How to Add More Punch into Your Presentation with LESS Color

If you were to given a choice between having a colorful and vibrant power point presentation and a super simple monochrome presentation. Which one would you pick? 

Either one has both its pluses and its minuses.  I have been guilty of going overboard on both. Actually I did something like this:

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Where does the eye settling in this one? It a very busy slide! Actually. That was the point when I was showing this. All that people needed to know what that there were a lot of great books that have not made it Japan.  I was going to share some the information from those books. 

Now, If I wanted people to pay attention to a certain book, say for example,  “Rule the Room” (a great practical book BTW),  leaving it as it is just would not work. I could have taken everything out and just leave only that book. I could have made the book much larger. Those are standard thing that people do. What if I wanted to stand out a little bit more? What if I only wanted to change the color? What could I do? What would you?

Not so sure? Actually it is fairly simple. You would use the gray out method.  This is actually a simple cinematic technique that most of you have seen in the movies. It was in the movie called Schindler’s List. If you are in Japan like I am your have probably seen the same technique a famous beer commercial.  Like the one shown in this picture.

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Suntory`s Premium Malts has a series of commercials where everything but the beer itself is in black and white. As you can see, this is very powerful in drawing the eye to what you want it to see. But wait there is a little bit more.  

So, you may have thought that the whole Premium Malts was just ripping off a good technique from a very stirring movie by Steven Spielberg, but that is not the case. In this technique is much older than Schindler’s List. It all starts with a old noir film called “High and Low” (天国と地獄)  directed by Akira Kurosawa. This is a guy who inspired George Lucas and Star Wars (please see Hidden Fortress) , as well as a host of other movies. Keep this small fact in mind the next time you talk to your Japanese clients. You might just impress them. 

Anyway, the example of the using color in a mainly black and white film is shown in the picture below. Akira Kurosawa had to actually get each picture in the film painted red just for the color to show up. But, this painstaking process paid huge dividends as you can see below. Also check out the movie. It is great.

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Of course you do not have to paint each pixel just get an effect like that. You can do much more easily. 

So, let say you want to do this:

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You could use Photoshop or Lightroom. But Photoshop is can be just way too complicated, and too time consuming. I would rather get is done quickly.

Unfortunately, there is no magic monochrome button on the Windos PC nor the Mac. But there is a rather simple work around if you have a smartphone.

Step 1: Take a screen shot. 

You can just use the print screen or the snip tool on your PC. Or use Command + Shift + 4 on the Mac. Command + Shift + 4 allows you to pick only your slide.  Command + Shift + 3 will do the entire screen like the PC Print Screen button 

Step 2: Send the picture to your cell phone. 

Yes. You could edit the picture on your Mac or PC, but if it a very simple task, why do it?

Step 3: Open up a program like Snapseed. 

Snapseed is a powerful photo editing program. You could spend a good deal of time learning Photoshop or Lightroom, but why go through the hassle?  Snapseed is free and you quickly get the picture into black and white in a few seconds. 

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Step 4: Put the black and white picture back on your slide.

Step 5: Past the color element on top of your black and white photo. 

That is all my friend. 

You too can make very cool presentation with this simple technique so try it out!

A 15,000 Yen Screw Up

I got the counter of the Book 1st store in Shinjuku and realized I had made a big mistake. On top of that since I was already at the cashier, it was not something that I could just walk away from. Which was just too bad, because just a minute before I was really looking forward purchasing the books.

It had actually been a while since I had purchased any physical books, so since I had some extra time that day I figured I would stop by.  On top of that I had a lot of points build up over time from Rakuten, that I finally got two Tosho cards (pre-paid book cards) One was 10,000 yen and other was 5,000 yen. I could buy lot of good books with those. In fact, what I did end up buy were the following:

Note: There will be a point about presentation, it just comes later.

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  • Financial Thinking, 朝倉祐介
  • 多動力, 堀江貴文
  • 実務でつかむ!ティール組織、吉原史朗
  • 1秒で気のきいた一言が出るハリウッド龍すごい会話術, 渡辺龍太
  • 図解 鬼速PDCA, 冨田和成
  • 大人の言葉選びが身につく本、吉田裕子
  • 大人の語彙力ノート、齋藤孝
  • 非常識な成功法則、神田昌典
  • なぜ、あなたの話は響かないのか、蔭山洋介
  • 問題解決大全、読書猿

As you can see, this number of books easily covers the 15,000 yen that I planned to spend. BTW, if you don`t know much Japanese the books cover such topics as economics, thinking, systems, word power, speaking, and problem solving. 

Just choosing these books took an easily a couple of hours of roaming back and forth. I would pick up one book read the back, the inside cover, flip threw it slightly, and decide either to keep it or put it back on the shelf. Of course, there were a couple which I put back on the shelf and later picked up again and vice versa.

So, you can imagine that I was very satisfied which I finally reached my quota. I also calculated the total cost, so I would just go over the limit. I was very satisfied and looking forward to reading all of these books and hopefully using it as material for a future date.

However, there was just one problem. After I place the books on the counter, I check my business card holder. It was where I had thought I had put the Tosho Cards. However, there was just the 5,000 yen card. I check my wallet. No 10,000 yen card. I check my pant pockets and my shirt pockets. Still nothing. This was not good. So, I was stuck having to pay for the most of books when I had expected to pay almost nothing.

"Sigh."

I reluctantly handed the cashier the money and hauled the books back home. It was depressing.  I later looked at my study room only to find the 10,000 yen card sitting there quietly on the desk where I had left it. Of course, this is not the end of the story.  There is still 10,000 yen of books to buy.

Believe it or not I went to the two different books stores twice. I went to Maruzen in Marunouchi and Kinokuniya in Shinjuku. Each time there just didn`t seem to any books interesting to me. I wasted easily more than 2 hours of my time each time I visited. What a waste.

I finally, I decided to just forget about it for a while. A week passed and I decided I would finally once and for all spend that 10,000 yen Tosho card. I went to Kinokuniya book store in Shinjuku one more time. And this time I found a couple of interesting books to buy and bought them.

They were:

  • Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee
  • Five Stars by Carmine Gallo
  • The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
  • Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb
  • When by Dianel Pink

All very fascinating books, and probably it will be a while for some of them to get translated in Japanese if they ever do.

I do wish about every book was available in any language the reader wishes, but that is not the case. So, I do my own reading and translating for other people.

In any case, the general lesson here are as follows:

Like in presentation, checking counts.

It is really bad to assume you brought everything with you when you actually did not. I know some people thought they brought all the handouts they need, a working projector, etc. only to find out they were very wrong. The same goes for Tosho cards check before you go to the cashier.

Another Good Point To Ponder

Actually, if you look at this story you may find that there are also other lessons that could be gleamed from it. For example, 1)The importance of serendipity. I am always pleasantly surprised by the books I do come in find. It is much more satisfying than search on Amazon. 2)The importance of intentionality, I spend well over two hours in a book with no strong intention as to what kind of book to buy. No wonder I took so long! If I was more intentional I could have saved a lot of time. 3) The importance of facing your own embarrassment, Look I know I forgot to bring my Tosho card, I just faced that fact saved the money, apologized and put the books back. But I didn`t and paid quite a bit for it.  

That is just one story and from you have seen there are at least four points from it. And that is the true value of any story. Most stories can easily have several points. It is just depended on what details you emphasize and what details you don`t. If you take away anything from article, I suggest you take that point.

Parting Comment

So, anyway the next time you go out whether it is for presentation or buy a few books please check everything. And also do it one more time. Both you and your wallet will thank you.

Have Your Own Presentation Project!

One of the quickest way to get better at something is simply to make a project of it. "A Project?" you may wonder. Yes, a clear goal with a clear deadline in the near future with clear consequences.  In my case I am actually going to participate in the Global Kokorozashi Business Forum 2018 on November 25th in Tokyo. This a unique presentation contest done in a style that I have never done before.  As some who make his living teach other people to present well, if I do badly it will not look so go. So in a way I have crossed the Tiber river and burnt all of my ships. 

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But you don`t need to go that far. 

Originally, I just wanted to get better at presenting in front of people. But, as you probably know there is not always as many opportunities to present as you would like.  You need stage time to get better. But has I have written before stage time by itself is not enough you need more than that. 

So, I was reading S.J. Scott`s book "Novice to Expert." There is a lot of good information in it and one of the things mentioned was to have a project. And that got me thinking.   

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The Beginning: Simply Handed a Project 

A good while back, I had the goal of doing well in the local Toastmasters Public Speech Contest. Toastmasters contest tend to lean more towards the motivational speaking and not business presentation. My focus was and still is business presentation, but it is never a good idea to stay stuck in a rut or to be too fixed in ones ways as not try new stuff or new styles. You never know when you might run into something useful.

The great thing about Toastmasters is that they have manual with clear objectives. So, even if you do not have initially have clear objectives on what areas you should improve upon, the Toastmasters manuals gives you a clear path. But at some point you are going to graduate from that.  Which is probably why many people don`t stay more than two years there and also possibly why Toastmasters itself has significantly changed their educational program.

So at the beginning I just went through the speech manuals finish each speech "project" procced to get my CTM, ATM, and eventually my DTM. But at some point I realized I was not focusing on a true project. I was just going through the motions. So, I need something with a very clear deadline and very clear way to determine success or failure. 

Enter the Contest

Toastmasters always has had a speech contest in the spring and it is something to aspire to win. Some people may be afraid that if they fail what will that look say about them professionally, but I frankly do not care. When or lose I got something out the trying every time. The only caveat is that their style is not what most of my clients really need. 

But putting that aside the real problem was that I was just entering contest just to enter contests. It was just a matter of course. But without any "mentor" or Gandalf in my own "Hero`s Journey" I realized that am going to need to put some additional purpose other than to to win. I need to focus on improving my craft.  

So, that is what I started to do. I entered the contest. If I won that was a bonus. But my main focus was honing a particular skill (telling a good story, period) I just used the contest as a way to focus and get my but in gear.  However, the problem is that Toastmasters Contests are once a year. That is just too far away.

A Good Project is ...

A good project does have a deadline. It has a clear finish (if you set one up) and it should have a clear way of knowing if you did well or not. But another factor is important, especially in learning projects. That factor is the deadline is short. 

Short is a good thing, because it will make you sprint. Also, if you fail, you fail.  You didn`t waste a lot of time and energy so you don`t have to feel guilty about it. Just chalk it up as a good learning experience.

I know that if the deadline is too far off there are two bad possibilities waiting for me 1)procrastination. 2)sunk costs. Procrastination could happen simply because it everyone natual tendancy to put off what you can do today when tomorrow or some point far in the future is perfectly fine. I pratice a little bit and do ok. I that is not a great result, but probably some part of me would have been ok with it. I want to avoid that

Another problem would be the guilt of sunk costs. Supposed I did spend a year practicing that speech. I may worry about how much time an energy I put into it. I would then put too much pressure on myself and possibly screw up. I would prefer to be more relaxed on the stage so I can perform at my best. Leave the whole worry about how one spent 4 whole years for one magic moment to Olympic athletes. 

So, instead of fixating on a project with a far off goal. I started looking for closer one and eventually came in contact with event that I mentioned above, Global Kokorozashi Business Forum 2018. The deadline is much closer, November 25th.  The method also different from what I am used to, but still fascinating. I look forward to the future developments.  

No matter what happens I will continue to focus more on project-based learning.

 

Feeling No Improvement? 3 Ways To Get Unstuck on the Presentation Skill Plateau

Have your ever felt stuck?  Does it seem that no matter what you do your presentation ability is not improving. I have felt the same way.

When I was working at NASA  I felt stuck in a presentation rut. It did not seem that anything that I did I got any better. I went to Toastmasters, I got advise from my friends, I went to see some good speakers to see if there was any tricks that I could use for my own presentations.  But, nothing seemed to work. But, eventually I found a way.

There is what experts call  "Skill Plateau." When you first start, you feel like you are improving rapidly, but that feeling stops. Then you hit the plateau.  No matter how much your practice, it still seems you are just doing the same thing over and over and over again. The general advise seem to just keep trying.  In fact there is not just one but multiple plateaus that are waiting for you.  Sounds awful, right?

There is something called the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition which was developed by Stuart E. Dreyfus from the University of California.  He noted there are five levels.

  1. Beginner
  2. Advanced Beginner
  3. Competant
  4. Profiecient
  5. Expert
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The problem is that at each level there is a plateau.  Or even worse there can be a feeling of slight drop in skill. You may get complacent or even give up on improving and so you just stay at that level.  You may even get bored or just tired of doing presentations, this could effect your overall performance and general satisfaction with life. 

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In any case you will need to break through each plateau in order to get to the next level.  But way too many give up before they get to the next level. In order to overcome this plateau the issue is not a lack of commitment or determination. The issue that most people don`t know the right thing to do when they hit the plateau. 

The problem is that the right thing to do depends on where you are on the skill level. What I will cover are three common problem for people at the advanced beginning level.  So, let`s look at what they are.

3 Things to Avoid to Get Off the OK Presentation Plateau

Every skill level has it pitfalls and for an advanced beginner you can some feel somewhat competent, but not really.  Your in it a bit of awkward situation. You have put in a good deal of time and there was a thrill of fast growth, but now not much is happening.  You not sure if it is worth pursuing the time and energy to get "good." But you also don`t want to waste all the time you have spent either. It a bit of catch-22.

 But there is a way. Firs,t lets look at what not to do.

1. Having No Deliberate Practice. 

You need to have a what is called deliberate practice. Most beginners follow the praticed routines or patterns that a teacher or a simple practice book puts out.  But when you get to the advanced beginners stage you get to more nuanced situations. Most of the time there just isn`t any material out there for advanced beginners, especially for speakers or presenters. 

In many cases advanced beginners know what the basics are but have not yet mastered them well. They may have done some of the routines, but those start getting boring and they stop doing them. The challenge is to add variety where it is needed. Also the challenge is to keep being motivated to hone on the basics so you don`t have to think about it.

In fact, ,any professional athletes like Micheal Jordon simply practiced on the basics like the free throw over and over and over again until it became automatic.  Many people at this point have stopped at the point where they think they got it.  That may not really be the be case. And the more important thing is that you don`t stop at the point where you got it. You stop at the point that you don`t even have to think that you got. The importance of this kind of work is covered in "Peak" by Anders Ericsson.

When it comes to speakers you need to decided first on what you want to practice on. What is the ONE thing to focus on?  And keep working on that ONE thing over and over until it is so natural that you don`t need much though. I do not mean something vague like "presentation" or "storytelling." You cannot measure your success or failure with a vauge goal like that.

The key is specificity. Specificity is important because without it is hard to give meaningful feedback. So, consider something like I mean something like improving certain specific gestures, using changes in voice to add clear emphasis, or even using the basic hero`s journey framework in your storytelling.  

In my cases, I had a common problem with my voice being too soft. It was something that even cost me a couple of speech contests. So, I then had to practice talking loud. I had practice talking louder than I even felt comfortable with.  What that meant is that spoke in some larger venues with no microphone.  If the person in the back did not catch what I said then that was a loss.  I did this many times until I got it and then did not have to think about it much. By working on this aspect, I over came the problem and now I could focus on other parts I wanted to improve. 

Look at your own most recent speech or presentation.  What are the areas that you feel the need to improve? Try to be as specific as possible.  Then pick the one that you feel will have the most impact on your presentations.  Focus on improving that. Nothing else.

2. Not Changing Your Style

If you do your presentation in the same style, in the same way that you always do them, then you will almost always get the same result. I say "almost" because the in some cases, since the audience is different you may get a different result.  But the real problem is that many ok speakers do not have a specific style. 

The common answer to this is "be natural" or "be yourself."  Except this isn`t very helpful. Most people do not know that it means specifically what it is to be natural or be yourself on the stage.  Your stage self may even be much magnified version of yourself off the stage.  But it is hard to intellectually know what is right without really trying different things.

I generally suggest to pickup a few speakers or presenter that you admire. Study their techniques, mannerisms, and way of speaking. Consider how they would deliver the same presentation that you would give. Actually try to give that presentation.  Work at it until you feel you got down.  Then decided what you really want to keep if you do it as you were you.   

This way you are actually taking something that is a couple levels above you and making it yours This will definitely improve your game. But, the important thing is to pick something that fits with who you are and what you want to do. 

In my case, I have recently deliberately picked people who are NOT professional presenters. Even other people who talk or use words for living have something to offer. One time I wondered what Mary Angelou a poet who spoke at Bill Clinton`s inauguration would do for a presentation on healthcare. It was quite different what I originally imagined.  Still it was interesting to try. It made me think about my word choice a whole lot more.

3. Not Getting Feedback that Actually Works

Getting feedback from your friends can sometime be worthwhile. If you want to know what your strengths are or what is the biggest value you are producing.  Your friends and clients can point you in the right direction.  However, when it comes to presentations they may not be the most helpful of people.  The problem is two fold:

  1. The advice is not really useful.  
  2. The advice is hard to apply to future presentations

On occasion you may get some helpful advice that sounds good in general, but doesn`t apply to your unique situation. It could even be advice that you would like to apply, but  your skills are nowhere close to pulling it off. 

For example, suppose you were told that you should use more vocal variety.  The people in your stories sound all the same.  You should make the women should like women and the kids sound like kids. That is all well and good, but if you have not practiced any interpretive reading yet, or some voice acting it is going to be a bit hard. Plus, if your job is not motivational speaking it may not even matter much anyway.

I myself have struggled with dealing with advice.  I have been in speech contests, gotten advice from people I trust.  Some of it was contradictory and if I put all of it in my speech it would probably stop being anything recognizable.  So, you have got to have some kind of simple way to measure what is good advice and what is not. 

The generally rule I follow is: Has this person done anything like what I have done before. Has this person succeed in it? If this person is a successful presenter then seriously consider the advice. If not then don`t. 

Your best friend may give you advice but unless he has been on stage and done very well there ignore his suggestions. In fact ignore most of your relatives, friends, and other well meaning people people. Most of them don`t know what they are talking about. 

On the other hand.  If you ask what they they felt or thought about the speech from their perspective it may be a useful point of information. But only one point. You will need a few points to be sure that you are off your mark. 

One another important point to look out for is that the advice may be good and it may in fact be excellent.  But your understanding of the advice only works for that particular speech.  A great presenter generally has a framework to work off of.  This person uses that to make advice.

To get the most out of that advice you need to understand the thinking behind it. What is the criteria? What are the principals involved?  If you know that then you use the advice for your next speech.  It is here were most people fail to consider.  If you going to get great advice someone please ask them why they think it is a good idea.  

Unfortunately you are going to have to tread carefully here. The problem is some people are so talented and have been in the business so long, and doing it for so long, that they don`t even know why something is good or bad.  They just know.  If you run into one of those "geniuses" who cannot give a clear reason or a process then go somewhere else.  You will probably not know what do to with the advice. 

So, in the end you need to not only separate the good advice from the bad advice you also need to dig deep into the advice so you can get the most out of it. 

Conclusion

Let`s face it, many people will run into the presentation plateau.  It will happen. It happened to me and it will happen to you. The question is what you will do about it.  You can just buckle down and get through with grit and determination or you can give up.  Or you can do something smart. You will need to: 

  • Have Deliberate Practice
  • Try Different Styles (only if you are stuck)
  • Get Feedback that Works

So, do these things and let me know how it works out, I would love to hear more about it. 

I can help people in three basic ways:

  1. If you need personal help, I do personal presentation coaching
  2. If you want to work in groups I run monthly seminars.
  3. If you just want quick review of a video or power point, I do that too

Just let me know which one you are interested click here.

Why Speaking to Everyone  Means Speaking to No One

The above title seems to counterfactual. Doesn`t every speaker want to speak in front the biggest audience as possible? Can`t you imagine a great speaker like Tony Robbins or Steve Jobs speaking in front of tens of thousands of people. What about the politicians who you see on television, trying to get their message to hundreds of thousands of people. But none of them are trying to reach every single person. The reason is if you try to reach everyone, you will reach no one. You cannot be all things to all people. Nor can your speech. 

 To Everyone? Really?

The problem is too many speakers are not clear on who they want to speak to. They want to speak to as many people as possible. Perhaps they are so excited about their message, and the impact it will have, that they want to reach every single person. This may be a great long term goal, but it is not a good goal for a specific speech. 

Let`s take a classic case former president Barak Obama. He was president of the United States of America. In his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, he even said. “There is no white America. The is no black America. There only the United States of America” That sounds like a speech of all the people. But, let look at this. Outside a few lines this speech is aimed at only Americans or 326 million people out of 7.5 billion on earth. Not only that. But, I cannot imagine that racists would care about that message either. That is another segment of the population. Would you even want to appeal to that group? They are part of everybody. Also, besides this extreme example, there are still other people who this would not appeal or strike a chord. Think about who that could be. If you are not sure email me.
 
Next, if you look at Steve Jobs, you clearly know where he stands and who his audience. He was the guy who was behind the whole PC vs Mac commercials. He hated complexity.  Design was important to him. By drawing these lines、he kept narrowing down to the exact person he wanted to talk to. Also, if you look at his iPhone speech and the Stanford, “Stay young, stay foolish” speech, he is speaking to different people. Each is tailored for its audience.

 A Crispier Example with CRISPER

To look at it a different way, suppose you were to give a speech on very complex topic like CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). This is biotechnology that allows a person to accurately and repeatable cut a specific strand of DNA. With this technology, you could permanently change the gene of a malaria caring mosquito. You could do this in a way that could permanently effect that mosquito’s genes so it`s offspring will cary a trait that will cause within a couple of generations the entire population would wipe itself out. This has already been shown possible in current research. What would happen if those same techniques were aim at humans? This is the kind of questions you want your audience to think about. 

Imagine that you were going to talk to college students? Would you want to talk to a general audience? Or to a specific group interested in science? Or maybe do a symposium for graduate students studying genetics? Even if you were looking at just college students, these three different groups require complete different tactics.
 
For the first group, you going to need an eye-catching opening, compelling metaphors, and perhaps some good storytelling to boot. If you put too much science jargon you will lose this audience quickly. Also, if you think about to the time when you were a college student, how much did you really care about science or ethics? This could be a very challenging group.

From the Perspective of Average College Students

For example, you could start like this:
Imagine there a kindly old man on a stage. Like the one you have seen in Jurassic Park. There is a pair elephants on the stage. He lowers the curtain, and “poof” there are two wooly mammoths on stage. Is this a magic trick? No, it is science. With a cheap pair of very tiny and accurate scissor, called CRISPR, we can in the near future turn elephants into wooly mammoths. Plus, this trick can be done for less than 8,000 yen. (This is not science fiction, people. Real scientist are actually working on this.)

Exciting, isn`t it?

Now imagine that this technology was turned on human beings. There is a trial already being held to fight a chronic disease in living human beings, not embryos. And it will be held in China later this fall.  What do you think of the country that could able to do that? What do you think the future will hold?

 
Now imagine you do this same speech in front graduates studying for their master`s in genetic engineering. You might want to put a lot more technical detail in this presentation this time. You might want to add more data and reference to current research. If you do not, they may feel that speech is very shallow and not for them. They may feel like you are talking down to them.
 
Now stepping away from the college life, imagine that you were giving this talk in front of venture capitalist from Silicon Valley. You will need to radically change your presentation and your main message. If there isn`t any information about how the market will change, the major players in the market, etc. they will not be interested in your speech. However, the master`s students would not care for this info at all. 

Same Topic, Difference Perspectives

There are a bunches of example like this, and the problem is that you if you try to talk to one group of people you may not effectively reach another group. What may sound great to one, may not to another one. Further, even on the same topic you cannot be all things to all people. If you want to you be a great speaker you need to be clear on who you are talking too, and who you want to reach. With that you will know how to craft your message in a way that will make your audience happy and excited. 

*So, please let me if you agree or disagree with the above. I would love to hear what you think.

**I do coaching and consultation for people worried about their English Presentations, so if you are interested message me here.

What in the World Does Steven Covey Have to Do with Presenting?

So, imagine that you were walking by and saw a simple sign that said “Free Presentation Course” at the bottom is date, time and location. It is today, and the location is not far away, so you decide to check it out. “I wonder what they will teach me?” you wonder.  “Maybe a better way to use my body or some good powerful phrases to catch attention.”
 
You come small office building, get into a narrow elevator and go to the 3rd floor. You get out and go to the meeting room. There about five to six people already there and a bald white guy who appear to be the teacher.  You take a seat two rows back, and the teacher starts “Before we talk about specific presentation technique, I want to talk first about being a good presenter as a person. So, let`s first start off with “Being Pro-active” and then we will move on to priorities.
 
You are a bit annoyed.  It doesn`t look like this guy is going to talk about presentation skills at all, and not only he isn`t even bother to introduce himself. Well, at least it is free. So you decided to see what this will be about. 

The Pro-Active Speaker

 All Speakers are pro-active in some way. Even the one that complains about the tough crowds, the microphone that acts up, or the stop light that made him or her late. You have to be, because speakers are leaders. They may not have a specific title or position, but the audience looking to you for inspiration, guidance, and possibly a good joke.
 
A reactive person would not even be on stage.  They would need something to react to.  The audience is not going to give you much of a reaction until you start speaking first, and even then, the audience tends to react to you more than you react to them.
 
Great speakers take 100% responsibility. In that they believe that they have the ability to properly respond to any situation and not gripe too much about it.
 
For example, I was given a presentation in front of about 100 people when the microphone died. There was no replacement. I was also a very soft-spoken speaker. I could have gotten mad at the MC or the staff for not doing their job, for not checking the microphone and for keep a spare on hand.
 
But, in reality that was my job. I should have checked beforehand. I should have had a backup or at the very least checked the staff in advanced so that they could prepare one. All of that was my responsibility. All of that was something that I could have actively taken care off.
 
Considering that I did not do any of that preparation work, the next best thing was to apologize for the situation, ask people to come closer, and speak as loud as I could so everyone could hear.
 
Whatever the case a great speaker looks at the situation and sees what he or she can do to make it better.  As Steven Covey says, highly effective people are pro-active. So, highly effective presenters are too.

 
Begin with the Ending in Mind
 

If you were to think about creating a presentation what would you start off with first? A creating a key message? Picking a good story? Probably neither.
 
You are a navigator, a steward, a guide. So, you need to know what the end will be.
 
When I mean end I do not mean just the ending of your speech.  Some do start with the final phrase or the final scene in their speech. That is good as far as it goes. But, I think there is more than that. I feel you need to think of how the audience should feel after the speech is finished. But, not only that what will happen when the members of the audience go home. What would prevent your presentation from just being another forgotten item in a long laundry list of things that people forget.
 
The simple thing would be to start with one person. Do not go with “I have an audience member who is between 30~40 years old, an officer worker, and also watches TV. There is so such person.
 
A few may pick a persona, name it Bob, and also give it a few details. Like age, hobby, family, etc. But this is still fake, and many time emotional important details are left too vague or completely out altogether. Or what is assumed to be his worries could be completely wrong. It is much better to imagine a real person. Someone you know. Someone that you really want to get your point across.
 
Then imagine how that person would react after your presentations done.  What would happen after that person goes back to his normal life. What would change? What would you want to be changed? These are the things you want to think about. These are the thing you need imagine be you pick a key message or a simple story.
 
Additionally, this presentation is just one of many in your journey of becoming a great presenter.  There are other questions you need to answer. What kind of presenter do you want to be? What do you value as a presenter? What are the skills and abilities that you need to be the best presenter you want to be? Where are you now and what do you need to do to get where you want to be? Etc.
 
A great presenter will not only look at the end game for a specific presentation, but all for his career and his business.

 
Putting the First Thing First
 

Once you have an idea of how you audience should be changed after your presentation, then it is a question of what you put in what order.  Also, it is a question of that to put in and what to leave out. Many people struggle with determine to what to put in and what to leave out. Some feel that they have to include every single detail. They feel that if they do not put those details in no one will get their point. This is sometimes the case. But in many instances, it is just too boring. You need to find a good balance. There is no perfect formula for that.
 
My English teacher Mr. White once gave us an assignment to speak in front of class. One of my classmates in middle school, named Jack, asked Mr. White,  “How long does our speech need to be?”He replied, “As long as a dog`s leg.” Perplexed, Jack asked what he meant. The teacher said, “As long as it needs to be and no more.”
 
That was not the answer that Jack wanted to hear. Many of us want the easy answer of a specific time. Fortunately, the real world does put time constraints. But, they may vary. You may have only one to two minutes to pitch your presentation. You may have 10 minutes to give a short presentation in front of a small crowd. Then you may have 30 minutes to an hour to give that same presentation in front of a larger audience. 
 
In any case, it is a good idea to at least imagine what you keep and what you would not based on different time constraints. Based on those decision you will feel is essential and what is not. So, how do you decide? There really are only two ways. 
 
First would be to think of that one single person. If you were in a conversation with that person, what would you say? What if you only had a few minutes? What if you had a relaxing 30-minute conversation?
 
The other thing would be actually try your presentation in front of real people and get their feedback. This can be the best way if and only if you know what your core message and core outcome is.  Too many people accept too much advice simply as is and in the end their presentation become too unfocused. So, you need to be careful.
 
Another thing is particularly for western audiences. It is a good idea to get your biggest and most important point out in front at the beginning.  But remember your mileage may vary depending on the culture and the audience.

Create Win-Win with your Audience

And any speaking situation all speakers think of about their message and their speech so much. The audience on the other hand usually care about WIIFM what's in it for me. Many speakers think about them speaking to many many many many people. And this is something that most people forget about their like so into their speech and their message and the fact that they can change the world or whatever they have to say It's so really important that it's really got to get out. But the situation is most people don't care and they won't care until you show that you care about them. 

So I can give you an example, suppose I was giving a seminar say on negotiation. What did I say that the audience members are mainly moms. So if I went on and you know this is a great course on learning how to negotiate well and business and you know what you should try because it's just so much that you can do. Not just saying something like that is completely nuts. The audience are moms you don't care about business, they don't care the course, how great you are or even how great of some special guest that you called. They care about the kids, how deal with them, how to raise them. So in that case you'd actually have to structure the message such that it's a clear win for them. 

Especially when you're trying to pitch a negotiation class in the idea is that in any negotiation  there are winners and losers.  Sometimes there are losers and losers And because you split the difference and those people come out unhappy. That's not how mothers  want to end up with their kids. 

Mothers want to be able to communicate and get their kids to behave. If you were really interested in pitching this to moms, you would have to couch it so that what they learn will be beneficial to the relationship with thier kids. How do I say sure WIN-WIN situation. 

Cuz let's face it most people in the audience do not care about what you have to say unless it's something worthwhile to them to listen. So it's either when when or lose and not be heard.

To Be Understood, Show You Understand

Another important skill is to be understood and then show your understanding. This sounds so counter-intuitive because you speak first there is no understanding of your audience before you talk.  

Actually it is, If you can actually speak to people as they come walking in before you do talk so you can get a feel of who the people are coming. I've known speakers who come to this day before they walk around they talk to people and then they give their their speech. I've heard professionals to give questionnaires they interview might have to ride if you people in the business that they're delivering the motivational speech for. Before they say even a word, They clearly know the people in the room. They know what they like, dislike, and hope for. 

Let me give you an example , Oh that as before the audience is a bunch of moms and I want to talk about the jewelry of Google voice input. And I don't know about you but even if it's not mom's there are plenty of people who are intimidated by technology. Just talking and having text come out seems so magical. It also seems like it could be difficult. And with so much pressure on your time why do you really want to learn one thing?

So, I just need to paint the picture  of  a mom who is probably stressed and there's not a lot of time and it's just hectic. You as a speaker have to show that you understand their situation you understand how they really feel. You do that before you go on to your main point. 

Now the trick here is I am not a mom nor do I have kids so there's probably going to be a little bit of concern  that I'm not really one of them.  in that case you have to do a little bit of a research and find some sort of commonality. This could be like how you deal with your mom or Or with your in-laws or some other similar situation.  But, I must have gone by into your idea and less you should show that you understand that pain you understand their situation and your solution has them in mind .

Creative Cooperation

Stephen Covey Mention Synergy or another way of putting it creative cooperation. now the same strange, too, Because the speaker is one person. Is a person on stage talking to a whole bunch of people and there's no real operation with anybody. At least that's what's most people seem to think. 

But there's really a whole team to this situation. Depending on the size of the event you may be dealing with a MC, you may be dealing with people who oversee the mic and the lights. All the other people dealing with frustration or emotion or whatever it is that gets this event rolling. 

And so the show is not so much about you and what your message is it's about how you can contribute in the most positive way to bring the most value to the event. 

Another way of thinking about this is to consider that everyone has strengths and weakness. If you've ever taken a Strengths Finder survey You will find out what you're good at and what you're not good at.  By being very clear about what you are good at and not good at you can ask people to help you with the things you are not good at and create an experience that is much better than you could do by yourself.


 Sharpen That Mic!

That being said there is still the prerogative of improving your skill. So what this means is it's important to improve all things that you are good. If you look at the case of say Michael Jordan he didn't just skip practice and play during the the games.  He got out on the court And he practiced every day. 

So for me if you want to be the best whatever is enjoy you really need to go out there and work on that skill.  But if you've ever been familiar with the book on Peak Performance and what is required to be the best is you do need to practice deliberately and that means with a strong goal in mind it also means that you need to practice and a slightly uncomfortable at times situation and you usually need a coach or a mentor to help guide you and put you in situations that are on the edge of your capability. It Is by being on that you grow as a speaker or as a human being in general.

 Conclusion

At first glance the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People may not have much to do with speaking or presenting in general I actually have quite a lot to do with each other. 
You need to be more active in the decisions you make and and also how you deal with yourself on stage and have a positive and proactive attitude on stage. We also need to begin with the end in mind and that tends to work very well in a case of presentations because if you already know what the main objective the presentation supposed to be it's much easier to think back words to how you should begin your speech and not only that too consider that once the speech is over and the people go back to real life. ou will have created a presentation with enough thought that people will actually enact the change. You You will have to put the correct priorities in order and also the correct parts of your presentation in the right order so that you actually accomplish what needs to be done. 

Again that only works from a individual perspective will not work with his presentation by itself because it takes two to make a presentation. Therefore, we have to consider the other parts of Stephen covey's habits. We need to consider that before the audience will listen to us, that we have to understand thoroughly them and to give voice to that understanding. We need to make sure were create a win-win situation between ourselves and the audience. We also need to create win-win or synergist situations where all the people who help you put together your presentation and make your day a great day.

Finally, I there are a lot of presentation and public speaking books out there. There a lot of the same stuff that gets recycle over and over again. But, the important point is that there is a lot to be learned about these subjects in books that are not directly connected with them. So read a lot, write and lot and speak alot.  You will help other and be all the better for it. 
 

FEELING DOWN BEFORE A PRESENTATION? 3 SIMPLE WAYS TO TURN YOUR MOOD AROUND

Suppose that the dog that you had spent over 12 years of your life, including five transfer to different schools, died of cancer. On the day after you were supposed to give a big presentation before a set of some important professors. Do you think you could steel the will to do an outstanding presentation? Maybe. Maybe not.

Or how about you got a phone call that your grandfather who had lived closed to you for so many years before you moved overseas had sudden died of a heart attack.  Do you think that that very afternoon you could deliver a pumped-up presentation that would excite young employees? That could be a tall order.

Both happened to me. The first one when I was a university student, another was when I was working for manufacturing company. Temporarily, I was able to change my own personal state for the few hours and shove things aside.

That is usually NOT the best thing to do. The best thing to is to let yourself feel the emotion not put a cork in.  Simply because bad things can happen if you bottle up emotion for too long. But in a lot of cases at least in the short term, the show must go on. Especially when the client has paid, and the audience is waiting on you.

You do have the responsibility to keep all your commitments, no matter what curveballs life throws at you. Something this bad may not happen to you, but you still need to know what do when you feel a little down or nervous.

If you are feeling down or simply not in the best mood before a presentation, there are three simple things you can do. These are music, exercise, and meditation. I sometimes do one or all three depending on my mood, the time, and space available before an important presentation or even a speech contest. So let`s take a look in detail.

Mood Music

Music is a be a big motivator for me.  There also have been a fair amount of research that points that music can help change our moods. For example, A recent study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands shows that music has a dramatic effect on smilie, frownie and neutral faces.

Happy music made it more likely to misinterpret a neural face for a slightly smilie one. The same was true in the reverse. That may sound like a bit of silly research, but who says research has to be serious all the time.  The point is that music can change our perception for the positive or negative.

Further, if you look at Olympic athlete you will find a lot of them listen to music to manage their mood for the big day.  Do a quick search and you find many a list of favorite songs by many a athlete. Of course there is also a more serious  study from Georgia Southern University measuring how music affected Division I college athletes.  They noticed that music helped these athletes control their moods.

But, you may think “Well, I am not an athlete, could this really work for me?” But, think back to all the songs you hear during the say, the songs that bring back memories, the songs you use for workouts, even the songs that you may listen to during the daily commute.  You may be using them to help enhance your mood without even thinking much about it.

But, here is a quick experiment that you can try to check it out for yourself. Imagine you have a big presentation coming up. There going be 40 to 50 people in the audience.  It is your first big break. Please imagine the stage, the feel of the lights, the faces of the people in front. Please imagine this in as much detail as possible.

If that is not making you nervous just increase the size of the audience, the size of the room, or even the size of the stakes. Once you are there then either imagine (or if possible play) a song that has made your happy or humped you up. A couple of titles that I particularly enjoy are:

Engage and Exercise

Moving your body is also a good way to change your mood. But don`t just take my word for it, the American Psychological Association says the same thing too. On their site they quote Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University. He says "the link between exercise and mood is pretty strong," Otto says. "Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect."

It later mentions that exercise also helps reduce anxiety. The reason is that exercise creates similar physical sensations as anxiety. This includes increased heart and respiratory rates, dry mouth, shortness of breath, etc. Allowing your self to experience the same symptoms as getting nervous, but from exercise instead allows to you to think of more healthier association with the symptoms and it also get you used to them.

If you are simply nervous it helps to have vigorous exercise. The reason this can help, is that it increases your heart rate.  If you increase your heart rate fairly high, your heart has only one way to go and that is to slow down.  As the heart slows down you naturally relax more and more.  Here are a couple of things you can do close to the stage:

  • Run as fast as you can in place, for 20s
  • Do push-ups as fast as you can with in 20s
  • Jump in place as fast as you can in 20s (do short jumps)
  • Beat a cushion up like Jackie Chan or Ken from the North Star 

If you have a little extra time, a walk in the park (not the Namie Amuro song) can also be relaxing. The reason is that this can provide a variety of things helps your body relax and feel good like:

  • phytoncides, which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds that plants give off and that can reduce blood pressure and boost immune functioning
  • negative air ions found in the air in forested and mountainous areas and near moving water, which reduce depression
  • mycobacterium vaccae, a common soil bacterium that has been shown to work as an antidepressant
  • nature sounds, which studies have shown activate the parasympathetic system and reduce heart rate

You can also simply strike a pose. If you are in place where you feel it is ok to shout, do that as well. Nothing works better than a “Yossha!” with a fist pump.  Or do some silly movements. You would be surprised how effective it is. 

Now, I will note that the "Power poses" by Amy Cuddy  is popular on TED video. I not only watched the video, I bought her book. But it turns out all of it is not backed up by repeatable research. This has been a problem that has recently plagued many social and psychological research.  However, I would not dismiss it completely right way. I suggest you try it and see if it works for you.

Even if the effect of a "power pose" itself is not really significant, the casual belief that it can be can create a placebo effect that works just as well. Results matter, so test and check.

Mellowing Meditation

If you are trying to create inner calm that you want to be able to turn on at will, meditation is is a good long term solution. The first two, exercise and music, are good short term band aids if you need a way to quickly change your mood.  But mediation or its relative mindfulness is a good way banish the "monkey mind" and all the chatter that can distract and hurt your performance. 

Many people have heard of it, but very people know how to do it. There are a lot books, videos, trainings, etc. There is is even an app for it. Apps are not for everyone, but I think it is a good place to start as the commitment tends to be less, plus you can do it anywhere.  I have on a couple occasion bough books with CDs only to realize that I didn`t even have a portable CD player.

There are a lot of free apps that can walk you through this. I tend to use Omvana (free) and the 6 Phase Meditation that is inside it.  It is very comprehensive it not only helps you relax but it also covers, gratitude, forgiveness, and visualization practices. This is all within 20 minutes! The only down side is that it is English only.

If you must have Japanese, I recommend Netamanma Yoga or Undo. I have only used these on a trail basis, but they seem good. If you know of a better one, please let me know.
At of those three which one should you do? If have time I suggest your first try Meditation. It may be hard to find a good place, but the restroom is always convenient.  If you don`t have a lot a time exercise and music and music work. But, remember everyone is slightly different, try a few different routines.  See what works for you.

See you on Stage!

What do PDCA and speaking have in common?

PDCA is one of the best methods of improving your speech or presentation. Except that I did know anything about PDCA until I came to Japan. If you are Japanese you probably know what it is Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust.  If you know are familiar with Agile programing or the Toyota way you may have also come across this word. But, really? what would make program method and a manufacturing method have anything to do with speaking?

Glad you asked. Almost everything if you want to become a great presenter.

Mostly like you will not be like Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, or even Ken Robinson (the man who gave the most watched TED talk) immediately. Some of you may even think that is an unreachable level. But, it is not.

It just takes a plan.  Because if you are not planning to become a great speaker, then you are planning to become a lousy one. What does that mean?

Suppose you want to be a world class bicyclist. If all it took was riding a bicycle for 10,000 hours, then every neighbor kid in the world could enter the Tour de France. This obviously is not the case. You have to deliberately push yourself, so you are better, faster, and stronger. Simply coasting every day at the same speed on the same course well not cut it.

Further, those that successfully compete at the Tour de France know a whole list of micro-skills that is needed to not only survive by thrive at such a tough competition. They are good at time trials and good at climbing. They know how to quickly fix a flat and know how to maintain their nutrition levels for such a grueling race.  Those that win have a very specific schedule and a very specific set of tasks to keep leveling up so that they can do well at the race.

However, the thing is the Tour de France is a very clear cut. You know if you won or not. You know that place you got, and you know your time. In the speaking world it is not that clear cut at first.

First off you actually would need to define what kind of speaker you want to be. Not only that what would a “good” speaker be? I have mentioned this in a different blog article, but if you do not know what kind of speaker you want to be then it is really hard to know what you need to learn to be that kind of speaker. It is even harder to know when you actual became a “good” speaker. So, take the time and define that in as specific terms as you can. This doesn`t have to be a final definition of what you consider to be a “good” speaker. You have my permission to feel free to change at any time later in the future. But you still have to start.

If you haven`t done that yet. Carve out time in your schedule preferable today. If you have not done so, do so now. This article will still be waiting. If you really need help just go to my Facebook page and send me a message. I will be more than happy to help.

Back already? Great! Congratulations you have just started on an incredible journey for planning, using the PDCA cycle and improving your presentation ability!

After you have done that then take a little bit of time to do some analysis of where you are and where you want to be. For example, you could look at yourself and determine how you fit on a 0 – 10 point scale in:

  • Creating Logical Content & Composition
  • Managing Your Health and Mental Energy for Best Performance
  • Using Body & Facial Expression to Add Impact
  • Analyzing Your Speech and Performance
  • Choosing the Most Effective Words or Phrase
  • Using Effective Vocal Variety
  • Telling Powerful Stories
  • Building a Relationship with the Audience

You could come up with another set of categories what this one work well for me. In any case, you decide where you are from 0 being completely hopeless to 10 I am a super genius.

BTW, once you do that activity.  Try asking yourself why you did not score yourself lower. You may be surprise at the skill and talent that you already have. Most people do not take the time to think and notice what they already have, so this exercise is good for getting that established.

For example, suppose you picked a 3 for “Choosing the Most Effective Words or Phrase.” Most Japanese do not have a lot of confidence in their English, even if they can speak or write it very well. But, even if you do not have a lot you are reading this.  There probably are some good reasons for not picking a 2 or a 1.  You may have spent a lot of time studying news words, read some poetry, studied some famous speeches etc.

In any case, please do make a note of why you did not mark yourself lower. Try to be specific in the reasons and give yourself as many as you can. You should find this part very motivating. You may even raise your score one you have done a full inventory of what you have accomplished.

The next thing would be to look at what would a 10 look like for you.  I do not mean, “Really Great at Working with Words” It is generally better to be as specific as possible. Just like I said when talking about becoming a “good” speaker, please imagine in as much detail as possible what a 10 would actually look like for you. If you do not, it will much harder for you to determine if you achieved that 10 or not. If you have a hard time imagining, then ask someone who is closer to your 10 and as them.

You could think of great word smiths and copywriters. These are people who get clear results with the words that they choose. You might think of Brain Clark who founded CopyBlogger, or you may think of the eloquent Winston Churchill. One many build a great business empire on the power of words. Another kept the hearts and minds of an empire together through a very tough war.

Or perhaps you could think of the ease at thinking of and using different rhetorical techniques. There are many like the chiasmus. The most famous chiasmus is the “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Here you could substitute the “country” for something else like, “Ask not what parents can do for you, but ask what you can do for your parents. Or you can even change the verb or other parts while keep the same mirror pattern if you feel more adventurous. “Be not the first to take but be the first to give.”

In any case it helps to have a clear goal in mind, so you can break it down and have something concrete to aim for.  Also, please to not get caught up in coming up with a perfect crystal-clear solution. You will probably change your mind several times as you get closer to your initial goal. That is ok, life changes, people change, and objectives changes. But if you don`t know where you want to go, then any path is the right path.

So, now you have clearly imagined what kind of “good” speaker you want to be.  You have considered where you are against your own criteria and you have considered where you want to be if you were to take a 10.

The next thing to do is to prioritize. You can prioritize against the time, difficulty and impact of making the improvement. For me, it probably better to start of considering the near term.  What improvements can get you quick wins. In other words what changes would have the biggest impact in the least amount of time with the least amount of difficulty. Once you have gotten started then you can always move to more longer term strategic considerations.

After you have gotten that done.  The next phase is to plan out what you need to do. You may decide that in six weeks you will give a presentation in front of 70 people. The biggest problem you face is controlling your nervousness. So, how are you going to deal with that?

One way is to simply consider why you are nervous in the first place. I am sure you can come up with rational reasons (worried that projector will not and then I will not know that to say) to the irrational (what if I forget my lines and people throw tomatoes at me!). Whether rational or irrational the fear is real, and you can come up with specific ways to deal with the problem before it occurs and when it does occur.

So, for example you might set up a schedule for brainstorming on the topic, creating the concept, writing the draft, reviewing the draft, and practicing the presentation. You may also pencil in time to talk to a presentation coach or someone with experience in presenting in front of a larger crowds. You may schedule time to do research on controlling nervousness, set up some time to do smaller practice runs in front of smaller crowds to see if those methods work for you or not.

There are a variety of ways you can deal with nervousness. Almost everybody seems to claim to have the answer. But, the reality is nervousness comes in all shapes and sizes and depending on the type of the problem the method may be more or less effective. I tend to use three basic methods that work for a vast majority of cases. But you really need to try them out for yourself in a close to real situation to see if they really work for you.

Remember even if the number of task for accomplishing anything seems overwhelming at first, you do not have to do all of it. In fact, you could consider 80% solution or the Who solution or some combination.

A lot of us think that we need to the perfect plan with the perfect solution. This animal does not exist. The simple reason is that we are not all-knowing and also things change. So, the best thing to do is simply to try your plan out even if it is not a 100% complete. In fact, 70%~80% may be perfectly fine. What matters is getting the momentum going.

So, what I mean by the 80% is simply if you do not have the time, resources, whatever to do 100% right away, then simply think would be the 80% that would provide the most impact? Then do that part. You can do the remaining 20% later if you have time, or if the 80% turned out well.

The reason I pick 80% is simple because of the 80%-20% “rule.” This is really more of guideline that rule, and there is no hard and fast data that it absolutely have to be 80-20, it could be 70-30 or 90-10. It is just that statistically 80-20 is generally more common. The question then become, well how do I know which is the 80% and which is the 20%.  Initially, you do not know. There is no magic formula that will tell you. So, you have make your best guess. Then send it out there and see what happens.

Also, if you want to take it to an even more extreme example you could think of the MVP (i.e. minimum viable product) of the thing and work from there. That way if you are really, crunched for time you have something to fall back into.

For example, suppose you were to do a 30-minute keynote speech. Since the average person speaks about 200~250 words per minute that would translate to about 6,000 ~ 7,500 words. Writing out the draft of that would take a little bit of time. Most people have a hard time even writing about 1,000 words in one day. So, it is going to take a while to get your talk written out. Even doing about 80% of that would still put you into the 5,000~ 6,000 words, but I am not talking about doing 80% of the words, just 80% of the effort.

The 80% would be brain storming the topic, writing the bullet points. Drawing out simple power point wire frame (if you really need power point, but the use and abuse for another time). Then talk for thirty minutes. Make sure you record it. Take your recording and place it back with Google Doc open and set to turn voice to text. You will then have your draft written in no time.

We tend to be faster readers than listeners, so once you have it on paper you can check for rambling spots, places that don`t make sense or simple have someone look at it for you. If you actually recorded with video you can also get a second opinion.

I know that many of us want to be riveting every second of the presentation. We want to dazzle and enchant. To make it feel like time stopped, and have the audience be surprised of the passage of time. However, if this this your first couple of times the smart thing to do is not worry about that. You simply do not have the time to worry about every single aspect of your presentation.

Most of what the audience remembers are at are the beginning and the end. So, you should plan to spend the most time on that. Keep the middle ok and you should be fine. Most people do not remember the middle part of anything very well. So, you do not need to spend a lot of time on it. Just keep it respectable.

Now all of this assumes that you will be going all the preparation by yourself. I also conveniently left out the all back and forth between you and the event planner, the creating of the Power Point (which will take a good deal of time if you have your draft mostly ready), and myriad other little details that goes into producing a good presentation.

One you have your plan for creating practicing and revising your presentation. You are off to the races. Except that you should note at this point that the example was for one presentation.  As was mentioned at the beginning you should be playing a much longer game. The goal here is to become a “good” and then “great” presenter. In order to do that you need to work at one presentation at time.

Depending on how skilled you are you may want to work anywhere from 1 to 3 different skill targets. This could be from upping up your Power Point game, to getting more audience interaction with activities and games, or even using humor. Just do not take any more risks than you can handle. You want the audience to come off with a great experience and the end. It is ok to have a couple of bumps in the middle of the presentation, if you can finish well. Also, it keeps the presentation alive and interesting for you. Nothing comes off flatter than an over-memorized presentation.

After you have executing your plan for preparation and you have executed your presentation. It now time for the check. Actually, the time for the check is before during and after your presentation. This may seem confusing. But it really depends on the scale of your thinking. There are smaller PDCA circles inside bigger ones.

If you want to reduce the risk of your overall plan for say one presentation, it is important to take baby step. For example, I will test market a speech or a presentation at a Toastmasters club or another casual event before giving it in front of a larger crowd at a more important event.

The same goes for any big professional standup comedian who works at the smaller comedy clubs checking which jokes work or not. You do not want to leave much to chance so it is best, to plan, do, check, and then adjust. First in front of smaller audience then in front of bigger one.

So, what do you check for? That all depends on what your goals was at the beginning of this presentation. If you a very clear on what you want out of the presentation, then it is really easy to check. Just check for that. If you wanted to do well in humor, then you make note of the where and how many laughed. Did they laugh where you expected them to? If not, why?  You could guess at this point or simply ask. There is nothing wrong with asking some members of the audience afterwards. In fact, it can be very enlightening. I wish more speakers did it.

So, to wrap up.  The PDCA cycle is a great way to improve your presentation skills. You can look at a large PDCA cycle comprising of your journey as a presenter. Each cycle is used to improve in skill and experience. You can use the same smaller time frame for a specific presentation and an even smaller one for practice and improvement for that specific presentation.

It all depends on how you set the plan and how you check and how you use the feedback to propel you forward. And the more you go around the cycle the better you will be. So, let`s get going and start planning. You may not like but the process will pay you back many times over.

 

Is Stage Fright Normal and What Can Be Done?

The short answer is “Yes!” Stage Fright is Normal. I will explain why in a little bit and what you can do about it.

If you look on the Internet you will probably find a lot of different ways to overcome stage fright (or performance anxiety). A few will even state that you cannot overcome you can only deal with it. For those people who say that you can only deal with, I think have yet to find an effective solution for their specific type of stage fright.

What seems to be the problem is that there a lot of people offering solutions to Stage Fright, but very few looking at what causes it in the first place. If you don`t know the cause, then how do you know your solution is going to work? You don`t. Further even if your solution works that one time, it may not work on the second or the third.

This is because most people don`t even think about why the solution should work in the first place. “It just works” or so they say. That may be good for them, but often it just doesn’t “work” for other people. Those people then wonder why. They wonder if they didn`t do it right. (i.e. your holding it wrong) Or there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Both of these are generally not true. Most of the time the solution was not clear enough for that person or the solution just did not fit their own personal circumstances.

So, I think that it is important to understand the why we feel Stage Fright. If understand why at a fundamental level, it becomes easier to come up with solutions that work. It is also easier to judge various solutions before you try them.

Why Stage Fright is Normal

As human beings, our bodies and brains are the result of 4 million years of evolution. However, evolution just builds on what worked in the past, so there are structures of our brains that are much older than that. If we just look at our species Homo sapiens, the most recent data states that Homo sapiens have been around for 350,00 years[1].

On the other hand, the oldest city, Uruk, is only 6,000 years old. We can assume that public speaking started around then. This is because before then there were no big crowds to speak in front of. What this means is that human being have only done public speaking for about less than 2% of their existence. If you consider the time after public speaking became a profession then you are looking at 2,500 years ago (i.e. the time of Homer and the Ancient Greeks). That is way less than 1% percent.

Human beings, both physically and mentally have not changed much over the past thousands of years. However, the environment has drastically changed and continues to do so at a rapid rate. What used to be adaptive behavior in the savannahs of Africa, turn into maladaptive behavior in our modern age. One of those behaviors is part of the cause of stage fright.

For many thousands of years human beings lived in small tribes. Unlike a lot of other animals. Human beings do not have much going for them individually. They don`t have claws, they can`t run fast, etc. Think about this. If you were thrown into the wild all by yourself would you survive? Most would not. It is not because we have all grown soft in this modern age, it is because it is very difficult thing to do. What this means is that if you did something stupid to get yourself thrown out of the tribe, you chance of survival went way down.

So, this innate desire to survive is also linked to an innate desire to stick to a tribe, because it is safer. Also, this desire drives social anxiety and a fear of rejection. However, in our modern society the likelihood of any one person rejecting you and then causing you to live on the streets is very small. The likelihood that an entire audience will hate your speech causing you to lose your home, spouse, etc. is also ludicrously small. Modern society has made it possible that we can live reasonably comfortably even if some or even a lot of people reject us. However, our brains have not caught up to that fact, which causes the problems for a lot of people.

Fear Is a Signal

For too many people, they feel the fear and just want it to stop. They do not really examine where the fear is coming from and why. This is a reasonable response. After all, if you cut yourself, the first thing you think about is how to stop the pain. You take action. You stop it in the best way you know how and move on.

The more beneficial way is to after you have temporarily stopped the pain is to consider why the pain occurred in the first place. Then come up with a plan to prevent the problem from occurring again. This second part requires effort. Your brain is incredibly lazy so unless you create a habit of reflection you not likely to consider what preventive measures to take.

BTW, why is the brain lazy? This because the brain uses 20% of the body`s energy[2]. It takes less energy to stay in normal patterns of thought and routines. So, the tendency is to save energy and think less. Beside there are always a lot over crisis and distractions to keep up busy.

So, what happens is that we feel the stage fright, we do not know why, and take some kind of action. Some of will avoid the problem, some of us will plow through the problem and do badly, and some of us will face the problem and do alright.

The question becomes when you feel the fear, do you listen what it is trying to tell you? The fear is real, it may be misguided or it may be 100% right, but if you do not take the time to examine it, you do not know. If you keep ignoring it, it is just going to get worse.

Why would it get worse? Emotions are just one way of the subconscious to communicate with the conscious. If you consciously ignore what you subconscious is trying to say, it is only going to get louder. This also goes for screaming kids and troubled teens who keep escalating until people pay attention.

Anyway, your subconscious is sending you the signal of fear in order to ruin your presentation and make your life miserable. It is doing so to protect you. This could be misguided or actually a helpful.

It could be misguided in the sense that the fear is everyone in your audience will hate if you make a mistake. Even if they did, the likelihood that they will do physical violence towards you or that you will die is very very small. But, in any case you need to acknowledge that the fear exists, and recognize that things are different now.

At this point, I do not want you come away thinking that all version of stage fright are from innate fear of being rejected by a member of the “tribe.” There is another place were the fear can generate. This comes from childhood.

When we are born, for the most part we do not have any set way of viewing and interpreting the world. This is something that we learn from our parents and our experiences at a young age. It is said that our initial personalities and values are fixed at a very young age. At least no later than 7 years old according to one study[3]. This is not to say that we don`t change much after that, is it just to say that fundamental change is harder after that. 

So, if young child had a humiliating experience in front of a group at a very young age, that young child may have learned that talking in front of people = humiliation. Thus, later in life when a similar opportunity presents itself the subconscious sends the signal of fear out, to protect the child from the same humiliation.  The subconscious doesn`t know that the situation is different, and the child has grown up to be able to handle things differently.

However, the trouble is after we become adults were do not remember our childhood very well. After all, do you remember what you ate a few days ago? Probably not. So, we forget what experienced caused the fear in the first place. In some cases, people need to go professional psychotherapists to deal with the issue. But in some other cases, using the right frameworks and spending the time to get in touch with yourself can do the trick. It all depends on urgency and severity of the issue. I generally recommend trying a few simpler approaches first before, going to a professional.

Besides what I mentioned before, stage fright (or performance anxiety as it is also called) can actually have a variety of causes. Here are three:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Worry about rejection
  • Worry about making a big mistake

There are more than the ones mentioned above, but by understanding why you are afraid, you can then choose the right strategy to deal with and finally remove stage fright from your life.

Beside the nature of the cause. It also helps to consider the severity. When it comes to stage fright, I find that there are five kinds of people. Each has a different level of stage fright. These levels are:

A) You are so afraid, you avoid speaking or performing in front of groups.

B) You are afraid, but do it anyway, and perform badly.

C) You are somewhat afraid, do ok, and but wish you could feel more comfortable.

D) You are comfortable speaking in front of groups. It is not a big deal.

E) You not only enjoy but look forward to speaking or performing in front of groups.

Which level are you? Where do you want to be?

If you are either A or B you need to get out of those groups as quickly as possible. The fear is hurting you and possibly your career. You can accomplish a lot more when you learn to speak well in front of others. The first step is overcoming that fear.

From my perspective, it is realistic for a vast majority of people to at least become a D if not an E person. Yes, even if you are a self-proclaimed introvert.

I know it is possible, because it happened to me. At least according to my MBTI score, I am still an introvert. However, I also enjoy speaking in front of people. I have also seen countless of other “introverts” do the same things as I have.

Here is one strategy that will work for some people in some cases. It was a method that was developed by Dale Carnegie, and it was mentioned in his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” There are four steps which are:

  1. Imagine and write down the problem or problems
  2. For each problem write out a solution
  3. For each solution write out the effect.
  4. Choose the solution that you feel is best

In our case we would imagine problems that could happen to us on stage. If you are feeling worried, as yourself what are you worried about? Take some time to write down a couple of ideas.

For example, suppose you wrote “I am afraid that I will complete forget my presentation and look like a fool in front of all those people. I am afraid that they will hate or laugh at me.” 

There are two parts to this. From my perspective the first thing you want to do is look at the fear square in the face and consider if the fear will really happen.

Granted, forgetting part of the presentation is possible. Forgetting the entire presentation is also possible, but probably not likely.  As for the part where the audience will hate or laugh, I find that very unlikely.  I cannot think of a single time when a speaker has forgotten a speech and the audience did anything that was demeaning or hurtful to the speaker.  Look back at your own experience has something like that ever happen? Most likely no.

So, what can you do? Well, you think of a) Ways to deal with situation when it does occur b) Ways of preparing so that you greatly reduce the likelihood of that problem occurring.

Considering we are talking forgetting your speech, you could brainstorm a variety of options. For example:

  1. Accept that you forgot, thank the audience and walk off the stage
  2. Make a dramatic pause while your think
  3. Adlib your way to the end

These are not all possible options you could consider. You may want to ask others if there are other options available. You may want to search Google or some other search engine to see what others have done. You may also want to imagine what well respected speakers might do. This may give more choices than you would have come up with by yourself.  

Now, let`s look at the consequences of the three mentioned above.

A) To say the least the audience will be surprised: But, you treated them with respect so there should be no hard feelings. The event planner on the other hand will probably not be happy at all. The event planner will need to think of a way to fill the time at suddenly opened up. If you know a few magic tricks now would be a good time to show them.

B) Make a dramatic pause while your think: Seems ok, but there are no guarantees that you will remember. You can use the pause to try to relax or buy thinking time. If you are under serious pressure, stress will hurt your cognitive ability so it is a good idea find someway to relax. If you do not come up with idea you need you can just do A or C.

Which brings us to:

C) Adlib your way to the end: BTW Martin Luther King, Jr. actually adlibbed the last part of his “I have a dream” speech. However, you may say that “I am no Martin Luther King.” That is true. You are not. You are you. If you practice hard enough, you might get a close result. In any case the result could be either good or bad. That depends on how well you can adlib. I recommend taking a few improv classes if you are worried

So, you have brainstormed all the possible reason for your fear. You have brainstormed all the possible action that you could be take. You have also realistically written down the possible results of those actions. Now it is time to decide what action you will take.  

How will you decide? Often, what is more important is not the decision you make, but how you make the decision. If you want to make good repeatable decisions, you need a good set of rules to make that decision.

In this case, compare all the options. You can look at the results of taking those actions, both positive and negative. You can weigh the severity of both as well as the probability of each. It may seem hard to determine the probability of each, so you can make an educated guess as to what the probability is. There are ways to determine the probability of most events but that is a much more complicated topic for another time.

So, far you have only looked at what you are going to do if you actually forget your speech on the stage. The next thing to do is think of actions you can take to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.

You can brainstorm a variety of things you could do. For example:

  • l  Practice a lot more
  • l  Keep set of bulleted notes
  • l  Write out a mind map
  • l  Have a recording of your speech play inside a small speaker stuck in your ear, etc.

There are probably other things you could do. But, the important thing is that you took the time to really thing about what you could do. In these cases, you can estimate the amount of time of each one.  If you have some experience or know someone who does you can also estimate fairly well the effectiveness of each. By looking at the time it takes and the effectiveness you can determine which action will work the best for your situation.

Again, a lot of these start off as guesses. As you get more experience you will get a better feel of what are the best actions to take so you don`t have to worry as much about the possible failure.

We all get nervous about public speaking. This is as natural as breathing and eating. The thing is to not let this get the best of us. One method that I introduce is the method that Dale Carnegie wrote. There are others, but please try this one and see if it worked for you.  I think that you will find that help with not only stage fright, but other situation where you have performance anxiety. By mastering this method that you can walk out with the confidence that any stage you get on is a stage you can feel at home. And that my friend, is a great comfort.

References

[1] https://phys.org/news/2017-06-moroccan-fossil-rearranges-homo-sapiens.html

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-the-brain-need-s/

[3] https://www.livescience.com/8432-personality-set-life-1st-grade-study-suggests.html

Take Ten Years of Language Study into Less than Two Years.

I arrived in Akita (i.e. not Tokyo), Japan on July, 4th 2004. I did not know much Japanese. I didn`t know how to order kerosene for my heater. I did not know how to use the ATM machine at the post office. And I definitely did not know how to deal the NHK guy. Perhaps you have had similar experiences in a foreign country.

At the time, these seem like very difficult and often frustrating experiences. But, looking back I am really grateful for them. In fact, if it were not for experiences like those, I probably would not have learned Japanese as quickly as I did.

I am also grateful that I was also an English conversation teacher at the time as well. It was because of that experience that I noticed the common problems amount my students. This included the lack of any perceivable progress (or in fact perception of going backwards), the problem of forgetting new words by the next lesson, and difficult of continuing to study when having a very busy life.

I faced the same problems as my students, but at least in two years I was able to pass several levels of the Kanji Aptitude Test, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and of course properly order kerosene without freezing to death.

This was not just because I was living in Japan. I know a very likable guy named Pete. I have only been in Japan for about 14 years. He has been in Tokyo much longer than that. He is a much more successful English teacher than I was.  But, he did not speak Japanese. I did not want to be like him in that respect.

It was not because I had a Japanese girlfriend either. I wouldn`t start dating Japanese in earnest until after I moved to Tokyo about 3 and half years later. In fact, I approach my now wife by speaking in Japanese and had conversations with her in Japanese well before we became more than friends.

Lastly, it was not because I was good at languages. I majored in Electrical Engineering for God`s sake. For most of my life, I had avoided studying foreign languages as much as I could. Heck, I took a home economics class in Jr. High school just to avoid taking Spanish of all things. BTW, Spanish is about as easy foreign language as it gets for an English speaker.

You may be wondering, if for my entire school life, I had avoided studying foreign languages how did I become an English conversation teacher in Japan. Suffice to say, before “settling down,” living in a foreign country for 1 year seemed like a good idea and my uncle lived in Japan.

Ok. Now that`s settled. The point I did not have any special help nor special talent in learning a foreign language. However, there was one major difference. When I got to Japan I was very motivated to learn how to learn Japanese as quickly as possible. I was in a very cold, a very snowy, and a very rural part of Japan. If I did not learn quickly it was going to be a very tough and boring experience.

But the questions are “How committed are you?” and “What will you do to get?” Following is for those who want to put skin in the game.  It is for those who want to get better now. If you are not sure please read the first part and check.

Those who will get good at foreign languages (and presentation skills for that matter) have certain characteristics.  The foundational characteristics are:

  • They know what they want.
  • They invested in that desire right at the beginning
  • They share that desire with friend or make it public
  • They create forms of feedback or accountability
  • They remove any obstacles that gets in their way

You`re probably thinking that this could apply to thing outside of learning a language, and you are right. It can apply to just about anything you want to achieve, but we are talking getting good at a language, so you can be a better presenter in that language.

Knowing What You Want is More Than Wanting to Be “Good”

If I were to ask you “What do you want?”, many would say “I want to be a good presenter in English,” “I want to speak English well, so I talk to foreigners,” etc. This is good as far as it goes. But with only that statement it is hard to determine if you got what you want.

Imagine there is some magical genie in a bottle. You rub the lamp and presto the genie pops out.  You tell him, “I what to speak to a foreigner well.” The genie nods and in a cloud of smoke a Korean man pops out and starts speaking to you in Japanese. You now can speak to a foreigner well, but that is not what you wanted.

Even if you say, “I want to speaker English well.” What does that mean to you? In what context? With whom? About what subject? You may be inclined to say I want to speak English well anywhere with everyone about everything. Except that is probably not true even in your own native language.

When was the last time you could speak in great detail about security implication of the new Transport Layer Security (TLS) v1.3 with another security researcher? I am guessing not anytime soon. How about the pros and cons of snow shoes verse Wakans? If you are not into hiking mountains in the winter time you may be hard pressed to enter that conversation.  

The point here is you need to know what you want to talk about and how much detail do you want to talk about it. For someone who is really into IT security it would be worth the trouble to learn all the jargon that goes with it. However, on the other hand if you are not interested then do not bother to learn the terminology that goes with it.

In any case, whether it is vocabulary or anything else you need to be able to say objectively that I have reach this specific goal. The best way to create a specific goal is to create a specific project outline with a hard deadline. That way you know when you are done and what you are going to do. If you write something and then decide “Nah, I don`t want to so do that,” that is fine. Just figure out what you want to do.

However, you might think but I don`t know what I really want. That is ok too. Just start brainstorming things projects that you might want to do. Then pick the one that “sparks joy” as Mari Kondo would say. Even if it not much joy, at least it is a start. You can also change direction if you come up with something better.

Investing in the desire at the beginning

One way you can really tell if someone is committed to what they want or not is that up front they put some money and time to reach that learning goal. Now, if you are unsure you want to commit to something then trying something out for an hour or so is fine. However, if you really going to improve yourself in X, then you got to block your schedule and start getting the things you need to accomplish the goal.

When I lived in Akita and worked as an English conversation teacher, most of morning were free. So, I would get up and study for the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test for at least an hour, but usually more. I bought a series of yellow books that help you study for the quiz. I bought a Nintendo DS and practice kanji quizzes in my spare time. So, you can see I spent a fair amount of time and money just to get where I got. You need to do the same thing.

If you are not willing to spend both time and money, then you are not committed. You might say, but I am so busy! I work late, I have to go to work early. I still need to play with the kids on the weekends, etc. These are excuses. If you are really committed to the project you will find a way. You will ask people. You will do the research. You will remove all obstacles.

However, there will be a group of people who think “I really want to do this. But for some reason, I can`t concentrate, I can stick to it, etc. etc.” For those you think that you want to do it, but for some reason cannot will yourself to change, I would spend a morning or evening in a quiet environment and contemplate on the conflict. Mostly like you have not fully convinced yourself that it is important to study.

Share that desire with friend or make it public

There is an interesting bit of debate about whether it is good to share or not to share your goal with friends. One side says that it is good idea. It will help you stay committed and accountable. The other side says that you shouldn`t share, because it can hurt your motivation.

Former comes in two forms. One is the inform of a dream killer who just tells you how your goal is impossible or not worth pursuing. The other is in the form of your brain confusing imagination with reality. This research was published in Psychological Science in 2009 and also mentioned by Derek Sivers.

While there is the problem of repeatability that has plagued in many social science research, I think it is useful to do for a couple of reasons. The first is that it helps you clearly articulate your goal. Second it helps setup accountability.

More than ten years ago I told my coworker that I want to pass the Kanken (Japan Kanji Aptitude Exam).

 “That`s great,” she said “What level?”

 “Hmm, three?” I said.  

“Maybe you should try four. If it is too easy, at least you will know what the test format is like,” she said

“That is true,” I said.

“Do you know when you want to take?”

“I haven`t decided yet. Maybe this November.”

“Then you better get started, there is not much time left.” …

The conversation went from there. The point here sharing your goal can sometime help make your it more concrete and also help you see what steps you need to take. Obviously if you share it with the wrong person you are only going to get a lot of pain, so pick your confidant wisely.

Which then brings us to:

Create forms of feedback or accountability

As I said above, telling your goal to friend can help make your goal clearer and it also helps increase accountability.  Having a friend gently ribbing you for slacking off is a good way to keep yourself accountable. But there are other ways.

For example, I run a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust) meeting so that people can share and keep each other accountable. It is a way I use to add social pressure. Even if we cannot force ourselves to do something for our sakes, we can add social pressure to forces ourselves to move forward because we do not want to let others down. At least in this meeting, everyone reports even if it is a small bit of movement and everyone support each other.

Any way how you add accountability is simply up to you. Some people use friends, some people use support groups, some people use devices, or other methods hold themselves accountable. Do whatever works for you.

On the other side of the coin, feedback is very important. If you don`t get any feedback how can you improve?

That is why I strongly recommend that you first record yourself and check your ability after watching your own video. You do not need to be a world class cinephotographer.  Just use the iPhone and record. From you can self-evaluate or show others how to evaluate. I would recommend giving people a simple set of questions, so they can know what will be ask. Sometimes you need help people along as so they know what kind of feedback you want.

Remove any obstacles that gets in their way

Every day, we face many obstacles that can get in the way, slow us down, or simply stop us from achieving our learning goals. For example, TV can be a huge sucker of time, but so can YouTube. I still have a TV in my home in case there are some training DVDs that I want to watch, but otherwise it just sits there in my living room.

Some of us use Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds or whatever to fill up time. You can remove those from your smartphone if they really are causing you trouble.

I generally recommend that you sit down and write out all the possible people, things, circumstances etc., that are standing in the way, slowing your down or stopping you from achieving your goals. Then go about removing or changing these things one at a time. Maybe you can do it all yourself, maybe you need some help. In any case, the more successful people change their environment so that the obstacles are removed, and their environment actually helps achieve their goal.  So, please take the time to make those modifications.

Conclusion

In conclusion if you really want to be a better language learner and much better speaker and communicator you really need to keep in mind the characteristics that I just mentioned. These are

  • Know what they want.
  • Invested in that desire right at the beginning
  • Share that desire with friend or make it public
  • Create forms of feedback or accountability
  • Remove any obstacles that gets in their way

If you do you will have all kinds of success in any project that you pursue.

 

What I Learned From a Cold Before a Big Presentation

Have you ever spent a whole lot of time perfecting your presentation only to brought down by a common cold?  Every speech trick in the book, will not save your presentation if you are you are not feeling your best physically and mentally.  I know this very well.

Three years ago, I had entered a speech competition. But, now some ordinary speech competition, one where you had to listen to a speech, given 5 minutes to analyze it and then provide positive and constructive feedback. Not only that it had to be given in the form of short speech in front of a large audience. That can be a tough hurdle on a normal day!

I had practiced long and hard. I watched over 200 YouTube videos.  Made notes on what to say for various given areas like structure, gestures, voice, use of the stage, etc. I knew I could quickly find the strengths and weakness of speaker with no problem.

However, there was a problem.  The day before the contest I got a cold. A really bad one. My throat was sore. My nose kept running. I coughed constantly. My head hurt. It was hard to concentrate. Obviously, I was not at my best.

As, someone who receives money for talking to people, being healthy is an essential skill. I cannot just say to the event organizer, “You know, I don`t feel well today, so let`s just cancel the big presentation that many people are coming to see.” I cannot just say to my students “You know, I don`t feel well today so let`s just cancel the presentation class today.” People paid money and made time to come to these events. The show, as they say, must go on.  But, what can you do?

For me it came to three simple rules for eating. This helped me get more energy, greatly reduced the colds I get (I get none, but sometime on the edge of one) and also reduced the effects of allergies even pollen count is very high.  

The rules are like this:

  1. No Sugar. Period.
  2. No Processed Food
  3. Eat lots of Vegetables and Good Fats.

So, for general health I :

  1. Be careful what I eat
  2. Do some exercise everyday
  3. Meditate even for a short amount of time

This seems to work for me and helps me be the best speaking on any stage or at any lecturn.

The No Sugar Rule

The No Sugar doesn`t mean that one should not eat one iota of sugar at all. It just means to deliberately avoid eating anything that has added sugar in it.

The WHO in a report published in 2015 “Sugar Intake for Adults and Children” recommend no more than 25 g per day (6 teaspoons). The average Japanese eats about 69 g per day. Much of which is in processed foods.  The average sugar cube is about 3g so Japanese are eating the equivalent of 23 cube every day. I know people like sweets but that is way too much. BTW, Americans are way worse, which is why there are many obese people there.

The problem is that there are lot of food that have sugar added to them. Just look at the labels. I took a look at a bunch of yogurt that is sold at the grocery store. Just about every one of them listed sugar as an ingredient. The labels will not tell you how much, but it is listed.  As far as I know you don`t need sugar to make good yogurt. I have machine that I use at home to make yogurt and it require no sugar. The sugar is only there to make us want to eat more.

It gets worse when you look at sport drinks. I used to do a little bit of exercise, especially before a big presentation. It helps the blood get pumping and can sometimes calm you down if you get nervous. At that time, I would have a sports drink, especially in the summer. However, after looking at the ingredient labels I notice that sugar was the number one ingredient and generally about 14~17 g depending on the manufacture for one “sports” drink. I noticed that and simply stopped drinking those.

I remember that probably CC Lemon was OK as it was just a lemon drink that was supposed to only add Vitamin C. I got that from the vending machine looked that the label and noticed it too had sugar as the number one ingredient. After that I have pretty much avoided any can or bottled beverages other than pure water.  I also avoided breads, process meats, sauces, etc. This is because after looking at the labels they contained a good deal of added sugar.

Some may say I may be a little paranoid about this, but it can get really annoying when on the one hand the snack or beverage is touted as healthy when all the other hand it is packed with more sugar than you would normal eat if you ate it in its original form. For goodness sake CC Lemon should only have extra Vitamin C not a enough sugar to get you to back to the dentist`s office for next month.

I have been on this No Sugar rule for more than two years and I can say for certain that I have never had a situation where a cold, the flu, or some other nasty virus has gotten the best of me before, during or after a presentation. Not only that, after a while you don`t even crave sweet things any more. You can concentrate more of writing and creating your speech than about what you are going to each after it is all over. And that is what I think is an important win.

Now, you may ask why is sugar so bad? After all there are all these kinds of food fads where one food is the ultimate villain one year and a hero the next.  One day you see that caffeine can cause heart attacks and the next day it is the great drug that can extend your life. Sugar, gluten, etc. have definitely been given and bad wrap and most of it is deserved.

For me the one reason why sugar is bad is that it can make you tired a few hours after eating it.  If you are speaking you want to be at peak energy.  For a short-term rush, caffeine and sugar can do the trick but try that for 1-hour speech plus workshops plus networking with the audience in between. It takes a lot of energy to do that.

BTW, if you take too much sugar your blood sugar level will spike up and your body will then race into gear to shove the sugar levels back into normal levels and your sugar levels will take a dive. This will cause you to get tired. That is not a good thing to be during the Q & A session.

If I don`t eat sugar, then how to do I maintain my energy levels? Well, I do eat more fats (ghee) and oils, I eat more vegetables than I have in the past. I do a light amount of excise and I do mediate. That is about the extent of it.

I am not a very high-tension guy like Tony Robbins. You will not see me jumping on trampolines (there is very little space for that) nor using crazy cryogenic pools. I have been thinking of taking a page from the Wim Hoff manual, but I just have not mustered the courage yet. In any case what I do has worked for me for more than two years since I have put my health back together.

Exercise, Don`t Overdo It

If you a lot speaking or do a lot of traveling, getting the time to do good exercise is very very hard. My wife even stopped running regularly because she could not make time in her busy schedule. There have been recent books that promise you get surprising results in a very short period of time with high intensity workouts. There is even a book called “The One Minute Workout.”

However, the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study reported in 2017, led by the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, showed that any activity is good for people to meet the current guideline of 30 minutes of activity a day, or 150 minutes a week to raise the heart rate. That guideline was given by the US Department of Health & Human Services. Let me repeat this any physical activity is ok. 

Most people when they see this report they think that they have run for 30 minutes or lift weights for 30 minutes or something like that. These are both very good activities.  I recommend that if any professional speaker wants to be able to run around on stage like Tony Robbins or show how buff you are then please go ahead.  But the fact of the matter is all you really need to do is walk a for thirty minutes every day.

If there is any exercise in my life it that and hiking in the mountains. I often take the time to walk right after lunch for thirty minutes or so. It is a great time to think and sometimes not to think (instead do a moving meditation). If you are much more social sort and want to talk people during lunch, then it much more advisable for you schedule your walking time in the morning or afternoon. If you are one of those people who have not made it habit, then please schedule the task in your calendar. If it is not in your calendar, it will not get done. So, do it now. I will wait.

Now I know that there are some of you who do want to do more exercise than just walking.  There are a couple of things that you could do.  I will list a few normal ones and then list a few crazier ones that only really crazy speakers should try.

Use weights:

You can get simple ankle and wrist bands that have added weights to them. This is useful if you keep a set in your office or at your home. Instead of just walking you put these own and now you are exercising your muscles. That is a good deal. If you are on the go, it can be hard to take the weights with you.  In that case there are version where you fill them with water. It is not quite the same, but you still get a result

Run:

I don`t do much running. But it can help.  Actually, I have found that running in place quickly for 5 or so seconds really helps with nervousness. This is because you ramped your heartrate up by running. So, by the time you are back to thinking about your speech your heart rate has already come down and you feel calmer. It is not the best remedy, but you don`t have the time to really address the issue of nervousness it is a good and temporary measure.

For those who want to take it up a notch, try practicing your speech when you are running. Actually, I would try jogging first. Please me talking, breathing and jogging at the same time is hard. You run out of breath quickly. You sometime loose concentration and forget who you are. Also, many people may look at you funny.  However, In this day and age of wireless phones and wireless mics.  You are just as likely as see a guy or gal walking down the sidewalk talking to the air. So, if you are not too loud you should be fine.

Mess Rehearsal:

If you want to try something really crazy, there is something called the mess rehearsal.  It is like a dress rehearsal (i.e. practice) , except that one person is trying to physically mess you up like Mr. Miyagi did in Karate Kid after Daniel finished his chores.  Believe me it is tough, fun for your partner, but if you go this far I doubt you will ever be distracted by anything and very rarely forget your speech.

 Just Stay Calm and Everything Will Be Alright

After doing some light exercise it also generally a good idea to put in some time for meditation. The is a little bit of confusion as what meditation is compared to mindfulness. These are different. Mindfulness tends to be focused on the senses and being more consciously aware of what is going on in the moment.  Meditation can be more general, use different mantra, include visualations of the past, the future, of whatever, or of nothing at all. The goal of meditation is not just achieving calmness but just improving yourself spiritually.

This sounds like it is way out there, but more and more major corporations are employing these kinds of problem in their own employee training. Google is the most famous example of this. But, other companies like Apple, Nike, and other Fortune 500 also have some kind of program, so it seemed like a good idea for me to have one too

The only reason I am interesting it is that feel that it helps you become a better speaker. How so?  Well, first one of the important aspects of a good speaker is being able to be in the moment. To give your talk to be fully aware of the mood of the audience, to know when someone is not getting it, or falling asleep or whatever. If you don`t do this you will lose your audience and your message will not get across. Also, if you are too wrap up inside your heat and inside your speech you will not notice these things at all. So, in that respect mindfulness especially import for speakers.

On the other hand, we have what Tim Ferris and others call the Monkey Mind (yes I know the word come from an ancient Chinese Buddhist reference) This is the kind of endless chatter that goes inside your head. Some of it is helpful, some of it is not. It is all a matter of how you deal with it. The better you are able to deal with the more clarity, confidence, and awareness you can bring to your presentation. So, for me I figure it is worth the effort.

Since I am a bit of tech nerd, I went in search of a good app. As after all there should be an app for everything. I tried Zenify, Netamanma Yoga, Undo, and others. They did not work well for me. If you check now there are probably a bunch more apps, including the “10% happier” app. There may even be one that fits with your own personal needs and preferences.

As for me I went with Omvana. In Omvana you can pick both free and fee tracks. One of the defaults was the Six Phase Meditation by Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley. He did an example of this on a YouTube video. I rather liked it and keep using it. It starts with a common relaxation process, then moves to connection, gratitude, forgiveness, visualization of your future 3 years from now, visualization of your perfect day, and final blessings.

There a whole lot more to meditation than even these six practices, but this is a great place to get started and so far it has worked for me. Unfortunately, there is no Japanese translation (that I am aware of) so you will need to find some other source for your own personal meditation practice. I recommend trying a bunch of things anyway.

Also, many people do have this image that meditation is hard. Especially if you are trying to aim for having a complete blank and serene state. I would not worry about that. Just let your thoughts come and let me go. Once you are comfortable with the fact that you are not the thoughts running around inside your head, it gets easier. Perfection can be the enemy of good, so just deal with being less than very bad. We also have to start somewhere and that somewhere is the “I am not really good at this” level.

While that covers the general meditation aspect. The more important aspect in the short term for speakers is cultivating your mindfulness skill. What I mean of mindfulness is the awareness of what is going on right now. I feel that there is not much that can be written about this, but many have done so. Those include the Harvard Business Review and Chade Meng-Tan who made it famous in Google and later the corporate world. You can look at their books if you want.

But the fact of the matter is to take time in your day and simple enjoy the silence or the noise or whatever is going on in the room. You will probably notice the rush of the car going by outside. You may hear sound of the air conditioner. You may hear the tap, tap, tapping of someone writing a report on a computer keyboard. You may feel your but hurt after sitting too long in your chair. Actually, these are all the things that I feel as I am writing this right now. But whatever is the case, just taking to the time out of your busy day just to feel, just to notice your own thoughts is time that is well spent. Even if it is only a few minutes.

One you cultivated a little bit of mindfulness in your normal life, it is then just a matter of practice of moving that into your presentation and to when you are acting on stage. It may seem like a lot to do. You have to deliver your line, make gestures, look at the audience, analyze the audience reaction, make adjustment all the while you still giving the rest of your speech. So, as with everything else work at one step at a time.

It has now been a while since first started on my journey into both physical and mental wellness for public speaking and presenting. But, dispite all the article on all the different techniques for voice, gestures, wordplay, storytelling, etc. These are still a simple a bag of trick if you don`t have the fundamentals down.

After all if you don`t have your health, then what do you have?

How Do You Become a Good Speaker?

A young Japanese man asked me “How do you become a good speaker?” The normal answer would be “Practice, Practice, Practice.” But, that seemed a little trite and not terribly useful. So, the first thing that came to me was “What do you mean by a good speaker? Do, you mean someone like Barak Obama who inspired large crowds for some political cause? Do you mean someone like Craig Valentine who makes a very good living off his speaking engagements? Or do you mean someone like Simon Sinek? These are all very different people with very different styles succeeding as speakers in very different ways.”

His answer was “I am not sure. Do you have any suggestions as to who I should model myself after?” I could see this could turn into a long conversation, and other people may have other questions so, it seems best to give a simple answer.

“It would help to know a little more about what you want to accomplish as a speaker and who you like and don`t like but since we don`t have much time to get into that, why don`t we talk later? Does that sound ok?” The man nodded. I continued, “But, there is one thing that can be said.  If you want to become a better speaker you need to know three things:”

  1. Determine how will you objectively know that you are good speaker.
  2. Break down the skills that you need to become that good speaker.
  3. Use the PDCA cycle to continuously improve so that you will reach your goal.

This is simple in the saying, but hard in the doing.  Let`s look at this piece by piece.

How do you know objectively THAT you are a good speaker?

That is a hard question to answer because as I said before it depends on how you measure “good.”

You could measure:

  • the number of repeater to speaking events you are at
  • speech contest results.
  • amount of income you make from speaking
  • the number of speaking engagements that you receive
  • the number of comments from fans
  • the amount of applause at the end of your speech, etc.

The metric you use is simply up to you. You could ask around to see what others use as measure of success. Again, it depends on your specific situation and goals.

For example, imagine you are a professional motivational speaker.  You go from town to town, from business to business, trying to inspire people to live better lives. If you did a good job, the likely outcomes are a) you will be asked again to speak, b) they will refer you to their friends if you ask politely, c) others will come up to you and ask you if could speak at a different event. If you look at the number of presentations verse those three metrics you know if you are making progress or not.

But, let`s suppose you work for an NPO. In that capacity it would be nice to be invited back, and travel all around the country.  However, realistically that probably doesn`t pay the bills for your NPO. Your main objective is if your presentation sparked interest in donating or not. If you got new donors that is great! If your existing donors decide to increase the size of their original contribution or the frequency that they contribute, even better.

If you work in the corporate world, what people care about is revenue and more revenue.  So, how many contracts did you get? How many sales were you about to get from the strength of your presentation? How many referrals did you get? etc.

Depending on your situation some numbers may be easy to measure. Others would be hard. But, the first step is to just decide how you will know. Then you can brainstorm what metrics you can use to measure your results.

However, some of you may think that not everything that needs to be measured can be measured.  I think that is a reasonable objection. I would say that you need to think about how that is connected to things that you do know about. Sometime what you think you want is too vague to even measure.

For example, someone said “I want to wow my audience like Tony Robbins does.”  Ok. What does “wow” mean? How do know you “wowed” them? About how many do you want to “wow”?

I can tell you from experience that even Tony Robbins doesn’t wow every single person in his audiences. There are some that are dissatisfied in some small way or another.  I can guess that Tony looks at the audience and has certain expectations as to how the audience will react. If they react to his expectations of “Wowing” them then he is doing a good job.  If they react differently, then he makes the needed corrections.  I can also guess that he actually spends some time talking to the participants and tries to get a feeling of how they are enjoying the experience or not.

So, let take a few minutes here and think about how you know that you are a good speaker. I would start with a simple process.

If you do not know that makes a good speaker, then do some research.  I would:

1. Look at online videos of speakers.  Please look a range of speakers from really good one to not so good ones. You can learn a lot from both. If you are listening to a good speaker, list the characteristics of the speaker that you like.  Try to be as specific as you can.  If you are looking at a speaker that you do not like, also list the characteristics that you do not like. Again, try to be as specific as possible.

The reason for this is if you are too vague it is hard to figure out how to emulate that person. Suppose you saw a speaker and enjoyed how that speaker interacted with the audience. You wrote down, “good audience interaction”.  How do you practice that? There is no action that is “audience interaction.” There are things like asking questions, getting an audience member to come up.  Getting people to raise their hands etc. Those are specific concrete actions.

2. After you have a list of all the characteristics and specific techniques that you want to master, determine the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

You can measure yourself or ask someone to do it for you.  It may be a good idea to just to create a model presentation just for this use. That way you have some way to benchmark your current ability. If you are going to ask someone, make sure it someone you know well and are comfortable with.  Also, some who will be completely honest with you.  Some friends will want to be nice and give you high marks even when deep down in dark depths of their souls they think you suck in a certain area. This is because they want to protect your feeling and value your friendship. 

However, some friends and spouses have gone beyond that and want what is best for you no matter what you may think of them in the short term.  They may not be professional speech coaches, but if they are close to being a representative of your target audience then it is probably good enough. After all you are not going to speak in front a large group of speech coaches.

3. After you have determined a measure for the gap in each of your skill areas it is a good idea to prioritize. At this point you should have a good idea as to what your strengths and weakness are. You do not need to strong in all areas. After all there is no speaker anywhere who is 100% in every single skill and characteristic of public speaking. Some are great entertainers, some are great explainers, some are great motivators, some are a little bit all three.  But everyone is different.

I would look at first what is your ultimate objective of being a powerful presenter. Then look at what skills are essential in making that a reality.  You can that next look at what is nice to have and what is not necessary and prioritize accordingly. If you are not sure by yourself, get a second or third opinion.  After you ask a couple of people. You can be sure that you will have some general set of priorities for each of area that you should improve.

Now, how specific would you prioritize. That is fairly simple. You should look at these three qualities.

  1. Impact
  2. Difficulty
  3. Time

The one that has the most impact can be learned the easiest in the shortest amount of time is a clear winner. After that, you are looking at tradeoffs. Which quality has how much weight is strictly up to you, but you can start with treating each of the three equally. You can always change as you get new feedback.

To give you an example suppose you have written down the following qualities.

  • Creating Logical Composition
  • Managing Nervousness
  • Telling Powerful Stories  

These all seem important, but they may not be for the kind of speaker you want to be. You might want to one of people who wants to entertain and motivate. If that is the case, then perhaps you write down something like this:

  • Creating Logical Composition Impact = 3, Difficulty =1, Time = 6 weeks
  • Managing Nervousness Impact = 1, Difficultly=2, Time = 1 week
  • Telling Powerful Stories Impact = 2, Difficulty = 1, Time = 9 weeks

*Scale 1= highest, 3=lowest

If you are not sure how to set the Impact, Difficulty and Time to achieve it is a good idea to ask several experts and take the average. Not all experts can accurately estimate these qualities, but an average of experts will get you very close to reality.

So, let`s look at the scores for three items noted above.

  • Creating Logical Composition = 18
  • Managing Nervousness = 2
  • Telling Powerful Stories = 18

This shows that you should fix nervousness as soon as you can as it has the biggest impact and can be fixed the quickest. If you run into situation where the scores are about the same. I suggest you tackle the one that can be done in the quickest amount of time. This will contribute sooner to your speaking career that waiting to be good at time that takes a long, long, long time.

Now, that you have your priorities, then you need to get yourself a plan. As they a say a person without a plan is just planning to lose. However, most I have met do not like planning. It is a lot of work.  So, I like to keep things simple.

You simply start with your ultimate objective. You then break that down into smaller projects, and then break that down into smaller actions. You keep down smaller and shorter until you know what you need to do for the day.  You do not need to plan every single day for entire year.  You are not a soothsayer, and neither am I.  A few days, a few months out into the future is fine.

Let me start with an example. Suppose your objective is become a world class speaker.  You will first need to define what that means to you like I said earlier.

For the sake of argument let`s assume that it means that you make US$ 200,000 a year. Obviously, may people make much more and much less than that, but it gives you a benchmark of some kind.

Let also assume that as a part of your master plan for word class speaker domination you want to win a speaking competition. So, you think that this year is the year to win X competition within X organization by X date.  That make this year`s goal very simple and very easy to measure. You either win or you don`t. That is it.

So, what are you going to do? What is when you need to get create a start making a list of actions of things you can try.

You could for example:

  • Look at past speeches of contest winners and determine which speeches won and which did not.
  • You could try to get a judge form and then try to create a speech that would be easy to grade
  • You could set up practice time to practice your speech
  • You could ask people to give you feedback
  • You could join Toastmasters and get support that way
  • You could put a version of your speech on YouTube and see what reactions you get.
  • You could hire a speech coach

And so on and so forth

If you run out of ideas of things to do, then just ask the people around you if they have any ideas of what would be good to add to the list.

Then I would suggest that you really take a good hard look at your list. Is this really concrete enough to take action on? In most instances that is not really true.

Take the first example. “Look at past speeches of contest winners and determine which speeches won and which did not.” That seems pretty straight forwards. So, what do you do, first?

Do you go on YouTube?  Do you go to the organization’s website and see if you can get videos from there? Do you ask someone you know who is well connected in that organization and who may know someone who has the videos?  There is a whole list of concrete actions that you can actually take.

That is the important thing is it needs to be something that is simple enough that would not take any more than 10 minutes or less to carry out. Not only that it needs to be concrete enough that you can physically describe what will happen. You also need to have a good idea of when you are done.

Even if you look at which speeches won and lost, what do you have as the end result?  When will you know when to stop?  Some people will have analysis paralysis. And this is one way to effectively procrastinate. You just look at a ton of videos of champions over and over and over again. You may have some notes, but you will have not gone to the next step. Do, you need to determine that.

I find that it can be hard to start from the beginning and work towards the end. Many people have advised me, that it is best to start backwards. That seems to work for me, so why don`t you try it.  But, use whatever works for you.

In this case, the next step could a list of things that you though separated the first and second places winners. A next step would be to share this with someone to get feedback.  You may implement some of those things in your speech and then see how people react.  What you actually do is up to you. However, this is one really important thing.

If you decide on a next action, I highly recommend that you schedule time on your calendar to do that work.  We all have very busy lives, and sometimes we forget to do things or some emergency comes up and we have to attend to that. I know because it has happened to me many different time. In any case if it is not on your calendar it most likely will not get done. So, put in what every calendar tool or app that you use. Do it now.

If you look back, you will have noticed that you have a list of qualities of the kind of speaker you want to be.  You will have written down some measurable metrics so you an objectively know that you have obtained those qualities. Hopefully, you have also broken down each of the different qualities into actions and habits that need to be done and acquired.  This way you know what micro-skills you need to master, and you know what specific actions to practice so that you can get better.  

This kind of analysis can be hard for if you are starting out, but it is valuable challenge. It is also a good opportunity for you get out find the people who are good at this and ask them what they think. Learning and making connections this way is a useful skill in work and in life.

Finally, you can take that list and worked out a plan for learning and practicing those skills so that in the end you become the speaker that you want to be.

It is not an easy road to become a world class speaker. In fact, it will a long and winding road, with many false starts, dips, and dead ends.  We all would like to think that path to greatness is straight up. But it is now. There many detours and plateaus along the way. But, as long as we have the grit, as long as we have the determination, and as long as we have a plan. We can inch by inch, mile by mile get closer to the goal of become that speaker that we have always wanted to be.

I personally have been at the business for more than 15 years. I know I still have a lot to learn. There are is no one that a whole lot better or a whole lot worse than you, just people who started earlier or started later than you. There are also people with different styles and find different ways of success that work for them.  You just need to find the one pattern that works for you. So, go out there and be the best you can be.

A Lesser Presenter

When I was learning photography from Ben Long, he mentioned a book called “A Lesser Photographer.” It is a great book. And it is subtitled “Escape the Gear Trap to Focus on What Matters.” The main idea is that you should focus on if you have the latest and great in photography gear, but to work on your photographic eye and other related skills. It is a good piece of advice for photographers and presenters. It can also be a bad piece of advice.

When I say it is good, I mean that for beginning photographers it is important to learn the basic of framing, shapes, light, etc. A really expensive camera cannot cover those inadequacies of skills in those areas. On the other hand, in the hands of real pro an expensive and powerful camera can make life a lot easier, the work quicker, etc. The gear can matter. Sometimes a lot.

But, what does this have to do with presenting?

I like many of you have spent a lot of time learning the latest tips, tactics, and techniques for being a good speaker. I feel that these kinds of things are equivalent to the “gear” in photography. We all want to learn the next shiny technique. It can be using a chair, asking some kind of provocative question, or starting off with a song. We all want the one thing that will wow our audience. Except that it doesn`t work that way.

Gear will not a bad photographer better. And mastering one killer technique will not make you a world class speaker either. I have known so many people who have tried to mimic a technique or two of the masters only to later complain that it did work on this or that audience.

I find that the problem is not so much in the gear or the technique but on a more fundamental level. Most people do not think about the “Way” of doing a presentation. To their credit most books are a series of tip, tactics, and techniques. I even subscribe to Craig Valentine`s newsletter who gave me 42. But a presentation is more than 42 techniques to awe an audience. It is about effectively communicating a message that changes the audience for the better.

That sounds like a bit of fluffy nonsense, and it can be it there is no structure. For me an effective speaker that can change the audience for the better is skilled in five areas. You might think that these would something like this:

A.      Vocal Variety

B.      Body Language

C.      Use of Visual Aids

D.      Rhetoric

E.      Composition

Except this would be like saying that karate is all about chops, blocks, and kicks. It is not.  Karate it more a “Way” of thinking and living. Presentation can the same way.

The way I look at it Presentation can truly be broken down in five basic elements:

1.      Health and Mental Wellness

2.      Objectives & Goals

3.      Connection with Audience

4.      Message & Content

5.      Technique

If you noticed A-D fit in #4 and E fits in #4or you could put in in #5 depending on your interpretation. You are also probably wondering why in the world “Heath & Mental Wellness” is even in this frame work.

Most of you are probably familiar with nervousness. Your heart races, your palms sweat. You get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is such an awful feeling that many people try to avoid it as possible. Some who know they cannot avoid it search for the magic pill or technique that will cure that problem. These do exist. However, most do not work because they do not properly address the fundament reason nervous occurs in the first place.  

Anyways nervousness or even worse stage fright, can be a big problem for speaker. It will not matter if you master all the great power point techniques of Steve Jobs if you cannot muster the confidence of Steve Jobs on stage.

It also is important that you have good control of your health. Catching a cold the day before, can ruin your talk.  Having runny nose, a slight headache, and even worse headache is just asking for trouble. You may be able to power your way through it but, your audient will be able to tell. Usually the mounds of tissues give it away

So, have good health, lots of energy and the mental strength is the cornerstone of delivering a powerful presentation. It is also a fundament part of any “Way” of Presenting.

Then comes “Objectives & Goals.”  These are not just for projects., job reviews, or big corporation creating this year`s OKRs. I feel that thinking about your objectives and goals is very important part of presetting.

One does not simply give a speech, just to give a speech. A speech is given to create some kind of effect. Sometimes, you want to entertain someone.  Sometimes, you want to get a point across. Sometimes, you want to persuade. Sometimes, you want to motivate.  Sometimes you want to do a combination of those.

Depending on what you want to do in your speech, a lot in the organization, wording etc. will greatly change. A entertaining speech may simply following some general “Hero`s Journey” or persuading speech may use the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solve) framework. What is the best way to arrange your speech depends on your objectives.

But, I also think that thinking only of the objectives of one particular speech may be too narrow.

You may want to consider what is your life`s mission as speaker. For example, I often feel that many people in Japan have great ideas, great products, and even great ways of living, but many of those things tend to be stuck in one small area of Japan. I feel that is “Mottainai!” I feel that the world would be better if Japanese people and other people around the world were able to more effective share and communication to others outside of their country.

This kind of thinking would shape what kind of speech topics I would choose, what audience I would generally target and also how I think about the before and after of my audience.

This is just the tip of the iceberg there is much more to this kind of thinking. But I will stop for a bit to give your time to think about it.

How to Organize any Speech with One Single Pattern

So, it happened. A speaker cancelled due to weather, the flu or some other calamity. The event planner is desperately looking around for some one  as a replacement.  You immediately raise  your hand and say that you will do it. The event planner looks grateful and thanks you. 

It is now 12 pm and you have to give that talk at 10 am the very next day.  You think to yourself, "Now what am I going to do?" This is the big question isn`t it. It is a great feeling that you can come in to save the day, but if you screw up you will not be invited again.  So, what are you to do?

Three basic things. 

  1. Plan your speech
  2. Write & Edit your speech 
  3. Practice  your speech

In the first phase there are also three parts. 

  1. Brainstorm possible topics
  2. Write out a basic logic tree
  3. Write an outline

It Starts With A Tree

Let`s suppose you do not have to do much brainstorming on what broad topic you will talk about.  That is already given to you. It will be cryptocurrency.  That is a big topic.   You could talk about any number of cryptocurrencies themselves, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Neo, etc.  You could also talk about the blockchain, ICOs, smart contracts, day trading, setting up a wallet,  and the list goes on and on.   This could leave you with a big problem. A long meandering speech with no structure. So, we need some kind of structure. The first and easiest is the logic tree. Like so:

スクリーンショット 2018-03-19 22.10.17.png

Then you pick three topics.  Those three topic do not have to cover all of your topic. You can just talk about any three elements you think you can talk intelligently about.  So lets look at a couple of examples

スクリーンショット 2018-03-19 22.03.10.png

In this example you could talk about the three major crypto currencies.

スクリーンショット 2018-03-19 22.02.09.png

Here is just three different topics.  They don`t have to be directly related, but having a speech about three things under one umbrella, it all seems to fit together.

スクリーンショット 2018-03-19 22.02.28.png

Here is a series of subtopics around a specific technology of cryptocurrency. It is just as easy to go deep as it is to go broad. 

Again, you can go in many different directions. If you have a tree, it becomes easier to organize your thoughts and put something together that makes sense for listeners. You give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!

Still Looking for a Message?

There is a simple exercise that you can go through if you are having trouble figuring out what kind of message you really want to say.  It comes in three parts.  These are the three different stages in life. 

スクリーンショット 2018-03-17 22.04.57.png

Imagine a Graduation ceremony, a Wedding, and a Funeral. 

My Graduation

So, imagine there a lot of hopeful graduates standing outside. They have all got there diplomas, and are really excited.

They are waiting for the final speech and you are speaker.  What would you talk about. "Stay Young, Stay Foolish?" "Wear Sunscreen?"

There are many possibilities. So, simply write out a list of ten. 

After you are done. Simply pick the top three.  

Then pick the top one. Then you are done. Set that aside for a moment.

MARRIED?

Now Imagine that you son or daughter got married (or remarried)  you are going to talk about him or her in front all his or her friends and family.  What story would you pick?

If you are stuck write five story ideas and pick one.  

Look at that story. What is the main them of the story?  Is it about Love? Achievement? etc., etc.  Whatever it is, pick a label and then set that aside for a moment.

Passing Away

We all go sometimes. So, now imagine that your best friend is going to speak at your funeral.  What will this person say about you?  What do you want the this person to say.  List 10 or so great thing that you did or things that were important to that future dead you. 

Once you are done pick three and then one. Set the final one aside. 

Three Major Events

You now have three major topics for three major life events.  Look at them.  Do you see a common thread? Is there some kind of theme that runs through them.  Even if you cannot find something in common, what you will see is a good hint what would be the major message of your life. 

So, take what you get out of this exercise, pick at topic and really get to work!