Many beginner Toastmasters see their speech from their own point of view, both in how they talk and how they use the stage. With practice, speakers learn to see and hear (and deliver) their speech considering the audience’s point of view. Before explaining how that works, it is helpful to understand the terminology.
Stage Left & Stage Right
House Right & House Left
The term “House” or “Stage” is in reference to what you are looking at. So if you’re in the audience, you are looking at the stage. If you’re on stage, you’re looking at the house. (And if you’re one of my whitewater paddling friends, you already know River Left and River Right is the perspective as you look down river.) Here is a video explaining it:
Read the full article about it here.
Now how do you use this info? Most cultures read from left to right and observe the passage of time going from left to right. So for clarity to your audience your story should follow that flow. So if you are talking about an event that came first, you would stand or point to Stage Left. As you refer to events through time, you move across the stage to Stage Right. You may make several trips through time this way and your story may come to a conclusion in the present which you would come back to front and center to deliver final the message.
Lotus IBM professionals, have you made plans to attend IamLUG? Perhaps you never get to attend Lotusphere / IBM Connect because it’s so expensive for the travel and the conference fee? This is your chance to get all of the meat of the Big conference without all of the fluff. You won’t get an evening trip to one of the theme parks. You won’t have all the hoopla and grandeur of the Opening General Session or the intellectual entertainment of the Closing Session. But you’ll get all the same great, useful insightful presentations from many of the same speakers. And the cost is…
You just have to get there. Costs would include travel to/from St Louis, a ride from the airport to the hotel, Room for 2 nights at $100/night. (Split it with someone else attending and that’s $50/night!) Eat cheap while you’re there and you can get 2 days of intense professional development for next to nothing. Throw in the extra day of TackItOn sessions for just $500 and you get a complete trip of 3 days of training for a fraction of the cost of IBM Connect. Do whatever it takes to be there. When it comes to conferences outside of Lotusphere/IBM Connect, it doesn’t get any better than this. Did I mention many of the same speakers who presented at IBM Connect this year will be at IamLUG sharing all the now-released version of Notes 9 Social Edition?
Actually, there will be at least one new presenter: me. Yes, for the first time I will officially have my own microphone. In the past, you may have seen me at a mic in the audience at Lotusphere/Connect, asking pointed questions during the “Ask the Product Managers” session or in the “Ask the Developers” session when I was made an honorary developer and brought on stage, handed a laptop, and put to work. Well I finally decided to put my mouth where my blog is, to step up to the podium and give back to the community live and in person. I’m diving in with both feet too. I submitted two abstracts and they were BOTH accepted. This will be a true test of my Toastmasters training. If you’re in the audience, be kind, please.
Both sessions are on system administrator topics. The first session, “Be a Domino Detective: Hunting the Gremlins” is all about finding the problems hiding in your systems. I am so lucky to be sharing the stage with Kim Greene, a seasoned presenter! She will be hunting the gremlins that are constantly at work gnawing at your system’s performance while I will be hunting the ones that are quietly lying in the shadows, waiting for the worst time to jump out and bite you. I’m hoping this session will be both fun AND educational.
The second session, “What’s in it for me? How Your Life as an Administrator will Improve When Your Company Moves to the Cloud” is intended to provide a bit of insight into what you can expect as a system administrator if you migrate to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. Really, the cloud can be your friend, not the end of your career. Speaking of friends, I will be co-presenting this session with my longtime friend and administrator of a broad range of systems, Greg Walrath. I look forward to seeing you in the audience!
This user group conference has grown dramatically in just 4 years. Most of the speakers you have seen many times before and know them for their expertise. IBM will even be there presenting an entire track on Social Business. This one is truly becoming one of the biggest and best. I am humbled to get a chance to share time at the podium among such rock stars in our profession. It will be fun! See you in St. Louis!
Eight months ago I joined Toastmasters. I will never be able to watch a Lotusphere session (or any other presentation) the same way again. Did you ever wonder what it’s like to present at Lotusphere? On the positive side it must be rewarding just to be selected. You’ve been chosen by IBM as one who stands out among your peers. On the other hand, giving a presentation is challenging and even more so when presenting somewhere like Lotusphere in front of your peers where you are expected to be the subject matter expert. More people fear public speaking than anything else, even more than dying. For most technology experts, their expertise lies in the technology, not in public speaking. They may give presentations just a few times a year. Even without the fear of public speaking, it is difficult to be good at it without frequent practice. Imagine if you only administered your servers or wrote code a few times each year? Quite a challenge. So as you watch their presentations, keep that in mind. It’s not easy.
On the other hand, if you find yourself speaking at Lotusphere or anywhere else for that matter, consider this: you’re already an expert at your subject matter. So if you’re trying to improve the quality of your presentation, you’ll probably get the biggest return on investment of your time by honing your communication skills rather than your topic competence. There are a few speakers out there like Chris Miller and Mat Newman, who have somehow mastered the techniques AND know what they’re talking about. But for the rest of us, it takes lots of practice and feedback. And I have stumbled upon what I think is the best venue for this. It’s Toastmasters. If a Toastmasters club meets somewhere near you, join it. Toastmasters is one of the very best paths to develop good communication skills that you will find. Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization of people who want to improve on their communication and leadership skills. It’s a fantastic way to minimize your weaknesses in public speaking in a positive, supportive, and fun environment. You will uncover things like
- How many times do you say ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘so’, or ‘you know’ while giving even a short 5 minute presentation?
- Do you commit “death by Powerpoint” (or Symphony Presentations)?
- Do you ramble on without pauses for emphasis?
- Talk monotone without any inflection or energy in your voice?
- Are your slides packed with text and complex graphics?
- Do you read your slides to the audience?
- Do you use gestures and body language and make use of the whole stage or do you lock yourself in behind the security of the podium and stand motionless?
- Do you read from a script (e.g. Open General Session!) or worse, do you try to memorize your speech?
You get the idea. Whether you are currently a presenter or aspire to become one, until you have mastered all of the skills (and even the best speakers practice to improve), you should practice and get feedback from people who know the intricacies of public speaking and can help you can improve. (I’m not talking about the feedback forms at the end of the sessions. They mostly cover content, not delivery, and the observers are not watching with a critical eye for communication skills, they are there to learn the content.) Toastmasters is a great place to do this is.
I have been in Toastmasters for less than a year and while my peers in the club give me great praise and support, I learn every time I give a presentation or evaluate someone else giving theirs. If you think you’re good enough already, check out this list of famous people who are in Toastmasters.