Author Archive

The power of silence

Monday, February 25th, 2013

I’ve been working on new material to add to my presentation skills workshops.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about what works and what doesn’t.

A big task is to engage with the audience, to get them to pay attention to your messsages.  Even haredr is the job of keeping them engaged!  People won;t normally focus on your message for more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Unless you do something to make them curious.

Curiosity is very powerful – it’s one of those things that can get yur audience to listen to your every word, just to find out what’s going to happen next.

So here’s something that might appear odd.

Just stop talking.

Only for a few seconds.

Silence will grab attention very quickly.  Why?  Because people will wonder what on earth you’re doing.  They will be expecting you to be constantly talking, telling them stuff.

They won’t expect you just to shut up!

Be careful though.  Too much silence isn’t good.  People will think you’ve forgotten your script!

Just a few seconds will do.  It’s also a very good way to shut up those distracting side conversations that sometimes start in the middle of a presentation.  It’s amazing how quickly people stop talking once they realise you aren’t!

Next time you deliver a presentation, work out where it would be good to stop and ensure your audience is paying attention.

Then just shut up!

Computers and things

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

I’ve been intrigued by discussions and blogs relating to Microsoft’s new tablets, the latest Google tablet and how they will all change the world.

The debates get very partisan – people do seem to get very attached to their preferred software!

I’ve recently been thinking about the need to upgrade or replace some of our equipment.  We have a mixture of Mac OS, Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.  And we run three different versions of Microsoft Office – depending on when we aquired the various computers.

Not ideal, really!  We could do with a bit of rationalisation around here.

So I’m looking at Windows 8 to try to decide whether to get everything (except the Mac) onto that or whether Windows 7 would be a better option.  My main PC runs Windows 7 and it’s been a great improvement over XP.  That said, my old Toshiba laptop still runs XP with no problems and does everything that’s required of it.

So now I have Windows 8 running on my Acer tablet, with a trial of Office 2010 for good measure!  I forgot to mention that tablets figure prominently in my thinking as I really want to end up with lightweight, easily transported equipment.  We’re out and about a lot delivering workshops and could do with making everything as transportable as possible!

So, how’s Windows 8 doing so far?

Initial impressions are very favourable.  It’s noticably faster than Windows 7 and the Metro interface works really well on a touch screen.  The live tiles look like they will be interesting for a while but I wonder if I’ll get fed up seeing everything constantly updating.  Don’t know, time will tell.  One interesting thing is how much the system now relies on having an internet connection – that’s how it keeps all the tiles updated.  Might be an issue. Or maybe not?  Time will tell, I suppose.

One slightly odd thing is how often you get dropped back into what looks just like Windows 7 when you need to do things like browsing the local network (all our systems are networked, so we can share stuff).  You go from an interface designed for a touch screen to one better suited to a mouse.  Not a major issue – it still works! – just a bit odd.

Overall though, Windows 8 makes using the tablet so much smoother.  It wasn’t exactly hard work with Windows 7 to be honest, but Windows 8 just makes using a touch screen that much easier.

So it’s looking as though I might end up using a tablet to deliver workshops, especially if I can find a decent, affordable wirelsss projector.  Now that would be really good!

Communicating with potential customers

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

For over a year, on and off, I’ve been following the progress of an intriguing product concept.  It’s the Noteslate, an A4 sized digital notepad.  A wonderfully simple concept.  Their Facebook page is here:

They appeared early in 2011 promising product availability by June 2011 at the amazing price of US$99!

Since then they have consistently missed their own deadlines.

I don’t underestimate the complexities of developing a new product, but Noteslate is a good example of how not to communicate with the marketplace.

They have lots of “likes” on Facebook and a hard core of people who are sticking with them.  But their lack of consistent communication with the market place is now generating a lot of negative feelings.  I think people are willing to accept that dates and specifications slip when you’re dealing with technology.

But the Noteslate team have elevated to a high level the art of raising expectation and then disappointing potential customers.

If they ever do launch a product, and I really hope they do, they will have a lot of work to do to rebuild their credibility.

There’s a lesson in there for me too.

I must post messgaes more often!

Back to the theme of communicating….

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I recently saw a presentation about marketing.

And I was disappointed. Why?

Because nowhere did it mention the importance of getting inside the heads of your target customers to understand them.  Lots of discusssion about channels and media strategy.  Measurement and analysis too.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s all useful and neccessary stuff.  But it’s where you end up, not where you start.

To be able to communicate effectively it’s vital that you can see the world, as best you can, from the other person’s point of view.  That helps create empathy and, eventually, rapport.  You are both “on the same page” so to speak.

After the presentation, I spend a while thinking about what I had just seen.

It was all about the presenter and what they wanted to tell the audience.

It should have been all about the audience and what they wanted to hear.

And there were no pictures………..just words.

Small text in a big, empty space.

Elegant design, no doubt, but not good for getting across the right message.

It was a very useful experience though!

Made me think even more about my own presentations and how I can improve them.

And it provided material for my new Presentation Skills workshop!

Which I really must finish…..

I can only apologise…

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

My excuse for not updating this blog is that I’ve been busy.  The real reason is that it’s a new thing for me and I keep forgetting……

Anyhow, all the fuss about the new iPad has set me thinking.

It looks like a stunning piece of technology.  I even caught myself thinking about whether I could afford one!  Then I stopped for a moment.  What on earth would I do with it?  Apart from show off the amazing screen, that is?

It’s a very expensive way to watch video, but we already have several tv’s, pc’s, laptops, an i-mac and a Windows tablet.  Do I really need another device?

e-books will look fabulous on it, but they look great on our kindle (yes, got one of those too…) and on my Acer tablet, which has a very nice screen, thank you very much!

I really don’t get the hysteria that seems to accompany each new Apple launch.  Maybe I’m getting old….

Don’t get me wrong, Apple produces some amazing stuff.  Just not amazing enough to make me want to queue for days to buy somethng that I know they will make obsolete within a year……even if it does look as cool as a cool thing!

And don’t get me started on the rants that have been appearing all over the internet.  The Android supporters are getting as excited as the Apple die-hards!

Get over yourselves people!

Just buy what you like and what works for you.  Accept that somebody else will like a different product.  And that none of them is actually perfect.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when Windows 8 appears.  Should be interesting!

I like Windows 7.  I like OS-X.  Tried Linux – not for me.  Android?  Only tried on a smartphone.  Not especially impressed.  It works, but that’s it.

Now I really must get back to finishing off all the things I really should be working on…..

And another one….

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Next installment in my website upgrade saga…..

Just completed the website to the point where it’s now live.  It still needs a few tweaks and the odd bit of content, but it’s close enough for a bit of live testing.

I’ve started a bit of a project to have fune error pages on my websites.  I discovered that you don’t have to be stuck with whatever your ISP displays when somebody mis-types the address of a page on your site.  (Don;t worry, I’m not going into the technicalities here! – if you’re really interested, just look up HTACCESS…..!)

Anyhow, the error page for Better Presentations is here: and the one for PeopleSkills is here:

Not a big thing in the scheme of things, but I hope they will make some people smile!

Now back to work on the main website…..

New website finally up and running!

Friday, October 21st, 2011

For a while now, I’ve been working to seprate out the various things we do as a company.  Mixing together programmes for education, businesses and individuals seemed like a good idea at the time……

Telling people what we do was, however, becoming quite complicated as we added more and more programmes and workshops.

It eventually dawned on me that we needed to separate all the things we do into more ogical groups and to give each its own identity.

I started with Presentation Skills.  Mainly because I was reworking the programmes anyway, and I had a load of re-writing to do.  It seemed sensible to do teh job once.

Today I uploaded the new website for the first of our new brands – Better Presentations.  Pretty obvious title!

The website is here:

It’s complete enough to go live, although there’s some more content to add later.

Now I need to get on with the rest!

If anyone has any thoughts or comments about teh new website, I would love to hear from you.

You never stop learning….

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I mentioned in my last post that I was on a Common Purpose course.  Well we finally finished, so now I’m officially a Common Purpose graduate.  And what a great bunch of people I met.  As I hoped, we’ve become friends now and we’re already starting to see ways we can help each other’s businesses.  I learned a lot from the course and, more importantly, from the other delegates.

I’m still working on the new ideas for presentations – these things always seem to take longer than planned!  The end results should be worth it though.

Image is an importent element in communicating values.  People can;t help but make assumptions based on whatever they may already know about you or your business.  It’s the same for places too.  Mention a place and you’ll have some sort of mental picture of it.  We were looking at this very subject on Common Purpose a couple of weeks ago.  We went to Bradford to see how they’re working to change the image of the city.  It was my first visit and I found a place that has a lot to recommend it.

People kept referring to the strong brand image that Liverpool has.  There’s no denying that!  The Beatles, football – all the usual stuff.

But there’s more to the place than that, just like there’s more to us all than people imagine.  We just need to find the right way to get that across.

Here’s Liverpool’s excellent effort:


Where does the time go, I wonder?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Well, here we are in August.  Ages since my last post.  My only excuse is work.  And learning.  I decided it was about time I did some personal development as it’s been a while since I did any formal training.  So I’m now in the midst of a programme run by Common Purpose. (  So far I reckon it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in ages.  The programme constantly challenges us to rethink how we go about running our businesses and especially how we operate as leaders.  As an added bonus, I’ve met a group of really great people.  I’m sure some lasting friendships will come out of it.

One result of being on this course has been a rethink of some of the work I do around presentations.  On the one hand I’ve found that much of what I was doing was just fine, but I’ve learned a few things that have lead me to start on a complete redesign of my workshops.  Should get it done by the end of the summer.

I’m still enjoying working with my Acer tablet too.  I’ve used it several time to deliver workshops and it’s so much more convenient than a full sized laptop.  The only minor niggle is that it doesn;t have a standard VGA monitor connection – only HDMI – so I can’t just turn up anywhere and expect to plug in to a projector.

Won’t be a problem once I get around to buying a wireless projector though!

I’m still happy that I went for a Windows tablet rather than an i-pad.  It’s so nice to be able to do work on existing files when I’m out and about, which would have been difficult on an i-pad as all our main computers are PC’s.

Now I really must get on with some paying work!

New tablet PC

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Picking up the thread from recent posts, I now have my Windows 7 tablet pc.After much deliberation I bought an Acer Iconia W500, but without the optional keyboard.  What an amazing little machine it is too!  Having read all the reviews I could find, most of which say that Windows 7 just doesn’t work on a tablet, I wonder what they were reviewing!  It’s not an iPad, but it works really well as a business machine.All the complaints about small icons and text can be addressed by setting up Windows to suit your own preferences.  OK, an iPad doesn’t need setting up, but I rather like making up my own mind about how my system looks and feels.All the Touch stuff works well and the handwriting recognition is little short of amazing.  Quick and accurate straight out of the box.  I’m going to get a touch stylus so I can use the tablet for making notes.  It’s that good.My tablet now runs Office, so I can work on client projects wherever I am, and I can tether it to my ‘phone for internet access if I need it.  It’s already proving useful around our home-based business too.  It’s just so handy being able to access stuff without having to go into the office or get out a full-sized laptop!  Battery life has been excellent too.  Using it at meetings and to do odd bits of work in between, the battery lasts all day.  I reckon it would run for at least 4 hours solid, which is way below the 10 hours of an iPad, but plenty for me to use it all day and charge it in the evening.I just don’t need to be able to watch videos or listen to music all day.  If I did, I would buy an iPad or an Android tablet.The screen, which is really, really good, has a resolution of 1280 x 800, so HD content looks excellent.  I connected it to a 32 inch HD TV and it’s just as good.  So my presentations will look stunning! (on a decent projector…….)I can already see how I can change the way I work now I’ve had a chance to use a tablet in anger.  It’s much easier to carry about than a normal laptop, runs for hours and means I can work pretty much anywhere.It’s so handy being able to load stuff onto it to show customers – much better than using a laptop because it’s just so convenient.  It fits nicely into my A4 document case. along with a paper notepad and some business cards – it’s all I need for meetings.  The tablet and my smartphone give me an amazing amount of flexibility to work anywhere, how ever did I manage before!So there you have it, a Windows 7 tablet really does work, for me at least.I haven’t attempted the usual tablet vs iPad stuff as I believe they have different audiences.I’ve tried an iPad and it’s an amazing thing to use, but it’s not aimed at me.