“I have a dream…”
“It’s one small step for man…”
“People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden…”
A great speech, story or presentation can take you on a journey through time, transport you to the ends of the earth and beyond, stir deep emotions and open your mind to new possibilities and ideas. It is an art form. A defining element of being human. It is also incredibly difficult to do well. Standing up in front of a crowd of people who are all looking at you, sizing you up and judging you on a multitude of criteria can bring even the most seasoned professional to their knees. The nerves, the anxiety, the sweat…for many this is just too much to take. It has no age limit. A five year old and a forty five year old can feel the exact same way. While show and tell versus a presentation to shareholders may be a world apart when it comes to context, the situation is still the same…high stakes.
While the experience of presenting publically is incredibly daunting for the presenter, it can also be a horrible experience for the audience. We have all sat through presentations that would even push Ghandi over the edge. Monotonous voice, horrible slides, reading word for word from the screen, confusing ideas, too many ums and ahs, the list goes on. These detract significantly from the power of a great presentation. A presentation should not be something an audience has to endure but rather something memorable that they experience and cherish.
So how do we develop great speaking and presentation skills. The first thing is to know what makes a presentation, story or speech memorable. The go-to for inspirational speeches and presentations has to be TED talks. Since 1984, TED (Technology, Engineering and Design) have inspired millions across the world with powerful stories, messages and ideas. Chris Anderson, the Head of Ted wrote in his book, “TED Talks – The official TED guide to public speaking”, that presentations should be a gift to an audience, not an ask. This is done through a clear throughline, i.e. the point of the talk/presentation. If you can’t distil what you are trying to say into a statement or two, you will cover too much ground, lack direction, and most likely ramble and lose your audience. Here are the five core tools that speakers use after they have established their throughline.
Connection – Get personal. Tell a story
Narration – Build a compelling narrative
Explanation – Inspire curiosity
Persuasion – Use the power of reason
Revelation – Build tension
The best plan of action to improve how you or your students present is to provide plenty of opportunity to present and tell stories publically. The best way to improve public speaking is public speaking. Feedback, practice and lots of it are pivotal to developing personal capacity but creating that environment is not always as easy or as logistically possible as we would like. Technology can greatly assist here because a camera, iPad or phone can double as an audience and allow the speaker to be in the audience watching themself.
“Do I really sound like that?”
“My hair looks terrible!”
“I don’t make eye contact at all.”
“I say um and ah alot.”
“What are my hands doing?”
The power of seeing this helps you be a better speaker. It provides feedback on a multitude of levels and if you do it regularly enough, you will get past your little idiosyncrasies and find areas to work on. Video is great for practice but what about assistance with the aesthetics of your presentation. This is where an iPad app called Touchcast comes in.
Touchcast can assist in all areas of presentation development. You can simply press record and use it for feedback like you would a video. The 3…2…1…count in provides an added element of theater and allows students time to compose themselves. If they make a mistake, get them to pause for two seconds and then go again. The easy video editing can cut out the bloopers. This takes the pressure off of students and assists with getting them to relax. Mistakes are just attempts that haven’t worked. We create blooper reels out of all the mistakes my students make and celebrate the attempts. It helps to build resilience. Connection through eye contact was one of the core tools Chris Anderson listed that speakers use. Eye contact with an audience is challenging but Touchcast has cleverly built in a teleprompt feature that helps with this and with presentation preparation. The teleprompt allows students to input their speech, adjust the size of the font and speed of the text flow and through clever design is located near the iPad camera. Students who use the teleprompt are then always looking at the camera. Absolutely ingenious! When students watch their video, I make sure to draw their attention to the way they have engaged their audience with their eyes. The teleprompt also supports thorough preparation. Many students will avoid writing a script but once they watch a recording of themselves rambling and lacking clarity, they see the power of great preparation. All speeches need to be practiced. Those who just wing it know their throughline, know their material and know their opening and closing statements. Winging it without this preparation is fraught with danger and Touchcast shows students this. This preparation is also needed to drive the flow the presentation and to put the polish on the speech.
Touchcast is also more than just video recording. It is a TV in a box, with stunning titles, graphics, green screen functionality and powerful vApps (video, maps, Twitter feeds, the list goes on) available. This adds layers of incredible professionalism and can add much to the narrative or throughline of a speech or presentation. To ensure that this flows well, students need to prepare and plan the visual story as well. This can be done in pairs with two authentic roles, onscreen and behind the scenes or can be done individually. Individually students can record their speech component first and then add in the visual narrative to complement this. This develops a great habit for speech and presentation development. Work on the idea that you are sharing first and nail this and then use visuals to further enhance the idea. Anderson says that “images need to share things your mouth can’t” and he is right on the money. Visuals need to have impact. Many times students will focus on the window dressing of a presentation and forget to focus on the ideas at heart.
We all marvel at a speaker who captivates an audience with their presentation and cringe when a speaker bombs out. Being a great speaker can be taught and there is nothing more empowering than seeing yourself on video nailing your presentation. With preparation, practice and some video editing, students can have amazing videos of themselves speaking confidently, clearly and connecting with their audience. They can be that person on the stage who nails it. Touchcast just helps them get there.
I will be presenting a session called Ted Talks: TouchCast style at the TeachTechPlay conference on the 3rd and 4th of April.