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Presentation skills

How to give a presentation in English … when English is your second language

I’m pleased to give public speaking tips to English-as-second-language speakers in this Business Venezuela magazine. (The article appears in both English and Spanish.)

Te invitamos a leer Nuestra Edición Digital N# 360 2018 “TOP 100 COMPANIES” 20 Años presentando el mejor ranking de negocios en Venezuela.

To read my featured piece click here.

A few words about introducing a speaker

For starters, don’t read any introduction from your cell phone. I’ve watched this several times, and it was always a disaster: squinting eyes, inaccurate scrolls, “Oops, I lost it”, “Just a moment – I’ll find it”, no eye contact with the audience, and no eye contact with the speaker being introduced.

Do not read a canned introduction from a cell phone. Do not read an HR bio from a cell phone. Do not read a LinkedIn profile from a cell phone. Are we clear on this?

Instead, write a great introduction and print it out. In just 1-2 minutes, a great intro explains:

  • Why is this speaker
  • from this organization
  • talking about this topic
  • to this audience
  • at this time?
  • Joan-Detz_CPC

Become known for giving great introductions. It’s a valuable career asset.

Media training: More words to avoid (Let’s shut the door on “open the kimono”)

I’m not sure why some executives say “Open the kimono” during a media interview.

I really have no idea why they use these words. But I wish they would permanently drop the phrase from all future interviews, Q&A sessions, and presentations.

In fact, it would be nice if they never uttered this phrase again. It’s so overused and so unsettling.

Think – just please think for one minute – about what they’re saying. “Open the kimono”? Of all the words in the English language, they’re choosing these three words to express their thoughts?

Enough said.

Why speechwriters need to look at a client’s past public speaking appearances

From Patrick Henry:

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”

Look at the speeches your client has given over the past six months.
* What went wrong?
* What proved successful?

There’s always a reason. Look. Analyze. Figure out why your client succeeded with one audience but underperformed with another.


Changing your presentation: When is it too late?

In theory, it’s never too late. You can make changes to your presentation anytime. But – and this is a big but – changes always present a cost.

Sometimes changes pose a financial cost:
* rush fees for a graphic designer to fix your PowerPoint
* rush fees for a speechwriter to rewrite your notes
* higher costs to rent rehearsal space
* higher production rates
* the need for additional proofreading

Sometimes changes pose an opportunity cost:
* What could you be doing if you weren’t making your 11th change? (What should you be doing?)
* Does changing the content mean you’ll have less time for rehearsals?
* Could redesigning your PPT take away from Q&A preparation?
* Do ongoing changes hurt staff morale?
* Do last-minute changes introduce errors/typos?

Whether it’s a financial cost or an opportunity cost: Either way, you’ll pay.
And the later you make those changes, the more they will cost. Beware night-before rewrites.

The best way to avoid changes? Plan. If you plan your presentation carefully, you’ll be less likely to require last-minute changes.

Always prepare an outline before you script your remarks or do your PowerPoint. The more you understand your content and your audience, the more you can remain in control of your presentation.

As a speaker, ask yourself, “How much am I willing to sacrifice for hasty changes? Money? Quality? Frustration? Lost sleep? Less rehearsal time?”

Yes, errors absolutely do need to be fixed. Other items? Not so much.

Foreign Book Covers

How to Write  Give a Speech smallforhomepage

Are you ready for your next Q&A session?

I just finished coaching a client for a big Q&A session. In particular, I focused on coaching the executive to improve his question-and-answer skills with international audiences.

The a-ha moment for my speaker was: “Preparing for a Q&A takes at least as much work as preparing to give a major presentation.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Allocate your preparation time accordingly. Don’t skimp on Q&A practice. (FYI: The more diverse your audience, the sharper your skills have to be. Content alone won’t suffice … you’ll need multicultural communication skills to save the day.)

Right from the beginning, budget time for Q&A practice each time you rehearse your presentation. Don’t wait until the last minute to think about the questions you might get.

Need help? This book has a detailed section on Q&A sessions – and you can borrow it widely from public libraries:

How to Write  Give a Speech smallforhomepage

Seven tips to improve your public speaking skills

How to Write Give a Speech smallforhomepage

How good are your public speaking skills?

Many writers are more comfortable at their keyboards than at lecterns. Many executives are more comfortable speaking one-on-one than speaking on a panel. Many authors are more comfortable writing a book than doing the book talks.

Yet good public speaking skills are essential to any career.

  • It’s the terrific conference speaker who gets the best social media coverage.
  • It’s the confident entrepreneur whose presentation brings in more business.
  • It’s the savvy lecturer who gets the job promotion.
  • It’s the articulate PR person who scores a raise.
  • It’s the author with top platform skills who gets a bigger advance on her next book.

Seven tips:

  1. Look for opportunities to speak. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
  2. Not comfortable speaking in public? Turn to Toastmasters for practical advice.
  3. Write down your public speaking goals. Do you want to improve eye contact … create social media buzz … use stronger body language? Tackle one goal each time you present.
  4. Read about public speaking. You can borrow a copy of HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH from any public library. (Make sure it’s the updated 2014 edition so you get the new information on international speeches, social media, etc.)
  5. Ask a colleague to give you one specific suggestion.
  6. Watch speeches.  Take notes. See what works and what doesn’t work – then have fun figuring out why.
  7. Get public speaking tips on Twitter. I tweet regularly about #publicspeaking #speechwriting #HowToWriteAndGiveASpeech #HTWGAS  #Toastmasters #presentationskills #media #coaching #socialmedia and (yes) the ubiquitous #PPT

What do bookstores have to say about author events? A guest blog from Waverly Place Literary Agency

Guest post by Debbie Carter, Waverly Place Literary Agency

What do bookstores have to say about author events?

“Because of the competition in New York City, we want to offer something experiential,” says Kaylen Higgins, Events Director at Strand Bookstore. “We want programming that’s more dynamic than just having an author’s talk or having a conversation.” (Facebook photo: crowd for Dog Medicine by Julie Barton)

Daniel George of Tattered Cover in Denver says, “Our most successful talks are the extremely prevalent and well-known authors on the national level, including bestsellers, genre writers, or those heavily invested in social media.” For authors of business books “or businessmen and women who write a book about their work or their career or simply their approach to success, we can have 100 to 150 in attendance and sell around 70%.”

BookCourt in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is “one of the premiere independent bookstores in the country with one of the biggest event spaces of any bookstore in the city,” (Facebook photo)  Andrew Unger says. “We can hold as many as 400 people in our space. Ethan Hawke has made a habit of launching his books here. The energy of the space when it’s full is terrific.” He advises authors to understand the capabilities of the space. “When a local author makes us the third or fourth stop in the city, it hurts us a lot. Come prepared for a big celebration. James McBride brought his band to help him celebrate. We can do a lot and we like it when we can do a lot! Authors who take advantage of that fact always sell the most books.”

But books are usually sold for list price at events. How do stores motivate readers to pay full price for a book?

“The best way is to give them an unforgettable experience,” said Daniel of Tattered Cover. “A signed book only means so much to me, but if you felt like the presentation made you learn something about yourself, it solidifies an experience that could only be had at the Tattered Cover.”

While most, if not all, author events at bookstores are free, Strand Bookstore requires purchase of a $10-15 store gift card or purchase of the author’s book. Charging admission hasn’t really increased book sales, Kaylen says, but the store’s  third floor rare book room attracts a higher caliber of authors who offer an experience. “We’ve had stand-up comedians, podcasts and talks with slideshow components.” (Facebook photo: Harry Potter coloring bar in the rare book room)

Bookcourt customers look for something unique and often literary. “Authors should present their book in a unique and compelling way,” Andrew says. “I don’t think anyone has truly figured out “readings” yet. WORD bookstore is doing a heck of a job. Book People in Austin is doing some excellent programming, too. I like to think that in some small way I might also be turning some heads.  One of my favorite events was Robert Coover’s conversation with Garth Risk Hallberg about his monster of a novel The Brunist Day of Wrath. There was a modest crowd, but I consider it one of our great successes.  In terms of numbers we’ve hosted some hugely successful celebrity events:

  • Anthony Bourdain read here with the artist of his graphic novels.
  • Stephen King and Peter Straub talked with their kids Owen King and Emma Straub about growing up a family of writers.
  • Elvis Costello sat and signed books here for almost three hours one night, meeting all his local fans.

“Our customers look for something unique and often literary.The formula for captivating audiences en masse is still a mystery, though. Authors should know that beforehand. Invite everyone on earth you’ve ever talked to. Publicize yourself endlessly and tirelessly. Get people out! Don’t be afraid to think of something you can do that will make your event a true Event, make it stand out. And authors will win innumerable handsells from booksellers.”

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Tattered Cover, Denver

Tattered Cover, Denver

BookCourt, Brooklyn

BookCourt, Brooklyn

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