Does the thought of presenting fill you with dread, give you sweaty palms and have you shaking like a leaf whenever you’ve have to do it. You are not alone!
But there are ways to overcome those fears and allow you to present like a pro.


Dylis: Hi there, Dylis Guyan and welcome to the Inspired Selling Podcast, the place where businesses who sell to bigger businesses discovered how to attract, convert and retain more of their ideal clients without any of those nasty sleazy pushy sales tactics.

I’ve got a fantastic guest for you today, Ken Norman. So, let me tell you a little bit about Ken. Ken has been a Communication Skills Trainer since 1997 and is the M.D and founder of Present3r. His past experience in fact, differentiates him from any other presenter skills trainer that I’ve ever met. He’s going to share that story with us shortly and I can’t wait for you to hear more about it.

Now, he has worked with organisations large and small including the likes of National Trust, King’s College London, and The Church of England would you believe, Empire and Grant Thornton firms of Solicitors, Accountants and many others. He’s trained thousands of people in the black art of presenting from vicars to accountants, from postgraduate students to C.E.O’s, from Deer Park Wardens to actuaries, many of whom were world authorities on their own subject. He’s given key notes at conferences and has spoken alongside Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron and Graeme Garden. So, I’m delighted to welcome you onto this show this morning Ken.

Ken: Thank you very much for that introduction, it was lovely.

Dylis: I was so looking forward to hearing more about your story. So, tell us how did you get to where you are today and doing what you’re do today? What inspired you to teach presentation skills you know whether that be from the stage at a networking meeting or an event?

Ken: I used to work for the National Westminster Bank many years ago and alongside that, I used to act in my spare time and of course your hobby sort merge into work don’t they, people find out what you do. I used to have members of staff turn up in the audience. Whether I liked it or not they found out what I was doing, they get on the bus and they come and see me. I think there was always an assumption that because I was good at acting, that I would be good at presenting.

There was a point in the bank when they used to shut the branches on a Wednesday morning and train people, usually in sales skills, around a specific product range. I was given the job without any training of presenting these what was known as coverage periods. I think it is fair to say I wasn’t as good as they expected me to be you know. I have presence, I have a bit of stage presence, but the difference is when you’re acting on stage you have a script, you have a director, you have loads and oodles of times to rehearse. So, I think it’s fair to say that as a presenter I was mediocre, and I think it surprised everybody.

I can remember quite clearly being called in the Manager’s office and he said “I thought you’d would be good at this Ken.” And I’d say “Well, yes you did and I’m clearly not as good as you thought I was. I haven’t gotten any training and that’s what I need.” It’s like seeing somebody kick a football and saying they’ve got good eye ball coordination, let’s make them a Pro-golfer. In a way it kind of doesn’t follow.

So I was sent off on a presentation skills course with the bank and it was fantastic. It was two days dedicated to…I often call it the art and then your introduction the black art of presenting but it’s not an art, it’s a skill and it’s something that we can all develop and improve. So, it’s trained.

Dylis: Yes so tell us how it went on from there. Tell us about your comedy, your entrance into comedy and your comedy company.

Ken: Yeah, it was a long-contorted story really but in essence I reached a point in NatWest and was the year 2000, Y2K as some of us called it. Do you remember the big meltdown that we were all expecting?

Dylis: Yeah.

Ken: When planes would fall from the sky and at that time the Royal Bank of Scotland had made its rather aggressive move on NatWest. For me, it felt like an opportunity to move on, so I’d spent right from the age of 18 when I left school working for the bank. I just felt that it presented a fantastic opportunity, so I took voluntary redundancy without really knowing what I wanted to do next. What I did know was that I didn’t want to leap straight into something, so I took what I guess a lot of people take when they are much younger, a gap year.

Dylis: That was trendy then Ken.

Ken: It is, it was definitely on trend, in the year 2000 I took a gap year and with a friend, a chap called Tim Lyon who coincidentally was the trainer that took me through my presentation skills training at NatWest. We both decided that we want to do something completely different, he put it, we need to learn to sing and to dance. I thought, well, you might want to sing and to dance, I definitely want to perform. So we set ourselves a target to put on a two-man comedy review in the west end of London.

So we walked into the Theatres sat down and said we would like to hire one of your theatres in about 9-10 months’ time. They said which one would you like to hire? You can have the London Palladium for £6,500.00. What? Really? You can have Her Majesty’s Theatre for £4,500.00 and we said how many does that seat? He said about 1,100 people.

So that’s what we did, we wrote a non-returnable cheque, a deposit for £4,500.00 and now we had a big fantastic goal, big scary goal in the future. Then we worked at ten months to do just that, to put on a show in the West End of London.

Dylis: Fantastic.

Ken: None of that was comedy because I always liked comedy acting and so I suppose that began my comedy career. Short lived as it was, it was one night only we managed to get 600 people into the theatre as oppose to…we didn’t pack it out. We were quite shocked with that because this was the days before social media you know, it was it was much more difficult to pull off something like that.

Dylis: Yeah, it was harder.

Ken: So we got 600 people and a lot of those were chums to be fair but that doesn’t matter. We broking even on the evening and we picked up our first training contract that night. Somebody from Grant Thornton the Accountants was in the audience and said, “We love what you do, would you consider coming to do some presentation sales skills training with our organisation.” We worked with them for 12 years. It was absolutely fantastic.

With retrospect, without it meaning to be that it was a fabulous marketing tool for Tim and I, because we basically bared our souls to everybody by doing that. We became a national news story, we had coverage in The Independent, The Evening Standard because I think it was quirky. I remember the headline was Bonkers Bankers Funny Aim was the headline in the Daily Express.

We finished and suddenly got into training and we set up a very successful training company New Tricks Training; we train sales skills, presentation skills. Then in parallel to this, I started going to see a lot of comedy and I really enjoy seeing comedy from a presenter’s point of view things that comedians do. You can learn so much from watching others perform.

So the way they build rapport with an audience, the way they manage an audience especially people who practically don’t want to be there or prepared to talk through, what they’re doing, the way they pause, the way they used their vocal qualities, the way they use their faces you know lugubrious faces. If you want to learn anything about presenting, go and see stand-up comedy.

One of the sections on my course was about handling nerves because the thing that gets in the way of a lot of people performing well as a presenter are nerves. 97% of people would say that the fear of presenting is their biggest fear. There’s a book called “Death came Third” so in fears it’s death, networking or in other words that horrible thing of walking into a room full of people you don’t know and number one is presenting.

The problem with that fear is a lot of people are put in that position like I was, funny enough where they’re just made to present. You would be good at that, you can go and do that presentation for the Board, you can go to that pitch to our customers and without any training they suddenly find themselves in that horrible position heart pounding.

So, having delivered a session on handling nerves, people would say to me “It’s alright for you, you don’t get nervous.” I do but not to the point of debilitation; my hands aren’t going like that like some of my delegates are, my mouth hasn’t gone completely dry like a desert. So I thought, what could I do that will make me feel nervous so that I can actually use the techniques that I spout about. I thought, I know, stand-up comedy.

Dylis: When I said in the introduction that you were different, that you could bring a skill to your clients that other presenter/ trainers can’t, I really meant it. This is what I mean when you’re talking about the depth of what you’ve done, the depth of what you’ve experienced is just brilliant.

Ken: I think it’s only fair that you put yourself through what people are telling you that they go through. I have stood on stage with my leg like jelly wobbling away you know. I’ve done conferences to 400 people, 500 people overseas, in the U.K and yes I have a little bit of a heart flutter. Of course, you know I often say if you’re not nervous you shouldn’t really be out there because it’s that thing that says I want this to go well.

As I say I manage that, it’s not debilitating but it was you know that first stand-up comedy gig. It was horrendous you know, my heart was pounding, the butterflies in my stomach and you’ve got to deliver something against all of that. Things did kick in you know, I did bite the side of my tongue when I felt myself going dry. A lot of people reach for a glass of water or something you know, they go dry, they take a sip of water and from now until the rest of presentation they’re constantly sipping water because they’ve washed the saliva away and it’s saliva that you need not water. So I topped it, don’t drink water bite the side of your tongue.

Dylis: I’m just biting mine as I’m talking to you just to see how it works.

Ken: Now, before you know it, you’ve got more saliva than you can physically deal with. It’s those little things that you learn from working alongside other performers. The knee jelly thing is really odd because it feels violent but actually nobody can see it. When you say to the other comedians as you walk off the stage oh my leg was…, they just didn’t see it. I think that’s the thing it’s take comfort from the fact that a lot of the awful things that are happening to you because of adrenalin surging through just are not visible.

Some are, shaking hands are. A lot people take their notes out with them if they’ve got shaking hands. That’s something the audience looks for, the tremble. So, there’s things you can do with that, taking cards for notes rather than paper would stop that and gripping it firmly and even brace your elbows against the side and you can look perfectly natural unless you get some source synchro shape you should be fine.

So yes, stand-up comedy I kept it up. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t be seeing me on Live at the Apollo any time soon. I’m not a great comedian. I am seeing a lot of gigs now so in my spare time I run a comedy club and I love it and I’m learning all the time seeing the comedians. I ain’t that good and I know that, and I reach a point where as I say now ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get the professionals out. It is like anything, I’m not good at it because I don’t spend enough time doing it. It’s kind of a hobby business, I do a 10-12 shows a year I’m hoping to ramp that up. To become a master, you just have to practice, practice, practice.

Dylis: Always, do you know Ken, I remember, oh gosh how many years ago, it must have been about 1997, no 1987 I worked for the Bank as well and then I went into financial services in 1986, then 1987 they asked me to speak at the conference. No training, and I remember I was absolutely terrified and this lady, a colleague of mine, she was very religious and she said Dylis come and sit by me and we’ll pray. I said Claire I need more than prayers, I need double incontinence knickers.

But you’ve hit the nail on the head what allowed me to do this because there was 500 people there and I’ve never done anything like that before ever, ever in my life, but I practiced and I practiced and practiced and practiced. I could have said it without my notes and funny enough I put it on to these little postcards and somebody said to me put a hole through and a little one of those I don’t what you call them you know it’s like it’s….

Dylis: Yeah, so that I wouldn’t drop them and they would go all over the floor. So I had those and so I wasn’t fluttering. But because I had practiced I got through it and talk about coming out of your comfort zone. I went up there and my comfort zone was like that and when I came off my comfort zone was this big. It was such a thrilling experience actually, I loved it.

Ken: It is. If you do well on the back of adrenalin and funny enough my first ever stand-up comedy gig, I did very well and it’s because I’d not long done the course, I had five minutes of really tight material; I’d practiced, practiced, practiced, practiced to the point I remember getting to the venue something like 3 ½-4 hours early and sitting in my car with a dictaphone going over and over and over and over it. And if you come off the back of adrenalin successfully it is a phenomenal feeling.

The flip side of the coin is if you come off of it badly with that adrenalin surging through you, it feels horrible. Comedians often refer it to dying on stage. Everything drains from you and it’s not like a course where if I deliver a course and somebody in the audience hasn’t liked it, they might leave me a bit of sarcastic feedback. People walk up to you even while you’re doing your presentation perhaps and shout abuse at you. I might have people in my face telling me how awful I was.

If you’ve had something similar, say, presenting for your business and it’s not going well, and you know that in three weeks’ time you’re expected to do it again that is not setting up a great…it’s not setting up a success wheel really. I think it’s really naughty of organisations to send people out without training because that’s effectively what they’re doing. BUPA, many years ago cited it as a cause of workplace stress.

Dylis: Absolutely.

Ken: Glossophobia it’s called, the fear of public speaking. People might give a bit…often they’re not given enough time anyway but even if they say, give them 6 weeks to prepare, they’re so petrified of it they won’t use those 6 weeks. They wait until the last minute and then they’re scrambling to put their presentation together, they don’t have time to rehearse, they’ve not really thought about it, the day arrives. You know, I’ve had chap fainted because he’d worked himself up to such a point and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy that happened to him twice; fainted before large audiences. I’ve had people cry off sick.

One of the early presentations I gave was when my boss rang in “I can’t make it to work today, you’ll have to do my presentation for me.” Oh thanks! I’m sure he wasn’t unwell, he just didn’t want to do it. So, I think it’s really unfair to send people out. The problem is that’s when bad habits start forming when people make the horrendous mistakes that we all will see people make, the novice speakers make.

Dylis: What a those mistakes Ken? What are the biggest sort of mistakes that you see?

Ken: Yeah, I call them the pitfalls of pratfalls of presenting, PPP. The biggest pitfall, the most humongous pitfall really, you see it every day, every conference and that is misuse of PowerPoint. Quite simply it’s where a speaker uses PowerPoint as their autocue. It becomes their autocue and so it’s not for the audience it’s for them and it drives so much…there’s so many other problems that spill out of that. The first one…well the first of all they think it’s a symptom of not having enough time so they effective type up their notes, so you end up with a PowerPoint that is a deck of…it’s their script.

They now proceed to read to the audience which the audience find quite insulting. They turn their back on their audience not perhaps full back but they then now read from screen. Regardless of whether they’ve got screen in front of them, they always turn to big one and now they present their audience with this, you know you got a side on view of their heads, no eye contact, no rapport with the audience and basically insulting the audience by reading to them. You see that in Board rooms, at sales pitch.

I often think you know in terms of sales pitches, why does an organisation want to physically see you? They want to see the whites of your eyes, they want to see if they can trust you. Now you’re denying them the very whites of your eyes, you’re turning away from them, to read to them to try and get them to buy from you and it is just counter-intuitive. Not everybody, but a lot of people do it. I think that misuse PowerPoint is the biggest thing. A lot of people think I’ve got a down on PowerPoint. I haven’t, if it’s used well it’s fantastic, it’s a fantastic tool but so is a Smith and Wesson and in the wrong hands both can kill. Too many bullets.

Dylis: What should people be doing with the PowerPoint? What’s the best practice?

Ken: Well, the first thing to do is to ask yourself, what do I need to help the audience understand my message? If it’s a big long quote but you’re going to read out to them by all means put the big long quote and read it out to them. If it’s an image that can sum up more than you can say, you know there’s an old adage a picture tells a thousand words, put the image up and talk to the image before and after images. An image can be a graph, a chart.

I think the thing to ask is, what do I need it for, in order to get my message across? If I need it for an autocue, find something else, get yourself some notes. Practice, rehearse do not share your autocue with the audience. You don’t see Ant and Dec on a Saturday night talking. You know they are on autocue, but you don’t see the autocue. You’re not reading the words as well, so find another way to autocue yourself; the audience shouldn’t see your autocue. I actually wonder if PowerPoint is needed a lot of the time, I don’t think it is.

Dylis: I was just going to ask you that in fact. Would you suggest that you in fact if you’re doing a stage presentation at an event that you don’t have slides at all, that you don’t have PowerPoint?

Ken: It sets you apart. I remember many years ago and it’s a disservice to the speaker because I can’t remember who he was. Honestly, it was so long ago I think I was only 19-20 in the bank and I was took on a conference, a chap on the stage, quite a big stage, you probably got 150 of us in the audience and he used a flip chart and he wrote single words on the flip chart and it was fantastic.

I remember one of them talking about attitude, he said when I employ somebody I like to employ people with oomph and he wrote oomph on the flip chart. A lot of people say to me how do you know if somebody has got oomph? What do you mean if they got oomph? And he wrote a one in front of the oomph and he now says 100 miles at 100 mph. And he says they walk at 100 mph, they talk at 100 mph and they think at 100 mph. That’s how you tell somebody’s got oomph because of their passion.

And I thought man, that stayed with me 10 years since I was 19 when I when I first saw all that. It was just brilliant, and it bucked the trend you know he didn’t have PowerPoint slides. I did a lot of work with the National Trust training anything from Property Wardens to Deer Park Wardens to world authorities on time pieces and they rarely use PowerPoint.

I remember so many presentations; they had artefacts, props and even when they didn’t necessarily have the prop, the real prop, they used dummies. I remember one lady giving a talk about making soap and she used cardboard cut-out of saucepans and I remember you know the order you put, the lye you know the ingredients in. I can see the presentation because she used props.

Not that it’s not available to all of us if you’re an accountant and you’re talking about audit. That can be a dry old subject but what he did first we gave the presentation a fantastic talk, putting the awe into audit which I remember to this day, I think it was so inspired. He told stories about audits that he had been on, what it entails in such a way that made it a compelling subject. I think its look for the interesting in your presentation, don’t just drone on.

Dylis: The stories are important aren’t they Ken, because especially when you’re relaying a story, you know it anyway. You don’t need a whole lot of slides because you know your story.

Ken: Absolutely, if you can find stories great. There was a brilliant Radio Fall program called PowerPoint and the end of civilization and basically what it did is it took fantastic stories and reduced them to PowerPoint presentations and it just showed that…great speeches in the work as well.

I remember them doing Churchill’s, you know, what you see on this map ladies and gentlemen we’ll be fighting them on the beaches, we’ll be fighting them on the landing grounds, click. And he turned it into a bullet-point presentation. It was the same words and yet that bullet point delivery turned it into a mush. So yes, tell the story but tell it from the heart without…you don’t need a PowerPoint.

Dylis: That’s what I mean, so with the story literally, if you’re using PowerPoint just have a visual, just have an image and then tell the story.

Ken: Yeah, if you’re telling somebody about a transformation you know, if I’m telling people now about my meteoric rise to presentation skills through my downfall through comedy. You know, I showed pictures of the stage just standing on the stage looking out at 1,000 seats, 1,100 seats at Her Majesty’s Theatre, that gets the heart racing, so great images are really important. That’s another thing actually in PowerPoint is using high resolution images. If you are going to use images, make them high resolution ones not…

Dylis: I’ve made that mistake before in my early days where I had images and then when they came upon the screen, I was like oh that’s not quite as good.

Ken: People with photos with watermark through them as well, you see that people who poached the images from stock photo and left the watermark on it.

Dylis: Oh my goodness, I haven’t made that mistake or I didn’t make that mistake in my early days. So what else Ken? What are the other key mistakes that you see and how might we overcome them?

Ken: Over-running is another one. I think if you’ve got an audience that you’ve told you’re going to speak for 20 minutes you should speak for 20 minutes. I see some serious knock on effects of that so some of these actions got the audience and lose the audience because of over-running.

An audience is on mass are very incredible things really, they do set an internal body clock. So if they’re expecting you to speak for 20 minutes when you hit 22 you’ve lost them. I’m sorry, but you know, because some of them want their nicotine fix, some of them want their coffee, some of them only came to this conference because of the networking opportunities, they come to see the speaker who’s after you not you. So, they have given you the time that you told them that they’d need and if you over-run and if you are one of a few speakers it’s very disrespectful to following speakers.

In a sales pitch again, because I appreciate you’re coming from a sales angle as well but if you overrun in the presentation you usually bundled out very quickly. If you can finish your presentation on time, it leaves time for them to ask you questions which is what you really want to be doing, it gives you time to build rapport.

I often encourage people not to take PowerPoint into other people’s Board rooms as well for that very reason because technology, your lap top doesn’t speak to their projector. Suddenly the opportunity to build rapport is lost while you’re dealing with technology issues. So, overrunning I think is another key one. Failure to build rapport I think in general. There are countless, the list goes on and on and on and on biggies though definitely. Most people could sort their presentation out by ditching PowerPoint or using it more sympathetically and correctly.

The other one I suppose is lack of structure giving a presentation a decent beginning, a middle and an end really. Herding all the information that you’ve got to give into bite sized chunks which the audience can handle in the time that’s given really.

Dylis: This all goes back to your preparation doesn’t it? The preparation is so important.

Ken: How would you know, unless you’ve had some training, how would you know that’s the way to do it. I think you know, sometimes people do it intuitively and through having watched good speakers, oh, I see what he did there. Unless someone told you to say you know you really should have an introduction where you introduce your subject matter to the audience before you start. Also, explain to the audience what they’re going to get from the presentation that follows.

Now, they can settle down and take the information in bite size chunks and then wrapping up properly in such a way that the audience get that it is finished and get that they can clap and get that they can ask questions now. So, beginning, middle and end as well and having the right things in the introduction and the conclusion as well.

Dylis: Excellent, Ken this is just really fantastic, and I think we’re going to have to meet again and have a further conversation because there’s so much more to talk about. If anyone wants to learn the right way, how do they get in touch with you to have them come in and work with you on a one on one basis or into the Company? How do they get in touch with you?

Ken: I have a web site Present3r. The 3R I didn’t explain that really, but I wanted Present or Presenter in the U.R.L. its good search engine juju and all of that. Funny enough there were but companies Presentltd was available but Present as a URL wasn’t. The 3R comes from three rules of presenting so things come in groups of three. It’s a great idea to group things in threes, a beginning, a middle and an end. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you’ve told them. It is a good way of structuring an argument.

Education, education, education as Tony Blair once said, I came, I saw, I conquered. In comedic terms there’s always an Englishman and Irish man and a Scotsman. You know there’s never an English man an Irish man, a Scotsman a Pakistani and an Indian in a waiting room; there is always three people in a joke.

So, anyway, I digress Present3r is my website, people can find me through that or on and people can get in touch with me by sending me an e-mail.

Dylis: At just to be clear that’s present, three as in number three, and the letter R.

Ken: Correct.

Dylis: Perfect, Ken thank you so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure to hear about you know, prepare how to use rather than writing out all of your script on to slides, just using images make sure you keep to the time, gain that rapport, get that know, like and trust feeling going. Is there anything I’ve missed out there?

Ken: No absolutely and a bit of structure which we talked about right at the end, having a good structure to the presentation. But definitely a key thing if people can learn to use PowerPoint properly they’ll transform their presentation.

Dylis: Well, you must let us know. We must speak again Ken when you’ve got an open workshop, and everyone can come to it.

Ken: Fantastic. Thank you very much Dylis.

Dylis: Brilliant, thanks a lot Ken, bye for now.

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