Tag Archives: life skills

7 Mistakes you might be making using PowerPoint

PowerPoint. Some see it as a necessary evil. Some see it as just evil. But most of us, at some point in our lives, are going to have to give a presentation. Even if you fear it more than death.

Though I would encourage you to not use PowerPoint (visuals like stand alone pictures and videos are much better. But another post for another day) but if you are going to…

7 Mistakes you might be making while using PowerPoint.

We’ve all sat through the painful Powerpoint sessions, either explaining a proposal, new concept. The ways to ruin PowerPoint are endless. But let me touch on a few.

1. Too much text.
a.                    The human brain can read much faster than you can talk but as much as people talk about multitasking, reading and listening are not tasks that go together well. One side or the other lose.
2. Putting your point up on screen first, before you say it.
a.                   Text is a great reinforcer. If you really want to summarize what you said, do so. But do it after, not before or during your first presentation of the point. If you have an operator, you really need to talk this through with them.
3. Funky movements.
a.                   Ah, who doesn’t remember the early days of PowerPoint. Text dropping in, flying out, spinning around. Listen, you are not most likely a special effects person. Don’t do this. Use a simple fade in and fade out.
4. Slide transitions
a.                  There is a movement to simple plain backgrounds, like just black. The jury is out, but my opinion is that a well chosen background adds subtle reinforcement to your message. However… backgrounds must be intentionally chosen, not just clicked on randomly. Once you have chosen a background, keep it consistent throughout. Only your content should move, not the slide.
5. Providing notes.
a.                  Notes are a great way to allow people to follow along in a presentation. But if you are like me, which most busy people are, you are going to scan the notes before the presentation begins and fill in most of the blanks beforehand, at least in your head.
b.                 A much more serious offense is providing the notes and your PowerPoint slides. If you are doing a financial report, great. But if possible, give out the notes on the way out, rather than up front. Everyone will stay more connected to your presentations.
6. Forgetting about the presentation
a.                 PowerPoint is an added tool for a great presentation. Use it to add to, not cover over, the presentation. Your goal is a memorable presentation, not a memorable PowerPoint.
7. Turning away from the crowd to read a slide.
a.                 Put the text in your notes. Don’t lose your crowd by breaking eye contact. They might look away but you shouldn’t.


So there you have it. Maybe not as fun as of our other posts, but it just might get you the job, the promotion, or the open door you need.
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Learn to talk to a human. Life Lesson #24

Learn to talk. (credit to my older, wiser brother, Stephen Porter, on the original idea here).

I speak 6 languages. Not fluently, and I have an accent in most of them. Swahili was the most recent one I learned and what a fun, challenging experience. My sixth language though? Digital media.

You may be a “digital native” . You don’t even remember Windows 95 and Compuserve. That doesn’t excuse you from this one.

I understand lol, I know that ALL CAPS IS YELLING, and I try to keep up with what the digital cultural metaphors are.

But just because you speak digital doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to speak to people. Having a conversation is about valuing the person in front of you. At 40, I get irritated when everyone at the table keeps checking their phone. Which means that I’m often irritated at myself.

Can you have a conversation? A lengthy conversation, that’s verbal, personal and face to face?

Try it out. If you are struggling, google it. You should know how to do that, right?

Why the way you apologize is wrong. Life Lesson #23

Learn to apologize.

Saying “I’m sorry” takes practice. For some, the process is akin to extracted impacted wisdom teeth. For others, the words flow out so quickly you wonder if there is any meaning associated.

Ever had someone apologize to you and afterwards you felt worse?

“I’m sorry you are such a jerk and I resented your bullish character, I resented your ugly way of talking. And I hated you for being wrong and not knowing it all the time. I’m sorry.”

Wonderful. I feel so much better.

Another friend told me he recently sat in a meeting of non-profit and religious leaders where someone apologized for feelings of resentment. The apology included 10 minutes of upbraiding masked in half-hearted apology.

You can’t apologize for what someone else did and issuing forgiveness before someone else apologies is simple manipulation.

The ANATOMY of a genuine apology.

The apology.

I am sorry. I wronged you. I …. Then STOP.

That’s it. No blaming, no “the reason I did was this…” No justification or explanation required.

If the person to whom you apologize reciprocates, good. But not required. If the person opens the door to more communication, even better. But not required.

That is hard. Because there is a reason for everything. Just shouldn’t be included in an apology.

Here’s the twitter version

“A cover up always necessitates a cleanup. no cover-up no cleanup. So just own up and get on with it.”

Everyone is interesting #22

Everyone is interesting.

This is an idea that takes some time and some effort. Skip till tomorrow if relationships don’t interest you.

I count as good friends a number of guys who are web coders. Add in some photographers, a UN diplomat, a number of Tanzanian and Kenyan maids and housecleaners, a couple big shot pastors, a University VP with an earned PhD, a bunch of broke college students, a young lady with Down’s Syndrome, and several kids with whom I’ve played basketball. Rich and poor, urban and small town, outdoorsy and metro-chic. Black and White, Asian, Indian, Chinese.

Everyone is interesting if you aren’t the center of the world. And the twin insight is everyone likes to talk about themselves. Amazing what you can learn with a few questions and letting people talk about themselves.

Of course, there are those with whom you will connect and resonate. Others  you will have to work much harder to find that common thread. But when I start with the idea that everyone is interesting, questions become conversations. Conversations lead to friendships. And the world becomes a more interesting place.

Have someone edit you. Life Lesson #20

Everyone needs an editor.

I may have mentioned before that I like to tell stories. I make them up easily. In 8th grade, I figured out how to help a good friend, “D” edit his report card story for his irrate Dad.

D hadn’t been studying or doing his homework. D was also the best player on our basketball team and we needed him. I didn’t know it then, but I was his editor, mentoring him on how to spin the story for his dad.  Worked too. D got to play, and we were runner’s up that year in the league.

Most of us come with a certain set of skills at which we excel. If you haven’t figured out what those are yet, stop, pull up google and get started. Trust me, you are good on some stuff. Very good at other stuff.

But ever wonder why top athletes have coaches? Why would Michael Phelps, the fastest swimmer in the whole world, need a coach? Or why would Stephen King and Malcolm Gladwell need editors?

The Democratic party just held a press summit. Their message was lost because of the typo on their talking cards. Opps.

My wife did the weekly info sheet at a church were I was the associate. One week she listed me as the Ass. Associate. Funny. But embarrassing.

We all tell our life stories from our own perspective. We see the world through our lenses. An editor can help us bring some balance, some clarity, and sometimes help us tell our story in a way that others at least understand.

The tough part is that editors usually aren’t popular. They challenge us. They force us to rewrite, rethink, reconsider and generally don’t fall for the lies we sometimes tell ourselves.  My kenyan friends called the place I lived “Little America.” I see myself as firmly middle class. Most of my African friends saw me as Bill Gates Wealthy. A few of my American friends put me a step above the trailer park.  I’m constantly trying to tell me story, as a person who cares for others, regardless of the socio-economic labels we put on each others. To do so effectively, I need editors.

Who is your editor?

Why Starbucks gifts certificates are better than Amazon Gift Certificates. Life Lesson #19

Don’t give gift certificates (except to Starbucks)
Gift Cards
My wife loves cards. When we were dating, I’d frequently be the recipient of a lovely, love filled card which I would read and promptly discard, much to my wife’ consternation.  She learned that cards aren’t really my thing.

You might find it interesting then that among my prized possessions are is a card. Continue reading Why Starbucks gifts certificates are better than Amazon Gift Certificates. Life Lesson #19

Your emotions are a lie (sometimes). 40 Life Lessons I learned before I turned 40: #18

Emotions are real, but not necessarily true.

Doug Lowenberg has both a  DMin and is currently finished a PhD and teaching at a school in East Africa. He also taught many of the classes Tahnya and I took in our degree program in college. But his greatest statement to Tahnya and I was made in one brief pre-marital counseling session. The statement you see above.

What do you mean, Charles? Don’t trust you emotions?

Much has been written in the market about “Trusting your gut.” Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK is truly insightful about trusting ourselves when we sense things about people or situations.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve ruined very few relationships when I was calm. But angry, I’ve done serious damage. When I’m hurt or depressed I make bad decisions. Google the research on what happens to your thinking when your heart rate goes over 140. You can’t even think coherently. Few people get crystal clear when they are hyped up. Sure, my sarcastic ability goes into the zone when I’m angry. But how often has that improved my relationships and decisions?

Parenting brings out emotions like no other human endeavor. Teenagers will scream at their mother “I hate you!” then go on Oprah and tell of the most amazing mother. Which is true?

Emotions are real. Just not necessarily true.

The flipside is that relationships come with an ebb and flow. Denying emotions is just as dangerous. Suppressed anger becomes depression. Feelings of rejection lead to private humiliation. Telling someone not to feel is like telling Spring to not come.

The last three years, I have felt some of the most intense emotions of my life. Our son was diagnosed with a terrible genetic condition. I’ve felt despair, pain, depression, hopelessness like never before in my life. I’ve felt alone, like I “can’t do it anymore.”

Listen to your emotions. But question them. Run them by friends. Count to 10. Then wait 24 hours. Sometimes we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  Especially when the andrenal cortex is pumping.

There is real, and then there is true.

Scuba diving makes communication difficult. Life Lesson #17

Keep your communication above the water line.

Above the water line

This one is a bit cultural, so you may have to contextualize.

Some background might help though in understanding cultures. Culture, we often see as a geopolitical thing. Tribes in Africa, countries in Europe, regions in America. Barbeque versus Vegan type thing.

But culture goes deeper than that. Organizations have their own cultures, schools have their own cultures, teams have their cultures. Marriages have cultures.

Too often, communication goes below the line. Like an Ice Berg, the reality is not what is seen. And then the games begin. Everyone becomes a shrink, trying to figure out the real meaning of what we are saying, judging every nuance and inflection. Every eye lift and head tilt.

The problem is that we are often poor cultural interprets. Case in point? In the USA, eye contact is a sign of respect. In Tanzania, eye contact can be seen as a sign of disrecpect or even other less savory things.  Simple, above the line communication makes life so much easier to decipher. Just say it.

Say it gentlely. Be Nice. But everyone loves a straight talker, as long as they aren’t an angry straight talker. Just saying…

Why being a Marine is better than being a narcissist. Life Lesson #13

<<Important disclaimer. Be all you can be is the slogan of the US Army, not the Marines. But I thought the titled sounded better this way. Call it editorial license. My sincere apologies to all the offended parties.>>

You can’t “be anything you want to be.”

Pop mantras are dangerous and lead to disappointment. Seriously.

Take for example “All you need is love.” The Beetles sang it, our parents grew up believing it. But try telling that to a hungry child and it rings hollow, doesn’t it?

The other one is “you can be anything you want to be.”

I wanted to be Michael Jordan. I wanted to fly from the free throw line. The reality is that no matter how many hours I practiced, no matter how many times I jumped, I was never going to be able to do what Jordan did. Not possible. That didn’t stop me from playing every day for a decade.

I had never not gotten a job I applied for until RMR. Remote Meter Reading was a company that paid well, and would have been a great part time job. Except that on the qualifying test, I couldn’t match numbers quickly. I had a tiny bit of dyslexia. A career in math was never going to be a reality for me.

Good intentions don’t make up for bad thinking.

You can’t be anything you want to be. But there are something, some unique place, where you can be you and your life will have meaning and purpose.

The key is discovering what that is. Those who discover that early exponentially multiply their satisfaction with life.

You can’t be anything you want to be. I prefer US Army statement. “Be all you can be.” Now that’s possible.

How to connect with absolutely everyone. Life Lesson #12

Not everyone succeeds. But everyone hurts.

I’ve done public speaking for years. Communicated, written, told stories. Judging by the general response, I’m not boring. My wife, on the other hand, dislikes the public stage passionately.  Crowds of more than 20 people are uncomfortable to her.

But in 2005, almost a decade before I write this, she was conned into speaking at a women’s tea. Her expectation was for maybe 50 ladies to attend. Imagine her terror when we arrived to find a tent set up for 500. Completely packed.

Tahnya simply told her story of pain. Of infertility and depression. To this day, people still consistently mention that event. No one ever mentions a sermon I preached. I mean, we really can’t go anywhere in Minnesota where someone doesn’t talk to her about that speech. And they speak of it as if she gave it last year.

Why? Because not everyone succeeds, swims with sharks, skydives, lives in radical environment. But everyone, from presidents to nursing home residents, we all hurt. We all experience pain. And when someone is authentic (there’s a buzzword for ya), it opens up others to experiencing life together in a meaningful way.

If you want to lead, if you want to connect, if you want to make a difference, remember. Pain is a megaphone that everyone can hear.