Article Category: Weekend Reviews

Public Speaking Tips:
Weekend Review [2009-11-21]

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

This review features topics including:

  • fear of public speaking;
  • keeping your audience’s attention;
  • storytelling tips;
  • facilitating small-group discussions;
  • PowerPoint in the classroom

In Review: Six Minutes

Fear of Public Speaking

  • Dr. Tania Smith asserts that fear of public speaking is a worn-out cliche. This article is a must read, particularly if you are a public speaking instructor or coach.
    [Thanks to Richard Garber for the link.]

How many times have you heard or read the claim that the average person fears public speaking more than they fear death?

If you search online for “fear of public speaking,” […] you will find — web sites that are providing advice or coaching on public speaking. […]

The fear is often vaguely cited from hearsay, and often involves a misinterpretation of the usual survey methods and results.

When a speaker fails to back up specific claims about the “fear of public speaking,” it becomes a rhetorical cliche.


  • Olivia Mitchell lists 7 ways to keep audience attention.
  1. Talk about something your audience is interested in.
  2. Tell them why they should listen.
  3. Don’t make it too easy or too hard.
  4. Change grabs attention.
  5. Tell stories.
  6. Have frequent breaks.
  7. Make it short.
  • Craig Valentine shares his method to hook your audience into a story.

This is what I call the Tap, Tease, and Transport method. It is a three step process which includes:

  1. Tapping into your audiences’ mind with a question
  2. Teasing them to want to know more
  3. Transporting them into your story
  • Doug Stevenson ponders when to tell a story and what story to tell.

Use strategically chosen stories to manage the energy of your audience while continuing to inform and influence. Certain stories are great openers and others are great closers. Stories that are more serious and emotional belong in the middle third of a presentation.

  • Rich Hopkins states that originality is overrated.

You want to talk about Change? Been done. Leadership? There are speakers all over this one. Self-empowerment? Choice? PowerPoint? Speaking? Social Media? Weight Loss? Healthcare? The horrors of children’s television? Done, done, done, done, done, done, done, and double done! […]

Originality is overrated. Your unique perspective and passion, however, are not.

  • Jim Anderson lists 4 questions every audience asks themself.
  1. Am I going to take the time to listen to this speaker?
  2. Am I going to benefit from what he / she talks about?
  3. Will they say anything that is valuable that I can take and use?
  4. Will anything that they say be worthwhile for me to take action on?

Delivery Techniques

  • Lisa Braithwaite encourages you to use a microphone rather than straining.

Even if you can be heard in the last row without shouting, you will be straining your voice to some degree if you have to give an hour-long or longer presentation to a large group. In order to be heard, you will have to make the effort to project your voice the whole time. In addition, you will be close to your maximum range in terms of volume, without yelling, and you won’t have a lot of options with vocal variety.

  • Rhett Laubach gives 9 tips for leading a small-group discussion.
  1. Have a casual presence
  2. Address each individual by name and be personable with them
  3. Set time limits on discussions
  4. Mix up cliques in the room
  5. Paraphrase comments
  6. Make certain the group gets to physically move around at least every 60 minutes or so
  7. Encourage note taking
  8. Call out anyone who is actively being disruptive
  9. Do your absolute best to keep the discussion focused and on track.

Visual Aids

  • Jeffrey Young discusses PowerPoint in the classroom.
    [Thanks to Chris Witt for the link.]

Students in the survey gave low marks not just to PowerPoint, but also to all kinds of computer-assisted classroom activities, even interactive exercises in computer labs. “The least boring teaching methods were found to be seminars, practical sessions, and group discussions,” said the report. In other words, tech-free classrooms were the most engaging.

  • Dave Paradi reports results from a survey about what audiences find most annoying.
    [Results are consistent with an earlier survey posted on Six Minutes.]
  • Poor presentation skills
  • Presenters not being prepared
  • Non-professional graphics and use of animation
  • Packing too much on a slide
  • Poor or non-existent template design
  • John Zimmer advises how to organize slides with portraits and words.

Psychologists have found that most people have their vision “pulled” in the same direction as that in which the person in the picture is looking. Yet we also want to read the words; thus when they are on the other side, we are simultaneously pulled in the opposite direction. […]

The next time you combine pictures of people and words on a slide, make them work as effectively as possible by having the people look at the words.

Speaker Habits

  • Denise Graveline provides a checklist for examining your venue.

Professionally Speaking

  • Ian Griffin discusses social networking for the professional speaker.

By now you’ve heard that social media is the latest trend in networking, […]

Beyond the hype and the very real danger that social media—like all shiny, new things—can become a time-sink and little more, there is real business value in using sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. For one thing, you can use all of these popular social media sites to get closer to your audience and understand what they need by performing valuable, up-to-date market research online.

  • Jane Atkinson reveals the winner of her best speaking-expert website contest.

Here are some of the criteria: […]

  1. Promise: First and foremost, the website must demonstrate a clear promise for your customer.
  2. Outcome: The website speaks to the outcome for the buyer – rather than focusing on you!
  3. Expert First: Position as an expert first and a speaker second.


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