Public Speaking: Saying vs Conveying.

November 22nd, 2008 by Frank Damelio

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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3 Responses to “Public Speaking: Saying vs Conveying.”

  1. Bella Says:

    Hello Frank,

    I think telling the presenter would depend on your relationship with her. If she is someone you work with often and are comfortable enough with each other to give contructive criticism, then I would tell her. If you feel that she may take it as just criticism, then I probably wouldn’t tell her. However – were it you that was called dry, instead of her, wouldn’t you want to know?

  2. Frank Damelio Says:

    Hi Bella,

    I appreciate your comment. Though I’m sure it would be a bit awkward to hear that feedback from a fellow professional, I would certainly need to hear it; so I could approve. Even though the vast majority of people will tell you they are open to feedback, I would guess that 50% welcome it, and 50% are offended it. It’s a gamble. I’ll have to let you know what happens.

  3. Target Intellect Blog » Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes Says:

    […] Monotone voice is a cure for insomnia. Instead, record your presentation to ensure you’re injecting […]

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