Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 179) – Bill Bernbach

William (Bill) Bernbach (1911 - 1982) American Advertising Creative Director

William (Bill) Bernbach (1911 – 1982) American Advertising Creative Director and Co-Founder of DBB

The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

— Bill Bernbach

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12 Tips for Receiving Feedback

Seth Godin is the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. They are bestsellers. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it. His Squidoo Lens is also worth a look. This post is part of a series based on original posts by Seth.

In his blog post from 11 January 2014, Seth discussed something that every public speaker wants—applause—and something every public speaker should want—feedback.

Applause is important for a speaker. It is the best way in which the members of an audience can show their collective appreciation for the speaker’s efforts. It is welcome recompense for a speaker at the end of a talk or presentation, and it is a motivational shot in the arm for the next time.

And then there is feedback. It’s not always easy to hear, and sometimes it’s going to sting a bit, but if you want to grow as a speaker, feedback—and appropriate action on your part—is vital.

Here are a dozen ideas when it comes to feedback:

    1. Realize that fedback is an important part of your growth as a speaker.
    2. Ask for feedback.
    3. Accept the fact that the feedback you get will not always be the feedback that you were hoping for.
    4. If there is a particular aspect of your speaking which you would like to improve, ask one or two people before you speak to look out for it (e.g., talking too fast; making eye contact, etc.).
    5. Create a short (one-page) form for audience members to complete after your talk. It could be as simple as two questions: (a) What did you like most about the talk? (b) What are your suggestions for improvement?
    6. Filter the feedback. Separate the constructive criticism from that which is not.
    7. Even if, at first blush, you don’t agree with the constructive criticism, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Sometimes things take a while to sink in. Take some time to think about it.
    8. Video yourself so that you can compare your performance to the feedback.
    9. Realize that people have different opinions. What might be problematic for one person might not have even registered with another.
    10. Take on board the feedback that you consider valid and useful. If in doubt, get a second or third opinion from people who have seen you speak.
    11. Act on the feedback. Take concrete steps to improve.
    12. Don’t try to fix everything at once, especially if there are several areas for improvement. Much better to prioritize and start with the most important items on the list.


The Feedback You’ve Been Waiting For

by Seth Godin

“You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t change a thing. You completely nailed it, it’s fabulous.”

Of course, that’s not feedback, really. It’s applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback. And that feedback, if it’s more than just carping, will be constructive. It will clearly and generously lay out ways you can more effectively delight your customers and create a remarkable experience that leads to ever more customers.

If you’re afraid of that feedback, it’s probably not going to arrive as often as you’d like it to. On the other hand, if you embrace it as the gift it can be, you may decide to go looking for it.

Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.

Applause is good too.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 178) – Ancient Egypt


“Make thyself a craftsman in speech, for thereby thou shalt gain the upper hand.”

— Inscription found in a 3,000-year-old Egyptian tomb

Photo courtesy of Flickr / Sam and Ian
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“Speaking Bad”: Eight Tips from “Breaking Bad”

My daughter Alex had been raving about Breaking Bad for months. “Dad, you have to watch this show; it’s the best series I’ve ever seen,” she kept telling me.

Speaking Bad

These days, I watch very little television—one evening a week at most—and I’m not all that keen about getting invested in a series.  But when Alex came home for Christmas, she asked me to watch the first couple of episodes with her and I was hooked. Breaking Bad has become my favourite series of all time. The plot, the character development, the wry humour and the sheer number of “Oh sh*t!” moments are incredible.

As I am always looking for different ways to come up with lessons on public speaking and presentations, I thought, why not have a little fun with Breaking Bad?

Caveat: This post would run far too long if I had to explain every situation below in detail, so I will assume that readers are familiar with the show and the characters.

Warning: If you have not seen the show and are planning to watch, this post contains spoilers. Proceed with caution!

With all the above in mind, here are eight “Speaking Bad” tips from Breaking Bad.

Tip No. 1 – Your Introduction

If someone is going to introduce you, write out the introduction for him. That way, you can have them focus on aspects of your background that you would like to highlight for your audience. But don’t stop there. Meet with the person who will introduce you. Make sure that everything is clear and that he can pronounce any complicated or unusual words properly. Most of all, make sure that he can say your name properly. 

Tip No. 2 - The Power Pause

When you take the stage, don’t feel that you have to speak right away. Instead, pause and let the audience settle. Make eye contact and let the silence linger a bit. Doing so will give your opening words more of an impact. As James Humes says in Speak like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln, “Stand, stare and command your audience, and they will bend their ears to listen.”

Tip No. 3 - Do something unexpected

Being unexpected is a great way to make your message stick. Whether it’s a story with a twist at the end or an unusual demonstration, people will be more likely to remember your presentation if it contains something they didn’t expect.

Tip No. 4 – Energy and Enthusiasm

When your energy is up, the audience’s energy is up. Put a little emotion into your talk.

Tip No. 5 - Ask for help if you need it

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to prepare, things go wrong. The computer dies, the microphone doesn’t work, you forget a key piece of logistical equipment. If you can’t fix it quickly by yourself, don’t try to be a hero. Ask for help.

Tip No. 6 – Always remain calm

When things go wrong—and if you do enough speaking, there will be times when they do—you have to maintain your composure. After all, you are the one on stage.

Tip No. 7 – Ask for fair compensation

Giving a speech or presentation, and giving it well, takes a lot of effort. The audience sees you on stage but they never see the preparation that went into making it a good speech. You should be compensated fairly. Of course, there are times when speaking for free is appropriate: business development; a worthy cause; seeking experience; etc. However, if you are going to get paid, ask a fair amount. Just don’t go overboard.

Tip No. 8 – Get feedback

Seek feedback from those who saw your presentation so that you can learn and improve.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 177) – Frédéric Chopin

Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) Polish / French Composer

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

— Frédéric Chopin

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Is PowerPoint a good thing or a bad thing?

I am proud to be part of a great team that gets to spend one week a year with the dynamic, motivated and clever students in the IESE Executive MBA Programme. We help them hone their public speaking skills so that they are able to communicate more effectively the great things on which they are working.

Our team is led by Conor Neill and includes Tony Anagor, Florian Mueck, Tobias Rodrigues and me. While in Barcelona, Conor interviewed us on a wide variety of public speaking issues. I will be posting those videos from time to time on this blog.

Today’s video is about slide presentations.

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