Four Mistakes to Avoid When Presenting at TED

Richard St John has an amicable presence while presenting in the above TED talk, and a sharp delivery.  He also has a way with one-liners, evident by the great joke he makes about motherhood halfway through the speech.  However, there are some mistakes he makes while presenting that we can learn from:

  1. He is rushing.  This is made clear by the speed at which he clicks his powerpoint button.  It feels as if he is trying to get to the end of the presentation rather than focusing on the audience moment by moment.  Don’t rush!
  2. He doesn’t have a PowerPoint remote.  This may seem like a small issue, but it isn’t.  He has to constantly look away from the audience to push his space bar on his Mac to forward his slides and this disrupts his connection to the audience.  Keep eye contact with the audience, especially at the beginning of the speech.
  3. No data – A good TED talk generally is backed up with interesting data.  There are no hard facts here to prove his point.
  4. No dynamic central idea – TED talks benefit from a dynamic central idea.  One of the best TED talks I ever saw was about the need for independent, unsupervised play among young children.  That is a radical idea to this helicopter parent!  It’s a good idea to sit for a while with your central idea and try to come up with something very creative.  I’ve seen a lot of speeches about what makes someone a success.  I would have preferred to see a different spin on this oft-repeated theme.

Does Accent Reduction Improve Your Job Prospects?

Does accent reduction improve your job prospects?  A new study by the University of Chicago suggests it does.  According to the authors, speaking with a foreign accent makes the speaker seem less truthful.  The research shows that non-native speech is more complex for the listener’s brain to understand. This difficulty causes the listener to doubt the accuracy of what they’re hearing. For example, native speakers will hear a statement such as “Ants don’t sleep” as less true when spoken by someone with a foreign accent.  So while presenting, or interviewing, it’s important to speak with a neutral American accent:

“Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.” – Shiri Lev-Ari, Boaz Keysar “Why don’t we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility”  The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

So how does accent reduction work?  The first step is an evaluation of the client’s problem stress and syllable sounds.  From there, the client is taught to readjust their articulators (lips, tongue, soft palette and lower jaw) to create neutral American speech.  Neutral American speech is achieved by changing individual problem sounds as well as the rhythm and flow of the language.  It is intonation (the musicality of speech) that has the most impact on the listener’s ear.

If you would like to adjust your accent, contact me directly to set up a free, 20 minute consultation!

Clint Eastwood, the RNC, and Speaking from Notes

Ah yes,  Clint Eastwood and the RNC speech.  What to say? Yikes.  Folks, don’t speak without an outline.  That is the basic lesson of this unfortunate, rambling speech. It’s never a good idea.  Should an actor of Mr. Eastwood’s caliber write out every word before speaking? No. Should he make an outline with short bullet points and keep it handy while speaking? Yes.  Should he practice his speech out loud three or four times before presenting? Yes.

Its tempting to feel the need to ditch your notes and just speak off the cuff, but keep in mind you can only improvise and keep a speech loose if you have a structure to improvise with. Structure sets us free.

Also, remember to have a theme to your speech; a single unifying sentence that is your thesis.  Write it down.  Re-work it.  Let it be memorable, and make sure to include your point of view.

Contact yours truly if you have a big speaking engagement coming up, or you’d like to work on your craft!

See the comments section for further commentary on Eastwood’s speech.