A picture speaks 1000 words – using graphs in PowerPoint

Sometimes we need to present complex data in our PowerPoint presentations. There are two ways to do this.

  1. Confuse your audience with the data
  2. Simplify the data into an easy to understand format

One of the easiest ways to turn data into a simplified format is to convert tables of raw data into clear graphs.

Have a look at the below table which contains one month of exchange rate figures.


What does the table tell you? Unless you are very used to looking at that sort of data, not much. Can you see the trends? How about the peaks and troughs?

Now, have a look at this picture.


Now what do you see? Does it look a bit more simple? Is it less overwhelming? Does it give you a better idea of what the data is really doing? Remember that it is exactly the same data, just presented differently.

Converting any table of data into a graph is a very effective manner to simplify it, and to make it more accessible to your audience. Here are four tips for creating a graph:

  1. Make the data and lines clear and easy to read
  2. Minimize use of 3D – it can clutter the graph
  3. Only show data that is relevant – don’t display loads of data lines
  4. Clearly hi light points of interest (eg the max and min values above)

Of course, the usual rules still apply – make sure that your slides are clear and easy to read. Let’s look at this last slide.


Spot the problems:

  1. The axis labels are too small to read
  2. The 3D does not add to the graph
  3. The graph line is difficult to read
  4. The graph is bunched up in the top of the screen – the bottom is wasted real-estate

Please – don’t ever create a graph like that!

Remember – make your slides as clear and simple as possible!

Forward, backwards, left, right, up down – where are you going?

CompassThe other day at a Toastmasters meeting, a speaker mentioned seven directions where we can look.

  • Look behind you to know where you have come from
  • Look forward to know where you are going
  • Look up to see the endless possibility (how fascinating)
  • Look down to keep yourself firmly on the ground
  • Look left and right, to see what is around you
  • And finally, look inside you to know what it all means.

I quite like that – what do you think?

(the speaker Andrew actually used right and wrong instead of left and right, that also puts an interesting slant on it. Look around to know what is right, and what is wrong)

Image from http://www.stanleylondon.com/compsurv.htm.

Many Little Steps make a few Big Steps

Steps_2About  six weeks ago, I had minor back surgery to sort out a problem with a slipped disc. A large part of the rehab process consisted of resting, with limited stretching and exercise.
Over the first few days, my routine was relatively unchanged, I spent the majority of the day in bed. I only got up to eat, shower or use the bathroom. I tried to spend more time out of bed, but I could not – I was frustrated by the perceived lack of progress in my recovery.

I didn’t see any progress between Monday and Tuesday, or between Tuesday and Wednesday, or between Wednesday and…ok, you get the picture. However, when I looked back from Friday to Monday, I started to realize how much progress I really had made. On Monday I was in bed for 23 hours a day, while on Friday I was only in bed for 22 hours (one hour is a big difference after back surgery), and I had cut my pain medication in half.

By the next week, I was only in bed for 20 hours with the occasional pain pill, and the week after I was in bed for about 15 hours a day. Now, I am in bed for my regular 8 hours a day, I am back at work, and I am completely off pain medication. Over the weeks there was huge progress, but hardly any from day to day.

So, when you are working towards a goal, how often do you abandon the journey because you are so focused on the your progress that you don?t see the progress over the weeks? Do you get frustrated because you don?t see any weight loss from day to day, or because you aren?t running further each day? Do you realize that over a week you have lost weight, or you are running further, faster and with less effort?

It is so easy to get caught up in the detail, and to forget the bigger picture. Each little step, no matter how small is a step forward, and without those little steps, you are not going to manage the bigger steps.

Here are a few steps to help you to focus on the bigger picture. Do this whenever you feel like giving up.

  • Decide what your goal is (remember SMART)
  • Commit yourself towards working towards that goal
  • Plan your milestones towards reaching your goal
  • Look back from time to time
  • See how many little steps you have taken
  • Realize that many little steps make a few big steps

Now, with the back surgery, I didn?t really have an option except to move forward, but when you do have the option of dropping out of a programme because you are frustrated at the perceived lack of progress, remember to  keep the bigger picture in mind, and remember that if you persevere, you will move forward, and you will achieve those goals.

Speaker’s Checklist – 20 items to pack

CableIf you are speaking on a regular basis, you get used to packing and unpacking everything that you need for your presentations. However, it is very easy to leave something small behind that you really need!

I have my own checklist of stuff that I always take with me. I use some of them at almost every presentation, and some items (such as spare extension cables) are for “just in case”.

So, here are some things that you may consider adding to your checklist.

  1. Laptop
  2. Wireless (presenter) mouse
  3. Power cables
  4. Extension cables
  5. Multi-plugs
  6. Adapters & cables (USB, network, audio etc)
  7. Masking tape
  8. Presentation on CD, laptop & memory stick
  9. Backup copy of presentation in separate bag
  10. Venue should supply – but check with them!
    • Projector
    • Screen
    • Microphone / AV gear
    • White-board
    • Flip-chart
  11. White-board / flip-chart pens
  12. Conference packs / handouts
  13. Back of room sales items (books, CD’s etc)
  14. Spare batteries
  15. Printout of presentation (just in case)
  16. Business cards
  17. Nametag
  18. Printed introduction (for the MC to use to introduce you)
  19. Change of clothing – in case somebody spills coffee all over you just before you speak
  20. Directions to venue!

What do you pack that is not on my list?

A small thing can have a huge impact – 20 logistical tips

ComputerA few years ago, I witnessed a really small thing having a huge impact on a presentation – in this case a negative impact.

Half way through the presentation I was attending, the presenters laptop died! It was not plugged into the wall, and the battery had gone flat. It took him over 15 minutes to find the power cable, get an extension cable, get AC power running and reboot his machine.

Of course, this ruined his presentation. This would not have happened if he had done a little more preparation (personally my recommendation is that if this does happen, just abandon the laptop and continue without it, or get somebody else to resolve the problem while you carry on with your presentation).

Would you like that to happen to you – well I hope not! Remember, that the best speeches can be ruined because the speaker forgot some seemingly minor details. So, here are 20 things to help you to give a smooth presentation.

  1. Arrive early
  2. if you can, do a dry run the night before at the venue
  3. Check out the stage and seating – change if necessary
  4. Smaller is bigger – rather speak in a small room that is full than a large room that looks empty
  5. Find out what time of day you are speaking
  6. Find out when in the programme you are speaking?
  7. Find out who is speaking before/after you
  8. What are their topics?
  9. Send your slides to the meeting organizer ahead of time – check that he/she gets them
  10. Send your audio/video (AV) requirements to the meeting organizer beforehand
  11. Create a checklist of what you need to bring, and use it
  12. Get to know the audio-visual guy – he will assist you with any technical issues – such as where the plugs are
  13. Ensure that you know how the microphone works
  14. Ensure that there is a NEW battery in the microphone
  15. Test all equipment beforehand
  16. Switch off screen-savers and power-saving options on your laptop
  17. Don’t run a laptop off the battery – use the AC power
  18. Give yourself plenty of time to setup – you don’t want to be setting up when the audience starts to arrive
  19. Have a bottle of still water handy (pref. at room temperature) – it is great to moisten your throat
  20. Have a backup plan for when things go wrong, and sooner or later they will!

What tips should I add to the list?

16 Free self-development newsletters

Newsletter_2One of the characteristics of great leaders, is that they are always learning, and always improving themselves. Well, here is an opportunity for self-improvement from some world leaders.

It it a list of 16 free great self-development email newsletters that I found. It includes the likes of Brian Tracey, Dr Judith Orloff, Guy Finley, Dale Carnegie, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey and Tom Hopkins.

Some of the newsletters are:

Self Help Books Weekly Newsletter
If you read Self Improvement Books, this free newsletter is for you. Information on new book releases, best sellers, book reviews, excerpts, special promotions, interviews with the authors & more.   
Personal Success Secrets from Brian Tracy
Personal Success Secrets and special recommendations from Brian Tracy Learn how to set and achieve your goals faster than ever before. Subscribe to receive your FREE weekly newsletters from Brian Tracy.
Dr. Judith Orloff’s Positive Energy and Intuition Newsletter
Psychiatrist and best-selling author Judith Orloff MD offers this free e-newsletter which focuses on empowering your intuition, energy, freeing yourself from negative emotions, and conquering stress and fatigue. You’ll receive FREE mini video classes and state of the art information on blending body, mind and spirit.
Today Is Your Day To Win" E-course
A real life rags to riches story, Mike Brescia delivers 99 laser-focused, no holds barred coaching sessions to help you make today and the rest of your life a stunning success. This one of a kind mental conditioning course is a powerhouse. 
Home Business Newsletter
Receive Free Articles and updates on Starting and Growing a Home Business. Includes information on Sales, Marketing, using the Internet, Network Marketing Opportunities, Franchises, Business Plans and much more. Includes reviews and motivation to help you with your home business. 
Fulfill the True Purpose of Your Life
Best-selling "Letting Go" author, Guy Finley, reveals amazing secrets for stress-free, fearless living. Receive inspirational weekly messages, plus deep discounts on today’s most powerful self-improvement materials in Guy Finley’s FREE "Key Lesson" e-mails. Exclusively from non-profit Life of Learning Foundation.   
Selling and Sales Skills Newsletter
Contains articles, and information on sales skills and improving your sales productivity. Expert tips, tools and information to assist you with you sales career.   
Brain Improvement and IQ Test Newsletter
Newsletter on a variety of topics including IQ Tests, Brain Enhancement, Speed Reading, Memory Improvement, and Creativity. Contains up to date information on IQ Tests and EQ Tests on the web.
You can view the complete list and subscribe to any of the newsletters here from a single webpage.

I have subscribed to a few of them and I will let you know how there are.  Please tell me what you think!



70 Great Public Speaking Blogs

I came across a great list on Andrew Dlugan’s website of 70 blogs about Public Speaking. So, if you are looking for some really great tips to add humour to your speeches, use PowerPoint, or even improve your grammer, this is a great place to start.

RSS Logo For those of you using news readers, Andrew has kindly provided an OPML file that you can just import directly.


How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

I have just finished reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Simplistically speaking, the book is about how we make snap judgments and decisions in the blink of an eye. The book itself is very interesting, and well worth reading, however it raised an interesting question.

How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

My suspicion is that the audience have decided whether to listen to you or to switch off within the first 30 seconds of your presentation. So, the challenge is how are you going to grab their attention in those first few seconds? Here are three ideas:

  1. Start with a powerful question (have you ever?.?)
  2. Start with a powerful statement (in 5 years time, 1/5 of this audience will have been laid off?).
  3. Let them know what is in it for them (today you will learn three ways to increase sales?)

Here?s what not to say:

  1. I am so happy be here (clich?)
  2. I am going to tell you (rather use ?you will learn? ? speak to the audience)
  3. When I wrote my speech this morning (shows a lack of preparation)

The trick is to keep your introductions sharp, and to grap the attention of your audience as soon as you can.

Enjoy the book.

Book review – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

I have just finished reading a remarkable book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – by John Maxwell.

This is really quite an amazing book. It is written in 21 chapters, each of which discusses a different aspect of leadership. The laws that he describes are simple, understandable and easy to apply.

In Toastmasters, we often say that “facts tell while stories sell.” This book is a perfect example of that expression. It is filled with stories taken from all over the world which illustrate the laws of leadership. Amongst others, he draws on his own life, American history, sport, Churchill, Napoleon and even our own Nelson Mandela!

Just three of the laws are:

  • The law of process – leadership develops daily, not in a day
  • The law of connection – leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand
  • The law of empowerment – only secure leaders give power to others

The book is very easy reading, yet filled with powerful lessons. If you have not read it, I highly recommend that you find a copy and read it. It will help in your business, friendships and relationships.

Do you leave effective voicemail messages?

This week I received two voicemails which I were unable to answer. One was because there was too much background noise for me to make out the message, and the other was because I had no idea who had left the message, it sounded like:

“Hi Craig, this is Carwfhsa, and my number is 08dkasldkasd, bye”

This got me to thinking about how voicemail can often be a barrier to effective communication, and not an aid. This is because of the poor quality of messages that we leave.

There are two types of really annoying messages. The first is the long and convoluted message, and the second is the short and garbled message.

So, here is the BCD to leave an effective voicemail, and to get away from those annoying messages.

  1. Be brief. A simple headline as to the purpose of the call is enough. When the call is returned, you can discuss the details. With a long message, I have probably forgotten most of the message by the time you get to the end anyway!
  2. Be clear. Speak slowly and clearly. Telephone quality is not that great, so make it easy. Please don?t leave a message when you are in a noisy place ? understanding the message is just that much more difficult.
  3. Leave your details. Unless you are leaving a message for a personal friend or family member that you are certain has your number, please leave your number. Repeat it if necessary.

For example, this is fine (some people prefer to leave the date & time as well ? also not a bad idea):

?Hi this is Craig, I would like to discuss the proposal you sent me, please call me on 082 xxx xxxx?

Finally, please don’t wait until the beep to start leaving a message until you hang up – blank messages are really annoying.

So remember, be brief, clear & leave your details.