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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

May 2007

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 amusing. (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.)

Welcome to all new and continuing subscribers!

In this issue:

Dr. Standup Answers Your Most
Pressing Presentation Questions

You are all invited to submit any presentation-skills-related question to Dr. Standup. (You are invited to submit any unrelated questions as well, but no promises on how useful the answers will be!)

You are also invited to respond to any question with answers of your own. (The Doctor is magnanimous and will publish alternative responses.)

And now, this month's question . . .


Dear Dr. Standup:

I am an amateur paleontologist. Recently, I was invited to give a presentation on “Pleistocene Pathologies of the Pre-Cambrian Period” to a local community organization. I talked with the person arranging the logistics and asked her if the people who would attend my presentation would be knowledgeable about my topic or basically unfamiliar with the terminology.

“Oh, they will be very knowledgeable,” she assured me. “They love lots of terminology and technical stuff.”

“OK,” I said. “I'll plan on showing my jargon-filled PowerPoint slides then.”

I gave my presentation, not knowing that there was any problem, until I got to the Q&A and there were NO questions. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “That's not a good sign. No questions probably means they didn't understand a word I said.” I learned later that that was indeed the case—they were totally befuddled by my PowerPoint slides.

Aside from vowing never to trust a presentation organizer again, is there anything else I could have done to rescue this talk?

Blinded by the Light of My Own Expertise

Dear Blinded:

I have several questions for you:

  • How many people were at your presentation?
  • What was the average age of the audience?
  • Were there more males or females?
  • How many people were asleep?
  • How many people were staring at you as though you were an alien from outer space?

I'm betting that you can't answer ANY of these questions because it's quite obvious that YOU NEVER LOOKED AT YOUR AUDIENCE! If you had looked at them, REALLY looked at them, you would have noticed that they were having difficulties following you. And then you could have restructured your talk, translating technical terms and esoteric explanations as you went.

You could also have begun your presentation with some “survey” questions, to wit:

  • How many of you here are familiar with the Pre-Cambrian Period?
  • Anyone here interested in fossils?

Or even some rhetorical questions:

  • Hey, that Pleistocene, eh? Now that was SOME era, wasn't it?
  • You wanna look at some fossils before we all become fossils, ha ha?

In other words, you needed to “read” your audience at the beginning of your presentation. Never rely completely on someone else's assessment of the audience's background or level of expertise. Make your own judgment and then adjust your talk accordingly. (You might have to jettison your entire technical PowerPoint presentation. So be it!)


Dear Dr. Standup:

I enjoyed your last newsletter. The story was frightful, but I can top that! After dealing with all kinds of last-minute crises (wrong room, no flip charts, notes missing, etc.), I then had to deal as well with a heckler!

There was an MD in my audience who made comments about every point I made, until finally I said, “Apparently you don't have any idea about what I do or you would not be making statements like that. Tell you what, why don't you go to my web site and look at the 200-plus pages of research posted there that prove the things I'm saying and then come back and ask me questions.”

I then gave my web address so everyone could go look. The MD was quiet the rest of the presentation, but it had taken a lot of my time and energy to deal with that so I never got to my full presentation.

Sometimes you just have to abandon your idea of what the presentation is going to be like, and say and do what needs to be said and done. Agenda aside.

Dr. Joan Coff

North Star Natural Health Center


Dear Dr. Joan:

Amen! Remind me to tell you sometime about Mr. Ma, who heckled me in Chinese!

Dr. S

Any other options? Send them to me and I'll publish them in next month's newsletter.

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 as well as amusing, please contact us:

Dowling & Associates, Inc.
Ellen Dowling, President
(505) 307-1700