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(Wed06) A blast from the past in which I explain how to get a standing ovation:

When I started public speaking in about 1986, I was deathly afraid of public speaking—for one thing, working for the division run by Steve Jobs was hugely intimidating: How could you possibly compete with Steve? It’s taken me twenty years to get comfortable at it. I hope that many of you are are called upon to give speeches—it’s the closest thing to being a professional athlete that many of us will achieve. The purpose of this blog entry is to help you give great speeches.

Have something interesting to say. This is 80% of the battle. If you have something interesting to say, then it’s much easier to give a great speech. If you have nothing to say, you should not speak. End of discussion. It’s better to decline the opportunity so that no one knows you don’t have anything to say than it is to make the speech and prove it.

Cut the sales pitch. The purpose of most keynotes is to entertain and inform the audience. It is seldom to provide you with an opportunity to pitch your product, service, or company. For example, if you’re invited to speak about the future of digital music, you shouldn’t talk about the latest MP3 player that your company is selling.

Focus on entertaining. Many speech coaches will disagree with this, but the goal of a speech is to entertain the audience. If people are entertained, you can slip in a few nuggets of information. But if your speech is deathly dull, no amount of information will make it a great speech. If I had to pick between entertaining and informing an audience, I would pick entertaining—knowing that informing will probably happen too.

Understand the audience. If you can prove to your audience in the first five minutes that you understand who they are, you’ve got them for the rest of the speech. All you need to understand is the trends, competition, and key issues that the audience faces. This simply requires consultation with the host organization and a willingness to customize your introductory remarks. This ain’t that hard.

Overdress. My father was a politician in Hawaii. He was a very good speaker. When I started speaking he gave me a piece of advice: Never dress beneath the level of the audience. That is, if they’re wearing suits, then you should wear a suit. To underdress is to communicate the following message: “I’m smarter/richer/more powerful than you. I can insult you and not take you serious, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” This is hardly the way to get an audience to like you.

Don’t denigrate the competition. If you truly do cut the sales pitch, then this won’t even come up. But just in case, never denigrate the competition because by doing so, you are taking undue advantage of the privilege of giving a speech. You’re not doing the audience a favor. The audience is doing you a favor, so do not stoop so low as to use this opportunity to slander your competition.

Tell stories. The best way to relax when giving a speech is to tell stories. Any stories. Stories about your youth. Stories about your kids. Stories about your customers. Stories about things that you read about. When you tell a story, you lose yourself in the storytelling. You’re not “making a speech” anymore. You’re simply having a conversation. Good speakers are good storytellers; great speakers tell stories that support their message.

Pre-circulate with the audience. True or false: the audience wants your speech to go well. The answer is True. Audiences don’t want to see you fail—for one thing, why would people want to waste their time listening to you fail? And here’s the way to heighten your audience’s concern for you: circulate with the audience before the speech. Meet people. Talk to them. Let them make contact with you. Especially the ones in the first few rows; then, when you’re on the podium, you’ll see these friendly faces. Your confidence will soar. You will relax. And you will be great.

Speak at the start of an event. If you have the choice, get in the beginning part of the agenda. The audience is fresher then. They’re more apt to listen to you, laugh at your jokes, and follow along with your stories. On the third day of a three-day conference, the audience is tired, and all they’re thinking about is going home. It’s hard enough to give a great speech—why increase the challenge by having to lift the audience out of the doldrums?

Ask for a small room. If you have a choice, get the smallest room possible for your speech. If it’s a large room, ask that it be set “classroom style”—ie, with tables and chairs—instead of theatre style. A packed room is a more emotional room. It is better to have 200 people in a 200 person room than 500 people in a 1,000 person room. You want people to remember, “It was standing room only.”

Practice and speak all the time. This is a “duhism,” but nonetheless relevant. My theory is that it takes giving a speech at least twenty times to get decent at it. You can give it nineteen times to your dog if you like, but it takes practice and repetition. There is no shortcut to Carnegie Hall. As Jascha Heifitz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. If I don’t practice two days, my critics know it. If I don’t practice three days, everyone knows it.” Read this article to learn what Steve Jobs did.

It’s taken me twenty years to get to this point. I hope it takes you less. Part of the reason why it took me so long is that no one explained the art of giving a speech to me, and I was too dumb to do the research. And now, twenty years later, I love speaking. My goal, every time I get up to the podium, is to get a standing ovation. I don’t succeed very often, but sometimes I do. More importantly, I hope that I’m standing and clapping in the audience of your speech soon.
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This is wonderful, thanks +Guy Kawasaki

I have a huge fear of public speaking but I now find myself in a job where I need to engage in more public speaking. Advice like this really helps.
I love this Guy - thanks for sharing!
Advice like this from Guy Kawasaki - #Priceless
Thank you for the tips and honesty. Am speaking more (which helps) but still that initial trepidation. But nothing better than when one is well-received and congratulated - feels great!
Those are great points for a professional. If you're at the point of your career when public speaking seems more likely, I would also suggest joining Toastmasters.

And if you're looking for a public speaking class (I've taken quite a few), find the smallest enrollment class. Smaller classes allow a "safe" and "friends" atmosphere to develop much quicker than a larger class which helps a lot with alleviating anxiety.
I used to be scared to speak, too, but I did it because I wanted to become an author. Then a small New Thought church started asking me to speak every few months. Each time I had to come up with a new topic. I soon got over my fear speaking to this very small congregation. I expanded to larger and larger groups. I just added in PowerPoint. :~) Now I really love speaking. I still get a bit nervous, and my topics don't always lend themselves to as many stories as I'd like to tell, but I'm having way more fun than I used to! Thanks for this post. It still offered me tips I need to hear and can use.
A really interesting post. Loved the stuff about Steve Jobs too.
Great advice Guy. Thanks for posting.
+Guy Kawasaki I like your line in the opening paragraph where you say giving a speech "is the closest thing to being a professional athlete that many of us will achieve." I was a pitcher on my college baseball team. I totally agree that the adrenaline rush you get during a big game is very similar to the feelings you get during and just after a speech.

In fact, I can see where giving public speeches might be good therapy for former athletes going through "competition withdrawal." Or depressed celebrities who have fallen off the "A-List" and out of the spotlight. Or anyone else going through "adrenaline withdrawal", which I believe is a very real phenomenon.
I wish more speakers would pay attention to your suggestion regarding knowing your audience. It's probably the single biggest point speakers fail on--that and totally lame Powerpoint presentations!
+Guy Kawasaki Thanks for resurfacing such a great piece, Guy. It's nice to know that even you felt nervous before speeches. And it's really nice to know that you feel it can take 20 times to do a home-run speech. I hope that in 20 years I can say the same thing.
thanks so much for sharing, this makes my +12in12 for today in learning about giving great presentations
Thanks, +Guy Kawasaki Great tips here. I'm going to add a few into the new book I'm writing because they make sense for presentations even if you are not "in-person."
Thanks to you +Guy Kawasaki, I experienced the most nerve wracking speech of my life. It was at Fall Comdex in either '84 or '85. I had the privilege of presenting our software (The Home Accountant) in Apple's booth on the Big eight foot high replica of the original Macintosh with a rear projection screen where the monitor would have been. Since the Mac had just been released, everyone was interested to see what the original Mac software developers had come up with. Guy had recruited our company as one of the first Mac-certified developers. There must have been 500-600 people jammed into Apple's booth watching a succession of 10-15 minute presentations on the latest software developments. My knees were literally shaking as I got up to the podium. Then, in the very back of the crowd, I saw a friendly boss at the time. He was giving me hand signals reminding me to smile, relax, and just have fun. It took a few minutes to sink in but, once I saw the audience "get into" my presentation, there was a tremendous sense of relief. They were actually interested in what I had to say! Only 24 years old and I had the Comdex crowd hanging on my every word. Pretty cool! Thanks, Guy!
I WILL use these comments one day, thank you!
Great insight! This advice is true and hopefully rings understanding in the minds of those who can do it, but just haven't.

+Guy Kawasaki, I'd like to see if you would entertain the thought of another post (or more) about a similar topic. One capable of enchanting readers and enabling them for future self growth...Interested?
Something weird happened to me just the other day. I realized that I really quite enjoy getting up and speaking in front of people. It os weird because I am very much a technologist and was very introverted until a few years back. The change happened for one simple reason. I started a company. I have a long way to go to get standing ovations, but I will definitely never stop trying. Thanks +Guy Kawasaki for the share!
Great advice. But then I'll listen to anything as long as it doesn't involve a goddamn PowerPoint presentation!
+Guy Kawasaki I was not suggeting that, but it would be and honor. I would like you to write another post (or more) regarding a subject which speaks volumes about a major impact point in the post above. You really caught my attention when you spoke about over dressing. This practice gives people so much more opportunity for so many reasons. I'd love for you to expand on this topic to enchant others with the real world impact and effectiveness of personal branding (offline) accompanied by situational awareness. I feel your insight may be able to help readers understand the importance of perception and how to get others to engage on another level.
This is an amazing post. Some of my friends have to give a speech in a week or so, so thank you
Thanks! despite my experience is speech, i always feel nervous in the initial minutes. Is it a good sign?
+Guy Kawasaki my first speech on stage was actually following you on stage at a conference 5 years ago! Ouch! Anyway, speaking of, loved your speech earlier today in Orlando.
A great share by Guy!
Last night I made a similar post but focusing on the rhetoric of the speech. How to technically build up your speech to maximize your influence on your audience:
If you follow Guy's advice and combine it with the structure I describe, I'm sure you will be a great speaker one day!
this is a really good post
Those are some very good points. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, agreed on all points and I'll keep these tips in mind. The last speech I gave went really well and it felt GREAT :)
you are always worth reading... since your 4D days!
This is such a great read. I'm sure many people can pick up something from this. Thanks for sharing. :)
+Guy Kawasaki I am once again posting my comments seeking your comments:" Thanks! despite my experience is speech, i always feel nervous in the initial minutes. Is it a good sign?
14:24 - Edit "
As a school teacher, I'm public speaking every day, but your article still articulated some of my aims even if I hadn't done so myself. Focusing on entertaining, and still slipping in some information is important, if not difficult. But, we try. And practicing, too: sometimes, despite my preparations, it's unfortunate that my lecture may be a little better later in the day than it is at first light, as there's tangential information that assists, or humor to be mined. Thanks, Guy.
Google's public speaking tip for the keynote speech on the 2nd day of their 2 day Google I/O conference:

At the end of the talk, give everybody in the audience a free electronic device. It seems to keep everybody's attention.
Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.
One little technique I've used-- I'll present to my mirror. I'll do this until I:
* Don't fidget
* Don't fumble over the words
* Look myself in the eye without constantly checking my slides
* Don't go over allotted time (time to cut material)
* Don't keep changing my wording
Great advice!
Guy, you should have added that video in which you say "high, and to the right". That one truly deserved a standing ovation. I still remember it really well.
A lot of these principles apply to teaching English to a class full of 60 kids in China!
Thank you! A standing ovation from Guy Kawasaki would be a life treasured moment but if I ever have the privilege of speaking to you publicly I hope you recognize your advice in my speech before I recognize your face in my audience. :-)
Thanks +Guy Kawasaki . One of my professional colleagues told me that for every one minute of speaking time, you should spend 60 minutes preparing. I do a ton of public speaking and I find his advice and your advice as relevant today as it was when I started.
+Mike Hagen 60 to 1 isn't realistic unless you count the years it took to get the experience to know what you're talking about. :-)
Great Stuff Here Guy! You can just feel/experience a good speaker when you are in the presence of one. The points you have listed have been common in all of the great speakers I have heard/experienced. Some great speakers achieve entertainment through humor, and others through compelling story telling!
Awesome post! I have been working on getting over my fear of public speaking because I know if I am going to make changes in my community/world then I have to get over that fear.
I feel you should take some of those suggestions to heart for your Google+ posts as well
hi this is krish the matter that you have posted is very useful
That was just, great stuff!!! Thank u- u can bet Ill pass it on 2 my son!! LOL
Its risky but I avoid powerpoint if at all possible and brief straight from the web.  I tell my audience that this is live and use real data examples - i do rehearse the examples though
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