Monday, July 02, 2007

Talking of Climate Change…

I spent this weekend at the Professional Speakers Association. We’re a group of experts who speak on our specialist subjects. My main activity is communicating the issues on energy and climate change to business audiences. As an expert on the topic it is essential that my communication skills are as good as they can be. Nothing is ever achieved if a message is sent but not properly received or understood. As a speaker I’m a member of Toastmasters International, which means that nearly every week I’m speaking in front of an audience – prepared speeches or impromptu – and getting feedback from the audience in a structured way. I know what I mean to tell them; often it’s very instructive to find out what they actually heard! Change of emphasis, change of pace, change of structure can all have a radical effect on the message received.

The Professional Speakers Association is for speakers making a business of speaking. Friday was a Board meeting and Chapter Leadership forum, but Saturday was one of our National Events. These events are designed for members but invited guests are welcome too. Our first session, which raised a lot of discussion, was given by Nick Oulton on the use of PowerPoint. Many people believe that slides have no place in a keynote speech because we are giving a speech, not making a presentation. Our speaker (presenter?) showed how badly PowerPoint can be used, and how dramatically different a well-designed presentation can be. Generally I’m with the purists: if it’s a slide show it’s not a speech. On the other hand, some of the statistics involved in energy and climate change are difficult to get across without a graph, and a flip-chart looks amateur. I can’t think of a prop I could use instead, but any suggestions gratefully received.

Our second speaker was Fergus McClelland, expert in all things vocal. He explained the different characteristics of all the microphones we are likely to come across. Each has different advantages and disadvantages and each must be tuned to your voice, so it’s important to make friends with the sound man who is likely to be working long hours and getting paid far less than the speaker. Fergus told us about recording equipment, mixing software and how to make our own CDs and podcasts.

Our third speaker was Terry Brock, stopping over on his world tour on his way back to Florida. Terry is into all things technical. He’s an entertaining and accomplished speaker and he was showing us how the latest technology can help us develop products and promote ourselves. It’s difficult to do him justice on the page, so I suggest you visit his website for yourself and find out the sort of things he’s recommending. I shall be adopting some of them myself, and you can be sure that I’ll let you know all about them.

As you know, I’m an expert who speaks about energy and climate change. I’m convinced that these are the greatest challenges that businesses and individuals currently face. The PSA helps me get that message across. Our Annual Convention will be at the Radisson Heathrow in November. Come and find out what Professional Speakers can do for you.

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