Tuesday, April 27, 2010

High-Octane Presentations; Recommended Actions Before You Start Speaking—Part II: Using the Introduction to Whet the Audience’s Appetite

First, something that I forgot to mention in Part I (post of March 21): while milling around the room, remember to flash a big smile – what I call the “all-32-teeth-showing-smile” --as you introduce yourself to everyone you meet. The reasons why such a smile works in your favor were outlined in my post of Dec. 31’09.

Now, to the subject of this post. In addition to the usual biographical stuff, have your introducer also say something that will whet the audience’s curiosity and thus build anticipation. This will help ensure that the moment you begin speaking, you will have everyone’s undivided attention--you will have conquered any and all distractions in the room, including BlackBerries bulging with fresh, unread emails.

So, for example, if your topic is on how to raise an organization’s productivity, and you are planning to share several steps that are surprisingly simple but highly effective, could you insert one of these imaginative suggestions in the introduction, as a teaser? And if you are a NASA astronaut giving a speech on what the soon-to-be-concluded space shuttle program has yielded to the taxpayer, you could stir the audience by having the introducer state one or two little known but fascinating facts--for instance, how something learned from the program will shape space flight for decades to come.

Two other items that ought to be included in the introduction that is going to be read (or circulated) prior to your taking the floor:
(i) If you are not a widely known authority on the subject, a mention of your credentials with regard to the topic.
(ii) Why this is the right time for the topic. So, if you were to going to speak on how to make your next flight more enjoyable, have the introducer mention a recent study that suggests flying will become increasingly stressful.

One caveat: Do not let the “anticipation-building passage” in the introduction border on hype or overpromise, nor let it dissipate the thunder of your presentation.

Part III of actions to take before you start speaking will be posted in about 10 days.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Visual, Evocative Words to Emphasize Something—Some Inspiring Examples

A new regular feature of my blog will be the highlighting of some examples of highly effective communicators using a vivid, evocative expression to emphasize something--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter.

Here is my first such list. Some are very recent, others a bit ancient—stuff that I came across while cleaning out drawers overflowing with old video tapes, newspaper clippings, and the like.

1. Talking about the 19th century botanist Robert Fortune, thanks to whom the British were able to replace China with India as their primary supplier of tea, Sarah Rose--author of “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink…”--telling NPR that Fortune went about some of his exploits in Chinese disguise, dressed up as if he were a wealthy Chinese merchant, and adding: “I don’t know if it captured the imagination of the Victorians, but that certainly captured mine, that notion of cultural transvestitism.”

2. In a speech about his proposed regulatory overhaul of the financial industry, President Obama saying: “…the cascade of mistakes and missed opportunities (of the past decades).”

3. Walter Mossberg, comparing Google to other notable search engines in a 2001 Wall Street Journal column: “I know that people have other favorite search sites, and whatever works for them is fine. But Google is a beacon in a sea of confusion.”

4. Some seven years ago, Bill Gross, America’s bond “guru,” expressing pessimism about America’s international economic dominance (as a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks), and saying: “While the United States rules the waves as well as turf and sky, I’m not so sure that we are, or perhaps will be, the economic powerhouse we once were.”

5. In describing the revulsion some Orthodox Christians have at the very thought of a rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church, Tufts University’s Sol Gittleman writing in a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal: “(While touring a Greek Orthodox monastery in Athens) I asked the priest how he felt about the pope’s effort to bring about a reconciliation…. ‘Never!’ he cried, and all pleasantness left his countenance. ‘We will never forget 1203, the Fourth Crusade and the murder of….’”