Never turn your back to the audience: Tips from our speech coach
Jeff Davis of Speak Clear Communications
TEDxNavesink recently interviewed Jeff Davis of Speak Clear Communications. Speak Clear, with offices in Manhattan and New Jersey, is a TEDx Navesink sponsor. Jeff has been working with several of our speakers to refine their talks for the big day on September 20. As a speech coach, Jeff teaches his clients to become audience-focused, relaxed, purposeful and articulate.
In this interview, Jeff offers insight into the impact speech coaching can have on any type of presentation; he also shares a few great tips should you find yourself in front of an audience of ten – or ten thousand!
TEDx: What led you to become a speech coach for TEDxNavesink?
JD: I was approached by a client of mine who is speaking at TED, who then introduced me to Brian Smiga (TEDx organizer). Brian explained his concept for the conference, and asked if I would be willing to work with the speakers. I loved the concept, and was excited to work with some of the area’s most innovative thinkers.
TEDx: What is the most common, correctable mistake you observe in public speaking?
JD: Turning your back to the audience, and reading off your PowerPoint. It kills a presentation. Eye contact and a conversational tone are crucial to building rapport with the audience. It’s important to remember that PowerPoint is best used as a simple design tool to highlight your main points.
TEDx: Is a speech coach like having a personal trainer? And how long does it typically take for your clients to “see a difference” in their technique?
JD: That’s a good analogy. I have some clients who would rather run a triathlon than face an audience! People who come in with a clear set of goals generally see the most progress. I’m a big believer in learning by doing. Usually people who work with me see a big change in their technique after their first hour. Not many personal trainers can say that!
TEDx: What general advice would you give to someone preparing for a big talk?
JD: Start early, and think about the story you are trying to tell. Too many people start with their slides. If it’s it a big speech, your story should be unique. It’s also very important to pay attention to non-verbal communication.
TEDx: Body language: what should we do with our hands when we’re delivering a talk?
JD: There is no right way to move on stage, but it’s important to stay away from any gesture that is too closed or casual. Move in a way that is comfortable for you (unless you’re a chronic fidgeter in which case you have to rein it in).
TEDx: Podium or no podium: what are your thoughts on standing behind, beside or in front of a podium?
JD: I’m not a fan of the podium. It seems rather arbitrary. Ditch it if you can, and have the confidence to face the audience without hiding.
TEDx: Please share three of your top tips guaranteed to improve anyone’s public speaking performance?
JD: I would recommend to start early. Bullet point your speech – don’t write it out. Lastly, rehearse your speech out loud in front of a colleague or coach.
TEDx: Who are some TEDx speakers whose style we should closely observe on September 20? Tell us what to look for.
JD: All the speakers have a very unique point of view, that’s what makes this event so compelling. In general, I think you will see speakers who bring their speeches to life with a personal touch, and interesting stories. Good storytelling is the lifeblood of any good speech, and there are plenty of rich stories this year at TedXNavesink!
– Dorothy Reilly for TEDxNavesink, September 15, 2013