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Three Public Speaking Tips From The Curator Of TED Talks

I often compare TED Talks to Lay’s Potato Chips: no one can watch just one. More often than not, the talks, dedicated to spreading great ideas, are engaging, surprising, and even challenging.

So when Chris Anderson, the curator of the popular TED series, was interviewed on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show last week, I listened. Intently.

Anderson has a must-read book coming out next month called TED Talks: The Official TED Guide To Public Speaking. During the interview, he offered a few of the nuggets he’s picked up along the way.

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New Eye Contact Research: Is 3.2 Seconds The Magic Number?

If you’ve ever been unsure about how long to maintain eye contact with members of your audience, you can be forgiven. The advice about how long you should lock your gaze with a single audience member is all over the map.

New research, intended to help clarify the question of ideal gaze times, suggests people are comfortable with exactly 3.2 seconds of eye contact.

I’m skeptical of that finding and have found that an over-focus on such prescriptive rules can hurt speakers. In this post, I’ll tell you why — and what you should do instead.

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A Stunningly Simple Way To Improve Your Presentations

At the beginning of our presentation training sessions, I often ask a participant to deliver a practice talk.

Before the trainee begins speaking, they usually take the slide remote, load their presentation, and turn back to the screen to confirm their slides are displaying properly. The remainder of their talk usually plays out along similar lines—they make a point, click to the next slide, turn to confirm the right slide is up, and then repeat the cycle.

If you’re like most speakers, this probably sounds familiar. Here’s an easy technique that leads to dramatically stronger results.

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Suffering from headache. Side view of depressed mature businessman touching head with hand with people sitting in a row behind him

How To Answer Tough Questions #2: Emotional Questions

Let’s say you represent a government agency and have been tasked with speaking at a local community meeting. A natural disaster occurred in that town—a major flood, perhaps—and local residents are furious at what they see as your agency’s inaction to help them rebuild.

In such a heated environment—one in which people have suffered the loss of life, work, or property—you can expect to be asked emotionally charged questions.

Your response to those questions must be aligned to the audience’s emotional concerns. Responding to emotionally heavy questions with facts alone isn’t enough. People need to know—and feel—that you get it.

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Businessman holding wooden alphabet blocks reading - Shy - balanced in the palm of his hand.

A Trainer Asks: How Can I Expand My Client’s Range?

A fellow presentation trainer wrote in with a question about a client who was particularly shy. After three hours of working together, the trainer had exhausted his options and run out of ideas to help draw his client out.

In this post, I’ll discuss two techniques I’ve used successfully with shy clients. The first I use somewhat frequently. The second is rather dramatic — and while I don’t use it often, it’s yielded interesting results when I’ve needed it.

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Comedian performing on a black background

The Comedy Formula Every Public Speaker Should Try

Stand-up comics are often on the road for hundreds of dates each year.

No matter how successful their performances, they know they can’t keep returning to the same cities with the same set—so they continually try new material. But introducing new, untested material can be risky.

Here’s a technique comedians use to mitigate that risk. It’s a technique public speakers everywhere should use.

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How To Select The Perfect PowerPoint Image

Many presenters understand that it’s a bad idea to clutter their PowerPoint slides with dozens of words, numerous bullets, and a handful of sub-bullets. They know that it’s better to use a compelling image, one that visually reinforces the point they’re making verbally.

Knowing that is a good start. But it’s not enough.

In this post, you will see the evolution of a single idea over four slides, which will help you learn an easy way to identify the right images for your next presentation.

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101 Ways to Open a Speech Start at Beginning Not Clickable

Announcing My New Book: “101 Ways to Open a Speech”

I’m delighted to announce that my second book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, was released today and is now available on Amazon!

101 Ways to Open a Speech introduces you to a broad range of speech starters, using dozens of real-life examples and original suggestions. You will find opens intended to surprise, persuade, motivate, engage, and amuse your audiences. Some tell a story, others help frame your topic, and a few rely on modern technology.

I wrote the book with the hope that it would become an indispensable desktop reference for everyone who ever presents to any audience.

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