public speaking

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

9 Tips on How to Introduce a Speaker

By on May 7, 2014

For great advice on how to introduce a speaker, look no further than Richard C. Borden’s 1935 classic Public Speaking as Listeners Like It. Answer the following four simple questions briefly and skillfully, and you will effortlessly create a pleasant harmony between subject, audience, occasion, and speaker. Why this subject? Why this subject before this […]

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 […]

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 […]

Pausing is a presentation skill

By on March 29, 2011

“We Americans are a charitable and humane people: we have institutions devoted to every good cause from rescuing homeless cats to preventing World War III. But what have we done to promote the art of thinking? Certainly we make no room for thought in our daily lives. Suppose a man were to say to his […]

Overcoming stage fright is a presentation skill

By on March 18, 2011

A study in the Journal of Sports Sciences established that pro-basketball players who had a rigid pre-shot routine were 17% more accurate foul shooters than those who did not. The rigid pre-shot routine is believed to help transfer control of the activity away from the cerebral cortex (good for learning new things) to the cerebellum […]

What’s the point you’re trying to prove?

By on November 4, 2010

Right now I’m sitting in the back of a hotel meeting room near Washington, DC, where two dozen physicians are rehearsing for a presentation to the regulatory authorities. They are debating what point they are trying to prove. The question has to do with the use of a certain methodology to measure, in clinical trials, […]

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 […]

The New is hard

By on August 19, 2010

On the first day of a workshop, an accomplished client delivered an effective presentation with verve and style.  On the second day, I asked him to reorganize his talk to make it more customer-centric, a challenge he embraced with enthusiasm.  However, when he delivered it, he was tentative and less effective.  Why? The simple answer […]

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 […]

Fierce Conversations

By on August 4, 2010

I read the following in The Alternative Board’s newsletter today and want to pass this on to presenters and persuasive speakers. What conversations are you avoiding?  Maybe it’s with a good friend you don’t want to hurt.  Maybe it’s with a difficult person and you are concerned about their response.  Or maybe it’s with a […]

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 autobiography of a speech coach

By on July 22, 2010

It is Sunday afternoon.  My wife is away for a week at a poetry summit in California.  No food in the fridge, dishes in the sink, bed unmade.   Too much TV. My daughter is engrossed in the music scene of Brooklyn, hard at work on her new CD.  My parents are unhappy in their new […]

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 […]

Reading a speech vs. giving a presentation

By on June 23, 2010

I just witnessed several clients reading scripts.  There was something very unsatisfying about the experience for me.   They lacked life and expression.  They didn’t appear to mean what they were saying. Yet scripts are often useful and necessary.  So what are the pros and cons of written speeches?  And how do PowerPoint presentations stack up? […]

Your speechwriter: How to get the most out of him

By on June 22, 2010

A good speech has a voice.  It sounds like an individual—specifically, the individual who is delivering the speech. It should not sound like the speechwriter. And yet us speechwriters are often given only a brief time with the speaker to determine what she wants to say.  From that brief meeting, we are expected to extract […]

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?  […]

Creative Public Speaking and Presenting

By on June 11, 2010

Frank Kern is senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services. On May 19, 2010, he released a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. Are you ready for this? According to that survey, today’s CEOs identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the […]

In search of creative public speaking

By on June 8, 2010

You may be familiar with Matt Latimer’s book Speech*Less about his career as a speechwriter in Washington during the Bush administration. Apparently, President Bush had learned at Yale that all speeches should have an introduction, three points, a peroration, and a conclusion. (What’s a peroration?  It’s the wrap-up, in which you remind the audience, in […]

Public speaking as empathetic assertiveness

By on April 4, 2010

When she was a year old, I held my daughter Georgia at the closed window of our 30th floor New York City apartment so we could look out over Times Square. Across the street, stretching the full length of a 40-floor building, was a painting of Dwight Gooden, the ace Met’s pitcher, coiled in his […]

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 […]

Effective Communication: The unexpected gets attention

By on February 10, 2010

Look at this ad from Microsoft.  It appeared in a newspaper exactly as it looks, I have not done anything to it. At first glance, it looks like a mistake.  It doesn’t belong in a newspaper or a magazine.  It’s imperfect and unfinished.  It even says, “Draft,” in red at the top. I read it […]

Effective Presenting: You are a visual aid.

By on February 2, 2010

You are a visual. Every move you make, every step you take…they’ll be watching you. This is good news because once you know this, you can take control of the message you send by aligning your gestures, movements, and facial expressions with your words. Who you are speaks more loudly than what you say. Actions […]

Your biggest presentation skill: Boosting your signal to noise ratio

By on January 27, 2010

If you read this blog about presentation skills and your signal to noise ratio, you can make more money, save money and time, reduce your uncertainty and anxiety, and look good in the eyes of others. When I was in college, I drove a truck full of modern art from a New York gallery to […]

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 […]

Effective Public Speaking: The Cure for Stage Fright

By on July 21, 2009

I attended a great seminar this weekend at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. The teacher was Boris Pisman. Boris teaches Yoga philosophy, and described one aspect of Yoga as the ability to learn how to handle anxious thoughts. He said that Yoga makes an assumption that there is a natural state of […]

Effective Communication: Performing on the Twitter Stage

By on July 15, 2009

All the world’s a stage, which means Twitter is a stage too, a stage that is new to me, and new to most of us. I’ve been told that I need to tweet for marketing purposes. That I should talk about what I’m doing in my business. But I’m in conflict. Tweeting feels phoney to […]

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 […]

Public Speaking: Dress for Success

By on July 18, 2008

Girls of a certain age expose their stomachs, and boys expose their underwear.  Those of us who are too old to seek this kind of social status based on sex appeal are more concerned about dressing to project power, authority, and stability. We select our clothes even more carefully when we are going to present.  […]

FUD in Public Speaking and Persuasion

By on June 17, 2008

FUD is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  I first heard the term when consulting at Gartner.  I was working with the analysts in preparing for a Gartner Symposium, and several of them used FUD at the start of their talks to engage the listeners on an emotional level. For instance, they might have said, “While e-mail […]

Public Speaking Training: The Dreaded just-after-lunch Slot on the Program

By on May 22, 2008

Effective speaking has many enemies. A partial list would include a speaker’s lack of experience, stage fright, lack of training, no clear point, too much information, and finally, no clear flow, or structure. We could go on. But the items on the list are only those enemies that hide within the speaker himself. What about […]

Presentation Tips: Blinded by the Light

By on May 21, 2008

What should you do when the lights are so bright that you can’t see your audience? 1. Make sure you know where the audience is and look in that general direction with focus and confidence. The audience won’t know that you can’t see them. In other words, press on. (This seems obvious but see story […]

Business Communication: Sharing the Podium

By on May 9, 2008

Dividing the Dais Sharing a podium is a frequent method for by-passing yet another dry presentation and (we hope) generating heat and light between two or more people seated on stage engaging in friendly verbal exchanges. In my experience, each speaker prepares and delivers a short talk (less than 10 minutes) on the topic being considered, takes a few […]

Public Speaking: Split Shot Audience

By on March 16, 2008

Like that moment in bowling, when your ball leaves two pins standing far apart, there are times when your audience is divided into two camps. One half is knowledgeable about your area of expertise, while the other half is green.  Or, one half is interested in the science, while the other half is preoccupied with […]

Public Speaking Skills: Hillary vs. Obama

By on February 4, 2008

During the Clinton/Obama debate from California, Barack Obama seemed to get off to a good start, making his point (“I am the future, she is the past.”) at the end of his opening remarks. As I listened, I was made aware of the power of going first. I thought that Hillary Clinton would be at […]

Interpersonal Skills: A Happy Warrior Teaches the Art of Influence

By on January 11, 2008

Michael Jendrzejczyk died at the age of 53. His obituary in the New York Times reveals a remarkable man: empathetic, principled, and, most instructive for those of us seeking to become more skillful influencers, a very effective advocate for what he believed in. His cause was human rights in Asia. What set him apart from […]

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