Murder Board – The Perfect Speech Practice (Part 2)

Date posted: August 18, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Practicing

by Larry Tracy

Larry Tracy's Murder Board(c)Tracy Presentation Skills 2006. All rights reserved.

(This article is the second of a four-part series originally published in 2006 and 2007. Read Part 1 here.)

The Murder Board is a rigorous simulation which allows presenters to hone speaking skills, and anticipate questions and objections. It is to the speaker what the flight simulator is to the pilot, in that it provides the speaker the opportunity to make mistakes when they don’t count, and learn from them.

In my executive workshops, I teach a seven-step process to ensure a successful and productive Murder Board. The seven steps are . . .

1.  Murder Board recruiting
2.  Sharing audience intelligence
3.  Murder Board role-playing by participants
4.  Video-taping and/or audio-taping
5.  Critique of presenter’s style and substance
6.  Recording on cards all questions asked
7.  Revision of the presentation.

In this post, we’ll examine the first two steps. In future posts, we’ll cover the other steps.

1. Murder Board Recruiting

In recruiting people to be on your Murder Board, the best place to start is with knowledgeable colleagues. Request no more than four of these colleagues to be your simulated audience.

Keep in mind, however, that if these colleagues think that the objective of the Murder Board is only to help you look good, they probably will not want to give up their valuable time. You must give them an incentive tied to their self-interest.

They will have their own priorities. You should frame your request in such a way that these colleagues see a potential dividend accruing to them by investing their time.

Remember “What’s in it for me?” is the prime motivator for people to take action. You must find a way to have these colleagues believe they will gain by being in your simulated audience.

Reciprocity is the key. My advice is to recruit only people who themselves must make presentations. Then you say, “If you will be on my Murder Board now, I will be on yours when you must make a presentation.” Presto. They see a potential benefit in the future by spending some time with you now.

Why only four people? One reason is to limit the debts you will have to pay in the future. You do not want to spend all your available time on the Murder Boards of others, and you certainly do not want to go back on your word.

Another reason is that most audiences you will face have no more than four key people. Having more than four colleagues helping you could result in a less-than-productive bull session, not a question-anticipating Murder Board.

2.  Sharing Audience Intelligence

The purpose of a Murder Board is to create an environment for the presenter similar to the actual situation to be faced. It is important that those playing the members of the audience be armed with as much information about this audience as possible. That is where the intelligence collection comes into play.

Participants must be steeped in the details of the issue being presented so they can put themselves in the mental framework of these participants. Information on the personal styles, idiosyncrasies, temperament, etc. of these audience members provides insight into how they will react to certain comments or proposals.

Your colleagues can better role-play if they have this information. The more you know about personalities, the less surprised you will be in the presentation.

If the presentation is to be made internally, say to a Board of Directors or a Committee, participants in this practice session are likely to have valuable information to share with the presenter and other participants.

One beneficial reason to recruit participants who present regularly is that they may have had the opportunity to present to the same people you are preparing to address. Colleagues can provide first-hand information on how your actual audience listens, questions, reacts, and interacts with fellow audience members.

In the next post, we’ll review role playing, recording the Murder Board, and critiquing the practice session in steps 3, 4 and 5.

Larry Tracy is the president of Tracy Presentation Skills. He has been cited in several publications as one of the top presentation coaches in the US. President Ronald Reagan described him as “an extraordinarily effective speaker.” His book, The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations, is the textbook for the Oral Presentations course at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University. Contact him at (703) 360-3222 and

Murder Board–The Perfect Speech Practice (Part 1)

Date posted: October 13, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Practicing

by Larry Tracy

Larry Tracy's Murder Board(c)Tracy Presentation Skills 2006. All rights reserved.

(This article is the first of a four-part series originally published in 2006 and 2007.)

What a name—the Murder Board! It sounds like something Tony Soprano might convene, doesn’t it? But, despite the macabre name, it has nothing to do with a criminal act and everything to do with becoming a better, more persuasive public speaker.

The Murder Board is a realistic simulation of the actual presentation to be made. Colleagues role-play the audience to be faced, firing the type of questions this group is likely to ask. It should be more difficult than the actual presentation.

The Murder Board is the presenter’s version of the actor’s dress rehearsal, what lawyers do in preparing a witness to face cross-examination in a trial, and what the flight simulator is to the pilot.

Benefits and Objectives of the Murder Board

Just as with the actor, the witness, and the pilot, this simulation permits speakers to learn from their mistakes, so that they (1) are more responsive to the informational needs of the audience, (2) have developed answers for likely questions to be asked, and (3) have greater competence in platform skills.

It enables speakers to visualize the presentation in advance. Not only is proficiency in speaking increased by such a meticulous practice, so too is self-confidence.

One of the reasons that public speaking ranks high in the pantheon of phobias is because of apprehension that one is going to be embarrassed by not being able to answer questions from the audience.

In my presentation skills workshops, I place great emphasis on the “Murder Board,” which has two overriding objectives:

  1. Hone delivery skills, especially important when a script is to be read.
  2. Anticipate probable questions and objections so succinct, accurate answers can be developed.

This realistic practice session allows speakers to make mistakes when they don’t count, increasing the odds that they will be spellbinders when they address their audiences.

If the speaker is able to anticipate questions, he or she, in collaboration with you and other staff members, can develop answers ahead of time.

Think back to when you were in college or graduate school. Your GPA would probably have been higher if you could have seen the questions before the final exams. The Murder Board permits the presenter a look at the probable “exam questions.”

The only obstacle to developing a delivery skills-honing, question-anticipating simulated presentation is willingness to take hard hits in practice in order to be more effective in the actual presentation.

Origin of the Murder Board

The term Murder Board originated within the U.S. military, specifically within the extensive training system of the U.S. Army.

When a person has been selected to be an instructor at an Army school, he or she must go through a demanding instructor training program. I attended two such training programs during my Army career, and the Murder Boards in these programs were far from pleasant experiences.

Graduation and designation as an instructor is not dependent on a written test, but instead on a successful delivery of a 50-minute class from the curriculum of the school.

The audience for this crucible generally consists of instructors who have gone through their own Murder Board, and are determined that this would-be instructor will experience the same frustration and humiliation they did. They ask tough, realistic questions — the type of questions their students are asking.

At the end of the 50-minute class, the aspiring instructor gets a thumbs up — meaning he or she can now join this band of brothers and sisters as an instructor, or a thumbs-down, meaning another “opportunity” to go through a Murder Board.

This realistic simulation has permeated the military culture. As an example, when I ran the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) briefing team, we had three Murder Boards before the daily briefing to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The first one was at 5:30 AM, the second at 6:30 AM, the third in front of two General officers, one hour later. By the time I, or one of my briefers, was in front of the Chairman, those intense sessions had provided the right answers to virtually every question the Chairman asked.

Many presenters, while accepting the need to sharpen delivery skills, reject the idea of a Murder Board, confident they can anticipate the difficult questions likely to be asked, and assuming they need not practice in front of others.

These people may actually be displaying a false bravado to mask their concern at speaking in front of a group, perhaps exposing their lack of speaking skills.

These “audience members” should familiarize themselves with the concerns of the audience to be faced so they can ask realistic, demanding questions/objections.

"Albert Einstein" would favor a Murder BoardI am in good company in believing in the need to have such a practice session in front of others who are role-playing the audience to be faced. The man who possessed perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein, realized that even he needed help. He once said: “What a person does on his own, without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of others, is even in the best cases rather paltry and monotonous.”

Perhaps Einstein can help you encourage your practice-resistant bosses and clients to undergo a Murder Board. Then your skillfully crafted speeches will be delivered the way you intended them to be delivered.

For additional information, I have several articles on speech delivery on the Internet. Additionally, my speech “Taming Hostile Audiences” appeared in the March 1, 2005 Vital Speeches of the Day, available at most libraries. That speech was then chosen as the centerpiece of July 2005 American Speaker magazine. The founder and editor of that magazine is Aram Bakshian, Jr., formerly the Chief speech writer for President Ronald Reagan.

In a follow-on article in this space, I’ll outline the seven steps for a productive Murder Board virtually guaranteed to make you a dynamic and persuasive speaker.

Larry Tracy is the president of Tracy Presentation Skills. He has been cited in several publications as one of the top presentation coaches in the US. President Ronald Reagan described him as “an extraordinarily effective speaker.” His book, The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations, is the textbook for the Oral Presentations course at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University. Contact him at (703) 360-3222 and

Public Speaking is Like Juggling

Date posted: July 14, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Preparation

by Naphtali Barsky

(Publishers’ note: we heard Naphtali give a presentation on this topic and asked him to write this article about it. His comparison is unique and interesting.)

public speaking-juggling kidEver since I taught myself to juggle at age eleven, I have had an easy time teaching others, even those who claim they could never juggle. Learning the basic three-ball cascade pattern usually takes very little time.

To be sure, juggling seven torches while riding a unicycle on a tightrope may seem out of the range of most people’s abilities. The main reason is not lack of coordination; it is lack of time.

Building Public Speaking Skills

People who acquire the basics quickly discover that almost any goal is doable as long as they are willing to put in the necessary hours of practice. Public speaking, like juggling, involves building up one’s skills step by step.

Juggling mastery depends more on hard work than on innate coordination. Similarly, beginning public speakers vary in their natural abilities before they progress in developing their skills.

Some people pick up public speaking skills more quickly than others. But almost anyone with a functional voice can learn those skills. A person’s natural strengths and weaknesses are a floor, not a ceiling.

Speaking Improves Public Speaking Skills

The best way to improve juggling skills is by juggling, rather than sitting around thinking about juggling. The best way to improve public speaking skills is by speaking. I didn’t even understand what the three-ball cascade looked like until a while after I’d mastered it. Learning this pattern was a mere matter of conditioning my reflexes to perform a remarkably simple set of steps. Similarly, public speakers improve their public speaking skills by getting into good habits.

Just as juggling has many genres, public speakers eventually specialize in particular areas. Jugglers may spend years learning to keep numerous objects aloft. Some may focus on
mastery of three objects, and others may incorporate balancing and other related feats of coordination into their act. Similarly, public speakers can choose from several venues, such as humorous, motivational, or persuasive speaking.

Public Speaking Builds Character

Juggling builds self-discipline. Developing your public speaking skills to become an impressive speaker builds character. The nature of practicing for hours to reach new heights of excellence is its own reward.

As a juggler and a public speaker, I have long observed the many parallels between these two enterprises. They both involve gradual skill-building, and they both provide internal as well as external rewards. At bottom, they are both paths for helping people attain their dreams by pushing the limits of what they deem possible.

Public Speaking-Naphtali BarskyNaphtali Barsky is a juggler and a public speaker from the Baltimore area.

Presentation Rhythm — One Key for Success

Date posted: June 1, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Presentation Delivery

Presentation rhythm-beachI’m sitting in my beach chair, facing the ocean, trying to keep my feet within the shadow of the beach umbrella. It’s hot—in the nineties. The sky is a little hazy. The sand is hot, so I sit where it’s cooler, close to the shore.

Through the ear buds of my iPhone, I hear the Rolling Stones singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” And as I become hypnotized by the ebb-and-flow rhythm of the ocean’s waves, a thought creeps in.

Presentation Rhythm Ebbs and Flows

The ebb and flow of the waves is like a presentation rhythm. From beginning to end, an effective presentation shifts from high energy to low energy in a constant ebb-and-flow rhythm. Where nature controls the ocean rhythm, the speaker controls the presentation rhythm.

Constant, intense storm waves crash and damage the shore. Similarly, a presentation at a constant high energy level overloads and exhausts the audience. Keeping a presentation at a low energy level tires and bores them.

Control the Presentation Rhythm

Presentation rhythm-applauseThe effective presenter controls the presentation rhythm by being aware of the audience, shifting between energy levels and varying the intensity of delivery. Throughout the presentation, the experienced speaker observes what the audience is doing.

Are they losing interest, fidgeting or nodding off? If so, the speaker checks his or her own energy level.

Your audience exchanges energy with you and mirrors your energy level. If your energy level is high, the audience will experience a high energy level. If your energy level is low, the audience’s energy level will be low.

Establish an ebb-and-flow rhythm in your energy level and your audience will follow. Do this with movement and gestures; varying your vocal rate, volume, and pitch; and using a mixture of well-placed stories, humor, questions, and interaction.


My red shoulders are feeling the effects of the sun, which is now lower in the late afternoon sky. The Rolling Stones are still serenading me with strains of “Start Me Up.” I’m awakening from my trance-like state induced by the ebb-and-flow rhythm of the waves.

A thought enters my consciousness. Something that Peggy Noonan, author and chief speech writer for Former President Ronald Reagan, said: “A speech is poetry — cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”

Yes, a presentation rhythm is like the rhythm of the ocean waves. The key to success is how you manage the ebb and flow.

©Allan Misch, 2014. All rights reserved.


A craftsman must have the right tools to do an efficient, professional, high quality job. The same holds true for a business presenter. The presenter’s tools are audio programs, video programs and books on public speaking skills. If you don;t have a personal electronic and physical library of public speaking books, start one now. Our paperback and low-cost Amazon Kindle books and audio programs are a perfect addition to your library. You can get them here.

Pause to Boost Delivery and Credibility

Date posted: April 9, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Presentation Delivery

by Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch

(These 2 killer Presentation Truths are excerpts from our book and 2-CD set, Presentation Truths Revealed—101 Universal Principles to Propel Your Speaking Success.)

MarkTwain - pauseMark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

There are times when pausing is the most appropriate strategy for building credibility according to two important Presentation Truths — one that addresses useless filler words and the other that focuses on pausing.

Do you suffer from Filleritis?

That’s a nasty disease where you use unnecessary, useless words instead of pausing.

Filleritis attacks your subconscious and hangs out there. You have it when you use words such as “ah,” “er,” “um,” “uh,” “you know,” “ok,” “and uh,” “soooooo,” and “well.”

Fortunately, Filleritis is curable if you apply Truth #76.

Fill brief, empty time while you think with pauses instead of useless filler words, such as “ah,” “er,” “um,” and others, that slow your timing; leave the impression that you are unprepared or nervous; and distract from your message.

Why might you use filler words?

Because you are uncomfortable with the empty time between words and ideas and cannot judge the length of this empty time. Usually it is only a brief moment, but it seems long, so you feel compelled to say something. You fill the time with a filler word.

The way you cure Filleritis is to record your presentation when you practice it and deliver it. Count the filler words or have a friend in the audience count your filler words.

Tell yourself that instead of using a filler word, you will just pause.

Continue to repeat this process each time you speak. By doing this, you become consciously aware that you have Filleritis. Then, whenever you speak and are about to use a filler word, consciously command yourself to pause instead.

Now, you are reprogramming your subconscious with antibiotic pauses and killing your Filleritis.

If you think about it, pausing is beneficial. It allows your audience to hear only those words that communicate your message. And when you replace filler words with brief pauses, you appear more credible and prepared.

When you should pause

There are other times when you should use pauses according to Presentation Truth #75.

Pauses enhance your presentation. Pause before you deliver an important point, just before you deliver a joke’s punch line, and when you want to focus your audience’s attention on you.

Pausing before you make a point causes your audience to lean forward and pay attention. Their visual and auditory concentration is on you.

Pausing briefly before delivering a joke’s punch line is important. It creates a transition from the joke’s set-up to the punch line, and gives your audience time to process the joke.

Without the pause, the set-up and punch line run together. You ruin the rhythm and the verbal surprise that make a joke funny.

Whenever you want your audience’s complete attention, just pause, do not say anything; just wait. Wait until you see that you have their attention.

Sometimes, what you do not say is as important, or more important, than what you do say. Fight Filleritis with pauses. Pause before you make an important point. Pause before a joke’s punch line. And pause when you want to command your audience’s attention.

We agree with songwriter Bob Dillon, who said, “Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most.”

You will be more credible and appear polished when you take the time to pause.
To learn more strategies on how to present successfully, check out our learning resource, Presentation Truths Revealed—101 Universal Principles to Propel Your Speaking Success.

Use NLP for Presentation and Personal Success

Date posted: January 28, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Presentation Delivery

By Allan Misch

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a powerful technology that will help you communicate more effectively with your audience and influence how your audience feels and what they do. Most importantly it will enable you to control how you feel.

What Is NLP?

NLP - Richard Bandler and Jophn GrinderNLP originated from the research of Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They identified and defined how people communicate with and interpret the world around them and the world within them. And they identified how people think.

Bandler and Grinder identified the tools people use for communicating, interpreting and thinking. Then, they defined how humans use those tools. Knowing what the tools are and how to use them, empowers you to use them to be the best you can be in any area of your life.

NLP is a blueprint for success. It’s a method of communicating regularly and predictably with yourself and others on a subconscious level. It’s a modus to affect how you act or react to events and people. It’s a way you can affect how others act or react.

It lets you communicate more effectively and relate to others by speaking verbally and non-verbally in their “brain” language, to develop instant rapport with them.

It enables you to re-frame life’s situations to better understand, lessen pain, gain more pleasure and accomplish more. NLP is a technology that is clearly beneficial to you and others.

You can remove limitations from your life. You can change how you feel about yourself, people and experiences. You can control how you feel (your emotional states) at will. NLP will enable you to manage your audience’s emotional states, develop rapport with your audience, communicate with your audience more effectively and be more influential.

How NLP Helps You Present More Effectively

Below, are three NLP techniques that can help you deliver presentations more effectively. They are excerpts from our latest Amazon Kindle book, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): A Self-help Guide to Personal Achievement & Influence.

Use “Brain” Language to Speak to Your Audience

NLP - Brain LnguageOur brains process information and learn through sensory based language — visual cues (seeing), auditory cues (hearing and talking) and kinesthetic cues (feeling and sensing). Refer to our section on Representational Systems.

Pepper your speaking programs with sensory based words: “See what I mean?” “When that happened, I felt like….” “I hear you loud and clear.”

When you do this, you’ll speak directly to each audience member’s subconscious in his or her brain language. You’ll establish strong rapport and each person will think you’re speaking to him or her.

Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Audience that You’re Nervous

We attended a seminar recently. Gail began by stating that she was a little nervous, because it was the first time she was presenting the program. Talk about “warming down” your audience!

NLP NervousWe thought, “Oh boy, she might as well jump into the hole and cover herself with dirt!” Sure enough, it was downhill from there — a disaster.

Here’s the effect her comments had on the audience members’ subconscious minds. They felt that they would be short changed. Actually, Gail knew her material, but it didn’t matter to the audience. She put them in a negative emotional state from which she couldn’t recover.

If you’re feeling nervous and unsure of yourself, don’t tell your audience how you feel, hoping that they’ll be sympathetic. Usually, they won’t. They’ll just feel unsure about you. If they do have some sympathy for you, they’ll still feel unsure about you.

Instead, use this strategy. Act as if you feel confident and move on. Your audience won’t know how you feel. They’ll mirror your confidence, and they’ll judge you on the content and delivery of your program.

How to Become Relaxed Before You Present

NLP - MudraRemember when you were a child, you probably felt warm and comfortable when you smelled your grandmother or mom’s favorite pie or cookies that she baked. Years later, whenever you passed a bakery or were in someone’s kitchen and you whiffed that same fresh-baked pie or cookies scent, you immediately felt those same feelings that you had as a child in your grandmother or mom’s kitchen. That’s a strong emotional anchor — an association of an emotional state to a sound, sight, touch, smell or taste.

Set up a relaxation anchor for yourself before you speak. Here’s one way. In your mind’s eye, re-experience a time in your life when you felt very relaxed. See, hear and feel everything in that experience. As you start to feel relaxed, touch your thumb and forefinger of each hand together. When that relaxed feeling peaks then begins to subside, release your thumb and forefinger.

Repeat this exercise several times at different times. Soon, all you’ll need to do is touch both thumbs and forefingers together and you will enter a relaxed state. Then just before you have to present, use this anchor to feel relaxed.


NLP contains powerful tools to think and communicate more effectively and predictably. It enables you to relax before you present, manage your audience’s emotional states and communicate with your audience in the “brain language” that each audience member uses to think and communicate. To learn other techniques and how you can benefit from them, check out our latest Amazon Kindle book, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): A Self-help Guide to Personal Achievement & Influence.

Designing PowerPoint to Captivate Your Audience

Date posted: December 18, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Preparation

by Allan Misch

Boring PowerPoint presentationHow many times have you said to yourself, “Oh no, another boring, dull PowerPoint presentation?” You know, the kind that makes you fall asleep with slide after slide of never-ending bullet points, paragraphs of text and capitalized text.

Or do you sometimes feel like you’re drowning in a sea of animated text slides that make you boiling mad? You’ve seen them, slides that have every animated text trick in the book — fly-ins; zooms; and the hated typewriter animation, where every letter, of every word, of every line appears as if it was being typed (with an accompanying typewriter clicking sound). This one makes me want to have a major nervous breakdown rather than sit through the rest of the presentation!

Are you tired of seeing the same old slides that have a poor, low-quality graphic thrown in that breaks up the monotony of the other text-intensive slides? Unfortunately for you, the graphic doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the point of the slide, adds another distraction to the presentation and makes you want to throw the laptop at the presenter.

This doesn’t have to be the way your audience feels about your PowerPoint presentation. You can join the small handful of business presenters who engage and galvanize their audience with vivid, easy-to-follow, eye-opening slide presentations. Each of their slides contains a main message; little or no bullet points or subtext; and sizzling, compelling graphics that illustrate the slide’s point.

You can have PowerPont slides like their’s. Just be B-O-L-D. Here’s how.

B — Begin by Designing Your Oral Presentation

First, organize and outline your presentation. Your outline should have all the ideas and points for your presentation’s opening, body, and close. Plan on having a slide for each idea and point.

Then, on a blank page in Word, write a headline that describes each idea and point. Separate each headline by a hard return, so you have only 1 headline on each line. Save the Word file with an appropriate name such as WidgetSlideHeadlines.docx.

The headlines will be the titles of your slides. Headlines should have a subject and predicate. They should have from 2 to 14 words that fit on no more than 2 lines of 40-point text on your PowerPoint slide.

For example, if you want to discuss the 5 benefits of your product, you probably would have a slide that’s titled “Benefits.” Now that’s dull! Using the B-O-L-D approach, you would write an engaging headline: “5 reasons why the Apex widget will rack up your profits.” (Don’t put headlines within quotation marks unless you’re using a quote as a headline.) Next…

O — Open Up PowerPoint and Create a Slide Template

Avoid using the templates that come with PowerPoint. Most of them tempt you to create cookie-cutter type slides that wind up bullet-point- or text-intensive.

Create a master slide with only a Title text placeholder. The text should be a sans serif font such as Calibri, Arial or Verdona. The size should be 40 points. The color should be black. Delete the placeholder for bullet-point text. Avoid using headers, footers and logos on slides, unless it’s company policy to include a company logo on each slide. You can save this template in your templates folder. Give it an appropriate name such as BoldPresentation.potx. Then…

L — Lay In Your Headlines and Create Your Speaker Notes

From within Word, export the headlines file (WidgetSlideHeadlines.docx) to PowerPoint. PowerPoint will create a file with slides that have your headlines as titles.

Next, open up your template file (BoldPresentation.potx) as a PowerPoint document. Copy the slides containing your headlines to the file created from the BoldPresentation.potx template. Name this PowerPoint file (for example, WidgetPresentation.pptx).

If you don’t want to go the importing route, you can open up the PowerPoint template as a document, switch to Outline view and type your headlines there. Save the file.

Then, switch to Notes view. Notes view shows a picture of the slide with your headline in the top portion of the page and room for notes in the bottom part of the page. Put all your text, notes, and bullet points in the bottom part of the page. Do this before you work on your slides. When you finish, you will have the notes and bullet points for your entire presentation. Be sure to save your file every few minutes. Now it’s time to…

D — Design Your PowerPoint Slides with Riveting Graphics and Color

Switch to Slide view. Find an appropriate picture, clip art or other graphic that illustrates the point of the slide, and place it on the slide. Make it big, covering the entire slide if

Vary the placement and color of the headline depending on the characteristics of the graphic. For example, if the graphic is light at the bottom and dark at the top, move the dark text to the bottom of the slide. You also can leave the headline at the top but change the color from black to white. If your graphic doesn’t fill the entire slide, you can move it to one side. Then move your headline to the other side so it fills up several lines on one-third or half of the slide.

Use different background colors on your slides. Use a background color on a slide that compliments the colors in your graphic and headline. Use the same background color for slides that cover a major point and another background color for slides that cover a different major point.

If you need to include minimal text to compliment your graphic, create a text box with a sans serif font that’s the same as or compliments your title text. The text size should be 32 points.

After you design the slides, add a presentation title slide in front of your first slide. Then, make your slide transitions subtle and simple. Consider using a more dramatic transition, such as a Wheel or Wipe, when moving from your opening to your body and your body to your close. Use another transition when moving from the last slide of one major point to the first slide of another major point.

Switch to Notes view. You now have a page with your finished slide at the top and your notes and bullet points at the bottom. Go to the header and footer of your Notes view and set up your header and footer if appropriate. Then, print the Notes pages for your speaker notes. You also can print them as handouts for your audience.

If you want a different set of notes for your handout, copy the file, rename it, change the notes, then print it. Your audience will have copies of your outstanding slides and all the bullet points and text that you’d normally see on those dull, send-you-to-dreamland slides that you’re used to seeing.


So capture your audiences and be B-O-L-D. First, begin by designing your oral presentation. Then, open up PowerPoint and create a slide template. Next, lay in your headlines and create your speaker notes. Finally, design your slides with riveting graphics and color.

Your PowerPoint presentations often spell the difference between failure and success. If you’re tired of the same old humdrum slide shows, isn’t it time you begin to stimulate and captivate your audiences with commanding PowerPoint presentations? Just be B-O-L-D.

If you want to learn more about creating outstanding Presentation slides download my 4 free videos, “10 Critical Strategies to Make Your Presentation Slides More Memorable.”

“Keynote was a huge success! You were right about everything — from bringing my introduction to adding humor. I ended up adding about 9 humorous things to my presentation — I actually brought the house down with the expandable ball visual. Thanks for everything. You made all the difference.”

That’s what one of our coaching clients, Trish, said about her coaching experience with us.

This past year, we reduced our coaching fees because the downturn in the economy affected some of our clients and prospective clients. Some lost their jobs, others took new positions with new responsibilities. Those who entered into coaching relationships with us got great deals.

Now we are getting ready to reinstate our normal fee structure. If you’ve been thinking about getting a public speaking coach, don’t delay. Contact us now to take advantage of our lower fees while they last.

Two Reasons Speaker Stories Do NOT Connect

Date posted: December 11, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Presentation Delivery

by Craig Valentine

Why is it that some speaker stories do not connect? Why is it that other speakers connect deeply with each story they tell? What is the difference that makes the difference? There are actually two!

All of us know to tell speaker stories and make points. The problem is that, in our speaker stories, we do not give our characters a chance.

Give Your Characters a Chance. Give them a chance to do what? We need to give our characters a chance to be seen and a chance to be known.

Give Your Characters a Chance to Be Seen in Your Speaker Stories

How can audience members connect with characters that they cannot see? My speech coach, Patricia Fripp, explained to me that the audience members remember what they see in their minds while you speak. Therefore, I believe it is important for us to make our characters visible in our speaker stories. How? Give your characters a description.

If you can give a brief 1-2 line description of your characters in your speaker stories I guarantee that an image will pop into the mind of your audience members.  For example, the wonderful Motivational Speaker Keith Harrell describes an experience he had in Kindergarten when he sat next to a girl who wore glasses and pigtails. What image pops into your mind? What do you already assume about the girl? Well, when he delivers her lines she turns out to be exceptionally smart for a 5-year old. I already saw her as intelligent in my mind.

Famed Ohio Sportscaster Jimmy Crum tells a story of two young siblings and before he delivers the young girl’s line he describes her as having blonde hair, blue eyes and innocence written all over her face. I was in the audience, and I could tell that we all had our own vision of her. It was so powerful that the next day in my seminar, I asked the audience members (same audience) to tell me what she looked like. In unison, they yelled out, “Blonde Hair and blue eyes!” Twenty-four hours later they were still seeing her. In fact, they probably still see her now.

Pat Riley in speaker storiesSince in speaking we use the rule of three, let me give you one more example. In one of my speaker stories, I introduces a supervisor who tried to keep me employed by offering a significant increase in my salary, this is the description I use: “He was a young guy with black slicked-back hair which made him look like a young Pat Riley.” If you don’t know who Pat Riley is, you can still see the supervisor from the description given. If you do know who Pat Riley is, you can see the supervisor even clearer.

Whatever you do, give your characters in your speaker stories a chance to be seen so that we can connect to them. With your upcoming speeches, make sure each character you introduce has at least a brief description. The more important the character, the more specific the description should be.

Give Your Characters a Chance to Be Known in Your Speaker Stories

In your speaker stories, it is not enough to see your characters. We also need to know them. If, as an audience member, we do not know the characters, we will not care about them. If we do not care about them, we will not connect with them. So how do you get your audience to know the characters? You give what Patricia Fripp calls a back story. Give us an idea from whence they came. How? You give another line (or a few) about their past.

For example, in a speech I give about a formerly homeless man who is at the end of an 18-month program that I used to lead, I use the following scene and dialog to describe him:

“Jermaine, look at you. Eighteen months ago you came into the program as a 6 foot 3 inch 120 pound disheveled man. Your beard was raggedy, your clothes were torn and you had no life in your eyes. Now look at you! You’re clean shaven with your sharp black suit, you’re working with Johns Hopkins Hospital, and your eyes are shining.”

I had already set up more of the back story earlier when I mentioned that the average participant in our program was a 42-year old African-American male with over 18 years of drug use and a criminal background. Later in the story I mentioned that Jermaine represented the average participant. The audience always makes the connection.

The key is to find interesting ways to give the background of each of the major characters in your speaker stories. I happen to give Jermaine’s back story though the actual character dialog, which is more interesting than simply narrating it. By the end of that story, many of the audience members really genuinely care when they find out that Jermaine’s son (who was also my client) was shot and killed. They can see Jermaine, know Jermaine, and hopefully they can now feel for Jermaine. With their hearts open I can now drive home my point.

Your Takeaway Tools for Your Tool Belt

Remember that your audience members will remember what they see in their minds while you are speaking. Give your characters a description so they will be seen in your speaker stories and give them a back story so they will be known. These are the differences that make the difference. As a result, you will connect more deeply than you ever have and be more memorable than you have even been!

Do You Want More?

craig valentine speaker stories expertFor more information including giving back stories, descriptions, moving with a purpose, integrating dialog, and other necessary storytelling strategies, check out Craig’s CD entitled How to Go from Lackluster to Blockbuster Storytelling: Craig Valentine Live from Ohio. Visit Craig at

Craig Valentine is Toastmasters International’s 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. He is an author and a national and international speaker, seminar leader and coach.

“Keynote was a huge success! You were right about everything — from bringing my introduction to adding humor. I ended up adding about 9 humorous things to my presentation — I actually brought the house down with the expandable ball visual. Thanks for everything. You made all the difference.”

That’s what one of our coaching clients, Trish, said about her coaching experience with us.

This past year, we reduced our coaching fees because the downturn in the economy affected some of our clients and prospective clients. Some lost their jobs, others took new positions with new responsibilities. Those who entered into coaching relationships with us got great deals.

Now we are getting ready to reinstate our normal fee structure. If you’ve been thinking about getting a public speaking coach, don’t delay. Contact us now to take advantage of our lower fees while they last.

Presentation Feedback Is the Tool for Improvement

Date posted: October 9, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Presentation Delivery

by Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch

When was the last time you gave yourself presentation feedback? Most people just don’t do it.

When did you last ask your audience for presentation feedback? Giving presentations is pointless if your audience is not benefiting from listening to you.

So how do you know if you are progressing as a presenter? Through presentation feedback.

We (Allan and Allan) get presentation feedback continuously through self-evaluation and from others. We use this information to improve our presentations and delivery. We suggest that you do the same. Here’s a 3-step presentation feedback process for self-improvement and to improve your message.

Step 1 — Self-evaluate your presentation before you present it to your audience.

Audio record and/or video record your presentation in a practice session. Play back the recording. Listen and/or look for effective presentation organization and construction, attention-getters, vocal variety, gestures and engaging stories.

Make necessary changes to your organization and content. Work on eliminating distracting mannerisms such as filler words, pacing and nervous body movements and gestures.

Work on improving shortcomings such as poor timing, emotionless delivery and a weak opening or closing.

Self-evaluation should correct glaring weaknesses in your presentation. It will also reinforce or bring to the surface your strengths. But self-evaluation has its limitations.

It won’t catch the qualities, good and not so good, of which you are unaware consciously. That’s where the next step comes into play.

Step 2 — Get presentation feedback from trusted colleagues, friends or family and/or a mentor.

Arrange to practice your presentation in front of them. Ask them for presentation feedback. Find out what you did well and how you could improve your talk.

If you plan on having a Question and Answer session, brainstorm possible questions you may be asked. Develop answers to the questions. Then, give the questions to a panel of your friends or colleagues and have them fire the questions at you. Evaluate how well you respond.

The information on the organization, content, and delivery of your presentation and supporting materials is invaluable to you. This perspective will shed light on strengths and weaknesses that you are not aware of.

You will be armed with information that you did not have before — how others view your presentation.

Now you can self-correct further. But presentation feedback doesn’t stop here. The ultimate presentation feedback comes in the next step.

Step 3 — Get presentation feedback from your audience in two ways.

First, while delivering your speech, engage your audience. Look for audience interest. Are they leaning forward or are they nodding off? Do they laugh at your humor or seem puzzled? Do they ask questions or are they fiddling with their Blackberries?

Second, create a presentation feedback sheet. Hand it out to your audience to complete at the end of your presentation. Do not make it too long or your audience will not complete it.

The presentation feedback sheet could have a numeric rating on a scale of 1 to 5 on various aspects of your delivery and content. Include some subjective questions; asking them what they liked most about your talk and how you could have made it better.

Be sure to ask them if you met or even exceeded their expectations of your presentation. Ask them what else they would like to see in the presentation if you were to give it again.

Review the presentation feedback sheets to see if a recurring pattern emerges, or if there is even one good idea to make your presentation more beneficial. You will get an insightful perspective for improvement, and your audience will appreciate that you value their opinion.


So use our 3-step approach for getting presentation feedback to improve your presentations. First, self-evaluate. Second, get presentation feedback from people you trust. And third, ask your audience for presentation feedback.

Remember, the basis for self-improvement is a goal. But you need to have a fix on your starting point to know what you must do to achieve success. You must baseline where you are.

That’s what presentation feedback does for you. It tells you how you are doing and how much more you have to improve, if any, to reach your goal. As Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Let us know how you get presentation feedback in the Comments area below.


Need to spice up your presentation with humor? Want to avoid those costly mistakes that will ruin your presentation and your image? Want to apply the presentation etiquette that makes your audience think you’re a pro? Want to be the envy of your next celebration when you roast and/or toast the honoree? Check out our insanely affordable presentation skills Kindle books on Amazon.

A Special Free Gift for Our Readers

Date posted: August 6, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Public Speaking Resources

We want to give you, our loyal readers, a special gift. So here it is.

FREE ONLY on Wednesday, August 7 and Thursday, August 8—Our Two Public Speaking E-books

We are gifting our e-books to you— we ask you only to write for us a positive review on Amazon. The more reviews we get the higher the ranking of our books so others can find them.  Just a few sentences are all that is needed. Thanks in advance.

E-book #1

NSS Roasting and Toasting eBook CoverNo Sweat Speaking’s Guide to Roasting & Toasting
How to Roast and Toast Your Business/Work Associate, Best Friend, Aunt, Nephew, Sister, Brother-in-Law or Dad on His/Her Birthday, Retirement, Anniversary or Promotion

“Allan Kaufman has shared his tried and true techniques for roasting and toasting. He is, in my opinion, an expert at public speaking but especially adept at roasting and toasting.”
Cathy Hiebler, DTM

You can download the book for FREE here (just for 2 days: Wednesday, August 7 and Thursday, August 8): (US link) (UK link) (Canada link)

By the way, you don’t need to own a Kindle in order to read a Kindle e-book. You can simply download the Kindle app for your desktop and read the book on your computer.

Also every handheld device and tablet we can think of has a Kindle reader app.

Also FREE on August 7th and August 8th:

E-book #2

No Sweat Speaking's How to Avoid the Ten Biggest Public Speaking Mistakes pictureNo Sweat Speaking’s How to Avoid the Ten Biggest Public Speaking Mistakes Including How to Use Humor

“This short, handy, and practical guide contains tools, tips and techniques you can use immediately to avoid the mistakes most presenters make. What I like about the book is that Allan not only discusses what not to do, he also gives you tips on what you should do.”
Akash Karia, professional speaker and author

You can download the book for FREE at: (US link) (UK link) (Canada link)

This book is like a mini-course in public speaking.

Here’s What People Are Saying about Us and Our Books

Craig Valentine, Toastmasters International’s 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking and author of The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking:

“If you are looking for a speech coach that will help you present with impact, Allan Kaufman is your man. He was my very first speech coach and mentor and I would not have won the World Championship of Public Speaking without him. He has more knowledge about public speaking than 99.9% of people who ever stood up to say anything and that knowledge will help you keep your audiences on the edge of their seats as you deliver messages that stick. Allan’s goal is to help you exceed yours. I highly recommend him.” (March 9, 2012)

Presentation Truths Revealed is a gem! Corporate presenters could improve their presentations significantly by applying the principles in this book. Fantastic points!”

“In minutes you were able to do for the audience what some people have been trying to do for themselves for a lifetime. You two helped audience members get rid of the fear of public speaking right before my very eyes… Any organization can benefit greatly by witnessing your seminar…. You two are a great team!”

Susan D. Sunderland, Susan D. Sunderland & Associates:

“They say that miracles do not happen overnight, but you managed to perform one in just ten weeks. The … workshop that you … conducted proved to be the best career investment that I have made.”

Anold Sanow, Certified Public Speaking Professional and author of Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere:

“I have delivered more than 2,500 presentations and Presentation Truths Revealed is right on the money!”

Akash Karia, public speaker and author of a number of books including Public Speaking Mastery:

“This (No Sweat Speaking’s Guide to Roasting & Toasting) is an awesome little guide by Allan Kaufman. It is full of practical, easy to implement tools and techniques that will make your next roast or toast a great success.

“Whether you’ve been invited to roast a friend or give a toast at a marriage, this book is a great guide that will make your talk memorable and entertaining. Not only does Allan provide great tips for roasts and toasts, he also provides sample roasts. These samples are excellent because they allow you to see how all the principles Allan talks about can be implemented to create a roast.

“I highly recommend this book and will be eagerly looking forward to any books Allan writes and publishes in the future.”

Karen Henry, President, Anne Arundel County Employees Toastmasters:

“Dear Allan and Allan, I just had to write to thank you for that wonderful seminar you did for the Anne Arundel County employees. Your “No Sweat Speaking” offered us a new approach to calming our fears associated with public speaking. You both brought high energy and vitality to your presentation. You worked individually with each participant to determine each person’s needs. The technique is easy to understand and applicable in any situation! Public speaking is not a threat after having learned how to soothe any anxiousness associated with speaking to large groups.”

FYI: Presentation Truths Revealed is available on our website at:


Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch

P.S. This gift is only available for FREE download on August 7 & 8. So mark this down on your calendar and grab your copies. And if you like our books, please write us a positive review for each one on Thanks again.

P.P.S. Please share this gift of our two e-books with your friends, relatives and associates.

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