Garr Reynolds is on fire, which means his upcoming book is bound to be filled with amazing things!  Presentation Zen has posted two good reads in the past seven days.  “No Amount Of Technology Will Make A Bad Story Good” looks at Toy Story and the technology used in the movie.  Reynolds cites Steve Jobs and John Lasseter to point out that technical feats are meaningless in the film industry unless a compelling story exists.  The driving force is “story, story, story” (Source).  Reynolds talks a bit more about this in “Storyboarding And The Art Of Finding Your Story.”  This second blog post examines, specifically, what Pixar can teach us about storyboarding and uses advice from Walt Disney.  This advice does relate to presentations because if you can arrange your presentation (or your story) on paper in a way that makes sense, your audience will get it.


Ethos3’s “Presentation Lessons from Brené Brown” is based on her TED Talk (and one of my personal favorite TED Talks) called “The Power of Vulnerability.”  Since it had been quite awhile since I’d seen Brown’s TED Talk, I watched it again before reading Ethos3’s article.  Not only did the presentation resonate with me once again, but the advice from Scott Schwertly was spot on.  The CEO of Ethos3 suggests we remember the importance of storytelling, simple slides, humor, and emotional moments (Source).  We can also learn a lot from Brown’s delivery.  She embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy and shows her audience her true, authentic self.  I was happy Ethos3 reintroduced me to the Talk this afternoon.

Our final good read of the week comes from Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications.  Called “7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Preparation,” DeFinis explains some pretty killer mistakes people make when preparing for a speech.  These sins include not preparing content before slides; not practicing delivery ahead of speech day; and not showing energy and confidence along with four other major preparation issues.  Read the article here to ensure you fully and properly prepare for your next presentation.

What great articles did you read over the weekend?


Links of the Week: 2014.04


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!


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: Week of Nov 12-18


This week, I enjoyed so many great reads that I had to force myself to narrow them down to just three.

The first comes from Andrew Dlugan’s Six Minutes.  Audience analysis is a difficult topic to teach others, and it’s even more difficult to study and apply when building a speech.  That I’ve seen, Nancy Duarte has done the best job of explaining audience analysis and the needs of the audience in Resonate, but I really enjoyed Dlugan’s perspective.  In “Audience Analysis: A Guide for Speakers,” Dlugan breaks down demographic, psychological, and contextual analysis.  So often, we think we’ve successfully analyzed our audience… My students, especially, think they’ve done their job as far as audience analysis goes if they know their audience’s age, gender, and race.  As Dlugan’s article points out, if done properly, audience analysis is so much more than that.

Image Credit

My second favorite article this week was written by Angela DeFinis.  She is one of my favorite public speaking and presentation experts to follow on Twitter because she ONLY Tweets about effective communication practices.  Follow her here.

“How To Assess Your Public Speaking Comfort Level” is such a great tool for analyzing your presentation anxiety.  Knowing where you stand on the “nervous” scale and learning how to cope with those feelings is so essential on the quest to be a strong presenter.  DeFinis defines four specific categories or “levels” of comfort when presenting and asks us to see which category we relate to most.

Learn more from Chiara Ojeda’s amazing Slideshare presentation “Conquer Presentation Anxiety” here.

My third and final favorite read this week is “3 Essential TED Talks for the Presenter” by Ethos3.  In light of TED’s BILLIONTH view, these three Talks celebrate ideas worth spreading.  Ethos3 divides their 3 favorites in accordance with the presentation stool: content by Jill Bolte Taylor; design by Al Gore; and delivery by Beeban Kidron.  That got me thinking about the 3 TED Talks I’d recommend for each “leg” of the presentation stool, so look out for my upcoming post!  Thanks for the inspiration, Ethos3.

If you’re TED-obsessed like me, Tweet your favorite TED Talk using the hashtag #TEDBillion.

First Impressions: Nonverbal Communication Tips


Within the first six seconds of meeting you and shaking your hand for the very first time, John Smith has already formed an opinion of you.  Similarly, when you begin delivering a presentation, your audience takes that six seconds to size you up and develop their first impressions.  Often, before you even speak your first word, the audience has already made up their minds about you.

Since your nonverbal communication (your face and body signals) are so important to making a first impression, let’s examine them.  There are five simple ways to ensure you make a positive first impression: posture, facial expressions, clothing, gestures, and engagement.

Posture indicates confidence or signals nervousness.  Posture can be open or closed.  Posture conveys feelings and attitudes.  If you speak the words, “I’m so excited to be here this morning to speak with you about your company’s business plan,” but your posture is closed and slouchy, your audience will pay attention to what your nonverbal communication says over what your words say.  Studies show that people trust nonverbal communication over verbal communication.

Common closed posture stances include crossing the arms in a bear hug or crossing one arm over the chest and grasping the bicep of the other arm.  Your stance should be natural and as open as possible; arms and legs should not be crossed.

Slouching indicates laziness, apathy, and disrespect among other negative attitudes.  Never lazily lean on a podium or drape your body across a platform when presenting.  Stand up as straight as possible to project confidence, poise, and excitement.  DeFinis argues, “The most effective standing position for speakers is one with a straight spine and erect head” (Source).  Think about a male peacock displaying his beautiful feathers to attract a mate.  His posture is strong and self-confident.  Even if you are nervous, you must project feelings of strength and self-confidence to your audience through your posture.

Facial expressions are the second way to create a positive first impression.  Facial expressions signal your emotions to people, so remember that your face and your feelings go hand-and-hand for your audience.

Focus on your eyes and your mouth to ensure your facial expressions are received favorably by your audience.  A happy, friendly face has smiling eyes and a smiling mouth.  Those wrinkle lines on the sides of your eyes and the corners of your mouth are what indicate a natural, true smile.  Remember that your audience can tell the difference between a real and a fake smile, so try your best to give an authentic smile instead of to force a phony smile.

You may not want to convey joy and happiness to your audience.  The most commonly identifiable facial expressions are anger, disgust, contempt, fear, sadness, joy, and surprise.  Since facial expressions are such a complex study, learn more from “Facial Expression Analysis” by Tian, Kanade, and Cohn here.  It all boils down to this: your audience wants to see a true, identifiable emotion through your facial expressions.  If they do, and if your content then supports that emotion, your audience will mirror that expression back to you.  This will allow your message to resonate.

A tense, nervous face is tight and often expressionless.  Before you stand up to speak, loosen up your face by doing a few exercises.  Shake off your scared face.  Smile as big as you can until you laugh out loud.  Close and widen your eyes.  Move your lips; open your mouth and close it; wiggle your tongue around.  These warm-up exercises will help you convey ANY emotion through your facial expressions.

Clothing is often the first thing people notice when forming a first impression.  What you wear signals certain personality traits, characteristics, and cultural attributes to your audience.  Appropriate clothing choices are key; you never want to be too overdressed or more underdressed than your audience.  Remember that you can always take off a jacket and roll up sleeves to appear more informal, but there isn’t much you can do if you’re wearing torn jeans and a concert tee-shirt if everyone in the room is wearing a three-piece suit.

As a rule, the presenter should be a little more dressed up than the audience, as this can signal authority and help establish ethos.  Above all else, you should appear clean and professional.  Your audience should believe that you showered, thought about your attire, and double-checked yourself in a mirror before presenting.  DeFinis Tweets, “The physical image that you present to your audience can essentially make or break your presentation” (Source).  So what can you do to ensure your clothing makes your presentation instead of breaks it?  Find out the appropriate attire before you present.  Analyze your audience, and dress accordingly.  Meet or exceed expectations.  Your audience wants you to lead them with your presentation, so dress like a leader.

Remember these no-nos: no flip flops; no shorts; no hats.  Flip-flops and shorts indicate a lazy summer spent lounging by the pool or the beach; shorts just aren’t formal enough for a professional speech.  Wearing a hat indoors can be disrespectful to some audiences, but more importantly than that, hats can shadow or cover your eyes and make you appear untrustworthy.

Gestures include motions and movements made with the hand and body.  There are three common nervous, annoying gestures: The Lady Macbeth, Happy Pockets, and The Rocker.  Performing any of these gestures within the first few seconds of your presentation will solidify a negative impression.

“The Lady Macbeth” involves wringing your hands together.  The Lady Macbeth movement takes the focus off of the presenter’s content because the audience is busy looking at the distracting repeated motions.

For people who store their belongings in pockets, “Happy Pockets” is the second distracting gesture.  With keys and loose change in a pocket, moving around can cause you to jingle and jangle; the noise is annoying and makes the audience lose focus on your message.  This becomes an even louder problem if you store your hands in you pockets and play with the loud items yourself.  My suggestion?  Take everything out of your pockets before you present.

“The Rocker” is the third and final distracting gesture.  The Rocker isn’t a rockstar motion; this occurs when the presenter rocks back and forth (or side to side).  The speaker has a lot of nervous energy, but the repeated motion looks like a pendulum or the long, swinging hand of a grandfather clock.  The audience will feel that nervous energy and tension the presenter is emitting.

Move with a purpose.  Walk to both sides of the room with a plan to connect with everyone in the audience.  Use hand gestures to emphasize important points.  The only way to help your gestures improve is to film yourself presenting and to watch how you release your nervous energy.  Knowing your bad habits is the first step to correcting them.

Engagement is the most complex part of nonverbal communication and creating a grand first impression, but it is the portion that will make your next presentation truly remarkable, memorable, and fascinating.  Engagement includes eye contact, proxemics, and overcoming barriers.

TED Commandment #9 says, “Thou shalt not read thy speech” (Source).  One of the primary reasons behind this commandment is because eye contact is essential to engaging an audience.  Eye contact should be steady.  A presenter should never look down and read entire sentences from notes; this breaks the eye contact bond between persenter and audience and severs engagement.  DeFinis suggests, “For sustained and powerful eye contact, look at one person for a full 3-5 seconds. Complete an entire thought and then move to the next person” (Source).

A presentation’s proxemics refers to the proximity between a presenter and his or her audience.  Proxemics as a whole is the study of the physical space around people and how they use that space to communicate with others.  Being too far away will cause the audience to detach; being too close will cause the audience to feel uneasy.  Think about the “public space” distance compared with the “intimate space” distance.  While it’s okay to be close enough to kiss your significant other or your parents, you cannot be that close to an audience member; he or she will feel like you are not intruding on their personal space bubble.  Engaging your audience means knowing when to step forward, to learn in, to capture or re-capture attention by moving your body closer.

Lastly, overcoming barriers is a must.  The most common barrier is the lectern.  You don’t want to stand behind a podium because this is a physical barrier between you and your audience.  The physical barrier is also a mental and emotional barrier, and it causes disconnect.  Engaging your audience means moving out from behind your safe place (the “security blanket” of the podium) and using movement and proxemics to connect with your audience.  Notecards can also be a barrier.

“Sight makes up 83% of the impact on the brain of information from the senses during a visual presentation. Taste makes up 1%, hearing makes up 11%, smell 3% and touch 2%” (Source).  Make certain your audience sees a confident, strong, excited presenter so that within the first six seconds, your next presentation leaves a favorable impression.