Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Public Speaking Tips:
Weekend Review [2010-02-06]

Week In Review

Twice each month, Six Minutes weekend reviews bring you the best public speaking articles from throughout the public speaking blogosphere.

Please share them with anyone you feel would benefit from the tips and techniques.

This review features topics including:

  • recently released public speaking books;
  • storytelling and details;
  • remedies for voice malfunctions;
  • handling hecklers;
  • thanking the audience;
  • cartoons in presentations;
  • rehearsal strategies;
  • a speech critique of Sir Ken Robinson;
  • and more!

From the Six Minutes Archives

One Year Ago from Six Minutes

Two Years Ago from Six Minutes

Recently on Six Minutes…

Resources for Speakers – Public Speaking Books

Check out these recently released public speaking and communications books:


  • Denise Graveline urges you to add compelling details to stories.

Telling a story can be a powerful way to engage your audience, breathe life into a speech or presentation, get away from jargon to explain a complex point, or persuade your listeners.  But if you want the telling to be compelling, you need to sweat the details.

  • Fred Miller emphasizes the importance of a strong speech closing.

This is why it is mandatory that you have a strong opening and a strong closing.  And of the two, more often than not, the closing will be recalled more than any other part of the presentation.

Memorize and practice, practice, practice your opening and closing!  Rehearse it so it becomes second nature to you.

Remember, though, it’s the first time this audience will hear it.  Don’t lose the enthusiasm and emotion you had when delivering the closing many audiences ago!

Delivery Techniques

  • Kate Peters provides 3 remedies for common voice malfunctions.
  1. If your voice croaks like a frog…
  2. If your voice shakes…
  3. If you get a tickle…
  • Jim Anderson wonders how to handle hecklers.

When it comes to dealing with a heckler, a speaker’s options are somewhat limited. What is going on here is a power play – you own the stage, but the heckler is trying to take over your audience. The big unanswered question is which way will the audience go – will they side with the heckler or will they side with you, the speaker.

  • Ellen Finkelstein shares a Toastmasters debate on whether to thank the audience or not.

I do like the idea of not making “thank you” your last words, though, and leaving the audience with a final, uplifting point. For example, I might say, “Thanks for your attention and remember that you CAN present complex data clearly!”

  • Terry Gault questions responding in the Q&A with “That’s a good question.

It’s a value judgment about the quality of the question.  If the questioner didn’t think it was a good question, they would not have asked it.

Visual Aids

  • Troy Chollar demonstrates how to create an animated countdown timer in PowerPoint. [Ed. I’m going to try something like this to time out the breaks the next time I teach a course.]
  • Philippa Leguen de Lacroix weighs the pros and cons of using cartoons in your presentation.


  1. The cartoon can be a distraction
  2. The complexity or subtle humour of the cartoon may be lost on the audience
  3. Your credibility may be undermined


  1. You can reinforce your point
  2. The cartoon is a mind-break
  3. Cartoons are entertaining!
  4. Communication and learning works best using a combination of images and narrative
  • Jan Schultink gives a step-by-step guide to effective slides with ample whitespace.

White space is a powerful element in slide design. An image with the subject in the center often does not leave enough space to let the slide breathe a bit. The following image sequence explain a work around. Basically, you stretch the background of the image without stretching and distorting the image subject itself.

Speaker Habits

  • Bert Decker sums up one of my beliefs which led to founding Six Minutes: perpetual growth.

You’re either improving or decaying. […] There is no in between. […]

We’re all moving along the continuum of effective communicators. Even when you reach your goal as a communicator, the journey continues.

[…] Whatever you have achieved, there is always more work to be done. This is especially true when it comes to your image as a communicator.

  • Stephanie Scotti suggests a strategy for rehearsal.

My rule of thumb is that a presentation that’s “well done” on paper is probably about 70% done in reality. On average, it takes three to five focused rehearsals for a speaker to really seal the deal — especially when it comes to critical or career-defining presentations.

  • John Zimmer critiques Sir Ken Robinson’s TED speech.

  • His talk seemed less a presentation to the audience and more a conversation with the audience.
  • He did not need a single PowerPoint slide or other prop to support his talk.
  • He involved the audience in many ways: his use of the word “we”; his asking several rhetorical questions; his reference to different things that the audience had experienced while at TED (e.g., his mentioning at 2:50, 13.30 and 17:55 other talks that the audience had heard); etc.
  • He told stories! Great ones! Memorable ones! Stories that reinforced his main point.

Professional Speaking

  • Cynthia Starks reports on a United States Supreme Court decision that may have consequences for corporate communicators.

“Thursday morning the Supreme Court, by an ideologically predictable 5-to-4 margin, overturned as unconstitutional laws that ban corporations from running TV ads explicitly backing or opposing candidates during election campaigns.”

Startling as the decision is, it’s also an opportunity for communications professionals to craft messages executives should be giving to their stakeholders in the coming weeks and months.

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