Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Public Speaking Tips: Weekend Review #95

Week In Review


Six Minutes weekend reviews bring the best public speaking articles to you.

This review features topics including:

  • using quotations;
  • storytelling;
  • message sharpening;
  • weasel words;
  • Q&A strategies;
  • a free download;
  • and more!

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  • Carol Kinsey Goman tells why leaders should tell stories.

Good stories supplement analysis by supplying the context that gives facts meaning. Storytelling is a “pull” strategy, in which listeners are invited to participate in the experience and to imagine themselves acting in the mental movie that the storyteller is presenting. Stories resonate with adults in ways that can bring them back to a childlike open-mindedness — in which they are less resistant to new and different ideas.

  • Dan Schawbel interviews Paul Smith about using storytelling as a leadership tool.

Why is the art of storytelling so important to business leaders?

Because you can’t just order people to “be more creative” or to “get motivated” or to “start loving your job.” The human brain doesn’t work that way. But you can lead them there with a good story. You can’t even successfully order people to “follow the rules” because nobody reads the rulebook. But people will read a good story about a guy who broke the rules and got fired, or a woman who followed the rules and got a raise. And that would be more effective than reading the rulebook anyway.

  • R. L. Howser encourages you to narrow down to the essential message.

We come to hear you not for the breadth of your knowledge, but for the quality of judgment that your knowledge, your experience and your training has given you.

Because you are the expert, you know enough to separate the essential from the irrelevant, the fundamental from the fashionable and the profound from the trivial. That’s why we come to you.

  • Claire Duffy highlights J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement speech of 2008.

Candid self-reflection is a powerful tool. Famous people are role models.  While Rowling’s  career trajectory would be  impossible to emulate, her brilliant success gives her influence and a moral authority which should be put to good use. Her speech is not ‘Here’s how I did it, you can do it too’, but ‘Here’s what I learned, and you can learn from it too’.

Delivery Techniques

  • Nick Morgan cautions against using weasel words.

What are weasel words?  Words that undercut the strength of the sentences they’re lodged in.  The most common one that I hear is “actually.”  Pay attention to your colleagues today when they speak, and I guarantee you that one of them will use “actually” in almost every phrase – without irony or awareness.  Be warned:  when you start noticing, it will drive you mad.

PowerPoint and Visuals

  • Marc Jadoul gives several examples of quotations on slides.
  • John Zimmer advocates using empty black slides.

[…] if you are going to spend an extended period of time discussing something that you have just shown, and if your audience does not need the information on the screen as a reference, going to black will allow your listeners to focus on the discussion instead of letting their eyes wander back to the screen as is only human nature.

Speaker Habits

  • Denise Graveline articulates six scenarios under which speakers should ask questions during Q&A.

But speakers don’t have to limit themselves to the A in Q&A. In fact, I’d recommend judicious use of questions when these situations arise in news conferences, conference calls or standard presentations and speeches.

Speaker Resources

  • The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has published a free PDF with a wealth of speaking advice. Though it is written for scientists, nearly all of the advice is applicable for all speakers.

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