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Gini Dietrich

Six Tips for Better Public Speaking

By: Gini Dietrich | August 13, 2013 | 
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Six Tips for Better Public SpeakingBy Gini Dietrich

I love Mexican food. If I could eat it every day, I would. I used to try to limit it to once a month, but I decided a couple of years ago, I exercise enough, I can eat it once a week.

When I’m in a new city or we want to try a new Mexican restaurant, I judge the place by their chile con queso.

I realize a “real” Mexican place this does not make, but I love me some chili con queso. If a restaurant doesn’t have chili con queso on the menu, I won’t eat there. If it’s not spicy, creamy, sit on the table for 15 minutes and not congeal, I won’t be back.

But if the chili con queso has just the right amount of spice and the chips are warm and salty, the restaurant is a winner in my book. An extra gold star if the entrees are as delicious and the margaritas have a kick.

Like the chili con queso test, we judge content with the same lassez faire attitude. It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest person in the industry or the very best at what you do, if you can’t effectively express yourself in words, audio, video, or images, we judge you.

Have a crappy headline, an ugly image, or a crappy first paragraph and most of us won’t spend time with you. But if your content is spicy, teaches us a thing or two, and doesn’t fizz out by the end, we’ll gladly comment, share, and spread the word.

Conference Attendance

The same goes for public speaking.

I recently was at a conference where I had carefully planned the breakout sessions I was going to attend. While it’s not typical of me to plan attendance in that way (I’m not very good at sitting in a room for hours listening to anyone talk about anything), I decided to go with a different attitude. My goal was to get at least one blog post idea from every session. That would be a win for me.

The first day, I attended six sessions. I came away with two blog post ideas. The second day, I decided to skip a couple of sessions and attended only four. I came away with one blog post idea. Ten sessions, three blog post ideas. It didn’t even come close to my measure of success. Their chili con queso sucked.

It was pretty disappointing. The first day, I thought I was going to learn how to white label a mobile marketing program, gain new ideas to monetize content, and figure out which strategic hires to make next and how to invest into the business.

After all, that’s what the descriptions of each of those sessions promised.

Instead, the mobile marketing program was an ad for AT&T (I left after 10 minutes), in the second, the presenter read slides with bullet points with stats about content marketing (I left after 20 minutes), and the last was a panel discussion that meandered into only three questions and never got to what the session description promised. I stayed for that one, but only because lunch was included.

Public Speaking: The Chili Con Queso Test

The new black is to do public speaking. Even better if you have a book (Andy Crestodina has Content Chemistry; I co-authored Marketing in the Round with Geoff Livingston) because it allows you to increase your fee.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to pack your clothes into a suitcase, fight the lines in security at the airport, fly for hours without any food or water, land in an exotic location like Fargo or Omaha at midnight, go on stage at 7 a.m. the next day, and then fly home, there are certain things you should remember as you plan what you’ll say for that hour you’re on stage.

  1. What is your title? Does it pass the chili con queso test? It should be compelling and interesting enough to get people to plan to attend your session ahead of anyone else. Remember, we definitely judge a book by it’s cover. This is your one shot to gain their interest.
  2. Does your description match your content? I always write my description after I’ve written my content. That way, I know for sure it matches what I’m going to talk about.
  3. Always include takeaways. In the description of your session, list a minimum of three things your audience will learn. And don’t just deliver those three things. Repeat them and repeat them again. Make them tweetable phrases and repeat them one more time.
  4. Death by PowerPoint. Your slides should be nothing more than images that support what you’re saying. If you have text on the slide, people will read it and you will have lost your audience. Don’t use bullet points, text (unless it’s a quote and you can make that look like an image), or stats.
  5. Think in tweets. Ask yourself what your audience will get from attending your session. Can they tweet what you’re saying? I’ve seen people put the tweets you should send on the screen with a little “tweet this” next to it  (Brian Solis does an amazing job of this). When you leave the session, a trained eye can tell the speaker spoon fed the audience just by looking at the tweet stream.
  6. Ask yourself if someone can write a blog post from your session. This may be my chili con queso test, but if you provide enough valuable content your audience can write blog posts later, not only will you gain your extra 15 minutes of fame, your content will live on forever.

Public speaking isn’t the delicious, creamy, cheesy chili con queso we get in Mexican restaurants, but you can apply the test to both the sessions you conduct and those you attend.

Do they pass?

A version of this first appeared on the Orbit Media blog.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

94 comments
andreat76
andreat76

Well said! I've been to many a conference and you're right on.

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

Just got a chance to sit and read this. My family loves Mexican food! Between my sister and I inviting each other out we have been known to go the same restaurant 2 or more times in the same week :) 

Back to thinking about what I read and not Mexican food. I really love #4 I hate when I'm in a presentation and all they do is read the slides.. I also think that #5 is a really great idea in this day and age if you tell people what to say you have a better idea of what they will say about you and it makes it easier for them to put out a post. 

charmaineclancy
charmaineclancy

Very good. I probably learned something, but all I can think is 'I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!' Chile con queso is my fav' Mex food too! Especially when washed down with Pina Colada ;)

Giving people tweetable quotes is a golden idea.

dbvickery
dbvickery

Umm, from a Texan who loves mexican food - margarita...THEN chile con queso. I'm still an enchilada and rice/beans guy because I'm convinced we make better guacamole and fajitas in the Vickery house. ;)

I especially liked #5 and #6 - nowadays, I think you do have to provide some nuggets that instantly get tweeted/RT'd. And how awesome would it be if folks are now writing blog posts based upon what they learned in YOUR presentation. Now THAT is thought leadership and influence. Oooh, I said the "I" word.

Aptdoctor
Aptdoctor

Love the "Think in tweets" - it will help me to talk in tweets. And yes, description (and for me - the title) are always last things written. I  wish we could arrest presenters for "deceptive descriptions" . . .

corinamanea
corinamanea

Hi GIni, 

I agree with you and I absolutely love the last point "Ask yourself if someone can write a blog post from your session". This is the way I think when attending an event, conference, etc. And yes, you have to think about your audience and what you leave them with. It has to be interesting and engaging.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Central theme: think about THEM. And maybe bring some queso.

I get flubbed and nervous when I'm speaking or presenting or pitching. It's not b/c I don't know my stuff - I do; it's b/c I put that pressure on to really deliver. I've been to events where a few of us hung in the back, discussing that we coulda got better queso at home, w/ less work and for free. So as part of #3 + #6 = my #1 rule - make it worth it. Showing up has to have its privileges, its perks; the audience can play along at home but those that made the effort to be there live and in color need to get something more. FWIW.

joeldon
joeldon

Enjoyed this when it ran on Orbit last month. Sideways question. Gini, so Google Panda doesn't punish for the dupe posting as long as you add "A version of this first appeared on....." or similar words, plus a link back to the original post?


patmrhoads
patmrhoads

Great! Now I'm hungry for chile con queso! So much for the healthy lunch I brought in today. Thanks a lot, @ginidietrich!

On a more serious note, these are fantastic reminders. The session title and PowerPoint items I already knew and adhere to. With the description, I sometimes write that first to keep me focused on what I'm supposed to be making my presentation about. But intentionally presenting in a tweet-able progression and making sure people could walk away with a blog post idea - those are awesome points. (I usually try to present info in small pieces, but not necessarily consciously organizing it in a progression of tweet-able points so someone following an attendee on Twitter would walk away with all the major information.)

alliteespring
alliteespring

Ha - of all the metaphors/puns of mexican food (the fajitas were a "missed steak)....Anyhow - good tips! I'm part of this fellowship called Venture for America and we had a 5 week bootcamp this summer with speakers everyday - some absolutely blew our minds, some put half the group into a sleepy haze.  The good ones used about a 80/20 ratio of pictures/words. The best ones made us get up and do something. You're right with the "think about it in tweets" part...especially with younger people the attention span.

I actually got a lot more out the two acting classes I took in college than any of the three or four public speaking classes I took. 

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

Great tips! I struggled with #4 when I was presenting on deeply technical topics. I would always include code in my powerpoints. Even when I was able to demonstrate a technique, the audience still wanted to see the code behind the solution. I knew then that it made for potentially boring content and presentations, but hey, we're talking programming presentations so I already get the joke. 

I dislike chili con queso and will do everything I can from this point forward to disassociate it from public speaking. 

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

I also was once suckered into attending a recruitment conference for a multi-level marketing company.  The presenter was *overly* aggressive, and while he had some interesting points to make, I felt as though I was being shouted at the whole time.  I ran from the building halfway through!

merylvdm
merylvdm

An easy way to avoid number 4 if you have an iPad is to use the Haiku Deck app. Presentations are quick and easy to do, look gorgeous and can't be overloaded with text. I believe they are going to make it available on other platforms soon too.

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

@merylvdm I'm not familiar with Haiku either; is it easy to learn if you're not a "Mac person"?  We use iPads at the company I work for, but don't get to take them home to practice! :-)

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

@merylvdm I hadn't heard of Haiku. It's very cool -- the image library alone makes it a really valuable product. When I do presentations in KeyNote my "template" is the blank page option.

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

Just let me know when & where :) the place by us knows that our group of 4 can turn into 12 or more rather quickly.

corinamanea
corinamanea

@ginidietrich You have a pen on the left on the comment box. Click it and you can see the bold option.

joeldon
joeldon

@ginidietrich I actually was referring to Google punishing sites that duplicate content.  That's new in Panda. No concerns? 

corinamanea
corinamanea

@ginidietrich I´ve just received my copy of Andy Crestodina " Content Chemistry". I am so looking forward to reading it. Thank you for recommending it.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

It's really just the jalepeno chiles/cheddar combo. (bad experience at work a long time ago that i'll explain another time). Everything else about it: the butter, garlic, shallots, sour cream, cheddar cheese on its own, etc. I can handle...and even like. So my public speaking association will be Chilli con Queso without the chilli.

merylvdm
merylvdm

@EricPudalov  Extremely easy. The app only gives you the features you really need which makes using it a cinch. One neat feature is the ability to easily search for photos from withing the app (ones you can use legally). Of course, you can use your own too. I teach middle and high schoolers and have been using it for most of my lessons. Much faster than Powerpoint and looks better too. And real easy to upload to Slideshare, embed on a blog etc.

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@joeldon It's always a good idea to identify the post as a reprint. The biggest rule that works for what I do (manage a community of a few hundred thousand Web writers) is don't try to trick Google... eventually they will figure it out and penalize you. So not identifying a reprint = trying to be smarter than the machine = will bite you.

And hey, I'm a Yahoo, I'm not going to tell you not to criticize Google's intelligence ;)

joeldon
joeldon

@jelenawoehr You may be correct, but there are a lot of posts that say you should not do it at all without linking back to the source and clearly identifying that the post is a reprint or excerpt. Regarding your reference to Google's intelligence quotient, I have two words: Google Reader.

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@joeldon @ginidietrich I've looked into this a bit and I'm no SEO professional, but I think what Gini is saying is right -- if your site generally has authority and original content, the Panda update isn't going to penalize it just for having a couple duplicate articles. The duplicate content penalties in Panda are intended to penalize sploggy sites that just republish content and don't produce a substantial amount of original content. Google isn't dumb -- it knows there are legit reasons for content to appear in multiple places.

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