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.”
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).
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?
Four panelists presented for 30 minutes then opened the session to Q&A. These were good presenters from respected organizations.
They had prepared their remarks well and deserved a good crowd. Unfortunately, the session began with only 10 attendees in the room. Latecomers “swelled” the audience to 18. And guess what? Most of the attendees had work connections with the panelists.
In other words, the panelists put in a lot of time and effort, only to have their key messages reach almost nobody. What’s the point?
FYI: I checked their Twitter accounts. Not one of the panelists had written any tweets to promote this program.
Equally interesting: Not one of the panelists tweeted after the program to help their messages reach a bigger audience.
Why go to all the trouble to give a presentation unless you can get your message across to a good audience (either live onsite, or later online)?
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.
Avoid repeating the host’s name.
You can say, “Thank you Jake” once – but that’s about it. Jake is not your audience. Jake’s audience is your audience. Every time you interject the host’s name, you’re weakening your connection with the real audience.
Make every second count. Sell your key messages and don’t waste a syllable.
Focus on connecting with the viewing/listening audience. Ditch time-eating, distracting interjections:
- Well, Jake, that’s a good question
- No, Jake, that’s not how I see it.
- Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you this evening, Jake.
- Here’s the number you want to remember, Jake [No.Jake isn’t the one who needs to remember this number. It’s the viewing/listening audience who needs to remember your key messages.]
I heard this on a media interview a few days ago:
“You don’t look seventy.”
- What does seventy look like? [Who knows?]
- Will the phrase create value for the audience? [No]
- Does this line rank as a key message? [Hardly]
- Will the phrase contribute to the ROI of that interview? [No]
- Since everything has an opportunity cost, the question becomes: “Does saying this take time away from saying something more important?” [Unfortunately yes]
Time is money and time is focus. Whenever speakers use unproductive lines in media interviews, they are cutting into their own message time and blunting the focus for their audience.
Omit needless/distracting lines.
I had a one-year contract to work as a national media spokesperson for a tech company – traveling the USA to convey the client’s key messages.
My advice to anyone answering media questions? 1. Know the key messages you must work into each interview. 2. Identify the annoying phrases you must keep out.
As an executive coach, I watch a lot of media interviews and I hear a lot of annoying phrases.
What ranks at the top of the please-don’t-say-this-again list? Perhaps “at the end of the day.” I watched an executive on a TV interview use it twice within a few minutes. That was two times too many.
On Authors and Book Talks
By Debbie Carter of Waverly Place Literary Agency
Living in the hub of America’s book publishing capital, I see new books churned through New York’s publicity machine of readings and TV talk shows. Every new book competes for a slot in bookstores, libraries, bars and colleges. It’s great having the selection of famous and emerging authors in fiction and nonfiction.
But with so many events happening at once, I have to make the difficult choice of choosing one book over another. You would think my appetite would be sated, but really, most of the time I’m disappointed. Or bored.
Same old, same old. The author reads an excerpt, making mistakes as if they’ve never read it before. They talk too fast, or choke, or apologize for not being better prepared because of a crisis at home that day.
Then they take questions, which are uninspired, because the author has set the standard. Even a generous offering of wine and hors d’oeuvres, which are nice, won’t persuade me to buy a book. If the author is a drone, I won’t feel obligated.
Why are authors casual in the presentation of their books? Do they prepare? Are they nervous? The point of author appearances is to entice readers to buy the book.
The acting teacher Stella Adler said that if actors insist on becoming casual, they will become uncaring. Acting students in Russia stand up when a teacher enters a room. They preserve a formality about themselves, dictated by tradition. When introduced to you, they bow over your hand. “When the visitor is singled out and made to feel special, the special nature of the theater is once again affirmed.”
In The Art of Acting she offers other advice on how to prepare for a role. Actors, too, must cope with stage fright. Adler says actors prepare by building a relationship with the set; they imagine preparing the stage as a garden or they become familiar with the objects as though the set was their own bedroom. Props, too, are part of an actor’s character. Like hats.
The person who wears a high hat has to know how it lives. The high hat lives in a box, and that box gives you its nature and its value. Do you know how to brush this hat or put it down? Do you know you have to use both hands to put it on? It’s made to be worn straight. The person who wears it has a controlled speech, a controlled walk, a controlled mind. You must not bring your own out-of-control culture into the wearing the hat. In the society of that hat, the human being as well as the clothes were under strict control.
The Art of Actiing, p. 79
What if authors imagined themselves in hats?
Stella Adler. Compiled and Edited by Howard Kissel. The Art of Acting. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. 2000.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Do I spend way too much time preparing my presentations?
- Do I feel nervous when I get a public speaking invitation?
- Do I sometimes walk away from a lectern feeling I did less-than-my-best?
- Log your preparation time.
- Annotate exactly when you get podium jitters.
- Write down your key points before you speak. After the speech is over, check that list. Did you – or did you not? – say what you needed to say.
Presentation success starts with honesty. And honesty begins with you.
A one-hour consultation might be all you need to go from good to great … from nervous to confident … from frustrated to productive.