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?

Review: John C. Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership

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Last week, I finished reading John C. Maxwell‘s 5 Levels of Leadership.  The book was a quick and easy read and explained the qualities of an effective leader.  Maxwell’s levels of leadership are as follows:

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Leadership and public speaking are inextricably linked.  Presentation skills are essential for a strong leader to persuade and inform others, and strong leaders often become stronger because of their presentation skills.  Since leadership and public speaking go hand-in-hand, 5 Levels of Leadership is a must-read for any presenter.  I also recommend 5 Levels for all teachers, as many instructors feel the role of “director of the class” is all that is necessary to command respect from students.  This book will help teachers earn respect and subsequently see maximum results from their students.

What I learned is that leadership is an opportunity.  What you do with that opportunity determines the kind of leader you are and how people will react to and work with you.  Maxwell explains that Level 1 leaders rely on their position, and real leaders know leadership has nothing to do with a title.  Like most people, I do not work well with Level 1 leaders.  Maxwell defines Level 1 leaders as entitled, territorial, and selfish.  Level 1 leaders have a difficult time working with others because they don’t value relationships with subordinates; they consider subordinates a threat to their position.  Level 1 leaders create a negative work environment because the only people who can work under them are drones.  Maxwell describes these drones as “cogs in the machine,” “clock watchers,” “just-enough employees,” and “the mentally absent.”

Since I am not a cog in the machine, in the past, when I worked under a Level 1 leader, I was often told I needed to “know my place” and “follow the chain of command.”  What causes this mentality?  Why are Level 1 leaders so afraid of their employees?

In “Never Getting Off The Ground Floor,” Maxwell writes that Level 1 leaders “place a very high value on holding on to their position—often above everything else they do. Their position is more important to them than the work they do, the value they add to their subordinates or their contribution to the organization. This kind of attitude does nothing to promote good relationships with people. In fact, positional leaders often see subordinates as annoyances, as interchangeable cogs in the organizational machine or even as troublesome obstacles to their goal of getting a promotion to their next position. As a result, departments, teams or organizations that have positional leaders suffer terrible morale” (Source).

After reading Maxwell’s text, I’ve learned that true leadership is about creating relationships; producing and creating; learning and growing; supporting and valuing others; and using a title as a starting place for real leadership.

What qualities do you find in the strong leaders in your life?

Review: Win by Frank Luntz

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Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary is a book I’ve been dying to read since I heard this interview with Frank Luntz on NPR.  Luntz offered some amazing advice on “words that work:” words and phrases that resonate with people.

Win is a great book.  In the vein of Made to Stick by the Heath brothers (read my review here), Win focuses on the 9 Ps of winning.  It also has two chapters that touch on presentation: Passion and Persuasion.

I loved Luntz’s “Words to Use” sections that appear at the end of each chapter.  He gives specific words and phrases that contribute to winning.  I loved his stories and specific examples of companies and people.  While I typically skip over examples because I find them so incredibly boring, Luntz’s anecdotes were refreshing, short, and meaningful.  I also loved that the book was so interactive.  Luntz asked you questions; he asked you to participate.  Because of this, Win is engaging because it asks its audience to connect.

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I have one criticism of Win.  Whoever edited this book needs to be fired immediately.  I found tons of grammatical and spelling errors that made it difficult for me to take Win seriously.  Luntz definitely lost some of his credibility, and his ethos took a big hit.  One criticism I found on Amazon’s review section was that Luntz was politically biased.  This was something I feared after listening to the NPR interview.  Even though Luntz works for the Republican machine as a political strategist, this book was not biased.  One example includes his criticism of Republican presidents and praise of Democratic presidents.  The second example is Luntz’s advice that even though he is a frequent contributor on FOX News, he believes people should get their news from multiple outlets to make wiser decisions.

Win even touched on public speaking and presentation… and it included some key lessons from Duarte and Reynolds!  Check out Chapter 8 “Passion” under the heading “Visual Passion.”  You’ll also want to review Luntz Lessons: The Perfect Passionate Visual.  Lastly, Chapter 9 “Persuasion” contains Steve Wynn’s three rules of verbal and visual persuasion, and these are awesome.  Bravo, Dr. Luntz!

The positives of Win far outweighed the negatives.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who strives for continuous self-improvement as a leader and for anyone who plans to lead a group to success.

Review: Resonate

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resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte is one of my presentation bibles.  Since I mention resonate so often, I thought I’d finally write my review of the text in order to explain why it is so incredible.  Here are my five key takeaways from resonate:

1.  The presenter is not the star of the show but, rather, acts as a supporting character to the star: the audience.  The presenter’s role is that of guide, adviser, instructor, teacher.  When we get away from “me-centered” behavior and instead focus on the audience needs, presentations resonate.

2.  Duarte created the Sparkline as an analysis tool for speeches.  The Sparkline is a shape that moves back and forth between the present, the “what is,” and the future, the “what could be.”  Duarte explains the Sparkline shape in her TEDxEast Talk.  Watch here.

3.  The first few chapters emphasize storytelling in all presentations as the medium that connects and resonates with audiences.  Duarte uses the Hero Cycle to explain the process the audience goes through during a presentation.

4.  Duarte defines the necessary components of a speech introduction and explains that the three modes of persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos, must be used in order to effectively persuade.

5.  My fifth takeaway from resonate is the process of creating a presentation from the “generating ideas” phase to the “visualize message” phase.  Duarte does a masterful job of explaining this process.

For those of you who love resonate as much as I do: what are your favorite lessons from the text?  Purchase your copy of resonate here.