Archive for November, 2008

Public Speaking: Saying vs Conveying.

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

toastA long-time client just asked me to do a presentation for his annual sales kickoff meeting.  He also asked me to select another speaker in my circle who could deliver a compelling business message in achievement.

One of my suggestions was a woman that I had brought in to present to his team one year earlier.  He replied to my suggestion that “she was a little bit dry for our group”.  My client ended up choosing one of my other options.

The “dry” comment was enlightening because the presenter was an impressive expert in her field, very well prepared, and she imparted useful techniques to achievement.  In addition, she was an excellent speaker: knowing when to pause, avoiding all filler, making great eye contact, etc.  However, I witnessed that volume and inflection were lacking.

What a lesson!  You can have great content that is well prepared and useful to your audience.  You can be confident, and employ excellent public speaking skills.  All is for naught, however, if you don’t have volume and inflection.  The perception is that you are serving dry toast.  Brilliant content buried in dry toast has little to no value.

How can we avoid serving dry toast?

Saying vs. conveying: A robot can say something to an audience.  You convey by using more than words.

1) Speak Loudly.  If you speak too softly, you will annoy your audience.  Even if they love your topic, they will desperately wish for your presentation to end.  Note: To speak loudly; then make one point in a whisper can be powerful.  Avoid overusing this technique.

2) Monotone kills.  It’s as simple as that.  The inflection you use in a one-to-one conversation, where you are discussing something that interests you is the same inflection you should employ with your audience.

3) Enthusiasm.  Get excited about what you are presenting, then the first two points happen naturally.  I had a college statistics professor who was excited about what he taught.  The class LOVED him and learned a great deal. Conversely, I had a marketing professor who was “dry”; the class could barely stand his lectures.

4) Did you know that when most people present they gesture about 15% as much as they do when speaking one-on-one?  Here’s the interesting point: most gestures before a large audience feel too big to the presenter but look too small to the audience.  In my experience over-gesturing is truly rare.  Most speakers overwhelmingly under-gesture.

How do you know whether you are saying or conveying?

1) Video your presentation and review it.

2) Practice your presentation before your friends/family/peers.

3) After presenting ask audience members how enthusiastic you appeared.

4) Remember to avoid at all costs speaking too softly.  It will irk your audience, unless they happen to like dry toast.  Have somebody in the back row point upward if you need to raise the volume.

Here’s my question for you.  Would you tell that presenter who was perceived to be “dry” what she needs to work on?  Consider that this individual did not solicit my feedback.


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Public Speaking: How To Lose Your Audience

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Q: What is possibly the worst feedback you can get about your presentation?

A: Audience members get up and leave before you’ve closed.

I just attended an NSA New England event. It’s a great organization, and I’ve personally benefited from their speakers.  The first two presenters of the day delivered a great deal of value within a little time. Fran Goldstein enlightened us about the power of virtual assistants; and Steve Lishansky gave us a great framework for value-based pricing.

The main speaker, however, inadvertently taught us a invaluable lesson on exactly how to lose your audience.

The session was supposed to have delivered a great deal of content, but after the first two hours, attendees at my table were all looking at one another with puzzled faces.  The speaker spent a majority of this time on SELLING THE BENEFITS of what he was “about to cover”.  WOW!

Indeed, five minutes up front to extol the virtues of the upcoming content would have been great, but the presenter was incessantly preaching to the already converted.

About ninety minutes into the presentation, an attendee from another group stood up and said “with all due respect, you said you were going to cover all this material, and I have my concerns of how you are now going to fit it all in.”  The presenter responded that it was a fair concern, but nothing really changed.

During the second part of the session, I walked out.  It wasn’t the skipping around through unpaginated notes that drove me crazy;  it was the excruciatingly poor time/value ratio.  As a fellow professional presenter, I felt badly about walking out, but I needed to leave so I could blog the experience.

Shortly thereafter, others began to leave (before the close).  I let them share their opinions with me first, and the consensus was that they just couldn’t sit through any more.

What happened?  What can we learn from this?

I’ve seen this occur to a lesser degree when a presenter either has too much or (more often the case) too little content to fit the time slot.  Couple this with poor organization of notes and it’s all over before it ever begins.

When we present we need to keep in mind that many people are gifting us two precious resources: time and attention.  In the case the audience was also paying to attend.

Here are some tips on how to lose your audience:

1) Extend your introduction by over-selling your content.

2) Stretch your time by over-using anecdotes.

3) Bounce around your unpaginated notes.  If they ask where you are, simply respond: “a few pages from the back”; they’ll eventually find you.

If you don’t want to lose your audience:

Subscribe to the philosophy that every minute of your presentation is of vital importance.  If you waste 2 minutes before a fifty-person audience; you’ve lost over an hour and a half of people’s time. A couple of years back at a NSA New England event, Susan Keane Baker executed one of the best presentations I’d ever witnessed.  She made every minute count, she delivered in a way that everyone present received far more value than expected.  She inspired all of us to be better.

Driven by that philosophy, you can proceed with confidence that you will avoid the dreaded fate of losing your audience while public speaking.

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