Posts Tagged ‘public speaking training’

Public Speaking: Speaking From the Heart

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

vmun-words-from-the-heart1262548916We just discussed a story about a woman who lost her Power Point notes.  Right after writing that blog . . .

My wife and I were invited to a baptism.  The priest opened her sermon by announcing: “In all the excitement about the baptism, I forgot my notes for today’s talk; so I’ll have to just speak from the heart”.

As a public-speaking instructor, I would be inclined to say that’s not a good opener. I would have coached someone in that situation to say nothing and proceed from memory. But in this case it thoroughly worked in her favor. She created a little bit of tension; people sat a bit taller.  We all wondered how well she would handle the circumstances.

It helped that she was likeable and sincere.  I think everyone was silently rooting for her to do a great job.  She did.  Few things resonate more to an audience than “speaking from the heart”.  Also, without the crutch of notes, all of the other wonderful connecting strategies naturally flourish: eye contact, pausing to think, facial expressions, movement and inflection.

Once again, if you tend to overuse your notes or Power Point, take a chance and see how well you can connect with an audience by “speaking form the heart”.

Speaking from the Heart II

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Public Speaking: The Humor Factor

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

dreamstime_1166078[1]If you are a naturally funny person, I envy you!  Those who can use humor and wit when public speaking have a tremendous advantage.  People LOVE to laugh, and they will forgive many sins if you can make them do so.

Here is an example.  A speaker is introduced to the audience, and on her way to the podium, she trips on the mic cord and falls to the ground.  She’s not hurt.  Immediately she jumps back to her feet, pauses, looks directly into the audience and says . . . “Hows that for a power opener?” The audience laughs and cheers for her.  In four words, she won them over.  Ah, the power of humor.

Another example: My good friend Malik at unconventional magic is a stellar corporate presenter.  I remember watching him perform.  There were three things on his table.  He picked up the first item and accidentally dropped it, as he bent to retrieve it, he bumped the table and the second item fell off.  He paused, looked at the audience and then . . .  whhhhack, he intentionally slapped the remaining item off his table and said “I might as well bat a thousand”.  The audience roared.  He won them over in an instant.  Yes, the power of humor!

In my power of persuasion training I talk about on of the six pillars of persuasion as related by the genious Dr. Cialdini in his amazing book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion. Likeability is one of the pillars, and my experience shows that humor can build instant likeability with your audience.

Here are some tips on using humor in your public speaking:

1) Unless you are at a comedy/night club, nix anything that COULD BE construed as offensive.  If you have to wonder whether it is offensive, then drop it.

2) The humor in public speaking should not be stand-alone.  It must fall within the context of what’s happening (see examples above) or in the context of your theme.

3) Any extemporaneous humor gets a disproportionately strong laugh, because it projects that you are in the “here and now”.  

4) If you are like me, comedically challenged, then record your presentations to see where you got laughs.  If you are repeating the presentation, remember the lines, and cultivate them every time you  use them.

5) My humor in public speaking guideline is NEVER EMBARRASS anyone besides yourself.  Most people hate the spotlight because they don’t want to be humiliated before their peers.  Get a laugh at nobody’s expense or at your own expense, but never at the expense of an audience member.  Treat your audience as honored guests and they will return the favor.

Share your ideas and stories about humor in the context of public speaking here!

More on public speaking and humor.

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Public Speaking: Layout and Floor Plan

Friday, January 30th, 2009

In our recent blog about rude audiences, we referred to the fact that the speaker disseminated information rather than communicating and connecting with the audience.  This helped cultivate an environment conducive to chitter chatter.  Upon reflection, more variables come into play.  

The first is seating.  While technically this was not a “seating” issue because much of the audience was standing, the same guidelines apply:  the denser the population the more they pay attention.  Scattered audiences have scattered attention spans.  This certainly contributed to the five private conversations that broke out while the speaker was presenting.

The second is room layout and floor plan.  Given the choice, It is always better to have a room that is slightly too small rather than too big. It it makes the event seem like it was a sell-out.  “They packed the room!” will be the reviews.  In addition, you avoid the scattered population problem.  Finally, the speaker has more relative presence; so both she and her message are less likely to get lost in the room.

The third variable is speaker positioning in the room.  Most rooms are rectangular, and in such cases the speaker is best positioned on a short end.  The “less square” the room, the more important this becomes.  Presenting from the the long side of a “flattened” rectangle will destroy your impact on the audience.  It dilutes your focus, voice and eye contact and INVITES the temptation for your audience members begin talking amongst themselves.  Most audience members will resist the temptation to speak aloud; instead they will engage in their own internal dialogue.  For example: “I better get working on my 3rd quarter presentation for next week, I wonder if Bob has started his?”  Some rude or ignorant members will simply startup a conversation.

Looking at our rude audience scenario, my bet is that had these layout issues been addressed in advanced, there may have been only one or no private conversations ensuing while the Chamber Officer was presenting . . . rather than five.

When you are public speaking, command your battlefield by controlling your layout and floor plan whenever possible.  Always keep in mind, a wider and more dispersed audience requires far more presentational skill on your part than does a narrow and densely populated audience.

In short: how and where they sit/stand will be a significant factor in how much they feel that they “liked” your presentation.  As always, it’s all in the nuances.

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Public Speaking: Lights! Camera! Action!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

If you are truly serious about improving your public speaking, then consider video taping yourself.  You’ll be amazed at how well you do some things, and you’ll find areas for improvement that you never imagined.

After many years of teaching advanced public speaking skills, I still watch the videos of my presentations and I ALWAYS find areas for improvement and little things that make me laugh.

Video recording has an extra bonus for those of us who perform the same presentation multiple times.  I wish I were a naturally funny person, because adding humor does wonders for your presentation. However, even though I’m not a comedian, I still get lucky with a funny line here or there.  When I critique my presentations, I’ll always make note when the audience laughs.  I write that line down and use it again.  After a while, it appears that I actually have some wit.

Those who are serious about public speaking will find great benefit to recording their presentations.  If video is too cumbersome for you, consider a digital audio recorder with a lavaliere mic – small investment with a big return.

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