Tag Archives: gestures

Delivery Skills in Our Public Speaking Programs

You might call this an old-fashioned teaser, but I actually hope it whets your appetite and curiosity for some of our public speaking training. 

In addition to the intensive, private coaching we offer for specific individual presentations, we have two skill-based programs that focus on public speaking.  We have the 1-day program entitled The Speech Class Refresher, and the 2-day program that focuses on micro-skills, entitled Speak Up!  Speak Out!  Say it Well!  We also have an hour-long presentation that describes best practices in delivery, but does not contain any skill development, “Ten Tips for Terrific Talks.”

We teach these inside companies and organizations, and also, typically have a public offering for each several times a year.

These are some of the delivery skills that we include in these programs:

Stories – these are wonderful tools to increase your extemporaneous delivery – tell a “case study” with elements such as when, where, who, what, reactions, and even monologue and dialogue.  Try to put a story into each speech.  Nothing is more memorable to an audience.

Planting – put equal weight on both legs, shoulder width apart, with your knees slightly bent.  From this balanced and comfortable position, you will not rock or sway.  Move all you want to, but when you “arrive,” replant.

Eye contact – divide the room into four quadrants, and look at one person in a quadrant for a single idea.  Look directly at that people in your audience – not over or under them.  Look them directly in the eye.  When you finish, look at someone else in another quadrant.  Do not go left to right across the room, making a “sprinkler effect” or a “lighthouse sweep.”  Try not to “flutter” between two people – look at one, and then across the room, to someone else.

Gestures – these should be spontaneous and natural, never planned.  Put your arms at your side, not in your pockets or locked behind or in front of you.  Your body will tell you when to gesture.  If nothing else, you can enumerate (count – “my second point is…”).  Wait until you participate in Randy Mayeux‘s Velcro exercise to improve your gestures.

Podium  –  avoid speaking behind a podium or stand; instead, speak behind a table, where you can put your note cards down, and move around.

Conversational Delivery – work on what you want to say, rather than how.  The focus is on ideas, and not on exact, pre-planned words.  In this delivery style, your speech is organized, planned, and practiced, but does not rely upon any exact prepared wording that you want to use.  Instead, the words you use are spontaneous and conversational.  The speaker refers to key words on note cards or slides, and simply talks with the audience.  This is the most popular delivery style today, because it is very efficient to prepare and practice. 

For more information about our three offerings, please send a request to:  .



The Foundation of an Effective Presentation

The other day, a phrase popped out of my mouth, and I said…  “whoa, that’s it!”  (Have you ever had that happen?)

I was talking to my students in speech class,, and I said that gestures, eye contact, posture – there were all supplemental elements of delivery in an effective speech/presentation.  They are important, useful…  but the most critical element, the “foundation” element is the voice:  clear pronunciation, vocal variety, verbal punch.   (Never speak in a monotone!)

Think in terms of a wardrobe.  You have your garments that make up your “foundation,” and then your accessories.  The accessories really make a difference – they add life, and make everything work together better.  But they need that solid foundation.

So it is with a presentation.   Your voice is the foundational element.  And then your supplemental elements, your “accessories,” add life, and make everything you say work together better.

So – if you want to speak effectively, build that very solid foundation.  Work on your voice, your vocal variety, your verbal punch.  Get these right – really right – first! – then work on the “supplemental” elements, the “accessories” – the gestures, the eye contact, the posture…


Get Better At Public Speaking — Farhad Manjoo Helps A Little, But Nowhere Near Enough

Farhad Manjoo, technology wizard!

I am a big fan of Farhad Manjoo.  He is the Slate.com technology writer, and he has a great gift for writing about technology in language that Luddites like me can understand.

But this time, he left out some really important material…

His most recent offering is a short video.  Where he misses me is the title: Get Better at Public Speaking (though, the subtitle is a little better: Farhad Manjoo reviews apps that help you talk in front of a crowd).  The video highlights cool apps that you can use to help you in your presentations:  a remote PowerPoint or Keynote slide advance app, a “timer,” app, and a teleprompter app.  All cool.

But none of these will make you a better speaker — if you don’t keep working on the actual speaking basics.  Before you use any technology, you first have to learn to actually speak, well, in front of a crowd, whether that crowd is 10 or 10,000.  So, here are some areas for you to work on:

• learn to use your voice effectively. Pronounce your words fully, with great vocal variety, so that you never speak in a monotone.  And with effective verbal punch, emphasizing key words with higher volume or lower volume or a well-placed pause.  And, generally, don’t use your library voice — be loud enough to be heard easily.
• work on maintaining exceptional eye contact. If you are not looking into the eyes of your audience, they will think you are disconnected, and they will feel disconnected (and so will you).
• learn to move – your hands, your arms, your feet. All purposefully, with no distracting movements, but with high energy.
• and, before you do any of this, learn to prepare well, with thorough research, and with great and attentive organization and editing. If you can say what you have to say clearly, simply, in the most effective order, it will go a long way toward making you a better public speaker.

Remember to always focus on the basics.  And the basics of good, effective public speaking start with — speaking!


(check out this earlier blog post:  2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation).

The “advance decision making” approach to speaking

To deliver a good, effective presentation, you have to have something to say, and then you have to say it very well.  (Read my post 2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation).

So, let’s assume that you have something worthwhile to say.  You have prepared well, you are confident that this presentation will be worthwhile and useful to this audience.  Now – how do you say it well?

Here is what I teach my speech students:

Say what you intend to say
Say all that you intend to say
Say only what you intend to say
Say nothing that you do not intend to say


Do what you intend to do
Do all that you intend to do
Do only what you intend to do
Do nothing that you do not intend to do

Let’s call this the “advance decision making” approach to speaking.  You know and recognize the problem – a speaker shuffles his/her feet, plays with a pen, bobs and weaves and sways and paces, and says um and uh, and rambles…  The list is long.  And it all adds up to “annoying/distracting,” and is unquestionably ineffective.

So – remember the rules about speech giving.  Speech giving is preceded by speech writing, and that means the words are chosen in advance.  No one ever writes in the manuscript:  “say um here.”

And just as the words are chosen in advance, so too should body movements, posture, gestures be chosen in advance.  And the real rule is this:  do not let any word, any gesture, any movement, any article of clothing, take away from the impact of your actual message.  If you want the message to come through loud and clear, make sure that every word and every movement supports that goal.

Yes, you are guessing right – good speaking takes a lot of hard work and practice and editing and more practice, and then some more practice.  But the practice required is “deliberate practice,” where you (or a helpful coach) evaluate every word, every gesture, every body movement.

Say what you intend to say — do what you intend to do.  This is the secret to effective speaking.