Presentation Skills

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Success strategy: tie the outcome to the process

By on March 8, 2016

Top performers practice what they’re bad at, even though it’s frustrating, and they do it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. They go until they break down old habits and develop new ones. I believe in this approach–that is, I believe that it’s helpful to people to first acquire a new set of […]

Content is King, But Focus is Key

By on February 9, 2016

When a projector is out of focus, the images on the screen are fuzzy, leaving the viewer uncertain as to what he is actually seeing. His mind darts from blur to blur trying to make sense of the shapes on the screen. But once the projector is in focus and the images emerge crisply, the viewer feels […]

Break out of your shell and make an omelet

By on January 26, 2016

When we are anxious as presenters, we grow eggshells around us. Invisible eggshells. And we live inside them, a little scrunched up, worried about what’s outside those dangerously thin walls. At these times, remember these words: “Omelets are not made without breaking eggs.” –Robespierre “You CAN make an omelet without breaking eggs. It’s just a really bad omelet.” […]

5 excuses scientists use about presenting–and why they’ve got to change their thinking

By on January 12, 2016

I am working with a pre-clinical group in the pharmaceutical industry. They need to win approval for promising new compounds to be tested in humans, and I am helping them put together a presentation to an in-house committee. If they get the green light, the project moves forward. But if it’s not approved, it’s scrapped. This is […]

Maybe Size Does Matter

By on December 1, 2015

In his wonderful TED talk, Rory Sutherland points out the high cost of the EuroStar bullet train from London to Paris. It cut only about 40 minutes off the trip. Instead, he suggests it would have been cheaper to hire the most beautiful male and female models to walk the aisles of the old train serving free […]

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 […]

On playing possum and peacock preening

By on November 3, 2015

When a possum is threatened, he contracts into a ball, while bears do the opposite.  They stand on their hind legs to make themselves look bigger. Chameleons change color and remain perfectly still, while peacocks expand their tail-feathers to assert their dominance. It happens in the animal kingdom, and it happens to us when we get anxious, […]

The Right Way to Give Praise

By on October 6, 2015

Praise a child for being smart and you give her a self-concept that can be ruined by her B-minus. From that moment on, she may choose to play it safe, lest she lose her precious identity as a smartie. But praise her for effort, and in spite of failure, she is likely to persist, since effort is what […]

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 […]

The Best Way to Showcase Your Smarts

By on August 25, 2015

Are you trying to impress a client, get a job, or close a deal? Then skip the emails and pick up the phone or schedule a meeting. New research reported in a recent New York Times article shows that “text-based communications may make individuals sound less intelligent and employable than when the same information is […]

Everybody’s doing it–but nobody wants to talk about it

By on August 11, 2015

Clinton and JFK did it. I bet Michelle Obama and Matthew McConaughey and Tim Cook do it. (They’ve been singled out as being especially good at it this year.) I’m guessing that Trump probably doesn’t do it as much as he should. And, according to The New York Times, more and more people–CEOs and everyday […]

21 Paradoxes of Presenting

By on July 14, 2015

Isn’t there enough to do when you’re preparing for a presentation? Besides the obvious, you’ve got to navigate the delicate balances below: Be brief, but take your time. Be yourself, but fill the room. Be confident, but show your vulnerability. Relax, but use your nerves. Demonstrate your expertise, but speak their language–not yours. Appeal to […]

Make Data Sing–Learn from Hans Rosling’s TED Talk

By on June 30, 2015

I like to see people use data effectively–to make complex information clear and compelling. And, I like to help people plan out this data and incorporate it into a talk. It’s not easy to do, but in the hands of researcher Hans Rosling, it’s deceivingly simple. In this TED talk, watch how he compares households […]

Nix Nerves Before You Speak Infographic

By on June 16, 2015

Here’s a handy infographic to share with anyone who suffers from stage fright before a presentation or talk. It describes 3 counter-intuitive ways you Download this infographic.Embed Our Infographic On Your Site!Image Width%px<img src="" alt="Nix Nerves Before You Speak Infographic - An Infographic from SIMS WYETH Executive Speech Coach" width="100%" class="infographic_embedder" /><p class="infographic_attr">Embedded from <a […]

12 Books to Give to Graduates

By on May 5, 2015

Graduates get lots of stuff when they earn their diplomas.  But maybe the most valuable gift they can receive is good advice. It doesn’t matter if they heed it right away (or ever). What matters is that they are aware that there are many solutions to a problem, many paths that lead to a similar […]

Fall Down Seven Times; Get Up Eight

By on April 21, 2015

The hardest part of getting better at speaking and presenting is to persist in the face of discouragement. A talent is a latent ability, something that is dormant inside you. When you work at it, it becomes a skill. Public speaking is a talent before it becomes a skill. If you do have a potential […]

Get Your Act Together

By on April 7, 2015

A revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I opened recently at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Yul Brynner, the great actor who devoted much of his career to The King and I, was known to prepare for each performance by trying to push down the brick wall at the back of the theater. If […]

Put Power Point to Work for You

By on February 24, 2015

When you need to use powerpoint slides, keep it simple, and use images to help you tell a story. Often, clients ask me to help them knit together a talk with some slides. Once, I was asked to develop a presentation to introduce a major Human Resources initiative across a global company. When I arrived, […]

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 […]

9 Behaviors Cultivated by the Ultra-Charismatic–part 3

By on December 30, 2014

This is the last in our series in how to wow with charisma. We’ve looked at Vocal Expression of Emotion, Contagious Laughter, Expressive Face, and more. Here are three more tips to help you stand out from the crowd in a good way.     Outgoing With Strangers In a survey that Sims Wyeth & Co. conducted a […]

9 Behaviors Cultivated by the Ultra-Charismatic–part 2

By on December 16, 2014

Now, here are two $64,000 questions. First, can charisma be learned? And second, should it be learned, or is it just manipulation and phoniness? To the first question, I say, yes! I believe charisma can be learned. Just as we learn good manners–to say please and thank you in order to make ourselves more appealing […]

9 Behaviors Cultivated by the Ultra-Charismatic

By on December 3, 2014

Charisma is a set of behaviors that have nothing to do with physical beauty. This is good news for those of us who aren’t fashion models. You don’t need plastic surgery to do these things. Just practice. Here are the elements of charisma based on research done by Howard Friedman, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at […]

5 More Reasons Eye Contact is Key

By on November 18, 2014

If there is one simple thing you can do to enhance your impact as a presenter, persuade others to see things as you see them, and make it more likely your audience will say yes to your idea, it is sustained, purposeful eye contact with one person at a time. All it takes to start […]

4 Reasons Eye Contact Is Everything in Public Speaking

By on November 11, 2014

When you’re in front of an audience, strategic eye contact has the power to change how people think of you. Here’s why. In a study done last month in the journal Environment and Behavior, researchers at Cornell University manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adult subjects were […]

Mental Practice Helps Conquer Stage Fright

By on October 21, 2014

This is the last of our series about concrete ways to conquer stage fright.  This tip offers a surprising approach to make almost anything in your life better–mental practice.  Or, in other words: 3. Don’t just rehearse; sit there We all know that practice makes perfect, and that rehearsing your presentation is important. But did […]