How Can a Good Presenter Get Better?

By on January 16, 2018

How can a good presenter get better?  That’s something that lots of people would like to know. I believe that we stand on the shoulders of people who came before us. So, one of the golden rules of public speaking–at least in my mind–is to cheat and steal whenever possible. Of course, I’m not being […]

Oprah evokes MLK on her way to the White House

By on January 11, 2018

Talk about the power of public speaking!  With one little speech Oprah is now a possible candidate for the highest office in the land. How did she do it? How did she do it? Well, she first built a room and decorated it so that we could look into it. She started with specificity.  The […]

18 Quotes from a Brilliant Eccentric

By on January 2, 2018

Brilliant Eccentric Cherish people who are eccentric. They see things differently. Kurt Vonnegut authored several books that transfixed the reading public from 1959 to the posthumous publication of his last work in 2013, including The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Jailbird, and many others. […]

The Happy Presenter

By on November 29, 2017

Most of us are not happy presenters. Consider the complications: the drill of assembling our ideas, putting them in order, finding that, nope, they’re out of order, rearranging them, developing slides, exhausting our eyes as we create clever little graphics, only to find that they are way too busy, or not interesting enough, or the […]

Importance of Capturing and Holding Attention

By on November 21, 2017

I can’t overemphasize the importance of capturing and holding attention. As a public speaker, it’s the first place you can fail to be understood, remembered, and believed. Holding attention is very important in a presentation. Otherwise people won’t listen to what you say or hear what you say. That means you will also fail to […]

Quick! Name a Memorable Talk!

By on November 7, 2017

When I ask people to name a memorable speech, they seem to have a brain hiccup. The most common response is to talk about the most recent speech they’ve experienced. If I had to answer the question at this moment I’d say I remember the talk Richard Brodhead gave at the Convocation of the Class […]

Qualities of great facilitator

By on October 23, 2017

The qualities of a great facilitator are diverse. Let me enumerate them for you: I had a client years ago in pharma who would start his advisory board presentation by saying, “I am an equal opportunity abuser. And I’m going to call on you on any topic at any time, so heads up!” As a great […]

Data, Data Everywhere and Not a Thought to Think

By on October 10, 2017

I just spent a few days with several scientific presenters from the pharmaceutical industry.  Their company wanted them to be more persuasive when presenting their research to internal business decision makers. To prepare for the assignment, I conducted a series of interviews to determine what the scientific presenters thought they needed to be more persuasive, […]

Benefits of being a good public speaker

By on September 26, 2017

The benefits of being a good public speaker aren’t always obvious. Consider this: When you get an MBA, you have increased your value considerably in the work force. But if you not only get an MBA, but then discipline yourself to become a highly effective communicator–a highly effective speaker–you’re increasing your value probably another 50%. […]

Don’t Forget “For Instance”

By on September 12, 2017

Recently I was asked to help two executives get ready to sell their company, so we needed to perfect the sales pitch. Within a week they would be putting their company on the chopping block.  It was time to get busy. After a long drive and a wakeful night in a hotel,  I arrived at […]

Communicating Complex Data

By on August 29, 2017

Even the best and the brightest have trouble communicating complex data. But when there is a lot of information, there are things that people can do. You can make the presentation more appealing to an audience. I knew a man–he was a scientist at Rockefeller University. He loved to walk around the office saying “Data, data […]

How to Get Meeting Dominators to Share the Floor

By on August 15, 2017

You can’t talk to meeting dominators and ask them to behave.  It doesn’t work. They are transfixed by their own oratorical brilliance.  They compete with one another.  They want to squeeze all the silence out of the room, the quiet moments of thought that might give birth to deeper ideas, if only we could hear ourselves think. […]

Power of Examples

By on August 1, 2017

The power of examples is huge, and it’s probably underestimated. Recently, I went to a private equity firm. They were asking me to help sell a portfolio company that they owned. Of course, the presentation was really slick. They had a bunch of financial terms: EBITDA, CAGR, P&L for almost every month that the company […]

Becoming a Billionaire Public Speaker

By on July 18, 2017

Have you seen the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett? It was especially interesting to me when he talked about his fear as a public speaker. “You can’t believe what I was like if I had to give a talk,” he says in The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. “I would throw up.” He […]

A Baker’s Dozen of “Do’s” for Delivering Data

By on July 3, 2017

When ’tis the season for situation analysis presentations within pharma, that time of year when analytics presents its thinking, its data, (and its people) to its own captive market, what works best? Not surprisingly, what works best is identifying the needs of the audience, constructing a talk that meets those needs, and controlling your desire to […]

This Cryptic Phrase Can Set Your Talk On Fire

By on June 20, 2017

Your presentation is not well organized unless you kindle a quick flame of spontaneous interest in your opening sentence. Smokers do not like matches that fail to light with the first scratch, and listeners don’t like speakers who fail to capture interest with the opening sentence. When you walk to the front of the room, don’t picture your […]

Facilitating Ad Boards

By on June 5, 2017

David Luke was recognized by his colleagues at Pfizer as a great facilitator. He had a standard opening line: “I’m an equal opportunity abuser,” he’d say to the assembled physicians. “I will be calling on you at anytime on any subject during the meeting. So–heads up!” It takes a skilled and confident facilitator to use […]

19 Paradoxical Things Good Presenters Do

By on May 8, 2017

Effective communicators are aware that persuasion is a high-wire act–it requires precision and balance. Or it’s like Olympic figure skating.  You practice your message until you know every micro move you’re going to make, and you pray that you don’t fall on your face on the final triple-lutz. Practice makes perfect, but since there is […]

The Best Way To Learn Is Hardly Ever Taught

By on April 4, 2017

The learning technique that science has proven to be the most effective is the one used the least. Spreading out learning over time is one of the most effective strategies. The technique is called “Distributed Practice,” meaning learning is broken up into short sessions. In my own practice as a communications consultant, I offer multiple […]

3 Steps to Stop Stage Fright

By on March 7, 2017

When we have practiced something so well that we no longer need to think about it, subconscious processing systems are at work. We choke under pressure because being in front of an audience is a novel  condition that can thwart the normal brain processing of tasks that are so well learned they have become “automatic.” […]

A Little Taste of Abraham on the Stump: Substance and style from a master communicator

By on February 21, 2017

William Henry Herndon was a law partner and biographer of President Abraham Lincoln.  They were a study in contrasts, opposites in temperament. Despite a poetic streak, Lincoln’s mind was logical, and he longed for the day when “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason,” would rule the world. Herndon was intuitive; he fancied that he could ‘see […]

The Secret of Good Corporate Training

By on February 7, 2017

Is it time for a better you and a better way to train executives and high potentials? According to Huthwaite, a leading training company, 30 days after a one or two-day training event, participants lose, on average, 87% of the skills they were meant to acquire. Why? Training is an attempt to expand your range […]

Speak to create understanding

By on January 20, 2017

When you talk to people who oppose your point of view, choose your words carefully.   I remind you of Goethe’s quote:  “Every word uttered evokes the idea of its opposite.” The odds are high that those on the other side of the argument will reflexively fasten onto an offensive word, which could cause them […]

You Don’t Need a Personality Transplant

By on January 11, 2017

I believe that scientific medical presentations need to be more dramatic. After all, doctors are talking about life and death. Yet many doctors speak like test pilots: flat as a mashed potato sandwich. It’s the culture of intrepidness, as if all medical professionals were Steady Eddies who stuff fear and face cold, hard facts with […]

Quote-a-Week on Goals, Success, and Power for 2017

By on December 27, 2016

The end of December is a good time to review what you’ve accomplished and set goals for the coming year. Sometimes, it’s invigorating to think about the 365 days that stretch out before us, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about doing it all again. Here are some quotes to inspire you this upcoming new […]

Free Trait Agreements with Yourself

By on December 13, 2016

Every now and then a client says they don’t want me to change who they are.   The implication is that any “stage” behaviors I recommend that are outside their comfort zone will make them feel artificial and, therefore, less effective. I understand how they feel, so I try to focus them on the logic […]

Connect mind and body

By on November 29, 2016

Old-fashioned lecture halls generally had one aisle down the middle of the room. And old-fashioned speakers were trained to develop their side of an argument, then give voice to the other side, before coming to their final synthesis. These speakers stood on one side of the stage to make their case, moved to the opposite […]

More proof that eye contact is key

By on November 15, 2016

When researchers from Cornell and Yale Universities tested whether eye contact with the Trix Rabbit influenced choice of cereal, they found that it did. The researchers painted new eyes on the rabbit and had 63 students from a private northeastern university randomly view one of two boxes. On one box the rabbit’s eyes pointed down, […]

20 Quotes that Make You Realize the World Doesn’t Make Sense

By on November 1, 2016

Want to get your rose-colored glasses blown off your nose? Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He is the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. Listen to his […]

How To Say Your Name

By on October 18, 2016

Just got back from a kickoff meeting for a global IT project. Thirty people were sitting around a big table. One of the leaders of the meeting said, “Let’s all introduce ourselves. Say your name and tell us some things.” Ugh. Another slog through a forest of biographical facts and resume trivia. The first guy […]

80/20 Rule for Public Speaking

By on October 4, 2016

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people, and that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.  He invented the 80/20 rule, more formally known as the Pareto Principle. It’s now a common rule […]

The Habit that Ensures You Will Sell More

By on September 20, 2016

People are more likely to like your ideas if they like you–as a business person, a leader, and a communicator. I think the best way to get them to like you is to be open and honest about who you are. This does not mean you have to hold your dirty laundry under their noses. […]

Familiarity breeds affection

By on September 7, 2016

Robert Zajonc [ZYE-unts] was an American social scientist who explored the interplay between feeling and thought–between emotion and cognition. He was interested in determining which influenced the other more strongly. On balance, he came down on the side of emotion. He was best known for establishing what he called “the mere exposure” effect. In this experiment, […]

Political Gesture du Jour

By on August 23, 2016

There was the “Clinton thumb”–which most likely originated with John F. Kennedy. Nixon’s “V for victory” at the helicopter door. Although he used it a few times before 1974. And the “Dole pen”–a prop he carried in his right hand. His arm sustained an injury in WWII. Now, there’s a new political gesture du jour. […]

Speak up and out

By on August 9, 2016

I have recently encountered several people who have been rushed into the emergency room of voice and speech training because their vocal presence is not in optimal health. A CEO of a very successful company has a strong, expressive voice, but none of his employees or clients ever get to hear it because it is […]

Simple can be sophisticated

By on July 26, 2016

It just so happens I have two clients who talk too much in public. Both are extremely bright, and both strive to speak as though they were writing chiseled prose. When in the act of public speaking, they challenge themselves to cover all the bases, approach the topic through three different lenses, and construct clause-laden […]

Add engines or finesse the wings?

By on July 12, 2016

Seth Godin is a remarkable entrepreneur and a prolific and intriguing blogger. I just read his post called Add engines until airborne, by which he means add more power, more advertising, more cost, more horsepower until you get your business to where you want it to go. But his message concludes that finessing the wings […]

Vehemence aids eloquence

By on June 28, 2016

Just got back from a trip to the West coast, where I was working with people at the top of the food chain in terms of their cognitive intelligence. Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame–brainiacs. My assignment? Help them get presence! I skirted that word by simply saying that presence is hard to define, but we know […]

Scientist’s Rx: smile!

By on June 14, 2016

The famous American social scientist, Robert Zajonc [ZYE-unts], explored the interplay between feeling and thought–between emotion and cognition. He was interested in determining which influenced the other more strongly. On balance, he came down on the side of emotion. In one widely reported study, he found that smiling or frowning can alter blood flow to […]

Content, Shmontent

By on June 1, 2016

I am tired of expert speakers.  Content, shmontent.  Everyone is expert in something.  I want a wise speaker. For instance, presentations are not about your data.  They’re about what you think about your data. The Caduceus, the symbol of medicine, makes this distinction between knowledge and wisdom.   One day, the God Hermes was striding across the […]

Got stage fright?

By on May 17, 2016

Speaking with stage fright is like driving with the emergency brake partially on.  Your whole body trembles, your mouth gets hot and dry, you can smell the smoke rising from your armpits, and you can’t get to where you want to go—which is OFF THE FREAKING STAGE! The only way to release the brake, according […]

Don’t Boast

By on May 3, 2016

Whenever you give yourself a compliment in front of an audience, you run the risk of being seen in a negative light. For instance, telling stories about how you won a big piece of business by being a super salesman may be instructive for the audience, but it raises the likelihood that you may give […]

PowerPoint Fatigue

By on April 19, 2016

I’m getting tired of PowerPoint slides.  So are a lot of people. Why? They are another tool that’s controlling us. They are excruciatingly predictable. We tend to use the slides as speaker prompts, not as aids to the audience. An abundance of slides actually communicates the speaker’s insecurity. We devote too much of our preparation […]

An Exercise That Can Make You a Spell-Binding Orator

By on April 6, 2016

I just got off the phone with a client who is working on being more assertive and fluid when he speaks. He complains, and I agree with him, that he starts speaking without knowing where his sentences are heading. Soon he comes to a halt, backs up, and starts again. I do this myself, and […]

Three reasons to look at your listeners

By on March 22, 2016

First, when you look at your listeners (one at a time) you are paying attention to them. People love to have attention paid to them, and are more likely to pay you back with their attention.   Second, when you watch their faces, especially at the ends of your statements, you can see their expressions, and […]

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