3 Tips for venue setup

When you are giving a presentation, whether it is a keynote speech or seminar, the venue and facilities can have a huge impact on the success or failure of your presentation, so here are three tips to make your presentation successful.

Small is more

A few years ago, my band was offered a headline gig in one of the live music venues in Cape Town. The problem is that while our band could draw a crown of about 50-100 people, the venue held over 700 people We reluctantly turned down the gig and instead asked to play in their smaller venue downstairs that only held 80 people. The downstairs gig was great – it was full, crowded and had a great vibe – we would have needed at least 500 people upstairs to get the energy we had downstairs.

The same happens when we speak. Sometimes we think "let’s rather book a bigger room – just in case," but in general, the small yet full room has far more energy than the large and empty room. Resist the temptation to book the larger room. You can always bring in extra chairs at the last minute if necessary.

Arrive Early

What has been promised by the venue, and what they actually provide are not always the same thing. If you arrive early you have plenty of time to make last minute changes to the room setup. If possible, check it out a day or two before so that you have time to see the room and make adjustments adhead of time.

Get to know the AV Guy

The AV (audio-visual) guy (or girl) is the person that is responsible for all of the audio visual equipment. He is the person who know where the hidden button is that lowers the projector screen, or where to get an extra extension cable at the last minute etc. If you are speaking at a large conference, you might have a dedicated AV guy in your room, but if it is a smaller function, the venue might have one person responsible for the entire conference setup.

This person can make or break your presentation. Befriend him and he will be willing to assist. Antagonize him, and he might not be able to find that extra adapter that you left at home!

I hope the tips help – good luck with you next presentation!

What attitude are you taking into this week?


Today, I went for a cycle from my house in Muizenberg to Cape Point and back. Just as you cycle into Simon Town you can see across False Bay to my house – a distance of about 20km.

My first thought was “oh no, look how far I still have to go.” Then I thought “hang on, I have an opportunity to cycle another 20km of some of the of the most beautiful coastline in the world.” I had a fantastic cycle back. Imagine how my cycle back would have been if I had gone with the first attitude!

What attitude was you going to take into this week? Are you going to look forward to the opportunities the week will present to you, or are you going to negatively approach the week, and desperately hope to survive until Friday? The choice is yours.

Remember, as Zig Ziglar said

“Positive thinking won’t let you do anything but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Have a great week!

Debunking the 55/38/7 speaking rule

There is a so-called rule in public speaking, which is that

  • 55% of what you say comes from your body language.
  • 38% comes from your tone of voice.
  • And only 7% are the actual words you use.

I have seen this rule in many books, and spoken about by many speakers. Well, in fact the rule actually does not exist at all. The “rule” is the result of research done by Albert Mehrabian in the 1960’s, and it was never meant to be generalized.

He was simply trying to draw a correlation between facial expressions, spoken word and interpretation, and he never intended his results to be applied to normal conversation.

So folks, please stop using the rule – what you say is as important as how you say it!

There is a very interesting article about the whole story here . http://www.hodu.com/rule.shtml (from the Jan 2006 Toastmasters mag).

Make a name for yourself

Here is a great little book that I discovered – Make a name for yourself. 55 Strategies to Fast-Track Your Professional Prowess, by Scott Ginsberg.

The author, Scott Ginsberg is quite a remarkable person. He has been wearing a name badge for the last 7 years, and this has resulted in several books, and how is now a professional speaker, author and trainer.

Scott describes himself as “that guy who wears a nametag 24-7 to make people friendlier”. It started as an experiment over 7 years ago, and he has been doing so ever since. He has turned his idea of wearing a nametag all the time into a business, whereby he helps people to connect and to achieve professional success.

The book is very simply written, and it provides some wonderful ideas on how to understand who you are, and how to make the best use of your resource to achieve success.

“In 2002, unsure of how to approach starting my own company, I sought out as many success resources as possible. From reading books to scouring the Internet to interviewing; successful people, I was determined to learn the patterns that enabled so many others to make a name for themselves.”

I have no doubt that by following his ideas, you will make a difference to yourself. Some of his ideas are:

  • Get up an hour earlier
  • Keep daily appointments with yourself
  • More books, less TV
  • It’s not what you know
  • Speak up or get shut down

And my personal favorite – the Best Swimmers are always in the Pool. In this chapter, he speaks about learning by doing, and best of all – It was given to him by a Toastmaster (thanks for the punt)!

I was very interested to see that while he is selling the book, you can also get it for free. I would love to see what the response to this approach it (and yes, I have download the book and I am going to buy it, it really is a gem)

You can get the book in three ways:
1) buy it from Amazon
2) buy it from his website
3) download it for free from his website!


No time to prepare – how to speak off the cuff

Why do I need to practice speaking off the cuff. The answer is simple, because we do it all the time. Impromptu Speaking is one of the most important yet least practiced skill of verbal communicating. A few situations in which we speak in an impromptu manner are:

  • Speaking in a meeting at work
  • Speaking on the telephone
  • Introducing yourself to a new acquaintance
  • Being asked for your opinion on a topic
  • Unexpectedly being asked to say a few words at a dinner

Here are a few simple strategies that can be used to help you to speak off the cuff in an intelligent and informative manner. These strategies (or variations of them) can be used in most impromptu situations.

Past, present and future

In past, present and future, you tell it how it was, how it is now, and how it will be in the future. Not only does it give you three main points to speak about, but it helps you to structure what you are saying into a coherent and logical manner. Eg: When speaking at a wedding:

  • I first met John and Sue about 10 years ago.. (the past)
  • Today, they look great together. (the present)
  • I am sure they are going to have many good years ahead (the future)

Express an opinion

State an opinion and then justify with supporting facts. Eg:

  • Sugar is bad for you because the rise in obesity correlates with increased sugar consumption

Address cause and effect

State the situation; discuss the causes and the eventual consequences. This is a strategy that politicians are extremely good at using. Eg:

  • The lack of ability of the opposition to perform is delaying the decision making process…

Break the Topic into components

Break the topic into a few simple components and discuss them individually. This approach can be a combination of the above approaches. So you could speak about something that happened in the past, discuss the implications for the present, and express an opinion as to the best strategy in the future.

A few tips when speaking off the cuff:

  • Listen to what the other person said. If you are unsure, ask them to repeat.
  • Pause before answering. This gives your time to formulate and structure your answer.
  • Say what you want to say, and nothing else.
  • Stop talking when you are finished. You dont need to ramble on and on.

During the table topics session at a Toastmasters meeting, members of the club are called to the lectern by the topics master, and are asked to speak for between 1-2 minutes on an unprepared topic. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice impromptu meetings, and to listen to how others do it.

The best way to improve your impromptu speaking is to practice. Seize every opportunity to do so, practice. and listen to yourself become a more effective communicator.

The GROW model

The GROW model is a coaching model that describes a very simply process that can be followed to help you work towards and to achieve your goals.


The first step is to understand what your goal is. Understanding your goal gives you a concrete objective towards which you can work, and the freedom to start doing so.
Make your goals SMART – goals that are Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. This removes the pie-in-the- sky aspect of goal setting, and turns them into something that you can actually achieve. Having a goal such as ?I would like to lose weight? is difficult to measure and hence difficult to achieve. How about changing it to ?I would like to lose 5 kg by December 2007??

Without goals comes a lack of focus, and with no focus it is very easy to drift through life – just living from day to day, wondering why you are not achieving anything in life. How much harder is it to move forward without understanding where you are going?


The next step is to look at the current reality. Where are you in relation to your goal? Have you almost achieved your goal? Are you a long way away? Do you need to break the goal into smaller, more achievable goals?
It may require a detailed and honest analysis of where you are, But having a deep understanding of where you are provides a very solid foundation of understanding what needs to happen.


Once you understand your goal and your reality, the task is to find out how to start to move the reality towards the goal. At this stage in the process, you examine what options are available to you. This is where the planning takes place.
There may be a single course of action, or there may be multiple options from which to choose. This is a good opportunity to go into some creative brainstorming, or to perform a SWOT analysis on the various options that are available to you.
Remember that at this stage you are not deciding which are the best options – that is for later. You are simply deciding on what the possible options are.


At this stage, we have examined the goal, we know where we are in respect to the goal, and we have examined the various options that we can follow to reach the goal.
The final step is to examine the options, and to decide what the best option is to reach your goal. Note that you are not looking at the easiest option, but the best option. IE: which option is going to move you closest towards your goal?


Working throught the GROW model provides a very simple yet powerful framework to support you in achieving your goals. However, the work really happens not in the planning, but in the working of your plan.

While working your plan, keep in mind how you are progressing towards your goal. Keeping examining what is and is not working in your plan. What might have seemed as a great option (the WHAT) might not have been the best choice . So try to have the flexibility to make  adjustments when it becomes necessary.


The GROW model can be used in almost any aspect of your personal or business life, including health, wealth, team goals and career aspirations. Basically, GROW will work anywhere in your life that you are working towards a goal.

Good luck, and continue to GROW.

Historical note: There is a lot of uncertainty as to the origins of the GROW model. Several sources cite several different authors. To the best of my knowledge, it was created by Graham Alexander and brought to the fore by Sir John Whitmore.