How to do Chiasmus

by Peter Paskale

It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men

One of Mae West’s celebrated phrases. Along with “Come up and see me some time“, to read these words is to hear the sinuous drawl in which they were delivered.

West was a Queen of the soundbite. She was also a Queen of chiasmus — a little rhetorical device that adds style to any presentation or piece of writing.

Mae West isn’t alone in her crush on chiasmus. Take a look at these:

  • With my mind on my money and my money on my mind
  • I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me
  • I meant what I said and I said what I meant
  • All for one and one for all

That’s with thanks, respectively, to Snoop Dogg, Winston Churchill, Horton the Elephant, and the Three Musketeers — and I’m willing to bet that this is the first time in recorded history those four names have ever appeared together on the same list.

Chiasmus is when two lines of text, or two adjacent phrases, are symmetrical — “I meant what I said – I said what I meant“. The human brain just loves things that are symmetrical. The more symmetrical a thing, the more we see it as intrinsically attractive. It even reaches to our assessment of human beauty — the more symmetrical someone’s face, the more beautiful we believe they are.

So symmetry captures the eye, or the ear, of an audience, just as a radio advert did to me yesterday when I heard the slogan of a tax advisor “working hard for hard workers“.

Building chiasmus into writing or speaking provides an instant style-boost, but the technique looks difficult. When you first try to create your own chiasmus, confusion creeps all over you. I know. I’ve been there. So, a few ideas to de-mystify the tool of chiasmus:

Chiasmus needs only to be roughly symmetrical
Chiasmus is essentially two phrases, side-by-side, where the second phrase loosely reverses the first. Loosely! It does not need to be a mirror-perfect reflection. So, whilst “Tea for two and two for tea” might be a letter-perfect model – it’s not one to copy.

Keep in mind something more like “‘Instead of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them.”

The reflection is loose. It’s flexible rather than perfect — in fact it’s perfectly flexible.

Chiasmus can agree, or disagree. It really doesn’t matter
Make a web-search for chiasmus and you’re going to meet JFK’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country“, and this can lead you to believe that as well as mirroring each other, the two phrases must also counter each other.

Not true. The two sides of a chiasmus can agree or disagree — it doesn’t matter. “Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he“.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery
The best route to a confident chiasmus is to copy! Copy and mangle and do it with happy abandon.

Let’s take Horton the Elephant and see what we can build out of “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”:

  • I like what I do and I do what I like
  • If you read what you love, then you’ll love what you read
  • See the friends you enjoy and you’ll enjoy the friends that you’re with

Keep a lid on it
Beware of inflicting a chiasmus-overdose on your audience. Limit it to just one per article or speech.

Have a go!
Chiasmus looks scary on first sight and that can stop us from experimenting with a fabulous tool for fabulous soundbites.

Don’t be afraid to start-out by copying chiasmus examples. It’s the best way to start and will guarantee that your speeches get noticed, which is important, because in the words of Mae West:

I’d rather be looked over, than overlooked.

Stocking Inspiration: Your Holiday Party Speech

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Will your Holiday speech be a Holiday stocking, with tempting surprises and interesting shapes?
To help you to write one that has your team rocking,
We’ve prepared a short list of some toys we’ve been stocking.

As you plan your speech for the office party this year, wouldn’t it be great to have a team of speech-writing elves on hand to do the heavy lifting for you.

Well you do! Your own specialist elves, Gavin and Peter, have prepared a stocking full of festive ideas.

Choose just three or four of these professional Yuletide speaking techniques, and you’ll have Jolly Holiday oratory to be proud of.

For supporting your theme

Anaphora: A Christmas tricycle

A three wheeler bike gives perfect support no matter how fast you might ride. No wobble for you; there’s a wheel at each corner. Holiday messages get that same solid stability when you include the same phrase in consecutive lines of your speech:

This year we’ve delivered service that is the best in the market.
We’ve been able to give our customers a product that is the best in the market, and that’s because we have a team of people who are the best in the market!

Let’s celebrate a successful year past
Let’s celebrate a successful year ahead
Let’s celebrate  an incredibly well earned holiday

For linking ideas

Anadiplosis: The train-set

For one step further on the tricycle theme, try a train-set!

Just as train-sets link together with the rear of one car connecting to the front of the car behind it, you can string phrases together with the last word of one line becoming the first word of the next.

It’s a stylish technique that connects themes, and sounds superb.

I wish you happy holidays. Holidays full of excitement. Excitement that brings you back refreshed next year.

 Make it a priority this holiday to find some downtimeDowntime allows time for reflection, and reflection gives rise to new ideas; new ideas that lead to new opportunities.

For really hammering home the holidays

Metanoia: Candy cane pencil with eraser & sharpener

What better way to write your Holiday speech than with a candy cane pencil. Only for this technique you’ll also need an eraser and sharpener because you’re going to turn the usual bland Holiday greetings into something far sharper!

First think of a nicely classical Holiday greeting, such as “I wish you all happy holidays.” Now take your eraser and audibly rub-out the bland, replacing it with something far sharper:

 I wish you all happy holidays. No, I wish you all sensational holidays!

 This has been a good year. No, strike that. This has been a fantastic year!

For listing accomplishments

Polysyndeton: Eight tiny reindeer

Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen, On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen.”

Each name stands-out brighter than a Santa suit in a snow-drift. This is because each is emphasised by the stressed word that appears before it. Imagine if the line went: “Now Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.” They’d all become one long stretch-reindeer blur.

For lists of accomplishments, make each stand proud by replacing commas, with the word “and”:

This year we’ve launched products and won clients and expanded the business and been more successful than ever before.

 We’ve grown the team and increased our service levels and developed the business.

To pack items into a list without those items blurring, remember the old saying:

Many ‘ands make lists work!

For encouraging miraculous achievements

Argumentum a Fortiori: A Charlie Brown Tree

Charlie Brown conjured the holiday magic from the unpromising foundation of that poor little Christmas Tree. The last one on the lot, and missing all it’s needles. It was a Charlie Brown Tree, and everybody laughed at it. But Charlie Brown’s indomitable spirit made that tree glitter.

Where have your team conquered seemingly unconquerable odds. Emphasise those moments. Celebrate those moments. Conjure the magic of past achievements, and your team will conjure magical achievements to come.

We’ve grown the business. If we can grow the business in a recession year like this,
then think what we can achieve next year.”

“We’d all agree that project ABC was the most demanding assignment we’ve ever been asked to do.
It was a tight deadline. It was a challenging client. And they kept changing the specs. And still we achieved it!
If we can meet that sort of pressure, we can meet anything!”

For defining ideas

Analogical reasoning: A drum kit & Snakes and Ladders

There are toys children love to receive but that parents hate them to be given. Drum kits for example. Why do parents hate Holiday drum kits?

It’s because drums are to family friction as games are to family fun

Analogies create the illusion of cause and effect: A is to B, as C is to D. It makes your case sound logical and your logic sound vivid. Where things are vivid, they are always remembered!

Make them seasonal: Santa is to Christmas as the Bunny is to Easter

Make them businesslike: Creativity is to success as oxygen is to breathing

Make them funny: Holiday time with the family can be to relaxation as a canal-root filling is to massage

For tackling painful memories

Litotes: A lump of coal

A lump of coal in the stocking means someone’s been bad. There are times though when it isn’t someone who’s been bad, but something that’s been bad, such as hard times or tough decisions during the year just passed.

In a Holiday speech, your team will expect you to reference those times, but with this being a celebration you don’t want to collapse the party spirit.

Negatives need acknowledging without re-animating, so use a “not……but…” structure:

This past year has not been without it’s challenges, but……

There have been times when this past year has not been the easiest, but…..

We’ve had to make decisions that have not been happy ones, but….

Follow that “but…” with an uplifting statement. You will have nodded to the tough times, but immediately re-directed your audience to better times to come.

To create a sound that sounds superb

Alliteration: A Suzy Snowflake snowglobe

Seasonal sound-bites often use words that start with the same letters. Let’s take “Suzy Snowflake”, and “Dominick the Donkey”, and then of course there’s the phrase itself: “Happy Holidays”.

Doesn’t “Delightfully delicious” sound so much more delicious than “delicious” alone? Instead of a “peaceful holiday”, how about a “perfectly peaceful holiday”?

Doubling down on opening consonants doubles the delight of delivery.

To avoid it all becoming a just little too sugary….

Oxymoron: Sour candies

Christmas Rhetoric-05

There’s a way to double-up on the double-sound technique, that’ll make your Holiday audience pucker-up with pleasure.

Like the most mouth-watering of Holiday candies, this treat starts sour, and then turns sweet!

Take two words that start with the same letter, but have more or less opposite meanings. Now try colliding them together. Make sure the first one’s nasty, and the second one’s nice!

Fearsomely festive

Disgustingly delightful

Fiendishly fun-filled

Horribly happy

It’s a tasty little contradiction that offers sweetness with a twist.

To add festive colour

Epithets: A box of crayons

Whilst plain speaking might be admired, a speech that is plain is a speech that will fail.

Your Holiday speech needs to move, to inspire, and above all, to be remembered. It needs to have colours. The colours of a bright box of brand new crayons.

Google search for a “Christmas Word Cloud”. There are lots out there to choose from and sprinkle some of it’s sparkling adjectives throughout your speech. Go with an approximate ratio of 1:50. For every 50 words of plain speaking, make sure you have at least one bright splash of festive colour.

May your Holiday speech be bright. May your Holiday speech be memorable. And may your Holiday speech be fun.

If you have fun in it’s writing, then you’ll have fun in it’s delivery, and if you’re enjoying it then you can guarantee that your audience will as well.

Happy Holidays!

 

For even more ideas about writing and delivering Holiday speeches, try this article as well: “Unaccustomed as I ham”

Opinion is a persuasive tool

Audiences, be they customers or colleagues, act when presentations are delivered with the fist-punch impact of belief. They remember presenters who deliver not just the facts, but the flavour of their opinions.

I’m pleased and delighted to be able to say, that as of this month I’m going to be writing for the business website ManagingAmericans.com. My first piece is live on their blog today. It’s all about opinion, and why it’s a good idea to not just have one, but to be out loud and proud about it when you want to persuade an audience.

I’ll be talking about why so many presenters are reluctant to stray from the facts-only format, and then examining three easy ways to use opinions within your next piece of persuasive speaking.

Please drop by the blog by clicking here. Come share your opinion!

Nancy Duarte Resonate iBook

by Peter Watts

“Great presenters transform audiences”, and Resonate on the Apple iPad transforms business books. Resonate shows what’s possible when strong ideas combine with eye-catching delivery.

Think of it as a TARDIS

Resonate is my first encounter with a business book on the iPad. Many e-books simply taken a traditional book format, and make them electronic, but Nancy Duarte has gone several steps further and supplemented text with videos, sound clips, and pop-out diagrams. Resonate resembles Doctor Who’s TARDIS; it’s way bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. The book is packed with ideas, but the multimedia approach compress those ideas into shiny nuggets. Those nuggets are memorable, and when you take the self-assessment quizzes at the end of each chapter, you’ll be surprised at how much information you absorbed in a short time.

The Audience is the Hero

The standout message of Resonate is that the audience is the hero. You are the mentor. You are Yoda guiding Luke Skywalker. Your role as mentor is to launch the audience onto a journey that leads to new insights and discoveries.

This mind-shift to presenter as mentor subtly shifts your presentation style. I tried the shift for myself during a three day training class and I found that it made me a kinder presenter, a more patient presenter, and at times, willing to be a far more challenging presenter.

Taking the audience on a story

The topic of story-telling has attracted so much online comment in the past year that it’s almost become an internet meme. But what does “storytelling” in a presentation context actually mean? To the average person storytelling involves starting with the phrase “Once upon a time” and then ending with “…and they all lived happily ever after”, but what should go on in the middle? The storytelling buzz leaves many presenters confused.

Resonate actually explains how the process works. Nancy Duarte uses examples from literature and cinema, and combines them with the work of Hollywood script analyst Chris Vogler. In my favorite section of Resonate, Nancy uses the full potential of the iBook to combine Chris Vogler’s video-tutorials on storytelling with expandable diagrams that lay-out the storytelling process; a process known as “The Hero’s Journey”.

This work on The Hero’s Journey not only applies to presenters, but also represents the stages a customer passes through on the way to a major purchase. Resonate is therefore a great book for salespeople.

The story form

The third key idea in Resonate is the use of the Story Form, a shape describing the accordion push and pull between the opposing tensions of what is, and of what could be.

NancysShapeBetter

The tension between these two points creates contrast between an audience’s current situation, and the improved situation or “new bliss” that a presenter is describing.

Resonate shows how to use a structure that flexes back and forth between these two points, creating a motion that propels audiences forward.

Anecdotes

Anecdotes from the author are an important part of business books. Nancy Duarte anecdotes are humorous, usually self-effacing, and always relevant. From how to save yourself when presenting while heavily medicated through how to prepare the ultimate beer presentation when you really don’t like beer, each anecdote brings to life another aspect of presenting.

It’s fun

Finally, Resonate is tremendous fun to read. It has a huge personality, and while it centrally features Nancy Duarte, her whole team get’s pulled in as well. For my personal favorite, flick to page 21. Play with the slider that appears at the top of the page, and see what happens to Art Director Ryan as his image gets morphed to prove the point that your presentation isn’t all about you.

Resonate on the iPad is available from the Apple App Store

Review: “HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations” by Nancy Duarte

nancy

Precision coaching for all presenters

By Peter Watts

Nancy Duarte’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations is a concise primer to the skills of presenting, from planning your pitch through to polished delivery.

Of particular value are the sections on how to put together high quality visuals. Some of the book’s best sound-bites are found when Duarte discusses how to create slides that work for an audience, and since reading that section I’ve found myself looking out far more in my own work for the “visual cliches” that Duarte warns about.

This focus on visual layout gives the book a cross-over to the world of blogging because if you are a presenter who also blogs, you’ll find ideas about the use of layouts, diagrams, and imagery. All valuable for an appealing web-page.

This brings us neatly to the topic of social media, and another strength of the HBR Guide. The book brings presenting right into the present day with topics about how you can blend social media resources such as Twitter into presentations, and how to make the maximum use of web-based backchannel communications.

Nancy Duarte is incredibly generous with how she shares the stage. Every chapter contains references to subject matter experts from multiple fields, and advises different books you might like to try out. Backchannel communications for example, is a relatively new topic for me, and right there on the same page that Duarte introduces the topic, she accompanies it with a recommended author from whom you can find out more.

Now for the confession: This wasn’t the Nancy Duarte book that I initially wanted to review. My target was her recent and much-discussed book “Resonate”, but sitting at London’s Heathrow Airport and trying to buy a copy for my Nook e-reader, I discovered that Duarte’s electronic coverage is surprisingly patchy.

The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations is the only Duarte title Barnes & Noble have in e-book format, while Amazon do slightly better; they have the HBR guide and “Slideology” available for Kindle. No trace of Resonate at this stage however.

Still, having chosen to go with the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations as my first trip into the writing of Nancy Duarte, I’m pleased that I did. The guide gets full marks as an all round primer, with specific focus on presentation visuals. It also deserves a place on a virtual bookshelf due to it’s generosity as a resource guide to additional subject matter experts. Finally, it gets fullest marks for it’s brevity. Brilliantly concise.

Now on the look-out for “Resonate” as an e-book!

UPDATE: March 26th

Resonate on the iPad

It turns out that Resonate is available on the iPad. Thank you Nancy for dropping by the blog to share. First look is deeply impressive, and a full review will be coming shortly.

Visited by Captain Chaos? Resistance is futile

slip-up

Dealing with the Unexpected? Go with the flow

By Peter Watts

Shit happens.

Two little words that while vaguely profane, sum up most of the misfortunes that befall and befuddle presenters.

I don’t normally advocate dwelling on the nature of what can go wrong, but for the purposes of this post, it would be helpful.

  • The audience could be scarily bigger or depressingly smaller than expected
  • The venue could have a sub-optimal or non-negotiable room layout
  • The main target for your presentation could walk in 15 minutes late or have to leave 15 minutes early
  • And don’t even get me started on what can go wrong with the technology!

Thoroughly plan and prepare your presentation by all means. It’s essential. Only a fool walks onto a stage unprepared. At the same time though, when the circumstances around you unexpectedly change and Captain Chaos flies across the room, be ready to embrace your own inner Captain Chaos and improvise like a pro.

Planning and preparation is a life-jacket not a strait-jacket. When your presentation has to make an emergency landing on water, that life-jacket of preparation acts purely as a buoyancy aid to keep you afloat. You then have a choice; lamely bob up and down in the tide or use the power of free will to pick a new direction in which to paddle.

Stay loose and start paddling and you’ll survive.

One of the best presentations I ever had the privilege to witness was from the Chief Operating Officer of a major multinational brand. Known for his clinically organised and analytically thorough presentations, precision and planning were his watchwords.  And then one day, a minute into a critical presentation, the bulb in the projector popped.

Hotel staff scurried in every direction, but a replacement bulb was nowhere to hand.

The presenter looked at the audience and uttered the same opening words that I used to open this blog. He then delivered one of the best presentations I have ever heard.

This incredibly senior, and incredibly organised gentleman had not been thrown off balance by Captain Chaos, but instead had cheerfully embraced him.

Control-freakery is a form of perfectionism, and perfectionism doesn’t belong in the realm of the presenter. Audiences are human and they respond to human and as we all know, humans are seldom perfect.

When Captain Chaos strikes, it’s your heaven-sent opportunity to shine.

Shit happens. Stay loose. Set a direction and start paddling.

The audience will love you for it.

Maria Miller and the jewel of Epanodos

trilliant diamond cut

A polished performance with a cut-jewel of rhetoric

by Peter Watts

Maria Miller, the UK Minister for Culture, used a figure of speech so rare and beautifully powerful that it is seldom encountered outside the Old Testament. To speak directly into the minds of her opponents she used Epanodos; blending logic and emotion in a way guaranteed to be heard and heeded across the most passionate of debates.

The Roman writer Quintilian described figures of speech as being like jewels. We place them within our speaking so that important ideas will catch the ear as fine gems catch the eye.

Figures are word patterns that vary in some way from standard spoken language. Quintilian thought of them as jewels in a treasure chest. I think of them as spells in a book of magic. They do, after all, rely on knowing just the right patterns of words. And when the correct spell is used, the audience is moved. Sometimes magically.

This week the British Parliament passed new laws to bring full marriage equality to the United Kingdom. While the vote was overwhelmingly approved, a small minority of lawmakers had strong reservations, and the pre-vote debate, led by Ms. Miller, was heated.

As I listened to the debate, the following phrase from Ms. Miller’s speech leapt out at me.

“Equal marriage should not come at the cost of freedom of faith, nor freedom of faith come at the cost of equal marriage.

We are capable of accommodating both.”

This is Epanodos, and it is so rare that there are few quoted examples to be found outside the bible or the most classical of poetry. For example, this piece written by the poet John Milton:

“O more exceeding love, or law more just? Just law, indeed, but more exceeding love!”

Epanodos involves elements of a sentence being repeated, but in reverse order. The second half of the sentence will be almost a mirror image of the first, and as with all things seen in a looking glass, that second portion will appear magically reversed.

Listening to the debate news coverage throughout the day, I heard that phrase repeated time after time across multiple news networks. Like one of Quintilian’s jewels, this one phrase had become the single most glittering section of the debate, and had caught the ear of every professional commentator.

The key to using figures successfully is to choose the right spell for the right occasion. So why would the Minister have chosen this one?

Epanodos stands out, whereas as most figures are far less showy. It is also incredibly rare in political speeches, but vaguely familiar to those who know their bibles.

This figure therefore takes the Minister’s key message about marriage equality, and codes that message to chime particularly 220px-Maria_Miller_Officialstrongly for lawmakers familiar with bible passages. In other words, the exact same lawmakers who needed special reassurance during the debate.

The Minister’s choice of the rare Epanodos figure couldn’t have been better.

You can use Epanodos in your own presentations.

The trick is to use it very sparingly. Just once. This is a figure that stands out, and if overused will look as garish as a bling bracelet packed with paste jewels. Used just once though, it will shine like a cut diamond.

What you need to do is to identify a section of your presentation that can use a neither / nor combination. It’s for when you want to say something to the effect of;

“Proposition A, does not come at the expense of proposition B. We can do both.”

Here are two very simple examples:

“Quality does not need to come at the expense of productivity, nor productivity at the expense of quality. We can achieve both.”

“The environment need not be sacrificed in the name of growth, nor growth sacrificed in the name of the environment. Both can be sustained.”

Enjoy playing with Epanodos. With the combined qualities of logic and poetic elegance, it will make your key message leap out from your presentation.

And thank you to Ms. Miller, not just for championing equality, but also for your powerful choice of words.

The Third Presidential Debate 2012. Analysis and Commentary. And Who Won?

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Up till tonight, it was one round each.

Both candidates had proved themselves. Governor Romney had shown himself an admirable debater when the battleground was formed of facts. He had shown himself credible as the next CEO of United States of America Inc. President Obama meanwhile had delivered the debater who could stir the passions. His greatest challenge had been to overcome his alter-ego as Professor and deliver Presidential. He achieved it.

That’s not to say it’s all been bouquets. There have been brickbats too. We’ve had the snoozefest of President Obama’s comatose comments during the Domestic Affairs Debate, and were then entertained by the binders full of blunders that opened during the Town Hall Meeting.

Tonight was the final round……

So who flourished in Florida?
Did the Sunshine State shimmer on someone’s parade?
Who was….. the strongest debater?

Gavin:
I’ll start by saying this wasn’t a fair fight. There’s a big difference between knowing your subject and learning your subject. I’d imagine that this was the debate Governor Romney looked forward to the least, and President Obama the most. Talking about action and fact is a strong position when things are going well. Obama generally did this. Words like we did and we are, are stronger than we should. The subject of foreign policy is high ground for Obama, and he had it all night.  Romney frequently had to make his positions seem the same, but with woulda-coulda-shoulda differences. To which Obama could frequently respond, with variations like, “I am pleased that you are now endorsing our policy.”

Obama practiced debate ju-jitsu all night — which he did very well. In response to Romney opinion about increasing the size of the Navy, Obama responded with a clever and well positioned rejoinder, “You mentioned the Navy and that we have fewer ships than we had in 1916, well Gov we also have few horses and bayonets.” It was a nice rhetorical comparison that made Romney seem outdated and misinformed.

He did it again when he compared his first foreign trips to Romney’s (which have been documented as gaffe-prone) “I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, to remind myself of the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.”

These and other comparisons let Obama credibly claim the central question of the night. “The central question is who is going to be credible to our allies and enemies.” In debating, pitching, selling, if you can define the frame by which the decision will be made, you win.

Peter:
Tonight could have gone either way, and when Governor Romney won the coin toss to go first, a subtle part of the power balance moved into his favor. When the first question turned out to be on Libya, which is currently the weakest topic for the President, the balance moved decisively into his favor. This was a chance to get his opponent on the back foot from the word go.

So what went so very wrong for the Governor?

To understand why Mitt Romney found himself so frequently on the ropes tonight, it’s necessary to look back over the past 12 months. There has indeed been a degree of the etch-a-sketch to many of his pronouncements, which in fairness, has been thrust upon him due to the necessity of initially appealing to one electorate during the GOP primaries, and then having to broaden that appeal to a wider and more disparate national audience. The President seized upon that weakness and ripped it apart live on national television.

The first signs of trouble were concealed in the early Obama sound-bite that America needs “strong and steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership”. This would turn out to be Obama’s key message, returning to it frequently as he laid out examples of Mitt Romney’s changed positions on multiple issues.

Romney’s response was weak, but also underlies his debate strategy. Referring to himself, he stated: “Attacking me is not on the agenda.” It was an attempt to rise above the debate. It was an attempt to strike a tone of consensus. All it achieved was waving a rather large white flag into the face of an already charging bull.

Both candidates frequently pivoted away from the subject of Foreign Affairs and headed back into Domestic Affairs. One such pivot yielded what for me was one of the President’s finest lines: “You seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.” This line also set the President up well for the first of several pivots to the topic of women, a key demographic in the undecided electorate.

In past debates, we’ve noted that Mitt Romney favors four-point lists as a speaking tactic, where the fourth point on the list will normally be his key talking point, and during the first debate, that key talking point was Small Business.

Tonight he returned to that key talking point, but sadly the President’s team had seen it coming and the President was uncannily ready with a list of negatives about Governor Romney’s record on exactly that subject.

This was another strong element working in the President’s favor: Incredible preparation and planning concerning both his own strategy, and his opponent’s.

Governor Romney did attain the occasional moment of glory. In particular, I thought his response “America has not dictated to other nations. America has freed other nations from dictators” was both clever and stylish. Sadly though, it was his only such moment.

It was an Obama victory tonight. And a victory that pointed up the importance of not just passion, but planning and preparation.

 

Making presentations with an iPad. It’s time.

Why the iPad is now a proven tool for presentations

by Peter Watts

Some months ago I blogged about presenting with an iPad. At the time I was still tiptoeing into the world of Keynote and tablet-based presenting.

I’m upgrading my recommendation from a cautious “give-it-a-go” to an enthusiastic “go-for-it”. After three months of extended experiment with the iPad/Keynote combo here are my thoughts:

All that’s in the news, in your presentation
I’ve come to value the way that iPad lets you flick mid-presentation between KeyNote and news/video apps such as the New York Times. Nothing adds currency to a presentation quite like current affairs.

Philips Bluetooth speaker. Much bang, little bucks.
For any presentations that require sound, I’ve added a Philips blue-tooth speaker to my kit bag. It’s small, while at the same time heavy enough not to vibrate its way across the table when you have the volume high. It’s also rugged, so you won’t need to worry about where in your luggage you’re chucking it. The Philips unit has a great battery life, and most importantly, the Bluetooth connection to the iPad is a ten-second snap.

Slimming Your Slides
Most of my original caveats about iPad presenting still stand. You can’t black-out the screen, and I’m still not convinced about using an iPhone as a remote control. The Bluetooth connection between phone and pad is temperamental, and at the end of the day, an iPhone is just too big to subtly use as a remote.

The snag does however have an upside: You produce simpler and less cluttered presentations. The discipline of having to walk to the iPad to advance your slides is a powerful incentive to strip-out unnecessary transitions or special effects.

All day battery
For all day presenting, just put the tablet into flight mode, and then reduce the screen brightness to the lowest point that you are comfortable with. When the show is over, you’ll still have battery life to spare.

Synchronisation at work. Beware
If you are a combination iPad / iPhone / MacBook user, then iCloud synchronisation is a powerful timesaver. Beware though. If you’ve been editing on one device, make sure you close the presentation before attempting to edit or view it on another. It’s easy to create badly-synced duplicates that don’t co-exist at all happily. If you accidentally make some of your edits on your iPad and then the rest of them on your Mac, then at least one of those two sets is going to be irretrievably lost when iCloud tries to synchronise it all back into one document.

Go for it
The iPad is a brilliant tool for presentations. It’s time to commit the bulky laptop carry-bag to history.

And Apple, if you’re listening, the option of iPad control from the standard Apple remote would be wonderful, and how about maybe a black-out option in the next update of KeyNote?

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Round. Nick Clegg’s Conference Speech Problem

by Peter Watts

Nick Clegg of the British Liberal Democratic Party, chose yesterday to forgo the stage for his leader’s speech at the Party Convention and to instead speak from a little round podium that had been placed in amongst the audience. He spoke quite literally in the round, with people all around him.

Was this a good style for conference speaking?

In one word: No

It was a horrible, horrible mistake for anyone performing a keynote. If an organizer ever suggests it to you, fire them immediately and get someone who knows what they’re doing.

Here’s why:

Leader of the Band

We want leaders in both politics and business who look like they’re capable of striding the world stage. To speak from a little raised podium makes you look more like the guy conducting the village band in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

While speaking from “amongst the people” might appear to create a nice contrast to the big staging of the big political parties, the contrast fails because here it merely suggested that the Liberal’s are a little party. The corollary thought to this is that they are a little party, with little ideas. And having merely little ideas they are all the more likely to be shoved-around, sat-on, and eventually sliced-off by their far larger and more aggressive coalition partners, the Conservative Party.

They’re Behind You….

Golden rule of speaking: Always look at your audience. Speaking “in the round” like this guarantees that at any given moment, there are a chunk of them that you can’t see.

If you do ever find yourself in a position where you have to speak in the round, then one approach to still being able to look at the whole audience can be the Square Dance.

Rather than revolving on the spot, which looks odd, the speaker moves through the four points of a square. It’s walk two steps, speak 60 – 90 seconds. Walk two steps to 90 degrees, speak 60 – 90 seconds, and repeat. Just be careful with your movements. Get the timing or direction wrong and you fall off your platform.

For Nick Clegg however, the Square Dance wasn’t an option. The TV cameras were the true target audience, and because they were all pointing in one direction, the speaker had to do so as well.

I don’t know how Nick Clegg felt about having all those people behind him, but had I been the one speaking, they would have been making me feel mighty uncomfortable.

To speak from the floor and achieve that amongst-the-audience feeling is a tremendously powerful technique. Don’t throw away the stage though in attempting to achieve it.

Keep the stage. Come down from it. Stand immediately in front of it.

And keep the whole audience, immediately in front of you.

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