- 2,394,998 including you!
Welcome to Manner of Speaking. If you're looking for informative and entertaining tips to improve your public speaking skills, you've come to the right place. Have a look around and enjoy your stay.
— John Zimmer
What are you looking for?
A recognized blog
My TEDx Talk
Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game
Public Speaking Checklist
It doesn’t have to be a TED Talk or a formal presentation at a conference. It could be a five-minute status report on your project at the next team meeting; it could be saying a few words about a colleague at a farewell lunch; it could be Skype call to your sales reps.
It all adds up.
In the 1990s, Nike came out with a number of commercials about cross-training; i.e., doing different types of sports and exercise activities as a way of getting in shape. The message? Every kind of exercise helps. Just do it!
The same principle applies to public speaking. Every opportunity you have to speak is another opportunity to improve. Even if it is only a two-minute speech to say farewell to a colleague in a restaurant full of people, it’s two more minutes of public speaking experience than you had when you woke up that morning
Leonardo da Vinci said, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
So, when is your next public speaking engagement?
“You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged. The topic of the talk isn’t you, the topic of the talk is the audience, and specifically, how they can use your experience and knowledge to achieve their objectives.”
— Seth Godin
Good grief! I didn’t think that I would be writing another post of this nature so soon after the huge mistake that was made at the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant, but here we are. Again.
In case you missed it, the 2017 Academy Awards were turned on their head at the very end of a long show. The presentation of the final, and most important, Oscar of the evening went awry when the wrong winner for Best Picture was announced.
Originally, La La Land was announced as the best film of the year. The director, producers and cast members were all on stage and some acceptance speeches had already been given. The problem was that La La Land did not win; Moonlight did. Here is the fateful moment when the mistake was revealed.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the award. They had been chosen in recognition of the 50th anniversary of their 1967 movie, Bonnie and Clyde. It was supposed to be a memorable moment. Well, it was, but it wasn’t supposed to be memorable like this!
So what happened?
After Beatty opened the envelope, he paused, looked at the card, looked in the envelope, looked at the card again, began to speak, looked at the card once more and then handed it to Dunaway who quickly announced La La Land as the winner. Watch this video to see his apparent confusion.
The reason for Beatty’s confusion was confirmed a few hours later. Someone had given him the wrong card! It was a duplicate card for the Best Actress award that had already been awarded to Emma Stone. On the card were written Stone’s name and the name of the film she was in, La La Land.
The accountants for PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the firm charged with counting the votes and keeping the results secret until the show, gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. How could this be, given that Emma Stone had already received her award? Well, as noted in this Huffington Post article, the PwC accountants were handing out the envelopes from duplicate sets of all the winners!
You can’t be too careful! We have two sets of results envelopes, each packed in its own briefcase – one for each of us. The morning of the awards we arrive separately at the show. LA traffic can be unpredictable! At the event, we are both backstage to hand the envelopes to the presenters.
And in this interview before the event, the two accountants again confirmed the procedure.
The producers decide what the order of the awards will be. We each have a full set. I have all 24 envelopes in my briefcase; Martha has all 24 in hers. We stand on opposite sides of the stage, right off-screen, for the entire evening, and we each hand the respective envelope to the presenter. It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.
Actually, it does sound complicated. Handing out envelopes from duplicate sets, from opposite sides of the stage was an accident waiting to happen. As I wrote in a 2015 post about the Miss Universe Pageant,
Writing the same information in different ways increases the chance that a mistake will be made.
Having multiple copies of something is fine for back-up purposes. But for something like the announcement of the winner of the Miss Universe Pageant, there should be one card only.
PwC has apologized for the mistake. Here is their statement on Twitter:
While PwC is primarily responsible, Beatty and Dunaway also bear some responsibility. They are seasoned professional who have each won an Academy Award and been nominated numerous times.
If Beatty was confused, he should have asked for clarification. Dunaway should have read the card more carefully before speaking. And they both should have noticed (along with PwC) that written on the outside of the envelope in gold letters were the words, ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE.
To their credit, the people from both La La Land and Moonlight were gracious about the mix-up. And, ultimately, while unfortunate, the mistake was hardly a life and death matter.
Still, there are lessons to learn (again) for an event of this nature. They are the same as those that I listed in my post about the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant:
1. Mistakes will happen but there are some things you should not get wrong. Pay attention!
2. Make sure your written documentation is clear.
3. Simplicity is almost always the better option.
4. Writing the same information in multiple ways increases the chance that a mistake will be made.
5. If you make a mistake, accept responsibility.
To these, I would add one more:
6. If you think a mistake has been made, seek clarification or help, especially if there is still time to avoid making an even bigger mistake.
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.
In this blog post from 21 February 2017, Seth reminds us that less is more and that conclusions are important. Plan appropriately so that you are not racing to cover material right up to the end of your allotted time.
You want to end on a strong note and with conviction. It’s hard to do when you are pressed for time. As I frequently tell my clients, there’s a big difference between finishing a presentation a few minutes early and finishing it a few minutes late.
Squeezing the last minute out of a session
by Seth Godin
It’s too late now.
If you’re the moderator of a panel and you want to rush through one more question …
Or if you’re the speaker and you need to race through three more slides …
Or if you’re a writer or designer and want to add just one more idea …
Or if you’re the teacher and there’s just one more concept to talk about even though the bell’s about to ring.
End with a pause.
End with confidence and calm and yes, please respect your audience enough to not expect that cramming is going to help us or you.
No one, not once in the history of timers, has ever said, “I’m really glad that they went over by 30 seconds, huffing and puffing and begging for attention. That was the best part, and I respect them for cramming it all in.”