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Presentation skills are an everyday requirement and the ability to present information clearly and effectively is key to getting your message across. Participants will discover that delivering an inspirational or captivating presentation requires a lot of planning and preparation.

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Beyond Plain English

Article Overview:
In this thought provoking article, Martin Shovel questions the demand for plainer and plainer English and argues for the need for more evocative, poetic language in order to provoke a reaction in others.

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Article Overview:
In this thought provoking article, Martin Shovel questions the demand for plainer and plainer English and argues for the need for more evocative, poetic language in order to provoke a reaction in others.

Opening Words:
How would your colleagues react if you turned up at the office one day in your pyjamas? Chances are, you’d struggle to get them to take you seriously. And if you tried to carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, they’d probably begin to question your sanity.

What you wear and when you choose to wear it matters greatly because in most social situations nudity is not an option. In the world of work, for example, the suit is an emblem of neutrality, but you’d get a very odd reaction if you wore one to bed.

When we express ourselves in language, our thoughts are like naked bodies and our words are like the clothes that dress and display them to the world. How you say what you say is as important as what you say – in fact, the two are inseparable. Which is why I have a bit of a problem with the idea of 'Plain English'.

Useful Reading For:
A fascinating read for anyone looking to add impact to their presentations or get their communication noticed.

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Drawing People In

Article Overview:
This is a great article from Martin Shovel, that explains why pictures are so important in communication, and how that knowledge can help the trainer.

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Article Overview:
This is a great article from Martin Shovel, that explains why pictures are so important in communication, and how that knowledge can help the trainer.

Opening Words:
Imagine this nightmare scenario… You're caught short in a foreign city, many miles from home. You don't speak the lingo and they don't speak yours. You're desperate to find the nearest loo. What do you do?

A recent mobile phone TV ad came up with an elegant solution. Before going on your trip, you load pictures of everything you might need onto your mobile camera phone. So now when you feel the urge, relief is at hand. All you have to do is flash a picture of a toilet at a passer-by.

In a situation like this pictures leave words standing – they are the ultimate lingua franca because they resemble the things they represent. In some circumstances a picture can even fool us into believing it is the thing itself. Think of one of those hyper-realistic trompe l'oeil paintings. You know it's only a picture but suddenly a painting of a bowl of fruit makes your mouth water and you're tempted to reach out for a non-existent strawberry. The brushwork looks for all the world like a real strawberry's blood brother but turns out to be a stranger – a case of mistaken identity.

Useful Reading For:
All trainers.

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How to Become a Charismatic Speaker

Article Overview
This is another great article from Martin Shovel, the author looks at the common mistakes people make when speaking, and the value of using pictures and imagery to encourage the audience to 'feel' the message.

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Article Overview
This is another great article from Martin Shovel, the author looks at the common mistakes people make when speaking, and the value of using pictures and imagery to encourage the audience to 'feel' the message.

Opening Words:
In extreme cases – I'm thinking of Gerald Ratner’s infamous "total crap" speech – it has been known for a Chief Executive to open his mouth and bring his company crashing to its knees. Fortunately, catastrophes on this scale are rare. Far more common, however, is the plethora of boring presentations and tedious speeches that drain an organisation of its lifeblood – good communication.

For instance, last week I was invited to a high profile product launch at a swanky London venue. As the Managing Director rose to his feet to say a few words before introducing a well-known guest speaker, I noticed that the people in the audience who worked for him visibly winced. He got off to a bad start by telling us all the things he wasn’t going to do in his speech...

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to learn how to make their presentations more engaging and impactful.

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Lifting the Lid on Obama

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the moment that Barack Obama seemed to stumble over his words and asks if it's right to expect great speeches to be spontaneous.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the moment that Barack Obama seemed to stumble over his words and asks if it's right to expect great speeches to be spontaneous.

Opening Words:
Something shocking happened to Barack Obama on Thursday 5th June, 2008. He was addressing a meeting of the local community in Bristol, Virginia, when in this midst of his usual rhetorical flow, the wheels of his speech suddenly flew off and he ground to an inarticulate halt.

Here's a transcript of Obama's slip up: "Everybody knows that it makes no sense... that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma, they end up taking up a hospital bed, it costs... when... if you... they just gave... you gave up a hospital bed, it costs... when... if you... they just gave... you gave 'em treatment early and they got... some treatment... and... er... a breathalyzer... or an inhalator... not a breathalyzer... (audience laughter)... I haven't had much sleep in the last forty-eight hours or so..."

What had gone wrong? Had lack of sleep really caused Obama's muse to nod off momentarily? Apparently not, what had happened was that his autocue had broken down for a couple of minutes."

Useful Reading For:
Anyone interested in developing their presentation skills and anyone, in particular who feels overawed by great speakers, who like us need good back up systems - like practice or, in this case, an autocue that works.

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Memories Are Made Of This

Article Overview:
This is another excellent article from Martin Shovel in which he explores what makes things memorable. He compares two stories reported by the BBC about Sudan and asks why we remember one so clearly and not the other.

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Article Overview:
This is another excellent article from Martin Shovel in which he explores what makes things memorable. He compares two stories reported by the BBC about Sudan and asks why we remember one so clearly and not the other.

Opening Words:
Why do we remember some things effortlessly and yet struggle desperately to remember others? It’s as if some experiences are covered in Velcro, while the rest are coated in Teflon. What makes this even more frustrating is that many of the most important things we have to remember are resolutely non-stick. Can an understanding of these differences help us make what we say – and write – more sticky?

One of the stickiest and most widely read internet news stories of 2006 came out of Sudan. It instantly caught the public’s imagination when it was first reported on the BBC News website. Even today, some two years later, it’s still being picked up by various web forums and being emailed across the world.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to make sure their communication has impact and is remembered.

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Move Closer

Article Overview:
In this article Martin Shovel suggests that showing our own vulnerability in the classroom may be no bad thing - an all-knowing, flawless trainer may be just the opposite of what a diffident learner needs.

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Article Overview:
In this article Martin Shovel suggests that showing our own vulnerability in the classroom may be no bad thing - an all-knowing, flawless trainer may be just the opposite of what a diffident learner needs.

Opening Words:
Brains can be shy, emotional creatures when it comes to learning. If they don't feel secure, they'll stay curled up inside the safety of their skulls, spurning the advances of the outside world. Successful learning is not just about managing information or knowledge, it's also about dealing with feelings – our feelings and the feelings of those we work with in the training room, lecture theatre or classroom.

Openness to learning is about sharing vulnerability. Some people feel almost naked when they go into an unfamiliar learning situation and are often convinced that they are the only ones in the group protecting their dignity with little more than a fig leaf. An all-knowing, flawless trainer, or teacher, might just be the opposite of what the diffident learner needs.

Useful Reading For:
All trainers.

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New Light On PowerPoint

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers why "PowerPoint Presentations that Changed the World" ranks so highly on the list of books that will never be written.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers why "PowerPoint Presentations that Changed the World" ranks so highly on the list of books that will never be written.

Opening Words:
Why does PowerPoint Presentations that Changed the World rank so high on the list of books that will never be written? Perhaps the clue is in the title. PowerPoint has been with us for over 20 years but during that time it has gained more of a reputation for sending the world to sleep than changing it.

Great orators, past and present, have managed to weave their magic with words alone. Would Nelson Mandela’s statement at the opening of his trial have been more powerful, or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech more moving if they’d been delivered as PowerPoint presentations?

Useful Reading For:
All trainers and coaches who use Powerpoint.

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Obama's Magic

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers Barrack Obama's success as an orator and the impact they had in the run up to his election.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers Barrack Obama's success as an orator and the impact they had in the run up to his election.

Opening Words:
There is one supreme gift that marks out truly great speakers from the rest: it’s an unerring ability to make us care about what they’re saying, whatever the topic. Up to now, Barack Obama’s greatest achievement has been to make the people of America care about politics. Armed only with words, he has miraculously transformed the vast desert of political disaffection into a fertile plain where the litter of broken dreams has been replaced by seeds of hope.

Obama’s words have cast their spell in a series of stirring campaign speeches; speeches that have excited and inspired people around the globe. But what is it that makes these speeches so special? And is it possible to begin to understand how they work their magic?

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to improve their presentation skills or their ability to influence others through words.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes...

Article Overview:
In this interesting article, Martin Shovel looks at the nature of language and the way we categorise things. He shows why basic level words and concepts are so important when trying to communicate effectively.

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Article Overview:
In this interesting article, Martin Shovel looks at the nature of language and the way we categorise things. He shows why basic level words and concepts are so important when trying to communicate effectively.

Opening Words:
In the Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup, there’s a scene in which Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho Marx) is handed a Treasury Department report while attending his first-ever Cabinet meeting as leader of the fictional country of Freedonia.

When asked if he finds the report clear, Firefly replies, “Clear? Huh! Why a four-year-old child could understand this report.” He then turns to his secretary and instructs him to “run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it.”

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to be able to develop their ability to communicate powerfully through presentations or writing.

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Purposeful Presentations

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the importance of purpose when designing a presentation.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the importance of purpose when designing a presentation.

Opening Words:
The road to lacklustre presentations is paved with good intentions. It often begins with a positive desire to stop navel-gazing and get stuck into the business of getting the job done, or it may simply be a response to the pressure of time.

But unfortunately, the impulse to dive straight into your material and start writing masks a serious confusion between purpose and content that inevitably results in presentations that lack focus, clarity and impact, and leave an audience gasping for air.

Useful Reading For:
Trainers and anyone interested in developing their presentation skills.

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Telling Tales

Article Overview:
In this interesting article, Martin Shovel compares the value of stories and arguments and explains why he believes both are important for persuasion.

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Article Overview:
In this interesting article, Martin Shovel compares the value of stories and arguments and explains why he believes both are important for persuasion.

Opening Words:
Can the use of a story in a serious presentation ever be justified as anything more than ornamental – a sprinkle of sugar to help the pill go down?

We’re brought up to believe that stories and arguments are two fundamentally different ways of thinking and making sense of the world. On the one hand, small children are soothed to sleep with bedtime stories, not arguments. On the other, a board of directors is persuaded to adopt a new strategic objective by a series of rigorous arguments, not stories.

Of course, stories and arguments are different forms of discourse, but experiencing them in action recently at a conference for senior health service managers convinced me that both have a critical role to play in high-level thinking and communication.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to develop their influence and persuasion skills, and particularly those interested in making their presentations more impactful.

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The Joke's On You

Article Overview:
Another interesting article helping readers to improve their presentation skills from Martin Shovel. In this article, Martin looks at the role of jokes in presentations or speeches and considers when they are valid and when they are an unnecessary risk.

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Article Overview:
Another interesting article helping readers to improve their presentation skills from Martin Shovel. In this article, Martin looks at the role of jokes in presentations or speeches and considers when they are valid and when they are an unnecessary risk.

Opening Words:
With fifteen minutes to go before delivering a speech, Tony Blair would often begin a desperate last-minute search for jokes he could use in it. One of his speechwriters, Philip Collins, said it was as though Blair thought that jokes come entirely disembodied from the process of writing.

We all know that telling jokes is a risky business at the best of times, but Collins’ observation suggests there may be deeper reasons for thinking twice before using them in a speech or presentation. Collins' remark reminds us that, if a speech is to work as a coherent whole, its various elements – arguments, stories, images, metaphors, etc. – need to evolve organically from the process of writing it. But adding a last-minute joke to a well-crafted speech involves taking an entirely unnecessary risk – it is rather like going to a fine restaurant and sprinkling your own mix of seasoning onto the great chef's signature dish.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who wants to develop their presentation, or public speaking skills.

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The Power of Story Telling in a Presentation

Article Overview:
Stories can be a powerful addition to training, enabling trainers to get key points across in a memorable, interesting way. This article from Indian author R. G Srinivasan, identifies some of key rules for using story-telling in presentations.

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Article Overview:
Stories can be a powerful addition to training, enabling trainers to get key points across in a memorable, interesting way. This article from Indian author R. G Srinivasan, identifies some of key rules for using story-telling in presentations.

Opening Words:
Appealing to emotions is the most powerful way to transfer learning in an information-cluttered training event or presentation. A compelling story woven with a lot of information in the telling with a conclusion that appeals to emotions, can permanently etch the learning in an otherwise unresponsive training or meeting-fatigued audience.

From childhood, we learn through stories, be it Grandma's tales, reading stories in books, or from stories narrated to us in schools and by friends. We remember them better than the thousands of lectures and classes we have attended.

So what are the elements of a powerful story and how does it work?

Useful Reading For:
All trainers and anyone who delivers presentations.

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This Metaphor Ain't Dead, It's Just Restin'

Article Overview:
In this article Martin Shovel discusses the use of the metaphor in everyday language and questions the condemnation of these phrases by the Plain English Campaign.

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Article Overview:
In this article Martin Shovel discusses the use of the metaphor in everyday language and questions the condemnation of these phrases by the Plain English Campaign.

Opening Words:
Judging from a list of the 'most annoying cliches' in the English language compiled by the Plain English Campaign - one of the greatest examples of modern oratory might never have seen the light of day, if they'd had anything to do with it.

For the most part their 'most annoying cliches' list is unexceptionable. It contains many of the usual linguistic suspects: words that are misunderstood and misused; words and phrases that are used as fillers to bulk up the vacuous and trivial - like literally and the fact of the matter is; euphemisms - like to be perfectly honest and I hear what you're saying; professional jargon that has spilled over into everyday use - like the economist's value-added; slang expressions that have been flogged to death - like awesome and 24/7; and confusing slang - like diamond geezer (confusing because in US English geezer means an old person, especially an eccentric old man).

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who has to compile letters/emails or communicate an idea in writing.

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Unconventional Wisdom

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel asks the reader to be prepared to challenge conventional wisdom, and to look for creative opportunities when there is a mismatch between what we've always done and the results we're getting.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel asks the reader to be prepared to challenge conventional wisdom, and to look for creative opportunities when there is a mismatch between what we've always done and the results we're getting.

Opening Words:
Ask a random selection of colleagues if they like PowerPoint presentations, and what do you think they’ll say? Chances are they’ll give you the thumbs down. But do they use PowerPoint themselves? The answer is probably ‘yes’.

Let’s be clear about this – they don’t like being on the receiving end of PowerPoint presentations but they use them themselves. Isn’t this somewhat odd and inconsistent? True, there’s nothing intrinsically bad about PowerPoint, but the way most people use it has turned it into the grey suit of business communications; ubiquitous, boring and predictable.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone looking to overcome 'conventional wisdom'.

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Word Power

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the power of Words and how they can influence, using examples from a recent speech by Barack Obama to illustrate his point.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel looks at the power of Words and how they can influence, using examples from a recent speech by Barack Obama to illustrate his point.

Opening Words:
"Words are sparks of light that create an illuminated space inside our heads we call ‘consciousness’. They make it possible for us to move beyond simply experiencing things, to consciously thinking about them and then being able to share our thoughts about them with others, if we want to.

But words also wield their power in the darkness too. In the shadows, beyond the light of conscious awareness, they are able to influence us without our knowing what they are getting up to."

Useful Reading For:
Anyone interested in delivering a message persuasively and/or developing their presentation skills further.

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Words That Catch Fire

Article Overview:
In another fascinating article, Martin Shovel considers the importance of imagery in language, using Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' speech' to illustrate his point.

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Article Overview:
In another fascinating article, Martin Shovel considers the importance of imagery in language, using Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' speech' to illustrate his point.

Opening Words:
The words of a skilled speaker or writer create light in the minds of others. We instantly ‘see’ what they mean, we are enlightened. Their words grab our attention by stimulating our imaginations and touching our hearts. How is it that some people can do this while others leave us stumbling about in the dark wondering what they’re talking about?

The other day I listened to Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech and immediately fell under its spell. His language is full of imagery. His words spring into life as a series of tableaux that tell a compelling story about the African-Americans’ struggle for social equality. It’s clear that King recognises the persuasive power of imagery.

Useful Reading For:
Everyone.

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