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Think twice about the topic and length when you present

By on October 20, 2015

When invited to speak or present on a topic chosen by someone else, it’s time to negotiate the topic. And when invited to speak for 45 minutes, it’s time to negotiate the length of the talk. I was recently asked to speak on the subject of differentiation in a sales presentation. I didn’t think that was a […]

Format your script as a poet would

By on November 13, 2013

When you’re scripting a presentation or writing a speech, try doing what Winston Churchill did, and Andrea Howe does now: write in short lines like poets do. (Andrea is the co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook—a practical guide for leaders in any industry who want to earn trust quickly, consistently, and sustainably—in business and in life.) […]

Which Costume Should You Wear?

By on October 30, 2013

I bristle at those who say to presenters, “Just be yourself.”  Which self?  The self that converses with my best friend’s grandmother at her dining room table, or the guy who teases his teammates and drinks beer while taking off his hockey equipment in the locker room? What if my self lacks expressiveness, intellectual clarity, […]

Mind the Gap

By on October 23, 2013

“Stars can be trillions of light years distant from each other, but maybe nothing is so distant from anything else in this universe as the expressed thought of person A from the understanding of person B.” -Reid Buckley Reid Buckley is a renowned speaker and teacher of public speaking.  He is also the author of […]

Speaking Anxiety: Glossophobia

By on October 9, 2013

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. It comes, like all the other phobias, from the ancient Greeks, more specifically the Athenians, who spent time thinking about speech communication. You may be more aware of this word because of this recent commercial: The word itself comes from the Greek word for tongue (glossa) combined, of […]

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 […]

At the end, light a fire

By on September 11, 2013

Begin well, end well, and keep the middle nice and short. That’s the secret of good speaking. But ending is the hardest for me. I have collected a number of openings that I use on a regular basis, but constructing a really good ending is a challenge.  Sometimes, because I can’t craft the ending until […]

Story, Story, Story!

By on September 4, 2013

We never get tired of stories.  We read them, watch them, listen to them and tell them every day of our lives.  We even tell them to ourselves. I think science has established that we are not the only creatures with language, or the only creatures that use tools, or dance.  But so far, I […]

How to control negative questioners

By on August 28, 2013

It’s not often that a business audience will go negative on you, but it happens. Here’s how to stay in control of your listeners and yourself: 1.  Prepare key messages for your talk so you can find your way back to those messages when the tough questions start making you feel lost. 2.  Listen to the question […]

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 […]

Use the hook and eye technique

By on August 14, 2013

To make the complex clear, use the hook and eye technique. The hook and eye technique makes the object of the preceding sentence the subject of the following sentence. Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds. Here’s an example: “Rupert hit the ball into the crowd. The ball landed in the palm of McKenzie’s mitt.” […]

Build a logical link

By on August 7, 2013

One technique for developing a good talk is to know what you’re trying to say, not just for the whole presentation, but for every slide. And once you’ve done that, you have to know how each slide relates to the one before it, and the one that comes next, so your logic is a clear […]

Make it more strategic

By on July 31, 2013

A client was asked by his CEO to make his presentations to the company’s Board of Directors more strategic. The client, a charming, personable guy, tended to fill his slides with evidence of all the work his department was doing. Since he had less than ten minutes to update the Board each quarter, he was […]

Lend Me Your Ears!

By on July 24, 2013

A few years ago, my wife and I took our 3-year-old daughter Georgia shopping for her Halloween costume. She wanted to be a black cat, so we got her a black leotard, white gloves, black velvet cat ears, and a cat nose with whiskers. We stopped at home to put the costume away in the […]

Presentation Pointer: Find the magic 20

By on July 15, 2013

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 […]

Guest Blog: Good Questions Uncover Value

By on June 18, 2013

Those of you who don’t know my colleague Patricia Fripp are in for a treat.  Fripp is a former President of the National Speakers’ Association, and is a member of their prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame. Not only is she a great speaker, she is also a great coach, which is not all that common.  […]

Scientific and technical presentations: Wise Whys

By on June 4, 2013

My aunt and uncle just moved into a retirement community in New Hampshire. Going through their books, they found one my grandfather had given to my mother. The book is Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.  “To Nancy, from Daddy, with love & Merry Christmas.  1934,” is inscribed on the inside cover.  My mother was […]

Rehearsed vs. extemporaneous speaking

By on May 7, 2013

A few years ago I attended my aunt’s memorial service, where anyone was invited to say a few words.  I felt the need to tell a quick story that would remind everyone about her contagious enthusiasm for birds.  No matter the difficulties in her life, and there were many, she would practically burst with delight […]

Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking

By on April 24, 2013

You must know what TED Talks are.  If you do, skip the rest of this paragraph.  If you don’t, please go to www.ted.com and click on any one of the videos that you see.  Or go to one of my favorites, such as any talk given by Hans Rosling or Rory Sutherland.  I’m sure you’ll […]

10 Commandments of Great Business Presenters

By on April 10, 2013

Define a problem that your audience faces.  Then solve it.  The human mind tends to fixate on problems: rubber-necking is a case in point. Presentations about problems have both emotional and intellectual appeal.  The problem, well-defined, elicits our feelings; the solution elicits our thoughts.  Everyone has problems, so why not tickle, then soothe their anxieties. […]

What’s the Difference Between a Speech and a Presentation?

By on March 27, 2013

With the arrival and success of the TEDTalk, we are losing some public speaking distinctions.  For example, what’s the difference between a speech and a presentation? I’m not sure if anyone cares, but I have always felt that each is a separate tool designed for different jobs. So, if you are concerned about whether you […]

Intellectual Combat in the Corporate Trenches

By on March 13, 2013

In the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by two marketing support functions to help them deal more effectively with the people they serve and support. One is a market research function, the other a business intelligence group.  Both report that confrontations and debates at meetings with product teams and other senior staff are difficult […]

Guest Blog: Being Vocal Against Vocal Fry

By on February 27, 2013

I heard from several readers after my blog about vocal fry.  This response, from Eva in Portland, is a great rant–and, of course, I feel the same way. Anti-vocal-fry enthusiasts, take heart!  Our numbers are growing! From Eva in Portland: Thank you for your blog about Vocal Fry.  I found it via another one I […]

Your voice and speech

By on February 13, 2013

I have a client—let’s call him Drew—who is a successful consultant.  He works with small companies to improve their sales results, but he’d like to move up in the world, work with larger companies, and speak at more prestigious events. His message is good, and his slides are effective.  He has a sense of humor and […]

Know your audience

By on January 30, 2013

I recently spoke at an industry event on the subject of differentiating your message.  I was invited to speak by someone who knows my work as a communication coach who told me that there would be a variety of people from the industry there; those who call on large organizations, and those who meet with […]

Words Pack a Punch

By on January 23, 2013

Over forty years ago, drifting through my undergraduate years in my ratty easy chair, I came across three words that lifted the veil from my eyes.  Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the Three Musketeers of rhetoric, seemed to me to be so comprehensive, so simple yet so profound, that I literally had a physical sensation as […]

Obama inaugurates the second half of his Presidency

By on January 21, 2013

The President needs a good second half.  He was kind of half-whooped in the first half of his presidency, but if he comes out of the inauguration like Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens came out of the locker room at half-time yesterday, he may do okay. James Taylor was too brief and crunchy for my taste […]

Voice and speech training: The whole voice

By on January 17, 2013

There are millions of people from all over the world and from every corner of this country working in our North American companies, and in companies all over the world–companies that use English as the global language of business. Many of the people are highly educated, highly motivated, and highly valuable human assets–to their colleagues, […]

How to project authority

By on January 10, 2013

I had the privilege of helping a young man with a sales presentation.  He had already been delivering it for several months on behalf of his investment firm, but he thought we could tweak it.  The slide deck introduced the firm and went on to describe an alternative strategy they used to diversify client portfolios.  […]

Manna falls

By on January 3, 2013

I’m on my way to the office from the gym, feeling hungry and wondering what I can have for breakfast that won’t take too much time, when I pass the Hunger Construction Baked Potato Food Truck.   Two guys in the truck are arranging homemade goodies wrapped in cellophane in the high display window.  One of […]

How to be a good panelist

By on December 7, 2012

Whenever I’ve been a panelist, I start out thinking it’s easy—a no brainer—and then, as I get closer to the event, I change my mind.  I begin to realize that I will be on display for all to see and hear and that it represents an opportunity to create a positive impression and contribute to […]

How to be a great panel moderator

By on December 4, 2012

There is very little drama in panels.  I’d like to see panelists a bit more feisty, eager to engage in debate and debunk…but they rarely are (or do). Polite and well-mannered is more like it–don’t want to rock the boat or roil the waters. Keep it nice and tidy, which often means boring. Paul Kedrosky […]

Public Speaking: Reading a Script vs. Internalizing a Message

By on November 15, 2012

What are the pros and cons of reading a script to an audience, and what are the pros and cons of internalizing a message so that you don’t have to refer to a script? Positives about Reading a Script Your ideas are laid out clearly–in black and white–so that you can deliver your complete message […]

8 Great Bold, Stern and Wise Presentation Tips from the Supremes

By on November 6, 2012

You want to get ready for prime time as a persuasive speaker?  Then read these instructions to lawyers, issued by the Supreme Court, on how to address the Justices.  The rules are highly relevant for any business speaker who is addressing a group of senior decision makers. Speak to be heard The document gets right […]

PowerPoint Slides: A good technique

By on October 12, 2012

Sophisticated presenters introduce the next PowerPoint slide before they leave the current one.  They do this to orient the audience to what is coming next. For instance, they might say at the end of their budget slide, “So our marketing budget is 10% greater than last year, and the main reason for this is the […]

Make it look simple and easy

By on October 10, 2012

I subscribe to Lapham’s Quarterly, a magazine you should get if you have an appetite for a perspective beyond the micro-moments of our digital age. As you know, I’m in the business of helping knowledgeable people sell themselves and their ideas.  As we count down to the next presidential election, this is a timely topic […]

Persuasion, Influence and the Fear of Loss

By on October 4, 2012

On Thursday night I listened to a show called Radio Lab on National Public Radio. Anyone interested in trying to close the gap between intention and action, whether in yourself or others; anyone who seeks to be persuasive and gain influence over themselves or others,should go to the website and download the broadcast.  It’s a strong […]

Dress for Even More Success

By on October 1, 2012

They say clothes make the man (or woman)–actually, they don’t.  They only protect the man (or woman) from making a poor first impression. But when you’re occasionally thrust into the spotlight, like my fabulous friend Jim Colby, you may need a wardrobe makeover.  Or at least a wardrobe migration from good to great. Jim manages […]

Public speaking: Off the cuff is off limits

By on September 18, 2012

A gaffe has been described as “speaking the truth by mistake.”  Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.  It’s more like saying what you really think at that point in time, which is different from speaking the truth. Both the Romney and Obama camps have had occasion to point fingers.  One said poor people […]

Improve your presentation skills

By on August 8, 2012

When sound is shaped by the narrow chambers of a trumpet, it comes out stronger and clearer. When speech is shaped by good presentation skills, your ideas and personality come out with more punch and impact. When your presentation skills cause this impact to happen, you are perceived as more capable, more valuable, and more […]

Speakers and listeners: Beware the closed mind

By on July 22, 2012

Everyone  used to believe the world was flat.  It took a while to let go of that perception. Everyone used to believe the sun revolved around the earth.  That view took centuries to change. We know how hard it is to listen to an opposing point of view. I often find myself closing down, as […]

What do I do with my hands when I present?

By on July 20, 2012

Mike Blechar of Gartner is a powerful speaker.  He recently sent me this note after he read one of our Presentation Pointers on the subject of how to point to data on slides. It seems he has programmed his arm and hand to gesture to slides, which is something that he and I debated years […]

It’s a Trap: A public speaking mistake

By on June 19, 2012

I had a new client to meet in New York City, so to beat traffic, I left home early and arrived by 7AM, which left me three hours until the meeting. To kill time, I went to The Harvard Club for breakfast (I’m a member because I was smart enough to marry someone who’s a […]

Greeks on strike

By on June 30, 2011

I am on the island of Serifos in the blue, blue Aegean.  My wife Sharon is engrossed in her month-long seminar, and I am left to my own devices.  I have slowed down considerably – reading, swimming, and sleeping is all I do.  Eating too. But now comes the national strike, a two-day gesture of […]

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