Saturday, September 23, 2006


I spent some time looking at various presentations this week, and decided to post some of the more interesting speeches along with analyses of why they were interesting and how they might have been improved.

1. OSCON 2005 Keynote - Identity 2.0
Dick Hardt | Founder & CEO, Sxip Identity

This speech is an amusing and fast-paced presentation which relies heavily on quickly moving visual aids to keep the audience enthralled. He uses hundreds of slides to take advantage of the stickiness which always accompanies shiny things: they're cool because they're shiny!

The Good: A lot of material covered quickly while using visual aids to keep the audience interested.

Common Mistakes Made- OverReliance on Visual Aids
get a remote or an assistant and move away from the computer. Movement and physicality can help more emotionally driven or tactile people connect to your presentation if they don't like the shiiiiiiny visual aids. However, it's worth noting that his particular choice of presentation does translate extremely well to posting online and making into a movie. If you watched it online, you know what i mean. It's fast, it's shiny, it gets the point across.

Possible Improvements if you'd like to use this method: (in person) Look at The Word from the Colbert Report. It similarly uses visual aids (primarily words with a few pictures), but improves on the methods from this speech in that Colbert also has his physical humor and amusing reactions to the visual aids to play off of. Use both and you look much more prepared in person.

2. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink presentation at SXSW 2005.

Besides being an excellent writer (everyone should read Blink and The Tipping Point), Gladwell is a good presenter for these reasons: He knows what he's talking about and thus doesn't need visual aids to structure his speech, and he shows passion.

Good: Fast paced, good material, no visual aids, passionate.

Common Mistakes Made- Happy Feet! This bane of the speech world causes the speaker to move unconsciously, shifting their weight and generally being distracting. Only move when transitioning from one story to the next or switching points or, for advanced speakers, moving into the audience to make an emotional connection. Otherwise, your movement is a distraction.

Little Improvements he could've made: Enunciation. If you're talking fast, enunciate way more than you need to.
Pace yourself. Another way to tae advantage of a fast speech is use dramatic pauses to their utmost- if you've been moving quickly the whole time, when you do slow down EVERYBODY pays special attention. If you're looking for it, his pauses are for thinking and phrasing, though the 'Dead Silence, Mein Gott' is an excellent example of what you should try for. Practice makes perfect.

3. Steve Jobs- 1984 Macintosh Presentation

Ah, I do love watching Mr. Jobs go. It's been a while, so the (in)famous Mr. Jobs has already fixed most of my comments. He could've benefited by being memorized at the start, but the dramatic effect from walking over and actually setting up the computer is a masterful touch. When the computer talks, everyone listens.

Common Mistakes Made- Staring at the Script
This common mistake makes it harder for the audience to think of you as reputable due to the lack of eye contact as well as the implication that you don't have the material down pat.

Little Improvements: Go watch a more modern Steve Jobs presentation.
Some things to look for are the use of the reciprocity principle, the use of stories to connect with the audience, and his gosh-darned enthusiasm for his products and actions. To emulate these attributes, make your speech as short as possible, use stories of events which actually occurred or are directly metaphoric to your situation, and decide on your motivations and your audience's going into the event. No one is just presenting to inform. If you are being informational, you are persuading the audience that your interpretation of the information is worth listening to. If you're actively trying to persuade, you're converting your audience to your religion. That's why they're usually hostile, unless you're preaching to the choir. Use the tricks of influence and social psychology to get yourself a neutral audience, and then be enthusiastic and mean what you're saying.

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