How to Turn a Frustrating Day into a Great One

Do you have days when you are rushing around, getting loads done and you finish tired but happy?

How about busy days where you are rushing around but by the end of it you feel nothing productive has been accomplished, you just feel tired and frustrated with lots of unfinished things to do? On those frustrating days your motivation and mojo have left the building.

Frustrating days happen to all of us now and again.  It might be the energy around us on that particular day, it might be there is so much to get done it is too much for any 24-hour period or it could just be one of those inexplicable things.

So when you are having one of those frustrating days how can you turn it around and have a great one instead?

Managing frustrating days

I’ve found the following works even when things are pretty messy and complicated:

  • Firstly, when you get an inkling it is going to be one of those frustrating days stop, sit down and break down what you wanted to get done into small individual tasks. List or write them down physically and prioritise them from 1,2,3…etc.
  • Secondly lower your expectations for that particular day. I don’t suggest this often but for these frustrating days stop thinking towards your end goal.  Even better forget that you have any specific goal in mind and just look at your prioritised list of tasks dispassionately and without seeing how they link into each other.
  • Take your priority you have labelled number 1 and put on your desk/screen anything you need for that task alone. Close anything else down or move it out of your eye line and hide the rest of your prioritised list in a drawer somewhere.
  • Refuse to be distracted by anything else while you concentrate and tackle this one and only task. Short of a bomb being dropped on your head work within the parameters needed to finish the task.  Push down any emotions or worries about anything else or the next task/stage of work and if a colleague or call comes in that has nothing to do with the task in hand say you’ll get back to them later.
  • When you have finished this 1 thing put it to one side either completed or ready for the next phase.

Get your list back out of your drawer, cross off the task you have finished and, without scanning down the rest of the list, take priority number 2 and begin the process again.

Focus for frustrating days

Narrow your focus on frustrating days

Be singled minded and make your actions deliberate, step by step ones.  Keep it up until either it is the end of the day, you’ve got to the end of your list or you feel your flow returning and you know you can carry on happily accomplishing things without getting overwhelmed or frustrated again.

Before you finish for the day have a look at your list again.  Notice how many items are crossed off.  You should be able to see proof of how much you have managed to accomplish on that day and can enjoy your evening feeling satisfied with a job well done. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself so you end the day on a positive note.

The next day you will either be back in your flow and whizzing along again or you will just have to repeat the above process.  Whichever it is you will have headed off that tired, fed up feeling.

You do not need to let frustrating days overwhelm you if you shift and narrow your focus in this way.  After all tomorrow is another day and anything can happen.

Past experiences sometimes offer future opportunities

Past Experiences

In recent weeks, as we enter the winter period and the evenings start to close in, I have been reminded that we are entering the period of the year when it is good to start clearing the decks and planning for the coming year.

Reflect on Past Experiences

Time is going to pass quickly as we approach the festive season and with the advent of the Christmas break there will be less time to get things done before the old year is over.  I don’t know about you but I want to be ready to spring into action when everyone returns to work and steal an early march on anybody caught napping.

As I start preparing for this time I ensure that I have time to assess how the past year has gone and, just as importantly, I reflect on some of my past experiences that circumstances or opportunities have brought back into my consciousness again.

Just because something has passed, or you decided not to act upon it at the time does not always mean that it is completely defunct.  It may not have been the right time to instigate any action or the experience may have more relevance to your future than you would have otherwise thought previously. Past experiences can reveal unexpected new avenues to explore.

Slowing down, seeing what you’ve missed from past experiences

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to re-visit Rome.  I have been there before and rushed around, like many of us, visiting the historical sites and ruins and, at the time, had made a mental note that ‘great, I’ve done that and can cross it off my list.’

ROME PICTURE BY Carla Tavares (contact: Nuno Tavares) Creative Commons license Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Returning there made me realise that there was a lot more to see that I had missed or overlooked on my previous visit.  I also took the time to venture further afield out of Rome and explore new sights and began to appreciate Rome from a different angle.  Even going back to the Forum, which I had visited on my previous trip, was an eye opener as I discovered things of interest I had not been able to take in before or my mind set was closed to beforehand.

It was a salient reminder that just because you have done/investigated something before or think you have already covered that area there may be value in re-visiting it. You may well see it in a different way, be in a different head space to appreciate its finer points more or spot new things of interest that were not obvious to you before.

This is a worthwhile exercise that may have you bringing ideas forward or breathing new life into an old plan or project that has more relevance to you now. Fresh eyes on past experiences can open up new possibilities.

Back to Work – Post Holiday Planning

Back to Work

Are you ready to get back to work?

I’ve often mused over the saying ‘the older you get the faster time goes’ as it does seem to generally hold true but I think I would now change it to ‘the older you get the faster change happens’.

It only seems like yesterday that it was New Year and new planning was being done for the coming months.  Those months seemed to stretch inexorably ahead and there seemed to be plenty of time to get everything done. After the holiday season, you and your clients are back to work and occasionally it can take some time to get back in the swing of things.

And then, in a flash, the end of the year is looming.  Certain plans made earlier are taking longer to come to fruition or have hit delaying obstacles if they haven’t withered and died along the way.  It won’t be long before another new year begins and progress assessment so far is not as bright as may have been hoped for.

At this stage a number of feelings can occur.  Frustration, exhaustion, general malaise, worry and even panic.

Don’t stress over getting back to work

I have written in the past about how plans must come with continual re-assessment and change of tack when necessary.  If you have been doing so then the situation I describe above should not happen as you will have been keeping pace with the ever changing scenarios and be ahead of the game.

However, if you have not been vigilant and flexible beforehand that the state I allude to may well be foremost in your mind. 

However, even if you are the latter there is no need for knee-jerk reactions or headless chicken antics.  The important thing is to concentrate on the NOW.

Use now, whenever that may be, to re-assess, re-group, re-plan, change direction.  The WHEN is not the important part the continual evolution and progress is if you still want to hit your goals.

Hopefully you will have recharged over the holiday period and learned some stress busting techniques. If you feel anxious about getting back to work after your break, then your first step is to take some deep breaths.

Your next step is to invest some time in reviewing your plans. This is worthwhile, because things will have changed, whether expected or unexpected.

Moving forwards after getting back to work

  • Be ruthless, you have three months left until Christmas. What is worth keeping from your plans, what should you junk?
  • Be realistic– some of your plans need more time to implement- don’t stress over these, put a note next to them to revisit in January.
  • Be rational. What can you truly get done in the time you have and what will give you the best return? I am a believer in dreams; implementing strategies that fulfil your true purpose, but I also know that bills must be paid! Be aware that for many industries January can be a quiet and unprofitable month. You need to maximise this quarter’s revenue to tide you over.

Don’t forget to connect. Your clients may also be feeling the stress of getting back to work and would welcome some clear advice from you. If you have gently kept in touch over the summer break, now is the time to capitalise on that relationship. Remind them of your discussion, help them clarify their own goals and you should find that you become top of mind when they need to implement their own changes.

Getting back to work after a holiday need not be difficult if you employ some stress reduction and keep a clarity of purpose.

If your holiday has thrown up some issues about what you are doing with your life (this often happens) don’t make any hasty decisions, allow those thoughts to simmer. Sometimes we need a break to get perspective, but holiday dreams can wither in the harsh reality of Winter. If you know that change is needed- then apply your planning techniques to that change and if possible, test out a few of those holiday ideas. Any major change needs planning and if you can focus on what is needed for success this quarter you can create time for consideration of future, significant change.

The Meaning of Innovation & Why It’s Important

Business executives are often told by their managing director to be more innovative, as if the very word will transform their marketing, product development and ultimately create success. It can be hard to act on this when you are not sure what innovation means and what is just old ideas in new packaging.

Innovation is a new idea, or more-effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are readily available to markets,  governments and society. The term “innovation” can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society

How can you understand what innovation means if it is new, and you don’t know what it looks like? Original thought is quite tricky at 5 pm on a wet Wednesday when you are firefighting a late delivery, an angry customer or a slump in sales.

Innovation Blog2To understand innovation needs a mind shift

To understand and create innovation requires a mind shift in your problem solving approach and there are some ways to create this. There is a lovely phrase, “upside-down thinking” which applies when trying to tap into what innovation means. It is best used with another approach, coined by the Tamarack Community – the “Wicked Question” approach.

Wicked questions do not have an obvious answer. They are used to expose the assumptions which shape our actions and choices. They are questions that articulate the embedded and often contradictory assumptions we hold about an issue, context or organization

An example of a wicked question is,

How can we commit ourselves to be accountable for achieving specific measurable results, while at the same time staying open to the possibility that we may be measuring the wrong outcomes?

So, upside down thinking might take that question and say- let’s stop measuring profit and start looking at customer engagement instead. Let us look at variables we have dismissed as unimportant, because we seem to be having no impact on the outcomes we are tracking!

Innovation means asking difficult questions to which, at present, we have no answers. Then, finding the answers through a shift in approach to the problem. Innovation means an avoidance of, “We’ve always done it this way”, because, quite obviously this way isn’t working.

Innovation means risk taking

Most companies are risk averse- but that does not mean risk should be avoided at all costs. Clearly taking a huge risk with product development or marketing strategy is potentially financial disaster which is why pilot innovations are probably the best way to go. Taking a poorly performing product that you are considering ditching and throwing it open to ideas and new approaches is less risky and may well reveal innovative ideas. In this example you could invite anyone in the organisation to contribute ideas as to how to revive a struggling product. Take wellington boots as an example…yes the good old wellie (rain boot, gumboot or billy boot depending on your nationality)

For decades a wellie boot was just black, simple, sturdy, functional and practical. It was very far from a fashion item, although variations such as the green Hunter wellie were developed.

a pair of green Hunters were the weekend uniform of Sloane Rangers,

worn on the moors of Scotland and the damp turf of the Hurlingham club.

When Hunter’s went into administration they desperately sought a way to get back into the market and the answer was enlisting the aid of Kate Moss, British fashion icon to wear them and voila…the fashion wellie was born.

In this case innovation means reinventing your market and your design.

Innovation means a fresh perspective

Innovation BlogLooking at a problem from a different angle and using a “what If…” approach where nothing is ruled out can create innovative thinking. The trick here is to resist the urge to say, “No way” or “it will never work”. Everything has to be considered in order to break the constraints that bind a business to a single way of thinking or operating. Great innovative thinkers see the end product/system/business and then figure out how to get there. Staring at the end is a good way to stop linear thinking, especially when the goal seems outrageous. Enlisting others to brainstorm a new approach within a culture that says every idea has merit, also helps with innovative thinking. One thing that is the death to innovative thinking and business practice is bureaucracy as I have previously explained. Innovation means bureaucracy must be knocked on the head!

In my next post I shall look at the idea that being innovative can be a company objective and how to encourage that within business.

Motivational Speaking and Public Speaking Tips

Motivational speaking is supposed to inspire and engage its audience. You may be anxious about speaking in public, or uncertain about what to say and how to say it. Here are some fascinating facts about presenting and some motivational speaking tips to help you succeed on stage.

  1. Motivational Speaking Tips- People’s Phobia Number One

Glossophobia or the fear of public speaking is still number one on the list of people’s phobia- followed by fear of death, spiders, the dark and heights!

So, if you fear public speaking, you are not alone

Lawyers (58%-64% are introverts) have high propensity toward speaking anxiety. Very talented in the written word they can lose sight of skills as speakers.


The pressure to inspire and grip an audience with motivational speaking can add to speakers’ anxiety. I wrote about overcoming this anxiety in my post on public speaking anxiety covering the idea of preparation reducing anxiety. Once you are on stage the terror can take hold – so here are some public speaking tips to help to handle that terror. You need to overcome the fear before you can truly become a motivational speaker.

i.   Slow breathing before going on stage, and cold water on your wrists to cool you down. Use a face spritzer to refresh your face.

ii.  Practice, practice, practice…till you are sick of your speech! Then you will have removed the fear of forgetting something!

iii.  Try using visualisation techniques- see yourself giving the speech and I expect you will instantly see mistakes, embarrassment, failure…the trick is now to replace those negative images with positive, successful ones and keep doing that. This is a key trick of motivational speaking the first person you need to motivate positively is yourself.

iv.  Accept embarrassment- we rarely get everything right and even the most polished speakers make mistakes. Accept that you might feel embarrassed- so what? How many of your friends would have the guts to stand and talk in front of others? Plus, I can guarantee your audience do not dwell on, or even notice your mistakes as much as you do!

  1. Motivational Speaking -Public Speaking Tips 2Motivational Speaking Tips – Can you tell your story quickly?

We usually have a rough idea of how long we have to speak and then start to create a talk that fits that time. Some people heavily script their talks down to the last minute- this does not work for others. Most practised public speakers have an outline, a few notes on index cards and then speak. If you then told them to tell their story in 9 minutes instead of an hour and a half; they could! As a rule of thumb- if you could tell your story in 10% of the time you have allocated- you truly know it- your speech is ready.

When crafting a motivational speech it is even more important to understand the core idea that will inspire. The best motivational speakers can get their ideas across succinctly.

So, test your speech- scan it, can you tell the key facts and ideas in ten percent of your actual talk time? Public speaking tips often focus on content- this exercise focuses on the nuts and bolts- the key message without additional content. If you have that down, you can build from it. Plus, if you do this exercise you may find you want to cut some fluff from your final talk! You are aiming to inspire with motivational speaking and inspiration is connecting your audience to your central idea.

  1. Motivational Speaking tips – Focus on getting your opening absolutely right

The first 30 seconds of your speech sets the tone for your audience- it can be the make or break part of your talk. How would you react if a speaker said this?

Okay, now I don’t want to alarm anybody in this room, but it’s just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar.


Well, the audience roared with laughter…and were hooked. If you want an idea of great openers for your speech, check out TED talks- some of the best speakers in the world deliver these and they are not necessarily expert public speakers! What all great motivational speakers have in common is that they make a personal connection with their audience right from the start. They are not afraid to be personal, or controversial or self-deprecating. Think about your first paragraph and what impact and message you want to get across- it is by far the most important part of your speech. Because with motivational speaking you are creating an impact, being personal is important.

Your opening in motivational speaking is your hook, the promise of inspiration to come and a fast track way to connect with your audience- you want them to empathise, believe in you and look forward to what you have to say.

To read some more motivational and public speaking tips- check out my Huffington Post article HERE

Look like a Keynote Speaker- Presentation Skills

Good Presentation Skills – How to deliver your talk like a Keynote Speaker

Remember, first impressions count when you are delivering a talk, so check out my post on first impressions. How you appear at the podium, how you stand, how you hold yourself, all contribute to audience perception of you as a keynote speaker. So, we want that to be a good perception! Obviously good presentation skills will be irrelevant if your content is poor, but even good content gets lost if presentation skills are weak.

You need to remember, you are in charge of this talk, so you need to look as if you have control. A Keynote Speaker is the person who delivers a speech that sets out the central theme of a conference or a meeting or a training day. You set the tone for all that follows so you need to carry yourself with an air of authority.  You may well be nervous, but your posture can give you confidence if you follow these tips.

  1. Pull your shoulders back and down- this gives you a commanding appearance and allows your chest to expand, so you have more breath.
  2. Set your feet slightly apart, shoulder width, toes pointing towards the centre back of the room- this gives you balance and is the most secure and comfortable way to stand when talking.
  3. Keep your hands at your side, tuck your stomach in and lift your chin- again this helps with breathing and balance.

Keynote speakers connect with their audience as part of good presentation skills

How you connect with your audience is a crucial part of good presentation skills and yet this is often the biggest mistake many presenters make. Actors have bright lights shining in their eyes- so they can look directly at an audience without actually seeing faces. Most presenters can see their audience and this may be when the nerves strike! Your audience wants to be there- keep that in mind! Make eye contact or you become a lecturer in a vacuum and your audience will disconnect. Presentation skills are not about how clever your content is, or how whizzbang your PowerPoint. It is about your human story, your ability to engage your listeners. As the keynote speaker you are giving them the flavour of the conference; the heart of the topics that follow.

Follow these tips

  1. If at a podium with a microphone- test it before the speech and set it so it is at a comfortable height.
  2. Do not feel trapped behind the microphone- you can lean forward for emphasis, back for reflection. Just be careful not to shout- or your voice becomes distorted.
  3. Speak clearly and slowly, don’t rush your content- good presentation skills include clarity and allowing your audience to absorb your words.
  4. Avoid idioms and colloquialisms if speaking to an international audience- you may end up confusing them!
  5. Use your hands for emphasis- but avoid the “windmill” effect of manic waving arms – remember a keynote speaker is in control, so calm, deliberate movements are best.
  6. Vary the tone of your voice- light and shade, a drone is not what an audience wants to hear
  7. Remember to pause, for effect, to allow your audience to catch up, and so you don’t run out of breath!
  8. If you are using a mobile microphone- walk the stage, try to engage both sides of the room but avoid pacing like a caged tiger!
  9. Maintain enthusiasm for your subject- let the audience feel your passion- good presentation skills are not just visual- the tone of your voice has a large impact on your audience
  10. Finally, don’t speak for too long- if your talk is billed as 30 minutes, then speak for thirty minutes.

Good presentation skills are about confidencekeynote speaker Presentation skills

If you follow the tips above you will find you boost your own self confidence and it will show in your voice. Good posture gives you a secure stance, releases tension in your chest and shoulders and helps your breathing. Making eye contact draws your audience in and it helps you to feel as if you are talking to that one person- not a hugely scary, overwhelming room full of people. Above all, be prepared- spend time on preparing your speech and confidence will follow. To quote a great UK based motivational speaker

“Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident.”
Dale Carnegie

Public Speaking Anxiety – Be Prepared

Public Speaking anxiety can be handled with proper preparation

Whether you are a seasoned speaker or a beginner, public speaking anxiety can strike at any time. Expert speakers still get butterflies before speaking- it is part of the adrenaline spike that happens when we put ourselves in front of a lot of people! It is the body’s way of preparing us, but too much can lead to dry mouth and even loss of voice. It is a very specific form of nerves linked to worries about making a fool of ourselves! Preparation is the key to minimising public speaking anxiety.

Sensible planning can reduce public speaking anxiety

There are practical things you can do to ensure that your public speaking anxiety is not triggered by organisational failures.

  1. Know exactly where you are speaking, how long it will take to get there and how early before the speech you can arrive
  2. If possible, practise your opening before delegates and audience arrives to make sure the microphones are working properly
  3. Before the speech do your research on the audience- familiarising yourself with them, will make them feel less intimidating.

Rehearse your speech- if you are comfortable with it then you are less likely to have an attack of public speaking anxiety. Be careful not to over rehearse- these are not lines in a play and you want to leave opportunities to sound spontaneous. You must be absolutely clear about your opening as losing the flow here will definitely sabotage your speech. Remember the structure of your speech. If you have the opening and closing memorised and clear you will massively reduce your public speaking anxiety.

Practical tips to reduce public speaking anxiety

The night before the speech is often the first hint of a public speaking anxiety attack. You may have been fine writing your speech and then suddenly the night before you cannot sleep. You do need to try and relax the evening before your speech, so follow these tips to keep your public speaking anxiety under control.

  1. Have your clothes ready- on hangers, every item several hours before going to bed (if you want some tips on what to wear, read my post on dressing for success
  2. Have a relaxing bath- even if you want to shower the next morning to refresh, a bath with salts or oils to relax will do you good.
  3. NO caffeine for at least 4 hours before you go to bed! No alcohol either- it will make you feel lousy the next morning and dry your mouth.
  4. Program your sat nav; phone; your maps for the journey
  5. Give yourself plenty of time to fall asleep

On the day tips to reduce public speaking anxiety

If you can, about three hours before the talk go for a walk, get away to clear your head. Your public speaking anxiety can often be triggered by others; the organiser, other speakers etc. so being alone can help calm the butterflies.

  1. Drink water around an hour and a half before the speech. Then top up again half an hour before the presentation. Dehydration brings on headaches and is a trigger for public speaking anxiety.
  2. Go to the toilet before the presentation- check your hair, face, make-up. Run cold water on your wrists it will reduce any hot flush feelings of anxiety
  3. Check your clothes- for loose threads, hems etc. (You should probably bring a change of clothes if you want to feel really secure- then you can swap out a shirt or blouse if you need to).
  4. Practise your deep breathing techniques- Go here to see some examples
    1. Public speaking and the Wonder Woman Pose5. Adopt the Amazon/Wonderwoman pose 10 minutes before going on (well OK you don’t have to wear the outfit!) – this is a scientifically proven technique to raise your testosterone levels and boost your confidence. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is a key trigger for public speaking anxiety. Literally, stand with your feet apart, hands on waist, like Wonder Woman, for 10 minutes.






(Watch this great Ted talk by Amy Cuddy to learn more about power poses

Walk out onto the platform with your head held high. With careful preparation and planning you can reduce your public speaking anxiety and deliver a great speech. By the way, all anxiety evaporates when you hear the applause at the end!

How to Write a Speech – Professional Speakers Structure their Talk

How to write a speech – good structure is crucial for a professional speaker

Do you know how to write a speech that engages? This is a key skill for a professional  speaker.  A well-structured speech is like a satisfying sandwich; great bread on the outside and tasty layers inside! The simpler the speech the more effective. Your audience needs to be led through your idea in a logical fashion to help them retain the content.

The simplest way of expressing this is as follows;

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them’becomes your introduction
  2. ‘Tell them’forms the body
  3. ‘Tell them what you told them’is your conclusion

Before you start talking you need a plan in your head- use index cards if necessary to remind you- of exactly what information you want to get across.

Some people use mind maps to work out how to write a speech and brainstorm ideas.

There is plenty of free software that does this if you like using technology – here are a couple of mind mapping tools that are free

How to write a speech the KISS way!

KISS stands for KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY! Too often we lose an audience because our talk is too complex and contains too much information. Yes, less is more if you want people to grasp your ideas and take away a good action point. When working out how to write a speech –  be ruthless and only include key content. An error many professional speakers make is to include everything they know, when what they should be doing is making the content understandable for their audience.

A good main body has 3 related ideas. For example, if you were talking about how to prepare for an interview you might decide to break it down into three logical sections. Section 1 could be physical preparation- clothing, timing, travel arrangements etc. Section 2 could be company research- finding out all you can about the company, the job, the background to the position. Section 3 could be interview questions- prepping your answers and coming up with good questions to ask at interview.

Using this structure for the introduction

  1. TELL  –  For example: “In this talk I am going to cover how to prepare for an interview from clothing to questions. I will give you three crucial DO NOT’s and three absolute DO’s”

A good introduction will tell them what you are going to say, with some teasers as to why they want to continue listening (the Do’s and Don’ts for example).

How to write a speech - professional speakerHow to write a speech with impact using a clear structure

Where the introduction prepares your audience and includes some intriguing teasers- the main body is where you deliver your impact and motivation. Be careful not to go off at a tangent. Each section needs to be valid and related. Your most important parts are the transitions from one section to another. These need to be logical. Great motivational speeches and talks are often stories. The best stories have a beginning, middle and end, often with a surprise revelation. BUT, the story has to have a point! I will cover more elements of a great motivational speech later in this series.

“So What?” is a key question for a professional speaker

For now, keep asking yourself, “So what” when you want to include something in the body of your speech. Does the content have relevance to your audience? Does it add value to your core message? Does it explain something they need to know? It may be a favourite topic of yours, but does it help your audience? Learning how to write a speech includes being honest about your own tendency to ramble!

How to write a speech with an effective conclusion.

When you have delivered the main body of your speech you now need to remind the audience what they have learned and gained from listening. You tell them what you have told them. Select the key take away messages your speech delivered. Remind them of what they now know and can apply to their lives. If you are a coach or consultant be careful your conclusion doesn’t turn into a full on pitch for your services! Yes, you want to offer them the chance to learn more and if your speech was good they will be motivated to do so. It is totally valid to give them an opportunity for further learning, but be subtle about it.

Summary of how to write a speech and be a professional speaker

PLAN – your structure around one main idea with related sub ideas

SELECT – key information matched to audience needs

KISS – keep it simple silly!

TELL- introduction- around 2 minutes with teaser

TELL – Main body, 3 linked sections – sub divide if your speech is long

TELL – Conclusion – Remind them of key points – around 3 minutes

5 Tips for Engaging Presentations

Or…How to avoid Death by PowerPoint!

It may be a hackneyed phrase now, but ask anyone who has been to a lecture or presentation where PowerPoint was the only tool used and they will tell you how excruciating it was! Even worse, they probably cannot remember a single point made in the presentation. So, to avoid the death by PowerPoint syndrome and create engaging presentations, follow the 5 tips below.

Engaging presentations Tip 1- be clear on your message

PowerPoint is a useful tool as an aide memoire and prompt for your listening audience. Most people need visual stimulation to help embed their learning – but the visuals should match what they are hearing.

Keep the writing on the slide to the minimum- clear, large bullet points covering your main message and key points only. Do NOT read from the slides- your audience can do that!

Engaging presentations Tip 2- relevant bold images

A picture tells a story when it is relevant and easy to see and isn’t swamped with text. Let me use images to show you what I mean…

Below are two slides telling you about world poverty:



world poverty 1


The first one has facts- and statistics- and colour illustration – so it should work shouldn’t it?

Now look at the second one…which do YOU think you will remember?

world poverty 2


So, yes use images for engaging presentations but don’t just shove a picture up next to bullet points. Think of the impact of the image. Does it even need words?

Engaging presentations Tip 3- Mix it up!

Consider your audiences’ boredom threshold. Assume that they will read your presentation and not listen to you! Punctuate your presentation with slides don’t drive the whole talk with it. It’s OK to leave an image up as you talk directly to them but make eye contact, move around the stage. Make them look at you and only direct their attention back to the slides when you want them to look that way.

Try a video clip in your presentation, if it is appropriate to your message. This gives your voice a rest and your audience something different to engage with. Animated presentations can be effective but don’t overdo it. Too many swooping, spinning, zooming text and images can at best confuse, at worst, make your audience sick!

Engaging presentations Tip 4 – YOU are the presenter

Remember that people have come to listen to you. They will actually feel cheated if you turn up, run a slideshow and just talk about what they could read for themselves. By all means let them have presentation notes, AFTERWARDS, if you think it will add value and help them remember your message. However, during your talk, tell stories, share experiences, make it human. The slides behind you support your presentation they are not THE presentation/talk/speech; YOU ARE.

Engaging presentations Tip 5- Beware of the rainbow effect!

We are often told that colour enhances presentations. To an extent this is true but it has to be handled carefully. If your talk is a corporate style talk then support it with corporate colours. Otherwise, pick a simple colour palette for text, headings, bullet points and any design elements. Be aware of certain rules about colour. Yellow is a nightmare to read- DON’T USE IT!  Red is great for IMPACT but use sparingly. Blue text is easiest on the eye to read. Avoid white on black text- it is very difficult for some people to process. Cream or buff backgrounds actually make text easier to read especially for those with some colour processing difficulties. I talk about colour in your dress in this post, Colour Psychology blog

Engaging presentations can use PowerPoint if you are clear about its purpose. The slides are there to support your talk not dominate it. You can start your presentation with your social media links on a slide or offer an app for your audience to connect. You can give a leaflet out with a QR code link to the slides for afterwards as a neat take away gift. You can repurpose your PowerPoint slides in a number of ways to add value to your talk. Just remember, you are the presenter not PowerPoint!

To see a useful infographic about what not to do with Powerpoint, go here

Colour Psychology – Dressing for Success

Using colour psychology to send a message

What we wear says a lot about us and sometimes we send the wrong message.   I have covered creating a positive impression in a previous post.

However, did you know that the colour of what you are wearing can also have an impact? If you want to get it right as a professional speaker then you need to know a little about colour psychology. Get this wrong and your audience can actually find you repelling rather than appealing!

The Colour Psychology Rainbow

Let’s take a look at what colours are saying about you.

Red is power- but also anger

The positive aspects of red are that it denotes warmth, strength and courage. The negative aspects are the link to fighting, aggression and dominance. Yes, if you wear a red suit on stage you will be noticed, but your audience is likely to have their adrenaline levels raised, so be prepared for heckling! Some stand-up comedians wear red deliberately to raise the temperature of the room for lively debate.

My advice- use red only as an accent colour, a tie, a scarf or a piece of jewellery to enliven a plain suit or dress.

Yellow is traditionally sunshine and happiness

Yellow is an emotional colour. The colour psychology of yellow is a balance between lifting the spirits and making people feel depressed! It is also a poor colour choice for writing – apologies to those of you who find the heading in yellow hard to read- I am illustrating my case!

My advice, yellow is a colour best used in combination with contrast colours such as blue, to add some warmth without being overwhelming.

Green is the colour of nature

The colour psychology of green is that of balance. It is right in the centre of the spectrum, easy on the eye and does not require the brain to make any adjustments to see it. As an outfit colour it can be very effective, as long as you choose the greens closest to those found in nature.  However, from an aesthetic point of view, a green suit without other colour accent or relief could be a bit too much. The negative colour psychology of green is that too much can be seen as somewhat bland.

My advice, a green shirt or blouse is an effective and positive addition to the more traditional suit.

Business team in different colours
Business team in different colours

Blue is the world’s favourite colour!

This is the colour of intellect, of calm considered thought. It is easy on the eye and affects us mentally rather than physically. The colour psychology of blue is that of clear communication so it is no wonder that it is a favoured colour for business outfits. It is extensively used in presentations for a good reason- we can easily read it as a colour. The downside of blue is the perception that it is a cold colour.

My advice- experiment with the blue spectrum from navy to turquoise till you find the one that flatters you most. Contrast with some red or yellow accents to add interest.

Indigo, Violet, Pink – modern use is increasing

Purple was traditionally a royal colour and signifies spirituality. Pink is traditionally girly, but effective as a tie to set off an otherwise dull grey suit.

My advice- these are great colours in combination with blues and to contrast grey

Black the traditional business suit colour

The colour psychology associated with black is one of seriousness. Too much and you can be funereal and intimidating.

My advice- never wear black outfits without a warmer contrast colour in the shirt or blouse- or you will push your audience away.

Grey is dull!!

Safe, serious, but essentially flat, neutral. Too much grey is depressing and actually the colour psychology here is one of lacking in confidence!

My advice- choose a light grey if you favour it as a suit colour and contrast with red, pink, purple, even yellow to lift your audience’s mood.

White signifies purity and cleanliness.

The only proper use of white in public speaking is for shirts or blouses. You will disappear into the back drop in a white suit.

My advice- avoid white outfits on stage they are impractical and in certain cultures are a funeral colour in others best worn by the very young or at weddings!

Get your colour psychology right on stage and you will draw your audience to you and your own confidence will grow.

You can read some research on colour psychology here