Corporate Performance (professional speaking) notes

Dave Lemphers and I just spent 2 days doing the Corporate Performance course at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art)

Thought I’d post my notes.

The course was structured over 2 days:

  • Day 1: stage presence, presentation structure, prep and presentation tips (conducted by Gerry Sont)
  • Day 2: voice training (conducted by Debra Lawrance , who you may know as the original Pippa from Home and Away)

(Personal) Thoughts on the course:

  • The course was, overall amazing and these notes won’t do it justice, I’d highly recommend doing it,
  • The voice training blew our minds, way beyond our expectations (notes below)
  • The day 1 stuff was good (not great) with heaps of good tips but kinda targeted to selling rather than how to share data or give sessions
  • It wasn’t as “be a tree” as I thought it would be
  • I’m a cop-out pussy-ass wimp who justifies my flailing arms and sporadic stage movements ‘“ passion, when really I’m undisciplined and unstructured
  • Most our industry has gotten used to death by powerpoint. We are the anomaly. Most professional presenters use powerpoint as a basic tool only and they’e mastered the craft of speaking. We use it way too much (maybe cause we’re friggin lazy and unprofessional as SPEAKERS?)

Key learnings:

  • He who fails to prepare is preparing to fail
  • Your voice is your single greatest tool , learn to use it
  • Breathing is an amazing tool , once mastered it will centre you and give you total control and amazing stage presence
  • Learn to use left and right brain at the same time (notes below)
  • To be a great communicator, you must 1. Be knowledgeable 2.have credibility 3 have impartiality
  • A room has sound energy , learn to read it and control it
  • Structure your presentation (notes below)
  • Remember the rule of threes (notes below)
  • Nerves can be controlled and harnessed
  • Umms and Ahhhs are very easily controlled and eliminated , you use them to buy you time so that you can think of what to say next. Instead of an umm, simply pause. As a speaker, it will feel like that pause is an eternity, but it isn’t and your audience will be hanging on to your next word with anticipation
  • If you want to be a respected professional presenter you should pick and choose presentations (ie only do subject matter that you are knowledgeable and passionate about and only go for the length of time that is right for you and the presentation)

Voice training (day 2):

  • Debra Lawrance is the goddess of voice. Several times throughout the day she had Dave and I in disbelief with what she was,  doing with her voice. Hard describe without being able to demonstrate but she would change her voice to specific tones to elicit a reaction and she ALWAYS got the desired reaction. Best way I have to describe it was that it was oral NLP nirvana. She made dave an I blush like little infantile tomatoes!
  • Many much of this day is impossible to articulate in words, hence it is very much worth doing the course
  • Debra read every one of us within minutes, found our flaws within a few more and had remedies within a few more (yes,, I developed a crush on her :-))
  • Respect your words , emphasise important words, even small ones
  • The first and last word of your sentence are just as important as eachother , ie keep up your energy (and breath) right till the end of your sentence and don’t trail off at the end
  • Small wordsike “and” are your friend , they buy you time and give your audience some anticipation. Eg The programming pillars of Silverlight are XAML and . . . . . Javascript
  • Pauses are just as good and importa words
  • There are exercises you can do to help you articulate your words properly
  • Learn to breath between sentences , and use your most recent breath to punch out the next sentence and use that breath for the whole sentence (ie so that the last word sounds as strong as the first)
  • I know I’m harping on it but it friggin blows my mind how persuasiv “just” voice can be

General presentation stuff (day 1) . . .

Always remember the rule of thirds:

  • Humans relate to things in thirds (holy trinity, 3 colours in traffic lights, 3 little pigs, 3 blind mice etc)
  • Try to use threes in presentations ie:
    • 3 main points to your presentation
    • 3 actions
    • When walking the stage pick three spots in a triangular formation and walk between them

Use both left and right brain:

  • We did heaps of exercises around stimulating both sides
  • As you are being the creative and charismatic genius that you are, you also need to be constantly analysing data in the room and processing it

Sound energy:

  • There is a rhythm to sound
  • We did some v/cool exercises around sharing energy and sound as a group
  • Sound is, an energy that people resonate with, if it flows, people just click,, if it doesn’t, people won’t (duh)

Things to always remember when presenting

  • Start slowly and clearly , it establishes rapport and rhythm
  • Pause, allow ideas to land , lets your audience relax too
  • Breathe , this is the number one key to delivering a smooth, well focused presentation
  • Remember to smile , shows you are relaxed and confident
  • Stillness is strength , shows you are centred and focused
  • Don’t move around unless motivated (ie don’t wander) , shows you are rehearsed, prepared and professional

General presentation structure (taken from Rogen SI, I think)

  • Introduction
    • Who am I
    • My relevant background
    • How long will the presentation take
    • What is the PURPOSE of the presentation
    • What the BENEFITS of the presentation
    • What are your three key messages
  • Use a HOOK
    • A blunt/exciting/enticing statement that will motivate the audience
    • Examples: Who here wants to build GIS apps in half the time? Want to learn how to do HD media in a web browser?
  • Have three key messages
    • Always use supporting data
    • Conclude and reiterate your three messages
  • Have a call to action (give your audience something to do after they leave the room)

Minimising nerves

  • Know the room , arrive early and lean the room , size, seating layout, lectern position, mic type etc , become comfortable in the room
  • Know the audience , if possible meet some audience members before the session
  • Know your material
  • Learn to relax , breathe, have a preparation routine that works
  • Visualise yourself speaking
  • Remember that your audience wants you to succeed too
  • Don’t apologise for being nervous
  • Concentrate on your message , not the medium , ie focus on the content that you are about to deliver rather than the environment
  • Focus nervousness into positive energy
  • Experience experience experience , practice practice practice

So, there you have it, a fantastic course and well worth the time and money.

Hope these notes were helpful to you.