Steve Lowell

Feel the Room

feeltheroomHave you ever noticed how all rooms have their own feel?

There’s a facility in Ottawa where I hold many events. This facility holds three conference rooms. The room we’ll use for our event depends on the expected number of guests, since the rooms are in three different sizes. Not only are they different in size, but each has a unique look and feel. One of the rooms is small and very bright. It’s beautifully decorated, with paintings on the walls, a huge skylight, and large windows at one end. The second room is the largest, also nicely decorated, but not quite as elegant as the small room. The third room is mid-sized. This room’s dimly lit, the ceiling tiles are stained, and the carpet’s red. It’s a very dark room. I’ve spoken in all three of these rooms on many occasions, and the experience is unique in each room.

When I watch videotapes of my presentations, I notice there are very subtle differences in how I present from one room to the next. For example, in the small room, which is bright and elegant, I tend to be smoother, because I feel more polished speaking is such an elegant room. I’m more intimate with my audience, because it would typically be a smaller audience and I’m physically closer to them.

In the large room, there’s less intimacy, and I feel more like a performer, because I’m delivering my presentation… Continue reading

Look At the Room

lookatroomBeing told to, “Look at the room” might sound ridiculously simple, but there’s a good explanation for this.

One thing that can throw a speaker off their game immediately is the shock of looking into a sea of faces looking back at them from the audience. The room has a different view from the stage, and it can be highly intimidating.

One way to minimize this stage shock is to walk up to the front area of the room, even if it’s off the stage, and peer into the room to get a feel for what the vista looks like. Even if the room is empty at the time, examine the area the audience will soon be occupying, so you can familiarize yourself with anything that might cause a distraction.

In the fall of 2010, I was hired to conduct a workshop for an accounting firm. One of the owners of the firm is also a martial arts instructor, and he’d purchased the neighboring office space to create a dojo for the staff to train in, as a extracurricular perk. They also use the dojo as a training room, where they hold workshops and seminars. When I arrived to do my workshop, the seats had been arranged in a fashion that left me facing a long wall that was essentially a huge mirror. Because I arrived early, I stood at the front of the room and considered whether or not… Continue reading

Remember To Repeat

repeatrepeatrepeatBegin with the goal and work your way backward.

In my book, I explore the process of building your presentation from the end. Begin with the goal and work your way backward. During your talk or presentation, repeat key points that lead your audience toward your goal. If your intention is for your audience to take action as a result of your presentation, you’ll need them to retain some information from your presentation for a while after you’ve finished speaking. In order for them to do that, the information must enter their long-term memory. To get into long-term memory, it first has to pass through working memory (formerly known as short-term memory). Unfortunately, information can only reside in working memory for about ten seconds, and then it’s gone. The brain is always scouring the sensory environment for new input, looking for patterns and trying to predict what’s going to happen next. Because of this, whatever information finds its way into working memory is quickly replaced by new information.

In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the exponential nature of the brain’s ability to forget data. His research shows that the speed in which the brain forgets depends on a number of factors, such as the difficulty of the learned material, how the material is represented and such physiological factors a stress and sleep deprivation. His research also shows that one way to galvanize information into long-term memory is through intermittent repetition.

While… Continue reading

Take a Leap of Faith

takealeapoffaithThe reason you’re the one on stage is because you have something to say, right?

But often, our ego jumps in the way, and we begin thinking more about whether people like us, rather than whether our message is getting across the way we want. Unfortunately, when we’re preoccupied with our ego, we can’t possibly perform as well as we otherwise could, and our message suffers. As speakers, we need to take our egos out of the equation while we’re in front of an audience, and we need to lose ourselves in our message in order to take the audience on the journey we intend for them to take. So, how do we do that? Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith. Faith that when you let yourself go, and let yourself get absorbed in your message, the audience will also get absorbed in your message, and be positively affected by it.

There’s no real way to know how well your audience will receive you, but you can be certain that the deeper you immerse yourself into your message, the more your message will be felt by your audience. The important thing is to keep your focus on the benefit to your audience, not on your own personal gain. When you direct your mental focus on yourself, your audience will feel it, but when you direct your mental focus on presenting something of value to your audience, they’ll feel that… Continue reading

Avoid Jargon-Creep


avoidjargoncreepKeep your language simple and universal whenever possible.

Unless you’re speaking to a closed audience made up entirely of industry members who understand the buzz words, stay away from acronyms and slang. Computer people are especially prone to this. (I can say that because I’m one of them!) We like to use cool acronyms and techno speak because we know how to do that. Secretly, at least for us guys, it’s because we think that if we use all the coolest words and jargon, all the pretty women will want to have sex with us. So far, that theory hasn’t proven to be as solid as I originally thought! Nevertheless, the urge to impress your audience with huge words and acronyms that only the cool people know can be pretty powerful. For the benefit of your audience, who only wants to be impressed by your message, open up your language to the masses and use wording that everyone in the room can understand. I once watched a spiritual speaker who gave a thirty-minute talk, and apparently, it was about the use of our spiritual nature to manifest our desires. For thirty minutes, I listened to huge words and spiritual jargon that made zero sense to me. To this day, I still have no clue what he was talking about. I just didn’t get it at all.

So, what’s the lesson? Keep the language relevant to the audience. When in doubt, simpler is better.

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