Presentation Mistakes: The View From the Audience

I routinely do presentations and thought many of the things I do and know about presenting to an audience were simply common sense.

However, sitting in workshops over a three-day conference gave me the perspective of a participant. It appears that many of the common sense things that I do and know are not so common sense.

How many ways can someone screw up a presentation?

From the back row, let me count the ways!

How to Add Power or Humor with the Rule of Three

Rule of Three Speech WritingIn the first two articles of this series, we learned how using the rule of three can improve your speeches by [1] writing triads of words, phrases, and sentences and [2] by applying three-part speech outlines.

In this article, you will learn how adding an unexpected twist to the third element can add power or humor to your speech.

Rule of Three + Unexpected Twist = Speech Gold >>>

Lost in Translation – Tips For Ensuring Your Audience Understands Your Message

[ By Stephanie Leibowitz]

When we travel to another country and do not know the local language or have only rudimentary foreign language skills, we expect that some of what we say may not be understood by the other party (the native speaker). We are prepared for potential misunderstandings and may even see these exchanges as a source of humorous anecdotes with which to amuse our friends, families, and colleagues upon our return to familiar ground (literally and figuratively).

However, it’s no laughing matter if your prospects/clients, colleagues and employees, strategic partners, or other important stakeholders and constituencies don’t fully understand or misunderstand what you want and need them to know. This is particularly critical in today’s multicultural work environments and global marketplace. A dictionary will give a word’s definition (and a Thesaurus will give you synonyms), but your ability to communicate successfully also depends on the nuances to word usage that can mean the difference between getting your point understood and creating a communication blunder with tangible negative consequences. We sometimes mistakenly assume that two parties who ‘speak the same language’ – that is both parties are native speakers of the same language, such as English – receive the same message when they hear/read the same word(s). Experience shows that if you ask your management team, staff, and clients to define familiar terms such as leadership, value, planning, strategic, communication, and performance, you will get responses that vary greatly, not in the literal sense, but in the interpretive sense. Context and perspective act as translation filters and these filters determine whether our intention has been communicated in addition to any facts.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your intended messages are received:

• Understand your audience’s perspective on the topic. This helps you identify what part of what you want to communicate will be perceived as most important / of interest, the level of detail you will be expected to provide, and what you want the recipient to do with the information (read and file for future reference vs. take specific action).

• Understand the cultures of your external audience’s organizations. This gives you clues about preferred communication styles as well as how they speak about their organizations. You want to mirror that.

• Know your audience’s preferred vehicle for receiving communication as well as what you have determined to be the most effective one (defined as more people understand your message, less or no need for repeat communication and clarifications).

• Clearly communicate what you mean when you use a specific term or phrase. For example, when you tell others that the goal is “effective communication” or “sound financial performance”, it is up to you to define what behaviors demonstrate this, quantitative and/or qualitative examples of what these look and sound like.

• Speak/write using simple words. Avoid jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms. The same acronyms/abbreviations can mean very different things to different groups. I’m sure you’ve conducted an internet search on an acronym only to find many results that are not the one you expected.

Remember to start by asking “Why is it important that I communicate this particular content to this specific audience?” When you communicate with purpose and clarity, your audience won’t need a translator.

How to beome a great speaker (with no stress)

We have all heard that famous statistic, the one that claims the number one fear people have is public speaking, number two is death. Seinfeld had a joke about this stat, he said apparently if people are at a funeral they would rather be in the coffin than be giving the eulogy. If that statistic is accepted as fact, Seinfeld’s joke, while ridiculous sounding, would be technically correct. What is wrong with this scenario?

Would people really rather be dead than speak in public? Why? Well I am here to tell you that speaking in public is nothing to be afraid of; I do it all the time. Like most things in life, the more you speak in public, the less nervous you become when you do it. Unfortunately, most people choose to avoid giving speeches so vehemently that they will never do it enough to become comfortable with it.

So for all of those people out there who avoid speaking in public like, well, death, I am here to tell you how to breeze through any public speaking engagement and come out the other end as a hit public speaker, with as little stress as possible.  >>>

Use public speaking skills to ace your job interview

To have a successful job interview, you’ll want to appear poised, calm and confident.

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

As CEO of Media Training Worldwide, TJ Walker coaches clients on how to speak to live audiences and the media.

Those same skills apply to job interviews, Walker said. “You want to look comfortable and relaxed. You want to be understood and, most importantly, you want your message remembered. You also want people to take action as a result.”
Here are his tips:  >>>

Why NOT start a speech with “Good evening”

— Mariah Burton Nelson (

What does the audience hear when the speaker says “Good evening”?

“Blah, blah, blah.”

If the speaker then proceeds to thank the introducer, the committee, the… see what I mean? I don’t even want to finish that sentence, because I’m going to lose your attention — just as you will lose the audience’s attention if you drone on and on, thanking people.

I call this the Blah Blah Blah Opener. The audience has sat through this opening so many times, they literally won’t hear you; they’ll just wait (if you’re lucky) for something more substantial to come along.

Don’t bore your audience to death before you’ve even hinted at your main point. Did Abraham Lincoln open with, “Greetings ladies and gentlemen. I’m so glad to be here in Gettysburg”? No.
He dove right in: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” How can you not keep listening after that?

I know: You want to — and need to — thank people. But you can thank people toward the end of the speech, when the audience has already enjoyed a rousing call to action, or a poignant story, or an intriguing new theory, or whatever the speech is intended to convey. At that point, a few “thank-you’s” don’t detract from anything, because the “anything” is almost over.

How, then, should you open a speech, if not with “Good evening. I’m so glad to be here in ______, and I’d like to thank blah blah blah”? Say something interesting instead! Make a provocative statement. Challenge the audience to think about, or do, something new. Promise them you’ll soon reveal the answer to some mystery — or otherwise build suspense. Tell a lighthearted story about someone the audience knows well. Describe your morning — if you can make it funny and relevant. Ask a question — a real question that you’re curious to see how the audience will answer, so you can get to know them better.

All of these openings will immediately signal the audience that you’re NOT going to be a typical boring speaker, and that they’re in for a treat.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” said Lincoln at the dedication of that Gettysburg battlefield. As it turns out, he was wrong about the world forgetting what he said. We do remember. Good thing he didn’t start with a Blah Blah Blah Opener or the audience might never have heard the rest!

Get Your Audiences Involved and Get More Business

with Karen Lawson, Ph.D., CSP
Karen LawsonToday’s audiences are different. Conditioned by their experiences in school and corporate training programs, they expect a presentation to be a learning experience, and they expect learning experiences to be active. Contemporary audiences are greatly influenced by computer games and simulations as well as videos and television. With a multitude of options at their fingertips, people are less tolerant of limited programming options. They want to be wowed by both quality content and quality entertainment, and it’s incumbent on us as speakers to deliver.

Your goal is to connect with your audience, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to get them involved. Audience involvement requires a different approach. Sometimes speakers prefer to simply stand before an audience and deliver their message. The ability to actively involve the audience requires a different skill set that many speakers have not as yet mastered. They may want to, but don’t know how.

Karen Lawson, Ph.D., CSP will share her practical, how-to approach to using interactive methods to increase audience impact and ensure speaker success whether an individual is delivering a keynote speech, making a sales presentation, or conducting a seminar or training session.

You will learn to:

  • Identify trends, influences, and considerations that shape demand for interactive speaking
  • Use specific interactive techniques to increase audience participation
  • Adapt interactive techniques to “dry” topics
  • Adapt existing material to a more interactive style
  • Identify sources for interactive techniques

Register (the date of the seminar is Tuesday, June 9) or order the CD or MP3 recording. Note: people who register for the teleseminar will get the MP3 recording of the session for free.

10 Days to More Confident Public Speaking

The Princeton Language Institute, and Lenny Laskowski

From the reviews

Lenny LaSkowski is an expert in the field (and author of Dynamic Presentation Skills of the Business professional). Here he offers a course on giving public talks and seminars. It’s comprehensive and covers every part of the presentation process, from investigating audience needs and meeting-room layout to having backup equipment and polished techniques for handling difficult people. It is full of interesting observations, suggestions and instructions.

The book has the tools you need to become a relaxed, effective and commanding public speaker. It is presented in a clear, concise, step-by-step approach with dozens of inside tips. It is well structured and easy readable.

Read the book and be encouraged to be comfortable with your own unique self. Learn to establish an instant rapport with an audience. There are suggestions on how to integrate humor, and memorization techniques.

The book’s lessons could also be extended to communicating more confidently and efficiently in general.

You can buy this book for just $9.40 from Amazon