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TitasThe picture on the left shows our very own Tim Clague with Lithuanian music composer Titas Petrikis.

Marton House recently hired Titas to compose a series of music pieces for our latest and greatest project The Platform.

The Platform is an 18 month experience demonstrating the best of the best in the world of sales. As a product that demonstrates excellence it must exude quality itself.

Like so many other productions we could have just bought some library music that roughly fitted the piece, but in keeping with the bespoke attitude we felt that the project needed a skilled ear to create a much more tailored sound.

You can read more about Titas and his experience with us over on his own blog.

Over the coming weeks there will be an official launch of The Platform right here. If your business needs to move from good to great, stick with us to find out more.


Hands up if you’ve ever had to sit through a bad PowerPoint presentation? By bad I mean:

  • It didn’t engage you
  • The purpose of it confused you
  • You read the slides rather than listened to the speaker
  • The speaker sounded like he was reading the slides
  • You couldn’t describe what the presentation was about in 2 or 3 sentences

These poor attempts at presentations are usually the result of trying to cram too much content in because your scared of missing something out and you haven’t learnt the notes.

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint helps address this problem by simplifying things.

The rules are:

  • Ten slides
  • Twenty minutes
  • No font smaller than thirty points.


Ten slides
Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because the majority of people won’t take in more than ten new concepts in a one sitting.

Your ten topics should mirror the top ten things that your audience care’s about. To give you an example, here are ten example topics that a venture capitalist might care about.

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and next steps

Twenty minutes
You should deliver your ten slides in twenty minutes. Try and give yourself at least an hour timeslot for the whole pitch. That should give you time to set up the laptop, 20 minutes for the presentation and time at the end for questions.

Thirty points
A lot of PowerPoint presentations contain too much text in a small font size and the presenter just reads it out. As soon as the audience figures this out, they start to read it themselves because they can read it faster than you can speak it.

The result? You and your audience are on different pages, you’re out of sync and you might as well not be there.

Use a font size of no less than 30pts. If you think you need to reduce this then you have too much text. What do you do with this text? You learn it and practice delivering it confidently and concisely. The rest you store in memory for the questions at the end. If there are no questions at the end, chances are your audience has given up trying to register all that new info and just want to get out of there.

Sticking to this rule will be difficult to start with because it means reducing the amount of text on screen and puts the pressure on you to deliver only the salient points. By doing this you should stir enough interest in the audience that some will use the question time at the end to drill down to the nitty gritty details.

Remember, you are the star of the show, not the PowerPoint so practise practise practise!

Congratulations, you’ve made it through your speech (and my week of rambling posts!). Bet you are glad that’s over, right?

Of course you’re glad, it is only natural for anyone doing public speaking to be relieved when they come out the other side of a presentation relatively unscathed. Don’t rest easy for too long though as it’s bound to crop up again when you least expect it, and there is something you can do right now which will make things much easier next time around. Get some feedback!

As much as it can bruise our egos getting some feedback is of vital importance to make us better speakers in the future. The good news is your ego can also get some massaging which will make you feel more comfortable next time.

You should be asking questions like:

  • Did you feel engaged?
  • Was it too long?
  • Did I speak too fast?
  • Did I keep the energy level high enough?
  • What could I do better next time?

Many moons ago before I joined Marton House part of my workload came from being an audio/visual technician at conferences. From party political conferences to medical events it was my job to make sure they all ran smoothly, which usually meant me sitting at the back of the room making sure things like the slide tray advanced properly. Most of the time after all the setting up was done it was a mind-numbingly boring and repetitive job but there was the occasional moment of interest.

One moment that sticks in my mind was at a medical conference around the mid-afternoon time when people are a little snoozy after lunch. I rarely paid attention to what was being said on stage as it really made no sense to me but to alleviate the boredom I would often people watch.

After the session was over the speaker came up to me to get his slides back and asked me what I thought of the session, to which I politely replied I was too busy to pay any real attention to it. “How about the audience, did you get any vibes?”, he continued. I thought about this for a moment and realised that there had been a noticeable shift between the previous session and his. When he first came out on the stage the audience were practically asleep but his energy and drive must have awoken them from their slumber and gradually people started to sit up in their seats. People left momentarily and came back with more people until there was a definite buzz in the audience.

So I told him this good news, and he was really pleased with the result. “Anything bad?”, he asked. “Yes”, I replied “They all started to drift off after 20 minutes, and after the first hour you’d lost most of them!”

The learning from this story for him was that everybody only has a limited supply of energy and attention. Next time he vowed to keep it much, much shorter. Less pain for him, less pain for the audience.

Feedback can come from anywhere, even a 3rd party like a conference technician. The more we learn from our mistakes, the easier it will all become.

Ben EltonPicture the scene; You are stood at the lectern, speaking clearly and concisely, confident in your material when suddenly you catch somebody frowning at you from the audience. Then you see another person with their arms crossed. Then another whispering to their neighbour. Then another leaving the room.

Suddenly you ask yourself what is going wrong? A whiny little voice creeping forwards from the back of your mind saying things like “You’re losing them…”, and “Stop sending them to sleep”, and “Get off the stage now before they start throwing rotten fruit at you…”.

As Ben Elton used to say this is Captain Paranoia sitting on your shoulder, that inner voice which we all struggle to silence.

The fact is a small fraction of the audience will not be satisfied whatever you do.

So what can you do about Captain Paranoia? Firstly you have got to stop living in your head, the more you listen to your inner voice the more nervous and less confident you’ll feel.

Don’t think about it, change it! The first sign you see of your inner voice creeping forwards, start to raise your game. Give your performance an energy injection, both in the tone of your voice and in your body. Liven things up a little.

The more your attention is occupied by your performance the less you’ll notice the stiffs in the audience disappearing to the toilet.

The bigger your performance the better you’ll feel when you walk off stage with your head held high.

Speeding Bullet

So you’ve done your preparation, you’ve got a glass of water to hand and you are now stood at the lectern. What now?

The temptation is to blurt it all out and get it over with as fast as you can but whatever you do you must resist this urge. You are not a speeding bullet.

Take a deep breath and start how you mean to continue – slowly.

Here is what will happen if you rush through it.

  • You will feel pleased it’s over but somehow dissatisfied with your performance
  • You will see confusion in the audience because it was too fast to keep up with
  • You will hear comments about you looking nervous and babbling

Think back to that video recording you did during your preparation. Was it delivered too quickly? If the answer is an honest yes, then you need to rehearse again. Try doing it super slow, like you are dragging your legs through treacle and then watch it back again.

Too slow? Probably not. Slow for most people is actually a normal, well-rounded speed.

Slowing it down is bother better for you and the audience. Better for you because it gives you chance to think what you want to say between sentences and it will make you look more at ease, and better for the audience because they will actually understand what the heck you are talking about.


If we went around the world saying the same old speech again and again we’d get so good at it the stage fright would eventually disappear altogether.

The old saying “Practice makes perfect” holds just as true here as anywhere.

Practice doesn’t mean writing a script for your speech though, no that won’t help at all. Even the best actors in the world can’t remember massive chunks of dialogue that goes on for hours, so why should you expect it of yourself? A bullet point list is the best way to remember content and then it’s just a case of knowing and understanding what you want to say for each point.

Small manageable, bite-size pieces is the best way to create and learn your content, and better still you can take that single page bullet point list up on stage with you as a reminder for what comes next. Even better if it’s a Power Point presentation you can integrate it into that and nobody will ever know you’ve got it.

Don’t expect to just walk out on stage and have your presentation flow naturally, getting it to look slick takes time and effort. Be an actor. Do a role-play. Get your loved ones to be the audience. The more you practise the easier it will be live on the day.

More practice will give you confidence in your material and more confidence in yourself.

Here are a few preparation tips that’ll help to start breaking down those barriers.

  • Know your stuff. Once you do that everything else is just a minor hurdle to overcome.
  • Don’t read it, be it! No script when you go live.
  • Don’t drag it out, make everything short and to the point.
  • Bullet points.
  • Make like an actor – rehearse! Take 1 will not be good enough.
  • Use a video camera. See it from the audience’s perspective, then do another take.

The video camera is actually an amazing tool for practising. It allows us an out of body experience to see exactly how good or bad we are. Yes many people hate the thought of seeing themselves on camera, but don’t forget you also hate the thought of doing a presentation.

Conquer the camera, learn to look and feel good in front of that single, black eye of the lens then conquering the audience won’t be anywhere near as bad as it first appeared.

dryToday we’re going to kick off by talking about one of the simplest things that can throw even the most accomplished speaker off track when they are in the heart of a presentation.

Have you ever dried-up when speaking in front of a crowd of people, or even in a new and unfamiliar situation? Then you already have experience of the dreaded cotton mouth.

Cotton mouth, or xerostomia as it is known in medical speak is simply a dry mouth due to a lack of saliva.

There are a number of things that cause xerostomia but in the case of the public speaker it is most often just simply down to nerves.

A dry mouth during a speech is bound to make us feel really self conscious but hey guess what, the chances are nobody listening to your speech has even realised anything is wrong. A dry mouth feels a lot worse than it sounds.

So how do we avoid getting cotton mouth? Well for starters remember to drink plenty of water. A dry mouth is caused in most instances due to dehydration. I often forget to drink enough water, so when I’m stressed and nervous drinking is the last thing on my mind. Make drinking water part of your preparation routine (more on preparation later in the week), drink plenty beforehand and then empty yourself out just before you make the presentation – there’s nothing worse than a weak bladder when you’re nervous!

Also make sure you have a glass of water on hand during your speech, then if you’re feeling dry don’t get embarrassed about pausing for a drink as nobody will mind but try not to do it too often and if you can use natural breaks to take a sip, e.g. when somebody asks a question.

My top tip of the day though comes from one of our actors, and even though it shouldn’t be used regularly it really does work. If you find yourself drying up and have no water to hand try biting the end of your tongue, not too hard and certainly not hard enough to make it bleed! When you bite your tongue your saliva glands are activated almost immediately and you get a rush of wetness in your mouth.

Desperate times can call for desperate measures, just try and be discreet when you do it.

That’s right folks, we’ve got another week-long special this week on The Learning Journey.

How do you feel when you’re suddenly asked to deliver a presentation? Or maybe you’ve been asked to formally introduce a speaker? Perhaps it’s simply a case of telling a room of people about what you do in 30 seconds?

Public speakerSome people seem to handle such situations with ease, whereas it strikes cold-hearted fear into others.

Incredibly in some cases people have been known to worry more about speaking in public than the thought of death itself!

Fear of embarrassment, fear of not making a good impression is one of the common drivers for sweaty palms, shaky hands and the ultimate indicator, the dry mouth.

If you’re one of those people then this week is definitely for you. Stick with us and we’ll try to give you a few top tips to ease you through such situations.

( image copyright 1998 Sheila Chambers)

Ling ValentineThis is Ling Valentine. Ling is an entrepreneur who appeared on the BBC show Dragons’ Den. You can watch part of her original pitch right here.

Ling’s company offers rental and lease purchase options for buying cars, nothing new there.

Her website is a mind-boggling, single-paged brain dump of everything her company offers. It’s probably the craziest, information overloading website I’ve ever seen. If you visit this website with a purpose of finding a particular car good luck to you, you could be searching for some time.

She is very successful though and won the accolade of Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Women in Retail award last year.

Why is she so successful though, particularly when she has a web-based business with a website most people can’t be bothered to navigate their way through?

You see is all about Ling.  Ling is honest, hard working and down to earth and it’s her zany personality that makes people remember her.  Her appearance on Dragons’ Den wasn’t about getting the money, it was all about the publicity.  She didn’t win the money, but unlike so many other hopefuls that appear on the show Ling and her silly nuclear missile promo is the only non-winner I still remember, months on from the shows original transmission.

In a world which is overrun by companies selling the same things it’s becoming more and more important to have something that ignites your businesses gravity bringing people to you rather than sending them to the car lot next door.

So why would anybody remember your business?

More importantly, why would anybody remember you?

Honesty is not only the best policy, it’s the only policy.

From the Customer Interaction Manifesto.

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