Sep 152014

What is more important: how you deliver your message or what you have to say?

Most people would say that the content of a presentation is the critical concern and delivery holds secondary importance.  Is it 80/20?  Could it be 50/50?  Or even 20/80?  Professionals in corporate communications and public speaking coaches debate the relative importance of three key factors in an effective presentation: content, tone and body language.

A recent controversy arose online among communication professionals about the critical percentages of words, tone and body language in a speech.  Clearly everyone agrees that words alone will not suffice in a presentation.  Public speakers need to consider the effect of their intonation, gestures and physical presence.

In my work with clients I stress the point that content — words and ideas — will be only as effective as the dialogue a speaker establishes between him/herself and the audience.  With this idea in mind, is it surprising that intonation and body language hold such importance in the estimation of communication professionals?

What are the critical elements in establishing the dialogue between speaker and audience?  Good speakers know they must establish a rapport between themselves and the individuals in their audience.  Note I said “individuals.”  An audience may consist of ten, a hundred or even a thousand people, but a good speaker considers them as individuals and tries to connect through intonation, tone and gesture.  The best public speakers are those who possess “charisma,” which comes from making a connection with the members of the audience.

Charismatic speakers display self confidence by using a natural voice, appropriate hand gestures, and body language to draw the audience to the speaker, instead of making a separation between them.

So when planning a speech or presentation of any kind, take time to consider and practice what you will say.  Remember, you may be an expert in your field but your effectiveness will be measured by how well you communicate what you know.  Your delivery has to connect with the individuals in the audience to make your efforts worthwhile.  While there may be no universal percentages, effective presentation skills as well as knowledge of your content remain critical to establishing the dialogue between you and your listeners.


Check back soon for more ideas on effective speaking, communications and speech pathology.




Mar 102014

Interview on WVOX.6.10.13


Tune into Peter Moses’ radio show on WVOX, 1460 AM,  Monday, March 24 at 3 P.M.  We’ll be talking about my work as a speech and communications coach as well as other aspects of my practice as a speech-language pathologist.

I’ll be taking questions from listeners so feel free to call into the program.

Nov 012013

Whether you’re an executive giving a speech, a student making an oral report, or an applicant interviewing for a new job, you’re probably concerned about how you sound, how you communicate (and if you’re not, you should be.)  For many people that concern turns to dread, and even worse, to nervousness, both of which don’t improve the situation.

How can I be a better speaker?

I’ve written about this question in several articles: “Almost Everything You Need To Give A Great Interview,” “Speak Up, Speak Clearly: Is That All There Is To It?”, “The Two P’s For Effective Speaking,” and others you can read on my blog.

Confidence, Preparation, Reducing Um’s and Ah’s:  These are just a few of the topics I’ve covered and they remain critical for communicating  effectively.  What else should do good speakers know about making a presentation so it doesn’t become a dreaded event?

Timing remains the key to being calm and effective.  Don’t rush, no matter how pressured you feel about covering a certain amount of material.  It comes back to my recommendation about preparation.  Consider what you need to cover in the time you have to speak.  Plan carefully and don’t over plan.  So many speakers succumb to their eagerness to convey everything they know about a topic so they literally speak at a rate that’s too fast for listeners to process.  Slow down.  Pace yourself as you speak.  Think about speaking in phrases, not just sentences.

Maintain a natural voice by considering your intonation.  What does that mean?  Intonation is the rhythmic up and down of our voices.  If you speak too quickly you lose intonation, the stress on key words.   Without proper intonation your speech will take on a monotone quality, one of the annoying things about synthesized speech, those automated, recorded voices — what we call robotic speech.

Considering the words you want to stress will make a big difference in maintaining natural intonation.  Most languages, including English, are spoken with stress on syllables and words, otherwise we would sound flat and boring.  As a speaker you keep the listener’s attention by stressing important words — these can be highlighted in your notes or even in a scripted presentation (if you’re actually reading a speech.)

Breathe.  You’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, of course I breathe.”  Yes, we have to breathe as we speak, but too many people take rapid, shallow breaths when they present.  They don’t monitor their breathing so they run out of air and may make themselves even more nervous.  Effective breathing has a calming effect and puts you more in control of your speech.

Singers and professional speakers who work from a script actually mark their breaths as cues to be sure they breathe at appropriate times.  This helps their timing, stress and intonation, all critical factors in giving an effective speech —  a presentation you won’t dread making!


Check back next week for more thoughts on communication, speech and language and executive function skills.



Jun 142013

Here’s my radio interview on Peter Moses’ radio show on WVOX 1460 AM,  Monday, June 10, 2013 at 3 P.M. Learn how to give a great interview, whether you’re a new college graduate or a professional seeking a new job.

Apr 162013

Last week I wrote about developing the key for making a great speech: confidence.

How to gain that confidence?  Preparation.  And the critical element in preparation is defining your objective.   What do you want to convey in your speech, talk, or conversation?   What is your point of view?  Even if you’re simply relaying information, there should be an objective, and defining that objective will help you structure a logical flow to your talk.

So you’ve identified your audience,  nailed your objective, what next?  The questions people usually ask are: do I write a script, do I speak from notes, from Power Point slides, or talk ad hoc?  Context and your objective shape your method.   Are you standing at a podium giving a speech to a large group?  Are you presenting at a roundtable meeting?  Are you pitching an idea to a gathering of potential clients?

If you’re giving a formal presentation, you may want to write out what you want to say.  But take care that you don’t read from the script, head down with an occasional glance at the audience.  Unless you have scintillating words and ideas, you won’t capture and hold the audience’s attention.  And if you lose your place, watch out!

So will you be confident working from notes or Power Point, formulating your sentences as you go along?  If you’ve done your preparation, you may be fine.  By preparation I mean, you’ve planned the logic and flow of your speech carefully.   Spontaneity works effectively and a natural speaker makes a connection with an audience.

So do I advise you to just plan your presentation and stand up and talk?  Remember the joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice!  If you want to call it “rehearse,” that’s fine.  Actually give that talk, in front of someone else if possible — to your cat if necessary.  And time yourself!


If you’d like to learn more tips on how to make a great preparation, come to my workshop on April 25th, 7-9 PM at Watercooler, a coworking space on Main Street in Tarrytown.

Check back next week for more thoughts on topics in communications and speech…

Apr 092013

You’re making a presentation at a meeting, a pitch for work, or requesting a raise from your boss… What’s most important for success?

When I speak to groups or coach individuals, I emphasis the importance of confidence. You need to feel confident when you speak and show that confidence. Fine, you might say, but how do I feel confident when I’m really not?

The key to confidence is preparation: knowing what you want to say and planning the steps in advance to make the listener follow your line of reasoning. All good speakers (and writers) know that persuasion is the key to communication. By persuasion, I mean that the speaker’s objective should always be to bring the listener to your point of view. How does this happen?

Before you speak, think carefully about your objective and what information you need to give to the listener. If it’s unbiased information, then plan your talk so there’s a flow and logic to what you want to say. But for most people, the hidden objective is presenting your point of view. Whether you want to teach or persuade, as a speaker you bring a perspective to what you say, so don’t lose track of this as you plan your talk.

Knowing what you want to say and the outcome you hope for will lead you closer to that key ingredient: confidence.
In my next Blog post I’ll be talking more about the nitty gritty of “Preparation”. So come back next week…

And if you’d like more tips for how to make a great presentation, come to my workshop on April 25th, 7-9 PM at Watercooler, a coworking space on Main Street in Tarrytown.