. clench or clasp your hands together

  4. fiddle with jewelry or clothing

  5. play with your hair


We’re not going to animate "Don't",  because I want it to be there from the start, so I didn't number that one.  But after "Don't"  I want #1- #5 to drop in one by one when I click the mouse.


I start by clicking on “animate” in the menu bar.  Now I click on the text of #1. In the “build-in” option, I click on “add effect”.  Then I choose “appear.” Can I make it "swoosh"  in dramatically? Yes. Do I want to? NO. Remember, we're going for clean and simple here, not bling.  After I click on "Appear" the dialogue box changes, and I see the settings for "Appear."  The order is 1, which is correct - it’s the first item I want dropping in. And the delivery style is “all at once” which means the whole phrase is going to pop in, all at one time.


Now I click on my next text box, which is #2, choose  “add an effect” , choose “appear, and leave the order and delivery style as is.   I repeat with the rest of my text boxes. The default is for the text to drop in “on click”, which is what you want.

Watching Your Animation

Now for the fun part!  Click “play” in the menu bar.  You’ll see your photo and any text that you didn’t animate.  In my case, it's the word, “DON’T”. Press your space bar, or click on your mouse, and your first phrase will appear.  Click again, and your second text will appear, and so on. You did it!


With your animation complete, now it's time to practice!  Introduce your topic/the title of the slide, talk about it a little bit, and then click once and transition into your first point.  Say whatever you want to say about it, then click again and transition into your second point, and so on through the list.  This process works much better than simply presenting all the points all at one time because as soon as your audience has read the next point, their attention will be back on you, where you want it.  Another option if you're presenting to a smaller group or class is to have them guess what some of the "don'ts" are before you click on them.  This will keep them quite focused sine they'll be waiting to see if their guess shows up on the list.


So, you’ve just learned another way to avoid boring bullet points . If you found this post helpful, pin it, and help your friends out, too! 

And now, go forth, animate, speak, and change the world!  

How to Find Amazing Images for Your Presentation
asia-asian-bride-936225 as is new.jpg

Images are a basic element of good presentations, and yet, unless you know where to look, finding what you want can be frustrating, time-consuming and at worst, impossible.  Today I’ll be sharing some of my favorite sites filled with free images, explaining terms like “royalty free”, and showing you how photo credits work.

Free Image Websites

Juicy stuff first!  Here are my “go to” sites.  (And no, not getting paid for any of these endorsements :) .)



According to their website, Unsplash has over 300,000 images.  They are all free, and they are beautiful. You don’t have to sign up or join anything.  There’s a row of general search categories at the top of the page, and a row of related tags under each photo, both of which will help you find what you’re looking for if you’re not sure how to search.

Unsplash makes it easy to give photo credit, which I will discuss in more detail below. When you download a photo, a window will pop that gives you two options. Choose #1  - simply copy the line that includes the photographers name and the word “unsplash” and add it to your photo, as I’ve done in the bottom right hand corner of this photo.   (See below for detailed directions on how to do this).

The downside to is that ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community are underrepresented.  So, for example, if you type in “woman”, most are Caucasian. However, you can type in “Latina woman” or “Black woman” with much better results.  But, if you type in, e.g. “gay wedding” or “same sex wedding” almost nothing comes up. So if you’re looking for diversity, you may not find it.



Pexels is another great site.  It’s very much like Unsplash, with all the same pro’s and con’s, but with fewer photos - 40,000 as of this writing.  Check it out.

For photo credit, you are given option #1 from above:  simply copy the line that includes the photographers username and the word “Pexels” and add it to your photo, as I’ve done below.

You can also donate to the photographer via Paypal.



I have something of a love-hate relationship with Gratisography, lol.  “Gratis” means “free” in Spanish, my second language, so I like that. And they have a lot of really goofy, absurd and unusual photos.  If you’re looking for a little comic relief, this is the place! They also have a lot of “normal” photos, but not near as many as the above sites.

My complaint is the rather misleading interface.  The search button at the top of the page actually takes you to Shutterstock, which are images that you have to buy.  Second, if you type in a word that doesn’t have any relevant photos, Shutterstock images come up, and again, unless you’re paying close attention (and not getting excited about a cool image that just appeared), you’re back at Shutterstock.  Sure enough, Gratisography has “teamed up with Shutterstock to provide you access to millions of images.”  

To download, you’ll need to open the photo and save it to your computer.  For photo credit, no suggestion is given, but if you like, you can add the word “Gratisography” to the photo, as shown below.

So, Gratisography is not quite the seamless experience as Unsplash or Pixels,  but with such a large variety of unique and often hilarious images for free, you can’t really complain.

3.  Wikimedia Commons


Wikimedia Commons is a whole different animal.  It works like Wikipedia in that anyone can add to and/or edit it.  As such, it’s huge - containing over 1 million files! - and is available in multiple languages.  You can also find audio clips and videos here, which I will discuss in a later post. As you might imagine, it’s a little more complicated to use, but worth the effort if you’re looking for something very specific.

“Complicated” essentially means there are many more ways to search than in the previous sites.  If you go to the link above, you’ll see what I mean. You’ll first see all the “subcategories” you can search by, e.g. century, continent, dimensions, and many more.  If you scroll down, you’ll see all the subjects you can search by.

So, for example, I can choose to search by “historical images.”  From there, I can further narrow my search “by country” and from there choose, e.g., Nepal.

Alternatively, you can simply type in what you’re looking for in the top right hand search box.  Type in “women” and you will be astounded at the variety of types of photos that come up, everything from line drawings to historical images to women from across the world.  Type in “Asian woman” and there’s a wider variety than on the previously mentioned sites.

The biggest downside is that many of the photos are not taken by professionals, so they’re not necessarily the greatest.  But in my opinion, what you loose in quality you gain in variety.

When you click on downloaded, you’ll be given several options.  The easiest way to go is simply click “full resolution” and then download the photo to your computer.  For photo credit, copy the “attribution” line and insert that into the photo.

Most of the photos on Wikipedia fall under what’s called a Creative Commons license, which means they are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work

  • to remix – to adapt the work

        Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). [Although some Creative Commons licenses do not require attribution - it depends on the license.]

Why go through the trouble of giving photo credit?

One, because you are generally asked to do so when you get a photo for free on one of these sites.  Seems like a fair trade to me. Plus, it’s a way of acknowledging the effort and energy that went into that photo.  It’s a way of saying “thank you.” It’s good karma. If you wrote a book, you likely wouldn’t appreciate people quoting you without giving you credit.  It’s the same idea. I’m not always able to give photo credit, but when I can, I do. Besides, learning how to write text on a photo is a handy skill to have.

If you’re working on a Mac, it takes less than a minute.  Open the photo in Preview, go to Tools, Annotate, Text, and in the Text box paste in the line you copied earlier.  You may need to change the font color so that it shows up better on the photo. I usually stick with either black or white.  If you’d like, you can reduce the font size. Then drag it to a corner and save.

In Powerpoint, insert a photo, click back on the home tab, click “text” in the ribbon above.  Click on “arrange” to bring the text box to the front and type in the credit. Adjust the font to a small size and change the font color to white if the black doesn’t show up.   To move the box to a corner where it’s not intrusive, click inside the bordering box, and then click on one of the edges with the 4 point star that comes up, and drag the box to where you want it.

In Windows, you can follow the directions here.  

What about “royalty free” photos?

Unfortunately, royalty free does not always mean that you can get the photo for free.  Sometimes It means that once you buy it, you can use it for pretty much anything without paying royalties, i.e., more charges depending on how it’s used.   Whether you have to make that initial payment seems to depend on the site where you find it.

Time well spent....

Dedicate some time to becoming familiar with these websites and the technical aspects of using images.  It’ll be well worth the effort and save you a lot of frustration in the long run. If you found these links helpful, hit a share button and make life easier for your friends.

And, if you have a slide deck that you’d like to get some feedback on, go here and we’ll get right to work.

Don't Make These PowerPoint Slide Mistakes!

I recently attended a human trafficking conference in the United States.    Besides being an excellent opportunity for me to learn how I, as a speech coach, might better serve the community working to end this phenomenon, this conference was a virtual smorgasbord of speakers and their successful and, well, sometimes not so successful presentations.  I’d like to point out a few of the most common mistakes I saw regarding the use of text on slides and give some suggestions as to how you can do better...because I know you can.  

Mistake #1   Too much text on the slide.

At one point during a break-out session, a woman looked up at the screen behind her, saw it full of text, sighed, and said, “Well, you can read that.”  The audience laughed, and I thought, “Exactly! Who wants to read a giant screen full of text!?”

Don't put your audience to sleep! Learn the most common (and fatal) mistakes of PowerPoint slides. Then, learn how to avoid them with step by step instructions. Your audience will love you! #speech #publicspeaking #presentation #speechcoach #powerpoint #keynote #slidedeck

I know that everyone understands that too much text is to be avoided at all costs. Think root canals and bad dates.  But for whatever reason -  creating better alternatives can be time consuming, it doesn’t look like too much material when you’re staring at it on your computer screen,  and/or “everyone else” puts up text dense slides - too much text continues to be a problem.

So how much is too much?  Here are some examples....

Don't put your audience to sleep! Learn the most common (and fatal) mistakes of PowerPoint slides. Then, learn how to avoid them with step by step instructions. Your audience will love you! #speech #publicspeaking #presentation #speechcoach #powerpoint #keynote #conference #motivation #inspiration #slidedeck

See this one above?  It's beautiful, right?  Nice template, good colors, no?  Yes..but no.  Even though it's pretty, there's WAY too much text.  Now,  go ahead - puff out your chest as you say "I would never do THAT!"  Not so fast - what if it was a law...or an important quote?  Still no?  Good.  And to the rest of you feeling guilty, no worries, hang tight and I'll show you how to fix it.  :)

This one above and to the right is slightly better because it has a fun graphic.  But there's still a LOT of small text that no one will want to read.  And they definitely don't want to listen to you reading it.  

So how can you avoid this common mistake?

Solution A  Display only words/short phrases, and speak exclusively from those, as in the edited version below.   This is by far the best solution.  It ensures that you’re talking to your audience, and not to the screen (see Mistake #4 below) and that you’re not reading your speech.  

Don't put your audience to sleep! Learn the most common (and fatal) mistakes of PowerPoint slides. Then, learn how to avoid them with step by step instructions. Your audience will love you! #speech #publicspeaking #presentation #speechcoach #powerpoint #keynote #conference #motivation #inspiration #slidedeck

Do you see how few details there are?  That’s a good thing.  Your audience will read the whole slide in 3 seconds, and then turn their attention back to you, waiting to hear what you have to say. That's a good thing, too!   

Solution B

What if you don't know your speech well enough to only use words or short phrases, or you're really worried about forgetting?  In that case, display just a few words/phrases per slide, talk off of those as much as possible, but refer to printed notes as necessary.  Obviously, the more prepared you are, the less you’ll have to refer to notes.  But there’s no shame in refreshing your memory now and then by taking a look.  You just don’t want to be reading those notes verbatim.  Remember, it’s a speech, not a reading.  

Mistake #2 Displaying a slide with a lot of text and not walking your audience through it.


There are times (keep them infrequent) when you feel that displaying a paragraph of text (large font, easy to read, not TOO much) is justifiable.  Perhaps it’s a magnificent quote, a law, or an explanation that you really don’t want to paraphrase because it’s so clear as is.  Displaying it will help people follow along (especially those like me who’d rather see it than hear it), and allows you to highlight certain parts. For example, this quote by Ira Glass of This American Life.

If you want to use a slide like this, you need to proceed with care.


Step 1:  Preview the slide before you display it.  Say something like, “I’d like to read you what Ira Glass says about a story,” or “I’d like to read you this quote from an interview with Robert McKee about brand storytelling,”  or “Here’s what Section 2 of the copywrite act, 1968, says on this topic.”

Step 2: Start reading as soon as you display the text, because you know what?  That’s what your audience is going to do, whether you’re ready or not.  Yep!  They’re going to start reading immediately.  The only way to make them stop and listen to you again is to take down the slide.And that would be rude.  

Reading aloud also allows you to place the emphasis where you want it.  But, if reading aloud freaks you out, no problem.  Just say “take a moment to read this and then I want to make a few comments.”  Then stop talking.  Seriously. Hush.

When you’ve finished reading aloud, or, in the second case, when most people are done reading on their own, go back and highlight and/or explain in more depth what’s most important to you about this particular passage.  Your audience will be listening again, because they’ve already read it.

Mistake #3  Talking to the slides.  

If you focus most of your attention toward the slides, so will the audience.  This creates a disconnect between you and them, and makes it harder for the audience to identify with you, empathize with you, be persuaded by you, or whatever it is that you’re trying to get them to do.  



Step 1 Display just a few words/phrases per slide.  (Is that starting to sound familiar? I am indeed beating the dead horse now.)  Yes, this is another good reason not to put too much text on your slide.  Fewer words creates less of a temptation to keep looking back at the slide.

Step 2 Help yourself make eye contact with your audience.

I know it’s hard to look people in the eye when you are standing in front of an audience.  Sometimes they’re frowning, sometimes they’re looking at their phone, and sometimes they look bored.  It can all be pretty disconcerting.    On top of that, maybe you feel self-conscious, nervous, or just plain terrified.

If you’re worried about being able to maintain eye-contact, I suggest that at the beginning of your talk, or even before, you find a few friendly faces and concentrate on them.  Or ask a friend (or two!)  to sit in the middle of the audience and smile encouragingly.  (I’ve done this many times and it works wonders.)  Often times the friendly faces give you just enough courage to look around the room more and incorporate eye contact with more people.

So that's it - the three most common mistakes surrounding the use of text in a presentation and how to solve them.   Remember, less is more.  Your audience will thank you.  

If you have a slide deck that you’d like to get some feedback on, go here and we’ll get right to work.

Engage Your Audience with Mini-Stories
Storytelling is the new “black” of marketing, the buzzword on every advertiser’s lips. And for good reason – who doesn’t like a story? In this post I want to show you the easiest way to incorporate a story into your next presentation. #speech #publicspeaking #presentation #speechcoach #powerpoint #keynote #conference motivation #inspiration #slidedeck

Storytelling is the new “black” of marketing, the buzzword on every advertiser’s lips.  And for good reason - who doesn’t like a story?  In this post I want to show you the easiest way to incorporate a story into your next presentation.   You'll be amazed at how well it works.

I know that it’s tempting to start out with your name, your position in your company, a dictionary definition of a key word, maybe a quote or "interesting" question (good luck with that, lol).  This kind of introduction feels familiar and safe.  Don’t succumb to this temptation...I beg you.  If it’s valuable information, like an impressive statistic or little known fact that illustrates your point, it for later, after you've hooked and impressed your audience, and start with a story instead.  

Me during a fun story I told at our first Open Mic.

Me during a fun story I told at our first Open Mic.

Here’s why.  Even if the audience is already interested in your topic, they want to know that yours is going to be a great talk - that you are not only going to provide valuable information, but that you are going to do it in a way that is interesting and even entertaining.  Open with the phrase “I’d like to begin today by telling you a little story”  and the effect will be nearly palpable.  Your audience will settle into their chairs, tension draining from their face.  They will be all ears. That is a magical moment that won’t last forever.  Think of it as your first impression.  The better your start, the more your audience is willing to stay tuned for the rest of the ride.  Start poorly and you will be hard pressed to gain their full attention later in the talk.  So, seize that magical moment with both hands and run as far as you can with it.  

My audience during that same story.

My audience during that same story.

Let me illustrate.  I once had a student giving a speech about how to cope with stress.  He was having trouble coming up with a relevant story for his introduction, so I asked him to tell me about a time that he got really stressed out.   He told me a story about how he was once on an elevator and it got stuck and stopped.  Everyone in the elevator started talking at once, and he couldn’t take it.  His anxiety got the better of him and he shouted “BE QUIET!”  

“Really?”  I asked.  “You shouted?”

“Yes!” he said.

I persuaded him to use that story as his introduction.  I coached him on how to clearly explain the setting and how to describe the details of how he’d felt when the elevator got stuck, his panic rising by the second.  I even convinced him to actually shout when he came to that part of the story.  The students listened attentively, and they all nearly jumped out of their chairs when he shouted.  Needless to say, it was a wonderful introduction, and they were hooked.  

So how do you know what story to use?  If you can say yes to the following 3 questions, you likely have a good story for your introduction.

1.  Is this actually a story?


An actual story has a beginning, middle and end.  The beginning describes the setting and the problem you (or someone else) faced.  The middle describes your attempt(s) to resolve this problem.  The end tells us how the problem was finally dealt with.  All of this might seem obvious, but it’s easy to confuse a situation with a story.  For example:

“One night, I got really lucky.  It was poring outside, but I had to go to a dinner for my friend.  So I put on my rain boots and a slicker and took my extra large umbrella, and when I got to the party, only my hands were wet!”

This is a situation and not a story because there is no real problem.  This person had all of the equipment to deal with the rain, and did so without incident.  In contrast:

“I'll never forget this one night.... It was raining really hard, but I had to go to an awards dinner for my best friend.  So I put on every piece of rain gear you can think of.  But when I stopped at the curb to grab a taxi, a big van came skidding around the corner.  It was just like in a movie - I couldn't believe it. I jumped out of the way,  dropped my umbrella and water from the van spalshed all over me.  I was soaking wet.  Well... all except my hair.  At least my hood worked.  I imagined myself sitting around a fancy dinner table, a little puddle under my chair.  Then I imagined how Shantal would feel if I wasn't there.  I didn't know what to do.

So now we have a real problem.  And curiousity.  What is this person going to do?  Will she try to go anyway?  Will she go back to her house, change, and then arrive late?  Will that be horrible?  If you tell us what she did to finally make it to the event successfully (or even, not so successfully), you’ve got a story.

2.  Can I clearly connect my story to my topic?  


Let’s say your presentation is about teaching financial literacy to young adults.  You could tell a story about a time when you or someone you know: was trying to save money, lost money, was trying to figure out how to earn money, made a bad decision because of money problems, was in a huge financial bind, etc.  

These are the obvious stories.  But there are also the non-obvious ones in which what happened in the story serves as a metaphor for your topic.  For example, you could tell this story (which I have greatly abbreviated):

The summer that I turned eight years old, I spent all my time collecting beach glass.  Then one day I took my whole collection to show my friend Trinity, and I accidentally left it on the bus on the way home.  I did everything I could think of to find my bag of beach glass, but I never saw it again.  

You could then compare that sense of dread you felt when you realized you’d lost something important (a feeling we can all relate to) to how it feels when you’ve lost money, or even when you realize you don’t have enough for something that you really need.  You can then go on to explain that financial literacy is a way of avoiding that situation.

Either kind of story will work as long as at the end of the story, you make the connection between what happened in the story and your specific topic.

3.  Is my story interesting?


That is, is it interesting to anyone besides me, lol?    Does it have any unexpected twists?  Does it have humor?  Can lots of different types of people identify with it?  Crafting interesting stories is a whole art form, but there are a few elements you can include which will increase your chances of your story being a good one.  See my blog post here for help in this regard.

Bonus Question - Is my story real?

It's not mandatory, but I strongly suggest telling a story about something that really happened to you.   Not only do real stories tend to be more interesting - I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase life is stranger than fiction - but they are easier to create, and easier to tell, because you already know what happened.  Also, everyone likes to hear juicy details told by the person that lived them.

Once you’ve chosen your story, you’ll want to work out what details and parts to include based on the amount of time you have, and then practice delivering it until it feels comfortable.  Remember, beginnings are especially important because they are your first impression, so give yourself time to get it right.  Hook your audience, and they will thank you for it.  

If you’d like some help working on a story of your own, go here to schedule a session with me, and we’ll get right to work!