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  • Writer's pictureStu Lloyd

Public speaking training lessons from Woodstock, man.

Like, wow, man! It's 50 years since Woodstock, often heralded as the greatest rock 'n roll concert ever. (Google it, Millennials.)

I think the most colourful and memorable description of it came courtesy of screenwriter Elliott Tiber who said:

“Gathered the weekend in 1969 were liars and lovers, prophets and profiteers. They made love, they made money, and they made a little bit of history.”

Hippies in their thousands descended on a little farm north of New York, and I love the way it unfolded as the word of this great happening went viral -- in the days before digital tools -- and the vibe grew organically.

Edward 'Chip' Monck was a lighting and production guy. At the last minute he got a tap on the shoulder, and the organiser told him they’d forgotten to arrange an MC, so, um, like, can you get up and be the, um, MC, dude?

Which is how Chip came to be suddenly facing a 100,000 crowd.

Any tips for us on public speaking and thinking on your feet skills, Chip?

“The thing is you focus on two, three, four people in the front row," he says. "You deal with them, watch their faces, and build a relationship with the crowd. They told me what they needed. I wasn’t there for my own success. I was there for them.”


Those few lines are so densely packed with great presentation skills training advice ...

Start off by making eye contact with as many as you can, to build a bridge with the audience.

Get them included straight up, that's the principle. Obviously it's a little tricky with 100,000 in the room but let's assume your corporate presentations are a little smaller than that.

Watching their faces is a great way to establish a feedback loop. What are they making of you? Are they into it? Pumped up? Are they bored? Sleeping?

My tip is to zero in to the faces who are giving you positive vibes. Someone might be smiling. Someone might be nodding their head. Someone might be jotting down an important point. Great! Work them, and feed off their energy to get your confidence, then ripple out from there.

Don't let someone who's rudely messing around on their phone ding your head.

You'll often hear nonsense about picking a spot on the back wall and talking to that, to include everyone in the room. What BS advice that is. Ignore it!

And Chip's last point is perhaps his best. As a speaker, it's not about you - it's about them. It's about your audience. What gift are you giving them with your talk, workshop, or proposal?

That's why it's called a presentation. You're giving them a gift of an idea, some entertainment, an insight, whatever. Once you focus on being in service of your audience, your communication and engagement power will go through the roof.

So try and build a little bit of this timeless advice into your pitches and proposals this week. You'll probably find your audience shares more love with you than usual. Good luck!

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