Do We Share Emotions – And Does That Matter?

An old philosophical debate asks the question, how do we know that our emotions are commensurate with one another? Meaning, can we tell if my experience of joy or sorrow is similar to yours? How can we tell if we mean the same thing by the words – or not? Philosophy has gone in two directions, roughly speaking. Either you argue that emotions are unknowable and we are essentially isolated from one… Read More

The Little Trick That Will Make Your Audiences Trust You

I am happy to report good news for speakers. A recent study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin offers a relatively easy way to increase your connection with an audience along one significant dimension. To understand what’s going on, it’s useful to know something about an older body of research on what’s important to audiences in speakers. What makes for a successful speaker, in short? The answer is two-fold: trust and… Read More

Dealing with the Fear of Public Speaking

Most of us have heard about a study that claims public speaking is our number one fear. Jerry Seinfeld even made a joke out of it, noting that if fear of public speaking was number one, and death was lower down the list, it meant that people would rather die than give the eulogy at the funeral. Now comes a study – surveying Americans – to check up on those fears. Is public… Read More

Beware Perfectionism in Public Speaking

I saw a study recently in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review (I read these things so you don’t have to) that caught my eye because it addressed indirectly a problem known to public speakers everywhere: perfectionism. The study is what as known as a meta-analysis, meaning that it’s a statistical analysis of many studies. That helps get you around some typical problems of psychological research: small sample size and un-replicable… Read More

Beware the Latest Speaker Scam

A few years ago I became aware of a speaker scam that was making the rounds, preying on eager speakers by inviting them to give a speech in a distant (usually African) country for a large sum of money. The text varies, but the there were a few constants. The time was short (I suppose to give you less time to figure out that it was a scam) the amount of money… Read More

How To Boost Your Memory – And Your Audience’s

First the bad news. Yoga does not significantly boost your memory. Very good for you in many ways – I practice it (a little, not enough) and recommend it to all and sundry – but not a memory booster. You’re waiting for some good news. It is this: you can boost memory significantly by engaging in proprioceptive activities. Why is that good news, for speakers? Because you can, by extension, boost your… Read More

A Simple Body Language Trick to Increase Your Audience’s Trust in You

I’ve written occasionally about the power of mirroring to create trust in human interaction. The reason is relatively straightforward – we are more inclined to trust people who look and feel similar to us, and that is precisely what you do when you mirror someone. Recent studies show that mirroring makes a sales pitch 20 percent more effective, and that in salary negotiations you can get up to 1/3 more by mirroring… Read More

How to Increase the Persuasiveness of Your Speaking

I was struck recently by a set of research studies that reinforced the importance of touch in persuasion. Touching people (in a safe place such as the upper arm) causes them to leave bigger tips, return lost money, provide help to strangers, sign petitions, and assign higher status to the person doing the touching. Touching someone twice increased the effects. That got me thinking about how the importance of touch might apply… Read More

Ten Questions Public Speakers Should Ask Themselves Before They Speak

My favorite quote about public speaking is “the only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” I began my first book, Working the Room, with it — and it got re-titled in honor of the quote as Give Your Speech, Change the World. It does not come from President Kennedy, as many have thought. The origin is uncertain. I was thinking once again about this quotation when I ran… Read More

How to Warm Up for a Presentation

Today’s the day. You have a presentation to give. It’s your biggest audience yet. The organizers tell you there could be as many as five hundred people in the room. You can’t afford to screw up now. What thoughts run through your mind? Will I screw up? Will it go well? What if the technology fails? What if the audience gets bored? What if they don’t laugh at my jokes? What if… Read More