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A Tale of Two Speakers

I tried. I really tried. I tried not to wear my presentation coaching hat when I attended a conference last week. Speaker after speaker got behind the lectern and challenged me to listen, laugh and learn. The opening speaker was a PhD professor from an acclaimed university. He had an interesting story to tell. He could have been captivating, exciting and engaging. Instead, he was tedious, mind-numbing and a poster child for speaker no-no’s. I wanted to cry out, “Bore No More!” 

Speaker #2 was a PhD professor from a local university. He also had an interesting story to tell. The rest of the audience and I could have listened to him all day. He was engaging and funny as well as informative.  I wanted to cry out,  “ I’m Bored No More!”

What did each speaker do that produced such a contrast in skills? I’ll tell you. 

Speaker #One, let’s call him Dr. Boring, was guilty of:

  • Standing locked behind the lectern. He had a cordless lavaliere mike, so he could have moved out from behind the lectern to the center of the stage. He could have moved down into the audience for an even more intimate connection.
  • He didn’t gesture.Gestures add emphasis and color. I’m not talking about staged gestures; just natural gestures.
  • He read his slides. We all read his slides. He didn’t need to be there.
  • He read his notes. His reading obliterated any eye contact he had.  
  • Since he read his slides and notes, he made very little eye contact with the audience.
  • His slides were boring with lots of text and no pictures.
  • His voice was flat most of the time.Occasionally he would emphasize a word with a long, drawn out sound that was annoying.
  • Between 9:30 and 10:AM, he uttered 258 uhs and uhms.How do I know? I was so afraid I’d fall asleep, that I made a check mark each time he said, “Uh,” or “Uhm.”

It seems that Dr. Boring hadn’t prepared a presentation, speech or talk. He read a scholarly paper to the audience instead of speaking with the audience. 

The second speaker was a delight. He was equally as scholarly. In a nutshell, you’d like to have a beer (or diet Coke) with him. What did Dr. Engaging do, you ask?

  • He bounded onto the stage with so much energy, my droopy eyelids popped open. The audience mirrors the emotions, demeanor and energy of the presenter. If the presenter is upbeat, the audience is, too.
  • He wore a colorful tie and flower in his lapel.Thus, his image announced that he was going to be different and lively.
  • He immediately moved out and away from the lectern.  He knew he was the most important visual and that using his body enhanced the message.
  • He spoke in an animated way. He took full advantage of vocal variety. Your voice is a powerful tool for engaging the audience.
  • His slides were interesting with a bit of mystery. Each one left you hanging and was open to the interpretation of the audience. Thus, they were engaging.
  • His slides used few words and many pictures.
  • He used music. The more senses you can involve, the more engaged your audience is.
  • He was funny. He didn’t tell jokes. He found humor in the moment and played off the audience responses.
  • He grabbed our attention since we didn’t know what he was going to surprise us with next. Audiences have short attention spans and are used to being entertained – even in technical presentations.
  • He was self-effacing instead of pompous
  • No uhs or ums. If he did have uhs or ums, I didn’t feel the need to count them.
  • He had prepared a talk for this audience. He didn’t dust off a scholarly paper to present. 

What I don’t understand is why speaker #1 hasn’t sought presentation skills coaching? His students put up with his droning on and on. $49,000 tuition per year is a lot to pay for boredom. 

The next time you prepare to speak, keep this tale of two speakers in mind. It’s not harder to be interesting. You won’t bore your audience and you’ll enjoy yourself much more.

Would You Like To Bore No More? 

Hire me as your presentation skills coach or bring me in to speak to your organization on presentation skills.

Call me. You’ll like what you hear. 303-756-6939. karen@karensusman.com.

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