public speakers

Creating Fireworks on Stage

Why can't presentations be like fireworks? Why is it that some public speakers create energy explosions while others fizzle out? What if you could create your own fireworks on stage?

Convert Podium Presentations to Winning Webinars

webinar-laptop-300x200Could a top presenter bomb in the virtual world? Your keynotes get rave reviews. Your training seminars are highly rated. Your reputation as a public speaker precedes you. So giving a webinar should be a snap. Or not. The mistake many otherwise excellent speakers make is to approach webinars the same way they deliver an in-person speech. Virtual communication offers new and different challenges. Here are some tips when transitioning presentations to the web.

More Slides Not Less. Unlike the PowerPoint principle of fewer slides, in a webinar, the speaker must keep the momentum going. It's boring to listen to audio while one slide remains on the screen. To keep attention, scroll through multiple slides so that the audience is experiencing change more frequently. I once watched an online promotional video. Every time I reached for the mouse to fast forward, the video image would change. It was uncanny how this video changed images every time I was ready to tune out. I checked the timing. The change happened every 4 seconds. You don't have to be that quick but don't speak for 2 minutes on a slide.

Create a Relationship. Project a photo of participants on the webinar screen so that they can see themselves and others.This will allow you to speak to "real people," and the audience will feel more of a sense of community.

Warm Up.  Don't dive in without a welcome. Introduce yourself and let people know why they are there and what you will cover. But don't announce every caller unless it's a brief private meeting. Mute the phones so that there is no background noise. People can hear a smile so bring your best game face and let your warmth shine through. To increase energy, stand when you're presenting and use a lively and conversational voice. Nobody wants to listen to a dispassionate book report.

Visuals Not Text. Forego bullets in favor of graphics, cartoons, illustrations and interesting photos.The brain thinks in pictures, not in words. And if there is enough text for them to read the slides, they won't need you. Make sure the graphic files are not too large or they will take too long to download.

Interact. Don't be a talking head. If you don't want the audience to check email, create a two way communication. Make use of chat boxes and polling. Ask questions. And if possible, open the phone lines so that people can participate. Build interaction every 3-5 minutes. An effective webinar is not a deck of slides with a voice over.

Make Eye Contact. The best way to connect with a virtual audience is to use video. If they can see you talking, the audience will be more engaged. Programs like Adobe Connect provide video capacity so that the presenter can look directly at the audience. This will increase engagement and trust. Another alternative is to embed very quick, brief videos on the slide to demonstrate your point.

Design Peer-to-Peer Learning. Make use of break out rooms online. This allows you to assign learners to small groups to discuss concepts and create new ideas. Adults want to participate and control their learning. As the facilitator you can listen in on each group while they can only hear the members of their small group. When finished, you can bring back participants to share their learning.

Virtual doesn't have to be boring or detached. To deliver winning webinars, consider these seven tips when converting your presentation to the web.

10 Steps to Confidence


Why do we spend years on developing competence when research proves that CONFIDENCE trumps COMPETENCE? Because we falsely believe that it's our smarts and not our hearts that get us to the top. So how do you learn confidence?  Here are 10 steps to confidence.

  1. Clear. Get clear about who you are as a person and get clear about your presentation outcome. Clarity is the first step to confidence. Focus on your message and establish a benchmark for achieving your presentation outcome.
  2. Other-Centered. Nervousness is self-centeredness. Turn your attention away from you and toward your audience. Ask, "How can I serve them?" "How can I make them comfortable." Do a deep dive into the minds of your listeners. When you profile your audience, you'll speak their language, create rapport, and you'll feel more prepared.
  3. Natural. There is only one you. You have your own unique style. Don't set out to give a presentation. Be conversational and be yourself. If you're not funny, don't tell a joke. Share something personal and the audience will relate to you.
  4. Free from Judgment. Eliminate your need for perfection and stop" shoulding" on yourself. Monitor your self-talk. When you begin the presentation, imagine success. When you finish the presentation, give yourself credit for the things you did well. Confidence develops over time and in a positive atmosphere. Mohammed Ali said "I am the greatest," before he was ever a champion
  5. Improvise. Public speakers who are wedded to their scripts can be easily caught off guard if they lose their place or if there is a technical glitch. Learning to improvise will boost your confidence. When disaster strikes  embrace it instead of freezing in place. Prepare your recovery strategy with ad-lib lines.
  6. Design. Confident delivery sits on well-designed structure. Confidence begins before you ever open your mouth. It starts with good organization. Good structure will keep you focused and on message, And your audience will be able to follow your points.
  7. Enthusiastic Enthusiasm sells. When you're excited, you forget your nervousness. Speak from your passion and you'll find your energy increases. Raise your energy by doing something physical. Move around the room. Get louder. Use more gestures.Enthusiasm is contagious and your audience will be excited along with you.
  8. Network. Do you feel like the naked speaker up there all alone? To gain confidence network before you speak. Get to the room early and practice. As people enter, greet each person with a smile and a handshake. By the time it's your turn to speak you'll be in the company of friends.
  9. Concise. A speech can quickly unravel if the speaker gets stuck in the weeds of details. To feel confident, get to the point. Create crisp message points and build examples around each point. Instead of rolling their eyes, the audience will hang on your every word.
  10. Engaging. It's hard to feel confident when you're a talking head. Give fewer facts and tell more stories. Why are stories so powerful? Stories draw the audience in,  break down resistance and entice them open to your message. Stories make your message memorable. And here's the bonus point.. A story has a natural sequence so you don't have to worry about losing your train of thought. Simply tell the story. Be in the story and your audience will be engaged.

6 Periscope Presentation Tips


Periscope on Android Have you done your first Periscope Presentation? It's a free live stream service you can access on your smart phone or tablet.

If you've ever given a live stream presentation, you know that it takes a lot of work. You first go into a studio. You're dependent on the technology crew. You need to stand in the right spot. And it's expensive.

Periscope is a great tool for anyone who wants to share their presentations and live experiences. Think twitter on video steroids. Public speaking is now accessible 24/7 in real time.

Why give presentations on Periscope? It's a powerful marketing tool. Giving valuable content in real time, a public speaker can build their brand, access greater reach, engage with their audience, and speak to people from anywhere in the world-even when you're on vacation. On a personal note, imagine sharing weddings and family events with relatives who cannot attend in person. It creates a bonded community.

But as with all public speaking, you'll want to present yourself in the best light. Here are some tips for maximizing the effectiveness of Periscope or live stream presentations.

  1. Announce your presentation in advance. Don't think that people are going to tune in just because you popped up on their screen.Let your audience know that you'll be speaking live at a certain time and date. Send another reminder a few minutes before your broadcast.
  2. Prepare your opening shot. Periscope will default to the first thing the camera sees. So, point your camera to the photo or scene you want to end the broadcast. Then tap the camera to point at you if you are the public speaker.
  3. Engage. Start by welcoming and acknowledging the people who are watching. If you don't see any people icons, keep talking anyway. People will watch the replay. After the welcome, tell them a bit about yourself and then ask a question. Some presenters like to show the audience their venue or introduce them to their pets. People will respond in the chat box. The best presentations are dialogues.
  4. Provide value. Do NOT make this a sales pitch. People will not return. Give the audience some tips or discuss an issue or industry trend. Ask for their input.
  5. Be brief. It's better to do more frequent,, short presentations than a long session. They will get to know you over time and will look forward to your message.
  6. Seize the moment. If you know something is going to happen, live stream it. When I had to leave the National Speakers Association convention early, my friend live streamed the keynotes. I was so grateful. If you're going to speak, ask a friend to film you on Periscope using your phone.

For years I've been saying that future public speakers would need broadcasting skills. That time is already here. Periscope is a great presentation tool that anybody can use. The possibilities are endless.


The GPS Girl's Top 10 Directions for Vocal Health for Public Speakers

I'm honored to have  Karen Jacobsen – The GPS Girl® – as my guest blogger. Read her top 10 tips for having a healthy voice. auto-325465_1280Whether you are a professional speaker or a business professional your voice is a key asset.  It’s the core of our ability to communicate, to get our ideas across and to be heard.  As a professional speaker and singer my voice is essential to my profession.  What I have discovered is that excellent vocal health happens to also result in excellent overall health.

Here are some of the ways I protect my voice on a daily basis:

  1. Be Rested

To maintain a healthy voice one of the basics is getting enough rest.  I have to make sure I am on top of getting a good 8 hours of sleep per night consistently to keep my voice in great shape.  Put sleep in your calendar like an important appointment (because it is) and prevent being run down.

  1. Drink a Crazy Amount of Water

This is an absolute essential.  I drink 6 - 10 glasses of water throughout the day (did you know that 80% of Americans are dehydrated?) and I also drink tea.  I prefer almost tannin-free tea and make sure I am drinking water and tea all day long.  If you need to, set an alarm several times a day as a reminder.

  1. Honey is My Secret Weapon

Honey has amazing healing properties, pleasant to taste and is very soothing.  If I am feeling a little tickle in my throat or I am vocally tired, I will have a spoonful of honey.  It's one of the ways I will fight off something, by having a teaspoon of honey every hour or half hour, especially before bed.

  1. Carry a Scarf

I carry a scarf with me 12 months of the year as I am often in some kind of artificially heated or cooled environment.  Even in the height of summer when walking into a restaurant or a convention room it is icy.  Being able to protect my throat with a scarf helps my body temperature and specifically my throat.  If I find my throat or neck is exposed and it is unusually cool I can catch a chill and it can be downhill from there, potentially leading to a vocal problem.

  1. Oil Pulling

We already know about keeping hydrated and I recently learned about an ancient Ayurveda treatment called Oil Pulling.  This is amazing for overall health, and involves swishing cold-pressed organic sesame oil in the mouth for between 7 and 20 minutes first thing each morning.  I learned this from a top New York vocal coach, Joan Baker, and a great side effect is a vast improvement in dental health.  There is a lot of excellent information online about oil pulling.

  1. Yelling is Telling

If you are in a loud environment and straining to be heard over music or talking, or at a sporting event, do not yell.  Do not scream.  Do not cheer super loudly.  It's something to be extremely conscious of to protect your voice.

  1. If it Hurts, Don't Do It

This may sound pretty obvious, but we've all been in a situation where we are a little too exuberant with our voice and it starts to hurt.  You may be giving a presentation and the microphone isn't working properly, or you are trying to be heard over loud music or conversation.  If it hurts in any way, it is hurting your vocal cords and could lead to major problems.

  1. Beware of Dairy

If you have to use your voice more than usual and know you will have to talk with people all day long at a conference or trade show, or with back to back business meetings when you are usually have a quieter workday in the office, watch how much dairy is in your diet.  It can create more mucus and the vocal passages are not as clear.

  1. Skip the Ice

In the U.S. ice is routinely served in cold drinks and this can lead to big vocal problems.  It can tighten or numb your vocal cords, and for me it just irritates my throat and leaves me more susceptible to a sore throat.  Always ask for water with no ice and wean yourself off ice in all beverages.  This can have an amazing impact on your vocal comfort.

  1. Clearing your Throat can Cause Injury

Do not under any circumstances 'clear your throat.'  This can actually injure your vocal cords.  Instead, take a sip of water, cough gently or swallow to clear the throat

Building the strength of your voice and preventing vocal problems is a lot more enjoyable than having them show up.  Rest, hydrate and pay attention to the way you are using your voice on a daily basis and enjoy excellent vocal health.  You might just feel so much better in the process.

Karen Jacobsen is The GPS Girl®, an entertainer who moved in 2000 from Australia to New York with a suitcase and a dream. Karen gives directions as the speaking voice of  “Australian Karen” in over 400 million GPS and smartphone devices around the world. A professional speaker, singer and voice-over artist, Karen travels the world speaking and performing concert-style keynotes to groups who want to be able to “recalculate” and give their best in business and life. Karen has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, NBC Today Show, CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, NPR, The New York Times, NY Daily News, Glamour Magazine, and was named one of People Magazine’s Most Intriguing People. Sharing the bill with Norah Jones, Neil Sedaka and Christopher Cross, she has performed The Star Spangled Banner at many major sporting events including the New York Jets game at Giants Stadium. Karen Jacobsen currently serves as President of the National Speakers Association-New York City.

For more information visit Connect with her @thegpsgirl on Twitter and 


Here's Johnny... How to Introduce a Public Speaker

Curtain and MicYour biggest worry isn't your presentation or your entrance. Your worst nightmare is the person who is introducing you. When the Johnny Carson show was on the air, Carson had a sidekick named Ed McMahon. His job was to introduce Johnny Carson at the beginning of the show. McMahon would say in a melodious tone, "Heeeere's Johnny!" It became his signature line as the audience would eagerly await to hear it in every show. They made a good team. But what about your team? Who is introducing you?

If you're giving a presentation, it's normal to have a few butterflies in your stomach. Most public speakers research, prepare, and practice their presentation. Some public speakers hire a coach. Yet, they give little thought about who is introducing them. This is the elephant in the room that nobody is talking about.

I once had a woman introduce me who sounded like she was reading a newspaper. She was so dispassionate that you could feel the energy leave the room. It made my job harder to get some excitement going.

The speaker introduction is your warm up act. Entertainers understand this. A rock star always has a warm-up band. Comedians know the power of a good emcee. The job of the introducer is to excite and engage the crowd so they'll be ready for the main act. YOU are the main act and that means you need to take charge on two levels.

First, choose your introducer carefully. It must be somebody who has good platform skills and enjoys speaking. Second, you need to write your own introduction. Most presenters send their biography to the introducer. A biography is not an introduction. Listening to a resume is boring! So here is a formula you can use to create your speaker introduction. The formula is T.E.P.S.

Topic - Begin by announcing the topic. This answers the question, "Why are we here?" or "Am I in the right meeting?" The topic creates focus. You can begin by asking 3 questions, or lead in with a thought-provoking statistic.

Expertise - Then launch into the speaker's credentials but don't list every research paper or degree. Present the top achievements that have the most relevance to the audience and that establish the public speaker's credibility. It answers the question, "How have you earned the right to be here?"

Personal - Here is where you bring in something about the person that humanizes them. It answers the question, "Do I like the speaker?" or "Who are you as a person?" This is an opportunity to add some humor or a quick anecdote. Be sure to get permission before you share anything personal.

Speaker's name - Always end with the speaker's name. "Please help me welcome, John Doe..." People remember the last thing they hear.

Public speaking is not rocket science but it does require planning and skill. The next time you give a presentation, choose your introducer, write your own introduction, and coach them on how you want that introduction delivered. Now you're ready to take center stage and give a knockout presentation.

Do you have a great speaker introduction you'd like to share?


From Good to Great to Awesome Presentations

nsa-new-yorkHow do public speakers go from good to great to awesome? They attend the NYC chapter of the National Speakers Association. The guest speaker for November was executive speech coach, Patricia Fripp. The speaker covered five areas every professional speaker must master in order to be great on the platform:

  1. Strong Structure - Fripp shared the importance of knowing your premise and telling the audience the why and how of your message.
  2. Compelling Openings - The audience received a page with one liners such as "It never ceases to amaze me...", " The year was... ",  "What would the world be like without...?"
  3. Emotional Connection - To create an emotional opening start with something emotional or heartfelt and back it up with logical reasons.
  4. Memorable Stories - Stories are powerful and can be any length as long as the audience remains engaged.
  5. Laser Sharp Specificity - Generalities weaken a presentation. Words like "stuff" dilute the message and confuse the listeners. Remove empty words and use specific language.

After the morning lecture, Fripp spent the afternoon doing quick laser coaching with volunteers. Each speaker spoke no more than two or three lines before the coaching began. It was evident how a powerful opening sets the stage for the rest of the presentation.

To go from good to great to awesome public speaking, remember the five tips: strong structure, compelling openings, emotional connection, memorable stories, and laser sharp specificity.

Presentation Pragmatics-Key to Effective Communication


Do you know the meaning of pragmatics? Most people believe that public speaking is about the spoken word. But what about the unspoken meaning? Public speakers and presenters who rely solely on the spoken word are at a disadvantage. Presentation excellence depends on so much more. Watch this video to learn one of the secrets of effective communication - presentation pragmatics.

Press Release: Students Rock FWA Dinner Speeches


For Immediate Release DiResta Coaches Student Award Winners for Annual FWA Awards Dinner

FWA Students 2013New York (April 29, 2013) — Two students, Ashley and Fang Fang, stole the show last night as they gave their two minute acceptance speeches to 600 attendees at the Financial Women's Association annual dinner.

Diane DiResta, President of DiResta Communications, Inc, and a member of FWA, volunteered to coach the student presenters for the third year. The coaching involved helping them craft their speech and deliver it with confidence from the main stage.

Click here to read full Press Release.

TEDx Comes to Times Square

Karol Ward at TEDxTimesSquare Yesterday, I attended TEDxTimesSquare, which is an independently organized TED event in New York City. The theme was Openness: Exploring the Limits and Possibilities of Open Culture. TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design, and is a forum for public speakers to share ideas worth spreading.

It's a wonderful platform for professional speakers to gain exposure and for the audience to experience a wide range of speaking styles and fascinating topics.

One of the best presenters was Karol Ward whose presentation was called, "Claim Your Inner Voice". She was the epitome of professional speaking. From the message, to the timing, to her movement, to her story, to her slides - they all worked together to create one seamless message about the mind-body connection.

Another fabulous presenter was Mark Taylor who spoke about "The Enemy of Openness". He shared that the secret to conflict management is triads. With two people, one is right and the other is wrong. With three people, it's easier to accept feedback. Now I know why my mastermind group of three people works so well.

Amy Goldsmith's talk was titled, "Yours, Mine and Ours? Legal Limits of Openness." She shared some fascinating information about intellectual property. We think of intellectual property as literary or musical. But did you know that you don't own your own blood? Once someone draws your blood, it's considered waste material and a researcher can obtain a patent for use of your DNA or cells.

Event Planner Annette Naif with Diane DiResta at TEDxTimesSquare

It's not enough to have good presenters. For an event to be successful, it has to be well-organized. TEDxTimesSquare ran smoothly due in large part to event planner Annette Naif.

Other people in the program included:

  • Jim Estill - From Zero to $2 Billion Through Openness
  • Tim Piper - Why Goodness is Good for Brands
  • Christopher Bishop - Open Technology for 430,000 Employees
  • Kitty Pilgrim - International Openness
  • Guy Geier - Open Architecture
  • Collin McCloughlin - Chasing Dreams
  • Andy Cohen - Magical Assumptions Behind Openness
  • Greg Harper - The Future Through Open Technologies
  • Aliza Licht - The Power of Being Real
  • Peter Shankman - Nice Finishes First

Don't Monkey Around With Your Presentation

I read an interesting story written by Deborah Grayson Riegel, who was giving a presentation at the Bronx zoo. In addition to her human audience, there were 20 monkeys outside with their faces pressed against the window, watching her presentation. Each time she advanced her PowerPoint slide, the monkeys would bang their fists against the window. Eventually, she had to let go of her PowerPoint presentation, and stopped changing the slides altogether. Most of us are not going to be speaking at the zoo, but we will have our own monkeys to deal with - the usual cast of characters known as a difficult audience - hecklers, people causing distractions, zoning out, and generally interrupting your presentation. It's important to be flexible and work with your audience.

Speaking of monkeys... someone recently threw a monkey wrench into my half day presentation training workshop, which was scheduled from 1:00 - 4:00pm. We were told that four of the participants had to leave by 2:30. The program was designed to build speaking skills so the speakers would be prepared to give their final presentations at the end of the workshop. We had to do a quick redesign on the spot - in 5 minutes. My partner and I huddled and came up with a plan. The goal was to give each participant the opportunity to present, leave on time, and still gain enough learning to succeed in their next presentation. It worked.

In public speaking, as in life, we always need a backup plan. Deborah had no choice - the monkeys forced her to stop using PowerPoint. Your audience may be more subtle, but good public speakers pick up the nuances and can change in a moment to better serve their listeners. Technology will fail. And an audience can quickly tune out. We need to be able to go where the current is taking us. That's the mark of a professional speaker.

5 Tips for Women Entrepreneurs Learned From the School of Life

I recently read an article by Dylan Kendall entitled, "5 Tips for Women Entrepreneurs I Learned From the School of Life". Dylan's tips are simple and pragmatic. They can also serve as guidelines for anyone who speaks in public. Here are her 5 tips and how they apply to public speaking:

1. Get comfortable asking for money and ask with confidence. Public speaking involves first and foremost both inner and outer confidence. If you're a professional speaker, you need to be comfortable asking for your fee.

2. Learn how to ask for advice. You need to research and seek counsel from others who know your audience. It's also about polling and interacting with the audience.

3. Don't share everything but do share strategically and embellish wisely. It's especially critical to give the listener what they need to know - not everything you know. You can lose an audience or a prospect by giving too much detail.

4. "Help a sista out" -- network with and support other women. People don't realize that networking is a presentation and your ability to present yourself and your message clearly and compellingly is an important factor in attracting clients and advocates.

5. Understand what sacrifices you can make and when you should walk away. Part of your presentation is what you are willing to do for your audience. There are some situations where you should walk away and not accept a speaking engagement. When it's the wrong topic or the wrong audience, you need to know when to say no.

TEDx Silicon Alley Tells Public Speakers to Keep it Simple stands for technology, education, and design. Some of the top and most innovative public speakers can be seen on youtube giving an 18 minute presentation on new and creative topics. It's very competitive to get a speaking slot at a event, so many presenters are opting to organize and speak at local events called TEDx. I recently attended the TEDx Silicon Alley event in New York City. The theme was "Rise of the Machines," but what stood out to me was the connection between technology and human presentation. One of the presenters, Ken Segall, represented the agency that worked with Apple. He was the man credited for naming the iphone and ipad. He spoke about Steve Jobs and his focus on the simplicity principle. The presenter showed an effective ad for McDonalds coffee. It stated: Any size for only $1.00. It was elegant in it's simplicity.  Da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication."

I continue to focus on the K.I.S.S. principle when I speak to audiences. Whether you say Keep it simple stupid, or Keep it super simple, it's not easy to do. When I coach public speakers I tell them to create a short and long version of their presentation. They discover that's it's easier to create a longer presentation. As Ken explained, "Simple can be harder than complex".

My clients realize they have to work harder to get the message clear enough to be simple. They quickly learn that I act as "the lowest common denominator". These presenters must be able to speak so that I understand the message without being an expert in their industry. One presenter told me that when he worked in a law firm they would give a memo or letter to the assistant to read. If she didn't understand it, they rewrote the letter until it was clear.

The more complex the idea, the crisper the message needs to be. This is especially critical when speaking to the media. Professional speakers have a harder time with media training. Motivational speakers are master storytellers so they must make a shift in their presentation. I show them how to speak in sound bites. The average sound bite is about 10 seconds. If it's not short and simple, it won't land and the audience will check out.

Many of the TEDx Silicon Alley speakers focused on technology, from text to speech to algorithms to flying robots. Whether it's face-to-face or virtual, we can't get away from the need for good presentation. How do you tie these two worlds together? The thread that runs through both is simplicity. Steve Jobs said it best when he said about simplicity: "it's worth it in the end because you can move mountains."

Why the Early Bird Speaker Catches the Worm

When I first started out in my speaking business, I was hired by American Management Association to give public seminars in public speaking and presentation skills. One day, the program director sent around a memo stating that all AMA presenters were expected to arrive early to the class. It was not acceptable to show up at 9:00 a.m. What? Who would do that? I always arrived an hour early.

To be a good public speaker or presenter, you need time to set up the room.

When the curtain rises on a Broadway show, all actors are in place. But they don't show up 5 minutes before curtain call. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of any performance. In addition to getting into costumes and makeup, actors warm up their voices and review their lines and staging to make sure they get it right onstage. The same is true for public speakers.

As a keynote speaker, facilitator, or trainer, you are giving a performance. What happens before the presentation is as important as the live presentation delivery. Master public speakers know that successful speaking is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent delivery.

So the next time you give a speech or presentation, arrive early. Practice the presentation in the empty room. There's something about getting the feel of the room that can boost your performance. Use the time to do some deep breathing and to visualize a positive outcome. And then get ready to greet every person who enters the room. This will create a positive tone and talking to people before your speech will reduce nervousness. It will also help the audience feel comfortable with you. Next time you're tempted to breeze in at the last minute, don't!

For a free checklist on what to do before, during and after a presentation, Like our facebook page.


911 for Presentations and Public Speakers

Today marks the eleven year anniversary of 911. I remember it like yesterday. It was the nicest day of the year. There was a noticeable stillness in the air. I headed off to JP Morgan where I was speaking to a group of relationship managers in the private bank. The seminar was on sales presentation skills. We began at 8:00 a.m. A participant arrived late and told me the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. Thinking this was a fabrication for his lateness I was a bit skeptical. When someone else confirmed his story, I called a break and we all marched out to the lobby in search of a television. For the next few minutes we sat in stunned silence as we watched the towers collapse. I asked the manager if she wanted me to continue the seminar and she said no. We cancelled the seminar and I left to find a hotel since certain areas were on lock down and traveling home was probably not an option.

While this is an extreme case of speaking disasters, public speakers need to be prepared for the worst. The best advice for any public speaker is to have a recovery strategy. You never know when your presentation will be impacted by an unforeseen event.

Take the case of the man who was giving a motivational keynote speech to a large audience and suddenly there was a fire in the hotel. The hotel was evacuated and all the audience members were herded into the parking lot. Did that end the speech? Oh, no. This savvy professional speaker jumped on top of a car and continued to give his keynote speech in the parking lot. He believed the show must go on.

I remember when I attended a National Speakers Association conference. There were 2000 people listening to the keynote speaker on the big stage. All of a sudden, an audience member had an epileptic seizure. The audience was now riveted on the disturbance and she realized she had lost their attention. There is always that moment when you question what is the right protocol. She called out and said "Should I stop?" She paused for a bit and when they removed the man she continued her speech. Again, these are extreme examples but they do happen to public speakers.

It's more likely that when you give a presentation you'll encounter less dramatic mishaps. The most common speaking disaster is when technology fails. The recovery strategy for technology failure is to have a back-up. Put your PowerPoint presentation on a flash drive, send an email copy to the meeting planner, and print a hard copy.

What if it's an embarrassing speaking situation? One woman was giving a speech on a stage behind a podium. The elastic band on her half slip (undergarment) snapped and her slip fell to her ankles. She calmly stepped out of the slip and continued her presentation. This would have been a good moment for some humor.

Which brings us to the best public speaking recovery strategy. Take a line from Rod Stewart's song "Her ad lib lines were well rehearsed." In other words, plan some extender lines. Let's say the lights go off. You could say, "Next time I'll pay my electric bill." But what if they continue to flicker and go off again? If you have a few lines you can extend the humor by adding a new "ad lib." One professional speaker had a technology meltdown. He had five extender lines which he used. He later confessed that he was glad that the problem was fixed after the fifth attempt because he had no more humorous one-liners.

Anticipate what could go wrong in your every day presentations. I've spilled coffee, knocked over a flip chart, and hit the wrong button on the video playback. I even lost my train-of-thought when presenting on a panel. I knew what I wanted to say but couldn't retrieve the word. My brain froze. So I simply asked the audience, "What is the word I'm looking for?" They gave it to me and that was the end of it.  When it comes to public speaking or any kind of presentation, the audience will not fault you for flubbing if you recover with grace.

Back in 2001 when my seminar was cancelled, we did recover with grace. We rescheduled the presentation a month later and the attendees performed well. They recovered emotionally and that was the best recovery strategy.

What were your worst public speaking disasters and how did you recover? What advice do you have for other public speakers and presenters?


Save Speaking Time with Rhyme

Giving a good  elevator speech is an opportunity to make  you and your company shine. But how do you stand out from all the others? Good public speakers know how to use presentation techniques such as speaking in three's, repetition, and alliteration. But rhyme? Last week,  I attended a BNI networking meeting. It was a large group and the introductions were limited to 20 seconds. It's always a challenge to be able to create a concise message which is also compelling and memorable. There were a number of clever taglines. A massage therapist said: "I won't rub you the wrong way." An accountant offered, "We make your life less taxing." A green real estate company announced, "Green sockets put green in your pockets."

But the most memorable person was Frank  Passantino, the owner of Printech Business Systems in New York City.  He stood up and in a Brooklyn "God Father"- like accent he started to rap:

I'm the rhyming Italian printer -Frankie P If you don't use me - I may Break your knee. I'm only kidding - That stuff ain't true. But some day you may end up- In a vat of hot glue. So if you don't call me - When you print the next time . I may not hurt you -  But I'll kill you with rhyme

He ended with this tagline: "We'll make you a brochure your customers can't refuse."

While Kanye and Eminem don't have anything to worry about and Frankie P is not going to quit his day job, he did get attention and laughter from the group. And he made the 20 second time limit. To be a memorable speaker you need to capture attention. While most people drone on about how wonderful they are, speaking in rhyme is a fun way to toot your own horn without blowing it. As soon as you do something unexpected the audience pays attention.

What presentation techniques have you used to make an introduction more interesting?