Posts Tagged ‘ Presenting

Here’s recent interview I did on Presenting

Recently I did an interview for a good friend from BizMe. Here’s the video.

Seamless Transitions

A presentation should be a continuous story with seamless transitions and a smooth flow. What we often get is corresponding slides that have no connection to the previous or following slide and a presentation that is difficult to follow.

To remedy this there is a little trick you can use with a pen and paper. Draw a line horizontally across the paper and create a timeline. Then add the points you want to put into your presentation at the various points along the line. This way you will create some continuity. Another way to do this is to write out your points on to small post-it’s and place them along the timeline. This way it will be easier to move points around.

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What you are doing is creating a smooth storyline. One where the flow of your presentation runs logically. This method also helps you to prepare better. One problem presenters face is trying to memorise their ‘script’. For presentations that last more than five or ten minutes this is extremely difficult to do. When you create a logically flowing presentation the process of preparing and getting your words assembled in your head become much easier.

So next time you are preparing a presentation, do not think each individual slide represents one point, think about your whole slide deck as one continuous story and prepare your ‘story’ with a pen and piece of paper. a


Recently I was judging a university presentation competition here in Korea, and I have to say I was very impressed. The standard of Korean university students presenting in English was excellent. The way they used their slides to help tell their story and convey their message was so encouraging and the way they used images and video to express difficult concepts was just brilliant.

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If I do have one criticism it would be the fact that the majority of presenters just stood there, not moving and not using hand or arm gestures. It made the presentations feel a little wooden and lacking in life.

Movement of the presenter is important because it helps to show enthusiasm and passion. If you have your slides and words right, the final part of the equation needs to be the your body language and gestures. Using your arms to help stress points and important aspects of your presentation helps to bring your presentation to life. It also helps to keep the audience’s focus on you – which as a presenter is all important.

As you can see from the images above, these TED speakers are all using some form of movement, and although these images are static, you can ‘feel’ the movement in their body language. That is something you need to do to help bring that all important ‘energy’ to your next presentation.

Destructuring Your English

Both native speakers and learners of English as a second or third language all start learning by learning the structure of English. The way verbs and nouns follow each other and the way we use articles and prepositions in our sentences and expressions.

Unfortunately, for most learners of English as a second language that is where it all stops.

The next level of English, the level that takes you away from sounding like a textbook and making you sound more natural is the level of what I term “destructured English“.

Let me give you an example. Most learners of English will learn the following greeting and answer:

A: How are you?

B: I’m fine thank you and you?

There is nothing wrong with this greeting, and is taught all over the world. It is grammatically correct and has the right balance of politeness and friendliness. The unfortunate thing is that it is boring and too rigid. It conveys no character or feeling and shows none of your personality or how you are feeling. In effect it is too structured.

To destructure this we can play around with a few different greetings. For example:

A: Good morning! How are you today?

B: Good morning! I’m very well thank you and your good-self?

This greeting begins to convey more feeling and more emotion and starts to give you character. The words alone are not actually going to do this. You also need to put some enthusiasm in to it as well, and that can only come from confidence. Confidence comes from practice and the realisation that you can actually do it.

Destructuring English is not only limited to speaking. Using a destructured form of English in writing can liven up your writing and make your emails sound much better to the reader. For example:

Dear John,

Please find attached the agenda for the next meeting at head office.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.



Again, there is nothing wrong with this email, it has the right words, all in the right place. The problem is that it shows no emotion or real friendliness. It ‘sounds’ like a standard email. Again, it is too structured.

To destructure this email we can do the follow:

Dear John,

I have attached a copy of the agenda for our next meeting at head office.

If there is anything you want to ask me, just let me know.



This email says exactly the same thing as the first email, the difference is that this email sounds much more human and friendly, yet at the same time it is still polite. All that has changed is the use of the word “I” and “you”

Now look at this from a presentation point of view. Often when we start our presentation we begin with a textbook beginning that goes something like this:

“Good morning. My name is Hwan Soo Kim and my presentation is about the coefficient drag factor of mice running in a wind tunnel. My presentation is broken up into three parts. The first part is ….. “

While this beginning ticks all the boxes from a textbook point of view, it actually does nothing for your audience. It essentially tells them they they are about to be bored stiff for the next sixty minutes! Not a particularly inspiring beginning. It is too structured.

Instead try this:

“Good morning! Thank you all for coming today.

As some of you already know, my name is Hwan Soo Kim and today I am going to talk to you about some amazing insights we have discovered on the coefficient drag factor of mice in a wind tunnel.

So, let’s get started.”

This is a much better beginning because it sounds much more natural, it gives the speaker some character and personality and it sounds different. By destructuring your beginning you create more interest in what you are going to talk about.

So if you want to take your English to the next level, then begin deconstructing the English you use. Look for more natural ways to express yourself. Use movies, TV shows and native speakers in your company to listen out for new ways of saying the same old things. If you want a better way to begin your presentation, head over to and watch a few presentations there. You will soon find new ways of saying things.

There are so many places where you find deconstructed English, You Tube, for example, has millions of videos you can watch. Here in Korea there are many US and British TV shows shown on terrestrial TV channels and of course you can learn from each other. There really is no excuse.

Using Your Voice

Your voice is arguably the most essential tool you need when you present. Without your voice, you are not presenting. So developing a good strong voice is something you will need to do if you present regularly.

For most people who are presenting they experience nervousness. This nervousness effects your voice by raising their pitch (low voice or high voice) and speeds up the words you speak. In some cases, when you are especially nervous your voice can break and ‘shake’ in a way that makes it sound like you are crying or highly emotional.

The key is to be able to project your voice to the back of the room. This is fine if you are presenting in a small room with a small group of people. But when you are in a large room with a larger group of people and you do not have the assistance of a microphone, then this can cause major problems for the people at the back of the room.

So, here are a few tips that can help you to project your voice more clearly:

1. speak from your diaphragm, not your throat


Your diaphragm is a thin layer of muscle positioned just below your lungs. This muscle assists your breathing and is actually the cause of hiccups. Most people speak using their throat, and we naturally do this when we are speaking softly or quietly. However, to improve the volume and pitch of your voice you should use your diaphragm to project your words. To do this you need to make sure that your breathing and voice comes from your stomach area. It is a lot easier than you think, and with practice you will soon be able to do this naturally.

2. Stand up!

Presenting while sitting down suppresses your voice by making your voice volume much lower. To avoid this you should always stand up when you are presenting and keep your head held high. Avoid looking at your shoes!

3. Position your notes / computer high up

Most presenters on stage place their computer on the floor and then spend the rest of their presentation looking down at the computer’s monitor. When you look down you automatically lower the volume of your voice. The best place for your computer is on the podium / lectern. This ensures that your head is always high up.

4. Relax!

Okay, I know this is difficult. Most people are very nervous when they are presenting, but it is important to try and relax before you speak. Try rotating your shoulders and neck a little before you begin. Drink a little warm water to relax your throat and focus you mind on keeping relaxed.

I hope that helps a little when you are next presenting. Please feel free to add any other tips you find useful in the comments section.

Presenting in Korea Keeps Getting Better and Better


I recently finished a two day presentation workshop with group of guys from a large, global pharmaceutical company here in Korea. This is the third such workshop this company has done and I have to say that each time I do this course the attendees keep getting better and better.

There are many reasons for this. I think partly the reason is that Korean people are finally beginning to believe in their own English ability, and to understand that they do not have to be perfect, they just have to be understood. Other reasons are:

People understand that complex, boring presentations suck.

Detail in a presentation slide does not work

Spoken words with an appropriate good quality image works better than text.

These guys were fantastic and I just want to say – thank you for being excellent students and good luck to you all with your future presentations in both Korean and English.

The Reason For Never Reading Your Presentation.

Seth Godin writes about why reading your speech or presentation does not work. According to Seth, it is extremely difficult to read a speech and sound like you mean what you are saying.

“It’s extremely difficult to read a speech and sound as if you mean it.

For most of us, when reading, posture changes, the throat tightens and people can tell. Reading is different from speaking, and a different sort of attention is paid.”

When I am doing my presentation seminar, attendees have to do two presentations. The first is a brief self-introduction and the second is a final presentation on anything they like. What I find is that students, when given no time to write out a speech, actually sound a hundred times better, than students who are given time to write out a speech. They sound genuine, they sound like they really believe in what they are saying and above all they sound convincing.

I know, for most people presenting in a foreign language, having a pre-written speech is like a comfort blanket. But it really does not help you to deliver you message in the most convincing way.

Having a few “errm”s and “arrh”s in your speech is fine. It shows that you are genuine and it shows that what you are saying comes from the heart and not the head.

So next time you are preparing a presentation, do not write out a script. Make few notes by all means, but keep it natural aand allow the natural flow of your conversation to take over. If you cannot do that, then accept Seth Godin’s advice:

“… don’t bother giving a speech. Just send everyone a memo and save time and stress for all concerned.”

Learning From My Own Mistakes

Well, I may have told all those of you who read this blog regularly that you should always back up your presentations – just in case things go wrong, I discovered something else you should also do. Check your back up copy!

Yesterday, I was doing a class. I had prepared my presentation file the night before. I saved it and went to bed. I did not check that the file had saved correctly, because I had never had a problem with a backup file.

When I tried to open the file I got an error message “The file you are trying to open is not in a recognised format”

No matter what I did I could not open the file. I had to do the class without my presentation file. Not a complete disaster, but certainly an inconvenience.

Remember!!!! Always check that your back up file works. Do not make my mistake.

Overcoming Stage Fright

Stage fright or “podium fear” is probably the one reason people hate doing presentations. It is the reason for all those sleepless nights, loss of appetite and hatred for your boss and or job. But stage fright is nothing new, you are not alone when you experience it. Every presenter, actor, TV star and musician face it every day. Stage fright is what makes your performance brilliant. Stage fright should be embraced and worked with.


However, stage fright in its extreme form can cause you to ‘freeze up’, and when that happens it is not good. So how can you overcome this extreme form of stage fright? Here are a list of strategies that have always helped me and I hope can help you:

1. Arrive early and claim the room

By arriving early, setting up your computer / whiteboard / OHP etc you are becoming familiar with the room. After setting up your computer walk around the room, get a real feel for its dimensions and layout. Part of the problem we have when we present is that we are not familiar with the room in which we are presenting and therefore we naturally feel uncomfortable. By arriving early, and before your audience arrives, you allow yourself time to become familiar with the room and to ‘own’ it. Once you ‘own’ the room it becomes your territory and then you will feel much more comfortable. Imagine how you feel talking to a stranger at your desk or in your office – you do not feel nervous then do you? That is because it is your territory.

2. Prepare and practice

If you do not practice and prepare before hand then you are going to be very nervous. By practicing your presentation, going through it with your slides and not just reading and reading a paper script you will gradually feel more confident. By being confident you will overcome to worst of the nerves. Again, you need to do this with your slides as this gives your practice and rehearsal a more realistic feel and it also prevents you from losing your place in the middle of your presentation.

3. Greet your audience when they arrive

There is a subconscious factor working when you are standing at the door of the presentation room greeting your audience when they arrive. It gives you an air of power and control. It also gives you the chance to see that your audience are not angry monsters wanting to kill you, but nice, friendly people interesting in what you have to say. Hiding away at the back of the room is going to intensify your nerves. Being out there at the door greeting your audience is going to help you forget that you are nervous – after all what is more natural than meeting people?

4. Don’t change your presentation last minute

I still cannot believe that people do this – they spend weeks preparing for a big presentation, they practice many hours and then on the night before or even the morning before they change their presentation. Never do this! Changing your presentation hours before delivering it is going to intensify your fears. Set a cut off of one week before your presentation and then do not change it. You will be tempted to do it, but do not. Once you have your boss’s OK then stick with what you have got and then practice it. If you have practiced the presentation well enough, made no changes you will be confident and your fear will be less intense.

5. Visualise

Olympic athletes, stage actors and musicians all use this trick to enhance their performance. They visualise performing fantastically and winning the gold medal or receiving loud applause. As you are practicing your presentation visualise everything going well – visualise looking at the audience, clicking through your slides seamlessly and answering questions effectively. While most people find it difficult to see how this can work, trust me when I tell you that it really does. It prepares your body and mind and it helps you to perform brilliantly.

I hope these little tips help you when you next do your presentation – try them, they have be tried and tested by many great speakers over the years and they have been proven to work.

Returning To one of the best Presentations ever

Here is a re-post of a blog post I did about one year ago on my own personal site. The reason for the re-post is because I cannot emphasise enough how great story telling is the real secret behind a great presentation. This does not matter whether you are teaching a group of business people how to be more productive or teaching English to a classroom full of university students from Russia, telling stories is the secret to having your students remember you and remember what you are teaching them.

Now, I am very interested in presentations, spending most of days either preparing a presentation or delivering a presentation.

One of my sources of inspiration is a great website, full of high quality video of incredible people talking about incredible things.

One of the ‘secrets’ of a good presentation is the ability to ‘tell a story’ and in this presentation, Mike Rowe (of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs) tells an amazing story about lamb castration. (click here for 한국어) He also shows you that you do not need slides to do a fantastic presentation. Just be out there, front and centre talking to your audience

Lessons we can learn from this presentation:

  1. You do not need to prepare a Powerpoint / Keynote presentation file to do a great presentation
  2. The ability to tell a story, and to show some human element in the story, turns a presentation into a great presentation
  3. Do not use a lecturn, table or podium unless you absolutely have to. Be out there front and centre and talk to your audience.
  4. Show humility – do not try to show you are perfect – you are not
  5. Be natural and be yourself