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Indezine Questions 01: Conversation with TJ Walker

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
posted by Geetesh on 9:30 AM IST



This video came about when a few questions were sent to TJ Walker, who responded with answers via a video podcast.

For those who want to read or print, we managed to get you a transcript as well.

So, where do you start when it comes to creating a presentation?

Hi, welcome. I'll be answering that question and many others in the show today. Today's show is a joint production; it's a joint venture with a website many of you are familiar with, Indezine. Indezine.com, this is the website that tells you and give you everything you possibly need to know about PowerPoint, about plug-ins, about all the technical aspects of creating presentations. And they have a huge, huge following all over the world, whether you go directly to their website, Facebook, Linkedin groups, they do a fabulous, fabulous job.

So today is a joint production with them. By the way, I try to practice what I preach. When it comes to giving presentations, and the presentation on this podcast, you know, this video, is a type of presentation -- always look for new ways of engaging with people, always, look for new ways of connecting with audiences. So that's we are doing here today. This show, you can find on a normal place on iTunes if you look up speaking, or public speaking, or go to the section where they have my show "Speaking with TJ Walker", which you can also watch and listen to this program by going to Indezine.com. The questions today all come from the editor, founder, and publisher of Indezine, Geetesh Bajaj, who is a true, true expert on the craft and creation of PowrePoint slides, plug-ins, and all technical aspects. Let's hop right in.

First question: Many people just do not know where to start. And this is true with creating presentations too. Can you tell us how to get a good start?

Here's what I believe you should do anytime you're getting ready to start a presentation. Don't even think about a slide, don't think about PowerPoint, don't even think about typing anything. Your very first thing you should focus on when you are starting a presentation is to step back a moment and ask yourself, "What is it I am trying to accomplish? What is it I want my audience to do?" So, if you are selling them a product, you want them to actually buy the product. It could be as specific as taking out their check book, and giving their credit card. It could be that you want them to recommend your private equity company to their board of directors. There are many things you could want an audience to do, but what you don't want is to go in with a general, fuzzy sense, "Well, I want these people to think that I am smart and competent -- here's a hundred and fifty ideas to tell about everything I've done in the last six months." That, unfortunately, is de-facto assumption many people have when they start a presentation. Just a general, fuzzy notion: I want people to think I'm smart. That's a horrible, horrible starting point. So Geetesh, that is my answer to your first question. Where to start the presentation is to focus on the end. What's the action you want the audience to do? Then, and only then, back up and figure up what ideas are going to motivate this audience to actually take the action you want.

Too many people just start of gathering lots of facts, gathering lots of data, creating slides because they can, and it seems productive to sit there -- and typing, that's a horrible way to start a presentation. Always focus with the end in mind, and then focus on literally the handful of ideas that are going to motivate your audience to do what you want. Then what I would recommend is to come up with an interesting story. An example is a case study for each one of your message points. And that would really help you the most.

I want to focus on the body language a moment because it relates your next question. You said, TJ, people often stumble while talking even though they are very familiar with, and they thoroughly know their subject.

Well, they are stumbling because they are saying it for the first time in front of the audience and because of that it just seems awkward that they're focusing all of their energy on remembering stuff. It's as if they're reading a teleprompter in their brain. And they might get it right; they might stumble regardless, they tend to freeze their body up. They tend to grab lecterns, hold papers, hold pens, put their hands one over the other, or in their pocket -- they do all these things to their body language, and it just messes them up.

The answer to that is you have to practice this on video. I love the fact that people go to Indezine.com to get the latest on technology to help them with slides, but the number one piece of technology that will help any presentation is not a slide, it's not PowerPoint. It is, in fact, a video camera on your cell phone, on your iPad, on your laptop -- to allow you to practice your speech on video so that you can see the body language, and hear yourself -- and really make sure you're making some sense.

That way you don't have to stumble. You are asking about stumbling and that relates to your next question. Are they less confident than others? Well, some speakers stumble a lot. Some speakers stumble little. Both might be lacking in confidence some way. But if you're stumbling, and you know you are stumbling in the middle of it -- that chips away at your confidence. If you are a little bit nervous and not completely confident, but you objectively know, "Hey, I'm not stumbling at all", that gives you the boost of confidence.

In my experience, everybody is lacking in confidence at some aspect of their speaking skills. Maybe they are comfortable talking to a camera alone -- or maybe they're comfortable talking to fifty or a hundred people. But you put them outside their comfort zone, and they're always speak to 200 or 1000 people -- then they lack confidence. And if they make a mistake, they go aww.. I made a mistake about 30 seconds ago. I stumbled over a word; I didn't apologize. I didn't stop, and go shhh. For those of you watching on YouTube or Facebook, you can see what I didn't do. I didn't grimace, I didn’t look up like "Oh boy I wish I hadn't done that"

For those of you listening on iTunes and other podcast forums, I just continued to look confident, relaxed -- the whole way. I didn't plan that, but I am human. I do make mistakes. The differences is that when I make a mistake speaking to people -- whether it is on video and audio podcasts, I don't tell anybody about it. I don't apologize. I don't hold up a flag and wave it, and draw attention to it. So that's a huge part of being a more confident speaker -- it is simply realizing that you don't have to reveal your blunders to the world. For the most part, no one else will really know.

Further questions posted by Indezine in this joint production today: What sort of help should they get? Talking about people who are lacking in confidence and stumble, also, can they help themselves?

Well, someone can always hire someone like me or you -- or other trainers. Or go to organizations like Dale Carnegie and get professional help. And hey, I'm selfless person -- I would love for this many listeners and viewers to call me up to hire me; to help them get more confident. But you don't have to do that. I mean here's the dirty little secret about my business as you could become a great speaker without professional training if you simply practice on video. Now those of you who are my regular listeners and viewers may get tired of me saying this. But unfortunately, it's good advice that is rarely followed. You know, sometimes I feel like an obesity expert who tells people, "Eat more vegetables and a lot less processed foods and fatty meats." Great advice! Most people don't follow it if they're already obese.

Same with speaking -- if you are a little bit nervous or uncomfortable if you stumble, the solution is something where you can solve it yourself by practicing your speech on video until you actually like what you see. If you practiced your speech or your presentation on video to the point where you like what you see, guess what, it becomes virtually impossible for you to be nervous when you speak.

What makes us nervous and uncomfortable is the fear that we look like fools; that we're boring people to death; that were not interesting. Well, the problem is you might actually be boring; you might actually not be interesting. So if you're fearful about it, if you're nervous about it, it is probably pretty irrational. No, let's go to some bad advice that relates to your next question.

OK, the next question is as follows. For many speakers, English may not be their first language. So how should they approach communication with others using English?

The bad advice I hear from people all the time is, "Oh, you will have to lose your accent!"

Let me tell you there are few things harder to do in the world -- and more time consuming than trying to change your accent. First of all, everybody has an accent. There's no such thing as unaccented, English or Spanish or French -- everyone has an accent! I have an accent. The question is, do you have an accent that is favored by the dominant group of your audience? That's really the question.

Here is my experience. As long as people can understand you, and you're saying something interesting, important, and relevant -- that's far more important than your accent. And, here's the other thing that I think will surprise a lot of you. In my experience people who speak English as a second language and they're not giving a speech presentation in English actually have an advantage over native English speakers. Native English speakers, and it could be made in any language -- if you're speaking in your own first language, the tendency can be to use bigger words, longer words, fancier words and you can lose your audience. Because your vocabulary may be made up of a hundred, thousand, or more words. So you get too fancy: you confuse your audience!

If you are speaking in a second language, quite often your vocabulary is just more limited. Not always, but as a general rule, that's true. So if you're using a vocabulary based on two thousand or five thousand words, it's actually going to be easier to your audience because you are using simpler words and smaller words. So here's the thing, don't focus energy on trying to translate the perfect word when you are speaking. Just use the simplest word that conveys the idea, and you'll be in much better shape.

I do have clients come to me all the time and they say "TJ, I'm worried about my Indian accent, or my Chinese accent, or my southern accent or my Brooklyn or Bronx accent, or my, now I live in Long Island, my Long Island accent. How can I get rid of this?"

And, my response is that well you know, you could? You could spend about a thousand hours, work with a speech therapist, spend all Tuesday night and Thursday night, record yourself, do practice, and you can sound like anything. You've ever seen Meryl Streep or some of the best actors, Kevin Spacey? They can sound like anything. They are lots of people who have devoted their lives into becoming chameleons to sound like anyone.

My recommendation, don't worry about that. Now I'm gonna give an example in English, those of you who are listening, you speak English and at least understand English. So that's why Deepak Chopra has a strong Indian accent, a lot more successful than I am. And, yet I have the accent that many would say is the more standard American accent. Arianna Huffington has a strong Greek accent; she's a lot more successful, and richer than I am. Probably, you too. So, these accents have not hurt them. Rosie O'Donnell has a strong New York accent, that has not hurt her career. Bill Clinton’s strong southern accent didn't seem to harm his chances of becoming president of United States. So it's far more important to have something interesting to say than to speak with a particular accent. So if you have a different accent or English is not even your first language, use that to your advantage.

And if you're going to spend time being a better presenter, my advice: make sure you have an interesting speech, make sure you have interesting stories, interesting examples, because that takes a lot less time than trying to change how you've been speaking since you were three years old. By the way your accent is determined primarily by your peers, not your parents. Your peers from when you were of ages three to seven. So that's why people often move from one part of the country to another as adults, and their accent never really changes.

Let's take another question from Indezine. How important is the ability to communicate in today's world, and why are so many people are lacking in this field?

So, how important is it to communicate? To me, that's sort of like a question of how important is it to breathe! If you want to survive you have to communicate. Everybody has to communicate. And I understand that not everybody wants to be a professional speaker, or a trainer, or have their own podcast -- your daily video on YouTube. I understand most people aren't like that. But everybody has to speak. And there are so many professions where you're speaking all day long: every salesperson, every teacher, certainly every CEO, every journalist -- they're speaking all day long. But I don't care who you are: if you're in the bowels of a bureaucracy, if you're in the accounting department -- you have to speak to other people in the accounting department. If you want to advance in almost any organization, you have to speak to other people who work with you.

Now some of are saying, "well TJ, you're may be, you're just an old guy! You don't realize everybody likes to just text everything all the time. And sorry folks, but if you actually manage a lot of people, you're going to have to still speak. It might not be giving the so-called formal big presentation, it might not be using PowerPoint. But the most powerful form of human communication is still, and that will continue to be -- speaking. Now maybe someone's seen you speak on video, or is listening to you speak as in the case of this podcast on iTunes. But it's still the most powerful media. If you don't learn how to speak effectively, you are putting a glass ceiling on your career. Because no matter what field you want to be in, you're limiting yourself. You can say, "well TJ, I just want to be a novelist". Well, guess what? The most successful novelist with very few exceptions -- they had to go sell their books by going on prominent TV shows and talk shows -- to talk about their book to get people interested.

So I don't care what field you're in: you're really really rich you don't have to have a job? Guess what, you have to speak to your servants. You have to tell them how you want your silver shined, and how you want your clothes laid out. Really, really poor and homeless you are? And do you think you won't have the problem, guess what? You have to speak to people begging for money!

I don't mean to sound trashy or glib, but my point is everybody in the world has to speak. It's not that everyone has to learn how to tweet or to have an active profile on Pinterest although that can't hurt. But everyone does in fact have to speak.

Now the second part of your question from Indezine, "why are so many people lacking in this field" is because no one has taught them. It is not taught in most schools, and certainly in the United States I can tell you it's rarely taught. If it is, it's generally taught in a horrible way. First public speaking class I had in high school: no video cameras. Now you can make the excuse, "So well TJ, you are really old, video didn't exist back in 1979 or certainly not inexpensively for most high schools". Well guess what, in this day and age, cameras are really cheap, they're everywhere and still in most high schools and colleges, video is not used. Certainly not used in every single class, maybe three times a semester which is frankly a waste of time.

You need to practice many many times on video -- any day you're getting instruction on it, in my view. So that's why it's not taught! It's also why'd you saw me just show that ad -- if the readers of Indezine want to get better, I have a free no-obligation course on public speaking. It's an online video based course that can help. That is the answer to the question. It is just not taught. People know how to write because they are given formalized instruction every day in school: first grade ,second grade through high school and college. So most people who graduate from high school or college: they might not become a best-selling novelist but they can write a simple memo. They can certainly text a message to an employee or a boss. And they don't necessarily know how to speak because they haven't been taught.

Speaking TJ Walker

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