Author Archives: Justin

Deep Breathing and Pauses

There are three types of pauses:  silent pauses (no sound), filled pause (filled with ums ahs etc), and breath pauses. Consider consciously taking a diaphragmatic breath, so that’s its not really obvious, at key points in your presentation, such as when you change slides. In addition to giving time for your audiences to think and you time to think it can have positive effect on public speaking anxiety (Kimani, Shamekhi & Bickmore 2021). We also know that this type of breathing can be effective in helping us to think more clearly even if anxiety is not present.

Kimani, E, Shamekhi, A & Bickmore, T 2021, ‘Just breathe: Towards real-time intervention for public speaking anxiety’, Smart Health, vol. 19, 2021/03/01/, p. 100146.

Moving Mountains

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

Video Conferecning and Eye Contact

Link: A methodology to improve eye contact

When we are presenting using a webcam we want to be able to replicate what we see and do live i.e. gestures, body posture, facial expression and eye contact. This is not easy. We can to a certain degree control what we do, but we can’t control what our audiences does.

A lot of the presenting we do today in VC requires us to do a whole range of different tasks while presenting. We have to manage the technology, monitor the chat room and manage our software, which requires us to to be hands on and close to the computer. We do similar things when presenting live, but we can move away from the technology when we are done.

The advice that follows is taken from research on working one on one with a client, but I think we can still take some lessons from their findings. (Grondin et al. 2020)

The context for these guidelines is that we want the audience to see as much of us as is practical and for us to maintain eye contact as best as possible. We are going to assume that we are giving a presentation that doesn’t require us to have a lot of interaction with the technology. Either we just have to load it up and click through some slides or we have someone else doing that for us.

We can easily deal with all verbal and nonverbal elements by positioning ourselves so that we have our torso and head in shot. However there is one nonverbal, eye contact, which is our biggest challenge. What follows are guidelines for setting up our webcam so that we give the impression we are making eye contact with everyone in the audience. You can click on the link here for the whole article with pictures.

  1. Use a gooseneck webcam mount to position the webcam upside down and inside the monitor frame
  2. Use the application settings to flip the image so you are the right way up.
  3. Sit 130cm away from the camera
  4. Position yourself, either sitting or standing so that you are looking very slightly down at the camera.
  5. Preferably use a headset with a microphone. Relying on the webcam microphone from 130 cm probably wont give the best results.

When I was installing my gooseneck I noticed you can have the camera (logitec C920 in my case) the right up, but it protrudes a long way out, verses having it upside down where it sits closer to the screen.

This will work perfectly when we are communicating one on one. Because in essence we have positioned the camera just above the eyes of the other person. So when we speak we have the comfort of looking at someone not the camera. However because of the position of the camera the other person feels as if we are looking at them straight in the eye.

I think it works well for groups also if the platform we are using allows us to highlight an individual. If it doesn’t then its just a little more challenging because we will be directing our thoughts to the camera only.

Until technology like Microsofts i2i is launched we are going to have to use more practical solutions like the above.

The Importance of Understanding your Audience.

I was contacted by a PR company who was representing a psychologist. The psychologist had developed a workshop for the clients of a financial services firm. They asked me to facilitate that workshop.

The workshop was only two hours long and straight forward. It was about planning your use of time once you had retired. Even though I had many conversations with all the groups above, I didn’t investigate who was coming to the workshop.

On the evening of the workshop we were halfway through and I asked whether the workshop was making sense? One half of the room said the workshop was fantastic and the material really opened their eyes and made them think.

The other half of the room almost erupted in protest. “None of this makes sense”, “Only came here for the coffee” they yelled.  What was I going to do?

As it turned out there was nothing I could do at the time. The group who were “up in arms” had already retired, so telling them how to plan for their retirement was not very useful. The other group who were full of compliments were years off retiring so found the techniques relevant.

If I had my time over, I would have rung the financial advisers and found out more about who they were inviting. They could then have invited more of the right people!

I don’t believe you! Understanding your audience.

A client was pitching for the construction of a government building with a high degree of complexity. There was only one engineer who had done this specific type of work before and they were based in England. My client was able to successfully engage this engineer to be part of their bid team. This was a real coup for my client.

Unfortunately, they lost the bid.  They conducted a debrief with my client and was surprised to discover that one of the reasons they were unsuccessful was because the government didn’t really believe that my client would be able to engage the key engineer.  The reason for this was because they had tried and failed!

What could we have done differently to overcome this?

In the final presentation we could have

  1. Played a recording of the engineer saying how much they were looking forward to working with the government.
  2. Done a live cross in the presentation to demonstrate commitment.
  3. Flown the engineer out to be present on the day.

So it is vital to understand what drives an audience on a rational and emotional level.

« Older Entries