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Speaker's Digest | Fundamentals of Public Speaking | EMS Glossary of Terms

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Speaker's Digest

December 2016
Volume 15, Number 11

In this issue:

Imagine being a 19-year old man, accustomed to doing most of your work with your arms and legs, all with a helmet on your head. Suddenly, in the middle of a posh theater in Manhattan, you are blown away—thrust into the limelight on national television, named the winner of the Heisman Trophy, one of the greatest and most famous prizes in the sports world. Read on for some thoughts on the emotional speech of Lamar Jackson, who received the Heisman earlier this month in that exact scenario. Then, we recommend some videos to watch as you wrap up 2016, courtesy of TED.com, followed by two of our favorite holiday-related articles from past issues. Enjoy as you finish up your holiday cooking and wrapping!


As a clearly-nervous Lamar Jackson said multiple times after he became the youngest man ever to win the Heisman Trophy, “Oh, man. This is crazy!”

Winning the award is an amazing honor, but it also requires you to step to the microphone and make an impromptu speech. Having seen many experienced actors, executives and fellow athletes turn to jelly at this very moment, how will you handle it?

Let’s look at how Jackson, the sophomore quarterback from Louisville, handled himself when he was named this year’s Heisman winner. He looked great in the Cardinal-red jacket he wore, and after hugging every past winner assembled on the stage, he stepped up to the podium and pulled notes out of his pocket. First he thanked Jesus Christ, and then he shared how nervous he felt.

What followed was the type of public speaking lesson that everyone can learn from. Lamar started slowly, reading some of his notes to show appreciation to all who were responsible for electing him. It took him a little while to find his footing.

Quickly, however, Jackson came to life, just as he thanked the Louisville Athletic Director for his work in recruiting him. At that point, he began to speak from the heart—he stopped looking at his notes and spoke directly to his coaches and then to his Mom, telling stories and bringing genuine emotions. At that moment, he ceased to look like a typical athlete uncomfortable in front of the microphone, and became a genuine human being, someone we all could appreciate and relate to.

Lamar Jackson reminds us of something we’ve seen from many other presenters—if you want to connect with your audience, you don’t do it with the expected, typical, written-down ‘thank you’ speech. You do it by speaking from the heart.

Watch Jackson’s six-minute speech. Compare the nervous man you see in the first few minutes—the one struggling to read his notes— to the one who saluted his Mom for helping to get him through a very difficult period some years back when both his father and his grandma passed away on the same day.

You can tell how hard it was for Jackson to find the right words once he put down his notes. But this young man made up for it by expressing his authentic emotion and being himself. He gained confidence right in front of our eyes. His cadence, his eye contact, his volume and his energy all improved. It wasn't the most eloquent speech you’ll ever hear, but it surely got our attention. We think this kid has a terrific future.

Watch the video at www.HeismanCentral.com


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What are the best ways to break a bad habit? What goes through the mind of a “master procrastinator”? Why does your mind sometimes tell you that you’re right, even when you’re wrong? These are some of the most popular topics covered in TED Talks in 2016.

You certainly know about TED Talks if you’ve read recent issues of the Digest. These talks, delivered in forums all over the world, are some of the best examples of short-yet-memorable presentations that you can find on the web. You’ll never see crib notes among these presenters. All of them have clearly planned and rehearsed their speeches to connect with their audiences—both live and online.

This month, to honor the year gone by, we share the Top 10 TED Talks of 2016, as determined by the people who run TED.com. When you get a break from your busy holiday schedule, take an hour or so and see what skills and fundamentals these speakers used effectively to merit the high rankings they received. Which skills jumped out at you? Which ones will you work to emulate in 2017?

Click here for the Top 10 TED Talks of 2016 


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Finally, to end the year on a high note, we’re pleased to republish two of our favorite articles from Speaker’s Digest holiday issues past—“A Lesson from Ebenezer” (2009) and “The Lesson of the Etch-a-Sketch” (2003). Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday season. See you next year!

A Lesson from Ebenezer
"The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face." Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts

Here's a real lesson from an EMS program, packaged and gift-wrapped for whichever holiday you’re celebrating this season…

Some of our clients are surprised when they first see themselves on video during an EMS seminar. In particular, they're mortified to see such serious, angry-looking faces looking back at them. That's one of the reasons we record people's presentations—because there's an important 'aha' moment when someone first sees themselves as others perceive them.

The good news is those scowling, sour-looking expressions aren't etched in stone. During one-on-one video review, we often remind frowning clients of the movie A Christmas Carol, asking if they remember what was different about old Ebenezer Scrooge when he awoke on Christmas morning after being visited by a few ghosts.

Whether you prefer the vintage Reginald Owen Scrooge, the George C. Scott Scrooge, the Muppet-version Michael Caine Scrooge, or even the animated Mr. Magoo Scrooge, you'll notice that the biggest Christmas morning change in any actor playing Scrooge is his facial expression. Through a smile, Scrooge always transforms himself from the mean ol' miser into a generous, warm, happy-go-lucky dancin' fool.

Facial expression sets a tone for how you communicate. When you look like a sourpuss, your audience will perceive you as one. By opening up your expression and smiling once in a while, you'll bring your message to life. And don’t be surprised when your smile leads to greater vocal variety and more descriptive gestures—it happens every time!

Don't wait to be visited by your own personal ghosts. Follow the example of Ebenezer Scrooge, and convert those "bah humbug" expressions into positive ones before it's too late. If you're concerned that you can't pull it off, check out some of these YouTube clips (count 'em—eight!) to see how our friend went from gloom to glam in a variety of versions of the Dickens classic:

Reginald Owen as Scrooge in the 1930’s classic
Alastair Sim as Scrooge, 1951
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol from 1962, with the voices of Jim Backus and Morey Amsterdam
Scrooge McDuck in the 1983 Disney version 
George C. Scott as Scrooge, 1984
Michael Caine as Scrooge in A Muppet Chrismas Carol, 1992 
Bill Murray in Scrooged, 1998
Jim Carrey as Scrooge in 2009 Robert Zemeckis film

The Lesson of the Etch-A-Sketch

If you haven't yet seen the movie Elf, SNL's Will Farrell plays Buddy, a North Pole elf who is chronically behind in his production quota of Etch-A-Sketches. The reappearance of the classic toy reminds us of this tip we've given out in our seminars:

It's easy for people to fall into habits. We take the same route to work every day, listen to the same radio stations, buy the same groceries, eat the same lunch, and talk to the same people. At work, people fall into patterns of working with the same vendors, writing the same memos, and planning the same conference agenda as last year.

Speakers have been known to fall into old habits as well. They start out with the same tired joke, use the same slides, become bored or tired with their materials, and let the energy drift out of their presentations.

Creativity and innovation experts talk about the benefits of adding some variety to a daily routine. Shaking things up can help many tired workers find new paths to success and passion. Starting from a blank slate can energize an often-repeated speech.

See where the Etch-A-Sketch comes in? It looks a little like an early generation laptop computer, but there's no memory, no attached printer, and nowhere to "save" the image. If you want to create a new picture, you "reboot" by turning it upside down and shaking vigorously (letting go of the old image in the process.) You'll have to create a new image from scratch, and odds are that even though the material inside the Etch-A-Sketch is exactly the same, you will end up with a very different masterpiece.

So as you approach the New Year in search of new ideas, new goals and personal growth, think of the Etch-A-Sketch. Don't be afraid to really shake things up for your next presentation. You’ll be rewarded with a blank screen--a screen full of new opportunities and new possibilities.


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