Doug Neff is a writer, facilitator, trainer, and speaker coach with over fifteen years of experience moving people and audiences. As Duarte’s Content Director, Doug has crafted award-winning presentations that influence mindsets, sell revolutionary products, and some are literally changing the world. As an Executive Speaker Coach, he has awakened natural talents, built confidence, and inspired passion in communicators of all experience levels. He’s been fortunate to work with some of the world’s most well-known brands and thought leaders, including: Microsoft, Qualcomm, VMware, Cisco, Apple, Ford, HP, Citrix, numerous TED speakers, author Michael Pollan, productivity guru David Allen, and former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. In his spare time, Doug enjoys urban sketching, photography, and writing.
In this conversation, Doug talks about Duarte’s speaker coaching services.
Geetesh: On your site, you mention, “What you say matters; how you say it matters just as much.” Can you tell us more about this quote, and how will Duarte’s Speaker Coaching Public Speaking services help presenters deliver their content with aplomb?
Doug: That’s exactly right. It all matters! We work with so many people (executives, even) who spend the vast majority of their preparation time working on the content of their presentation, the message. We’ve actually had to have a team stay overnight in an executive’s hotel suite the night before the presentation so we could continue processing their slide changes.
We don’t exactly blame them. We can all imagine what it’s like, getting ready for a big important presentation, the new product launch or the company strategy or the research we’ve spent years of our life doing… we want it to be perfect! We want every word on every slide to be just right. And we want every bullet in our speaker notes to be well-crafted and eloquent. So we keep tweaking. We keep editing. We change words on the slides right up until we take the stage. And though we may have rehearsed that talk (in our heads, not out loud) a few times, we’ve spent FAR more time meddling with the words. And then, we take the stage and deliver that near-perfect talk we had spent so much time working on… and something happens. We lose our place once or twice. We run out of breath. We can’t seem to stop pacing the stage. And our energy is low, which makes the audience bored. And though they applaud kindly when we’re finished, we know we didn’t make the impact we wanted.
That’s why HOW you say it matters so much. A great presentation poorly delivered will not move an audience. If you want to make an impact—if you want to change your audience in some way—you must put in the time to craft your delivery as much as you craft your messaging and visuals.
We designed our Speaker Coaching services to help you do just that. Our methodology grew out of three decades of working with the largest brands and most well-known speakers in the world, and while we pride ourselves in delivering excellent content services, we know we can also help any speaker (whether you’re an executive or a student) be more comfortable, dynamic, and empathetic the next time they take the stage.
Geetesh: Can you share some ideas for a speaker who needs some help for a presentation tomorrow? If there’s only one aspect they could work on, what would that be?
Doug: My best advice for a presentation tomorrow would be to do three things:
- Rehearse your presentation, in real-time, out loud, at least three times. (This will build some valuable familiarity with your talk-track, as well as the segues between slides.)
- Memorize your first two minutes. (Memorize it thoroughly; repeat it 20 or 30 times if necessary. This will get you past the anxiety you’ll feel as your presentation begins.)
- Write out your first three sentences on an index card, and place them in your pocket before the event. (If you happen to go blank, you can always reach into your pocket and read what’s on the card.)
Additionally, we recorded a webinar that addresses this topic, and I’d like to invite your readers to view it. It’s called “Get Ready to Deliver Your Presentation” and we frame it around your question: What can you do to best prepare, whether you have a week, a day, or an hour before your presentation?