Brett de Hoedt, speaker and emcee at large will cross the continent to persuade the 650 or so young medicos at the Global Health Conference in Perth that if they really want to save the world they’ll need to engage the media.
Many event organisers complain about a lack of attendees. There’s always something to explain the low numbers. Well this event is run by full-time medicine students who have an overworked and impoverished target audience yet the event goes gangbusters year after year, even when located in a rather remote location. Go figure.
Black and white is always flattering.
Organisers even created a fetching sketch of Brett for the program.
It is likely to be just one in a series of modern touches that will leave Brett feeling old.
Too few public speakers make the most of their opportunity and very few in Australia take any public speaking training. It’s easy for public speakers to think that their presentation went well as very few audience members express their true feelings. Event managers are often more concerned with punctuality and logistics than content, so presenters can live in a bubble.
However if we delve into the minds of audience members we’d often find thoughts like those featured in this series:
“Well duh! What does she take me for? Tell me something I didn’t know.”
There’s a fine line between explaining what needs to be explained and teaching people to suck eggs. Many public speakers are worried about bringing the audience along with them so they explain everything from the ground up. They give background, they show organisational flowcharts, they treat audiences as students rather than fellow professionals. Don’t do this.
A client of ours recently ran through a presentation that she was planning to make to a room full of nutritionists. The thrust of the presentation was about how a low socio-economic school compensated for the poor nutrition kids were getting at home through their breakfast plan and other means.
Our client opened up by explaining the link between good nutrition and good student learning. You know the deal – as a well fed tummy provides the ability to concentrate so students get the most out of each and every class. That’s fine but she went on to explain this in great depth and at some length in the context of a 30 minute presentation.
I gave her feedback that a room full of nutritionists do not need to be told of the benefit to students of a healthy diet. They already get it. The nutritionists really wanted to learn about her school’s program so they could steal ideas and recreate its success.
Be careful not to tell your audience what they already know. It takes only a couple of minutes for an audience to sense that you are underestimating them. This is usually interpreted as a sign of disrespect and they disengage accordingly.
Of course you may have to cover some old ground or find some common understandings but liberal use of phrases such as: “you already know this but…” or “I hardly need to tell a room like this that…” show that you understand and respect them. It also makes audiences feel smart.
Public speakers need to find a way to involve their audience whether they want to or not.
I like to have some degree of continuous interaction with an audience which can take the form of short, sharp questions such as:
Has anyone else here experienced that?
Anyone here in violent disagreement with what I just said?
Has anyone read that book/seen that documentary/used that software?
Your audience can respond via a quick comment, a show of hands or with a low murmur. It’s a small way to show that you give a damn about your audience and you just might learn something from their response that you can reflect in your presentation. You must find a way to let people in your audience participate. Q & A at the end isn’t enough.
A book your audiences will love.
Serious about being a better speaker? You should be. Better speaking = better career.
The event brings together 130+ organisations, dozens of exhibitors as well as speakers including SBS Insight’s Jenny Brockie, Senator Mitch Fifield, former federal disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes, South Australian Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent and maverick economist Stephen Koukoulas.
Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo. Recommended: for speakers who take the craft seriously and TED talk devotees.
The foul-mouthed bear? Ted Turner? Big Ted?
There is something a little irksome about Carmine Gallo’s book Talk Like TED. Perhaps it’s the shamelessness of writing a book that is entirely dependent on the efforts of others, perhaps it’s the blind faith the author has in the TED talk formula or the repeated plugs for his own speaker coaching skills.
Still, if you want to improve your speaking or are fascinated by the globocult that is Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) this book is for you.
TED talks have redefined what Westerners expect of public speakers. We want work-perfect presenters who win our hearts with personal stories, wow us with slick visuals and walk the stage looking good every step of the way.
In many ways this has lifted the bar for non-TEDsters, though it has created a template that some of us might wish to ignore.
When TED Talks, people listen.
Gallo knows the formula inside and out. This comes from watching every TED talk, timing it, transcribing it, breaking it down into its constituent parts and interviewing many of the (less famous) speakers. He has even plotted their hand movements.
Surely we didn’t really need to have Al Gore’s presentation presented in a two column chart with his words on one side and a description of his hand movements on the other. Surely he hired an intern for all this bollocks?
The result of this industriousness is a book that promises to “reveal the nine public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds”. Oh dear. Undoubtedly there is wisdom to be gained.
While Gallo may be a great speaking coach he is a writer in need of an editor. Talk Like TED has a convoluted format. Not only are there nine “secrets”, there are groups of secrets within each secrets, there are many quotes from the greats, TED notes, subheadings, and breakout boxes.
There is an absolute acceptance that the TED talk formula – and it is a formula – is the definitive way to present to groups of people. Nowhere does Gallo seriously suggest that you do things your way or acknowledge that those of us who are a little less famous, who speak in spotlights a little dimmer, may not have the same options available to us. To Gallo, the more YouTube hits you have, the better the speaker.
Public speaking tip: launch new iPhone. Wish we’d thought of that.
Gallo Carmine has history – his previous work was: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Clearly he too has a formula, knows when he’s on a good thing and sticks to it.
Few of us are philanthropist rockstars, hero pilots, silicon valley CEOs or bloody Malcolm Gladwell but we can heed Gallo’s advice to tell a story, to be brief, to incorporate levity, to deliver one killer statistic, to ensure that we teach people something they did not know.
The book also provides plenty of insights into what goes into creating and delivering an 18-minute Ted talk. It’s a cult we tell you! Run!
Ironically, for a book that praises TED’s brevity Talk Like TED is repetitive and far too long. Like so many books it cherry picks neuroscience, talking about attention spans, recollections and visual processing. Whatever!Just be interesting and of value we say.
A book your audiences will love.
Still, if you want to improve your public speaking Talk Like TED is a worthwhile read that will give you food for thought and some specific ways to lift your game. To Gallo’s credit there are dozens of pages of notes footnotes. Or maybe that was the intern.
It was with interest that we compared the response time of two leading environment groups – ACF and Greenpeace. (Left)
Dr Sinclair we presume.
News quickly gets old. Readers will always appreciate you keeping them informed – especially if you tell them first. On this occasion ACF Paul Sinclair (left) wins by the best part of an afternoon over Greenpeace. Kudos Dr Sinclair.
First up: if anybody doubts the power of sound and movement (aka video) to make a dramatic emotional impact with viewers watch this and get back to us.
That’s why this year, we have spent a lot of time and energy shooting short videos destined for the websites of clients such as Merri Community Health and ourselves. Our videos were not as tear-inducing as the example above but we are convinced that they offer a way to communicate that is hard to resist. Here’s what we learnt from making 30 or so videos:
Meet the Marriott School Ambassadors.
Introduce your people via video
So much of your business success hinges on whether people think your individual people are great at what they do.
You need to convince people of their skills, authenticity, and passion. You could do this with words and a headshot or you could do this with video. Which do you think will be more effective?
Marriott Support Services did this beautifully with a series of videos showcasing their public speakers all of whom are young people with an intellectual disability. We are proud to have made them.
More is more It’s better to make a series of shorter videos that break down a topic into bite-size pieces then make one longer video encompassing many perspectives on the one subject.
Time is of the essence.
Less is more.
People claim to know that attention spans are short and getting shorter. Then of course the very same people make a video and find that they have much to say in such interesting ways that the viewer should be happy to block off five minutes. This is deluded. Sixty seconds is a long time online so anything more than two minutes duration is likely to outstay its welcome. Looking back at some of the videos we shot for ourselves in January – some of which are 90 seconds long – we realised that we could have shaved some excess time but didn’t. Bugger.
Short captions. Fleeting theme tune.
Opening credits An opening credit or graphic adds professionalism to your videos and explains what people should expect. Be sure to keep them very brief as people’s patience can wear thin, particularly if they’ve already seen two or three of your videos in the preceding minutes.
We ensured that our credits were short with an exceptionally brief piece of audio which is both cute and allows people to check the volume level on their devices.
Picture quality Whether you’re a corporate entity or a nonprofit you need to have videos that look like they belong on the world wide web. Shooting your videos in high definition is not a budgetary consideration anymore; so go HD. Ensure that your videos are well lit and have excellent audio quality. The latter will usually require a lapel microphone. Too many videos suffer from hollow sound quality which immediately brands your videos as amateur.
And no – being a voluntary outfit does not allow you to create content that is amateur in appearance. Hire the best people you can hire which in most cases does not mean someone is tech-savvy nephew.
Music / Audio A lot of online videos have a bed of music underneath. This can be very distracting if it is not balanced well with the sound of the narrator. We recommend not using a continuous soundtrack or score under your video. You may wish to use some carefully selected sound effects at various times throughout your videos to add emphasis or humour but be minimalist with this won’t you? Similarly you may wish to insert some graphics to highlight key words, concepts or extra information.
More overlay please Overlay is the term given to the visuals you see as you hear the spokesperson talking in the background. For instance you may start a video featuring the interviewee on camera talking. Then, at an appropriate juncture, the vision of that person is replaced with overlay that somehow relates to what they’re talking about as per this short film we shot recently for Merri Community Health:
Without overlay you have a long, boring and amateurish video. You need to shoot more overlay than you ever thought you needed and an editor willing and able to browse that overlay and edit it with a deft touch.
It’s all about editing Hollywood directors are fond of saying that a movie can be made or broken in the edit suite. How true this is. Sharp editing with savvy use of graphics, music and various angles makes all the difference. A one-shot, set-and-forget approach will not work. You need close-ups, wide shots, overlay, graphics all working in concert to keep people’s attention. Editors make the most of your content.
Have a script Most people prefer to work with a script. We intuitively don’t like scripts as they turn normal people into actors, causing them to be more concerned with remembering their lines instead of saying what they actually mean in an authentic way.
Some spokespeople prefer to work without a script. This is more fun but causes two problems: 1. it makes editing harder as there’s no script for reference. You may have to transcribe the whole bloody thing! 2 you wrap-up the shoot, only to realise the next day that there were 17 things you should have said on camera but didn’t.
Scripts or dot point outlines help avoid these problems. For each of the videos we made we had an outline of what needed to be said. Knowing that we were able to add overlay, graphics and still images in the edit suite allowed spokespeople to deliver a chunk or two at a time. Don’t burden your spokespeople with the need to deliver all of the talking in one fell swoop – this is madness and a shortcut to a very boring video.
This guy knows stuff. And hangs out on balconies.
The production is just the beginning
So you’ve created your video masterpieces – now the hard work begins. If your intention is to rack up millions of hits you will have to do your darndest to promote them.
YouTube is a very big place and it’s unlikely that your videos will be found by strangers. Just as you should optimise your website so that it is found via Google you need to optimise your YouTube videos so that they are found by people searching YouTube. Babyfaced James Wedmore teaches a lot about this and all things video related.
A trio of thumbnail images.
Thumbnails YouTube only offers you a few selections for your thumbnail image. Pick the most vibrant, lively, attention-grabbing option. Generally speaking a picture of a person is more compelling than other imagery. If you can combine an image of a person with some text explaining the video, you are probably on a winner.
Make-up! You aren’t making a Hollywood romcom but viewers would like you to look pretty damn presentable. Make-up really helps – especially under the heat of the spotlight. Brett could have looked like Nicole Kidman if we’d got a make-up artist on board. Opportunity missed!
Maureen is best experienced on video.
Got a conference? Want bookings? Shoot video. Every event organiser wants more people at next year’s event than they got this year. Testimonials help. They are five times more powerful if delivered via video. Set up a camera and encourage people (with chocolate) to proclaim the magnificence of your event. This will make promoting next year’s conference much easier.
To video or not to video Like everything associated with the online world, videos promise much but may not necessarily deliver. For every YouTube sensation there are many, many videos with very, very few views. That said, any website aiming to impress viewers and build credibility needs videos. Use them to add colour and movement both literally and figuratively.
Time to premiere (unleash?) another video. This cinematic masterpiece is aimed at public speakers and media spokespeople.
It’s all about the value of putting yourself in the story. World Vision CEO Tim Costello does this unfailingly. You should too. Watch and learn what we mean.
So much depends on your spokespeople’s ability to present persuasively. On their public speaking skills hinge your donations, members, staff and policy decisions. So…when was the last time you developed your messages and presentation skills?
Brett was rewarded for his contribution to the 2014 Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training Corps with a seat at a below-the-radar gig by the former US Vice President last Sunday afternoon.
Along with 150 or so rain-streaked true believers Brett sat and listened to a man who is no stranger to the stage.
The world’s leading climate change campaigner was upbeat when asked to assess the status quo ahead of the big shindig in Paris. Mr Gore brought to the presentation a sense of optimism which he said was based on political momentum he is witnessing and as he explained because he’s just plain decided to be positive because it’s easier that way. Content aside, here are Brett’s takeaways for public speakers as inspired by Al Gore
Notes – it is extremely impressive when a speaker speaks without them.
Structure – a simple structure always helps. Mr Gore used three rhetorical questions which he proceeded to answer.
Humour – especially of the self-deprecating kind works a treat. The bigger the deal you are the more this works. FYI – Al Gore is very funny.
Sisyphus had an awful gig.
Broad references impress an audience and connect with different people within that audience. Mr Gore was educated at Harvard. Perhaps that’s why he made comfortable reference to Sisyphus, the old Testament, philosophers, political pundits, his own books, recent articles on the Guardian’s website and his own interactions with people around the globe. He quoted philosophers, scientists, local heroes and people who have been dead a very long time.
Shout outs. Mr Gore referred to several people within the room that he knew. This not only makes those people feel good, it makes him look comfortable and ‘present’.
Displays of humanity work a treat. References to his own waistline, his thwarted political aspirations and his own state of mind made him very human and relatable – for a former US VP who sits on the board of Apple, is the son of US Senator, visits Antarctica with Richard Branson and elicits a quasi-religious fervour among his followers.
Stories shift the focus from you to the subject of your story. They illuminate, adding colour and movement. Mr Gore used swag of stories long and short to bring home his points.
Constantly assess your performance. When one of his answers to a question run a little long Mr Gore acknowledged this to the room in real time. Audiences appreciate this and it shows that while he was genuinely considering his answer, he was also aware that he is performing.
Leave the lectern behind and be sure to be seen.
Be visible. Though he stood behind the lectern this was only due to a handheld microphone not working(!) He clearly would have preferred to have stood less formally centre stage for this small-scale, intimate and informal occasion. If you want to connect to your audiences don’t hide yourself like a bank teller.
Thoughtfulness. Though Mr Gore has no doubt presented to similar groups hundreds of times in dozens of countries he seemed to genuinely be pondering his thoughts for us on the night.
Conclusion: Of course everything Mr Gore does everything gets a warm reception less lights would not. That said, he would not be in the position he’s in today if he could not bring authenticity, passion and knowledge to every audience.
For anyone who speaks to other people as part of their work.
Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner & Stephen D. Levitt
Recommended? Oh yes.
Read it. Think it.
Brett believes that Freakonomics should be mandatory reading for marketers. Sadly 98% of marketers, communicators, promoters and persuaders have failed to crack open a copy of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics or the latest in the series: Think Like A Freak.
Many haven’t even heard of the series which has sold in the millions, inspired a global community and placed authors New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner and University of Chicago professor of economics Steven D. Levitt as the popularisers of behavioural economics which studies why we really make the decisions we make. It deals with the meta factors behind the way we behave, spend, eat and use our time.
This isn’t a marketing book but there is much to be gained by marketers in learning how to see the world from an economic perspective. It’s rational and results-driven. The first two books in particular are full of case studies looking at social phenomenon with a data-driven economic lens:
can we improve under-performing students by paying them for good grades?
do politicians get more votes by spending more on campaigns?
how do we really turn around crime-ridden neighbourhoods?
do cops-on-the-beat reduce crime?
how can teen mums break the cycle of poverty?
Steven and Stephen.
Levitt and Dubner crunch data in an allegedly value-free exploration of these and other challenging scenarios. This is pop economics. Who else would analyse hundreds of sumo wrestling bouts to uncover endemic corruption? The writing is distinctly funny and free-flowing, without pretension or jargon. Bonus: this book will make you smarter.
Often the data crunched seems to be obscure or disconnected. Most controversial is the claim that the significant drop in inner-city crime in some American cities was not the result of more police on the beat or crime-tracking software but the impact of legal abortions decades earlier.
The books’ references are broad – everything from the Bible and David Lee Roth to stomach ulcers and Churchill. Competitive hot dog eating features prominently.
Cashing in? Who cares? Great cover.
Gripe: the third book in the series: Think Like a Freak reads like a bit of a moneymaker but is still worth a look if you enjoy Freakonomics parts one and two. For the truly devoted there is also a podcast.
The authors are smart but happily not politically correct. In a society where so many social problems stubbornly persist despite the billions of dollars thrown at them we should cast aside political correctness and progressive orthodoxies to discover what really works. We need to “think like freaks”. After all, the bad guys already do.