Webinar Recap: Winning Presentation Skills

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Carl Pritchard’s Mastering Winning Presentation Skills webinar being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Kyle: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s MPUG webinar, Winning Presentation Skills. My name is Kyle and I’ll be the moderator today. Today’s session is eligible for one PMI PDU in the leadership category. The MPUG activity code for claiming this session is on the screen now. Like all MPUG webinars, a recording of this session will be posted to mpug.com shortly after the live presentation wraps up, and all MPUG members can watch the recordings at any time and still be eligible to earn the PDU credit.

Kyle: All of the sessions you watch on-demand can be submitted to your webinar history, and the live sessions you attend are automatically submitted. Within your history, you can print or download your transcript and certificates of completion, including the one for today. You can access this by logging onto mpug.com, click one My Account button, and click on the Webinar Reports link. If you have any questions during today’s presentation, please send those over to us at any time using the chat question box on the GoToWebinar control panel. We do plan to answer those for you throughout the session today.

Kyle: All right, and we’ll go ahead and get started. We’re very happy to welcome back Carl Pritchard today. Carl is the author of seven project management books and co-produced The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP Exam. He is the US correspondent for the British project management magazine, Project Manager Today, and serves on the board of directors for projectconnections.com. So, with that said, I’d like to welcome you back, Carl, and at this time I’ll hand it over to you to get us started with today’s presentation.

Carl Pritchard: Okay. If you’ll give me rights, I’ll go ahead and there we go, show my screen. Got to love that. Welcome home, everybody. I am so glad you’re here, and we’ve got a lot of stuff to cover by the time we’re done one hour from now. I want you to look at your clock wherever you are, I want you to look at your clock. Before one o’clock, I’ll be saying, “And, Kyle, giving it back to you.” I’m going to hand it back to him before one o’clock. Now, the reason I’m telling you that is for comfort. It’s for solace. You need to know that. You need to know that indeed, the timing is what the timing is. Most of us have been to a presentation. Most of us have had that magic experience where you go into a presentation or you go into a meeting and the person who’s giving the briefing goes, “I know we were supposed to be done 15 minutes ago, but before I wrap things up, there’s just one more thing.”

Carl Pritchard: As they say those words, you’re like, “Please shoot me now. Is this thing ever going to end?” You want to win hearts in presentations. You want winning presentation skills? That’s one of the very, very first fundamentals. Love the clock. You really do. You have to love the clock. You genuinely have to adore the clock. Now, we are going to fix something today. I don’t know what it is yet though, and that’s why they invented the chat interface because most of you are here either just for business or entertainment or you’re here because there’s something you personally would love to be able to fix about the way you do presentations. That’s why I want to make sure I open the door, if I might, to you to type into the chat interface, to type into the questions interface your question or your concern about what’s bugging you about the way you do your own presentations.

Carl Pritchard: What would you love to be able to fix? Because that’s my job. I would really love to be able to fix it for you. Now notice what I’ve just done. I’ve given you the rules of engagement. Here’s how you participate. Here’s how you can actively be a party to the conversation. Here’s how it’s happening, and I also told you when we’re done here, when we’re done here, anytime you start a presentation, you need to start here. The reason being, if you start with this information, what you’ve just done is you have taken the edge off the people who are sharing the day with you. That’s important because if they don’t know the answers to these questions, they’re going to make them up for themselves. That makes them dangerous human beings. You really don’t want them making this crap up, because if they’re making it up, some of the time they’re going to be right. Some of the time they are going to be wrong.

Carl Pritchard: And if they’re wrong, it makes you look bad. So, if you want a winning presentation, these are the basic rules that you have to lay out. Now, here are my promises to you, and given the fact I’ve already chewed up this, you’d say within 54 minutes, these are the things I want to make sure I get across to you. Notice what’s in here. You’re going to realize the value of getting to the point. You realize that you’re going to get a positive, useful growing experience. These are the things that are going to happen within our hour together. So, let’s go back to my original question. What do you want to fix? If there’s one foible, one headache, one challenge you have in your presentations, what is it that if I could wave a magic wand and you’d go, “Carl, thank you for fixing that?” What would you love to fix? Kyle, let me ask you, got anything in the questions interface or in the chat interface there for me?

Kyle: Yeah, chat that over if anyone has anything they’d like to share with what they’d like to fix. Michael commented: “Drawing questions out of the crowd more effectively.”

Carl Pritchard: I’ll show you how to do that right now because that’s very germane to what I’m doing right now. And that is the 15 seconds of silence. That’s the American cultural threshold of pain for silence. If you’re in a group meeting and you’re trying to get answers or trying to get people to participate, one of the things you have to value is the 15 seconds of silence. Most presenters can’t handle 15 seconds of silence. Listen to how long 15 seconds is. (silence). Aha! It’s kind of stupefying just how painful that can be. So, what I am going to ask you one more time is if you’ve got something that you would love to fix, I’ll be happy to help you with that. So, you can go ahead and think about that and type it into the chat interface. While you’re pondering that though, I’ll give you one of the most common answers to that question or questions to that question that I get when I’m doing these presentations.

Carl Pritchard: That is, “Carl, I’ll be up in front of management and I will, um, er, um … Well, you know, uh, there is, uh …” Oh, my God, you’ll “uh” and “er” your way to a less professional look. There’s a way around that and you’re going to love the answer to this if that happens to be your problem. If that’s your problem, if the “ums” and the “ers” and the hesitation are your problem, I want you to fix that. The way you’re going to fix that is instead of saying, “uh” or “er”, “I still”, “I don’t”, and I want you to go ahead and do it. I want you to think, “Uh, er, uh, er.” I want you to go ahead and do that freely and liberally. But what I’d like you to do is instead of saying “uh” or “er”, I want you to replace “uh” or “er” with a moment of silence.

Carl Pritchard: So, um, if, uh, you, er, have a habit of, uh … Now, listen to that same little run on here without that. So, if you have a habit of doing that. Now, notice I still took the exact same pauses, the exact same places, and yet instead of saying “uh” or “er”, simply replacing them with that moment of silence, suddenly, it sounds like one of two things. Either you sound really, really smart or you sound like you’re doing a cheesy William Shatner impression. I don’t care which one. It’s better than you saying “uh” and “er”. It really does. It goes a lot further in terms of making you come across professionally, that moment of silence.

Carl Pritchard: If you’re looking for how can I see evidence that this actually works? Let me point you to past presidents. The past president I’m going to point you to of all people is President Barack Obama. I don’t know when in his career it happened, but somebody caught him as an “uh”, “er”, and somebody who goes “uh”, “uh”, “uh” a lot. Somebody stopped him, gave him that little shard of advice, and the reason I know this is because if you listen to the way he presents, if you listen to his cadence and the cadence of his speech, what you discover is, oh, my gosh, he’s pausing a lot. That’s because he used to say “ah” a lot, and he has now replaced it with a moment of silence. That’s a great fix. Now if we have nothing else that anybody wants to fix, last chance?

Kyle: Carl, you’d have a few more come in.

Carl Pritchard: Okay.

Kyle: That was one actually saying “um” and “er”. Another one was how to discipline the participants to join on time, to attend on time. We also had someone mention keeping the audience engaged through humor. Another one was getting the audience involved. Looks like a big one is fear of speaking in front of a crowd.

Carl Pritchard: Okay. On time for your speaking. What were the other two?

Kyle: Getting participants to join on time, and getting participants involved in the presentation.

Carl Pritchard: Well, I tell you, I have a distinct advantage here because a lot of us live in live meetings, and those of us who are doing these over the web, if you’re doing a web presence, there’s a couple of keys first off in terms of audience engagement on a web presence, and that is I have the perfect face for radio. Now, I came to this meeting prep, I wasn’t sure if we were using cameras or not, so I am wearing my full white tux and tails. I am. I had to put that top hat aside so I could put on the headset, but I am sitting here in full white tux and tails. Let me just brush off the sleeve here. Okay. Yeah, and I look really good, and it’s unfortunate that you can’t see this.

Carl Pritchard: Notice what I just did. I assure you, I am not wearing white tux and tails, but one of the things you can leverage when you are doing webinars to actually present project information is you can use and leverage theater of the mind. Theater of the mind is the joy that is people not being able to see you. When you’re explaining to them just how onerous something is, and you could say, “Our project has become bogged down. So bogged down in fact that I’ve taken all of our paperwork and I wish you were here with me in the office because just for an example, just to illustrate my point, I’ve brought a rather large elephant in here with me. It’s huge. It really takes up 99% of my office. I’m kind of squeezed into a corner, and the …”

Carl Pritchard: As you’re saying this stuff, people on the other end are going, “What the devil is he talking … He doesn’t really have an elephant in there, does he?” The joy of that is that I guarantee you people are listening. There is no way out of it. If you’re looking for full-blown audience engagement, the other thing is use the full range of your voice. Most people have a tendency to have a 30% range in the middle of their voice. This is mine, right about here. Man, is it comfortable? I’m not straining my voice at all. It’s not strained. It’s not stretched. It’s not causing me any pain and grief. My voice right now is just kind of relaxed, but if I talk for another 30 seconds just like this, without breaking out of this range of my voice, one by one, 113 people who are online right now will just [inaudible] they will fall over faster than you could possibly imagine.

Carl Pritchard: You need to use the force of your voice, the range of your voice. Don’t be afraid of it and recognize that if you’re looking for a moment of gravitas, you do want to use the lower range of your voice. It actually sells your message. If it’s something where you say, “And this is really, really vital,” use the lower range of your voice. If you want people to know just how stressed out you are, use the upper range of your voice, because that’s what it conveys. It doesn’t matter which end you’re using. It’s a matter of engagement. The other thing is, is people have to know where you’re going. That’s why I opened with the clock. Why I said, “We’ll be out of here on time. Here’s what I’m going to cover. Here’s where you’re going to be.” That’s the way you keep people engaged, and you make sure you are controlling and them. This ties to getting people to show up on time.

Carl Pritchard: I teach a lot of classes in project management, and people learn early on to show up on time. You might say, “How do they even learn that?” Well, it’s a learned behavior because I reward the early arrivers. I do. I have a gimmick, and I confess that it’s a gimmick. My gimmick is I go in with special little die cut posters, and I bring them to class and I take my little die cut posters, and when somebody comes in on time, I’d give them one. Everybody is there on time, gets a die cut poster. As things go along during my presentation, I’ll pass out more die cut posters. Just as we’re about to wrap things up, I’ll say, “By the way, those of you who got a flower poster or a star poster, I want you to put a number between one and 1,000 on your poster.

Carl Pritchard: Now, okay, today’s magic number is 315. Anybody come close to that? What do you know? Look at that. How close were you? You were 300. Where were you? 316. Okay, there is our winner today, and I brought you a book just because I want to know you were that smart, and you got a bonus point for showing up early. It’s amazing. For the price of a used book, I milk so much out of people. I do it by burning off a few die cut posters. It’s kind of an amazing thing. They have to feel like there’s an incentive. Plus they have to feel like they’re investing in something by showing up on time. They’re going to get out on time.

Carl Pritchard: If we break the rules, there’s no hope. If you have a timed agenda for your briefing, you need to make sure you stick to that timed agenda, or if you’re violating it, you get to push back and say, “I know we’re going to end at one o’clock, we’re still going to be there at one o’clock, and I know some of you might be worried that the other agenda items are getting pushed back further and further and further. They’re not. We’re going to hit each and every one. We’re going to go down that road. It’s going to be fine.” That’s the real joy of that particular element of it. So, in terms of getting audience engagement and getting them there on time, that’s one.

Carl Pritchard: On the fear of speaking, the opening 30 seconds of whatever it is you’re talking about are your lifeline. They really are. You need to practice, rehearse, dry run. Right after this presentation, I’ve got a scoot up to York, Pennsylvania. I have all the glamor spots. I’m getting to go to York, Pennsylvania, and all the way from here, Frederick, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania, I can tell you what I’m going to be doing. I’m going to be rehearsing, not the whole presentation. I’m going to be rehearsing 30 seconds. The opening, 30 seconds. If you know your opening 30 seconds, you own or lose an audience and that shorter span.

Carl Pritchard: There are some recent articles that actually contend that it’s the first 15 or even 10 seconds. Frankly, I don’t care. If you want to lose your fear of speaking, know what you’re going to say ice cold for that opening 30 seconds. If you own that, the rest of it will be forgiven. If you [inaudible] are just biting your own tongue for the rest of the presentation, it’s not going to matter. Why? Because you caught them in the opening 30 seconds. They determined if you were credible or not in the opening 30 seconds. After that, it’s yours to lose, not to win. So, the joy of that is if you can get the first 30 seconds right, a lot of that fear washes away. Because then you’re in the groove. Then you’re into your data. Then you’re into a lot of really solid content and that’s where you win. So, Kyle, let me just check with you, anything else come in while I was babbling?

Kyle: We do have another one from Ann dealing with attendees who want a deep dive on the spot and now waiting for more detailed discussion, how to politely close their inquiry and get back to the presentation.

Carl Pritchard: Yeah. Some people will look up, you mentioned and for me it’s always risk management because that’s my little corner of the world. But I’ll be up there trying to do a one-hour presentation on the whole of risk management. How do you do all of risk management in one hour or less? That’s kind of the magic presentation I get to do. Somebody will go, “Carl, when you’re dealing with quantitative analysis, I’d really like to know your thoughts on Monte-Carlo versus [Perton 00:19:46], why that battle was lost.”

Carl Pritchard: I’m looking at him like an alien life form. Like, this is not a conversation I am ready to have, want to have, or I’m engaged to have. But I will look at them and I will slide my glasses off and I’ll say, “Wow, that is a killer question.” It really is. There’s a real tragedy going on here, and I want you to know what it is. The tragedy is we don’t have that kind of time. As much as I would love to grind down into that. Now we can do this one of two ways. We can add it to the agenda of my next presentation, or you and I can take this offline not long after we’re done here. I’ve got a meeting right after this, but I’ve got an hour free starting at about four o’clock this afternoon. Now, by the way, that’s a cheap presenter’s trick. I’ve got an hour free about four o’clock this afternoon.

Carl Pritchard: Well, I guarantee you they’re sitting there going, “I’m not coming back from 4:00 to 5:00.” Well, good because that way we can push this into tomorrow and I’ll have time to really think about it. So, that’s one answer. The other answer is actually a cheap consultant’s trick. If somebody says, “I want to date dive deep on this particular topic,” I want you to stare him straight in the eyes and go, “Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I can’t believe you just asked me that.” Now they’re thinking that you are either pushing back or that you are about to say something nasty to them.

Carl Pritchard: Because then you get to look at them and go, “That is so bizarre because I just started writing a blog on that, and I’ve been thinking about it for some time, and I’m going to have that blog done by, I’m thinking probably over the weekend, so Monday morning. So, if you wouldn’t mind waiting till Monday morning, I’d like to have you be the first person to give my blog just a quick readthrough in a minute and tell me if this is where you want it to go on and these are the points you wanted to make, because that’ll then open the discussion for everybody else the next time we get together.”

Carl Pritchard: What you have just said to them, “You and I, my friend, are on the same wavelength. We’re on the same planet. You were thinking it. I’ve been thinking it. We just hadn’t verbalized it yet, but unfortunately it’s such a deep topic. It’s so profound that we really can’t go there yet, but I’d love to have you take a look at the blog I’m going to write.” Have you written it yet? No, I just started. As a matter of fact, I started about 25 seconds ago, so that’s the joy here, but there is a way to deal with those people without insulting them, without saying, “That’s it. Shut that down. We are not going down that road.” No. You actually get a chance to basically tune up your own game a little bit by addressing their question and addressing it offline when you have time to really think it through.

Carl Pritchard: The worst answer is to say, “Yeah, let’s go ahead and do this on the fly.” That’s fatal in any presentation setting. It really is. You are begging for trouble. You really genuinely are. Now, the one caveat I’ll throw on that, if it’s somebody who is insistent and you really aren’t ready to talk about that particular topic, one of the most effective ways to change the subject is to look at them and say, “I’m not sure if this is where you want it to go with this, but what I think you were saying …” And then steer the conversation back to where it was because …

Carl Pritchard: And by the way, as you say, “And I think you were saying,” and if you were, just so you know, it’s sheer genius, go ahead and steer the conversation back to where you wanted it to go. And say, “If I didn’t answer your question with that, then I think we can take a deep dive offline after we’re done here, because what you’ve just taken the time to say is you’re a genius. You’re so smart for asking that question. Wow, your mom and I actually are very proud. So, it’s a nice way to get out of that without quite all the pain. Kyle, was that our last one?

Kyle: I do have another one that’s come in, but let me know if we should move on at this point.

Carl Pritchard: No, no, go ahead.

Kyle: Okay, so [Shri] asked a question, and this actually might be a two-in-one or could be. How do I prevent myself from getting distracted by trying to guess if the audience is interested or not?

Carl Pritchard: Please note the fourth bullet here. Yeah, there you go. Body language. If you’re trying to read body language, don’t, don’t. One of the grumpiest faces I had ever in a presentation was in the largest audience I ever had, physical audience. I was doing a presentation in front of 1,500 people. It was a crowd. It was a real nice group, and I was pumped, and I was on a roll, and I’m looking down and front row center, there is a guy there who honestly if looks could kill, he’d be in for 30 years. He’s just given me the stare, and I’m [inaudible] this is going horribly. I am dying up here. Rest of the audience, engaged, laughing, participating. It’s going really, really well, and this guy is just freaking me out. No, first off, I’m blessed. I am almost blind.

Carl Pritchard: Now, I don’t mean that in that I can’t drive or anything else. It’s just I take off my glasses, and I am a bat. I can’t see squat. So, the first thing I did was took off my glasses so I couldn’t see him anymore, which is a cheap presenters trick. If you wear glasses, you are blessed. Particularly, if you wear glasses and can’t see squat, you’re more blessed. Now here’s the horrible thing. Since then, I’ve gotten cataract surgery so I can see much better now. It’s like, great. Yeah, now I can actually see pretty much everybody. Crap. But body language, first off, don’t read it or try to interpret it. I walked off stage and this guy followed me off stage after my presentation was over, and he came over and he goes, “Mr. Pritchard, can I talk to you for a moment?”

Carl Pritchard: I’m like, “Okay, fine. Bring it. I am ready for this.” The guy walks over and goes, “I wanted to tell you …” I’m like, “What? What knit are going to pick?” He goes, “I wanted to tell you, that was the most amazing presentation I’ve seen it a long time. I thought you were a riot.” I was like, “I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him.” Because I was reading his body language as he hates me, he hates me, he hates me. Now the biggest blessing I did to myself was taking off my glasses so I couldn’t see him anymore, but the reality is you can over-read body language. What you’ve got to do is have enough confidence in your content that you’re not reading people’s body language and you’re not trying to figure out are they with me or are they against me?

Carl Pritchard: If you want an answer to that question, ask the question. Say, I’ve told you, here’s where we’re going. I’ve told you what we’re going to cover, and I want you to know here’s how far we’ve gone. You’ll notice we’ve covered everything on the slide already. This was my plan, so this is a good thing. These are the things we’ve already covered. We are making clear, visible progress. Is there something on the agenda that we haven’t covered yet? Well, yes there is and I’m still going to get there. I made you promises, promises at the very, very outset. I made you big time promises, and I’m going to live up to those promises. Indeed this is what you’re looking at.

Carl Pritchard: We’re a half hour in, and you know something interesting? Some of you are actually still listening. It’s a blessing. It really is. No, you’re listening because I’ve said something at some point in the past 30 minutes that resonated with you. I said something that actually caught your ear, and I have lived up to some promise along the way. Victor Vroom wrote the theory of expectancy. Expectancy theory says that if you believe something is going in the direction that you thought it was going to go, you’ll stick with it forever. Now when you’re sharing stories, some of you are very gifted at sharing stories and some of you are not. The key on sharing stories, keep them short.

Carl Pritchard: My little story about the guy in my biggest presentation ever, that was under two minutes, and it’s important to keep your stories under two minutes. If you can’t keep a story under two minutes, you’re toast. And your story has to relate directly to the content. If you know that there’s a little bit of a roundabout trip to get there, then tell people, “I know this is a roundabout trip.” When you start sharing a story, I sometimes start sharing them, and I’ll go, “Just so you know, there is a point to this, and I’m almost there.” I’ll actually say those words because people need the comfort of knowing the story is going someplace. If you tell them that, they can take a deep breath, and they could say, “Okay, he’s going somewhere with this. I don’t know where it is yet, but he’s going somewhere with this.”

Carl Pritchard: As long as people know that it’s going somewhere, there’ll be okay. Stories go a long way to making people understand. It also ties to the whole notion of an earworm. Earworms, there’s a lovely little term, earworms. If you want people to remember what you briefed them on, you want people to remember your presentation, plant an earworm. I had great fun with this when I was doing a session for the Marriott Corporation, I was standing up there, and I said, “Join with me.” People were like, “What is he talking about?” I kept bringing up my key points to my little presentation, but I kept pausing and saying, “Join with me in understanding this. Join with me in understanding that. Join with me, and remember this.”

Carl Pritchard: People were sitting there not quite getting it. Then I wrote the three letters from join with me up on the screen. JWM. JW Marriott. Everybody kind of stuck their head into their hands. Two years later, two years later, I am once again … We’re doing some work over at Marriott, and I’m walking down the hall and a guy goes, “You.” I said, “I’m sorry?” “Because I was in your class two years ago.” I said, “How are you? Good to see you.” He goes, “I’m horrible, and it’s because of you.” I’m like, “Wow, thanks.” He said, “No, no, no.” He said, “Join with me.” I said, “That class?” And he goes, “Yeah.” He said, “Have you walked around headquarters lately?” And I said, “Yeah.”

Carl Pritchard: And he said, “Do you know how many places JWM is hanging on the walls because it’s our corporate logo?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Every time I walk past one of those, I hear your voice going, ‘Join with me.'” I’m like a bad song in this guy’s head. I really am, and it’s wonderful because for two solid years, I planted myself in his head. That’s a great thing. The more we can do that, the more we actually make positive, useful growing experiences. Now we do this in a variety of ways. Positive, useful growing experiences should come out of our presentations. They should. Let me talk about your slides.

Carl Pritchard: As soon as you saw this slide, it took you less than two seconds to read the slide. It took you less than two seconds to read that slide. You know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s a bad slide. Yet some of us, the moment a slide like this pops up, we’ll go, “It was July 20th, 1969. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and …” You can’t resist reading the blessed slide. If you’re a reader, let me stop you now because this is death by PowerPoint. There is a way to stop yourself, and here’s the cure. There you go. That’s a much nicer story. Notice what’s not there. Words.

Carl Pritchard: One of the best presentations I ever saw in fact was given by Gene Krantz. Gene Krantz, Apollo 13 flight director. It was very impressive, and the reason being he knows this slide better than anybody else. He was up there talking, and by the way, I was supposed to be the second keynote in this presentation scheme. It was a conference. He was the first keynote, I was the second, and I was supposed to talk about risk. I’m like, “I’m talking about risk and I’m following Apollo 13’s flight director. I’m doomed.” Gene Krantz got up there with no words on any of his slides, not a single solitary word. All his images look something like this. Only they were the inside of the Apollo 13 capsule because they never made it to the moon.

Carl Pritchard: As you look at this, if you are a person who is prone to, well, over talking and prone to reading, stop yourself. Here’s the cure: images, pictures. Sometimes the pictures have to have nothing to do with your story. There. That’s a slightly more benign picture. What? Yeah. Just imagine the million and one ways you could use this slide to make your point. Ladies and gentlemen, in case you haven’t caught on, this is our project today. Man, that’s bad news, or, “Hey, if you haven’t caught on, this was our project six months ago and I want you to know now we are a finely tuned, finely oiled machine. We look nothing like this anymore and let me tell you how it’s changed.”

Carl Pritchard: Letting the stories tell themselves, people look at images like this and they will parse them. They’ll read through them, they’ll analyze them to death. They’ll go over them. Just long and short, they’ll go over them extensively. They’ll pick apart the details of them. You get the opportunity to say, “I want you to take note. This car did not run into the tree that’s right behind it. That tree is standing tall. It’s not having a problem. It also didn’t hit a light post because you can see the light posts are both standing tall. It’s the details. The story, the image tells so much, and you could point people to specific elements of images that will actually draw them in deeper. They’ll get a lot more engaged about it, and it’s kind of interesting. You have an office building somewhere, be at your home office or your office.

Carl Pritchard: Now think about your home office. Make a picture of a beautiful, beautiful home. It doesn’t have to be yours. Now, you get to say, “For those of you who don’t know, I’m working from my home office today and this happens to be my office. I’m third window down, second window up. Yeah, that. That little spot right there, that would be me. That’s me. I’d like you to just take a look at that if you would. I want you to study it for a moment.” Now notice it doesn’t even really have to be your building. What you’ve done though is you have sucked people into that image, and the story has begun to tell itself. The story has begun to engage them. One of the real joys and beauties of this is that you now own the date without a bunch of words up on the screen, a bunch of stuff up on the screen.

Carl Pritchard: I do want to tell you, one guy I used to work with, he’s now Vice President of SHRM, the HR people. And one guy I used to work with, Nick Schacht, was doing a presentation for PMI Silver Spring, kind of an interesting engagement. He was doing a big presentation, and he got up front, and he had his slide deck up there and he had everything. He said, “You know what? I could walk you through nauseating little details on this slide, one by one, page by page. I could go through my whole deck, but I really think you’d be more interested and engaged in something completely different.” Specifically, what he did was he blacked out his entire screen. He blacked out his screen, and he said, “I’d rather have a conversation than do a deck.”

Carl Pritchard: The reaction of PMI Silver Spring was kind of interesting. You might think people would be freaking out. Not at all. He got a rousing round of applause. I laughed because I knew it meant Nick didn’t have time to build a slide deck. But that notwithstanding, it was genius. It really was. He actually had found a way to go ahead and do his whole presentation just kind of ad lib. If you’ve got that gift, you could be Nick. If not, if you’re one step away from that, all it takes is an image or two to get people to go down the road you want them to go down, just an image or two. Now it does take some prep because you have to be ready to talk to every single little aspect of that image. You have to be braced for it, but think about it.

Carl Pritchard: Take a look at this little query here. Yeah, yeah, that’s group participation time. It is that. Now in case you’re wondering, yes, indeed, this is true. This is true. I’ve tried to make this argument to a lot of the organizations I work with because it’s actually cheaper to send people on a cruise for training than it is to send them to Cincinnati. It’s cheaper, just plain vanilla dollars and cents cheaper. The optics are terrible. The optics are horrible, because if people find out, “Hey, they’re going to Bermuda,” and during the training along the way, “Oh, my gosh, that’s terrible. You can’t do that. That’s a boondoggle.” Yeah, but it’s cheaper than sending him to Cincinnati.

Carl Pritchard: Well, c’est la vie, and think about it. Why aren’t we doing it? Because the optics are bad. Would it be a better experience for the participants? Yes. Would it be a better participant? Would it seem like a reward to the participants? Yes, and yet we choose instead to send them to Cincinnati for training. Huh (interrogative)? Go figure. Now, think about the storylines, and think about the analogies. Think about the analogies you can draw. Are there analogies to this kind of situation where the best answer is the best answer, and it’s cheaper and it’s right and righteous and it would be incredible fun and we’re not willing to do it?

Carl Pritchard: Are there any analogies out there? This is not one that I’m coming up with the answer for. Go ahead and type it in the chat interface if you have a thought. It doesn’t have to be a complete thought, just one or two points you’d be making if you were trying to sell folks on the, “Hey, let’s all go to Bermuda together,” kind of idea. What would be one or two of the key points that you could weave out of an analogy or one of the key analogies that you could make that would actually sell this? Kyle, if anybody types anything in the chat interface, it’s your job to shut me up.

Kyle: Okay. We’d have one come in, team bonding. Another one here, when less is more. An isolated setting versus a city. Disconnected from work.

Carl Pritchard: Yeah. By the way, the whole disconnected from work, that’s brilliant. Whoever that is, bonus point to you. You’ll have a little die cut star. But yeah, that’s exactly it, because you’re making the point. I want to paint for you an environment where everybody is isolated, their cell phones not only aren’t helping, they don’t work. Cell phones don’t work, and their ability to get Internet, it’s kind of equivalent to the old days of a 56K dial up. Yeah, there’s a 57K. Anyhow, the point being, when you talk about that piece of it, you’re making the analogy, you’ve got people envisioning this kind of Faraday caged isolation where nobody can touch them or get near them. They’re not thinking Royal Caribbean. Yeah, that’s perfect. Notice what you have to do though.

Carl Pritchard: You’ll have to step back and think of, “What’s the perfect analogy?” Because when people envision, “We’re going to lock all of our team members into a cage so they can’t possibly get all this other outside influence.” And then you tell them, “The cage happens to be a Royal Caribbean cruise liner,” that’s when the battle starts. But up to that point, you’re going to own these people, and that’s why it’s important to draw out those stories. Draw out those analogies. That’s where it becomes really, really crucial.

Carl Pritchard: Positive, useful, growing experiences. Step three to getting to all this, when you’re telling a story, if you’re going to share information, put people there. When I told you I was wearing my white tux and tails, I mentioned to you that a little dirt on the sleeve, let me brush that off. That’s where you start to add texture. If you want a story to resonate with people, give them texture. Let them know that they’re walking down the corridor of Marriott headquarters all down the walls about every old 50 or 60 feet, there’s a JWM logo hanging on the walls.

Carl Pritchard: You start seeing it. No, I’m trying to get them someplace else. You’re on a cruise ship with all the hustle and bustle and you go down in the middle of the afternoon down to a downstairs cabin where there’s just nothing except for a conference table, two flip charts, and a conversation to be had. That’s a different experience. It’s adding some texture to it, and you need to do that if you’re going to make useful growing experiences. Making positive, useful growing experiences. Step three to MPUG experiences, making positive useful growing experiences. Oh, my gosh, you didn’t even see it coming. It’s tragic, isn’t it?

Carl Pritchard: I laid it out for her. I told you was headed here. But no, you had no idea. And now that’s the start of an earworm. We had several hours. I’d make sure that you’ve treated MPUG completely differently from every time somebody said, “Hey, do you have an MPUG meaning?” You’d be going, “Making positive, useful growing experiences.” MPUG. Your corporation probably has an acronym or an abbreviation or two that they use religiously. MPUG is such. You can leverage almost anything. P-M-I, M-P-U-G. By the way, MPUG is how it’s pronounced, MPUG, not M-P-U-G. If somebody walked up to you and said, “Hey, are you a member of M-P-U-G?” You’d look at them and go, “MPUG.” And you’d know they were not one of us.

Carl Pritchard: How do you know? Because they don’t even say it right. Yeah. No, you have to have the way to actually drive it home, and to actually build it in and know what we just did. We just planted an earworm. It’s not well planted, but it’s a start. Making positive useful growing experiences. When you’re trying to get people to stick to your story, now my tux that I’m wearing is a white tux and tails. Not a black tux. It’s one of those white tuxes. That’s a memory trigger, colors. Names. Dealing with one of my team members, Bob happens to be his name, every time I think of Bob, I … Dropping a name.

Carl Pritchard: If you’re looking for a trick by the way for presenting when you’re actually doing it in a group, if you’re in the conference room or if you’re in a bigger audience, one great trick, and this serves a couple of purposes is if you are trying to remember a few people’s names, some of you stink at memorizing names. I never used to be that good at it, but there’s a trick to doing it, and that is using and reusing the name. Kyle, for example, and I want to know what just happened when I said Kyle’s name. Because I invoked Kyle’s name, right now, that man is on high alert. He is. He’s like, “Crap, he’s about to ask me something or call on me for something or ask me to do something. What the heck is it, Carl?”

Carl Pritchard: No, I’m just bringing up Kyle’s name just to torment him. The beauty of it is, no matter what he’s doing right now, he’s paying really close attention. Why? Because I used his name. When he was calling out some of the people who had sent in comments, some of them he just said, “We got one here that says this,” but on a couple he dropped names. Here’s my suggestion to you the next time you’re doing a presentation, drop names. If you’ve got some kind of generic scenario you’re trying to lay out for the people who are attending your presentation and you’re saying, “Well, we’ve had problems with this one screen and this one interface. It just doesn’t seem to …”

Carl Pritchard: Forget that. Next time you’ve got a situation like that, what you say is, “We’ve got a problem.” I want you to envision Marie, if you would for a moment. Because Marie, well, she’s had problems. Now Marie is sitting there looking at you like an alien life form going, “What? I don’t have any problems.” Doesn’t matter because you have just made Marie the celebrity of the moment. Suddenly, she’s a big deal. If you’re in a real room, everybody’s going to be staring at Marie, and she’s shrugging her shoulders like, “I have no idea what he’s talking about. He lost it.” But for that brief moment, Marie is the center of attention. You’re not, because you say, “Maria has a problem, and that problem is with this particular screen.”

Carl Pritchard: Think about it. Why do you think Marie hates this particular screen? Marie is sitting there going, “I don’t hate it,” and everybody else is going, “Why do you hate it, Marie? I think it’s a perfectly good screen.” The beauty of this is it has gotten them engaged in the story. Why? Because their names are being used. They are part and parcel of the story. If Marie is sitting there nodding, you happen to strike on a pain point for her a whole lot better. You just won big time, because now you’ve got Marie as part of your act. She’s actually up there with you. She’s playing along with you. He has become part of the story and a willing participant.

Carl Pritchard: Most of the time you never ask people if they’re going to be willing participants. You simply just drag their names into it. You say, “Hey Marie, Hey Lawanda, congratulations. You’re in charge of this particular project. Now everybody, Lawanda is now in charge and she …” From that point on, Lawanda is on high alert. Everybody around Lawanda is looking at her going, “I didn’t know she was in charge.” All you’re doing is weaving a tale that otherwise would simply be, “We’ve got some users who have been complaining about this.” If you’ve got some users, nobody cares, but if it’s a Lawanda, everybody cares. That’s the big deal here, and it’s just an element in storytelling. Your attitude is everything.

Carl Pritchard: The people who fear doing presentations, frankly, you shouldn’t be afraid because nobody walks into a meeting, nobody walks into a briefing, nobody walks into an update session, nobody goes into any presentation, a conference, people don’t walk in going, “I hope I hate this.” Nobody does. They’re all walking in. It’s yours to lose. People want you to succeed. They really do, and that’s why you should have the big smile. From moment one, you should have the big smile. Now, I’ll grant you, I love Churchill’s quote here, by the way, but as you look at this, your attitude makes or breaks it. It’s a big deal. It’s what’s going to sell the whole notion, or it’s what’s going to strip you down. You have to, at least on the surface, look like you’re appreciating what you’re saying, you’re grateful for the honor of being able to present it. It’s a good journey.

Carl Pritchard: Now, before I wrap my stuff up, I intentionally left about four or five minutes for questions, comments, insights, gifted … “Hey Carl, back about 10 minutes ago you said …” We’re there because this now affords me ample time to answer any questions or field any comments and do so without violating my clock. So, I will open the floor. I will count to 15 in my head, and then I’ll start talking again. Kyle, if anybody types anything in there, if I missed any comments along the way, now would be the time.

Kyle: Thank you, Carl. Yeah, we do have a question here from Valerie. She was curious if you had any suggestions for dealing with participants staring at their phone or screens during presentations.

Carl Pritchard: Actually, yeah. A couple. One is if it’s a conference room kind of setting, you’ll win on this one, Valerie. The way you win is by shifting your position in the room. You just keep presenting. You just keep talking to whatever it is you’re talking about. You do not point out Valerie, you do not call out Valerie. What you do, however, is you sidle yourself over to her side of the room. You don’t look at her, you never call her out. But as soon as you get within six to eight feet of her, I guarantee you that she’s going to take her phone, she’s going to make it even more surreptitious, and try and hide it a little deeper or just kill it because they’ll realize that they’ve been put on the spot.

Carl Pritchard: The other thing, Valerie, is to actually, if you know the person’s name, invoke it. Now, do not call on them. Worst move you could possibly make is to go, “Hey, Jeanne, is that more interesting than what we’re doing here?” Death. That is rude to them. It’s rude to all the other participants. Everybody is going to be looking at you like you’re mean. Can’t afford any of that. Same scenario, Jeanne is sitting there just staring down at her phone or worse still, “King to Jack, Jack to 10.” But Jeanne is staring down at her phone. Now what I need you to do is to look at the opposite side of the room. I need you to look as far away from Jeanne as you possibly can, and I need you to be staring at the other side of the room. You’re with me so far.

Carl Pritchard: Now you’re staring at the other side of the room, and you say, “You know what? A good example of this, say for example that our customer, and let’s make Jeanne our customer. Jeanne is our customer. So, Jeanne is going to be dealing with …” Now notice what Jeanne is going to do first. Here’s her name invoked, looks up. Now you are not looking at Jeanne, you are not asking Jeanne a question. You are not calling on Jeanne. You are simply using Jeanne in your example. What you have just done is you’ve given her a chance for redemption because you’re not calling on her, but he is on high alert.

Carl Pritchard: Now the joy of this is you get to finish the whole scenario and you say, “So, if you were Jeanne, what would you do?” Now other people will chime in with their thoughts on what Jeanne would do. Jeanne who’s ticked off because now she lost your place on where she was on the text that she was actually reading or sending, but Jeanne will not pick up her phone again for that whole conversation. To boot, most of the time if Jeanne has been an offender up to this point, Jeanne turns it around and becomes a participant.

Carl Pritchard: Somebody will say, “Well, Jeanne should do this,” and Jeanne will say, “I should not do that. That would be insane.” And you’ve got her back. You got her back in a non-threatening fashion. But the key is whatever you do when you invoke her name, do not be looking at her. That’s where it dies. That’s where it dies a grizzly and horrible death. But that’s a nice way to get around that and to get her back into the fold. The other thing is simply invading her physical, personal space.

Kyle: Excellent. Thanks, Carl. Maybe we can sneak one more question in here.

Carl Pritchard: Sure.

Kyle: This one came in from Phil, and he was just curious if you had any experience or tips and tricks with notes for your presentation. So, if you’re covering a wide range of topics, what’s the best way to handle your notes and being able to reference those quickly without interrupting the presentation?

Carl Pritchard: It goes back to the slide ahead of the jalopy, which was all beat up on the street. If you’ve got notes, put them on the screen. If you’ve got bullet points you want to cover, put them on the screen. Then put them on the right half of the screen, put the image on the left half of the screen. Don’t read your notes. Everybody else will be reading them, and as you reference them, reference those talking points, you don’t have to use those exact same words. But the beauty of it is it gives people the sense, “He’s right on target. He’s right on what he wanted to talk about.” That’s beautiful. If you put them down on note cards or if you put them down in the notes field, someplace like that, you’re going to catch yourself reading them or looking at them, and that’s fatal.

Carl Pritchard: You have to look like you know your presentation ice cold. You have to look at it like, “I know every aspect of this, every element there is to know. I’m a flipping genius.” That’s the real trick, though, it’s like doing magic in the open. I went to a magic show with [Penn] and [Teller 00:57:42], and it was great by the way. But what was fascinating about it, all the tricks they did out in the open, they did the ball and cups routine with clear cups, and you still couldn’t figure it out. But it was kind of amazing, and that’s kind of the mentality we need to have. It’s that clear cups mentality. We need to make it so visible that people are looking at it. We’re talking to those points, but we’re doing so by adding value. All you need is a one-word trigger that should kick you into the whole speech of whatever it is you want to talk about.

Carl Pritchard: With that it is 12:57 Eastern time. I recognize not all of you are in the Eastern time zone. I’m sure that what’s going to happen now is it’s an easy vision to have, you’re going to look into the crystal ball and you’re going to be 15 minutes from now going, “Crap, I should have asked him this.” That’s my email address, and that’s my cell phone number. Pop me an email. I am killer on email. I will always respond to you within 24 hours. Invariably, somebody says, yeah, Christmas every December the 24th I get a nice little flurry of email: “Hey Carl, just checking.” I always email them back: “Ho, ho, ho.” So, that’s how you find me and I am yours to serve. I am the cost of an email. With that, I will pass this back over to Kyle and let him take the ball.

Kyle: Thank you so much, Carl. I really appreciate your time today and sharing your expertise with the community. Definitely some great takeaways for everyone today. For those of you that are claiming the PDU code, the PDU for today’s session, I’ll put the code back on the screen, and that’s mpug012320m eligible for one PMI PDU in the leadership category.

Kyle: If you missed any of today’s session or would like to go back and review anything that Carl shared with us, a recording will be available in just a couple hours, and we’ll send you a link within an email to access that. MPUG members have full access to our PDU eligible library of on-demand webinars on mpug.com. I also wanted to share a couple upcoming webinars. We just released our full lineup for quarter one, and I’ll chat over a link to access those and register for those sessions.

Kyle: The next two on the calendar are here on the screen. Satya Dash will return to share PMI PMBOK Guide 7 Edition and what’s new with PMI’s latest PMBOK release. That would be on February 5th at noon Eastern. On February 19th, Walter Stinnett will return with a session on project managers being changed managers. So, both some great sessions, and quite a few more on mpug.com that are available for registration.

Kyle: That wraps up today’s session. So, thanks again, Carl, for your time and presenting today. Thank you to everyone that joined us live and participated or asked questions. We appreciate that. Thank you to everyone watching on-demand. We hope you have a great rest of your day, and we’ll see you back for our next live session. Thanks.

Carl Pritchard: Thank you.


Watch the on-demand recording


Avatar photo
Written by Carl Pritchard

Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the author of seven project management texts, and co-produced “The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam” with Bruce Falk. He is the U.S. Correspondent for the British Project Management Magazine, “Project Manager Today” and serves on the board of directors for ProjectConnections.com

Share This Post

Leave a Reply