Posts Tagged public speaking
With the elections coming up, there’s a lot of focus on the speaking styles of the presidential candidates. Earlier in the year, I analyzed the President’s State of the Union Speech from a presentation perspective.
(Need a reminder? Check out the speech on YouTube.)
No matter your political persuasion, the State of the Union address was a study in great public speaking. Not only did the president have a commanding presence. He captivated as he delivered his vision for America with a sense of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement. In fact, when asked to rate his speech, I gave it a 90 out of 100
Below, I’ve listed some attributes of his State of the Union speech, from which we can all learn. But what about that remaining 10 points out of a perfect score of 100? Not even the president is perfect, so I’ve also listed a couple of cons. See below for my pro and con observations.
President Obama acknowledged all sides of the room, alternately facing center and then to one or the other side of the room.
His voice was expressive, as he used a palette of tone, color, dynamics (loud and soft), and rhythm in his delivery.
He paused after sentences so the audience could digest what he had to say.
He conveyed a sense of urgency, not only in his remarks, but in his voice, and stressed important words.
He sounded confident, decisive and authoritative.
The Speech itself
The president used easy-to-understand language that resonates with most people.
He backed up and illustrated his points with specific examples and anecdotal examples of real people benefitting from government programs.
Obama used catchy phrases, such as “We need to turn government from an unemployment system to re-employment system.
- The speech employed active verbs, talking about specific actions the president is taking
- The presentation itself was well crafted, and segued smoothly from one subject to the next
- Too long
- Dwelt too long in a couple of places
- Slightly repetitive
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I recently attended a master class for young opera singers with famed singer Martina Arroyo, at Hunter College in New York City. Ms. Arroyo constantly stressed the importance of knowing who the character is, the motive behind actions, where the action takes place, and more. She also focused on the importance of being prepared and immersed in the moment before you get up on stage.
What does this have to do with public speaking? Just like a good performer, a public speaker needs to have stage presence. Know the context of your presentation. Think about your words, what you want to convey, and how you want to move your audience. Have a sense of yourself, who you are and why you’re up on that stage, whether it’s an interview, a panel or PowerPoint presentation, or a speech to a large or small audience.
Our “Techniques for Effective Public Speaking” can help you translate the qualities of a great performer into a great presentation of your own. For more information contact us or visit www.publicspeaking4u.com.
Commentators and TV hosts with good voices and delivery: Among women, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, Cynthia McFadden, Rachel Maddow, Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks, Sue Simmons in New York. Men: Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Larry King.
What do they have in common? Soothing, pleasant voices, a sense of authority, and good delivery. They pronounce well, exude an air of relaxed confidence, credibility and experience. Their voices are pitched at a level that is easy to listen to, they make their listeners feel comfortable, and their pace of delivery makes it easy for the audience to understand what they’re saying.
Contrast these examples of excellent delivery with the shrill and whiney broadcasters we hear on some of the Cable, sports and financial TV channels. High-pitched nasal voices with “rapid fire” deliveries who talk so fast they actually swallow their words, and make it hard for listeners to follow them. I won’t name the stations, but if you channel surf, you’ll easily spot them.
Tell us who you think is the best and worst broadcaster. Take our quick survey.
Watching President Obama get grilled at a town hall meeting recently reminded me about audiences and the desire each of us has to be liked. Just as with the president or any public figure for that matter, we all want our audiences to like us.
The problem is that listening is subjective. Each person in your audience brings with them their own background and perspective. and in so doing, sees and hears with their own eyes and ears . And for this reason, it’s hard to please everyone all of the time.
People can be quirky. Perhaps someone doesn’t like the way your hair looks, or the way you’re dressed, or even your style. Or one person hears something you say and another interprets it in another way.
Be confident in your content and your delivery, do the best job you can. Then know that most everyone in your audience will respond positively. And for those who don’t, it could be more about them than about you.
For more insights into speaking and communicating effectively, visit www.publicspeaking4u.com.
At a recent performance of “A Little Night Music” on Broadway, one of the leads, Catherine Zeta-Jones, had to cancel due to a bad throat. I found that interesting, as I’ve worked with actors and noticed – especially nowadays with Broadway performers being amplified – that many actors don’t support their voices. Consequently, they may develop laryngitis or a raw throat and have to cancel a performance.
I often emphasize the importance of correct breathing as a key to vocal stamina and to help protect your voice and throat. Here are other hints that will help before a presentation.
- Make sure you have plenty of rest. Speaking, like acting, singing or dancing, is physical, and you need energy to support your voice.
- Keep your throat moist and “well oiled,” especially in air-conditioned rooms and in dry, winter air. Avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of water. Hard, sucking candies are also good.
- Be sure you are breathing from your diaphragm or belly, thus supporting your voice.
- At all costs, avoid yelling, which is very hard on your vocal cords.
As a public speaker, it’s important to know that you too will make mistakes,. Don’t focus on them. Just dust yourself off, and go on. Who knows how many heights you may conquer if you persevere!
To avoid being “caught by the mic,” arrive early and try to check microphone levels before the audience arrives. Then, try out the mic. Is the mic adjustable? Can you change the height and angle? If so, you’re in luck. If not, don’t worry. You will just have to compensate a bit.
- If the mic doesn’t adjust and you’re too tall, don’t stoop down to it. Try lowering you chin slightly as if speaking into the mic.
- If you’re short and the mic is too high, ask for a small platform that you can stand on. If one isn’t available, just stand as tall as you comfortably can, lift your chin, and speak up to the mic.
- Try out words with letters that “pop,” such as p, t and d. If the mic distorts, and sound levels can’t be adjusted, try standing slightly away from the mic.
- If you can’t be heard well, concentrate on talking to the back of the room to help you project better.
Whether you’re short, tall, a loud or soft speaker, always pronounce your words clearly and support your voice. Our “Techniques for Effective Public Speaking” teaches you how to project and support your voice so that you always sound your best.
Current town hall meetings on health reform have become hornet’s nests for politicians. For public speakers, they illustrate the opportunities and pitfalls of handling Question & Answer sessions. If your content is controversial, you may want to think about how to handle the Q & A format in advance.
Here are my rankings of safest and most dangerous approaches for the speaker.
• Take questions directly from audience – most dangerous
• Give questioners numbers and call each by number – middle ground
• Have audience submit questions in writing in advance and read questions — safest
The Hand Thing
Hands pose a dilemma for many public speakers. What do you do with those hanging appendages? Flail them wildly, use grandiose gestures?
Well, save those grandiose gestures for an opera stage. Less is more when it comes to using hands for effective public speaking. In fact, too much use of hand gestures can create distraction for your audience.
Gestures that portray nervousness or insecurity:
Women –brushing hair out of their face
Men – hands in pockets
Common to both sexes:
• clasping hands in back of you
• Grasping or holding podium for dear life
• Rocking back and forth.
Gestures can add meaning and emphasis to a word or phrase. But, to be most effective, keep gestures simple, minimal, and meaningful.
Stay tuned for our posts and tweets on body parts and how they affect public speaking.
Up next: more on hair.
For more information, visit http://www.publicspeaking4u.com