Tag Archives: public speaking

Let me check my ticket; I didn’t realize YOU were the headliner.

19 Oct

Monday I saw the author Bill Bryson give a talk at the Sixth and Eye Synagogue in Chinatown. Only a few blocks from my office, Sixth & Eye is becoming my favorite entertainment venue because I am a nerd. And Bryson, whose humorous travel books have served as my travel companions in many countries, was as delightful in person as he is on the page.

By way of contrast, do you know what is NOT delightful? The people who queue to ask questions after the talk. With the exception of the rare person who has a succinct and relevant question, there are three general archetypes:

Jim Vance is my public speaking secret weapon.

8 Sep

I recently switched jobs at my company so I’m now developing and delivering training for our staff. As the daughter of two teachers and a microphone addict, it’s the perfect job for me.

Today was my first opportunity to deliver new training that I designed, in the form of an hour-long interactive call that was part lecture, part Q&A, part interview and part crazy. I had an audience of about 50 people and ample question prompts, so I was expecting it to be ROCKIN’.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten about the odd dynamic that happens on group calls. Normally talkative people go quiet. Everyone chooses to mute their line. It’s like pulling teeth to get a simple, “No,” when you ask if anyone has a question.

More than once, I found myself calling, “Beuller? Beuller?”

I could understand the silence if I were a robot-like presenter. But I’d like to think I have contagious energy  a pulse and am hilarious a WEE BIT silly. And yet: crickets.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve facilitated large group calls for more than ten years and it’s always been the same.

When I was younger, I had an awful go-to joke. For whatever reason, whenever I would “share my screen” and allow people to view my computer, I’d feel compelled to make this crack:

Sure hope I remembered to close the porn!

Let’s just agree, while that can be funny, it’s probably not appropriate for work. Ever. And it only sounds creepier when it’s met with silence. As if people think I might surf porn. At work.

Maybe this is why mustaches are gross.

The only thing worse than that I can think of is the word porno. It’s about ten times worse than the word porn, for the same reason that mustaches are somehow inexplicably worse than goatees.

The good thing to come from today’s call was a reminder of why I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to hit Open Mike Night at the local comedy club. While some of my best dreams involve bringing down the house at the Improv, in reality, I think it might go a bit more like a conference call.

This made me realize: it’s always good to have some kind of secret weapon in your pocket. Something that people won’t be able to turn away from, that will weaken them and bring them to tears (preferably from laughter). Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your presentation.

Once I had this revelation, I knew what my weapon would be: This clip of Jim Vance.

Please take a minute and watch it.

Just be sure you hit *6 first to mute your line.

Once you’ve closed out of any pornos you’re viewing, that is.
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If you’re going to read cue cards, be sure they were written by Bruce Vilanch

12 Jul

Admittedly, I’m something of a freak when it comes to public speaking: I love it.

And because I love it, I wrongly assume that EVERYONE must love it.

This morning, I was reminded that this is a faulty assumption.

I’m attending the Online Marketing Summit at the National Press Club. It’s a day-long seminar with speakers covering topics that range from effective lead scoring, to effective integration strategy, to maximizing paid search investment. Overall, it’s good quality information, presented by qualified professionals.

Except for this one guy. We’re simply going to call him “Ted” in the interest of not publicly humiliating him. (Because although I have a non-existent blog following, the dude IS in social media, so presumably he will google himself after the conference to see what people said.)

Anyway, I should have left Ted’s session when he finished his introduction. When someone opens with, “This is actually my CMO’s presentation, so I’m going to be reading from this handout a decent amount,” you should just cut bait and roll. This is a valuable lesson: remember it.

Because unless – like a four year old – you enjoy being read to, it’s not going to get better. Poor Ted. Not only did he read from her handout, but given the number of words he tripped over, it seemed like it was actually the first time he’d read the material. I started imagining how his morning had played out, and figured it went something like this:

Ted: Hey Maria, I think your presentation is going to be awesome!

Maria: I really shouldn’t have eaten clams casino for breakfast.

Ted: Maria, you look a little green…

Maria: I’m going to be sick – here – take this deck and deliver my presentation for me!

Ted: What?!

Maria: You’ll be fine. It will practically deliver itself. Just read it.

Ted: F*ck.

The thing is, had I been in college, I would’ve enjoyed Ted’s presentation. Know why? Because although he imparted no added value to the material, he had a catch-phrase that would’ve made for an EXCELLENT drinking game.  The only rule would’ve been: Whenever Ted says “in essence,” everyone must drink. And at the end of his presentation, the entire audience would’ve been drunk. In essence.

On second thought, perhaps THAT is the lesson to be learned: If you find yourself suddenly thrust into the role of presenter without any familiarity with the material, do NOT try to wing it. Instead, admit your ignorance, break out a deck of cards, and suggest the audience join you in a game of “Asshole” – before they beat you to the punch. In essence.