Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Public Speaking Tips: Weekend Review [2009-11-07]

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

This super-sized review features topics including:

  • new public speaking books;
  • writing a eulogy;
  • eye contact vs. eye communication;
  • speaking with notes;
  • tools for slide color schemes;
  • the validity of learning styles (are they a myth?);
  • moderating a panel; and
  • being successful as an introvert.

Resources for Speakers – Public Speaking Books

Check out these recently released public speaking and communications books:

In Review: Six Minutes


  • Jonathan Thomas preaches depth rather than breadth in speeches.

A “wide” presentation is one that covers a vast amount of information without going into much detail on any one point. […] The audience gets a shallow view of many points, resulting in few, if any, being recalled. […]

Instead, narrow your presentation focus to a few key points.  Go a little deeper to explain each of those points in a way that the audience will be able to keep up with, understand, and retain.

  • Kelly Decker highlights how President Obama uses a powerful analogy.

Put your politics and feelings about health care and the economy aside to learn a great lesson here. Obama brings ideas to life with his words. […]

He used the concrete analogy of a mop instead of what most politicians and business leaders might have said […]

But instead, he drew a picture. Simply. Right away, you can see that mess and that mop.

  • Denise Graveline provides tips for writing a eulogy.

Try to find a theme or ethic that defined the person’s life and build the eulogy around it. […]

Try to tell some things that no one else knows […]

[…] focus on telling a personal story that evokes something you want to share about your mother, ideally a story that involves you.

Delivery Techniques

  • Jim Anderson reveals why speakers are boring, and offers some antidotes.

Let’s be frank here – most speakers that you listen to really aren’t that good. […]

All too often a speaker will focus exclusively on what they are going to be saying and spend little or no time thinking about how they are going to say it.

If you need an analogy to clear things up, this would be like a chef who worries about what ingredients go into a meal without spending any time thinking about how to actually cook the thing. Sure he’ll be able to make something, but it’s not going to taste very good.

  • Angela DeFinis contrasts 4 methods for delivering a speech: reading, memorizing, impromptu, and extemporaneous.

Ultimately, the speech delivery method you choose will depend on many factors, such as how formal or informal the presentation is, how well you know your subject, who the audience is, and your own comfort level. When you take the time to analyze these factors and educate yourself about your choices, you can make the best decision about what method to use and give a great speech.

  • Bert Decker focuses on the difference between eye contact and eye communication.

Eye contact is fleeting. It can be in passing, just a glance or a fraction of a second. […]

Eye communication is connection – think of eye contact on steroids. It’s the act of two pairs of eyes connecting and the contact leading to communication. Eye communication involves more extended eye contact (at least 3-5 seconds for speakers communicating to a group) that forms a bond between two people.

  • Rich Hopkins lists 7 tips for speaking with notes.

To effectively use cards, print one point per card – one sentence only that will trigger the segment you’ve practiced 100 times. Triggers get you to the story, and prevent you from reading from the card. At most, have a short Transition sentence and the Trigger on each card, to help you go from one point to the next.

In addition to Triggers and Transitions, quotes that must be read correctly belong on notecards, as well as statistics, research attributions, poems – anything that must be word for word.

  • Kathy Reiffenstein suggests how to deliver a difficult speech.

How do you deliver these kinds of messages with grace, poise, and confidence?

  1. Be clear and concise
  2. Empathize
  3. Explain but don’t make excuses
  4. Maintain eye contact
  5. Find a silver lining

Visual Aids

  • Dave Paradi shows how to improve a slide which includes a graph from another source.
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  • Garr Reynolds reviews Kuler, a tool to help you choose slide color schemes.

Although scores of good books on color theory have been written — many even for non-designers — most working professionals just do not have the time to delve deeply into a study of the complexities of using color. The good news is that there are online resources that can help you create harmonious color themes without requiring advance knowledge in color theory. There are a few really good online resources such as ColorSchemer and Colourlovers, but my personal favorite is Kuler.

  • Chris Atherton says the only rule that matters is the rule of attention.

[This blog post is] ostensibly about the mistakes students make when they give presentations, but really it’s about how the only rules you need to know about giving a good presentation are the ones about human attention.

Speaker Habits

  • Stephanie Scotti ponders what it takes to own the room.

This is no longer a ballroom, or a boardroom, or a trade show hall… it’s your living room. And the audience, each and every one of them, is a welcomed guest.

Just as you would greet guests arriving at your home, adopt the same attitude in welcoming listeners to your presentation. This simple change of perspective allows you to project confidence and manage the dynamics of the room. Because, after all, you’re the host.

  • Martin Shovel cautions you against blindly accepting scientific speaking theories. Among other arguments, he points to a video from Professor Daniel Willingham which argues that learning styles (e.g. visual vs. auditory vs. kinesthetic) are a myth.
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  • Kathy Reiffenstein provides 10 tips for moderating a panel.
  1. Act as the audience’s advocate
  2. Hold a pre-event briefing
  3. Make short, interesting introductions
  4. Set the stage up front
  5. Manage the timing and balance
  6. Be prepared and be flexible
  7. Don’t answer questions directed at panelists
  8. Be aware of your body language
  9. Develop a strategy for questions
  10. Look at audience, not panelists
  • Jim Harvey notes that confidence can decrease your effectiveness.

The problem for experienced and skilled presenters is that they often become ‘performers’ and switch off the thing that made them good in the first place, their warmth and honesty as a person.

  • Lisa Braithwaite distinguishes between our four vocabularies: reading vocabulary, listening vocabulary, writing vocabulary, and speaking vocabulary.

How do we explore our vocabulary and get greater usage from it? When I suggest exploring your vocabulary, I’m not suggesting using bigger or more complicated words, or necessarily learning more words (although that’s not a bad idea). What I am suggesting is saying what you really mean and using vocabulary to be more clear in your communication. Especially if, like me, you find yourself in a rut using the same words over and over, and you know there are better options.

Professionally Speaking

  • Joanna Martin probes how to choose a speaking niche.

I had one participant wanting to niche in teenagers because he saw his purpose as helping to empower them. There’s one huge problem with trying to sell to teenagers though. Do they have the money to spend on your product or service?

Communication Skills and Personality

  • Nancy Ancowitz reflects on the challenges of being successful as an introvert.
    (Thanks to Denise Graveline for flagging the New York Times article.)

One day, something clicked for me. I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a popular personality assessment, as part of a team-building program at work. To my surprise, I discovered that I was an introvert — and that this wasn’t a handicap or a disorder, but just an aspect of my personality with its own strengths and challenges.

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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 icon1 Comment

  1. Lydia says:

    Here’s another great article on public speaking tips for teens:


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