Good Advice on Giving Good Speeches

Longtime readers of my blog know I find ideas for blogs everywhere, from psychology experiments to work events to the origin of words and phrases. Lately, however, books have become my primary source of inspiration. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to have multiple blog ideas after reading a book.

That was the case when I read Seymour Schulich’s Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons. Earlier this year, in How to Make Better Decisions I blogged about a simple, but practical, extension to the traditional two-column pro/con decision list. But there’s much more in the book that’s blog-worthy. For example, Schulich provides good advice on giving good speeches:

  • Be brief (here’s my take)
  • Try to communicate one main idea
  • Create a surprise
  • Use humour
  • Slow it down
  • Use cue cards and look up often
  • Self-praise is no honour
  • Never speak before the main dinner course is served
  • Reuse good material
  • Use positive body language

Most of this advice is self-explanatory, except the self-praise line. Schulich means you should never introduce yourself; instead get someone to tell the audience why you’re important. That way they’re more likely to pay attention to you.

Considering the digital age we live in, Schulich is not really advocating we present using cue cards. Instead his goal is to ensure presenters don’t read speeches and get out from behind the podium. This forces us to give up our safety nets and increases the likelihood we connect with the audience.

While you can’t always control when you present, it’s important to recognize the most difficult slot is right before meals. No matter how good a presenter you are, remember the old adage:

Never get between people and their food.

Any presentation tips you want to add?

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5 Responses to Good Advice on Giving Good Speeches

  1. Jonathan Dunnett November 15, 2015 at 10:34 am #

    Incorporation of a story that is appropriate to the topic seems to be a great addition. Even if people cannot relate to the topic, they can usually relate to a story.

  2. Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman) November 15, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    These are great points, especially about being focused on one key point and talking slowly. Also, self-praise is the personal equivalent of giving a sales pitch during a speech — it just makes you look bad. Humility and openness are the hallmarks of a pleasing speaker.

  3. Peter jacobshagen November 16, 2015 at 3:32 am #

    Not getting between people and their food is a good advice. Yet presenting right after lunch can be very challenging as well as people tend to snooze away once their tummies are filled. So that’s a slot you may want to avoid, too. And if you cannot avoide it, it is even more important to go back to these two rules from the list:
    – create a suprise
    – use humour
    It’s no guarantee, but it dramatically increases the chance that the audience decides not to take the after-lunch-nap, but follow your one main idea.

  4. Meet Muhammad Siddique November 24, 2015 at 3:50 am #

    Great practical ideas and tips. Thank you for sharing. Such an honor to meet you at Gitex in Dubai and I appreciate your time for an interview for few minutes. You were the best speaker at Gitex(provided some one ask me to rate it) by far from the Gitex. Keep up the good work and stay blessed Chief Disruptive Offer with T role.


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