Archive for October, 2009
When you are speaking in public, humor need not be knee slapping funny to be effective. Here is a mild form of humor to add to your public speaking engagements. Alliteration is the repetition of the same first sound or the same first letter in a group of words or line of poetry.
You find alliteration used in advertisements and titles all the time because it tends to catch your eye and ear. One of my humorous public speaking topics is titled ‘Pranks for Profit: Confessions of a Paid Practical Joker’. It has four ‘p’ sounds.
Here is an example of a positive message delivered with alliteration:
‘We (B)agged the (B)aldridge award (B)ecause our (B)rainy, (B)eautiful (B)usinesspeople are the (B)est.’
In a negative message you can soften the blow of the message without appearing frivolous or uncaring. Example:
‘The strike by one of our suppliers has put a (C)runch on our division. Even though we are (C)runched, we are still (C)reative. We are still (C)redible. And we will (C)onquer this problem.’
You’ve got a great, major public speaking presentation, and suddenly you’re asked if you can get your message across in five minutes! Don’t panic. For today’s television generation, sound bites can be more powerful than lengthy dissertations. Here’s how to compress your speech without losing impact.
Don’t apologize or mention that you usually have much more time. Be confident that you can communicate in five minutes. Begin fast. Start with a an attention-getting statement such as, Your job won’t exist five years from now, or In the next 5 minutes I want to convince you the best action you can take is … Use a strongly visual story. Illustrate your points — how it is now, how it will or could be — with a story so vivid that the audience can “see” it. Divide your 5 minutes into three parts. Present a problem, a payoff, and your point of view: The number one piece of advice I can give you today is…, your story illustrates your idea and your walk away line could be what will happen if they do what you suggest!
Your first priority is safety. Know where fire exits and extinguishers are.
Have backup equipment and backup plan in case of failure.
Keep room lights at maximum intensity unless slides and/or video projection are being used.
If room lights are down, put a soft light on presenter.
Schedule breaks during program.
Tape door latches to prevent them from making loud noises.
Use semi-circular seating if possible.
Provide hardback writing surface if needed.
Locate your presentation area as close as you can to front row.
If seats can’t move YOU MOVE!
Without screen, set to long side of the room.
With screen, set to short side of the room.
Avoid long narrow rooms (switch rooms if possible).
Avoid placing chairs next to walls.
Cut aisles behind poles.
Set aisles bigger as they get nearer exits.
Seat for least distraction audience members should not have to cross more than six others to get to a seat.
Force audience to front with reserved signs or put out less chairs than the expected attendance. Stack additional chairs in back corner of room so they are handy if needed.
Arrange for a good sound system. Thoroughly check sound system BEFORE program.
Check climate. Locate climate controls or know who to call.
Make sure water and glasses are available.
Locate restrooms, phones, snackbars, elevators or stairs, and business center.
Make sure there are signs posted to direct participants to your room.
(Did he say “pick” my public speaking audiences?). Yes, I did say pick your audiences. Some of you may not have this luxury because you must do speaking as part of your job, but those of you that do, will move up faster in the speaking world. When you are a beginning public speaker it is important for you to experience different types of audiences just FOR the experience. As you climb the speaking ladder where the audiences are bigger, or more important to your career, and the stakes are higher, you must learn to just say no.
Most top speakers don’t accept every request to speak even if they are available, and the money is right. They pick their engagements to put themselves in front of audiences whose profiles indicate the greatest chance of success. If you are a highly technical speaker, you would not want to be speaking to a widget sales group at their annual retreat. Conversely, as a really fun retreat facilitator, you would not want to be speaking to a group of radar technicians who are only interested in performance data of the latest missile protection system.
Avoid accepting engagements where the audiences needs are clearly out of sync with your abilities, likes and dislikes. Don’t get me wrong. I want you to keep pushing your limits, but if your audience needs more than you can give –that’s right — you bombed. Although it will be a lesson learned, do yourself and everyone else a favor. Learn to just say no.
… a mental brake that is. Here are some mind tricks when you speak too fast.
- Imagine that your audience is comprised of 5 year olds and you have to explain some difficult concept to them. You must obviously go slowly so they can understand you.
- Force yourself to use difficult word combinations which will force you to slow down so that you don*t stutter over them.
- Do specific practice sessions concentrating on varying the speed of your delivery so that you get a better control over this aspect of your talks. Also, varying the speed makes you more interesting automatically. You must do these practice sessions out loud. To save time, they can be done in the car, or while doing your hair or jogging, etc.
- Cut out some of your material so that you do not feel rushed to get it all in. Going faster is usually futile because the retention level drops so low that you may as well have omitted the material in the first place.
(Note: Determine if this is politically correct for your audience.)
You can throw in a cute diversion to a boring public speaking engagement by attributing a saying to an ancient Chinese philosopher. Since these sayings are not attributed to anyone in particular, feel free to change or update them to fit your situation and to enhance their humor.
(The term ‘original’ here means as original as something can be after being recited and translated for several hundred years.)
Original: You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.
Update: You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from pooping on your Gucci blazer.
Original: He who walk on eggs should tread lightly.
Update: He who walk on eggs should find out the price per dozen.
Original: People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Update: People who live in glass houses should pull down the blinds.
Regardless of one’s nationality and culture, cartoons and comic strips are the most universally accepted format for humor in public speaking engagements. These pieces of visual humor are seen in newspapers and magazines in most areas of the world. They may be found in newsstands in large cities, or in large libraries.
It might be fun to collect cartoons and comic strips when you travel so you have a ready supply when you need one for a speaking engagement. Be careful to avoid cartoons that have political overtones. If you are speaking to a small group, you can show the periodical or pass it around. If you want to use the cartoon or comic strip in a visual, you may need permission from the artist or copyright owner. Always read the caption for a foreign audience and give them time to mentally translate what you say. It may take what seems to be forever (4-6 seconds) for the idea to sink in. Another good resource for cartoons is ‘Witty World International Cartoon Magazine’ by Creators Syndicate.
Other forms of visual humor that transcend most cultural barriers are juggling and magic. Good resource materials are available on both topics. ‘Speaking With Magic’ is a book by Michael Jeffreys that not only teaches you simple tricks, but gives you the points you can relate to the trick. Two good magic videos for speakers by master magician Tom Ogden are ‘Teaching and Training with Magic’ and ‘The Magic of Creativity.’
In Thailand, I used props as icebreakers. I used oversize money to pass out to the crowd because I knew they were interested in ‘BIG MONEY.’ I also used some softballs that looked like dollar bills so they would have money to ‘THROW AROUND.’
Tom will be speaking this weekend at Milana Leshinsky’s “Coaching Millions Super Summit” in Dallas, TX Oct 23 – 25, 2009. Come join Tom and many other great speakers to discover how to make big money using the Internet to promote your coaching practice.
Tom will discussing these important topics:
Want to learn more? Check out the Coaching Super Summit website.
One of the biggest mistakes I see presenters make during public speaking engagements has to do with the handling of question-and-answer sessions. The presenter does a good program, has a powerful close, opens the program up to questions, answers them well, and then fades off the stage into oblivion.
The lack of a second powerful close after the question and answer period could negate much of the impact that was created throughout the program. Make sure you have two good closes whenever there is a possibility of a Q & A session.
Trick: Purposely omit material that you know will evoke certain questions. When the questions come, give a preplanned answer that appears spontaneous. They’ll think you are a genius.