I don’t have so much experience in being an interesting speaker, but I am a black-belt in making people bored.
In the same way that speaking well is a skill, making people bored is also a skill. Have you thought of how to get away from those pesky neighbours saying “hey”?
Or maybe those colleagues who want to chit-chat, taking away your most productive hours in the morning?
I tell you the worst location I’ve been in where this skill is tremendously useful.
When I’m on a plane.
Let say the flight is ten hours from Stockholm to Singapore, and within the first five minutes of starting the long journey, just after I finish putting my socks on, then my slippers, then tuck myself under a blanket, relaxed my shoulder with a quick massage, about to put on my eyepatch and pop the sleeping pills to settle into a good sleep. The woman sitting next to me touched my shoulder. She grins at me with a hint of restlessness, then she asks “So you’re going to Singapore?”
I said, “Aren’t we all?”
Tell me if you’ve been in these tricky situations before.
To get you out, here are three prescriptions on how to bore others.
My first advice is to talk about yourself. A lot. After all, why hold back. Tell her your origin story. How you were born. Tell her how your mother had read you Wonder Woman and Batman stories when you were still in her tummy, and that your father played Mozart on a loop for the last 3 months of the pregnancy.
Tell her your priorities in life. How much you demand comfort and enjoyment above all else. Explain to her why your bed sheets need to be ironed / everyday otherwise you will have nightmares for weeks.
Tell her how your kids, your biggest pride and joy follow your teachings and double down / on the quest to be spoiled brats. Your daughter is the living embodiment of Kim Kardashian and your son is the next Donald Trump. The world has been so unfair to you, for the sake of justice, your family shouldn’t have to go through hard-life.
The thing is you are better than everyone else. Tell her how people complain all the time about their lives but it’s really nothing in comparison to how much abuse you’ve gone through in the airport. How the baggage checking never understands your plight for speed and that you’re allergic to having your iPad touched by dirty, coarse hands.
For the second advice, you should ensure that you have a smug face. Do everything necessary to appear disengaged. Look at NOT the woman’s face but the ceiling, or the person next to her instead. Talk without acknowledging she ever exists. She started this conversation after all. It wasn’t you who wanted this.
When she appears to want to butt in, don’t give her that pause. Keep talking. Pause is only for people who want to be understood.
You don’t want that.
If you’re telling a story, like when you met the queen, change to a posh accent. “Oh, my dear, the queen has invited the family to the royal high-tea. Indeed, it is so delightful. Now… off we go.”
My final advice is to ignore all feedback. Ignore that little voice in your head that says, “You’re being an ass”.
When the woman gives you a full-blown yawn, just pretend / that she hasn’t slept well last night. She got too excited for the chance / to meet someone like you.
After you’ve followed my advice for 10 minutes, there should be one sign of success. Get ready to get your phone out / and take a picture of what you’re about to achieve. I will give you a certificate as a public recognition. The woman should be, completely asleep.
If she’s still awake, switch to plan B.
Excuse yourself to get a cup of water, secretly pull out the sleeping pills you almost took before. Drop them into the cup. Go back to your seat.
Tell her, “Hey, I thought you must be exhausted after hearing all of that.”
Don’t forget to smile.
This post first appeared as a speech delivered in Toastmasters in October 2017.
It is easy to get lost in the ocean of videos of public speaking presentations online. The search that stands out the most is for TED and TEDx talks and, even so, there is an endless supply of videos with the most varied topics, styles, length, etc. TED has been there since 1984 and TEDxs are spreading since 2009, which can give you a hint of the voluminous number of talks that have been filmed.
Watching these videos is a particularly nice way to not only a way of consuming content, but to learn and improve your public speaking skills as well. Learn by example. These are usually the best people in their field and are highly trained speakers. Public speaking is a skill you learn and train by practicing.
In this era of abundance, the hard part is how to find the best videos to learn from. There are many blog posts that compile outstanding presentations and they are a great way to learn. TED itself has this post with its “25 most popular talks of all time”, but we think there are more videos you should see.
We will drop from time to time a few lists with presentations that we at Get Sandwich think are valuable for you. For starters, we had people in our sandwich team reveal their favorites! Here are the favorite TED talks of our members.
Let’s start with our CEO! Martha’s favorite TED talk is from 2017 and is about great ideas and where they come from. How to find a wonderful idea is a presentation from the music group OK Go, known for their elaborate music videos, on their creative process to come up with the ideas for them, with wonders and surprises. They actually say that their ideas are not thought, but rather found. Martha says, “It uses everything it can to make a talk a performance. I re-watch it every few months (I’m re-watching it now…)”
Part of our advisory board, Grant works as a coach, for which he regularly looks for insights. The talk he chooses is Richard St. John’s 8 Secrets of Success, from 2005, which delivers years of research on how and why people are successful. Grant loves it “because it’s super short and in less than 4 minutes he tells 8 secrets of success based on research and interviews. It’s simple, funny, powerful, informative and memorable.” One of Grant’s favorite secrets revealed by St John is about Persistence, in which he talks about dealing with “CRAP = Criticism. Rejection. Assholes. Pressure”!
That’s yours truly, from marketing! My favorite TED talk was actually in the 2012 TEDx Euston, by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, called We should all be feminists. This woman inspires me every day with her strength, honesty, and willingness to change the world. She mostly reads her speeches, and that could make her delivery dull, but, since she is a very good novelist, the content and the way she builds the narrative are amazing. With personal tales filled with extremes of emotions, Adichie invites us to see the importance of conversations about gender to think of a different and fairer world.
Min’an is our CTO. He also chooses a TEDx talk, The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor in 2011 at Bloomington, and says “Of all the Ted talks I’ve watched this one still sticks.” Achor is a psychologist who studies how happiness, or the lack of it, impacts our lives, especially our productivity. Min’an admires this presentation because Achor “is energetic throughout, packs so much information in, weaves humor as part of the message and manages to paint a lasting picture with vivid examples/illustrations!”
So, do you like any of this talks? Have you seen them before? Do you have a favorite one? Do you know which are the characteristics the attract you the most in your favorite talk? Is it style? Content?
Make a plan. Refine and focus your search. Study the talks you watch and understand why you like/dislike them. This way you can expand your learning experience and improve.
They say there’s no glory in practising but without practice, there is no glory.
I’d like to introduce you to a process that I’ve used frequently to practice my speech: Practising Backwards. It’s a process that makes deliberate practice much more bearable, and much more fun to do.
Practising Piano Backwards
Last week I bought a piano, and I fell in love with the instrument all over again. I used to train to be a piano teacher but failed when I quit playing in my teenage years. Those days, practising pages and pages of music scores were really tough, everyday practice is like a chore. Eleven years of that made me hate the piano for a while.
Caption: the piano I bought last week.
This time though, I want to play the piano differently. I want to enjoy the journey of practising rather than just rushing to the end result, where I can play the songs after weeks of agony. Typically, practising old songs I can already play is easy, but practising new songs is really hard and require a lot of willpower. My fingers are so clumsy, the notes are so hard to read, especially when it’s not in the default scale of C Major.
I wondered, how do concert pianists practice their songs?
Turns out they practice the songs backwards1. Backwards? I can hear you ask. Like this?
No, that’s not what Practising Backwards means. It means rather focusing your attention on the end rather than the beginning. In terms of practising a song, first, you divide the songs into several sections, then only train on the last section until you’re 80% good. No need to be perfect, good enough is perfect. Then continue to the section before that.
Caption: I made two pencil marks to divide the music into two sections
Indeed, above is the current song I’m practising called Setsuko & Seita from Grave of the Fireflies (the saddest animation movie I’ve ever watched). The first few are the sections I haven’t practised much, so in this audio file (about 1.5 minute long) you can hear my hesitation at every single note I pressed in the first section. But when it gets to the next section, I’ve practised this well, and you can notice the difference in pace and confidence.
The result is much more joyful practice. For every new section that’s hard to do, you can get to the end of the song through the sections you’ve practised. It makes deliberate practice sessions much more bearable, even with one repetition, you’re guaranteed to reach the sections you’ve practised previously.
Apparently, this also corresponds with the peak-end rule whereby you would remember an experience based on the most intense points (the peaks) and how it ends.
This is cool! Where else can I apply this technique?
Practising Presentation Backwards
Memorising a presentation is another task I loathe. I love speaking fluently, but that’s only possible with some practice. In presentations, many researches has also suggested that the end conclusion is usually what people will remember, it so it makes sense to practise on that first rather than practising of at the beginning.
For memorising a five-minute speech, I divide it into four sections, so a section is around 1-2 minutes. Recorded it, add a sentence from the previous section and the next section for the sake of integration to other sections later.
Then the practising starts. At first, all I can do is to listen, but by the second time, I can start miming my mouth to start saying stuff together. When I think I’m ready to step it up, I play the recording a lot faster3, just like when I play the familiar section on the piano.
When I practice the next section, indirectly I’m practising the last section too, because the second last section leads to the last section. If I have a little bit more energy and willpower, I don’t continue onto the section I’ve already practised, I’ll repeat the new section again.
Somehow, the technique works so well that I’ve used it to memorise three songs in a weekend. One of my coaching clients also tried this technique while she was stuck in a 6-hour flight without being able to utter much. And by the time she landed, she has memorised 15 minutes speech word-by-word without saying a word out loud.
Practising is tiring, but it can be made enjoyable. Your brain enjoys practising on things you’re already good at, and that’s why practising backwards work. It ends the practice session on the most enjoyable note.
Someone wise once said: Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Avengers Infinity Wars, we’ve compiled for you a list of top 7 awesome quotes from past Avengers movies you can use in your next presentation.
If you’re finding us for the first time, be sure to subscribe to get all the how-to-present videos.
On number 7, we have a quote from Loki, I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.
You can use this quote to answer the most common question “Who are you?”. Especially if you have trouble in breaking the ice and feel somewhat awkward explaining what you do, saying that you are Loki of Asgard is also a very Loki thing to do, don’t you think?
The next quote comes from Bruce Banner: That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry.
Use this quote to help describe that you’re always ready to jump on opportunities to solve a problem, or to get going, or to do anything necessary to get the job done.
We have Hawkeye this time: We’re fighting an army of robots, And I got a bow and arrow.
You can use this quote for a climactic point in your storytelling, when things seem to be hopeless. Like a project that’s overdue, or the team gets overwhelmed.
Ironman is on number 4: Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.
You can use it when explaining something ambitious. In terms of placement, this quote is versatile. Use it almost anywhere in your presentation, in the beginning, middle or end.
This time we have a quote from Black Widow. Romanoff says Now, go be a hero.
If you’re ending a presentation, and want a strong call to action, this quote is perfect for you.
On number 2, we have Ironman again. Loki says I have an army, for what Tony Stark replies We have a Hulk.
Best to use it if you’re presenting only one example for explaining your point. This quote highlights that you’re presenting a very good one.
And for the number 1, it’s the classic line from the first Avengers movie. Captain America: Stark we need a plan of attack!
Tony Stark/Iron Man: I have a plan. Attack!
Use this quote on a standard presentation structure when you have two sections such as Planning and Doing. You can describe what a project should be, and then talk about how the project unfolds in reality.
Introduce the Doing section with this quote will make your presentation much more engaging.
So that’s our list. What do you think? Leave your comments below with your thoughts and other quotes you like from Avengers. If you like this video or what we’re trying to do with this channel, hit that like button. If you’re new, hit that subscribe button.
Also subscribe to our newsletters on getsandwi.ch to get free e-book on how to push your own presentation to the next level. If you need more help with selling, pitching or presenting for your team then feel free to book a completely free introductory call with me today. I can learn about your current challenges in the team, and together we can create better culture for communicating in the workplace.
Sun Tzu says, “Know thine enemy”. Here at Get Sandwich we say, “know thine audience”, while you shouldn’t think of your audience as an enemy, when making a speech, still a good idea, to have a plan of attack. This video will help you determine what kind of audience you have so that you can progress to the next stage and start thinking about what to do about it.
Because being able to anticipate the response your audience will have will help you when you start to plan the writing of your speeches and could be the factor that decides whether your jokes fall flat or that clever story that sounds so good in your head actually works or not.
The Receptive Audience
The first kind of audience, the receptive audience. They are eager to listen, open to your ideas and quite possibly on your side even before you step on to the stage.
They might be members of a club to which you belong where you are talking about something that interests them or co-workers and you are explaining how a new system works that will make your group’s lives easier. It could also be an audience that doesn’t know you but you are the first speaker of the day and they are alert and open to new ideas.
The key to identifying a receptive audience is that:
they are open to your ideas,
they have are willing to pay attention to you whilst you speak.
The Hostile Audience
The next kind of audience you might encounter: the hostile audience.
They might be the people you are responsible for at work as you explain a change that will cause uncertainty in their lives, or when you are speaking at a club or organisation where you are trying to persuade people of diff opinions on a sensitive topic about your views. They might be people who want answers regarding something that has gone wrong, something that quite possibly wasn’t your fault personally, but requires you to diffuse the situation.
So to summarise hostile audiences:
are not open to your ideas,
are possibly looking to find fault in what you say,
but crucially, they are keen to hear what you have to say, even if they are not interested in listening to you.
The Apathetic Audience
The third kind of audience is in some ways the hardest one: the apathetic audience.
They could have heard five speeches already today and whilst yours would otherwise be interesting for them, they just don’t have the attention to give you. Perhaps the topic just doesn’t seem relevant to them even if their managers think it is. Perhaps they have had bad experiences with public speakers before and automatically switch off in lectures.
Apathetic audiences can be characterised as so that:
the ideas being communicated rarely make it through to the listener because they aren’t paying attention,
they are neither receptive nor hostile but could potentially be either.
Which One Do You Have?
A good question to ask when trying to think about what kind of audience you will present to is:
When I step on to the stage and start speaking, do the audience want to hear what it is that I have to say?
If yes, then you have a receptive audience,
if no, then you have a hostile audience,
and if you think they won’t care, then you have an apathetic audience.
We have thought long and hard about this question. Mainly because it underpins everything we do here at Get Sandwich.
Learning to speak well is difficult because it requires a lot of the right kind of practice. There is usually a lot of theory on how to speak well, like what to do to structure an informational talk or persuasive talk, but not enough examples to put them in context (like when you are selling, or you are teaching a group of teenagers), and certainly people don’t practice enough before they present.
When we ask people why they want to improve their speaking, the common answers are: “I want to be more confident”, or “I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to present at work”. These “goals”, although good starting positions, should go several steps further to be useful.
For example, in your personal life, if you want to be more confident in social gatherings, it would make sense to train yourself on being able to talk about the newspaper headlines of the day for about two minutes, just enough to break the ice with your acquaintances that day.
If you are aiming to present at work, it will make sense to think about how long is the usual presentation. If it’s 10 minutes, then that’s great. You have a format where you can train your talk.
With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to our framework we use internally, here at Get Sandwich. It’s easy to remember because it’s called RITE. You know, the RITE of passage, or the RITE way. RITE stands for:
Record every talk. Never waste your one-off talks. Mobile phone storage is so cheap these days, there is no reason not to. Recording yourself allows you to have an objective view of how you currently speak.
Identify your audience. Ask what is the number one place you’d like to speak better? Is it at work? Is it for a conference? Figure out how your talk should help the audience best by deciding on the appropriate content, style and format.
Train every day. Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Do one thing that scares you every day.”, If speaking is your kryptonite, train by recording yourself every day. If not, still do it anyway to create a good speaking habit.
Evaluate by getting feedback. This is usually the hardest part, but we’ve built Get Sandwich for you to do this. Upload your recording and share it with your trusty friends to get some quick feedback on what to do next. Getting quality feedback is the fastest way to improve your speaking.
I’ll give you an example of how I do this myself.
I’ve booked my next Toastmasters speech in September, and I’m anxious about it, so I’ve started practising by answering a two-minutes question of “What’s the one thing people in Toastmasters should know to make their lives better?”. Toastmasters is a public speaking meetup. Its audience comes from many disciplines so I cannot have any jargons in my speech. I also know the format of the talk, it’s 7 minutes max, with minimal slides.
When I have a good idea of what I should talk about, I will record a 7-minute talk, and ask for feedback from others to improve the quality of my rehearsals.
The steps here are important, especially number #1: Record every talk. In our experience, there is a huge improvement curve observed simply by recording your talks, even before identifying the audience.
It’s good to have a baseline of how you speak normally by re-watching yourself. Specifically your pace, your natural facial expressions and your tone of voice. Without the recording, it’s very difficult to pick the next thing to improve. It could be the structure of your message needs more clarity, or it could well be increasing the articulation of your words. So that it’s easier to digest.
We build Get Sandwich to help you do these four steps because we believe it’s the be all and end all. You can speak better, by speaking more. Not by writing more, nor by learning better grammar. Every single improvement you take should stem from the evaluation you get on the recorded talks you have done; otherwise, it’ll be a premature optimisation. Taken from computer science, premature optimisation means that you are fixing aspects of your speaking that may not matter as much; as a result, you are missing out on the biggest thing you can do to get better fast.