Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

Presentation skills tip: cadence

US President Obama has given public speaking a much-needed shot of adrenaline, and one of his great technical strengths is the way he takes control of his cadence. Cadence isn’t just about how fast you speak, it’s also about where you place the emphasis on your words. Speaking with real power (the power to move hearts and change minds, not the power to be heard at the back of the room) owes a lot to cadence, so here’s a very short demonstration of how you can incorporate this into your next speech or presentation.

Here’s an example of some text from the Message Development page of our website:

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview. It is now the bedrock of your organisation’s communication and should be consistent regardless of the medium, whether that’s a daily newspaper, a TV news bulletin or a cocktail napkin at your next dinner.

Opening tip: Read it out loud, properly. Don’t just make a sound and move your lips and read it in your head. Actually read it out like you want someone else to hear it. (That’s actually a bonus tip – it’s amazing how many people never read a presentation script out loud before their first rehearsal!)

Step 1: Break it up a bit. There are only two sentences here, but by breaking it into four you introduce more natural points of emphasis.

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It is now the bedrock of your organisation’s communication.

And (it) should be consistent regardless of the medium, whether that’s a daily newspaper, a TV news bulletin or a cocktail napkin at your next dinner.

Step 2: Change your words around. The start and end of sentences are natural points of emphasis. And some words have more emotional weight than others. So, if you’re going for a powerful opening statement, try opening with a powerful opening word. Let’s look at just the first sentence:

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

We can improve the opening simply by changing the order of our first five words, like this:

No longer is your message the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It’s a simple change that on first reading makes the sentence less natural. But since you’re seeking attention, that’s kind of what you’re after!

Step 3: Give yourself some breathing space. As we noted earlier, the start and end of a sentence provide natural emphasis. So to enhance your emphasis, introduce more pauses in your speach. We did that already by breaking sentences up – now let’s look at how we can introduce better spacing within each of those. This also means that your speaker can breathe more often, so you can demand a stronger effort on some words for even more emphasis. Apologies in advance to the punctuation purists, but demonstrating this in text means we’re going to have to butcher a few things to get the point across.

NO LONGER………is your message the media TAGLINE………your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It is NOW………….the BEDROCK…………..of your organisation’s communication.

AND………….(it) should be CONSISTENT.

REGARDLESS of the medium………….whether that’s a daily NEWSPAPER…………..a TV NEWS bulletin……………or a cocktail napkin at your next DINNER.

Obviously doing this to your writing will make it far more difficult to read, but remember you’re doing this because it’s going to be presented. That’s why we won’t be updating this paragraph on our website. But, if you look at our Presentation Skills page, you’ll see that’s how we’ve opened.

Give this a try with the next presentation script you have to write. And let us know how you go with it – we’d love your feedback. Or if you’re struggling with a particular passage, get in touch and we’ll help you out.

And remember: read it out loud!