Three ways to start making simple sense



We all want to make a good impression – so why can we end up achieving the exact opposite?

For example, I get to watch a lot of business presentations by professional people.  Good, knowledgeable folk who clearly want to show they can be of use to their clients, customers, or colleagues.  But they don’t.  Why?  because they forget the very simple things that help us start making sense to others.  Here are three ways that the good ‘uns do it.

Stop doing “big content”  ‘Big data’ might be a topically-thrilling concept in some IT-related circles..but not here. I have watched many lawyers who love to use big content – for example, the finer points of legal employment cases. Many tens of Powerpoint slides giving the blow-by-blow of it all.  “Look how much I know!” they seem to be saying. Meanwhile the audience slowly sags visibly under the weight of it all – usually before five minutes are up.

Think about them not you  Building on this first point, people are simple organisms when it comes to making sense to them.  Often, they just want to hear three basic things:

  • What is the point or essence that I need to know?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • As a result, what should I do and how?

The rest is dangerously large amounts of fluff that will clog up everyone’s neural pathways if we don’t keep their needs in mind.

Tell your stories  Quite a lot of professionals also struggle with a question they feel they must answer: “How do I sell me and/or the firm?”.  This can make them feel very uncomfortable – after all they are rarely specialist sales people who, it is assumed, should know this sort of thing.

But the solution is again simple and does not require specialist knowledge: “Don’t”.  Just show them how you have helped others to achieve or solve things – tell your stories.  They will do a far better job of marketing you than a million glossy brochures and websites or bucket loads of self-promoting blather.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones.

How to avoid TPB (Terminal Presentation Boredom)


I have first-hand experience of terminal presentation boredom and so do you. Within a few minutes of the start, you know you are in for a LONG morning: as Presenter X launches out on yet another fascinating exposition.  Featuring his 60 fulsomely-populated slides delivered in less than 30 minutes with all the skill and enthusiasm that have alienated audiences the business world over.

People buy people. So no matter how expert your professionals are, audiences will not see this expertise if they cannot communicate properly: and they will not buy what you say or have to offer them. And presentations are THE most public exposure, designed to test (and sometimes break) the nerves of your hardiest souls. Here are three tips that will help banish boredom from your next presentation.

Start with a BANG!  “Hello, my name is Jane Jones from SPP. We are a hypothetical firm. I am responsible for…etc.”  Terminal boredom begins, as Dylan Thomas said, at the beginning – with someone droning on like this. Research shows that an audience remembers two things more than anything else. The beginning and the end. So give them something to remember! Tell a relevant story. Evoke a hypothetical situation (“Imagine that you are…”). Appeal to a common memory.   Go for the DIFFERENT in DIFFERENTIATION.

Us or them?  Having got going, the next thing that we can be assailed with is talk about some people’s favourite subject: them and theirs. The fact that SPP was formed in 1926 when old Mr S had a Damascene experience on his way to the butchers, or that you have offices in thunderous numbers of locations may fleetingly impress graduate candidates or inductees.   But it is the kiss of death for clients, prospects, and anyone else out of their business short pants. Better to focus on your audience, relate to them directly, their experiences, their situation (use the words, ‘you’, yours’). Do your homework to find out what will enable you to do this.

A few points, well made   And finally, the person from SPP throws the proverbial kitchen sink at us. Armed with those 60 slides, massed ranks of facts are marched, jackbooted, towards and over the audience, grinding them into bored submission.

The rule of thumb is that a good presentation should contain no more than FIVE key points, delivered succinctly and with gusto and enthusiasm (as audience members, we relate to someone who is excited about what they are saying and what they do). Any more detail can be summarised and/or provided in notes and other back-up afterwards.

James Newberry is a coach and trainer who helps professionals present better and do more business.  Have a look at to know more.

Can you front up?

It’s the million pound question for anyone making a presentation. If you can, the impact on an audience, the creation of a positive impression and credibility engendered for you and your firm become palpable. And, of course, the opposite applies too unfortunately.

Having worked with and observed examples at both ends of this spectrum, there are some key things to get right. Here are three of the most crucial differentiators that will take you or your colleagues beyond the ordinary. Of course, there are more. If you want to know about them too, email me at and I’ll send you more ‘Fronting Up’ ideas.

Big IS beautiful

This is the ‘eureka’ realisation for some aspiring (and indeed ‘experienced’) presenters. A presentation is NOT a conversation; the rules of engagement for making one are very different. Yet many treat them as the same…and wonder why their audiences are underwhelmed.

As a piece of public, 100% one way communication, the onus is on the presenter to generate ALL the energy in the room. This means that you have to be much BIGGER than in the more intimate, two-way energised process of a dialogue. Bigger means using your voice, content and body to generate interest. To “be a bit more shouty” as one of our workshop participants amusingly put it. She didn’t mean actually shouting, but (for her) projecting her voice in a way that would make the greater impact required. Using hands and arms to create movement and animation. It’s a different mode of operation which needs to be recognised, learned and practised.

Metaphorically speaking

Facts are good, but on their own they are not the whole nine yards for the best presentations. Metaphors are underused pieces of rhetoric that yoke a powerful image directly to your content/message, enhancing the impact of that message. So Tony Blair could have said: “Education is vital to Britain’s success in the future” or as he did say….

“Education, education, education – then and now, the key to the door of Britain’s future success

Whether you like politicians or not, they are skilled in the art of making presentations that engage with their audience. Using metaphors and other devices – there are two more being used in this one sentence – that make powerful connections with all our senses. It works. Use them.

Tell your stories (and make them interesting)

In a lot of business presentations, evidence of action or use is an important component in bringing to life the service you offer. What a shame then that some presenters do not do full justice to this. The nearest they get is: “We do this type of work for companies like A, B, and C “. Not much life in that, is there?

In this context, fronting up consists of telling stories that really engage your audience in what happened. Describing the challenges faced by your client and how you and the firm helped overcome them, and the benefits that they received as a result. That way you will stand out.