FAQs with Phil: Should I use a laser pointer for my slides?

Our resident communications expert Phil Stella answers the question, Do laser pointers still have a place in presentations?


In this Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

Q. Should I use a laser pointer for my slides?
A.  Don't let the technology tail wag the presenter dog.

As a person who has given many, many presentations over the years, I have some opinions about using laser pointers—as you might expect I would. For decades I have seen presentation technology change and evolve—yet the laser pointer is still here. 

Let me walk you through why I don’t care for the laser pointer, but also how you can use it more effectively if you do feel the need to use one. 

One major downside of the pointer is the need to look at the screen when using it. I regularly rant about not turning your back on the audience to read a slide to them. Using the laser pointer has the same effect. When you’re turned around looking at the screen and directing the laser pointer, you’ve immediately lost eye contact. Eye contact during a presentation is so important for many reasons, and they all have to do with establishing audience connection. If you can’t look your audience members in the eyes, they will be less engaged—no question. And you won’t know who is paying attention, or if there appear to be questions or concerns from attendees. Without facing your audience, you can’t read the room. And they will think you’re just another presenter, not caring to establish a connection or become invested in your listeners’ experience. 

Another less serious and more amusing result is the likelihood that a jittery hand would make the red dot jump around like a buzzing bee. Talk about magnifying your nervousness so everyone can see it more clearly! It not only means you’ve lost a connection with your audience from lack of eye contact, but you’ve just provided them with a huge distraction.

If a slide with a chart or graph is so complicated that you really need the pointer to help the audience understand it, then it really must be a terrible slide. If you have so much copy on a slide that you need to highlight certain parts, you have too much copy on the slide. And needing to use the pointer, points that out. You would be better off if you invested time to create more effective slides and animate or zoom in for emphasis or clarity.

With all of that being said, if you must use a laser pointer, use it wisely. Practice with it so when you point things out on the screen, you look at it in silence as much as possible. This will minimize loss of eye contact. You can then turn back around after pointing to the portion of your slide you’re referring to and reengage with the audience as you continue your talk.

Additionally, it’s good practice to just leave the pointer on the podium or table when not in use so it doesn’t otherwise limit gestures and become something to play with. The last thing you need is to have less eye contact, a buzzing bee laser pointer, and something in your hands that you fiddle with as you’re talking.

So, I hope you get my point about avoiding this evil little device as much as possible. It only weakens your image and reduces your credibility.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

*If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at Phil@communicate-confidently.com

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  • Next up: Start Delegating Your Way to Success Today

    Start Delegating Your Way to Success Today

    You think nobody can do it as well as you or that it takes more time to explain it to someone else than to do it yourself. But being able to effectively delegate is a key to any entrepreneur's success. Learn why and how.


    It’s time to review the Art and Science of Delegation—an essential leadership skill for entrepreneurs—and discuss three important questions.

    Question No. 1: Why don’t entrepreneurs delegate?
    There are lots of reasons why entrepreneurs have difficulty delegating and they all seem logical at the time:
       No one can do it better, faster, cheaper or smarter than you can. So, why bother delegating?
       It takes more time to delegate the task than to do it yourself.
    •   If you want it done right or right now, then do it yourself.
    •   There isn’t anyone to delegate to. You just don’t have competent people or those you can trust enough.
    •   You don’t want to give up power or authority.
    •   You like doing the task—it’s fun, or at least enjoyable. The task makes you feed good and compensates a little for all the things you have to do that you don’t like.
    •   And a major reason that most people won’t admit: You don’t know how to delegate.

    RELATED: Dealing with owner fatigue

    Question No. 2: Why should you delegate more often?
    Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the reasons why we should delegate more, but often the reasons are right in front of us. 
    •   If you spend too much time working in your businesses, you can’t be spending enough time working on your businesses. And that’s where real innovation, growth and improvements come from.
    •   If you’re doing too much, you’re too involved in the daily operations and the business can’t survive without you. Therefore, you can’t sell it or leave it to your kids.
    •   Owners can’t do everything equally well. You should spend most of your time on the most important tasks of running the business, like visioning, planning, customer relationship building and being the face of the business. The other tasks can and should be delegated in part or in whole.
    •   Delegation is a great way to develop skills on your bench and give junior level staff a change of pace and focus. And some of them will likely do the task better than you could anyway.

    Question No. 3: How do you make delegating work?
    Now that we’ve established the why, let’s talk about the how. There are things you can start doing right now to get yourself on the path to delegating.
       Stop using the excuses in #1 and embrace the wisdom and reality of the reasons in #2.
    •   Commit to making task analysis, process improvements and delegation all critical strategies for your organization.
    •   “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” asserted management guru Peter Drucker years ago. So, consider time a rare and valuable resource and measure how well you use it.
    •   Have each key manager log his or her time use in 15-minute increments over different days in different weeks. List incoming calls, texts or emails separately. Then analyze the results.
    •   Embrace Process Mapping – identify major processes critical for the operation of the office/business and have each person involved in that process map it or list step by step how he or she does it.
    •   Share the maps in a group meeting, merge the various steps and create a composite best practice procedure for that process. Document it, create job aids for training new people on it and evaluate performance effectiveness and efficiency against the procedure.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

       Learn about the ‘Urgent/Important’ matrix where each task is evaluated according to how urgent and important it is. Low urgent/important tasks are potential for eliminating or delegating. High urgent/important tasks deserve more emphasis.
       Another method is to assign an arbitrary value for your time—a high dollar/hour amount. Then, create three groups of tasks: 1.  Those for which you are paid too much—a high probability for dumping or delegating. 2.  Those for which you are paid fairly—keep doing them. 3.  And most importantly, those tasks for which you are not paid enough. These represent your best and highest use, so spend more time and effort on them, the result of delegating or dumping the lower value items.
       You get what you ask for and model, so start small and simple by effectively delegating to your subordinate staff.
    •   Teach them how to do it right. If you don’t know how, hire a specialized consultant who can help you.
    •   You get what you reward, so make effective delegation part of their written performance objectives and include factors affecting their salary increases.

    As you’ve seen, effective delegation is both an art and a science. Properly done, it generates significant value for your team, your organization and yourself. And don’t tell me it won’t work … until you can tell me it didn’t work.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  

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  • Next up: State Makes Numerous Unemployment Compensation Announcements

    State Makes Numerous Unemployment Compensation Announcements


    Small businesses across the region are struggling to find employees and fill jobs to continue operations and meet customer needs. For an update on some of Ohio’s recent unemployment announcements see here:

    Federal Bonus Payments – A growing number of states are rejecting enhanced federal Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payments, saying the extra $300-a-week supplement is providing an incentive for some to avoid work at a time when some employers are struggling to find labor. The Governor announced unemployed Ohioans will no longer be eligible for weekly federal bonus payments of $300 starting on June 26, 2021.  

    Work Search Requirement – Ohioans will once again be required to search for employment on a weekly basis as part of filing for and receiving unemployment benefits. From mid-March through December of 2020, the federal government authorized states to waive these requirements. Ohio then resumed the requirement for new unemployment claims on and after December 6 of last year while exempting existing claims. Effective on May 23, 2021 all claimants, regardless of when they first filed a claim, must search for work.   

    Work Refusals – Lt. Governor Jon Husted has outlined the process for employers to report work refusals on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) website. More information can be found at jfs.ohio.gov, unemployment.ohio.gov, and OhioMeansJobs.com. Employers reporting work refusals should be prepared to provide their name, email address, Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), claimant name, claimant ID or the last four digits of the claimant’s Social Security number, and additional details about the specific situation.

    System Audits – The State Auditor’s office is currently conducting two audits – one into the unemployment system’s anti-fraud efforts, the other into the system’s customer-service issues.

    Federal Debt Proposal – Governor Mike DeWine has proposed using more than $1 billion in federal relief money to balance the state unemployment fund. Ohio requested a line of credit worth up to $3.1 billion last year during the height of the coronavirus crisis to help pay a record surge of unemployment claims. Paying off the debt would be a relief to Ohio businesses because the state unemployment system is paid for through premiums paid by employers. GCP has long-called for a solution to this ongoing problem. 

    If you too are struggling with unemployment compensation challenges, we invite you to join us on May 20 at 4 p.m. to talk with others who are working to overcome the same challenges as all small business owners across the region work to build a growing thriving company.   

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  • Next up: Steps to Dealing with Aggressive Customers

    Steps to Dealing with Aggressive Customers

    No matter how carefully you consider various policies at your small business, you may encounter customers who don't agree with your decisions. These steps can help you deal with customers who turn aggressive in your workplace.


    The pandemic has brought a new wave of issues into the forefront for small businesses. One of the biggest and most challenging is how to deal with customers who are refusing to follow the rules and pose a risk to employees and other customers. Unfortunately, even asking customers to wear a mask has become a huge and sometimes violent issue. What can you as a small business do to make sure your customers abide by the rules, including wearing a mask or social distancing? How can you keep your employees safe in such a volatile situation?

    Let’s begin with how your staff deals with customers. You want to retain these customers because they are important to your bottom line, but you also have a responsibility to keep everyone safe. This is where good training comes in. Training your staff to deal with aggressive or complaining customers/clients can help to prevent or diffuse a potentially violent situation.

    RELATED: Good customer service is key to small business success.

    Most customers act out based on their genuine feelings or opinions. This comes from an emotional place and it is important to understand that. Today with the pandemic lingering for so very long and how it has been politicized, many people are experiencing higher levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and anger. This may cause some people to transfer their feeling of frustration, anger or anxiety to your staff. While this is sometimes scary and has the potential to become violent, there are steps you can take to prevent an altercation:

    Step No. 1: Communicate consistently. Post your rules on safety measures clearly so they can be seen. This includes masks, social distancing and other safety measures you have taken. Put them on your door, on your website, and include them in any social media you use. Send an email blast to your customers and clients. Put them on your menus and on any other communication or marketing pieces you use. If your customers have to make appointments or reservations, remind them at that time of all your protocols. 

    Step No. 2: Include your staff in all protocols. In the cases of COVID, have your staff wear masks and follow all rules. This reinforces that you are serious and sends a cohesive message.  

    Step No. 3: Never minimize an issue. This will make your customers feel like they are being patronized and puts them on the defensive, which can lead to violence. 

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff

    Step No. 4: Don’t argue. Instead of arguing back, simply say you understand and then take action to resolve the issue. This doesn’t mean you are agreeing that they are right or that you are apologizing, it just means that you are telling them you understand their issue and their feelings. But stick to your rules. Don’t make exceptions—that will send the wrong message.

    Step No. 5: Come up with a quick resolution. The person who takes the complaint or issue must be able to deal with it and come up with a resolution. It doesn't matter who has seniority. What matters is that the issue is fully resolved.

    Training your employees to handle complaints and issues properly, promptly and consistently is crucial—especially during these high-stress times. Acknowledge employees who successfully diffuse issues to reinforce that they did the job well. Happy customers/clients are return customers/clients. 

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

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  • Next up: Thank you for attending COSE Day at the Capitol!

    Thank you for attending COSE Day at the Capitol!


    Thank you to all those who attended this year’s virtual COSE Day at the Capitol! Thanks to COSE small business members, policymakers in our state’s capital learned more about the critical challenges and opportunities facing small businesses. The day also served as an opportunity for business owners to hear directly from state legislators about their priorities.

    Speakers included Governor Mike DeWine, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, Senate President Matt Huffman, and a panel discussion featuring Peter Voderberg, Chief of BroadbandOhio, Sheryl Maxfield, Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, and John Logue, Interim Administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

    In addition, five state leaders received Small Business Advocate of the Year Awards. Speaker of the Ohio House Bob Cupp, State Senator Sandra Williams, State Representative Stephanie Howse, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud, and State Treasurer Robert Sprague each received the award, which recognizes those who have sponsored, endorsed, supported, or drafted legislation or led initiatives to advance small business growth throughout Ohio.

    Special thanks go to the event sponsor, Taft Law.

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  • Next up: Urge the U.S. Senate to Extend the PPP Deadline

    Urge the U.S. Senate to Extend the PPP Deadline


    The American Rescue Plan Act – a $1.9 trillion bill – was recently signed into law by the President.  Key provisions were included that will aim to support broadband services, public transit, and small businesses.  Ohio is expected to receive more than $5.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan.

    Meanwhile, and as taxpayers await possible further guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, a bill to move the PPP application deadline from March 31st to May 31st was approved by  the U.S. House of Representatives, passing in a 415-3 vote.  The legislation now moves over to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

    The nearly unanimous vote came after several dozen business groups endorsed the PPP Extension Act of 2021, H.R. 1799, which extends the filing deadline for PPP applications by 60 days and provides an additional 30 days for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to finish processing applications received by May 31st.

    Our partners at the National Small Business Association (NSBA) are among the groups that have endorsed the legislation.  Please click here to take a moment and urge your U.S. Senators to support this legislation.

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