What We Can Learn From Comedians About Pacing

I think John Mulaney is one of the best comedians around these days.  What can we learn from him from a public speaking perspective?  Here are three things I think we can take away:

  1. His pacing is very deliberate – Notice the tempo at which Mr. Mulaney speaks.  It’s very measured, but it never feels belabored.  That’s because he is using his tempo to create vocal variety, emphasizing certain words with volume and pitch.
  2. He makes eye contact with his audience –  Pretty straightforward, right?  If you want to create a relationship with the audience, you need to look at them.
  3. He has clearly rehearsed – It’s never a good idea to wing a presentation, but we don’t want to sound too canned either.  It’s often best to rehearse from a set of simple bullet points and allow yourself to improvise within that structure.  Mr. Mullaney clearly has a few “bits” he is working with, but he doesn’t sound like he has thought out each word he is going to say.  He stays loose with his execution.

The Third Debate Between Hillary and Donald Trump from a Public Speaking Perspective

The third presidential debate is now a thing of the past, and many are glad it is!  Interruptions, name calling, viscous allegations...this has been one of the most tawdry debates in recent history.  But let’s take a moment to put all that aside, and analyze the candidates on their debate skills starting with Hillary Clinton.

I think Hillary won this one.  One of the surest ways to win a debate is to consistently pivot difficult questions back toward a topic of your choosing.  A prime example of this was the way Hillary turned a question about her stance on open boarders to an indictment of Donald Trump’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin.  She does this time and again in the debate to excellent effect.  From a non-verbal perspective, I think she had mixed results.  She has an odd tendency of bringing her eyes down when answering a question.  It may be that she was looking at notes, but making eye contact with the audience and the camera is very important.  I would suggest she look up a bit more.  Additionally, she tends to use her left hand to gesture while speaking, and could probably benefit from using both hands a bit more.

I think Donald Trump did a good job of identifying when Hillary Clinton was evading questions and holding her feet to the fire, especially with her answer on open boarders.  He had a powerful delivery while debating, and used his voice to great affect.  His tendency, however, to talk over Hillary, and put her down outright, is, of course, outrageous.  We will see if it will happen, but the Donald would benefit from boning up on foreign and domestic affairs and limiting the personal attacks, which only aid Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.




Monica Lewinsky and the Art of Crafting a Dynamic Ted Talk

A good TED Talk needs to be simultaneously intellectually stimulating and personally revelatory.  Lean too far toward the revelatory and the speech will become too maudlin, lean too far toward the intellectual, and the speech will become too dry.

I have seen few TED talkers balance the intellectual argument of their speech with personal revelation quite as well as Monica Lewinsky.  She starts the speech with an engaging attention-getter.  From there, we move quickly to the moment by moment details of the Clinton scandal; the sensory experience of what it was like to be interrogated by Kenneth Starr’s team, the shame and humiliation she felt, so much so that her parents insisted she shower with the door open in case she attempted suicide, and the experience of seeing her name slandered over and over again in the media.  Concurrently, Ms. Lewinksy builds her argument against the “culture of humiliation” which has been accelerating since the advent of the internet.  Her argument is loaded with pertinent data, and compelling contrasts and comparisons.  All this builds to a righteous, and well-deserved call to action.

If I were to nit-pick, I would suggest Ms. Lewinsky relax her hands a bit as she presents as she has a tendency to wring them as she speaks, but this is a minor distraction.  Overall, this is one of the best TED talks I have seen in years.