Ruthie Ann Miles won a Tony Award last night and got to give her acceptance speech. I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on her; it wasn’t a bad speech. But the only thing commented on and memorable about her speech is that she was reading from her cell phone. And it wasn’t just “a cell phone,” it was a white iPhone with the Apple logo clearly visible.
I’m all in favor of using technology to help with presentations, but the technology shouldn’t be the dominant image or memory of your speech. Unfortunately, that is what happened with Miles’ acceptance speech.
At the beginning of her speech she stressed the need to recycle as she brought out her phone, but was all this high tech really needed to save a half sheet of paper (and it begs the question of whether the energy costs to fuel the phone really were less than the environmental cost of a half sheet of paper).
I remember about a decade ago watching former NFL Giants player Tiki Barber giving a speech in front of 20,000 people at a public speaking conference while using his cell phone for notes. He wasn’t a bad speaker, but, again, the only thing memorable about his speech was the visibility of the cell phone in his hands.
I’ve also seen TV preachers holding ipads for their sermons; again, a bad move.
Here are the principles I stress with my public speaking clients:
- Use technology to help you speak, but don’t make it visible to your audience.
- It’s fine to use notes.
- The best notes are on a single sheet of paper with very large font that you don’t have to hold or touch (put the notes on a table, lectern or even the floor, as long as you can read the notes without bending over or picking them up).
- Your audience should always feel you are focusing on them; not your notes or any piece of technology.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide. You can find his online training courses here. https://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.html