Friday, February 21, 2014

Book 7 of 52 in 52: Presentation Zen - by Garr Reynolds

I may be the one speaking coach in the world who hadn't read Presentation Zen yet. At least until the last couple of weeks.

I have an excuse, though. I HATE PowerPoint. I rarely use it. So why read a book about it.

Funny thing...about half my clients DO use PowerPoint in front of audiences they're training, and can't imagine life without it. So into my list of 52 Books in 52 Weeks it went.

Before my clients freak out, wondering whether what I was telling them before I read the book was right or not, don't worry. I've read enough articles, most of which reference Garr Reynolds book, and put together enough presentations, and, oh yeah, have that degree in Graphic Design - so most of what I read was simply confirming what I already had gleaned over the years.

I am very glad, however, that I did read the book itself. (Not that I could have listened to it on Audible, as I often do - I think it would lose something...) It takes simplification of slides to a degree I've been promoting, but rarely convincing people to buy into. It shows off how effective simple slides can be, and puts the emphasis back where it should be - squarely on the speaker.

His approach is radical to many - a slide-deck that seen alone would likely make no sense at all, but is still supportive, in fact, integral to the message. He doesn't set hard and fast rules, but makes wonderful arguments for clean, image heavy slides, vs. the 'Slideument' as he calls it, a document in slide form that may as well replace the speaker entirely
It's a quick read, not terribly copy-heavy, as you might expect a book promoting copy-light slides to be. It shows more than it ever tells, even though Reynolds ideas and experiences fill the book up with energy, creativity and insight. The design of the book itself is more of a coffee table tome than a how-to guide. All the more Zen, I suppose.

He's a bit too in love with Steve Job, perhaps, but he also offers views from Nancy Duarte, Made to Stick, and numerous other sources which are either summarized, or, as articles, wholly included in the book. He also references Jazz, Japanese art forms, and of course, Zen itself as guiding principles not only in slides, but in presentations as a whole.

While he mentions Keynote (Mac version of PowerPoint, essentially) and Prezi - he doesn't go into the art of using Prezi, which is a bit different in nature to the old-fashioned slide programs. Perhaps another book in the making?

Apparently, there are updates in the version I purchased, so if it's been awhile, it may be worth buying the more recent edition.

Bottom line: if you want to learn the right way to do slides - read the book. Often. Or find a coach that has.

5 Stars out of 5. Makes me want to go right out and build a slide-deck. Maybe.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Things Annoying Motivational Speakers Say

 What did you think of the video? I'm dedicated to using more video this year, and while I need to master the lighting, the ambient sound (yes, you're actually hearing crickets in the background, and some bizarre hum), done is better than perfect. And...what else do annoying motivational speakers say? Maybe I'll talk about it next time!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Your Speaking Secret Weapon: Pure Energy

Awhile back, I heard a quote out of the mouth of 2000 World Champion Public Speaking Ed Tate's mouth that essentially said: "When two people meet in a sales or competitive situation, the person with the most energy wins."

I didn't really like that idea. 
I'm usually a little understated when I speak, and when I think of energetic speakers, I think of speakers who feel that being loud and manic is enough to get their point across, and their products/services sold. Tony Robbins, as much as I love listening to him, would probably drive me nuts if I was in one his three day seminars.

In fact, it seems seminars from many of the gurus out there get there audiences into an energetic, even frenzied state with music, videos, even live acts before they come out to give their presentation.

I'm a bit of an introvert, and getting up and dancing and clapping just doesn't tend to appeal to me - and it may not to you, either.

But - it's working for Robbins, Brendan Burchard, James Malinchak, and countless other - which mean I'm clearly in the minority with my thinking.

I'm not going to suggest you need to change who you are to succeed. Wayne Dyer seems calm enough, and he's doing okay. But more energy onstage, when controlled and intentional, can add some great things to your presentation, and create strong results in much of your audience.

1. Speed Up Your Pace - if you're pumped full of energy, you'll likely talk faster. If there's one thing I've noticed with a lot of the more successful speakers, they seem to speak at a higher rate of speed than the average human. They still pause - at least the good ones do - but they always have a bit of urgency in their voice.

2. Implies Passion - more energy will cue your audience's thinking that you really believe what you're saying. That's pretty important. You still need to make it important to them, ultimately, but if they don't believe it is to you, you're not going to move them off center.

3. Enhances Entertainment - would you rather watch a calm, lifeless speaker, or one who really seems jazzed and enthusiastic? The real concern is balance. You may need more energy for 300 than 30 - know what will work in the room, with the audience.

4. Memorability - In a sea of other speakers, if you're at a conference, Ed's idea rings true. He's the only speaker I remember from that event - though I heard there was at least one other that 'rocked the house', I just didn't attend their session.

How can TOO much energy hurt you?

1. Madman On Stage - that might be the impression that you leave if you spend your entire presentation at a 10, instead of calming down and conversing with the audience.

2. Forgetfulness - have you ever gotten so excited that you completely blank on what you want to say? It's called getting caught up in the moment, and in this case, perhaps getting too caught up in your own energy.

3. Perspiration - it's great that you like to dance and move around the stage a lot - unless you start to look like someone working out during the first week of the Biggest Loser workouts. I'm a 'sweater' even in my understated style - can't imagine what would happen if I started dancing...

4. Fatigue - starting at a high and staying there could mean ending on a low, if you're speaking for a long time, or if you're not as healthy or dedicated to healthy eating as you'd should be.

Also consider your purpose for being energetic. Are you wanting to drive home a point? Are you wanting to significantly alter the state of your audience? If so, is it so their behavior changes for the positive, or to create a more selfish behavior, like a back of the room rush?

Don't misunderstand me - getting people excited isn't inherently a bad thing. They better be enthusiastic when you're done speaking to them. But using energy as a manipulation technique that doesn't directly benefit them IS a bad thing, at least in my eyes. There's room for argument here - what's too much? what's direct benefit? But I think most of us who've seen these speakers whip a room into a frenzy, assuming we weren't swept along, would know it when we see it.

Pure Energy can be your secret weapon, if you learn to harness it, and release it appropriately. Too little, and you're lucky if your audience knows who you are the next day. Too much, and they'll all remember you, for all the wrong reasons. Of course, you can't control everyone, so be ready for there always to be people who think you are TOO pumped up, or TOO understated.

Experiment (in a Toastmasters club, preferably, where you'll get a generally supportive, non-judgmental audience) with your energy levels. See what the reactions are. Gauge what YOU are comfortable doing. While I didn't really like the idea back then, I have to admit it's true in more cases than not. I'll be ramping up my own energy this year.

But worry not - I won't be dancing!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book 5 of 52 in 52: Under the Dome, by Stephen King

For those of you following my 52 Books in 52 Weeks series, my review this week is over in my Win Anyway blog, since 'Under the Dome' doesn't exactly relate to speakers, unless you want to talk about editing overlong manuscripts/speeches.

Click the book cover to read the review....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What I Learned from Lance Miller

Hey - Look who's coming to TLI! (Toastmasters Leadership Institute)

None other than 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking Lance Miller, one of the champions I've probably spent the least time with, and seen the least of, over the years.

Not that he doesn't get around - I'm just never there when he does. I did get a chance to hear him speak at the Champs Edge Summit in 2011, and he came to the contestants dinner you may have seen in SPEAK the movie, but never at length, or in a formal 'speaking' scenario.

TLI was different. First, he was on a whirlwind tour - doing two hours of talking Friday Night in Ft. Collins, 2 hours with us in Denver the next morning, then heading to Colorado Springs, and, I believe, Grand Junction and Southern CO were also on this docket.

My understanding was that Lance prefers TLIs (though I'm sure he'll speak at District Conferences without complaint!) - and he confirmed that in his comments. Which brings us to...

What I Learned from Lance Miller

1. You Can Disagree With Toastmasters While Still Passionately Promoting It.  A lesson I need to hear often, I think. I've always been a fan of authenticity, and Lance made it very clear to start that he wasn't going to pull any punches, that he wasn't a fan of the DCP (Distinguished Club Plan), and that Toastmasters doesn't do everything right. He backed that up by saying he'd told Toastmasters International's top man, Dan Rex, these things straight up - and when he comes to a District TLI, they know what they're getting. Lance loves Toastmasters, and makes that clear. He does, however, have some unorthodox views - views which I agreed with, as did many I could see in our audience of 300+ officers in training.

2. We Set Our Sights Too Low. He basically said that if our club didn't hit President's Distinguished, hitting all 10 of the set goals in the DCP - we simply weren't trying hard enough, and that a healthy club should hit those goals easily. The knee-jerk reaction to that is often "easy for you to say, you aren't dealing with my club". He understands this though, and basically dismisses it out of hand. The feeling I left with was 'you can keep doing what you're doing and own the results, you can do something different and get better results, or you can go find a club that's healthier instead of continuing to work within a club that doesn't want to improve'. Tough talk, but true talk.

3. Be Clear About Your Club Goals. His message was centered around being a healthy club per TM standards, and exceeding those standards. Decide to be great - as his club did back in the 90's, and continues to be today.

I also took it as indicated above - 'keep doing what you're doing and own the results'. That is, if your club is happy being what it is, if you're meeting members goals, keep doing what you're doing. However, I believe that if your club is veering too far off from TM's goals as an organization, it's time to give up your charter and start your own organization. If your club has been reduced to 5 people getting together socially, who also happen to pay their dues, it's not really a Toastmasters club, is it?

At the same time, you might be an Advanced Club, with very specific goals - you're working on humor, or keynotes, or evaluations - and hitting your DCP goals isn't a priority. As long as you're aware of who you are, and honor the spirit of TM, you're on the right track. Of course, even then, keeping 20 members, getting Officer Training, Paying Dues, Submitting Officers Reports, and 2 extra manual completions puts you in Distinguished status, which honors not only TM, but your Area, Division, and District Governors. So why not at least aim for that level of distinction.

4. We're an Education Program! It's not like I didn't know that before, but he put it out so simply, that it has helped me change my perspective somewhat. I've been spoiled over the years to be a member in clubs that have a lot of core members, and when I see so many come in for awhile and then leave, it bothers me a bit. It can almost be a personal affront that someone will come in, get their CC and move on. Don't they understand? I've been in for 14 years and I'm still getting tremendous value - do they think there's nothing more for them?

It's a fact of life that TM has a 33% turnover rate, and that the average member never makes it past their sixth speech. It's not personal, it's just life. Some don't get what they need out of TM. Some aren't willing to work hard enough to get what they need. Some get exactly what they need, and don't want more, or simply want to take what they've learned and go a different direction. That's OK - in fact, that's a success for them and for us in Toastmasters.

5A. We Shouldn't Recruit New Members, We Should Recruit New Visitors. No one wants to come with the pressure of commitment. Just get them to try it, like free samples at Costco (or Sam's, or Trader Joe's, your choice). If TM tastes good to them, they'll come back, and get what they want.

5B. Don't Have Meetings, Have Events. Nobody likes going to meetings, really. Make each gathering an event - use themes, tie in to holidays and local happenings. Have extra events - just because your club meets on Thursday nights doesn't mean you can't have a Saturday party, or speech-a-thon, or even a contest day. Every time you get together, be organized, enthusiastic, encouraging. When visitors (and members) feel the energy, they'll return. Count on it.

Lance's training presentation was the best I've seen in Toastmasters, and frankly, the best I've seen in my years in the marketing and advertising industry. I've been trained a lot over the years, but trainers of every type. But Lance's unrivaled passion for and knowledge of the organization, his authentic and transparent speaking style, and his willingness to call both his organization and his audience onto the carpet resulted in a combination of paradigm shifts and re-anchoring of best practices in my own Toastmasters experience. I can only hope it did the same, and more, for those around me.

Bonus Lesson: Claim Your Corner - Lance explained that while many champs focus on speaking about speaking, he has expertise many champs do not - building not just a championship speech, but a championship CLUB, back in California. A club rated 4th in the world at one time - back when they actually kept track. So while he'll speak about speaking, and has a speaking product or two, he focuses on Club building - from officer roles to recruiting membership to dealing with tough situations, and tough personalities, along the way. He knows where he can stand out to Speak & Deliver - do you?


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