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Now Announcing the Secrets of Really Bad Presenters!


Dave Hill - The Re-Engineered Engineer - Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach

Dave Hill – The Re-Engineered Engineer – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach

Dave Hill provides a funny story to illustrate the destructive nature of really bad presenters. The number one thing that audiences hate about bad business presenters is that they turn their backs to the audience and read the slides word-for-word.





Re-Engineer Your Communication Skills: The Shocking Truth About a Vietnam Vet.

Exceptional Engineers & Leaders: Dave Hill - The Re-Engineered Engineer

Exceptional Engineers & Leaders: Dave Hill – The Re-Engineered Engineer

Do you ever stop to think about the exceptional people who are in your circle of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and workmates?  Who are the people who inspire, motivate, and help move you forward in your life?  This article is to recognize a Vietnam Vet and to highlight the importance of having exceptional human beings surround you.

Christmas 2011 and my elderly, jolly neighbor is at our house having dinner.  He is one of those exceptional people who are “wired” to help others.  He once noticed our house gutter drainpipe had blown down and he “took care of it”.  On another occasion, he cut down a dead tree in our front garden and brought the limbs and branches to the local recycling depot.  When he clears leaves in the fall, he usually clears them from numerous houses on each side of his own. When my wife came back to the house one day, and found the back door open while I was on a business trip, he checked the house room by room for any possible lurking thieves.

While at our dinner table, he told us that he had been at the Lowe’s hardware store that day and was wearing his baseball cap that had a small worn US Army emblem.  A stranger stopped him and asked, “Did you serve in the forces?”  My neighbor answered, “Yes,” and the stranger handed him a gift card for $25, and said, “I would like to give you this as a small token to thank you for serving our country.” The stranger then walked away.  My neighbor stated, “You know, I served two terms in Vietnam over 40 years ago, and that stranger was the first person to ever thank me.”

As a seasoned engineer and professional speaker, I think about people who have been “guiding lights” and forces to help encourage me and help me succeed in life.  People who have the positive spirit and can see their way through any turmoil.  People who can find happiness and positive energy wherever they go.  Mentors, who have pushed, challenged, and encouraged me.   Strangers who have interacted with me and helped me see that there are many good people in the world.

Having worked for over three decades, I understand the importance of companies hiring not only technical experts, leaders, and exceptional communicators, but also good human beings who are trustworthy and who will instill an aura of positive energy that will motivate others.  

Some traits of exceptional engineers and leaders:

  1. Inherent positive attitude
  2. Impeccable ethics and can be trusted
  3. Open door policy where direct reports can discuss problems
  4. Invites feedback and encourages people to speak with candor
  5. Strong, healthy sense of humor
  6. Exceptional communicators trained in skills such as negotiation, listening, and conflict management
  7. Makes friends at work
  8. Values work-home balance
  9. Treats fellow workers as human beings rather than “just employees”
  10. Recognizes and rewards direct reports at every opportunity
  11. Coaches and mentors
  12.  Leads by example

Business Communication Skills: Colleagues to the rescue

  • A presenter’s peers can save the day with clarifications, humor.

    Technical Communication Skills: Colleagues to the rescue

    Business Communication Skills: Colleagues to the rescue

  • Learn presentation skills that give you the tools you need.

Imagine you are in a room full of highly technical engineers.  You are an employee of a consulting company that is presenting information to them on various research topics.  As you give your talk you expect pointed questions, cynical remarks, sarcasm and even some playful humor.  At the back of the room sit your peers, waiting their turn to present.

I attended this meeting with other consultants, some of whom were relatively new to the field and some of whom had Ph.D.s.  Their presentation abilities ranged from those who could remain calm through the question period and provide good answers, to those who were scared to death and couldn’t answer the questions very well.  Age and experience did not seem to be a factor.  A few of the younger speakers coped quite well, and I suspect they had gained experience and training at college and other venues.


Culture of helpfulness: As the presenters were challenged and questioned, they occasionally froze trying to understand the technical question and form an answer with adequate detail.  I hate to see anyone put on the spot (I have been there myself), and it made me feel good to hear the presenter’s peers at the back of the room jumping in to help clarify the question and provide information.  This is an excellent culture of employees who have an inherent instinct to help each other and make sure that all are successful. This in turn maintains the image of the research/consulting company, which is hoping to make a sale.

Exceptional workplaces have a strong focus on making sure employees have good communication skills, a sense of balanced fun and respect, and trust for each other.  Instead of sitting at the back and smirking as the presenter “crashes and burns,” fellow employees will do anything to help advance each other and the company.

Death by public speaking:  The second visual I have from the meeting was that of a relatively young consultant who was presenting.  It was an image I have seen before in different forums, and it haunts me.  The young man appeared scared to death and was nervously coughing and clearing his throat.  His peers helped him out when they could, but his stress just grew.  I was relieved when he finished and sat down.

Fright and poor presentation skills are preventable.  Organizations such as Toastmasters International can help a person become a good speaker in six to 12 months and an exceptional speaker if a person stays longer.  The cost for six months of public speaking training can be less than a tank of gasoline.  Many companies send their employees to Toastmasters to help them succeed.  Find a club at

You have to laugh: The third visual I have from this meeting is that of an experienced presenter trying to get a video to work in PowerPoint.   The documentation for his research project included a high-speed video of a large test explosion, which would show a flame running through a flammable vapor cloud and transitioning into a fearful explosion.  Explosion videos are one of the highlights of these presentations, and everyone waited in anticipation.

The presenter spent a minute or two trying to get the video to work but was unsuccessful. “You will need to act out the explosion,” one of his peers shouted from the back.  Another shouted: “Can you do an interpretive dance?”  The presenter was the type who could take the humorous comments in stride, and the room erupted in laughter.  With the laughter in the room the failure of the video became inconsequential and the presentation continued without it.

The presenter’s peers knew that humor was appropriate for him. They knew he had a sense of humor and would “play with their comments.”   I am sure you would agree that the comments would not have been appropriate for the previously described stressed presenter.  Humor is a great tool to have in a meeting or presentation, but be careful it does not cross the line and hurt someone.  If there is a single person in the room who would be impacted negatively by the humor, it is not worth it.

Re-Engineer Your Presentation Strategies – Snore-No-More

Dave Hill, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Engineer

Dave Hill, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Engineer

Wake up!

  •  Keep your audience focused by being relevant.
  • Use interactive techniques; vary your presentation.

Visualize a meeting where about 40 people are crammed into a conference room listening to technical presentation after technical presentation for a full day.  The delivery mode is primarily PowerPoint with lots of wordy data on the slides.  The technical data is overwhelming, the pace of data exchange is fast, and people can be seen fidgeting in their seats.  The room lights are dimmed to allow the PowerPoint to be the focus of attention and to make the slides visible to people in the back of the room.

Recently, I was sitting in this audience and the presenter was interrupted to get clarification on a point.  As he responded, an out-of-place rumbling sound was heard: someone was snoring.  The presenter paused to see who was asleep, then smiled and continued to answer the question.  Suddenly, the sound escalated into a full-blown, high-volume snoring session.  Smiles and glances bounced around the room, and someone gently nudged the snorer in the back.  He awoke in a moment of shock, quickly becoming aware that he had been caught napping. 

If you present intricate or technical information, how would it feel to have an audience member fall asleep and start snoring?  Have you ever had to present a technical subject after your audience has had a heavy lunch?  Have you ever been distracted by someone nodding off during your presentation?


  1. It will help if there is fresh air in the room and the temperature is not too warm or cold.  Can you increase the ventilation rate without creating disturbing background noise?
  2. Know your subject and display energy, enthusiasm and vocal variety.  Make sure your voice can be heard clearly throughout the room, or people will tune you out.
  3. Give audience members a written agenda so they have a clear image of the flow of the content. This also helps keep the session on track and on time.  If discussions get bogged down or off-topic, the agenda gives you a reason to step in.  We have all witnessed the audience member whose comments go on and on, causing the audience to get fidgety and start tuning out.
  4. At the beginning of the presentation, give attendees a brief review of the rules for:
    • Cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices
    • Side conversations
    • Off-topic comments
    • Questions (are they allowed throughout the presentation or toward the end?)

Then enforce the rules.

  1. Have frequent breaks.
  2. If you have control over snack food and lunches, consider keeping them light (minimize the potential for “food coma”).
  3. Vary the modes of presenting as much as possible.  You could include:
    • You speaking
    • Video clips
    • A flip chart
    • A whiteboard
    • Asking an audience member to provide an example to drive home your point
  4. Illuminate your points with real-life examples.  Stories and humor fit well with the delivery of technical and intricate information.  Use the framework of making a point, telling a relevant story and demonstrating how this can be practically applied by the audience.  The most effective stories are those that the audience can relate to.
  5. If using PowerPoint or another type of slide presentation, put effort into providing visual information rather than overloading with technical data.  If possible, design your slides’ color scheme so that you do not have to dim the lights to see them and/or use a high lumen projector.
  6. Use interactive techniques.
    • Get the audience brainstorming on a subject, then choose the ideas you want them to “drill down” and explore in more detail.  The initial brainstorming could be conducted on a flip chart if the writing is visible to the audience.  Another way would be to have a computer and projector and assign an assistant to type in the ideas.
    • Ask the audience to form groups to brainstorm a point.  Ask them to assign a leader to summarize each group’s thoughts.
    • Ask the audience (or small groups) to discuss the pros and/or cons of a specific idea.
    • A powerful way of energizing a meeting or presentation is to include competition, such as a game.  Everyone — from front-line workers to executives — has a competitive urge.  The important aspect here is to know your audience to make sure the competition/game is appropriate to the attendees, the occasion and the learning value.
    • A simple way of getting audience members focused on the best choices is to give them a choice of several answers and ask them to identify the least effective ones.
    • When I have a presentation that uses a handout, I may have some pages with sentences that are missing key words.  Audience members fill in the words as the information is given to them.  This technique provides you with a “cheat sheet” so you do not need to remember the content and order of the information.  It also helps the audience retain the information.
    • Research indicates that when audiences hear information, they remember about 20 percent after a week; if they listen and see information, they remember about 50 percent; and if they listen, see and physically work out a problem, or solve a specific problem with “hands on” techniques, they are likely to remember about 75 percent.


Next time you feel yourself nodding off or losing interest during a presentation, ask yourself, “If I was this presenter, what would I do differently to make this more effective?”

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