Public Speaking: The Rule of Three

July 16th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

rule of 3My college roommate, Sean Cusick, was an English major, and he enlightened me about the rule of three. Your writing will have more impact when you use three nouns, adjectives or adverbs together. For example, it is more compelling to say, “this course will give you the skills, confidence and motivation to catapult your speaking career,” rather than saying “this course will give you the skills and confidence to catapult your speaking career.”

Little did I know, however, that I was only scratching the surface with respect to this amazing rule of three in public speaking. Here is a fascinating, in-depth look at the RULE OF THREE by Andrew Dlugan and how to apply it. Enjoy!

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Public Speaking: Speaking from the Heart II

July 12th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

73976251This is the second time I’ve witnessed a speaker ditch the notes and speak from the heart. Once again, it was a huge success.

In a previous public speaking blog entry, I recounted how a presenter’s computer quit, and she was forced to complete the rest of her presentation without her Powerpoint notes.  It proved to be the best thing that happened to her, as she recaptured and maintained the audience’s attention.

Recently, I witnessed a best-man toast.  As is typical, he unfolded a piece of paper and began reading – boring. After a few sentences, he paused, looked up at the guests and said, “I’m going to just speak from the heart, how about that?” The audience applauded, he folded the paper, and placed it in his pocket. There was a small pause, and you could feel how every person was eagerly anticipating his next words.

He went on to speak in a conversational tone about the groom. He earned a ton of laughs and many “aawwws” from the guests. His speech moved everyone in attendance. It was one of the best I’ve seen, and I know he wouldn’t have had nearly that reaction had he simply read his notes.

Once again, case-in-point, when you choose to “talk with” instead of “read to” an audience, you will make a connection, and they will remember you and your message. You might think that it’s a daunting task not to read from your slides and notes, but the beauty is that your audience gives you tons of leeway when you are speaking from the heart. They will simply like you more, and likeability is one of the six pillars of persuasion.

Clearly, when you are giving a training or a much longer presentation, you may need to refer to your notes or slides to make sure you are on track. That’s okay, as long as you are using them as a guide, and not for the verbiage of the presentation itself.

Nothing will endear your audience more than speaking from the heart.

For training on public speaking see our programs here.

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Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes

July 11th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

lecternPublic speaking can be the most daunting task because we make it so. No doubt you’ve heard that according to surveys, most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Of course the major reason is that we are concerned about how others will perceive us.

The truth is that when we engage in public speaking we shape many people’s perceptions about us in a very short time. In many instances, perception dictates reality; so it is important for us to shine in the spotlight.

When people say they are afraid of public speaking, usually they are talking about their delivery more than their content. Clearly both are important, but most people feel in control when it comes to mastering their content for a presentation. They are more worried about how they will appear before their audience.  In the realm of public speaking, we call this delivery. In our public speaking blog we’ve covered much material on this topic. Here is a summary of 19 delivery mistakes:


1. Standing right next to the person introducing you. Instead, wait far off to the side.

2. Walking too fast to center stage/floor. Instead, a moderate pace will transmit authority and confidence.

3. Launching immediately into your presentation. Instead, pause a moment and scan your audience and then deliver your power opener.

4. Not shaking the person’s hand who introduced you.

5. Not publicly thanking the person who introduced you.

6. Not smiling, but don’t force it either. The only thing worse than a somber face is the fake public speaking “chucky” smile.

7. Standing in one spot during your entire presentation.

8. Pacing is worse than standing in one spot. A quick tip on effective movement: give 1/3 of the presentation to the center, 1/3 to the left and 1/3 to the right. Always start and finish center.

9. Standing behind the lectern is deadly. GET OUT OF THERE.

10. Reading off slides is probably the #1 way to turn off your audience. Most public speakers do it.

11. Monotone voice is a cure for insomnia. Instead, record your presentation to ensure you’re injecting enthusiasm.

12. Filler is killer. “Umms”, “ahhs” and “like” will destroy your impact not only in public speaking, but also in one-on-one communication. Instead use the pause.

13. Talking too fast. People can’t process as fast as you can talk. It makes you appear not only nervous but lacking authority as well.

14. Poor eye contact is a major challenge with most public speakers.

15. Speaking softly. If you want to aggravate your audience make them strain to hear you.

16. Petrified body. A talking statue amuses nobody. Catch yourself talking to friends.  What does your body language look like? That’s what your audience wants to see.

17. Petrified face. The audience’s face mirrors yours. If you speak with a frozen countenance, you’ll be looking into a sea of expressionless faces. When you tell a story to a friend, your facial expressions accent the words. Do the same when public speaking.

18. Awkward close. Remember nerves spike at the beginning and end. I’ve seen great public speakers fumble to close. Remember your closing rote.

19. Being too conservative. Unless you’re presenting to the board at a stodgy bank, put some fun into your presentation. Most presentations are painful to endure. A dash of sugar will make them love you.

If you avoid these 19 common delivery mistakes, your audience won’t care whether you are nervous because they will like you and appreciate that you gave them an experience instead of a boring book report. You will shine in comparison to the public speakers who precede and follow you, because it’s almost guaranteed that these other presenters fall victim to most of the 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

There you have it! Now pounce on your fear of presenting, and use these delivery skills to enjoy the art of public speaking.

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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Public Speaking: Dead Time Kills Your Presentation

July 9th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

DeadTreeLast week, I presented magic at the historic Vienna. I started entertaining a few people, but in ten minutes I was completely surrounded, and the room was packed. Then, I looked for my Sharpie marker, which I needed for my next effect. I realized it was in my bag sitting about ten feet away; so I wended my way through the crowd, fished for my marker, and finally handed it to the spectator. This took about twenty seconds. But, when I launched back into my presentation, the crowd had dissipated, and small conversations were flourishing. Now I needed to WORK HARD at rebuilding my crowd and recapturing attention. In short, I had to revive my presentation from the dead.

Shame on me! I teach executives and managers that they must have everything they need at their fingertips BEFORE beginning a presentation. Why?  Because DEAD TIME KILLS. It devours your effectiveness because without the audience’s rapt attention, you are wasting your time and theirs.

What I witnessed physically at a magic performance (people talking and walking) is a caricature of what happens in a business presentation. While it is unlikely that your audience will bolt for the door or launch into small private chats at your presentation, people will “check out” mentally, and they will launch into internal dialogue about something more important or more amusing than you.  It’s that simple.

The solution is simple as well:

1) While rehearsing make a checklist of everything you need, use, or refer to.

2) Setup: on the big day, go through your checklist and physically touch every item you need.

3) Handouts: have them at each seat before you begin. If this is not possible, have somebody else deliver the handouts for you while you continue to present.

4) Index cards: If you rely on index cards for notes, be sure to number them to avoid excessive fumbling should you drop them.  If you rely on powerpoint for notes see here.

5) Do you refer to a manual, text or report? Use Post-it notes as book marks. Flipping around for even five seconds creates enough dead-time to start the bleeding.

6) Avoid or limit conversation that is administrative and directed at only one person. For example, you are presenting on a new accounting policy, and your tech guru asks about systems integration. Even though this is not technically dead time, the conversation acts as white noise for everyone else in the room who is far removed from these details. Unless the issue is urgent, use this response: “excellent question, and you and I need to discuss it in detail after this presentation. Thanks for bringing it up Jim.”

7) Be very aware of any time that ticks where nothing is happening, and understand that it is causing a slow drain of your audience’s attention.

Please do not confuse dead time with the power of the pause. A purposeful pause drastically increases your effectiveness. I’m talking about me fumbling for my Sharpie or you flipping through your 10-Q report trying to find the change in retained earnings while your boss begins to daydream about whether it’s chicken fajita or tuna salad for lunch.  Personally, I’d take the chicken fajita with ranch dressing.

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Public Speaking: High-Pressure Presentations

July 8th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_6172094[1]Here is a novel tip for anyone preparing for public speaking in a high-pressure situation. What makes it high-pressure? Simply that you think it to be so, and you know that no matter how much you prepare, your adrenaline will still be pumping on the big day.

Using the techniques previously discussed in our blog regarding nerves and confidence will certainly help, and if you want to go that extra mile, do this:

Immediately prior to rehearsing your presentation, do some cardio activity (pushups, treadmill, jog in place, jump rope, etc). Avoid going overboard and getting out-of-breath, but do get your heart rate up and even break a little sweat. This will emulate how adrenaline from nerves can affect you. Now launch into your rehearsal. This overcomes one major problem with rehearsing – you don’t feel the same sense of urgency as you do when presenting to your audience. Now your rehearsal is giving you a very similar experience to the real thing, enabling you to master your presentation.

Other tips:

1) Use your imagination. Don’t just stand up and start.  Sit down, and wait to hear (in your mind) your name announced. Imagine the applause, walk to the center, visualize looking at the audience, and go.

2) As much as possible, rehearse the presentation with your eyes closed, visualizing the audience before you.

3) Video record your rehearsal.  You’ll be amazed at how good you really look, and you’ll find some areas for improvement.  It adds even more value to have someone else analyze your video.

By using these techniques prior to your high-pressure presentation, you will gain a “been there, done that” feeling, which is what rehearsal is all about. Always keep in mind though, that unless the presentation is life or death, you are the one manufacturing the pressure.

Try this tip and let us know how it works for you.

Below is a previous video I posed to Youtube on nixing the nerves:

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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Power of Persuasion: NOT Persuasive Selling

July 6th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

salesmanIn my last vlog, I talked about persuasive selling. In this blog, I want to mention what is NOT persuasive selling.

I just read a sales blog that dealt with the objection, “I’d like some time to think about it”. The blogger suggested that the salesperson use this technique:

“It’s a fact that as time progresses you only retain about 20% of what you learned; so as you take time to ‘think about it’ you are actually becoming less informed. I’m sure you don’t want to make a less-informed decision, right?”  Then wait for the answer, and go for the close.

Is this clever? Maybe. But here is my problem with some of these types of “tricks” in sales.  To the educated buyer, they sound slick and manipulative. Once your prospect feels he is being manipulated, you completely lose your power of persuasion.

A few more examples of techniques that turn off many prospects:

1) “John, I’m going to be in your area on Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.  Which works best for you?” (Nothing wrong with this when John has agreed he wants to meet with you, but if John never gave you that indication, he’s likely to recognize this false-choice cheesy sales technique.)

2) Ben Franklin Close: “Okay John, how about we fold this paper in half. Put the pros on one side and the cons on the other. Whichever is longer, that’s the decision we’ll go with today.”

3) This is a big one: OVERUSE of a prospect’s name. Research shows that you should use the name at the beginning and end. However, inserting the name often in your pitch actually works AGAINST you. Why? Because it sounds slick and salesy.

Prospects are more intuitive and educated than we may think.  Once a prospect starts seeing you less as a resource and more as a salesperson, you are losing your ability to persuade.

Keep in mind that there are great lines and techniques to help you move towards a solution.  Just remember, many of your prospects have read the same sales books as you have, so be careful that you don’t come off as an encyclopedia of slick sales techniques.  Your worst fate is that they see you marching towards that close without respect to the way they make buying decisions.

Enjoy the tip and learn more about persuasion here:

2 Audio CD’s on Power of Persuasion

Instant Download of Power of Persuasion

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Power of Persuasion: Persuasive Selling

July 2nd, 2009 by Frank Damelio

Buy Audio CD or Instant Download on Persuasion
In a nut shell, research shows that people are more motivated by the fear of losing than by the prospect of gaining. In sales, we tend to sell value – as we should.  Use this persuasive selling technique to motivate your prospect to invest in the value you offer. The secret is to show what they could LOSE by not purchasing your goods or service.

Here are some examples:

Copy machine sales:

Good: Our solution will save you time and money because our machine has a faster output and uses less resources like electricity and toner.

Better:  Right now you are wasting electricity and toner, plus your employees are losing valuable time because your current machine is slower and less efficient.  Our solution addresses that.

Selling a maintenance plan:

Good: With our plan you will have complete peace of mind knowing that we will keep you up-and-running and cover all problems associated with operations.

Better:  You understand the lost time and employee frustration when operations are down.  We ensure that you don’t lose that valuable labor and money associated with downtime and repairs.

Selling a hybrid automobile:

Good:  This car will save you approximately 20% on your gas consumption. During the life of this car you will save hundreds of dollars.

Better: Right now you are burning through an estimated 20% more gasoline than you would with our hybrid. Investing in his car will put a stop to that.

Selling optical fiber:

Good:  Our fiber is manufactured with tighter standards so it transmits data more efficiently.

Better:  Our fiber is manufactured with tighter standards; so it has less loss.

Selling a generic brand:

Good:  You can have the same high quality and save 12% off the name brand.

Better:  You’re wasting 12% on every dollar you spend on the name brand because we provide the same quality for less.

Will you share with us an example for your market?

This selling nuance makes a notable difference in the buyer’s mind. Research proves it, but the underlying reason is debatable. My view is that most people would agree that while it is good to save money, it is almost a sin to waste it. Therefore, it is far more persuasive to appeal to your prospect’s fear of losing or wasting something.

As with all persuasive selling tips, these are only guidelines and not rules.  Use each technique in context.

Have fun selling persuasively!

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Public Speaking: Dealing With Interruptions

June 28th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

timeout2Most of us have attended a presentation where an audience member interrupts the speaker and attempts to monopolize. The monopolizer is usually unaware that he is crossing the line, and it is the presenter’s responsibility to shut him down fast.

I recently attended an excellent seminar on marketing. The presenter’s style was to ask rhetorical questions and then provide us with the answer. One man from the audience continually launched into his own answer to each question. Finally the presenter looked right at him and said, “you need to get your own lecture . . . this one is mine.” Wow! Shut down! The rest of his presentation flowed smoothly, and the audience leaned a great deal.

His zinger was effective.  My question to you, do you think it was too harsh?

Here are my strategies for dealing with interruptions and monopolizers:

1) Stop it before it starts: You may chose to open with the remark, “we have a great deal to cover; so if you would kindly note your questions and save them until the end, I’d appreciate it.”

2) If you are taking questions during the presentation, but someone begins to monopolize, you can say “I see you know a great deal about this topic, and I’d love to speak with you more about it after the presentation.  For now, I’d like to make sure everyone has a chance to participate.”

3) When the monopolizer takes a breath, say “okay, we need to move on because time is limited”.

4) Speak directly to the stubborn interruptor: “John, I love your enthusiasm, and I’m going to ask you to hold your comments until the end, so that we can get through the material.”

5) Here’s another zinger I saw a presenter use to handle an unruly interruptor: “Hey Sam, this is a one man show…and I’m the man.”

The most important thing to remember is that the audience is looking for you to squelch the interruptor because they are there to see you.  Always be prepared in advance to handle this, and your audience will appreciate it.

One caveat:  These techniques work well when it’s “your show”.  I wouldn’t recommend squelching questions when presenting to the Board of Directors of your company, because that is really “their show”.  Always consider the context when applying any public speaking technique.

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Public Speaking: 8 Great Tips on Gestures

June 27th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

Eight great public speaking tips!

In my experience, 95% of speakers under gesture, which makes them appear uncomfortable, overly formal and stiff.  It can also lead to many yawns in the audience.

For novice presenters, gestures are at the bottom of the to-do list because many speakers simply want to survive the speech. They are primarily focused on their verbal flow. However, those who are a bit more advanced in public speaking are aware that they should be gesturing as they typically do when having a one-on-one conversation with a peer.

What happens then? Why do so few speakers gesture naturally when they present? I call it the cartoon factor. When people are in the spotlight, they FEEL like a small gesture looks big and goofy. It’s not true, of course. When I train businesspeople, they get to watch their own presentation on video, and they are amazed at how small those seemingly “big” gestures appear to the audience. Thinking gets warped when you are in the spotlight. Just as a two-second pause on stage feels like an eternity, a small gesture on stage feels huge.

Compound this false sense with the fact that most speakers would far prefer to look conservative and boring over flamboyant and goofy; and you now understand why people look like talking statues when they present.

What to do?

1.  Be aware that to gesture properly, you will probably FEEL a bit cartoony, but you will not appear that way to your audience.

2. Video your presentation, so that you can SEE what looks natural from the outside.

3. Keep in mind that the larger the group, the larger the gestures must become to create your presence.

4. Study a bit on body language and gestures.  Many warn against over-prepping your gestures because you can look robotic or too slick.  In my experience, that is hardly the problem with presenters.  Most speakers have torsos and arms that simply look petrified.

5. When you rehearse your speech, look in the mirror, and imagine that you are simply talking to a friend.  Watch how your hands move.

6. Avoid keeping your hands on the podium. In fact, get out from behind the podium.

7. Avoid the T-REX position with your arms.  So many speakers only extend their forearms throughout their entire presentation – keeping their upper arms glued to the sides.  After a while it looks funny, like a T-REX.  They subconsciously do this because of the cartoon factor.

8. Remember, people hate to be bored, so show some zeal.  Do try to avoid clapping your hands over your head though, because that would be cartoony.

There you have it, eight great public speaking tips on gestures.  I encourage you to leave a comment.

Public Speaking and Movement

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Public Speaking: Getting Applause

June 26th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

applause pleaseThere are some presentations you do where applause is desirable and appropriate. We’ve already discussed optimal audience seating that will facilitate audience reaction and applause. In this entry you will discover the nuances  and lines the presenter can employ to increase audience applause. Much of what I’ve learned about earning applause comes from my performance in entertaining rather than strictly business presentations. Nevertheless the lesson lends itself to many types of public speaking.

Keep in mind, audiences need a cue to applaud because they subconsciously fear applauding at the wrong time, or being the only person clapping.

Here are both subtle (for business) and bold (for entertainment) methods to encourage applause.

During your presentation at an “applause moment”:

1) Ask audience to give a round of applause to someone who helped you.

2) “Thank you for your enthusiasm”

3) If it’s silent: “Save your applause till the end – I have a weak finish.”

4) When only one person applauds: “I think you just woke up the others” OR  “Are the rest of you saving it for the big finish?” OR “I will wow you one person at a time” OR “Special thanks to my fan club” (pointing to the one person)

5) “Oh, I forgot to tell you, your applause will be recorded”

6) “There are two ways we can do this (show,demo) like we’re doing it now, or with applause.”

7) “Hey, I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing”

8)  “Instead of applauding, why don’t we all hold hands and try to join with the LIVING”

To get applause at the end of your presentation

“Thank you” Take a slight bow with a light clap of the hands and take a small step back.

While the best way to earn applause is to do an excellent job, these nuances and lines make all the difference with respect to creating the right atmosphere conducive to applause.  Remember to use your judgement when tossing a quip into the mix.

present awards and control applause

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