Does Your Presentation Pass the Hallway Test?

Hallway Test2Imagine for a moment that you and I work in the same office building.  One day, as I am passing you in the hallway, I look at you and say, “How many of you have ever eaten at Arby’s?”

How would you react?

Would you, confused, turn around to see if I was talking to a group?

Most probably, yes.

Would you think I was speaking directly to you?

Most probably, no.

If I had been speaking directly to you, I would have asked, “Have you ever eaten at Arby’s?”

That’s how we speak when we are talking to one person.  We use “have you . . . ?” instead of “has anyone . . . ?” or “who has . . . ?”

One subtle, yet powerful, way you can engage your audience is to speak to the individuals in your audience.  You can do that through substituting the personal “have you . . . ?” for the impersonal phrases such as “have any of you . . . ?” or “has anyone . . . ?”

If you aren’t sure about a phrase, use the “Hallway Test.” Imagine passing someone in the hallway and saying it.  Does it sound odd?  Does it sound like you are talking to an individual or to a group?

If you want people to come up to you and say, “I felt like you were speaking directly to me,” then use the “Hallway Test” on your presentations.

Click here for further explanation and demonstration of the Hallway Test by Craig Valentine, 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking.

Easy PowerPoint Principles for Leaders Webinar

Boring PowerPoint

Don’t let your PowerPoint presentations be the cure for insomnia! In this one-hour webinar on PowerPoint (originally presented on 4/9/2013 for Executive Women International), you will:

  • Learn how to plan your presentation
  • Discover 4 easy design principles
  • Learn a few tips and tricks
  • Learn how to deliver with confidence

Webinar (one-hour)

slides only 

Click on handout for handout pdf:

PowerPoint Handout

11 Tips for Your Graduation Speech

bored graduate

“Don’t be boring,” I said to the two young women who, as valedictorian and salutatorian, would be speaking at their high school graduation in early June.  Their school had hired me to help them craft and deliver speeches on one of the most memorable of days in a young person’s life.  Unfortunately, hardly anyone remembers graduation speeches, except that they are usually too long or too boring.

Most of the tips I gave them could apply to almost any presentation.

11 Tips for Your Graduation Speech

1. Don’t be boring

Boring concepts (unless you can offer specific examples):
“We’ve come so far . . .
“We’ve had good times and bad times, but made it through together . . .”
“Our time here has prepared us to face our futures . . .”

Boring quotes: Quotes can be boring, especially if not relevant to your point

2. Consider your audience: Fellow graduates, other students, parents/families of other students, your own parents/family, teachers and staff. But, speak mostly to your fellow students!

3. Have a theme. Be able to state your main point in one sentence.

4. Be specific. Tell stories, give examples. A little humor helps as you walk down memory lane.

5. Remember it’s not all about you, but do let the audience get to know you and your personality.

6. Thank people (recognize parents, teachers, friends). Consider thanking a specific person who made a difference. Keep it short. Involve the audience by asking them to think about whom they have to thank.

7. Don’t say anything you will regret!

8. End with the most important thought—if they remember nothing else, they should remember this. It should be encouraging.

9. Never speak longer than your allotted time.

10. Smile. Have fun. Don’t be too serious.

11. Practice. Practice. Practice. Don’t memorize. Internalize.

Do you have any to add?  Or, maybe you want to share this post before you have to sit through another graduation.


How to Be an Authentic Speaker: Keep It Real

speak no evil

At a recent Toastmaster contest, a young man told a story from his childhood, one in which he was left home alone one day while his mother, a single parent, went to work.  My heart went out to him.

When the winners of the contest were announced, he didn’t win, but several supporters congratulated him on his second place finish.

Later, at the end of the contest, guests were invited to speak and one of the young man’s supporters stood up.  It was his father.  What?  He had said in his speech that his mother was a single parent?

I went up to him a few minutes later.

“So, I’m a little confused,” I said, “Your dad is here, but you said your mom was a single parent.”

“Oh, I made it all up,” he said.

“None of it was true?” I asked.


I felt manipulated.  Lied to.  I admit at that moment, I disliked the speaker.

And, whenever I dislike a speaker, I take it that there is a valuable lesson to learn!

And that is this:  Keep it real.

When telling a story about your life, keep it real, at least in the essential aspects.  Speak the “emotional truth” says Darren LaCroix, the 2001 Toastmasters World Champion.

For a little more on “condensing” elements of your speech, but sticking to the “emotional truth” see this blog post from Craig Valentine, the 1999 Toastmaster World Champion.

It’s one thing to tell a story about your childhood where you condense some events, or change minor details, but to completely fabricate a story?  Well, that’s a good way to lose the trust of your audience.

What do you think?  Is it ever OK to make up a story and present it as a personal story?

Post-It Notes to PowerPoint: Planning Powerful Presentations

Post_it_note_planningThe lowly Post-It note can help you plan a more powerful presentation, especially if you are  presenting with PowerPoint. Even if you aren’t using PowerPoint, the little sticky notes can help you brainstorm and organize the flow of your presentation (Post-It Note Speech Planning).

The photo above is a picture of my Post-It note planning for a webinar on PowerPoint that I’ll be doing for Executive Women International on April 9.  I used pink Post-it Notes for the main points and laid out the sub points horizontally (and this was after a Post-It note brainstorming session which looked much messier!).

Planning out the points and flow can keep you from getting too bogged down in details too soon.  It also serves as a visual to refer to as you work on and practice the presentation.

A bonus tip for PowerPoint presentations:  Use the “Sections” feature of PowerPoint to translate your Post-It note organization to PowerPoint (Sections is found on the “Home” tab of the ribbon).  Using sections enables you to easily work on only one part of your PowerPoint presentation at a time and also to move entire sections more easily.

using sections part 2

Want to see more slides of the presentation?  See the Easy PowerPoint for Leaders slides on slide share to be inspired and learn a few tips and tricks!