Steve Boyd, PhD, CSP, WCPS Steve is a funny professional speaker who motivates his audiences to become better communicators and speakers. Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:17:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Which “Centered” Are You? Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:51:51 +0000 At what point do you become an experienced and effective speaker? It’s not something you magically arrive at by speaking a certain number of times. You may have delivered 50 speeches, but that doesn’t make you an effective speaker. The key to making that leap, I believe, is to be more audience-centered than self-centered.

In your early speeches you are self-centered. The main goal is simply to get through the speech without passing out. You worry about the presentation being too long or too short.

After a while you begin to enjoy the adrenalin rush you get in front of an audience. Soon you find you’re not relying on your notes as much and you’re making more eye contact with the audience. Eventually, when you grow more comfortable presenting, it’s time to move to an audience-centered performance.

You reach the effective speaker stage when you begin to research and deliver each presentation with the audience first and foremost in mind. The questions you need to answer should be:  Will they understand? Does this material give them what they need to improve their skills or be persuaded? What questions will they want answered? Which terms need to be defined and explained? What will they do as a result of my presentation? How much evidence will I need to convince the people in this audience?

If you are an expert in your field, you are already good at delivering a lot of information on the subject matter. But as you begin to consider the audience more, you need to think about narrowing your material to a digestible level. Learn how to limit your material by determining how much listeners already know and what additional information they need from you about the subject.

This is an important skill for experts, because even though you are presenting the same material often, each audience is different. Your major concern should be to influence that specific audience, and ensure your content fits their needs—not the needs of the audience from two weeks ago. Adopting this attitude keeps your material fresh. Even though you are familiar with the speech, you need to remember that the audience is hearing it for the first time.

Another approach to becoming audience-centered is to have a goal of making the audience think “Me, too,” rather than “So what?” If you are close in age to most of the audience members, you might say, “As baby boomers, we all remember when television became a part of our family life,” or for others, “For some of us, the Challenger tragedy is one of our first memories.”

One trap of presenting the same material several times is that your thoughts may turn to how boring it is to deliver this report for the tenth time. This is a sign you have become self-centered again.

Anytime you start thinking of yourself instead of the audience, it’s time to go back to the basics of speaking. Consider choosing a new topic that excites you, or reorganize your material in a new way. Then follow some of the tips included above.

Certainly experience is important in becoming an effective speaker. But to make the most of experience, work hard to become audience-centered. This will help you progress more quickly to making you a successful speaker every time you speak.

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Disarming a Challenge Mon, 27 Feb 2017 13:02:04 +0000 As you prepare for a specific speech, you will sometimes become aware of a situation that could cause challenges. This can create anxiety as you face the uncertainty connected with a possible negative impact on your presentation. I have found that the best way to meet such a challenge is to creatively mention the possible problem in the opening three minutes of your presentation.

For example, in some parts of the country, especially in the northeast, audiences think I have a Southern accent. To keep it from being a distraction, in the beginning I will say, “I know you probably think I talk funny! Well, I married a Southerner and I have picked up some of her accent. You’ll get used to it in a few minutes.” By saying this I get a smile and an affirmation of what they are thinking, and they will make more of an effort to listen to my content.

In the South, on the other hand, I often speak too quickly in comparison to the slower speech Southern audiences are accustomed to hearing. I start out by saying, “I know I talk too fast, but I can’t help it. I grew up in Indiana, and I can’t get past my Yankee upbringing. So listen closely and I’m sure you can stay with me.”

Another technique is to mention the negative possibility as you introduce your points. If the time is late afternoon and you know the group has been sitting for several hours, you might say, “I have three points to make and I will work hard to keep these interesting, understanding that you have had a long afternoon and are looking forward to the outing planned right after my presentation.”  Saying aloud what the audience is experiencing will encourage an audience to overcome the obstacle because they know you “feel their pain.”

A common time to speak is after a meal. Heavy desserts such as pie and ice cream, cheesecake, or chocolate chip cookies can be deadly for the speaker who speaks after such a treat. As you begin, mention the delicious lunch and then add, “Those chocolate chip cookies were really good! I know you will work especially hard to rise above the heaviness you feel and give good attention, and I will do my best to earn your attention by the content of my message.”

The final suggestion is to acknowledge the challenge by mentioning the physical surroundings of the speech. I might say, “I’m delighted to speak in this spacious facility. I know those behind the posts near the center may want to move to their right to have a maximum view of the PowerPoint presentation.”

Although these are specific possible scenarios that I have dealt with, the larger point is to acknowledge the potential challenge instead of ignoring it. Addressing the challenging situation will enhance both your ability to remember the content of your message and the audience’s ability to pay careful attention.

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What Does Your Face Show? Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:03:37 +0000 In my presentation skills seminars, I’ve always talked about the importance of facial expression. Recently I was reminded of how powerful facial expressions are by finding myself in the backdrop of the Fort Lauderdale shooting.

We had picked up our luggage in baggage claim and were waiting on the curb nearby for our shuttle.  Enjoying a beautiful warm day was interrupted by a group of people running toward us from the terminal we had just left, shouting, “Shooter! Run!” At first my wife and I were simply confused by the commotion, but the panic-stricken facial expressions said this was for real.  So we joined the crowd and ran to the next terminal.

The shooting was taking place in the baggage claim area that we had just left.  Needless to say, it was a tragic scene for many and a frightening experience for the rest of us.

As I think back on the afternoon, what sticks with me the most is the expressions on the faces of people running toward us.  They showed absolute panic and that they were running for their lives, not knowing where the shooter was and what his intentions were.  The faces as much as the words, “Shooter! Run!” motivated us to run as well.

As speakers, never underestimate the power of facial expression to communicate your ideas.  The face is the focal part of the body. The face is what the listener focuses on first.  Make sure the face reinforces the words that are spoken.  To hear a speaker say how much he or she is enjoying the audience while demonstrating nonverbally an unpleasant and stern look is disconcerting.  Make sure the facial expression matches the message being spoken.  Here are some ways of doing that.

Practice a part of your presentation in front of the mirror.  Be willing to stop and make adjustments when you note that your facial features do not match the idea you are expressing.

Ask someone to be an audience for you during a practice session.  Have that person make notes on when facial expression could be changed to underscore better your content.  While you have this person responding to your nonverbal, encourage that listener to give suggestions on when in the presentation you seem most pleasant and easy to listen to.

Pull a story or narrative from your presentation and exaggerate facial features as you tell that story and film it.  As you watch the playback, you might discover a different expression in this exaggerated format that you can insert when you deliver the actual speech.

On occasion, we have probably listened to someone talk when the person’s content does not match his or her facial expression.  You respond by telling the person there is an inconsistency in the verbal and nonverbal and end your comment with, “I can see it in your face.”

At other times, remembering a person’s face is crucial. An acquaintance of mine was holding some meetings at the University of Cincinnati and noticed a gentleman who had not been present at the previous meetings. As she went around the table introducing people, she said, “I’m so sorry. I know your face, but I can’t remember your name.”

In a pleasant voice, he smiled and said, “I’m Neil Armstrong.”

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That First Sentence Mon, 19 Dec 2016 13:17:30 +0000 Want to get off to a great start in your next presentation? Make your first sentence have meaning. Nothing is wrong with “I’m delighted to be here tonight,” or “Thanks for the invitation to be your speaker.” But that’s pretty boring and not a great way to motivate the audience to listen to you.

Instead, here are some suggestions to make that first sentence count. Start with an adult version of a children’s story, “Once upon a time….”  “As I was driving here tonight I saw…,” or “When I was in my first semester as an instructor I found that….” “On Jul 20, 1969, as I was driving through Champaign, Illinois, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and I knew then.…”

What follows, of course, will be the narrative of the story or the problem that occurred. Then tell how your presentation will connect with solving that problem or making a point of your talk.

Your first sentence should show direction, and what follows should provide an orientation to your speech or a relevant reason for your beginning narrative or problem.

Another way to begin might be to compliment your audience or the occasion. You might begin with “You all have to feel good about this past year because…,” or “Your city is very hospitable. When I was running too late to get a cab, the hotel clerk offered me his car to be here on time tonight.”  To connect locally, you must do  research on the city or environment in which you are speaking. I remember speaking to the Glass Blowers Association and the challenge and enjoyment in learning about this unique organization. But finding out that their biggest clients were large university science departments which needed unique and unusual beakers, cylinders, and flasks allowed me to begin with my connection to universities as a communication professor. This led directly to one of the points of my presentation: that we are all connected to one another in some way.

The third way you might have a strong opening sentence is a startling statement that relates to your topic in some way. Because of my work in teaching and coaching public speaking, I often begin with “The number one fear of Americans is public speaking.”

If you are discussing earth’s natural resources, you might begin with “70% of the earth is covered with water, yet only 1 % is accessible to drink.”

If you have something to say at the very beginning of your presentation that has meaning or direction, you also are getting the attention of the audience and in essence saying to your audience, “Everything I say counts.”

One of my heroes is racing legend Mario Andretti. He once said, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”  It is a good thing I’m not a racecar driver because I like to have things under control. And making that first sentence count is a good start to maintaining control in your next presentation.

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Credible Speech Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:24:28 +0000 speaker-and-audience-silhouetteYou may be called upon to speak in a situation where the audience does not know you. Your credentials that brought you to that speaking engagement may be the only connection some members of the audience have with you. For the rest, your brief introduction may be all they know about you. Or another challenging speaking situation is when you have been chosen to provide unpleasant information to the organization, such as cutting back on workforce.

In either of these situations, developing credibility as you speak can be critical to the success of your presentation. Here are some ways you can enhance your credibility as you speak.

Act in ways consistent with the message of your presentation. Show concern in tone of voice and facial expression when talking about a difficult issue. Acting disinterested or unconcerned when presenting bad news can offend your listeners.

Be well prepared. Your audience has given you time and an opportunity, and audience members deserve to hear your best effort. That only comes through careful preparation. If the audience can tell you didn’t prepare for them specifically, they will feel betrayed and won’t respond positively to your message. Start preparing several days or weeks before an important presentation.

Base your conclusions in your presentation on clear evidence. Support your assertions with relevant facts, statistics, and testimony. Keep track of your sources and be ready to produce them if asked. Don’t make assertions you can’t support or justify. Whatever support you use should satisfy all reasonable, rational people. Each major point should show a variety of evidence. If that is not the case, eliminate the point or, if it fits, place the evidence with another point you make.

Choose topics that are consistent with your personal beliefs. Pick topics and ideas important to you that you live out daily. You might be able to craft effective speeches advocating views you do not feel strongly about. But often it is difficult to hide feelings, and chances are the audience can tell when there is lukewarm interest in the point you are making. In choosing material for your presentation, consider how strongly you feel about the point or support. Edit out weaker content.

Finally, respect the time of your audience. Know what time you are expected to finish—and finish at that time. It is an insult to your audience and an abuse of your opportunity to speak to keep them beyond the allotted time.

These ethical principles can be condensed to one “golden rule” of speaking:  Treat each audience member as you would like to be treated if you were in the audience.

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Welcome to Our New Website! Tue, 01 Nov 2016 22:06:21 +0000 steve-fartherSo…do you like our new look? No–not Steve’s jeans and plaid shirt. Steve’s new website! After much toil and tribulation, it is up and running. There you can get the best of his previous site plus some great new aspects, such as new videos and great quotes from satisfied customers.

Did you know that Steve coached an American Legion Speech Contest winner for a $25,000 scholarship? Did you know that his coaching expertise has helped “hit it out of the park” for executives needing to make a great impression on shareholders or prospective clients? Did you know that major Fortune 100 companies have hired him to coach for important presentations? He is the ultimate speech coach.

Did you know he also offers great keynotes for any major company event, from the morning kickoff speech to the final motivational dinner? You can see several sample videos from his keynote speeches here.

Since you subscribe to Steve’s newsletter, you probably realize that he presents outstanding workshops on improving presentation skills or listening.

I also have a favor to ask of you. When you click here to go to his website, you may find glitches we’ve overlooked. Please tell us! We want it to be smoothly navigable and super-helpful, whether you’re looking for a newsletter article on ad-libs or an after-dinner speaker.

So go ahead and explore at Happy browsing!

The Amazing Lanita Boyd!Lanita Boyd, Office Manager
Steve Boyd Presentations



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Your Speech? Go With What Brung Ya! Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:57:24 +0000 One of my early mentors was Robert Henry who was not only a masterful speaker but also a genuinely good person. He always had great advice about becoming a better speaker. One piece of advice that stuck with me is about the situation when you feel a little uncertain about your audience. If they are not quite what you expected, his advice was an old Southern expression: “Go with what brung ya!”

The example he gave where he put his own advice into practice was a time when he was speaking to a group of executives. When he walked into the room to speak, he saw a total of nine people in a boardroom setting. The information he had received about the audience did not indicate that few people nor that setting. He said he felt this would turn out badly because he was a humorist and it is hard to get a lot of laughs when there are only nine people in your audience.

He almost panicked, but then simply said to himself, I’ll just go with what I know. Or in his own words to me, “Go with what brung ya.” He then told me the speech went great and he followed that pattern thereafter.

This advice probably applies mainly to the experienced speaker. If you are a novice speaker, you probably don’t know what is going to be most effective. But if you have some speaking experience, you know what works best for you.

For example, I have a few stories that fit any audience. If I feel my material is not having much of an impact on a particular audience, I will tell a story that has always worked in the past. For example, because of my experience as an auctioneer, I can usually include the chant with about any of my material and that always gets the audience involved.

I have a bent pinkie finger on my right hand that is pretty obvious to those watching me speak. My short humorous piece about it always relaxes the audience and brings them back to my content.

You should have content that you do not intend to use, but it is in your memory bank. This will give you more confidence in your speech even if you do not use any of this backlog of material.

That is one of the reasons you should, as soon as possible after your presentation, do a self-evaluation of what went well and what did not go well. Quickly you will learn what to have in reserve in case the presentation isn’t going well.

I always have a story to illustrate a point I am making. In writing this article I used a story to underscore my point. You see, I am “going with what brung me.”

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Panning for Gold: Looking for Speaking Nuggets Mon, 22 Aug 2016 02:00:03 +0000 Of the several reasons to arrive at my speaking room early, my main reason is to chat with audience members. My agenda is to find “nuggets” I can use to apply points from my presentation. Sometimes it is as simple as finding people who are also Hoosiers or who have similar interests as I.

But I have found that sometimes I unearth speaking nuggets that help make a really good speech become a great speech. One such experience occurred a couple of months ago as I joined a group of audience members enjoying a continental breakfast before I spoke. I asked the usual questions about where they were from and what part of the business they were in.

In the course of conversation, a lady mentioned that her daughter was going to be attending Purdue in the fall. I then said that my son teaches at Purdue and asked her what her daughter’s major was. She answered, “Public relations.”

I said, “Well, that is what my son teaches.”

The mother then asked, “Is your son Josh Boyd?”

Surprised, I said, “Yes, he is.”

She said, “He is a major reason she chose public relations. He is the one we met with and he gave us a tour of the building as well as vital information and was so kind and encouraging to my daughter.”  We were both amazed at the very personal connection we had.

Now I need to mention why this was so astounding for the content of my presentation. In this particular presentation one of my points is that we are all connected. In fact based on the theory of “six degrees of separation,” every person is six connections or less away from every person on earth. We are all connected in just those few steps. After explaining the theory, I told the above story. This was a powerful application of my point.

Think about the hour before your presentation as “panning for gold speaking nuggets” for your presentation. This is the personal and immediate detail that audience members can assimilate from a point you are making.

I try to arrive an hour before my presentation to make sure everything in the room is set and become familiar with the arrangement of the front of the room. Then I am free to carry on conversations with audience members as they arrive.

Your presentation is not complete until you have had a chance to “pan for gold.”

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Speak for the Ear Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:28:21 +0000 As William Norwood Brigance once said, “A speech is not an essay on its hind legs.” We must prepare a speech for the ear, not the eye. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep sentences short. It is hard to follow with the ear if you have long, complicated sentences. This was one of the criteria for those who helped write John Kennedy’s speeches that produced quotes like, “Ich bin cin Berliner” in his visit to what was at the time a divided city. The quotations best remembered from speeches are usually those that are characterized by uncomplicated sentences.

Next, keep the word choice simple. If there is a choice between a two-syllable word and a three-syllable word, use the two-syllable:  the shorter the better. The Sermon on the Mount, one of the great speeches of all time, has words like “salt,” “light,” “rock,” and “sand” as key terms in developing ideas. Winston Churchill’s tribute to the Royal Air Force was simply, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Third, answer the “W” questions in developing content for a speech. This motivates you as the speaker to be specific and concrete. This is a crucial point because what you say must be instantly clear to the audience. Unlike a book or essay, where you can go back and reread the material or look up words on your dictionary app, a speech must make sense immediately. One of the best ways to do this is to include material that answers the questions “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?”  “Why?”

Fourth, use description in developing ideas for a presentation. We think in pictures. If I mention “river,” you think of a specific river. If I say “road,” you think of a particular road. To develop complete pictures, and to help the listener understand your meaning of an idea, use description. Paint the picture for the listener by using the specific rather than the general. Your goal should be for the listener to have the same picture in his or her mind as you do in yours. If something is not specific enough, audience members lose interest. For example, if you were to refer to a “truck,” the audience would begin wondering what kind of truck you were talking about. Was it a tractor-trailer, a pickup truck, a utility truck, or a green recycling truck?  If you mention a blue Ford pickup truck, however, the audience knows exactly what you are referring to, accepts it, and continues to listen.

Finally, develop a segment of your presentation that relates directly to your audience. Include the name of the group to which you are speaking, and mention someone in the group to illustrate one of your points. If a previous speaker at the conference has discussed a point related to yours, refer to it as you develop your own unique application. Use job-related examples from the professions represented in the audience. Make a reference to a part of the physical surroundings of the room in which you are speaking, or draw a comparison like, “The pool was about as long as this room. “Any of these inclusions can trigger the spontaneity of the moment and make it easy on the ear.

Other factors will certainly contribute to the success of your speech. These suggestions, however, will help insure that your presentation is both easy on the ear and effective.

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Seven Steps to a Dynamic Presentation Fri, 01 Jul 2016 08:15:16 +0000 In the Bible, the number seven is identified with something being “finished” or “complete.” We might say the same thing about a dynamic presentation. Here are seven steps that can make your preparation complete or finished.

  1. Begin with an attention device. This might be a startling statement, a statistic, or your own story. Listeners pay close attention when a speaker begins with: “Last night as I was driving home from work,.…” Or you could begin with a current event. “You might have heard about the flood that….” A question is another way to make people listen:  “How many of you check your email more than three times a day?”  Whatever technique you use, when you grab the attention of the audience, you’re on your way to a successful speech.
  2. Be energetic in delivery. Speak with variety in your voice. Slow down for a dramatic point and speed up to show excitement. Pause occasionally for effect. Don’t just stand behind the lectern, but move a step away to make a point. When you are encouraging your audience, take a step toward them. Demonstrate how something works or looks or moves as you tell about it. Show facial expression; smile when talking about something pleasant and let your face show other emotions as you discuss an event or activity. Make sure your movements have a purpose.
  3. Structure your speech. Don’t include more than two or three main points, and preview in the beginning what those points will be. With each point, include two or three pieces of support, such as examples, definitions, testimony, or statistics. Visual aids are important when you want your audience to understand a process or concept. Tie your points together with transitions.
  4. Tell your own story somewhere in the presentation. Include a personal experience that connects to your speech content, and the audience will connect with you. With about any topic you might choose, you probably have at least one war story to relate to the topic. Just start at the beginning and move chronologically through the narrative, including answers to the “W” questions: who, what, when, why and where.
  5. Look at the audience as you speak. If it is a small audience, you can look at each person in a short period of time. If it is a large audience, look at the audience in small “clumps” and move from one clump to another. One way to ensure good eye contact is to look at your audience before you start to speak. Go to the lectern and pause, smile, look at the audience, and then speak. This will help you maintain good eye contact throughout your presentation as well as command immediate attention.
  6. Include a “wow” factor. Something in your speech should make your audience think, “Wow!” It could be a story, a dramatic point, an unusual statistic, or an effective visual that helps the audience understand immediately. With a “wow” factor, you have something to look forward to in the speech that you know will have an impact on your audience. You’ll become a more enthusiastic speaker because the “wow” factor will get you as well as the audience pumped for the speech.
  7. Leave the audience with something to think about. People remember best what you say last. You might summarize your main points or you might answer the question, “What I want you to do as a result of this present is.…” Beyond that, make your last words a thought to ponder.
    –Steve Boyd


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