I’ve attended a lot of presentations in my time, some good, some bad. And though I wouldn’t call myself an expert, there are a couple of things I have learned that I wish I could teach all presenters. Whether its a presentation to a team you work with, senior leadership, a client, a conference audience or an online seminar group, understanding that even if they are forced to be there, your audience has a choice whether or not to pay attention. Thus, your goal should absolutely be to get them to focus on you rather than the plethora of distractions that are made available to them.
There are many resources out there on how to be a good presenter and I’ve been exposed to a lot of them. The list below does not detail those things. Rather, the list talks about the things I haven’t found in those resources, but are things that personally draw me in as an audience member or that I have found have worked for me.
1. Sound authentic. When I say this, I mean, sound like how you normally talk. Most of the time, presentation advice will say to vary your tone and pitch. But I think that is too simplistic. If you vary your tone and pitch outside of your norm, you sound like you are acting, and acting badly. And anyone who has seen a Keanu Reeves movie knows, bad acting is painful to sit through. So, once you get past the stage of being terrified to speak in public, and you can present without reading, do so in a way that feels like you.
2. Be authentic. Similar to number one, but different. Make sure what you’re talking about is something you believe in. We can all actually tell if you are lying to yourself and us. If you have to talk about a subject you don’t care about very much, than my suggestion is to do more research to find an angle that you can latch onto.
3. Be original. If we can get the information you are giving me from anyone in your position, than let us do that on our own. The reason we are coming to hear you speak is because we want YOUR knowledge, YOUR experience, YOUR vision on the topic. Even if you are delivering a canned presentation created by someone else, I empower you to make it your own. Throw in anecdotes or stories that make it feel like we wouldn’t get this presentation unless we came to hear you specifically.
4. Prepare your audience. This is something I have learned by making many mistakes and asking for a ton of feedback. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people will come to your presentation because they have to, not because they want to. Making it easy for them to be engaged is super important. So, if you can, send out the presentation or supporting materials beforehand so they have an opportunity to review it. Also, figure out how much your audience already knows about the topic so that you can focus it on areas they don’t know. And don’t do this at the beginning of the presentation! You’re probably not going to make adjustments there on the fly, so then it just seems like you didn’t listen.
5. Teach us something. There is nothing that frustrates me more than going to a presentation where someone just regurgitates information from somewhere else, or tells me how they accomplished something, but doesn’t relate that to me and my problems. I’m talking to you marketing conference speakers. Yes, your story is amazing. Yes, you are amazing. But unless you want to come work for us, that’s so not helpful right now. What we need from you is for you to give us solid takeaways that we’re able to implement. This also applies for internal meetings. Meetings are expensive. So if people can’t walk away having learned something, that they couldn’t have learned by just looking at your deck, the meeting is a waste of time. So ensure that you elicit enough participation and knowledge sharing that your presentation meeting has value.
This list is not comprehensive and you should read all the books, watch all the videos and attend all the conferences on how to be a better presenter. Because they are all awesome and the ideas work. This list is merely one featuring specific ideas that as a consumer of your presentation, I really need you to remember. Because if you don’t, I’m probably going to find somewhere on the internet to get lost in.
I always seem to see the lists that are 25 things I’ve learned in 25 years working at such and such or 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years of living. Or how about the 20 things I’d tell my 20 year old self? 30 lessons for my 2 year old daughter?
Pick a number, create the list. Well, I’ve decided that all of those options are so amazing, that my list shall incorporate them all! Here are 25 things I’ve learned in 33 years that I would totally love to tell my 20 year old self and will certainly pass on to my 4 year old niece:
1. Being curious has served me better than being naturally talented at anything.
2. Vacationing by yourself can be extremely relaxing…even with a fully packed itinerary.
3. Talk to strangers. You can hear some really interesting stories.
4. Move. Away from home, out of state, to a place you’ve never been. If you have baggage, its amazing how it lightens the further you get from it.
5. Always go for the job that you think you are just a little unqualified for. You’ll learn. And you’ll kick ass at it.
6. Read. Just in general, read stuff. Books, the internet, table signs, door signs, closed captioning…all of it. Find something you enjoy reading and read.
7. When you buy your first set of dishes, buy them in white without anything ornamental. You probably won’t have money to buy a new set anytime soon, and the plain white will stand the test of time until its time to buy new.
8. Smile. Even if you’re not happy. Smiling can make people like you, it can make you feel better when you feel lousy, and its also a great cheek workout.
9. You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you. But we’re all in this together, so at least try to be kind and respectful. Everyone’s got a thing they’re working through.
10. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Even if you don’t get paid for it. Even if others look at you funny.
11. Make your bed everyday. No matter what, you need to face the day. Besides, your sheets will feel better when you go to sleep that night.
12. Learn one karaoke song that will surprise everyone in the bar. Even your friends you came with.
13. Don’t leave soda cans in your trunk in 100 degree weather or in the freezer. They will explode in both cases.
14. Sometimes, even when you do everything right, things will still turn out wrong. Fail fast and pivot.
15. When people are hurting, they will say things that oftentimes make no sense, that are mean and that are cruel. It’s not their fault. Forgive them. The pain takes over the rational parts of their brain. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.
16. Do what you say you’re going to do. Follow through is an excellent method for building trust. It will get you far.
17. Quit if it’s not any fun.
18. It’s always personal. We’re human beings. So its never just business or just a joke.
19. Don’t eat fat free food. It may be fat free, but its not random chemical free. And yes, you will die of something anyway, but at least live enjoying what you eat.
20. Working out sucks. For so many reasons: Gasping for air, gyms are soul sucking enterprises, workout equipment can be bad for your body (my knees are talking to you, treadmill), and so on. But find something active you enjoy.
21. Learn to enjoy your own company.
22. Get an expensive haircut and embrace your hair as it is.
23. Don’t type or speak in text lingo. You’ll sound ridiculous, uneducated, and immature. “You” is only two more letters than “u”. You can do the extra work of typing those two letters.
24. Find someone you admire and learn from them. There are so many brilliant people with so many diverse backgrounds that your opportunities to gain knowledge and grow are endless.
25. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. It changes everything.
As most people who know me are aware, I am an Apple girl. I love my Apple products, I love that they all connect, and I love that they are so unbelievably easy to use. I have an Apple TV, but Amazon Prime doesn’t have an Apple TV app. And as a cord cutter, I rely on internet television. So I shelled out the $99 to get higher video quality than airplaying from my iPad to Apple TV. It arrived today and I thought I’d go ahead and discuss my experience setting it up.
1. The package has a “hassle free promise” on it. I’d say, for the most part, that’s true. But I still needed a sharp object to slit the seam of the sticker holding it closed. And there was a plastic wrapping that was misleading on how it opened. Beyond that, hassle free.
2. Plugging in and connecting to my television was a breeze.
3. It found my network right away. They totally win with showing your password by default but giving you the option of hiding if you’d like. Good work there.
4. They FORCE YOU to watch a how-to video. This is by far my biggest pet peeve. If you have to tell me how to use it, you didn’t do your job right. Your product should be intuitive by default. Only help me if I need it or ask for it. When trying to skip passed the video by pressing buttons on the remote, I apparently hit the back button and ended up way back at the “set up your network” screen where I had to start all over. Total fail.
5. I didn’t have to set up my Amazon account on it. It already knew who I was. Clearly, because I purchased it through Amazon, they were able to match the serial number (or similar) to me and automatically log me in. BRILLIANT. The teeny bit of criticism I have on this is that they didn’t tell me they logged me in already, so I thought I had to go to settings and set up my account. It was there that I saw they already associated the unit with me. I think it would have been better if they made that obvious to me after setup was complete.
6. Getting a bit nit picky here, but I noticed that in settings, there is a “time” setting. I am in the eastern time zone, Amazon knows that, yet it defaulted to Pacific. It seems like if they set the Fire up just for me, they would have also set these other things according to where I am.
All in all it was very easy and I think Amazon did a good job. But details matter. And paying attention to those is what makes a product not just good, but great. Nonetheless, I’m excited to try it out!
Update 7.06.14: So even though I set up the Fire TV on the 5th, I didn’t actually attempt to use it until that weekend. That is when I found out that it wouldn’t actually play any video. After going back and forth with support for two weeks, they finally sent me another. The replacement did not set up as easily and I thought that I’d have to send the new device back as well, but after sitting plugged into my television for a week, it seemed to fix itself (don’t ask me how). Nonetheless, I am using it now and it works well. The interface is fairly good, but again, some details were forgotten. Overall, I think my $99 was spent well.
I’ve moved a couple of times in the past year and have had the luxury of learning new places and finding my way in new cities. For anyone moving to new cities, the one thing I seriously encourage you to do is to get off the expressway. I know that its much easier to get from place to place via the interstate, but the surface streets are what helps you find the treasures in a city. I’m even going to take this one step further and say, get out and walk. Walk anywhere you’re able. And take different routes if you can (and its safe).
Its hard to make new friends in a new place, unless you are one of those people with that “I make friends with anyone and everyone skill”. So finding places to explore on your own can be the key to enjoying your experience or severely hating it. So try driving 35 mph on a surface street and stopping at stoplights and see where that leads. Sure, it’ll be slower. But it might be a bit more enjoyable.
I was chatting with a co-worker the other day about my purging methods and ways to keep the quantity of things I own to a minimum and he suggested that I write down my tips. So, here are the rules I live by:
1. If I haven’t used it in a year, I don’t need it.
2. “Memories” are the exception to rule number one. But, I confine myself to one memory box. And its small enough to fit under my bed. If you were going to try this, I’d suggest just giving yourself the rule of having one box that you are able to move by yourself, however big that box may be.
3. Start purging clothes first.
– At the end of summer I always go through my summer clothes and add the items to the donate pile that I had saved from the previous summer but didn’t at all use that summer.
– If I buy a new version of something that is better than the old version, I get rid of the old version.
– Because I am not a painter, landscaper, mechanic, etc, I don’t need 12 pairs of “old jeans”. One is probably enough.
– Unless I were to be actually in the process of losing weight, meaning I’m actively working out, dieting, giving birth, having a massive tumor removed, etc, I resign myself to the fact that I will not wear my skinny clothes again. By the time I were to make the decision or effort to actually do the noted items above, fashions would change and I’d probably want the joy of going out and buying new clothes anyway.
4. Buy a few high quality things instead of a lot of cheap things. This particularly applies to furniture. Oh, and a bonus tip – I always buy furniture that allows me to store stuff in it. Open shelving creates an environment for more clutter.
5. I don’t buy the extra items in the “Buy 3 get 1 free” deals. If in the next month, I am only going to use 1, then I just buy one. If I was going to use all 4 (or even 3) in the next month, or before I can possibly get to the store that sells that thing again, then by all means, I’ll buy all 4 (Cereal comes to mind here. I do love my cereal). Why? See the following reasons:
– The time value of money means something. According to whomever wrote this wikipedia article, the time value of money is “the principle that a certain currency amount of money today has a different buying power (value) than the same currency amount of money in the future. The value of money at a future point of time would take account of interest earned or inflation accrued over a given period of time.” So basically, if I spend $1 today on a bar of soap I don’t use, I’ve actually lost money because I didn’t use nor need the soap, and that $1 might have the buying power of $1.03 in the future.
– My acquisition costs of new items are generally fairly low. I visit Target pretty regularly. I get perishable items there and other items that need routine replenishing. Because of that, if I need that additional bar of soap, the acquisition cost to pick that item up when I am getting others is nonexistent. If acquisition costs were high, I feel there is value in buying extra.
– The cost to store the additional items has a negative effect on my life (or diminishing marginal utility) as I need to find a place to store and organize the additional items, often then resulting in the need to buy additional organizational items or furniture.
6. Get the items you are purging out of the house as fast as possible. So if I go through my closet and bag up clothes, those bags go by the door to take out when I go out next or I immediately put them in my car. The longer those bags sit there, the higher probability that I will get comfortable with them sitting there.
7. I don’t beat myself up when I can’t let go of something right away. Sometimes, it takes evaluating something a week later or a month later to finally be able to get rid of it. Example: when I just moved I brought along some scarves that I thought I wanted. Then when I was unboxing them and putting things away in my closet, I realized, I never wear those scarves and had others to take their place. So I got rid of them then.
8. I absolutely, positively, never take tchotchke. If I go to an event and they are giving out keychains, I tell them to keep it. Water bottles, t-shirts, notebooks, coffee cups, etc. I probably won’t like their water bottle, I have enough t-shirts, who writes things in notebooks? and my coffee cup set matches and is phenomenal so I don’t need to damage its beauty with some weird cup that advertises a brand I probably don’t care about. If I take it, it’ll probably just end up in a landfill, so I let them keep it and give it to someone who might actually want it.
9. I don’t participate in the gift-giving aspect of holidays. Its much better for me to just buy my own stuff and others to buy their own stuff than for us to try and guess what each other likes within the dollar range we can spend on them. Here are two episodes of my favorite podcast, Planet Money, that helps to explain this – Making Christmas More Joyful, And More Efficient and The Most Wasteful Time Of Year.
Learning to purge takes time. Clothes are always the easiest. But after awhile it all just becomes habit. And I find myself only buying things I really like. So I’m really happy with my physical space and enjoy being in my place.
My asterisk to this is, yes, absolutely, your situation is different and there are always exceptions to every rule. These principles have worked for me and may not work for you. I am not a tax advisor. I do not get paid to give financial advice. Your grandmother might be mad if you get rid of that ugly gravy boat she gave you for your wedding. And no, this is not an offer to clean your house.