Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Best Public Speaking Tips and Techniques: Weekend Review [2009-05-09]

Week In ReviewOn Saturdays, we survey the best public speaking articles from throughout the public speaking blogosphere.

This review features topics including:

  • fundamental speechwriting techniques;
  • tips for valedictory or commencement speeches;
  • avoiding “waxy” words;
  • the benefits of speaking slower;
  • making public speaking fun;
  • a plethora of tips for designing better visuals;
  • logistics and preparation;
  • overcoming public speaking fear;
  • effective speech introductions; and
  • tips for professional speakers.


  • Kathy Reiffenstein offers a three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) on fundamental  speechwriting techniques such as alliteration, antithesis, and rhetorical questions.

Words are the primary mechanism we use to transmit ideas. Words encourage, challenge, persuade, teach and transform. Yet many business presenters speak without adequate knowledge of, or attention to, the tools that can hone their craft.

  • Vinca Lafleur and Jeff Nussbaum give 6 ways to make a great commencement speech. (Thanks to Ian Griffin for pointing to this.)
  1. Be brief.
  2. It’s the audience that matters.
  3. Avoid an esoteric structure.
  4. Remember this is a day of celebration. Don’t make the speech a downer.
  5. If you see the humor in life, share that humor in your speech.
  6. Share the perspective that is uniquely yours.
  • Joey Asher provides a valedictory speech template.

Good valedictory speeches reflect on high school years, tell stories, and mention lots of names.

  • Bronwyn Ritchie warns against the use of waxy, or superfluous, words.

Word wax my be defined as any phrase, any group of words, which is not an integral part of the thought you seek to express…

  • “This is absolutely and positively essential” vs. “This is essential”…
  • “What I’m trying to say is…”
  • “As I said before…”
  • “It seems to me that…”

Delivery Techniques

  • Olivia Mitchell suggests how to prevent and recover from mind blanks.

Are you concerned that you might suffer a mind blank during a presentation? The fear of a mind blank can be a large part of the fear of public speaking for many people. It happened to Sally Field in her Emmy Acceptance speech in 2007…

  • Andrew Lightheart examines how speaking slower benefits you and your listeners.
  • You never run away at the mouth
  • You come across as more credible
  • In order to speak slower, you’re going to have to learn to relax
  • You begin to realize that there is plenty of time — time to notice what’s happening with the people you’re talking to
  • The slower you go, the more in control you are of making the message relevant
  • John Kinde analyzes how to be successful when topping a joke.

In this case the Joke, Topper, Topper sequence worked perfectly.  Each subsequent addition to the humor progression received a stronger response than the previous. Ideally, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Visual Aids

  • Jan Schultink shows how to improve a poorly-designed chart slide through a series of small design changes to colors, shapes, and usage of space.

The idea is to make the data as calm as possible. Also note that through consistent use of corporate colors there is no need for additional “house style” graphical elements on the pace.

  • Brent Dykes performs a slide makeover beginning with bullet points and ending with a visual buffet by following a five-point approach:
  1. Admit your slide has a text problem,
  2. Highlight key points within bullet points,
  3. Remove all extraneous copy from bullet points,
  4. Add an (relevant) image to increase slide appeal, OR
  5. Replace bullet points with images
  • Mike Pulsifer demonstrates several visual options to the boring agenda slide.
  1. Conversational style
  2. Pie chart
  3. Call-outs on a timeline
  4. Blocks on a timeline
  • Olivia Mitchell outlines 7 techniques to improve your delivery of visual-enhanced material (that is, how to improve how you deliver when you have slides)
  1. Make your point and then click on the slide to underline or reinforce what you’ve just said.
  2. Let the slide speak for itself.
  3. Let the animation on the slide can do all the talking.
  4. Use visual signposting (letting your audience know where you are in your presentation, where you’re going and where you’ve been).
  5. Setup a controversial statement
  6. The touch-screen trick
  7. Printout a copy of your slides (from Slide Sorter view) as a guide for yourself

“May I have a copy of your PowerPoint presentation?” asks an audience member.

“What for?” I ask.

“So that I can look at it later.”

“Is there something I said that isn’t clear? Do we need to go back?” I ask.

“No, no. Great presentation. I just want a hard copy.”

“Well, no,” I answer. “My PowerPoint slides are my props. They’re not my presentation.”

Would you go up to a juggler and ask, “Neat act! May I have your balls?”

  • Troy Chollar demonstrates how to create a dynamic entrance animation based on your corporate or organization logo. [Normally, I’m not too keen on messing with PowerPoint animations, but I think this type of animation adds a professional touch to the start of your slide deck.]

Speaker Habits

  • Lisa Braithwaite urges speakers to overcome chronic lack of preparation.

You need to make a change. You need to commit to thorough preparation. You need to give yourself enough time to think it all through, construct it well, practice it completely and really be ready when it’s time to present.

If you want to get to the next level and you’re always throwing together your presentations at the last minute, forget it. It’s not going to happen.

  • Ian Griffin argues that public speakers must pay attention to logistics.

I rely on a standard three-page logistics form. This includes data on location, date and time of the talk. It includes the speech length, other speakers on the Agenda, audience size and expectations. I also list press and PR contacts and both the event coordinator and A/V contact details. Having a standard template minimizes the chances that something will slip through the cracks.

  • Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin offers a clinical perspective on how to overcome public speaking fear.
  1. Don’t avoid it.
  2. Know your topic inside and out.
  3. Get organized.
  4. Use audio and visual aids — for yourself, and for the audience.
  5. Practice, and then practice some more
  6. Practice in front of people you know.
  7. Know your audience.
  8. Double-check the room setup.
  9. Relax.
  10. Focus on your material, not your audience.
  11. Trust your audience.
  12. Don’t be afraid of a moment of silence.
  13. Recognize your success.
  14. Get support.
  • Jim Anderson examines the goals for an effective speech introduction.

A good introduction needs to contain three things:

  1. Content: What are you going to be talking about? This is designed to grab your audience’s attention so that they will be eager to hear more.
  2. Context: Just knowing WHAT you will be talking about is not enough, your audience needs to know WHY you will be talking about it and why they should care. Providing them with this information will start to build a bridge between you on stage and the audience even before you start to speak.
  3. Credibility: Providing the audience with a reason why you are the best person to be talking to them about this topic is the final part of an introduction. All too often we put too much information here (we are, after all, proud of ourselves). In all honesty, one or two sentences does the trick.
  • Denise Graveline lists 5 tips for introducing a speaker.
  1. Don’t put it together at the last minute.
  2. Do ask the speaker for input.
  3. Don’t read the bio.
  4. Do add some perspective of your own.
  5. Don’t skimp.

Professionally Speaking

  • Susan Trivers suggests several ways to embed your brand into your audience’s minds during a presentation.

Promotional products are an easy and inexpensive way to keep your company top of mind. A mug, a pen or a magnet is in view daily and you hope they cause your clients or prospects to call you.

But when you simply hand them out to anyone who crosses your path or sits in your audiences, you devalue them like so much scrap paper or waste…

  • Jane Atkinson encourages you to analyze your knowledge about aspects of the speaking business.

When it comes to running your speaking business, there are 3 types of speakers:

  1. The Hopeful Speaker
  2. The 2/3rds Speaker
  3. The “Just Do It” speaker

A Personal Note

It’s been a while since I’ve been publishing on Six Minutes, but articles should appear regularly once again.

I’ve been busy teaching courses, reading some excellent public speaking books, and successfully running the Vancouver International Marathon (my first!)… all of which should provide wonderful Six Minute articles in the future.

Thanks to everyone who contacted me to see if everything was alright.

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Find more helpful public speaking articles in previous weekend reviews which are published regularly on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon2 Comments

  1. Great list this week (or technically, last week), Andrew. Bunch of good articles to follow up on!

  2. This is one brilliant repository of speaking articles and advice. Occasionally, I need assistance and I know that I’ll be coming back a great deal. Rgds Vince

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