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Presentation skills

Back to school means … book reports, book presentations, book talks

Remember: Literacy is more than reading.

Does your local school teach the students how to become literate in every way? Reading and writing, yes, but also speaking?

Public speaking gets left out of many classroom agendas. Too often, it’s “handled” by English classes. But students deserve learning opportunities to speak in all subject areas: math, science, social studies … if it’s important enough to teach, it’s important enough for students to talk about.

On #BackToSchool night, ask how your school helps students build confidence through presentation skills. If students feel nervous about speaking in front of a class (and they do!), it’s our schools’ responsibility to help each child gain confidence as a speaker … and as a young person who has the right to speak up.

YOU MEAN I HAVE TO STAND UP AND SAY SOMETHING? (author Joan Detz, publisher Atheneum)

School Library Journal: “This lighthearted and highly readable book is packed full of practical hints for surmounting that most feared hurdle, the public speech.”

Manage your time

Writing a speech? Rehearsing a presentation?

Set a clear timeline, and hold yourself accountable. Hold everyone else accountable, too.

For a long term speechwriting assignment, a weekly check-in might work. For a short term speechwriting assignment, check daily to reassess goals and monitor progress.

Rehearsals require strict time management. Why? Because you have multiple participants (speaker, speechwriter, AV team, teleprompter operator, interpreters, perhaps someone from legal, perhaps someone from HR). Plus, you’re getting down to the wire!  That speech/presentation has to be given at a specific time and place – no extensions.

If you start the rehearsal late, or if the speaker wants to rewrite half the speech (I’ve seen rehearsals that spent more time on re-writing than practicing) … well, you all lose (including the audience, who was hoping for a well prepared presentation).

Public speaking: Bridge the English-as-second-language gap

Presenting in English to an audience that uses English as a second language?

Three tips:

  1. Pause more often.
  2. Speak a bit slower.
  3. Using interpreters? Pause even more often so both interpreters and audiences can catch up with your message. And speak even slower. (Your interpreters will appreciate your professionalism, and it will be easier for your audience to get your message.)

Spanish translation of HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH (St Martin’s Press). Spanish edition publisher, Alba Editorial of Barcelona Spain. Translator, Elena Bernardo Gil. Author, Joan Detz

Now: two Chinese editions of How To Write & Give A Speech

About two years ago, St Martin’s Press did a contract for the Mainland China edition of How To Write & Give A Speech. That Chinese edition (with simplified characters) has just been published in Mainland China. I don’t have my author’s copy yet, but when I get the book, I’ll post and share the details.

Now: A few weeks ago, St Martin’s Press sold a new Chinese language edition that will be published in Taiwan (with traditional characters). The upcoming Taiwan edition will offer Chinese rights worldwide (excluding Mainland China).

Speechwriting and public speaking are global skills. I’m grateful to the translators who have made – and are still making – How To Write & Give A Speech available in multiple languages.

Was your speech successful?

Measure the success of each presentation. You have many options:

  • Use audience evaluation forms
  • Ask a trusted colleague to observe
  • Record yourself
  • Create a twitter hashtag for your program – and check the activity
  • Post a summary of your message on LinkedIn – and note the interest
  • Did the host ask you to return?
  • Did audience members ask you to speak at their meetings/conferences?

March is #WomensHistoryMonth … ALL of March (not just the first few days)

When the calendar goes from February to March, Women’s History Month gets a lot of attention. But as March progresses, the attention drops off.

A presentation tip for speakers wanting to honor Women’s History Month:

Include visuals – not just in your presentation, but also in the announcements for your presentation and in the follow up social media.

Libraries offer terrific visual collections – diverse and inclusive. Tap into these images. Give your audience fresh images to convey the wide range of women’s achievements.

Consider the Library of Congress. Download photos, posters & more from their Free to Use and Reuse site: loc.gov/free-to-use/?l… #WomensHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/FinKQIH2Jv

March is National Essential Tremor month – How do tremors impact public speakers?

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary shaking – often of the hands or arms.

Speakers with essential tremor (ET) might gesture to the audience and notice that their extended arm begins to tremble. Or they might use a pointer to highlight something on a slide and find their hand begins to shake.

ET can also impact a speaker’s voice.

I’ve known speakers who became self-conscious of their tremors and avoided public speaking assignments. Some avoided asking questions during meetings. Others sought jobs where they didn’t have to present.

Everyone has the right to speak. Everyone has the right to convey their expertise. It’s called inclusion.

If  you have a colleague/relative/friend who deals with tremors, maybe now’s a good time to discuss National Essential Tremor month. Information is power. Don’t let essential tremor derail a career.

Joan’s tech tips: Don’t introduce a speaker by reading from your phone

Perhaps you’ve seen people introduce speakers by reading from their phones. Perhaps you think it might be okay for you to do, as well.

It isn’t okay. It isn’t okay at all.

I’ve seen phone-readers lose their place, scroll nervously, mispronounce names, fumble with phrasing, bend their head down to see the screen, squint to read the small type, forfeit all eye contact, miss what’s going on in the room.

Audiences don’t like any of this.

Phone-reading might be easy, it might be fast. But it isn’t okay.

Your audiences deserve better. So does your speaker.

An occasional series of quirky tech tips for writers, speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, execs … and pretty much anybody who has to communicate for a living (which is to say, almost all of us)

Can You Say a Few Words? by Joan Detz

Includes: How to introduce a speaker

How to cut a speech – when you don’t want to cut any of your favorite points

A colleague wrote that he was having a hard time cutting a too-long presentation. He had put in all the points that mattered to him – and he didn’t want to cut any of them.

Later in his speechwriting process, he read It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It  (St Martin’s Press), and he began to look at the topic from the audience’s point of view. What would they want to hear? What would they expect to learn?  What would they need to know?

Most especially: How long would they be willing to sit for an after dinner lecture?  

Once he looked at the topic from the audience’s viewpoint, it was pretty easy for him to cut away the unnecessary material.

 It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It by Joan Detz

“I’ve found all of Joan Detz’s books to be highly useful, but this one may top the list because it has a few topics not covered in her other books.”

The quote of the week: from a news conference

The quote of the week comes from Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson [speaking at the Chicago Police news conference on the arrest of Jussie Smollett]:

 “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention, because that’s who really deserves the amount of attention that we’re giving to this particular incident.”

 Well said.  

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