Gamification can help overcome public speaking nerves

RHETORIC - Public speaking gamification

Gamification is serious business. I have written before about Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™, the board game and app that Florian Mueck and I co-created. You can read recent posts here and here.

Recently, I was interviewed about the game on Dukascopy Swiss Financial TV. My interview with Jack Everitt below.

While discussing the RHETORIC, I mentioned how the game can help people with their nerves when they have to speak in public.

By bringing gamification public speaking, we have combined elements of fun, competition, play and socialization to create an environment that is conducive to enjoyment and learning. But there is something else that I have noticed.

In the real world, many people (understandably) get nervous when they have a presentation to give. They prepare, the nerves build, the big day comes and they give their presentation. And usually, it goes fine. But then what happens?

For many people, they go back to their regular tasks and they do not have to speak again in public for weeks or months or possibly a whole year. And when that next speaking engagement comes around, the process of getting nervous begins all over again because so much time has elapsed between presentations.

With Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™, you must give a short (1- or 2-minute) speech every turn. You don’t have that much time between turns. For example, if you play with five other people, you will probably only have 10 to 15 minutes between your speeches. There isn’t a lot of time to get nervous before it is your turn again.

So here’s what happens.

A player—let’s call him Tim—is nervous about playing RHETORIC. For his first turn, he rolls the dice, finds out what his speaking assignment is, and then speaks for a minute or so. The other players applaud and the turn passes to the next player. Meanwhile, Tim sits back, somewhat relieved but also pleased with the fact that he has spoken and the world did not end.

Pretty soon, it is Tim’s turn again. Now he and all the other players have spoken once. Everyone is in the same boat. Tim is still a bit nervous, but less so. He rolls the dice, gets his next speaking assignment and once again speaks. The second speech might be better than the first one or it might be worse. It doesn’t matter. Once again, the other players applaud and encourage Tim, just as Tim has applauded and encouraged the other players. And the world has still not come to and end.

By his third turn, Tim starts to think that this is fun. It doesn’t matter whether he gives a good speech or a bad speech, the fun comes from just getting up there and speaking. Everyone is having a good time. And so what is often a vicious circle in the real world becomes a virtuous circle in the game.

Florian and I have seen real transformation in people throughout the course of a single game. Players who were nervous at the start are champing at the bit and eagerly jumping on stage by the end. And therein lies power of RHETORIC.

If you would like to learn more about the game, you can click on either of the links at the top of this post or visit our website.

If gamification is not your thing, find ways to reduce the amount of time between your public speaking engagements. As is the case with learning any skill, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

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  1. True for myself and for my clients…the amount of time between speaking gigs makes a difference. Love the concept of the game! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Alexandra. Much appreciated. Indeed, it is easy to get rusty quickly when it comes to public speaking. That’s why I tell clients to seize every opportunity to speak, even if it is just to rise at lunch and proposed a 30-second toast. That’s 30 seconds more of experience.

  2. My name is Presley Passion and I love what you do I also offer online training in how to become a better public speaker, search for the bold Muvement on WordPress inorder to find more about my program.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International