LINKS OF THE WEEK: 2014.06

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This week started off busy, but by its end, I got exactly what I needed: a much-needed break.  This time of year means the end of my Spring semester at UCF and Spring Break at work, so I am where I need to be: relaxing and enjoying some time to refocus on the things that are important.  During that time, I am planning to read for pleasure.  I just received Dan Roam’s Show And Tell in the mail yesterday, got Kafka On The Shore from my brother for my birthday, and purchased Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald today at Target.  As a reader, I cannot tell you how excited I am for some pleasure reading for the next few weeks between graduate classes.

Today, I also had a bit of time to catch up on my favorite blogs.  I’d like to share new offerings from Chiara Ojeda and Ethos3.

Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides shared two incredible posts this week.  “Participation: Action Speaks Louder Than Your Words” shares some audience-centered advice on how to include participation and activity in your next speech.  Chiara writes, “When an audience can move beyond passive absorption of information or even active visualization of an idea, that audience is more likely to not only remember the idea, but pass it along to others (whether it is through action, word of mouth, or influence). A message come alive in the audience’s hearts and minds creates that ripple effect speakers need to gain traction for their ideas” (Source).  I think activity CAN be incorporated in any presentation.  If you are short on time, that activity could be asking your audience to imagine something or asking for them to raise their hand in response to a prompt.  If you have more time, that activity can be acting out a scene, drawing on a whiteboard, or engaging in some sort of play.

Chiara also posted “Design Smarter: Learn To Generate Color,” a must-read for slide designers.  She shares tips for how we can work to create effective color schemes in our slideshows using helpful tools such as Design Seeds (my personal favorite) and Adobe’s Kuler.  If choosing a color scheme is difficult for you when you create a slideshow, this article is essential! 

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Ethos3 also published two great articles since the last time I read the blog.  Amy Cuddy is one of my favorites, and I always recommend that my students watch her TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”  I was delighted to see Ethos3′s “Presentation Lessons from Amy Cuddy” yesterday.  Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly gives us some great tips from Cuddy’s presentation including a strong hook, effective use of visuals and video, storytelling, and a strong conclusion.  Schwertly writes, “Combining moving personal narrative, wisely-chosen media, and a strong hook, Amy Cuddy succeeds massively in her TED Talk. It makes us want to take a power pose right now” (Source).  Let’s stand up and do the Wonder Woman all together now!

Ethos3 also published “The 5-7-5 Presentation Technique,” which I recognized as a form of poetry called the haiku but never imagined could be applied to presentations.  The article suggests we consider the haiku style when presenting because it allows us to be “mindful about using too much text with extraneous narrative and filler” (Source).  The goal is to include as little text as possible on our slides and to consider the haiku style when developing those slides.  Ethos3 gives two examples here and explains, that when “broken into separately designed slides, it’s minimal and filler-free” and “a triumph of minimalism” (Source).  I am definitely going to try this when designing my next Slideshare deck!

What great articles on public speaking and presentation did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.05

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Have you made time to read this week?  I’ve had a particularly busy week, so it was nice to take a forced but much-needed break this afternoon to do some reading for pleasure.

Unfortunately, I read Ethos3′s “Make The Best Call To Action Of All Time” too late to share with my students who are delivering their persuasive presentations tomorrow in class.  This is an article, though, that I will definitely want to hand out in the future.  Ethos3′s CEO Scott Schwertly gives us four important ways to call our audience to action: by triggering an emotional response; by sharing a sense of urgency; by using actionable language; and by giving incentive (Source).

My favorite suggestion was to give a sense of urgency.  When mentoring the Sports Marketing and Media students earlier this week, one student’s call to action did include that feeling of pressure on his audience.  But how do we create this in our presentations?  Schwertly says, “Give the audience a sense of urgency; why are you standing before them presenting today? Why is important they hear your message and “act now?” What will happen if they don’t act? Build your [call to action] to be time sensitive so that your audience knows they can’t put off their action” (Source).  Another suggestion is to analyze infomercials and commercials to see how companies market that urgency.

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Kevin Daum of INC.com posted a fantastic article called “10 Tips for Giving Great Online Presentations.”  Daum’s suggestions come at the perfect time.  Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve had four major online interviews/meetings using either Skype, FaceTime, or Google+ Hangouts, and I’ve conducted a dozen GoTo Training presentations for students.  The age of technology and innovation allows us to meet and to present online, and this is important because our audience is global.

Daum tells us we must first use the right tool for the job.  With all of the online meeting and presentation tools available, how do you pick the one that works best for your purpose?  Next, he suggests we focus on clarity; simple slides; and engaging content.

His seventh tip, encourage conversation, is something I feel is essential.  Daum says, “The great part of collaborative software is that it allows people to communicate with the presenter and each other during the presentation through messaging, so the talk isn’t interrupted. You should encourage your team to do this from the beginning. Watching the online activity will give you a sense of how engaged your listeners are and allow you to tailor your presentation along the way, if need be” (Source).  In the GoTo Trainings I lead for my students, I would speak for 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes for Q&A.  My “ah ha!” moment came after I re-read John Medina’s Brain Rules, and I realized that students sitting and starting at a computer for 45 minutes wasn’t conducive to learning.  In 2014, my focus has been on a 5 minute warm-up conversation or “question of the day” to get people talking; 25 minutes of my content; 20 minutes of student activity; and 10 minutes of Q&A at the end.  The GoTo Training sessions have been more interactive and better than ever, and student participation has really helped us learn more about public speaking and presentation in the 21st century.

Read all 10 of Daum’s online presentation tips here.

What great articles did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.04

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During my search for the perfect book for my Public Speaking class, I added The Power Presenter to my list.  I still haven’t read it, but a certain blog post pushes the book to the top of my list.  Ethos 3′s book review on Jerry Weissman’s The Power Presenter is short and gives some great information on the strengths and drawbacks of the text.  Ethos3 claims the text contains advice on overcoming speaking anxiety as well as strong delivery and content… I am excited to read it!

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Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications gives us Public Speaking Best Practices from her clients.  Written at the start of the new year, this advice resonates with me because it is so valid in every setting for every speaker.  For example, some of the client advice includes simplifying the message and the slides; using engagement strategies; and considering delivery (Source).  Check out her entire article here.

Make A Powerful Point is quickly becoming my favorite website/blog on public speaking and presenting.  Curator Gavin McMahon’s latest article “Comparisons Speak Louder Than Words” is something I want to implement in my classes to help students present numbers and data.  McMahon explains that audience members can’t really understand large numbers because they become abstract (Source).  Knowing this, presenters should put a focus on comparisons, and he gives us 5 ingredients for a good comparison.  This post is essential for business presenters!  Read it here.

What great articles have you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.03

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This week, presentation experts have been buzzing about Michael Bay’s Meltdown.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and watch the cringeworthy onstage moment here.  Unfortunately for Michael Bay, this was an epic public speaking fail.  Fortunately for us, we can learn a lot from it.

“Five Lessons from Michael Bay’s Meltdown” by Manner of Speaking gives us great insight into what happened onstage at the Samsung press conference.  These five lessons all relate to preparation: 1) prepare, 2) warm up, 3) have a back-up plan, 4) don’t make a big deal out of the problem, and 5) get back on the horse.  Check out the fantastic article here.  I created a lesson for my students on the importance of preparation, but I also gave them practical examples of how to prepare.  Check out the Slideshare deck here.  (Again, keep in mind, this is only a slideshow designed to go along with my classroom lesson.  If you want to know more about what we discuss in class, email me!)

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Nadine Hanafi of We Are Visual created a visual presentation to address the issue.  “Michael Bay’s Million Dollar ‘Whoops’ Moment: Why You Should Internalize – Not Memorize – Your Speech” is a must-see Slideshare deck.  Hanafi hits the nail on the head about how to prepare for a speech.  The goal is not to write a script and then to read that script to the audience.  As we know from Garr Reynolds’ naked presenter philosophy, our goal is to research and to prepare content that we spend time rehearsing until we are comfortable.  On presentation day, a speaker can definitely use a speaking outline or notecards with very little written down to help stay on track with our content.  But if a speaker relies on a teleprompter to feed him both words and ideas, he’s in trouble!  As we can see from the Michael Bay ‘Whoops’ Moment, if the technology fails, we’re screwed if we’ve planned to rely only on the teleprompter.  What’s more – if we simply read from a script, our delivery isn’t natural, authentic, and “naked” as Garr Reynolds advises.  We must learn the goal of speech delivery and how to embody this conversational style when we present.

For a few more good reads on the Michael Bay presentation debacle, check out Carmine Gallo’s “How A Movie Director Could Have Avoided Prompter Meltdown” and “What You Can Learn From Michael Bay’s Embarrassing Presentation Mishap” by Geoff Weiss of Entreprenuer.com

What did you think of Michael Bay’s presentation, or lack thereof, at the Samsung press conference?

Links of the Week: 2014.02

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For both my on-campus and online students, I explain that when it comes to public speaking and presentation, there are two major problems: lack of preparation and presentation anxiety.  It is true that these often go hand-in-hand.  In his latest blog post on Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds discusses speech anxiety, also known as the lizard brain.  “Coping With Presentation Anxiety and Stage Fright” starts off by showing us an example of a Michael Bay presentation fail.  Reynolds then explains that we all suffer from stage fright in certain speaking situations, and we must learn how to deal with that anxiety.  He gives us an excerpt from his book The Naked Presenter written by guest author Les Posen called “Five Tips for Dealing With Presentation Nerves.”  These five suggestions include chunking your presentation; rehearsing; engaging in positive self talk; controlling physical symptoms of fear through deep breathing; and practicing deliberately.

Sometimes, the part of the presentation that makes us most fearful is the question and answer portion.  Fortunately, Ethos3′s latest post, “How To End Your Q&A Session,” can help!  My on-campus students are the only ones who ever do Q&A after speeches, and this can be a positive, productive experience or a really, really sad time.  For example, one of my students gave a persuasive speech on an emotionally-charged, polarizing topic… one which I told him he should reconsider due to his audience.  He ignored my advice, and I told him to meet me in my office to prepare and plan a successful speech.  Of course, he declined my offer (and, I should add, declined to apply all of the things I taught him that semester) and instead delivered a scattered, disorganized, essentially impromptu presentation which, needless to say, did not go over well with his audience.  During the Q&A, his fellow classmates tore him apart.  And I let them.  While it’s not my intention to ever make a student feel bad about himself, it is important that students learn one key thing in my class: it is all about the audience.

Not all students ignore my lessons and feedback and one-on-one help in my office, and most do a great job with Q&A because they’ve prepared and practiced.  They’re ready for their audience and genuinely want to clear up confusion or elaborate on their ideas.  Ethos3′s advice on how to manage a successful Q&A is a great article I would like to share with my audience-centered students.  The three tips Ethos3 give us for a post-speech chat include 1) taking one question at a time in a structured and organized fashion; 2) explaining up front the kinds of questions that will be answered; and 3) sharing an agenda.

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At our last English Department meeting, a colleague brought up the topic of visual resumes.  This is something I teach in Professional Communication and Presentation to my business students, and I loved the timing of Nancy Duarte’s “Old Career Rules Don’t Work – To Compete, You Need A Body Of Work.”  While my colleague did a great job of sharing examples of visual resumes, what wasn’t said in our Department meeting was why an online, digital portfolio or visual resume is essential in 2014.  Duarte talks about that specifically in her latest blog post.  She writes, “If you neglect your story, one will be written for you [...] The rise of social media has blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. Anybody can search for your name on the Internet and interpret the results however they wish” (Source).  And this is where managing your digital reputation comes in.

In 2010, Facebook was my obsession.  I’d had it since 2004 and spent hours every single day looking at photos and posting on my friends’ walls.  My Internet “brand” was what I posted on my personal Facebook page and the pages of other people.  Fast-forward to 2014, and I’ve been Facebook-free for nearly three years.  Instead, I’ve focused on building my digital brand in a much more constructive way through my blog, my contributions on the blogs of others, my Slideshare posts, my visual resume, and my LinkedIn profile page.  If you’d conducted a Google search of me back in 2010, you wouldn’t find much because I was wasting so much time on Facebook.  These days, I like what I see when I type “Alex Rister” into Google, and this has taken years and years of work.

Duarte says, “[Y]ou can no longer rely on a traditional resume of bullet points to position you for success. You must understand that all information in the public forum will become stories that influence your personal brand” (Source).  We only have 24 hours each day, and we get to decide how we want to spend that time.  Are we using our hours on the Internet for constructive, career-building, brand-creating, storytelling purposes?  If not, how can we make this more of a priority?  Can we cut out just 30 minutes or an hour of Facebooking each day to focus on our personal brand?

What great articles have you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.01

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We have our very first “Links of the Week” roundup for 2014!  And what a way to kick off the new year: with a Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds feature.  When I saw that Duarte conducted an interview with Reynolds in her office and posted an article containing that interview yesterday, I was THRILLED.  Called “Garr Reynolds Shares How Kids Impact The Creative Process,” the blog post contains a video interview you absolutely must watch.  Check it out below:

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In addition to the interview with my two favorite public speaking and presentation professionals, I learned that Reynolds has a soon-to-be published book on storytelling!  I cannot wait.  Since I am seeking a new textbook for my public speaking class, this might definitely be the book I’ve been desperately searching for.

I also loved the focus on play and on making sure play is incorporated in school and in work.  My university launched a unique course called Psychology of Play as opposed to a traditional Behavioral Science, and after meeting with the team leaders and learning from them, I felt so inspired!  I’ve been incorporating more play into my classroom and into my online GoTo Training sessions.  For example, during my last GoTo Training session with my Public Speaking Online students, I gave them 2 minutes to find either a really great or a really terrible presentation on YouTube.  We came back and analyzed a few together.  The experience was fun for everyone and got the students more involved in the session.  I find that whether we’re lecturing in the classroom or just talk talk talk talking our students’ ears off during a GoTo Training, we can interrupt that boring, mind-numbing sermon and instead incorporate play through activity and discussion.  I’m trying to do more of this in my own life, so it was great to be inspired by Reynolds and Duarte again in the interview video.

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Another tried and true favorite blog with a great article out this week comes from Ethos3.  “Presenting to Small Groups” gives advice on how to speak in a smaller venue to a smaller audience.  This was definitely an adjustment for me!  After teaching classes of 30-60 students for years, for a few months, I found myself cramped in teeny tiny classrooms of sometimes less than 10 students.  The experience was odd at first – because I do prefer a medium-sized audience – but I learned to adjust and to see the positives of a small group.  Ethos3′s advice includes changing the way we see the speaking situation from “presentation” to “consultation” and changing the type of presentation software used.  Although I would never recommend that any presenter use Prezi, I do agree with many points in the Ethos3 piece.  Check it out here.

Last, but not least, is an article we can all print out and put in our public speaking toolbox the next time we have to address an audience.  “10 Tips For Setting Up Your Presentation” by Jim Harvey contains advice to make sure you are as prepared as possible.  With tips like leaving the lights on while speaking; avoiding complicated animations, transitions, and multimedia; and sitting in an audience member’s seat beforehand to check readability of slides, Harvey’s latest article is one I will be sharing with my students from now on.

What interesting public speaking and presentation blog posts or articles have you read so far in 2014?

Links of the Week: 2013.22

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When I found myself frustrated after studying for my Quantitative Research Methods Final Exam all day, I knew it was time to take a break and to do some pleasure reading.  Because I’ve been reading and re-reading books to decide on a new class textbook for our Public Speaking course, I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite blogs.  This afternoon was a great time to play catch-up!

Ethos3 is always a great place to turn for short and sweet, insightful articles about public speaking and presentation.  I missed quite a few good ones including “Great Presenters Do A SWOT Analysis” and “Recover From Presentation Disasters.”  My favorite recent article, though, is “Improve Your Presentation Skills With Sales Techniques.”  This was a great piece to share with my business students who will link presentation skills to sales much more often in their careers than I do in mine as a teacher.  Ethos3 suggests that presenters remember 1) to begin with the end in mind, 2) to always be closing, and 3) to follow up (Source).

It would also appear that in addition to being public speaking and presentation gurus, Ethos3 has learned the secret to everlasting, eternal life… Somehow, they recruited Aristotle to write the blog posts mentioned above! :)

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I also read a terrific article called “Simple Is Not Stupid” from Janice Tomich’s Calculated Presentations.  This was such a great read because this is something we often forget.  My students will occasionally fall into the trap of trying to talk about too much, trying to talk “too big” for the audience, when simplicity is the most important part of a great speech.  Tomich says, “When we simplify content we make it easy for our audience to understand…they don’t have to struggle with teasing apart concepts and intent. Remember that your audience is being bombarded with auditory and physical information when you present to them. You know it intimately.  They don’t” (Source).

A few semesters ago, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I had a student who wanted to talk about social constructionism for his 5:00 Ignite-style presentation.  I was immediately concerned because I had taken a four-month course on that same subject and had only scratched the surface.  Despite warning this student that he needed to focus on simplicity and one tiny piece of the theory, Philosophical Student decided to try to compile a history lesson and an argument that we should accept this theory and apply it to our own lives in 5 minutes.  Needless to say, it didn’t work.  From this experience, I’ve learned to help students approach conceptual, theory-based topics in a simpler way.  Why?  Because if the audience doesn’t already have a knowledge base in the area, they will be confused from start to finish.  As Tomich says, and as I teach my students, you can simplify your presentation by 1) always thinking about your audience, 2) removing the expert jargon, and 3) examining the outcome you want (Source).  Simplicity, as Garr Reynolds tells us, is not stupidity – it is elegance.

What great articles did you read over the long Thanksgiving weekend?

Links of the Week: 2013.21

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For the past two weeks, I’ve spent most of my time reading potential books to replace our Public Speaking textbook.  This morning, I was finally able to catch up on my blog and article reading.

In honor of Halloween, Nancy Duarte’s team released another Duarte.com/edy sketch on “Frankenslides.”  I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen do this… obviously unsuccessfully.  It’s a terrible idea to grab bits and pieces of a lot of different PowerPoint presentations, throw them all together, and present that as a cohesive unit.  This approach doesn’t work because the slides weren’t organized or developed as one presentation.

I’ve also recently seen a presenter try to speak using content created by Person A and slides created by Person B.  It was messy.  If you didn’t develop the content, and if you didn’t develop the slides, you’re relying on your delivery alone to get you through the presentation.  It never ends well because, as we know, a presentation is a three-legged stool that must have successful content, slides, AND delivery.

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I am a big fan of Make A Powerful Point‘s Gavin McMahon.  His most recent article is called “Framing: The Secret to a Better Presentation.”  I loved this read.  McMahon says, “framing is critical to your presentation, conversation or message” (Source).  He talks about considering the current “frame” around an issue you are presenting and then reframing that issue so that you can call your audience to action… It’s an interesting take on persuasion, and I think it works.  McMahon also gives us a tool to do this: to work to reframe (Source).  The T-Leaf would be a great exercise in my class when working on developing a persuasive speech.

Last, but not least, are my favorites at Ethos3.  “Great Presenters Have Their Own Point Of View” echoes McMahon’s ideas about reframing an idea to present it to an audience.  The folks at Ethos3 consider late night TV talkshows and argue that while there are many different ways to host a late night show, a crucial element is to put your own personal spin on things (Source).  That unique spin, that reframing, is the essence of a good presentation.  Are you going to present information like everyone else?  Then sit down! You’re wasting your audience’s time.  Ethos3 asserts, “The unforgivable sin in late night television, and in presentations, is to have a forgettable perspective on things” (Source).  How do you work to reframe a presentation so that it shows off your unique point of view?

What great things have you been reading this week?

Links of the Week: 2013.20

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This week has been a whirlwind!  Fortunately, I can always find a few moments of down time during even the busiest of weeks to read the latest public speaking and presentation articles and blog posts.  Duarte’s Katie Gray wrote a fascinating article called “Do Learning Styles Teach Us Anything?” and included a beautiful infographic as well as some insight into how learning styles relate to presenting.  As a college instructor, my life changed as soon as I realized the connection between teaching and public speaking/presenting.  Gray says, “You can use learning style research to get ideas about how to present your information in different ways, depending on your audience. They may not be limited to one style, but you can take a logical guess about which style will work best” (Source).  Certainly, I teach Public Speaking to Film, Recording Arts, and Show Production students quite differently than I teach Professional Communication and Presentation to Entertainment Business and Music Business students.

Gray adds, “Knowing your audience makes being a presenter—or a teacher of any kind—more interesting. If you had to give the same presentation or the same lecture repeatedly, without altering it for the audience, your job would be pretty boring. So relish in the task of knowing your audience and using your presentation to treat them like a hero—by making a deeply personal connection, not just a bullet list of main points” (Source).  This is fascinating to me because most teachers at my university DO give the same lecture repeatedly without altering it, and my students asked me about that very thing in class today.  They said, “Our other teachers say they give the same exact lecture the same way month after month after month.  Do you do that, too, Mrs. Rister?”  Well, as Gray points out in her article, if this is your approach to teaching and presenting, you’re not growing; you’re not focused on your audience; and you’re not having any fun… you can bet your audience isn’t having any fun either!

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So can we do anything to change that?  Ethos3 offers a solution in “If You Don’t Know Where You Are, You Can’t Get Where You’re Going.”  This article proposes that we work on developing ourselves a little bit at a time, a little bit more each day, so that we’re flexing our creativity and intelligence.

The instructors I referred to above CAN push themselves to add new information every time they teach a lesson.  They could take student critique seriously and ask students genuine questions to help the course and the instructional team grow.  They could ask for advice from other colleagues or industry professionals.  They could focus not just on mastering their subject or content area but also on presenting that content in a learning-centered, student-focused, audience-driven way.

Ethos3′s article suggests, “Only those who are satisfied with their current level of success, influence and ability are content to believe the myth that they’ve reached the apex of their abilities. The best among us simultaneously acknowledge their strengths while striving to push to the next level. The only way to do that is to constantly measure and assess performance and progress” (Source).  If instructors used this advice, they could grow their lessons each month.  “Maximum effectiveness” would never be reached, and instructors would never be satisfied because they would focus on learning, growing, changing, and doing more.  If we had colleges and schools filled with people like this, imagine the impact we could have on students’ lives.  The thought challenges and inspires me!

What great articles on teaching and learning did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2013.19

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This week, I’ve been reading in search of a new book for the Public Speaking course on my campus.  During my search, I’ve stumbled across so many great articles that I am seriously considering a collection of online reads, blog posts, and scholarly journals as opposed to one traditional book.

Ethos3′s “Rehearsed vs. Memorized” is the perfect example.  In this short and sweet article, the Nashville presentation firm discusses the difference between a memorized speech and a rehearsed speech.

In the Public Speaking class I have been tasked with revamping, an outdated approach is being used both in the classroom and online.  This approach pre-dates the presentation revolution.  Students are being asked to fill out an outline Mad-Libs style and then to memorize that outline.  I really hate this antiquated view of speech delivery, which is why I loved the message behind the Ethos3 piece…

“It’s as simple as giving yourself an honest assessment. As you’re running through your practice, do you feel:

  • Confident or Insecure
  • Unscripted or Scripted
  • Authentic or Fake

See, the main difference between the two is subtle. It’s feel” (Source).

There is a significant difference between students who memorize their speech and students who learn the Garr Reynolds “naked delivery” method of rehearsing and internalizing a message for authentic and natural delivery.  Old school Public Speaking instructors teach the first method; instructors who are members of the presentation revolution teach the second.

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We study persuasion as it relates to advertising in the Professional Communication and Presentation course I teach.  Because my students are entering the business world, knowing how persuasion relates to the 21st century is essential.  I loved “Not So Fast, Fast Forwarders – Ads Are Telling Some Great Stories” recently posted on Duarte Blog.  The article analyzes storytelling in commercials, and I love these three examples shared by Greta Stahl for the use of the modes of persuasion.

My students always love searching for a commercial and picking apart the pathos, the ethos, and the logos.  A great story is essential in a persuasive message, such as a commercial or an advertisement.  So why do we forget about story or eliminate it completely from the most powerful persuasive tool: a presentation?

To help you incorporate more story in your persuasive message, I highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  I find Resonate to impact students in a meaningful way.  They understand it, they quote it, and they see how it relates to presentations but also to communication and leadership.

What great articles on public speaking and presentation did you read this week?