Nail that Presentation!

I’m going to give you a statistic. It’s going to be completely made up but I think you’ll agree: 90% of us don’t like making presentations.

Am I wrong?

For the 10% of you who do like making presentations, this post is not for you. But if you’re like me and the thought of public speaking kind of makes you want to throw up, then you’d better read on.

See what I did there? Already I’ve started to give you an effective presentation (even though you’re reading a blog post). I started off with a statistic you may or may not identify with and because it’s completely made up I’ve hopefully put you (my audience) at ease and maybe even made you laugh a little. But because I’ve humanized myself by identifying a common fear that most of us face I’ve made you intrigued: if I feel the same way as you do, what solution could I possibly have to fix the problem?

That’s how a good presentation should start: capture your audience, then identify yourself in relation to the issue you’ve raised. Once you’ve established a connection, you’ve established a certain level of trust; then you can make your intentions for the rest of the presentation known.

That’s half of what makes a good presentation work: appealing to the humanity of your audience and identifying a human component to your subject. Knowing who you’re presenting to and what’s important to them will take away a lot of the guesswork as to how to deliver your message more effectively.

The second half is preparation, which to the nervous folks in the crowd is the key to cutting your anxiety by half. Even if you consider yourself crap at public speaking, just taking the extra time to prepare may give you the confidence boost you need to get through your presentation.

And by prepping I don’t just mean reading your notes over and over until you have your whole speech memorized. In fact, some experts consider writing out your presentation beforehand a big no-no: memorizing means you run the risk of losing your place, and it may leave you with a false sense of security regarding your material. What happens if you get interrupted, get asked a question, or sense a mood shift in the room? A written presentation has no room for spontaneity.

However, if you write out your key points ahead of time and use visual cues in your notes (bullet lists, colours, capital letters, underlining) you can rehearse different ways of delivering your information so you’re prepared for just about any conceivable possibility. (Try to imagine several different scenarios to see how they would play out.)

Your prep work should also require some thought as to the sensory experience of your audience. Consider the seating arrangement, time of day, room temperature, lighting, and the quality of any equipment you may be using. These are all elements that factor into the attentiveness of your audience and their willingness to receive your message.

I’m not going to give you advice in the form of that old adage of picturing everyone in their underwear; I think the best thing you can do is to visualize yourself as confident, knowledgeable and above all more than able to pull off a fantastic presentation. (And that’s fully dressed.)

Holding your own in an office isn’t easy in a fast-paced, competitive and demanding work culture. Having been faced with similar challenges of my own, I’ve compiled some of the best ways to sustain yourself throughout your working life here. For more professional advice, and on how to market yourself or a product, click here or here.

What are some of the speed bumps you’ve hit working in an office? Share your workplace stories below or send them confidentially to

How to Hold a Business Meeting and Actually Get Things Done

KBB_agenda_bird_notebookYes, you can!

No, I wouldn’t lie to you- and I hate meetings as much as the next person. It’s not just because I express myself in writing (hello, I’m a blogger). But I find the most meetings drag and eat up precious time for very little payoff.

Tell me you have been there before.

It honestly doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re holding a meeting that has an actual purpose you’re already on the right track to becoming more productive. Having a meeting for the sake of meeting that (heaven forbid) doesn’t have an agenda is like taking a huge chunk of your day and flushing it down the toilet, if you were able to do such a thing. If there’s no clear outcome or advantage to having a meeting, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t need to have one.

Sometimes meetings are a necessary evil in order to better communicate with staff or collaborate with colleagues on a joint project. In that case, try to minimize the number of attendees by limiting it only to the other people that need to be involved (in some cases, scheduling a check-in phone call or email with any other secondary employees, staff, or other collaborators can suffice). Designate a speaker and/or meeting leader to cut down on interruptions, and make sure there is a designated note-taker responsible for crystallizing any important ideas discussed who can follow-up with the appropriate people afterwards to make sure everyone is on the right track.

Surprisingly enough, the key to an efficient business meeting is to make sure that it’s just that- efficient. That means no false starts, no interruptions and a schedule that stays on track. It may be a good idea to schedule extra time at the beginning to allow for stragglers and getting everyone organized and seated. Once your meeting is ready to start, make sure everyone’s attention is focused on the common goal. No cell phones, headsets, tables, walk-ins, or drop-bys. For larger groups, or meetings that require a brainstorming or creative component, it may be helpful to employ a timer to make sure in-depth discussions don’t completely take over from getting work done.

What happens after a meeting is almost just as important as what happens during a meeting- if there’s no clear agenda or outcome, there’s no immediate way forward to getting things done. Make sure this doesn’t happen by taking the extra time at the conclusion of your meeting to delegate responsibilities, assign tasks and set clear expectations as what the next actions are for every single person in attendance. Ill-defined work is kind of like doing no work at all- most of everyone’s time will be spent trying to figure out what needs to be done, and who should take on each of these tasks. This can result in lower productivity, missed details, late deadlines, poor morale- and could lead to more serious consequences for you and your team, such as bad performance reviews or even financial losses.

Everyone’s on the same team here- most of us don’t like meetings. Each of us had our own working style and our own set of responsibilities that we have to prioritize throughout the day and meetings often upset this balance, or become unnecessary obstacles to getting actual work done. But when meetings are unavoidable there’s no reason not to make them as quick and painless as possible.

Yes, you can!

KBwB-BFlower-50Does anyone else out there start shuddering when a meeting is announced? Me too. Teach me the ways you survive them by emailing me or commenting below.

For other unconventional business solutions, you may to check out these posts here. Looking to give your whole work life an efficiency makeover? Here is a good place to start.