Presentation Tips: The Solution to “Too Much Detail” by Dean Brenner (The Latimer Group)

Several of our coaching conversations at The Latimer Group lately have been focused around one particular challenge: When I am speaking to my boss, how do I stay out of the weeds? I get stuck in the deep detail, and he/she gets frustrated with me.

Sound familiar? “Too much detail” is a constant issue in the 21st century business world. In a world where everyone is drowning in detail… where attention spans are at an all-time low… where no one listens anymore… the ability to communicate the correct amount of detail is a skill of great importance.

Part of the answer, therefore, is to always consider how much detail is really necessary in that moment. How much does your audience want or need? How much can they handle? What can be left for another day or time? These are critical questions to ask.

However, there is another part to the answer. Sometimes, the solution is not less detail. Sometimes, the solution is better organized detail, that is easier to follow. Because not all detail is created equal.

Well organized detail has a few common denominators:

  1. The overall message is divided into key themes (or chapters);
  2. The speaker outlines the key themes up front;
  3. The details follow each key theme introduction;
  4. The speaker pauses along the way for some internal summary, to repeat key points, and to check for understanding;
  5. The speaker outlines key themes again at the end.

And along the way, the speaker uses specific delivery techniques like “speaking in bullet points.” So there are three things I want you to consider: #1… #2… #3… And so on. The speaker also might use a healthy dose of WIIFY (What’s In It For You) statements: “This is important to you because… The key point here is… Let me make this easy for you, here is what you need to remember…”

The message today is pretty simple. Always challenge your own thinking and question how much detail is really necessary. But just as importantly, think about how to organize your message so that your message is easier to retain.

Both solutions will help you, and your audience.

Good luck, and have a great day!



At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at


Presentation Tips: Embrace the Space by Dean Brenner (The Latimer Group)

In many workshops, we see two parallel fears come up over and over.

People fear silence when they’re speaking. Silence makes them uncomfortable. Therefore, they often fill the silence with more sound — extra words and non-words (we call them “verbal pauses’).

And at the same time, people fear empty space on slides. White space makes them uncomfortable, and therefore they often fill the space with more words.

For some reason, we fear voids. And yet voids can be a powerful tool. Silence can be used to draw attention to our most important points. Silence can be used to capture attention. Silence also can create a sense of confidence and presence.

So too, with empty space. Empty space means the audience’s eye can only focus on what is there. So if you limit your slides to your most important points and facts, empty space will mean there is nothing extra to distract.

Is it possible to have TOO much silence and TOO much empty space? Of course. But in our experience, very few people are in danger of that.

For most of us, the risk is not enough silence and not enough empty space. When we fill the void, we distract our audience away from our most important points.

Don’t fill the silence and the void. Embrace them.



At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at

Getting Your Delivery from “Negative” to “Positive” byDean Brenner (the Latimer Group)

We talk all the time about message development — clarity of and organization of message make it easier for people to listen to you. And if you do all the right things on your message plan, and then translate it into a good slide deck, the final piece of the puzzle is your delivery. Once you have the “what am I going to say” part done, then it is time to focus on the “how am I going to say it” part.

And here is an easy way to think about your delivery.

The first goal with improvement of your delivery skills is to make sure that there is nothing getting in the way of the message being heard. We have written many times in the past about eliminating distractions, and this remains a great goal. Once you have gotten the distractions out of your delivery (verbal pauses like “um,” speaking too fast, too softly, too monotone, excessive hand gestures, lack of eye contact, fidgeting body language, etc… it is a long list), then there is nothing that will get in the way of your message being heard. The distractions will detract from your message and make it hard to listen to you. But now your delivery is no longer a negative. Good job! Your delivery is essentially now a neutral element in the audience experience. Good start. But we are not done. There is more progress to be made.

Once we have gotten our skills to neutral, now we have to begin working on a set of skills that will make our delivery a positive element of the audience experience. We want our skills to actually enhance that audience experience. So, we begin working on skills that make it easier to consume the message… we work on changes to our volume, tone and speed; body language and facial expression that will channel the energy we want our audience to feel; vocabulary that will project the feeling we want to create; verbal techniques like “speaking in bullet points” that will make it easier to remember; and WIIFY phrases that will connect our audience to our message. Again… it is a long list.

But for today, let’s make it simple. As you are thinking about your own progress as a presenter and a speaker, think about your delivery skills in the following way: are your skills a negative to the audience experience? Let’s eliminate the stuff that will get in the way of our message being heard, and get our skills to at least a neutral impact. Then, once we have accomplished that, we can begin accumulating the skills that will make our delivery a positive on the audience experience. As we develop those skills, we will be playing in rarefied air, and performing at a high level.

Have a great day, and good luck!

Hoya Highlight: Sarabeth Boak (C’11)

Cofounder, CEO, Stitchbridge
Pitched at Second Annual Alumni Pitch Competition at John Carroll Seattle

Career Reflections

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Don’t waste the best years of your life executing someone else’s vision.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

Every single day I go to work in my startup is both rewarding and filled with constant anxiety. Ask me again in 5 years?

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

I try not to live with regret. Every stage gives me something to learn.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done professionally?

Founding a startup.

Your Time on the Hilltop

Favorite professor or class at Georgetown?

Every English department class I took was awesome.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

Exploring the tunnels with my freshman year crew.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

Georgetown taught me how to take chances and stay curious.

A Day in the Life

What is on your desk right now?

“What isn’t on my desk?” is a better question. It’s giving me anxiety just thinking about it.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

One word: coffee!

Who or what is a source of inspiration in your life?

My grandmother—she’s the grittiest lady I know.

Who is your favorite author?

It’s a tie between Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway.

Words to live by?

Just do it.

The Job of a Leader is to Develop Other Leaders

We have all witnessed numerous types of leaders: “hoarders,”,”ostriches” and “farmers.”  It is farmers who ultimately get the real job of leadership accomplished.

“Hoarders” hoard people in their departments or offices. When they identify excellent employees or potential leaders, their first question is: “How can I keep this person here as long as possible?” They focus on their own immediate needs and want to keep these potential leaders in the their place. Their strategic question is “how can this help me?”  I remember how I used to see leadership this way.  I wanted to look good, and saw excellent employees as vehicles to reflect on myself  to peers and supervisors.

Hoarders can be good managers; frequently, they know how to delegate well, they know how to utilize people’s skills, and they know how to get things done. However, hoarders are usually not interested in developing the skills and aptitudes of their best employees or in shaping these people to be future leaders. They tend to view career development by their subordinates as a threat to their own success, an obstacle to their own personal agenda, or as a hurdle to the long-term smooth functioning of their domain. Hoarders are not interested in the career development of staff members. They reason that such growth means they will move on to other departments within the organization or positions at other organizations.

“Ostriches” are not smart enough to hoard their people. I remember moments in my leadership journey when I lacked self-confidence and I functioned in self-protective mode. I would keep my head in the sand.  Ostriches don’t have the depth of vision to think about the development of their staff. They articulate the mission of their office and expect all staff members to contribute to the fulfillment of that mission and the accomplishment of departmental goals and objectives. Employees exist to serve the department. If they leave, they can be replaced. If they are interested in professional development or the cultivation of particular skills, ostriches may not stand in their way. However they will never sit down with employees and delve into their professional aspirations, asking how they can assist them in reaching their goals. The development of new leaders among the staff is simply not an issue on ostriches’ radar screens.

The third group of leaders, the “farmers,” are different. These leaders grow people. People farmers maintain as a primary objective the development and success  of their team members. In order to fulfill this role, people farmers plant the right individuals by engaging in a thorough, careful hiring process. They know that the hiring of any employee is a two-way street. There must be a match not just for the employer seeking to fill the position, but for the job applicant as well.  Once these team members are hired, the people farmers nurture and cultivate them.  Instead of fearing losing their employees, they actually help them articulate their personal goals and career visions.  Then they develop methods for helping employees work towards those goals. In fact, the people farmers do everything they can to match people’s career aspirations with their job responsibilities, even if it means re-writing job descriptions, as long as such re-writing benefits the entire operation. People farmers know that their role is to put team members in positions to succeed, not to fail.

They provide all employees, new and experienced, with the necessary ingredients to do their jobs well: desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability measures and consequences. They collaborate with all employees they supervise on the development of annual goals, including the identification of skills to be gained or improved upon or the knowledge to be learned. People farmers talk the talk and walk the walk – they role model what they want to teach their employees.  They also seek help from their employees, admit their own mistakes, teaching that vulnerability and humility are strengths, and thus empowering their mentees to contribute and shine. They empower people to own their issues and to bring forward solutions.

Farmers lead confidently through seasons, patiently feeding, pruning, tying, untying, planting, waiting, and harvesting. With sufficient nurturing and cultivation, these farmers experience the true joy of leadership: “people harvests:” – the development of their team members into new leaders. They also know how to let go. They expect to let go. On the day their people are ready to  “leave the farm” and take on bigger responsibilities elsewhere, these farmers celebrate with them because they realize that these employees’ successes are their successes as well.

In all my years of leadership experience, I have few regrets.  One major one is this: I wish I would have listened to my “inner farmer” earlier and followed the calling.  Hoarding people or burying my head in the sand may have helped me at the time, but these were leadership strategies based upon a lack of self-awareness and wisdom.  For decades now, I have been focused on cultivating people, and have seen leaders sprout and grow into majestic trees in whose shade many, including I, I have found new strength and re-discovered the joy of authentic leadership.

What’s Your Story? How to Include Storytelling in Your Presentations — Guest Post, Amy Fenollosa of The Latimer Group

Have you ever been captivated by a story? So immersed that you felt like you were actually there? On a recent road trip with my middle school sons, I happened upon a story on the radio that captured us all.

The story transported us — as humans, our brains are conditioned to listen to stories. Throughout history, information has been shared orally. Stories can be engaging and interesting to listen to, but they’re also powerful ways to convey information. People remember stories.

When you’re preparing for your next meeting, consider including a story. If you have extraordinary data that you’d like to present, think of the detail behind the numbers. Can you weave a narrative for your audience rather than reciting from a spreadsheet? If you need to introduce yourself to a new group of people, instead of rattling off your resume, think of a short story that will demonstrate a little bit about who you are and what’s important to you.

Our model for storytelling provides a few steps to get you started:

  1. What’s your goal? What are you trying to accomplish? Be clear about your goal when you begin to choose a story.
  2. Think of the story themes to choose from. Scroll through the repertoire of experiences in your life and recall events that will demonstrate your message.
  3. Consider the impact: What will the audience remember? How will they feel? Will you inspire action? Determine the outcome you hope to achieve.

Once you’ve outlined your goal, chosen a theme, and determined an impact, map your story using the Story Board Method. Practice it. Do a dry run with a colleague. And when you’re ready, try incorporating your story into your next meeting, the response may surprise you.

Dean Brenner (C’91) is a recognized expert in persuasive communication, and is the founder and president of The Latimer Group, an executive coaching and training firm that that specializes in creating powerful communication skills. Dean and his colleagues offer coaching and training to a global client list of Fortune 500 companies. In addition, Dean has written two books on effective communication, and is currently working on his third. Dean lives in Connecticut with his family. To learn more about Dean and The Latimer Group, please visit

Resilience: GUAA Career CoachYolanda Gruendel (L’95)

For many of us, life will be full of successes, as well as setbacks, perhaps even tragedy. Because adversity is a fact of life, I believe a good part of living well involves cultivating resilience. In some cases, difficult experiences can even generate growth and transformation. When we move through hardship and reach the other side, we may discover in ourselves strength, courage, gratitude, compassion, perspective, and connection.

Below are questions meant to stimulate your own thinking on the subject and to help you to develop resilience. But first, what is resilience? It is more than endurance or perseverance. After all, we can surmount hardship, only to break down after it is over. Resilience is an ability both to move through adversity and to preserve our capacity to continue to face all of life with its ups and downs.

Although resilience is not a linear process, it may be helpful to think of it through the lens of time – past, present, and future – and to consider some of the elements that influence resilience within this framework.
How we relate to the past?
 Acceptance: Do we accept the hard truth of what has happened? Or do we avoid or resist it?
 Interpretation: Do we interpret events accurately? Or do we tell ourselves that things will never get better, that the blame is entirely ours, that we are failures when we fail, or other falsehoods that erode resilience?
How we experience the present?
 Perception: Do we recognize that uncertainty and change are a part of life? Do we perceive our experiences as opportunities to learn?
 Emotional range: Can we navigate our emotional flare-ups? Do we have the capacity to
experience difficult emotions that accompany hardship and loss? Or do we tamp them
down or numb ourselves with distractions?
 Self-care: Do we exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep? Do we have a community of
family or friends we can celebrate with in good times and lean on in hard times?
How we imagine the future?
 Purpose: Are we able to find purpose in adversity, a focus greater than ourselves?
 Possibility: When adversity closes off some possibilities, are we able to enlist our
imagination to identify other opportunities and our resourcefulness to execute them?

Resilience can be cultivated through attention and practice. These questions can help you to notice how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect your capacity for resilience and to identify areas that may require additional attention. Organizing some of the elements of resilience by timeframe may help you to see patterns that promote or erode resilience in your life and work.

Hoya Highlight: Reilly Davis (B’12)

Reilly Davis is the Co-Founder and CTO of PeopleGrove, the platform on which the student-alumni networking platform Hoya Gateway is run.

Career Reflections

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Your narrative is the most important thing you can present about yourself. I left a two-year finance program after only one year, and I was really nervous about doing that—how it would look and how it would be perceived. But, I learned that if I told my story in a way that showed I left the program to pursue my passion, people understood and were willing to listen. You can’t live your entire career not being flexible or trying to push forward with something that does not work.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

It’s hard to point to just one moment, so I’ll share two of my favorite parts of PeopleGrove that are super rewarding:

1. Always having something new and exciting to work on and a new problem to solve.

2. Building a successful and enjoyable team culture. As a startup where we are doing everything ourselves, it’s vital to focus on building the right team in the right way and setting that team up for success. Continuing to perpetuate positive team culture and bringing on the right people is incredibly rewarding.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

My first job was in finance and investment banking, and I got into it because I didn’t know what else to do and because it was an easy path to take as a business school graduate. I wish I’d done more career and self exploration earlier. I always knew I was interested in startups and tech, but wish I’d talked to more contacts who could have given me the inside scoop and opened me up to that world earlier.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done professionally?

My first startup was a mobile app that was basically Tinder for job hunting, matching job searchers with employers. We built and raised seed money from angel investors and hired good people onto our team. But, the app just did not work out. The hardest thing we had to do was to be honest with ourselves and our employees—we had less than $5,000 in our business account, and so we had to let some people go, and others stayed on to work with us knowing they wouldn’t be paid for at least a month. It is so important at a startup to recognize and to be honest with yourself when things are going wrong. That’s the moment when you have to make dramatic changes, or even to give up on the initial idea. It definitely is not always the glamorous startup lifestyle people imagine.

Your Time on the Hilltop

Favorite professor or class at Georgetown?

“Entrepreneurial Finance.” Every course was a case study of a startup, and by the end of the class we’d studied 20-30 different startups.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

Weekends with my roommates my senior year. I’d lived with basically the same four guys my whole time at Georgetown, and our senior year we lived off campus on Prospect Street. Some of our most fun nights weren’t spent hosting raging parties… instead we’d play Settlers of Catan. Being surrounded by good friends who were always up for hanging out was just the best.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

One of my very first entrepreneurial endeavors was at Georgetown: I ran a textbook buyback business. I learned the realistic challenges of business, why having a great team is important, and how to deal with regulations and restrictions (the university administration was not happy with me for competing with the bookstore). Georgetown also gave me a great network of classmates and professors who have helped to shape my experiences since leaving the Hilltop. One mentor, David Walker, helped me by opening up his own network to me and putting me in touch with some really helpful people.

A Day in the Life

What is on your desk right now?

Our office is super tight, so we all have very tiny desks in a very collaborative environment. We’re surrounded by flags of the schools we partner with, which reminds us of why we do what we do. Though I don’t have a whole lot of space to spread out, it’s essential that I have what some call my “command center”: my ergonomic keyboard and big screen monitor. And, coffee and Red Bull are always on hand to keep our team going.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

I literally eat lunch at the same place every single day. I don’t waste time or energy thinking about lunch all day or trying new places.

Who or what is a source of inspiration in your life?

I recently married a double Hoya (we met in high school and went to Georgetown together), and she keeps me motivated by bringing perspective to my day. She’s a doctor, so hearing about her day forces me to pull my head out of the weeds and focus on things other than my job. She has incredible empathy for others, which is very inspiring.

Who is your favorite author?

Eric Reese’s The Lean Startup is one of the most valuable books I’ve read.

Words to live by?

It’s important to find something that you are passionate about, that you want to work on, and to not worry about deviating from established paths. There are so many opportunities and roles to be created—forge your own path!

Experience the PeopleGrove platform Reilly helped to build for Georgetown and join Hoya Gateway today to network with fellow alumni and current undergraduate students!