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.

Guest Posting: How to Write and Deliver a Great Speech, by Simon Lancaster

Simon LancasterSimon Lancaster is one of the world’s top speechwriters. He first became a speechwriter in the late 1990s, working for members of Tony Blair’s Cabinet. Today, he writes speeches for the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the world, including Unilever, HSBC and Intercontinental Hotels. Simon is a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University and an Executive Fellow of Henley Business School. He regularly appears on BBC and Sky News and writes guest columns for The Guardian, The Daily Mail and Total Politics. He is the author of two best-selling books on communication: Speechwriting: The Expert Guide and Winning Minds: Secrets from the Language of Leadership. You can follow him on Twitter @bespokespeeches

How to Write and Deliver a Great Speech

Emmeline Pankhurst’s speeches led to women winning the vote. Winston Churchill’s speeches inspired a nation to stay strong at a time of war. Dr Martin Luther King’s speeches persuaded the American Government to grant everyone equal rights, regardless of the colour of their skin.

Speeches change the world. Throughout history, whoever has held the gift of eloquence has held power: from the Roman Emperors to the kings and queens to politicians.

In the past, we all used to learn public speaking at school. In Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, rhetoric was a core part of the curriculum. In London, right up until the 19th Century, it was possible to gain a free education in rhetoric but not in maths, such was the importance that was placed on the topic. The thinking was clear: you could not have a fair society unless everyone had a fair opportunity to express themselves.

Today, teaching of rhetoric is restricted to a narrow elite. It is no coincidence that 19 of Britain’s last 50 Prime Ministers went to Eton. Eton has always invested in the teaching of rhetoric. Indeed they have just invested 18 million pounds in a new debating chamber.

Developing tomorrow’s leaders starts in today’s schools. The good news is that all the techniques in great public speaking from Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece remain just as relevant today. Aristotle taught us there are three essential ingredients to a good speech.

Aristotle said a good speech must have:

Character (ethos)
Emotion (pathos)
Argument (logos)

First, the speaker must demonstrate good character (ethos). A speech represents a chance to look into someone’s eyes and see the strength of their conviction. This means that when the person delivering the speech stay true to yourself. It doesn’t matter if they speak too quickly, wave their hands around a lot or um and ah. Great speakers can, and do, get away with all of this. The most important thing is that they believe what they are saying. That is something that just can’t be faked. A speaker must speak from the heart.

The second thing a great speaker does is speak about an issue everyone cares about (pathos). Too many speeches are boring. A speech should be as exciting as a film or a great television programme if it is to hold people’s attention. A great speaker will stir feelings within their audience that even their audience can not wholly explain: feelings of pride, passion or pain. They will tell stories, use emotive points of reference and explain why it is that something matters so much.

The third thing a great speaker must do is sound right (logos). The Ancient Romans used to talk about the rule of three. If you put your argument in threes, people are more likely to believe that it is true. There is something in the human brain that loves arguments that come in threes. ‘This, that and the other.’ ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ ‘Ready, aim, fire!’ Great speakers always use the rule of three – over and over and over again. They also combine it alliteration, rhymes and contrasts. It makes them sound more credible, compelling and convincing.

The world is in a state of flux at the moment. It is scandalous that at a time when such gargantuan issues are being debated – like climate change, security, religious freedoms – debate is being restricted to such a narrow minority.

Instead of teaching our children to sit down and shut up, we should be teaching them to stand up and speak out. Let’s put oracy right at the heart of the curriculum, for today’s children, for tomorrow’s world.

What shall we call this grand initiative? Well, here’s an idea. How about democracy?

Some great speeches to watch and discuss in the classroom:

TEDx talk – Speak like a leader by Simon Lancaster

This post originally appeared in First News Schools UK and is reproduced here with Simon Lancaster’s express permission.

Big speeches of 2016 reviewed

Here’s a concise review of the major speeches of 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic by FT columnist Sam Leith

Guest Posting: What’s Your Rate of Speech? by Kate Peters

Kate Peters is the Founder and President of Vocal Impact, Inc. a network of communication impact professionals dedicated to guiding and inspiring leaders to be real and relevant heroes in their own stories and the stories of their organizations or causes; heroes who transform hearts and minds, and create solutions for a vibrant and peaceful world, every day. Read her full bio here.

Kate PetersLanguages spoken in Southern India are among the world’s fastest languages. In fact the native speakers of one of those languages,Tamil, speak faster with each other than the native speakers of any other language. They also tend to speak English faster than native English speakers. The world record for the fastest talking woman is held by Fran Cohen, a New Yorker, who can talk at about 600 words per minute. Go ahead and listen to her telling the story of The Three Little Pigs, and you may get a feeling for what Tamil native speakers speaking English sound like to other English speakers.

In the US, researchers have found that the rate of speech varies from state to state, with the fastest talkers in the state of Oregon, while the slowest are in Mississippi. The rate of speech in the US is picking up, but it is unlikely ever to be as fast as Tamil.

How fast is fast? Native speakers of English tend to speak from 140-165 words per minute. Auctioneers speak 250 words per minute. As you may have noticed if you have ever been to an auction, native English speakers have a hard time hearing what’s said by an auctioneer, and by anyone when the rate is faster than 180 wpm. However, most 8th graders in the US are now expected to read 150 wpm by the winter of their school year.

If you think you might be vying for Fran’s position or if you are from South India and your communication impact is suffering because you speak fast (and you don’t want to set a record) you can find out how to pace your voice just right by reading my post, Are you talking too fast?