Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Be your own Santa Claus - get these free holiday gifts right now

Here are some zero-cost holiday gift suggestions.

Some of the downloadable manifestoes at the ChangeThis web site are about public speaking and presentations. Five examples to make us think are:

1. 15-1/2 Ideas to Make Your Presentation Go from Boring to Bravo by Kristin Arnold

2. Before You Open Your Mouth: The Keys to Great Public Speaking by Nick Morgan

3. Presenting to Small Audiences: Turn Off the Projector! by Andrew Abela

4. Being a Gifted Speaker Isn’t a Gift by Frances Cole Jones

5. Presentation Revolution: Changing the Way the World Does Presentations by Scott Schwertly

Last year Ivan Hernandez discussed 10 Remarkable ChangeThis Manifestoes You Should Read.

Via the Web we already have free “virtual subscriptions” to two magazines: Speaker from the National Speakers Association) and Toastmaster (from Toastmasters international). We can either view individual issues online or download .pdf files of them without being a member of either organization. The archive for Speaker goes back three years, while the archive for Toastmaster goes back to 2007 (but the new digital edition with keyword search only began in January 2011).

Finally, for a free textbook on public speaking, check out the ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide. I posted a description of it beginning with a phony ad in 2009.

This blog post was inspired by Andrew Dlugan’s November 21st post with his list of holiday gift ideas. Initially I was upset that he’d started on Christmas before the Thanksgiving holiday even was over (here in the US). Then I realized that from his Canadian perspective Thanksgiving was back on the second Monday of October, rather than the fourth Thursday of November.

The image is a Puck magazine cover from 1913.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Use a simple diagram to clasp an idea

On November 27th Seth Godin blogged about what he called The Confusion of Logistics and Strategy Problem. He said that problem was so widespread that it even deserved a new acronym of CLASP, and defined it by claiming:

“You have a clasp when people criticize your new strategy because they don’t know how to execute it.”

A diagram instantly shows the difference between a strategy (big picture) and a tactic (logistics) used to make it happen.

I think that a five letter acronym including an A for And is appalling. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons on stage performance from singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor

Earlier this year Livingston Taylor released the revised edition of his book on Stage Performance, which came from a class he teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. You can look inside it at Amazon.com. He discusses how we should have a conversation with our audience. The July 29th issue of the Vineyard Gazette has an article which describes how he practices the Gentle Art of Audience Seduction.

In the first meeting of class (page 15 of the book) he teaches how to introduce yourself, and says you should:

"1. Walk onstage.
2. Face the crowd.
3. Find a spot where you’re comfortable and well lit.
4. Be still and see your audience.
5. Say your name. (This is the performance).
6. Be still and look at your audience. Make sure they received what you gave out.
7. Bow slightly.
8. Accept applause, if appropriate.
9. Leave the stage."

Livingston is a compelling speaker. Watch here to see how he interacts with some students.

There are more YouTube video clips from his summer lectures in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and a 2011 faculty interview.

I found the first edition of his book from 2000 (indexed under the subject of public speaking) at my public library, and read it from cover to cover.

One story about professionalism that impressed me appears on page 56 of the revised edition. He discussed arriving at a small theater in Sarasota, Florida before headlining a show. The glass front doors were smudged, so he started washed them. Two hours before the show the opening act walked right past him, without saying hello. Their image of a professional didn’t include a window washer. (On page 52 he also mentioned once cleaning the bathroom of a club, since he didn’t want his audience putting up with the dirt).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Using props as pointers

Yesterday on her Eloquent Woman blog Denise Graveline ended a list of The all-in-one on gestures for public speaking: 12 great tips by asking:

“12.  Who needs that pointer, when you brought two perfectly good ones into the room with you?  Use your arms and hands instead.”

That’s true, but, as Nick Morgan said a couple years ago, the most important rule for success in public speaking is to have fun. Laser pointers are boring! Using appropriate props as pointers can be lots of fun.

For example, if you are a sports fan you may have a large foam hand with a giant finger as shown above.

There are lots of telescoping cylindrical objects that can be used. A traditional spyglass is one.

Before there were laser pointers there were pocket pointers. When we look closely at one, we can see that it just is the FM antenna from a portable radio. 

If you are a photographer you can bring along a monopod (like a leg from a tripod).  Similarly, you are a hiker, you can bring a trekking pole. In ether case, be careful not to poke a hole through the screen with that sharp tip.

If you are a police or security officer, just flip open your expandable baton. No one will try to heckle you! However, when you ask for questions don’t be surprised if there is no response.

The pointing finger and spyglass came from the Library of Congress. The Grady Sizemore foam hand and monopod came from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving and other after-dinner speeches

You may already have been asked to speak after this holiday dinner. If so, now is the time to think and prepare. An after-dinner speech should both entertain and inform. It helps to have a memorable story about where or how the holiday was spent.

In 2005 my sister and brother-in law had Thanksgiving somewhere unusual. Ellen and Tony spent their holiday at the South Pole. They had a turkey dinner in the restaurant at the end of the world.  She sent me a ball cap as a souvenir.  

Another type of story teaches that we should be thankful for what we have, because things always could have been worse.

In 1972 I spent Thanksgiving in Wichita Falls, Texas. I was being trained as a medic at Sheppard Air Force Base. That morning I had a fever and was feeling really lousy, so I went to sick call. The medic who examined me said that I had finally gotten a disease that usually came in childhood. It might have been rubella (German measles). He gave me some Tylenol for my fever, and said, look, we don’t have tech school classes tomorrow, so go back to to your bunk and rest. You’ll be fine by Monday. I was, although I didn’t get to travel as I had planned.    

How could things have been worse? A month earlier our whole squadron (and the one next to us) went through a day and a half long outbreak of food poisoning. Symptoms were nausea and vomiting.

For more ideas on after dinner speeches, look at this recent blog post by Carma Spence, and listen to this Communication Steroids podcast.

Images are covers from the Thanksgiving issues of Puck Magazine from 1905 and 1902.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How presenters waste your time with confusing graphics

The Excel bar chart shown above plots some data from an October 26th Presentation Agency blog post from Sales Graphics titled survey data reveals how presenters spend their time. (Click on the chart for a larger, clearer version). We can easily see how the six categories rank, because they are listed in descending order.

Contrast that with the confusing graphic shown in the Presentation Agency blog post. It seems intended to impress rather than to explain. The six categories are wrapped in concentric rings like a bullseye target. The largest is on the outside, followed by the second, and the sixth. Then comes the third, fourth and fifth. We have to look at all six percentages and sort them to see their rank. We can’t just go clockwise or counterclockwise to see their order.

Now look at the inconsistent caption boxes. The first word in four out of six categories is shown in a bold font. The box with 40% has two of five icons (men) shown in bold, but the box with 20% also has two of five icons (stars) shown in bold, rather than just one. One paragraph in the blog post starts by saying that:

“A full 56% of survey takers said finding the latest version of slides and videos sucked up a lot of time...”

If that’s what you want to say, then please change how you group the data on the graphic to present it to us clearly and simply (as shown above). Now "Other" is the smallest category.

A November 8th Slidecoaching.com blog post discusses choosing the best charts for your data. I don’t think a fancy bullseye bar chart beats a plain one. What do you think?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The 99 (or 100) second presentation

In previous posts I have discussed several recent brief presentation formats with times of 200 seconds (Presto), 300 seconds (Ignite) or 400 seconds (Pecha Kucha).

There also is an even briefer one - the 99-second presentation. I saw it mentioned in a recent blog comment by Scott Berkun, which led me back to his blog post from March 2004. The 99-second presentation was described in a 2003 ASTD presentation by Sivasailam Thiagarajan (Thiagi), who started using them back in 1988! Over in New Zealand Simon Park recently has been using them to select university tutors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Does bad public speaking kill?

On November 12th Nic Williams blogged about How to stop killing people with your public speeches. His main point was that speakers should think about whether they are wasting their audience’s time:

“Let’s do the math. If you give a speech to 200 people for 30 minutes you are consuming 100 hours of human life.

Giving an hour-long talk to a thousand people? That’s six weeks of human life devoted to your talk.


Let’s assume 6 weeks of human life is at stake. It is not a loan and you cannot give it back. One hour after you finish speaking, you’ve used up 6 weeks of human life.

If you’re bad enough for long enough you kill a whole person.”

To avoid wasting time you should learn the craft of giving speeches. Nic recommends joining Toastmasters, but there are other options to consider.

What happens when we really do the math? Assume an average U.S. lifetime is 78.3 years. There are 365.25 days in a year. Each day is 24 hours. Multiplying those three numbers, a lifetime is 686,378 hours.

For a single one-hour long speech to waste as many hours as a whole life, we’d need an improbably large audience - one that only the Pope might get. (We might say that bad television kills though).

How about a college course involving lecturing to an audience of 500 freshmen, three hours per week for 20 weeks? That’s still only 30,000 hours. You’d have to do that about 23 times to waste a life, but probably would be fired before you did that much damage. A philosophy department might though.

So, saying that bad speeches kill is a silly exaggeration. Douglas Adams would have called it “a load of dingo’s kidneys.” Actually it’s even worse - because in the above discussion we have not used the correct units, which are man-hours, not just hours. I’ve previously discussed wasting time using the wrong units.

Let’s bury the idea that bad public speaking kills.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great speech on leadership at the U.S. Air Force Academy

On November 1, 2011 General Mark A. Welsh, III, who is Commander of U. S. Air Forces in Europe, spoke to the cadets for fifty minutes. He tells great stories about people who inspired him - including his son Matt and Major Marie Rossi.

I found it in this Veterans Day blog post by Grant McCracken.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Should presenters be nervous about the Twitter backchannel?

Yes! On November 2nd Drew Neisser blogged at Fast Company about Giving Kick-Ass Presentations in the Age of Social Media. His seven points were:

1. Don’t panic if they aren’t looking at you.

2. Stifle the temptation to ask for a device moratorium.

3. If you aren’t nervous, you should be now.

4. If you don’t speak Twitterese, it’s time to learn it.

5. Congratulations! You may be speaking to millions you can’t see.

6. The reviews are in - in real time.

7. When all else fails, surprise the audience with honesty.

Even before I read his #3, I was inclined to be nervous about something new. After all, Twitter is like giving a heckler a large, digital megaphone. Some people will use it to yell: HEY! LOOK AT ME!

So far I haven’t presented at a conference that displayed a Twitter backchannel. Long ago I used to follow two unmoderated Usenet Newsgroups - sci.materials and sci.engr.metallurgy. The majority of users posting and commenting were intelligent and quite civil, but there also were a few loudmouthed jerks and trolls. I'd expect the same from Twitter.

Imagine what Abe Lincoln might have put up with if Twitter was around during the Gettysburg Address:

DrummerBoy61: 4score n7? Y not 87? LOL!

Kilrain20thMaine: Ha, ha! Stovepipe hat makes Abe look 2 tall.

CopperHead62: 3 minutes iz 2 short 4 an address. WTF!

OhioCpl27: His wife Mary Todd be crazy!

Bruce63: Abe Lincoln once turned to somebody and said, do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?

I’ve seen several blog posts that have discussed living with the backchannel. Ellen Finkelstein recently blogged on how to harness the back channel during your presentations. Last year Denise Graveline blogged about integrating Twitter in your public speaking: 14 ways. Olivia Mitchell blogged about how to manage the Twitter backchannel, and also provided a detailed publication as a 62-page Acrobat file discussing How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)

The image of a rowing coach with a megaphone is from here. That last Tweet is the opening line from Bruce Cockburn’s song Postcards from Cambodia.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Overcoming the fear of public speaking

 How can we quit feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, and get comfortable in front of an audience?

In a blog post on November 7th Nick Morgan made the following five suggestions:

1. Redefine the fear as adrenaline, and therefore a good thing.

2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Rehearse a lot.

3. Breathe deeply, from the belly. Breathe slowly, and often.

4. Focus on the audience, not on yourself.

5. Focus on an emotion that you want to convey to the audience.

On October 17th Alex Rister gave ten similar suggestions:

1. Prepare.

2. Record your speech.

3. Appear more confident than you feel.

4. Be familiar with your introduction.

5. Practice mentally.

6. Practice out loud often.

7. Concentrate on the message, not on yourself.

8. Breathe deeply.

9. Channel adrenaline to positive outlets.

10. Accept some fear as normal.

She uses graphics well to emphasize her points. Alex added more advice on October 22nd.

The poster with deer came from here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How many rehearsals should you do before giving a presentation?

Or, what ratio of rehearsal time to presentation time is sufficient to push your speech up to excellent? I went looking for a specific number but instead found a huge range of answers.

When you don’t rehearse at all, you are likely to have a presentation disaster, as described by Nick Morgan.

Alan L. Stevens suggested that that one or two rehearsals are sufficient, since you want to sound fresh when you speak. (I think that’s a bit low, and just will create an unfortunate event rather than a complete disaster).

Pete Ryckman suggested at least five rehearsals, while David Murray (who edits Vital Speeches of the Day) suggested eight. Ruth Sherman said ten was conservative, and noted that Winston Churchill had used 60. Fred E. Miller also said 60 was a good rule of thumb, but as a minimum. Steve Siebold mentioned that once he and Bill Gove did 130 rehearsals.

Why is there such a huge range of ratios? How large is your audience, and how important is your presentation? What level of finish is appropriate? Siebold and Gove did 130 rehearsals for a 45-minute speech given in a hockey stadium to 7,000 distributors. Introducing a product also calls for a large number of rehearsals, since the presentation likely will wind up archived on video posted on the web. When the stakes are lower, five to ten rehearsals might be more appropriate.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How did the Anti-PowerPoint-Party do in elections for the Swiss parliament?

Back in July I blogged about how Mathias Poehm’s Anti-PowerPoint-Party (APPP) wanted us to go back to using flipcharts. In August I suggested that interactive whiteboards would be better than flipcharts for replacing PowerPoint.

On August 16th the party produced a press release about having gotten on the ballot. Just before the elections the New York Times described how the Idea of ‘One Person One Party’ Makes for a Crowd in Switzerland. Another article elsewhere discussed how Fools and Pirates Compete for Election Glory.

Elections were held on October 23rd, and the APPP did not win even a single seat, not even in Zurich. Neither did the Pirates Party or the Fools Party.

The image of a wrecked Moissant airplane came from here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What can Donald Duck teach us about public speaking?

He’s a comically exaggerated, negative example to remind us that clear enunciation is important. Donald’s buccal speech is difficult to understand and sometimes can be completely misinterpreted.

In the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit there is a  hilarious piano duel between Daffy Duck and Donald Duck containing the following dialogue:

Daffy: “Does anybody understand what this duck is saying? I’ve worked with a lot of wise-quackers, but you are despicable.”

Donald: “doggone, stubborn little... I’m gonna - waah”.

Daffy: “This is the last time I work with someone with a speech impediment!”

Some have claimed that instead of saying “little” Donald “dropped the N-bomb” on Daffy. Snopes said that claim of racism was false. However, Donald did throw Daffy inside a grand piano, and then dropped the lid on him.

This post was inspired by Andrew Dlugan’s recent one on What can MIckey Mouse teach you about public speaking? The image of Donald is from Wikimedia Commons.