Tag Archives: speech

TED Talk of the Day: Diana Nyad Finds a Way

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Alex Rister of Creating Communication has been posting a series of articles on the subject of resilience, failure, and success. This theme was echoed today during a consultation with a student who is preparing for her first speech in Professional Communication and Presentation, an analysis of Diana Nyad’s latest TED talk, “Never, ever give up.” If you are not familiar with Nyad, she is the incredible human who swam from Cuba to Florida through 100 miles of shark-infested waters at 60-years old. Her completion of this task was the culmination of a 40-year long dream, her answer to the question “how much life is there left?”

Nyad’s talk is inspiring; it emphasizes the importance of failure and fearlessness as keys to achieving a goal. This is a key mindset shift that every student of presenting and public speaking (even teachers themselves) must make in order to truly grow into the type of communicator who can inspire and move others. The belief that only those who we deem amazing public speakers (Jobs, King, Churchill) have the ability to succeed in a speech situation is what keeps many of us from even trying or tackling a public speaking challenge in the first place. Without a willingness to be vulnerable, to be open to failure, to expect that yes, you will fail at giving an amazing speech or moving others, you will never be able to push and grow and change enough to finally succeed.

But, Nyad teaches us another important lesson related to presenting. Sometimes, even the most impacting and empowering ideas mean nothing unless they are communicated and delivered in a certain way. From her first incredible pause and beautifully vivid description to her honest retelling of the triumphs and trials of her experience, the audience is hooked. Nyad brings her words to life, she empowers the audience not only with her words but also with the way her words meet her audience’s ears. Check out Nyad’s talk below–not only will you learn a bit more about how resilience can help you reach those public speaking, teaching, communicating, designing, or living horizons but you’ll also see just how much power the delivery of an idea can have on that idea’s ability to live.

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Tweak Your Speech: Rhetoric and Star Trek

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This week in Professional Communication and Presentation, we discussed the basics of rhetoric and persuasion. I don’t really fall too far from the rhetorical tree Aristotle and Cicero developed hundreds of years ago (with the exception of including Kenneth Burke’s concept of identification), partly because my class is only a month long and the three part structure of Aristotle’s appeals works well in this time frame, and partly because I want to impart on my students a very important truth: For the ancients, oration was a skill and art form that surpassed others–communication had immediate impact on the lives of Greek and Roman citizens, they tended to a presentation ecosystem before we’d heard of such a thing.

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This cultivation of strong speech continued through much of human history–imagine Martin Luther King writing up his “I Have a Dream” speech and sending it by mail (much less impacting that way, no?). In recent times though, the study of oration has been diluted, to the point that we devote little time to considering how we structure our messages or how our audience will process and carry on our message. We devote even less time to studying the mechanism of persuasion and analysis of how others structure a successful message. However, in order to really practice and engage in persuasion, we must first understand how it works.

I will share with you a metaphor that helped me understand how rhetoric and the means of persuasion (ethos or credibility, pathos or emotion, and logos or logic) work. An argument is like the Starship Enterprise, flagship of the United Federation of Planets. The Enterprise is THE ship on which to serve. Its reputation is stellar, its technology state of the art, and its crew stalwart and brave.  Your persuasive message is the Enterprise–it is a well-oiled machine, ready to take on any adversary, set to explore the dimensions of the human universe.

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But, the Enterprise would be nothing without three figures (the original series would not be what it is without the interplay between these three)– Leonard “Bones” McCoy, chief medical officer; Spock of Vulcan, first officer, and James T. Kirk, captain. It is the dynamic between these three individuals that drives the show, provides the excitement, drama, and relevance. Without Bones, Kirk, and Spock, the Enterprise would be a wasteland of red-shirted crewment, doomed to die during the next away mission. In the same way, your presentation cannot function without the seamless interplay between ethos, pathos, and logos.

Bones: Ethos or the credibility appeal

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Bones is the moral and ethical compass of this trio. He often protests Spock’s logic-driven decisions and tempers Kirk’s instinct-driven responses. Like Bones, ethos is all about authority. It is how your audience judges you. An audience should be able to determine if a speaker is trustworthy and reputable, knowledgeable, authoritative, and empathetic. A strong presenter develops ethos both through internal sources and external sources. Your external credibility illustrates knowledge and trustworthiness; internal credibility helps illustrate authority, reputation, and common ground or empathy.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

 

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

 

Spock: Logos or the logical appeal

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Spock, half Vulcan, half human, made the decision as a child to embrace logic and repress emotion. His decisions are based on precise calculations, the data available, and analysis of a situation. Like Spock, logos is all about logic and evidence. It is your way of fulfilling your audience’s need for factual evidence that is presented in a way that makes sense. Logos is “the proof in the pudding”. It stimulates your audience’s need to see in order to believe. Logos is about a clear and understandable message, and a specific evidence that your audience can connect to and understand.

Kirk: Pathos or the emotional appeal

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Captain James T. Kirk, the leader of the Enterprise is a cunning, assertive, and passionate man, who often throws caution to the wind and does what seems irrational and rash. In the end though, Kirk’s actions, which turn out to be a blend of instinct, experience, and duty save the Enterprise (whether it is from a fierce Romulan commander or a super-computer bent on world domination). Like Kirk, pathos or emotion must be balanced by ethics and logic. Pathos is potentially the most ethically dangerous of the three appeals–humans are emotional creatures whose emotions can be manipulated and toyed with. However, pathos is also necessary. Your audience may see the logic of your message and may also see you as an authority in your field, but without that emotional core, they’ll ignore your message like they ignore most messages telling them to do this or not do that.

So, tend to each one of these appeals, devote time to developing the logic of your message, use emotion to humanize your logic, and show your audience you are worth listening to. You will surely go where no one has gone before!

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Debuting on Tweak Your Slides: Real Delivery

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Today, I am proud to share with you the first in a monthly series of Slideshare.net deck debuts. The first (as I’ve noticed quite a few slide design decks but not too many presentation delivery decks) is Real Delivery. I’ll be breaking down the pieces to this acronym (Readiness, Engagement, Authenticity, Lasting Impression), but for now, check out the deck below. Happy Friday!

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Cicero’s Five Canons: If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Last week’s Mega-Double in Professional Communication and Presentation (that would be 8 hours of class…in one day…at once…) focused on the following topics:

  • What 10 qualities students want to work to embody in their own presentations
  • An introduction to my favorite TED talk, Benjamin Zander’s, “On music and passion”
  • How to manage presentation anxiety
  • The importance of thorough audience analysis
  • Nancy Duarte’s New Slide Ideology
  • Garr Reynold’s Naked Presenter/techniques for delivering engaging presentations

That was a light day, actually. What always falls by the wayside that I just can’t seem to find a new place for are Cicero’s Five Canons of Rhetoric.

Seriously, I sneak this in during persuasion, but it should be part of the first day. It’s time to really have a heart to heart with the part of me that is willing to cut mercilessly like Ira Glass. Until then, I share my two cents on Cicero’s Five Canons with you here. Cicero, whom I refer to as the OG of oration, developed these canons or arts between 55-51 BCE as a means of further standardizing the work Aristotle had first developed in On Rhetoric in the 5th century BCE. Cicero, although a great orator, as a supporter of the Republic, struggled against the power-hungry First Triumvirate, Julius Caesar’s taking of Rome, and the Second Triumvirate’s power plays. He met his end at the hands of Mark Antony.  Though currently not in fashion as a great rhetorician, Cicero’s study of the process of speech remains a staple of public speaking curricula. These are the five keys to any great speech, and they fit in nicely with Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem of message, visual story, and delivery.

Invention

According to rhetoric god, Jay Heinrich’s, Cicero, who was considered the greatest orator of his time, believed that invention was more important than delivery. Heinrich’s quotes Cicero, stating that “eloquence without wisdom has often been a great obstacle and never an advantage” (Source). It is this searching out of wisdom, the seeking of knowledge that is applied via experience that characterizes invention best.



In the invention phase, presenters seek out the means of best appealing to their audience; they determine counter-arguments, complete audience personas, conduct surveys, and conduct deep research into credible sources of information. In this phase of the presentation development process, the best rule of thumb is to resist the urge to cut and delete. This is about getting everything out and finding all connective points.

In class, I introduce them to a few more thoughts on invention, including those of Duarte, Reynolds, and Godin, as well as introducing them to Dan Pink’s concept of “A Whole New Mind.” I use Pink’s concept of thinking with a whole mind because this objective, creative and logical approach to planning a presentation taps into all of our strengths as humans. Great invention takes a whole minded approach.


Arrangement

 While it may seem obvious to us that arranging and organizing our ideas into a digestible, understandable, and concrete structure, for orators in Cicero’s time, organizing one’s ideas around a centralized point was not so obvious. While critics of Cicero’s canons claim the rigidity of his method kills creativity, I find liberation in constraints, and as one of my students’ major concerns is the “flow” of their presentations, I believe some study into arrangement can only help.
For Cicero, arrangement was divided into six parts: “an introduction, a statement of facts, a division between ideas (if there is one), proof or evidence supporting all ideas, refutation of ideas, an optional digression, and conclusion” (Source).  A presenter uses logic, emotion, and credibility to build each of these chunks and considers the tools in his or her rhetorical arsenal when determining what goes where. For instance, in class, we discuss the importance of beginning with strong emotional or intellectual PUNCH, creating a strong initial impression of credibility, and providing a clear big idea and Duarte’s crossing of the threshold in the introduction.
Another strategy we use in class is storyboarding. My students’ prepare a Pecha Kucha presentation in two weeks as part of their major projects in class. With only two weeks, every moment becomes important, especially the moments devoted to arrangement. As a PK is not your typical presentation and presenters are often anxious about connectivity, exact organization, and flow, we use storyboarding to help create a dynamic, visually-driven structure before slide design begins.

Style

Style in terms of language has less to do with overly flowery phrases, fancy jargon, and elaborate metaphors and much more to do with the speaker applying his or her natural strengths and the three rhetorical appeals to how he or she speaks and presents the information. An orator’s style arsenal depends on experience, comfort level, and intellect, but it often includes one staple–storytelling. Telling stories is a universal form of conveying evidence, emotion, and credibility that has been a staple of the human experience, since pre-literate times as Nancy Duarte explains. Stories not only help touch your audience emotionally (at least, well written stories chock full of relatable characters, concrete detail, and significance), but they also provide tangible evidence and proof (assuming you are not lying). Finally, stories also lend speakers credibility, illustrating a personal connection to the topic and similarity with the audience.

Memory

This is probably the canon I devote the least attention to in class, partly because it is each presenter’s responsibility to practice and prepare, but also because as I’ve learned, the best messages are not memorized, but internalized so that they are delivered as if they are from memory. Unlike the Romans, though, we don’t devote attention to the memory and internalization centers of our children’s minds. We increasingly rely on tools to help us remember, going so far as using a slideshow as a teleprompter. For Cicero, “memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” It is the presenter’s task to internalize a message and know it as well as she knows her childhood home.

Check out my post on rehearsing a PechaKucha for some excellent internalization advice from Felix Jung of Avoision.com.

Delivery

Cicero’s final canon is delivery. Delivery, while it may seem to be all about flashy hand gestures, projection, articulation, and eye contact, is so much more about conveying one’s natural passion for a subject. As Garr Reynold’s puts it in The Naked Presenter, presenting naked “means connecting and engaging with an audience…in a way that is direct, honest, and clear. …The naked approach embraces the ideas of simplicity, integrity, and passion” (Source). In class, we study his approach to delivering an engaging presentation–connect, engage, sustain, and end powerfully.

 

So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Apply Cicero’s five canons of rhetoric to your next presentation and make one of history’s greatest orators (and your audience) proud!

 

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Tip of the Day: Instead of Poetry, Paint Pictures

I am currently on a real Asian food kick. I’ve had the deliciousness that is Tako Cheena twice in the past week; I made summer rolls for the first time last night, and I am currently waiting for chicken for some thai curry chicken soup to defrost. As I wait, I tweak, Pinterest, and Alltop. I ran across this interesting analysis of Obama’s speech on the economy, which addressed the ongoing divergence in solutions for our economic woes, by master rhetorician Jay Heinrichs. If you don’t know (shame on you!), Heinrichs is author of one of my favorite irreverent and insightful takes on rhetoric in practice, Thank You for Arguing, a look through the rabbit hole into the matrix that is rhetoric. Heinrichs believes that while Obama’s “passage sounds concise, thoughtful, and poetic” it is that poetry that fails to truly resonate with Obama’s target, the American people.

Heinrichs praises the use of antithesis, symploce, and paronomasia (in essence, the use and amplification of contrast), but says that the failing is not in the use of “snappy” poetics, but in failing to understand the blurriness created by these poetics. Heinrichs suggests instead that a simple, concrete metaphor would help deliver a clear message to Americans.

“The basic message is sound, and Obama will be right to stick to it: when the fairness gap gets too wide, the whole economy risks falling into it. But instead of figures, the Democrats need to learn to use images.”  –Figaro (aka Jay Heinrichs of Figures of Speech Served Fresh

So, today’s tip of the day is a concrete metaphor is worth 1000 paronomasias. When in doubt, keep it vivid.

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The Rhetoric of Presentation Design: Logos

I’d like to finish up this series on the rhetoric of presentation design by quoting my favorite, Vulcan, Mr. Spock.

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Logos at its most basic level is about evidence and the presentation of that evidence in a reasonable way. Were we all like Mr. Spock, we would only need logos–facts, evidence, logical organization, clear reasoning, and truth (or Truth). Logic sets Spock and other Vulcans apart from the rest of us humanoids, who are driven by a natural need for authority and our often irrational and destructive emotions. But, if we were all Vulcans, life would likely be pretty boring (Vulcans don’t laugh, dance, drink, or play). As it is, the fact that we are not emotionless, logic-driven alien demi-gods means that we must also ensure our use of logic is engaging, useful, relevant, and understandable.

I love reading blogs (and recently, writing them), and one of my favorites is Six Minutes. Their series on rhetoric and persuasion is practical, useful information for everyday presenters. One of my favorite resources for the practical development of logos is this article from Six Minutes. Andrew Dlugan lays out 17 ways to ensure your logos is understandable (can your audience understand all of your points?), logical (do your points make sense?), and real (is your evidence concrete?). I am going to discuss the ones that most relate to the logos of your slides.

Make your Slides Understandable

1. Use diagrams and charts.

Diagrams: Frugal Dad (Left), GOOD (Top Right), Bureau of Labor Statistics (Bottom Right)

A well-designed diagram, with a bit of help from you, can make for an awesome piece of evidence. This video from infographic masters Column Five sums up why visualizing data helps users make sense of a dense information jungle.

Check out this awesome visualization--it's a response to the current place of Wal-mart in American society and economics.

Check out Alltop’s infographics section for more awesome examples like the ones above.

2. Use progressive disclosure.

Showing only one item at a time draws attention to sequences and processes, bettering your audience's understanding of subject.

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Showing one element at a time, or progressive disclosure is like your presentation’s “More” button. Using progressive disclosure, as Good does in their series of infographic videos can aid you in revealing information to your audience in an understandable and clear way.

Make Your Slides Logical

1. Leverage commonplaces with a quote.

Speaking to a room full of venture capitalists?

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Leveraging the commonplaces or shared values of achievement and single-minded purpose through a quote can help show the inherent logic of your argument.

2. Drive questions with impacting visuals.

My favorite example of using an immediately recognizable image in conjunction with an excellent thought-provoking question is Michael Pollan’s 2009 PopTech talk on the Sun Food Agenda.

Ed Yourdon

Pollan shows us an image of a the now ubiquitous Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonald’s and asks the audience if they’ve ever wondered where this meal comes from, what the process is from beginning to end. He then answers the question for the audience by describing the step by step life cycle of a beef cow. He keeps the seemingly harmless image of the burger fresh in the audience’s mind as he exposes them to the reality behind this product. If you haven’t seen Pollan’s talk, it’s a must watch and a fantastic example of how slides can be used to successfully develop each of your rhetorical appeals.

Michael Pollan: Sustainable Food

Make Your Slides Real

1. Apply the picture superiority effect consistently.

Ed Yourdon

Something else Pollan does in his Pop Tech talk that engages his audience and illustrates the validity of his words is his consistent use of the picture superiority effect. Each of Pollan’s visuals features either impacting images (such as his shots of a cattle farm he dubs “Cowschwitz”) or incredibly simple and immediately recognizable pictorals, such as his comparison of how much waste 150,000 cows produce (the equivalent of the entire city of Chicago).

2. Use visuals to reinforce verbal stories.

I’d like to direct you to TOMS as an example of using visuals to reinforce stories.

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The story of TOMS shoes is an impacting one; the organization is committed to its “one for one” campaign, whose effort has always been to improve the quality of life of children by providing them with a free pair of shoes.

TOMS doesn't just show you cool shoes; they show you why these shoes matter.

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But, it’s not the shoe alone TOMS customers are drawn to–what draws TOMS’ customers is Blake’s story.

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