Practice your speech, and then….get feedback!

Good for you for practicing your presentation before you have to give it.  This is certainly mandatory in order to enhance your confidence.

It is equally important to know if you are improving.

To find out, ask trusted colleagues or friends to sit in as you rehearse.  Let them know you are interested in getting their feedback.

But, here is an important point.  You need to guide them on how to give feedback.

For example, if you are working on eliminating filler words (ah, um, like, so, and), say that.  “Susan and Joe, as I am speaking, can you count the number of filler words I have?”

This is much more valuable than asking them, “How did I do?”  Most people won’t know what to say other than, “that was great.”

However, if you guide your friends, you will get a much better idea if you have improved.



When I asked a client how she wanted the audience to feel about her at the end of a presentation, she answered, “Confident.”

Now, it is my job, as a coach, to tell her HOW to achieve this.

I am convinced that this is not just a visualization exercise.  I must give her tangible tools that will help her get there.

Out of the nine body language skills I have identified, there are three techniques that project confidence.  They are:


  • Sustained eye contact
  • Adopting a proud posture
  • Mastering the pause (think Barack Obama)


During our session, I had her work on these three – one at a time.  This is how I finally determined which one will benefitted her the most.

Ask yourself, how do you want to be seen by a boss, client, or the public?

By understanding the communication skills – and then applying them – one by one, you can achieve your goals.


Do you talk too quickly?

For those of you who talk too quickly while presenting, there are three ways to slow down:

Extended eye contact(looking at each listener for  2- to 3-seconds);

Deliberate enunciation(taking the time to pronounce every part of each word):

Adding a pause at the end of every sentence.

Jon Meacham: a model of humor and humility


What a privilege to see Jon Meacham in person.  There were so many things he did as a speaker to captivate his audience.  I will focus on two:  humor and humility.

They occurred within the first two minutes of his speech.

After receiving a glowing introduction, which went on and on, with one notable accomplishment after another, and ending with the title of his most recent book, “The Soul of America,”  Mr. Meacham began his speech.

(Full disclosure. This is not verbatim.  I am telling the essence of the story, even though I am using quotations.”

“Thank you for the wonderful introduction.

“I was walking in the National Mall, when a woman comes rushing up to me  – which doesn’t happen nearly enough.  She said, ‘I love your books.  I’ve read all of them.  I have one in my car nearby.  If I go get it, will you sign it for me?'”

“I was flattered and told her I would.

“A few minutes later, she comes hurrying back to me with “Runaway Jury.”  (John Grisham’s bestseller.)

“My ego deflated, however, I signed it, thanked her, and she walked away.”

Jon Meacham – a celebrated and distinguished presidential biographer –   captured us all with humor and humility.

Dr. Genova shocked the entire audience then held us engrossed for one hour

I typically encourage speakers to begin their talk with something attention-getting or provocative: something that will get the listeners’ minds focused on the speech.

Recently, I saw Dr. Lisa Genova speak in the SF Bay Area. She is a neuroscientist, taught neuroanatomy at Harvard and now, an acclaimed author. She self-published her debut novel, “Still Alice.”

Her theme for the evening talk was Alzheimer’s disease and the brain.

Here was her open:

“Look at the person next to you. One of you will get Alzheimer’s and the other will be the caregiver.”

While startling and scary, the whole audience was rapt.

She continued to hold our attention as she explained how the brain functions at the on-set of Alzheimer’s. Yes, she used polysyllabic, medical terms, but then went on to illustrate those terms by weaving in heart-felt stories, as she witnessed the decline of her Grandmother, who was battling the disease.

It was a profound way of talking about hard-to-grasp medical terms and making them tangible and relatable.

She kept her audience immersed by, not only educating us, but making us truly understand the devastating results of this terrible disease.

This is a great example, from which all of us who present, can learn.

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers lost me

I saw John Chambers speak on Nov. 14; he is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Cisco.

I had many issues with his presentation, but I will focus on my main objection:  the speed at which he spoke.

Yes, he is accomplished and smart.  Yes, he has tons of enthusiasm. Yes, he was voted one of the top 10 Best Performing CEO’s by Harvard Business Review.

But, YIKES, he talked way too quickly.

The speed, combined with his West Virginia accent, made it challenging to understand and follow what he was saying.

I brought a guest with me who is from Brazil.  Considering that her second language is English, (which describes many people in the San Francisco Bay Area), she struggled to understand him.  Ultimately, he lost her and she fell asleep.

When you make your audience work to understand your message, they will eventually tire of straining and tune out.

We were disengaged.

An accent can pose another challenge to being understood.  However, if you speak deliberately and slow the pace, you can be confident that you will be clear.