A grand jury indicted Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in March for third-degree aggravated assault. The indictment stems from an incident that took place in February, in which Rice allegedly knocked out his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer.
The video below, posted by TMZ, appears to show Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator.
The National Football League announced last week that it would suspend Rice for the first two games of the season—a penalty that many football fans, women, and other humanoids who care about things like not abusing women—found infuriatingly unserious.
For context, the NFL has suspended dozens of players for four games or more for violating the League’s drug policy. Smoke a joint? Miss four games. Knock your soon-to-be-wife out cold? Just two.
Rice’s boss—Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh—responded to the controversy last week with a flip tone that only served to inflame the situation:
”There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray, he’s a heck of a guy, he’s done everything right since, he makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence.”
Calling Rice’s conduct a “mistake” that was committed by a “heck of a guy” was tone-deaf—one wonders if Harbaugh would have given domestic abusers Ike Turner, Charlie Sheen, and Chris Brown the same benefit of the doubt (probably not, unless they could run for a touchdown). But his concluding comment was the reason I named him this month’s worst video media disaster:
”I think it’s good for kids to understand that it works that way, and that’s how it works. That’s how it should be.”
Give us a break, Coach. Don’t try to wrap this incident within a virtue. The only lesson you and the league have taught kids is that you will be welcomed back to the game with open arms by your coaches and teammates—and receive millions of dollars in 2014—as long as you sit out for two weeks.
If there’s any lesson here for kids aspiring to become a member of the NFL, it’s that it would be less consequential to beat your wife than it would be to smoke a joint.
Here’s an exercise you can do that shows why his response failed: Press play on the two videos above simultaneously. Does Harbaugh’s response seem even remotely congruent with the video of Rice dragging his lover off the elevator? Or does it come across as blithely dismissive?
What should Harbaugh have said? How’s this:
“Domestic abuse is a serious situation, and our team has absolutely no tolerance for it. Ray needs to pay a price for his actions—and he will not be welcome back onto this team until he does. People may debate the severity of his suspension, but what’s not up for debate is that fact that we agree wholeheartedly that he deserves to be punished.”
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
I recently attended the bat mitzvah of a good friend’s daughter.
My friend made a few remarks at the reception—and during his comments, he mentioned that he was nervous to speak given that I, a presentation trainer, was in the audience. “I had a nightmare that Brad wrote a story for his blog that had the five biggest mistakes from my speech,” he quipped.
It turns out that he had nothing to worry about. He did a terrific job and infused his speech with good humor (one highlight came when he told the 13-year-old boys interested in courting his beautiful daughter, “Gentlemen, I look forward to getting to know you over the next few years.”).
But he’s right that I’m always watching other speakers—not necessarily to be critical, but to learn from them. And that means that I almost never attend a boring presentation.
Clients leaving our training sessions often remark that they’ll never watch a presentation the same way again. Instead, they’ll pay closer attention to every speaker they watch, noting why the good parts worked and why the bad parts didn’t. They no longer play the role of passive audience member; instead, they remain actively engaged from start to finish.
The next time you attend a “boring” presentation, conduct a mental exercise and ask yourself these types of questions: If I had to present the same information, what would I do differently? Would I have used a more compelling open, a better-designed PowerPoint slide, a group activity, or something else? Would I have abandoned the lectern, conveyed more enthusiasm, or engaged the audience with a topic for discussion?
If you approach attending “boring” presentations in that manner, you’ll never be bored again. But you will learn—and you will improve as a speaker.
Don’t miss a thing! Click here to instantly join our mailing list and receive our latest public speaking posts each week.
I recently received this email from the communications director for a major league sports team:
“What is your opinion on a speaker (in our case it’s usually the head coach after games) addressing questions by naming each reporter before the answer or finding a spot within the answer to name the questioner? I hear writers talk about it, how it shows the speaker cares about the media or is making an effort to connect with them more than just spewing a quick answer. Do you think a speaker receives better coverage when naming the reporter in his answer than just to answer the question? I’m torn on it because:
1. My head coach will have to learn each reporter’s name (meaning the non-beat writers), and the reporters who cover us change quite often.
2. It distracts from the answer sometimes. Fans might think, “As a viewer, do I really care that Joe from the local newspaper asked the question? I’m a fan of the team, he should address me too.”
I’ve always been conflicted about this topic for the reasons the emailer stated. In The Media Training Bible, I wrote that:
“Many media trainers teach their trainees to call reporters by their names, arguing that doing so helps forge a warm connection with the interviewer. Perhaps that’s true. But it comes at too high of a price. When you call reporters by name, it makes it clear to the audience that you’re speaking to the reporter, not with them.”
Although I believe that advice is generally sound, does it always apply?
It definitely applies to taped sound bite interviews, in which the person conducting the interview may be a behind-the-scenes producer. If you say that person’s name during the interview, the news station will probably be forced to edit it out—or drop that quote altogether.
But does it apply to a live press conference?
On one hand, naming reporters might help make the reporter feel valued. Reporters may even want to edit their name into the piece to show that they’re the one who asked the question (and let’s face it—hearing their name may also satisfy their ego).
But on the other hand, if the head coach doesn’t know a few people, it will become abundantly clear to everyone watching that they don’t know the reporter. In addition, reporters from competitive outlets may not want to use otherwise great quotes that name their competitors. Plus, as the emailer suggested, it may interfere with the connection the coach should be making with the viewers and fans outside of the room.
The emailer and I would both like to learn from you on this one. Please select an option from the poll above—and leave your more complete thoughts in the comments section below.
If you want to virtually guarantee that reporters will use the quote you want them to, you need to master the art of the media sound bite.
Reporters love sound bites because they make for lively copy. The public enjoys them because they’re memorable. And you’ll benefit from them because they can serve as a perfect delivery vehicle for your messages.
I always try to look out for particularly clever and well-phrased media sound bites. In this post, you’ll find seven of my recent favorites.
1. This sound bite has a clear political point of view—but ignore the politics and look at the structure. If you’re on the other side of the aisle, you can simply replace the name “Sarah Palin” with a different name. I was unable to find the source of this sound bite.
“Getting a history lesson from Sarah Palin is like getting your teeth cleaned by a proctologist.”
2. During the 2012 election season, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was briefly discussed as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney. Huckabee dismissed the buzz with this clever sound bite:
“I think there’s a greater likelihood that I’ll be asked by Madonna to go on tour as her bass player.”
3. While promoting her book about women in the workplace, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, offered this memorable quip:
“Men still run the world. And I’m not sure that’s going that well.”
4. Knocking her opponent for what she maintained was his lack of political action, Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes said this:
“If the doctors told Sen. [Mitch] McConnell he had a kidney stone, he wouldn’t pass it.”
5. Congressman Hal Rodgers (R-KY), speaking about the challenge his party’s Speaker of the House faces in running his caucus, quipped:
“It’s a little bit like being the head caretaker of the cemetery. There are a lot of people under you, but nobody listens.”
6. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who was accused of a conflict of interest for supporting medical procedures that helped her physician-husband, used this analogy:
“I won’t stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won’t stop standing up for veterans just because my father served in World War II.”
7. Finally, here’s a sound bite that any parent will appreciate:
“Cleaning a house with a toddler is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”
For more tips on how to develop your own media sound bites, check out my video below.
“Our company was founded in 1922.”
Whenever I hear a speaker say something like that, I think, Who cares? That piece of information, presented without context, could lead the audience to have one of two reactions:
1. “Wow, they’ve been doing this a long time. They must know what they’re doing.”
2. “Wow, they’re old. I wonder if they’re a traditional company that’s too slow to embrace change.”
I often tell speakers to stop being their company’s Wikipedia page by merely listing factual information. Their job during a presentation isn’t to list facts, but to create a useful context into which those facts fit.
In the above example, the speaker should have said something closer to this:
“Our company was founded in 1922. Our industry has gone through three major transformations from then to now—and the only reason we’ve been able to continue our growth is because we have the experience to identify and embrace tomorrow’s trends before everyone else.”
Here’s another example. Don’t simply state that you have 18 offices around the world. Instead, infuse that fact with meaning, and say:
“We’re a global events planning company. We can help you plan top-notch events in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Mexico City, Berlin, Mumbai, Johannesburg, and 12 other major international cities. And if you want to plan an event in a city outside of those 18 locations, our closest regional office can successfully plan it for you from there, as we did in 145 cities last year alone.”
As you practice for your next presentation, pay close attention to the moments when you’re verging on becoming a context-free, facts-only presenter. Then, repeat this mantra: “I am not a Wikipedia page!” and add meaning to those facts.
Want more free public speaking tips? Check out our 25 Most Essential Public Speaking Tips.
Sir Ken Robinson—an English education expert—delivered the most popular TED Talk ever in 2006.
In the eight years since, his talk called “How Schools Kill Creativity” has accumulated more than 27 million views. That’s about the same number of people who watched last year’s Grammy Awards, meaning that Ken Robinson—a relative unknown who stood on a stage in front of a few hundred people—has attracted the same number of views as performances by Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Elton John, Sting, and Jay-Z. Not bad for a speech about education.
Whether or not Mr. Robinson’s speech is the best TED Talk of all time is subjective—but however you answer that question, it’s clear that he delivered a terrific talk.
This post identifies five reasons Robinson’s speech succeeded—and what you can learn from it.
1. His Theme Was Unambiguous
Mr. Robinson delivered his thesis statement early in his talk by saying, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Everything that followed supported that theme—his stories, statistics, quotes, and other personal observations.
2. He Supported His Theme With Compelling Stories
Robinson is a master storyteller. His story about Gillian Lynn, who choreographed Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, is likely to stick with me for a long time. As a child, Robinson explained, Lynn was sent to a childhood specialist to diagnose her inability to sit still. The brilliant doctor turned on the radio, observed the young Ms. Lynn, and left the room to offer her mother his diagnosis: “Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer.” His story roused my emotions, both anger (for the children who are misdiagnosed) and hope (that misunderstood children will be understood more completely).
3. He Concluded His Talk With Context
During the body of his talk, Robinson effectively made the case for creativity in education. He could have ended his talk successfully by simply reiterating that point, perhaps through an illustrative anecdote (the Gillian Lynn story could have served as a memorable close). Instead, he set his aims even higher, tying his talk into every other TED Talk that the live audience had seen or was about to see: “What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely and that we avert some of the scenarios we’ve talked about.”
4. His Tone Was Conversational
Public speaking coaches always advise their trainees to appear “conversational.” Robinson demonstrated perfectly what a conversational and relaxed tone looks like. I’ve written before about mirror neurons, which can allow speakers who exhibit a certain tone to create that same tone and feeling within their audiences. It’s easy to imagine oneself being put at ease immediately through Robinson’s easy demeanor.
5. He Used Humor As a Vehicle
Robinson is funny. At first, I wondered whether his humor—which occasionally veered slightly off message—bordered on overkill. But as I continued reflecting on his speech, I realized why it worked so well. A talk about a topic like education can easily become strident. Robinson used humor as a vehicle to open up the audience, create a personal bond, and convey his message without making anyone feel defensive. He has the ease of an experienced stand-up comedian—which most speakers do not—and he used that gift to sell his vision to an increasingly receptive audience.
Want to learn more about public speaking? Click here to receive our weekly emails full of helpful presentation tips.
It’s time to get away from the computer, spend some focused and restorative time with my family, and take a couple of weeks off for my annual summer break.
I’ll be back on Monday, July 21. Until then, I wish you a wonderful couple of weeks ahead.
Thanks for reading, and see you soon!
After concluding on-camera practice interviews with our clients, I often ask them to rate how much energy they thought they had, on a scale of 1 to 10. “Oh, around an eight or nine,” the trainees usually guess. “That was probably a bit over-the-top, right?”
I then ask the other people in the room to rate their colleagues’ energy during the interview. They usually rate it a 4 or 5. The trainee is always shocked.
It turns out we’re not great judges of the amount of energy we convey during media interviews. What feels right to clients in the training room often looks flat on television—which makes sense when you consider that television tends to make people appear more muted than they do in person.
You’ve seen that dynamic play out if you’ve ever sat down in front of your television, watched an entire interview, and completely zoned out—realizing later that you can’t remember a single thing the spokesperson said. It happens all the time, and it’s usually the result of a “blah” spokesperson who doesn’t reach out of the television and grab you.
A media interview delivered without energy is like a steak cooked over low heat: dull, uninspiring, and lacking “sizzle.” Great spokespersons know they need to inject passion and energy into their delivery to fully reach their audience.
Some of our clients get nervous about displaying too much energy or passion during their interviews. They protest that they’re mild mannered or soft-spoken in everyday life and that speaking loudly wouldn’t feel authentic to them. That’s fine. Passionate need not be loud.
But what may feel like yelling to you usually doesn’t come across as yelling to the rest of us. In fact, when I ask trainees to “go bigger” by speaking in a comically loud voice, they’re almost always surprised to find that it goes over great on TV.
Therefore, focus on being the most energetic and passionate version of you. Think about when you’re sitting in your living room with an old friend, reliving memories of your schooldays. You’re probably a bit louder than usual, a little more demonstrative, and a lot more interesting.
In order to bring that more enthusiastic version of yourself out, try speaking 10—15 percent louder. Many people fear that will make them come across with too much volume. And sure, we need to dial back the occasional trainee who goes too far. But that’s rare. The vast majority of the time, spokespersons can hit the gas and be even more energetic.
So don’t hold back. If you care about your topic, make sure the audience can tell just by looking at you.