untimely windows update

Where were you when the tech went out?

By Laura Bergells on

Well, it happened again. The event coordinator gave me a firm 50 minutes to speak — no wiggle room! — and a nifty state-of-the-art presentation system. I love walking into a building with shiny new equipment! Just plunk in a thumb drive, do a simple sound test, and I’m ready to go on with the …

Laura Bergells teaches

How is emotional manipulation a bad thing?

By Laura Bergells on

For a public speaking exercise, I ask students to tell a 2-3 minute story in front of the class. I also hand out a stack of simple evaluation sheets to the class — students anonymously rate the speaker’s storytelling skills, vocal skills, body language, and story value from 1-5. I also leave a brief space …

How I followed the Tampon Guy…

By Laura Bergells on

At the start of a corporate training session, our leader initiated an icebreaker. Nobody in the room knew each other, so the leader asked us to get up and “share something about yourself that no one would know from reading your resume.” Most people I know hate icebreaker games like these. Me? I’m a good …

Kill I think

Which two little words can kill your confidence?

By Laura Bergells on

When I act as an editor for an opinion piece, I frequently strike the phrase “I think.” I remove those two little words because they can actually kill a speaker’s confidence! Let’s take a look at an example, taken from an attempt to persuade a client. Read these two sentences aloud: “I think this commercial …

Overcoming the Gross Out Factor

By Laura Bergells on

“I really hate public speaking,” said a student who stood up in front of class to deliver her first oral report. That’s not the most impressive opening line, but I hear it from a new student at least once per semester. And most of the time, the statement isn’t even true. Often, students who claim …

Freak out

What’s the exact opposite of what you’re saying?

By Laura Bergells on

When you edit a business presentation that offers a numbered list or step-by-step instructions, here’s a fun way to make your content more satisfying. In your head, ask yourself, “what might the exact opposite of that action be?” “Communicate with employees” might become “Leave employees in the dark.” “Follow the company policy manual” can be …

Betty Boop Distracting Voice

What no one will tell you: your voice is distracting

By Laura Bergells on

I heard a young woman speak on the topic of feminism. Her content was valuable, thoughtful, and well-organized. However, her voice caught me off completely off guard. She spoke in a high, squeaky, Betty Boop voice. Photo credit: infomatique  Initially, I assumed the speaker was adopting a cartoonish voice to illustrate something about her subject …

talk like a robot

Talk like a human, not like a robot

By Laura Bergells on

This morning, a company rep told me, “”Customer satisfaction is our number one priority.” I laughed, because no human being actually talks like that, right? Clearly, he was badly coached. Stilted words guaranteed a clumsy delivery. This turned into an awkward, laugh-out-loud moment. Later this afternoon, I worked with another service. “Customer service is our …

Kennedy Nixon First Televised debate

For your next video conference: think Nixon…

By Laura Bergells on

Watch the first televised presidential debate on YouTube. Kennedy and Nixon go head-to-head in 1960. Today, this debate is often discussed as an example of how much your personal appearance matters when it comes to an important televised presentation. Kennedy took great care to look good on camera. He wore a neatly pressed dark suit. …

What’s next in online education?

By Laura Bergells on

Earlier this year, I wrote and performed Public Speaking Fundamentals for the Lynda.com Online Training Library. I wrote the scripts from April through June, and then flew out to California to shoot the series in July. The course went live on August 31. Go check it out — beyond my course, Lynda.com provides a massive library of …