Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Not Bad Speakers, it's Bad Speeches

In an email exchange with Jezra Kaye, author of the fabulous book on Public Speaking, Speak Like Yourself... No, Really! Follow Your Strengths and Skills to Great Public Speaking, I asked her why do we see so many poor presentations and speeches? 
Her viewpoint is (which I share) that some are not good speakers, and some are good speakers; however, “Their speeches aren’t good.”  From chapter two of her book, she shares her reasoning.
Here are the three steps in Doomed to Fail:
Doomed to Fail Step 1: Find out everything you can about your topic
Doomed to Fail Step 2: Put your facts into PowerPoint
Doomed to Fail Step 3: Ignore your speech until the day you give it

I found her reasoning to be spot on. 

For example, I got a call from a friend to help with his upcoming presentation.  He was promoted as new division manager at his manufacturing plant and one of his new duties was to give a presentation about his division to a monthly management meeting.  He didn’t know how to write a speech and called me.

I sat down with him and asked several questions about the audience, the topic, the purpose, what his boss expected, what other’s did, etc.  We developed a central idea and went to work supporting it with three examples and supported each example with some “Shop” stories and pictures.  I set up the Power Point to enhance his presentation.  Then, I strongly suggested he practice, practice, practice.

He showed the speech to the General Manager’s Executive Assistant, without my knowledge, and she said that nobody does it this way.  She said write out your speech, and I’ll put it on Power Point for you and all you have to do is read it.

So he scrapped all our work and fulfilled her request.  He gathered as much information as he could about his Division, wrote it down, and gave it to her to put on Power Point.  She typed it on several slides and gave it to him.  He, then, set it aside until the morning of the speech.

I called him that afternoon to ask how the speech went.  He said, “OK.”  I followed up, “Didn’t that opening line kill? How about that first slide on Power Point?  I bet they were rolling in the aisles.  You should have had their attention immediately!”  He sheepishly told me he didn’t give the speech we worked on.  When I asked why, he told me that the Executive Assistant told him that nobody did it that way. 

I guess she and he didn’t know that their way was exactly Jezra’s three steps to guarantee “doomed to fail.”

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