Personal Efficiency: Desirable and Achievable!

October 30, 2015.
Improve Your Presentations.
Study the best TED Speakers!

Jean-luc Doumont: 
Personal Efficiency: Desirable and Achievable!

We continue our series featuring selected TED speakers—who you can study to improve your own speaking and presentation skills.

This time we feature a very recent talk delivered at TEDxGhent, Belgium, in August 2015, by Jean-luc Doumont, Engineer, Stanford University PhD in Applied Physics, Speaker and Author of ‘Trees, Maps and Theorems, Effective Communication for Rational Minds Principiae’ (2009).

How is your personal efficiency? If you are like most of us, you struggle to find enough time to do all the things you have to do, should do and would like to do.

So much to do, so little time to do it in, as Jean-luc Doumont says in the opening of his TED talk. This dilemma is the focus of his talk and he offers a solution for how to approach and resolve it—and the talk is well worth watching just for his useful advice.

However, his talk is also an excellent example of a well-structured presentation delivered with impact and persuasion—and illustrates some key points to pay attention to if you want to improve as a speaker.

Opening.  Watch how Doumont opens his talk—going straight into it, from the very first sentence—without any of the conventional ‘pleasant unpleasantries’, as World Class Speaking founder Craig Valentine calls it.  The kind of conventional openings you often hear from speakers—such as ‘Good morning, I am very happy to be here and thank you for coming to listen today despite the bad weather’, etc.

That’s the kind of opening which makes people immediately start checking their E-mails or Facebook page on their smartphones, while they wait for the speaker to get into his or her topic.

Posture.  Note Doumont’s balanced and upright posture, not leaning on one leg as many speakers tend to do (the ‘broken leg syndrome’). He also stays in one position much of the time, projecting a very confident and commanding presence to the audience. He moves occasionally, but only on purpose—avoiding another common mistake by speakers: purposeless movement.

Body Language. Despite staying mostly in one position, and making use of slides sparingly—Doumont keeps our interest and attention using a number of effective delivery ‘tools’: voice dynamics, gestures and eye contact. We all have these tools but very often do not use them—or do not use them properly and effectively when speaking in front of a group.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.