I've become somewhat of a student of speaking - not just preaching, but public speaking. Preaching is a much, much more complex calling and execution than speaking is, yet many good preachers never think about public speaking. They're effective in their calling, but could be much more so.
For a long time, I've heard rave reviews of Steve Jobs' presentations. I finally broke down and watched the webcast of his presentation at the World Wide Developers Conference 06.
I will confess, I'm a prime target for Jobs. I was a PC-to-Mac convert just 3 years ago. Today, there are eight pieces of Apple hardware in my home. I am excited about Leopard. I go to the Mac store just for fun. I would be a prime candidate to love Job's speaking style. Surprisingly, I thought it stunk.
Based on this WWDC06 presentation, I have to say this: Steve Job's presentation skills are highly overrated. His delivery is jerky, he paces the stage like he wants to make a potty stop, and his slides are so dead-on perfect that it's obvious that he's been giving this speech in his sleep for a week. His presentation has the coolest bells and whistles but it's completely void of soul. If this is business presentation at it's best, then business presentations are in unbelievably sad shape.
One of the guys I've heard brag about Jobs is his former employee, Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki has gone on to become an entity in his own right and a highly sought after speaker. I have watched a couple of his speeches and think he's twice the speaker that his old boss is.
Kawasaki manages a clever balance of being completely full of himself and yet self deprecating at the same time. He seems entirely at ease in front of his audience. He makes you think he's poking fun of himself, even when he's poking fun at you. I recently watched him on a webcast from a business conference - he went 10 minutes over his alloted time. The organizers were having a cow, yet Kawasaki taunted them and the audience cheered - they wanted him to go longer! Even if you don't understand every nuance of his humor, you want to go have coffee with him.
Jobs, on the other hand, makes you want to avoid him. He's the guy who raised his hand with the answer in every class you ever took. He is precise to a fault. He's Alex Trabec minus the suit. He has the answers, but he seems to enjoy it so much that you resent having to ask him for them.
Most people don't think of themselves as public speakers, but they should. If you make an announcement at the office, you're a public speaker. If you tell a story at the Thanksgiving diner table, you're a public speaker. Here are a few things I try to remember when I'm in front of people....
Laugh at yourself. They're going to laugh at you, so join them. It takes the awkwardness out of the situation. There is nothing as comfortable as a dork who knows he's a dork. This was a great value at the Vineyard - teaching there once in a while helped me practice.
Their imagination is your best tool. Leave key details out of the story, but give them enough to work with so they can fill in the blanks. The best person in the world at this is Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion. It's not what he tells you that is riviting - it's what he leads you to imagine.
Get comforable. Some speakers lean forward - not physically, but in attitude. Others lean back. Forward-leaners seem to be convincing you of what they think. Backward-leaners are generally telling you what they know. Forward-leaners have a vested interest in you agreeing with them. Backward leaners are going to know what they knew and believe it just the same when they get on the airplane to go home.
Feel it. You can't move people only by information. It takes emotion, and most emotion can be leveraged to move people in a healthy way. On the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I sketched out a memorial service at VCC, five speaking segments based on the five stages of grief, each separated by a live song by Robbie Reider and the band. . Three speakers each took one section, while Sr Pastor Dave Workman took two. The afternoon of the event, they asked if I'd step in and take Anger. I did - with more raw emotion than I realized that I carried for the event. A number of people told me later that it was a turning point for them in the program because they felt something that allowed them to go on and find resolve.
This is all probably more information than you asked for, but if you're still reading, think about it. You might not ever be a Guy Kawasaki, but you can be a better speaker than you are with just a little discipline.