Be a Better Speaker

Better Speakers - Helen Macdonald

Comedian Steve Martin once said the key to making it in any field was:

Be undeniably good. When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them and nobody ever takes note of it cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear — what they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this — but I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?” people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.

Better Speakers

This fits really well for speakers. One of the big challenges of being good and able to deliver an engaging, insightful and compelling presentation is the lack of opportunity for REAL practice and constructive, useful feedback. You can talk to the wall, smile at the mirror or monologue to your dog and this is not the same as speaking to a live audience of real people.

A step up from this is showcasing your presentation to your mum, well-meaning work-mates and polite friends who will naturally offer you their opinions. However, even if they did give you unbiased feedback, it’s unlikely to be of any value unless they have some expertise in the creation of and delivery of presentations.

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The Best Practice

To increase your success rate and performance levels as a speaker you need:

  • An opportunity to present in front of an interested, neutral audience
  • Constructive feedback on your content from people who understand how to craft powerful presentations and inspiring ideas
  • Easy to apply adjustments on your delivery style, so that YOU don’t get in the way of your message
  • A recording of the practice event, so you can refresh your memory of the comments and adjustments for future presentations

Speakers Idol

You may have seen the TV shows ‘Australian Idol’ or ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ or overseas versions of the same shows. The performer presents in front of a panel of industry experts and they receive feedback on their presentation. And, as the audience we are able to watch them grow and improve over multiple episodes. In many cases, for the performers that make it through multiple weeks the transformation is often extraordinary.

Speaker Idol is a version of this for speakers. Here’s how it works…

  • You present a 10min extract of your keynote presentation
  • You receive constructive feedback on your content and delivery style
  • You can watch and learn from the feedback sessions of the other speakers
  • Then, over the lunch break, you can tweak your presentation
  • After lunch you can present your 10 minute piece again – this time it will be recorded with a video camera
  • And, you’ll receive another layer of feedback to improve your style even further.

A One-Day Opportunity

As part of my year of ‘Us’ I’ve been forming some partnerships. One of the partnerships I’ve formed is with my good friend Helen Macdonald – same surname, different spelling, no relation. (That’s her picture above presenting recently at a TEDx event in Melbourne). After creating and judging a Speaker Idol session together at National Speakers in Melbourne this week we decided to follow-up with a one-day workshop. It follows the format I’ve outlined above and it’s limited to eight participants to maximise the value and impact your receive. If you’re interested here are the details for Speaker Idol.


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