presentation skills

Don’t Be a Matt Foley Speaker

The late Chris Farley was an amazing actor and comedian. It’s a shame that he died so early and so young. One of his more famous roles (and one of my favorites) was Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker. If you’ve never seen the skit on Saturday Night Live, here is a short clip.

The character is interesting because he’s the complete opposite of what most of us think of when we think of motivational speakers. He’s grossly overweight, sloppily dressed, rude to his audience and speaks in a condescending and angry tone. And of course, that’s the point of the character and why it’s funny. You might be surprised, but I’ve seen a number of supposed motivational speakers that fit into one or more of these categories. And in many cases, it lessens the effect of their message on the audience.

Using Profanity in a Speech

If you asked me five years ago who I thought the best motivational speaker out there was, I would have told you Tony Robbins. Yes, he’d frequently mispronounce words like “nuclear” (as nuke-you-lure) and “produce” (as per-deuce). But his material was so good that I, even as an active member of Toastmasters, would overlook something so minuscule because the rest of his delivery and his material were fantastic. However, if you listen to Tony Robbins today he has an edgier presentation style. He uses more slang and hip words. But what really surprised me is the amount of profanity he uses. We’re not talking just words like “hell” and “damn” – he’s dropping f-bombs left and right. And the part that bothers me about it is it seems like he goes out of his way to use them.

Now, before you think I’m one of those people that is easily offended by bad language, let me assure you that I’m not. I grew up in the 80’s & 90’s listening to the likes of Andrew Dice Clay and 2 Live Crew – a comedian and rap group both known for their over-the-top language. On top of that, I find movies like American Pie and those in that genre to be hilarious – in fact, my favorite character in the films is Steve Stiffler who uses the f-word almost as much as Tony Robbins.

There Are Such Things as Dumb Questions and People Ask Them All the Time

When I was an instructor in graduate school, the syllabus I handed out to my students had a part that said “there’s no such thing as a dumb question. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.” Having just finished my undergraduate studies, I knew this statement was garbage. I explained my thoughts to the person who insisted we put it in the syllabus, but she insisted that I was wrong. It wasn’t long before my point was proven.

In one of my classes, I was explaining how we’d be learning to use the internet – a relatively new concept back in 1996. One student raised his hand and asked “are we going to look at porn?” I replied by pointing out the dumb question quote in the syllabus and thanked him for helping me prove my point.

Can Printed PowerPoint Slides Kill Your Presentation?

So you’re doing some training or a workshop and you’ve got your PowerPoint presentation perfected. Now the big question: do you print out the slides and give them to your audience? I’m often asked this in my speaking classes and by clients and my answer is typical: it depends. Sometimes it makes sense to provide them to the audience prior to the presentation while other times it’s better to not. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros:

What I Hate About Toastmasters

Whether it’s during one my classes or seminars, or while having a casual conversation in either a business or social setting, if the topic of public speaking comes up, the topic of Toastmasters often follows. If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a few weeks, then you probably know my position on Toastmasters: I recommend it, but only if you choose the right club.

Through the years I’ve come into contact with thousands of people who have been involved with Toastmasters. Some only attended a single meeting as a guest while others have become International Directors. While the feelings towards this organization vary, most people love it and a few hate it. Personally, I have mostly positive feelings and experiences that I accumulated over my four years as a member, but I also had a few not so good experiences as well. So when someone who had mostly negative experiences with it challenged me to write about the not so good things, I figured it would be an interesting challenge. His exact request was “tell me about some of the things you hate about Toastmasters.” Of course, I don’t hate per say anything about Toastmasters, so I’ve listed the things that peeve me the most. Additionally, I’ve include how to avoid or remedy the situations.

When Words Take on a Life of Their Own

Growing up, I had a bad habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sometimes it was because I lacked tact and good judgment. Other times, I just used words that could be taken a multitude of ways depending on the listener’s perspective. While most of us outgrow the first scenario, the second one is little more difficult to avoid. In fact, I have a humorous story to share about me making this very mistake just a few years ago.

Do People Really Care About Public Speaking?

I’ve been telling people for years that if they could only improve one skill, it should be their public speaking skills. Now you might think I say this because I help people improve their speaking skills. Well, ironically what got me interested in teaching people public speaking skills is that I realized how important it is to have public speaking skills myself.

Truthfully, I didn’t really “get” the importance of public speaking (nor the benefits) until I took the Dale Carnegie course back in 2002. Prior to that, I hated public speaking and saw no value in it – kind of the way many people feel today.

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