Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

What’s the first thing to work on if you want to improve your public speaking?

Short answer

It depends on what your current strengths and weaknesses are.

Long answer

If starting from scratch most people focus on things that relate to their delivery such as managing nerves, voice, gestures and other body language. Indeed, much of the public speaking and presentation training out there is focused on performance technique.

The problems with a technique-only approach are:

  • Most people don’t have the skills to properly apply the techniques
  • It ignores the substance of the message

When people ask me to evaluate their speech, they are often surprised if I start with how they can improve their content instead of their delivery.

Here’s why sometimes that’s where you need to start…

If there is a problem with WHAT you are saying, you have huge problems before you even get started. 

The most common problems with content are:

  • Trying to cram too much information into the time allowed
  • Too much ‘cold’ information such as facts and figures, not balanced out with ‘warm’ content such as stories and examples to illustrate points
  • Lack of structure
  • No organised material – trying to ‘wing it’ and either rambling aimlessly or getting completely lost for words
  • The presenter actually has little knowledge of what they are speaking about
  • There are large gaping holes in the presenter’s argument

When the wheels fall off a presentation, it’s more often than not because the speaker has not connected with the content themselves, they haven’t considered their content from an audience point of view, or they straight up have no authority on the topic.

If you know what you are talking about and you have solid well-planned content, that in itself will give you more confidence when it comes to your delivery.

So, what about delivery?

Content and delivery are both important. However, so is the way you prioritise them…

If you are a paid professional speaker there is an expectation that you will deliver a polished performance. For everyone else, audiences will forgive a lot of flaws as long as you are giving them good information they can understand and relate to (content first got it?).

However if the flaws in delivery become a distraction from the message, then you have a problem.

The most common issues with delivery are:

  • Lacking enthusiasm – if you’re not interested in what you’re saying why would anyone else be?
  • Overly animated – trying too hard
  • Trying to imitate other speakers they have seen rather than being themselves
  • Speaking too fast
  • Speaking too loudly or too quietly
  • Excessive use of fillers – ums and ahs
  • The presenter talks to their PowerPoint slides instead of to the audience

Once we’ve dealt with those issues, we can then start looking at a range of basic tips that are within the abilities of the average person to help enhance your delivery and add impact to your well-structured message. These might include:

  • Using pauses for effect
  • Purposeful gestures
  • Varying the rate of speech and volume of your voice
  • Eye contact
  • Using visual aids, such as slides, for a purpose

These are simple things that can be very effective and that most people can master with a little practise – without being concerned with taking on a lot of performance techniques and trying to be someone they’re not.

So when it comes to effective public speaking, content and delivery are both important. However, so is the way you prioritise them…

Figure out what to say first, then concentrate on how best to say it as the best possible version of yourself – not like a bad actor trying to be someone else.

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Five Reasons Introverts Can Be Great Communicators & Leaders

Five Reasons Introverts Can Be Great Communicators & Leaders

Five Reasons Introverts Can Be Great Communicators & Leaders

Introverts aren’t always the shy quiet type or the shrinking violet. In fact introversion and shyness are different things that many people mistakenly think are the same.

Introverts are often quite confident but just need time and space to be at their best. Here are some traits that can put them well ahead of their extroverted counterparts.

1. A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. – Plato

Introverts are more likely to think before they speak. In a world full of meaningless chatter, well thought out and reasoned words can have a huge impact.

2. Hold the small talk thanks

Sometimes mistaken for aloofness or arrogance, many introverts just don’t go in for superficial chit-chat much preferring meaningful conversations. They will often ask great questions and be more likely to genuinely listen to the answers.

3. Playing It Cool

In a heated situation or a crisis, an introvert will often provide a much needed level head and calm confidence.

4. Preparation is the key

Introverts are less likely to wing their way through a meeting or presentation, preparing much more thoroughly beforehand.

5. Down time

When introverts honour their natural need for time alone, this time is often when they produce their best work. A little time-out provides clarity of thought and enhances creativity.

 

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How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

So three public speakers walk into a bar right…

In my opinion the bravest speakers of all are stand-up comedians. They go out on stage usually armed with nothing but a microphone and their wit. No music. No props. No second chances. They are expected to be funny and if they aren’t, the audience is quick to let them know.

For the rest of us, while some humour can help make our speeches and presentations more entertaining and engaging, it’s not expected.

Hang on a minute! But we’ve all heard that humour is the best way to win over an audience, right?

A few months ago I was at a conference and the organisers had flown one of the speakers in from Canada for the occasion. During the first part of his presentation he made a joke about jet lag and coffee which under most circumstances would be a throw away line that would elicit a smile and a nod from most people.

However he made two mistakes with it.

Firstly he built the joke up to be a lot funnier than it actually was. Secondly, he broadcast his punchline as a bullet point on a PowerPoint slide for about five minutes before he actually delivered it (HINT: the unexpected element is kind of important when it comes to humour).

When he finally got to the punchline, it was clear from his own actions that he was expecting a significant reaction from the audience. What he got was silence and it was obvious for the next ten minutes or so that he was completely rattled and you could feel the audience was uncomfortable as a result of watching him climb from the wreckage.

Yes, humour can help, but there’s always the risk that your audience won’t appreciate the joke. If you are already nervous, that’s not exactly going to make things easier.

Play To Your Strengths Rather Than Trying Too Hard

We all have certain strengths and weaknesses when it comes to humour. The first step is knowing what they are rather than trying too hard to be funny.

For example, I rarely ever tell pre-prepared jokes because I’m simply not a joke teller – I’ve figured that out the hard way having crashed and burned a couple of times myself. On the other hand I am fortunate that I can often see a situation and make a wry observation, deliver a mildly amusing one-liner, or recount a short anecdote that I’m reminded of.

So rather than try to stage something, I stay alert and look for those opportunities to do something ‘off-the-cuff’ because that suits my style.

What if I can’t do ‘off-the-cuff’ humour? Shouldn’t I still have some jokes up my sleeve?

I’m sure at some point most of us would have been to a wedding where ‘Uncle Bob’ has been appointed as MC and he has taken the opportunity to unleash his full repertoire of tired mother-in-law jokes that have left guests squirming in their seats.

In reality, simply being positive and enthusiastic is often all you need to do. A good mood is infectious and will soon spread throughout the room.

Apart from that, you can always tell an interesting story or express something heartfelt. These things are appreciated by people just as much as humour and are usually far less risky.

If doing a business presentation, making sure your content is actually interesting and relevant should be your first concern before you even start thinking about what jokes you’ll use.

The best advice I can offer is to know yourself and know your audience. If anything you are thinking of doing feels like it might be uncomfortable for either, leave it out.      

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Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
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How I Learnt My Most Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

How I Learnt My Most Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

How I Learnt My Most Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

During my years as a member of Toastmasters International I reached a point where I needed a new challenge. That challenge became the International Speech Competition which involves making a seven-minute inspirational speech and proceeds through six stages with the final being the World Championship of Public Speaking.

My plan (ie. fantasy) was much the same as many of the 30 000 or so people who enter each year – become World Champion and find fame and fortune as a professional speaker. I didn’t become World Champion but what I learned in the process of trying has been invaluable.

Here are a few of those lessons – the big one is at the end:

1. I didn’t know what real fear of public speaking was before

Part of the reason many people have a fear of public speaking is they are aware that to some extent they are being judged by the audience. However for the most part audiences are looking for good points, not things to critique.

In a competition, there is no denying the confronting reality that the reason for you being there is to be judged on your performance. Not only by the official judges, but by everyone in the room.

The gut wrenching fear I felt at times was sickening but the feeling of achievement and confidence that came from getting through it was even more powerful and was one of the best personal growth experiences I could have had.

Want to conquer a fear of something? The only real way is to do that thing that you fear.

2. Make what you say count

When you have half an hour to do a presentation or speech you can include a substantial amount of content – often way more than is needed. Trying to convey an inspirational message in just seven minutes means you have to learn to cull everything but the most relevant material and make that limited material have the most impact possible.

3. Stories rule.

The best way to do the above is with a great story.

4. You can rehearse too much

I am a firm believer in practising before a big speech or presentation. However there were times before competitions when I rehearsed so much that I had every word memorised and every single gesture and movement choreographed.

This actually raises one of the conflicts I have with what is advocated by some people in Toastmasters. Being ‘staged’ to this level was at times a very successful strategy for meeting the judging criteria in competitions as well as getting good evaluations for speeches in regular club meetings. However sometimes it comes across more like really bad acting than speaking. Be careful with this – acting and speaking are different things.

5. Most Importantly – What it really takes to be a ‘winner’ with your audience

In my most successful shot at the competition, I reached the stage where I was one win away from heading off to the USA to compete in the semi-finals.

That day I came up against the gentleman who would later go on to become the World Champion of Public Speaking that year. It was a day that I got ‘schooled’ big time in the art of competitive speaking. His speech was well written, brilliantly delivered, thoroughly entertaining, and deserving of sending him on to the next stage.

Myself, having invested very heavily emotionally in the experience, all I wanted to do in the break afterwards was retreat to some privacy and have some time for personal reflection. However, I couldn’t because of a constant flow of people coming up to tell me that even though I didn’t win, they enjoyed my speech the most out of the six contenders.

The message of my speech that day was not to let the things that keep us busy crowd out the most important things in our lives. I told a story about how I had been doing exactly that and as a result, I was missing out on my young daughter’s childhood. It resonated with a lot of people in the audience and a couple of them actually had tears in their eyes afterward when they thanked me for telling the story.

It wasn’t until I was tackling the 8-hour drive home the next day and got to thinking about what some of these people had said, that I fully appreciated the real lesson I had learned from the experience…

Fulfilling the judging criteria for a competition is one thing, but it’s how you make people feel that ultimately determines your value as a speaker.

Even well over a year later, people who were in the audience that day were stilling telling me how that speech had impacted them.

One day I will return to Toastmasters as I have unfinished business with that competition. But in the meantime, I know that saying something that matters is way more important than a perfectly polished performance.

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Contact David Wise

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Five Reasons Introverts Can Be Great Communicators & Leaders

Beware The Danger Of Comparing Your Life To Others

Beware The Danger Of Comparing Your Life To Others

“One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

– Steven Furtick  

Like a lot of you, when I look at some other people’s lives they really seem to have it together and have everything going for them and, even if just for a fleeting moment, I often feel inadequate in comparison.

But then occasionally you get a glimpse below the surface and realise that  not everything is as perfect as it seems. They are just like us or perhaps even more inadequate, insecure, or incapable.

In a personal sense, they probably struggle with the same issues we do with their relationships and families. In a business sense, people have a tendency to only share their successes and achievements because they perceive that revealing their weaknesses will reduce their credibility.

So when you’re feeling that way and starting to doubt yourself, remember that you are probably just seeing the best bits of other people’s lives. Their daily grind is most likely just the same as, or even harder, than yours.

 
 

Connect on Social Media 

@davidwisewords

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
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