Monday, August 20, 2007

How Giving Driving Directions Matters

When you give driving directions to other people, you belong in one of the three following camps:

The Left/Right Camp
The North/South/East/West Camp
The Combo Camp

Which camp you belong to indicates something about your communication effectiveness.

1. The Left/Right Camp
The Left/Right campers communicate primarily from a "self-experience" bias. Giving directions with the perception-based language of left and right is good if you are giving directions to yourself as you are driving, but bad if you are giving directions to others. You don't know from which direction they are approaching turns, thus each correct turn could be left or right.

To say it another way, consider two guys standing on either side of a street looking at each other and a car drives by. If these two gentlemen are Left/Right campers and you asked them which way the car was traveling, one would say left, one would say right. Even though they seemingly have totally opposing viewpoints, they actually agree on which way the car was traveling. They are simply communicating from a "self-experience" bias.

In the real world, this type of communicating can and does cause real problems. It is too self-focused. It doesn't take into account how the information will be perceived by other people with different experiences. If you find yourself wondering why people can't get on-board with your ideas, why others don't seem to see your point of view, or why people don't pay enough attention to what you have to say, you could very well be a Left/Right camper.

2. The North/South/East/West Camp
This camp is full of people who communicate in a more concrete, visual and simple manner. They use North/South/East/West when they give driving directions because of two reasons:
N/S/E/W is a universally accepted standard that everyone understands and has used all of their life. Understandably, some people have difficulty finding them from time to time, but they are findable.

N/S/E/W is unchanging. No matter which direction you are headed, North is always North, South is always South, etc. Therefore, the language is not "self-experience" based, but rather "everyone-experience" based.

To apply the North/South/East/West driving directions dynamic to your everyday life as a communicator, you must locate common-ground very quickly with people. You must form a frame-of-reference from which everyone can communicate. It is very similar to how members of the Armed Forces communicate. No matter where you go, the language and the corresponding action protocol is exactly the same from every Armed Forces soldier everywhere. This sameness allows them to work more efficiently and quickly and avoid the confusion and misdirection that ambiguity and "self-experience" language creates. You need to do the same.

3. The Combo Camp
The Combo Camp's positive inclusion of concrete N/S/E/W language is negatively offset by giving too much information. Direction givers in the Combo Camp think the quality of their directions goes up as the quantity goes up. This results in the problem of information overload.

But Combo campers know it, so they say it. This is the same dynamic that happens in the real world. People typically give too much information when communicating ideas. A perfect example is PowerPoint slides. The typical PowerPoint presentation includes too many slides and too much content on each slide (the most effective PowerPoint presentations are visually-based, not text-based.) Great communicators filter out the unimportant and only give the absolutely vital.

Your task as a communicator is to be concrete, simple and visual like the North/South/East/West campers, to avoid the "self-experience" curse of the Left/Right campers and to avoid the information overload that plagues the Combo campers.

[Thanks to David Graham for the "two guys across the street" analogy.]

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Putting the Power Back Into PowerPoint Presentations

Chances are good you give PowerPoint presentations. Chances are even better you are doing it wrong. You are not to blame though. Your peers offer poor examples of how to leverage the power of PowerPoint. This article is about how to help you put the power back in PowerPoint.

As a Professional Speaker and Executive Presentation Coach, I have seen PowerPoint used for good and for bad. When used effectively, it is visually stimulating, communicates only the most important points, and makes complicated ideas more digestible. When used poorly, PowerPoint is a distracting crutch that actually diminishes the audience’s retention of your ideas and concepts. Poor PowerPoint is information heavy and wordy.

The changes you need to make will take the focus off the screen and place it on the connection between you and your audience. All presentations are emotional at some level. Therefore, your goal as a presenter is to transfer emotion. Even highly technical presentations aren’t about the numbers alone. They are about either how you feel about the numbers and/or what you are or aren’t going to do about the numbers.

Make your PowerPoint presentations more interesting, more informative (less is more), and more powerful by following these strategies…

PowerPoint should be used only when you need to add visual support (pictures, graphs, videos, etc.) to your presentation.

If you are going to give out copies of your PowerPoint slides to the audience, wait until the end of your presentation.

Go to and to purchase engaging images as cheap as $1 per image.

Fonts should be at least 30 point and never more than 20 words per slide.

No more than 15 slides. Ever!

Use dark backgrounds and light text (or vice-versa) and never use red or yellow text.

Never read what is on the slide (unless it is a very short phrase).

Type “Really Bad PowerPoint Seth Godin” into Google to access a free PDF with more tips on improving your PowerPoint use.

Continue to visit this blog to access more useful presentation strategies. Call us at YourNextSpeaker and let us put the power back into all your presentations. 405.216.5050.