The Marshmallow Challenge


The Marshmallow Challenge

Recently, I was asked to facilitate a warm-up session. I thought well “let’s do something fun”! They’re needing to be warmed up afterall.

I have a background in research and development. I’ve worked as a paint chemist for years and innovation is what laboratory people do as well as architects, software deisgners, business people in general. happened to come across this challenge called “The Marshmallow Challenge”. Perfect!

What is The Marshmallow Challenge?

The MarshMallow Challenge requires:

Teams of 4
Aim to Build the Tallest Free Standing Structure with the marshmallow at the top
Your kits have:
20 stickes of spaghetti
1m tape
1m string
1 marshmallow

You need to deliver Clear Instructions

Build the Tallest Freestanding Structure
The winning team is the one that has the tallest structure measured from the table to the top of the marshmallow
NO suspending from a higher structure
The Entire Marshmallow must be on the top
No cutting up or eating the marshmallow
Use as much or as little of the kit as you wish
Can breakup the spaghetti, string or tape
Challenge last for 18mins
Teams cannot hold onto the structure if the time runs out
Does everyone understand the rules?

Finishing requires: Measuring the structures and identifying the winning team.

Lessons from the Creators:

Kids do Better than Business Students: On virtually every measure of innovation, kindergarteners create taller and more interesting structures. Kids test things out using an iterative process – they get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

Prototyping Matters: The reason kids do better than business school students is kids spend more time playing and prototyping. They naturally start with the marshmallow and stick in the sticks. The Business School students spend a vast amount of time planning, then executing on the plan, with almost no time to fix the design once they put the marshmallow on top.

The Marshmallow is a Metaphor for the Hidden Assumptions of a Project: The assumption in the Marshmallow Challenge is that marshmallows are light and fluffy and easily supported by the spaghetti sticks. When you actually try to build the structure, the marshmallows don’t seem so light.

The lesson in the marshmallow challenge is that we need to identify the assumptions in our project – the real customer needs, the cost of the product, the duration of the service – and test them early and often. That’s the mechanism that leads to effective innovation.


To finish, this is an absolutely fantastic warm-up exercise. Can be done with small groups upto 800! It gets people working together, into a creative mindset and focused. Its great fun too so is a real team building exercise. Enjoy!

7 Key Elements to a Profitable Sales Presentation

The Speakers Practice has invited Australian Small Business owners to submit articles on the topic of the Presentation Skills in the workplace. Contributors are experts in their industry , discussing the value of presentation skills in their field of expertise.Introducing Dr Joanna Martin –


Joanna Martin, Managing Director
Shift Speaker Training

There are two key ingredients essential to getting big money from stage results: the first is your passion for your products and services. The second is your sales presentation. If you don’t love what you sell, the first thing I suggest is to find something to sell that you love, because otherwise your audience will see straight through you. Be authentic. Stay in integrity and your audience will resonate with you. Once you have a product you’re passionate about, it’s time to focus on how to present it.

The 7 Key Presentation Elements


There are 7 Key Elements to a Profitable Sales Presentation. These 7 Keys are spelled out here assuming you will make a sale at the end of your presentation.But these same 7 Key Elements are will work even if you are not closing a sale.It all boils down to influence- and influence is the ability to act upon someone’s character and destiny (preferably for the better!)So you can use these same 7 steps with a little creativity to inspire someone to book in for a free coaching call, to join the local parents and friends or to donate to your cause. All the principles are the same. But right here I focus on using effective presentations to make sales- because once you can do that- you can do anything!

The 7 Key Elements to a Profitable Sales Presentation are:

1. Create Connection: Become a welcome guest and inspire trust and responsiveness in your audience.

2. Get Permission To Do Your Thing: Demonstrate credibility and earn the right to be speaking to your audience by illustrating your past results as powerfully as possible.

3. Engage with Your Content:Decide on the action you want the audience to take, and craft the backbone of your presentation with this end in mind.

4. Establish a Need:
Create dissatisfaction in your audience by illustrating where they are vs where they want to be.

5. Reveal the Product and Build Tension: Give a benefit driven description of your product.

6. Make a No-Brainer Offer: Package up your product with bonuses, and ensure you create urgency and take away risk

7. Invite Immediate Action: Finish powerfully with a commanding invitation to buy.

Summary: Refreshing yourselves with these 7 simple steps is often the key to unlocking any challenges you might be experiencing in your speaking game. Remember speak with passion and authenticity and then structure the presentation around these steps. See if you can create your presentation around this model, or if you already have a presentation, see if you can hone it even more. You never know, you might just double, triple or quadruple your conversation rate…

Presentation Skills for Sales are so important. If your presentation is stronger, you may win the sale instead of the competitor. Thanks Joanna for raising important points for delivering Sales Presentations. Great Information!

9 Pitfalls To Avoid In Your Business Presentation

The Speakers Practice has invited Australian Small Business owners to submit articles on the topic of the Presentation Skills in the workplace. Contributors are experts in their industry , discussing the value of presentation skills in their field of expertise.

Introducing John Millar –


John Millar, Managing Director
More Profit Less Time Pty Ltd

The business owner gets up to speak. Everyone there needs to hear what he/she has to say but within ten minutes, they are either hopelessly confused or falling asleep. What is the business owner doing wrong?Any business owner who sets out to present, persuade, and propel with the spoken word faces 9 major pitfalls.

1. Unclear Thinking.If you can’t describe what you are talking about in one sentence, you may be guilty of fuzzy focus or trying to cover too many topics. Your listeners will probably be confused too, and their attention will soon wander. Whether you are improving your own skills or helping someone else to create a presentation, the biggest (and most difficult) challenge is to start with a one-sentence premise or objective.

2. No Clear Structure.Make it easy for people to follow what you are saying. They’ll remember it better–and you will too as you deliver your information and ideas. If you waffle, ramble, or never get to the point, your listeners will tune out. Start with a strong opening related to your premise; state your premise; list the rationales or “Points of Wisdom” that support your premise, supporting each with examples: stories, statistics, metaphors, and case histories. Review what you’ve covered, take questions if appropriate, and then use a strong close.

3. No Memorable Stories.People rarely remember your exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images that your words inspire. Support your key points with vivid, relevant stories. Help your listeners “make the movie” in their heads by using memorable characters, engaging situations, dialogue, suspense, drama, and humour. In fact, if you can open with a highly visual image, dramatic or amusing (but not a joke!), that supports your point, you’ve got them hooked. Then tie your closing back to your opening scene. They’ll never forget it.

4. No Emotional Connection.The most powerful communication combines both intellectual and emotional connections. Intellectual means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned arguments. Emotion comes from engaging the listeners’ imaginations, involving them in your illustrative stories by frequently using the word “you” and by answering their unspoken question, “What’s in this for me?” Use what is called a “high I/You ratio.” For example: Not “I’m going to talk to you about customer average sale,” but “You’re going to learn the latest trends in improving your customer average sale. You’ve pulled the listener into the story.

5. Wrong Level Of Abstraction. Are you providing the big picture and generalities, a sort of pep talk, when your listeners are hungry for details, facts, and specific how-to’s? Or are you drowning them in data when they need to position themselves with an overview and find out why they should care? Get on the same wavelength with your listeners.

6. No Pauses. Good music and good communication both contain changes of pace, pauses, and full rests. This is when listeners think about what has just been said. If you rush on at full speed to crowd in as much information as possible ( and generally this is a challenge for the newer coaches), chances are you’ve left your listeners back at the station. It’s okay to talk quickly, but pause whenever you say something profound or proactive or you ask a rhetorical question. This gives the audience a chance to think about what you’ve said and to internalise it.

7. Irritating Non-Words. Hmm–ah–er–you know what I mean–. One speaker I heard began each new thought with “Now!” as he scanned his notes to figure out what came next. This might be okay occasionally, but not every 30 seconds. Record yourself to check for similar bad verbal habits. Then keep taping yourself redelivering the same material until such audience-aggravators have vanished.

9. Misusing Technology.
Without a doubt, audio/visual has added showbiz qualities to our presentations. However, just because it is available, doesn’t mean we have to use it! Timid speakers who simply narrate flip chart images, slides, videos, overheads, or view-graphs can rarely be passionate and effective. Any visual aid takes the attention away from you. Even the best PowerPoint(r) images will not connect you emotionally. Use strong stories instead if at all possible. Never repeat what is on the slides. If you do, one of you is redundant. Make technology a support to your message, not a crutch.

10. Not Having A Strong Opening And Closing. Engage your audience immediately with a powerful, relevant opening that has a high I/You factor. It can be dramatic, thought provoking, or even amusing, but never, never open with a joke (unless you are a humorist with original materials). Get your audience hooked immediately with a taste of what is to follow. And never close by asking for questions. Yes, take questions if appropriate, but then go on to deliver your dynamic closing, preferably one that ties back into your opening theme, and has your prospects wanting to sign up for your services. Last words linger. As with a great musical, you want your audience walking out afterwards humming the tunes.

When you can avoid these 9 common pitfalls, you’re free to focus on your message and your audience, making you a more dynamic, powerful, and persuasive communicator, getting more clients.

Thanks John. You raise some great points. Clarifying our business concepts and being able to articulate them clearly is essential. There are some great recommendations here!

Media training is about presenting and then some

The Speakers Practice has invited Australian Small Business owners to submit articles on the topic of the Presentation Skills in the workplace. Contributors are experts in their industry , discussing the value of presentation skills in their field of expertise.

Introducing Amber Daines


Amber Daines, Founder of Bespoke Communications and a member of the Media Skills™Network


Wading through the media sound bites that resonate the airwaves, fill ours newspapers, and clog our in-boxes, its easy to think we are all just passive players in the relentless public relations machine. As a former journalist turned PR professional / media trainer, I am guilty of adding to the case but am here to argue the real damage is done when the talent is not trained at all.

Good media training builds on presentation skills and will never detract away from the key message of the speaker. It takes a discipline and practice to ensure you make your point, back it up, wrap it up and shut up – all within the limited time given for that 10-second grab or one liner that makes a front page headline or 140 character tweet. Authenticity and passion are key as well as sharinhg stories, being informative and remembering your audience.

Most PR professionals will attest to sleepless nights worrying how their client will deliver the goods on a TV, radio or print interview. And it is not about your strategy or the client’s knowledge. The CEO or whoever is worthy of a journalist’s attention generally knows their company or the issues they face inside out. What they may struggle with is the delivery when the heat is on.

My job is to really ensure that even the most reluctant interview participants are put through their paces. Most fess up afterward that the experience has added value to their brand, their company, their careers. Good training is about the confidence to be interviewed by a reporter and walk away happy with the outcome.

Spokespeople need to know how to stay on message and to understand that an interview is not a regular conversation between two people. There is a very different give and take and purpose in an interview, and interviewees need to be able to recognise that.

I believe that the true value of media training is often not fully appreciated until one experiences the benefits for themselves – benefits that extend beyond the realms of the media interview.

As a former news journalist, I know that the most memorable, even award-winning reporting comes from interviewees who make a shock confession in an “off the record” chat or make a gaff that gets them on Youtube for all the wrong reasons.

Most seasoned journalists can still get under the skin of the most astute media performers. It’s fair to say that media training rarely registers on a journalist’s radar when they’re interviewing someone – although that is changing thanks to auto-pilot politicians and self-styled celebrities who are so obviously trained to repeat key messages ad nauseum.

For media training to work well, the end game is that a journalist should walk away with a good story that they publish. The resulting interview should be smooth, the content kept varied and answers must be devoid of phrases that sound like spin. Appropriate tone of voice and convincing body language is also vital for visual mediums.

Having seen the benefits for many clients – from CEOs to political leaders to SME owners – the best media training delivers something newsworthy with crisp quotes and tangible examples. This folks is what matters for your clients and your business.

I always think of media training as bullet proofing your PR campaign. In the hogwash of the 24/7 news cycle, stakes are high every time anyone speaks to a journalist so why just “wing it”?

Thanks Amber. Giving us an insight into the media world, this helps all small business people to promote their business. After all, its all about the marketing. Great article!

The 3 Minute Elevator Speech


The 3 Minute Elevator Speech or Elevator Speech is a fantastic way to identify really what your business is focussed on. By developing this concise presentation , the process really clarifies your business product and looks at the business, not only the products.

What is essential in a typical Elevator Pitch? Include the following 10 items:

Identify the problem your business is solving
What is your solution?
how big is your market?
How is your business going to make the $$$
What is your Business Model – use the concept of XX$ spent with your business will save YY$$ for the client
Proprietary Technology
Marketing Plan – How you are going to achieve sales
Team – Who is needed to kick start the business
Money Milestones – what are you going to spend and achieve?

It needs attention to prepare this Elevator Speech. Fitting in all these items is tricky and the key is that this speech is about your business and asking for finance, its not all about the products.

Once prepared, practice in front of an audience and get feedback. This is great for attending Networking groups, practice and see what works and what doesn’t , fine tune.
Enjoy the process and show your Passion!

For more information on going through this preparation, have a look at this YouTube video. It takes 3 minutes and its a great overview to help.

How To Craft Your Elevator Speech Terri Sjodin

Do YOU suffer from Stage Fright?


Have a look at this check list, do some of these things happen if you speak in front of groups or at work or avoiding speaking in front of groups all together?

* You Mind goes blank

* You start to ramble

* You just can”t think

* Mouth goes dry and palms go clammy

* Your hands or knees shake

* You loose your voice or your voice goes up

* You freeze

* Start to grind your teeth

* Your body stance contracts – shoulders forward, pelivis forward – a bit hunched over

If you experience some of these symptoms, then you probably are experiencing Stage Fright. If you do suffer from Stage Fright – then you will need to learn how to manage and overcome your Stage Fright symptoms.

Remember, your audience may not even notice that you may be nervous. Your audience are there to hear what you have to say, they want you to succeed. Its not about you, its about informing your audience.

The thing you need to know is that you are not alone. many, many people suffer from Stage Fright even famous people like Barbara Streisand, Sir Laurence Olivier, Susie O’Neil and many more – here’s a few more

What is Stage Fright? This is the body’s response to a fearful situation – if you are viewing the situation of speaking in front of people as fearful, then the body goes in to the Fight or Flight response – the body closes down the digestive system and adrenalin is secreted and the heatbeat starts to raise and the other symptoms appear. It really affects the breathing.

This article give some more details :

The Voice –

When the voice goes up, it is the vocal cords not being used , they are less extended. Pressure is put on the vocal cords so they dont vibrate. Inside our heads, we think the audience sees nervousness. In reality, the audience don’t see it.

Watch your posture, try to have relaxed shoulders and torso. The more relaxed , the more breath can go in.

In preparation of your presentations, watch out for long sentences because when speaking in long sentences you will be much,more likely to experience loss of breath and struggle with the grammar. Remember shorter sentences give much more opportunities to take breaths.

It used to be sentences were around 30 words per sentence but now sentences of 12 – 14 words is all the audience can handle (this is the effect of modern media).

Remember – In the PAUSE, comes the APPLAUSE! In the Pause, you can breathe and this really helps!


If you view the activity as fearful then there is a high probability of the sympotms starting. Remember, you are not alone but its in your best interests to learn methods to handle your Stage Fright or anxiety. You need to be proactive here – work out what works for you to relax yourself.

Step 1 – Acknowledge that you are experiencing Stage Fright symptoms and accept thats whats happening. Accept, Acknowledge and get on with the job of handling the symptoms instead of fighting the symptoms.

If you try and fight the Stage Fright symptoms physically, it makes the symptoms worse. Accept, Acknowledge and get on with the job

Step 2 – Preparation is vital.

Preparation is important for reducing the symptoms of Stage Fright. If you are prepared and have everything ready, you know what you want to say , even if you need to use notes, this reduces the anxiety associated with Stage Fright.

Have your speech prepared in note form, arrive early and know your speaking area, wear comfortable, suitable clothes and especially shoes.

Step 3 – Stage Fright Management before your presentation

* Vocal Warm- up – (This will be detailed in a future Blog)

* Physical Exercise before hand

* Do a meditation or some form of relaxation before hand. Just sitting taking a series of long deep breaths, thinking about the process of breathing will be most beneficial.

* Drink plenty of water

* Eat an apple – helps exercise the mouth

* Avoid coughing, drinking carbonated drinks, tea or coffee or alcohol

* As you are waiting for your turn, sit and open and close your hands as slowly as you can. There are some sedative effects in the hands and this will help you to relax.

* Again, remember to breathe! Working on every way to get oxygen to the brain helps!!

Principle from the Alexander Technique –

Prevention – If you stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing will do itself.
The problem is we dont trust ourselves with getting on with the job.

Here’s a link discussing the Alexander Technique approach –

The final message – It is possible for every Human Being to overcome Stage Fright – it is all about how you learn to handle the symptoms.


I would like acknowledge and thank Lesley Stephenson from Speaking Solutions I attended a seminar Lesley ran at Toastmasters International and realised how the symptoms of Stage Fright hold people back from their full potential. These are my notes from her wonderful presentation.

If you experience the symptoms of Stage Fright, follow the recommendations here and learn what works for you so you succeed. Here’s The Speakers Practice 5 Tips to Reduce the Fear of Speaking in Public – Best of wishes.

Be Credible with your Hand Gestures


In February, 2012, Michael Grinder attended the National Speakers Association of Australia NSW Chapter and discussed ” How to be Credible with Your Hand Gestures”.

Micheal Grinder is the co-creator of the Neuro Linguistic Programming – NLP and is a world expert on non-verbal communications. It was an honor to hear Michael Grinder speak and he was so generous with his information.

How do you have instant credibility? Talk and use hands then Pause and have a frozen hand. Continual talking is not a credible way to come over intellegent.

The 6 ways to Not Give the Right Impression

1. Incessant Talking – no pausing – talking,talking,talking.

2. Hyper – High energy talk,talk,talk.

If either of these ways, paused, then its the pause that captures the attention.

3. Medicated – Talking too slow, loose interest quickly

4. Talking is fine but keeps dropping hands to pants/legs alot – all the time.

5. Talks with hands moving from waist up – like a belly button insecurity

6. Talking with hands making a milking action

Here’s Michael Grinder’s video with his overview. The awareness of how we use our hands is really important and will either gain credibility or loose the attention of your audience. Have a look!

The use of body language is so important, thank you Michael Grinder for sharing your wisdom.

Today – All about being in the Moment!


Today with a meeting with a brilliant voice coach, Lucy Cornell, we talked about the voice, being present and in the moment – everything working together.

We went over a warm-up that needs to be done before EVERY presentation.

What does the warm-up do? It brings you into the moment, it relaxes you, centers you and after doing a focused speech warm-up you are right in the moment, your voice is at your ideal pitch and you are there present with your audience.

What other areas does this impact on? If you suffer from Stage Fright or Nervousness, then this will greatly assist your presentation. It will have relaxed you so you aren’t thinking all those negative thoughts that are running through your head. It will also have a great importance on the Impact that you make on your audience. Your breathing needs to be deep to support your voice. If you are nervous then the flight or fight reflex comes in and causes you to shallow breathe. By doing the Voice Warm-up , this will greatly assist your voice and primarily your Breathing.

If you get really nervous, a slow breathing meditation can also assist to bring you into the moment.

The Voice Warm-up and Meditation, will aline your :





This brings you Breathing, Voice, Mind and Heart all into one place – YOU – so that YOU can be fully present with your audience.


See Lucy Cornell’s book -CONNECT AND INSPIRE – its a valuable resource for speakers and trainers.

Non-Verbal Communication

65% of what we do when presenting a speech is Non Verbal Communication.

Michael Grinder, co-Founded with his brother, Neuro-Linguist-Programming – known as NLP. Michael Grinder is a Specialist in Non-Verbal Communication. The information detailed here was by attending a National Speakers Australia Association webinar.

In the discussion, here are some of Michael Grinder’s recommendations:

Eye Contact – Always have a range – when to have eye contact and when not.
Body and Arms – Arm out with palm down – is more Credible – use this when giving information. Arm out with Palm up – is more approachable and asking for questions.
Charismatic people – stand with hands at side
Don’t Do – Fig Leaf – hands at front, Hands In Pockets or Hands behind back – These all indicate the speaker is not quite sure, subservient.
Hands Crossed and Hands on Hips – the person is in a bad mood.
Breathing – this is the Key to all NON – Verbal Communication and the #1 to look for.
Deep Breathing – People think you are emotionally able, Calm, then they are able to find the words.
Shallow Breathing – Speaker has Fight or Flight Chemicals and is reactive. The speaker can’t find the words, they are going into stress.
How to recover? Shift your body, let the oxygen into body. Freeze then move. Take a deep breath and take a second. Its the second breath that helps recovery.
You can inspire if you understand how to breath.
An Average Trainer – tells to Inform
A Good Trainer – Persuades
An Outstanding Trainer – Inspires
Elephant in the Room – At the beginning of a presentation, if there is an Elephant in the Room , acknowledge it, on the right hand side away from the speaking area. Be proactive, get the information out before it is an issue. By acknowledging early, you don’t have to fix anything , otherrwise , you would have to be reactive.

Here’s some background to Michael Grinder and his amazing understanding of Non-Verbal communication: