Archives: Public Speaking

I like Blackwings…

I like Blackwing pencils. They write very smoothly. They can’t roll off a table. The pencils have their own slogan, “Half the pressure, twice the speed.” You can even replace the eraser. All of that is great.

The reason I really like them is the story behind the company. No, I’m not going to tell you the story. You’ll have to go here to find out about it.

Including stories in your writing and public speaking makes a big difference. Stories make things interesting and sell.

Stories make a difference…even with pencils.

Speakers: Do you want good or effective photos?

They aren’t the same. A good photo doesn’t mean that it will be effective. An effective photo doesn’t have to be good.

For a photographer, a photo is good if it is sharp, colorful, composed nicely, exposed properly, and artistic. When a speaker looks at a photo all of these qualities are secondary. Speakers want a photo to be effective by helping him or her make a point.

An effective photo helps emphasize a point. To do so it can be soft, under or over exposed, black and white, and composed appropriately.

Photographers look for art, speakers look for practicality. A bride gazing at her flowers is artistic, a bride looking straight ahead with a smile…sells.

10 Tips for Your First (or next) Presentation

It’s not easy to get up and speak in public. Here are 10 basic tips that may help:

1. Be nervous. The trick is to use your nerves in a positive way. Everybody gets nervous…even actors and politicians who speak for a living.
2. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”
3. Arrive early.
4. Speak to some people in the audience. When you get up to speak, you should think about talking to them.
5. Use props instead of notes…if possible. Looking down at notes is distracting. It is also a problem if you loose your place. Having props lined up in the order you need them will remind you of what you want to say.
6. If you need to use PowerPoint, make sure you are familiar with it and the equipment that will be used when you speak. Practice.
7. If you use PowerPoint, don’t read what is on the slide. However, you can use it to remind you of what you want to say.
8. If you forget to say something, only you will know it.
9. Do not try to memorize your speech. Trying to memorize a speech and then forgetting in in the middle can be devastanating.
10. The audience wants you to be successful. Nobody comes to listen to a speaker saying, “I hope he bombs.” If you have something worth saying, the audience will appreciate it.

Making Your First Presentation Is Like Going On Your First Date

There’s too much talk about the fear of public speaking. It’s not that bad. It can be best compared to a first date.

You get nervous. You’re afraid of what the date (audience) will think of you. You want to make a good impression. What do you do?

You try to find out about the person (or the audience). The more you know the better your date (presentation) will be.

You prepare what you want to say…especially in the first minute so you don’t appear tongue tied. Think about things you want to say…a few important things is all you need. Dates and audiences really don’t want you to fail. It makes them uncomfortable. They want you to succeed.

Dress nicely. Dates and audiences make quick judgements on your appearance. If you look bad, they assume that they are in for a long evening (presentation).

Get there on time…early if possible.

Take a deep breath.

Ring the bell…start talking.

The chances are you will forget some of the things you wanted to mention. The good part is that your date (members of the audience) don’t know what you had in mind to say. Unless you tell them, they’ll never know.

The chances are your date (presentation) will be at least fine. If you get another opportunity for a date (presentation), it will be that much easier. No kidding. Speaking is as easy as your first date.

Presenting without a laptop…

Here’s the presenter’s view of one of my presentations seen on an iPhone

You do not need your laptop to present. Don’t panic, that doesn’t mean you can’t use slides. You can use your iPhone almost as easily as you can use your laptop. You can prepare slides as you normally do, using PowerPoint or Keynote. Your iPhone can be used to send your slides to your projector. I use Keynote on my iPhone. I convert slides made from PowerPoint into Keynote. You’ll need the Keynote app on your iPhone, of course. The only tricky part is how to connect your iPhone and your screen. I use a little adaptor from Apple to connect my iPhone to a projector. There are other ways depending on the way you project. You should check in advance what the projector setup will be at the place you plant to present. Using your iPhone makes your presentation extremely portable.

All of my presentations are in my pocket…are yours?

PowerPoint can help overcome your fear of public speaking…

One way, probably the easiest way, to overcome your fear of public speaking is to use PowerPoint.

Important Note: First you must really know how to use PowerPoint and be comfortable with it.

A key element that causes fear of public speaking is that the speaker is afraid of forgetting to say something. If you use notes, you may not want to look down or forget your place. If you read your speech, the audience will probably not pay attention carefully. Here’s where PowerPoint comes in. 

You can use PowerPoint to remind you of what to say. I don’t mean reading off your slides! Your images or keywords on the screen should be enough to remind you of what you wanted to say. As you go from slide to slide all you have to do is glance up at the screen and be reminded of what you need to say.

Using PowerPoint is simple and very effective.


  1. You must be comfortable using PowerPoint.
  2. You don’t want to read from the screen.
  3. You should practice your speech enough to know what you want to say…without memorizing it. Let the slides remind you.

How many things can go wrong on one day…as a speaker?

Several years ago, when I was working for the New York City Department of Education, I was invited to do a workshop for a gathering of middle school principals. The topic was how to integrate technology into the classroom…a topic I had spoken about often. Previous audience members always rated it as an excellent presentation.

I got to the venue early and immediately went to the room I was to speak in. Although there was a breakfast spread I passed it up. The room was not set up for a PowerPoint presentation. I had to move furniture, adjust the shades, and find an outlet that worked. I took out the 50 sets of handout materials, each containing about 25 pages of information detailing the use of technology in middle school classrooms.

At the appointed time I opened the door ready to great the 50 or so principals I expected were going to attend the workshop. Seven showed up!

I smiled and started with a creative example of how technology was being integrated into classrooms in Brooklyn. Two of the people were listening to me. The others were conducting a conversation on a different technology related subject…one that they wanted to discuss. I tried to move the conversation over to what I was supposed to speak about, but they weren’t interested!

Over the course of the next half hour I offered some suggestions on how they could do what they were talking about more effectively. As an expert, I thought they would be interested in what I had to say. They hardly listened to me.

When the time was up, they left.

As I was on my way home I was both shocked and disappointed. Over time I realized that although they were rude, I was unprepared.

Here are the 5 mistakes I made (and never made again)…

  1. I didn’t contact anyone from the principals organization to see if the topic I was to speak on was of interest to the members. It wasn’t (at that time).
  2. I didn’t speak to anyone on the day of the event to get a sense of what they were interested in.
  3. I printed 50 sets of handouts that no one was interested in. It was a waste of money and it was heavy. It was also meant for teachers…not principals. For principals I should have had a one page summary with contact info if they wanted me to come to speak to their teachers.
  4. I (the techie) assumed that a PowerPoint presentation was what they expected (in 2002). It wasn’t. They wanted to brainstorm amongst themselves.
  5. The worst mistake I made was that I accepted the invitation to speak. They wanted to hear from a peer…I was a mere teacher trainer.

There’s a lot more to speaking than speaking. Plan ahead!

The Jack and Jill Speaking Method

Once you get past the fear of public speaking, the problem is even worse. How will you say what you want to say…in public? Consider my Jack and Jill Speaking Method. Let’s say Jack and Jill, two longtime friends who are home from college, meet in the local mall. Here is their conversation.

Jack: Hi Jill, great to see you. How’s it going?
Jill: Hi Jack, I may have failed math and science this semester, I’ve got to go to the dentist soon because at least one tooth is killing me, my brother just got out of jail again, his girlfriend had twins, my mother is still drinking, but at least she isn’t on drugs for now, her boyfriend is serving time, my sister, the tramp, has more boy friends than there are animals in the zoo, did I tell you about my bum leg, the one that I broke in high school, my father sent two alimony checks in the last three years, the bum, I have no idea what I am going to major in if they even let me stay in school, I’m really hungry, cya!

Although I’ve never heard anything quite that bad, I have heard some speakers who must have learned from Jill. How could we make her into a speaker worth listening to?

First, she would have to pay attention to what she was asked to speak about. Jack asked a simple question. The simple answer should have been something like, “Not so good.” Jack could have responded with, “Sorry to hear that but it’s good to see you,” and walked on. Or he could have asked for more information. If he did, Jill should have said something like, “This year has been challenging for me and my family.” She could have then spoken of her problems, her mother’s problems, her sister and brother. Or should could have limited her story to just her. Jack probably didn’t need ever detail. When he walked away he probably only remembered meeting Jill and that she and her family had problems.

Speakers need to list the points they want to make using an outline or mind map. Sift through the details and decide what is really important for their audience to hear. Weed out the extraneous details…and concisely tell their story.

Never speak like Jill. If you do your audience will think of you as you thought of Jill when you read her answer.

Sometimes, your best presentation can be your worst…

It was a very hot day.

The room was not air conditioned.

The audience was made up of very important people.

My team consisted of four speakers. Each of us was given about 20 minutes to speak. I deliberately went last. As the other speakers were speaking I was looking at the audience. Some were on the verge of failing off their chairs because they were dozing off. Some were looking at their watches. None were paying much attention to the speakers. And then it was my turn to speak.

A colleague was switching PowerPoint files when I told him to shut the projector off.

I started by telling them that I was going to summarize what I was going to say in two minutes or less and provide a handout with the details. Everyone perked up. I spoke. I stopped. I gave out the handout.

Several people told me that mine was the best presentation of the day.

Sometimes, you have to adjust your presentation to the day. Sometimes, your worst presentation (according to the speaking gods) can turn out to be your best presentation.

Shock ’em in a month…

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 12.31.43 PMWhen you make a presentation and have email addresses of those in your audience shock your audience by sending out an email, in a month, with a summary of what you told them. As Jack Friday would say, “Just the facts.” Avoid the temptation of try to sell anything. Just use the email as a gentle remember of what you said. Use it like a second handout.

They will appreciate it. Really, they will.