Do your talks’ titles bore people? Use “ABCD” headlines to grab attention – and keep it

In this post, you’ll find 4 simple tips that’ll make your presentations’ titles much more engaging. So people’ll turn up eager to hear what you say.

Plus, your clear and compelling title’ll help you too, by keeping you focused and on track.

As well as for a presentation, you can also use the tips from this post to improve the title of a training event, blog post, or e-book.

To skip to the tips and examples in the post, you can click these links Or, just read on.


What’s wrong with typical titles?

When you write the title for your presentation, do you usually just state what the content is, and maybe who it’s for and the date?

If so, I’d say that’s a big mistake! To help explain why, let’s look at a specific example
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Stand out when you speak (F!RST framework – part 4)

Be honest with yourself. How much would you say your talks stand out from other people’s? More to the point, how much would your audience say your talks stand out?

Whether you work in business or education, audiences see so many presentations that standing out can be tough. But, on the other hand, presentations don’t tend to vary much, which makes your task easier!

You and your message really need to stand out to be remembered and get talked about, which both help you turn your talk into audience action. (After all, if people don’t act differently once your talk’s over, what tangible effect has it had?)

And, as Sally Hogshead (a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame) so bluntly puts it:

“Stand out or don’t bother”
Sally Hogshead

So, what can you do to stand out from the countless presentations out there?

Well, in the overview of the FiRST framework, I suggested a mnemonic (“OPQRS”) to segment your approach to standing out, and to help you remember related techniques.

That mnemonic stands for 5 categories of tips, in topics that are key to standing out:
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Be the spark! Ignite action with your talk

In this post, you’ll find tips you can use to help motivate your listeners to turn your words into action. And through that action, people can solve the problem they have – which is what brought them to hear you speak in the first place.

As author and researcher Andrew Abela puts it:

“If you’re trying to solve a problem for them,
then whatever you give them is going to be
interesting to them.”
Andrew Abela

So trying to solve your listeners’ problem certainly keeps them engaged. But how exactly can you help people turn your words into action? I recommend you use this 3-part model:
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Create your last slide first – Secret #9 of star presenters, by Jim Endicott [Video]

When you build a deck of presentation slides, how do you keep on track? If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve sometimes felt pressure (from yourself or some-one else) to include more and more content.

You know, like:

  • Background on your topic, even though most of your audience doesn’t care (or already knows it)
  • Existing slides on your topic, but which were made for a different purpose

Here’s one great tip that’ll help you resist pressures like those, and it comes in just a
20-second video clip from experienced speaking-coach Jim Endicott:

As Jim suggests:
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Stories aren’t the whole story – Use MOIST acronyms in your talks!

cobweb-1576296_640What do the president of the United States, TED talks, and the key message in the book Made to Stick have in common? Simply this – they’re all known by acronyms:

  • POTUS for President Of The United States
  • TED for Technology, Entertainment, Design
  • SUCCES from Made to Stick.

You might be wondering what that has to do with your talk or presentation. Well, coining your own acronym can help you neatly and compellingly convey your core message or call-to-action.

That’s what I often do with my own content, using acronyms like FiRST, Aim, or PACE. And as you can tell from me citing 3 examples that I’ve coined, I love acronyms!

I’m not the only one, either. Near the end of this post, I list acronyms used by many other speaking-coaches, including:

  • Garr Reynolds, author of several books on presenting, such as Presentation Zen
  • Craig Valentine, former World Champion of Public Speaking
  • Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

An acronym can be great for you and your audience

So let me try to convince you why an acronym can be great for you and your audience. (That is, provided you apply your acronym strategically to a vital part of your talk, especially your core message or call-to-action.)
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Abandon your agenda! (3 options that beat “Tell them what you’re going to tell them…” when you present)

Does this age-old advice about presenting sound familiar?

  1. Tell people what you’re going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.

You’ve probably heard that advice before (and you might well follow it, too). It basically says:

“Start your presentation with an agenda,
and end with a summary slide” [Doubtful advice]

I’ve used that format myself many times. But the more I thought and read about it, the more I realised it tends to bore listeners, for 4 reasons:
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Secret #8 of star presenters: Christopher Witt on “What’s in it for me?”

Little girl covering her earsWhen you’re preparing a speech or presentation, do you ask yourself specific questions to help you build your talk?

For instance, you might ask yourself:

“What do I want my audience to do as a result of my talk?”

Questions like that one – being based on your audience – are much more helpful than focusing on your topic itself. They help you frame your content from your listeners’ viewpoint. So when you give your talk, people are far more likely to:

  • Listen to what you say in the first place.
  • Make the effort to properly consider it.
  • Accept it.

One of the best sets of speech-planning questions I’ve ever seen was shared by speaking-coach Christopher Witt. It consists of just 4 questions, the 1st being what you want your audience to do, and the last being:

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Engage people – give a personal talk [How not to kill your audience …Part 2]

Fingerprint ca. 2000

In part 1 – Use the PACE approach – I showed how you can start to engage an audience before you even speak. To do that, you can make your talk’s title meet these 4 criteria, so it’s:

  • P   Personal
  • A   Actionable
  • C   Conversational
  • E   Emotional

In this post, you’ll see how to make your whole talk personal – to keep people engaged.

By that I mean using your content to connect with each person in your audience. As people are generally most interested in themselves, one of the best ways you can connect with your audience is to show clearly that you’re focused on them. After you do that, another great way to connect with and therefore engage people is to use genuine emotion.

So, how can you do those things to make your whole talk personal? Well for a start, try these 4 tips, which are arranged roughly from most to least audience-centred:
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Nail your point – Speak in threes. Speak in threes. Speak in threes.

Here’s one of the most powerful techniques you can use in your talks:

Speak in threes.
Speak in threes.
Speak in threes.

In fact it’s so effective, I urge you to reserve its full power for your main point. (Otherwise, you risk people remembering the wrong part of your message!)

If you’re not sure what I mean by “speak in threes”, here are 2 examples of catchy phrases that use this technique, which you’ve probably heard many times:

“Location, location, location”

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

In both cases, notice that they’re phrases containing just 2 or 3 syllables but which are repeated 3 times in a row.

Let’s look at a real-life example…

Shortly, I’ll show you exactly why phrases like that are so memorable and repeatable – or in other words, why they’re so viral. But first, let’s look at a real-life example of how you might speak in threes

Imagine you’re the captain of a cruise ship with about 4000 people onboard, and almost 200 of your passengers and crew catch gastroenteritis. In your daily loudspeaker announcements to the whole ship, how might you speak in threes to promote hygiene and help contain the outbreak?
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How not to kill your audience’s engagement stone dead [Part 1: Use the PACE approach]

Do you think you’d have bothered reading this post if I’d called it this instead:

“Audience engagement and contemporary presentation materials”

Not likely!

This post’s title deliberately uses 4 “keys” to engage you (in just the first 9 words). For a moment, look at the post’s title again. Can you guess what the 4 keys might be? (You probably guessed that their initials make up the acronym PACE.) Well, read on to see how many of the keys you spotted!

(And, for a very pleasant change from so many posts about presenting, this post has nothing to do with bullet points – despite the bullets in the photo above!)
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