Friday, 23 January 2015

10 Tips for Successful PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPointI use PowerPoint a lot. As a trainer, the majority of the courses I deliver are accompanied by PowerPoint presentations but the last thing I want is for my audience to suffer 'death by PowerPoint'. I'm well aware that visual learners need to be able to see as well as hear something they are being taught but that doesn't mean every word you say needs to be on the screen behind you. In fact, the complete opposite is true. You should always aim to keep your slides as brief as possible. Here are 10 quick tips to help you create great PowerPoint presentations.

1. Use a big font size - Don't be afraid to 'go large'. You want to make sure everyone can clearly see what you have on the screen. This is also a great way of removing words that you don't have room for and that really don't need to be there in the first place.

2. Use visual instead of text - If you can say it with a picture rather than words, then do so. A picture can often have far more impact than any words you could use in its place.

3. Blank the screen - If you're looking to get the attention of the audience then blank out the screen. Make yourself the centre of attention until you're ready to move on with the presentation.

4. Avoid distracting animation - PowerPoint has lots of fancy animation tools that can make text come flying in from all different directions. A simple piece of advice - don't do it. It's incredibly distracting and often looks amateurish.

5. Don’t become a victim of 'Screen accompanied by still-life of speaker' - Your PowerPoint presentation is a tool that accompanies you. It's not the other way around, so don't just stand there and talk, move around, be animated, make sure the audience are fully engaged with you.

6. Reveal bullet points one at a time - If you reveal a slide with five bullet points you can guarantee the audience are reading through all five, probably while you're trying to draw attention to the first one. Reveal your bullet points one at a time, to keep the audience focused.

7. Use a remote control - A remote control to advance your slides (or even a wireless mouse) gives you the flexibility to move around and help keep the focus on you. It also allows you to blank the screen (see tip number 3) whenever you need.

8. Use a consistent template -  For a professional look, the background for each slide should always be the same. It's the content on the background that changes.

9. Check your spelling and grammar - If you have spelling mistakes on your slides your audience will probably be paying more attention to them than the actual content. proofread carefully.

10. Practice! - Once you've put your presentation together you need to practice it before you 'go live'. You might even want to video yourself on something like a smartphone to see how you're doing.

If you'd like to learn more about giving dynamic and effective PowerPoint presentations then take a look at our website. We deliver courses throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Customer Service Communication Skills

Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are highly valued in customer service and this is something we talk about during our Customer Service training courses. However, listening skills and empathy are also an important component of good communication, both of which tend to be overshadowed. Listening doesn't come naturally to most people. It's something we need to work at, and stop ourselves from ‘jumping in’ and giving our own views and opinions. Mostly, people don’t listen; they just take turns to speak. We tend to be more interested in announcing our own views and experiences rather than listening and understanding others. In a customer service environment, this is a recipe for disaster.

Obtain the customer's name as soon as possible and use it
Ask for the customer’s name first, rather than their reference number or address. This shows you are a good listener and adds a nice personal touch. Write it down if that will help you remember.

Be adaptable
There's no reason for customers to be approached using the same style every time. Use personal experience to build rapport so that the customer feels you are putting yourself in their shoes and treating them as an individual. Adapt the way you deal with each customer. Meet their unique needs with a unique approach.

Make their problem your problem
Take ownership of the enquiry, especially if it's a complaint, and develop a one-to-one relationship with the customer so they have a point of contact they can come back to.

See things from the customer’s perspective
Try to imagine yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel? How would you have reacted? What result would you want?

Ask open-ended questions 
Open-ended questions encourage the customer to share what they know about the situation and help build rapport. Closed questions that can be answered 'yes' or 'no', do little to advance the situation. Instead, ask questions that begin with 'who', 'what', 'where', 'why', 'when' or 'how'. Open questions naturally encourage conversation because they are almost impossible to answer with a single word.

Remember the value of an apology
A simple, genuine, heart-felt apology at the appropriate time can quickly defuse a difficult situation and break down barriers.

Avoid assumptions
Don’t make assumptions about what the customer is telling you – actively listen!

If necessary, give the customer an idea when they can expect a result
It’s not good enough to tell a customer you will get back to them. Give them an indication as to when that will happen. Will it be within five minutes, an hour, before 5pm today, tomorrow?

You can find out more about our Customer Service training courses on our website. We deliver all across the United Kingdom.

Photo by Stuart Miles. Courtesy of