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Welcome to
The Standup Trainer Newsletter

June 2005

Brought to you by Ellen Dowling, PhD ("The Standup Trainer") and the fine folks of Dowling & Associates, Inc.



This newsletter is guaranteed certifiably useful as well as funny. (If you are not completely satisfied, there are unsubscribe instructions at the end. But we're betting you'll change your mind by the time you get there.)

In this issue:

1. Presentation Horror Story of the Month

Fullbright scholar makes bad first impression in Norway.

2. Presentation Hall of Shame

Too many slides cause overdose by PowerPoint at luncheon meeting.
3. Presentation Skills Book Review

Point, Click & Wow!! is full of great ideas for keeping audiences awake.

4. Useful Online Resource of the Month

Do you know what happens when you press the "b" key any time during your slide show?

1. Presentation Horror Story of the Month

[Editor's Note: Have you a good story to tell about the time SOMETHING WENT TERRIBLY WRONG at a presentation you were giving (or attending)? We are soliciting submissions for this segment of our newsletter. If your story is chosen, you will receive a FREE copy of either of Ellen's two books, The Standup Trainer or Presenting with Style (your choice). Simply send your story (just a couple of paragraphs will be fine) to edowling@standuptrainer.com.]

The winner of the inaugural edition of our newsletter's monthly contest is Dr. Carole Yee, Dean of Students at New Mexico Tech and presenter extraordinaire MOST of the time, except when her sister is in the audience.

In 1985-1986, I was very fortunate to be offered a Fulbright teaching and research fellowship to the University of Bergen, in Bergen, Norway. I was scheduled to teach a lecture in American Studies, with an enrollment of about 80, as well as a small seminar. The day after I arrived, my sister Joanne, who lives in Hamburg, Germany, arrived for an 8-day visit. I was of course delighted to see her, and even though I had not yet begun to find my way around the university or the city of Bergen, I decided Joanne and I could do it together.

Towards the end of her visit, I had to teach my first lecture course in American Studies. I had brought slides of paintings of the American landscape with me from the States to show in the course, and I planned to show some of them in that first class meeting. Joanne wanted to come to the class, so she did and sat in the back of the huge lecture hall while I began my lecture. About 15 minutes into the lecture, I looked back in the corner where Joanne was sitting and saw she was fast asleep!

The next day, her last day in Bergen, we went to lunch at a restaurant in downtown Bergen. While we ate, I was leafing through some materials from the university when I suddenly realized that I was scheduled to be teaching the seminar at that very moment! Somehow, I had become confused about my teaching schedule. I was of course horrified, but it was too late to try to get back to the campus for the seminar. I had visions of the Bergen newspaper the next day blaring a front page headline that said (in Norwegian, of course), "FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR TURNS OUT TO BE A REAL IDIOT!!"

After Joanne left to return to Hamburg, I was able to concentrate on what I was meant to be doing there, and the year turned out to be one of the most exciting learning and living experiences of my entire life. But the start was a little rough, I must say.

2. Presentation Hall of Shame

The saddest thing about this award is that it's so easy to bestow. If you work for a large organization and attend presentations frequently, we'll bet you could give out literally dozens of these a month.

The latest "shameful" presentation we attended was given by an "experienced training manager" (we'd have liked to have seen his credentials!) to an audience of other trainers at a monthly luncheon program. As you all know, luncheon speakers are always tightly constrained by time limitations: The attendees need to network a bit, eat, catch up on the association's latest news, hear the presentation, and then get back to work by 1 p.m. So you have to figure that if you are the speaker and the shebang starts at 11:30 a.m., you'll probably have an hour at MOST to speak (more likely 45 minutes).

So our training manager starts off at around 12:10 p.m. with his PowerPoint presentation, complete with a handout that simply reproduces the slides. There are 20 pages in the handout, with two slides per page, for a total of 40 slides. Ok, let's do the math here. He has 50 minutes to speak and 40 slides to talk about. That's 1.25 minutes PER slide. The only way he can get through on time is basically to READ EACH SLIDE TO US, WORD FOR WORD. If he tries to elaborate on a particular slide (by, say, involving the audience with questions or telling a story to illustrate), he's not going to make it.

Well, you can guess what happens. At 12:55, he's on p.10 of the handout, slide 20 (and 20 still to go). Audience members are alternately leafing through the remaining pages of the handout and glancing at their watches. Our speaker, starting to panic, begins to race through the last slides. ("You don't really need to see this . . . ."  "We won't go into detail on this one . . . .") And he makes it, shutting down at 1 p.m., out-of-breath and time. Of course, the second half of his presentation is just a blur.
Why do people do this? We can't imagine that they are too dense to figure out that they have too much information for the time allotted to them. We've got to guess that maybe they're just too busy or too lazy. ("This is the PowerPoint presentation I put together and I'm sticking with it. I don't have time to alter it.")

Please, presenters: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. STAY WITHIN YOUR TIME LIMITS AND ADAPT YOUR INFORMATION TO YOUR ALLOTED TIME.

Don't make us have to tell you again. ;-)

If you would like to read about a cool technique for timing your presentations accurately, simply get a hold of Ellen's book, Presenting with Style.
3. Presentation Skills Book Review

Point, Click & Wow!! : A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations

By Claudyne Wilder and David Fine

(Pfeiffer: First Edition, 1996; Second Edition with CD, 2002)

We have long recommended this little book (only 125 pages in the first edition; 240 in the second) as a great tool for learning how to use PowerPoint wisely and well. Of course, the authors' basic philosophy of presentation delivery is pretty much exactly the same as our own: "Without some basic guidelines and design skills, presenters can end up with a visual feast of pictures and graphics that dazzle the audience but blur the key messages." Their advice? "Use the new presentation tools only when they genuinely enhance the messages you are conveying."

Well, that's all well and good, but who wants to read a book on presentation skills just for the theory? We're thinking we all want to get some really good ideas, some nuggets, some gems for making our PowerPoint presentations close to this side of spectacular, right? So here are two of Point, Click & Wow's really cool ideas for livening up your next presentation:

1.       Our particular favorite is this one: To personalize a talk, simply interview some of the folks who will be attending your presentation and then "casually" scatter their actual names on certain slides, next to their recorded responses to the topic of your talk. This technique is guaranteed to keep people involved and awake, as who can resist seeing their own name up on the "big screen"? (We think an even cooler idea, if it would be appropriate to your objective and topic, would be to scatter pictures of your attendees throughout your slide show.)

2.       Another of our favorite tips is to control the flow of the slide show around YOURSELF, the speaker. The authors suggest that you organize the movement this way:

a)    Open without electronic media. (Establish that you are center stage.)

b)    Stop the media in the middle of the presentation (go to blank screen) to take questions. ("This changes the pace and wakes people up.")

c)    Close without electronic media. (Be center stage again at the end.)

[And in case you don't already know this, you can go to a black screen anytime you want in your PP presentation just by pressing the "b" key. Hit the "b" again, and you'll be right back where you were in your slide show. You can also press "w" to go to a white screen, if you prefer.]

There's a whole bunch of other useful information in this little book. Check it out!

4. Useful Online Resource of the Month

How generous is this? Each month we will recommend one of our competitor's web sites, especially when they also give some great tips to enhance our presentation skills. (We'd like to think we're perfect already, but even we know that there's always room for improvement in the world of public speaking.)

This month we're recommending that you visit David Paradi, the "PowerPoint Lifeguard," at his site http://www.communicateusingtechnology.com/  Be sure to sign up for his (free) "5+1 day Leveraging Microsoft Office e-course" and receive 20 tips on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook that you can use right away. Then, every two weeks, you will receive more technology tips.

And great tips they are, too: The tip above about pressing the "b" key to go to a black slide in the middle of your PP presentation is David's. And he's got lots of others.

If you do visit, tell him Ellen sent you.

That's it for this month! If you enjoyed this newsletter please do pass it on to your friends. (Or send them to www.standuptrainer.com to get their own subscription. Why should YOU have to do everything for them?)

If you have a suggestion for something we could do to make this newsletter even MORE useful and funny (as if that were actually possible), please contact us:

Dowling & Associates, Inc.

Ellen Dowling, President


(505) 883-9070