Archive for the ‘Material’ Category

Meeting hosts often struggle with how to introduce a speaker.

It’s unlikely they have ever been taught how to do it and they have a hard time deciding what bio content to include. 

If you are the speaker, this can mean that you receive a less-than-adequate introduction.  You don’t get the strong boost of credibility you need.  In worst-case situations, you actually have to overcome misperceptions that have been created.

To avoid this, everyone should have a suggested introduction that they can e-mail to a meeting host.  Far from being annoyed that you didn’t leave it to them, most hosts are grateful they don’t have to work up something.  They will thankfully take what you gave them and use it.

Then you get an introduction that positions you well with the audience.

Normally, anecdotal material makes a talk more engaging.  Few things can hold attention better than a story.  Yet, some story telling speakers are boring.  How can this be?

One good explanation comes from 18th century author, playwright and philosopher, Francois-Marie Aronet (a.k.a., Voltaire):

“The secret to being a bore…is to tell everything.”

Detail is essential.  It helps listeners form a picture in their mind.  It brings a story alive.

However, detail can go from making a story rich to becoming too much of a good thing.  As a speaker goes on and on, including all manner of minutia, attentive looks become glazed stares. 

Even a short story has a plot.  If details are keeping the plot from moving forward, you’re entering the boring zone.

The Internet has made it so much easier to research topics than it once was.

It was not too many years ago that digging up needed information meant a trip to the library or bookstore.  If you were fortunate, your aging home encyclopedias would yield something useful.  Gathering what you needed for a presentation could take some work.

Now, you just fire up the computer, key in a search word, and in seconds you have multiple sources to explore.  Anything you need to know is out there on the Web ready to be harvested.

Easy.  In fact, a bit too easy.

 It takes so little effort to find information now that speakers get lazy about double checking things.  As soon as they find something that looks useful it goes straight into their presentation.  Only later, after their credibility has been damaged, do they learn that the “facts” they reported were inaccurate.

Information on the Web can be seriously unreliable.  And, because it can be so easily picked up and spread, you can’t rely on its popularity as proof that it’s right.  You need to seek out trustworthy sources for verification.

For an earlier blog post I needed a quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I quickly found it on a website and was all set to include it in my message when I had second thoughts.  Sure enough, the website I had used attributed the quote to the wrong character in the book.

The Web has made it possible to create rich presentations full of interesting references.  At the same time it has made it all too easy to unwittingly include bogus material.  

Check.  Double-check.  Credibility is a precious thing to lose.

One lesson I personally have to learn over and over again is that you have to write down your stories.

 If something happens that is interesting, and it has the potential to be useful in some future speech or presentation, write it down.  It doesn’t matter if you have no idea specifically how you will use it; write it down.  Trust your instinct when it tells you it may be useful someday. 

 I’m always assuring myself “I’ll remember that.”  Who am I kidding?  Life comes at us fast and furious.  Most of the interesting things we experience or observe hang out in our heads just long enough to be replaced by something else.

 Sure, profound and dramatic experiences lodge themselves in our long-term memory, but a busy and varied speaking schedule burns up too much material to rely just on them.  It’s essential to have many “smaller” stories ready to be plugged in where they can help enliven a point.

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