Monday, June 21, 2010

How to give a commencement speech and include the audience

Founder of the Webby Awards, filmmaker and Aspen Institute fellow Tiffany Shlain -- one of Newsweek's “Women Shaping the 21st Century -- explains on Huffington Post how she prepared for and delivered the commencement speech at the University of California at Berkeley this year.  She describes all the questions that ran through her head, including this one, which struck me particularly, as it's the day after Father's Day in the U.S. as I write this:
And what would my father have said when I told him the news? He would have loved this. Then the tears flowed. This was the first big thing that had happened since he passed away and I really wanted to share the news with him. He was like a big satellite dish when it came to receiving good news. He would usually say, "Really?! Get out of town!" Then he would use the Yiddish phrase "You've warmed the cockles of my heart." He would end with his arms opening wide and give me a big hug ... It made whatever it took to get there worth it.
Here's what was brilliant about Shlain's speech: She found a way to use film to engage the graduating seniors and include them in her talk:
What a great opportunity to try an experiment: let's ask the graduates what they think the future will hold. We had five camera crews at the event filming graduates before and after the ceremony. What we ended up with was better than we expected. Bursting with anticipation and hope and optimism about making the world a better place, these graduates delivered.
Here's a sampler of what the grads said:

And here's the speech Shlain gave before a crowd of 11,500--the largest ever at Berkeley:

Share your reactions to her experience and her speech in the comments.

Meeting skills: Listen better by losing the fidgets.

We know that gesturing--or at least making sure your hands aren't immobilized--helps you avoid verbal stumbles and produce smoother speech.  Now here's an article suggesting you do the opposite when it's your turn to listen: Stop fidgeting so you can focus.  It's just one of several ways the author (a confessed pen-clicker) has found to help him listen, and appear to be listening, when others are speaking.  Check out these tips on how to listen to audience questions to add to your skill base, then observe how and what you do in your next meeting.