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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Public Speaking: How To Lose Your Audience

November 9th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

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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Public Speaking: Movement

October 26th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

Regardless of how we feel inside, we all want to at least APPEAR confident when we speak.  After studying thousands of presenters at various skill levels, I found this common denominator among confident speakers:  They tend to move to a spot and STAY there for a while.  Then, they will move to another spot, and remain there for a while.  This is to say, they neither pace nor stay in one place.  The movement is purposeful, captures attention and exudes confidence.

Sounds easy?  It’s not.  The challenge is that when you are before an audience, it FEELS a bit awkward to move say 15 feet to your right and stop to make a few points.  Not only does it feel odd, it also tends to temporarily consume a large part of your  “thinking capacity” – almost like a computer slowing when it multitasks.

It sounds funny that we might have a hard time “walking and talking” at the same time, but my experience in training people is just that.  There can be so much self analysis going on in a presenters mind, that it is hard to focus on delivery.  You can see presenters losing their train of thought when they attempt purposeful movement.  Most end up not moving or pacing – neither of which consume much  “thinking capacity”, and both of which detract from the presentation.

What’s the solution?

1) In your  notes, write an arrow with a stop sign at at least one or two points in your presentation.  Now you won’t have to “remember” anything extra.  Your notes will guide you to the left and right; so that your entire audience benefits from your physical presence.

2) When you  rehearse – make sure to move to a few different spots.

3) When using props and handouts put them in the different locations from which you wish to present.  You will naturally walk to that location, then you can stay there and make a few points.

Public speaking and purposeful movement go hand-in-hand.  Very few techniques show such great confidence as meaningful movement.  Using these suggestions, not only will you appear more composed, but you will also connect more effectively with your audience.

Give these tips a whirl and let us know how they worked by commenting on this blog.

Happy Speaking!

Public Speaking and Gestures

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Public Speaking: The Speed Factor

September 22nd, 2008 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_11058210[1]When you are making a presentation, how important is the pace at which you speak?

While some people tend to talk more slowly when nervous, most people will speak much more rapidly. Why is this?  As your adrenaline flows, you become far more energetic, and a faster pace of speaking is a natural outcome.

If you are telling a story or speaking conversationally, a faster pace is not necessarily bad.  It can convey enthusiasm and help you build to a climax.  A faster pace becomes a problem when you are delivering content including tactics, facts, details, numbers, etc.  Your audience can be quickly overwhelmed and tune out.

For ten years, I was an economics teacher. Sometimes I would do a short presentation on current affairs and other times I would have students do a current events presentation. As the presenter delivered, I would make a simple three-question quiz.  The quiz would immediately follow the presentation.  Here is what I learned:  When I presented a current events topic, the students typically aced it.  When students presented a topic, their classmates earned poor grades.

After studying this, I concluded that it simply came down to the speed factor.  My five-minute presentations contained about half the information as compared to their presentations.  However, students retained far more of my information.  Even though my students did not read their presentations, they delivered them about the same speed as one would read.

Most of your audiences cannot comprehend information on an auditory level as quickly as they can by reading it.  That is to say we can absorb information more quickly by reading it than by hearing it.  This means that when you deliver content in your presentation, you  may wish to do so at a pace SLOWER than a typical reading pace; so that your audience can “digest” your meaning.  In this way you will not overwhelm your audience.  Remember, once you lose them, it is very challenging to get them back.

Keep in mind that both a slow pace and a fast pace can be equally boring.  The key is to VARY the pace, tone, inflection and use pauses after completing a thought.  If you are enthusiastic it will shine through; if you are apathetic, it is very difficult to fake it. 

Simply keeping the speed factor in mind when presenting will help your audience stay with you.  

Happy presenting!

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Business Wisdom and Achieving: There Is No Spoon

July 25th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_9635464[1]Jason Kallio shares a creative take on your perceptions and how they affect your ability to achieve:

Our abilities to think, comprehend, create, change and communicate contribute to our success.  Enjoy the journey into my mind as you ponder “there is no spoon”.

From the first time I saw The Matrix, I could not wrap myself around the line, “There is no spoon.”  The main character watched a young boy staring at a spoon, and it bent.  He asked the boy, “How did you do that?”  His reply, “There is no spoon.”  It has taken me six viewings and reading Purple Cow to come to an understanding. 

 The Matrix is a computer generated world that the human mind only lives in and accepts as real life.  Information (products, words, sounds, smells, etc.) is communicated to our brain in this world, and can be broken down into its simplest form of zeros and ones.  If you understand the language of the program and realize what is in your mind, then you can see things in their purest form.  You realize that we are not required to accept this reality, and can change it.  If you are looking at a spoon, you have a choice to either accept it as presented to your mind or decide there really is no spoon.  So, if you want the spoon to be something else, you have the power to do that.  Any change you make is now your idea.  You force others to experience your version of reality. 

 To create an idea that is classified as a Purple Cow, it must be remarkable.  Not all will like it or can accept it, but that’s ok.

 Ideas are ones and zeros, too.  Modifying an existing idea is like deciding to bend the spoon.  Knowing how to simplify your remarkable idea allows you to communicate with people that value its effect on reality.  After clear, simplified communication, they now know how to communicate to others, spreading the word about your Purple Cow and helping others accept it as remarkable.  Purple Cow identifies this as creating an “idea-virus” that is spread by “sneezers”.  This is possible for you because you know – there is no spoon.  

 In The Matrix, humans are described as a virus.  Once we accept that there is no spoon, then our imagination is our only limit.  Find those humans that understand you and your ideas.  Communicate your Purple Cow simply and clearly within the matrix that is your world so that they can sneeze and spread your idea-virus. 

 Remember, there is no spoon.

Learn more about Jason Kallio, expert trade-show trainer and founder of expovantage.


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Power of Persuasion: Where To Meet?

June 19th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

restaurant_tableWhere is the best place to meet if you want to establish and enhance relationships?  Your office? Theirs?


In many case the best place to meet is at a restaurant.  There are two primary reason: 1) It’s neutral; 2) People enjoy eating; accordingly they will subconsciously associate that pleasant experience with you.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that dining out makes sense in building your business relationships.  Just take a look at how much the pharmaceutical sales reps spend on taking their clients to lunch and dinner.

Keith Ferrazzi in his insightful book Never Eat Alone suggests that adding food to the mix when it comes to doing business helps facilitate relationship building.  Dr. Kevin Hogan has studied this topic in detail and shares his findings in and audio interview with respect to what type of restaurant is optimal, selecting the right table, and positioning.

Persuasion goes beyond your people skills; environment is important as well.  Next time you plan that meeting with a prospect or a client, be sure to keep these points in mind.  They will serve you well.

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Public speaking: Just be yourself?

May 19th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

Oh, all I have to do to excel at public speaking is just be myself?  Wonderful, now I know the secret.  Certain speaking coaches warn against trying to use gestures and practicing movements.  Their assertion is that the presenter could look fake, forced, robotic, plastic, and so on.  They extol the virtue of simply being yourself before the audience.  In theory they have a point.  Rehearsing every gesture could make the presenter look very odd indeed.  In reality, however, the overwhelming majority of presenters appear petrified (in the fossil sense of the word).  Most remain standing in one place and avoid any type of gestures.  Even somewhat forced movement is better than no movement.

Also, a small yet meaningful percentage of people are rude, asocial, short-tempered, obnoxious or simply flat.  I would not encourage a person like this to just be himself before an audience.

I think better advice is don’t try to imitate someone else’s presentational style when that person is very unlike you.  For example, if you are not a particularly funny person, trying to deliver your presentation like your favorite comedian would likely result in disaster.  You may admire the way your coworker delivers her presentation with resounding authority, but you may be of a softer, more diplomatic nature.

The best advice may be: just be a super version of yourself.  That is to say, on a great day, at your best moment with respect to mood, character, humor, confidence, affinity to the audience, what would you look like?  If you absolutely loved your topic, you felt a great connection with the audience, you were well prepared and you were comfortable, how would that look?

Not all variables are in our control, but we can certainly be well prepared by rehearsing. Perhaps not every move and gesture, but SOME movement and gestures, to jump start us into using our bodies, posture and hands to communicate more naturally.  Contrary to other experts’ warnings, the more we rehearse, the more comfortable we feel.  Knowing we have a solid structure enables us to take chances in the “here and now” and improvise because we know we have a safety net.

Some of my readers may know that I am also a professional close-up magician.  One of the secrets of magic is to know exactly what you are going to say, when you are going to say it and how you will deliver it.  Only by having the details rehearsed can you free up your brain to think and react to a spectator’s extemporaneous comment.  The safety net allows you to be the super version of yourself.

As odd as it sounds, to “just be yourself” takes a great deal of thought, practice and rehearsal.  The work, however will pay rich dividends.

Please leave a comment on your thoughts.  Thanks.

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The Executive Persona: Names

May 18th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

Having cold called at the top as well as far from the top, I noticed something curious. Irrespective of whether the prospect was interested, those at that top of the organization did something with far more frequency than those many levels down:  They used my name.

Interesting.  As prospects, these executives were in no way attempting to make a positive impression.  In certain cases, they were trying to terminate the call; yet with great frequency they would capture my name right from my introduction, retain it and use it.

When talking with gate keepers and managers at “lower” levels of the organization, I noticed that use of my name was far more infrequent.  Counterintuitively, I found that in cases where there was no interest, the executives were equally short, but far more courteous than their subordinates.  In a certain way, calling at the top can not only be a more fruitful experience but also a more pleasant one.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the case is that many executives are groomed and trained in the fundamentals of business success or that they simply tend to have stronger interpersonal skills.  In any case, you’ve heard it before and here it is again: executives and leaders tend to remember and use names more frequently in their conversations.

Many of us get tripped up on names when we are networking or socializing.  It does require decision and effort.  Right before every introduction, we need to make a conscious decision that we will listen for the name and use it. It takes effort to fulfill this commitment because it’s clearly easier not to be concerned with the detail while we focus on what we are going to say next.  The long-term payoff is that eventually it will become second nature, just as it is for many of those executives we cold call at the top.

If you have methods for remembering names, please share for our readers’ benefit. Thank you.

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Achieve Success: Get Focused! Turn off the ringer. Quit out of email.

May 17th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

magnifying-glassFor the most part, you know what you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals.  Procrastination is a huge inhibitor of success, especially when the tasks that need to be accomplished are difficult or make you uncomfortable.

Procrastination’s best friend is distraction, which takes many forms.  Two of the most common forms of distraction are the telephone and email.  We end up servants to these vital tools instead of masters.  We can be in the middle of a creative thought, or about to pick up the phone to make a cold call, yet we stop to check the new email that just came in.  This happens all day, and our progress on the tasks that really matter becomes fragmented and limited.

Why do we subordinate the vital activities to the trivial?  It’s easier, more comfortable and we have a reasonable “excuse”: the phone rang or a new email arrived – and it COULD be important.

Depending on you profession and the urgency of the service you deliver, it really could be urgent.  Having an emergency line for doctors, plumbers, EMTs and the like makes sense.  But for most of us, the majority of cases is that it is less important that the vital task we are supposed to be accomplishing.

If you want results, try this:

Set one or two blocks of time each day where you shut your phones, and quit out of email.  You can check them right before and right after your block of time.  Can you imagine the focus and level of follow through you will have during that time?  What will it mean to you and your business?  Try it, and let us know.

There you have it – one less speedbump on your road to success.

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Trade Show Strategy: Avoid Master Blunder

May 16th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

no sittingHelping Laura Briere, president of Vision Advertising and World Green Business Association promote her company at the Rt 2 Business Expo, I was fascinated by how many exhibitors were making the master blunder of exhibiting: sitting down while their prospects walked right by them.

It boggles my mind as to why companies spend money on a booth, graphics, space and opportunity cost only to watch as visitors stroll by their exhibits with barely a glance in their direction.  My theory is that these exhibitors believe that they are “getting their brand exposure” and that is return enough.

You do not need to be a corporate magician to to avoid this exhibiting blunder.  With no tricks or gimmicks, Amy Mosher, Director of Programs at the World Green Business Association, did something the majority of the exhibitors failed to do: she stood at the front of her booth, had open body language (smiling and no folded arms) and greeted visitors with a hello and a handshake.  After making a connection she sparked conversation by asking a question.

Here is the result: Amy was engaged in conversation about 85% of the time.  She qualified and collected contacts throughout the day.  For her, the event flew by as she made connection after connection.  All it took was a stroll down the aisle to see that she was the exception.  Most “exhibitors” were sitting behind a table of brochures and giveaways.  What they really were giving away wasn’t pens with logos, but opportunity to do business with every passing prospect that left the hall learning nothing about their company.

Avoiding this exhibiting blunder is almost cured by simply being aware of it.  If you know any exhibitors, please forward this link.  Chances are they will benefit.

 Check out my video with Laura Briere

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