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March 17, 2009


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thom singer

Interesting post. While I don't play much pool, I am a professional speaker. Because I don't play pool, I would never dream of playing in a professional tournament without focus, practice and preparation. However, I am always surprised at how many business professionals think they can take the stage and "just wing it". You are right, speaking is a skill that is developed (Like pool or any other sport).

It was good to meet you at SXSW. I look forward to talking with you further at some point.


Kelly M

I still have the opposite feeling toward public speaking, I get very uncomfortable. I made a toast at my best friend's wedding this past weekend and it was so distracting to me through the entire wedding ceremony. But, I do feel like the more I make myself speak in public the better it gets, I just hate building it up so much and getting nervous. I think it is such a wonderful talent to be able to speak in front of people like it is no big deal and to be more conversational. It's hard to listen to someone when they are nervous and their points are unclear. Can't wait til I'm at the point where I'm setting up one shot ahead...right now I just focus on every word.

Jeff Hurt

As a meeting planner, I have hired more than 2,500 speakers in the past 10 years and my focus is the audience, not the speaker. My goal is to provide my audience with the right speaker, with the right message, at the right time that makes the right connections to both the audience and the content. The speaker can be the sage on stage or the guide on the side. I look for the guide on the side who focuses on the learner not the self-promotional ego-driven speaker sage on stage. I look for a speaker that really wants to connect with their audience and help them learn. If speakers would focus on the audience, it would take a lot of pressure off their back. It’s about the learner, not the speaker.

When I am considering a speaker for hire, I look at two things: their delivery style and the content. First, is their delivery one that engages the audience and uses good adult learning techniques? Do they know how to read an audience and adapt their presentation to meet the attendees needs? And, I get a sense of your delivery style in about 30 seconds of watching you present or watching your video. I’ll watch about 2 mins max of your marketing video and you either got the delivery technique down or you don’t.

A speaker can have good delivery and poor content and will still succeed. (We’ve all seen speakers that moved us during the presentation and afterwards we say, “what was that all about?”) However, if you have poor delivery and good content, you will fail. (Think of many college professors that lecture the content to death.) The audience will not connect.

The winning formula is when the speaker has good delivery and good content (3-5 main points only). Then you have a home-run presentation.

Jerry Smith

Sport/business analogies are great. There are always "naturals" in sports and public speaking but in reality I have found that those people are actually those that work the hardest, practice the most and stay focused on their goals. Although some natural gifts help, most things (including presentation skills) can be learned and it is with this application that you maximize your skills.
Good point David about the progression from beginner to professional. Each of these is a jump and sometimes the learning curve causes us to suffer a performance drop before the skills become learned and more consistent. It is important to recognize that this will happen and commit to long term development. Excellent parallels between pool and presenting - thanks

John R. Sedivy

Great analogy - I had never heard it put quite this way before but it makes perfect sense. I completely agree with your breakdown of the various levels of skill, starting with survival and moving up to the point where you can think several moves ahead. In my experience I have found this to be true - the very essence of just getting up there and presenting reduces fear and increases their skill. Increased practice furthers this concept.

Rob Margetts

Like it, like it a lot. I spend a lot of my time playing pool and speaking; the great life of being a youth worker. I have to say i agree with you, pool is all about thinking ahead, and keeping people interested in speaking is important, so timing and thinking ahead is very important. Just look at the comedians, these tips are at the centre of what they do!

Angela Gold

I experience that same zen-like state as a simultaneous interpreter. It's a great feeling of control. Now my career is taking me a different direction and I would love to master public speaking in the same way. Your analogy is a great reminder that these are things you actually can get better at. Thanks for yesterday's tips as well!

Joel Heffner

When I was a little boy (a million years ago) I was a stutterer. That's gone. Today, I seek opportunities to speak. To me, it's fun. The more people in the audience, the better. I, too, actually look at the people in the audience for feedback and am annoyed when someone isn't paying close attention. I always try to be perfect, but also remember that the only one who will know if I'm not...is me.

mona lee

Very nice post you gave very good tips and make people understand with the help of pool i was almost a professional snooker player but i left it due to some problems that i was facing i became very happy while reading all this it made remind of my early days ...good job

Nick Morgan

David, great post. I'm usually wary of sports analogies, but I love the top-of-your-game idea where you listen to your audience. The zen secret of public speaking is that it becomes a joy once you realize it's not about you pushing information out to the audience, but about the audience getting it. The best speakers focus on the audience, not on themselves. But, as you point out so well, to get to that point you have to work hard, practice and rehearse until you know the speech better than you know your mother.

John Wall

Thanks for the link! We need to get you on an upcoming show now that the book is out!


Great post! I like the analogy. But what I appreciate even more is the description of the stages you go through as a public speaker. I would consider myself a total beginner in public speaking and it makes me a little relieved that presentation skills have a lot to do with hard work. So you do not have to be a natural born speaker (though it certainly helps). With hard work and practice you will become a great speaker. (I hope...:))

David Meerman Scott

I don't think anyone is a "natural born speaker". The only way is through hard work.


David, I have just been running a presentation refresher course with all my customer facing staff in sales, marketing, services. We stressed the mastery of content and tell stories, tell stories, tell stories themes. We did a workshop around Guy's Presentation Zen where they had to create all new content themselves without bullets... what an experience! I used your 10 best practices and was very helpful to reinforce the message and now I'll pass this along as a reminder again. thanks!

justin locke

I must confess, for me, yes, speaking is an addiction. i literally get a buzz from it, and if i go too long without it i get withdrawal symptoms. it's very much like bullfighting or lion taming, once you get that rush of victory you want another one. --jl

Mike Lynn

I'm an expat American living in Yekaterinburg Russia and teaching Marketing, Finance and PR at two universities (to English track students). I have 10 1.5 hour classes a week plus private students preparing for English exams. In ALL cases I am in control of the material, and the involvement of the audience. Two years ago I would not have thought I could be as influencial by making great presentations and trying to affect people's lives positively. But I do. Speaking well and effectively is a rush to be sure and a pleasure knowing the material was well received.

Mike Lynn
Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russian Federation

Al Duncan

Great analogy for public speaking. As a professional speaker with 1200 keynotes and seminars under my belt, I agree with you 100%.

Once you are in the zone--Flow--it's an incredible feeling. You might not create a world wide rave at that point, but your audience will be raving.

Simon J. Maselli - Public Speaker Australia

I have read a anumber of your posts now and am very impressed. Have you made it out to Australia yet? I would like to hear you.

PS I'm still researching for http://powerpersuasion.com.au/public-speaking/public-speaking-topics/ - Thanks!

Simon J. Maselli


I think you have a thorough understanding in this matter. You describe in detail all here.

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