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An Interview with Tom Mucciolo

In this interview, Tom discusses his work, his training, and PowerPoint specific visual skills.


Tom Mucciolo Tom Mucciolo is president of MediaNet, and a recognized industry expert in visual communications, business presentations and leadership skills. He has served as a skillsconsultant for major corporations since 1985, concentrating on the script, visuals, and delivery associated with presentations, especially electronic events.

High-profile communicators, including corporate leaders, politicians, educators, physicians, lawyers, sales teams, media personalities, as wellas those at any organizational level, demand his coaching expertise to enhance executive presence, improve leadership effectiveness anddevelop high-quality communication skills.

Visit him online here.

Geetesh: Tell us about what you do in the presentation world.

Purpose Movement Color Tom: I started MediaNet in 1985 to help people look more believable when speaking in public. As a presentation skills company we concentrate on the message (the script that tells a story); the media (the visual design of the support evidence for the message); and the mechanics (the verbal and non-verbal delivery skills necessary for the message to have a lasting impression).

93% of the impact of any message is in the delivery skill --- the mechanics --- the non-verbal, body language of the presenter. Thus, I spend the majority of my time coaching people on delivery skills. My goal is to observe the strengths in a person's natural style and help build a presentation strategy that maximizes the strong points and minimizes any distractions.

Geetesh: Can visual design on a slide help in presentation delivery? Tell us more.

Special Edition: Using Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 Tom: I look at "design" from a non-artistic perspective first. The first thing I look at is the amount of clutter. If the visual is "busy" then it requires attention from the audience. If a presenter seeks attention and a slide seeks attention, then they compete. Competing for attention makes presenting more difficult.

For example, suppose a bullet point on a visual reads like a full sentence (possibly wrapping to a second line). The viewer must assign attention in order to "read" and interpret the words, while, at the same time, a presenter is speaking. It is difficult to read and listen at the same time. Some presenters will try to adapt to the design and read the exact words on the visual to the audience. This is of no value to those who already know how to read.

The design must be adapted to the presenter. If the bullet point contains a few key words, the audience will not "read", but will "listen" to the speaker interpret the key words in the context of the presentation. Attention will shift to the speaker (the 93%) allowing the visual to complete the story, not compete with the story.

Geetesh: What sort of business visuals work? Can you share some thoughts.

Tom: There is no set rule as to which visuals should be used where, but I categorize slide content into "presentation" items, such as text charts, data-driven charts (line, pie, bar, area, table, etc.), diagrams (process and flow) and maps (global or local perspective). I look at anything related to multi-media (sound, video, animation, etc.) and live interaction (software, internet, etc) as "production" items. It is easier to control (and create) presentation items and therefore the majority of presentations contain these items.

Since most presentation items are text based, and text requires reading, it is better to include visual design elements (photos, graphic designs, shapes, etc.) to augment text and imply the "image" of words that support speech. These graphical elements may help to reduce clutter. With less clutter, a presenter is more likely to keep the attention of the audience focused on the message.

Data-driven charts are graphical representations of statistics. It is easier to present a pie chart, for example, as opposed to the table of numbers used to create the pie slices. Production items require more attention from the audience (such as a video clip) so you need to consider when or if to use these items.

Geetesh: Tell us about your training sessions. What type of people typically attend these, and what do they take with them at the end of the training?

Tom: What I love most about my training sessions is that there is no vertical market for these skills. ANYONE who has to deliver content in front of anyone else is "presenting" and wants to be effective. I do notice that my sessions are typically filled with a related "group" of people. So, within an organization, I may be working with the entire marketing team and then in another session, the sales team. This is not only for reasons of proximity, but for content and strategy purposes, as well. When groups are trained together, it usually involves some lecture topics followed by individual skills coaching, sometimes with the entire group watching one another being coached for 20-30 minutes for each participant. The focus is on body language and voice control --- the "basic" delivery skills.

In other cases, the skills training is conducted in a one-to-one private session. These sessions run 45 minutes to 2 hours and cover in-depth issues related to the more advanced delivery skills, such as storytelling, opening hooks, analogies, humor, interaction, and more. CEO's, global experts, keynote speakers, politicians, and other high profile presenters prefer these private sessions.

Some experience the coaching once and others have multiple sessions on a quarterly or semi-annually basis. Regardless of the participant, the take-away from any session is a set of immediately applicable skills tailored specifically for that person to be applied immediately during their next presentation.

Geetesh: Can you share some trivia: an unconventional use of presentation delivery, something funny, or just something you want to share with Indezine readers.

Tom: While there are always humorous anecdotes one can share after nearly 25 years of this, I think the best thing that has happened recently is my work with NYU and the research I am doing on presentation (teaching) effectiveness. As a result of a collaborative effort with Dr. Leila Jahangiri (Chair of the Department) we will soon have an interactive web-based process in place to allow people to self-assess their skills as a way of improving. Over 80 independent elements are analyzed and reported to help with self-improvement.

So, I am excited about this research which has been ongoing for nearly two years. As I find out in my live coaching sessions, this is a way to electronically get a better understanding of what people think of themselves as a way of helping them better themselves.

To me, the best presenters are the ones who appear approachable, believable, and knowledgeable.

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