Snow day

Snow Day Stage

Powerful speeches evoke the simplicity of snowy days

by Peter Watts

Simplification creates clarity.

You see the proof on winter mornings: when you awake to snow covered everything, the world looks cleaner.

Details that we seldom notice, can suddenly leap out. Snow blots out the chaos of visual details that surround us every day. It imposes a stark simplicity that allows structural features to stand out.

Presentations benefit from the same treatment. We pack them with content, thinking it a virtue to give the audience everything but the kitchen sink. In the process however, the audience loses sight of our message amongst the clutter.

Simplicity is an absolute virtue.

Take a look at a winter tree with it’s limbs covered in snow. Through the power of contrast, the white snow makes the bark of the tree appear more sharply black. This in turn means that the structure of the tree leaps forward, especially on days like today when not only the snow is white, but the sky behind it as well. The more the clutter is pulled back, the more the structure stands out.

Imagine giving presentations that could stand out with the striking clarity of a winter tree. The problem is though, that clarity can be scary. Clutter is a comfort blanket and we worry that without it we’ll be alone in a big white canvass.

Clarity doesn’t need to mean stark. Ornamentation makes a presentation human, but just make sure your clear winter tree doesn’t morph back into the sentimental clutter of a Christmas Tree, because then you’re right back at square one again.

On those rare and beautiful days of snow, take time to notice how much clearer things can look when stripped to their essentials.

How can you bring that clarity to your next presentation?

In large audience presentations, a microphone lets your voice be heard

by Peter Watts

When speaking to an audience, it’s not only important that the people at the back of the room can hear our words, they need to be able to hear our voice as well.

It might sound like these two elements are one and the same thing, but they are actually different.

Our voices convey our message with a variety of nuances. There is the light and shade of our tone, the emphasis of our volume, and the indicators of our pitch. All of these attributes combine to make the voice into a rich and infinitely varied tool.

When speaking to a moderately sized group of up to 30 people, then it’s within the power of most of us to project the voice while maintaining it’s quality. As groups and rooms become larger however, that ability starts to break down.

If the opportunity arises, stand at the back of a large group of people and listen to the voice of someone presenting to them. You’ll notice that although you can probably hear what they are saying, the distance involved means the voice has become thin and drawn out, with a slightly uncomfortable echo as the speaker tries to force up the volume and reach the back of the room. All the bass notes have become lost along the way, and it’s difficult to feel any connection to the person delivering them.

At the same time, for the poor speaker, the effort of speaking at full volume is tiring them, making the voice become ever more difficult to hear.

If these presenters had the opportunity to go back in time and plan their sessions again, they would have requested a microphone. It’s a remarkably simple thing to overlook and many of us, never having heard ourselves from the back of the room, wouldn’t realize how much a large group of people can dissipate sound.

If you are being asked to speak at a venue that can hold more than thirty people, then the chances are that they will also have a sound system available. If you have a choice, use a radio microphone rather than a handheld or fixed version that will interfere with your freedom of movement. As with all aspects presentational, it’s a good idea to arrive at the venue early and have a sound check first, so that from your first words the volume is correctly set.

Many presenters are accustomed to spending time ensuring that their slides are going to be clear and visible at the back of the room. It’s equally important to ensure that our voices are too.


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