Getting More Sleep

At least half the participants in my Get to the Message workshop raise their hands when I ask, “How many of you slept less than six hours last night?” What’s wrong with this? Here are some characteristics of people who do not sleep enough. Many sleep-deprived people have racing thoughts, talk rapidly, are easily distracted, in a state of mania, and have trouble focusing on the details and big picture at the same time.

What do sleep-deprived presenters do? They create too many detailed slides that do not present a cohesive message. They work really hard but the end result is an unpersuasive, rambling set of slides. They cannot answer these important questions: What story are you telling? What are your three key messages? How does each slide advance your story and messages?

Don’t waste your time going around in circles with your presentation—instead, sleep so you can be focused.

And if you haven’t had enough sleep but are putting together a presentation? Stop! Don’t dive right into the slides. First organize your key messages and storyline, and then create the slides.

Sleep Checklist–Do One This Week

  1. Turn off all electronic devices an hour before you go to sleep.
  2. Do something calming before bed: deep breathing, stretches, a cup of herbal tea.
  3. Take a walk outside.
  4. Create a short bedtime ritual, for example, a cup of tea, four minutes stretching, five minutes meditating.

For more ideas: Huffington Post “37 Science-Backed Tips for Better Sleep Tonight”

Manage Your Presentation Stress, Don’t Just Worry

Here’s some advice from a psychologist, Sian Beilock, on how to perform better under pressure. Let’s apply it to your worries about an upcoming presentation.

Take a walk: Have you ever been very anxious or upset and then taken a walk? It probably calmed you down. After your walk you’ll feel calmer and wonder why you were so upset in the first place.

Change your self-talk: Instead of telling yourself; “I am so anxious. I hope I do OK,” say, “I am excited and I can feel it. This means I’m going to sound energetic.”

Write down your worries before an event: This gets them out of your mind. I suggest you write them down when you first learn you will be giving the presentation that worries you.

Sian’s book: How the Body Knows Its Mind



Time: “I don’t have time to put this together.” Make a plan to get it done.
Help: “I don’t have all the information.” Write down who can actually give you information or guide you to it.
Experience: “I’ve never talked in front of this many people.” Find a coach to give you some pointers, or go on line and look up advice for speaking to 300 people.
PowerPoint: “I really don’t know how to make effective slides.” Find someone in your company to help or hire a PowerPoint expert. Compare costs.
Travel: “I hope the plane arrives on time.” Never book the last plane out–you’ll be in for guaranteed stress.


Rehearsal: “I never really rehearse my talks. I wing it.” Rehearse many times alone, and with colleagues or a presentation coach. IT WILL CALM YOU DOWN.
Logistics: “I don’t know what the room will be like.” Ask to see the room when you arrive or get there early enough to scope out the room.
Sleep: “I don’t have time to sleep.” The studies are out there. To be effective you need at least 7 hours of sleep–and 8 is even better.

Make Your Whole Presentation a Story

We all know that after listening to a presentation we frequently don’t remember the key points and how they fit together. I was just in a workshop where we practiced repeating or rephrasing what someone said. It became obvious that the people who talked in a more story manner were easier to remember. People who talked without setting up a story or some type of structure were very difficult even to paraphrase. This experience further convinced me that “storytelling” is the way to go. Here’s a very simple storytelling model designed so people can better remember what you said during a presentation.



Context: We are losing millions due to the inefficient manufacturing processes.
Before: Our products now take twice as long to get to market as our competition.
Plot Point: We propose to modernize our manufacturing processes.
After: This modernization will let us cut in half our time to market with new products.
Wrap Up: This is easily achievable and we believe we can increase sales by 20%.


Context: Never underestimate the power of transformation.
Before: As a child I lived in poverty in Columbia.
Plot Point: Through miraculous events I came to the US and attended university.
After: Although living in the US, I have created and built a pre-school in my town in Columbia so the children can be educated and rise out of poverty.
Wrap Up: Your $500 contribution fully supports one child for one year.

Look Poised and Confident

Do you want to have your audience on your side before you even speak? Then look the part of a confident, in-charge presenter: stand straight, shoulders are back and open, head is free, weight is balanced between both feet. How do you get that “executive presence” look? Your body needs to become it. Two yoga classes or two weight training classes a week will give you a more confident stance.

People see you before you open your mouth. Start now to make sure your body looks the part. Learn more about this picture from Leland Vall who teaches the Alexander Technique. The head goes forward and up in relation to the torso which goes back and up.


Here’s the best way to really see if your slides’ content is organized, they look professional and help tell your story.

Print all your slides, lay all of them out on a table and look at them.

First, look at the content across the slides. Is the content organized or do you have the same ideas on many slides spread throughout the presentation?

Second, look at the slide layouts. Are they varied or do you have 8 charts in a row, 6 different graphics in a row, only slides with text bullets and no graphics?

Third, make sure you have engaging, informative titles that help you tell your story and emphasize your key messages.

Professional-looking slides increase your delivery success in engaging your audience.

Cut Out the Non-Essential Details

When executives listen to a presentation, they tend to get frustrated when presenters dive too deep into the details. To help you stay on the message — ask yourself these 3 questions before including a piece of information.

  1. What does my audience need to know about this topic?
  2. What would I like to tell them (but should cut out)?
  3. What pieces of information will reinforce my key messages?

Unfortunately we have to keep most of our expertise and knowledge to ourselves and only spend time on the information the audience needs to know. However, when we do this, we’re sure to engage them!

Stop Scuba Diving into Unnecessary Details

Your audience is smiling at you. You relax. You realize they are delighted you are not going to overwhelm them with details like the last speaker! You finally have figured out just the right amount of details to share.

If you are still concerned about the amount of details you present, start thinking about your content this way.

High-Level: You will give a high level overview of some of the information.

Skim Surface: You will skim the surface on some details you audience needs to know. For example, you will share certain key numbers.

Details: You will share the details (which I call scuba diving) only when they are essential to elaborate on your key messages.

Most people “scuba dive” into details without even thinking about their audience’s need to know.

The next time you are talking in a meeting or giving a formal presentation, keep asking yourself,

“Do I really need to tell them this?”

“Will this information help them make a decision or just confuse them?”

Be the person who shares the right level of details so you audience stays engaged and wants to hear more!

Visualize Your Success

You need to practice visualization before a presentation.

First a quote from the author Olivia Fox Cabane of The Charisma Myth.

“I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage.”

I do use her visualization technique when speaking. Beyond my work presentations, it was especially useful when I was the MC for a wedding and when I had to give a eulogy. In both situations I felt in charge of my body and emotions and was able to connect to the audience.

Better yet I’m now using it when I go out Argentine Tango Dancing. For the last three times I have gone out dancing I have done a two minute visualization of the evening. My experiences these three times have surpassed any other dance experiences. I have danced with dancers who have never asked me. I have had amazing dances…been kissed on the check–been told I was fantastic etc. etc.

I invite you to have your own experience of using visualization. Buy her book and try it out. Your successes will amaze you and your audiences!!!

Where is Your Concentration?

From self-conscious to audience-conscious

Thomas Hayes, a visionary, author, and motivational speaker, shares how he manages his nerves. With an iron will forged out of the tragic experience of losing a leg to cancer in childhood, Hayes has a compelling history to share with his audiences. Here are his secrets to being present in the moment with his audience.

What is the best way you have learned to channel your nervousness?

When I am waiting I focus myself in the moment. I watch what is happening. I look at the lighting. I sense how the sound system is working. I watch where the audience’s attention is: on themselves, on the food? Are they preoccupied? I take all of my attention away from myself.

What is your secret for calming down and being with your audience?

Intention is my secret. When I make it my intention to give something to the audience, then I have all the power. If your intention as a speaker is to receive, then you are trying to get something. You have given the audience all the power. When I watch an open-mike night, I see young comedians who are always thinking about themselves. They are focused on receiving laughs and applause. They have to shift from receiving to giving.

What is your one sentence about being with your audience?

Change your attention and shift from self-conscious to audience-conscious.

Talk to Yourself to Calm Your Nerves

“How You Self-Talk to Yourself Matters!!!”

People who referred to themselves as “you” or by their own names while silently talking to themselves in preparation for a five-minute speech were subsequently calmer and more confident and performed better on the talk than people who had referred to themselves as “I” or “me” (3.6 versus 3.2 on a combined five-point scale, in the view of judges), says a team led by Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan. The research participants who talked to themselves in the second or third person also felt less shame afterward. By distancing us from ourselves, the use of the second and third person in internal monologues enables us to better regulate our emotions, the researchers say.

See two links

Short version

Long version

“Effective speaking is more of a subtraction process than an additive process. It’s more about subtracting the things that are getting in our way of connecting with the audience. Things like busy hands, excessive movement, or a monotone voice”

-Bill Gove via Steve Siebold

Know Your Inner Dialogue

You have practiced out loud. You feel confident. You know the subject. You have answered the questions you may be asked. But you are still uneasy. Often you feel good before a presentation but part way through, you lose confidence and just want to get it over with and sit down.

Sometimes I see this phenomenon with the people I coach. I watch them closely and then ask, “Do you have a voice that is critiquing everything you are saying and telling you that what you just said is not exactly correct?” The presenter looks surprised and responds, “Yes.” Then I say, “This is what I like to call the overworked helper.”

I go on to explain that this voice feels it is helping. But, when you are in front of a group of people, it is only making it more difficult for you to relax and connect to your audience. The voice was essential during your practice, but when you are doing the talk for real, it must take a back-row seat and stop talking. You need a different voice that says, “Yes, you are doing wonderful. Yes, that was a good point you made.” Or more ideally, you need to still all inner voices and just have quiet inside.

Voices in your head? What is she talking about? Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. In a wonderful book called Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, author Robert Swartz explains, “The point is that we have ongoing, complex relationships with many different inner voices, thought patterns, and emotions that are similar to relationships we have with people.” I see these voices in action as I watch people present.

Start to pay attention to your inner voices when you talk in front of a group of people. Are you hearing from the “overworked helper” or the “constant judge”? Neither one is good to have activated when you are speaking. Amazingly enough, when I have suggested to presenters that they simply ask their disruptive inner voice to pipe down, to stop judging and making sarcastic comments, the voice does calm down.

Let me add one caveat. If you have not practiced out loud and if you are unprepared, I doubt this voice will calm down. It knows you have not done the necessary preparation and is actually trying to help you. But during the actual talk is not the time for it to start coaching you with incessant criticism.

So do yourself and your nerves a favor. Check in with this voice several days before a talk and find out what it has to say. Just ask, “Are you satisfied? Have I prepared well enough? What else should I do?” You may be amazed that it will answer you. Do what it suggests and you will discover that you can be calm, energized, and confident when speaking. You owe that to yourself – and to your inner critic.