Posts for Tag: Speaking Tip

Don't overwork your presentation

If you've never made a pie, you might not know this, but overworking the dough for the crust makes a tough chewy texture rather than the light flaky texture we all prefer. If you overmix the dough when you're making, say, scones, the same thing happens. Hard, dense, chewy scones instead of light, fluffy treats.

Overdoing it isn't just a problem with dough. Overcook a piece of fish and the proteins seize up, making your fish rubbery, not flaky.

Overdo your exercise routine and you end up too sore to go to the gym for days.

Overdo the celebration at a party and you will feel pretty crummy the next day, whether from too much alcohol or too much food!

Which brings me back to overworking, and a problem that is the opposite of what I typically see with speakers.

Another post on food and speaking, this time from Lisa Braithwaite. Click through to see how the idea is developed.

Olivia Mitchell: An important lesson from Great Speakers at SXSW

SXSW is a mega conference/festival for geeks in Austin, Texas, United States. Mega means over 10,000 attendees. I came here to see what’s happening at the geek edge of presenting. To observe the interface between presenting and technology.

But what has been most in my face is that the best presenters I saw care! They don’t care about themselves – they care about their audience, and they care passionately. I’ll talk about each of these three best sessions.


So here’s what SXSW reinforced for me. Your style as a presenter doesn’t matter. Whether you’re funny or serious, loud or quiet doesn’t matter. Just care for your audience.

Click through for Olivia's thoughts on sessions by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, Dan Roam, and Gary Vaynerchuck.

Afraid to flop? Twitter CEO's keynote lessons

No one would have bet on this, but by all accounts, yesterday's SXSW keynote by Twitter CEO Ev Williams flopped.  Louis Gray sums up what happened succinctly:
After thousands of Twittering geeks and quasi-geeks alike had settled in to the packed exhibition hall and overflow rooms to hear the latest updates delivered straight from Twitter's leader, their excitement soon turned to boredom and finally, severe annoyance, as the interview's pace, tone and content fell well below expectations. After an hour's time, the halls in Austin were more than half empty, and an opportunity to showcase one of technology's biggest successes in the last few decades was for the most part lost.
Time and again, when I ask my readers what they fear most, several mention the fear that, despite their best effort, their speech will fall flat, get no reaction or a bad reaction--that there will be a mismatch between what they see and what the audience sees.  It's poignant here, because so many thousands of people looked forward to this keynote as a highlight of the interactive conference--even Gray's piece is titled, "The SXSW Keynote With Ev Williams You Had Hoped to See."  His long wishlist for the talk indicates that would-be attendees came there--as most audiences do--with many questions they'd hoped the speaker would answer.  And when that didn't happen, many voted with their feet and left.

What could have happened to make this talk work? Here are a few suggestions you can use to avoid just such a fiasco:

  1. Engage the audience first.  Any time you have a room bursting at the seams (and overflow rooms needed), or a controversial topic, or major news pending, it pays to let the audience express itself early in the session--even if you only take 10 or 15 questions that you promise to touch on. Let them put their questions on the table early.  You get a sense of the room, they get to choose what's discussed, and everyone benefits.  You'll look smart, inclusive, able to handle risk, and friendly...and you'll have my attention.
  2. Think about the energy you'll project.  As has become common in large high-tech keynotes, this talk was a seated interview with a moderator, whom Gray calls on the carpet for asking easy questions.  For the audience that meant:  Not much to look at, and no drama--it's tough to get people excited when you and your sole questioner are agreeing with one another.  And any amount of time the questioner is speaking, the audience is really wanting to hear the main attraction.  Worse for Williams, being seated might just be the last position a CEO should be in when speaking--it diminishes your authority, and even more important, your energy, which starts to slip 10 minutes into the session when you're seated. (That goes for your audience, too.)  By staying seated, he lost the chance to use his body to create visual interest, to move into the audience and to create a sense of excitement.
  3. If you're talk is about an interactive technology, demonstrate that quality.  One big downside to the onstage interview (and I've been on both sides of them) is that, at base, it's a conversation between two people with a big crowd of listeners. On Twitter, that would be a direct message--one that excludes all but the two people on stage, putting the audience in a passive role. Williams ran into a buzz saw that's been running for a while now:  Speakers about high-tech wonders are stuck in presentation styles enforced by both tradition and the large crowds they attract.  The audience expects more interactivity, human or technological, in such a talk.  It doesn't have to involve slides. The surprise element of one important person standing up to speak is like catnip for audiences--he might say or do anything.  Want to use technology? Do so in a way that surprises and delights us, then get back to talking.
  4. You've got to plan your content.  Sometimes, speakers who know they're about to be interviewed live in front of a crowd decide they need to plan less and just go with the questions.  Big mistake.  You need to make sure the questions reflect what the audience wants, or inject into your answers the news you want them to know, or both.  And what better way to elicit "what will you want to hear from me during the keynote on Tuesday?" than to ask it on Twitter?  Then just be sure the interview or speech answers the major groups of questions--and answer the rest online.
Twitter's my favorite tool of all the social-media tools I use, and yet, in this case, it's less the backchannel than what happened on stage that did in this respected CEO.  Focusing on these four steps, basic as they are, will help you avoid a flop the next time your big speaking opportunity rolls around.

I'm seeing many reports that confirm that Ev Williams' presentation at SXSW yesterday was a flop. Denise Graveline offers some useful tips for making a talk work.

Three Good Workers Equal One Who’s Great

Q. Tell me about your most important leadership lessons.

A. I studied a lot of philosophy at Jesuit High School in Dallas. One of the things that really struck me was that most people seem to think that there’s a separate code of conduct in business from your personal life. And I always believed they should be the same.

So we have what we call foundation principles. They are talked about and emphasized around here constantly. They’re all almost corny, a little bit Golden Rule-ish, but it causes two things. It causes everybody to act as a unit. Even though we’re sort of liberating everybody to choose the means to the ends, we all agree on the ends, and the foundation principles are what cause us to agree on the ends.


Q. Talk more about those principles.

A. We preach a lot here that team is one of the most beautiful of all human experiences. You do great things together, and you go home at night feeling wonderful about what great things you accomplished that day. That’s what people want, and that’s what wise and sophisticated leaders help cultivate and know that people want. Every bad boss you or I have ever had thinks that what people want is the exact opposite of that. The way we create a place where people do want to come to work is primarily through two key points. One of our foundation principles is that leadership and communication are the same thing. Communication is leadership.

Anymore, Corner Office is the article I turn to first in the Sunday Times. This week the interview is with Kip Tindell, CEO at Container Store. The excerpt above contains a challenging thought, an important thought, about integrity. Though the lesson has to be carried farther, Toastmasters need to remember that you can't talk one way and act another. It just won't wash.

Tindell returns to the idea of integrity at the end of the interview

Q. Is there an expression you often use that is, in effect, No. 8, the one that is not on that list of the company’s seven foundation principles?

A. Yes, and it sums up a lot of things. We talk a lot about a person’s wake, like a boat’s wake.

Q. Explain that.

A. Most people’s wake is much, much, much larger than they can ever imagine. We all can’t imagine that we have as much impact on the people and the world around us as we really do. That’s just a way of getting people to see that everything you do, and everything you don’t do, impacts your business, the people around you, and the world around you, far, far, far more than you can imagine. 

Presentation Zen: We learn from stories and experience

When it comes to learning and genuinely retaining something, nothing beats experiences. Formal educational or speaking settings don't always allow for actual hands-on experience with the content, but almost every learning situation — including presentation in various forms — does permit the use of stories. Stories, that is, that illustrate the content and bring people in, enabling them to "experience" the material in an engaging, visual, and imaginative way. A way that will be remembered. One can use analogy, or metaphor, or the depiction or verbal reenactment of actual, relevant events that illuminate and make the material more real and more memorable. Stories have an emotional component and when you engage people's emotions, even just a little bit, you stand a better chance of them paying attention and remembering your point (whether or not they agree with you is another matter entirely).

Good advice from one of the best speaking blogs. Click through for more detail and for a link to a podcast with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who "touches on the issue of experience and emotion and the importance of enthusiasm."