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.


i am the branch that holds the tree
the door that opens the handle
the moon that lights the day
even the sun that brings the night

i am what sight sees
what sound hears
what touch feels
and what taste smells

i am the rain that rises
the river that walks
the mute that talks
the deaf that hears

i’m right in front of you
you just can’t see me
open your eyes beyond your head
and there I’ll be, clear as night

Save Frank Arrigo

I added an entry into Wikipedia last week.

The entry, Frank Arrigo – notable Australian tech and Microsoft celebrity and yes, he’s my boss.

Well the locals over at Wikipedia seem to think that Frank doesn’t deserve to be there. That he’s “not notable” enough and now the entry is being considered for deletion.

As the original author of the article, obviously, I disagree.

So, if you feel that Frank’s entry should be saved (and the my faith in Wikipedia should be restored):

This is my first real contribution to Wikipedia and I’ve got some observations.

Seeing that the article was under the axe, I decided to rally the troops. “The locals” (or “the others” as I’m gonna start referring to them) have taken issue with the fact some of the supporters of article have had some connection or existing knowledge of Frank and Microsoft Australia.

I don’t get it, of course some of the supporters know about him, isn’t that logical? How is that an issue? You wouldn’t defend his “notability” if you didn’t know about him and you wouldn’t know of the articles (and subsequent deletion discussion) existence if you weren’t notified of it.

Also, since when does the majority have to agree for something to be valid? I would be disappointed if “the others” won the case for the article’s deletion. A bunch of noisy locals shouldn’t shape Wikipedia, all you need is a few people to agree on it for it to have validity.

There are a few others how are rallying behind the cause:

  • Laurel Papworth has put the call out to spread the word and to save Frank
  • Meg from Dipping into the Blogpond has her thoughts too. Meg was responsible for collating a list of popular australian bloggers which is being called as evidence in the virtual courtroom of Wikipedia. She has some very valid thoughts as to the importance of the list.
  • Nick Hodge also puts the call out to save Frank
  • Frank has mentioned the article on his blog but is not getting involved in the conversation

Oh, and for the record, me adding the article was unsolicited by Frank. Actually, I don’t think he knows it’s me that did it.

I met my boss on the blogosphere

Attention please – an announcement.

I’m going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done on this blog. I’m going to talk about my work life.

Today I accepted a role at Microsoft.

My official job title will be Developer Evangelist and I will be reporting to this guy.

Many who know me, know that I pretty much talk tech to anyone who’ll listen and that I’m very passionate about it. My professional career has been focused around Microsoft technologies for the past 12 years so, needless to say, I feel like this is the perfect role for me.

Someone actually paying me to yap on about things I’m passionate about. It sounds ludicrous I know.

I’ve already met some of the team and it looks like I’ll be working with a bunch of talented and passionate people so it appears that I’ll definitely fit in.

Amongst other things, my job will be focused around Microsoft’s (or is that “our”) push to gain greater awareness of Expression Suite and related web technologies.

Photography: skaters in the city

Thought I’d take the (read Iain’s) Canon EOS 20D for a spin today.

Came across some skaters (Will and Abe) who happily obliged a photo request.

(click to enlarge)

Also, I’m working on getting more of my photos (well at least the quasi respectable ones) online into a proper gallery so stay tuned.