Hack Your Next Presentation – Smarter, Sharper, Faster

 15th August 2017 by gihan

Most presentation skills advice assumes a “typical” professional presentation: say, 30-60 minutes with you and PowerPoint at the front of the room, presenting to 5-20 people. You talk and show slides; and they listen, take notes and ask questions.

That might be typical for you as well, but it’s not the only option. Good leaders know how to tailor their message to the setting and the time available. You will deliver the same message differently in a 140-character tweet, in a small meeting room in your office, and from the stage at your organisation’s national conference.

Let’s consider five different levels at which you can deliver your message. Each builds on those before it, and is based broadly on the time you have available.

1. Just get to the point

If you have limited time, you have to get to the point immediately. As much as you would like to show slides, draw pictures, understand the audience’s starting point, and tell a compelling story, you just don’t have the time. So just get to the point!

In practice, you focus on your goal, which has two perspectives:

  • Audience: Know the outcome you want from your audience.
  • You: State your point clearly and succinctly.

2. Show them the shift

If you have a few minutes to sit down with somebody and make your point, sketch a diagram showing the current situation and what you want to change.

For example, imagine having coffee with the most important person who needs to hear your message, and they give you five minutes to present it. You know what you want from them, and you have your succinct, one-sentence point in mind. How can you make the most of the few extra minutes?

You don’t have a PowerPoint deck handy (and it’s not the right place for it anyway), but you can grab a pen and paper napkin to sketch a diagram. This isn’t a work of art; it’s just a diagram showing your current situation, and you then draw arrows or circles showing what you want to change.

3. Get them on board

At the next level, you again have more time – perhaps ten minutes rather than five. What will you add now to your presentation? You could add a story, share some facts and data, or even show a brief slide show. These are all effective, but we’re going to leave them to the next stage.

Instead, at this stage, a more powerful approach is to focus on what happens immediately before and immediately after your presentation:

  • Before (framing): Get the audience in the right frame of mind to hear your message.
  • After (pacing): Step them through the specific action you want them to take after you end.

4. Add colour and texture

The presentation we have created so far has a point, a goal, a diagram to show a shift, understanding of the audience’s frame of mind, and clear action steps. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t have much depth. It’s a cartoon, not a painting. If you have limited time, it’s better than nothing; but if you have more time, you can do better. So let’s add colour and texture to it.

We have two main tools available: stories, to appeal to their emotions; and data, to appeal to their logical mind.

Most business presentations have too much data and too few stories. To make your presentation more effective, use both stories and data to reinforce your message.

5. Make it active

You now have an effective presentation. Its only weakness is that it’s one-way delivery only, with your audience sitting there passively absorbing it. The final step is to build in opportunities for audience interaction. Rather than adding more points, more stories, or more data, use that extra time for audience interaction.

Do you have all five levels of flexibility?

Putting this all together gives you a formula for a powerful presentation:

You build it from bottom to top, adding more components to fill the available time. If you have only a few minutes, you might have to settle for just the first two levels (know your goal, and draw a quick sketch to make your point). With longer presentations, you can add more levels. With experience, you can even mix up the order (for example, using a story in even a short presentation).

You now have diverse ways of presenting your message, depending on the length of time available.

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Professional Development for Distributed Teams

 10th August 2017 by gihan

Members of distributed teams value and expect opportunities for professional development just as much as in-office team members. As a leader or manager, be proactive and innovative to find ways to help accelerate the experience curve for your distributed team members.

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Decisions, Decisions: The Fast Track to a High-Performance Team

 8th August 2017 by gihan

When you start coaching your team members into more senior roles, you will ask for their input into decision-making. This is important, because you eventually want them to make their own decisions, and your role now is to help build their judgement.

But don’t wait for them to be operating independently before they make those decisions. Start now, even while you’re coaching them.

It’s one thing to offer input into decisions; it’s another thing altogether to make those decisions. Organisations move when people make decisions, and stagnate when they don’t. For example, when Denise Morrison took over the reins at a struggling Campbell’s, she changed one part of their Leadership Model from “Drive organizational consensus” to “Drive decision making”. Give your team members the power to make more decisions, including decisions you normally make yourself.

If they aren’t ready to make these decisions, first let them make more decisions at their own level, and then bring them closer to higher decisions. For example, invite them to a management meeting as an observer so they can see the decision-making process in action.

When you let them make decisions (at any level), accept those decisions, even if you think you would have made a different decision. Unless they have overlooked something important, go with their decision, not yours.

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 3rd August 2017 by gihan


Many industries are experiencing disruption – sometimes from inside the industry, but more often from outside. Are you going to thrive and survive in a time of disruption and change, or will you nose-dive and disappear?

In this free webinar, I’ll help you understand the three biggest threats to your business (and they apply to almost EVERY business!) that could put it at risk.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“Fast, Flat and Free”

“That we need to keep changing, not stay doing the same old things”

“Start before you’re ready!”

“Thinking about how our business can respond to disruption – the slow, bumpy and expensive aspects”

“what specifically in business is slow, bumpy and expensive”

“If I was a close competitor, how would I go about targeting my own business (funds management) for disruption?”

“Start before you’re ready – a gem!!”

“Focus on Fast, Flat and Free when seeking solutions for my clients, in the problem solving process.”

“That I am slow bumpy and expensive and becoming more so”

“If it ain’t broke … break it.”

“Makes me think more about opportunities”

“If it ain’t broke, break it. We tend to be stuck in aged technology and procedures, and although the will is there, activity is slow, and we tend to wait more till our ducks are aligned. Don’t wait until all your ducks are in a row to act … ..the future is now!”

“Thinking about how slow, bumpy and expensive I must be to some of my potential and current clients.”

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future - what's ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I'll cover an important topic about the future - for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I'll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

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More Learning in Less Time: Make the Student the Teacher

 1st August 2017 by gihan

One of the best ways to learn something is by teaching it to somebody else – as you might have discovered with your own learning. Use this with your team members as well, but encouraging them to teach each other. In other words, rather than them all being students, give them the chance to also be the teacher. There’s no better way for somebody to learn than to try teaching it to somebody else.

Giving your team members the opportunity to present also showcases them as leaders. As James Humes, who was Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter, said:

“Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.”

People admire and respect competent presenters, and it’s one way to fast-track your team members’ careers. However, if they are new to presenting, it can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Here are some things you can do to make this easier for them.

Choose presenters carefully

This opportunity isn’t appropriate for everybody, so be careful in how you offer it.

First, give them all the opportunity. Explain the value of presentation skills and communication skills for their career (and personal life), and give everybody the chance to learn those skills.

But not everybody wants to be a presenter, so respect their choice and don’t force them into the limelight. You might push harder with some people because you can see potential they can’t see in themselves, but always give them the chance to decline.

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Fast-Track Your Contractors

 25th July 2017 by gihan

In an ideal workplace, the perfect team would come together to work on a specific project, then disband after the project is complete, and another team would form for the next project.

That might be the norm for future teams, but we’re not quite there yet (because of offices, permanent employment, and so on). Instead, we still have teams largely made up of the same people, but with a few people brought in for each project.

One of the most important kinds of those “outsiders” is the external contractor.

Contractors join your team for a fixed duration because they bring in specific skills, and then move on. They make your team more fluid and flexible, because you’re getting the best people for the job – not just the people who happen to be occupying the cubicles in your office right now. They also bring their experience from elsewhere, which means they inject fresh ideas and perspectives.

On the other hand, they also have less internal experience, which means it takes time for them to be fully productive. If you can accelerate this integration process, while still tapping into their fresh ideas and experience, you get the best of both worlds.

Recruit with flexibility in mind

In addition to considering their skills and expertise, look for contractors who are likely to be more flexible in your workplace.

This doesn’t mean you want people who will only fit in. That will certainly help you integrate them into the workplace faster, but might not help you tap into their ideas and experience. Ideally, you want people who are flexible enough to fit in and speak up: They fit in to make the work run smoothly, speak up when they can offer something better, and have the good judgement to know the difference.

Get them on board fast

Experienced contractors already take responsibility for fitting in to a new team, but will still look to you for guidance. You might be able to give them some standard material – such as an employee handbook, online training, and access to your documented systems and processes – but that is not enough. Consider how to share the informal knowledge of your team as well.

For example, their HR material is probably for the entire organisation. You might have specific team documents to share as well – for example, case studies, templates, a team wiki, and other informal documentation.

If you have many informal processes and undocumented systems, assign one of your other team members to help the new contractor.

Ask for their ideas

Invite your contractors to share their ideas, suggestions and experience with you and the rest of the team.

If you already have a culture of openness and innovation in the team, they should welcome the newcomer’s ideas. However, don’t take this for granted, and be sensitive to resistance or resentment. If in doubt, start small. For example, start by scheduling private meetings with the contractor to discuss their progress, and ask for their suggestions in those meetings. Over time, as the team accepts the contractor and recognises their expertise, you can ask for their ideas in a more open forum.

Invest in their future

Your contractors assume they are only available for the current project, but consider their long-term development as well. For good people, this is an investment in your future as well as theirs.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Ask them what they want: If you know what they want, it’s easy to find low-cost high-value opportunities for them. For example, if they want to be better presenters, coach them to run a team webinar.
  • Test their boundaries: Give them opportunities slightly beyond their expertise in order to understand how they can help you in the future. Sometimes they won’t even realise themselves that they have additional skills.
  • Give them development opportunities: Give them access to training, coaching, mentoring and other development opportunities. This doesn’t have to be an extra expense either; sometimes it can be as simple as giving them time to enrol in online education.
  • Give them leadership opportunities: Don’t keep all the best leadership opportunities for your permanent staff. Give contractors the opportunity to shine as well, as part of their leadership path.

Above all, don’t treat your contractors as one-off resources. It’s tempting to only look as far into their future as the length of their contract, but that’s a mistake. Treat them as valuable team members who could make a meaningful contribution for a long time, and you increase the chances that they will.

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Stunning Slides – Free Webinar on Thursday

 21st July 2017 by gihan

Have you ever sat through an online presentation with boring PowerPoint slides? Of course you have! But the problem is not with PowerPoint, but with the way the presenter used it. One of the most important factors in the success of your online presentation is the design of your slide deck – especially in an online presentation, where your slides are the visuals (not just visual aids). Text-heavy slides and bullet lists bore your audience and you lose their interest. That’s why you must design engaging visuals that grab attention, keep them interested, and enhance your message.

Join Gihan Perera, speaker and author of “Webinar Smarts”, as he shows you simple tricks to make your presentation more professional and engaging through creative and effective slides.

You will learn:

  • Strategies for designing and optimising slides for online presentations
  • Tips to build attractive slides quickly and easily
  • Sources of free and low-cost graphics you can use legally
  • Little-known PowerPoint features that turn bullet lists into attractive graphics – in seconds!

When: Thursday 27th July 2017, 11am BST (U.K.), 6pm Perth, 8pm Sydney/Melbourne

Register Now

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The #1 Habit That Boosts Innovation

 19th July 2017 by gihan

Just as most plants don’t grow in an arid space but flourish in a fertile environment, if you want to build a culture of innovation, you must create the right environment for it.

You don’t need special rooms with bean bags and coloured walls to inspire creativity. But you must make innovation part of your regular environment – and a big part of that is giving them time for innovation:

  • Allocate team time: My colleague and innovation expert Nils Vesk recommends that at your weekly team meeting, you ask team members to share something interesting, innovative or inspiring they found outside work in the past week.
  • Allocate private time: Google became famous for allowing their engineers to use 20% of their time to work on their private projects, completely independent of their main work. This led to innovations like Google Maps, Google News, and Gmail. Even if you don’t make this a formal rule (and even Google has moved away from that now), give people time to work on their own projects.
  • Find out what else they like: Ask your team members what lights them up, especially outside work. You never know what might spark great ideas, especially if you can find overlap between these interests and their work.
  • Allocate personal time: Take this a step further and give them time to work on community projects or other non-work-related activities (even personal interests). This not only motivates them and helps the community; it also gives their brain “free time” that can help their creativity and innovation.
  • Create friendly competition: Instant Offices, a company that brokers serviced offices, challenges employees to work in random teams to develop and present ideas in a format like the reality television series Dragon’s Den (or Shark Tank) .
  • Make it easy for them to speak up: Finally, make it easy for them to share their ideas. One way is to allocate time in team meetings (as noted above), but don’t make that the only opportunity. You could have, for example, an online “suggestion box”. British Airways does this for their employees, and was rewarded with one idea (descaling toilet pipes on its planes) that saves £600,000 a year .

Some leaders see these activities as a waste of time, because they take time away from the core business. But they are essential for innovation.

Author Ori Baufmann, in his book The Chaos Imperative, calls this “creating white space”. Think of this as like the margins in a book, which surround the text but don’t have any information in them. However, margins play an important role: They give the eyes rest, keep the text away from the paper’s edge, and provide space for scribbled notes.

In the same way, the “white space” in your workplace is the time away from core project activities, so team members have freedom and flexibility to experiment, try new things, discuss new ideas, and make mistakes without facing penalty.

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