Well the first is…
- Don’t stick your tongue out like this:
Well the first is…
One of my presentation training clients in New York City recently asked me why some TED talks gather millions of views, while others with similar content languish? I did some research. It turns out a human behavior consultancy called “Science of People” set out to answer this question. They asked volunteers to rate hundreds of hours of TED talks, and here are the conclusions they came to:
Donald Trump gave a speech at a rally in Iowa the other day. It was all over the place. He talks about illegal immigration, his hair, Scott Walker, the negotiating skills of the Mexican government, the term “sanctuary city”, and his wife’s travel habits all in the first ten minutes. I desperately searched for a common thread. I found none.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Trump makes bare bones notes, and then trusts himself to just “speak from the heart” when delivering a speech. Speaking from the heart is great, but it’s imperative to have a central theme to your speech, an organized argument, and a coherent, fluid delivery. This work requires an hour of preparation for each minute of speaking. I’d say Mr. Trump was woefully under-prepared for this speech.
How can you stay on topic? Try theses hacks:
1) Find a Quote – Find a quote that perfectly encapsulates your speech, and return to it throughout the speech. Be sure all of your data, supporting arguments, stories, contrasts and comparisons fit into the theme behind your quote.
2) Form a Work-Group – Get some colleagues in a room whom you trust to give you straightforward feedback. Ask them to stop you if you get off topic. Strike out the sections that are extraneous.
3) Craft your Closing First – To stay on topic, you must know where you are going. By crafting your closing first, you can sharpen your speech’s focus.
Senator Ted Cruz delivered a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week. He got one minute through the speech and then decided he needed to start over. So he offered up a “Meh, let’s start over”, and then began from the top. Yikes.
Don’t do this folks, for a few reasons:
1) Our Second Take Is Usually Similar To Our First Take – If you notice the senator’s second take in the video above, it’s not that much better then his first take. Which brings me to my second point…
2) Sometimes We Think We Suck, But The Audience Feels Differently – Perhaps the senator thought he could improve his first take, but it was not likely that the audience noticed he was off. If he just worked to get himself back in the groove, it’s unlikely the audience would have noticed he was off.
3) Starting Over Makes It Look Like You’re Not Prepared – A rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union shot on an iPhone? Really Ted? This speech reeks of a lack of preparation.
Don’t ad lib your speeches. Don’t throw them together. It always shows. Bullet point your ideas. Review them thoroughly. Even if you’re in a rush. You’ll be glad you did.
Many new clients of mine confess to being confused about which direction they should head if they feel they are having trouble with a number of issues pertaining to their presentations. Articulation? English fluency? Basic presenting skills? Vocal training? Where to start?
Here are my thoughts:
1) If your English is rusty enough that you feel you are frequently misunderstood (say more than 20% of the time) then work first and foremost on reducing your accent. An accent reduction specialist can help you sharpen your speech, and put your best foot forward. You’re not going to be able to focus on presenting skills, or optimize your training, if you are struggling to be understood.
2) If your English is decent, consider taking a voice and speech class first and foremost. 80% of our impression of a speaker is non-verbal. Your audience will make a decision about you within the first 60 seconds of your presentation, and that decision will be based largely on the tone of your voice and the way you move.
3) Once you have mastered articulation and vocal projection, and you know how to convey confidence with your body language, start working on basic presenting skills. Learn how to develop your opener, discussion section, and closing section. Learn how to master powerpoint design. Lean how to use contrast, comparison, analogy and metaphor.
If you take a gradual approach to presentation training, you’re in a much better position to grow your craft.