Thursday, February 5, 2009

igniting your way to a 5-minute talk

Take 16 speakers, give them five minutes and 20 slides apiece. What you get: Ignite, a mini-movement that takes place in various cities in periodic events where all sorts of professions, from artists to thinkers, get up and speak to fellow residents within those parameters. Here's the site for Ignite Baltimore, which starts its second-ever event tonight. You can go here to read Dave Troy's blog post on being the first speaker at Ignite Baltimore #1, and here to read Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson's post about her presentation, which included her first-ever PowerPoint. Want to start an Ignite in your city? Use the worldwide site as a guide.

Even if you don't go that far, using Ignite's parameters--five minutes, 20 slides--is a good practice tool. (Remember, no audience ever complained about a speaker who kept remarks brief!) Dickinson notes in her post that she realized at one point her title alone took up too much time to say, proving that parameters can help you sort out what's important to convey--and inspire you to keep it brief.

Take a voice lesson with Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda, now in rehearsal for a short-run Broadway play, has started a blog about the experience--and, in addition to reading about rehearsals and seeing photos of her backstage life, you can now watch a short video of Fonda getting a voice lesson from Kate Wilson, who's on the Julliard School faculty. Much of the discussion concerns the effect of humidity and dryness in the room where you'll be speaking, theaters being notoriously dry environments. At the end of the video, Wilson reminds Fonda of something you may find useful before your next speech: Make sure you're drinking water at least an hour before you are to speak, as it will take that much time for the water to have an impact on your vocal chords. I'd add that this is even more important in colder winter climates, where humidity's in short supply indoors. Speakers should prepare by drinking water, avoiding beverages that may dehydrate you further (like alcohol) and preferring hot water with lemon if your throat isn't up to par. You can find out more about Fonda, including her own experiences as a public speaker, in her fine autobiography, My Life So Far, a revealing and well-written book.