Public Speaking Lessons from My New iPhone

I know I’m not the first person to say this. But I’m in love with my new iPhone. I can’t stop looking at it.  And I can’t help but think about the lessons it has to teach about public speaking.

First, the iPhone is so easy to use. The Apple guys have worked hard at making everything on it easy. Want to check the weather? Easy.  Want to record a voice mail?  Easy. Want to hear your music?  Easy.  Want to make a phone call? Easy.  That’s not to say that making it all easy has been simple to accomplish.  There’s a lot of engineering blood, sweat, and tears behind all that “easiness”.

A good speaker should be the same way — easy. By that I mean listener friendly.  For the listener, the message should come across as clean and simple.  “Here are the three simple things that you need to come away with.”  That’s not to say that making a presentation listener-friendly is simple.  It’s not. Good speakers work extremely hard at simplifying their message, disciplining themselves to come up with the three core messages. It takes a lot of work to hone a good story. But it shouldn’t feel that way to the listener.

Second, the iPhone is interactive fun. The thing quickly becomes an integral part of your life.  Of course, there is the phone and the email. But it’s also a wonderful toy with apps galore. If you’re a sports nut, then there are dozens of ways to feed your addiction. If you’re a music nut, same thing. There is a Scrabble app that I’m dying to get.

Similarly, a great speaker is interactive and fun. Great speakers grab listeners and make them feel personally involved.  They find ways to interact with the audience, tell stories, take questions, ask questions and generally turn the presentation into an conversational, participatory event.

Third, the iPhone works. By that I mean that it’s very clear on it’s core mission and accomplishes it quite well.  I would have no use for a device that could get me the ball scores but couldn’t make a clear phone call. The iPhone wouldn’t be much use if the email and calendar were hard to use.  But those things work beautifully.  And the iPhone sets up with little problem (at least mine did).

A good speaker is the same way. She has a clear sense of her core mission — to connect with the audience and move them. Great speakers understand that all the clever stories and amazing visuals mean nothing if you don’t get the listeners to take away a few core ideas and move them to action.  Great speakers understand that a wonderful speaking style is of no value if the audience doesn’t get the message and know what to do next.

Finally, the iPhone is absolutely beautiful to look at. I can’t stop looking at mine.  I was at lunch yesterday with two architects that were praising the thing as a model of design.

Similarly, great speakers speak with the kind of style that makes listeners want to watch. Great speakers have energy in their voice and passion in their face and eyes. That excitement makes their audience pay attention.

I wonder if there’s an app to deal with stage-fright?

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