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Alberta, Canada
Family Law Lawyer, Professional Speaker & Author

Friday, 30 November 2012

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Roboto

Many people try to adhere to rules about proper professional speaking, how to stand, how to speak etc.    Nonetheless, you should remember that the essence of public speaking is that you bring energy to a presentation that is simply not possible with a written document.
You can study all the public speaking tips available (and there are many!), but, in cultivating a polished speaking demeanour, you should not lose your individual style.  We enjoy speakers with charisma and find that great speakers are those who can allow their personalities to enhance their words.  We naturally tune out monotonous, robotic speakers.  This must surely be a part of the reason why computer voices (like GPS systems etc.) have been vastly improved to sound more ‘human’ and less ‘robotic.’  We prefer to listen to a voice that has a less predictable, more interesting quality.
Imagine the most poignant speeches in your own memory.  You may be recalling Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Churchill, Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth II, for example.  Maybe what came to mind is a particularly excellent wedding toast by a friend or family member.  Certainly, though, the speech that you remember as having such an impact on you was delivered with strong character.
The “great” historical speeches can be recalled not only because of their important messages, but because of the speaker who delivered them.  When we recall “I have a dream” we vividly bring to mind Dr. King’s eloquent, powerful manner of delivering the epic speech.  His unique energy brought the words to life and therefore they resonate in the memories of everyone who has ever heard the speech.
Similarly, although you can improve your public speaking skills through learning proper techniques and avoiding certain pitfalls, don’t lose your own unique expressional qualities.  The impact that you have on your audience will be greatly enhanced when your personality is woven throughout your presentation.
 For more information on public speaking training, go to .

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Audiovisual Technology: Use the Power Wisely, Grasshopper

The power of your slides or audiovisual aids can be a potent enhancement to your public or professional speaking presentation.  However, like all power, when this is in the wrong hands, things can turn ugly!  

Your speaking is the main event.  Any AV additions that you use must  not detract from you or your presentation.  Always ask yourself if every slide, sound clip, video etc. is supporting the delivery of the fundamental message that you wish to leave with your audience.  You should not have to compete with your slides for the attention of your audience.  Here are the most important rules for using AV with your presentations:

1.  Keep it simple:  don’t have too much technology as it simply become overbearing.  Too many bells and whistles come across like a restaurant covering up low-quality food with heavy sauce.  Let your message shine and don’t cloud it out with too much glitz.

2.  Keep the numbers down:  powerful speakers use less slides and enhancements. Each audiovisual use must emphasise the key points of your message.  If you’re clicking to a new slide on every sentence, your presentation will look less like a professional presentation and more like Fred and Martha’s “trip to France” slide show circa 1977.

3.  Make it fun:  use AV to do what you as a speaker cannot – audio clips of other speakers or music, video clips, or imagery like a clear graph that truly is ‘worth a thousand words.’

4.  Know how to use it:  if you’re uncomfortable with any technology, keep it out of your presentation. The general rule is that you are a complete package simply as a speaker.  If adding a power point presentation throws you off your game and reduces your confidence, keep it out!

5.  The “Snooze, yawn” Rule:  Never cut and paste your text into your visual presentation. Well, go ahead and put your text up there if you’re trying to get your audience to ignore what you’re saying and fall asleep.  Otherwise, see Rule 3 and use “visual” aids for pictures and images.

There are many great programs, apps and technologies available to us that can help to make your message more easily and clearly received by your audience and will make your presentation more exciting and more memorable.  Use this power wisely, Grasshopper.  

Friday, 2 November 2012

Don't Hold Your Questions, Please

The essential key to captivating public speaking is the ability to attract your audience’s interest and sustain it throughout your presentation.  Monotony is the enemy of dynamic and engaging speaking, regardless of your public or professional speaking context.  One of the most successful methods of elevating your audience’s interest during your presentation is to respond to questions throughout your presentation.

While there are certain contexts in which taking questions throughout your presentation may not be appropriate, if you are delivering an informative or educational speech, you should incorporate intermittent questioning into your delivery.  A question from the audience during your speech drastically reduces the march towards monotony that may occur if you are the only speaker. 

More importantly; however, you can use the audience’s questions to gauge the reception to your presentation.  A question is a form of feedback, and you would be fortunate to have the opportunity to receive such valuable feedback during your presentation as it will allow you to modify your presentation to better accord with the needs and interests of your audience.

You may, for example, find that a particular point that you have already put forth has not been well understood by your audience and you may need to spend some additional time on that topic.  On the other hand, you may discover that you are laboring over points that are well-known to your audience.  If this is the case, your audience will tune you out the material that is mundane and may well miss your novel and exciting material.  In short if the goal of your presentation is to educate and inform, you will have missed your mark.  

Not all speakers like to take questions during their presentation, as some may find that the disruption throws them off course.  Nonetheless, you should not be reading from a script, but rather you should be focused on delivering specific points.  The “script reading” approach to public speaking is boring and unnatural.  

Training yourself to respond to your audience’s questions during your speech will enhance the energy and effectiveness of your presentation.  As a bonus side effect of your ability to respond to intermittent questions is that you will have the opportunity to truly show your expertise and command of the material.  You may need to practice your poise during questions, but I can guarantee that the rewards will be well worth your effort.