7 Ways to Present in a 5-Minute Huddle

Alan Parisse 5 Minute Meetings

5-minute “huddles” are the new meeting trend. As Sue Shellenbarger reported in The Wall Street Journal (11/08/2017), “Long-winded monologues and Power Points are out. There is no room for small talk.” … Meetings are all about “distilling … ideas and requests to … the equivalent of an elevator pitch.

Stories generate ideas, buy-in and support. They create connection, curate relationships and bring about action. Yet short meetings squelch them.

In a 5-minute huddle, traditionally well presented stories take too long. If only there was a way to tell stories in a fraction of the time and make them more powerful in the process. There is!

Here are 7 ways to present in a 5-minute huddle:

  1. Cut set up: Don’t waste words on throw away set ups like “Let me tell you a story”. Instead, jump right in and tell the story.
  2. Follow the comedy writers rule of thumb: Tell them everything they need to know to get the punch line – in this case, the essence of your story – and nothing more.
  3. Re-Engineer Your Message℠: Borrow a technique from our advanced coaching program. Record yourself rehearsing and have the story transcribed. Then cut 20 to 50%.
  4. Leave blanks: Leave out some details and let your listeners fill in the blanks. This has the added benefit of making them participants in your story rather than mere spectators. Participants are engaged; spectators aren’t.
  5. Tell purposeful stories: Find stories that make a substantive point.
  6. Think Super Bowl ad: If you’d paid for 30 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl, what would you say?
  7. Don’t bury the potent parts: Understand the difference between an incident and a story.

That last one needs explaining.

Incidents are “units of experience” – the human reactions that contain the essence of a story. While a story’s details tend to be unique, incidents have a near universal appeal. They are the parts of your story to which listeners are most likely to connect to their own life and remember.

For example, the specifics of your car accident are yours alone. However, the emotions that flowed the instant you realized an accident was unavoidable … that “oh blank” moment … is something to which almost everyone can relate to some kind of event in their life.

When an audience identifies with your incidents, your stories become their stories, too. So don’t bury your incidents in too much detail.

Here’s the best part: stories tend to be long winded. Incidents are sound bites.

If you’ve been to The Speaking Intensive℠, not only do you know the difference between and “incident” and a “story,” the concept is so familiar that you can jump right into an incident blindfolded!

There’s a lot to be said for shortening meetings. When you become a more efficient storyteller, you will do a lot when presenting in a 5-minute huddle.

Join the legions of people who already know how to differentiate between an incident and a story by participating in The Speaking Intensive℠. Register for the next small group session on February 8 & 9 before the early registration discount ends on January 5.

Already graduated from The Speaking Intensive℠ and want to participate again? Email us for your special repeater rate.

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Are Women Judged More Harshly by the Way They Speak?

Are Women Judged More Harshly by the Way They Speak?

Are women leaders and business professionals judged by the way they speak? If you’re answer is no, think again.

Female presenters are held to a different, often more stringent, set of criteria than their male counterparts. Remember the last time you heard a soft-spoken female presenter? Did you question her credibility and tune out? What about the one who was monotone? Did you wonder about her grasp of the subject? And “talk about” the fast-talkers? When female presenters speak faster than their audience can process, they risk a high audience drop rate. It’s just too much work to follow along.

Here are some common yet easily correctable pitfalls we’ve worked through with clients at The Speaking Intensive℠ based on Lisa’s observations, expertise, and perspective.


If you fall into the fast-talker category, here’s a quick and effective tip to slow down your vocal pace. Stand with your arms reaching toward the sky. Lock your elbows. Reach your fingers straight up and send your energy out through your fingertips. Maintaining that position, give your presentation. Odds are you will slow down. When you slow down, it will probably feel like you are speaking much too slowly. It’s almost certain you aren’t. For fast-talkers, slowing the vocal pace down even little bit will go a long way.

Tonal Quality

Remember your first date with someone you really liked? Recall how you answered those first few questions. Was it in a higher pitched voice than your norm? Did it feel like it came straight out of your head?

Think back to your relationship months later. With the first date “interview questions” in the rear view mirror, what did your voice sound like? Chances are it was coming from a place lower in your body.

When you’re speaking, work to bring your first date head voice lower down to your navel. We’ve developed an interesting method for training this tonal transition. In a practice surrounding, begin delivering your talk. Work to transition your tone by pacing around the room, marching in place, or any other physical move of your choosing. Once the tone has transitioned, cease the physical movement and continue on. With practice, you’ll find that you can automatically transition tonal quality simply by being aware and dropping down to your lower register.

Body Position

Have you ever seen a presenter extend a hip to one side or another as if balancing a heavy bag? One of our workshop participants who had this issue labeled this position “mommy hip” because she spent time carrying toddlers. Whatever you call it, in front of an audience this position doesn’t convey confidence.

Remember: Speaking is a full body sport. In The Speaking Intensive℠ we focus on moving and gesturing from a confident, fully aligned, ready position. To achieve this ready position, try working from the feet up to your head as follows:

  • Stand with your feet slightly narrower than hip distance apart.
  • Shift your weight from the front of your feet or your heel to between the ball of your feet and arch.
  • Soften your knees.
  • Pull your navel slightly back toward your spine.
  • Roll your shoulders slightly back and down.
  • Elongate your neck as if someone is pulling up on a string that is attached to the crown of your head.
  • Drop your arms so they hang loosely at your sides, as our bodies were designed.
  • Relax your jaw and tongue.
  • Blink a few times.
  • Take some even breaths.

You are ready!

The Economist focused its June 16, 2016 on female speakers in their “War of Words” article “Women Are Judged by the Way They Speak”. While the article uses politics as the playing field, the aptly landed points pertain to almost all arenas of speaking. Read the article here.

If you’re judged by the way you speak, the benefit of keeping your audience tuned in is important. If you’re a woman, the stakes can be higher. Remove as many destractions as possible so your message is the focus of the audience.

Let us help you with this and more on October 26 & 27 at The Speaking Intensive℠. Click here to get your seat before the early registration discount ends on August 15! You’ll receive 2 full days of coaching with us for half the cost of our private coaching retainer.

Already graduated from The Speaking Intensive℠ and want to participate again? Email us for your special repeater rate.

Did you find this post helpful? Click here to see more.

Connect with Alan and Lisa on LinkedIn!

1 Way to Short-Circuit Presentation Nerves

Alan Parisse Short-Circuit Nerves When Presenting

Winner or Loser? It all depends on how you edit.

At The Speaking Intensive the most common answer to the question: What do you like least about speaking? is Nerves.

One way to help short-circuit presentation nerves … AVOID THE LOSER EDIT.

Urban Dictionary defines Loser Edit as “…when most or all of the footage seen of a particular contestant on a competitive reality show is aimed toward making that contestant seem inept, flustered, and generally in over his or her head.”

It works like this: Reality show producers shoot miles of footage before their show airs. That means they can select clips that can turn most any contestant into a fan favorite or villain. By doing a Loser Edit producers can make a contestant the #$@&! that viewers are glad to see eliminated or mad to see win.

A few weeks after learning about the Loser Edit, it hit me: I could tell my own life story as an outrageous success or dismal failure. All I have to do is selectively edit.

How about you?

What does this have to do with delivering presentations?

A lot.

All too many presenters do a Loser Edit on themselves before they speak. That’s a sure-fire way to destroy or diminish the impact of your presentations.

At The Speaking Intensive  many participants tell us they are nervous at the start of a presentation, but once they get going, they are ok. Why? Could it be that once they move through the first segment of their talk that little voice in back of their heads stops repeating their self-imposed Loser Edit?

If presentation nerves is your pain point, do the opposite. Start with a Winner Edit. Instead of focusing on failures, revisit successful moments in your life that will provide the fortification necessary to short-circuit your nerves so you can focus your attention on the audience.

Let us help you with this and more at The Speaking Intensive . Register for the next small group session on July 13 & 14 before the early registration discount ends on May 31!

Connect with Alan and Lisa on LinkedIn!


Can You Hit The Reset Button While Presenting?


Knowing how and when to hit the reset button is an often over-looked skill that is critical to the craft of public speaking.

Have you ever sat in an audience where the speaker wasn’t connecting – not because the content was off, but because the speaker’s energy level was out of sync with the audience’s?

We were – last week. It was a magic show complete with lighting, levitation, and illusions. The magician was a larger than life performer, with tone, gestures, and pacing identical to the show he does in Las Vegas. The performance should have been a home run, but it wasn’t.

The issue? The show wasn’t in Vegas. It was at a retirement community we were visiting where an 8:00 PM show start time is considered “a little late”. The audience, full from its’ pre-show dinner, was stone cold sober in all senses of the word. Yet, the magician played with Vegas-like energy. He couldn’t dial it down to meet the audience, establish connection, and lift them up. It was an epic fail because he couldn’t hit the reset button.

If this happened to you, could you press the reset button?

In our speaker coaching programs, we train presenters to rehearse solutions to disaster scenarios.

Two options for hitting the reset button for you to practice:

Scenario 1: There’s a delta between your energy and the audience’s: 

Pause, look at the audience, and shift your tone so it’s just above their’s. Then bring them up as quickly as they can accept.

Scenario 2: The content you’re presenting isn’t resonating:

 Notice you’re out of sync and change it up. Shift your body position, darken the PowerPoint, pause for a beat and say something like “you know, let’s just talk.” Then relax and have a conversation.

The single most important thing to remember:

Pay attention to the audience’s tone level and adjust yours as needed.

Be observant. If there’s a sudden coughing outbreak spreading throughout the room, extra light from cell phone screens, or people sneaking out of the room, hit the reset button to re-engage your audience and re-track your presentation.

Learn how to hit your reset button at The Speaking Intensive℠. Get 18 hours of coaching with us in a small group setting for half the cost of our private coaching retainer. Register for the April 27-28 small group coaching session to join us. Save money by taking advantage of the early registration discount before it ends on March 3rd, if the session isn’t sold out by then.


The #1 Best Way to Present from Behind the Lectern

Alan Parisse Speaking Behind The Lectern

What is the #1 best way to present from behind the lectern? Take a half-step back. One that is wide enough to put some distance between the lectern and you, yet close enough to maintain visual contact with your notes and vocal contact with the microphone, unless you are wearing one.

Since we intuitively knew to step back from the lectern, Lisa and I thought this was an inconsequential piece of knowledge everyone knew. Then came a series of wholesaler trainings for a large global financial services firm. They came to us a coaches’ dream team: strong, well-trained presenters who wanted to get even better. Yet something seemed to fall apart when the lectern was introduced. As Lisa was working with their choreography behind the lectern, one of our participants shouted out “take a half-step back”. SHAZAAM! It all became clear … and it works.

Taking a half-step back is absolutely the #1 best way to present from behind a lectern because it gives you the best of both worlds: the credibility that can come from being behind the lectern and having room to gesture and move.

Two Common Pitfalls of Presenting Behind a Lectern:

  • The Crutch: Lecterns are often used as a place for nervous speakers to hide. In The Speaking Intensive presenter development program, we work to bring speakers out from behind the lectern so they gain the comfort and experience necessary to have a choice about when to most effectively in front of a room.
  • The Hate: “I never go behind the lectern. I hate them.” Ok, but what will you do if there is no choice and you are stuck behind one? How about if the situation is sufficiently grave or consequential that you need a place to put your detailed notes or a script?

3 Mistakes Lectern Presenters Make:

Stepping back will also help cure common mistakes presenters make behind a lectern.

  • The Hug: If you’ve ever witnessed “the hug”, then you know what I’m talking about. The presenter’s arms placed on either side of the lectern, elbows out, as if latching on to a long lost friend. Huggers appear hunched over, somehow weakened.
  • The Death Grip: Is a description really necessary here? Gripping the lectern until your knuckles turn white is not compelling to an audience. If the audience isn’t engaged, the sweaty imprint of your hand is all that will be left as evidence you were ever there.
  • Dancing Feet: Speaking is a full body sport. That’s obviously true when you are standing clear of the lectern, and it is also true behind a lectern. A sloppy stance will sap your credibility even when the audience can’t see your lower body. They will sense something is not quite right, but won’t know why.

Each of these correctable conditions chips away at your credibility and can cause the audience to disconnect. No matter how compelling your presentation may be, audiences won’t fully buy-in if your body doesn’t support your message.


If you are as short as I am, find something to stand on. I’ve used a milk crate (shaky), a commercial dishwasher glass rack (more stable – but not suitable for some shoes) and anything else I could find. You want to see the audience and for them to see you. You certainly don’t want them wondering where that voice is coming from.

Sure, lecterns are kind of old school, but they add an aura of authority to you and your message and can even be an effective tool when used correctly. Presenters who learn how to leverage the lectern increase their range of audience connection.

Join us at The Speaking Intensive. Presenters from The Chicago Bulls, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, Allianz, LPL, Rockwell Collins and 40 other firms already have. Now it’s your turn. Just 1 seat left in the August session. Catch the early registration discount for the October session!