You Never Know Who’s In the Audience


Always comport yourself as if the most important person in your life’s watching you, because they may just be doing so!

I’ve often been told that so and so had been in the audience, after I’ve delivered a talk or a presentation. I’ve learned to comport myself as if the most important person in the world’s watching me at all times, and I learned this lesson in Thunder Bay, Ontario, back in the early 1980’s.

I was on the road with the band, and three of us headed to a Laundromat, to get our laundry done. We were always joking around, and making fun of ourselves, whether on the stage, or off the stage. The Laundromat was mostly empty, with the exception of the three of us, and one older man, who was sitting alone at the other end of the room, engrossed in his book.

We were all wearing our band jackets, with the name of the band, “Midnite Sun,” emblazoned on the back, and with our individual names on the shoulders. We were goofing around, and making fun of each other, as was usually the case. Then I decided to give our agent a call from the pay phone, because we’d had a cancellation for the following week, and he was working on finding a replacement gig.

I spoke with him on the phone for a few minutes, and then announced to my band mates that after we… Continue reading

Speak Slower Than You Think Is Natural


I’m a very fast talker.

The average English-speaking person speaks at about 120 words per minute. I suspect that I speak at about 150, with gusts up to about 225, when I get on a roll.

It’s a natural tendency to speak faster when you’re nervous, or excited. And a faster pace signals excitement or urgency, so it can be a good thing in some cases. More often, however, our pace can increase dramatically, and we’re not aware of doing so.

To help you take control of your speaking pace, and to help you keep your verbal velocity more deliberate, record your talks and presentations. Listen to them carefully afterward, paying attention to your pacing. In addition, consider planting someone in the audience who can signal you when you’re raging out of control.

For speakers whose pattern is to speak at a higher rate of speed, slowing ourselves down can feel painful and unnatural. If you’re a fast talker, one way to flag yourself down is to embed a yield sign into your mental notes. As you may remember, keeping mental notes was the topic of Chapter Ten, Item #82. This gives you a mental reminder to be conscious of your speed, and to slow your pace down to a speed that may feel less than natural to you. If it feels uncomfortably slow to you, it’s likely about right for the audience.

To this day, I run into this… Continue reading

Avoid the Apology

notsorryI would say the most common thing I see from my students is the tendency to walk up to the front, and tell us all the reasons why their talk is going to suck!

I haven’t really prepared anything.

I’m not good at public speaking.

This isn’t something I’d normally do.

I was going to talk about this other thing, but I changed my mind.

I didn’t know I was going to be speaking today.

These are the most common opening statements I hear in my classes, and they’re really just products of nervous energy. Most people are very uncomfortable with speaking in public, so when they walk up to the front to speak, they have to release that energy somehow. In their minds, what better way to do it than to explain to the audience members the reason they shouldn’t expect too much? That takes the pressure off the speaker, right?

In actuality, these nervous opening statements make speaking more difficult, because they put you into a negative pattern right from the start. This means that something good has to happen in order to move you from a negative mindset and into a positive one, instead of you already being on a high note.

What you do or say on the way to the stage is critical, because your audience is forming an impression about you right from the start, even as you walk up and take your place… Continue reading

There Is No “Right Way” To Do It

I have heard mnorughtwayany speech coaches state that “there is no right or wrong way to speak in public,” and I completely disagree!

I believe that there is a right and a wrong way and, if you do it the wrong way, it could all explode in your face.

I have seen speech coaches train their clients to keep their hands down by their sides, to limit their pacing, to slow themselves down and to make sure their tie is straight. In most cases, paying attention to these things is the exact wrong way to do it, and let me tell you why.

If you’re speaking in public, you probably have something valuable to say. More than that, you believe you have a message that needs to be shared or a story that needs to be told. You want to be the catalyst for a change you feel driven to make in this world. As a speaker, if you’re emotionally involved in your message, if you believe in your message and its importance to your audience, the right way to 9 Speaking Myths to Clear Up Right Now 5 deliver that message is whatever way gets you the desired result. The desired result will come from your heart, not your tie.

In 2009, a friend of mine sent me an audio clip of a speech he gave at a major speaking club event for which he was awarded very… Continue reading

Stay Within Your Time Limit…

 always“Hey Doc, you have to wrap it up.” 

About thirty minutes before I began writing this blog, I received a phone call from a friend who was scheduled to give a presentation that very evening. She asked me for some input on a few things. She shared with me that she’d been allocated five minutes for her presentation, but planned to “hijack” more time. I strongly advised against it, and I hope she heeded my advice. In late 2007, I held a seminar. As part of my session, I invited two guest speakers, both of them doctors. Before the event, I spoke directly with each of them, and we discussed their allotment of time, and their main topics. We reached an agreement on topics, and on a fifteen-minute time limit. We planned our session, in significant part, around the agreed-upon topics and time limits. During the session, the time came up for the first guest speaker to take the stage. His presentation was outstanding! As he presented, I sat off to one side of the platform, beside his laptop computer. He had to walk over to the computer many times, in order to advance his slides. After his allotted fifteen minutes, there was no sign of his presentation coming near an end. After twenty minutes had passed, I flagged him down when he walked over to advance his slides. “Hey Doc, you have to wrap it up,” I… Continue reading

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