Are rhetorical questions good?

Are rhetorical questions good? Of course they are. If you use the right ones. My logical me smiles every time speakers invite me to confirm their standpoint in an elegant way. In contrast, I feel a shiver every time speakers force me to agree with them. 
#publicspeaking #charisma #rhetoricalquestion #rhetoric #persuasion #fminsights

Cut the Strings

From my book, PLUSPLUS – Patterns for Better Communication: (you can get your copy at Amazon)
“Dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago. I knew that. But did you know how many years dinosaurs populated this planet?
165,000,000 years.
Once I was reading Mark Twain’s classic Letters from the Earth, and found another number that made me think a lot. When we look at the sky at night, we see bazillions of stars — 300 sextillion (more or less) by the latest estimates. But light takes time to travel. If we could travel at light speed, 299,792,458 meters per second, it would take 3.6 years to reach the solar system that’s closest to us.
Aren’t we small?
So there is absolutely no need at all to make ourselves even smaller — but that’s exactly what we do all the time, both in everyday communication and on stage.
99⅓% of all business presentations in Spain start like this:
Hoy vamos a hablar un poco de nuestra empresa.
Today we’re going to talk a little bit about our company. Hey! Wait just a minute — what do you mean, A little bit? ¡¿¡A little bit ? ! ?
Your company is your passion, your life, your future — why would you want to talk about it a little bit?
I refer to things like this as ‘message reducers’, and our vocabulary simply teems with them.
A little bit, little, small, short, simple, simply, quick, quickly, hopefully, probably, potentially, basically, actually, perhaps, maybe, could, should, would, ought to, think, believe, guess, try, want, pretty much, kind of, sort of, rather, quite —
The list goes on — and on — and on. We are all world champions when it comes to diminishing our message — and ourselves.
Stop it!“ Cut the strings.

Three ways to rethink your title slide

Your title slide occupies prime real estate in your slide deck. It is the gateway to your presentation. You can either spend time thinking how to use it to maximum advantage or miss an opportunity to grab you audience’s attention from the start.

Titles slides often contain such details as the date of the presentation, the name and location of the event, the logo of the speaker’s company, contact details and more. In fact, it is not unusual to see a title slide like the example below or some variation of it.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong, per se, with having a title slide like this. It conveys important information about what is to come. But it is bland and all too common.

Moreover, this slide is often projected on the screen before the speaker takes the stage. The speaker is then introduced and proceeds to say something along the lines of the following:

Good morning / afternoon. My name is [name on the slide]. I am the[speaker’s title on the slide] at [company whose logo is on the slide]. I am very happy to be at [name of the event on the slide]. Today I am going to talk to you about [title on the slide and perhaps some variation of the subtitle].

In other words, the speaker starts by telling the audience things that they already know because they have already read the title slide. Not a great way to begin. In fact, by beginning this way, many speakers waste one of the most important parts of their presentations, the opening.

Psychologists talk about the learning principles of primacy and recency. People tend to remember the first thing they hear and the last thing. So the openings (and closings) of your presentation are important. You don’t want to waste them.

This post is not about designing a good title slide – there’s plenty of information elsewhere about design principles; rather, it’s about rethinking title slides and how to use them.

Below are three ideas for you to consider with regard to title slides. They might seem unconventional – and to the extent that most presenters don’t follow them, they are – but whenever I have seen them used, the results have always been impactful.


There is no rule that you need a title slide for every presentation that you make. This is especially so if there is an agenda for the event that clearly states your name and the subject of your talk.

Instead, make your first slide black. The audience won’t even know it’s a slide: they’ll just see a black screen.

When you are introduced, walk on stage and begin speaking while the screen is black. The audience will be 100% focused on you because there is nothing on the screen to distract them. At the appropriate point, transition to your first substantive slide and continue the talk.

When participants in my corporate trainings try this approach, the feedback from their peers is overwhelmingly positive. The audience feels more connected with the speaker and a solid foundation has been laid for the rest of the talk.

Notwithstanding the above, if you distribute copies of your slides after the presentation, I recommend that you do include a title slide so that people have the name of your presentation, your personal details, the date of the presentation, etc. There is no rule that says that the copies you distribute have to be exactly the same as what you showed on the screen.


This idea is a variation on Idea No. 1.

As above, you begin your talk with a black slide. You open, for example, by telling an interesting fact or making a bold statement or telling a story. Of course, whatever you say, it should be related to your talk.

Once you have completed your opening comments and have grabbed your audience’s attention, you click into the title slide and tell them where you are going to take them.

This type of opening reminds me of the opening to a James Bond movie. If you have never seen a Bond movie, they usually open with a riveting scene involving high drama: a high speed car chase; skiing down a mountain; jumping out of a plane; or some other adrenalin-pumping activity. Once the scene is over, things calm down and we find out what the plotline of the film will be.

The good news is that you do not have to be James Bond on stage. (Though if you are, I will buy a ticket.) But you can use the technique of a powerful opening and transition into the title slide to achieve a similar effect.


This idea is a variation on Idea No. 2. However, instead of a black slide, you begin your talk with a substantive slide on the screen and then transition to the title slide.

I once worked with a young start-up company that had created an incredible device to help people who have been injured regain the use of their legs. CNN had featured their device as part of an exposé examining the incredible technological breakthroughs in this field. I was helping them with their pitch.

They began with the usual, title slide and explained who they were and what they did. They then transitioned to their second slide, which was an amazing full screen image, and they told the amazing story behind it.

During the feedback discussion, I said, “Let’s try something. Let’s start with the image and put the title slide second.” I then reversed the two slides in the PowerPoint. “OK,” I told them, “go right into the story and then click to the title slide and tell me who you are and what you do.”

So they did, and they were almost jumping up and down with excitement over how much better it was. Now, they began with a compelling story that hooked you from the outset. After their story was completed, they clicked into the title slide and said, “We are [Company X] and our passion is to help people like [the person in the story].”

I have had the same experience with other clients. I don’t do much; just swap two slides. But little changes can make a big impact.

So there you have it. Three ideas to consider when it comes to title slides; three ideas that can give the opening of your next presentation a shot in the arm.

This post originally appeared in Presentation Guru on 29 August 2017.

Post courtesy of: John Zimmer @ [link to source]


How can you speak and lead, if you do not know yourself? In this infographic you find nine of my favorite Who-am-I-diggers. Print it and fill it out (one word on each line). You will be surprised at the depth of reflection. All your answers are pathos-based answers. Use them in your talks and you will connect more with your audience.

#ethos #pathos #persuasion #authenticity #vulnerability #connection #emotions #knowthyself #publicspeaking #charisma #fminsights

Pause, promise and hook

As a speaker, you are continuously forced to fight two powerful demons of distraction: smart phones and inner voices. Your audience seems to listen to you, but are they really 100% attentive? One of your big goals in public speaking is to keep the level of attention at 100% at all times. Compared to that task the punishment of Sisyphus feels like a day at the spa. According to Merriam-Webster, curiosity is the desire to know. When I desire to know something from you, you have my full attention. Drive their curiosity and they will listen to every single word.

#publicspeaking #charisma #curiosity #attention #audience #pause #hook #promise #fminsights