We can talk about how to give great speeches until we are blue in the face; however, it ultimately comes down to just how well all of the things that we’ve discussed are put into practice that will determine how effective our talks are.
I recently had a chance to attend a series of presentations that were talking about the U.S. healthcare system. This gave me a unique opportunity to watch some very well educated folks do their best to give a good speech. Come along with me and we’ll see how they did…
Pam has great credentials: she is a big player in the healthcare field having been a past president of the HIMSS organization and currently being an advisor to the CCHIT. What missed right off the bat was that her introduction didn’t do her credit.
Sure the introducer covered the high points; however, he didn’t provide her with a lead-in that would have gotten the audience excited to hear what she was going to be talking about. Remember: your introduction is really your opening act. Since you are the one who cares the most about it, you need to write it out and give it to the person who will be introducing you.
Pam had a great voice and she was easy to hear. The challenge was that she was somewhat difficult to find. She strolled across the stage from side to side while she was talking leaving the audience feeling like they were watching a tennis match.
Her information was great, but her PowerPoint slides were not. On one slide I counted 15 text bullets — way too many to cram onto a single slide and way too many to expect an audience to read. I’ll be the first to admit that Pam had a challenge here — she was reviewing federal laws and they tend to be both lengthy and detailed. However, that doesn’t mean that your slides need to be that way. Break it up and use multiple slides if you have to.
The one thing that Pam did better than any of the other speakers who spoke that day was to use stories. Once again, a lot of what she was talking about were issues related to federal policy and that can be a bit dry. However, she added stories that were both motivational (you’ve got to make changes) as well as relative (“my customers are telling me…”). This really helped to make her speech stand out.
Dr. Jay Wolfson
Dr. Wolfson was, in a word, a character. He started off his presentation by telling the audience that he’s been a university teacher for over 25 years and it really showed in his presentation. He seemed to feel at home standing behind the podium and he had clearly done this before.
Dr. Wolfson exuded energy. From the forcefulness of his voice to his rapid hand gestures you could see that he not only knew his subject well, but he also cared deeply about it.
For such a high-energy person, it must have been frustrating to have to be tied to the podium, which is where the microphone was. However he dealt with it gracefully and only occasionally had to restrain himself from going for a stroll.
For such a great presenter, you’d hope that the supporting slides would be of the same quality. Nope, once again the slides clearly had not been designed to do what PowerPoint slides should do — support the speaker. Instead, odd fonts had been used and too much small text had been crammed into each slide. I believe that these slides may have looked fine on a computer monitor; however, once they were displayed for a large audience they showed their flaws.
What All Of This Means For You
Hopefully you can take heart from this report back from the front lines of public speaking — even really well educated people could stand to improve their speaking skills. Both Ms. Arlotto and Dr. Wolfson really knew their material well, it’s just that their presentations could have used some help.
The next time that you give a speech, make sure that you are prepared to stand where they tell you to. Whether it’s anchored behind a podium or anywhere on a stage, you’ll need to adapt your speaking style to match it.
Finally, although we all have mixed feelings about PowerPoint slides these two presentations clearly show that when you create a deck of slides you need a second opinion. Taking the time to run your slides by a colleague can do wonders for you ability to successfully connect with your audience.
How many bullet items do you think a PowerPoint slide should be limited to?
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
If you want to make a lasting impression on your audience, then sometimes you just gotta bring in some help to pull it off.Â It’s time to bring out an advanced speaking skill – rigging a speech…