'Communicate You' Blog

Tips from Ireland’s Top Coaches (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago I published an article with top tips and advice from some of Ireland’s leading public speaking and presentation coaches. Because their answers were so good the first time they’ve returned for a part 2!

If you missed it, I strongly recommend you catchup on part 1 here.

  

Catherine Moonan is the Pitch Coach on RTÉ’s ‘Dragons’ Den’. Catherine has coached over 500 contestants on all the series to date and helped them to secure over €5 million in investment. Catherine’s website is pitchcoach.ie

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh is the Chief Presentationist at Clearpreso. Ed works primarily with Irish tech startups who need great investor decks or are pitching at an important event. See clearpreso.com for more details.

  

Barry Brophy provides presentation skills training to companies mainly in the technical sector but also delivers courses in general presentation skills. Barry is a lecturer at UCD. Learn more at barrybrophy.com.

Orlaith Carmody is the managing director of Gavin Duffy & Associates. As a well known communications expert in Ireland and overseas, Orlaith’s day job involves preparing leadership teams for frontline communications. She is author of Perform As A Leader.

 

Is PowerPoint part of the problem of poor presentations, or part of the solution?

Catherine:

PowerPoint is definitely part of the problem. Start with the story. Get clarity around the story and message you’re communicating. Then get the slides to fit the story, not the other way around.

Barry:

Solution. BUT…not the way most people use it. Simply put, bullet-points – above a very bare minimum – are a disaster. They kill the audience and, worse, they kill the presenter. However, largely through the courses I teach in UCD, I have seen so many amazing slides, and slide sequences, that visual aids are too big an opportunity to spurn.

Images grab attention, help to illustrate points and can remain in people’s memories long after a presentation. Added to images, you can use graphs, animations, videos, schematics, colours, sketches and cartoons to take people on a journey.

Orlaith:

Definitely part of the problem! Presenters hide behind it, use it as a giant idiot board, put squiggles and signs and charts up that people can’t see, apologise constantly for the number of slides, lose their place and lose their way, become over formal and technical, and on and on and on. I have rarely seen a powerpoint presentation that I have enjoyed, or connected with on any level.

Ed:

I always say that the formula for a good presentation is: Great story + Great Speaker + Great Visuals. And I think of those elements the first 2 are the most important in terms of a presentation being good or bad. Now to be fair some people misuse powerpoint when making their visuals, but to blame the tool is way too simplistic. If you put in the time to learn how to use visuals in general, and how to properly use the tool to make them then they can bring your presentation to life.

What is something you believe about communication skills that other people think is insane?

Orlaith:

I believe that anyone can learn to overcome nerves and become a relatively competent speaker, through learning some technique, listening to feedback and practising. Sadly there are loads out there whose confidence way outstrips their competence!

Ed:

That people should present way less. Most presentations just flat out don’t need to happen. My brief stints in corporate land showed me that people love a good old “status update presentation” with ten people in a room, tea, coffee, biscuits, person reading slides word for word verbatim off the screen for an hour.  If you’re going to read a document off a screen… just email it to them, you’d save everyone a lot of time, and time ain’t free!

Barry:

Public speaking has nothing to do with speaking. Or put another way: you don’t need to learn new ‘public speaking’ skills to make a presentation.

You already have the skills to present – your conversational skills – and you use for maybe several hours each day, and have been doing so since you were born. You won’t better these skills. The key to a good presentation, for me, is to understand the listening process, not the speaking one. What are the audience hearing? Do they understand you? Do they believe you? Do they care? Will they remember what you said? Will they act on it? These are the questions you need to answer.

Catherine:

Research carried out in the US states that 55% of the impact of face to face communication is based on body language, 38% is tone of voice and just 7% is based on content. Most people think this is insane.

I believe the delivery of your message plays a huge part in how your message is received. Body language is everything from posture, gesture, eye contact, facial expression, movement. The voice is like a musical instrument. You can’t just expect people to listen just because you’re standing in front of them. You need to work at engaging your audience. That is done through variation of the voice by means of projection, pitch, pace, pause and emphasis.

Who comes to mind when you think of great presentations?

Barry:

It’s all relative: I can remember hundreds in my head but none are really famous. The ‘inspirational’ speakers are not that inspiring to me because this kind of presentation is often not a good role-model for people trying to make simple presentations at work.

That said, I do admire many people I have seen on television over the years. I love great sports analysts because they’re so rare: people like John Giles, John McEnroe, Peter Alliss and John Madden. People who can watch the same event that millions of other people have watched and spot something you didn’t see. And communicate it. I also used to love Alan Whicker for some reason.

Catherine:

I believe the former American President Barack Obama presented really well. He had excellent delivery and stage presence and he knew how to engage his audience.

Ed:

The late Hans Rosling. He fulfilled my formula for presentation greatness (Great Story, Great Speaker, Great Visuals) and then some. He managed to take data that could be communicated in a boring fashion and completely brought it to life with a fantastic narrative and great visual aids both digital and physical.

Orlaith:

There are the classic speeches we all return to again and again from the likes of JFK or Martin Luther King, because of structure, messaging, imagery, delivery, emotion and the whole package. But equally there are brilliant speeches that strike the perfect tone at ordinary events because they give the audience exactly what they want, at that exact time. One that comes to mind is the speech made by Simon Coveney at the Pendulum Summit a few years ago. It was a brilliant speech because it was completely personal, not a bit political, and perfectly in tune with a business audience looking for an uplifting, authentic experience to set them up in early January for the year ahead.

Catch-up with some of the other posts in the ‘Expert Interviews’ series here.