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Tag Archives: Fashion and Public Speaking

Unplug Before You Present!

I attended a keynote presentation last week at an international conference of 3,000 or so executives. I arrived at the ballroom early to get a good seat for the kickoff event because I wanted to gather a lot of new ideas from the keynote speaker who was a nationally known expert in his field. I was the ideal audience member: my interest and expectations were high, I had pen and paper in hand, and a look of anticipation on my face.

Imagine my disappointment when ten minutes into an awkward introduction, the speaker’s Skype alert pops onto the screen. In case you don’t have a Skype alert, see the image above, except that there is no blackout of the person’s name.

Anyway! When this otherwise small and inconspicuous alert pops up on your desktop back at the office, it’s a helpful tool at best, and at worst, it’s a minor distraction. But when the message is magnified on a 20×30-foot I-Max screen, it’s a huge distraction. The speaker didn’t notice it because to his credit, his attention was focused on the audience.

Luckily, there was nothing too personal or potentially damaging during the 1-hour presentation, but it was very distracting. I kept hoping someone really famous would go online, like Hillary Clinton or Chris Rock. I could hear several audience members commenting on how unfortunate it was that the speaker forgot to turn off his alerts and how clueless he seemed to be about the whole thing. Those murmurs turned to laughter at each consecutive pop-up. Needless to say, it was harder to stay focused on the content of the presentation because we all just had to read every alert. After all, inquiring minds want to know.

Before your next big presentation, turn off all your alerts, sounds, beeps, and any other potentially damaging or distracting information. And speaking from experience, this goes for your desktop wallpaper. Need I say more?

– Barbara

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The Importance of Silence

While it may sound like an oxymoron, silence is a speaker’s best friend. The well-placed pause, the active listening to a question from the audience, the five-second wait after you’ve posed a question – all gifts that a talented speaker takes full advantage of.

Today I want to talk about the importance of silence right before you begin your presentation or speech. And again, I speak from experience. Last Sunday, I was the emcee of a local fundraiser that attracted several “centers of influence” in my world. We were running late and a handful of final tasks needed to be completed before I could welcome the group and kick off the event. My notes were in my bag which was two rooms away. First mistake. Suddenly, my colleagues were giving me the nod to get going, so I jumped up and launched into my opening remarks. It went well. Everyone could hear me; I had the right amount of energy in my voice without sounding cheerleader-ish; and I put people at ease with my humor. All systems go, right?

Not so much. In my haste, I overlooked an important element. I forgot to thank the event host. If only I had stepped away for a moment to gather my thoughts and to breathe. I know I would have gone through my mental checklist even if I had no time to grab my note card from the other room. Some things you only have to learn once and you never forget. Others rear their ugly head again and again. This is my blind spot as a speaker. I’m one part over-confident and one part distracted right before I speak. I count on my impromptu speaking skills to carry me to the finish line. But it’s not enough.

The next time you are to play a critical role like emcee, or you are speaking to your own centers of influence, take a moment to settle down, to breathe, and to conduct a mental tech rehearsal.

To your evolution as a powerful presenter,

– Barbara

Words Matter

I was leafing through a book focusing on the link between deep breathing and overall health when I came upon a section featuring a Swami who had been practicing yoga and meditation for decades.  He was offering advice on how to sit in meditation to become aware of one’s breath. Here’s the actual sentence:  “Place the left heel at the perineum and the right heel at the pubic bone above the organ of generation.”  Organ of generation?  I’m guessing the writer was looking for a way to avoid potentially vulgar terms, so I’ll give the him a pass. The problem is, speakers do this all the time and rarely does it improve delivery. In fact, it usually fails.

I mentioned this to one of my clients who had run for political office and made stump speeches every day for several months.  He said that many politicians have this problem because they’re afraid to say anything that might offend and therefore dance around topics by using obscure or vague words. 

Don’t let that happen to you.  At SpeakEasy Partners, we help our clients with word choice.  For example,  once they have written out the speech, we suggest that they hand it to a trusted colleague and ask him or her to sift through it for jargon or places where a $1.50 word is used when a 25-cent version would do.  In other words, eliminate your use of splendiferous terminology. 

Mark Twain advised writers to “use the right word, not its second cousin.”  The same advice applies to speakers.  Your words represent who you are.  Do you want to sound pompous or powerful?  Eccentric or eloquent?  The place to start is with word choice.

– Barbara Roche

I am NOT a fashion mogul

I am an irrational dresser. In fact, I am sure that I join the ranks of millions who only wear the really nice clothes we own for special occasions. And by really nice I mean the ones that either cost a lot or that originally cost a lot and I got on sale (which would be 100% of my “nice” wardrobe.)  I don’t really think “out-of-the-box” either. No mixing high fashion (I spent more) with low fashion (I spent less) or wearing something really nice to a casual event. Never. I am not the daughter of a Depression-era farm boy for nothing! But, there is an important connection between public speaking and the clothes we wear.

 The beauty of a healthy attitude that emanates from looking our best is that it actually helps us to STOP THINKING about ourselves.  I feel good, I look good…. I can really focus on the people I am talking to.  That is our central message to our clients. Be prepared. Know what you want to say. Get out of your own way and think about THEM.

 Effective speakers prepare on many levels. One is dressing to feel strong, comfortable and self-confident. This is NOT about ridiculous standards of beauty, or fashion obsession, or the insane culture of narcissism we are living in.  I hate all of that.  It’s about understanding the power that comes from being our best, taking the time and energy to prepare for that and then focusing on what really matters between people.

I may have inspired myself to clean out my closet. Happy Holidays!

Charlotte Dietz