Category Archives: Public Speaking

What’s Trending in the Speaking World?

What’s Trending in the Speaking World?

By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM

Event strategists always start with the end in mind. They know the core principle in strategic planning is that all actions and decisions must support the event goal. When it comes to choosing speakers, it can be easy to get distracted by celebrity status or choose topics that may be personally interesting but not right for your target audience. Engaging the professional skills of a speaker’s bureau allows you to add an expert to your team at no cost to you, saves time and will potentially introduce you to people and topics you may not have otherwise found.

When it comes to choosing speakers, it can be easy to get distracted by celebrity status or choose topics that may be personally interesting but not right for your target audience. Read on to discover, what’s trending in the speaking world?This is the second in a three-part series recapping a conversation I had with Sue Falcone, Founder and CEO of Remarkable! A Speakers Bureau (you can see Sue’s smiling face in the photo shown above). Our goal was to explore how planners can strategically build relationships with speaker’s bureaus. If you missed the first installment and want to see the first article, please click here.

Christy: What changes are you noticing when planners call to book a speaker?

Sue: At one time, my relationship was exclusively with planners operating in a silo, meaning there were no other people for them to run ideas by or to get suggestions from. Now planners are part of a much larger team. Having more people making the decision translates to needing to provide more options as each person has an opinion or vision on the topic and/or presenter needed. I once shared three potential speakers for consideration before someone was selected. Now I find myself presenting up to eight candidates before a decision is made. As a bureau that is focused on helping clients meet their goal, it’s crucial to adapt to their changing needs and timeline to provide the best service possible.

Christy: What is one thing everyone should know when booking a speaker to get the best fit?

Sue: As is the case with all things strategic, the goal is the key. First, I need to know what the speaker is expected to accomplish. Then I find out what the necessary audience takeaways and outcomes are. Not everyone can put their goals into words, so I created a detailed questionnaire to help the process. Sometimes people know how they want the audience to feel after hearing the message but can’t articulate what the message itself should be. We specialize in finding and delivering what you ask for and sometimes even what you don’t know how to ask for!

Christy: I’ve noticed lead times to plan are getting significantly smaller. Are you seeing that too?

Sue: Absolutely! We are getting requests with very short time frames for the search to be done yet the same level of quality is expected.

Christy: In an ideal world, how far in advance should planners start looking for a speaker?

Sue: After the event goal is established and a budget is confirmed, the speaker search should begin. The speaker is often the main draw, so the process shouldn’t be rushed. To do the job correctly, it takes a lot of time to search the options before we can propose the perfect match. We need to find speakers who match not just the topic’s parameters but are also a good fit for the audience/corporate culture, have the right personality, attitude, and of course, price. We need it to be the right fit on all counts or it doesn’t work.

Christy: Are you finding speakers are becoming more flexible in tailoring their topics to the audience?

Sue: I’ve booked over 3000 events and work to make each experience custom to the client’s needs. That includes making sure speakers are willing to adjust their content based on who will be listening to them. Today’s audiences consume tremendous amounts of content daily and are incredibly savvy. They will not accept “canned” presentation. One size does not fit all.

Christy: It seems that this is part fact-based and part intuition in terms of pairing speakers to audiences. Is that right and if so, how do you make that work?

Sue: When first contacted to provide a speaker, I gather detailed information from the client, so I have the background I need. Like I said, it’s not just the topic, the personality and style have to be a good fit. I do my homework in advance and get a sense of who the hiring organization is. I get a sense of their culture, their expectations, what has and hasn’t worked for them in the past and what their goal is. That way when I pick up the phone, I know who I’m looking for and what we need to achieve.

Additionally, my speakers must complete a comprehensive questionnaire before signing with me. This gives me a wealth of information at my fingertips, which saves time, avoids confusion or miscommunication and allows me to be the best at what I do.

Thursday, Sue and Christy finish their conversation, during which they discuss, among other things, how to build a partnership with a bureau.

CEO, Sue Falcone, recognized the need for a speakers bureau that would represent professional speakers, and provide the perfect speaker for clients who sought the best for their events with a personal “hands on” custom touch.

From a former corporate executive, to becoming a professional speaker and author being hired, and creating a distinctive and unique speakers bureau representing speakers for hire, she gained the experience and expertise needed to give a full service experience.

Looking for a Quality Speaker? Put Your Money Where THEIR Mouth Is!

Looking for a Quality Speaker? Put Your Money Where THEIR Mouth Is!

By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM

All event strategists know that content is king, so when we bring in outside speakers we need to do our homework and recommend wisely. As is the case with all things event strategists do, their actions yield the highest quality results that align with the event’s goal. In this instance, an accredited speakers bureauAll event strategists know that content is king, so when we bring in outside speakers we need to do our homework and recommend wisely. As is, the case with all things event strategists do, their actions yield the highest quality results that align with the event’s goal. In this instance, that means reaching out to an accredited speakers bureau and leveraging their expertise.

For those who are not as calibrated in their process, an internet search for ‘motivational’ or ‘professional’ speakers may start the process. Perhaps a visit to YouTube for clips of speakers is the preferred route, with an obligatory click on cute puppy videos along the way. For some a query to colleagues gets the ball rolling.

While both methodologies may result in booking the same speaker, not all paths are equal. For those who opt to do the legwork and cut out the middleman, the road is longer, uphill and full of bumps. Speakers’ bureaus are like Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus; at your disposal, designed to make your job easier, staffed by professionals and not fully utilized or understood.

It is critical to remember how we are offended when other people think they can do our jobs. Let’s not be guilty of that same mistake by imagining that if we can search the internet we can find a speaker just as well as a professional can.

To better understand why a professional speakers’ bureau really is the way to go, I interviewed Sue Falcone, founder and CEO of, “Remarkable! A Speakers Bureau.” Here’s the first of three excerpts from our in-depth and enlightening conversation.

Christy: Why should I use a speakers’ bureau rather than find a speaker via Google or references?

Sue: I believe that communicating what speakers’ bureaus really are, and the value they bring is key to being able to be the “go to” resource for securing the best speaker for an event. Here are three questions we ask perspective clients:

  1. Do you want to save time, money and resources?
  2. Do you want peace of mind with less stress knowing your speaker is going to be remarkable and you will be a rock star for choosing to work with a speakers’ bureau?
  3. Did you know that speakers’ bureau fees are paid by the speaker – not you – so therefore all the time and services a speakers’ bureau provides is free to you?

Christy: Is it more expensive to use a speakers’ bureau?

Sue: Cost is the biggest concern about the perception of using a speakers’ bureau. Many bureaus structure the pricing so their commission comes out of the speaker’s fee. Speakers are willing to pay the bureau out of their speaker’s fee to cover the representation, negotiations and follow up work.

To note: some bureaus do charge a fee, so ask up front whose responsibility it is to cover booking fees.

Christy: What is the difference between one speakers’ bureau and another? Are you all selling the same thing?

Sue: Many speakers’ bureaus have become “speaker listing bureaus” rather than ones who actively work to secure events for all speakers they represent.

Christy: What should an event planner – or a speaker – look for as differentiation in a bureau?

Sue: I have a screening process and require the speakers I represent to sign an agreement as to how I will represent them, and what we agree to do. Knowing they are marketable and are booked through my bureau they not only represent themselves, but also my company.

Did you enjoy Looking for a Quality Speaker? Put Your Money Where THEIR Mouth Is!? Check back in on Thursday, May 10th for part 2.

CEO, Sue Falcone, recognized the need for a speakers bureau that would represent professional speakers, and provide the perfect speaker for clients who sought the best for their events with a personal “hands on” custom touch.

From a former corporate executive, to becoming a professional speaker and author being hired, and creating a distinctive and unique speakers bureau representing speakers for hire, she gained the experience and expertise needed to give a full service experience.

Remarkably Successful!

A speaker who connects with the audience is relatively effective; a speaker who bonds with them is remarkably successful.  
                        —Janet Perez Eckles

My hand grew wonderfully sore as I signed books for an hour after my keynote presentation. When the room was nearly empty, a woman took me by the arm and asked: “Janet, could I talk to you for a minute?’

I smiled and replied: “Absolutely.”

“As you can see, my organization was blown away by your presentation,” she said. “We have a passionate group here. And I feel proud of them. Often, folks praise me as the President. But really my career has been successful beyond my expectations because of my team. I love my job.

But I have to tell you,” as she squeezed my arm, “what you shared from that stage changed me. You just gave me the clarity to see what I was missing. That’s why I was taking pills to sleep. Stress was about to kill me. But you just gave me the meaning of real success. You put the missing piece to my life’s puzzle. I can’t thank you enough.”

She shared other personal details that left me in awe at God’s way to bring the exact message through me.

If I were to analyze this, I would say there are three reasons:

  1. Humor. Sadly, stress is a way of life in the business world. But humor is the universal bridge to connect with others. Laughter relaxes their muscles, brings down their defenses, and stirs acceptance of the message.
  2. Stories told with transparency and authenticity. Each illustration has to carry an element with which all can identify. The story has to capture their attention and grip their heart. And when real-life examples with an impacting lesson evoke tears, the message becomes unforgettable. 3.
  3. Present practical, doable steps to apply now. Challenge the audience to explore their own potential, nudging them to conquer fear, overcome obstacles and to be bold in declaring their own triumph.

Janet Perez Eckles motto as a speaker for over 15 years is: if you make the audience laugh, they’ll like you. If you make them cry, they’ll never forget you. And if you teach them something to transform them, they’ll want more of you. To learn more and have Janet at your next event contact us at 888-766-3155 today!

The “Must-Haves” to Be a Professional Speaker in Today’s World!

speaker of todayI am often asked as a booking agency for professional speakers and a speaker myself; what does a speaker need to have in place to be successful? In response I always ask first, “why do you want to be a professional speaker?”

This is the key to any successful career-knowing the “why” you are are doing what you do! What I learned as a graduate of Dale Carnegie: “you have to love what you do, and be excited about it” has been key in making sure my focus is on the why first! Knowing your “why” gives you vision, meaning and purpose to overcome any obstacle!

Once you know your “why,” it only makes sense that you need to have a well thought out written business plan of how you are going to become the best in your field of expertise.  As a speaker, you are starting a small business with you as the service, and then you can create products as add-ons to what you love and do best-speak!  Your plan needs to include: financial, marketing, operations, systems and processes.

Once you know your why and have your business plan in place;  what do you need whether you are marketing yourself, or others are doing some or all of it for you?  Here are the key things I have found in today’s speaking industry are the “must-haves” in getting the bookings you want and need:
Positive Attitude– Keep in mind, “it’s not about you, it’s all about others!”  Don’t let others disappoint or discourage you!
Be Thankful– Be grateful for the opportunities that come your way and share it with those who invite you to speak, and those who listen
Have and Be Fun– No one wants a “lecturer” anymore! You have to engage and interact with your audience!
Bring Great Content– Audiences of today want content they can use, no canned presentations or sales pitches for your company or books
Website–  Current updated one, that is mobile friendly
One-Sheet– Visual marketing tool available electronically and as a handout
Business Cards– Clear concise message
You Tube clip- Visual of you in action
Target Markets Defined– Know to whom you need to spend your time, resources and efforts in marketing yourself
Social Media Strategy– Electronic communication by which you: share, communicate, connect, and engage with your current audiences, event planners, and future audiences. There are many forms such as: Blogs, Vlogs, Videos, On-Line Communities (over 52 Social Media Platforms to choose from) Podcasts, Texting, Newsletters, E-mail Blasts. Depending on your field of expertise you can find out which ones are best for you
Fee Strategy– These can vary and be negotiated, but I love what speaker Shawnee Duperon shares: “if you don’t value your own work, neither will anyone else!” Practice quoting your fee so you can say it without batting an eye! No apologies!
Good Business Practices– Organization, Customer Relationship Management, and Time Management with systems and processes in place.
Be a Life-Long Learner– Know that education is the key to handle the change that is always a part of being a speaker. You never totally arrive where you cannot learn something from someone, and it keeps your message fresh, relevant, and exciting! Audiences are never the same and you can’t expect them to be! Keep learning to handle any situation with ease and confidence!

Sounds like a lot of work?  I assure you it is! Why do you think Public Speaking is the #1 fear of most people? Not only is it just getting in front of people and speaking, it is everything else that plays a part both before and after that makes you valuable and able to help others! It’s what I call the #WOWfactor.

In the May 2015 issue of Real Simple magazine, Christine K. Jahnke, author of “The Well-Spoken Woman,” reveals 5 tips on “How to conquer your fear of public speaking.” In this valuable article she shares: “for every important speech, I believe every minute you speak requires an hour of preparation.”  She notes this may seem a lot, but for most of us who are speakers, and represent speakers, we know this is so true!

Now you know what it takes behind the scenes to be the speaker that everyone will be talking and remembering long after your presentation, and how to make others feel like a “Rock Star” for choosing or referring you to speak!  I wish you well on your journey!

Sue Falcone
Sue Falcone







Break These Rules for Better Public Speaking

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colorFor audience members, typical is boring. Watching a performer take risks is exciting. The best of the best break the rules. However, they don’t break the rules just to break the rules. They break the rules to make the show better, to advance a story, to raise the stakes, to get you to sit up and take notice.

Here are a few rules that you can break. OK, maybe they’re not rules but they are certainly typical conventions.

  1. No need to say, “I’m going to tell you a story.” Instead, just tell the story. If you’re hosting an event, no need to say, “I’ve got some housekeeping to cover.” The word housekeeping tells the audience to stop listening. Instead, find a way to make the directions to the restrooms sound like an adventure and the info about that evening’s party sound like a … well … party.
  2. Definitely no need to say, “I’m happy to be here.” If you’re not happy to be there why would you be there? Instead, show them you are by giving a fantastic performance. If you’re giving a speech to your Alma mater where you earned 1.1 grade point average the first semester of your freshman year that’s different. If that’s the case, you can say, “I’m happy to be here because…” and then tell that that story.
  3. No need to say, “ Let’s get started.” The second you are introduced the presentation starts so by the time you’re on stage, you’ve already started.

Generally, speakers spend too much time on “filler” material. As a result, audiences often expect a speaker to waste the first five or ten minutes so they stay on their phones or computers. The polite ones, the ones who put away their devices, get annoyed waiting for you to “start.” Instead, get on with the show.

This is why shows like The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, etc. don’t start with a title sequence with theme music. Over the years, viewers became programed to tune in late. They knew they wouldn’t miss anything important, just the opening credits. However, if the opening of the show sets the stage, revealing the most important elements of the plot line, the audience will show up on time, if not early, and be hooked from the start.

Cut everything from your speech that isn’t absolutely necessary to entertain, teach, show, provoke or move an audience. Just like writing, performing is often about cutting out the fat. If you do streamline, you might start to think about your public speaking as putting on a show, rather than giving a speech. Big difference.

How To Get Hired As A Speaker In 2014

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Most speakers who market their services are going about it in the wrong way.  Start from the idea that the fee-paying world is overloaded with information, marketing claims, ideas, cute kitten videos, and a thousand demands on everyone’s time from family, friends, co-workers and people asking for money for good causes.

The easiest path for someone looking to hire a speaker is to hire one that is already certified safe, clever, and in demand.  New York Times bestselling author.  CNN pundit.  The guy your CEO thinks is cool.  The hardest path is to go find a new idea, search out the speaker that best embodies that idea, check out the bona fides of that speaker, and engage that person to come speak to your organization.

The world is looking for reasons to ignore you.  Most speakers think that if they can just get their bio, one sheet and speakers’ reel in front of that gatekeeper, then their obvious strengths and merits (obvious to the speaker herself) will compel the gatekeeper to hire them.


They’re looking for reasons not to even think about you.  They don’t want to do the work.  They don’t have the time.  You have to make it easy for them to get your idea.  And once you’ve made it easy for them, you have to make it inconvenient – no, dangerous – for them to continue to ignore you.

That means you’ve got to be completely, absolutely clear on what you stand for, what your idea is, and what your brand is.  That has to ripple out through everything you do.  Then you’ve got to tell a story so compelling that the world starts talking about you.  Remember, you’re competing with kitten videos.

Once you’re talked about, once the world wants to know the rest of your story, then you’ve made it dangerous for that meeting planner to ignore you, and she will do the work.  But not before.

If you want to get hired in 2014, then make it impossible not to hire you.

10 Presentation Trends for 2014

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2014In 2014 presentation skills will reign supreme. Leaders and entrepreneurs will need to be more visible across different media platforms. Speaking is the new competitive advantage and the bar has been raised. Here are the trends in presentations that I predict for 2014.

  1. Broadcasting skills – Whether you’re an entrepreneur or employed by a company, expect to have your 15 minutes of fame.Today’s presenters need broadcasting skills.Media training will become a vital success skill even for those who do not speak to the press. I’m currently coaching a client to lead quarterly webcasts. Five years ago this senior executive wasn’t doing any broadcasting. This client has since been filmed for executive promotional videos. Video presentations will increase in popularity. I to send quick video emails. Videos can be very effective or very detrimental if you have weak presentation skills.
  2. Mobile presentations – Mobil technology is exploding and the number of apps is growing. This will require adjustments in the way we communicate. Slide shows and websites must be adjusted for mobile devices.The key word in presentations is portability. On a personal note, I now videotape my coaching clients on the ipad. The quality is as good as a video camera and it’s easier to transport.
  3. Increased Need for Speaker Training – The need for excellent presentation skills will increase.due to the competitive nature of the market. Products and services can quickly become commodities and in order to be persuasive, presenters will need to know how to capture and hold the ear of the listeners.
  4. Self marketing presentations – Personal branding will become even more important. In a crowded market place where good jobs are at a premium. Job candidates will have to master marketing and selling. That means understanding what makes them unique and how to position themselves, their message, and their value with clarity and impact. Lack of confidence will be the deal breaker. Speakmarketing will be a growing factor for small business success. Presently, I’m coaching  small businesses to developwebinars to grow their businesses.
  5. Storytelling – Telling stories will no longer be the domain for the talented few. Leaders will be challenged to learn the art of storytelling to develop trust, express their vision and to lead their teams. And storytelling skills will be the differentiater in the job interview.Certain companies such as Pepsico, have a culture of storytelling. The best interviewers will invest in public speaking coaching to learn to tell their story instead of presenting their resume.
  6. Authenticity – Audiences are more sophisticated and less tolerant than ever. They want to know who the speaker is as a person.Do they walk their talk? Audiences will value  presenters who are real versus a just-the-facts approach. I was asked to coach somebody who had a well-crafted PowerPoint deck but delivered it like a talking head. Listeners are thinking “Who are you?”
  7. Increased Audience Interaction – The key word is connection. In a society where there is less time for socializing and more stress, people want to have an experience and participate with the speaker. Watch for increased live polling, tweeting, live streaming,and audience participation. Technology will level the playing field as speakers can now use inexpensive polling software on their mobile devices.There will also be an increase in virtual presentations. I’m coaching more clients remotely due to technology tools.
  8. Less Fluff More Value – Motivational speakers will always be popular as long as the human soul craves uplifting messages. But today’s presenters need more than a string of ‘feel good” stories. They must be able to provide value, tips, strategies, action steps, a different way of thinking along with those stories. Audiences are more demanding.
  9. Shorter Keynote Speeches – The 18 minute TED-like talk will become more commonplace. This is already happening at conferences. Instead of the one to three hour breakout sessions, event planners and audiences are opting for a series of shorter talks.
  10. Continuity – The old transactional model of giving a one hour presentation and then return to business as usual,  will give way to the idea of continuity.The message will continue after the event or meeting with additional contact and add-on resources. Despite the fact that younger audiences are leaving facebook, social media will continue to be an important communication channel for staying connected. However, people will consider the return on their time and become more focused and narrow in their social media communication.

All of these trends can be summarized in one idea: Public speaking is more important than ever. The need for excellent presentation skills is not going away. It will only increase in 2014 and beyond. Just as with technology upgrades,presenters will upgrade their public speaking skills or risk becoming obsolete.

What’s the Difference Between Keynotes and Training?

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Nick_Morgan-760x427Nick Morgan is one of North America’s top communication coaches. Regularly commissioned by leaders at the top of their fields―from political giants to CEO’s of Fortune 50 companies―to help them deliver their messages in the most compelling manner possible, Nick helps audiences understand the impact their words, delivery, and body language can have when presenting to an audience, whether in a boardroom capacity or in front of a crowd. Here, Nick takes a look at the difference between a keynote speech and a training session, and offers tips for speakers on how to prepare for both:

What’s the difference between a keynote (or breakout) speech and a training session?  I get asked that question by speakers looking to add an additional product to their speaking mix, and by trainers wondering if the ideas I put forward on this blog and in my books apply to the magic they do.

So here goes.  The quick answer is that the basic principles of communication are exactly same whether you believe you are speaking or training.  But that said, if you are used to giving a speech and want to take up the training game – or vice-versa – there are some important differences dictated by the two formats that you must keep in mind.

1.  Keynotes can be interactive; training must be.

Partly, it’s about length, and partly about expectations.  We expect a show from a keynoter.  If you’re headlining and making the big bucks, let’s face it: you’d better deliver a good show.  In a sense, you’re competing with television, the movies, and the Rolling Stones:  you’re one of a thousand entertainment choices for those folks in front of you, and you’d better entertain.  And you’d also better deliver some practical takeaways to keep the folks who hired you happy.

Keynote speaking has become a very demanding, high-pressure, highly competitive world, and the expectations are formidable.

Training, on the other hand, is typically a longer, more intimate relationship with slightly different expectations.  The audience expects to learn something – a skill, certification, a new way to look at the world that will help them earn big bucks, a new language or culture – you name it.

So you’ve got to be entertaining, sure, but you also must get that audience doing something – the skill or thing that you were hired to train them on.

Moreover, you’ve got that audience for at least several hours.  It’s agony for a group of active adults to sit passively for hour after hour without doing anything.  And it’s much harder to retain information we haven’t tried out in some way ourselves.  So get the audience doing.  Training must be interactive.

2.  Keynotes can be multi-media extravaganzas; training must be.

If you as a keynoter are a wonderful storyteller, or if you’re sufficiently famous, it will be enough for you to show up on stage.  You won’t even need slides.  Does anyone ask President Clinton for slides?  Or the Dalai Lama?

Of course, keynoters can use media of all kinds to make a point or enhance what they’re delivering, and most of us probably should, but it’s not strictly speaking essential.

With training, it would be odd to show up in front of your trainees with nothing but your suit and your voice.  You need software, slides, takeaways, videos, printouts, books, three-ring binders, games, giveaways, prizes – good trainers are only limited by imagination and budget.

So if you’re getting ready to think about a keynote speech, begin with the story.  Then think about what you want the audience to take away.  If you’re getting ready to deliver some training, begin with what you want the audience to take away.  Then think about the story you’re telling.

3.  Keynotes should be agenda-less; training shouldn’t.

This point will perhaps be my most controversial one.  I strongly dislike it when keynoters announce what they’re going to say, then say it, and then tell me what they said.  I believe that a keynote should be immersive, taking me into the story and point of view without commenting on it – like a movie.

Have you ever seen a movie begin with one of the actors appearing on the screen and telling you what you’re about to see?  What if every James Bond film began with (now) Daniel Craig showing up in a suit and announcing, “You’re about to see a few wonderful — and really expensive — vehicular chases, explosions, and death scenes.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip.”

Exactly.  Keynoters shouldn’t either.

Training, on the other hand, especially if it’s going to last more than a couple of hours, should have an agenda, with the topics and subject areas clearly delineated in chunks, with regular breaks and opportunities for downtime to review what you’ve learned up until then.

It helps us retain big chunks of material we have to learn if we’re provided with a clear structure to slot the information in as we go.

I once worked with a duo of great speakers who developed a keynote with me, and delivered it around the world.  A few months in, they were asked to turn the keynote into a day-long seminar to be presented at an exotic locale they were keen to visit for a nice chunk of money.

They were excited by the prospect, but a bit intimidated about the idea of turning one hour into eight.

What we did was break the keynote down into eight ideas.  We made each idea the subject of a one-hour interactive session by asking, “What can we get the audience to do to better grasp this idea?”  We then developed the materials and supporting documents and so on to help with each activity.

The duo reported that the day passed quite quickly, the energy level was high, and the audience responded with enthusiasm.  They were doing things all day, not listening to a couple of people talk for eight hours.  That would have been hard work for everyone.

By Nick Morgan

Just Because You Speak Does Not Mean Your Audience Learns: Eight Presenter Principles To Master

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speakerPopTech-byKrisKrugphotography by kris krüg

Most speakers are really good at talking!

But talking to your audience does not mean that your audience is learning.

Our Brains Have Limits

As speakers, we have assumed that talking to an audience results in their learning. We think that their minds are like sponges absorbing what we are saying.

But just hearing information does not equal learning it. You know that from talking to your kids and spouse. Just because you spoke it doesn’t mean they heard it or did it. Plus, if just listening leads to learning, we would play recordings while we slept and say we learned it.

Our brains have a limit to the amount of information it can hold in short term memory. We can hold about three to seven pieces of information for 30 seconds. We have to repeat it or give attention to it to move it to working memory. (Dr. Terry Doyle, 2011; Dr. John Medina, 2008; Dr. James E. Zull, 2002)

So the more a speaker talks, the less the listener actually retains. If you want your audience to learn your info, you have to speak less and get the audience to think and talk more about your content.

Your Speech Or Their Learning?

So, as a presenter, which is more important: your speech or your audience’s learning?

If you said your speech, then you don’t need an audience! You can talk to yourself in an empty room.

If you said the audience’s learning, then you really care about their ROI. You know you need to design your presentation so that the audience has time to think about what you’re saying, digest it, reflect on it and consider applying it. That can’t happen while they are listening to you.

It’s time for all speakers to shift the focus from their talk to the audience’s learning!

Eight Adult Learning Principles

Here are eight adult learning principles grounded in neuroscience and andragogy, the study of how adults learn, that can help guide your presentation.

1. Principle of Active Learning

Active participation through discussion, feedback and activities creates more learning than passive listening or reading. As a presenter, focus on critical content needed to succeed and allow the participants to discuss that content with each other.

2. Principle of Problem-Centric

Adults come to your presentation expecting to get their problems solved. They are not there just to get more information. If your presentation does not help them solve their pressing issues, it will be forgotten. Adults are problem-centric, not content-centric.

3. Principle of Previous Experience

New information has to be linked to previous knowledge and experience or it will not be remembered. Allow participants time to discuss with each other how the new information connects with what they already know.

4. Principle of Relevance

If the information being presented is not relevant to the listener’s life and work, it will not get their attention. As a speaker, your content must have meaning and immediate relevance. Explain why your presentation is important and how it relates to their work.

5. Principle of Emotional Connection

Presentations that connect with a learner’s emotions are more likely to be remembered, recalled and learned. Fear is not a good motivating factor for learning as it causes the brain to react in a fight or flight syndrome. Share stories that emotionally connect.

6. Principle of Self Learning

Adult learners have some strong beliefs about how they learn. These beliefs, whether accurate or not, can interfere or enhance their learning. As a speaker, always explain why the audience should participate in specific activity and how the process and content benefits their learning.

7. Principle of Alignment

Adults expect that a presenter’s content, learning outcomes and activities are aligned together. If the learning outcomes do not match the content, the learner feels disconnected and learning is hampered.

8. Principle of Fun

Learning should be fun! As a presenter, if you are not having fun presenting your information and facilitating learning, then you should stop. By all means, make learning fun, enjoyable and filled with laughter!

Revised from a December 2011 post.

Neuroscientists and Education Researcher Sources: Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark, Dr. Terry Doyle, Erica J. Keeps, Dr. D. A. Kolb, Dr. John Medina, Dr. David Rock, Dr. Harold Stolovitch and Dr. James E. Zull.

Which of these principles resonate with your personal experiences? What additional principles would you add to the list?