The Slide to Leadership Ratio

I often tell my clients that there is an inverse relationship between the number of slides you have in your presentation and the amount of leadership you display.

The fewer slides you have, the more you look and sound like a leader. And vice versa.

The idea here is that speaking and presenting are about connecting with people, building relationships, and exerting influence. Presenting is not about relaying data and information. Too many slides, and all you’re really doing is transmitting data.  If you want to transmit data, just send a memo. I can read it faster than you can tell it to me. If I have questions, I’ll call you.

Yesterday, Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about the The Heirarchy of Presentations.  He makes the point that presenting is about influence.

The purpose of a presentation is to change minds. That’s the only reason I can think of to spend the time and resources. If your goal isn’t to change minds, perhaps you should consider a different approach.

Slides don’t change minds. You change minds with the force of simple argument, stories and passion.

What If Abbott Sold Computers?

One of the great and funny lessons on the importance of knowing your listener was Abbot and Costello’s famous “Who’s on first” routine.   We received a funny revision of that sketch by e-mail the other day.

The revision posed the question, “What would have happened if Costello called a computer store to buy a computer?” 

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I’m setting up an office in my den and I’m thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO: No, the name’s Lou.
ABBOTT: Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don’t own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name’s Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don’t know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows!  OK, let’s just say I’m sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is “office”!
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue “W”.
COSTELLO: I’m going to click your blue “w” if you don’t start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: That’s right. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What’s bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer?  How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn’t it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

(A few days later)
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on “START”…….

Want to Sound Better on Conference Calls? Get a “Sales Mirror.”

If you want to come across better on conference calls, you might considering buying a “sales mirror” for you desk. These are the mirrors that call center employees often put on their desks to ensure that they’re smiling when they’re talking to customers.

The idea is that the smile on your face is reflected in your voice. 

 Here’s an advertisement for a “PC Mirror” that you can attach to your computer.  The ad claims that these mirrors increase sales among call center employees from six to 16 percent.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of their study. But I do believe that on conference calls people can hear your smile.

Pet Peeve: Putting Quotations on PowerPoint Slides

A client recently sent over a deck of slides for a big presentation on leadership.  The first slide was a quotation from Jack Welch, the former GE Chairman. 

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

What a great quote! 

But what value do you add to the audience by putting it on the slide?  None. That’s why we advise our clients never to put quotes on slides.

Remember that the speaker is the most important visual; far more important than any slide.  You’re there as a leader to influence your audience with your ideas and your intensity. 

When you put a quotation on a slide, you undermine your presentation by diverting attention from you to the slide.

And you certainly don’t undermine the impact of the quotation by delivering it without the slide.  Indeed, we think it’s far more impactful to look at the audience and state the quote from memory, or if necessary from a cheat sheet.

Imagine this:

You come before you audience, with a blank screen. Here’s how you start.

We’re here today to discuss leadership training. And when we’re talking about this issue, I’m reminded of a quote from Jack Welch. He said, “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Now that’s the way to grab your audience’s attention.  Having your audience look at a slide while you read it to them won’t have near the impact.

By the way, if you’re looking for quotations to use in presentations try


Public Speaking Tips from Passover

Tonight is the first night of Passover.  For many Jews, including me, it’s a favorite holiday because it’s a family get together. 

But it’s also a highly engaging religious service. Indeed, speakers can learn a lot about connecting with audiences from the Seder service.

First, the Seder is a lesson in the power of a story.  The entire event is centered around the story of the escape from Egypt.

Second, the Seder teaches the importance of Q&A.  One of the highlights of the event is the asking of the Four Questions. 

Third, the Seder shows the power of audience participation and interaction. There’s responsive reading and singing. There’s a mysterious open-door vigil for the ever-elusive Elijah.  There’s even a treasure hunt.

Fourth, the Seder plate is a multi-tiered lesson in the power of analogies and visual aids to help reinforce a message. 

So for your next presentation, think about a Seder. Tell stories. Leave plenty of time for questions.  Find ways to get the audience involved.  Use creative visuals aids.


Winning Sales Advice From the Carolina Tarheels

Watching Carolina stomp stomp Michigan State last night reminded me of what my basketball coach once said.

 “No one shoots until we’ve made six passes.”

I’ve often thought that great sellers follow similar advice. They never present ideas until they’ve asked at least six questions.  Actually, six is probably too few.

My point is that great sellers realize that no one ever listened their way out of a sale. So they ask lots of questions, gathering as much information as possible about the prospect’s needs.  They “work the ball around.” They want to make sure that when they take a shot, it’s dead on.

They never shoot too soon.

Solutions + Stories Win Business in Sales Presentations

When you’re selling services and other intangible things, it’s important to include a proposed solution to the prospect’s challenge and a story about how that solution has worked in the past.


That solution coupled with a story is one of the only ways for an prospect to get a true feel for what they’re buying.


Think of it this way. Say you go into a jewelry story to buy diamond earrings. You describe the earrings you want while the jeweler listens carefully. He then says, “I think we have just what you want!” He disappears into the back of the store, only to return with one of those boxes that are just large enough for earrings.


He says, “I’ve got your earrings in here.” Of course, you want to see them. But imagine what would happen if he said, “I’ll only show them to you if you buy them from me.” You would be incredulous.


Yet that happens in presentations every day. Business people deliver presentations without presenting solutions or telling success stories. In a sense, they’re expecting people to make big decisions on solutions for their business without any sense of what the solution is or whether the team can execute. In a sense, those businesses are expecting their buyer to plunk down money for unseen diamonds.


But if you describe a proposed solution coupled with a story about how the same solution has worked elsewhere, you are helping the prospect see what they’re buying. You want the prospect to say, “Oh, so that’s how you plan to reduce my accounting costs. That’s how you did it with a company just like mine!” In a sense, the plan, packaged with a story, is your way of showing the diamond earrings in the box.

Rave Review for “How to Win a Pitch” from New Zealand!

“How to Win a Pitch” is getting raves on the other side of the world. Olivia Mitchell, a much admired fellow presentation skills coach, blogger, and resident of Wellington, New Zealand raved about the book on her blog today.

She writes: 

If you give sales presentations I recommend you read “How to Win a Pitch“. I admire Joey Asher’s blog Talking Points, so I did expect to be impressed. And I was.

The book has the same discipline as a well-planned presentation. Joey Asher distills five key fundamentals that will help you stand out in a competitive situation. Here’s three reasons to read this book:

1. Joey Asher is an experienced pitch coach. He knows what works and he’s put his winning formula into a book. If you can’t hire Joey to help you, reading his book is the next best thing.

 2. There are many worked examples so that you can see how to put the advice into practice for your own business. These are not just stories – they’re step-by-step examples, showing you exactly what you might say.

3. This book doesn’t cover everything there is to know about making a winning pitch. It highlights the most important things you can immediately do to make a difference to your chances.