Thursday, May 28, 2009

For more on conference calls

Check out this great list of conference call tips from the blog Bad Pitch:


Conference Call 911

Yesterday I gave a presentation to the Washington Area Legal Recruitment Administrators Association. (WALRAA) I asked two volunteers to tell a story to each other - at the same time. The goal for each was to distract the other.

The first time, I had them tell the story only with their voice.

The second time, I encouraged them to use movement.

It was remarkable to see the contast. The ability to move around dramatically increased the power of their voices. Somehow the physical motion set their voices free.

This is a particularly useful point to remember when you are speaking on a conference call. Stand up. Move around the room. Your voice will sound all the more animated and expressive.

From the Green Room: Move around. And set your voice free.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Focus on What Not to Do

Today's NYT Business Section profiles business guru Jim Collins. The article explains that one of his keys to success is his hyper-focused, minimalist approach to his work:

"...a willingness to say no and focus on what not to do as much as what to do...Therefore, in Jim Collins' world, small is beautiful."

This is a critical - and often missed - step of speech preparation. Often we are so busy trying to figure what to say, that we don't spend enough time and energy thinking about what not to say. So many rambling, long-winded presentations are the sad result of forgetting this step.

From the Green Room: When honing your subject, remember that small is beautiful and less is more. So ask yourself - "What is my speech not about?" This process of elimination will help focus your content.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dangers of Being Overly Enthusiastic

A great speech coach once gave me the advice to "punch the operative words." If you want to emphasize something, punch it with your voice.

Kara Dioguardi, this year's new judge on American Idol takes this advice to the extreme. She punches everything! Each statement she makes is one big sock in the gut.

Kara speaks in a monotone of "incredibly enthusiastic:"

"You were amazing!"

"You are a musical GODDESS!"

"You were terrible!"

"You were pretty average!"

"You were unmemorable!"

"I didn't listen to you sing because I was in the ladies room!"

You get the point.

Kara often has very intelligent and insightful critiques of the performers, but her enthusiastic monotone makes all her comments blend together into one big PUNCH.

The listener is left feeling exhausted.

From the Green Room: Speak with passion. But vary your emotional intensity.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Speaking to Music

Listen to this inspiring talk on by artist Bill Strickland, who journeyed from being an at-risk youth to the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award in 1996.

Notice how the music does not distract from Strickland's story, but rather enhances it. The jazz piano gives his voice a rhythm and his intensifies the power of his words so it sounds as almost as though he is reciting poetry.

Next time you are preparing to give a speech, try practicing it with music in the background. Choose a piece that moves you. Something without words that reflects the tone of your presentation.

Now give your speech. As you practice, pay attention to how your voice changes when you speak to music. Practicing with music can add a layer of depth to your presentation style and bring out the underlying rhythm of your text - and your voice.