Secrets for Excellent Presentations—There are None. Just Lessons Learned.

I am going to share some idiosyncratic and insightful stuff today from Dr.Tom Peters, famed management and leadership guru for over forty years, In this rambling and some times incoherent reflections on Presentations and public speaking Tom nails a few great points for all of us to learn from in the art of speech giving. Here are a few of his ideas for you to noodle on today or review before your next speech.

Quotes that say it all:

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”—JFK

“In classical times when Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, ‘How well he spoke,’ but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, they said, ‘Let us march.’”—Adlai Stevenson

Tom’s stuff  reinforcing the quotes— ” Reason’s for Total commitment to the Problem/Project/Outcome.

As JFK told us, above, keep your mouth shut unless you commit yourself 100% to moving a mountain—or at least a hillock.

Reason #1: Why bother to go through this hell unless “it” matters to you—a lot!

Reason #2: If you are not committed, somehow or other it will show through like a spotlight as you present. People can smell belief, passion and commitment and energy and determination—or the absence thereof .

Reason #3 . Fix Your Attitude before Presenting–Have you ever said to yourself before a speech I don’t want to be here. I have to be here. Well, that’s not true—except in a way it is. The peerless leadership guru Warren Bennis made an extraordinary assertion. He said: “leaders have no particular desire to be leaders. Instead, there is something they must get done. And to get it done, they must put on the leader’s mantle”. You could say the same thing about speechgiving—or you ought to be able to. I haven’t traveled my 5,000,000 miles or so to give speeches. I’ve traveled those miles to have the opportunity to present a set of ideas I care deeply about; and, at 70, I’m still traveling. (I assure you the thrill of air travel has long faded.) Change the world? That’s a bit grandiose. But, try to make a wee difference? That’s my story—and, within reason, I judge that it will be the case for any long-term successful speechgiver.

Reason # 4. Know what the hell you’re doing unless you specifically make it clear that you are merely providing early conjectures. JFK tells us not to open our mouths unless we aim to change the world. I’d add, perhaps unnecessarily, don’t open your mouth until you know what the hell you’re talking about. You’ve got to be clear, albeit indirect, that you’ve worked your ass off on this topic—and would not ask the audience to waste their time listening to you pontificate.

Reason #5. A compelling “Story line”/“Plot.” A speech, long or short, to an audience of 1 or 1,001, will only grab the recipient if there’s a powerful/compelling story-with-a-plot unspooling. First, evidence from the neurosciences supports this—our brain reacts to stories. Second, please listen up, research by the likes of Steve Denning reveals that stories are as important as hooks to techies and economists as to an audience, presumably, of poets. A good speech has a good story at its core. A good speech is, in effect, a string of stories that takes us from here to there—and makes us, in effect, say, “Let us march.” Stories. Stories. And more stories. Use personalized stories or short vignettes you believe in and are relevant to audience members.

Reason #6 Negative doesn’t sell. Period. Negativism can kill a speech in … 30 seconds.

Final Tips and challenges–

 Speech giving is a “One 2 One” conversation:

Talking and connecting to one-guy-at a-time with good body language on both of our parts,

I’m getting through to all 1,500 people. If I’m talking to “everyone,” from behind a podium, I’m getting to no one!

A Presentation is an Act. Never forget you are an ACTOR.


Relax! Be yourself! ARE YOU NUTS? One of the most commonplace pieces of speaking advice is to “be yourself.” What a crock. No, you should not be stiff. Or look as if you were on the way to the guillotine. But you are performing a professional act.

And  as I—and FDR—said, you are an actor when you’re on stage. And you are putting on a performance. Can you imagine a coach telling one of his players before the Super Bowl,“go out there and be yourself”? I want to look as though I’m comfortable, sure, but I am also controlling every move and every breath to achieve an end that is a matter of professional life or death to me—not in terms of “success” or “failure,” but in terms of my determination to pass on a message I believe is of the utmost importance. Indeed, enjoy yourself—in the Green Room after the speech!


You have all the time in the world to connect. Of course you don’t! But you must spend the opening minutes creating trust and camaraderie—not silly camaraderie, but something more like empathy. You can’t appear to be wasting time, but you must sink your personalized hooks to connect with others. (I am adding these examples of how to gather info and build rapport with audience members. Before the speech arrive early and talk with a few people to get a sense of who they are and what is relevant or important to them about managing others? Personalize the conversation by asking inquiry type of questions.. Where did they grow-up? Where did they go to school?. How long have they been with the company and in there present position? How much technical or management training have they been required to get annually? What is their biggest problem in managing others? What one thing or question if answered would make this a great speech? )


Only connect! For example,

“ That was the whole of her sermon.

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted.

And human love will be seen at its height.

Live in the fragments no longer.

Only connect …

—E.M. Forster, Howards End

I am sure if you read Tom’s full paper on presenting you will pick-up other stuff I did not touch on here. So do yourself a favor and read his entire piece because it is very insightful and we seldom get someone who for 45 years has been successful in captivating and inspiring audiences all over the world. Oh, and by the way Tom Peters receives 65,000 to 70,000 dollars in speaking fee his performances.

Have fun with his material and let us know what stuff you found important. Coach Mark

Learn More Persuasive Presentation Techniques–10 Secrets of Steve Jobs.

“People with Passion and Perseverance can Change the World” Carmine Gallo

If you are interested in seeing why Steve Jobs was such a great presenter don’t miss these tips. Ten ways to Sell your ideas the Steve Jobs Way. This video will provide many new ideas on how to repackage the old presentation methods by highlighting the many different persuasive ways Steve Jobs presents the vision behind their companies. In this talk, Carmine Gallo demonstrates how extraordinary leaders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others communicate the vision and the value behind their service, product, or brand.

10 Secrets of Steve Jobs


Want to craft a sticky message?–Checkout the 3 E’s of Engagement

Sticky Presentation Notebook–3 E’s of Engagement and connection

1. Emotional stories that are relevant to the audience and the topic at hand

2. Evidence based data that enlightens and expands audience members thinking

3. Examples of real life situations that are concrete and visual (paint a picture for audience)

Want to see an example of emotional story and real life situation combined into a powerful opening in action? Listen to this great opening that highlights the power of  emotion and concrete story delivered by Dr. Berne Brown at a recent TED speech entitled to : “Listening to Shame”

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage…and is the birthplace of innovation, change and creativity”  Brené Brown

Click here to see Dr. Brown’s presentation

Listening to Shame

Daily Quotes and Reflection: Power of First Impressions


The answer is that we are not helpless in the face of our first impressions. They may bubble up from the unconscious – from behind a locked door inside of our brain – but just because something is outside of awareness doesn’t mean it’s outside of control.”
Malcolm GladwellBlink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

 Its’  all about storytelling. It’s about creating a connection to the audience.”

Reginald Hudlin, President of Entertainment, BET


Spend more time on making a strong and lasting “first impression” on the audience. Like the old saying, you only get one chance for a great first impression. Overcoming a lack luster open to your presentation,  like a flat  or non-energized beginning, and then having to change that initial  poor image, takes lots to time and effort. Your initial first impression can make or break your presentation.

Action Assignment: You may not be making a speech today, but is helpful to practice how to make good first impressions. Today, stop and try to make a positive impression on someone you don’t know. After the interaction circle back to get some feedback–How did you come across to this person and what was their first impression of you? There is a lot to learn here because we all have “blindspots” between how we want to come across to others and their actual experience of you. 


Daily Quote and Reflection:Sticky Presentations –Nail the Close

Daily Quote:  Winston Churchill once said: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Reflection: We all could learn from this advice. Strong opening that hooks and captures the audience members curosity and a strong closing that inspires them to action. In my coaching I have seen presenters hurriedly do a summary, ask for questions while packing and other closes that flop or plop. The flop is a close that doesn’t impact the audience or reinforce your message like a quote that is not relevant to the message you want the audience to remember. The flop could be as bad as saying–“well folks that’s all I have to say.”  The “plop” is a remark that goes out to the audience but doesn’t get a positive response. It is important to close your speech with as much energy as when you open the speech. This is a time to have a powerful story that reinforces your message or request that is so powerful to move people to action or change their thinking.  This lack of nailing the close is an opportunity missed. For example,I recently saw a doctor when presenting keep looking at his watch and flying through complex slides just to get to the finish line on time. He ended is speech by saying, well I guess that’s all the slides I have. Thanks. WOW what a let downer and terrible closing that was. In fact, your last remarks when presenting are valued all out of proportion to the total amount of effort you put into the presentation. This powerful factor of audiences remembering the last thing they have seen or heard been studied by communication experts and linguist and is called the Recency Effect.

Action Activity: For your next presentation work on fine tuning your final message by practicing it in front of some colleagues and getting feedback on how it grabbed them or in what way it needs improvement. Some expert presenters memorize their closing and use the story format or quote to reinforce their message. Don’t missed an opportunity for your message to be experienced as inspirational, memorable and energizing. Remember your closing will be how your performance in the main is judged . Good Luck.

Death of PowerPoint. Just found PREZI–a new way to present content that engages People.


I just found one of the most exciting software developments for presentations. It was developed by Adam Somlai-Fischer, a Hungarian architect, as a tool to help with visualization.  But instead he has developed one of the more interesting presentation and storytelling devices I have ever seen.  PREZI  follows the speaker with a visual narrative of the material.  True to the developer’s mission to “make sharing ideas more interesting,” this presentation tool does just that.  DON’T MISS THIS ARTICLE — Requiem for PowerPoint: PREZI zooms in by Dr. Daniel Tomasulo at psychcentral .com


Learn to use the “Ripple Effect” for Unique connections

What is the “Ripple Effect” when it comes to communicating and presenting ideas or a proposal to others.  The Ripple Effect is a simple and practical way to spread an idea virus through your audience and their networks. The ripple effect explains the notion that from small acts we can create big changes In the the book Dragonfly, Andy Smith and Jennifer,  Draggonfly Effect, Part 1 provide a framework and compelling case studies to show readers how to harness social media for change, happiness and positive results.

Why the dragonfly? The dragonfly is the only insect able to propel itself in any direction when its four wings are working in harmony. It symbolizes the importance of integrated and insynch effect and is akin to the ripple effect—a term used in economics, sociology, and psychology to indicate how small acts can create big change.  The method relies on four essential skills, or wings: 1) focus: identify a single concrete and measurable goal; 2) grab attention: cut through the noise of social media with something authentic and memorable; 3) engage: create a personal connection, accessing emotions, empathy, and happiness; and 4) take action: invite and enable  others to take positive action to fulfill original goal or purpose.

The Ripple Effect depends on open and two-way communication to connect and convey information, ideas, experiences and knowledge.  To be effective and efficient the “Ripple Effect” in  interpersonal communications needs to be targeted to the right audience, with the right message by the right messenger and at the right moment when audiences are receptive and feel the message is relevant to their needs. Executing the “Ripple Effect” takes strategic thinking, exquisite planning and timing.

Learn to get what you really want by first giving of your time, your talent and your expertise. As you”’ discover, the ROI of selflessness is truly astounding. The Ripple Effect will teach you how to:

  • Connect and create more meaningful relationships
  • Use new social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to extend your connecting efforts
  • Avoid common networking mistakes, both online and in person
  • Leverage your network to open new doors and create new opportunities
  • Establish connection lifelines that will bail you out when things get really tough

Painting a tantalizing picture of what business – and life can be once you decide to put other people first, The Ripple Effect is an indispensable resource not only for executives, sales managers, customer service representatives and entrepreneurs, but for anyone who wants to leave this world a better place than they found it.