Tag Archives: presentations

help people see how their help can help.


That’s how much our church owes the bank.

It’s a mortgage. We doubled the size of our building a few years back, with classrooms and offices and youth space and a gym. The people here did a great job of seeing what they needed and planning it and raising funds.

But this isn’t a story about the building. It’s a story about the number.

We are in the middle of a capital campaign. On the first Sunday of the campaign we wanted to tell the story clearly and simply. We wanted to tell the amount.

In early drafts, we talked about the fact that we had said $1.3 million in one place and $1.2 million in another. As we started to decide which it was, we agreed that the best thing to do–the simplest line to draw in the sand–was the loan balance as of the Friday before.


And so we showed that number on the screen, read it a couple of times. It’s a long number to read.

It’s also a very powerful number to show to a group of people who are all ages and socioeconomic levels. I didn’t understand how powerful until I watched the video.

Sitting still, listening to my own voice, I realized that if we had said that we were raising $1.3 million, most people watching would have struggled a bit with how much they could give, how much their little bit would matter.

As soon as we needed $144.44, everyone could see that they could help with at least forty-four cents. Everyone. Even the person with only two quarters in their pocket.

When you have a big project, see if there’s a way to simply describe it so anyone could say, “my little bit matters.”


If you are curious, here’s the video.


The next piece

You are in the middle of a presentation. You have the audience leaning in. They are tweeting every word. They are writing their own posts in their heads with the wonderful material you are giving them. They are, you are, fully engaged.

Suddenly, a costumed gorilla runs into the room, screams, and runs out.

Everyone sees. Everyone is startled, and then laughs.

Everyone is distracted. People are still tweeting, but now they are talking about what just happened more than about whatever you were saying.

Unless you are one of the people known for having costumed gorillas running through, this is a silly thing to do.

And there probably should only be one of those people.

At any given moment of intentional discourse, any given time where you are putting words and experiences together for a purpose, you have a bag full of pieces. And you have several bags for other games, for other purposes. The temptation, often, is to go for the big effect, for the huge memorable experience, for the huge E, for the screaming gorilla.

Fight that temptation.

You are in a relationship with an audience, you are trying to make the next move, to give others something to build on, to build with. You are trying to take what they have done and thought, add to it in a meaningful way, and give them a chance.

Or you are building a billboard, helping people know what goes on inside as they drive by outside. you want them to stay safe, to catch a glimpse, to have a really clear bit of understanding.

As fun as it is to be remembered for your effects, what would be even cooler would be to be remembered for the thoughtfully built relationships, the way that you wove value into the lives of the people that you knew, the way that you played the next piece, whether on a board or a sign, with respect and awareness of long-term effectiveness.

The gorilla guy is remembered. And copied. And becomes his own parody. The guy who plays the really big E on the gameboard is amusing. Once. But the person who thinks well about the next piece?

She changes the world.


This is another occasional entry the next sentence series. Follow that link for the previous sentence.

8 ways to write the next sentence – TNS part 5

This is the last in a series of posts about “the next sentence.”

I’ve been talking about the importance of being intentional about the next sentence, whether that is the sentence after the compelling story in a speech, or the sentence after a powerful video in a sermon, or the mailing that is the followup after a major event. Call it the next step, the next party, the call to action. Call it whatever you want.

Just don’t forget it.

Here are 8 ways to write the next sentence. Of course, some of these relate to sentences, others to events. But deal with it. If you are reading this blog you are incredibly gifted at filling in gaps and reading between the lines and making sense of inferences.

I know you.

1. Write a clear outcome for your presentation. In my life as a speech teacher, I would make students write a measurable outcome: “When I have finished speaking, my audience will be able to ____.” I don’t do that anymore. Unless I want to make sure I’m actually effective.

2. Practice the story you are telling. Ever start telling a story and then wonder what your point was? Your audience was wondering, too. So take some time and tell the story out loud. Unless, of course, the point doesn’t matter.

3. Stop and look at the audience, even before the event. When we are speaking, when we are planning events, we are working with real people, people with short attention spans and learning styles not our own and bladders and broken hearts and, well, lives. I get consumed with my presentation and planning and cool graphics and neat events. However, I need to stop and look at the people who will be in the room. When I do, I often change and simplify and clarify. Of course, maybe that’s just me.

4. Create a checklist. I talked in the second post about remembering everything but an attendance list which would allow followup for an event. If we had assembled a checklist, one of us would have remembered. I am horrible at lists. All the more reason. (“cool story. check. next sentence. check.”)

5. Pray. This may not apply to you. If not, jump to number 6. I have this belief that God actually knows people inside and out. So when I’m trying to figure out the next sentence, I occasionally ask what to say. And sometimes,  I am told. And sometimes, I even have to erase something.

6. Wait. So you told an incredibly moving, incredibly appropriate, incredibly inspiring story. You can tell that it moved people, mostly because you have tears in your own eyes. So wait for a bit. Before you say that next sentence, wait. Let people think and feel for a bit. Just wait. (You want proof? Think of a really moving episode of Extreme Makeover. Lives changed, people helped. You want to sit and think about whether you are doing the same. And immediately you hear “stay tuned for Desperate Housewives.” Suddenly you realize that the network isn’t about moving your heart.

Don’t be like the network.

7. Pretend. Pretend for a moment that you actually know what you are doing. Because you probably do. I was talking with someone today about the imposter syndrome. This is best illustrated by that fear in teachers that someday while we are teaching, someone will stand up and say, “you made that up!” and we will say, “You are right. Finally, someone saw the truth about me.” It is possible however, that you do know what you are doing and if you quit thinking about your insecurity you can think about helping people change the world.

Because that’s what you are about, right?

8. Pilot. Experiment. Tell your stories to friends before the event. Have a few people for dinner before you have 1,000 people at a banquet. Occasionally have your spouse or friend read a post before you hit publish. The thing that seemed really cool inside your head may not be.


So that’s it. A digital workshop on the next sentence. This will be an ebook soon. I’ll let you know.

For now, you can follow these links to the first four segments.

Part One: The next sentence

Part Two: How I messed up

Part Three: Teaching as a performance

Part four: Afraid of what comes next

And let me know if this helped.


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Teaching as a performance – TNS part 3

I’m involved with people trying to make a difference, people trying to help people grow.

I watch people teach lessons, tell stories, give sermons and speeches. I help people plan events, whether church services or training seminars or concerts. I spend time talking in small groups or individually with people who are wanting to understand how to sense of stuff, whether computers or relationships or life or God.

You do too.

We know that it’s important to consider the next sentence, the sentence after the great illustration, the followup after the great event. The last two posts have been about the idea of the next sentence. I talked about where the idea came from and then told you about a recent instance of forgetting the idea.

The next two posts in this series are going to talk about why we neglect to plan the next sentence, the next step.

Reasons we forget: Teaching as a performance

There is always a performing component to teaching. There is something about a group that sparks something. But if we look at teaching as a performance, we are in trouble.

When you are giving a performance, you are playing a role. You turn it on, you turn it off. You memorize the lines without thinking about them. They may not even be your lines. And the measure of a performance is, did I make them laugh or cry? Did I entertain them? Was it good? Was I good?

But the measure of teaching is, the measure of discipling is…what can they do?

There are times for performances. There are times for drama in teaching. But unless you are an artist, only on the way to something.

Where are you after you speak?

That’s one way to tell if you are giving a performance or teaching. After a performance you wait for the applause and go backstage. After a lesson, you are looking into eyes, providing additional explanation. It’s a conversation. It’s clarification. It’s involvement in lives. It’s…it’s….it’s….not just another speech.

Where are the camels?

I’ll tell you a secret about church. Many people only come to the building twice a year: Christmas and Easter. (If there’s a funeral or a wedding or a christening, those are exceptions). The people with that schedule have their reasons. The people who run church often think, “We need to plan big events for those two times. It will be impressive and chreasters will want to come back.” (Yes, that’s what we call you. I’m sorry. I didn’t make it up.)

The problem with that idea is simple: no one has camels on the Sunday after Christmas.

If the goal of gathering from Sunday to Sunday (and in between) is growth, then to have a huge pageant to entertain means that people are entertained, and then incredibly disappointed when there isn’t something entertaining the next week. So people come back the next time there is something entertaining, for the next pageant.

(Truth in advertising time. A couple years ago, after having written and then watched a Christmas drama based on a Cubs fan entitled, of course, “maybe next year”, I walked out of the church building and said to my boss, “time to start working on Easter.” He made me shut up.)

If you want people to grow in understanding, then the next step isn’t the next pageant, it’s a conversation that says, “here’s how to live between the emotional highs.”

“But what do you want me to do?”

So how do you avoid turning lessons and events and stories into performances (if you want more from them)? Next week, we’ll look at several ways to be effective with writing the next sentence. But I have to tell you something now, right? Because otherwise this post is just a performance.

Always give people something to do. Now. Right away. And then one to do in a day. And then one to do in a week. And then for a lifetime. Sound like too much? Chris Brogan talks about giving people Five takeaways in every presentation (and he comes close).

Some people need something right now. Some people need something for a lifetime. Speak to both of those groups.

So what are the takeaways from this? You write them.


Coming up next in this series, why fear keeps us from the next sentence?


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thoughts on getting ready for Sunday

Tomorrow morning I am teaching two different groups of people. The first group is about 10 people, mostly in their forties. The second group is about 30 people, all at least 70. Tomorrow night I am teaching a group of unknown number, of mixed demographic. Their one common link is that they all are leaders of adults at our church.

So why am I writing a post right now instead of studying and reading and writing? Because I needed to tell myself a few things.

1. There will be other times. Don’t pack everything into one session.

2. It’s better to have one thing understood well than a thousand things mentioned briefly. Really. (No, really. Because if it matters, then it is worth making sure they–and you–understand it inside and out.)

3. Think about the people and the ideas and how they connect. Not about what will make me sound good, or make them feel bad.

4. Since I’m talking, in part, about how to teach…teach that way. It’s called modeling. And not doing it is called either lazy or lacking integrity.

5. If you need to prove that you know something, put it in a handout. And then maybe forget to hand it out.

6.  Remember that you always feel this way and you take it seriously and it always ends up okay because this is what you are built for.

7. Remember to not be complacent about number six.

8. It’s not performance. It’s relationship.

Okay. That’s all. Thanks for listening. Back to work.

mixed messages

A couple weeks ago, I celebrated six months at my new job with an update to my bosses.

To be more accurate, at a meeting of our church leaders, I talked about some things I’ve learned during the past six months. It was challenging to know exactly what to say, particularly since I needed to say it in order to find out what I was thinking.

I ended up building a powerpoint deck. Before you panic, those of you bored with powerpoint, let me tell you what I did.

  • I created my own background. I wrote the words “becoming less clueless” on post-it strips, put them on my desk blotter, shot a picture with my phone, sent it to flickr, and pulled in into the show.
  • I shot a series of 1-2 minute video clips of ideas that I wanted to capture. I used my webcam, and moved it to a new position for each clip, so there was different wall of my office showing. By prerecording, I was able to shoot and reshoot until I got the time and language focused. (In the screen capture, where you see my picture is where the video clip is).
  • I created images to pull into the slide to illustrate the commentary. (That language, by the way, is intentional. Rather than commenting on the illustrations, I illustrated the thoughts. ) Some of the images were lists I wrote and photographed. Some of the images were screen captures using [prnt scrn]. Some were images I had created. Inserting all these images allowed me to have lots of visual information on the screen for a long time, allowing people to listen to me and let their eyes wander.
  • After each video played, I commented live, if necessary. I also skipped one of the videos and told the story even quicker.

For a presentation that ran at 8:15 on a Monday evening, this worked. The format helped me stay focused, helped 8 guys have something different to see and hear, and allowed me to be linear in a non-linear fashion. It even allowed me to videoblog in a live setting.

So, how are you finding the skills you are building on-line helping you in real-time presentations?