What does "prate" mean?

What does "prate" mean?

From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prate:
To talk long and idly : CHATTER

Eno River Sunrise

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Improving Your Public Speaking

Over the last year or so I have been trying to improve the content and delivery of my public speaking and presentations. Here are two articles that provide good summaries of the principles that have helped me.

The first article is "How To Go From Being a Disaster—To a Great Speaker" by Vivek Wadhwa. It contains a brief summary of what I think are some of the essential points for successful speaking. They are:
  1. Don't try to memorize every line - it is a hopeless cause. Have notes in your hand or use a PowerPoint presentation which highlights the key points that you want to make.
  2. Know your material and rehearse it several times beforehand. Record yourself giving the talk and note what you did right and wrong. Have your friends critique you.
  3. Make it personal. Talk about yourself, what you think about the things you are speaking about, and most importantly - what this means for the audience. This means that you have to know your audience - who they are and what they are interested in. Remember: this is for them - not for you. Don't do what most academics do - impersonalize the material and repeatedly give the same dry, dull, and boring lecture.
  4. Tell a story. Put the material you are presenting into a perspective that connects the pieces together and is a coherent story. Facts and figures are boring. Explain what these mean in an interesting way. Use examples and anecdotes.
  5. If you use a PowerPoint, just put the highlights on it and don’t read from the slides. Have the PowerPoint supplement and substantiate what you are saying and give the audience - and you - a roadmap of what your talk is about. Graphics are better than words.
  6. Be yourself. Relax. Speak to the audience as if you are speaking to a friend. Make eye contact and pause every now and then. It is okay to catch your breath and think. Take a sip of water when you need. If you feel nervous, tell the audience that. They will only like you more and do all they can to help you through.
  7. Add some humor. No, I don't mean the corny, canned one-liners that professional speakers use to open their talks, but funny anecdotes and light hearted comments through your talk. This relaxes and engages the audience and helps you connect.
  8. Don’t hide behind the podium. Be casual, comfortable, and move around a bit. You are there to connect with the audience and engage them - not to recite some facts and figures that they can read in an academic paper or book. 
One thing missing from the list above is the importance of grabbing the audience's attention at the outset.  Dale Carnegie Training has an article called "Presentation Tips Part 1: Opening a Presentation" that emphasizes the importance of a strong beginning to a presentation, and provides four examples of types of openings:
  1. Captivating Statement - Examples of such statements include making an analogy, startling the audience, or presenting good news.
  2. Question - The purpose of the question could be to gain information, to get participation, or to create agreement on a need or interest.
  3. Incident - The story could be from personal experience, that of a third party, or a relevant historical item.
  4. Compliment - The shout out could be to the immediate audience, to the larger organization, or to an individual.
I have had success with 1, 2 and 3.

One item not mentioned in either item is the importance of being brief and finishing on time.  As they say in show biz, leave them wanting more!

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