Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to Feed Your PowerPoint Addiction

Who knew there were smartphone apps designed to help people give better presentations?

In this week's "Killer Apps" on, Farhad Manjoo shows us a few:

I was disappointed to see that the main app featured enables further dependency on PowerPoint. The app actually lets you download your PowerPoint presentation right onto your phone.

What a brilliant way to merge two addictions - PowerPoint and Smartphones!

Could someone design a public speaking app that teaches speakers to get away from the screen - and connect with the people in the audience?

But perhaps this is a lesson that's better given in person.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Speaking Advice from SNL

In this week's New Yorker, Tina Fey recounts nine "Lessons from Late Night" - what she learned from working with Lorne Michaels.

Lesson #7 is "Never cut to a closed door." Tina writes:

Lorne said this once in exasperation...the director had cut to a door a moment too soon, before the actor entered, and in that moment Lorne felt we had "lost the audience"...Lorne would have preferred that the camera cut follow the sound of the actor knocking on the door. Which is to say that the sketch should lead the cutting pattern, which is to say that content should dictate style.

From the Green Room: Let your message and your content dictate your speaking style. Most delivery problems stem from a lack of clarity about the content. If you are 100 percent clear on what you are trying to say, your delivery will flow much more naturally and the your audience will stay engaged.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Anne Hathaway and James Franco: What Not to Do

Clearly, Anne Hathaway and James Franco bombed as hosts of this years' Academy Awards.

Their downfall can be summed up in one word:


From the moment they stepped on stage, Hathaway and Franco lowered their status. They managed to appear even younger and sillier than they actually are. Franco acted as though the evening were a joke, and Hathaway acted like a star-struck teenager. Both did not act hosts, but rather like annoying kids taking over a grown-up party. And as a result, they lowered the status of the entire event.

Another word for the host of an event is "Master of Ceremonies." The key word here is "master." The MC's job is not just to keep things moving, but to do so masterfully - with a sense of authority and grace, thus elevating the event.

This was painfully highlighted when Hathaway and Franco introduced Billy Crystal who then
"introduced" Bob Hope. For a brief moment, we were reminded of what a host is actually supposed to do.

From the Green Room: The next time you MC an event, be masterful. Remember, you are the host - not the guest, and your job is to elevate - not to ingratiate. Rather than lavish praise upon the other speakers and the audience, (which many of us are tempted to do), aim to bring a sense of dignity, respect, and elegance to the affair.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Colin Firth: How to Make the Universal Unique

Could there have been a duller set of speeches than the ones at this year's Academy Awards? How many times must we witness the same old "incredulous" reaction of the winners?

Last year, Sandra Bullock stood out from the crowd. This year, it was Best Actor Winner, Colin Firth. He managed to communicate the giddy joy of the moment without sounding like a tired cliche:

From the Green Room: The speeches we remember the most are the ones which express universal truth in a voice that is both distinct and authentic.