Speaking of fascism: ‘Bigmouth’ exposes the use and misuse of rhetoric

BigmouthThe Chicago Tribune has reviewed the play ‘Bigmouth’ (created by the Antwerp, Belgium-based SKaGeN) currently on stage in Chicago. It’s a one-man tour de force by Belgian actor Valentijn Dhaenens who delivers extracts of political speeches from the time of the Greeks to the 21st century. Dhaenens speaks in English, German, Greek, Flemish, French, Italian and the unique patois of Ann Coulter.

He appears onstage behind a table configured with nine microphones, reciting a script composed of the words of the Grand Inquisitor, Nicola Sacco, Socrates, Joseph Goebbels, Gen. George S. Patton, Pericles, Baudouin of Belgium, Patrice Lumumba, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Louis Farrakhan, Osama bin Laden, Frank Vanhecke, George W. Bush and, finally, Coulter.

The Tribune observes that

There is no greater tool in the promotion of hate, disarray, retribution, racism, disunity and fascism than lofty rhetoric. Most of the speakers, of course, did not promote such things, but some did… What makes this show so daring is how Dhaenens works to show you the similarity of rhetoric devices across ideologies or, to put that another way, how history teaches us that it is near impossible to separate good and evil people merely by listening to the words they choose to deliver. Why? Because, as Dhaenens shows us by pairing, say, Goebbels with Patton, the fascists long ago learned the soft-pedal tricks of rhetorical power.

The performance reveals how the tricks of rhetoric have remained unchanged since the dawn of language. They can be deployed both for good and bad purposes.

If you’d like to sample the show check out this interview with Dhaenens:

Toastmasters International Announces Keith Ferrazzi as its 2018 Golden Gavel Recipient

Keith Ferrazzi HeadshotToastmasters International announced today that world-renowned world-renowned author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi is the recipient of the organization’s 2018 Golden Gavel award. The award, presented annually to an individual who exemplifies excellence in the fields of communication and leadership, will be presented to Ferrazzi during the Toastmasters International Convention, Friday August 24, 2018, in Chicago.

“Keith Ferrazzi is an author, leader and pioneer in the field of networking and relationship-building,” says Toastmasters International President Balraj Arunasalam. “Creating human connections and building trusting relationships are foundational in both Keith’s work guiding companies and the Toastmasters experience, which emphasizes peer support, evaluation and feedback. We look forward to presenting him with this year’s Golden Gavel award.”

As chairman and founder of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research institute focusing on behavioral science and its effects on business, Ferrazzi works to determine how companies can eliminate behaviors that hinder progress and instead adopt those that foster growth. His research on relationships, along with decades of experience as an entrepreneur and chief marketing officer for multinational corporations, helped him develop his influential leadership techniques for “leading without authority.” Ferrazzi says commitment between people is the foundation for candor and accountability that is critical for innovation and agility in today’s transformational business world.

As the author of the NY Times #1 bestseller Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Alone, a regular contributor to publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, a much sought-after expert guest of television, podcasts and radio, Ferrazzi has established himself as the premier thought leader for unlocking powerful networks for productivity and growth — both professional and personal.

Ferrazzi now shares these insights with companies and organizations as a consultant and speaker. Most recently, Ferrazzi has worked with the World Bank to bring the Ferrazzi Greenlight methodology and training of lasting cultural change to World Bank leaders’ mindsets and behaviors in service of creating a global movement and delivering faster and easier business results; and to role model the required culture change throughout the World Bank. Open communication is a pillar of his culture change work. “Great relationships are borne from generosity and authenticity,” he says. “It’s not what you can get out of somebody, but what you can give.”

Ferrazzi joins an illustrious list of Golden Gavel honorees, including Walter Cronkite, Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Muhammad Yunus and Zig Ziglar.

“I am honored to be presented with the prestigious Golden Gavel award,” says Ferrazzi. “Toastmasters is a wonderful organization that has helped millions of people develop and improve their communication skills. Joining the group of past Golden Gavel recipients is humbling.”

Click here to learn more about the 2018 International Convention, Aug. 22 – 25. The public is invited to attend.

Guest Posting: The 3 Myths of Presentations That Will Destroy Your Credibility, by David McGimpsey

David McGimpseyDavid McGimpsey is a communication skills trainer. He specializes in coaching business people to deliver compelling presentations which sell, persuade, and entertain. His popular blog can be found at
presentationblogger.com. To read more about how to improve your presentation skills, check out David’s book: PowerPoint Doesn’t Suck, You Do: The counter-intuitive approach to compelling presentations.

There’s no nice way to say this. Your presentation sucks.

The good news is, it’s not your fault.

The coaches, the trainers, the gurus, and the presentation “experts.” They’ve all been giving you bad advice.

They’ve been leading you up the garden path, giving you the advice they think you want to hear.

And importantly, giving the wrong advice that makes them money. Money through training fees or money through book sales.

Here are the top 3 myths the “experts” want you to believe.

Myth 1: Your slide deck must be awesome

The gurus want you to believe that your slides need to be Steve Jobs’ standard or your presentation is destined for the trash can.

At best, this advice lacks context. At worst, it’s plain wrong.

Here’s the thing:

An awesome Steve Jobs’ standard slide deck can enhance a good talk delivered by a good presenter. An awesome Steve Jobs’ standard slide deck can do nothing with a rough talk delivered by nervous presenter.

And while we’re talking about Steve Jobs, the gurus will have you believe that what made his delivery so good were his slides. Thing is, remove the slides and his delivery is still as good as it always was. The slides are just there to add impact. If the slides are the main event then the presenter is unnecessary.

Here’s the rule: the slides are there to support you, not the other way around. You are not there to support your slides. Get your talk right first and then build your slide deck to enhance your talk.

Myth 2: Write out a script and memorize it

Rubbish!

For most business presentations you are setting yourself up for failure by creating a script.

People write out scripts when they don’t want to make any mistakes. And if you’re doing a performance presentation (like a TED talk or a keynote speech) a script might make sense.

But for a business presentation, it’s an impediment. Here’s why:

In your day-to-day work you have many competing priorities. On top of your upcoming presentation, you’ve also got your regular tasks to complete, incidental meetings and phone calls, plus any special projects you happen to be working on.

With all these different priorities vying for your attention, writing out a script and memorizing it is impractical. Firstly, writing out a script, and the amount of practice required to memorize it, involves time that you probably don’t have. And secondly, your strategy of memorization to minimize mistakes is folly. The more focused you are on not making mistakes the more likely it is that you’ll make them.

To prepare for your presentation you should avoid the scripts. Focus instead on elaborating on the 3 most important points likely to lead the audience where you need them to go. As the person chosen to deliver this presentation you are the subject matter expert, so your preparation involves simply drafting out your three main talking points and surrounding that with a opening and closing.

Myth 3: You should practice your body language

Giraffe ice skating with bananas skins.

Imagine you are in a social situation.

You’re telling your friends a story. Maybe you’re relaying a story about your kids, something that happened to you at the mall, or a surprising event at work.

When you talk to your friends, are you thinking about how you gesture with your hands?

No. You know the details of the story you are telling and your hands naturally gesture, subconsciously helping you explain your story.

When it comes to business presentations, the trainers and gurus tell us that we should practice our gestures and body language.

This is faulty advice.

When you practice your gestures you have to link a word you say to the gesture you do. This results in wildly un-natural hand movements. For example, open your arms wide when you say the word “big”.

Looking at this in the isolation of one word it seems to make sense. When it’s an entire business presentation (lots of words together) it starts to look practiced and robotic.

Additionally, you have the added stress of trying to remember what to do as well as what
to say.

Don’t practice your body language. Focus on knowing your subject matter well and the message you need to get across. If you do this, and maintain an open body position during your talk, the gestures will happen naturally.

Comfort Zone

Tommy John ModelThe good folks at men’s outfitters Tommy John (“A man’s under layers shouldn’t be stuck in the past. Or anywhere else.”) have, rather surprisingly, produced a great infographic on how to remain calm under pressure — such as might afflict any chap called on to speak in public. Since they claim that their underwear “won’t crumble his cookies” and the models who wear Tommy John’s look extremely relaxed you can be sure the techniques suggested in the infographic work wonderfully. Moreover, any company named after a man’s John Thomas deserves the respect of wordsmiths everywhere!

Click on the image below to see the full-sized infographic.

Tommy_John

Speaker Magazine

Speaker_MagazineAn excellent resource for anyone curious to learn more about the business of professional speaking (and presentation tips in general) is the archive of SPEAKER magazine, published each month by the National Speakers Association.

You can scroll through back issues back to 2007 (including my own Relevant Resources columns from 2012).

Recommended.

Infographic: How to deliver a world-class presentation

Kudos to Hong Kong based Malcolm Andrews for publishing a great infographic on how to deliver a world-class presentation.

Malcolm AndrewsMalcolm is UK national who has been involved over the last 10 years in the development of business management and communication skills for companies across Asia. As well as corporate programmes, he has conducted 1:1 Executive Coaching assignments for clients in Hong Kong and Singapore. This material is posted with his express permission.

From global stats on the fear of public speaking, to ways to prepare and deliver content, this infographic is packed with facts, statistics and practical advice.

Click on the image below to see the complete infographic.

Infographic

Toastmasters International Announces Founder of Freedom Writers Foundation as its 2017 Golden Gavel Recipient

Toastmasters International announced today that world-renowned speaker and educator Erin Gruwell is the recipient of the organization’s 2017 Golden Gavel award. The award, presented annually to an individual who exemplifies excellence in the fields of communication and leadership, will be presented to Gruwell during the Toastmasters International Convention, Aug. 23-26, 2017, in Vancouver, Canada.

Here’s a video of Erin’s thoughts on receiving the 2017 Golden Gavel award:

Gruwell was a high school English teacher in Long Beach, Calif., in the 1990s. At that time, gang violence and racial conflict was rampant and took the students’ focus away from learning. Gruwell developed a unique approach to reach her students: She introduced literature written by others who faced similar life challenges.

Her students found they could relate and soon after, Gruwell began to encourage them to write about their own life circumstances. Students recorded their thoughts and feelings in raw and graphic detail on topics such as gangs, the killing of family members and friends, growing up in broken homes, drug use, finding love and other teenage concerns. They called themselves the Freedom Writers after the 1960s American civil rights activists the Freedom Riders.

Freedom WritersThe powerful essays inspired the best-selling book, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. The book was followed by the critically acclaimed movie, Freedom Writers, starring actress Hilary Swank as Gruwell.

“The difference Gruwell has made in her students’ lives epitomizes the importance and impact of instilling confidence in others,” says Toastmasters International President Mike Storkey. “We are thrilled to announce her as this year’s Golden Gavel recipient and look forward to her inspiring presentation at the Toastmasters International Convention in Vancouver.”

After the Freedom Writers movie, Gruwell went on to form a Toastmasters club and create the Freedom Writers Foundation through which she instructs educators on her teaching methods. She’s also a motivational speaker who travels the globe sharing her powerful message to vulnerable and at-risk youth.

“Toastmasters was a game-changer for me personally and professionally, and contributed to the growth of the Freedom Writers,” says Gruwell. “Being selected as the 2017 Golden Gavel award recipient is an incredible honor and I accept the award on behalf of all of the teachers out there who, every day, go into a classroom and give of themselves so their students can learn to use wings to fly.”

Gruwell will accept the award and address attendees during a presentation on Friday, Aug. 25, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Gruwell joins an illustrious list of Golden Gavel honorees, including Walter Cronkite, Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Muhammad Yunus and Zig Ziglar.

Click here to learn more about the 2017 International Convention, Aug. 23-26. The public is invited to attend.

Book Review: The Compelling Communicator, by Tim Pollard

The Compelling Communicator Cover The true value of Tim Pollard’s excellent new book is conveyed by the subtitle: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design. While much of the literature on what makes a ‘compelling communicator’ focuses on cultivating delivery skills and stage presence, Pollard rightly consigns these topics to a brief Epilogue. Rather, his focus on what makes a presentation exceptional is around design and content. This makes the book of equal, if not greater, value to speechwriters and communications professionals as it is to those who deliver presentations.

Pollard is a welcome enemy of two of my own pet hates: Subject Experts who force an audience to drink from a firehouse, and executives who start out by building every presentation in PowerPoint, which he condemns as ‘absolutely the wrong way to start–it’s like laying bricks on each other as a way to design a new office building.’

The Need for Presentation Design

His indictment of the delusions that many, if not most, presenters suffer from is a telling one. Pollard is relentless in calling out the sorry state of business presentations in the world today, which include:

  • Cramming in large amounts of irrelevant material that crowds out content that really matters to an audience.
  • Subject experts who drastically overestimate an audience’s ability to absorb complex information.
  • Delivering an unstructured message which confuses the audience. (Sorry Guy Kawasaki, just numbering points from 1-10 does not cut it.)
  • In sum: content that is boring, confusing, forgettable, sender-centric and unlikely to drive people to take action.

The root of the problem is ‘selling the car using the owner’s manual’ by failing to identify the ‘big ideas’ that will grab the audience’s attention.

Mastering Presentation Design

The second part of the book is a step-by-step guide building a speech around a few big ideas to make an impact. This requires us nailing three key presentation design aspects:

  1. Selecting the content that deliver insights to influence the audience in the ways we want.

    Building a comprehensive audience profile is a necessary first step. It forces us to think of the world in terms of the audience and how the arguments we present intersect with their world.

  2. Simplifying and sequencing the content, paring down excessive material and structuring a story that packs meaning into each word of the speech.

    The importance of building presentations that tell a compelling story has been addressed by others such as Nancy Duarte, Justina Chen and Michael Hauge. Pollard gives us the practical tools we need to create presentations in a corporate setting that make effective use of stories.

  3. Engaging the audience with relevant information that grabs attention by appealing to both sides of the brain.

    This starts by crafting an effective opening, creating supporting visuals that add impact and are relevant, and closing with a simple, memorable, proposition.

    I especially liked Pollard’s sensible advice on supporting materials and handouts.

A Valuable Online Resource

A hidden bonus in the book is a complimentary six-month subscription to Tim’s Message Architect Software Tool which manages the process of designing presentations according to the steps described in the book.

It’s worth the price of the book to gain access to this software.

Infographic: The Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting

The good people at Walkerstone in the UK (a team of professional trainers who are also business writers and marketers) have produced a great infographic, with an informative preamble, on the Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting. This content appears with their express permission.

The Do’s And Don’ts of Presenting

There are two elements to making a great presentation: the first is what you say, the second is how you say it. If you have great content, your presentation has an excellent basis for success. As a presenter, it will give you confidence.

Your first few words are the most important. They need to be the most interesting, exciting and dramatic that you could possibly conjure up about your topic at that very moment. They set the scene for your presentation.

Words really do matter. According to a Microsoft study, the average attention span for human beings was eight seconds in 2016. It was twelve seconds in 2000. That means that what you say and how you say it, has a greater importance today than it had yesterday. Words mean the difference between success and failure – between winning and losing.

The words you choose must have energy to stimulate and inspire your audience into listening – into wanting more. Each sentence needs to sell the next sentence, and so on until the end. Ensure you deliver a strong finish.

Use concrete words and phrases. Generalities are sleep inducing. Facts and figures coupled to interesting narrative, stimulate attention. Content is always king. Great content which is logical, reasoned and well-structured, means that you will communicate with impact.

Channel your nerves. Take into consideration all three elements of physical communication – words, tone of voice and body language. All three elements must be in harmony with each other for effective communication.

For example, if you merely say that you are enthusiastic, but your tone of voice and body language says the opposite, your audience will give little credence to the words you use. Words need good support for great effect.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the Do’s and Don’ts infographic created by Walkerstone.com. It includes some facts and figures around getting your message across and keeping the attention of your audience. It includes some useful considerations to remember for your presentation.

Use it as a preparation checklist for your presentation. It will help you feel more confident, prepared, and able to deliver your message well.

Click to enlarge..

Presentation Infographic

Toastmaster transformations

TransformerA recent This American Life podcast broadcast a piece I’d missed when it first went out a year ago. It’s the remarkable story of how Ricard Pierce, a prison inmate, transformed his terminal shyness by enrolling in Toastmasters (yes, they have chapters that meet behind bars).

He tells how he gave his ‘Icebreaker’ and ‘Get to the Point’ manual speeches in front of other inmates, and realized that his own self-evaluation was much harsher than how members of the audience perceived him.

After the speech, Rich was really hard on himself. In his self-evaluation, he wrote down three words– “Horrible, needs practice.” But his peers were more forgiving. “Excellent job,” they wrote. “Great progress, very good eye contact, very welcoming.” They called him “Winning and funny.” One inmate said they should have storytelling every Saturday night on the cell block with Mr. Pierce. Another told Rich he had nothing to fear. He was just as good as anyone else. Rich had been nervous, trembling even. And no one noticed.

Listen to ‘Act 3’ of the episode that starts 31:30 into the program.

I’ve seen this so many times. Speakers who are nervous, panic-stricken even, think everyone picked up on how they feel. This is usually not the case.

The best advice is to forget your own feelings, fake it till you make it, and listen to what other people tell you for a true appreciation of how you were seen. Formal evaluations are one of the hidden benefits of Toastmasters, as Rich discovered.