Speaking in public – some notes

A few months ago, as part of the job I was doing then, I attended a lunch about the practices behind corporate coaching, i.e. training CEOs and the like of big companies how to talk in public.

Co-incidentally I was talking with a friend in Madrid later that day, and she had been accepted to talk at her local TEDx event. The talk I attended drew many parallels between TED talks and the needs of a corporate presentation.

Below is a summary of some of the notes that I took at the talk and then sent to my friend.

It is important to get the opening right. The entire audience will only give you 100% of their attention for the first twenty seconds. you need to be impressive in those twenty seconds. Leave the housekeeping, like who you are etc for later in the talk.

There are six ways to start a good talk.

  • Set a Challenge
  • Ask a Question
  • Tell a Story
  • Surprise Them
  • Share a problem
  • Show empathy

The following TED talks demonstrates each of these points in their first 20 seconds.

Set a Challenge – How to make hard choices

Ask a Question – How giant websites design for you and a billion others too

Tell a Story – The state of the climate and what we might do about it

Surprise Them – What animal madness means for us humans

Share a problem – Why we have too few women leaders

Show empathy – How to live before you die

The other key point is the End. We remember the last think you say best.

Talks are best illustrated by stories. Facts are boring, stories engage. An example of this is adverts for charities. Which engages more? The one with the fact of how many people are starving or one telling the story of one starving child name Sarah.

Stores have three parts.

  • Start – with the proposition
  • Middle – the stories is expanded, often rising and falling
  • End – summing up of the moral – often more than once.

Use the Intent, Message, Evidence, Audience method to write your story.

Intent – Why? Why are you telling the story?

Message – The idea the audience must know when they leave the room. This idea should be able to be summed up in a tweet, i.e. 140 characters.

Evidence – bring you point to life. Fact inform, stories will be remembered. Remember Facts, Observations, Anecdotes, Metaphors. The further along these four, the more engaging the device.

Audience – Ask “so what?” Think about the audience as an intelligent 16 year old.

Other points include:

  • Use your voice to add meaning.
  • Slowing down acts like a verbal highlighter.
  • Silence signals something important is coming.
  • Presentation speech rate should be around a third slower than conversational speech (around 140 words per minute). This comes from breaking information up and using short sentences.
  • Varying pitch is conversational style and more interesting to listen to.
  • Your body language is important too.

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