Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Public Speaking Tips: Weekend Review [2009-08-29]

Week In ReviewThis is the biggest review ever, highlighting 30 great articles!

On Saturdays, we survey the best public speaking articles from throughout the public speaking blogosphere.

This review features topics including:

  • book recommendations;
  • persuasive speaking;
  • speech openings;
  • speaking to children;
  • handling interruptions;
  • reading your speech;
  • PowerPoint design tips;
  • rehearsal tips;
  • strategies for overcoming public speaking fear; and
  • Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking recaps.

Resources for Speakers

Overall, I recommend this book (4.0 stars out of five stars) as it covers four essential principles of design – alignment, repetition/consistency, proximity, and contrast – as well as key considerations such as color and type (fonts). […]

For me, some of the most compelling parts of Presentation Zen were what Garr Reynolds calls the “big four” design principles. Williams’ design book focuses on these four essential design principles and is a great reference for all “non-designers” – which is probably the vast majority of PowerPoint users.

Eidenmuller has spent his life devoted to collecting and analyzing speeches and he comes across with a humble authority as he writes. It’s a smart book that’s written in a very accessible style and tone. He wonderfully analyzed 6 speeches, put them in their historical context and explains how the situation, content, structure, style, delivery and rhetoric played a role in the speeches.

  • Rhett Laubach shares his favorite sources for music, images, videos, and activities.

One of the most common questions I get after a program is, “where do you get your music, images, videos, activities, etc. So, here is a quick list of my favorite and most used resources to help make my programs interactive and a rich experience.

  • Denise Graveline provides a speaker’s checklist.

But to succeed as a speaker, you need to prepare the whole speaker for your presentation, not just one or two parts of yourself.

Here’s a checklist I like to use to make sure my own preparations are complete before I speak.


  • Jim Anderson outlines how to craft a simple, persuasive argument.

There is no doubt about it – winning people over to your way of thinking is just about the hardest type of speech to give. […] it requires that you do a lot of homework in order to prepare your arguments with an understanding of the facts and what your audience is currently thinking.

[…] using a three-part structure is not a rule set in concrete. Sometimes your presentation will be more effective with more points. There’s a risk though, that each time you add a point, you dilute the power of the points that came before.

So you need to be clear that more than three points really are necessary. Here’s the distinction to make: is each point part of a logical sequence? Or can each point can stand alone?

  • Diane DiResta lists (and briefly explains) 10 ways to start your speech strong.
  1. Startling statement
  2. Surprising action
  3. Humor
  4. Purpose statement
  5. Begin with the end
  6. Ask a question
  7. Quote
  8. Visual Aid
  9. Personal experience
  10. Anecdote

Delivery Techniques

  • James Feudo provides numerous tips for how to speak effectively to children, including:
  • If at all possible, insist that a parent, teacher or other adult responsible for the children be present during your speech.
  • If a kid assumes a heckler type role or becomes too disruptive, request that he or she be removed immediately.
  • If you’re speaking about a mature topic such as sex or alcohol, prepare yourself for the ways kids might react.
  • Diane DiResta gives tips for speaking from a lectern.
  • Don’t lean
  • Stand up straight
  • Prepare the lectern in advance
  • Don’t staple your notes
  • Gesture high and wide
  • Push your energy
  • Step to the side of the lectern
  • Adjust the lectern for height
  • Ian Griffin describes techniques for handling interruptions.

What should executives do when their listeners speak up and speak out, and the flow of their carefully scripted speeches becomes a backdrop for somebody else’s agenda? The answer is that they should expect the unexpected and be prepared to handle feisty audiences.

  • Jerry Weissman explains why you might consider sitting down to present.

[…] when both the presenter and audience are seated and are at the same eye level, they share an empathic bond. When the presenter stands, the difference in eye levels creates a subtle psychological edge.

Most presenters aren’t skilled at giving presentations, but you don’t tell them not to do it because they’re not professionals. You tell them to get instruction so they can do it better.

Most presenters are not skilled at using PowerPoint, but the solution is not to stop using it. It’s to get instruction so they’ll be able to use it more effectively.

And most speakers are not skilled at reading a speech, but the solution is not to avoid reading a speech. It’s to get instruction so they’ll be able to do it better.

  • Vivek Singh questions why so many presenters talk to the screen.

Why does it happen?

It happens when you are not prepared with your content. When you have not rehearsed well. When you prepare the slides a night before and don’t even remember the order in which you put your slides. This forces you to keep looking at the slide so that you don’t forget.

Visual Aids

  • Garr Reynolds illustrates 11 ways to use images poorly in slides.
  • Image too small
  • Image is placed randomly on slide
  • Image is almost full-screen but not quite
  • Image is of poor quality (pixelated)
  • Image is of poor quality & contains watermark
  • Image is stretched horizonally & distorted
  • Image is stretched vertically & distorted
  • Presenter tiles image
  • Clip art is chosen
  • Image is lame & has nothing to do with content
  • Background image has too much salience (text hard to see)
  • Angela DeFinis shares the 7 deadly sins of PowerPoint.
  1. Dense sentences in small (6-8) point font
  2. Disregard for basic design elements
  3. Impenetrable number slides
  4. The wrong design template
  5. Text-only word slides
  6. Multi-layered graphs and charts
  7. Complete sentence passages
  • Kevin Purdy explains when bar charts are superior to pie charts.

Pie charts look cooler than other kinds of charts. They’re based on pie, after all, and seem less accountant-like than bars, bubbles, and lines. They are, however, often a very wrong way to represent subtle but important differences.

  • Vivek Singh demonstrates how to present information, not data.

Most presenters are victims of ‘data traps’. They end up sharing just data in one form or the other. You use a table or a bar, you are still presenting ‘data’ not information.

Information is when you crunch data and cull out something more meaningful (an insight).

  • Jan Schultink considers the use of Excel instead of PowerPoint as a presentation tool.

For certain types of presentations, you should consider using Excel as the presentation tool instead of PowerPoint. Quarterly results presentations are an obvious candidate:

  • Massive amounts of dense data […]
  • Time pressure; the numbers come in fresh from the accounting systems and need to go straight into the Board document, […]
  • Presentations that need to be updated all the time but basically look the same […]
  • Complex analysis that needs to be redone […]
  • Max Atkinson discusses (part 1; part 2; part 3) PowerPoint and the demise of “chalk & talk”.

When new universities were being built during the 1960s, there were arguments at some of them about whether to install blackboards or whiteboards in the lecture theatres. The pro-blackboard lobby opposed change because, they claimed, it would spell the end of tax relief for damage to clothes from chalk dust. Advocates of white boards thought them trendy, modern and more in keeping with the architecture of the new universities.

But one thing that was never questioned by either side was that writing or drawing on boards, whether black or white, was an indispensable part of the presentational process.

Public Speaking Fear

  • Frank Damelio asserts that projecting confidence will calm your fears.

  • Jason Peck comments on magic pills to reduce public speaking anxiety, and suggests alternative approaches.

While it’s all well and good that people have attempted to create a public speaking cure, I don’t believe that there is a “magic pill” that you can take to alleviate your public speaking fears.

In response to an inquiry by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Deephaven Nutraceuticals has voluntarily agreed to discontinue certain advertising claims and testimonials for the company’s “Bravina” dietary supplement, advertised as a product for “sufferers of public speaking anxiety.” NAD found the company’s action necessary and proper; further, NAD recommended that the company discontinue marketing the product as “The Speech Pill.”

  • Olivia Mitchell argues that public speaking fear can make you a better speaker.

Preparation and rehearsal take time and effort. We need to be motivated to do it – and fear is a great motivator. People without fear tend to skimp on preparation and rehearsal, they wing it. So they waffle and ramble their way through their minutes on stage.

Let your fear motivate you to prepare and rehearse and you’ll be a more effective speaker.

  • Lisa Braithwaite points out that avoiding speaking intensifies your fear.

Avoiding the thing that triggers your anxiety is the best way to keep it hanging over your head and controlling you. And the longer you avoid the scary thing, the bigger and scarier it gets.

Speaker Habits

  • Kathy Reiffenstein explains how to rehearse more effectively.

One of the key methods I recommend is rehearsing out loud so you can hear what you sound like. […]

The crux of the issue is whether or not the person rehearsing knows: how to do the activity correctly AND how to assess or evaluate the result.

Professionally Speaking

  • Nick R Thomas weighs the pros and cons of turning down a (paid) speaking engagement.

Progressing as a speaker means that you have to strike a balance between accepting bookings which stretch you and avoiding those which turn out to be nightmares – whatever the fee!


  • Jim Key reflects on the 2009 World Championship of Public Speaking as well.

The contest, quite simply, was very good. […] It was obvious that the contestants had each put a considerable amount of work (aka. blood, sweat, and tears) into their speeches, because they each brought excellence to the stage.

  • James Feudo points out why Toastmasters members should speak at service clubs.
  • They get your name out to others in your community. This could lead to additional bookings.
  • You can get speech credit if you bring an evaluator with you.
  • You often get a longer speaking slot than you’d get at Toastmasters.
  • It’s a great opportunity to practice answering questions.
  • You’ll come across some distractions that typically don’t occur in Toastmasters meetings.
  • Lisa Braithwaite lists 7 places to practice public speaking.
  • Church
  • Networking organizations
  • Events
  • Toastmasters
  • Volunteer and service organizations
  • Your child’s school
  • Class

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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. Wow, Andrew. You’ve outdone yourself this week. I’ve just opened half the links in your post to read later. Great references.

  2. david says:

    Wow.. great references.. really helpful

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