I’m frequently asked if I ever use notes on the podium when I speak. The answer is that I do, in a manner of speaking. On occasion, I’ll have notes on paper, but very rarely. If I do have paper notes, they typically hold only keywords, not a script. If I’m in the role of Master of Ceremonies, I’ll have notes with the order of events, but, generally, my notes are in the form of pictures in my head.
I’ll create a visual stack of pictures in my mind that serves as a road map for my presentation. As I speak, I review the pictures in my mind, and that helps keep me on the right track. I do, however, always review my notes, whether they’re on paper or in my head, a few minutes before I speak. This is to make sure I have a recent exposure to the material so my recall is better. The purpose is not to memorize the speech, but to refresh the key points in my mind. Some people run into difficulty here, because they try to do a last-minute run through of their entire speech or presentation, and then get frustrated when they can’t remember the entire thing. That frustration leads to anxiety, which reduces the ability of the brain to focus. The presentation is doomed before it begins.… Continue reading
The sound in a room can be affected by countless factors, including the type of carpet on the floor, the height of the ceiling, the existence and the location of windows. There’s nothing you can do about most of those things, but there’s one thing you should be aware of that offers you a small amount of control. It’s something few speakers pay attention to, and maybe that’s the reason I’ve never read or heard of anyone else making this point, but you should listen to the stage itself. Many facilities will have a portable stage that can be taken down and moved at any time. The potential issue with these types of platforms is that they’re typically hollow, and, if cheaply made, will make booming noises when you walk on them. We became particularly concerned about this type of staging when we were playing in the band, because a hollow stage often meant a thunderous echo would reverberate from the floor as we pounded on the drums, or danced around on stage. Now, as a speaker, it’s not likely that you’ll be quite that dramatic. Although, if you like to walk around the stage like I do, there can be a disruptive effect. Hollow stage platforms often resonate when you walk on them, and your microphone can pick up that sound and amplify it, booming through… Continue reading
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
Being 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
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