In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Christopher Penn and Katie Robbert discuss the journey to becoming public speakers, public speaking tips and tricks for new speakers, and what speakers do most wrong.
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This is In-Ear Insights, the trust insights podcast.
In this week’s In-Ear Insights we are talking about public speaking what it takes to become a public speaker. What are some of the best practices? What if things that you wish you’d known before becoming a public speaker and so on and so forth. And today, I want to start actually, Katie, since prior to the founding of trust insights, public speaking was not something that you really entertained as, as something that was going to be a part of your career. But being the CEO of the company, there’s a certain amount of public exposure and things that comes with the job. So share your experiences thus far about becoming a public speaker. Particularly since your first foray was to a sold out room of 1000 people.
Yeah, so no pressure, you know, my
so far has been positive. I’m fortunate to be in a company with two really seasoned public speaker. So I’ve been able to learn a lot from both you and john. And the thing that I probably naively misunderstood is how much work actually goes into preparing for talking in public even if it’s something that you know really well and can recite in your sleep. So I think that for me, was the biggest lesson learned was the amount of preparation. So for example, you and john pretty much put me on a regimented schedule, almost like a boot camp to prepare me for speaking at inbound last year, where every Friday at 11am I had to run through it with you and I knew for myself I had to have improved from the week before because otherwise I’m just wasting your time. And I think the other really helpful thing was sort of doing that mock roleplaying Have you guys pretended to be audience members asking questions and throwing me curveballs so that I wouldn’t stumble on stage as I’m trying to think through. Okay, what kinds of answers sound intelligent, so it’s public speaking is really difficult. I think the thing for people to keep in mind is that people make a full time job out of it. And it is a lot of work, it is not easy, even if it comes naturally to you. There’s still a lot of work and practice and preparation that goes into it. And, you know, I guess I would pose this question to you, as someone who’s been doing it for a long time, what is your experience when you started versus now when I started, I was terrible.
I wish I had had, you know, structure and mentors and folks to help improve it. But
over the years, and hanging out with other people who do do it for a living and seeing for what their practices are, you can reverse engineer more or less what you’re supposed to be doing. The biggest changes I’ve made over the years have been first making sure that what you’re going to say on stage has a coherent flow to witness and actual story. Because people people can’t remember just stuff you throw at them, it has to be in some kind of framework or story or structure, so that they can see mentally, where they are a lot of my talks will have like, three or five parts. But there are always slides that are or, or mental bookmarks of where you are. So we talk in our AI talk about mining, clustering, predicting, driving and dimension reduction. And each time we’re walking through this talk, we mentioned like a now in the mining section. And now in the clustering section, so that people know, okay, I know where I am, and they have something to mentally latch on to the performative aspect is the probably the biggest help, there was actually from Michael ports book, steal the show, which I strongly recommend can pick it up on Amazon. It’s like 11 bucks. But Michael’s a theater and stage actor. And so a lot of what he talks about are making what you do on stage, from your performance perspective, congruent with your talk. So
in one section, for example, he talks about blocking on stage, if you’re walking through a five part framework, that’s five different places on stage, as soon as you walk through the framework. So you’re literally walking through the framework on stage. So the people mentally mentally associate, oh, he’s on part two, he’s in position to on stage, and it helps you remember, as well as a speaker Oh, I’m on part two, I should be standing here,
what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes that speakers make, whether they’re seasoned or new,
by far, the biggest mistake is trying to do too much. And this is something I am super guilty of, which is trying to cram too much into a talk because you either think you have to fill the time or you’re nervous, or something like that,
instead of being very clear about what you talked about having that message be clear, and, and having something that repeats. So in your predictive talk, for example, you’re constantly referring back to the sort of this this framework, the six part predictive analytics framework. So again, people can keep in mind where they are in the story. The other thing that new speakers are vulnerable to corporate speakers are super vulnerable to is making the talk in the speaking about themselves in their company, as opposed to serving the audience. If you if you approach the stage as this is a sales opportunity for my company that comes through, it’s like, it’s like that, you know, that person who’s on a date, there’s like, just like, little too eager and they’re in it for themselves, and they’re not in it for the other person. Well, seeing that on stage
I have, and I was I was going to ask you about that have, you know, how much of your talk should be a sales pitch and how much of your talk should be informative and educational.
I’m trying to remember who told me this, I might have been Tamsin Webster. But there’s three parts you can do for a talk,
there’s why, what and how. And your goal is to deliver two to three
because that gives the audience what they’re after. But it doesn’t give them the complete picture. And it creates what’s called an implicit sales pitch, like, Oh, I understand why predictive analytics is so important as to what it is I do I do it, hey, I’m going to go ask Katie. Because she just spoke about it for 45 minutes credibly on stage,
or I understand what this is and how it works. But why is important? How do I justify it to my CEO? I’m going to go talk to the speaker on stage and say, How do I how do I sell this internally to my company, so you don’t the best speakers don’t beat people over the head with a sales pitch, they create content that is
a sales pitch in in what’s leaves out
it as an audience member, how do you feel when someone’s like, I’m, you should buy my book, and my
Oh, and that’s when you can hear the collective I roll
over, mobile phone goes up, like,
it’s like those timeshare pitches where you think you’re going in. For one thing, it’s the bait and switch. And you know, and as an audience member, that’s really frustrating, you want to be entertained, you want to be engaged, and you want to learn something. And I think that that’s, it’s what the three E’s that educate, entertain, and engage. And it’s the same framework that we use with our content with our white papers with our analysis of your goal is to always try to meet those three E’s. And I think that I know from my standpoint, once I was comfortable with the content of the talk itself, that it was educational, then my biggest challenge was really to be engaging and entertaining. Because, you know, your point I’ve only just started in public speaking. And, you know, I’m not a comedian. I don’t tell jokes on stage. I personally think I’m hilarious. But you know, I’m, you know, I can be my own biggest fan of my terrible, terrible jokes. And, you know, those could fall flat or be off putting, and I think that there’s, there’s the being the credible subject matter expert of the thing you’re talking about. But then there’s also having some personality on stage. And that’s probably just as difficult because I’ve seen a lot of speakers, you probably see, I’ve seen a lot of speakers that the information is good, but the delivery just falls flat, that it’s not engaging. And it’s not entertaining that you just can’t pay attention to it. Because you’re just bored out of your mind, you know, how, how important is it? Or how does one prepare to actually be lively on stage, how much of it is you over projecting to feed like, you know, you’re not just delivering something that’s very flat.
I actually don’t think it’s that important. When you think about the three E’s framework, what you have to do is over deliver on one of them, right? You have to over if you are, if you are sharing information is so valuable. I don’t care what you look like how you say it, as long as I can get the data, get the information. And I see Oh, this is super valuable. There are some speakers, I know who, yeah, they, they speak in a monotone, but you listen to every word they say. And you’re furiously taking notes. Because you like oh my God, if I don’t capture all this, I’m going to miss it. And I’m going to lose out on the value there are other speakers who are rip roaring Lee funny, and that’s their, that’s what they do best is they are they are damn funny people.
By the time they’re done talking, you’ve laughed so hard, you literally your sides hurt, you may not have any idea what they talked about. But they were funny as hell.
And then there are those speakers who are so emotionally inciting that, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re motivated, or you’re you’re angry, or whatever, and you get and you may not have any idea what they talked about, but you are sure pissed off or whatever.
I certainly don’t advocate pissing people off here the cornerstone of big unless that’s what you’re really good at. So I think it’s something you said there is important, it’s not over projecting who you are. But it is absolutely projecting who you are, and having a conversation with the audience about what it is that they care about. That’s the other part of the engagement. If you can figure out using tools like analytics, or even something as simple as talking to people before you go on stage, what it is that they really want to hear, then you will be engaging.
Speaking of engaging, here’s something that I often wonder about in the day and age that we live in, where so so media is such an important part of a brand or brand awareness. What How important is it for the deck itself to be engaging, that it has those Instagram mobile moments that it has those slides that people are taking pictures of and sharing and tweeting and posting, because I think that there’s also this added pressure on a speaker to have not just the content and the authority but also sort of the visual aspect of the deck so that people feel compelled to share and reshare it on social media. What are your thoughts on that?
So there’s, that’s a really good question. There’s two approaches and the you have to do both. The first is you need to know your talk cold so well, that if the projector doesn’t work or the power is out or whatever, you can deliver your entire talk without a visual you may have to adapt to it. And you can’t say I’m looking at this slide that isn’t here.
But you can say and we found that the week of January 29 2018 was the week to send email you can you know your talk so well that you can deliver without assistance. And going back to what you’re saying earlier. That’s one of the things that new speakers, especially our overreliant other presentations because they have not done the rehearsals.
But your second point is also really good, which is
in a an age of sharing and the ubiquitous smartphone and making an impression on people, you either want your talk to be wildly shared with people taking pictures of every slide, or you want people to be taking notes so furiously, that they don’t have time to share something, and they share in afterwards. Either way,
it still comes down to knowing your audience and talking to them and understanding why they’re in the room. And that’s again, that’s something that people don’t do very well as particularly newer speakers.
If you think about what the audience wants and why they’re in the room, you can you can create those moments that will be shared, I think back to when you were talking on stage at inbound, you you left a substantial amount of time for q&a. And that was the best thing you could have done because it let the audience really engaged and ask complex questions.
And that they did. But thankfully, you know, you and john had prepared me so well that I think there was only one question that somebody was able to stop me on. And it was really a question that was better suited to your skill set.
But, you know, on that note of being prepared, I had gotten into the practice of reciting my presentation out loud while I was doing the dishes while while I was vacuuming while I was walking the dog because I learned from people who’ve done it before me and people who do it so well, it really stuck out that it was so important that you can’t rely on the technology to guide you having notes. Having the slides as the cues isn’t good enough. It was interesting. When I was preparing for the talk, the person who is running the AV was asking me how I wanted the slide deck prepared for me. He’s like, do you have notes and I was like, Nope, I don’t have any notes. He’s like, okay, the person before you every single one of their slides they had script it out. And so their monitor that they were looking at was enlarge, so that they could literally read their script. And I tried that tactic when I first started putting the talk together. And I found it to be so distracting that the story didn’t come out organically, it felt too choppy because I was starting and stopping and trying to find my place and relying too heavily on the script. And so what I can say as a newer speaker is know it cold to your point, know it without having to rely on the slides, you should basically in your mind be able to visualize slide by slide.
Now, that said, I know that Chris, one of the things that you do is when you when you build your deck, your decks don’t have a lot of text on the slides themselves. It’s mostly just visuals and images. And for you, those images are the queue to your point where you and the audience are sort of bookmarking where you are of Okay, I’m now looking at a picture of a unicorn. That means I’m now talking about this section here.
What is your own personal opinion on decks that are to text heavy versus tech vs. decks that have no text.
We know, neurologically and people that you’re here brains Language Center is relatively new evolutionary,
and it is in the world in the world of computers, it is a serial processor can do one thing at a time really well, your visual cortex is a much older part of your brain. And it can multitask is the the the the neurologically on sound but still popular left brain, right brain thing is sort of the analogy of the two. When you have words on a screen, you’re occupying the Language Center, which means that your ears can no longer listen until you’re done reading, if you were to, to hold a piece of paper up right now, while you’re listening to me talk, you can’t do both Well, at the same time. So by having images on screen, you’re engaging a different part of the brain that can visually look at the image, but leave the language processor relatively free to listen to the speaker. And so from a neuroscience perspective, you want to have as few words on screen as possible. The exception being if the word itself is kind of like an image. So if it’s a huge, big, bold printed word, this is like no word like stop on the slide. You don’t need a lot of language processing power to process that. But when you have somebody who pastes entire paragraph on their screens, that’s you’re, you’re, you’re confusing the brain. So regardless of preference, you kind of have to do what works for people’s brains, it’s the same concept as as overloading them, you don’t want to try and throw so much at them that their brain just shuts down and can’t process anymore. Again, I’m my hands up, if you can see the video, my hands up, I am super guilty of, of just backing the truck up and dumping stuff on people’s heads.
It sounds like speaking isn’t is an art form. It’s a practice, it’s a methodology. So the things that we’ve talked about our new speaker, seasoned speaker practice makes perfect. So there’s really no reason to not have, you know, your takedown cold or at least have the framework in your mind. And when the framework the framework should tell a story so that it’s a logical flow from start to finish. So that you’re actually bringing your audience on a journey with you and you’re telling a story, you’re not just throwing information at them that felt disconnected and disjointed.
I want to actually
tack on to that speed because people like to talk about the art and science speaking begins as a science and evolves to an art. So you the science is the best practices like you know, you can’t have words on slides. You know, you have to rehearse, right, and there’s absolutely a science to that. And then as you become comfortable that becomes the art you become. So like, when you first started your your rehearsals, you are very much in the Okay, I’m just going to follow the steps and by the time you got on stage, you would freed your your mind of so much of the mechanics that you were able to focus more on the art of the delivery.
So any as we’re starting to wrap up and pull it all together any other tips and tricks that you’ve learned along the way or that surprised you that people do when they’re public speaking?
I think the probably the most controversial one is
the use of things like profanity and intentionally insensitive language or imagery things. It’s one of those things that has to be consistent with your brand. There are some speakers for whom their brand of being in your face is requires them to speak that way. But
there’s the old Oscar Wilde quote says, Be yourself, because everyone else has already taken and I think if we were to leave on any note, it would be that it would be yes, learn from other speakers, watch other speakers learn how they do what they do, but don’t try to be somebody else because they’re already taken. And you’re it’s better to be the best version of yourself than a terrible copy somebody else and you’ll always be a copy if you’re trying to slavishly imitate someone else
that’s got deep it’s
I mean, no, it’s interesting, because I think public speaking, you know, there’s this level of a persona as a public speaker, but you still have to be authentic, you still have to be genuine, you still have to be you. And I think that all of these insights and tips and tricks that you’ve given are really useful. And, you know, again, for me as a new speaker, they were things that I wasn’t necessarily aware of. When I first started, I was under the impression that I needed to be just like you or I needed to deliver the way that you delivered and I found very quickly that what was comfortable for me wasn’t necessarily the way that you do it and that was okay because I still was able to deliver on the talk that I was asked to give and and so I think you know, your point is a really good one to end on is regardless of what you learn and see the methodology is the same but the art has to be yours and authentic
exactly right. If you’re interested in speaking more I definitely would recommend picking up Michael ports book steal the show makes a fantastic book, also pick up presentations and by Gar Reynolds which is a good book on how you design the talk itself. And as always, please subscribe to our Youtube channel and to our newsletter. Trust the insights.ai.
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