What You Can Learn About Public Speaking from the Presidential Debates

Whatever else you thought about the performances turned in by President Obama and Governor Romney’s during Wednesday night’s presidential debate (as well as that of Jim Lehrer, who had the nerve to keep interrupting them with questions!), the occasion was generally a study in good public speaking tactics. Though President Obama and Governor Romney shared a number of similar presentational techniques, the two did take some divergent approaches. Here’s a quick review of things they did right and not-so-right, as well as a few key takeaways that can help make you a better public speaker.    Read More →

Introducing Yourself: How to Get Your Speech Off to a Great Start

Movies and television shows don’t start with the big reveal. Essays and articles don’t put their conclusions first. Your speech is no different — audiences want you to slowly but deftly ease them into the topics of your speeches. (Foreplay would be another apt analogy, but let’s keep this PG.) Successful introductions establish three things first and foremost:

1. A comfort level and rapport between you and your audience
2. Who you are
3. Your point — what you’re going to be discussing — and its relevance

Not all intros fit the bill. For example, you may want to start with the funniest joke or anecdote in the world, but if it doesn’t connect with these objectives, it does you no good.

Suggestions for strong introductions:    Read More →

Public Speaking: The Art of “Selling” Out

Too often, people approach their public speeches as if they were book reports. In lots of book reports, you simply describe something in which you generally have no stake. But to succeed in just about every conceivable professional setting, you need to not just describe your point, but SELL your point.    Read More →

Public Speaking: 10 Secrets Every Panelist Must Learn Before Hitting the Stage

Being on a conference panel is like your first day at a new school: to succeed, you need to play nice, stay focused, know what you’re talking about, and dress sharp. The dressing sharp part is on you. For the rest, here’s how to be ready:

1. Prepare Your Points.

Don’t go in cold. Prepare 2–3 points in advance that relate to your expertise and the mission of the conference or event. Think about how you can help this audience. What do you know that they should too? If you can, mention these points in advance to the moderator –- he or she can help you make them. Also be prepared with stats, examples, or outcomes that illustrate your points. If you know a great and related joke, bring it, but don’t force the funny.    Read More →

How to Succeed on Panels and Q&As: Make Yourself a “Point” Guard

I give an annual presentation for members of a religious group about how to ensure that their faith is presented fairly in the media and in the rest of society. What they most want to know is what to do during panel discussions, TV interviews, and other unscripted scenarios in which participants aren’t in control and are sometimes taking unfriendly fire. Here’s what I tell them….    Read More →

An All-in-One Public Speaking Tip: Pump Up the Volume

This Wednesday, November 30, the top public speaking coach and presentation expert Joel Schwartzberg will teach a Hired Guns Academy class on how to add strength to your professional talks, appearances, and job interviews. Below, he gives a quick tip to ensure that your messages come through loud and clear.

Many public speakers present too softly, but I’ve rarely met one who’s too loud. Even when I implore students to speak “too loudly,” almost all of them end up speaking with perfect or near-perfect volume.

Now that we know there’s little risk of being too loud, consider what increased volume will do for you as a speaker: it prevents you from speaking too quickly, from mumbling, and from meandering off point. It gives you time to think and create thoughts. It grabs audience attention and holds it. And it increases the likelihood you’ll end your sentences with periods instead of question marks — a strong indication of a confident speaker. If you’re on a microphone, make sure it’s adjusted to your “loud” public speaking level, not your “soft” talking level.

All this, from one little tip of turning up the volume — why not give it a try? A lot of voice goes a long way.

More presentation advice from Joel:


How to Survive a “Perry” Bad Public Speaking Misstep

OopsRick Perry’s debate “oops” on Wednesday night deserves sympathy, even if you’re no fan of his politics. Who hasn’t lost a thought before? And the painful truth is that the more pressure you put on yourself to remember a forgotten point, the less likely it will be to come. Anxiety is a mortal enemy to thinking calmly, or even coherently. By the time Perry relaxed and remembered “Department of Energy,” the damage was done.

This wouldn’t have happened had Perry been allowed to use notes. Where’s Sarah Palin’s palm when you need it? If you know you have trouble remembering a key phrase or point, write it down. The purpose of notes is to help you remember your key points, nothing more.

But the biggest “oops” actually has nothing to do with Perry’s memory; it has to do with how he handled — or in this case, mishandled — the embarrassing moment. Instead of distancing himself from his mental hiccup immediately, he allowed it to linger for nearly a minute. If that seemed like a long time to you, imagine how it felt to him!    Read More →

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