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.

Contact David Wise

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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.

 

Contact David Wise

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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.      

Contact David Wise

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The Art of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

The Art of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

The Art of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

“You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble, and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether or not you are a connoisseur of wine. For if you have no feelings about wine one way or the other, you will want the sensation of drinking the stuff out of a vessel that may have cost thousands of pounds; but if you are a member of that vanishing tribe, the amateurs of fine vintages, you will choose the crystal, because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than to hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain.”

Back in 1932 a lady named Beatrice Warde used that metaphor in a speech to the British Typographers Guild. The speech itself debated whether design should embellish or elaborate the printed word. Over 80 years later the same metaphor can still be applied to modern forms of business communication.

These days the ’embellishments’ that business communicators use range from a tidal wave of information to overt creativity. Some modern day embellishments include:

  • Information overload designed to give the impression of knowledge.
  • The website (or other advertising) that tries too hard to be creative and ends up drowning out the message.
  • Social media gimmicks that serve no purpose other than to falsely inflate statistics.
  • Unnecessarily complicated language and buzzwords used in attempt to appear intelligent.

All of these things generally fail. Why? Because people are looking for genuine connection. They want to know what you think, what you know that affects them, and how you feel about the subject at hand – and they want it in a way they can understand.

Be more like the ‘glass goblet’ that reveals what’s inside and less like the bright shiny object that lacks real substance.

 

Contact David Wise

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Speaking and Acting Are Not The Same Thing

Speaking and Acting Are Not The Same Thing

Speaking and Acting Are Not The Same Thing

There is a line that separates speaking and acting and it is very clear. A speaker steps over that line the moment they stop talking to the audience and instead invite the audience to watch the scene being created on stage.

There is a term in acting called “dropping the fourth wall“.  Most stages have  three walls – the back wall and the two side walls. The fourth wall is the invisible wall at the front between the audience and the actors. The actors don’t acknowledge the presence of the audience during their performance. They invite the audience to watch the scene they create, but do not speak to or include them.

In speaking you share dialogue, movements, expressions and emotions with the audience. You always acknowledge and talk to the audience. Good speaking, in my opinion, is much more conversational and while you may be more animated and structured than you would be sitting down over coffee with someone, you are still projecting your own personality.

In business, a lot of people have a pre-conceived idea of how they should look, sound, and act when doing a presentation and so they try to imitate that instead of simply being themselves. In the process they a do a poor impression of whatever it is they are trying to be. 

In speaking the audience needs to relate to you, not some character that you are pretending to be. Certainly there are techniques we can teach you to help you be a more confident and articulate version of yourself, but when it comes to acting, it’s best to leave it to the Cate Blanchetts of the world.

 

Contact David Wise

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