Sunday, December 26, 2010
The King's brilliant speech therapist made clear that there is no substitute for hard work, and he had the King practice countless speech exercises. And yet his ultimate "cure" came from one simple lesson each of us needs to hear:
Speak to your audience as though you were speaking to a close friend.
Not only does this enable the King to overcome his stage fright - and his stutter, but at a critical moment in history - it makes each person in his audience feel personally addressed.
From the Green Room: Remember, there is no such thing as "public speaking." Whether you are speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000,000, speak as though you are having a conversation with a close friend. There is no better way to calm your nerves - and connect with your audience.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
"From a teaching evaluation (not mine, but it could have been):
'The professor paced without purpose while teaching.'
I confess: I pace while teaching. To the extent that my pacing has a purpose, it is so I can be a physical presence in various parts of the room at different times during the class, make eye contact with more students, listen to their questions better, try to see what they are seeing when I project something/write something at the front of a large classroom, or just because I get kind of hyped up when I teach and I feel like moving. I don't know if those are good purposes or bad purposes, but I think they add up to purposes, even if students don't know what they are."
Movement in a presentation is very powerful. When you move purposefully, you drive home your content. When you move randomly, you likely lose your audience.
It seems the professor here does some of both.
There is a big difference between walking towards a student in order to listen to her question and pacing back and forth "because I get hyped up when I teach and feel like moving."
The former is purposeful - and helpful. The latter may be a way to get out energy - but is most likely distracting to the audience.
From the Green Room: A speaker can ramble in words and in movement - both are problematic. Just as you speak with intention, you should also move with intention.
Monday, December 6, 2010
To make it worse, the organizers of the event interrupt you midway through and tell you to change course.
No, this is not the tale of a novice presenter. This is exactly what just happened to Steve Martin.
Last week, the 92nd Street Y invited Martin to arts journalist Deborah Solomon to discuss Martin's new novel "An Object of Beauty," which centers around the New York art scene.
Midway through the talk, the event organizers sent someone on stage with a note directing Ms. Solomon to turn the discussion away from art and towards "Steve's career."
The incident resulted in a full refund to the attendees and an apology to Martin for the hasty interruption.
Martin describes his reaction to the interruption in an op-ed which in last Sundays NYT:
This was as jarring and disheartening as a cellphone jangle during an Act V soliloquy. I did not know who had sent this note nor that it was in response to those e-mails. Regardless, it was hard to get on track, any track, after the note’s arrival, and finally, when I answered submitted questions that had been selected by the people in charge, I knew I would have rather died onstage with art talk than with the predictable questions that had been chosen for me. Since that night, the Y has graciously apologized for its hastiness — and I am pleased to say that I look forward to returning there soon, especially to play basketball.
What is surprising about this story is not the inappropriateness of the note, but rather that it got Martin so flustered!
Just goes to show, even the best presenters can get caught off guard. What happened to Martin could happen to anyone. My advice is to treat this incident as a cautionary tale.
From the Green Room: When you are invited to speak, make sure to fully discuss with the organizers the expectations of the audience and how you plan to meet them. As long as the communication is open, clear, and thorough - no "interruption" should ever be necessary.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
While the number may have devoted more time to the Rhianna song, Singin' in the Rain was clearly the heart of the performance. Mr. Schuester said it himself when he asked Hollie Holiday (Gwyneth) to help him update the classic song.
From the Green Room: Let your core message be timeless. But make sure your presentation is timely.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Lambert explores the nature of first impressions through examining the research of social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
Cuddy explains, for example, that nonverbal cues are critical determinants of whether a person is viewed as "high power" or "low power:"
“In all animal species, postures that are expansive, open, and take up more space are associated with high power and dominance,” she says. “Postures that are contractive—limbs touching torso, protecting the vital organs, taking up minimal space—are associated with low power, being at the bottom of the hierarchy. Any animal you can think of, when it’s prey, makes itself as small as possible...
In primates, these postures also correlate with testosterone and cortisol levels. Expansive, high-power postures mean (in both sexes) high testosterone, a hormone that animal and human studies connect with dominance and power, and low levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone), while the inverse holds for contractive, low-power postures."
What's more, Cuddy explains that taking on a posture of dominance is not only a sign of confidence, but can actually increase your level of confidence:
In a recent paper published in Psychological Science, Cuddy, Dana R. Carney, and Andy J. Yap (both of Columbia) report how they measured hormone levels of 42 male and female research subjects, placed the subjects in two high-power or low-power poses for a minute per pose, then re-measured their hormone levels 17 minutes later. They also offered subjects a chance to gamble, rolling a die to double a $2 stake.
The results were astonishing: a mere two minutes in high- or low-power poses caused testosterone to rise and cortisol to decrease—or the reverse. Those in high-power stances were also more likely to gamble, enacting a trait (risk taking) associated with dominant individuals; they also reported feeling more powerful. “If you get this effect in two minutes, imagine what you get sitting in the CEO’s chair for a year,” Cuddy says.
From the Green Room: Right before you get up to speak, get your body into it's most confident state. This is a simple way to increase your level of confidence - and your potential for success - each and every time you speak.
Just in time for a first-time training at a major architecture firm.
What's a coach to do?
I began the presentation with the following advice for the audience:
"If you're giving a presentation and there's something potentially distracting in the room - be it an annoying noise, a weird piece of art on the wall, or a jumbo-sized bandage on your thumb, acknowledge it right from the beginning and move on."
And so we did.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Contributor Linda Perlstein explains the origins of the project:
While going about my day, I sometimes engage in a mental exercise I call the Laura Ingalls Test. What would Laura Ingalls, prairie girl, make of this freeway interchange?
...take Laura Ingalls to the nearest fifth-grade classroom, and she wouldn’t hesitate to say, "Oh! A school!" Very little about the American classroom has changed since Laura Ingalls sat in one more than a century ago. In her school, children sat in a rectangular room at rows of desks, a teacher up front. At most American schools, they still do.
Slate wants to change that, and we need your help. Today Slate launches a crowdsourcing project on the 21st-century classroom. In this "Hive," we’re seeking to collect your best ideas for transforming the American school. We’re asking you to describe or even design the classroom for today, a fifth-grade classroom that takes advantage of all that we have learned since Laura Ingalls’ day about teaching, learning, and technology--and what you think we have yet to learn.
At the heart of this contest is the importance of adjusting physical space in order to maximize learning.
Just as you take the time to prepare the content and delivery of your presentation, take the time to prepare the room in which you will giving it.
Find out beforehand how much say you have over which room you present in and how the room is set up. Make sure the space reflects the nature of the presentation.
When I give trainings, for example, I always ask. when possible, for all tables to be removed and chairs arranged in a semi-circle. I do this to allow for maximum interaction and to make clear from the onset that my presentation is different from anything else that happens in the office.
I also remove all clutter and make sure the lighting and temperature are just right.
And I find the sweet spot in the room - the place that draws the most attention. (Note: Never have your back to the door.)
From the Green Room: Design your presentation space. Even the best presentation can flop if the physical space is not conducive to learning.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The clerk responded, "Not really."
My son paused and then said, "So, can I touch them?"
"He said no," I said, impatiently.
"Well, he didn't actually say, 'no.' He said 'not really,' which means he would prefer I not touch them, but doesn't mean I'm not allowed to."
There you have it.
This incident reinforced for me how often adults, including myself of course, do not speak clearly.
And when it comes to presenting, ambiguity can be our worst enemy - leading to an unfocused and ultimately unmemorable presentation.
From the Green Room: Before you even start writing your speech, take the time to make sure your message is 100 percent clear. Once you are clear on your message, make sure your words, your voice, and your body motions express your message as clearly and consistently as possible.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Don't you feel as though he's talking directly to you?
From the Green Room: When you're speaking on camera, focus your eyes like a laser directly at the camera as if you were having an intense conversation with one person.
Friday, September 17, 2010
He uses the slide to make the point that one reason why things break is that no one takes responsibility for fixing them.
The guy who made the soccer sign probably knew it was ridiculous, but felt it wasn't his job to change it. And so the rest of us are stuck with this (funny) but absurd sign!
From the Green Room: If you're giving a presentation on behalf of someone else (e.g. a company ethics training) and you see something that doesn't make sense or that could be said better, never assume it's written in stone. Argue to improve it. Even when you represent your company in a presentation, you are also representing yourself. And once your employer tasks you with the job of presenting, you are ultimately responsible for what you say.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
This is a question I have asked myself over and over again as I have listened to sermon after sermon - especially during the Jewish high holiday season.
This year, it struck me that the sermon is the one time during the service when the focus is on communication between people, rather than between people and God. The sermon is a break from prayer, and an opportunity for the Rabbi to connect directly with the congregation.
The best sermons are those in which each person in the congregation feels personally addressed - where the Rabbi is somehow able to have a one-on-one conversation with each individual present.
The best sermons are the ones where the listener is absolutely essential - so much so that the sermon would not even be possible without his/her presence.
Focused eye contact and clarity of purpose and message are just a few of the ways the a spiritual leader can connect personally with individuals in the congregation.
This kind of true human connection actually serves to elevate the entire prayer experience.
From the Green Room: Remember, there is no such thing as "public speaking". In any presentation, strive to make each listener feel as though you were having a one-on-one conversation with him/her.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
My 3 year old daughter hates to walk.
She claims her "muscles are tired" and asks to be carried at any opportunity...that is unless she really has somewhere she wants to be.
If, for example, we are walking to the ice cream store, suddenly her muscles work perfectly and she can go long distances without a mere whine or complaint. A miracle!
The same is true for speakers.
If you know precisely where you want to go in your presentation, your delivery skills will automatically improve.
So many problems in delivery occur because the speaker is not yet 100 percent clear on content.
From the Green Room: Before you work on delivery skills such as volume, articulation, etc., take time to make certain you know exactly what you want to say. You will find that the clearer you are on your content, the better your delivery.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
My favorite scene in Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love takes place in India, where Gilbert manages to meditate while surrounded by mosquitoes.
In an interview on NPR's All Things Considered, Gilbert reflects on the experience:
So that evening I found a quiet bench in a garden and decided to just sit for an hour, Vipassana style. No movement, no agitation, just pure regarding of whatever comes up. Unfortunately I'd forgotten what comes up at dusk in India, mosquitoes. As soon as I sat down the mosquitoes started dive-bombing me. I thought, this is a bad time of day to practice Vipassana meditation.
On the other hand, when is it a good time to sit in detached stillness? When isn't something stinging and biting? Therefore I decided not to move. In a beginners attempt at self-mastery I just watched the mosquitoes eat me. The itch was maddening at first but eventually melted into a general heat of pure sensation, neither good nor bad, just intense. And that intensity lifted me out of myself and into perfect meditation where I sat in real stillness for the first time in my life.
Two hours later I stood up and assessed the damage.I counted 20 mosquito bites, but not much later all the bites had diminished because truly it all does pass away in the end, and truly there is peace to be learned from this.
While I have never tried to meditate while being bitten by a swarm of mosquitoes, I do live in Washington, DC and know the anxiety that comes from being eaten alive in your own backyard.
Gilbert made me realize that my mosquito anxiety may have less to do with the present discomfort of being bitten - and more to do with the future - the dread of itchy mosquito bites the next day.
1. The past. (Did I prepare? Do I know enough? Remember that awful presentation I gave last time?)
2. The future. (Will I mess up? Will something go wrong? Will they like me?)
You can overcome much of this anxiety by learning to focus on the present.
The key to having stage presence is the ability to be fully present with the audience.
And when you make mistakes (which you will), it is far easier to bounce back if you don't have the added anxiety of thinking about the impact of those mistakes on your future.
From the Green Room: Want to have stage presence? Focus on being fully present with your audience. This is a skill each of us can learn to cultivate.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
With this in mind, read this piece in last Tuesday's New York Times:
For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm
By ANNE BARNARD
Joy Levitt, executive director of the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, remembers her first conversation with Daisy Khan around 2005, years before Ms. Khan’s idea for a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan morphed into a controversy about Sept. 11, Islam and freedom of religion.
“Strollers,” said Ms. Levitt, whom Ms. Khan had approached for advice on how to build an institution like the Jewish center — with a swimming pool, art classes and joint projects with other religious groups. Ms. Levitt, a rabbi, urged Ms. Khan to focus on practical matters like a decent wedding hall and stroller parking.
“You can use all these big words like diversity and pluralism,” Ms. Levitt recalled telling Ms. Khan, noting that with the population of toddlers booming in Manhattan, “I’m down in the lobby dealing with the 500 strollers.”
Clearly, the idea that Ms. Khan and her partners would one day be accused of building a victory monument to terrorism did not come up — an oversight with consequences. The organizers built support among some Jewish and Christian groups, and even among some families of 9/11 victims, but did little to engage with likely opponents. More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post-9/11 passions and politics.
The organizers of the Muslim community center jumped straight into the practical logistics of their idea without first knowing their audience.
This is a mistake speakers make all the time.
We get so caught up in our content, that we forget to make the audience essential to the presentation.
From the Green Room: Whenever you are presenting a new idea, take the time to think carefully about how your idea will be received. Don't bother to craft your content until you know your audience - your potential fans... and potential opponents.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
So often, I learn just as much from my clients about speaking as they learn from me.
Tonight was a great example.
One of my clients, Emma Epstein, is about to embark on a cross-country bike trip to raise money for AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, a remarkable social justice organization. Emma asked for my assistance with the speech she will give to various audiences along the way.
We met a couple of times, and I helped her develop her message and clarify her content.
This evening, I watched her deliver the speech for the first time. Little did I know what would unfold.
The MC of the event remarked that Emma "was nowhere to be found" and that he would have to"fill time" until she showed up.
Suddenly, the door opened and she rode her bicycle right on stage, complete with helmet and bike shorts!
Needless to say, it was a brilliant way to begin and a perfect use of a prop.
For more information about Emma's ride, go to http://avodahcycle.wordpress.com/.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Take a look at "Summer Nights:"
What makes this performance so fabulous?
So many things - but something I never noticed until tonight, when I watched the song for probably the 100,000th time, is the way Danny and Sandy are always changing levels.
They both begin sitting down. Then Danny stands on the top bleacher. Sandy stands on the table. Danny lies down on the bleacher. Sandy skips across the cafeteria, falls down, etc. And it all makes sense with the content and feel of the song.
It may sound like an obvious device, but it's one of the many reasons why this performance is so endlessly entertaining.
And the best part? You can apply this strategy without being able to dance like John Travolta or Olivia Newton John!
From the Green Room: As you give your presentation, vary your levels. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Walk around. You will help keep the audience engaged, while also raising your own energy level.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Why should speeches and presentations be any different?
So often speakers end a presentation with Q and A.
This is a mistake.
Why end on such a vulnerable, unpredicable and potentially unexciting note? Why end your presentation with someone else's question instead of with your message?
People remember most what they hear first and last. So often we think much more about how we begin a presentation and hardly at all about how to end it.
From the Green Room: End with fireworks. Put your Q and A second to last. Close with your best material.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
But how do you really do that?
One way to begin, is by thinking of "knowing your audience" not as a task but rather as a skill. In other words, if you work on knowing more deeply, the people with whom you communicate on a daily basis (spouse, family, friends, colleagues, etc.), you will be better equipped to know the audiences to whom you give presentations.
With this in mind, watch this video by Doug Stevenson. In the video, Stevenson demonstrates his Story Theater methodology by telling a story of his relationship with his stepson.
While the ultimate purpose of the video is to demonstrate the Story Theater method, the story Stevenson tells contains a valuable lesson about how to develop the skill of truly knowing the people in our lives:
As Stevenson points out, the way to build a relationship is not by inviting someone into your space, but by "sitting at their desk."
By practicing this skill with those closest to you, you will develop the critical skill of knowing the other. Not only will this greatly improve the quality of your relationships, but you will in be better equipped to connect with any audience each time you get up to speak.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Once I mess up, I just can't get back on track.
Sound familiar? Truly, one of the most powerful speaking skills is the ability to put your mistakes behind you.
With this in mind, check out this June 2010 excerpt from sportspsychology2.com:
World Cup 2010, Mental Preparation and Putting Mistakes Behind You
Since England’s disappointing result in their 2010 FIFA World Cup opening match against the USA, fingers of blame have been pointing at England goalkeeper Robert Green...Green fumbled the ball pretty spectacularly, allowing a – let’s face it – fairly average shot at goal by Clint Dempsey of the USA to hit the back of the net.
So how do you put a mistake you’ve made in front of the whole world behind you; how do you move on when the world’s press are having a field day at your expense, and you’re now the butt of every global text and email joke in circulation? In this case, mental preparation will be key.
What’s done is done.In a post-match interview, Green said, “It’s done. It happened. It’s not something you can allow to affect yourself. It’s very disappointing, but it’s happened.”
Easier said than done, right?
Especially when you're in the middle of your presentation, how do you put mistakes behind you and move forward?
The answer? Return to your core message. Remember why you are there in the first place and what you are trying to communicate:
1. What is the one thing you want your audience to know?
2. How do you want them to feel when they listen to you?
3. What do you want them to do after your presentation?
Returning to your core message enables you to get out of the past (your mistake/s) and get into the present moment. And being able to be fully present with your audience is critical the success of your speech.
From the Green Room: Don't be perfect. Be present. When you mess up, get out of the past and into the present moment by returning to your core message.
For more on this topic, look at my post from last September, Be a Starfish Speaker.
(I especially appreciate the contrast of Will dancing while the Harvard faculty claps stiffly in the background.)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
(You have to first listen to a rather long intoduction, which is not bad either.)
Streep does a brilliant job of lowering her status - and thus connecting to her audience.
She gracefully moves from the elite situation of being asked to give a commencement speech to the universal "back in college" nightmares that plague here as the date of the speech draws near.
From the Green Room: Be aware of your status. As you prepare your content, ask yourself whether you need to lower ro raise it. Then do so in your opener. By evening the playing field, you will immediately forge a stronger connection with your audience.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
At the end of his speech, Mir gets the audience on their feet again - this time for a standing ovation. While clearly the audience appreciates the speech itself, I believe that his opening stretch made it more likely for the audience to stand up at the end.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
With the right speaker in the right situation - almost anything approach can work.
Watch the beginning of this remarkable speech by John Wooden, (1910-2010), the beloved basketball coach who was the only person to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame - both as a player and as a coach:
From the Green Room: It is almost always a bad idea to begin a speech with an apology - especially one in which you don't assume responsibility! But clearly, in this case, his apology is a brilliant and endearing way to open his remarks.
The same holds true with any of the basic rules of speaking. In the right time and place - and with the right speaker - any rule can be broken, once in a while. Never say never.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
WASHINGTON — Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.
The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.
“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable."
From the Green Room: Before deciding to use or not use PowerPoint (and I generally recommend the latter) first figure out exactly what you want to communicate. Don't let slick slides substitute for clear thinking and careful analysis.
Then, if certain images will help you make your point, by all means show them on a screen. Just make certain your PowerPoint presentation never overshadows...you!
Friday, May 7, 2010
What may be more surprising however, is that surprises actually help your listeners retain information.
Check out this University of Cambridge study:
Because they are hard to forget, surprises can help us learn.
Now scientists have identified a part of the brain that may be involved in learning from surprises. A team led by Dr. Paul C. Fletcher at the University of Cambridge monitored the brain activity in a group of volunteers who were participating in a simulation exercise.
The participants pretended to work at drug companies and were asked to predict whether a particular fictitious drug would trigger a particular fictitious syndrome.
In the early phase of the study, when the participants were not familiar with the effects of the various drugs, imaging tests detected high levels of activity in this part of the brain.
As the volunteers became familiar with the effects of the drugs, so that they were no longer surprised by the results, activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex declined, but later in the study, this region became more active when the participants were surprised by unexpected responses.
- Published in Nature Neuroscience, 2001
From the Green Room: Don't give away your message. Your audience will be much more likely to remember it if it takes them by surprise.
Monday, April 26, 2010
You couldn't help but "catch" this teacher's energy and spunk. She seemed to be having the time of her life - and we couldn't help but join in the fun.
Though the class was full, she looked each person in the eye, and took the time to smile at individuals, including me.
What was most remarkable about her teaching style was the way she responded to her own mistakes. And she definitely made quite a few. But she seemed almost to embrace these missteps and use them as opportunities to get us laughing.
By the end of the class, though we were all exhausted, we were smiling.
I will go back to her class not only because she led a challenging workout, but because her joy is contagious, and quite simply, she brightened my day.
From the Green Room: Rest assured, you will mess up each and every time you get up to speak. It is how you respond to those mistakes that determines your success as a speaker.
Remember, your emotions are contagious. If you suffer, your audience will suffer with you. If you roll with your mistakes - or even embrace them joyfully - your audience will have fun, too.
Monday, April 19, 2010
"The College has sought to increase public speaking resources on campus and has even created a speech tutor program, but students are still calling for more opportunities to enhance their public speaking skills.
Members of “Harvard Speaks,” a campaign launched by students Tuesday night, hope to demonstrate to administrators the importance of public speaking as a life skill and the consequent need for more public speaking opportunities on campus.
“Whether it’s [speaking] with a law professor, in consulting, or in advocacy, the skills you take away from public speaking will help you communicate your message,” said Kevin Y. Fan ’13, the founder of the campaign, which has already collected over 100 student signatures on a petition calling for more public speaking resources."
Harvard Speaks! seeks to revitalize Harvard’s hallmark - oratorical excellence. By making an investment in rhetoric, Harvard ensures that tomorrow’s leaders are well-equipped to think critically and communicate effectively.
That such a student group exists at Harvard indicates to me a realization of a basic truth about communication:
You can attend the top university in the country. You can graduate with honors, and go on to become a master in your chosen profession.
But this does not necessarily mean you know to speak well. The ability to communicate a message and connect with an audience is a learned skill - and something which everyone can get better at - regardless of your knowledge of your particular field.
And this is a perfect skill to begin to learn in high school and college - before you build your career and your ability to speak in public is already assumed.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Alan describes how he worked intensely for years to train himself to speak without stuttering. He explains that although technically his hard work paid off, and he could speak fluently, he still hadn't found his voice. He may have sounded fluent, but inside, he was still the stuttering, broken child.
As the story continues, Alan describes his determination to speak on behalf of animals - the only living beings he could speak to as a child without stuttering. He recalls a moment on his journey when he was given a once in a lifetime opportunity: to speak to the Prime Minister and cabinet of Belize to persuade them to take action to save the country's jaguars, who were being killed at an alarming rate.
By all accounts, this would be the most difficult and terrifying speaking experience of his life.
He recounts, "I had 15 minutes. I couldn't stutter. I couldn't distract them from the message of saving jaguars."
What happened? His speech was a rousing success. An hour and a half later, the cabinet voted to create the world's first jaguar preserve.
For the first time, Alan used his voice, not as a way to gain acceptance, but to be a voice for others. Alan finally found his voice by being a voice for those who could not speak.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Certainly, there's a lot of important information to cover. So, why not make a Passover PowerPoint presentation and show it at the Seder? Surely this would be a lot more "sophisticated" and "impressive" than the traditional, "old school" visual of the Seder plate!
So, what makes this such an awful idea?
Aside from certain religious prohibitions, one can only imagine that a PowerPoint presentation would turn a potentially meaningful, exciting and interactive experience into a dreadfully boring and passive one.
The Seder plate, on the other hand, with it's various, colorful symbolic foods, is a brilliant visual. It is concrete, tactile, and a great trigger for discussion of the topic at hand. What's more, it helps the participants remember the information, even after the holiday is over.
From the Green Room: Next time you give a presentation, consider minimizing your usage of PowerPoint, which inhibits human interaction and connection. Instead, choose a prop to emphasize your point. When used correctly, a prop not only helps you communicate your message, but helps your audience remember it, long after you have stopped speaking.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
As frustrating as this was as a parent, she was perfectly comfortable - as long as her extremities were covered.
The same holds true for eye contact during a presentation. Focus the majority of time on "the extremities" - the people at the edges of the room, who are the most likely to be ignored. When you look people on the edges, you include everyone and make everyone feel comfortable. When you focus mainly on the middle, you exclude the folks on the side - AND make those in the middle feel uncomfortable.
From the Green Room: Cover the extremities. The most important people to look at are the people at the farthest ends of the room. By focusing on the edges, you include everyone.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
About nine minutes into the talk, Mr. Zander describes a transformational moment in his conducting career, when he realized, "I don't make a sound....I realized that my job was to awaken possibility in other people."
What a wonderful metaphor for speaking!
So often when we get up to speak, we focus on the sounds we make, the words we say. This self-focus is what makes us anxious. After all, all eyes are on us, listening for what we have to communicate.
But imagine if we took the focus away from ourselves and saw our role as a conductor - to awaken the possibility in the people we are addressing.
This removal of focus on self might free us up to truly communicate and connect with the audience.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Only one speaker managed to give us a moment of grace - Sandra Bullock.
Without resorting to sappy cliches and narcissistic self-righteousness, she cut right the heart of the matter. Bullock was able to sum up in one sentence the essential message of the film - and then personalize that message in a way that felt completely authentic.
By choosing to take a moment and thank her mother, Bullock made us all feel appreciated and at the same time, paid a beautiful tribute to the film.
From the Green Room: Keep it simple. Keep it personal. Keep it short.
Friday, February 26, 2010
You're not alone.
In this week's Slate magazine, Katherine Meizel analyzes why this week's American Idol singers were unable to hit their low notes:
It's not that they don't have the range, though; it's about the first-performance jitters. If you're anxious, the increased energy that higher pitches require—though they're more intimidating psychologically—can sometimes allow you to power your way through the nerves, but the more relaxed lower range you find at the beginnings of pop ballads becomes a stage fright minefield. Think about holding a rubber band when your hands are shaking: When you pull it taut, the intensified contraction of your muscles makes the quaver less noticeable; when the rubber band is slack, it trembles violently with your hands.
Maizel points to several of the performances including Ashley Lewis' cover of Leona Lewis' Happy:
Women in particular, tend to react to nerves by speaking higher than normal and using their head voice. This can make us sound less authoritative.
One way to combat this is to practice speaking in your chest voice in everyday conversation.
Then when it's time to get up to speak, your voice will more naturally modulate to the lower registers.
Likewise, men have an opposite tendency to stay in the lower range when speaking and can also practice varying pitch in casual conversations or even when reading books to children.
From the Green Room: Practice varying the pitch of your voice. The more you practice experiment with the different ranges of your voice, the less likely you are to jump an octave when you're nervous.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Watch (or rewatch) Lindsey Vonn's reaction to her first gold medal on Wednesday.
Ultimately it is her outpouring of feeling that makes this moment so memorable.
This seems obvious in the context of the Olympics, but is a good reminder for any time you are trying to connect with an audience. Find the emotion. You can have the most powerful content in the world - but if you fail to tap into people's feelings, your message will not stick.
From the Green Room: People will remember most how they felt when they listen to you. Take time to identify the emotions you want to express to your audience. After all, emotions are contagious. If you feel inspired when you speak, so will your audience.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In a 2/10 article on NPR.org, "Mind Games: Making Olympians Mentally Fit," Howard Berkes writes about short track speedskater Katherine Reutter's struggle to overcome insecurity and anxiety.
She turned to Nicole Detting Miller, University of Utah sports psychologist:
...Miller helped Reutter relieve the pressure of Olympic competition by focusing on something that already defines her success. For Reutter, that event actually occurred off the ice, on a mountain slope outside Vancouver, where Reutter and her teammates struggled with an endurance exercise.
"I know that even if I didn't win, I put in enough work that I could've won," Reutter says. "I will always be proud that even when it looks like I can't, even when I feel like I can't, I'm always willing to push a little harder just to see if maybe I can."At Green Room Speakers, I call this finding your Green Room Trigger.
I can teach you how to identify a past success - a zone moment - and use it as a trigger each time before getting up to speak.
Over time, you will begin to asssociate speaking with that feeling of success and self-actualization.
From the Green Room: Speaking anxiety often stems from negative triggers, such as thinking about a past speaking or performance experience that didn't go so well. The Green Room Trigger helps you break that negative thought pattern and focuses you, instead, on your best self.
Monday, February 8, 2010
During his opening statement, Brees says:
Our victory last night was the culmination of four years of hard work, fighting through a lot of adversity, ups and downs, and more importantly than that, representing a city that has been through so much – been through so many struggles and hardships.
Along the way, people have asked me so many times, ‘Do you look at it as a burden or extra pressure? You feel like you’re carrying the weight of the city on your team’s shoulders?’ I said, ‘No, not at all.’ We all look at it as responsibility. Our city, our fans give us strength. We owe this to them. That’s made all the difference.
Brees' eloquence and poise in this interview flow from his crystal clear sense of purpose and mission that he has had all along.
Speaking about his experience - and truly being able to capture the moment - then become effortless, as he knows exactly what his message is.
From the Green Room: Take time before you speak to clarify - in one sentence - what your purpose is. When you are able to fully own that purpose, everything flows from there.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Arora starts off by saying, "Hi, I'm Sam Arora, and I'm at the intersection of Georgia Ave and Layhill Rd, just a couple miles from where I live in Silver Spring."
Often speakers waste time at the beginning establishing their credibility. By the time they get to their message, the audience has lost interest.
Arora gets right to the point. By physically placing himself at a busy intersection then identifying his street names as just a couple of blocks from his home, Arora wastes no time and instead accomplishes three things at once:
1. He demonstrates his credibility as a local.
2. He shows a willingness to get out on the streets.
3. He shows a visual example of the particular problem he is trying to solve.
Unfortunately, the traffic behind him is not actually all that heavy, but he nevertheless gets his point across!
From the Green Room: Don't waste time at the beginning of your speech with too much personal background information. State only what your audience needs to know in order to be able to make your message compelling and believable. Get right to the point.
Today marks the One-Year Anniversary of this blog. It has been a terrific year. Thank you to my readers!
Despite the poor quality of the video, the message is brilliant.
By offering to get out there and shovel citizens' walkways, Hadfield and Crandell demonstrate a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
What's more, they communicate a precise understanding of the fundmental physiological needs of the community at the present moment.
Shovels in hand, they turn the inconvenience and isolation of a blizzard into a powerful opportunity connect with voters.
From the Green Room: Before you speak to any audience, try to figure out what they need most at this very moment. Once you identify that need, figure out a way to address it.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Now I want to focus on his ability to capture an audience through his restraint.
In this Sunday's NYT Week in Review, Steve Lohr writes about Jobs' signature simplicity in Apple's products. Lohr writes that the products "cut through complexity by consciously leaving things out- not cramming every feature that came into an engineer's head, an affliction known as "featuritis" that burdens so many technology products."
"'A defining quality of Apple has been design restraint,' says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster and and consultant in Silicon Valley."
Design restraint is at the core of Apple's success and should be at the core of your speech-writing process.
From the Green Room: When you craft a presentation, avoid "featuritis." Make conscious decisions to leave any information out that is not absolutely essential to your message.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
What made Conan O'Brien's farewell speech last Friday night so memorable?
Watch it here:
The content was clearly very moving. And his delivery was both clear and powerful.
But what really made us sit up and listen was the shock of seeing someone who always cracks jokes suddenly and unexpectedly speaks with full sincerity.
From the Green Room: The next time you speak, take a moment to drop your usual persona and try something radically different. If you're normally loud - get quiet. If you are very serious - act goofy. And if you are always the comedian, take a moment to speak personally and sincerely to your listeners.
Your audience will remember that moment not only because it's so unexpected, but because you had the courage to reveal another side of yourself.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The prison warden cautions Johnny Cash (Joaquin Pheonix) not to sing a song that reminds the prisoners they are in prison. Cash looks up and says, "You think they forgot?" He then walks out on stage, thanks the men for being "the best audience we've ever had" and sings Cocaine Blues:
When I was arrested I was dressed in black They put me on a train and they took me back Had no friend for to go my bail they slapped my dried up carcass in that country jail
How do the men react? They love it.
The scene has a decidedly redemptive quality to it. Out of respect for their current state, Cash chooses to sing a song about a criminal going to jail. And this is actually what enables the audience to transcend their current state and sing and cheer joyfully along with him.
From the Green Room: Whether you have bad news to give or you're speaking to an audience who's going through a rough time, don't hide from it. Go there with your audience. This kind of sincere honesty is both respectful and redemptive.