Congratulations to my dear friend Chiara Ojeda! Not only has her most recent slide deck earned the title of “Top Presentation of the Day” on Slideshare, but Ethos3 featured her in a blog post analyzing the slideshow.
Chiara Ojeda recently debuted her newest delivery deck on Slideshare. Called “R.E.A.L. Delivery,” the presentation focuses on cultivating delivery that is ready and prepared; that is engaging and authentic; and that leaves a lasting impression.
What are your favorite books, websites, and resources on presentation delivery? Who are your delivery heroes?
Working with Andrew Dlugan is a writer’s dream. He is an amazing editor, and his encouragement and mentorship has meant a lot to me over the past six months. I worked with Dlugan on two previous articles for his blog, Six Minutes. These articles included “10 Presentation Habits My Students – And You – Must UN-Learn” and “What Is An Ignite Presentation, and Why Should You Try It?” My most recent article is on eye contact myths.
Do you guest write for blogs other than your own? Where has your work been published?
After seeing Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on nonverbal communication, I’ve been obsessed with her research and studies. Today, I found a TIME video with Cuddy. Check it out below:
This definitely gives great examples of high and low power poses and summarizes her TED Talk subject a bit. Watch her TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” here. It is definitely one of my favorites, and I shared a small clip of the Talk with my Professional Communication and Presentation class as a way to combat presentation anxiety. Power posing is definitely a trick for fighting that nervousness, and I hope it helps my students not only with speeches but also in interviews in the future.
I’ve also been following Cuddy on Twitter. She is truly inspiring. It’s not often that a beautiful young woman becomes successful based solely on the power of her mind and of her ideas, and I think she is such a positive role model.
Have you fallen in love with a TED speaker lately? Which TEDster inspires you most?
In my public speaking and presentation class, we talk about how audiences perceive your body language when you are speaking. ”Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” is a fascinating TED Talk, and social psychologist Amy Cuddy provides many engaging examples to explain nonverbal communication. I loved her take on “power posing,” which she explains is confident nonverbal posture and communication even in those lizard brain moments, and I will definitely be able to apply this to my class in the future.
Cuddy’s TED Talk is particularly interesting with the dissection of nonverbal communication in the current presidential debates. She says that when someone is being really powerful nonverbally that we don’t actually mirror them, we do the opposite of them (Source). Do you think that was the case in the first presidential debate?
Now that I’ve seen this amazing TED Talk and understand how to teach powerful nonverbal communication, I’m going to add onto my “Lizard Brain” and public speaking anxiety lecture. I can’t wait to share these messages with my students when I get back in the classroom in December!
What did you learn about body language and nonverbal communication from Cuddy’s TED Talk?
This week, Professional Communication and Presentation students watched a TED Talk and created an analysis presentation to deliver to the class. After working with students on their content, we turned to improving their delivery.
Nancy Duarte’s Presentation Ecosystem was inspired by Jim Endicott’s 3-legged presentation stool. In both the ecosystem and the stool, there are 3 parts of a strong presentation: 1) message/content, 2) delivery, and 3) visual presentation. Since April’s focus was exclusively speech delivery, and since we recently defined the goal of presentation as a whole, it’s important to know what the goal of delivery should be.
When we think of the purpose of delivery, its goal, its purpose, it all boils down to one essential element: connection.
Before you can establish a connection with an audience, however, you must overcome two barriers. First, you must conquer your speech anxiety, the first and probably biggest barrier for most people. Next, you must prepare. Without proper preparation, you’ll be focused on your content; you’ll be worried about what’s about to come out of your mouth next as opposed to how you’re delivering that material. Only when you overcome your speech anxiety and properly prepare for a presentation will you be able to focus on the goal of speech delivery.
Connection can’t happen when you’re standing behind a podium reading a speech like a robot. Connection can’t happen when you’re unprepared or lizard braining. Connection is about showing the audience the real, authentic, true you so that they can feel your human-ness. Connection starts with authenticity.
Now, authenticity doesn’t mean act in front of an audience exactly as you would at home sitting on the couch with your best friend. Decorum is important for a speaker, Aristotle tells us, so with authenticity comes an element of professionalism. With decorum in mind, authenticity is you at your very best. It’s feeling great, looking great, and taking pride and being happy in the moment with exactly who you are.
This month, several students came in to conference about their TED Analysis Presentations. One particular student, we’ll call her Cindy, came in with a script, and her practice run involved her just reading the script to us. Cindy has a kind and gentle personality; she’s truly beautiful inside and out. Reading from a script, however, drained her of all that personality, and she wasn’t connected with her audience or showing any sort of authenticity or naturalness.
We often think writing a script and reading that script will be helpful; after all, we can just memorize our content and say everything word-for-word, exactly as we intended, right? Absolutely not! Working from a script is the best way for the Lizard Brain to take hold of you. If you mess up one sentence, one word, you chastise yourself for not being “perfect.” But perfection isn’t the goal of speech delivery… authenticity is. Using an outline allows you to organize your thoughts and nail down your content without losing that naturalness.
During our conference, Cindy decided to delete her Word document script and to work from an outline instead. The practice round in front of her instructors versus her final presentation in front of the class was a complete transformation. Cindy confidently presented her material in class with that outline. She had to look down a few times to make sure she was staying on the well-organized path she created for herself, but she spoke to us all as if we were having a conversation. She finally showed her audience that beautiful personality we know and love about her.
Remember that authenticity is key in speech delivery, and you’ll never be able to show your audience who you truly are if you’re just memorizing a script and repeating that script word for word. Audience members don’t relate to robots. We relate to real people.
Connection is also about showing the audience your passion. A presenter connects with an audience by showing that passion. A TED Commandment was based on this idea; TED Commandment #3 tells us, “Thou shalt show thy curiosity and thy passion” (Source). Passion is important because if a presenter doesn’t care about his or her topic, an audience certainly won’t.
I find that passion in presenting comes down to one key factor: topic selection. A student in Professional Communication and Presentation a few months ago was terrified to take the course. Let’s call him Adam. Adam refused to take the course for quite a long time because of his Lizard Brain. However, when it came time for him to take the course or lose his degree, he came to class and tried to cope with his fear. After a few days, Adam was forced to deliver his very first speech in front of the class, and the Lizard Brain became too much for him. After conferencing with him, his instructors and speech partners found a topic Adam was passionate about: hockey. Adam was so excited about the chance to talk about something he loved that he temporarily forgot the irrational Lizard Brain fears and instead focused on developing a strong speech. He called up his knowledge on the subject, his love for the game, and his past experiences as a hockey player. In this case, topic selection allowed Adam to finally see his potential as a strong presenter.
If you select a topic you love, you will be able to show your passion to your audience. Consider Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk “On Music and Passion,” a speech about classical music. Though Zander is charismatic, would his passion come through the same way in a speech about the water cycle or the anatomy of a honeybee? Since Zander is a conductor, his life’s work and passion is classical music.
Show us your passion by picking a topic you love, telling us why you love it, and giving us examples of your connection to your topic. Storytelling goes a long way, as you can see from Zander’s TED Talk. You will also find that your confidence is much higher delivering a speech on a topic you love versus delivering a speech on a topic you know little to nothing about… In Adam’s case, his hockey speech allowed him to show his true personality and obsession with the sport. His delivery was passionate because he was able to retire the Lizard Brain and smile, laugh, and have fun with his presentation.
Garr Reynolds wrote the book on speech delivery; The Naked Presenter is a must-own for anyone who has to deliver a presentation. His book is written so that regardless of public speaking knowledge or experience, anyone can understand and apply his key principles.
Have you read The Naked Presenter? What are your thoughts on the text?
The biggest fear presenters seem to have is making eye contact with the audience. Myths exist about how to deal with this fear: look at the wall behind the audience; look at the top of their heads; look at foreheads… Please don’t try any of this foolishness. Come on. The goal of speech delivery is to make a connection, and the only way you can connect is by making eye contact.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. It’s probably the worst part about public speaking delivery. But your presentation needs eye contact in order to succeed.
Consider not using eye contact at all. You can imagine what this is like by picturing a conversation between you and a group of friends over lunch. What if you spoke to these friends without meeting any of their eyes for the duration of your lunch? Those friends would think you were dishonest, deceptive, or, even worse, crazy.
Consider the most important benefit of eye contact: you establish that connection with your audience because they feel like you care about them. Garr Reynolds asks, “How do you know if you are connecting?” (Source). The answer can be found in Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk. ”How do you know if you are ‘awaking the possibility’ in each [...] audience member, Zander asks. The answer? ’Look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.’ Zander goes on to say ‘…if the eyes are not shining you have to ask yourself a question: who am I being that my player’s eyes are not shining?’” (Source). Zander’s TED Talk is a must-watch, and if you take anything away from his delivery, take note of his eye contact with his TED audience.
What other crazy eye-contact gimmicks have you heard? Why don’t those “tips” actually work when delivering a public speech?
Some of my long-winded students have trouble with timing when delivering their speeches. We use “flags” to give them “1:00″ and “0:30″ remaining signs. These “flags” are akin to Dave Chappelle’s Wrap It Up Box. (If you know Dave Chappelle, you already know that clip is NSFW!)
People often ramble in life and during speeches. For example, when my Film students in Public Speaking were tasked to give a 3 to 5 minute informative presentation on an industry professional, one young lady spoke for 17 minutes about Elizabeth Taylor. The entire class was ready to murder her.
I remind my students that if you are tasked to give a 5 minute speech, going over on time is disrespectful to the people who have to follow you. As a presenter, you are eating away at the time of the people who present after you. In the case of the 17 minute Elizabeth Taylor speaker, 3 presenters could have gone in the time it took this young lady to deliver one speech.
For the most part, the students who have trouble with timing are the people who a) haven’t prepared or b) don’t read the directions. Either way, these students aren’t considering their audience’s needs and are creating presenter-centered speeches. Similarly, in the real world, people who go over on time are most concerned with making their point no matter what… they should be concerned with making their point in the most clear, well organized, concise way possible.
When delivering a speech, a time limit is almost always in place. Whether you’re tasked to speak for 5 minutes or 5 hours, you should never go over on time. Ever.
Audiences can take the extra time you give them to ask you questions; to meet with you after everyone is gone to ask you to elaborate; or to leave the venue to get on with their busy lives. Audiences will never hate you for letting them leave early. Audiences will always hate you for going over on time.
But keep in mind how precious you feel your time to be. Let’s say you just grabbed a gallon of milk and jumped in the “10 items or less” line at Publix because you have to hurry to get home and then to a meeting by 6:00 PM. Let’s say that the person you jump behind in that express line is a woman and her three screaming children, and she has an entire buggy full of items… 72 items! How angry would you feel if you had to wait for her before you were able to check out? The hatred you feel in that scenario is just how much hate an audience feels if you make them sit through at 17 minute presentation that was required to be 3 to 5 minutes.
Don’t make them hate you! Honor your commitment and always respect time.
There’s nothing that frustrates an audience more than the apology-riddled introduction. You’ve heard it before. It’s some version of this:
- I’m sorry I have an accent so you may not be able to understand me
- I’m sorry I’m not prepared
- I’m sorry I have a cough/cold/headache/nausea/some other kind of sickness
- I’m sorry I may read my notecards
- I’m sorry I didn’t practice this speech
- I’m sorry I might say “um” a lot
- I’m sorry I didn’t dress up for my presentation
- I’m sorry I’m nervous
It’s been said it only takes 6 seconds for someone to make a first impression of you. Why waste the first 6 seconds of your speech apologizing? To create a strong introduction, the first words out of your mouth should be your hook. Use a story, an unexpected quote or statistic, a multimedia clip, or an interactive game to encourage audience participation. Never EVER start with an apology.
Apologies are typically presenter-centered. They are a way for the presenter to shake off some nerves or to feel better about his or her presentation. Too often, however, the apology backfires. The presenter starts off on a negative foot instead of a positive one. The presenter squanders his chance to hook the audience. The presenter sets him or herself up for failure by revealing a flaw the audience may not have otherwise seen (in the case of the accent or the “um” confession above).
Again, and most importantly, if the apology is presenter-centered, where is the audience in this equation? Shouldn’t the presenter’s focus be on the audience instead of himself or herself? The audience is already feeling disrespected because the first words out of your mouth are self-centered and all about you. Remember that a presentation is all about them! Focus on your audience.
What are some other no-nos for speech intros? Check out my advice here.
Throughout history, great presenters had a delivery “flaw.” Consider Barbara Walters’ rhotacism, Winston Churchill’s lisp, or Moses’s stutter (Source). One of my favorite films on the subject is The King’s Speech, an absolutely beautiful movie based on King George VI’s overcoming a stammer.
Take Sir Ken Robinson for example. Robinson contracted polio when he was four years old, and you can see that he has difficulty walking at the beginning of the TED Talk below.
Despite Robinson’s inability to move around the stage, every other element of his delivery is flawless. Note his strong eye contact with the audience, his meaningful facial expressions, the energy in his voice, his authentic smile, etc.
All speakers must overcome delivery challenges to become amazing presenters. What is your greatest delivery challenge? How are you working to overcome that obstacle?