Our first PodCast! The Jason Womack Interview

An interview with the author of “Your Best Just Got Better”

by Peter Watts

I recently wrote a blog about a productivity book called “Your Best Just Got Better”  It’s a book that has made a huge personal difference to how I work, where I set my priorities, and how I go about defining those priorities.

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As a follow-up to that review, it’s my pleasure this week to be able to welcome to The Presenters’ Blog the author himself, Jason Womack.

Jason has conducted over 1,500 seminars. To each audience he brings not just knowledge, but energy, experience, and passion.

1,500 audiences! How does he do it?

During this podcast, you’ll find out how the personal performance ideas that Jason shares in “Your Best Just Got Better” can be applied to the world of the presenter:

  • Overcoming barriers that might be holding you back, such as nervousness
  • Why it’s essential to know, and to believe, that your ideas truly matter. That you have something to say!
  • How to identify your key message: the one thing that you want everybody in the room to have heard and understood during your presentation
  • The role that dissonance plays in the hard-wiring of our brains, and why it’s essential to proactively take charge of our own post-presentation coaching
  • Why it’s important to keep every presentation delivery as fresh as the first, thereby honoring your responsibility, as a presenter, to your audience

This podcast is packed with ideas and tips from Jason. Listen to it by clicking this link for the Jason & Peter PodCast, or if you’d rather read the conversation, we’ve included this transcript as well.

In addition, Jason and I have also put together ideas to boost your presenting; how you can identify your own unique knowledge, craft your message, and then take that to the stage…. this week! It’s combined with a very short  video message.

Enjoy the Jason & Peter PodCast, and do please leave any comments that you might have.

It would be great to hear from you.

7 business speaking tips from the Inaugural Address

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A master  class in public speaking, from a public speaking master

by Peter Watts

By analysing speeches we gain access to the speech-writing knowledge and techniques of the people who wrote them, and of the leaders who delivered them.

When we take look under the hood of President Obama’s Inaugural Address, there are easy to replicate techniques for any business presentation.

Setting a key message

Every strong piece of presenting has a strong key message, and that message for President Obama’s Inaugural Address was equality of opportunity.

In the opening of his speech he quoted from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

By starting with this quotation, the President was using the technique of Anamnesis, where we quote an important past speaker or document in order to give external credibility to what we are going to say next.

Business Use: First make sure you have a strong key message. Then find a supporting quotation from either a recognized industry figure, or somebody that is relevant to your business case.

Framing your terms

What does the President means by “equality”?

 “We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skins or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.”

The President is using a public speaking tool called Apophasis. In this technique you can state what something is, by stating what it is not.

Business Use: While the President used three terms within his Apophasis, race, religion, and national origin, the technique can be used just as effectively with just two, or even one opposition, such as “Achieving value is not about sacrificing quality”.

Emphasizing your key message

Within any effective piece of public speaking, there is one element that you will always find present, and that is repetition.

  • Repetition of key phrases
  • Repetition of important themes
  • Repetition of what you most wish the audience to remember

The whole point is to make sure that the audience absolutely hears, and remembers what you want to say.

Let’s look at four easy to copy repetition forms that the President used in this address.

Conduplicatio

This is the most basic form of repetition, and it scatters one particular word and it’s synonyms throughout a presentation. This speech was about equality and inclusivity, so the President used inclusive pronouns to push that message. In particular:

  • “We”: 73 occurrences
  • “Our”: 80 occurrences
  • “Us: 22 occurrences

If we add it all together that makes one inclusive pronoun every six seconds of the speech.

Anaphora is a slightly more showy structure where the same words are used to open consecutive phrases. Here’s just one of the many examples President Obama used:

Together we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers. Together we discovered that that a free market only thrives where there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”

Epimone

Eipmone is where the same phrase or theme is repeated throughout a speech, although without the repetitions being in close proximity to each other as with Anaphora.

The President used the words “We, the people…”. This phrase saw five repetitions at various points, with the first taking the form of “We, the people, understand…”, and the next three taking the form of “We, the people, believe….”, before rounding off with “We the people declare”

Business Use: What is the key message of your next presentation? Look for as many ways as possible to repeat that message throughout the presentation, and try to vary the forms that the repetition takes. Remember: You can never over-emphasize your key point.

Build the power of your case

To make sure your message stands out in the mind of the audience, you amplify it:

“We must act knowing that today’s victories will only be partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirt once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia Hall”

This particular sentence contains a rhetorical double-whammy that can be used in any business presentation, either individually or together.

The first is the Amplification. Here a speaker amplifies something by one step increments: “Four years, 40 years, 400 years.”

Even though the orator has stopped speaking, half the audience is continuing onwards to 40,000, 400,000, to some incredibly distant point. The President is using time as the basis of his amplification, and while it’s only one of many ways to build a point, it is the simplest to deploy. It could be applied to any aspect of a presentation that is about numbers. Money for example, or numbers of employees, or volumes of web hits.

In this particular case though, the application to time introduces the technique of Metastasis. Here we ask an audience to think backward through time, or to project themselves into the future.

Business Use: In so many aspects of business presenting, we will want an audience to take a particular action in the present in order to gain benefits in the future. If you use the line: “Imagine your business one year from now”, then you too are using metastasis. If you extend that to “Imagine your business 1 year from now, 2 years from now, 3 years from now…..” then the amplification combined with metastasis will have customers visualizing all the benefits of taking long-term actions today.

Engage the emotions

Dry facts alone seldom achieve results in public speaking. You need to excite the emotions, either to a smile or to a tear. For this we use Pathos, a section of the presentation specifically designed to reach out and touch the audience:

“For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn”

 Business use: What emotional aspect of acting on your message can you describe for the audience?

 Handle objections

Heading into the environmental section of the speech, the President used these words:

 “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgement of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

Where we know an objection is likely to be raised against us, Prolepsis allows us to stick it out there in a statement as a part of the presentation, and then immediately shoot it down.

 Business use: It’s always a good idea to anticipate what objections are likely to be raised in a presentation, and then plan for how you will handle them. Including the answer to that objection within the presentation can prevent it from ever being raised.

Make it sound good

You take care to ensure that your visuals are pleasing to the eye, and it’s just as important to make sure your words are pleasing to the ear.

Try saying this next line out loud:

“So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools…..”

That repetition of all those words beginning with “re” is alliteration, where a stressed syllable is repeated to build emphasis and to make the speech sound almost poetic.

Another location where alliteration appears is in the President’s choice of three key civil rights movements: “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall”. All those “s” sounds are building rhythm for him.

Words that begin with “re”, such as re-build, will all work very well for alliteration, but there are many other combinations to play with. Words that begin with “ap” for example: apply, applaud, appeal, approve. Or with “un”: untangle, undo, uncover, unravel.

When we start to play with language in this way, the art of oratory becomes fun and we can use language to it’s fullest and most pleasing potential.

And that’s when presenting truly becomes powerful, and fun.

For every risk, some praise

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When setting out as presenters, student need encouragement, not criticism

by Peter Watts

“a boy’s capacity may be dulled by too great strictness in correcting him. This, at first, gives him despondency, then pain, and at last aversion for study, and, which is worse of all, when he is afraid of everything, he attempts nothing; for, with his spirit, he loses all his power.”

These words were written 2000 years ago by the Roman orator and teacher, Quintilian. Requested by friends to write a training guide for young Roman noblemen, he commenced not by discussing rhetoric, but by examining the process of education itself.

Quintilian was not a fan of false praise. When a student failed, the master would let him know it. What strikes me in this passage however, is the awareness with which he also understood that hard criticism will, by stages, kill the desire to learn, and worst of all will kill the spirit that urges us to take risks and dare anything new in life.

He suggests that rather than criticise the student, it can be more useful to encourage the student to criticise someone else, by critiquing published speeches. Through picking out what was polished, beautiful, or powerful, they could find models of excellence with which to bolster their own speaking. By identifying what was verbose or ugly, the learner would see what should be avoided.

Through such a process of selection and rejection, along with time and application, the student would slowly develop a unique style of their own. This would only take place though, so long as overly harsh criticism hadn’t killed that spark of interest first.

Quintilian was writing specifically of the teacher/student relationship. I think we can also echo this to the relationship we have with ourselves. At whatever stage within a public speaking career we might be, we need to give ourselves permission to learn, and to experiment, and through that process to grow as presenters.

Overly harsh self-criticism shuts that process down and while keeping us safe from failure, also leads to decay, as skills decline through lack of challenge.

Give yourself permission to learn. Select a recent famous speech and study it. (There’s a fairly big one coming up next week that you might like to experiment on!) What do you admire? Choose something to emulate, and then try it out in your next presentation.

Having tried it out, review honestly how things went and then take time to praise yourself for trying something new.

What have the Romans done for us?

This week’s post can be found at Big Fish Presentations. Drop by!

by Peter Watts

When it comes to presenting, the Romans and the Greeks taught us all we know.

That’s the subject of “What Have The Romans Done For Us?”, which is my guest-blog for my new friends at Big Fish Presentations

My new blog can be found here. Drop in for a read. It would be great to have your company over on the Big Fish web-site.

7 steps to beating presentation procrastination

Seven simple ideas to beat procrastination. Don’t read later. Read now!

by Peter Watts

Procrastination is putting off a task we don’t want to do today, so that it can become a task we want to do even less tomorrow. Creating the opportunity to speak in public for example.

Ask any accomplished presenter and they will say that the sure-fire way to becoming accomplished is to get out there and practice, as often as possible. Presentations seldom seek us out.  To win those opportunities we have to create them, and that’s often a task we feel we can safely shelve for another day.

The first step to beating procrastination is to recognize that WE are the only people standing in the way of making the future happen.

Once that step is taken, here is the plan for beating the procrastination cycle:

  • Break the challenge down into logical tasks; Task one, task two, task three, and so forth. Task one for example, might be creating a list of your possible opportunities to speak. Task two might be building a list of the people you need to contact. Create a road map of those steps, and set out on them one by one. Assign deadlines for when tasks will be accomplished.
  • Starting out on the task can feel like the hardest part. As the Chinese saying goes: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”  Take that first foot-step and you’ll find that the second becomes easier. Movement builds momentum.
  • Seek out a mentor, someone who understands your goals and would be willing to nudge and nag you towards success.
  • Schedule tasks for appropriate times of the day. For example, gathering materials or contact names might be something you can do in low-energy moments after lunch, while creative work is better done while you are fresh in the morning.
  • Set out the tools. I personally procrastinate about building PowerPoint presentations, but if a client wants me to supply one, then my first step is to simply open PowerPoint on my laptop. If I don’t do this, it’s amazing how many other things I’ll be able to find to do instead, such as checking email. Once PowerPoint is open though, I’ve started the task, and design time is more likely to follow.
  • Celebrate your successes along each step. Rewards are a great way to get yourself doing something you don’t want to do. What can you treat yourself to as a reward for getting each task done?

Procrastination is the force that holds us back. Beat procrastination, and wonderful things are free to happen.

Guest post: “Five key mistakes and three golden rules”

by Peter Watts

In the first guest-blog to appear on The Presenters’ Blog, it is my great pleasure to introduce Bill Grist, from Grist Communications.

Bill’s blog and Twitter feed flashes out bid-support guidance for those engaged in major sales, especially in the worlds of architecture and construction. Last week his blog featured a post called “Presentation Tips for Architects”

Bill’s article impressed on me that no matter how big, how small, how complex, or how simple your subject might be, the rules for effective public speaking are always the same.

Thank you Bill for allowing me to reproduce your post.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with great pleasure I give you:

Presentation Tips for Architects:
Five key mistakes, and three golden rules

Hear the sound of your self-esteem. Coach accordingly

by Peter Watts

I became aware of a damp patch.

Inevitable with a Victorian cottage. Moisture slowly creeping up an outside wall. Tell-tale watermarks on plaster in the hall.

Months of contractor confusion led to my hiring an independent surveyor to take charge. He promptly nailed the source of all my problems as being a tiny pipe, steadily and slowly dip drip dripping beneath a floor.

Seemingly tiny little leaks of self-esteem can have exactly the same effect on our confidence.

The most damaging are those hidden beneath the floor-boards of our bravado; the inner comments we make to ourselves when offered the chance to take on new challenges.

  • “I’m no good at x”
  • “I’ll screw it up if I dare to have a go at y”
  • “I’ve not got what it takes for z”

Over months and years, those drips become a damp-spreading mantra, soaking foundations. Our confidence water-logs from within.

My surveyor told me that to identify a hidden leak it’s important to listen both to what you can hear, and to what you can’t.

Listen for noises that shouldn’t be there (in my watery case, an almost inaudible hissing sound), and then listen for the sounds that are missing, such as the high pressure surge of water rushing through a healthy system.

  • As a presenter, do you suffer a low level hiss of negative internal criticism?
  • After speaking, how clearly can you hear your that healthy surge of success?

Maintaining a constructive inner-dialogue is essential presenter care-and-maintenance. Self-coaching can be one way to do this, but sometimes problems require the help of an external expert for true diagnosis.

Professional coaching assists presenters at all stages of their careers, in the same way that my professional surveyor was able to help me.

It’s well worth taking the time to fix those little leaks.

At the end of the day, nobody enjoys a presentation from a damp-patch.

Steeplechase presenting? Try trick-jumps

by Peter Watts

Easter Sunday at our local church started with a 7:00 a.m. service; the first of five Easter services for the Reverend Louise; three in the morning, and two in the afternoon.

For a busy Vicar, Easter Sunday must feel like a steeplechase. One service falls directly after another, and each congregation, whether the first or the last, regards it as a special time they have cleared in their day just to come and hear the Vicar’s message.

As presenters, our world is sometimes the same. It might be the third, fourth, fifth,tenth or twentieth time we have delivered our presentation, but for the audience, it is always the first.

To join with that audience, we must approach with the same freshness, the same beginners mind as the people in front of us. By approaching something with a beginners mind, we keep it alive.

Try adding new twists to your content. Maybe a new perspective, a new anecdote, or a slightly different sequence of topics. Perhaps take advantage of your comfort level with the topic to take a little risk, and experiment with a new technique you have’t tried before. If we continually ski the same old slope to the point where we individually recognise each and every pine tree along the way, it leads to boredom with the message and neglect of our audience.

By slipping in the occasional trick-jump, we keep things fresh.

Confidence tricks: The thawed paws pause

A warming NLP recipe for presentation confidence

by Peter Watts

Hold a warm cup of tea. Or coffee. Or hot chocolate. It doesn’t matter. Hold a warm cup, and as you savor the heat radiating into your hands, a wonderful sense of calm comes with it.

Do this shortly before a presentation and you’ll get exactly the same reaction. Stress seems to mysteriously drain out of you.

There is a whole lexicon of words such as “toasty” that evoke the pleasure of warm hands and feet, and there is a physiological reason why we’ve developed them.

When we become nervous about something, presenting for example, one of the first physical symptoms is cold hands. As we enter fight or flight, our body diverts blood flow away from extremities such as the hands, and redirects it to the vital organs of the core. Because of this we develop the cold clammy hand sensation associated with presentation nerves.

This sets off a chain reaction. Our subconscious mind says to itself “Hello. I appear to have cold hands right now. I get cold hands when I’m nervous. Therefore I must be nervous, and being aware of that fact, am going to become even more nervous.”

If cold hands represent a state of nervous tension, then warm hands represent the exact opposite: relaxation. When we have warm hands, the mind associates this with a state of calm and safety, hence all the snuggle type language we have referring to the pleasantness of warm paws.

Knowing this, we can use a simple technique that I call “The Thawed Paws Pause” to trick our mental wiring into calmness pre-presentation.

Next time you are going to present, accept the offer of a hot drink. The contents of the cup are of secondary importance, but if you have a choice, then my recommendation would be something that is caffeine-free.

As you await your time to present, hold the cup and concentrate your mind on that lovely warmth entering your hands. Your mind is about to get a surprise, in that your internal dialogue is going to go something like this:

“I’m about to make a presentation. I get stressed when I make presentations, and when I get stressed I have cold hands, but hang on a moment! I have warm hands! When I get stressed I have cold hands, but right now I appear to have warm hands! Ah, I therefore can’t be stressed.”

As your subconscious plays with this concept, the body starts to stand down some of the reactions we associate with presentation nerves, and a degree of those stage-fright jitters slip away.

It’s a simple trick, and one of the earliest I was taught when I first started presenting.

Next time you feel stressed or nervous, check the temperature of your hands. Icy? Take a moment to hold a warm cup. Feel tension melt into your thawed paws pause.

For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts:

Retiring the retirement speech

How do you formulate a great send-off speech?

by Peter Watts

Retirement speeches are due for retirement. A blend of good luck and bad means that retirement is becoming a thing of the past. The good luck is that we live longer, fitter lives. The bad luck is that retirement funds haven’t kept up with us.

Today we more often work a series of downsize careers before finally retiring after a period of part-time employment.

With classical retirement on the way out, the appropriate speech therefore needs rewriting. Most examples found on the internet will either insult someone who sees themselves as having working years to give, or depress someone who wishes they were heading for a classic golf-course retirement but frankly can’t afford it.

Even if those two points don’t dissuade you from a “retirement speech”, just put yourself in the place of the average recipient of one of these dreadful things. The poor old codger, off to pasture while the bright young things look on in patronizing pity. Painful.

A solution is at hand in a speech type called an Encomium. It’s a tribute speech that’s suitable for seeing people on the next stage of their life journey, and works well for any type of leaving speech. Here is a step-by-step guide to a 21st century encomium that will make your leaver wish they weren’t leaving.

An encomium presents someone’s story as a heroic journey. As with all good stories, there is a narrative structure that can be thought of as:

  • Step One: Their origin
  • Step Two: Their traits
  • Step Three: Their deeds
  • Step Four: Their legacy

The vital ingredient: A character trait

The speech hinges on a specific personality trait of the individual being praised, and demonstrating how through that trait, the person leaving has contributed to the achievements of either the team or organization. You then conclude the speech by encouraging others to emulate that trait, thereby continuing the individual’s legacy. Here are the stages for putting your encomium together:

Step One: How they joined us

Begin with a brief description of how the individual came to be in their current position. Some basic facts to include are:

  • What they did before joining your team or company
  • The position they joined in
  • The situation of the team at the time they joined

During an encomium you magnify the individual’s achievements. For this reason, the task is easier if you start low! If you include too much greatness in the early stages, then the best you achieve by the end is to show how the individual merely maintained that greatness. In other words, you show how they flat-lined!

Some examples of starting low might include how it was a tough time for the company when they joined. Their career and attributes can then be mapped onto how they helped the company/team pull through those times.

Alternately, you might focus on how the individual joined the team as a novice or apprentice, and has delivered great things throughout their growth..

Step Two: Their Traits

Here you lay out that essential personality trait.

This is important for the narrative in two ways:

  • during the next stage you will detail a major contribution that person makes to the organization and why they will be missed. The aspect of their nature you highlight here, will be the logical foundation for the achievement that is to come.
  • at the end of the speech you will exhort everyone else to fill the gap this individual leaves by emulating that trait. So, make sure its a trait you would encourage in others!

For example, if the individual is recognized as being a great salesperson, you will praise a personality aspect that supports this. It could be their persistence, their integrity, or their thirst for success.

Step Three: Their Deeds

The creators of the encomium, the ancient Greeks and Romans, believed this section should contain “the three Excellences”, and these were detailed to be the excellences of mind, body, and fortune. When we understand what would have been included under these headings, it gives an indication of the tone we’re aiming to achieve.

Under the excellence of the mind, classical speakers would share examples that demonstrated fortitude, stamina, and prudence. For the excellence of the body, they would talk about the individuals grace and style. Finally for the excellence of fortune, the speaker would talk about the position, wealth, or high connections that someone had achieved.

Try to hit some of those excellences in telling the story. Where did the leaver demonstrate stamina in achieving results? How did their unique personal style contribute to success? What fortune came to the team or organization as a result?

A classical encomium might list multiple deeds; the higher the individual, the more deeds would be detailed! For this speech however, limit yourself to just one or two.

Step Four: Their Legacy

This final stage wishes the leaver well on the next stage of their journey, and interestingly swings the speech away from the recipient, and onto the audience.

Ask those who are being left behind to reflect on the unique personality trait of the person leaving, and encourage them to emulate it. Each individual must rise up to fill the gap this departure is going to create. Encourage the audience to perpetuate that positive behavior.

Bring your attention back to the leaver. Simply and cleanly thank them for their service, and wish them well on the next stage of their journey.

This concludes your speech. As with all good speaking, draft it in advance and practice before delivery. Do everything you can to keep the speech brief, and if possible, try to deliver it from memory.

You might also want to have some tissues handy. People have been known to become a little teary-eyed at this point, but when they do, you’ll know that it’s for all the right reasons!

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