More great public speaking advice from Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan keeps giving away solid advice about public speaking. If you speak in public ever, you really should be following his blog. (And his book, Give Your Speech, Change The World, has been required reading for my team.)

Today he posted an excellent list of twelve public speaking rules.

Rules three and four on his list particularly resonate with me:

3. By the end of the hour, you should be talking love. You get attention by identifying a problem and playing it up. Look at the current American presidential candidates; you’d be pardoned for thinking that Armageddon was around the corner if you took them seriously. But by the end of the talk, you should be covering what it is that you love and what’s working in your world. Long-term careers are based on positive trajectories, not negative ones.

4. You put your ideas out there; you can’t control what the audience does with them. It’s your job to present your case with passion. The audience has its own issues, and you have no control over the extent to which they take up your ideas or not. Success is making your case, not in getting the most votes – or even a standing ovation.

Indeed, “you should be talking love” as you make your call to action. What’s the point of standing in front of an audience if not to give them something you care about that can send them away transformed for the better?

It’s called “giving” a speech, right? Have a gift to offer. Talk about something you truly care about, that you love, and leave your audience with that gift, whether it’s awakening them to new possibilities or calling them to action in a worthwhile pursuit.

And Morgan’s fourth rule can be magical for not just your speaking events, but for all that you do.

Don’t be attached to the outcome. Focus on what you can control—your effort, your energy, your emotion, your authentic in-the-moment presence. The intrinsic rewards should take precedence over the extrinsic ones.

Give your speech with as much craftsmanship and energy as you can. Offer your gift. Then let it go.

Every audience is unique. Some may not give you the feedback you hope for or the smiling, engaged expressions that let you know they’re with you.

I’ve had audiences that seemed to just stare blankly at me only to find out later that several found the experience to be transformational.

Regardless, do your best. Give the audience all you have. If you don’t feel a bit drained when you finish, you probably didn’t summon enough energy or uncork enough emotion.

When in doubt, especially when facing an audience that’s not showing you the love, ramp up the awesome rather than scaling it back in self-defense.

Put out more energy, connect more intently, and be bigger on stage than seems reasonable to you.

Spread your love. Give your gift. And be content with that.

 

Presenting? Rehearse, out loud.

  
I gave a new presentation at a conference last weekend. I had been unsure about how it was going to be received. The topic was more esoteric than I usually do for a conference session. And in the days leading up to the session, I still wasn’t “feeling” it. My ideas and the narrative structure were not quite clicking into place.

But, the morning of my session I got up early, went out to breakfast with my iPad, and made a couple of tweaks to the structure that did begin to make it all click. It was a “Duh, why didn’t I see that before” moment. Weeks of stewing on a topic can have you just treading water, but the urgency of a shipping date can force clarity.

Then I found the meeting room where my presentation would take place later that morning. The projector was already set up and on for a session that was to start in the room an hour later. So I dicconnected the hotel PC, hooked up my iPad, and quietly rehearsed with my slides, working an empty room in my t-shirt and shorts. And I walked out finally “feeling” it, ready to go on just a couple of hours later. 

I used to scoff at the thought of rehearsing a presentation. But a college speech professor emphasized it so much I gave it a go for a speech in his class. And I was surprised at how transformational it was. Saying my presentation in advance, out loud, just as I would with an audience, helped smooth out the transitions and find flaws and opportunities and even good jokes that I wouldn’t have if I had just gone over the notes in my mind. 

And that happened last weekend again. I should have started talking this presentation out much earlier in the process, especially with new material. If I had rehearsed even a few days sooner, I doubt I would have struggled as much with having this talk click for me.

If you’re giving a talk or leading a meeting or performing for others in any way, make time to rehearse it, out loud. Find the room you’ll be in if you can. If not, any space will do where you can practice without feeling self-conscious.

I don’t know if my audience last Saturday left any better for having been in my presentation. (Surveys will come in later.) But I left feeling that I had given good energy and thoughtful insight, and it seemed I had made a genuine connection wtih the people in the room. 

Leaving with that feeling wouldn’t have been likely had I not walked in with the confidence that only solid preparation and rehearsal can provide.

My presentation today: Do less, better

  
I’m presenting at a conference today. I’m posting a PDF of my slides here for those in the session or for any who are interested. 

I use slides to support what I say, not to make what I say redundant. So, seeing my slides is not the same as seeing the presentation.

Conference organizers tend to ask presenters to send their “presentation” ahead of time. Well, that can’t really be done. A live presentation is the unique dynamic of the speaker and the audience. So, to satisfy the request for slides in advance, I did create a set of slides to serve as a sort of preview for this talk. These can stand on their own.

Showing my work: Analog color

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I’m leading an educational session at a conference this week. It’s a first for this topic for me, and I don’t feel I’ve found my framework yet. It just hasn’t clicked.

I’ve floundered around with digital tools — Keynote, Mindnode, text editors — but the flow hasn’t come yet.

So, today I turned around to my desk, away from my Mac, and took my multi-colored pen to actual paper and mind-mapped my ideas. And they flowed better than at any time in my thinking on this topic.

Analog before digital. Why can’t I stick to that?

It’s still not there yet. I’m imagining people sitting in my session wondering why they chose it and what the heck I was trying to accomplish. But I’ve done this enough times to know that something at least partially intelligible and maybe even meaningful will come out of me.

Priming my creativity with a pen in hand, some color, and a big sheet of paper is a reliable way to force some flow. 

Now, I’ve got to gather up those thoughts and string them together in a way that sparks some kind of transformation in my audience. What’s the point otherwise?

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” –John F. Kennedy

Don’t hold back when you present

I gave a couple of presentations already this week. Both were somewhat informal. No slides. Fewer than 25 in each group. 

Today I was Skyped into a student staff meeting at Stanford. That was a first for me. It’s an odd experience to not be physically in the room with the audience. It was a challenge to read the room as I was staring at a fuzzy image on my computer screen while talking in a louder voice than normal, trying extra hard to be heard far away on the west coast. The faces were somewhat pixelated (or maybe that’s just how people in Palo Alto look), so I couldn’t rely on the subtle feedback cues of expressions and body language that I usually adjust my energy to during a talk.

I left both presentations this week, though, feeling satisfyingly drained. I don’t know if what I said connected, or if I made a difference in any way. There were no surveys to give me direct feedback. I seemed to be received warmly and thanked enthusiastically, but the satisfaction for me was intrinsic. I just enjoyed the experience and felt that I gave both audiences something worthwhile. 

If I finish a presentation and don’t immediately feel the need to sit and chill for a few minutes, then I know I probably didn’t give enough energy to the effort. And energy can make up for a lack of eloquence or clumsy structure or even lame slides. (But don’t make lame slides.)

Care enough to uncork enthusiasm and give your audience all you can. It takes courage. Enthusiasm and caring somehow seem risky and vulnerable. But it’s a low risk and one, unfortunately, too few presenters take. 

Don’t hold back next time you present. Don’t give in to caution and the inner voice of resistance that wants to keep you safely mediocre and forgettable. Be awesome instead.

Be the audience

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Inception, the Batman trilogy, Interstellar) had this response recently when asked how he thinks of the audience when creating films:

“Every stage in the process, I try to be the audience,” he answered. “I don’t think of the audience as someone else. We’re all a part of the audience.”

I’m in the process of putting together a presentation for an upcoming conference, and I’m stuck. Well, not really stuck. I just haven’t started.

I’ve been futzing around in my mind with what I want to say and coming up with little that excites me.

But who cares what I want to say? Instead, I should focus on the audience. What could I offer that would awaken possibility in them and send them out better and happier for our time together? If I were in the audience, what would delight and fascinate and challenge me?

Make the audience the hero of the story. It’s not about you. You’re not the focus, even though it’s you standing on stage. The point is the potential transformation and the heroic potential of those in the room that you’re serving.

Put yourself in the audience. Be the audience. And see if that unsticks you.

TED inspired speaking advice

It seems the fundamental advice about how to give a good speech is pretty obvious by now. How often can you repeat the basics of effective public speaking?

But I saw two articles recently that had fresh takes worth reading, both inspired by the TED Talk experience.

5 Secrets of a Successful TED Talk highlights solid evidence that how you say what you say trumps even the most meaningful content in its impact on an audience. In a survey of viewers watching TED Talks with the sound turned off, those talks that had the most animated, confident looking speakers rated the highest. And that actually correlated with the popularity of those talks when the sound was on as well.

Smile, use your hands, turn your physical energy up, don’t come across as scripted, and you will have the best chance of connecting with your audience. And it starts immediately. The audience is making a judgment about you and your message in just the first few seconds.

And this article, A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage, is filled with thoughtful tips about the mental and physical approach the most successful speakers adopt.

Here’s tip #3 from the list:

Use your body’s nervous energy for good. Don’t try to contain all your nervous energy. Let it move through you and energize you for your talk. Do isometrics while you waiting backstage if it helps. Shake your hands out. Barnett remembers one TED speaker who found a private corner backstage to put on headphones and dance — and that speaker walked onstage feeling like a rockstar. And, if nothing else, always remember TED star Amy Cuddy and how to power pose.

I remain convinced that anyone can have charisma in front of an audience. Care about something enough to have the courage to fully express just how much you do care, and you will be charismatic.