Abandon your agenda! (3 options that beat “Tell them what you’re going to tell them…” when you present)

Does this age-old advice about presenting sound familiar?

  1. Tell people what you’re going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.

You’ve probably heard that advice before (and you might well follow it, too). It basically says:

“Start your presentation with an agenda,
and end with a summary slide” [Doubtful advice]

I’ve used that format myself many times. But the more I thought and read about it, the more I realised it tends to bore listeners, for 4 reasons:
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Secret #8 of star presenters: Christopher Witt on “What’s in it for me?”

Little girl covering her earsWhen you’re preparing a speech or presentation, do you ask yourself specific questions to help you build your talk?

For instance, you might ask yourself:

“What do I want my audience to do as a result of my talk?”

Questions like that one – being based on your audience – are much more helpful than focusing on your topic itself. They help you frame your content from your listeners’ viewpoint. So when you give your talk, people are far more likely to:

  • Listen to what you say in the first place.
  • Make the effort to properly consider it.
  • Accept it.

One of the best sets of speech-planning questions I’ve ever seen was shared by speaking-coach Christopher Witt. It consists of just 4 questions, the 1st being what you want your audience to do, and the last being:

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Engage people – give a personal talk [How not to kill your audience …Part 2]

Fingerprint ca. 2000

In part 1 – Use the PACE approach – I showed how you can start to engage an audience before you even speak. To do that, you can make your talk’s title meet these 4 criteria, so it’s:

  • P   Personal
  • A   Actionable
  • C   Conversational
  • E   Emotional

In this post, you’ll see how to keep your audience engaged by making your talk personal – throughout.

By “making your talk personal”, I mean using your content to connect with each person in your audience. As people are generally most interested in themselves, one of the best ways you can connect with your audience is to show clearly that you’re focused on them. After you do that, another great way to connect with and therefore engage people is to use genuine emotion.

So, how can you do those things to make your whole talk personal? Well for a start, try these 4 tips, which are arranged roughly from most to least audience-centred:
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Nail your point – Speak in threes. Speak in threes. Speak in threes.

Here’s one of the most powerful techniques you can use in your talks:

Speak in threes.
Speak in threes.
Speak in threes.

In fact it’s so effective, I urge you to reserve its full power for your main point. (Otherwise, you risk people remembering the wrong part of your message!)

If you’re not sure what I mean by “speak in threes”, here are 2 examples of catchy phrases that use this technique, which you’ve probably heard many times:

“Location, location, location”

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

In both cases, notice that they’re phrases containing just 2 or 3 syllables but which are repeated 3 times in a row.

Let’s look at a real-life example…

Shortly, I’ll show you exactly why phrases like that are so memorable and repeatable – or in other words, why they’re so viral. But first, let’s look at a real-life example of how you might speak in threes

Imagine you’re the captain of a cruise ship with about 4000 people onboard, and almost 200 of your passengers and crew catch gastroenteritis. In your daily loudspeaker announcements to the whole ship, how might you speak in threes to promote hygiene and help contain the outbreak?
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How not to kill your audience’s engagement stone dead [Part 1: Use the PACE approach]

Do you think you’d have bothered reading this post if I’d called it this instead:

“Audience engagement and contemporary presentation materials”

Not likely!

This post’s title deliberately uses 4 “keys” to engage you (in just the first 9 words). For a moment, look at the post’s title again. Can you guess what the 4 keys might be? (You probably guessed that their initials make up the acronym PACE.) Well, read on to see how many of the keys you spotted!

(And, for a very pleasant change from so many posts about presenting, this post has nothing to do with bullet points – despite the bullets in the photo above!)
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Practically perfect – the 6 “P”s of public speaking (from @BenjaminBallA)

Green Snow PeasLooking for a framework to make your talks more effective? Look no further than the “6 Ps of public speaking”. You’ll find them in a short post by Benjamin Ball, who runs a speaker coaching business in the UK, and I think they’re brilliant!


The original 6 Ps

In the table below, you’ll see those 6 Ps, with my thoughts on them. (After the table, you’ll also find a few suggestions that might make the 6 Ps even better. So as you read the list, see if you can think of any changes you’d make, too.)
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Body language bullshit – beware, public-speaking baloney!

BullThis post aims to dispel 2 myths you might have heard about public speaking:

  • an old, very persistent myth, and
  • a new one that seems to date from just 4 months ago.

So let’s get straight into the myth-slaying

Have 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 the case

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 (F!RST 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 presentation vividly memorable. And if you happen to have read the overview of the F!RST framework (of which this is part 3), you’ll already know about the acronym “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 presenterWhen 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 on a piece of paper.
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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