Best Public Speaking Articles: Weekly Review [2008-11-22]
On Saturdays, we survey the best public speaking articles from throughout the public speaking blogosphere.
This review is super-sized with an incredible diversity of high-quality articles.
Just a few of the topics featured are:
- phrases which irritate audiences;
- shifting the focus from you to your audience;
- the medieval speechwriter;
- a plethora of visual aid tips;
- more on Barack Obama; and
- lessons learned from competitive speaking.
Week in Review: Six Minutes
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Week in Review: Public Speaking Blogosphere
Lists of things to say and not say are a bit of a guilty pleasure. On the one hand, there are very few rules in public speaking. On the other, it can be enlightening to read what others consider to be rules:
- Oxford: top ten most irritating phrases
- “at the end of the day”, “with all due respect”, “it’s not rocket science”, …
- BBC: 20 of your most hated cliches
- “basically”, “to be fair”, “110%”, …
- Talks on Talking (published 1916): 47 phrases to avoid when speaking
- “I cannot find the words”, “to my mind”, “Believe me”, …
- And finally, 43 Do’s and 35 Don’ts (thanks to Craig Strachan)
- “Don’t exceed your time limit”, “Prune your sentences”, …
- John Windsor reminds speakers to put “you”-language before “me”-language.
Focus on the needs, interests, and goals of the ones you want to influence (the “You”) and add in details about “Me” (yourself or your company) as needed to help make your case.
- Nick R Thomas suggests that you may sell more by avoiding the sales pitch.
A presentation that informs (or entertains) may be a far better advert for your goods or services than a straightforward sales pitch. Selling is often done on the basis that whatever is being sold can solve a problem for the prospective customer – so why create an additional problem by alienating them?
- Darren Fleming compares presentations to marriage to make his point about analogies.
The best analogies are those that draw on dissimilar objects to make a point. Using dissimilar objects creates dissonance in our thought patterns and causes us to think more thoroughly about what is being presented. This helps us remember the point. By showing that two dissimilar objects are closely related (marriage and presentations, students and oysters) you break the chain of thought in your audience and plant a new thought.
- Ian Griffin provides humor and insight by examining the medieval speechwriter. [Definitely worth a read! This is an article unlike any you’ll ever see on a speaking blog… or you can listen to the podcast.]
Lessons for Speechwriters as Alchemists
- Study the book of spells – text-books on speechwriting such as those listed at the end of this parchment.
- Safeguard the Mystery. Don’t reveal your secrets to the other members of the Court.
- Practice makes perfect. Alchemy is an art, not a science. Cultivate your Craft.
- Understand that what you do is magikal to ordinary mortals.
- Pete Ryckman tells us to connect first, convey content second.
How do you really engage your audience? One sure-fire way is to devote the first couple of minutes to creating a connection and bringing your audience into the comfort zone. …
With your audience snug in the comfort zone, they’re ready to listen, understand, and believe your ideas.
- Jim Key shares his thoughts on being practical when using notes.
Personally, I dislike using notes during a speech. It ties me down too much, and breaks my connection with the audience when I have to refer back to them. But I’d rather be precise on points (especially new material) than screw up lose effectiveness just because I’m following a rule.
- Rhett Laubach points out the necessity of knowing your enemies: tepidness, separation, and blandness.
Your audience members’ brains require fresh stimuli to motivate attention. Give it to them. Give your presentation some life, zest, excitement, and flavor. They will not only thank you for it, but they will also be more willing and able to take action. This is the hallmark of all truly authentic presenters.
- Garr Reynolds offers a pair of must-see articles on the effective use of visuals:
- Nancy Duarte directs our attention to (political) signs for slide inspiration.
A gal named Laura Macias is running for City Council in Mountain View. I’m not sure who she hired to design her political signs but they look like really bad PowerPoint. When you drive by the corner of Grant and Cuesta, there’s a cluster of signs and you can read all of them but hers.
- Phillip Hudson reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that an Australian Member of Parliament (MP) is advocating PowerPoint during parliamentary speeches.
Mr Harris said PowerPoint presentations could allow MPs to better present their arguments. “The use of such material in presentations adds another dimension to the ability to convey ideas and messages,” he said.
“If we continue to operate Parliament as it did in Dickens’s days, it runs the risk of becoming less relevant to the people it represents in the 21st century.”
- Andrew Abela points out that a report translated into slides is not a presentation.
Projection does not magically turn a stack of information into a presentation. If you want to turn your message into a presentation, you will need to get a clear idea of who your audience is and what you want them to do about your message, and then turn your message into a visually appealing story that will get them to act on your message.
Dave does regular slide makeovers on his blog which I normally find creative and inspiring. But this week […] Dave was stuck within the Overhead Projector Paradigm! And as a result he’s missed the ability to use the visual power of a slide.
- Lisa Braithwaite prompts you to use consider using props.
If you decide to use a prop, make sure it can be seen by everyone in the room, and don’t bring it out until you’re ready to use it; it’s not nearly as much fun when the prop is already sitting there. Extra small or extra big props are extra funny. […]
Props enhance your message, stimulate the audience, and can add a nice touch of humor without much effort.
- Kate Peters explains the importance of breathing exercises.
[I]f you don’t feel like yourself in those first few minutes of speaking, you won’t sound authentic – and if you don’t sound authentic, you’ll undermine your credibility before you even have a chance to get to your message.
So the question is, How do you make sure you sound genuine in those early moments of speaking? The answer: Breathe.
More Analysis of Barack Obama as a Speaker
- Doug Stevenson describes three facets [MP3] of emotional eloquence mastered by Barack Obama.
In speaking, the person with the best idea doesn’t always win. The winner is the person who knows how to connect that idea to an emotional state.
- Dana Bristol-Smith extracts seven communication lessons from Barack Obama.
- Project confidence
- Have a clear message
- Communicate in the way that your audience wants to be communicated to.
- Send a consistent visual image.
- Inspire others to take action by talking about what they want.
- Convey optimism.
- Be humble and the first to make fun of yourself.
- John Kinde shares his District 33 Humorous Contest experience and lessons learned.
So push yourself by entering your club’s next contest. Challenge yourself to work harder. And remember: To succeed today and tomorrow, you’ll need to exceed the standards of yesterday.