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Ed Rigsbee's SucceedinSpeaking.com

Speaker Tips from Ed Rigsbee, CSP


On 11/27/07, I requested of my professional speaker network at www.linkedin.com; "Please share with me one or two of the most meaningful lessons you have learned in developing your platform charisma." Within 24 hours, I received the following responses:

Mark Mayberry wrote:

Get to know the audience before I get on stage.

Speak from my heart. Be real.

Jeff Thredgold wrote:

If possible, being out with the audience...not hiding behind a lectern.

The use of humor

NOT using PowerPoint

Lorna Riley wrote:

During one speech, I once had a deaf person in my audience. The company had hired a "signer" to interpret my words through ASL gestures. I was so aware of every word being repurposed through movement, that I slowed down my normal "energetic" pace, to one that emphasized the weight of each idea. More time on each word and pauses made the concepts seem more important, easier to remember, and all-in-all, a more profound experience for everyone. In subsequent programs, I pretended that someone in the audience was deaf and wanted to "hang on every word." And they did! If words are said with importance, they are.

Kenny Zail wrote:

Having stories that the audience can relate to, and be "in the moment of the story", will help to draw the audience into the presentation. Look for heads nodding as you scan the audience.

Ravindran Gangadharan wrote:

It might sound clichéd - but be yourself, and have a role model. Be very clear about what you are trying to convey. If not cheerful, be enthusiastic and passionate about your story. Also be honest and vulnerable. People don't like Macho men, they want to see someone who is like themselves and is a hero in his own way.

Dan Seidman wrote:

An acting coach taught me that before I met anyone - an audience or in person - to speak to myself on three things that are great about me.

This is done in the first person, for example;

"I'm a great husband & father, I'm a fantastic basketball player, I'm a hilarious speaker."

They don't have to relate to the person, audience, or what I'm about to do. They just have to serve to amp up my persona.

So the charisma comes from being the best in my mind and heart at anything that defines who I am.

Try it. It seems so simple and it works.

Jim Cathcart wrote:

Hello Ed, Happy Holy Days,
There are three elements in every aspect of speaking success: Mindset, Skills and Systems. Charisma starts with Mindset. You must cultivate a respect for and admiration of your audience. Without this your speech will simply be a delivery of information. With it your emotions will reinforce your message positively.

The skills of charisma have to do with understanding and adapting to differences in groups and individuals. You've got to know your audience: the organization, the situation, the culture, and the individuals as much as practical.

Your systems need to include the efficient gathering of data about the group, your assignment and their goals. Have a great preprogram questionnaire to help you learn what you need to learn. Also, your personal system or habit pattern in preparation for each speech has a great deal to do with charisma. Be sure you get yourself into the attitude and mood to be the best you can be for them.
Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE

Gerard Braud wrote:

Be real. Never fake it. The audience can smell a fake a mile away. If you are not the right fit for the job turn it down.

Marcia Reynolds wrote:

Speakers need to be conscious of the emotional state they are in. No matter how powerful are their words or how touching is their story, the emotions they are feeling as they speak is what stirs the audience (and I have the scientific reasons to substantiate this since my specialty is in nueropsychology). Before I start speaking, I look at my audience and feel the love I have for them as humans seeking to improve their lives and for the gratitude I feel for being of service to them from the stage. Then I share my fun and meaningful experiences all out, as if we are all on this ride of learning together. On the days I don't feel up to this, or some event or person throws me off, I can tell the same stories and give the same amazing facts but the results are never the same. Charisma is a result of emotional energy. And it's not about us, it's about what we want for them.

Bonnie Mahaffey wrote:

Practice, practice, practice. It's not important to memorize a presentation verbatim, but I practice the flow of the ideas and concepts so that they connect and make sense to the audience. Also, I like to be appropriately animated. It helps dissipate some of my nervous energy and keeps the audience engaged. I also use voice variance. Nothing puts an audience to sleep faster than a monotone speaker. And where it's appropriate, I always try to use humor and audience participation (a show of hands or a direct question to someone).

Vern Westgate wrote:

If it's a focused group or company, when you first get the gig, find out about the industry and what the folks in that industry are concerned about. Ask what to read from your program contact and all the rest of the stuff these others have noted.
But particularly, get there early and mingle with the folks...Ask questions, then probe..."Tell me about..." "That's interesting, tell me more..."
Get to know the folks in the front row before you speak..
Delivery note: When you start your speech, look at the person in the front right corner...make a complete statement by speaking to that person. Then look up at the person in the right rear corner and complete your statement by speaking to that person...Then do the left rear and left front persons with the same full statement focus. (This can be left front, left rear, etc as well...The direction of rotation makes little difference.)
What this does for you and them is plant in your mind the entire audience and you should include them seamlessly from that point on. If this is a seminar with breaks, do the same thing after each break.
Don't exclude anyone who came to hear you speak...

Lou Heckler wrote:

Speak to "an audience of one." -- Talk with the audience as you would with a close friend and let the audio system do the rest. It will make your presentation more intimate and more powerful.

Rodger Price wrote:

1. Introduce yourself and speak with audience members before your
program. Whether at events prior (E.G. Luncheon) or in the room
before you speak. Talk one on one or small sections. Ask questions
about what is important about your topic to them and what they are
looking for out of your program. Two things happen here; First you
are "making friends" with the audience and they will "root" for you to do
well. Second, you can use what you have learned from them in your
presentation and answer their specific, telling the audience "When I
was speaking to 'Josh" prior to my program, I learned he wanted to
know how to...."... and then address that need.

2. When you tell a story, "live" the story. Speak in the present tense
and "act" out the story. When I tell my story about my father and I
buying my first baseball glove, I become a 7 year old living the moment.

George Morrisey wrote:

1. Whenever feasible, I stand at the door and greet each attendee personally, to establish an early connection.
2. In half day sessions or longer, I try to learn each person's name ahead of time, then greet them personally, then call them by name during the session. Most of my groups are 20-25 people but I have done this with as many as 75 people.

Patti Branco wrote:

Don't roam aimlessly, make ever step or movement away from your 'mark' meaningful...that way your power is not expended wastefully. When you do 'move' to the left or right, make it on a powerful point you are trying to convey with impact-(and move to each side evenly, not favoring just one.)!(more of an acting technique-the only one i use-to develop --pretend you are being filmed!)
Be yourself, be likeable and make friends with the front row beforehand if it is appropriate. Smile sincerely.
One more thing, don't be sitting before your up to bat! It's hard to regain your energy...try to remain standing if possible!

John Shackleton wrote:

As usual I would say the answer to your question is self belief. As I often say from stage “I don’t care what the question is, the answer is always self belief”!

When I speak to groups, large or small, I have to believe in myself 100%, if I don't then people will sense my insecurity and not embrace my message. Most people will tell you that they believe in themselves but unfortunately they’ll back down from their view point or fail to be persistent with their efforts when the going gets tough. 100% self belief is about congruence and integrity, it’s about living your word. If you don’t have integrity and your not congruent then your audience will find you out, irrespective of how good you are with your stories.

Total self belief can be interpreted as arrogance but top sports people understand that in order to win you have to KNOW you are the best, rather than just hope. To me speaking is similar to performing in my sport and if some people read my total self belief on stage as arrogance then that’s unfortunate.

Hope that's not too harsh!

Shep Hyken wrote:

Being prepared.
Pausing at the appropriate places.
Hiring Patricia Fripp - a great investment!!!

Rohit Talwar  wrote:

Great question Ed.

I think if I have charisma - which is debatable - it comes from saying what I really think and trying to help the audience make sense of complex forces shaping the future in a clear and simple manner

Donna Earl wrote:

Hi Ed,
I don't know about charisma, but I do know that I avoid being the constant hero of my stories. In one story, I explain how I inadvertently escalated conflict in a social situation, and how another person's response quieted the problem. The audience really responds to my objective dissection of my actions, my own laughter at myself, and the moral of the story.

Alison Griffiths wrote:

Never give handouts in advance, unless you don't want your audience to listen too closely in which case the more handouts you give the less they will listen.
Try and meet at least some of your audience first, that way you can bounce comments off them and your talk becomes more like chatting with friends
Don't tell jokes unless they are completely relevant and naturally fit into your talk

Robert Stack wrote:

I think the first thing a speaker should learn to do is to surrender to their passion. They should take on things that allow them to feel fun and joy in whatever they are talking about and presenting. When you are enjoying yourself the audience will know it and respond by enjoying what you have to say. I am also a strong proponent that speakers should always visualize he desired outcome they desire from the audience. In so doing you take your presentation or performance to a much deeper level. Finally, I think that for speakers to stand out from their peers they must "play the edge". By that I mean they should strive for self-transcendence and stretch their being and doing with the audience. When you deliver a speech or presentation you want to push the envelope and try new things and allow yourself to deep within yourself and do something you did not think you could do. To go where you have not been before. Part of being human is to always challenge yourself to be better at the podium.

Michael Hick wrote:


If it’s possible network with the group before your event, get to know one or two and there will be an individual bond already in the audience.

Get into a giving and ‘loving’ mode before you begin – it will give you the circle of energy and support you need to lift your presentation above the ordinary.

Chris Widener wrote:

Ultimately for me it is about authenticity. Being myself is the best thing I can do to connect with the audience and communicate with charisma. Today's audiences are very sophisticated and can tell a phony. They want it real and straight from the heart. Now, if you can be funny, engaging, and interesting while you are being authentic, you are in business!

Michael Russer wrote:

Ed, these are what work well for me:

1) Being totally present - I don't think there is anything so charismatic as a person who is totally and completely present.

2) Passion --audiences that sense your passion will forgive 90% of the mistakes you make on the platform;

3) Being genuine and vulnerable - I like being playful with my audiences because that's just who I am --BTW, I make lots of fopahs on stage and the audience loves the fact that I can laugh at myself.

4) Resonant voice - one of the best investments I've made in my speaking career was hiring a voice coach.

I believe that all the above can contribute significantly to "charisma".

Hope this helps!

Joyce L. Gioia-Herman wrote:
The more comfortable I feel with me, the better I am on the platform. 

From Roger Herman I learned that the audience sees the mirror image of what we see, so always demonstrate a beginning and ending appropriately for the audience.

I hope I’ve helped?

Terri L Maurer wrote:

1. Don't 'speak' at people, talk to them
2. Use stories and humor. People relate better
3. Know the length of time your voice will hold out and plan your presentation for 1/2 less or be sure you get a break

Michael Karpovich wrote:

I use a lot of voices (from radio days) when on the stage. Sometimes it gets crowded on stage with all of my "personalities" Along that same line (with my hand held mic) I can be quite loud (without hurting ears) and I can whisper and dramatically effect the audience reaction.

I am quite effective at talking to one member of the audience in the middle of a presentation... indeed I get so obnoxious as to say "NO I am not talking to them I am talking to you!" Of course the point made is for the entire audience but I have won over that one member of the audience with this playful approach!

Jack Sims wrote:

Ed I am happy to share.

I have found that the slower I speak, the better the results, put in more pauses, wait for them to react, laugh etc, and try to be like Jack Benny!

The more I speak, the less I use Power Point. Audiences have come to see and hear me speak, not to go through a whole host of slides.

Remember, we are in the entertainment, information delivery and story telling business, and it content should be equally divided between each area for maximum retention.

Rob Waldo Waldman wrote:

I find the more stories I share of when I messed up (and the lessons I've learned), as opposed to the 'greatness' I've achieved, the more people can relate and buy into my overall message.

Be real with your stories about family challenges or common fears - let your guard down and this will let your audiences guard down and open them up to being more receptive to your message.

Finally - be funny too! No matter how serious your message, tie in a laugh...this gets them to like you and feel good about you.

Frank Bucaro wrote:

Stage presence = I always believed in being who you are. By that I mean that your message will be more hard hitting if you are true to what really brought you to “the table" so to speak. Be who you are not what you think you ought to be.

Story telling = I use a lot of Native American wisdom in my programs. I find that to truly captivate my audience to this wisdom, I need to study more about the tribe, leadership, spirituality, etc in order to craft a context for the point. This context is all historically true and not made up by me just to "fit" my point, but it is work to do the research, but well worth it.

George Torok wrote:

Put the audience in the story with the word “you”. Vince Poscente does this extremely well. I was reluctant to tell my marathon story because I was afraid of alienating people. But once I started using phrases like “you are at the starting line”, “you start having these inner conversations”… people who were not even runners could relate and comment on the story lesson.

Don’t get hung up over the one person whose body language suggests that he hates you. You don’t know what is troubling them. When speaking to one group I was pleased that the audience laughed and seemed to be enjoying my presentation. All except one person who sat with arms crossed and a grumpy face. Each time I looked at him my gut tightened. After the presentation he approached me and said with the same grump face, “You were the best speaker we have ever had.” Some people just look grumpy on the outside.

Dominic Carubba wrote:

I like what Waldo said, so I'll just mention a few FUNdamentals.
1.) Have FUN. The more I enjoy myself, the more my audience enjoys me.
2.) Elarge your Purpose. Have your purpose for being on the platform be greater than your fear of failing. It will empower #1 as well.
3.) Smile.
4.) Pause
5.) Remember, your performance is not terminal. Let go of your desire to DO great and just BE Great. Your natural love and enthusiasm will win the hearts and minds of your audience. If it's not going well, give your best and learn from your mistakes to the next time you perform.

Eileen  McDargh wrote:

Arrive early and listen. There is always something you can add that connects the audience with you because you are so attuned to what has gone on.

Poke fun at yourself.

Thomas Lee wrote:

Remember that, very probably and almost certainly, there is no one in the room who knows more about your topic, or who feels more passionately about it, than you do. Remind yourself that you have been invited to share your insights and your passion because you are who you are. Finally, keep in mind that everyone there wants you to succeed. Give them the opportunity to be happy they are here today with you.

Robert E. Bates wrote:

I try to entertain like a really good magician with a sense of humor. This would include using some of these tools

1.) Passion for the material, story, etc…
2.) Be a good host, by introducing people with common interests
3.) Use humor to loosen everyone up, Make it fun!!!
4.) Ask yourself and the audience questions, including those who are not asking questions
5.) Summarize with the audience the material at the end to see if everyone got your point

Afterwards, many people come up afterwards and ask many questions. Additionally, they are surprised and find this more like a social gathering then anything else.

Marilyn Snyder wrote:

Probably the most important lesson learned around presentation skills is that speakers need to be individuals, standing out from those around them with something memorable. For example, since I've started using a full-length black cape as I do my opening to my Avoiding the Death by PowerPoint Syndrome seminar, people remember me! When they see me again at other events, they always comment, saying things like, "Hi, PowerPoint Lady. Where's your cape?" Then they go on to tell me one of the best things they learned at the seminar. Being memorable has led to many other engagements!



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