Tips for getting back to basics and delivering a powerful presentation through simplicity and focus.
According to Jerry Weissman in his book, “Presenting to Win,” there are over 30 million PowerPoint presentations given every day. Unfortunately, these presentations are not captivating or memorable. Thus, a lack of presentation training in America is creating a business culture that abuses presentation software and the art of public speaking. Let’s get back to the basics and adopt something I like to call the BRAVO formula.
“B” is for Bold
Boldness is about taking ownership. It’s about being courageous. You need to take control and own your content. No faking is allowed. The harsh reality is that faking it will not work in the public speaking arena. Audiences are far more perceptive than you think. Here are a few tips to help make sure you don’t come across as a faker:
It sounds straightforward, but it is harder than it sounds. By taking a strong initial stance, it shows that 1) you are credible, 2) you are passionate, and 3) you have a game plan. Be creative with your approach, and stay away from humor. It can get you in trouble.
Most public speaking amateurs make the big mistake of memorizing their presentations. This can be deadly, especially when questions arise during the middle of your presentation. Memorization kills spontaneity and your conversational ability. Stay away from it.
Become an expert
Creating credibility is the most important component of presentations. If you can’t create trust, don’t even bother walking on stage. So how do you build trust? Simple. Provide evidence. Show statistics, graphs, charts – anything to help solidify that you know what you are discussing. Proceed with caution though – there is a gray line between too much and too little information.
Faking it may work in other areas of life, but it doesn’t work in presentations. Don’t be a faker. Take ownership and be bold.
“R” is for Ready
In the movie Anchorman , Will Ferrell plays the obnoxious, self-centered, but surprisingly loveable anchorman named Ron Burgundy. There is a great scene where Ron is attempting to impress Veronica Corningstone (played by Christina Applegate), his future co-anchor. The conversation begins with Ron asking: “Do you know who I am?” Veronica replies, “No, I can’t say that I do.” Taken aback by her response, Ron says, “I don’t know how to put this…but I’m kind of a big deal.”
This short scene reminds me of the circumstance that most executives and business professionals get trapped into when preparing for a presentation. They feel that their 20+ years of business experience or countless hours of executive coaching implies that they need no prep time before presenting.
Unfortunately, the reality of public speaking is that preparation is a critical piece of any great presentation. It’s amazing how an affective presentation can deliver more results than an entire year slaving behind the desk. Presenters need to take prep work seriously. Prepare and then prepare some more. It may make the difference between no sale and a very large bonus.
The interesting dynamic with presentations is that everyone starts from a clean slate. Every word and every action needs to be carefully thought out. There is no “winging” it. You may be “kind of a big deal,” but that won’t save you when it is your time to take the stage.
“A” is for Appreciation
Time is money. If money is not exchanged, than some other valued item needs to be absorbed. Abraham Lincoln did not have PowerPoint when giving the Gettysburg Address, but he still managed to inspire, motivate and change the world. People want monumental experiences. They want to make sure that their time is exchanged with something meaningful. Give them value and you’ll get love in return.
The adage that people are naturally good is true. People at their core are kind and warm-hearted creatures. Generally, most people in your audience have heard their fair share of presentations, and, keep in mind, most people under-perform when it comes to presentations. Thus, the audience wants a more fulfilling experience. Seize the opportunity because the audience wants to enjoy you.
People love people. Remember this the next time you present. There is no need to get nervous.
“V” is for Vamp
I have spent several years working in the area of marketing. Based on my experiences, no advertisement is worth anything if there is no call to action. The same rule applies with public speaking. If you don’t inspire or challenge the audience to do something, then why speak to them? You have the opportunity to change lives – challenge them, motivate them, ask them to do something with the new information they have learned.
“O” is for Ovation
John F. Kennedy once said, “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” This is very true. What other activity in life allows an individual the opportunity to stand in front of a group, crowd, or stadium full of anxious listeners – watching, listening, and ready to hear what you have to say? It can be a very empowering experience. Take advantage of it. Live it. Breathe it. Change the world today with your presentation.
Presentations need to be memorable. Wouldn’t it be great if they were even remembered 3-6 months after your presentation? Keep the BRAVO formula in mind next time you prepare for a presentation. You’ll see tremendous results. I promise.
About the Author
Scott Schwertly is a presentation coach, speaker, and writer. He has held various positions in the area of development, television and marketing. Scott has a B.A. in Communications and a M.B.A. from Harding University. He currently serves as both founder and CEO of Ethos3 Communications ( www.ethos3.com ) and is the author of the blog SpeakingonSpeaking.com.
Tips for helping speakers sound less “preachy” and more “powerful”
I recently received e-mail from a reader who thought his speeches sounded too preachy. He asked me to you give him some pointers on know how to make his presentations more entertaining and less preachy. Another way of asking the same question is “How do you sound more natural and less like a know-it-all?” I responded with these tips on “transforming preachy into powerful…”
Don’t sound like a know-it-all
Maybe you are a know-it-all…or at least in your field. And that’s precisely why people have come to hear you speak. If you are an authority then your credentials speak for themselves. The audience expects you to have knowledge they don’t have and you’ve already been introduced as a know-it-all. So relax and get conversational. What you want to avoid is adopting a tone of voice or speaking style that alienates your audience and makes them feel ridiculed, demeaned, or preached to.
Here are a few suggestions that might help you ease up on the preach while still getting your message across.
- Examine your text
- Write your message for the ear rather than the eye. Remember your audience will be hearing what you have to say. They won’t be reading it.
- Use words that are easy for your audience to understand
- Avoid technical jargon.
- Keep your sentences short but descriptive.
- Avoid statements that sound like edicts: You should…You must…
- Include your audience with statements like, “As you already know…” “I’m sure you’ve discovered….”
- Sprinkle your message with humor.
- Tell stories and anecdotes in third person. ” I have a friend”… My father always told me…”
Examine your style
Don’t read your text, no matter how good you think it is. You can’t maintain a conversational tone or have good eye contact if your head is down and you are reading.
- Speak to your audience not at them
- Breathe naturally
- Use hand gestures that are inclusive
- Don’t point. Use an open hand when gesturing to the audience
- Vary your volume and rate to keep interest and add intrigue
- Move away from the lectern
- View your audience as valued friends
- View your message as one to be shared
Relax and have fun with your presentation! Your audience will be more receptive to your message. They’ll leave the room feeling entertained and not preached to.
If you have a question about speaking style or presentation tips, please email Beverly at BCohen @ presentationteam . com
Discover how quotations can add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority…and open new doors to your speech and writings.
“A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.”
Quotations have always fascinated me. As a child, I spent hours upon hours reading my parent’s copy of the Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. It gave me insights and intrigue. Words from famous people I had only heard or read about in school.
George Washington: “It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
Or Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”
So when I was called on recently at a Toastmasters Meeting to deliver an improvisational talk about dealing with the good and bad of life, I was prepared with a clever quote. Or so I thought. The “Tabletopics Master” singled me out to address “the meaning of life.” I boldly stood and delivered a meaningful message from memory.
“The tragedy of life is not that we wait so long to begin it but that we wait…” No.
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but we begin it too late…” No.
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” Yes!
Yes, three times to deliver those simple words, and by the time the correct quote trickled off my tongue, the meaning was lost. Everyone was focused on how I was saying it than what I was saying.
I believe quotations are the icing on a cake for a good talk. Great leaders, politicians, businesspeople, and entertainers, weave them into their words. Indeed, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Quotations add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority. Research and insight. They can open new doors to your speech. And these quotations need not be only words by famous people. They can be lines from movies. Lyrics from songs. Quotes from poems. Statistics from studies.
“In the magazine Science, it was reported last year nearly 45,000 people died in auto collisions, the equivalent of a fully loaded passenger jet crashing with no survivors every day for a year. If everyone wore seat belts, more than half of these deaths could have been avoided.”
This is a jarring statistic! And notice the imagery used in conjunction with the statistics. If properly assembled and presented, statistics and quotations can be powerful verbal tools. Quotes add meat to a speech or article in many ways. Here are four:
- They add dimension and richness to a speech, injecting your talk with a unique perspective, refreshingly different from your standard speaking style.
- They show your talk has been well-researched…not just something quickly crafted and rattled off the tip of your tongue.
- They add credibility to you and your talk, especially if you’re quoting a well-known and admired historical figure.
- They reduce the amount of individual creativity you – as a writer – need to create. This article is only 66% my own content; the other 33% is only borrowed.
Combine the words “wise old man,” and the images of a bearded sage speaking softly to a young man comes to mind, offering words of wisdom.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”
“Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.”
This is not to say that quotations are not universally adored and treasured. When asked about the impact of quotes in writing and speaking, Ralph Waldo Emerson rattled, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
W. Somerset Maugham was a bit more biting:
“She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.”
Quotes resurrect a person, place, or time. And as speakers or presenters, we should strive to frame them in their original context. Act them out, put them in an overly dramaticized style. Amplified accents. Distinct delivery. If you’re using visuals or a PowerPoint, put the quote on screen, along with the attributed person’s photo, name, and lifespan.
Perhaps my strongest point about using quotes in speeches is that they should be well-rehearsed. Memorized. Prepared and in-context. I would love to be able to just rattle-off quotes like wise leaders like Winston Churchill or Bill Clinton. Or snappy comebacks like some witty Hollywood comedians.
To master this craft of “quotations in speaking” takes attitude, practice and time.
You can find thousands of quotes on attitude. Here’s a favorite of mine by Lou Holtz: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
And on the subject of practice: “If practice makes perfect, and no one’s perfect, then why practice?”
Time and again, read these quotes, recite them. Pin them up in your office walls, see them, repeat them. Live them. The words of the leaders of the past can be reborn and requited by the leaders of today.
Composer and musician Leonard Bernstein has always an icon to me. As a child, I loved his music from West Side Story (together with Stephen Soundheim), and would sing the poetic lyrics of this popular musical from the 1950s. As I work to build my professional speaking career, and The Presentation Team, I am often kept focused and on-track by this simple single quote by Mr. Bernstein…something that we can all relate to, as we strive for greatness in our increasingly busy world. I could easily share a few personal insights on what I think it takes to achieve greatness. But isn’t it more powerful to hear words resurrected…quoted…from someone who isgreat? In the words of Leonard Bernstein:
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.
The science and strategy of using pauses in speech and speaking to add drama, impact and power to delivery.
Discover how these small segments of silence can translate to large admiration and appreciation of audiences.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
The Pause is a verbal tool like no other. Suspense. Drama. Intrigue. Power. All promoted by the Pause.
Throughout history, the world’s great orators have known of and applied the power of the pause:
President Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev…Tear Down this Wall!”
Clint Eastwood in the movie Sudden Impact: “Go ahead; make my day”
Oprah Winfrey: “My constant prayer for myself is to be used…in service…for the greater good.”
Or President Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman… Monica Lewinsky”
By definition, the pause is “a hesitation or a temporary suspension of an action.”
Here are four potent points for pausing:
1. A Pause can slow our speaking rate.
Many speakers try to say too much in too short a time. Consequently they speak quickly, trying to fit everything into the allotted time. If you find yourself speaking too quickly, pause at the end of a sentence and take a breath. If you feel in need of a breath, your listeners or audience probably do too. Pause Power.
Like punctuation marks in writing, pausing punctuates our messages. When we pause we’re telling the audience that what we’ve just said is important. The pause doesn’t have to be long. Even two seconds can be a powerful way of emphasizing your message.
And yet the Pause is so under-used in today’s rapid-fire immediate feedback society. Fearful that our audience will become bored or disengaged if there’s a lull in conversation, people speak with a continuous output of oratory. Relentless ramble. Paragraph after paragraph. But put a pause in place…and there’s peace.
2. A Pause gives us time to think.
Sometimes the inevitable happens – you forget what you were going to say next. Rather than panic, pause and collect your thoughts. When you’re not sure what you were going to say next, pausing enables you to quickly retrace your previous words in your mind and figure out what the next logical step will be.
Don’t worry that your audience may think you’ve forgotten what you were going to say. If your speech has been going well so far, they’ll be happy to wait while you collect your thoughts. The chances are they may not even notice. Once you’ve started speaking again, the original statement often returns to your mind.
3. A pause is more powerful than um and ah
Often we listen to a speaker with an interesting message, only to be distracted by constant ums and ahs. Sometimes it’s a sign of nervousness, sometimes it’s a sign of laziness. Often the speaker isn’t aware they’re doing it. Fillers such as um and ah can become a bad habit. As Toastmasters, we are groomed to listen for these fillers…and eliminate them in dialogue. But they’re everywhere! Celebrities, politicians, friends and family…kinda, you know, uhh..add these ah filers when they don’t know what to say. Silence is a stronger filler than those two silly words. So we’re at a loss for words, stay silent.
4: A Pause can add Depth, Drama and Dimension to a talk.
Say it slowly…and with a pause….and the audience will listen with greater intrigue and interest. Let the message sink-in. Engage eye-contact during the delay. These are the subtle effects of a pause. A speech that’s short on time, can likely be amplified and extended by a well-placed powerful pause.
Notice that term “Well-placed.” I recently delivered a speech about Achieving Greatness through Quotations.” The talk was generally well-received …except for one critical listener who noted that my pauses were “unsubstantial.” “Kevin,” he said, “you were simply pausing to gather your thoughts.” Pauses…he went on to say, should be perfectly placed…and terrifically timed.
Indeed, as communicators, we should pay extra attention to the placement, impact, and implications of the Pause. Not only as we write our words and assemble our oratories…but in everyday conversation and interaction. Those small segments of silence can translate to large admiration and appreciation of audiences…who- whether they’re aware of it or not- might hear an otherwise ordinary talk as extraordinary. And that is true Pause Power.
Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.
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The increasing trend toward succinct and brief writing
Is brevitity beneficial or is it dulling our dendrites?
Short. It’s the new in thing. Blogs. Tweets. iPad. YouTube. Facebook. HLN. Push to start. Short and simple tidbits of info in easy-to-digest sizes. But is this brevity beneficial? Or is it dulling our dendrites?
Twenty years ago, I was college student writing for the Independent Florida Alligator in Gainesville. One of my articles was about human rights issues at the community college. My first draft contained flowing writing, interviews, and hard-hitting research. The editor rejected it. He said it was too short. Nowadays, if you can even find a newspaper reader, chances are they want their news short. In an article on Forbes.com, Alan Jacobson- a newspaper design specialist shared that readers “don’t want more. They want less.”
A 2007 survey discovered an average 55 word decline in the length of an average 720 word news story…That’s over a 7.5% reduction in length.
But it’s more than news articles. When websites first appeared in the mid 1990s, most articles were crammed with wordy comprehensive mini-novels of text. Nowadays, the sites that get the most visibility are easy on the eye and light on the text.
People lead busy lives. They don’t want the stories. What’s your point and what’s in it for me?
My mother says, “I don’t have time, interest, or patience, in reading long emails,” and adds that Toastmasters is a great venue for helping people to get to the point.
To that point, technology has been a great guide for brevity. Text messaging on the cell phone has invented a new lexicon of acronyms, symbols and abbreviations.
Facebook and its 1.5 Billion users are constrained to their communications in a 512 character window.
Twitter is even more rigid. Just 140 characters to say what’s happening. The New York Times claims that Twitter has “fundamentally transformed the nature of news.”
At first, I didn’t get it. When these micro-blogging tools first appeared, I had lots of trouble fitting my thoughts into a box of just 140 characters. Or even figuring out anyone would want to! I like my writings to be flowing and articulate, infused with vibrant adjectives, tangential stories, and a creative richness made possible by a wonderful language.
But…over time I began to discover how – from a website and marketing perspective – shorter is better. It allows us to trim the fat from the story. “Just the facts, ma’am”
The late great author Ernest Hemingway was regarded as a master of simplicity. Hemingway was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with flowery adjectives and got straight to the point. One of Hemmingway’s finest demonstrations of his short sentence prowess was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words. Anyone know what he came up with?
For sale: baby shoes, never used.
Hemmingway was a trailblazer for today’s bloggers and new media writers. I’m sure he would have fit right in with today’s tweeters and one-liners.
Yes, this focus toward simplicity is helping us to cut the fat away from the story and get to the point. But, in our push to say more with less, are we actually getting more? Is this shift toward shortness and brevity a good thing?
The lonely adverb, minimally applied. The colorful adjective…often too bulky for a text message. Our richly textured language, stories, and colorful anecdotes, all swept aside by the mass media of minimalism.
The fact that people – including myself – don’t want to take the time to read a lengthy article – or spend an afternoon watching a classic 3 hour long movie – is a testament to our love affair with short things. Simple, short, and to the point. Our texting…the younger generation’s short quips and retorts born out of an effort to consolidate their comments – can be heartless and cold. The media embraces it.
The TV show Glee is pampered with snappy retorts and one-liners that may be numbing our brains…dulling our dendrites, and cooling our true human spirit and interaction.
My point here is that our language- our culture- is shifting solidly toward “verbal conservation.” Whether or not this proves valuable for human communication and interaction in years to come remains to be seen.
Yes. Short’s in. At 5-foot-4; I think short’s better. Conscious or not, people look at me and think “Kevin is the short guy.” I stand out. But I only stand out because I’m outside the average height. If everyone was short – if everything was short – and abbreviated – nothing would stand out.
Perhaps the 18th century clergyman Hosea Ballou summed it up best with these words of caution. “Never be so brief as to become obscure.”