public speaking skills

Cam Newton’s body language

By on January 13, 2011

In case you missed the BCS Championship Game on Monday night, or you don’t follow college football, or any sports for that matter, but you do take an interest in performance under pressure, please watch Mr. Cam Newton in action. I had never seen him play before last night, when I watched the National Championship […]

Presenters should avoid this opening phrase

By on January 5, 2011

Many presenters begin their talks like this: “I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about…” Don’t do this.  First of all, what you would like to do at that particular moment is of considerably less interest to the audience that what they are concerned about. Second, such an opening is procedural […]

The rich, the poor, the highly-educated and the tongue-tied

By on January 4, 2011

I heard an Indian novelist interviewed recently.  Asked what struck her when she first came to America, she said, “I noticed that in America, the rich are thin and the poor are fat—the opposite of my country.” Of course, she meant that, compared to the poor, a higher percentage of wealthy, educated people are thin […]

An attempt to link a column of ice with presentation skills

By on December 23, 2010

On the left you see a picture of my garden hose,  the one I failed to turn off after hosing down the front porch.  The temperature dropped, the hose popped, and I now have a column of ice reminding me of my absent-mindedness. I suspect that the results we create in life are slow accretions […]

Why you need presentation skills training

By on November 30, 2010

Most of us need training because: We are unaware. We don’t do what we want, or know how, to do. We don’t practice. We are not aware of how we come across.  We have blind spots.  Blind areas.  Our education is incomplete.  We have not read the great books on the subject of effective speech.  […]

Stillness: A very cool presentation skill

By on November 22, 2010

I want to sing the praises of stillness.  I used to love, and aspire to, extravagant energy and zeal.  Arms waving, voice elevated, eyes wide open and shining with conviction. Now I enjoy stillness, a sense of calmness in a speaker.  Of course, I don’t want him or her to be calm all the time—the […]

Better Investigator Meetings

By on November 17, 2010

I recently had the privilege of sitting through four investigator meetings, two in the United States and two in Europe. They comprised speaker after speaker with slide after slide.  Topics included the disease, the drug, the PK, the efficacy and safety, statistical modeling, and then the process by which patients were to be enrolled and […]

Getting permission to coach

By on November 16, 2010

A very thoughtful client, and subscriber to our Presentation Pointers, sent me this email: I have a question – Can you offer me 1-2 tips for giving presentation feedback for senior and mid-level managers?  Examples of areas where feedback is needed – reading the slides or notes, talking too softly and refusing to use a […]

Information Design Disaster

By on November 11, 2010

Just this morning, I was rushing to catch the Metro in Washington, DC and found myself staring at a refrigerator-sized ticket machine with buttons, bells, arrows, windows, slots, writing and numbers all over it.  I had no idea where to look or where to start.  It had to be the worst design of a ticket […]

How to clarify complexity – Part Two

By on November 10, 2010

As I said in another recent blog on complexity, most knowledge workers have to find the signal within the noise.  In other words, we have to gather information, sift through it, and decide what is important and what is not, draw some conclusions, make recommendations, and defend them. We often have to do this quickly, […]

How to Clarify Complexity

By on November 4, 2010

To clarify this complexity, I have to step back, calm down, and ask myself a question, such as, “What seems to be the problem?” Then I have to look at the rat’s nest of black wires, and begin the delicate surgery of extricating one wire from the clutches of the other...

How to Raise Money from Venture Capitalists and Other Investors

By on November 4, 2010

In a recent article in Harvard Magazine, Amy Cuddy, who teaches at Harvard Business School is quoted as saying that the success of venture-capital pitches to investors apparently turns, in fact, on nonverbal factors like “how comfortable and charismatic you are.  The predictors of who actually gets the money are all about how you present […]

Welcome to the game

By on October 27, 2010

On a train to New York, I saw a man unpack a portable electric guitar, assemble it, plug earphones into it, and begin to play.  He was sitting at the window with two people packed next to him.  No one heard a sound. On the way out of the train, I asked him how long […]

Presence is knowing what to say

By on August 20, 2010

Robert Selander, the former CEO of MasterCard, had a thing for “presence.” When asked what he looked for in those he hired, he said, “Leadership, results, and presence.” About presence he said, “At varying levels of the company you deal with different stakeholders.  Having somebody spend time with a member of Congress is very different […]

Empathy in Action

By on August 18, 2010

Years ago I splurged on a course at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where, among other things, I learned that leadership is a constant tug between assertiveness and empathy. Assertiveness without empathy, I learned, leads to conflict with followers and damaged relationships, while empathy without assertiveness is weak and undermines a leader’s status. I was […]

Stage Fright Vanquished

By on August 5, 2010

This from Body Odd: Before now, those with performance jitters have had to contend with the nausea and the nerves on their own, or take beta blockers to battle the symptoms.  New research has come up with another way to fight stage fright:  biofeedback. “Our research looks at both the psychological and physiological effect of […]

Two kinds of selling

By on August 4, 2010

I spent a day working on sales messages and presentation of those messages with a sales force, except the sales force was divided in two—half were an outside field force, and half were inside sales. We discovered that it was very difficult for the inside sales force to deliver a complete presentation because they were […]

The Youie Youness of You

By on July 21, 2010

Gary Forman is a speech writer I work with.  He was developing a stump speech for himself, and he came over to read it to me and get my feedback. It was fabulous, and so was he, although I did have a few nits to pick here and there.  (It was a little long and […]

The fourth wall or not

By on July 20, 2010

Over cigars and Chivas on Sunday night with Dikki Ellis, Michael Christensen and Zach Grenier, we came across an interesting distinction between clowning and acting, and one that is helpful to business speakers. Michael is a Co-Founder of the Big Apple Circus and the Founder of the circus’s Clown Care Unit.  Dikki is a senior […]

Using speaker’s notes

By on June 29, 2010

When we watch TED talks, such as Rory Sutherland’s on the power of advertising, or Hans Rosling’s on the power of data, we are watching two men who know their way around the presentation platform. Both speak without notes, use pictures and graphics as visuals (without a bulletpoint in sight), demonstrate that they have internalized […]

Don’t read this one

By on June 21, 2010

After seeing David Mamet’s play Race on Broadway, Sharon and I had half-an-hour until our train left New York’s Penn Station for our home in Montclair, New Jersey. We went to a bar.  I ordered a Heineken and she a glass of wine.  We were sitting next to a drunk who began to sing, so we […]

Voice and Speech Training

By on June 14, 2010

Angela Lansbury and Cate Blanchett spoke briefly at last night’s TONY AWARDS ceremony.  They both have magnificent speaking voices. They were not alone.  Most Broadway actors have strong speaking voices.  The question is:  did they become successful because they were gifted with such speaking voices, or did they work to develop their instruments? The answer?  […]

The Perfect Pitch

By on June 7, 2010

Under the shadow of Armando Galarraga’s stolen perfect game, and umpire Jim Joyce’s human imperfection, I am moved to ponder the word pitch. In baseball, when a pitch comes at you, it is meant to either intimidate, bamboozle, or go by too fast to hit.  All pitches come with spin, except for knuckleballs, which float […]

The Bush Doctrine on Speech Writing

By on June 4, 2010

The Bush Doctrine on Speech Writing In his entertaining memoir Speech*Less, speech writer Matt Latimer reveals something about the speeches developed for President G.W. Bush.  By the way, he was one of the speech writers. ‘I quickly discovered the answer to a question I’d been asked by people since I’d arrived at the White House:  […]

Let us now praise specifics

By on June 2, 2010

We are entitled to our own opinions, but none of us is entitled to our own facts. In fact, most of us hold our opinions with little respect for facts.  For instance, when you ask a passionate partisan why she voted for her candidate, you are likely to hear slogans about small government or social injustice. Lots […]

An Emerging Problem at Limited Partner Meetings

By on April 14, 2010

At the annual LP meetings I’ve been working on, I have noticed that the senior guy wants to give his views on the macro economic picture. He wants to do this for good reasons:  To put the results his team will report into context, and to demonstrate his broad knowledge of economic cycles in order […]

Public speaking begins with civility

By on April 4, 2010

The current shouting match going in Washington is bad public speaking.  Good public speaking begins– literally and figuratively– with civility. “May it please the court,” says the lawyer. “Madam Speaker,  Vice President So-and-So, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans,” says the President at the State of the Union. “It is indeed an honor […]

No Excuses in Public Speaking

By on April 4, 2010

You can’t make excuses for yourself when you’re in front of an audience.  You have to do the best you can without divulging your aches and pains. There’s a tradition in show business:  “The show must go on.”  Actors and performers have a code of honor: They are not going to deprive their fellow performers […]

Public Speaking: On the use of TelePrompters

By on February 15, 2010

Many people acknowledge that President Obama is a good public speaker.  At the same time, many note a significant difference in the quality of President Obama’s speech between those occasions when he uses a Teleprompter and those when he speaks extemporaneously. They assert that his oratorical gifts are actually not as great as they seem […]

Overcoming Speaking Anxiety: Step into your stage fright

By on February 3, 2010

The sensation of stage fright is bad enough, but what’s worse is the damage it can do to your career and your self-esteem. If you let it stop you, your sense of self gets smaller and your stage fright gets bigger and more powerful. However, when you step into your stage fright, you learn quickly that […]

Public Speaking Training: Don’t get too slick

By on January 16, 2010

When does a polished speaker become slick? I ask this question because I occasionally see so-called “professional speakers” behaving in peculiar ways.  They have developed a presentation “style” that doesn’t seem natural, that smacks of late night infomercials and snake oil charlatans. What they do would get them fired in most corporations, not because of […]

Presentation Skills: Use emotional arguments

By on December 18, 2009

Reason makes us think, but emotion makes us act.  So how can we build emotional arguments into our presentations? When we consult Maslow’s Theory, we learn that people have a hierarchy of needs.  At the bottom of the pyramid are physiological needs—the need for air, water, food and excretion.  Most business arguments cannot invoke these […]

Public Speaking Tips: How to be Emotional about a Dry Topic

By on December 4, 2009

First of all, don’t overdo it.  If it’s dry, it’s dry.  I heard someone link his call to action to survival, which was a bit of an overstatement.  Modesty in all things! Nevertheless, since I often find myself urging clients to include emotional arguments as well as fact-based, here are a few tips. Reason makes […]

Presentation Preparation: Where to Start

By on December 2, 2009

How should you start preparing a presentation to senior executives? Don’t start by digging through your slide library and pulling the old standbys out. Rather, answer these questions. What is the topic or subject you are reporting on? Be clear with yourself so you can be clear with your audience. Why is your topic important […]

Presentation Skills: Your Passport to Promotion: “1, 2, 3…Poof!”

By on July 20, 2009

I had an interesting session with a new client.  Let’s call her Fiona.  She came in from the field to take a position in marketing with a major pharma, and has discovered that, at her company, your career depends largely on how you present. Amazingly, they don’t offer any developmental support for people coming into […]

Public Speaking: Toasting the Bride

By on July 1, 2009

I attended a family wedding last weekend, and the sister of the bride gave a great toast. I heard her round up her brothers as the cake was being served, saying, “Now is the time. Somebody has to say something.” They looked glum and stricken, and left their wine glasses on the table as they […]

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