Public speaking, presentation, and communication coaching and training for professionals and businesses

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CLASS ANNOUNCMENT: Registration for the Winter 2015 Group Class Public Speaking for Beginners and the Truly Terrified is OPEN!

This year I am running two classes of my 8 session public speaking course. This challenging fun, intensive course will enable you to overcome your anxiety, unleash your voice, and create presentations that will capture your audience's attention.

The Tuesday class meets every two weeks from January 26 to April 26, and the Wednesday class meets every two weeks from January 20 to April 20.

Make 2016 the year you finally become the speaker you need to be! Register online now!

Click here to register for the TUESDAY class

Click here to register for the WEDNESDAY class

Full course descriptions are on the registration pages. You can also contact me at 780-966-2401 to register over the phone.

Have questions? Call me at 780-966-2401. I'm happy to discuss your speaking goals and class details!


Lauren's Blog

Thoughts, insights and ramblings on communication, public speaking, and what makes our work and businesses tick


Introvert V. Extrovert: How much does it REALLY matter?

Introvert V. Extrovert: How much does it REALLY matter?

Photo credit: dierk schaefer via Visual Hunt / CC BY

 

When doing an activity that puts you in the spotlight, it seems a given that your personality will have a pretty significant factor in whether or not you enjoy it and how much effort it takes to succeed at it.  When it comes to public speaking, most assume that extroverts are naturally more inclined towards this activity. Those spotlight loving social butterflies have a natural edge when taking the microphone. Introverts, with their quieter, shyer natures, would presumably have to make herculean effort to face down a crowd of people and monologue for 30 minutes.

Or is it the introverts, with their capacity for preparation, detail, introspection, and careful expression, who have the public speaking advantage?

The arguments as to who has the edge change a lot. Some people claim that introverts require vast preparation and memorization while extroverts can simply wing it. Others say that extroverts are out of luck because of their flighty tendencies, while those deep thinking introverts are more likely to captivate the audience with their ideas. Right now, being introverted is somewhat fashionable, and so the prevailing argument as to who makes the better speaker is leaning towards that type.

The problem is that none of these arguments – nor any of the typecasting baggage attached to them – are helpful when working on your speaking skills. Out of all the individuals and groups I have coached and trained in speaking and presentation technique, I have never seen a correlation between aptitude for public speaking and personality type. I’ve watched introverts and extroverts alike shine like diamonds or become shaking messes when speaking to an audience.  Nor does personality type indicate if a speaker prefers the intimacy of a small group or the dynamic energy of a larger audience. These are individual perspectives and experiences that vary widely even among people with similar personalities.

There is one area in which notions of personality type do seriously impact public speaking: in making excuses. With predictable frequency, introversion and extroversion are invoked as excuses to avoid doing the work and taking the risks demanded by public speaking. I’ve had people claim that they can’t speak at a conference or present without a lectern (read: safety shield) because they are introverted.  Others have said that they can’t speak more slowly or can’t restrict themselves to one focused topic because they are extroverts. I’ve also had people present the excuse that to change their public speaking approach or mannerisms wouldn’t be ‘true’ to their personality type, even when those mannerisms get in the way of their ability to communicate with a crowd.

Whenever a pop psychologist assigns certain skills and characteristics to introverts or extroverts, a veneer of credibility is given to these sorts of excuses. We feel justified protecting ourselves from the inherently uncomfortable practice of developing their speaking skills.

But regardless of personality type, public speaking is difficult – full stop. It is a demanding thing to do. Creating a presentation with laser focus and then keeping your brain on task while at the microphone takes huge concentration and discipline. Putting yourself on stage to face potential rejection is nerve wracking – orientation towards introversion or extroversion doesn’t change this. The thing that does make public speaking easier is practice, application, persistence, and guts – none of which are the sole property of any one personality type.

Public speaking isn’t an act of personality – it’s an act of art, of sharing, of instruction, and of performance. Some speakers love the aesthetic part of the speaking; they like playing with words and crafting meaning through tone and expression. Others get a rush from the performance, from feeling and working with the audience. Still others are primarily focused on sharing and instructing – they want to help spread their knowledge or ideas, and public speaking is the best way for them to teach what they know.

CLICK TO TWEET: #Speaking isn’t an act of personality, it’s an act of art, sharing, instruction, & performance. #communication

Skilled speakers obsess less about their personality and more about their talk. They do the hard work necessary to deliver a great presentation. They engage deeply with their content, thinking about it, experimenting with it, practicing and crafting and honing it. They form emotional connections with their audience, deliver deeply thoughtful presentations, engage in entertaining storytelling, and make people laugh, think, and look at the world in new ways.  They are willing to take the risk of discomfort or rejection or failure in order to deliver their message to their audience. And they do this regardless of their introversion or extroversion.

Introvert? Extrovert? It doesn’t matter. Don’t use a label as an excuse. You have something to say, and if your need to say it is strong enough, you’ll push past whatever it is you believe is holding you back.

News, Developments, and Upcoming Talks/Events

  • See me in action at Nerd Nite November 26 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, AB! How To Lose Friends and Manipulate People: The Fine Art of Bamboozlement (title may change depending on my caprice). Click here for ticket information and to learn more about Nerd Nite.
  • Currently in development - my online digital course "Masterpiece Presentations: Your step-by-step method for creating high-impact presentations"


Category Archives: Skill development

The Top 5 Public Speaking Sins

The Top 5 Public Speaking Sins

Photo credit: WilliamMarlow via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

 

I know you’ve been there – sitting in an audience listening to a speaker and wondering “Why am I listening to this and when is it going to end?”

Such is the agony of sitting through a terrible speech.  But what makes a speech terrible? This is something I get asked a lot. Differences in taste and preferences means that one person’s god-awful speaker could be someone else’s guru, but there are a few key sins that can kill just about any speech. Here’s a list of the things I consider especially egregious. Read, my friends, read and learn so that you do not commit these sins yourself:

TOP 5 SPEECH SINS1

1. Giving a talk that has nothing to do with its title

Well, the title said “Upcoming Trends for Online Marketing,” but it really ended up being about the speaker’s business training course.

Giving a talk that’s not related to its title is the speaker’s equivalent of a bait-and-switch.2 If someone’s decided to spend their time listening to you speak, you’d better deliver the topic that was promised or else you risk annoying and confusing your audience. Speak on what you promised to speak about.

 

2. Not having a clearly defined message

I have no idea what that talk was about.

Your entire speech should hang on a clearly defined message – a key takeaway that the audience can pick up on quickly and remember easily. Everything in your speech should support and build on that message. I’m militant about this, because not having a super clear, concise message is one of the fastest routes to Wandering Topic Syndrome and confusing speeches. It’s also a slippery path towards committing sin #1.

 

3. Making it all about you

Me, myself, right? And then I and then myself and then me. Meee. MEEE!3

Personal stories are important. They help you and your audience connect. But there comes a point when you should move on and switch from talking about you to talking about your audience. Going on with personal story after personal story and never really getting to some kind of actionable, audience-centered point is going to make you seem completely self-absorbed. I’ve seen some horrendous examples of me-focused, navel gazing speakers (one involved the speaker making a “spontaneous” phone call from the stage to prove how awesomely connected they were with Big Important People. UGH).

A speaker’s platform is not a venue for therapy or self-aggrandizement. If the speaker is making it all about themselves, it come across as though they neither know nor care about their audience. Make it about them.

 

4. Reading from your notes or slides

I don’t need you to read it for me. I know how to read.

This sin is why I discourage people from memorizing their speech, bringing up extensive notes, or putting too many words on their slides. You can’t engage your audience if you’re staring at a piece of paper or a slideshow.

Click to Tweet: You can’t engage your audience if you’re staring at a piece of paper or a slideshow. #presentationskills #publicspeaking

If you come up with long, extensive notes, I will guarantee that your eyeballs will be drawn irresistibly to that page and you’ll revert to reading mode. The same thing goes for text-heavy slides. I’ve seen internationally lauded professors on the pop lecture circuit commit this crime as often as speech neophytes. Free yourself of the temptation of reading and avoid this sin by using only the sparsest of speaker notes and extremely limited text on your slides.

 

5. Going overtime

Do we really need to talk about going overtime? YES! This happens with astonishing frequency! Going overtime throws the event agenda off, steals time from other speakers, and deprives the audience of their transition times and bathroom breaks. It also makes you appear unpolished and unprepared. The only way to avoid this sin is practice, practice, practice your talk, timer in hand, and then ruthlessly edit if you find yourself consistently going over time. Have your timing down cold and always leave a buffer in case there is an interruption or you mess up a bit of your timing. Did your talk get cut short because the person before you went over time? Then you need to adjust your talk so you still end according to your original time slot. Know what pieces of content (stories, examples, slides, etc) you can skip or gloss over in case you find yourself with a shortened speech time.4

 

Most of these mistakes may seem obvious, but they’re easy to commit if you don’t spend enough time creating, practicing, and rehearsing your talk. Speaking is a craft, and you need to have a craftsman’s attention to detail if you are going to perform with polish and ease.

________

  1. I’ve committed every last one of these sins, by the way. I don’t know any speaker who hasn’t.
  2. I find this happens most often when the speaker is attempting to sell from the stage. Typically, they rapidly veer off their promised topic and on to how their latest offering is going to solve all your ills. Lip service may be paid to the original topic, but it tends to be shallow and never really addresses the subject promised in the title. It’s infuriating.
  3. Hat tip to Vince Poscente for making me aware of that clip. It makes me laugh until my sides hurt every time I see it.
  4. This is a skill worth practicing. I often have to adjust my content on the fly because of variances in the event agenda. Being able to adapt and adjust at the last minute can save you a lot of grief and make you look really good to event organizers.

This resolution is pure fun!

Happy 2017, everyone! My New Year’s Eve was relatively sedate. We spent the afternoon with a group of our friends, and after dinner I bundled my little ones home to get them to bed on time, and then sent my husband back to our friends’ place to continue the festivities (he definitely deserved a night… Continue Reading

The Practice Rant

The Practice Rant

  The secret isn’t innate confidence. It isn’t a good slide deck, either. It’s not positive, pre-show affirmations. It’s not killer quotes, “life changing” stories, or hilarious content. It definitely isn’t picturing your audience in their underwear.* The above all play a part in great presentations (with the exception of the underwear visualization), but they… Continue Reading

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
I pledge to be 100% spam-free. You can unsubscribe at any time.