Speech Preparation

Your Dog, The Speech Coach

Your Dog, The Speech Coach

Whether or not dogs are man’s (and woman’s’) best friend they have certainly risen on the popularity scale recently. You see dogs everywhere you go from city streets, to office cubicles to airplanes not to mention dog parks and front yards. They are good companions and playmates and in some cases excellent emotional and physical support animals. But did you know that dogs can also be a great audience for your presentation rehearsal?

 

When you have an important speech to deliver it’s critical to practice out loud at least three times. Typically, I recommend that you practice alone in a room, or in front of a mirror, or in front of a friend, family member or colleague. I don’t believe I’ve ever recommended practicing your speech in front of your trusted canine but apparently I’ve been missing out on a great resource.  Students at American University in Washington D.C. are intentionally using dogs to practice speech making and as it turns out it’s an effective practice method.

7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Preparation

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the center seat of a packed auditorium—hemmed in on both sides by people and laptops—listening to a keynote speaker who is supposed to be imparting knowledge and wisdom, but instead is droning on and on? You want to run, but you can’t. So you endure what seems like torture.

You probably think this only happens in large university lecture halls, right? Not so. I’ve seen it at trade shows, association meetings, speaker forums, customer meetings, and yes, even at TED talks. One can only wonder what these speakers were thinking. How could they come to an event of such high caliber and not be prepared?

The funny thing is, if you ask them, they might tell you they spent a lot of time preparing, perhaps even over-preparing. Because the truth is that you can prepare and still not do well if you prepare incorrectly. In other words, not all preparation is the same.

Here is a list of the seven “sins” of poor presentations—all of which focus on the mistakes made when speakers prepare for their presentation incorrectly. Avoid committing these errors and you can give a stellar speech every time.

  1. Not having the right intention: In public speaking, as in every other worthwhile pursuit in life, intention is everything. If you don’t have a clear goal and objective for your speech, your audience will know it and become lost and confused … and most likely so will you. So set your intention, state the purpose of your presentation, and tell your audience what you hope your presentation will achieve for them.
  2. Not preparing your content before you prepare your PowerPoint™: Many people are in the habit of creating their slides before they create their full content, as if the PowerPoint slides are the end game instead of a useful, though limited, outline. They never take the next step to fully develop their message. That’s like building a house with a napkin drawing instead of a blueprint, and we all know how risky that can be. Take the time to fully develop your message first, and then create powerful visuals to accompany it.
  3. Not realizing that your content has two parts—message and structure: This is the tricky part for some presenters. Creating an interesting story line and developing an exciting topic complete with great examples, metaphors, and data comes naturally to some, but then taking the next step and forging that great content into a simple, easy-to-follow beginning, middle, and end structure is overlooked. Too much content without enough structure can leave the audience overwhelmed and perplexed.
  4. Not practicing your delivery ahead of time: Most people know better than to wing it in front of a large, high-stakes crowd, but there are plenty out there who think they have enough experience to stand up and speak with very little rehearsal. Every audience is unique and deserves your time and preparation. The best speakers practice out loud at least three times before every presentation they give.
  5. Not showing physical excitement and passion: Passion is an overused word when it comes to public speaking, but that’s because it is such a necessary component of a successful speech. You may feel plenty of real passion for your subject, but if you don’t practice showing it you will not be able to convince your audience that you mean it. Showing how you feel about your subject is just as important as knowing the details of what you are talking about.
  6. Not letting your voice be free: The human voice has the capacity to excite, stimulate, persuade, and inspire. Let your voice ring free of inhibitions by speaking with power, raising your pitch, using inflection, and exploiting dramatic pauses. The audience loves the music of the human voice, so make sure to let yours sing out and work for you.
  7. Not showing confidence and energy: There is the old adage that if you happen to be charismatically challenged you should “fake it until you make it.” That means even if you’re not “comfortable” performing with more vocal strength and physical action you must still do it. The audience depends on you to be lively and energetic during your presentation. They will forgive you if you try and fail, but they won’t forgive you if you don’t try at all. The more you practice, the easier this becomes. So take a chance at success and Come Alive!

When you prepare your presentation, be the saint and not the sinner! Use your knowledge of good presentation skills and prepare the correct way so that even those audience members stuck in the center of the crowd will stand up and cheer for you.

Please let me know what other preparation “sins” you would add to this list!

Alltop.com: A Great Resource for Public Speakers

One of the biggest frustrations my clients have when preparing a speech is finding those key stories and credible facts that make it come alive. They often reveal that they waste so much time searching for information online that they no longer have enough time for practice. If this sounds like you or someone you know, I highly recommend you try Alltop.com. Alltop has been described as an "online magazine rack" that displays the news from top publications and blogs. It’s an incredible resource for public speakers and it’s changing the way I—and my clients—find news and relevant stories for our presentations.

Rather than a search engine, Alltop is a content aggregator. That means they collect the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a particular topic. They then group these collections—or “aggregations”—into individual web pages, where they display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Think of Alltop as an information filter to help you quickly find great material for your speech.

Here’s what typically happens for most presenters: You’re crafting a presentation and you know (because you’ve listened to my past advice) that you need an example or a story to illustrate your key point. So you log onto your favorite search engine and type in a keyword phrase that you think will bring you some good results. As you scroll through your 10 million+ results, you realize that finding an example is going to be harder and more time consuming than you thought. That’s where Alltop comes in.

Do you need to know what’s happening in China right now so you can persuade the board that entering into the Asian market is a good idea? Alltop can help. Need to know what’s happening in the commercial real estate industry so you can make solid recommendations to the executive team about acquiring new facility space? Try Alltop. Need a cute story about the loyalty of dogs to make your point about customer loyalty at the company-wide meeting? Alltop has you covered.

One of my favorite features of Alltop is the “preview.” When you place your cursor over a headline, Alltop displays part of the story so you can decide if you’d like to read it. To read the story, click on its title. To go to the home page of the site, click on its domain name. No more wasting time opening web pages only to find that the site can’t give you the information you need. Now that’s genius!

The mastermind behind this approach and one of the co-founders of Alltop is leading innovator and marketer Guy Kawasaki. You may remember Kawasaki as the chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of ten books, including his newest Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (which I will be reviewing in an upcoming blog), Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way. This is what sets Alltop apart from other content sources—it is powered by creativity, innovation, and marketing expertise.

So the next time you need that perfect story, example, fact, quote, or other key piece of information for your presentation, think of Alltop.com. It will source and sort the information you need, and as Kawasaki says, provide "aggregation without the aggravation.”