How to acquire presentation skill, and any other skill

This article is based on a book preview in Fortune Magazine, Oct 27, 2008.  The book is: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

We admire great performers and often attribute their success to a unique talent they have for their particular field.

The problem is that there is no evidence that talent has much to do with extraordinary performance.  In fact, a few researchers contend that the very existence ...

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Pascal’s Wager and Public Speaking

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematical genius who spelled out the laws of probability more clearly than anyone before him.  This was a watershed moment, because for the first time humanity had a systematic way of thinking about the future.

Pascal was both a gambler and a religious zealot.  He wanted to know if God really exists, which is knowledge not easily acquired.  So the next question was, “Should I act as if God exists, or should I act ...

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Pascal’s Wager and Public Speaking

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematical genius who spelled out the laws of probability more clearly than anyone before him.  This was a watershed moment, because for the first time humanity had a systematic way of thinking about the future.

Pascal was both a gambler and a religious zealot.  He wanted to know if God really exists, which is knowledge not easily acquired.  So the next question was, “Should I act as if God exists, or should I act ...

More →
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Public Speaking and the Importance of Character: A Life’s Lesson

On June 20th in the Wall Street Journal, in response to the media coverage of Tim Russert’s untimely death, Peggy Noonan wrote in her Declarations column, “When somebody dies we tell his story and try to define and isolate what was special about it–what it was he brought to the party, how he enhanced life by showing up. In this way we educate ourselves about what really matters.”

“In a way, the world is a great liar. ...

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Business Communication: Sharing the Podium

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 questions from the moderator, his fellow panelists and the audience.

After all the panelists have had their turn to address the audience for 10 minutes, the moderator encourages ...

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Effective Presentation Skills: Substance with Style

Cicero, the great Roman statesman and orator, said that he preferred tongue-tied intelligence to ignorant loquacity. That’s a convenient polarity, and one we’re familiar with.

We see the former occasionally when college professors make an appearance on national TV. They can look like owls with ruffled feathers blinking in the glare of daylight. We see the latter in religious and political demagogues, strutting across the stage belching clouds of rehearsed phrases in predictable cadence. We all prefer thoughtful speakers who ...

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