Persuasion & Influence

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Make a Better Impression

By on February 23, 2016

When it comes to sealing a deal or cementing a business relationship, schedule a meeting. Why? Because research reported in The New York Times by Matt Richtel shows that when you speak to people face to face, they are less likely to misread you or your message. But, if you write the same information and […]

Last Friday in New Jersey: a story about stories

By on December 16, 2015

Last Friday in New Jersey I got up at 3am to take part via WebEx in a training program in London.  The program was about storytelling.  I was invited to discuss the architecture of stories, and encourage participants to tell their own personal stories. No surprise to me, one guy spoke right up and said […]

Don’t forget or confuse your purpose

By on November 17, 2015

One of the most common mistakes we make is that we forget what we’re trying to do. Most people can identify with that moment when you find yourself peering into your guest room closet or turning on the light by the hot water boiler, and you have no recollection as to why you ventured there in […]

Upgrade from good to great presentation skills

By on September 22, 2015

I believe that there are two kinds of presentation skills. One kind helps make the speaker look good. The other kind helps the listeners understand and believe in the speaker. Many presentation coaches work with a speaker to “package” his or her delivery–to make him or her look good to the audience. Packaging is important. Good […]

10 Things “The Donald” Does Well

By on September 8, 2015

Forget about policy. Forget about the debate on whether or not he’s a narcissist or an egotist or both–a misguided missile with delusional certainty or a potential and dangerous strongman who will clean up the mess and make America great again. Let’s talk about his public speaking. 1. No script. He speaks from the heart. […]

My Kind of Champion Speaker

By on March 24, 2015

I have been looking at various presentation websites. I am impressed and not impressed, and I am concerned about the distinction between making a convincing argument to serious people with serious decisions to make, vs. giving an entertaining performance to people who need to be entertained. Because I accidentally live in New Jersey, my career has been largely […]

Drill down.  Dig deep.  Zoom in.

By on March 10, 2015

Persuading someone to buy a commodity requires a microscope. Let me explain. Suppose you sell pencils.  Your buyer sees your pencil as a commodity because it looks like every other pencil he’s ever seen. But that’s because he’s not a pencil specialist.  He’s looking at your product from a distance, through binoculars.  He can’t see the deep down goodness of […]

How Not to Bore an Audience (3 of 3)

By on February 10, 2015

We’re winding up our series on how to keep your listeners attentive, keep yourself energetic, and make the most of your time in the spotlight. We’ve covered 6 tips in our first two parts. Here’s the last 4: 7. Get Ready for Prime Time Rehearse. An audience doesn’t want to see you struggling to say […]

How Not to Bore an Audience (2 of 3)

By on January 28, 2015

Remember, your goal as a speaker should be to have inscribed on your tombstone, “He Made His Point, and Bored Them Less.” To accomplish this lifetime achievement, review part 1 for our first 3 tips: Ditch the slides, Stuff the Bag, and Begin, Be Brief, Be Seated. Then, dig in. 4. So, How to Begin? […]

How Not to Bore an Audience (1 of 3)

By on January 13, 2015

For starters, stop trying to just wing it. You’re not an improv actor, OK? Your goal as a speaker should be to have inscribed on your tombstone, “He Made His Point, and Bored Them Less.” To accomplish this lifetime achievement, adhere to the following.     1. Ditch the Slides OK, maybe in your business […]

Show, don’t tell to be an effective speaker

By on September 9, 2014

We are animated, lively speakers in real life. Why not bring this to your next presentation?

More ways to be a rock star speaker

By on August 26, 2014

We’re looking at ways you can pump up the “AWESOME” of your presentations.  Surprisingly, we’re not scrutinizing the communication techniques of Steve Jobs–we’re looking at a guy from the 1850s named Henry Ward Beecher. It isn’t crazy.  Beecher was a rock star of a preacher whose church in Brooklyn seated 2,800. In the 1850s, he […]

How to be a rock star speaker

By on August 12, 2014

When Steve Jobs got into high gear as a speaker, many people reported that he seemed to have a reality-distortion field around him. No matter how unrealistic his claims at any given moment, people said they couldn’t help being mesmerized: his enthusiasm could suspend their disbelief. In the 1850s, there was another spellbinder not unlike […]

Capture Attention–4 Ways to Get Through to Your Listeners

By on July 29, 2014

Every speaker struggles with a balance:  A talk needs to be brief enough and interesting enough to ensure an audience will hear it, but it also needs to contain all of the information that the audience needs to know. Use our pointers to gain “neck down” attention as you keep your presentation lively and informative. […]

More Ways to Capture Attention

By on July 15, 2014

In this series of posts, we’re looking at ways to capture attention and keep it. I make a distinction between “neck up” attention and “neck down” attention.  The former is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. The latter is the kind we’re going for here:  when the listener is riveted to […]

Ways Great Speakers Capture Attention

By on July 1, 2014

In my mind, there are two kinds of attention: neck down, and neck up. Neck-up attention is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. Neck-down attention is when the listener is riveted to the speaker: she can’t help but pay attention. Please note that, in our language of English, attention is […]

Find a Sense of Truth to be Persuasive

By on June 17, 2014

Another way to be a highly persuasive speaker is to be “real.”  Your audience will find you more trustworthy, and so they will be more willing to hear–and agree with–your point of view. To do this, understand what you are saying, and believe in it.  If you don’t believe in a part of your talk, […]

More Ways to Be a Highly Persuasive Speaker

By on June 3, 2014

Lately, I’ve been noticing principles that great speakers use to guide them.  I’ve talked about this before.  I like when speakers start by answering a question for the audience:  “Why is this important to me?”  I also notice when speakers find their passion for the subject, and use it to bring the ideas to life. […]

Find Passion to be Persuasive

By on May 20, 2014

Last week we looked at a good way to start a talk if you need to be persuasive–answer “What’s in it for me?” for your audience.  Get their attention right away, and you’ve got time and content to win them over. Here’s another way to be highly persuasive: Find the passion.  I work with a […]

Highly Persuasive Speakers Do This

By on May 14, 2014

For a presenter, few moments are better than feeling you have the audience in the palm of your hand. And few are more painful than feeling the gulf between you and your listeners getting wider and wider. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at principles that seem to guide the great speakers I’ve seen recently, […]

Science and Business: The Story of a Lost Mousse

By on April 8, 2014

Here in New Jersey, scientists grow on trees and work in laboratories, developing and testing molecules for bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies. Every day, they leave the known world to explore microscopic molecular places and witness scenes that quite possibly no human being has seen before.  They are the Lewises and Clarks of medicine. Like grizzled […]

Persuading others: Who should deliver the talk?

By on April 1, 2014

A presentation is a tool made of words and numbers, information and opinions. In many circumstances, it’s purpose is to help an audience make a decision or a prediction. But the source of those words, the speaker, must be trusted by the audience. One of the first questions we should ask ourselves when preparing a […]

Two ways to structure a speech or presentation

By on March 25, 2014

I was looking for my childhood home on Google Earth, caught a glimpse of it from 30,000 feet, then zoomed in and saw my mother’s herb garden at the bottom of the lawn. My Mom and Dad are gone now, and I saw cars I didn’t recognize in the driveway. I knew the image was […]

Executive Presence: Look the Part: The Camera is Always On

By on February 26, 2014

When I read that Simon Cowell, the well-known judge of American Idol, just had a baby daughter, it made me reflect on the talents he has ushered into the world. One of my favorites is Susan Boyle. Remember her? She’s got a few albums and concerts under her belt now, but watch the quick YouTube […]

Persuasiveness: The Power of Personality

By on February 12, 2014

Research shows that when people need help getting a job done, they’ll choose a congenial colleague over a more capable one. This tendency has big implications for every organization–and for everyone who seeks to be persuasive as a presenter. When given the choice of whom to work with, people will pick one person over another […]

Stand still when you speak

By on February 5, 2014

I just met a client, a young woman new to the work force and recently hired by a consulting firm, who had studied oratory and debating in high school. I don’t think I’ve ever had a client with similar experience in my 20 years working with speakers. She had a remarkable ability to be still […]

Try the impossible to achieve the unusual

By on January 22, 2014

Karate masters, when breaking boards, aim not at the board, but six inches below it.  After all, they’re chopping through the board, not on it. Professional golfers, when putting, aim six inches beyond the cup. After all, what percentage of putts that are short go in? A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, right?  Tweet: If your […]

5 ways to get smarter about public speaking

By on January 8, 2014

Is one of your resolutions to improve at work?  Maybe you’d like to be more organized, more proactive, a better manager, or a more inspiring leader.  Improving your communication skills can help you improve in all of these areas. To help you meet your goals, here are five excellent books on public speaking (available on […]

Give your words meaning

By on December 18, 2013

A well-known British linguist came to New York to give a lecture on the double negative, an expression in which two negatives add up to a positive, such as, “He’s not unlike his sister.”  In his lecture, the British professor said that in all his years of research into the languages of the world he […]

4 Ways to Boost Your Ability to Persuade

By on November 6, 2013

For a presenter, few moments are better than feeling you have the audience in the palm of your hand. And few are more painful than feeling the gulf between you and your listeners getting wider and wider. Here are 4 ways to boost your ability to persuade that seem to guide the great speakers I’ve […]

What’s the difference between translation and interpretation?

By on October 16, 2013

Why do orchestras need conductors? Can’t the musicians play by themselves? After all, they can read music, know when to come in and when to stop. All the dynamics are written in black and white: fortissimo here, piano there.  Why do they need a guy in a monkey suit waving his arms, casting glances, and […]

Business Communication: You Are a Professional Speaker

By on September 25, 2013

If you work for a company, and your job entails public speaking, you are paid to speak. That’s right, you are a professional speaker–in the same business as Anthony Robbins, Jack Welch, and Malcolm Gladwell. Your company is paying you to make something happen when you stand up to address a group.  They are paying […]

Scientific Presentations and the Gettysburg Address

By on September 18, 2013

When working on scientific and technical presentations, I am often amazed by the wonders of the science being presented and, at the same time, shocked by the speaker’s lack of awe or appreciation for the mystery and power of his own work. It seems to me that many scientific and technical speakers take their own […]

The Best Way to Lose an Audience

By on August 21, 2013

In 80 BC, Cicero, the great Roman orator and statesman, set off for the Eastern Mediterranean on something like a cross between a gap year and oratory boot camp—showing, again, how he regarded oratory as a physical more than simply an intellectual craft, and one that benefited from a long and various apprenticeship: I always […]

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