Body language bullshit – beware, public-speaking baloney!

BullHave you heard people say that you convey only 7% of any talk through your words? The same people will likely say you convey much more of your message through tone (38%) and body language (55%). Well

If anyone tells you that,
please let them know it’s nonsense!

Here’s why that’s true

The 7-38-55 figures come from studies by Albert Mehrabian, but his work focused on:
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12+ ways to be remembered when you present (FiRST framework – part 3)

Does your talk’s goal involve your audience taking action afterwards? I hope so, because only by people acting on your talk can it be truly effective.

To act though, your audience needs to remember afterwards:

  • What they should do
  • Why they should do it – that is, how important it is to them.

This post helps you make those 2 aspects of your talk vividly memorable. And if you happen to have read the overview of the FiRST framework (of which this is part 3), you’ll already know of “SMS”, which represents the 3 types of tips in this post.

Here, SMS stands for:
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Secret #4 of star presenters: Scott @Berkun on “slide slavery” (with @NancyDuarte and Garr Reynolds)

enslaved presenter

When you’re preparing for a presentation, what’s your first impulse?

If you’re like most people, you’ll begin preparing for a talk by opening PowerPoint (or Keynote, or whatever’s your preferred slide tool) and building slides. But this brief post is here to plead with you to do something different

My plea is that you heed author Scott Berkun’s warning when he says:

“If you make slides first, you become a slide slave.
You will spend all your time perfecting your slides,
instead of perfecting your thoughts.”

To help you with a better approach, in this post you’ll also find 3 specific questions that Scott recommends you ask when you begin preparing your talk. (And you’ll see what expert presenters Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds have to say on the subject, too.)
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Picture your talk as a shape… Now, what shape do you see?

Imagine sketching your talk as a simple shape. What would you draw?

If yours is like most talks, you can think of it as an arrow, pointing between your introduction and your conclusion:
speech geometry - arrow annotated

That’s what blogger John Zimmer wrote in this great post.

Certainly, the arrow metaphor fits well with the description you sometimes hear of speeches as “taking your audience from point A to point B”. (Presentation experts like Jerry Weissman often use that phrase.)

Is there a better shape?

But John Zimmer goes on to suggest a better shape for your talk
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Quiz: How many words should you put on your slide, and WHY?

How many words (at most) should you put on a slide? It’s a common (and reasonable) question. But depending on who you ask, the answer you get can vary hugely.

Here are 4 typical answers:

  1. As many words as you want
  2. Up to 36 words (6×6 words)
  3. Around 15 words
  4. At most 6 words (as Seth Godin suggests, which I wrote about last month)

Before you read on, what do you think is the best answer – and why?
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Free public-speaking class (in Sydney, via @AuthenticBen)

presenter with megaphone

The best 2 hours I’ve ever spent…

Are you serious about wanting to improve your public speaking? If so, do yourself a favour and listen to what Benjamin J Harvey has to say about it. I did that last Wednesday night, and it was probably the best 2 hours I’ve ever spent on improving my presentation skills!

What a great move that was!

Ben’s a Sydney-based entrepreneur who offers occasional free public-speaking workshops. (Wherever you live, you might also like these 5 free public-speaking courses.) As I’m in Sydney too, and his workshop happens just every few months, I took the chance to go along. What a great move that was!

Why so great? There are 3 factors: Continue reading

Secret #3 of star presenters: @NakedPresenting on preparing

Woman's FeetAsk yourself, honestly: How long will you spend preparing your next presentation? It can be a long process of course. Yet, it’s likely you’ll often get distracted by your other work and not get to spend the time your talk needs. Or your slides may become so vital to your talk – or so detailed – that you spend nearly all your available prep time grooming them.

So with that in mind, consider this quote from Emma Sutton (@NakedPresenting on Twitter), who’s a presentation coach and blogger in the UK: Continue reading

2½ reasons why (to me) Seth Godin’s wrong about how many words to put on your slide

Number 6
Check out this startling quote by author Seth Godin about how many words you should put on a slide:

“No more than six
words on a slide.
Ever.

(If you’d like to see the quote in context, it’s the 1st item in the numbered list on page 7 of this PDF.)

Are you wondering where he got the magic number 6 from? I certainly am. (Sadly he doesn’t say. So Seth, if you ever happen to read this, I’d love to know why you chose the number 6.)

Apart from the seemingly arbitrary nature of Seth’s rule (which is the “½” reason mentioned in this post’s title), let’s focus on 2 types of helpful slide content that the rule would severely hamper: Continue reading

How to FIX the #1 mistake when you present online (Includes example opening lines)

Have you read my recent post called Do you make this #1 mistake when you present online? It asserts that the top mistake of online presenters is time-wasting, and it names 3 of the biggest symptoms:

  • Spending too long on introductions
  • Staying on the same slide too long
  • Fixating on interaction instead of value

In that earlier post, you’ll find those 3 problems laid out, but you won’t find any solutions. So that’s where this post comes in.

Below, you’ll find ways to solve each of those 3 problems: Continue reading

Why present? JFK said it all…

On her excellent public-speaking blog, Dr Michelle Mazur published a post this week called The Most Overlooked Step in Creating Great Presentations. In it, she says you’re likely (if you’re like most people) to start preparing for a talk by making slides, whereas you’d be better served by first working out what type of talk you’ll give:

Do I want my audience to know something,
to do something immediately after my talk,
or to feel something?

I agree about how most speakers prepare, as I wrote here, but I disagree about there being 3 types of presentations:

  • Informative (Know something)
  • Emotive (Feel something)
  • Persuasive (Do something)

Let me explain why I disagree with that 3-part model. Continue reading