Präsentieren bedeutet, mit Menschen zu sprechen.

Monat: Oktober, 2010

13 Near Misses

After 20 years of teaching and coaching, I have begun working on a small book about public speaking and presenting. Quite different, I hope, from the usual business manuals. It does not plan to streamline you; it’ll just take you by the hand and say: Have you tried this before?

That is pretty much the way I work in my coachings. Dimming down communicative noise, emphasizing your strengths. Finding you help your real voice. Considering your audience’s needs. Making both sides comfortable.

With lovely illustrations by a young female Munich artist, plus a wise cracking hell of a cat. This is too much Alice in Wonderland to go without a cat.

A public speaking primer for girls who want to be heard.

By, and for, women. And very much not for the all glamorous or pin striped at heart.

I’ll be keeping you posted.

Lessons from Cranford

I was watching Cranford last night, a BBC costume drama based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. I’m a sucker for BBC costume drama. Drama is where I come from; English novels of the 19th century were one of my major classes at college. I also took Science Fiction classes, and children’s literature. Great blend, really.

Anyway, to come back to what I was saying, there is this one scene in Cranford when Miss Matty, an elderly spinster talks to her niece Mary about Peter, the black sheep of the family, who caused quite a scandal and then disappeared.

As she is telling Mary Peter’s story, she turns off the light (or candles, rather). She finds it easier to talk about her lost brother in the dark. Some stories have more impact if there is nothing to distract us. The same goes for listening.

Have you ever closed your eyes while on the phone so that you could hear the other side better?

Visualization is story telling in the dark. We do not need slides with everything.

Snuff out the candles, now and then (or projector, rather). Words are available light.

The writing on the wall


Today’s post sits over at Überzeugend präsentieren, the German presentation weblog of Michael Gerharz. Thank you for asking! I really do appreciate what you are doing to improve presentations and your blog is on my class reading list for my students.

The article is about why I prefer to use my own images in slide shows: They hold a special magic. Slides with liner notes in invisible ink. My images provide me with an extra memory. I know exactly what line of thought I have tied to each of them, and they give my slide decks my own style, my very own handwriting. I believe in good handwriting.

Images dream, whisper and scream. Why not let them speak in your own voice? Voices carry.


Seen in Berlin

 The post is also about using street art – graffiti as well as sticker art.

Whenever I am in the city, I collect examples of rough urban communication patterns. Images that go against the grain, that bring some grittiness into the class room. Something that is not all golden, hazy sunsets or cut out business suits. Something that makes the digital just a touch more tangible again.

Street art takes away from the glam and gloss of stock photography and thus keeps an audience’s mind from wandering away too far. Street Art needs to be looked at and explored.

It also often comes with a tag line and the writing on the wall may prove to be more inspiring than you would have thought possible.  If using such slides makes you less or more credible is something you must decide for yourself. I am only presenting the way I work.

Mind you, illegal art has rights too, so I usually add an image credit along these lines: Seen in Berlin.

As for my English speaking visitors: Even if you do not get the language, you may get the images.

The Writing on the wall. Guest post at Überzeugend präsentieren.

[Thanks to all the street artists involved!]

Street Cred

[Strictly speaking, this is is no lesson in presenting, only if you want to make it one.]

Stories are a common good.

They hide in the grass, trembling with anticipation, waiting to be picked up, waiting to be made real. They lie on the pavement. They are the writing on the wall.

And today I have plans, I want to get out of Smallville, get some air, get out of these woods, but I almost step on a story in front of my house and so I change plans and directions and follow a small story from its ending, the way I usually do, for like a cat’s tail a story’s ending holds all the secrets ever told and look! how it twitches with excitement, for not even a story knows where it may take you, if you let it.

After a few hundred meters I lose sight, right in the middle of the beginning – or the ending: stories are real push-me-pull-yous – and I need to decide should I turn left or right, but I am such a slow decision maker these days, and so I choose the road less travelled by, as I have learnt by heart, but this story follows a different path.

I trust my luck, though, and bookmark the right? wrong? corner, and when I return a few hours later, my cam full of unexpected crow, the story is still there, dozing in the warm afternoon sun and I catch up with, just as I had hoped.

Stories are patient animals, and if you treat them right and don’t overfeed them, they are usually home before you.

And so it begins – or ends – with the most magic words of all:


You have gone too far.


It is not here.


The snail. A bridge.


Hello. You there.




You’re almost there.


Are you thirsty?


Drink me!


My birthday guests!


Mountain ahead.


Count the white squares.


And I count and recount and count again, but I can’t seem to get it right, and now my story is getting impatient after all and it loses itself, right before I can lose it again, and it fades into the amber of the woods, where nothing is ever forgotten, here in Smallville.

COIK #1: Clear only if known syndrome


We all suffer from it. We have been reading and doing research on our subject for weeks.We know all about it. And we forget that our audience doesn’t.

We have been living with that one movie line most of our adult life, ever since we fell in love with Blade Runner and all it stands for. Like tears in rain. How can anyone not get it? How can anyone not have heard of it?

We all have those Blade Runner moments. And the best term I know for it is COIK-Syndrome. Clear only if known.

I found it in an old manual for technical writers and the example it used was a story about a New York water pipe worker who wanted to know from a company if it was safe to pour their product X into pipes to clean them. He received various answers, all of them jargon mumbo jumbo. »Does that mean it is safe?,« he wrote back.

The final answer finally was clear: »X eats hell out of pipes! Don’t use it.«

The fact that I remember the story and the wording but not the name of the substance is interesting in itself.

Anyway. COIK. Watch out for it.

Today I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment and saw this door saying DU KA.

Now for everyone English this does not make sense anyway. In German, it could mean different things.

  • Dunkelkammer (Dark room).
  • Duschkabine (Shower).
  • Dunstkamin (Foggy Chimney).
  • Du kannst (You may).

I guess you get my drift. I spent half an hour inventing words and had fun.

Your audience may not have half an hour to follow you and it is not funny at all having to decipher slides with acronyms or abbreviations.

Just as it is no fun being quoted to from Blade Runner if you haven’t seen it.

So make sure that what you say is what you want your audience to get.

And if you really haven’t seen Blade Runner yet: This video was made from every single individual frame of the movie and it might give you a first basic idea.

Then again, it might not. It might be just another case of COIK.

But don’t worry. It won’t affect the test.