5 tips and tricks when writing.

5 Questions About Writing

What does it take to write a great novel, screenplay, song, or poem? Does it come easily to even the great writers, or is it always hard work? Ask any professional writer, and they will give you a similar list: time, focus, discipline, commitment, routine, persistence, courage.

Now, that PowerPoint presentation you are planning to write on the plane? It is no different. It takes time to move human thoughts onto paper. Each writer needs to find their own way to be a creative, thoughtful, and productive writer.

Here are five questions to ask yourself about your approach to writing. The sharper your answers, the more writing success you will have:

1. How much time have I scheduled for writing?

Here is a good rule of thumb for a short talk: one hour for strategic thinking, one hour for “right brain” creative writing, and one hour for “left brain” editing (followed by and an hour to rehearse). It’s advisable to take a break between the writing and editing; stepping away and coming back to your writing at a later time will give you a fresh perspective.

 2. What is the time and place?

Early morning or late at night? Listening to music or enjoying pure quiet? Café, quiet corner, or on the train? Door open or closed? Series of intense short sessions or long marathons? There is no one right answer; sometimes a writer has to try different times/places before figuring out what works best.

 3. What are the right tools?

Pen and paper, tablet, or laptop? Index cards, blank sheets of computer paper, whiteboard or flipchart? Notebook, legal-sized yellow notepads, fancy paper, the back of an envelope? The tools a writer uses depend on the situation, availability and sheer preference; again, there is no one right answer.

 4. How many drafts?

The Canadian novelist Timothy Findley told me, “first write, then get it right.” He meant that the first drafts are just getting the ideas out, that you don’t know what to say until you have tried saying it. In the busy corporate world, it is natural to want to the first draft to be the final draft. Go for at least two, three, four or more.

 5. Who is my editor?

Behind every great writer is a great editor. We need someone with a reader’s perspective to see the areas that make sense, those that don’t, those sentences that can be cut, and the parts that need to be expanded. Find someone you trust and make a habit of getting their feedback. And remember, for many writers the part they personally love the most is the part that needs to go.

Happy writing!


Audience @ IMEX 2017


Audience Account Director Jeff Bateman represented Audience at IMEX 2017 (known as “The worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings, and events”) in Frankfurt, Germany. This four-day immersion into the world of meetings and events includes a three-day trade show and the chance to keep current with the latest trends. This is the event for people in the meeting and events industry, and it never disappoints.


This year offered some new touches, including an education day to kick off the conference—called “EduMonday”—and the intention to “live and breathe its 2017 Talking Point – Purposeful Meetings.” Over 9,000 buyers and visitors took part in this event, taking in education, technology, and presentations.

The focus on the purpose of meetings and events—the content and presentation—rather than the destination was a welcome change of pace. In the past, our industry has wowed audiences with spectacular destinations and top-notch hotels—but hasn’t always concerned itself with the details of what happens there.

Also a refreshing part of the “purposeful” focus was two “Be Well” lounges and the creation of “white space” areas to offer a chilled-out, tech-free vibe. Given the bustling marketplace, a genuine alternative and emphasis on self-care was appreciated.

The Thing About Presentations

There is no one thing, of course, but IMEX’s talking point did a fantastic job of setting up Jeff’s “Presentation Strategies” session. Intended to be a “campfire” session of 5-10 attendees, the appetite for content brought in 35 people, all keen to gain insight into how presentations can engage audiences and offer purpose.

Jeff’s session covered the fundamentals of presentation strategies (including the Audience Triangle), the form and function of presentations, and a framework for focus. The group also covered tips on body language—an imperative for anyone who gives presentations.

It was a happy accident to align so closely with IMEX’s focus on Purposeful Meetings, particularly as travel budgets change, travel security is harder to navigate, and the carbon footprint is more challenging to justify. Meetings and events are at an exciting moment of change right now.

Hologram Technologies

So what do organizers do, given the changing needs and capacities for meeting travel? In some cases, we know, meetings are going digital, with live streams and video launches across the globe. Another option? Holograms.

Imagine being able to present—or co-present—from your local office to a global audience: they can see you and hear you, and you can see and hear them. The interactive possiblities are fantastic, and the freedom to engage audiences without having to accommodate travel time and cost is going to have a huge impact on our industry. While the cost of this technology might initially seem prohibitive, it could replace (perhaps even reduce) the usual travel costs for attendees and presenters.

For a taste of what that might look like, check this out. We can’t wait to explore the possibilities.

From the Inspiration Hub: An Idea Shower

IMEX’s Inspiration Hub offered attendees the chance to meet in small groups with experts and presenters, to talk, and to play. In one such setting, the “Idea Shower,” we talked through how the Sharing Economy impacts our industry.

The Sharing Economy has become a pretty big part of how we travel (Uber), accommodate (airbnb), and trade items (Canada’s Bunz) or homes (lovehomeswap). But it seems anathema to business and industry, where competition has been the dominant ideology. As with other parts of our industry, this too seems to be changing.

Rather than competing for clients, experts are now talking about collaborating for mutual benefit, forming new partnerships where access trumps ownership. We’re keen to explore how these new partnerships will enhance and elevate audience experiences.

IMEX 2017 in Frankfurt was a fantastic experience, a chance to meet up with old connections and make new acquaintances. Meetings with purpose, the time and space to be well (and un-deviced), encountering new technologies and ideas—we were thrilled to be part of this experience.

5 Helpful Analogies

5 Helpful Analogies for Presenters

Presenting is a skill like any other: to be good takes practice. The notion of the “natural presenter” is almost 100% false (there are those naturally gifted, but this is extremely rare). Here are five ways to think about improving your presentation skills:

1. Cooking
Those who love to cook understand the importance of preparation. The right recipe, best ingredients, and proper equipment are all essential. And after all that careful preparation, the moment of truth comes once the heat is on and it all goes into the pan.

2. Golf
What worked beautifully on the last hole won’t necessarily work on the next. Club selection is important, but nothing is as important as technique. Controlling stress is crucial. Every hour on the driving range is a small step to mastery. Lose your focus, lose the game.

3. Travel
Preparation is, on the one hand, the secret to success, and on the other hand, going with the flow is where the magic happens. When travelling, keeping your eyes and ears open will allow you to adjust to the surroundings and demonstrate you are more than just another tourist. Every journey is a lesson if you are open to learning new things. Local customs must be honoured and respected. Show your gratitude, and you will be a welcomed guest.

4. Running
To prepare for a 10K race, you don’t run 10k over and over as fast as you can. You build up over time, doing drills, short runs, long runs, and rest days. Conditioning is everything. A week before the race your physical training is done. The mental and emotional game of preparing to be in the zone on race day is a science and an art. Adjusting your mood before the gun goes off is essential.

5. Entertaining
The house is clean. The food is ready, and so are the drinks. You’ve showered and changed, taking the time to look your best. You’ve kissed your spouse; the children are in bed. A final look in the mirror. The doorbell rings – you are ready to embrace and enjoy your guests thoroughly.

Happy presenting!

5 PowerPoint Goals

5 PowerPoint Goals for Presenters

My friend Simon Morton, the author of The Presentation Lab, puts it beautifully: “no other software has become synonymous with an activity like PowerPoint has become with presenting.”  Presenting is, of course, an ancient form of communication that was around long before Bill Gates started Microsoft (can you imagine Gandhi, King, or Churchill presenting with slides?). To break the mold, here are five goals for your next presentation:

  1. No Slides

A sure-fire way to stand out from the crowd. If you are well prepared, the feeling is liberating and energizing. Tell your story, engage your audience, create an experience—they won’t ask for their money back because you didn’t bring slides.

  1. Few Slides

Corporate presentations average one slide per minute. Two slides per minute are considered a minimum. This is crazy. Try one slide per five minutes, because each one is so important—experience the difference.

  1. No Template

Edward Tufte, the author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, says of templates: “At a minimum, a presentation format should do no harm. Yet the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus, PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play—very loud, very slow, and very simple.”* So, drop the meeting logo and banner to give yourself a blank page, and fill it with something content rich.  *Tufte, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, p. 22.

  1. No Bullets

Slides don’t kill audiences, the bullets do! Bullets are almost always speaker notes for the presenter, not helpful information for the audience. Other forms of visual information do a much better job and should be used as inspiration: movie posters, print ads, billboards, album covers, and book covers. Create bullet-free slides, and spare your audience death by PPT!

  1. No Looking

Even a slide-heavy presentation can be saved by knowing it so well you don’t need to look back at the screen to know which slide you are on. Set up your laptop so that it is in FRONT of you, and use it as a comfort monitor. The best software lets you see the current and next slides, to make transitions seamless. If you turn your back to the audience to read your slides, game over!

Happy presenting!

5 Simple Enhancements

5 Simple Enhancements for Presenters


Assuming you have done your audience needs assessment, tailored your content and rehearsed your presentation, you can now spice it up. Sprinkle these 5 enhancements into your next presentation and make it an experience:

1. Walk-in / Walk-out Music
Pick songs that give you and your audience energy. Last year’s Top 40 is usually a safe bet, or, calculate the average age of your audience and select the top hit from the summer they were 18 years old. Or ask the sound tech to choose a playlist. Start the music before the doors open, right up until you take the stage, and have them play the walk out music as soon as your presentation is done.

2. Treats
Chocolate. Candies. Healthy snacks. Fancy sparkling water. It is amazing how far the small things go.

3. Icebreaker
You want to know your audience, and your audience wants to know each other. Take 5 to 10 minutes from your presentation time for interactivity by simply having everyone introduce themselves to the people beside them, or by asking them to work in pairs to create questions for you. A favourite at Audience is a two-minute interview on a question relevant to your topic, such as “who was the best presenter you have seen in the past year and what made them so good?”

4. Handouts
Something to write on, something to read. Gadgets, mind teasers, arts and crafts materials, or even just coloured markers and sticky notes. Link them to your message, create engagement, and give the audience something they can carry home.

5. Gratitude
For investing their time in you, listening with an open mind, and asking you pertinent questions, don’t forget to show your audience your appreciation. Take time for a thoughtful, sincere thank you.

Happy presenting!

Organizational Binaries, Revisited



We posted back in March 2016 about our efforts to find the sweet spot between creativity and organization, complete freedom and rigid order. Over this year, we’ve moved deeper into the idea of mental models, designing and building a Creative Concept Database to house some of our best work.

The process of thinking through what we want to catalogue, as well as what makes a project exceptional, has been revealing. We’ve identified certain creative patterns and design processes within these 5-star projects—and identifying them has led us to solidifying the workflow and clarifying the deliverables. And while it might seem backwards to do this organizational work after the fact, rather than mapping it out beforehand, it’s proven invaluable. We’re learning more about ourselves, our clients, and our audiences as we invest this time.

Time and Space—Away

We’ve also learned that one of our best creative habits is to get offline and away from the screen. Whether that means going for a walk, writing by hand on paper (writing, not printing!), or taking five minutes to chat with colleagues (about anything, but most especially about anything outside work/jobs/clients), our teams are breaking up time and moving into different spaces.

And we’re not alone in this: It’s Nice That posted about the connection between switching off and creativity; Mashable reminded us what it was like to have a phone that was just, you know, a phone; and Wired acknowledged the value of leaning into boredom, rather than Netflixing (or Instagramming, or Tweeting, or Snapchatting) it away. When was the last time you were genuinely bored? It might be a good time to revisit that experience, and see what you can create with it.

The Well

Which leads to our next (re)discovery: creativity needs to be fed. Regularly. It’s easy, especially in our industry, to devote all our time to clients. Because we’re trusted with their projects, and because those relationships matter to us.

But when we’re not taking time off/away, particularly in creative environments, we start to run dry. The usual tasks can become harder and slower. We’re proud of the creative, offline work of our team: we have musicians and photographers and artists and singers and hockey players and chefs and DIYers in our ranks. But we realized, this past fall, that we haven’t been prioritizing creative encounters in/as teams.

The RGD DesignThinkers Conference—where we sent members of our Creative and Account teams—was electric. Inspiring. And so deeply resonant: we’re still having conversations about what we saw and heard there. Letting our creativity hang out with the creativity of others is unsurprisingly rich in its results.

So here’s to more of all that, as well as a glance back to where we were last year…

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5 Ways to Bomb for Presenters

5 Ways to Bomb for Presenters

Anyone who has given enough talks (and is honest) will tell you: they’ve bombed. It is the worst feeling in the world. But even worse are those who have bombed but don’t realize it. If you want to bomb, here are 5 Things that are sure-fire ways to do it:

1.       Talk Down

Just because you are the expert on one thing doesn’t make you the expert on all things. And even in your area of expertise, it is likely that your audience is more of a peer group than freshmen students. Speak like you are speaking to your inner circle.

2.       Don’t Listen

Nothing is quite so irritating as a speaker who takes questions from the floor but treats them as objections to handle rather than information to absorb. If you aren’t ready to learn from your audience, you are ready to bomb.

3.       Depend on Technology

All technology at some point fails. This includes LCD projectors, laptops, laser pointers, and clickers. If you can’t deliver your presentation without slides, videos or other enhancements, you are ready to bomb.

4.       Don’t Rehearse

Maybe a better way to say it is, “rehearse in front of your audience.” Learn from the pros, and rehearse like hell.

5.       Ignore Advice to Cut Some Slides

If you are like 95% of the non-professional speakers out there, you have too many slides. And people around you are politely imploring you to use the delete button. But you say, “this slide is important” or “this slide will only take 15 seconds” or “this slide will only take a minute.” Sorry, but you have all but chosen to bomb.

Happy Presenting!

If you need help to avoid bombing your next presentation, contact us.  Our experts are here to help you.

Audience Map 2017

Going Global – Redux


New Year, New Venture

A new year seems like a great time to spin the globe, so we’re thrilled to announce that our prospective-in-2016 Singapore office is a 2017 reality!

Engage! Communications by Design Pte. Ltd. is a unique partnership between Audience Communication and Unicblue (http://unicblue.com), a design firm we’ve had the pleasure of working with across Europe and Asia. Freshly incorporated and locally led by the multi-talented Felix Grube (Director of Production), Engage! offers a unique matrix of services:

  • Audience Corporate Communication and Strategic Services
  • Unicblue Congress Design services
  • Julia Williams’s conference services (travel, accommodation, F&B, logistics)

Lovers of collaboration and connection that we are, Engage! brings the APAC region a talented trifecta (a.k.a. “one-stop shop”) of communications and events.

And if you’re curious about how we got here…

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5 Healthy Habits

5 Healthy Habits for Presenters

Ah, January, the month for making new resolutions. Maybe you’ve decided to eat more healthily, get more sleep, or start an exercise routine?  When you made your resolutions, you probably weren’t thinking about how developing healthy habits would also affect your presentation skills.  Here’s how.

A presentation is a performance, and a performance requires energy. Particularly if you are running a workshop, you will need BUCKETS of energy. Learn your own unique performance needs, but until then, here are 5 Things you can do to be ready on game day:

1. Sleep

If you are speaking at a conference, the night before your talk, pass on invitations to see the city or meet at the bar. And don’t stay up all night finishing your slides. Get to bed at your usual time or earlier. Your audience will thank you for it.

2. Exercise

Whatever your routine is, keep it. Arriving on stage feeling pumped up and good about yourself will bring that extra level of energy and confidence needed to make an impression. If you exercise just before your presentation, ensure you have enough time to cool down!

3. Eat

Again, keeping your routine is key. If you are speaking at a hotel and they offer a huge buffet breakfast, better to go for what you would normally have at home. Even better, bring your usual breakfast along and eat in your room, reducing distractions or wasted time hoping the waiter will bring the bill. If you are giving a longer presentation, you will need extra energy, so consider some extra protein.

4. Drink

One routine to reconsider is caffeine. Caffeine plus the adrenaline and cortisol that comes with nervousness can be a deadly combination. Cut your regular coffee intake by half and replace with water or herbal tea.

5. Breathe

Before you go on, find a quiet corner, close your eyes, and take few good deep slow breathes. Focus your mind, lower your heart rate, bring a smile to your face: you are in a fantastic mood and ready to go.

Happy presenting!

Audience Travels 2016

From Hamburg to Hanoi, Montreal to Montreux—Audience had an intense year of travel, with over half of its people creating events and supporting communications across 3 continents and within 15 countries. Think of this interactive map as our year in review!
 Explore, click around, and read our impressions.

Happy holidays! Here’s to continuing our adventures in 2017.

To view the Audience Travels Google Map in a new window, click here.