At this point I think it is appropriate for me to declare an interest. Jim is a trainee of mine. I asked him at the time to let me know how well it went. This is from his email –
Just finished. Numbers around the 500 mark I would guess. Went well thanks, particularly pleased with the opening, could have done better with the coherent story but was pretty good.
Shall we see what we think?
Probably the most widely recognised symptom of nervousness in a speaker is talking too fast, so I urge my trainees to set themselves a measured pace from the start; and for the very start I point out that the slowest thing they can do is… nothing. I can cite numerous excellent examples of speakers starting with a long pause: I seem to remember William Hague doing it when he was Conservative leader, with his ‘Commonsense Revolution’ speech in October 1999. Jim here pauses for six whole seconds! That is brave and, under the circumstances, would have felt like a week. He had evidently listened to that part of his course with me. He followed the pause with a bald opening.
He was also listening when I said that going in through the front door of the topic is intrinsically boring, and that opening by outflanking the subject in order to enter through a side-door, thus having the audience wondering where this is leading, is a good way to get their attention. Yes, Jim is right to be pleased with the opening.
Thanks to this speech I have learnt that a petabyte is a thousand terabytes; therefore 1,000,000,000 megabytes. The petabyte seems to be Jim’s basic unit of currency.
A couple of blog postings ago I deplored the practice of looking over your shoulder at the slide on the big screen because it surrenders and redirects some of your audience’s focus. You see Jim change a slide, and he’s looking at a slave screen near his feet. From the pause involved in this process I think he’s using the slide as a signpost, and ideally I’d like his structure to be so clear in his mind that signposts are unnecessary, but I’ll forgive him this small transgression. I am less forgiving of all that verbiage on his slides. While the audience are reading that, they are not paying full attention to his voice. Actually it appears that we don’t see all his slides: there seems to be one of Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley that doesn’t make it to the video…
All my trainees shoot their speeches from the hip, so it comes as no surprise that Jim uses no paper; and listen to how expressive his voice is as a consequence! This could so easily be a dry and tedious subject, yet without a script or notes to drag him down he makes it lively and absorbing. And every word is heard.
His parting shot was to thank and congratulate IBM on an excellent conference. I am persuaded to return to it to examine other speeches. Meanwhile …