Helping presentations achieve new heights
Eric Bergman, BPA, ABC, APR, MC, FCPRS

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Eric Bergman first became fascinated with the power of the spoken word in 1981. The professor of his presentations course at college was leading a team that was preparing a presentation for delivery in Baden-Baden, (West) Germany. The purpose of the presentation was to convince the International Olympic Committee to select Calgary as host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

“We were given a peek inside the strategic process,” Eric recalls. “I'll never forget the moment I heard the news that Calgary had been selected to host the games. It was a defining moment of my career. I was hooked on the power of the spoken word. ”

Eric wrote his first speech for a senior government executive in 1983, less than a year after starting his communications career as a government public affairs officer. “It was a retirement speech, so it was fairly low risk,” he says. “But I worked almost five hours to craft that five minutes. I received a lovely note from the speaker, which I still have.”

He left government in September, 1985, to set out on his own as a freelance communication consultant. For the first eight to ten years of his freelance career, he wrote hundreds of speeches for executives in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, earning local, national and international awards for his work.

In the early 1990s, he noticed that when the speeches he had written were accompanied by slides, they were more difficult to absorb and retain. “The speeches were certainly more profitable with slides because we made money on the slides,” he concedes. “But there is no question they were ultimately more difficult to absorb.”

In 1992, after viewing a demonstration that separated the written word from the spoken, and the ensuing gain in communication effectiveness, he was hooked. He hasn’t looked at presentations the same way since.

For more than a quarter century, people have frequently asked why he doesn’t like slides. “It’s not that I don’t like slides,” he says. “It’s that I know communication can be so much more interesting, engaging and effective when slides support the speaker, not the other way around.”

He believes slides must be developed last, not first, in the content development process. Using slideware like PowerPoint or Keynote to develop content is the foundation on which Death by PowerPoint is constructed.

“When slides drive content, the result is inevitable,” he says. “You end up with too many slides with too much information on each. People cannot read and listen at the same time. Working memory is overloaded. The result? The vast majority of the forty million presentations delivered daily are forgotten even before they’ve ended.”

For more than twenty-five years, Eric provided presentation skills training and one-on-one coaching to thousands of clients from six continents. He has also helped hundreds of clients develop effective, compelling, meaningful content for a host of speaking challenges. Whether the goal was to inform, educate, influence or persuade, he has helped his clients achieve results.

Eric uses a combination of science, common sense and experience to help his clients achieve personal and professional objectives. His approach has been called “a window to the future of this important human activity” by one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists.

Eric holds a bachelor of arts in communication studies and a two-year diploma in advertising and public relations. He received designations as an accredited business communicator (ABC) in 1991 and an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) in 1993. In 2002, he was named a master communicator (MC), which is the highest distinction that can be bestowed on a Canadian member of the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2015, he joined the College of Fellows of the Canadian Public Relations Society (FCPRS).

In his spare time, he and his partner enjoy exploring North America on his Honda Gold Wing GL1800.