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

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Speaker's Digest

February 2017
Volume 16, Number 

In this issue:

In any presentation, two elements need to be combined to effectively reach your audience: content and speaking technique. While technique is an important focus of our workshops, this month we find the sweet spot where the two come together, as we celebrate the publication of a book featuring the words of one of our all-time favorite speakers. Then, you'll read about one expert's secret to successful TED Talks, and how February is the perfect month to re-visit the Fundamentals of Public Speaking.

An Adorable Addition to the Family
On February 18, EMS welcomed a new addition to our family with the birth of a beautiful baby girl, Mackenzie Sloan Brown, granddaughter of Brett (who became a grandfather for the first time!) and great-niece of Eric. Congratulations to the whole family, including Kenzie's parents Nikki and Jess as well as Great Grandee Sandee!


Our favorite speaker ever

We've written about many dozens of speakers over the years, and for most we're able to provide links to videos so you can see them in action. But one of our all-time favorite speakers doesn't have an online presence-no website, no YouTube channel, no LinkedIn page. He barely uses the Internet. But now that has changed with the publication of "Close Your Books: The Collected Writings and Sermons of Rabbi Mark S. Shapiro."

This book, which came out this past December, includes 39 sermons that Shapiro-currently Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, Illinois-delivered to congregations over a fifty-year period, as well as a dozen pieces that he wrote for the synagogue's bulletin. It was compiled and edited by Steve Shapiro, one of the creative minds behind Speaker's Digest. Eric and Eliot both wrote sidenotes for the book, along with twenty other contributors. Also, to be clear, Rabbi Shapiro (often referred to as MSS) is Steve and Eliot's father, and was Eric and Brett's rabbi growing up.

Why are we plugging this book? Eliot explains in the piece he wrote: "When clients ask, as they often do, 'Who's the best speaker you've ever heard?' I'll often reply, 'My father.' As cliché as it sounds, in this case it's absolutely true." Eliot also shared that, while many think of MSS as a 'rabbi's rabbi,' he considers him a 'speaker's speaker.'

What did MSS do best? If you read the sidenotes (or even the book reviews on Amazon), people said that MSS successfully made everyone feel as if he were speaking directly to THEM, even in a large crowd. As one contributor wrote, "Until I met Rabbi Shapiro, I wouldn't have believed that someone could speak to a crowd of 1,500 people, and still make it feel like he's speaking directly to me."

Eric expressed MSS' unique ability to connect with his listeners-through gestures, tone and volume-in a poem he wrote for the book. Here's an excerpt:

    Yes, the sweet sound of that voice, his voice!
    At times that voice had the velocity of a Chris Sale fastball     Demanding social justice, equality, questions that made us     think.
    Other times a softness to calm the turbulent souls of his flock     With a look, a glance or gaze, those moments he made stand     still for us.
    A pair of hands blessing above so many of our heads.

Eliot's contribution shared the perspective of what it was like to listen to your father speak to a larger audience: "I admit that I often sat in my seat feeling a little ticked off...thinking, 'there he goes again, choosing Yom Kippur as an opportunity to deliver fatherly advice. Why did he have to call us out in front of the entire congregation?' As I grew older and actually listened to those around me, I came to realizethat EVERYONE felt the same thing. Whatever the topic, each congregant was able to personally connect with his message and find relevance in their own life."

What lessons can leaders in the business world learn from a retired rabbi? Eliot outlined some of the techniques MSS used (and still uses) that made him such a powerful speaker:

Conversational tone. "MSS had the unique ability to deliver his sermons in the same tone he used while speaking to you in his office or teaching a class."

Dramatic pauses. "Silence is a powerful speaking tool, and MSS was a master at using it for effect. During that silence, you couldn't help but feel the impact of what he'd just said."

Body movement. "Though MSS always spoke from behind a podium, he never stood still. He would turn his body and reach out to the audience, making people in the back feel just as connected as those in the front row."

MSS also combined many other techniques that we encourage our clients to use-sense of humor, repetition, creative openings (POW! statements) and a willingness to be vulnerable.

In this collection of his sermons and writings, along with the thoughts of many who heard him speak, you get more than just the words he used-you get a feeling of HOW he spoke, and more importantly, how his messages reached his listeners.

If you'd like to have your own copy of "Close Your Books," you can purchase it on Amazon. All proceeds go to BJBE.

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When looking for examples that illustrate the elements that contribute to great presentations, we often turn to TED, that seemingly infinite resource of speeches and speakers alike. TED Talks are given all over the world by people you have never heard of, many of whom deliver powerful messages that are memorable both for their content and presentation style.

We recently found this video from Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED organization (www.TED.com), who shared his four secrets for great public speaking.

Anderson believes that the job of every speaker is to take an idea that's in their brain and to transfer that idea into the brains of all their listeners. He said your brain has an operating system that makes up "your personal worldview. It's how you navigate the world. And it is built up out of millions of individual ideas. So ideas, if conveyed properly, (are) capable of changing, forever, how someone thinks about the world"

Here are his suggestions for what it takes to do that effectively:

Limit to one major idea. Many presenters want to tell you everything they know about a subject, but that will hinder the audience's ability to get your message. Stick to one main idea, and return to that idea multiple times in your presentation. Give your listeners reason to care. Know your audience and be sure to speak to them. If you're giving a presentation about aeronautics to an audience of psychologists, they're not likely to care unless you can show them why it's relevant.

Build your idea from concepts that your audience understands. Anderson recommends that speakers use metaphors and other easily-understandable examples to help to illustrate your idea. If your idea is that leaders have to become better at working with others, you might discuss the role of the football quarterback, who can't do the job without protection from the blockers, nor without receivers who run good routes and catch the ball.

Make your idea worth sharing. How do speakers deliver ideas that people will want to continue to talk about well after the presentation is over? A good presenter must make it relevant to the listener's universe. Anderson suggests that all speakers must ask themselves, "Who does this idea benefit?" And be honest with the answer.

If the idea only serves you or your organization, thenit's probably not worth sharing." If you want to give a great speech (and who doesn't?), Anderson's perspective is a valuable one. You can watch his presentation here.

Spring Training: Practicing the fundamentals

Amid all this talk about the content of great presentations, keep in mind that the techniques you use to present your ideas can make all the difference in successfully connecting with your audience. February is a great time to talk about the EMS Fundamentals of Public Speaking because it's the start of one of our favorite annual rituals: the gathering of thousands of professional baseball players in Florida and Arizona for spring training.

There will be many exhibition games scheduled to help veterans get into shape and rookies make impressions on their big-league teams. More importantly, there will be hours and hours of practice focused on the fundamentals of playing good baseball. These fundamentals-throwing strikes, swinging at good pitches, throwing to the right base, backing up the play-are required if a team wants to develop quality players and win games.

If you want to improve as a presenter, the Fundamentals are always the place to start. To make your listeners feel as if you're speaking directly to them, make meaningful eye connection, use purposeful gestures and vary your facial expression. To hold their interest, bring energy, mix up your speaking pace, and move with a purpose. Avoid non-words that distract from your message, and use pauses to give your ideas time to sink into their brains.

Focus on the Fundamentals, and we promise you'll be more prepared than ever for Opening Day!

If you do decide to pick up a copy of "Close Your Books," we may be able to get it autographed for you. Let us know! 

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