Tag Archives: public-speaking

Capturing a speaker’s voice matters

This post argues that speechwriters shouldn’t worry about capturing a speaker’s voice. Structure the speech well, Mike Long argues, and it’ll all come out in the wash.

And while I understand that all the tailored turns of phrase in the world can’t save a bad speech, or turn a mediocre speaker into a great one, I can’t agree with Mike’s premise. (Not that I don’t want to; I want to agree with anyone who has Steely Dan lyrics in their Twitter bio. Maybe next time.)

Here’s what I said in response; I’d love to know what you think.

I get what you’re saying, Michael — and I heartily agree you should get the fundamentals right before you even begin to think about voice. And it’s amazing how often a speaker will say you’ve “captured their voice” just by writing in a conversational tone.

But you can definitely make a speaker feel more at home with speaking notes that reflect their vocal patterns and preferred word choices. It isn’t all delivery. Some speakers are far more at home with bold, declarative statements than others. They express emotion in different ways. They use idioms that reflect their age, gender, race, culture, social class, life experience… and it’ll all be different.

And if your speaker lacks confidence, experience or time to revise? The more comfortable they feel with your text from the start, the better.

So yes, get the fundamentals right. But once they’re nailed, time spent reflecting your speaker’s authentic voice will be well worth it.

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 11: Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant of DC-based SocialFish has done a lot of thinking about connecting online audiences with speeches, panels and presentations. More to the point, she’s done a lot of doing, including convening one of the most ambitious online conference approaches I’ve seen: NTC Online, the digital version of the Nonprofit Technology Conference held every year by NTEN.

In our conversation, she offers some great advice for event organizers, speakers and anyone who wants to use digital tools to help online and offline audiences learn. And after you’ve heard our conversation, check out these links:

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 10: Holly Ross

This episode features Holly Ross from NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network. She’s a great speaker in her own right – and every year, NTEN hosts the Nonprofit Technology Conference. It’s a huge gathering (but remarkably relaxed and collegial), and we talk about what it takes to connect that many people online at a conference – and how speakers can make the most of a connected audience.

Some links and resources:


Social Speech Podcast, Episode 8: Nancy Duarte

It’s hard to say just where Nancy Duarte has had the biggest impact: as the architect of Al Gore‘s presentation on climate change in An Inconvenient Truth

…as the author of two profoundly powerful books on crafting and delivering presentations, slide:ology and Resonate

…as the co-creator of Duarte Design, a firm that has been redefining the art and science of presentations for nearly a quarter-century…

…or as a pioneer in integrating social media and public speaking around the central driving idea of story.

Our conversation lasts less than 10 minutes, but Nancy packs a lot of insight into

  • how the backchannel changes the balance of power between speaker and audience
  • how speeches can take on a life of their own as social objects
  • how even harsh criticism can make you a better speaker
  • and how dramatic tension and release can lend your next speech the power and impact your ideas have been waiting for.

Listen in – and then explore more deeply:

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 7: Chris Brogan

For several years now, Chris Brogan’s blog has been a must-read for anyone who wants to use social media productively. Add his thriving practice as a speaker, the fact that he co-founded PodCamp, and his New York Times bestseller Trust Agents (cowritten with Julien Smith) along with two other books (Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything and Social Media 101)…

and his now-legendary 2009 presentation at New Media Atlanta, where he brought an angry backchannel into the open and won it over…

…and you have a shoo-in for the social speech hall of fame — not to mention someone well worth listening to on the subject of social media and public speaking.

Especially because he’ll explain what you, as a speaker, can have in common with the Grateful Dead.

The links:

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 6: Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel has a lot to share with the world – including some brilliant insights and expertise on marketing, communications and community – so it’s now wonder he’s found so many ways to do it. He has a long-standing blog, a podcast that just passed the 300-episode milestone, a book… and a well-deserved reputation as one of the best keynote speakers around.

In our conversation, Mitch talks about what matters the most to him about social media and speaking, and the sheer miracle of being able to press “publish” on a blog post and share your knowledge with the world. “These are such early days, and we haven’t spent the time to appreciate the tremendous canvas we have in the palm of our hands,” he says.

Little-known Mitch Joel podcasts

Some links from our conversation:

The image on the right is a doodle I did a year or two ago.

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 5: Ian Griffin

With this episode, we flip the mic (metaphorically) and talk with someone who’s a lot more used to writing speeches than delivering them. That’s not to say Ian Griffin isn’t at home behind a podium; he’s an accomplished speaker and a skilled communicator.

If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard his words; Ian has worked in executive communications at Cisco, Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems. He’s also incredibly generous with his time and expertise, as many Silicon Valley communicators who’ve attended one of his presentations can tell you.

In this interview, he asks why we put so much effort into creating a speech, and then fail to do that little extra bit that can help it reach far more people… and he offers lots of ideas for what that little extra bit can be.

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 4: David Eaves

From the moment I thought up the Social Speech Podcast, David Eaves was at the top of my list of people I wanted to talk to. He’s a good friend, and a provocative thinker and writer on some of the issues that matter to me most – like the open web and open government.

And he’s a terrific speaker, travelling around the world to address audiences on five continents (Australia and Antarctica, that’s your cue) about topics as diverse as negotiating, collaboration, conflict management, social media, open government and open data. As you’ll hear in this episode, Dave has thought a great deal about what makes for a great, productive speech – one that doesn’t just get a solid audience response, but also achieves a larger goal. And you’ll hear about how his blog is a crucial resource for his speeches, and how yours can help you deliver a more powerful presentation the next time you’re on stage.

Some links: