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13 Ways To Break The Pattern During A Speech

We humans acclimate rather quickly to unchanging stimuli. Just as we normally tune out the feel of our shirt, the gentle hum of a ceiling fan, and the comforting scent of our morning coffee, we tune out speakers who become too predictable.

But that offers us a vital clue about how to keep our audiences interested: do the opposite. Just as we evolved the capacity to tune out static, we developed a keen ability to detect change in the environment. We notice things that are different—or that “break a pattern.”

In this post, you’ll learn more about retaining the audience’s attention—and learn 13 ways to break the pattern.

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Concrete or Abstract

Where Are You On The Abstraction Ladder?

In his 1949 book Language in Thought and Action, linguist S.I. Hayakawa explained his “Abstraction Ladder.” As he visualized it, the bottom rungs contained the most concrete ideas (a cow named Bessie), while the top rungs contained more abstract concepts (he used “livestock” and “farm asset” as examples).

Great presentations rarely remain at the top of the ladder for long. Concrete examples—which contain the vivid detail and emotional content that stick with audiences—are found toward the bottom rung.

Still, both types of content have an important role to play. Here’s how to balance your concrete and abstract material perfectly.

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Be a Water Fountain, Not a Fire Hose | Public Speaking

The human brain is wired not to guzzle new information in an onslaught, but to digest it in modest sips. Memory studies show that most people can retain only a few “chunks” of information at a time—as few as three or four—and information that doesn’t get richly encoded at the time of exposure often disappears within seconds, never making the critical journey to long-term storage.

If our goal is to shine a light on the points that matter most, we must strip away those that don’t. Here are a few ideas about how to do that most effectively.

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How To Deliver A Great Speech From Memory

Audiences can often tell when a speaker has memorized their talk. It’s almost as if someone has pressed play on the presenter—but when the speaker forgets a word or loses their place, you can practically see the tape unspooling from their brain’s cassette.

And yet, it’s undeniable that some impressive speakers possess the rare talent of delivering a memorized script while sounding conversational and reacting in the moment to unexpected events.

If you’re determined to memorize your talk, you’ll want to remember these three words.

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Four Tips When Speaking From A Teleprompter

There it is: your entire presentation, sitting in front of you on a teleprompter like a warm, comfortable, digital security blanket. Politicians use them. TV hosts use them. Why shouldn’t you?

The most direct answer is that speaking from a teleprompter is hard. If most speakers who read from a prepared script sound like they’re reading from a script, imagine how much tougher it is to read one from two small panels of glass, flanked on the speaker’s left and right sides!

Because it’s difficult for most speakers to develop a rapport with their audiences while using a teleprompter, we typically discourage their use. But in limited circumstances, teleprompters can remain a useful tool.

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How To Deliver A Great Presentation Using “Holes”

We frequently work with executives who open a practice speech with a statement along these lines: “Thank you for coming. I’m excited that you joined us today for this unprecedented announcement.”

The problem? They’re reading those opening lines from their scripts while looking down and making scant eye contact with their audiences. Here’s what I tell them when we review their tapes together: If a line intended to be sincere has to be read from the page, it will lose all sincerity.

That’s why we encourage many speakers using a script to insert a “hole.” Here’s how to do it.

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How To Deliver A Great Presentation From A Script

I’ll often ask a client who delivers a practice talk with a full script to do it again, but with a twist: I take their script away. Their second versions are usually better—and often include interesting information they omitted the first time. It turns out that when they’re not restrained by a tight script, they’re freer to communicate in the spoken language they typically would.

That exercise offers an important clue: If you plan to write a script, don’t write it as your first step.

In this post, you’ll find several tips to help you read a speech without sounding like you’re reading from a script.

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How To Deliver A Great Presentation Using Notes

Most of today’s presentations are delivered from notes, not formal scripts. Such an approach allows speakers to benefit from having the best of two worlds: a well-organized structure and a conversational tone.

Notes typically take the form of bulleted lists or outlines, but can also include a few verbatim passages for quotes or transitions that require precision. As you practice, eliminate as many words from your notes as possible and keep only what’s necessary to trigger your memory.

Think of those memory triggers like golf: the fewer the words, the better your score. In this post, you’ll find several tips for scoring with notes.

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