Review: Lynda.com’s “Effective Public Speaking” Training

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Since my work granted all of us unlimited access to Lynda.com, I’ve been excited to watch “Effective Public Speaking,” a one-hour training under the “Presentations” section of the website.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

The content of the training is the best part.  However, I would suggest reading this material in Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  The slides are still the standard death-by-bulletpoint and don’t embody the qualities of well-designed slides.  Also, unfortunately, the presenter’s delivery is the worst “leg” of the presentation stool.  It’s sterile and robotic.  She reads from a teleprompter and uses hand gestures as if she were in an infomercial.  Using a presentation guru such as Garr Reynolds or Nancy Duarte would have been perfect for this training, as 21st century presenters know that a speech must involve natural, authentic delivery.

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The training was broken up into five sections.  These included preparation; warming up (isn’t that preparation?); opening; delivering; and closing.  I was sad that there wasn’t a more Presentation Zen-like approach since this training was created in mid-2012.  I would have liked to see sections specifically dedicated to the three legs of the presentation stool: 1) content, 2) delivery, and 3) slide design.  This helps others understand the big picture: what it takes to create a successful presentation.

The speaker started by saying she wasn’t going to focus on presentation anxiety.  I think this is problematic because we have to overcome our lizard brains in order to even think about the preparation stage of a presentation.

The “Preparing Your Speech” first section of the training was filled with great information on preparation in areas such as audience analysis; brainstorming; developing credibility; and rehearsing.  This section did contain good information, but, again, I’d more highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  The book does a significantly better job explaining these concepts in a more interesting way.

I also enjoyed the content and the three downloadable assets provided by Lynda.com.  These included an audience persona sheet; a warm-up checklist; and a storyboard template.

While the slides were ineffective, the biggest drawback of this training is the presenter’s delivery.  An audience is going to become easily bored and disinterested by this one-hour lecture because the presenter’s delivery is devoid of all humanity.  This is problematic for a beginning presenter who might think he has to deliver a speech in the same way.  While the delivery may be technically perfect (no “ums” and “ahs”), it lacks authenticity.  Once we learn the goal of speech delivery, we can convey our natural selves to others.  Delivery isn’t about perfection.  Audiences like vulnerability… They want their presenters to be real and human.  I would have liked to see a presenter who understands delivery lead this training, and this could make all of the difference in the world to Lynda.com users.

As opposed to watching this training, I’d recommend that you read Resonate by Nancy Duarte to help you develop your presentation content; The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds to help you develop your delivery; and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte and/or Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds to help you improve your slides.

Have you been disappointed by a public speaking and presentation training?  What can we do to push people to transition from 1980s sterile presenting using clip art and a podium to the art and science of 21st century presenting?

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History

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While at home over Thanksgiving break, my father gave me an early Christmas gift:

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History is part of The Great Courses lecture series and is taught by Professor John R. Hale from the University of Louisville.  With 12 lessons on speech anxiety; delivery and authenticity; storytelling; the power of three; audience analysis; and persuasion based upon historical speeches, I can’t wait to dive into this two-disc film.

Tomorrow, my students are presenting their first TED Analysis presentations, and afterward, we’re going to discuss audience analysis.  I’m hoping lecture 9 called “Focus on Your Audience – Gandhi on Trial” will fit right in with our class discussion.  As soon as I watch the entire 12 lesson set, I’ll be sure to do a review!

Do you watch any video lectures on presentation?  Who presents your favorite DVDs on public speaking?

Currently Watching… Capote

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One night last week, I decided to watch a movie on Netflix.  I take my movie watching very seriously and hate wasting my time on something ridiculous. After browsing the new releases, I stumbled across Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Check out the trailer here:

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Now, this might surprise you, but I’ve only been a fan of Capote’s since 2011. Even though I’m hugely supportive of many Southern writers and adore William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Cormac McCarthy, I read my first Capote piece only last year.  Luckily, I started with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Trust me when I say the novella is a thousand times better than the movie.  After being blown away by the quality of Tiffany’s, I moved to In Cold Blood, easily one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Watching Capote taught me a lot about the man’s life, and I find him fascinating.  While I knew that he was considered a Southern writer and that he was friends with To Kill A Mockingbird‘s Harper Lee, what I didn’t know was that their friendship blossomed in a small town in Alabama less than 200 miles from the town where I was born and raised. Monroeville, Alabama is a city a stone’s throw from my father’s childhood home: Jay, Florida.  I grew up listening to stories of him playing basketball games in Brewton and Flomaton.  Seeing Monroeville on a map and understanding EXACTLY where Capote spent part of his childhood just blew my mind.

Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Tom McGuane and James Kirkwood

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The movie was phenomenal.  If you are a Capote fan, watch it.  If you are a fan of literature or writing, watch it.  More than that, it’s a movie about the creative process and about your success being tied to something very, very dark.  There’s an enormous struggle here.  Capote, like many artists, has a self-centered desire to be successful and to share a great work with the world, but his creative piece is tied to someone else’s crimes/failure/death.  We see that this struggle isn’t easy for him.  He lapses into alcoholism and depression; he tries to sever the ties between himself and Perry; he even runs away to Spain.  However, the book must be published, and the last chapter relies on the “ending” of Perry’s life story.  In Cold Blood is a tremendous book.  Coupled with this movie, the work is unparalleled.

What great movies have you watched lately?

Currently Watching… Breaking Bad

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My husband and I don’t really watch a lot of movies, but we do love our TV shows.  I realize that we sound 90 years old.  Of course, most of the shows we love, we Netflix, so we’re probably seasons behind the most current episode.  That’s fine with us… We care so little that we don’t even have cable and haven’t for three years.

The newest little gem of a TV show we’ve been screening is Breaking Bad.  At first, I was resistant because I thought, “Oh, here we go with a new Weeds ripoff.”  I eat my words.

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Created and produced by Vince Gilligan (The X-Files… one of my favorite shows of all time), Breaking Bad premiered in 2008 and airs on AMC.  Currently in its fourth season, my husband and I have only watched four episodes.  I knew I liked the show, but I didn’t LOVE IT until I saw S04 E04: “Cancer Man.”

Bryan Cranston plays Walter “Walt” White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth dealer after he learns he has terminal cancer.  In “Cancer Man,” which, by the way, is a throwback to the famous X-Files character (!!!!), we finally see Walt admit to his family that he has lung cancer.  I watched in awe as the reactions from his family members so perfectly sum up Walt’s insecurities: his meddlesome, pregnant wife wants him to begin $100,000 designer cancer treatment that they cannot afford, and his brother-in-law tells Walt he’ll always take care of the family.  While these are normal reactions to a terminal cancer confession, both are Walt’s greatest fears.  He turns to dealing meth in the first place because he didn’t want to die and leave his family in debt and struggling to survive.  The look on Walt’s face when Hank, brother-in-law and DEA agent, promises, “I’ll always take care of your family” grabbed my heart and ripped it out of my chest.  Until Episode Four, I’d not seen such a haunting, elegant performance from Cranston.

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On the other hand, we see Walt’s former failure of a student, Jesse Pinkman, illuminated for the first time.  Walt and Jesse make a batch of meth together, and have all sorts of dramatic, black-comedy hijinks in the first three episodes.  My preconceived notions of Jesse, however, were turned on their head in “Cancer Man.”  When Jesse has a bad drug trip, he runs home to his parents.  That’s right; Jesse has parents.  Super rich, straight-laced, nerdy parents.  Jesse also has a younger sibling: an academic and musical genius-slash-star athlete little brother.  Again, I was absolutely blown away by the scene with Jesse and his parents at the dining room table… and then the follow-up scene with his little brother.

These two moments alone were two of the best scenes for character development that I’ve seen on a television show in my entire life.  Walt and Jesse are as human as anyone I’ve ever met in real life.

Have you seen Breaking Bad?  Am I in for more amazing episodes, or was “Cancer Man” as good as it gets?