Presentations: The Value in Being Evaluated


By Corrie Miller

Recently I decided to check out  Toastmasters. The reason I initially set foot inside the local rec centre for my first meeting was not because I felt compelled to become a better speaker; it was for research. I wanted to know, in joining Janice’s Tomich’s business, Calculated Presentations, what the differences were in what she offered (which I found were many) from a business perspective. The first thing I discovered was that Calculated Presentations (find us on Twitter @calcprez) offers much more in terms of personal attention and the ability to work with you on your individual presentation and associated slidedeck if the need is there.  But I will say that that where we offer intensive training for the corporate audience, a group like Toastmasters can be a great place to get the long-term practise of standing up and speaking in front of others. The biggest take-away I’ve received from presenting to others, both with Janice in the corporate environment and at those recent Wednesday nights spent at the rec. centre?

Get feedback… an evaluation. Get the debrief after a training session. Get others’ opinions. It’s paramount to your personal (and business) growth.

Hearing how others perceived your talk/pitch/presentation is really the best way to improve. Whether practising with a personal coach like Janice or in a more long term social setting, having someone else adjudicate  you is so important. From the content of your presentation to “ums” and “ahs” and making you aware of nervous body language (mine is touching my hair and swaying on my feet, another woman I know rubs her nose. I also know a man who is a chronic belt fiddler!), having an evaluator take an objective look at what you’re doing can do amazing things for your personal growth in this arena.

Bottom line is, everyone needs a mentor. A coach.

As Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google has said:

“One thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them.”

Happy growing!

To Your Voice,






Today I stumbled upon an article a woman named Carrie Gallant had posted on Linked In. It was a piece written by the curator of TED Chris Anderson on what makes for a “killer” presentation: One that connects, has the audience hanging on your every word, and maybe even garners a standing ovation . If you don’t know, the TED conference happens every year in Long Beach, California and presenters share “Ideas Worth Spreading” in roughly 18 minute presentations. It’s coming to Vancouver in 2014 and is a huge boon for the city.

Anderson gives the example of a 12-year-old Masai boy who’d come up with an invention that would keep the lions in his Kenyan grasslands home away from their livestock, and Anderson knew that despite a huge language barrier that Richard Turere’s story needed to be shared with a broader audience; one that the TED talk format assists nicely, not only on the stage but, as TED talks often are, shared socially by thousands, even  millions. Here is Richard’s story.


Chris Anderson shares that getting Richard to the point where he was able to get up there to speak took a lot of time, scripting, planning,  re-working, and practise, practise, practise over a 6-9 month period. By the end of Richards talk we are cheering for him, we are drawn in and want to hear more from this boy. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Drawing people in. Changing minds (whether simply in your audience’s choice of product or on a global scale).

Here are a few points gleaned from Anderson’s article. To read the full story click here:

  • Invest the time… and even the most reluctant speaker can give a talk that engages. When you are confident in your story and clear on what you are going to cover, you will appear more relaxed and might even be able to laugh with the audience. A relaxed presenter is far easier to watch and your audience will be able to focus more on what you say rather than your distracting body language.
  • Drill down your key message. Many presenters try to pack too much information into their presentation. Get specific rather than presenting broad ideas. As Anderson says: “Go deeper. Give more detail. Don’t tell us about your entire field of study—tell us about your unique contribution.”
  • Find the right balance between facts and story. This will be different for a talk to the Financial Services industry than it will be for a product launch. For dry material, provide the facts but try to weave some narrative through to appeal to people’s emotions. For a product launch try to talk about how my life will be changed after using your product rather than just talking specs.
  • Don’t Read it. As soon as you read to your audience, their sense of connection with you is gone. As much as possible practise your key points and talk around them. The “ifs”, “ands” and “the’s” don’t matter if you know your material inside and out. Bullet pointed cards are okay, but strive for no notes.
  • A presentation is a  journey. Take me on one. Don’t try to force authoritativeness, or empathy. Just be yourself. That is good enough. There is no substitute fo authenticity.

I hope you connect with your next talk. If you’re struggling, drop us a line .

To Your Voice,




By Corrie Miller

Being able to present well is essential.  If people listen, if you can achieve audience buy-in and engage when you speak, you have the ability to persuade. You can change minds. You can get the sale.

According to Phillip Khan-Panni, UK champion business speaker and author,

80% of presentations fail to deliver their objective.

If there is any truth to this (and we think it’s pretty close),  that means that 80% are boring tune-outs that the audience forgets as soon as they leave the room.  A lot of wasted hours on both sides of the stage, and a shame really when you think of it.  The audience is largely there because they hope to get something from the speaker. The speaker is there to educate, sell or otherwise persuade the audience, all the while getting an opportunity to potentially increase personal and business profile.  If 80% aren’t doing that, what a wasted opportunity!


1. DON’T KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Janice and I gave a presentation at a Canadian Public Relations Society session this week and I tell you, we spent a LOT of time trying to decipher what that audience would want from us. How senior would they be in their positions? Why had they chosen to attend? These questions determined how deep we would go with the material we’d chosen for a 1-hour talk, and how much would be covered accordingly. Ask around. Talking far above or below your audience’s reasons for being there will be a sure fire tune-out.

2. LACK OF AUTHENTICITY –  If you can’t bring yourself to the game or are trying to be something you’re not, people can sense it. Be professional, but be yourself as much as possible. That is good enough, and in most cases better than the alternative.

3. LACK OF STORYTELLING –  Storytelling has become quite the buzz word of late, but truly if I were to get up there and ONLY spew stats at you, are you going to remember them?  Maybe one or two but there are two ways to evoke memory. One of those ways is by using analogy to make your point or share your statistic. The other is through images (more on that later). Find a way to convey your dry information (as is often the case) in a creative way.

Steve Jobs when introducing the iPod, didn’t talk about all the technical details about his new music player at first. He said:

“1000 songs in your pocket”. Much more visual, right?  Much more engaging.

4. BAD SLIDEDECKS –  Who hasn’t attended a talk, or been lectured to in a classroom where there were so many words projected on the screen that you were too busy taking notes to hear a word the speaker/lecturer was saying.

Less is more. Pictures are better than words.

The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than linear language.

That according to a recent study by 3M Corporation. Seize the opportunity to do slides well!

5. UNPREPAREDNESS – Nancy Duarte, who helped construct Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” has said that a successful presentation should take about 90 hours to put together. 30 hours to construct content. 30 hours for the slidedeck. 30 hours of practise. Practise, practise, practise.  The more you speak it out loud the more you’ll know your content and the more confident you’ll be.

Don’t be afraid to look a little crazy and talk to yourself. It’s worth it.

6. ANXIETY –  This is a big one and the reason people most often decline speaking engagements, or even just speaking at all in front of others. We’ll address this in a later post. A little adrenaline sharpens your mind and makes you perform better. Too much anxiety can be crippling.

Are your presentations boring tune-outs? We hope you are in that 20% of speakers that effectively deliver the message, that engage, that enlighten. If you are, you’ve significantly narrowed the competition.

What do you think are the biggest fails when you hear a talk that makes you want to exit stage left?  We would love your input.

To Your Voice

– Corrie


Michael Santos is a man on a mission. Released from a US prison in August of last year after     spending 25 years behind bars, Michael has set to work educating any and all he can about how not to make the mistakes he did. He teaches how to survive life behind bars and most importantly how he would like to see a system that is largely broken that keeps 2.3 million Americans incarcerated, fixed. Santos obtained both Bachelors and Masters university degrees while in prison on drug trafficking charges, has written books on the subject of prison reform, and in February spoke to a group of students at the University of California, Berkley. I found the video of his presentation in an article published on Mashable written by Michael himself. It was well worth the read. And the watch.

What surprised me wasn’t just his story but that once I had clicked on the link to his lecture, that I sat through the entire thing. All 39 minutes of it!  I have no vested interest, don’t know anyone battling the legal system, nor is this subject typically on my radar.  But he was passionate, well-informed, clearly very intelligent, and had an inspiring call to action that asked me to think differently about those that make big mistakes early on in their lives.

It was all in the presentation.

From an audience engagement standpoint, Michael’s presentation did everything it was supposed to do. And considering the fact that he was released into a half-way house just a few short months ago (and now under home confinement), he was remarkable. His visuals were captivating, and save for of course a few improvements we can all make, he really hit the target. Have a watch (not all 39 minutes, but if you find yourself glued, feel free!).

As for tips, Janice has a couple that would make Michael even that much more effective.

1. Michael’s messages are sticky. This he does well. Being sentenced to “45 years behind bars under the King Pin Statute” is something that would put fear into anyone. One thing Michael could do better is to slow these key phrases/messages down a tad so that they resonate more. Remember, not everyone knows what you know. Sometimes spelling it out and varying your pacing can have a huge impact.

2. Movement on stage should be very directed and with a purpose. Training yourself to stand your ground and make your point, then move on, goes a long way toward grounding your whole presentation.

Good luck on your journey Michael and good luck on your first teaching gig at the University of San Francisco this Fall.

Keep inspiring change.

Follow Michael @MichaelGSantos.

– Corrie + Janice


Via my Twitter friend @Billy2373 – thank you – a brilliant TEDGlobal presentation on the necessity of trust.

In public speaking it means we must trust ourselves that we know of what we speak and we are the best person to communicate our message. We must also trust that our audience wants us to succeed and is open to sharing our ideas and inspiration.

To Your Voice,


This is a sappy story about my vacation and my understanding of the significance of silence. With a home movie too!

I have been preaching, ok I’ll tone that down to lecturing, on the benefits of silence while presenting.

It is all right to stop and allow a good few seconds of silence:

When you feel an um coming
When impact is needed
When you need to take a restorative deep breath

I’ve just returned from Southern Utah, driving home through Monument National Park, and the Sierra Nevadas.

Yes, it is a little shaky. I’m new to recording and loving my new Flip camera.

My driving partner in crime will attest to my awe at the sheer magnificence of red rocks, towering precipices, and gushing or meandering waterways.

They made me quiet. They made me introspective.

I realized that it is all right to be present, in the moment. And I deeply understood what I communicate to my clients. It is ok to stand in front of your audience and allow them to appreciate you and for you to appreciate them.

In a few seconds of silence.


Your Ears Won’t Let You Down

Students and clients are surprised when I share the importance of listening as a presenter. It is easy to conclude that as a presenter, your job is orator. Wrong. To be effective at the craft a presentation needs to listen.

Three Keys ~ When to Listen

While constructing the presentation, keep the needs of your target audience in mind, listen rather than speaking is key. Throw your bias out and understand that your perception/history is different than your audiences’.

Listen with your eyes and ears. Is your audience riveted or are they exercising their digits on their Smartphone? If they are squirming now is the time to engage them. Ask questions or move to Plan B. You do have a Plan B…

Q & A – Listen to what you are being asked. Did you cover the point in your presentation? Think about why it did not connect. Or does the question help you realize that you have created engagement and generated deeper level thinking? Strong listening skills at the Q & A stage gives you concrete insight into what worked and what did not. Great ammunition for your next presentation.

I came across this TedTalk presentation, thanks to the SoloTraveler. The power of listening personified by John Frances:


Now I have proof that it is ok to smile as much as I do. Even during presentations. Yes, I mind the situation and audience but I do tend to be a smiler. If you look closely at my picture (to the left) you will see that my eyes are smiling too. The crinkles in the corner are the giveaway. This full on smile is called a Duchennes smile.

A brilliant article in New Scientist collaborates the cerebral feeling I get when I smile will help me to live well into my 80’s. We live longer as smilers and our social networks run deeper. The article also states that forced smiles increase longevity too. Hmmm, let’s just call that practice smiling or the warm up to genuine smiles, only because I am not a fan of disingenuous smiles. Humour me.

As a speaker, smiling does help me to feel connected to the audience. Certainly when I rest my eyes for a few second on an audience member and elicit turned up corners of a mouth. The audience member’s reaction enables us to feel we are both on the same page and encourages me. The return smile also gives me insight into audience reaction in that my ideas and concepts are resonating.

While presenting, the importance of audience engagement and connecting to individuals can’t be stressed enough. As a vulnerable human being, whether through storytelling or facial gestures – smiling –  you improve your chances of communicating your ideas.

I look forward to getting to 80 sage and smiley years. Will you join me?

A smile was the original form of social media ~
(Fascinate) via Twitter


Speaking with Marion Chapsal confirmed my understanding of why women speakers are under-represented. Both of us agreed that it is purely lack of confidence.

Let me interject here and argue against my statement. As a (woman) reader I would be annoyed (mildly put) to hear that in 2010 women lack confidence.

Lack of confidence…WT!

My theory contradicts my core beliefs and values. I’ve lived through women’s lib and have studied with confident, well educated female Gen Y’s. With the strides that women have made, why are they still the under represented gender in presentations and speaking engagements?

Marion lives in Beaujoulais country in France and I live on the west coast of Canada and from different geographic perspectives have made the same observation. Women hang back, they don’t elbow in to position themselves on the stage. Men present with bravado, women exhibit self-doubt. Women thank the audience for coming, men expect filled seats. Yes, all generalizations. However I am speaking from observation. Yes, I have seen strong, confident women speakers although not in majority.

When I conduct research for my blog I am always looking for clips of women orators/presenters. I have found meager pickings but have found many powerful examples of fine male orators. Women where are you? Challenge me, I would like to hang on to my theory of strong, confident women taking on stages and podiums.

To women who are contemplating taking a speaking role – take the leap and present with confidence. And men encourage your female colleagues to get up on the stage.

Come and Dance With Me

Michal Zacharzewski sxc

Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.