Is public speaking the new rock and roll?

Is your lecturer or schoolteacher engaging and fun – or is sitting through lessons like waiting for paint to dry? Do you dread the drone at meetings of your social club or group, or does the chair ensure they go with a swing? And do you find yourself grabbing an unscheduled forty winks when the boss is presenting his latest big idea, or are you mentally shouting for more?

Rock and roll speech doctor Nigel Barlow is laying down the gauntlet to speakers at all levels to unleash their inner rock star and inject some zing into their talks, lectures or lessons.

“I call it ‘rocking your talk up’”, says Nigel, who addresses many of the world’s leading companies on his specialist topic, innovative thinking.

A former lawyer, he is passionate about how knowledge and information is communicated – often poorly in his view – particularly in education where he feels standards need raising at a time students are having to pay serious money for their additional learning.

Nigel is sharing his public speaking techniques for the first time in his new book, Rock Your Presentation, a new guide to speaking with passion:

“I want to help people discover the joy in communicating, to enjoy the experience, and that will help you be more yourself, more human, and to make a connection between the talking topic and the hearts and minds of your audience of the day.

“And that’s why I’m challenging everyone who stands in front of an audience – whether a college lecturer, a local councillor or someone making a speech at a wedding – to make their moment of glory exciting by rocking it up”

Rock Your Presentation includes anecdotes from legends of the music business including Van Halen, Elvis Presley, legendary Brit rockers Ray Davies and Ronnie Wood and Marc Bolan’s producer Tony Visconti on the challenge of ‘the pitch of his life’ to legend David Bowie.

“Speaking and presenting is part of everyone’s life – even if it’s just communicating with your customers in a shop, restaurant or call centre, each exchange is a mini-presentation,” says Nigel.

“So, do you want to address your audience in a forgettable way, like elevator music which leaves your mind as soon as the doors close behind you, or make it rock like Bruce Springsteen or Dave Grohl? Presenting is a performance, so rock your presentation.”

“You might be Alicia Keys or even Ed Sheeran, but once you’ve made the mental transformation, that scary presentation to your classroom peers or an important client becomes your big moment, your chance to shine.

“If you want your moment to be remembered, think how a well-crafted three-minute song stays in your mind forever, you can apply the techniques songwriters use to achieve this effect – the words you’ve slaved over become your hit song complete with chorus, bridge and a few well-rehearsed power chords designed to set the audience ablaze.”

Here are Nigel’s top tips to help you rock your pitch up…

1: Grab them by the ears: start your performance with a few compelling opening bars, a riff that stays in the audience’s head – and perform it with passion.

2: Lyrics matter: paint word pictures and tell stories.

3: Go tweet sized: keep it snappy, don’t ramble.

4: Rehearse out loud: yes, I know you’ll feel daft walking around the office or front room talking to yourself, but it helps.

5: Go unplugged: in music, an unplugged performance is more intimate and memorable, so try dropping your props and get closer to your audience.

6: Be self-effacing, not self-erasing: modesty is good, no-one likes a show off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let rip and allow your passion and enthusiasm to break through.

7: Repeat the chorus: however compelling the performance, there is always a dip in the audience’s attention at some point, usually around midway, so make sure you drive home your key points and summarise them in your climax at the end.

“The strong climax is essential to the rock approach. Nearly every good rock song ends with a crescendo and a repeated chorus, and your ‘rocked up’ presentation needs to rise to its memorable peak,” added Nigel.

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