A college-student at Södertörn called me up and wanted to do an interview. The student, Tove Rumar and I met a week later at a coffee shop and here are the results of her interview. I thought that there are a few things interesting in it that you as the reader may find useful in your own quest for better presentations bättre presentationer.
Thanks for the interview, Tove! Well explained, much better than most journalists I have encountered over the years!!
David Phillips has started and operates a company called thepresentationskills.com, where he mainly focuses on how to best make use of PowerPoint at work and in other more daily context. He hold courses and lectures in which companies and individuals from around the world will learn the importance of not having dispersed natured slides or unnecessary side quests in their presentations.
David is very busy and travel extensively in his work, but we managed to meet up for an interview. We met as agreed in a cafe in Vasastan, Stockholm. He comes directly from training and is dressed in both the shirt and the west. He exudes calm and authority and is not afraid to make eye contact.
I start by asking him why he is working with what he does and at what age he began to hold presentations. He replies that he has lectured for about 2-3 years but has been holding speeches since he was 20 years old, which would be about 14 years.
As a 20-year-old David began to have interest in neurology, psychology, and how the brain works. He has studied the defeat methods and differs much from other lecturers as he works with human behavior and cognition. He knows that body language controls the brain and the words more than the reverse. It is therefore important that you, as a speaker, work with your gestures and your attitude to make a big difference to how you are perceived and how well your message is presented.
I asked what three things that he thinks is the greatest with his job and he replied that the absolute coolest is the high, the sence of power that arises somewhere in the middle of the lecture. Everyone is totally aware of him. That he can create a big change in a person’s life is another part of the work that he loves. “You can save your marriage, your job or land a business deal by learning to communicate better\”, he said, and seems to be extra proud of this particular part of his job. He also finds it interesting with the intercultural meetings and differences he sees in his work. It has happened that up to 15 nationalities simultaneously has been at his lectures.
What David, like many speakers with him, use the most of when he gathers ideas to a speech is mind mapping, but he also uses the internet to find inspiring lectures by other speakers. When he later arranges the speech he frequently uses templates and different outline rules, but not always. “One of the best speeches I’ve seen was totally missing an ordinary rhetorical structure or building”. The speech is that of an American football coach, that coaches his team before a game, and is wholly independent of templates”. The speech consists of one single long escalation to climax.
I am telling David that I find it difficult to properly screen the material, and he tells me that “it is important to remember the goal you set for the speech, that it is clear and precise. Then you question each argument, quotation, and image and ask; Does this lead to the objective? If it doesn’t, then delete it”. This strategy makes his speech very pungent, with simple and clear messages.
Because he thinks that notes do not belong in a speech, he totally memorizes his speeches. When I wonder if he never ever has key notes for his lectures, he confesses that he sometimes exhibits key points at eye level with the audience. This is to be able to sweep his eyes over the audience and see the next theme without having to turn his eyes from the audience.
How long time and how many repetitions is needed to totally memorize a 10-minute speech in the best way, I wonder? “A total memorization of a shorter speech should be practiced for three or four days about ten times, and it is important that there is space between the briefings, since it is easier for the brain to take in the information if it gets a chance to rest between rehearsals”. A technique he uses extensively for memorizing both speech and lectures is to play a movie in his head. “The favorite is a road I see myself go along. The route has as many curves as there are points in the speech or lecture. At each curve there is an object that is associated with what must be said at any point. And to remember optimally, it is good if the objects are as extreme as possible. For example; a Greek statue which is grotesque and worm eaten with one hand cut off…This provides the best memory results.\”
When asked if he still gets nervous before he goes up on stage, he says firmly, “the day he no longer is more or less nervous, he will stop lecturing and speaking”. It is good to be nervous; it increases the performance, as long as you are not too worried. Music is good to listen to before but not something for calm so that it becomes unfocused and relaxed. “A favorite is the soundtrack to the movie” Gladiator “, it makes me in the right mindset”, he said
During the lectures, he uses what he calls the “interest-based structure”, which means that he can change and customize his speech after the listener reactions. To win them over and bring them with him, he uses a high-status body language, which he says that you in principle always should use in similar occasions. “Movements and gestures should be smooth and alive, and have a meaning. If they instead are jerky or seemingly unmotivated you will be perceived as unpredictable, and it will immediately reveal a lower ethos”. How we behave and are moving around will in turn affect how the brain is thinking. If you are acting “high status” the brain feels that you are calm and in the lead role
Another tip he gave me was to try, like before the speech or lecture, to try to find the “informal leader” in the group. “During the performance, one can then carefully reflect his body language a bit subtle and perhaps quote or use expressions that person uses. This often gives a good ethos and doing audiences sympathetic to you\”.
What do you do if you lose the thread in the middle of a speech or lecture, I wonder. “It’s best to take a small pause, maybe drink a little water. Usually, I am catching on to the thread again. And if I unlikely don’t remember it, then is better to be honest and tell the audience”.
When I ask if he ever made a fool of himself during a lecture he first said that he actually never has, but at closer thought he remembers one time when he was holding his lecture “Death by PowerPoint” for the company Ericsson. “I was completely prepared and was about to get on the stage within two minutes, when I hear someone speak German. I then ask whether it was intended that I should keep the presentation in English. It was, so in a blink of an eye, I had to translate my 140 slides in my PowerPoint, which has, of course, has a central role in that particular lecture. Fortunately, it contains not much text. However, I manage to do this and come up on stage and tells anecdote for my audience\”.
The last thing I ask is if he has any tips on how I shall pause properly in my speech since I think it is difficult to get my pauses long enough. He replied that “since your sense of time does not function normally when you are on the stage, you need to rely on a situation instead, to make them long enough. Your pauses should be long enough that you feel that you want to vomit. These vomit emotions will, after you become more and more familiar them, turn into a sense of power – which you manage to captivate your audience so that they are mindful, even when you fall silent. ”
After this much-needed, but a bit uncomfortable advice I thank David for the interview and step outside in the cold again.