Well, I admit it. I had no idea it had been so long since my last post. I kept thinking I had posted that Power Point note "just last month" and I could get to another post soon.
Speech preparation is like that too. Most people I speak to, when I teach public speaking, are looking for the easy button (as we all wish we could find in many areas of our lives).
"How do I get better?" I am asked? "Prepare early and Practice" I answer.
And then I get "the look."
You know, the one that says, "are you kidding me? When do I have time for that? I'm way too busy to add that to my schedule, between the kids, the laundry, the soccer games, working 10 - 12 hour days, mandatory learning lunches at the office, volunteering, walking the dog, and having absolutely no life for myself, when and how on earth am I supposed to prepare early and practice?"
I get it.
How can I not - it's been six months since my last blog post. That's practically criminal. I don't even have kids and I'm too busy to do this. And this is significantly easier than creating and practicing a new presentation.
But, unfortunately, that doesn't change my answer. Public speaking is a skill and like any other skill you have to:
1) Learn the rules, techniques and tricks to do it right and do it better; and,
2) Practice, do it some more, and then practice some more.
No one is an instant brilliant speaker. No one is an instant brilliant golfer or cook or writer or chess player. I'm sure I wasn't all that great a speaker many years ago when I started out. But over time I refined and practiced, became more comfortable, studied the skill more (yes even via the graduate school route) and I practiced till I was blue in the face.
Just this week I did a Webinar on using PowerPoint more effectively so you don't anesthetize your audience. Yes, my motto is "don't use it," but since most people ignore that advice I also teach how to use it properly.
I've given that particular presentation three or four times in the past year or so. Still, I re-worked my outline the day before, re-ordered some of the example slides, and practiced it once the morning before giving it.
Time flies. All the time flies away before we can do all the things we want to do.
That means we have to make choices. Do I take lunch with my partner or do I stay in my office and work on next week's presentation? Do I leave at a normal hour (whatever that is) or do I take an extra hour to re-work my speech outline days before the presentation so I'm not stressed the day of? Do I go out for that glass of wine that I really really need, or do I work on finding the right attention getting device to start off my speech?
Do I work out at the gym, or work in on my speech?
It really all depends on how well you want to do when you give the speech. The better you want to do, the more your choices need to favor preparing in advance and practicing.
Because if you don't make those choices, time will fly by and there you will be at midnight before your presentation kicking yourself in the butt for waiting until the last minute. And there you will be after your presentation telling yourself how much better you could have been, if you'd only been better prepared and had practiced.
As I talk about all the time, there are a variety of areas you need to focus on when presenting. This four-part series addresses several of them:
I will be giving two Public Speaking for Attorneys presentations at the ABA Annual convention this week. Stop by to say hi if you're there!
Here they are:
Friday 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Speaking for Section of Intellectual Property Law. It will be in the Vevey Ballroom of the Event Centre at the Swissotel – 323 East Wacker
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. - 10: a.m. for ABA's CLE Center. Location: Presidential CLE Center – Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus Hall CD, Gold Level, East Tower
I've probably addressed this before, but it bears saying again. And again. And again.
If you want to start off on the right foot with your audience and control that first impression before you ever speak, introduce yourself. Instead of staying in the back of the room, or hovering by the podium or panel table reviewing your notes: Introduce Yourself!
Walk into the room and just go up to the first person you see in the audience and say,
Hi, I'm so-and-so and I'm your speaker today.
Don't be surprised if they give you a wide smile and introduce themselves right back. Then ask them a bit about themselves, and why they are there or other questions that will give you insight into what it is they want to get out of your presentation.
Then move on and reach out to more attendees. Try to reach as many as you can up until right before you speak.
What does this do for you?
First, it gives you more information about your audience, so you can tweak your presentation at the last minute, as needed, to better meet their needs.
Second, it helps break the ice with your audience. It helps break down the speaker/audience barrier and make you seem more human and more approachable.
Why does this matter? Because the more familiar you are to them, the more responsive your audience is going to be to you.
And for those of you that have a fear of public speaking, this is an excellent way to reduce your nerves. You will be busy meeting nice people and learning a little about them instead of standing behind a podium nervously waiting to speak with a tape in your head telling you how afraid you are.
Of course the corollary rule to this is: Thou Shalt Show up 20 - 30 minutes before you speak
Last week I had the misfortune of attending a "lecture" on the Eichmann Trial, in Palm Desert.
I don't remember who put it on and I'm not going to mention the speakers by name because I don't want to embarrass them. At least two were sweet older gentlemen and a third was an academic from Loyola Marymount (who seriously needs speaker training).
I will say, however, that I walked out of the lecture mid-way, after the third speaker. Can't remember ever doing that.
Now why would I do that? Because the speakers weren't speaking, they were ranting. And even worse, they were ranting to the wrong audience. The audience of probably 100+ attendees was made up of 50 - 80 year old Jews. This is an audience who already knows the damage of the holocaust and the evilness of those who perpetrated it. Some of them were probably survivors and lots of them have family who didn't survive.
This was supposed to be a lecture and discussion about the Eichmann Trial itself.
Instead what we got was as follows (at least until I walked out):
They started the program without telling us what was going to occur and instead just played video clips from you tube. OK, I'll play along for a minute or two, but unfortunately they didn't bother to download any videos to their computer, nor did they bother to download the links directly to their desktop.
So we got to watch them go into their email for video clip link after video clip link. Yep, we got to see their email list, and each email that they went into to get the clip. Oh, and there was the nifty "so and so is now online" Skype pop up that entertained us every few minutes as well.
Unfortunately they tortured us with this silliness for about 15 minutes, the last 8 - 10 of which was just streaming download pauses and 10 seconds of video then another streaming download pause.
The only thing more irritating than sitting at a speech/lecture and watching a video try to download is watching Oscar speeches.
Bad enough.... but then...
Speaker #1/MC: basically just told a story of his father's escape from Germany. I'm guessing more than half the audience had heard similar stories from their own parents while growing up. What was the point?
Speaker #2: basically paced back and forth telling us how evil Eichmann was and how Hannah Arendt's "the Banality of Evil" was completely baseless. OK... tell this audience something they don't know already. And stop pacing, it's distracting.
Speaker #3: this lovely older gentleman was the worst, simply because all he did was rant about what a horrible person FDR was and how he was totally complicit in the Holocaust. Still not sure what he was trying to do either.
I walked out after Speaker #3.
What are the lessons?
I love Vital Speeches of the Day, one of the few blogs I read on a semi-regular basis.
I just came across this very short post "How long should you practice your speech" and I recommend it for everyone. I get this question at every public speaking training program I teach, i.e. a lot.
And every time I answer the question, I usually get blank stares or looks of disbelief. It's hard convincing very busy people to add more work to their schedules.
But there really is no "easy" button when it comes to giving a good speech (much less an excellent one).
So read the post so you know I'm not the only person out there telling you to practice your speech - a lot - if you want to do it well.
Ric Franzi's interivew of me, on Critical Mass Radio Show, is now available. We discussed why and how I create my Continuing Legal Education business (which includes public speaking training), challenges along the way, plans for the future and a few regrets/mistakes I made that I recommend others watch out for.
I also give a few top tips for improving your public speaking.
Ric Franzi is a great Peer Group Leader/business growth consultant with Critical Mass for Business, located in Orange county. I met him in a peer group I joined a few years back that helped me get through the recession. I highly recommend peer groups for business owners. Very helpful and also a great reality check. It's good to meet monthly with people who have similar challenges, even if they aren't in the same industry.
(Ric is on the left in the photo below).
John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, recently gave his State of the State Address to an elementary school on February 7th this year. Those poor kids. They will probably be confused for life. They certainly won't be inspired to lead or speak in public.
This edited version, highlighting the most idiotic things Governor Kasich said, is pretty funny. The speech lasted 80 minutes or so. Again, those poor kids.
I'm sure somewhere in the jumbled 80 minutes he might have said something of substance, this is admittedly an edited version just capturing the choice phrases, but seriously?
As Vital Speechs of the Day points out... this is the hazard of impromptu speaking.
Nobody needs to sound this stupid.
Or look this stupid.
Someone really needs to tell this guy how to dress when speaking in public. That shirt, tie and suit combo is atrocious, sloppy and the colors clash. There is more to dressing than wearing a red tie.