Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric – Part 4

This is the fourth post in a series based on the sketches that graphic recorder Linda Saukko-Rauta made during my public speaking workshop in Hämeenlinna, Finland. I was speaking at the 2019 edition of the Summer School of Rhetoric.

Today’s sketch is about stories and storytelling, the currency of a great speech.

For the previous sketch in the series, please click here. For the next sketch in the series, please click here.

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Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric – Part 3

This is the third post in a series based on the sketches that graphic recorder Linda Saukko-Rauta made during my public speaking workshop in Hämeenlinna, Finland. I was speaking at the 2019 edition of the Summer School of Rhetoric.

Today’s sketch is about structure. Every presentation needs good structure if it is to be successful. That means a powerful opening, good development with proper transitions, and a strong conclusion.

Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric

For the previous sketch in the series, please click here. For the next post in the series, please click here.

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Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric – Part 2

This is the second post in a series based on the sketches that graphic recorder Linda Saukko-Rauta made during my public speaking workshop in Hämeenlinna, Finland. I was speaking at the 2019 edition of the Summer School of Rhetoric.

Today’s sketch captures the three pillars of a successful persuasive speech, as set out by Aristotle over 2,300 years ago.

For the previous sketch in the series, please click here. For the next post in the series, please click here.

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Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric – Part 1

On 6 June 2019, I had the pleasure of giving a workshop on public speaking and presentations skills in Hämeenlinna, Finland, at the Summer School of Rhetoric. It is an excellent event, held every summer, at a beautiful location in the idyllic Finnish countryside. It was my second time speaking there; the first was in 2014 when I gave a keynote address.

The event is held over two days. On the first day, there is a workshop for approximately 30 or so people. The second day is a full day of keynotes related to public speaking. It is informative and a great networking opportunity for 250 to 300 people.

The Summer School of Rhetoric, which is bilingual (Finnish-English), was founded by my friend, Antti Mustakallio. He has done a terrific job at developing it and making it a sought-after event in Finland every year.

Among the participants in my workshop was the talented Linda Saukko-Rauta, a graphic recorder who works with businesses to producing real-time “sketchnoting”, animated videos and strategic illustrations. She made some wonderful sketches of the different themes that I discussed during my workshop. I thought I’d share them with you here.

Over the coming days, I will post Linda’s sketches. While I don’t expect everything in them to be clear if you did not attend my workshop, you should still get a sense of what I covered (and how good Linda is).

Today’s sketch is about preparation and some of the key issues you always need to think about before you deliver a speech or presentation.

For the next sketch in the series, please click here.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 314) – J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling – British Novelist and Philanthropist

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

— J. K. Rowling

Photo courtesy of S.macken6
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Powerful presentations, even with PowerPoint

This is a guest post by David Lindelöf. David obtained his PhD in Physics at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. From 2010 to 2018, he was the Chief Technology Officer at Neurobat. Since 2018 he has been the Senior Data Scientist at Expedia in Geneva. He shares his thoughts on learning, computers and other interesting topics on his blog.

I recently had the pleasure of joining David and around 100 of his colleagues at their annual off-site meeting. At the event, I gave a keynote address on public speaking. And Daire O’Doherty, one of my improv troupe partners, joined me and together we ran four workshops on the benefits of improv for business.

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Dear student of public speaking,

Have you ever watched a TED Talk and wondered how the speaker did it? How can anyone give a perfect delivery to an audience without notes? How can you speak confidently on topics frequently unfamiliar to the audience and share information that they will remember years later?

You can deliver a powerful presentation

It’s not an easy feat, but neither is it a skill reserved for a chosen few. It’s a skill that you can practise and learn—which is probably why you are reading this blog in the first place.

But perhaps you think that the powerpoint-heavy presentations that you have to give on a weekly basis have nothing in common with TED Talks. You present business studies, analyses, scientific reports and other “serious” subjects. You are even expected to provide a PowerPoint deck, compliant with the local brand guidelines, and which can be forwarded to those who couldn’t attend your presentation. It must be full of details, numbers, and text; a standalone document. Surely the highly visual, minimalist, pithy slides seen at TED Talks have no place in a business setting.

Surely, that is, unless you want your presentation to be effective.

My company’s analytics business unit, about 100 people, convened for our annual two-day offsite meeting in May. Remarkably for such a highly technical and analytic community, there was a strong desire this year to focus on soft skills. People wanted to hear about stakeholder management, fear of failure and, you guessed it, public presentations.

John Zimmer, the creator of this blog, was a natural choice for an external trainer on public speaking. He gave a keynote full of actionable tips and techniques to deliver powerful, impactful presentations—even in a business environment.

A lesson from Aristotle

I cannot give a full summary of all the advice John gave, but the one thing I will remember the most was the importance of having every single presentation contain the right mixture of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion:

    • Logos: facts, figures, and logic
    • Ethos: persuasion through the credibility of the speaker (authority, expertise, trustworthiness)
    • Pathosemotion (stories, surprise, humour)

Most presentations, like mine, tend to be excessively burdened with logos at the expense of the other two elements. So the next time you give a presentation, don’t forget to establish your credibility and infuse your presentation with some human element. The latter doesn’t have to be silly, cute, or involve cats; but instead of presenting dry, boring facts, consider trying to tell stories with your data.

A post-event survey showed that John’s intervention (and the theatrical improvisation workshops his Renegade Saints troupe gave) were the two most highly rated events during the offsite. It’s easy to understand why.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 313) – Voltaire

François-Marie Arouet (famously known as Voltaire) (1694 – 1778) French Philosopher and Writer

“The secret of being boring is to say everything.”

— Voltaire

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Message from the Berlin Wall

I regularly travel to Berlin, Germany to work with a client there. My client’s offices are located close to the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, so I know that part of the city well.

It is always a humbling experience to walk along the Wall and reflect on what life in Berlin must have been like when the city was divided for more than 10,000 days. It seems like a long time ago, but the Wall only came down 30 years ago.

Today, Berlin is a vibrant city that bustles with energy. It is always a pleasure to visit. Recently, I made a short video about the Berlin Wall – and something else – with my good friend and fellow speaker, Olivia Schofield.

As mentioned in the video, the “something else” is Spectacular Speaking, a two-day public speaking boot camp where a small group of people will have the opportunity to give their speaking skills a major boost, working with four professional speakers. I have been a part of Spectacular Speaking since the first edition in 2012.

Over the years, we have held the boot camp in Antwerp, Barcelona, Cologne, Poznan and Warsaw. But for the past few years, we have made Berlin our home base.

If you are interested in taking your speaking to another level, why not join us for two days of learning and personal growth on 26 and 27 September 2019? We will cover storytelling, connection, presence, persuasion and much more. You will give short speeches to your peers and receive concreted feedback.

For more details, please visit our website.

Bis bald in Berlin!

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 312) – Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah – South African Comedian and Television Host

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say.

“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. ‘What if…’ ‘If only…’ ‘I wonder what would have…’ You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

— Trevor Noah

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A lesson from the Toronto Raptors

Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors! They are the 2019 NBA Champions. I am delighted for Toronto — where I lived for over 15 years — and for all of Canada. 

In a thrilling Final, the Raptors defeated the defending Champion Golden State Warriors 4 games to 2. For the Warriors, it was their fifth straight appearance in the Finals and they had won three of the past four years.

There are many reasons for Toronto’s success, but without a doubt, the biggest was Kawhi Leonard. One year ago, the Raptor’s organization made a bold move. In a blockbuster trade, they sent DeMar DeRozan — a fan favourite in Toronto and arguably the best player in the history of the franchise to that point — to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Leonard. (Other players and a draft pick were involved but Leonard and DeRozan were the centrepieces.)

A Bold Move

It was a big risk for the Raptors. DeRozan is an excellent player and was popular in Toronto. By contrast, Leonard had only played nine games the previous season because of an injury. Plus, he only had one year left on his contract and could be lost to the Raptors in free agency; indeed, the Raptors might still lose him this summer. And, there were rumours that he was not easy to get along with in San Antonio. So in a very real way, the Raptors were taking an enormous gamble for a shot at the title.

The gamble paid off.

Leonard shone. He had an incredible season and was a powerhouse throughout the playoffs. Other members of the Raptors played terrific basketball, but Leonard was the best. He won the NBA Finals MVP – the second time he has done so – and he led the Raptors to their first title.

Before the trade for Leonard, the Raptors were a good team. After the trade, they became a Championship team. They took a chance on Leonard and it was a massive success.

The Lesson

The lesson in all of this for public speakers? Sometimes, you have to take a risk if you want to take your speaking to the next level.

Taking risks isn’t easy. It’s not comfortable. But that is precisely where your biggest opportunities for growth are: beyond our comfort zone. So if you’ve been playing it safe with your speeches and presentations, maybe it’s time to take a chance and do something different.

For example:

  • Speak to an audience that is different from your usual audience.
  • Give a presentation without slides.
  • Be more vulnerable on stage.
  • Tell more stories.
  • Interact with the audience.

These are just suggestions. What feels risky for one speaker will feel fine for another. You know what feels like a risk for you. That’s the direction you should go.

So once more, congratulations to the Toronto Raptors! I will drink a toast in your honour. Now, if only the Toronto Maple Leafs can do the same thing in hockey!

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 311) – Simone Weil

Image of Simone Weil

Simone Weil (1909 – 1943) French Philosopher and Political Activist

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

— Simone Weil

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3 tips to deal with the room where you speak

When we give a speech or presentation, we usually don’t have any control over the room where we speak. We might be able to move chairs and tables or adjust the lighting, but in general, we have to deal with the room as we find it.

Last week, I went for a walk around the village of Collex in Switzerland where I live. When you walk to from Collex to the neighbouring village of Bossy, the elevation rises noticeably. Because most of the surrounding land is agricultural, you have a magnificent view to the south of the French Alps and the Mont Blanc.

If the sun is shining.

Which it wasn’t.

No, when I went for my walk, it was cloudy and a storm front was moving in. A wind was starting to blow and the mountains were obscured in cloud. It was too bad, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

It made me think of times when I spoke in room where the conditions were suboptimal or worse. I couldn’t change rooms, so there was no point in complaining; I just had to deal with the situation.

As I reflected, I realized that there were parallels between speaking in a bad room and going for a walk on a day when the weather is overcast. So I shot the short video below. In it, I offer three tips to help you deal with the room where you speak.

There will be times when you speak in amazing rooms and there will be times when you speak in awful rooms. Either way, the audience has to deal with the same room as you.

You must ensure that the room is set up in the best way possible. Then, forget about it and give the audience something that is worth their time.

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At the end of the video, you will see some information about an event at which I will be speaking in Berlin in September 2019 called Spectacular Speaking. I will be writing a post about it in the near future. In the meantime, you can learn more here.

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