Tag Archives: public speech coach

Trump Knows Presentation IS Everything

President Trump accomplished a major reset of his presidency with his speech before a joint session of Congress. And he did it in an age-old way: his presentation skills. He knows either by accident or design, presentation is everything.

The first thing I look for during presidential addresses is whether the president “showed” leadership. In other words, was the president’s presentation consistent with his words? Was what he said supported by how he said it? In the speech before a joint session of Congress, my assessment is he failed more than he succeeded, but he succeeded just enough to change people’s minds.

For example, since by now we all know he rarely sticks to a script, doing so this time was a win.

First, the president dressed for the occasion. His clothing fit well and the colors were elegant. Good style, dress, and adornment make the both the wearer and the observer feel confident.

The speech itself was more poetic. It used a number of rhetorical devices that in the hands of a Reagan or Obama, would have sent that thing soaring, yet he did not deliver it in a way that did it justice. There was little passion evident in his delivery. He bridles at using the teleprompter. Still, this was better delivered than former teleprompter speeches.

His speaking voice, which is not a high quality male speaking voice to begin with, was flat or singsong in its intonation through most of the speech. It came alive only during the Harley-Davidson story because he clearly enjoyed telling it and he even exhibited some humor.

Regarding humor, it would behoove him to use more, particularly of the self-directed variety. This would make him more likeable and relatable.

The president exhibited more generosity and grace than in the past, reflecting the grandeur and majesty of a formal address delivered to a joint session of Congress.

Here is a cardinal rule of communication that many smart people eschew: If the way you look and sound contradicts what you say, people will believe the way you look and sound instead of what you say.

Both Ronald Reagan, affectionately remembered as “the great communicator,” and Barack Obama, who moved arenas of people with soaring rhetoric, understood this rule very well. They knew they were in a unique position to heal the country’s divisions. Even the president’s biggest fans expect him to give voice to the anxieties of all Americans, to lift us all up so we can begin to unite.

The ability to deliver a powerful speech is the essence of leadership.

President Trump got much closer with this one, single speech.

What if You Could Love Public Speaking?

More and more, I’m in love with public speaking! I’m ardent about it. I’m a missionary, a true believer.

I know not everyone feels the way I do, but I am also a firm believer in possibility, that you can come to love it. It’s something I see every day with clients, which is so gratifying.

Here is why so many people shy away from it: They feel they have the expertise and the deep knowledge. They have worked hard for years to hone their message. As a result, they feel audiences and listeners should be “smart” enough to see past any presentational deficits. They tend to regard delivery technique as fluff, surface, soft. But mastery in speaking and presentation is anything but.  

To put it bluntly, public speaking or presenting is an essential, professional skill. It is the delivery vehicle for all your content and your message. And once a professional attains even a modicum of leadership responsibility, it is no longer optional. You know I speak the truth because when you observe people who are great at it, you admire them. We all do.

Here’s a quick story that illustrates why you might want to learn to love public speaking and presenting…

Like all of us, you attend industry conferences. During these often multi-day events, there are concurrent breakout sessions. Attendees look at the program guide and select which breakout they think they’ll get the most out of. And they just hope and pray the presenter won’t bore them to death. Too often, however, they do. They stand behind the lectern, reading from slides that are too packed and disorganized for anyone to see clearly. Their heads are down. They don’t tell stories to make their data come alive. They don’t connect.

Honestly, when I go to a breakout where I’m unfamiliar with the speaker, I sit in a location where I can make a quick escape. My feeling is my time is so precious that if the speaker didn’t care enough to engage me, I’ll find someone who will. It breaks my heart when this happens, when I see people deserting the room because it’s very demoralizing for the speaker and I know things could’ve been different.

Occasionally, too rarely, however, the speaker blows you away. They are funny, engaging, they command the platform and their slides are bold, graphic, and clever. They tell stories. They reveal a little about themselves. They connect. You like it so much in fact that you patiently stand in line to meet that speaker, exchange business cards, be in that person’s sphere, maybe even buy something.

It continues afterward. At the conference, you observe others approaching that speaker. That person, whom you had never heard of before, has become a type of star, a celebrity.

But it doesn’t end there. After the conference ends and everyone returns to their offices all over the country and, more commonly these days, the world, they are talking about that speaker, linking in with him or her, referring the person to other, more prestigious public speaking venues where – let me be very clear – that speaker has an opportunity to connect with an entirely new group of potential clients and referral base. What an efficient way to connect and build a personal brand!

Do you think that speaker is ardent about public speaking? You betcha. Did he or she always love it? Probably not, but the benefits and rewards have become too clear to ignore.

Now, as I always say, it’s work. It takes time, practice, dedication. It’s just a matter of getting the support and coaching you need. That could be Toastmasters, a small group program offered by a qualified coach, or private coaching.

It’s no fun to be forced to do something for work that is painful. We all have a list of must-dos that we dislike or even hate. Public speaking should not be one of them. Better to become so good, and reap the unparalleled benefits, that you, too, fall in love with public speaking.

Invest in this Superpower, Empathy, for Big Payoff

Last month, I spent some time with a client and her fiancé, who is very big in the world of the mind and mental improvement. Upon being introduced, he posed the following question: “What’s your superpower?”  Without missing a beat, I said, “Empathy.”

Normally, I get tongue-tied with questions like this. Maybe it’s because of the framing, but this felt very clear.

I started thinking about why empathy could be considered a superpower or, in my own mind, a strength, and began to flesh it out. What I realized is that without this ability, we are too often left in the dust when pursuing our interests and building our businesses and careers.

For a long time, I thought of empathy as a quality whereby someone was able to put him or herself into another’s shoes and imagine what they might be feeling. Usually applied in cases of painful feelings, the empathizer would subsequently offer a solution that could work. The problem was the solution was something that would work for the offerer, NOT the “offeree.”

Soon, I realized the trick with empathy was not offering a solution that would work for you, but what might work for the person in need of your support. This is a lot more difficult to accomplish because it takes a lot more thought and a significantly bigger investment of time and emotion. Done right, however, the payoff can be enormous.

Here’s why:

When you offer a solution that doesn’t fit the person who needs to embrace it, the problem doesn’t get fixed. It festers and worse, it gets repeated, which ultimately takes up more time and energy than if it had been done correctly in the first place. If time is money, then making it work the first time by investing more completely, there is big upside potential:

1. Work gets done.

2. People are more cheerful. thus able to pay it forward and help others.

3. Not as much complaining and whining, and related negativity.

There are three things to keep in mind when deploying your empathy:

1. Some people (like me) are actually less empathetic when facing people with problems they’ve dealt with. This seems counterintuitive, but it goes right back to being about them, not you. So watch that.

2. There are people who’ll take advantage. Being empathetic doesn’t mean being a doormat. Watch that, too.

3. Empathy should not be reserved for difficult or painful things. It should be equally deployed for joyful things, too.

I would love to know your empathy stories.