Monthly Archives: June 2016

Public speaking lessons care of Bill Shorten

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Big entrance: it helps to have a few former prime ministers and prominent party officials in attendance. This is not an option for most of us. Entrance music instrumental music helps fill a gap and build emotion – use it if the occasion justifies it. A witty or memorable opening line helps. Shorten draws from former PM Gough Whitlam for his.

Emotional ups and downs. Shorten started on a high, indulging in some call and response then within five minutes attempted to reach an emotional depth by referring to tragedies in Orlando and Britain. Not bad. Presentations cannot be at one emotional pitch. You can still appear passionate and energised when the tempo is slow and the content sombre.

Energy is essential. If you’re not excited why would you expect your audience to feel that way? The best public speakers are energetic even when speaking slowly and deliberately. You can’t be in full flight all speech long. At some points Shorten sound a little shrill.

Too much acknowledgement of VIPs in the early moments can kill the energy of a presentation. Do as Shorten did and place this later in your presentation. Short, sharp personalised introductions are the best way to introduce VIPs and Shorten did this well.

If someone truly needs no introduction – Bob Hawke for instance – don’t weigh them down with one. If you are tempted to acknowledge more than a few issues or individuals in the room group them together as constant interruption for cheering gets tiresome pretty damn quickly.

Location, location, location: if you can pick a location that underlines your themes and priorities do so. By choosing Penrith, Shorten – like every other leader in recent memory – was squarely aiming at the swinging voter of Sydney’s west. Ensure that you aim as shamelessly at your target.

Backdrops & messaging: Shorten and his party were sending too many messages from the stage.  There was the small banner directly behind him repeatedly declaring:  Medicare, Jobs, Education. Plus a large banner stating: We’ll put people first. This is too much.

Applause: If you are wanting applause you must signal that there is the expectation of applause.  Ask poor Jeb Bush. As with telling a joke – it works best when you appear confident. Don’t timidly prompt applause. Signify that you expect it with your content, volume and intonation. Create the space for it and allow the time for it. But please – limit it. Too many ‘spontaneous applause pauses get wearisome.

Cliches and language: we at Hootville are not above the use of a cliche or two. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times. But here is one phrase that none of us should use: “Fair go.” It needs to be retired from the lexicon. “Fair dinkum” which Shorten also used needs to find a place in an aged care facility for geriatric vernacular. And stay there. Few prominent public speakers in Australia refer to their audience as: Friends.

I versus We. This is a difficult choice that you must make as a speaker if you are a leader. Shorten began by emphasising the ‘we’ – the party. However this changed 15 or so minutes in when he began to say that: “I understand… “I know…

‘We’ is great but it’s hard for your audience to accept ‘we’ if in reality you are the decider.

Very broad terms: when Shorten talks about “hope and respect” for the electorate he is using very broad terms. “Investing in people” is similarly broad and vague. No doubt these phrases have been focus-group tested but to my ear they don’t mean much. Minimise the use of such terms.

Far better is: “Foreign aid for foreign companies” which is how Shorten described the government’s corporate tax plan. Not a bad turn of phrase and one that stands a chance of establishing itself in Australian public discourse. Wit, humour, alliteration and rhyme make your messages more memorable.

Indeed ABC 24’s new sticker quoted “Foreign aid to foreign companies” directly.

Announceables: anytime you can announce something (government funding for employment programs) do so as it adds real fibre to your presentation. That said; no matter how tempting it is to give the people what they want have the discipline not to overpromise.

Specify audiences: Shorten made a point to name various locations in Australia and various audiences – specifically unemployed Australians under 25 years of age and those 55+.

Just how many under 25s were spending their Sunday afternoon watching the launch is another question. 300,000 didn’t even bother to register to vote in a tight election. BTW: for this they are primarily accountable.

Name thy enemies: Shorten decided to name some of our largest companies by name – mainlky banks. He knows that public faith in these corporations is at a low and by naming names he helps gain more support for his argument.

Story time: It was 25 minutes or so into the presentation before Shorten told a story. It was about the visit to an Indigenous and remote school that he had visited during the campaign. He told the tale of a little boy who didn’t have a television as a way to highlight education spending.

The preceding 10 minutes had been nothing more than a laundry list of pledges and promises and spending. These lists become monotonous and generic rather quickly. Some overarching narrative, personal observations and stories hit a different mark with the audience.

Address the negative perceptions around you and your issues. Shorten did this when he referred to people who feel that politics is a cynical game and that their vote does not matter. I recommend to all clients that they do something similar. It gives you a fighting chance of getting the attention and consideration of the right people at the right time.

Repetition: Shorten used repetition towards the climax of this presentation ending multiple sentences with the phrase: “Vote Labour.” Perhaps you use this too. It is a common tactic used by gospel preachers and Presidential candidates such as Barack Obama. (Watch it from 10m in.)

Repetition adds theatricality to your presentation – even more so if the audience chimes in with the repetition. Shorten needed more confidence to make it work. Repetition is worth considering, particularly if you’re trying to excite and inspire.

Let there be music: Shorten used music which immediately chimed in upon finishing his speech. This is good and continues the emotional uplift. Or perhaps everyone is just happy that it’s over.

Score: 7.25 /10. Not bad but not memorable beyond this campaign. Mind you, truly memorable speeches are harder to conjure in this cynical, information-drenched era.

If you want to dramatically improve your public speaking and presentations talk to Brett about his Present Savvy workshop.

And read what you can learn from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s launch speech.


Public speaking lessons courtesy of PM Malcolm Turnbull

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As a major media outlet it is only fair that we devote equal time to the official campaign launch speech of our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Lessons from Bill Shorten’s launch speech can be found here.)

Start on time: do your utmost to begin your presentation as promised. Turnbull arrived late to his own party. At an event as scrutinised as this, beginning late can be interpreted as a sign of disharmony and dysfunction.

The setup of the room is simple with seating angled towards a barely elevated stage. The video screen behind the Prime Minister emphasises various issues in a word or two. Standing on the same level as his audience makes it easier for Turnbull to connect to them. The most awkward staging places you far above your audience with an empty space in front of the stage. Even the best speakers have difficulty overcoming this barrier.

public speaking malcolm turnbull

That’s him in two dimensions.

Video screens to the side of the room enable people at the rear of the venue to get a great view of the speaker. If you have the budget for this at your next event I recommend you make the investment. Do not expect people 60 metres away from the presenter to watch a dot on the horizon.

Pre-show: Local member Craig Laundy was given a prime opportunity to establish himself within his party and the electorate when he was selected to open up formal proceedings. His nerves were evident though understandable. he thrice used the adjective “amazing: to describe his locality, the event and goodness know what else. The word “amazing” is overused and under-specific so try to avoid it

Voice overs matter: the voice-over chap needed to inject more energy into his voice. Everything contributes to the overall mood of an event and he was far too reserved. It may have also injected some energy and diversity into the event to have a young female voice in this role. Or Senator Christopher Pyne.

public speaking workshops sydney

Joyce was in form.

Barnaby Joyce once exhibited far more nerves than Craig. These days he is as comfortable in the spotlight as he is on a tractor. Significantly, he chose to open with a humorous remark and personal observation. Joyce was positively poetic – positive, fluid and energised.

Name names: Ever since Presidential hopeful Mario Cuomo gave his famous address to the National Democratic Convention in 1984 it is common practice for politicians to weave in references to specific geographies and people. (Watch it all or from 6.50m in.) Joyce did that deftly, referring to regional locations and cabinet colleagues. You can do this too.

Slowdown: If I had one recommendation for Joyce it would be to slow down his tempo. A slower, more deliberate rate of speech conveys confidence and allows people to fully appreciate your content and humour. Perhaps he was trying to compensate for the late start.

public speaking tipsNotes: both Joyce and Bishop spoke without obvious notes, presumably using a Teleprompter. Certainly it is ideal to look as if you are speaking entirely off-the-cuff with light dependence on speech notes. Reading a speech word for word is unacceptable and will not impress people.

You have to look as if you mean every word you say and on that criteria Joyce defeated Bishop who looked as if she was remembering a speech she had learnt by heart.

Also; the use of humour makes you look more comfortable and real. Bishop has in the past delivered humorous and energetic introductions at similar events. Bishop has achieved a remarkable repositioning in the eye of the public over the last two years but missed an opportunity to further her brand today.

public speaking tips

Satisfactory but not her best work.

Proportionality and time management: at an event such as this there is only one speaker that matters – the Prime Minister. In such a circumstance it’s fair to say that Bishop could have shaved off a minute or two from her stage time.

Video: I regularly see high-priced keynote speakers use introductory videos as a form of preparation before they hit the stage. This may work if you are a global brand such as Tony Robbins or indeed Prime Minister such as Malcolm Turnbull but it may be asking a little too much if you’re a regular citizen.

And so to Malcolm

BTW: Be grateful you don’t have to make awkward small talk and handshakes with people you have knifed in the back in front of the nation’s media as you make your way to the stage.

Energy: clearly Malcolm opened up at pains to look happy, energised and comfortable among his colleagues. This is always a good look. The degree to which it is believable in this context is another issue. It is much easier for Malcolm to look comfortable and energetic as he is speaking largely off-the-cuff. Reading your initial formal welcome never looks sincere.

Hands: Malcolm moves his hands using them to emphasise the passion with which he holds his views. He probably doesn’t even know it does it. If you naturally use your hands when talking you should be sure to continue this habit on stage or in any public presentation. Using your hands as you would normally use your hands makes you feel more comfortable and look more comfortable.

presentation skills training sydney

If looks could kill…

Malcolm down the middle: Though devoting most of his energies down the middle of the room Malcolm rotates 120° left and right on a regular basis making people in the cheap seats feel like they are a part of the action.

Whitespace: at one point Turnbull takes a pause asking the audience to “think about”. Don’t be afraid to make a point and ask your audience to cogitate on it for a moment or a minute. This creates a break, gives people the option take a breath and perhaps absorb your message.

No more lists: watching the two launch events has underlined to me the difference between reciting a laundry list of achievements or plans as opposed to telling a story, giving observations and presenting a narrative. There is simply no comparison between the persuasive powers of the latter to the former.

Turnbull is authoritative. But where does this authority stem from? Is it the smart suit? Is it his polished voice? Is it his relishing of the spotlight? Is it the familiarity with his material? Is it his energy? Is it his age, ethnicity or class? In truth all of these things and many more besides add up to authority.

Authority and persuasiveness come from many sources. This is good news for those of us without Turnbull’s natural advantages as what you may lack in one criteria can be compensated for in another.

There that was precious little humour or colloquialism in Turnbull’s speech. Reminding Australians that this was “not the time to pull the doona over our heads” was about as casual as it got. Shame – even a prime minister can utilise humour in a long speech.

It is clear that the coalition read my analysis of Bill Shorten’s speech last week. Thus they ensured the Prime Minister had something new to announce at the launch – in this case $48 million with the scholarships via The Smith Family. There were other announcements regarding digital literacy, mental health and so on. This isn’t a policy analysis so we will move on.

As with so many political presentations constant interruptions for applause grow tedious. The best presenters predict this and gather together a collection of points, working through them before receiving applause for them all. This saves time and energy.

Improvisation: the best and most comfortable speakers can improvise. Having placed babies in the front row for maximum visual impact it seems a shame that none of the speakers took the opportunity to refer to them.

Length: by 12.22pm this commentator was beginning to focus less on the Prime Minister’s presentation and more on the Sunday lunch. (Konkatsu ramen if you must know.)

Never overstay your welcome as Jerry Seinfeld says. Let’s face it – these events are rarely consumed whole but merely serve as fodder for television news which will take just moments out of the hole. This speech is too long which is an unforced error

The finish: like a gymnast’s dismount from the non-parallel bars, ending your speech in a way that feels elegant and energetic is vital if you are to score top marks. Turnbull fluffed his dismount somewhat as it had not been sufficiently signalled to the audience that the speech was about to wrap.

That’s a shame as it is this moment, along with the very beginning of his presentation that the most likely to be utilised by TV news crews. And TV news crews are in a sense the single most important audience for the Prime Minister.

Conclusion: very solid. Confident, fluid, energised. Turnbull by .75: 8 out of 10.

If you want to dramatically improve your public speaking talk to Brett about his Present Savvy workshop.

Here’s our lessons courtesy of Bill Shorten.


Putting stories to work: extract 3

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When NOT to tell a story


business narrative and story

Tell them a story. Of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls…

A former client of ours Anecdote helps businesses find the stories behind their businesses. Founder Shawn Callahan has written a book encapsulating his wisdom on the matter: Putting Stories To Work. This is the third of four extracts. (Here’s the first.)

While there are often times when you should tell a business story at work, there are also times when you should hold off recounting an anecdote. In fact, there are times when the best way forward is to say nothing at all.

Stories are best utilised when the audience is open to learning and there’s an absence of time pressure. So if someone asks you how to get to the nearest train station, it’s best not to respond with ‘A couple of weeks ago…’

Likewise, if your boss wants a question answered quickly with a couple of facts, it’s probably not a good idea to tell them a story about the last time you did a particular job and what you learned in the process.

The truth is that sometimes you can tell too many stories. You need to mix your stories with other forms of communication, such as facts and opinions. In general, it’s best to start with a story and then expand on what it means.

Also keep in mind that adults don’t like to hear the same story twice, especially in business. You have to keep a mental note of which audience has heard which stories. As a leader, you will have your favourite stories—they’re your favourites because you know they work. But if you find yourself sharing the same story with the same audience, it’s time to get a new story.

And while storytelling can have a hugely positive impact on your leadership, it’s important not to fall in love with the sound of our own voice. Sometimes it’s a much better strategy to let your prospect tell you their stories. It can be very helpful to switch to story listening.

Finally, don’t even bother telling a story unless you know what the point of it is. Too many stories are just told to fill a silence. At best, this confuses the audience—at worst, it antagonises them.

Shawn Callahan is the founder at Anecdote Pty Ltd. This article is adapted from Shawn’s new book Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling.


Bounce rate demystified

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how to lower your bounce rate

So named because of his notoriously high bounce rate.

This post explains bounce rates and description tags. Those of you who dare to keep abreast of your website stats may have puzzled over the “bounce rate” stat.

Sure we understand it’s people who came and left but how quickly must they leave to be counted as a bouncer? And how should we feel about a 39% bounce rate? Hurt? Resigned? Hungry?  Actually hunger is not a feeling. Even if you don’t read the rest of this article you have learnt that much.

Bounce rate may be a sign that the visitor did not get what they expected or wanted. If your traffic is weak and your bounce rate is high you may simply need to improve your content – more words, images, information, videos, links and the like. Try this and review your bounce rate in a month or so.

Note: if your visitor comes to your site and leaves from the same page without looking elsewhere it counts as a bounce. But who is to say that the visitor didn’t find what she wanted before departing? One way to investigate this is to look at your the average amount of time spent on the page or post. A high bounce rate with a correspondingly short time spent on the page or post is a bad sign.

But what if your content is pretty good, traffic flow to the page relatively plentiful but your bounce rate is high? This means that plenty of people are being referred to the page by Google for certain search terms but are then disappointed with your content and leaving. Something is array. How to lower your bounce rate? One option – try inserting or editing your description tag.

What is a description tag?

what is a description tag?

One in three results reveals a good description tag.

When you create a post or page for your site you have the option of inserting a description tag. It literally should describe the content of the page.

Google uses this content to add some text to its search results (in yellow on the left) explaining to the searcher what she will find by clicking the link. The middle result is the best by far. The top and bottom probably don’t have tags and thus Google has tried to improvise content from the text it finds on the page. Not good.

what is a bounce rate

Our tag for this post.

Your description tag should be accurate and alluring, written as normal English and last 150 to 160 characters. Your new description tag may increase or decrease traffic but should certainly decrease your bounce rate as the traffic you receive will be better qualified. No surprises for the visitor = lower bounce rate. Customers love to get what they came for.

Description tags are optional and often get forgotten by website developers who don’t care or marketers who just don’t know. This is not OK as description tags are very important for Google rankings. Here’s our description tag for this very post.

Your CMS should easily allow you to add description tags when creating content. You can always go back and add suitable tags to all your content. We cover this stuff in Online Savvy. (Originally published in 2011, updated May 2016.)

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