Archive for the 'Presentation Skills' Category

Authenticity and Risk

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

Authenticity creates risk.  And with it comes magical moments.

I’ll share a video segment from a Michael Buble concert where we witness one of those magical moments.  Michael Buble, in the middle of a concert chose to lower the shields, be authentic, and let the magic happen.

As speakers and performers, we have shields which keep us from touching our audience.  We have control of the stage.  We have the authority of the microphone.  Our position as speaker and performer defines our role in the power structure.  We need to choose to lower some of the barriers which block us from making an authentic connection. 

We’ve seen it before.  The Pope goes into the crowd and takes a child in his arms.  He’s taking a risk.  He’s connecting with the faithful.  The Obamas get out of the limo on inauguration day and walk the parade route.  They are taking a risk and they are connecting with the parade watchers.

The first thing we see in the video clip is that a woman in the audience starts talking to Michael Buble.  She wants to talk about her son.  His first reaction is to be annoyed.  He uses blunt words and tone of voice.  While that is an authentic reaction, it’s not what we normally think of when we hear the phrase “be authentic and connect with your audience.”   Just as arrogance blocks connection so does annoyance.  We have barriers and shields which are designed to protect us but they also can block us from being authentic. 

Michael Buble drops his first shield when he makes the decision to engage the woman in conversation.  The second shield goes down when he moves from standing on the stage to sitting on the edge of the stage.  This allows him a more positive, authentic communication position with the woman.  Standing on a podium or behind a lectern puts a barrier between you and the audience.  The third shield goes down when he lowers his tone of voice to a conversational register and he starts using softer words.  The fourth shield is lowered when he chooses to listen and let the woman talk.  The fifth shield goes down when he invites the 15-year-old boy (Sam) to join him at the front of the stage, letting him inside the security ring.  The young man joins him, sitting on the edge of the stage.   The sixth shield, he invites him to sing.  Michael Buble cues the music, and the seventh shield drops as he makes physical contact by giving the boy a one-armed hug, encouraging the boy to relax.  Michael begins singing and then places the microphone in front of the boy.  After only four words of the song, everyone knows that the boy CAN SING.  Michael and the crowd are electrified…a magical moment happens. 

The eighth shield drops, the boy is invited on stage.  The ninth shield falls when Michael lets go and shows his excitement by trying to pick Sam up, discovering that the boy is too heavy.  Michael starts singing again.  The tenth shield drops when Michael hands the microphone to the boy, giving him control of the song.  Note that Sam did not reach to take the microphone, Michael picked up Sam’s right hand and put it on the microphone.  Michael then backs away giving Sam the spotlight.  When Michael sends Sam back into the audience, he drops his eleventh shield by praising the boy, even using a little self-deprecation humor. 

This sequence shows us how a performer or speaker can move from annoyance to positive authenticity by permitting the magic to happen.  He had to take the risk of lowering the shields which were preventing his authentic self coming from coming out and making a positive connection with the audience.  Sometimes the shields are lowered a little at a time.  The boy wasn’t immediately invited onto the stage and handed the microphone.  Lowering the shields were done in a stepping stone manner.  And that allowed the authenticity to come out and for the magic to happen.

Sometimes we have a moment which presents itself in the middle of a program: A chance to be sincere, honest, genuine.  The risk may keep us from being authentic.  What if they don’t like me?  What if it happens to be bad judgment on my part to say or do something? What if I try to be funny and they don’t laugh?  What if I take a risk and lose control?

The next time a magical moment knocks, take a chance and answer the door.  It may involve some risks, but the reward of authentic connection and a magical moment are worth it.  Here is the link to the Michael Buble video clip.

Here is another video clip on Authenticity.  It received the biggest response of all my posts in the past seven years.  It features Mr Rogers testifying before a Senate Sub-Committee.  It’s worth watching.

Accepting An Award

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

When you receive an award, some thoughtful comments are appropriate.  The significance of the award, the nature and formality of the occasion, will determine the content of your remarks and how long you will speak.  Here are some things to consider when making an acceptance speech:

1.  Be brief.  If you are honored with a significant award, you’re probably speaking at the end of a long program.  Being brief is often appreciated.  Although the general rule is Less-Is-More, there is such a thing as being too brief.  The audience wants to hear from you.  Meaningful, well-thought-out remarks are in order.  Avoid rambling.  Be focused and be aware of the other points listed in this article.  A well-planned acceptance speech will make you look like the winner that you are.

2.  Be humble.  If the award is competitive, remember the disappointment of those who didn’t win.  A large part of the selection process is often subjective.  You are fortunate to win.  People like a good loser.  Even more, they love a gracious winner.

It’s unlikely that you’re a self-made success.  Thinking that you are self-made is not the humble path to making an acceptance speech.  Recognize the help you received along the way.  The trick is to acknowledge those who deserve it, without making it a tedious, lengthy list.  After presenting a short list, you could say, “There are so many of you to thank, I look forward to personally connecting with you during the next week to express my appreciation.”  And then remember to do it.  A meaningful, personal thank-you phone call or visit is often more appreciated than simply having your name tacked on a list delivered in a short acceptance speech.

Gentle self deprecation can sometimes be appropriate, being careful not to deny your qualifications for the award.  Poke fun at yourself, but don’t make light of the significance of the award.   Daniel Day-Lewis, receiving his Best Actor Oscar (2013) took the humble approach when he said: “I really don’t know how any of this happened.  I do know that I have received so much more than my fair share of good fortune in my life. I’m so grateful to the Academy for this beautiful honor.”  Humility is a class act.

In an attempt to be humble, avoid the “My, oh, my. I can’t believe you picked little-old-me to be the winner” attitude.  Vince Lombardi’s advice was:  When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.  It’s possible to do that and still be humble.  It honors the significance of the award.

3.  The competition.  Recognizing your fellow competitors is appropriate.  They were probably hoping to win as much as you were.  Remember how you felt when you were on the losing end of a selection process.  Best Actor Winner, Daniel Day-Lewis eloquently said, “My fellow nominees, my equals, my betters, I’m so proud to have been included as one amongst you.”

4.  Be grateful.  Accept the award graciously.  Expressing your positive feelings helps the audience to enjoy the moment with you.  And gratitude sets things in proper perspective for both you and the audience.

5.  Be genuine.  Speak in a connected, conversational tone.  You want to be likable.  By being real, you reinforce the thought that the right person was selected for the award.

6.  Be relaxed.  Don’t be nervous.  Easier said than done.  Some degree of preparation will help.  You may not want to script your comments, but giving thought to the possibility of winning is a good idea.  Being speechless is not eloquent.  And brilliant, in-the-moment, spontaneous presentations are often the result of preparation. 

7.  Honor the judges.  Be gracious in accepting.  Don’t second-guess your selection as the winner, because you will be questioning the choice of the judges.  If you imply that you are not worthy of the award, you’ll sabotage the positive intentions of the presentation.

8.  Be funny.  If you’re known to be witty, including humor is almost a necessity.  If you’re not a funny speaker, one lightly-humorous line is usually in good style.  Spontaneous humor works great, if you have the skill to do that.  Self-aggrandizement (the opposite of self-deprecation) can work well if you have a known, tongue-in-cheek style.  Opening with “I deserve this,” is a simple line which can work well in the right circumstances.  You then follow the line with appropriate remarks which indicate that you were just being light-hearted and are honored to be recognized.

During the 2013 Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the stairs as she approached the lectern.  “Thank you. You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing but thank you.”

Later in the program, Best Actor Winner Daniel Day-Lewis, having been introduced by Meryl Streep, included in his acceptance speech, “I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher…Meryl was Steven’s [Spielberg] first choice for Lincoln. I’d like to see that version.”  The well-chosen humor was probably planned.  It received big laughs.

As the first-place winner in an awards ceremony after a Humorous Speech contest where I had drawn the position of last speaker, I’ve used a simple piece of humor:   “I’d like to thank the other speakers for warming up the audience.”

So there you have eight things to consider the next time you make remarks after an awards presentation.  Be humble, gracious, genuine, and funny.  It’s the mark of a professional.

If You’re Not the Greatest Singer — Do Comedy

Friday, March 8th, 2013

There is a saying in improv, “If you can’t sing…sing loud!”  In other words, be funny.  Rudy De La Mor was given that advice earlier in his career, “If you’re not the greatest singer…do comedy.”  And he did just that.  He had a long career playing Southern California amusement parks and nightclubs as a cabaret entertainer.  Rudy died this week.  Memories of his music and laughter will live on. 


          Rudy De La Mor    December 24, 1939 – March 5, 2013

I saw Rudy perform in San Diego 15 years ago.  He was a master at connecting with the audience in a playful way.  If you sat near the piano, you were part of the show.  His performances were fun and left you wanting more.  Rudy was scheduled to host a cruise to Hawaii starting tomorrow. 

He will be missed by his friends and fans.  Rudy De La Mor was 73.   Here’s a clip of Rudy on YouTube.

Creative Writing

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Here is a fun video which you’ll enjoy if you are into poetry, creative writing, or writing to sell.  It’s a 22-minute entertaining talk by Dan Fleischmann (son of Gerald Fleischmann, a regular contributor to our humor contests).  A very interesting example of how you can deliver information while making it fun for the listener.  I thought I’d watch a little of it…and ended up watching the whole thing.  Recommended.

Scott Pritchard Speaker Workshop

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Just wrapped up the Scott Pritchard speaker workshop yesterday.  A Saturday well invested with Ryan Avery, the current Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking.  Bill Parker, master coach and mentor.  And Scott and Me.  In addition to humor presentation tips, here is a thought I shared with the group:  SPEAKER GROWTH   You improve as a speaker by understanding your strengths and weaknesses.  And by improving both.  By improving your weaknesses you become a better speaker.  By improving your strengths you become more unique.  As a professional, you want to be a great speaker, but to stand out from the crowd, you want to be unique.

Speaking and Humor Workshop — Las Vegas

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Presentation Skills and Humor Workshop — January 26 in Las Vegas.

Mark your calendars! Get dialed in to improve your communication and presentation skills with Scott Pritchard, John Kinde, and Ryan Avery, The 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking.  They will be hosting a speech writing and delivery workshop in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 9am to 5pm, at the Luxor Hotel.

  – Scott Pritchard:  Professional speaker, trophy winner at the
World Championship of Public Speaking in 2011.  Performs every
weekend on the Las Vegas Strip.
  – Ryan Avery:  2012 World Champion of Public Speaking.
  – John Kinde:  Accredited Speaker, eight-time district contest
winner, motivational humorist.

To guarantee your seat, call Scott Pritchard at (702) 808-2844
or email at

Lessons from a Five-Year-Old

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Here is a wonderful video link sent to me by Karen Lewison.  It features a five-year-old piano prodigy.  There are lessons to be learned:

  – A performance is more than notes.  A speech is more than words.
  – Performing and speaking from the heart is the essence of a great performance. 
  – It’s more than the hands.  It’s more than the voice.  A great performance involves the whole body.
  – Being in fun is critical.  When you’re giving a talk, have more fun than the audience and your energy will draw them in.
  – Even someone who appears to have natural talent has worked hard to achieve their level of success. 
  – Overnight success comes after months or years of dedicated effort.
  – Never underestimate the power of a smile.
  – It’s never work when you love what you’re doing.
  – Let the superb quality of other people’s work inspire you to higher levels of performance.

Here is the link.

Ten Things to Know About Speakers Bureaus

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Ten Things to Know About Speakers Bureaus.  If you’re new to the speaking business, you’ll find this article very informative.   Article is by Rachelle Gardner and posted on Larry James blog.

Excellent Events

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Invest In Yourself.
  – Have Fun
  – Advance Your Career
  – Expand Your Network

Here are some great professional development conventions I’d recommend:

AATH’s 25th Annual Conference
Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor
April 19-22
Chicago, Illinois

Humor Project Conference
The Positive Power of Humor and Creativity
June 1-3
Silver Bay, New York

Alexander Technique Workshops
Move naturally with greater ease for impact and
connection on the platform.  Highly recommended.
July 10-15, Sweet Briar, Virginia
August 29-September 3, Hawaii
December 27-January 1, 2013, Malibu, California

National Speakers Association
The Business of Professional Speaking
July 14-17
Indianapolis, Indiana

Toastmasters International Convention
Communication and Leadership Development
August 15-18
Orlando, Florida

World Laughter Tour
Laughter programs and training.  Become a Certified
Laughter Leader (CLL).  Upcoming programs in USA and Canada.
The link will take you to their current schedule.

Facial Expression

Monday, April 25th, 2011

What does public speaking, sign language for the deaf, dancing and singing have in common?  When you receive training in any of these, you’ll be taught the importance of facial expression.

Public speakers know the importance of showing what you mean through gestures and facial expression.  Of course this is easier said than done.  I am not a master of expressiveness.  Because I need help, I stretched myself taking some classes out of my comfort zone.

Sign language for the deaf is a VERY expressive language.  It’s not just words and symbols created with the hands.  Watch a master at sign language and you’ll see their face in action.  It’s a great lesson.  Better yet, take sign language lessons…from a deaf person.  I did that when I lived in Omaha.

Dance lessons, such as Jazz Dance, come with coaching to help you express your emotions on the dance floor.  The instructor wants you to LOOK like you’re having fun…even if you’re stressed out trying to remember the dance moves.  A valuable class I took was Dance Performance Skills.  The focus of the class was not a specific dance style, but rather a study of how you look while you’re performing on stage.  Very eye-opening.

Singing.  A speech coach in Canada recommended taking singing lessons to improve your speaking.  It will improve the quality of your voice and your breathing.  But it will also improve your expressiveness.  I sang with a barbershop chorus for eight years.  Performance skills and facial expression are a high priority when you’re singing.  I recently watched a series of videos of the Westminster Chorus.  They are the 2010 International Chorus Champion.  Watch their faces as they sing.  They’re not just singing.  They are performing and showing emotion.  Also consider the power of energy, focus, preparation and commitment to excellence.  You will be amazed.
Westminster Chorus video (study their faces)
Westminster Chorus another video (International Competition performance–Wow!)