• It allows for a previously stated idea
to sink in.
• It prepares the listener for what is
about to be said next.
• It telegraphs that the next idea is
more important or profound than
• It makes room for agreement or disagreement in the mind of the listener.
Executed poorly, a pause can appear
to be indecision, lack of preparation or
mental paralysis. Executed well, few
techniques in the toolbox of platform
skills are as simultaneously subtle and
powerful as a pause.
In the same vein, really good mechanics are transparent. They work together
in such a way that the audience doesn’t
notice the particular skill but the sum
result. When an audience member spots
something a speaker is doing, it is probably gimmicky or not being done well.
Speakers who want to improve
shouldn’t look for best practices—
they should search out better practices.
Today’s best practice is at risk of being
next week’s second-best practice. While
the fundamentals may change little and
slowly, the ways those building blocks are
employed are constantly changing. Don’t
be content with what used to work.
Finally, recognize that good technique can save the day. Renowned speech
coach Ron Arden often talks about
how the best Hollywood actors weren’t
always passionate. Some days they were
sick, hung-over or depressed, yet they
managed to perform extraordinarily well.
How did they do it? Technique. When all
else fails, knowing how to create the perception of energy or passion is every bit
as important as possessing it.
PU TTING IT ALL TOGETHER
There are technically competent speakers who don’t make obvious mistakes,
and yet their performance falls flat.
Why is that? Because they think they are
doing it all right and still get it wrong.
For example, auto mechanics
have access to the same tools, but
like speakers, some are better than
others. The key is in how they use the
tools. Mastery is in the hands of the
mechanic, not the wrench or screwdriver. And so is it for speakers.
Novice speakers can do everything
right and not succeed. Old pros can do
something that really worked, but in the
hands of someone else, it would have
killed the performance. (The corollary to
this is that a speaker can do much wrong
and still get it right.)
GET IDEAS. Become a student of all
aspects of speaking, but focus on platform mechanics. As you watch others
present—professional or amateur—pay
attention to what worked, what didn’t
work and what could have gone better.
your goal in watching other speakers isn’t
to imitate their techniques, but to use
their performance, good or bad, to stimulate your thinking.
Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is on the faculty of the Keynote Lab, which will be held in Las Vegas, Jan. 12-13. He is president of Sanborn &
Associates, an idea studio dedicated to
developing leaders in business and life. He
is an international best-selling author and
noted authority on leadership, team
building, customer service and change.
GET SHOTS. Watching yourself on
video can be agonizing, but it is proba-
bly the quickest and most powerful way
to improve your platform skills. As you
watch, ask yourself:
•;What should I keep doing or do more
•;What should I improve on so that it
•;What should I do less?
•;What should I stop doing completely
(i.e., annoying habits and mannerisms)?
•;What should I start doing?
GET FEEDBACK. Before you ask for
feedback, make sure you’re not looking
for validation. “you were wonderful” will
make you feel good, but it won’t make
you better on stage. The best way to get
feedback is to assure the respondents of
your true desire, and to accept what they
say without excuse or explanation.
December 2010 | SPEAKER | 19