The Three Tasks of a Public Speaker

The work of a public speaker is never done. You can never complete your expertise – true knowledge of a subject is the work of a lifetime. You can never finish perfecting your presentation – even Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech had some slips of the tongue, and it is generally considered one of the best speeches of the last century. It’s too early in this century to talk… Read More

How to Prepare a Presentation

How do you prepare for an upcoming presentation? Let’s say it’s an important one, so you’re not going to wing it, just showing up in the moment and saying whatever comes into your mind. Not a good idea, really, even for a minor presentation, so good for you for prepping – this time.

Slideware: Just Don’t Do It

I was talking this week to a very nice group of folks who were prepping me for a speech to their organization in December. We first talked about the audience, their issues, what they needed to hear, and what was keeping them up at night. Then, we discussed logistics. And during the course of this logistics discussion, The Question came up, as it always does: are you going to use slides?

The Five Basic Secrets of Great Speechwriting

This is my most popular blog post ever.  I’m trying to grab a little vacation this week, so enjoy, and forgive the summer re-run. David McCloud, the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Virginia, taught me how to write a great speech: •    Great speeches are primarily emotional, not logical •    Small shifts in tone make an enormous difference to the audience, so sweat the details •    A great speech has… Read More

Which Is Better — A Humble Speaker or an Arrogant One?

Should a speaker be humble or – its opposite? Let’s call it ‘arrogant’? ‘Conceited’? ‘Egotistical’? Or the more neutral ‘assertive’? It takes some confidence to stand up in front of an audience and share your ideas, your passions, your point of view. And in fact, in my coaching, I spend a good deal of time helping clients move past issues of the lack of confidence manifesting itself in one form or another…. Read More

The Promises a Speaker Makes

A speaker makes two kinds of promises to an audience – the explicit and the implicit.  Explicit promises involve foreshadowing, framing, and creating signposts in your talk (by the end of the talk, you’ll know how to charm sparrows from trees and have them eating out of your hand; there are five ways to prevent early hair loss; that child never saw its parents again).  Implicit promises center on the premise of… Read More

Storytelling, Framing, and Memory

We expect powerful people to give us the overview, the high-level view.  Specifically, a recent study found, we rate people as more powerful when they speak in abstract terms (9/11 was a terrible terrorist attack), rather than specifics (more than 3,000 people died). More generally, previous studies have shown that people learn new things using two parts of their brain, the first gathering the data, and the second (the pre-frontal cortex) putting… Read More

How to Listen to a Speech

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I post often about how to give a speech.  But most of us also find ourselves on the receiving end of speeches too, and listening to them is nearly as hard work as giving them.  So how do you listen critically and well to a speech to get the most out of it, and avoid the rhetorical traps the speaker may be setting for you? Following are three tips for getting the… Read More

How to Change the World in 2014

The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.  The world, in the case of your next speech, is that audience right in front of you.  It’s an incredible opportunity – a group of people has voted with its feet and put butts into chairs to listen to you.  These people are keen to get something – preferably life-changing – out of the experience.  Go for it! So how… Read More

The Basic Building Blocks of a Great Speech – 6

This post is the sixth in a series on the basic building blocks of a great speech.  You’ve researched your audience, asked the right questions, and learned the particulars of the occasion.  You’ve created the opening frame of the talk with an engaging story that hints at the glories to come.  You’ve plunged the audience deep into the issue that animates your topic.  You’ve bathed the audience in the keen light of… Read More