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.


Tips for Preparing a Ted Talk

imagesI’m pleased to announce that I will be coaching the speakers at TedXNavesink again this year!  I’m thrilled to be a part of this wonderful event.

A good Ted Talk has many components to it.  How you prepare will certainly influence your talk.  Here are a few tips:

1) Start Preparing Early – A Ted talk is a high-pressure event.  There are large audiences to contend with, and video cameras as well.  It’s imperative that you know your material inside and out.  Start gathering all the information you need for your topic as soon as you can.

2)  Have a Plan for Your Anxiety – Expect your heart to race and don’t push away the fear.  Try to accept your anxiety; it’s a natural part of public speaking.  Don’t, however, follow the mistaken advice to “use” your anxiety.  Bad idea.  You’ll just end up sounding like Howard Dean circa 2006.  Pause if you’re tense.  Take a sip of water and let there be silence.  Gently tell yourself “it’s natural”, and let the moment pass.  Resume speaking.

3) Have A Structure – A good speech is generally composed of three parts: an introduction, a discussion section and a closing section.  The intro tells the audience what the speech is about in a sentence or two, the discussion section is your main points arraigned logically (the discussion section is 75% of your speech), and your closing section is where you review your main points, or call the audience to action.

4) Video Record Yourself – If you record yourself, you can check your non-verbal communication.  Eighty percent of the audience’s impression of a speaker is non-verbal. See if you are moving in a way that is organic to you.  Try to reduce fidgeting.  Notice your articulation.  Use open gestures.  The more effective your non-verbal communication, the more impactful your speech will be.

5) Work with a Speech CoachGetting feedback on your speech is essential.  A good coach can help you craft your material, offer tips to handle your anxiety, and help you convey confident non-verbal communication.  Be sure that you bring your full speech or at least an outline to your coaching session.

6) Read “Presentation Zen” – Simply put, this is the best book on the market regarding presenting and Power Point design.  Give it a read.