How to prepare an Ignite presentation?

Last Wednesday, on the 27th of February I gave the following presentation at Ignite Valencia #3:

It was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed a lot the time preparing my talk as well as the time on stage. I recommend all of you to prepare and give an Ignite talk. In this post I will tell you a bit about Ignite and I will give you some tips to prepare your own Ignite talk.

Rules of Ignite:
– 20 slides, every slide 15 seconds
– share your passion
– don´t talk about your book, your project or your company

The Ignite format sets some restrictions. You have only 5 minutes and the images advance automatically. It is a really good exercise to be brief and to the point, to train your creativity and to select images that empower your message.

Prepare your Ignite Talk

How could you prepare for an Ignite presentation? I´d like to give you some experience based advise.

First select the topic and create an objective and a headline.:

Objective: do you want to inform, motivate or entertain? These are the three main objectives to choose from. Formulate your objective as in “I want to inform people about the science behind a smile and motivate them to smile more.”
Main message: try to say in one sentence what your presentation is about. This helps you to focus on your main message.

Structure the content

First explore your topic and gather all the interesting information you would like to share with the audience. Then try to structure all the content of your presentation. Don´t go directly to PowerPoint, no!! Draft the structure off-line. You will have to delete, cross out and select the information properly. Think of every piece of information if sharing this on stage helps you to reach your objective and if it´s in line with the headline.

When you have more or less the structure of the presentation, prepare 20 slides in PowerPoint. Change the settings so that the slides advance automatically to the next one after 15 seconds and paste your text in the comments of the slides. In the slides themselves you can quickly write a word or draw a picture of the kind of image you want to show at that point of your talk.


When you have your text and the ideas of the pictures you need, you can start to look for the right images. Check that your images are free of copyright or make sure you are allowed to use them. A good website to start is the one of Creative Commons. I found a lot of images on MorgueFile. Give all the slides a unified look: the same style, the same frame or all the comments in the same colour and fond.


When you have everything ready the most important part arrives: rehearse!!! Practise your presentation as often as you can, especially the opening and the conclusion. You will see you want to change some sentences, maybe even change a slide or modify the order of the slides. That´s OK, but stop making changes two days before the presentation. Practise in front of some people who are willing to give you honest feedback. Another great tool is to record yourself on video and to watch yourself back.

The event

Then show time arrives! Make sure you make contact with the audience, focus on the delivery and … SMILE!

“The science behind a smile” at Ignite Valencia #3

ignite_city Ignite is an event with short talks of exactly 5 minutes, each one with 20 slides of 15 seconds. Ignite is organized in more than 100 cities around the world. The speakers are people who would like to share their idea, story or vision.

As I am very interested in non-verbal communication, I´m going to talk about the science behind a smile. What happens in your body when you smile? And what is the effect of your smile on others?

Ignite Valencia 3 is held at La Rambleta the 27th of Febrero at 19:00.

I hope to see you there :-)

Storytelling for business


Most business presentations fail to engage the audience. Why? One of the reasons is that they fail to tell a story. No, it is not necessary to be an entertainer or a comedian. You have maintain a professional approach. But, it doesn’t matter if you are a manager, a team leader or the CEO, you don´t ever have an excuse to be boring. Never.

The human brain learns with stories and people make decisions based on emotions (and use data to justify them). Why shouldn´t we use such a powerful tool for our business presentations? In their book Leadership Presence, Halpern y Lubar talk about the power of stories. During a presentation or a meeting, the audience easily forgets the facts and the figures, but they will remember the anecdotes and stories.

Which tips do they give?

  • Use personal stories about challenges, failure or success. Start creating a collection of those stories now so you can easily use them in the future.
  • Use a story as an illustration. For example how to overcome a difficult situation.
  • Tell stories as if it were happening now. “It is 1984. All managers of the office are together in a meeting. We have to make a decision about…”

If you start using stories, you can use the Story Spine of StoryNet to make sure your story has a clear structure.

  • Once upon a time … (the platform)
  • Every day …
  • But then one day … (the catalyst)
  • That’s why / Because of that …. (the consequences)
  • Until finally … (the climax)
  • Ever since then …
  • (the resolution)

  • (And the moral of the story is …)

Soon I will write about how to use the structure of a story for your entire presentation.

Want to know more? Read books like Resonate by Nancy Duarte or read the series of posts of Storytelling in the boardroom on the blog of Speaking PowerPoint

Some managers and directors tell me that this approach is interesting, but that it doesn’t apply to them as they have to present data. I believe storytelling and statistics are not mutually exclusive. Watch Hans Rosling in this clip below using data to tell us a clear story.

image: Felixco, Inc.

How to deal with nervousness before a presentation?

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”
– Mark Twain

Your hearth starts beating faster, your stomach feels queasy and your palms are sweaty just before starting your presentation: you´re nervous. Are you going to succeed or will your mind go blank?

Including the best speakers and actors have those feelings and thoughts. It´s normal and it helps you to be focussed on your task and to be concentrated. I´m not talking about public speaking fear in the worst form, which can be a quite challenging psychological barrier, but about those trembling knees and sweaty palms everyone experiences.

Apart from good preparation and practise, there are some things you can do just before a presentation to feel more relaxed and confident.

  • Drink something. For our brain it´s a sign that the situation is not life threatening, as there is still time to drink something. The adrenaline level will decrease.
  • Do breathing exercises. For the same reason: to lower the level of your stress hormones. Some deep breaths can help you to relax.
  • Tell yourself the group is made up of individuals. Talk to one individual at the time. Go from one to another.
  • Think about the people you care most about. It will generate a positive feeling and relaxation.
  • Try the power pose for two minutes: this will decrease your cortisol levels (stress hormone) and boost your testosterone (giving you confidence). Watch the TED video: how your body language shapes who you are. One of the most popular videos of the last weeks.

And most importantly: don´t apologize for being nervous. If you mention it you are calling the attention to it, whether most of the times your nervousness does not show at all. Remain silent and your listeners may not notice at all.

Play theatre to become a better presenter

You can learn how to be a better presenter playing theatre. With the use of drama techniques you train the most important ‘instrument’ of a presentation: you. Activities based on acting help you to raise awareness on the possibilities of your body and your voice, teach you how to relax and ignite your imagination and creativity. Purple Presentations doesn’t provide acting classes, but uses theatre games and activities to create valuable experience based learning.

However, acting classes without a direct goal to obtain certain skills, help to improve your communication. Emma Dalmases, the founder of Coffi Teatre, gives acting classes to employees of companies in Barcelona. Below, she will describe what she does and what participants say about her classes.

Acting classes? OK, sign me up.

Coffie teatre 2sClose your eyes and imagine that you are in front of a big audience, sharing your ideas in an easy and relaxed way. You are aware of the space around you, your body moves fluently.

Maybe you notice nervousness or fear. Even the most experienced actors have those feelings on stage. What makes the difference? Their capacity to improvise, their concentration, confidence, self-knowledge and attitude. Actors are trained in communication skills.

Some years ago, I started to give classes to a group of people who wanted to try “that thing of playing theatre”. Their professions? Economists, architects and programmers. They started with acting classes, because they wanted to do something different. Within weeks, they began sharing positive changes they noticed in their life: “At work, I make eye contact with people when I´m talking with them.”, “my classes at the university have improved” or “I have raised my self-esteem”. These people start this year with their third year of “playing theatre”.

That´s how my project Coffi Teatre started: offering acting classes to companies and organizations, way beyond the classical working field of an actress. What I do is offering after work activities – like language lessons, yoga or meditation – with an added value: relaxation, breaking with the daily routine and improving personal and communication skills.

Some things my students say about what they learn:
Coffi Teatre 1s

“Rapid adaptation to unexpected situations”
“More at ease while speaking in public”
“I know better how I tend to react”
“I have improved my listening skills”
“Less fear of trying new things”
“Higher impact on the audience”

If you don´t leave your comfort zone, it´s going to be more difficult to improve an aspect of your life. So, brush up those creative skills. Put on some comfortable clothes and try what theatre classes have to offer you. I´m sure you will be surprised and that you will repeat.

Thank you Emma for for perfect explanation and for the great work you do!

theatre based workshop communication skills

Next Saturday the 27th of October, el CEFIRE Valencia, the postgraduate course Theatre and Education and the University of Valencia, organize the event “Training days Theatre and Education”. Dianne Stronks of Purple Presentations will give a workshop “Theatre for Professional Development, improve your communication skills in English”.

During the workshop you will learn how to communicate in English with more confidence and ease. The methodology used is based on theatre and experience and is similar to the one of the workshop “Speaking English in Public” ( TEDxValencia Adventures).

Organization: CEFIRE Valencia, postgraduate course Theatre and Education, the University of Valencia.
Collaborators: MUVIM, Teatre Micalet, Avecteatre i educació, Fundació Bromera
Registration: CEFIRE Valencia or on the day itself

When: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Where: MUVIM, taller de Velluters, Teatre Micalet
Time: from 9:30 till 22:00

You can find more information on the blog of the postgraduate course Theatre and Education and on the site of the event “jornadas de teatro y educación” on Facebook.

I hope to see you there!

New Purple Presentations plans for this year

plansIn my work as a language consultant for everis, I am going to give more workshops Speaking English in Public for everis Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and… Brussels.

In Valencia I am going to give workshops Speaking English in Public open for everyone and a theatre workshop on communication skills for teachers. I will post more information soon.

Over the coming months you will find more tips on the blog, starting with: dealing with nervousness, how to take care of your voice and storytelling.


Elevator Pitch

In July I had the privilege to be at the Internet Start up Camp, organized by the Polytechnic University of Valencia. I gave a workshop on how to give an elevator pitch, together with Yanira Navarro, who organized all the networking activities for the camp, and Lluis Bueno who collaborated in the activities.

The elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a very short presentation (one to five minutes). The name comes from the possible situation of being with a client or investor in the elevator. In a very limited amount of time you have to tell him about you and your project and raise the interest so that he wants to know more.

During our workshop I gave a short introduction on the key aspects of an elevator pitch. Afterwards, everyone prepared and gave a pitch.

Three key ideas
In this post I would like to share with you three key ideas to take into account when preparing an elevator pitch, In such a short presentation, there is no time for details, you have to come straight to point.

  • You have to have the audience top of mind, always. Who is your audience? Are they possible clients, partners or investors? As each of them have different interests, you should know who your audience are and adapt the presentation to their needs. The most important question they want you to answer is: why? Why should they buy your product / service? Why should they work with you? Or why should they invest in your project?
  • Use the word “you”. It is very powerful to use this word during the presentation. Your audience will really think you are talking about them. You have to make an effort to really tell them what they want to hear.
  • Use emotion. They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Explain how your product or service solves the problem they have.

In this chart made by Juan Pablo Cloquell Tomás of Cronoshare you can see our ideas on how to divide the time. Apart from this, don’t forget to start your presentation off strong.

Cloud share y pitch corner English

Start your presentation off strong

business man startHow many times have you heard at the beginning of a presentation “hello my name is… and today I’m going to talk about…” ?

Why is this not a good opening sentence?

  • Everyone does it, so it´s boring.
  • 99% of the people in the room know who you are and what you are going to talk about. It was stated in the program, in the invitation or maybe someone even introduced you on stage.
  • with all the stimulus we receive, every time it’s harder to catch the attention of people. You have only seconds to convince the audience that it’s interesting for them to listen to you. If not, they’ll turn to their smart phones or they´ll start thinking about tomorrow’s meeting. Be sure to start your presentation off strong.

So, what is a good opening then? Three ideas:

Now you might think these are great ideas, but not suitable for the presentation of your science project or the client´s proposal. Why not? Start with the particular problem of the client, with a surprising statistic found in your investigation or with a question to the audience. You have to get the public on board for the rest of your presentation.

How do you start your presentation?

Image: Ambro – Free Digital Photos

Guide your audience using signpost language

roadsign In all my workshops “Speaking in Public”, we look at signpost language or the technique called ‘signalling’ for presentations. But what is this exactly?

On the road you have a lot of signposts indicating where you are, where you are going and how long it will take you to get there. In the case of a presentation: you, the presenter, know these things of your presentation. But, how can the audience know where you are during your presentation? What point you will be covering next? Or how long it will take? They know because you tell them. You have to give them the signposts. It’s important to draw a roadmap for the audience.

In the introduction, you could say something like:

“To start with, I will give you an overview of the project. We’ll look at the different parts of the project, the scope and where we are right now. After that I will give you the results of the analysis. Then we’ll move on to the most important part of today: the decisions we’ll have to make based on our analysis. Before turning to the actual discussion of those points, I will share with you our recommendations based on the analysis.”

Later during the presentation you can use expressions like “that’s all I wanted to say about the current situation”, “let’s move on to the analysis” or “as you have seen the results of our analysis, let me give you some or our recommendations.”
If you want to know more about signpost language and see more examples, check this post of BBC learning English of the section Talking Business.

Don’t forget to use signpost language to make your presentations easier to follow and in that way more effective.

Image: David Castillo Dominici,