250 Things to Guarantee Your Speaking Success?
Eric Feng on the Public Speaking Blog recently posted 250 Things You Wish You Know That Will Guarantee Your Speaking Success. I’m skeptical when I read phrases such as “guarantee your speaking success”, and I’m even more skeptical now that I’ve read through all 250 things.
Universal Truths of Public Speaking
To be fair, there are numerous gems in the lengthy list which are virtually universal truths of public speaking. These include:
1. Audience always comes first.
11. Tell a story, make a point.
125. Speak on something that you believe in.
140. The best speeches are not written, they are rewritten.
250. Persistence is key.
Who Says I Don’t Care About the Audience?
However, some of the advice seems too hasty and forceful, such as:
64. Never ask your audience how are they doing at the start of your presentation because we know you don’t really care. It’s just a sign that you are unprepared.
65. That includes “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” and “Good evening”.
Huh? Who says I don’t care how my audience is? While I concede that it is better to open with something more dynamic, I see no problem in building rapport with the audience if the situation allows for it.
A Public Speaking Guarantee?
Some of the 250 things are good general principles, but saying that you can “guarantee your speaking success” by following them is exaggeration. For example:
92. Observe the 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides, not more than 20 minutes, font size 30 at least.
93. Seriously, 80 slides in 45 minutes? You do the math.
As a general principle, the 10/20/30 rule from Guy Kawasaki has significant merit in many situations. But a successful speaker needs to be able to adapt the presentation style to the audience and the message being delivered. The Lessig Method applied in the Identity 2.0 presentation by Dick Hardt uses far more than 10 slides, but was perfect for that audience and that message.
Some of the advice given is just plain scary. Consider:
103. Ten steps to becoming a better speaker.
105. Speak more.
106. Speak even more.
107. Speak even more than that.
108. Speak when you don’t want to.
109. Speak when you do.
110. Speak when you have something to say.
111. Speak when you don’t.
112. Speak all the time.
113. Keep speaking.
114. In short, it is all about stage time.
115. Having said that, don’t speak for the sake of speaking.
I understand the Stage Time, Stage Time, Stage Time mantra. But one should never, ever “speak when you don’t want to” or “speak when you don’t [have something to say]”. Even though these points are, I assume, delivered somewhat tongue in cheek (see 115), it is careless to even suggest. Stage time is only a benefit if your heart is in it, and you are actually attempting to deliver a message.
Is Speaking a Game?
179. Treat your next speech like a game! Have loads of fun with it.
Excuse me? This contradicts “1. Audience always comes first” (a theme repeated in points 31, 33, 34, 35, 124, 139, 185, 217, and others). Public speaking is not a game. The audience are not donating their time so that you can practice and play games with them. Whatever you do, do it with purpose.
Repetition or Redundancy?
As indicated in the previous paragraph, some themes are repeated in the list of 250. Sometimes the repetition is bordering on redundant:
13. Make a serious point after you get your audience laughing – they remember better.
214. Make a serious point after your audience laugh, it sticks better.
Am I being mean and overly critical? I don’t think so. Great blog posts, like great presentations, need to be carefully edited. They need to be logically consistent. In an ideal world, they need to be free from marketing hype (“250 Things… Guarantee… Success”) and blatant self-promotion. (Is your book really the 2nd best book ever written?)
233. Don’t be afraid to say this to your audience – “RIP ME APART!” Repeat after me, “RIP ME APART!”
Consider yourself ripped, Eric. You can do better, and you have done so many times on your excellent blog.
Update – 2007-11-23
Eric demonstrated that he listens to his audience by trimming his original list down from 250 to 50. The resulting list is of significantly higher quality. Well done, Eric! Does this mean I should look at the posts on this blog and edit them down to the best 10% too? 🙂