Ian Percy is good with chickens.

In my travels I have periodically heard about Ian Percy. Trainees and also readers of this blog have mentioned him to me. I have been told that he is a ‘certified speaking professional’ (certified by whom?). He has been inducted into both the Canadian and U.S. Speaking Halls of Fame. He has been described as “one of the top 21 speakers for the 21st century”.

That’s some billing! Shall we see if he lives up to it? Here he is, speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living, Capistrano Valley, California, in January last year. His talk is entitled “Free the chickens”.

He is introduced by Rev. Dr. Heather Dawn Clark, and my senses suggest that Percy wrote his own introduction. (If he didn’t, he should have done: it saves so much trouble for everyone. At any rate, whoever wrote it, I like the alliterative triad in it.) I don’t know what makes Dr Clark laugh as we join her, but it adds warmth and charm to the proceedings. Dr Clark makes just one mistake. Leading or joining the applause when standing at the lectern feels so right but it looks and sounds wrong. Ian Percy begins at 1:20.

You may notice a sort of bell-like singing sound, impinging on your consciousness from time to time. It started during Dr Clark’s introduction and it doesn’t stop when Percy begins. This is from automatic microphone adjustment (AMA). I cannot be certain whether the live audience heard it or whether it is interference in the interface between the Center’s sound system and the camera’s microphone. The Center’s sound system is so good in every other respect that I suspect it is the latter and just one of those unfortunate things that happen.

Percy needs AMA. He uses such a huge range of tone colour with his voice that without it there’d either be passages that were inaudible or others severely distorted.

His inconsequential opening chit-chat shows tiny signs of hump, but you have to look pretty hard for it. This guy’s reputation is well earned. So good indeed is he that I instinctively reach for my nit-picking tweezers.

The camera operator, later in the speech, pans across to the screen to show us Percy’s visuals; but with the early slides we just have to guess what is there. The guess is easy so why the slides? Without them he would not be periodically looking around at the screen and surrendering his claim on the audience’s focus. If I were advising him I would tell him to ditch the slides – all of them. They add virtually nothing to what he is saying and he is quite compelling enough to not need those things as a crutch.

He has cue-cards of some description above his eye-level behind the audience/camera, but he uses them only for when he needs to quote precise figures. The rest of the time he is shooting from the hip and doing it well. If advising him I would recommend having those details on a card in his hand. Being seen to refer to hard copy when quoting statistics strengthens verisimilitude. I have trainees like Finance Directors whose lives are so absorbed in the figures they quote at presentations that they could quote them to the penny in their sleep; but they look at a card when they quote them so that their audiences are not tempted to suspect that these figures are ball-park. Sometimes the cards are blank…

And really those are the only nits I’m going to pick.

It’s an absorbing presentation, engagingly delivered, and though the message may be less than ground-breaking it is thought-provoking and I certainly do not think of the half hour it took to watch as being time wasted. This guy is good.

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