A Lesson in Pitching and Presentation Skills from Mr. Rogers

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a presentations skills trainer and coach, I often work with entrepreneurs who pitch their products and services to audiences of investors.  They are often so heavily focused on putting together the perfect slide presentation– chock full of numbers, graphs zippy videos—they forget to bring a powerful, somewhat intangible element to their pitches: Their relatable, human selves. Which is why I always gently (and sometimes vehemently) steer my coaching clients towards the following five principles for pitching and presentations skills mastery: Tell a good story. And tell it well. Move your audience into feeling. Help your audience see and feel …

Get Out of the Basement and Dare to Be of Influence

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

I’ve recently enjoyed reading Austin Kleon’s two, wonderful books Steal Like an Artist, and Show Your Work. The latter reinforces something I’ve always believed: When it comes to creating something—like writing a book, crafting a presentation; developing a new idea or product; painting a picture; or finessing a new app—there is a time to hole up in the basement and massage it into being, and a time to climb up the basement stairs, open the door, and share your creation with others. I learned this lesson deeply when my dear friend, Lisa Michelson, was killed in a freak car accident …

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In the first quarter of my freshman year at Brown University, I decided to take Psychology 101. When the first exam rolled around, I was pretty sure I knew the material well and that I would, as usual, get a high grade. Which is why I was shocked when my professor handed me back my exam marked with a big, red D+. As a self-avowed, perfectionistic “grade grubber” whose entire identity was dependent on being “smart” and “an A student,” this D+ threw me for a complete loop. My initial reaction was that the Psych professor had made some sort …

“Help! I’ve Lost My Voice!”: When a Speaker Gets Laryngitis

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Recently, my biggest nightmare as a speaker, coach and trainer came to pass:  I lost my voice. I mean, entirely. I couldn’t even muster up a pathetic, hoarse little whisper. It was utterly terrifying. And, of course, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time: Having just finished giving a Friday workshop out of state, I was poised to deliver four more trainings over three consecutive days, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Trying not to panic, I spent the weekend on total vocal rest, drinking as many fluids as I could manage. This paid off, somewhat: On Monday morning, my …

To Be a More Compelling Speaker, Heighten Your Concentration

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a young actor, I spent many happy hours watching plays so I could learn acting techniques from my talented colleagues. One night, I went to see a performance of a big, splashy new musical. The stage was filled with at least a dozen actors singing, dancing and acting up a storm, all working hard to be noticed. But only one of them commanded my full attention: Alittle girl sitting on a set of stairs in the middle of the action, reading a book. She was relaxed and fully present, unafraid to simply be her genuine self in front of an …

To Speak at Your Peak, Steer Clear of the Comparison Trap!

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

At six feet tall, with a long, loping stride, I was a very good high-school runner. Which is why I felt pretty darn cocky as I strode up to the starting line on track and field day to compete in a sprinting match with several other girls from my school. I was positioned next to my friend Brenda, who was at least six inches shorter than me.  Brenda was nimble and athletic. We’d played basketball, kickball and other team sports together; but we’d never run side-by-side. And so, when the whistle blew and we exploded onto the track, I was …

Public Speaking Tip: Don’t Speak to a Demographic, Speak to a Person

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In preparation for writing a book about the art and craft of public speaking, I’ve been reading some great books on the subject. It’s always interesting to see where and how I differ or concur with my colleagues when it comes to public speaking best practices. I nodded my head in vehement agreement while reading Chris Anderson’s terrific book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, when I came across the following nugget:  Elizabeth Gilbert, the best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love– who is herself a talented speaker—believes that you should plan your talk not for a …

Presentation Tip: To Engage Your Audience, Ask the Right Questions, in the Right Way, for the Right Reasons

Eleni Kelakos public speaking training

  Whether you use them to open your presentation, or drive a point home, questions are a great way to engage your audience.   The right question at the right time can take a presentation to a whole new level of feeling, understanding or insight. Which is why it’s essential to ask the right question, in the right way, for the right reason. There are, essentially, two types of questions 1.Questions to elicit a response. I use this type of question when I want to find out specific information and encourage active audience engagement: “How many of you are over six …

creative chaos

8 Ways to Court the Muse and Catalyze the Creative Process

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I’ve been a creative person since the get-go (frankly, I think we all are—but that’s a topic for another time). I’ve always thrown myself into creating all sorts of projects, mostly of an artistic nature, whether I was building a worm farm out of clay with my brother, George, or creating a miniature circus wagon from scratch to go along with a written paper on the subject my senior year at Brown University. Throughout the years, I’ve created one-woman theatrical shows, written almost two hundred songs, and recorded four complete CDs of my original music. I've drafted three screenplays, an …

Freebo

Moving Towards Mastery: Freebo’s Story

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I’ve recently been on my soap box speaking about the value of striving for what I call Presence and Presentation Mastery. What that means to me is being willing to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence (not perfection—there’s a vast difference between the two) as both a speaker and in your ability to be genuinely and consistently present when others are watching and the stakes are high. Being fully present, and being able to clearly and confidently share your unique message with eyeballs on you, are hallmarks of great leadership—and of great acting and great speaking, for that matter. …

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5 ways to Rock the Podium During Conference Season

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5 Ways to Rock the Podium. During Conference Season When Spring comes rolling around, I always expect a rash of calls from folks who are slated to deliver presentations at the regional and national conferences that proliferate at this time of year. Some people come to me with a high degree of preparation. Others, well… let’s just say they do what most people tend to do: Wait until the absolute last minute and throw something together in a panic. As a presence and presentation expert who specializes in helping people create and finesse high-level keynotes or breakouts, I’ve heard all …

Leap At What Scares Your: A New Year’s Tribute to Virginia Giordano

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As I move into the New Year, I do so with two conflicting feelings: Anticipation, because a new year always beckons with enticing possibilities; and a heavy heart, because my very dear friend, Virginia Giordano, will not be a part the year unfolding. Virginia died on Saturday, from Pancreatic cancer. Only three weeks passed from the moment she was diagnosed and the time she took her last breath. Three short weeks, and she was gone. Virginia is the second close friend I’ve lost to sudden illness within the past six months. The first was my best friend from 10th grade, …

Dealing With Dueling Dualities

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The holiday season is full of dueling dualities that can often prove confusing. For example, you can feel both exhilarated by the hustle and bustle of shopping and socializing, and overwhelmed by it at the same time. Or you can feel both grateful for the friends and family that surround you, and wistful for times past shared with folks no longer on this earthly plane. Dualities are a certainly part of the two things I am most passionate about: Deepening and widening your presence on this planet by fulfilling your passionate purpose; and using your words to change the world …

Beware the Comparison Trap

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As a young actress, I was ridiculously envious of another young actress I’ll call Madeline. Madeline was short, cute and perky. And she seemed to be having the acting career—and thus the life– I wanted (Starring roles in Broadway Plays! Lead roles in interesting, prestigious films! The acclaim and adoration of A-list agents, producers, directors and colleagues!) I wanted to be Madeline. For a brief time (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) I even tried to dress, walk and talk like Madeline—you can imagine how well that worked out. Madeline was, of course, completely unaware that I was I constantly …

Make the Most of Your Microphone

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The first time I stepped up to a microphone, I was eleven years old. I had bravely signed up to sing a song called Froggy Went a Courtin’ all by myself in the talent show at summer camp. The microphone loomed like a leggy, silver bug, and as I stepped up to it I felt very, very small–until I sang my first note into its shiny face. I couldn’t have been more surprised–or more thrilled–at how very, very big my voice sounded as it bounded out of the loudspeakers. Ever since, I’ve had a deep respect and appreciation for microphones. …

Feeling Blue? Blah? Take Action!

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We all have days when we’re broadsided by Fear, which masquerades as the Blues and the Blahs. Days when the last thing we feel like doing is leaping out of bed and conquering the world. When hiding in the basement with a pint of chocolate Haagen Daz ice cream seems like the most manageable option in an unmanageable world. And we lie there, eyes resolutely shut, twisted in the sheets, thinking about all those people relying on us to eschew our blues and get a move on: Bosses. Children. Employees. We have obligations, darn it all. And somehow, impossible as …

From Chaos Comes Clarity

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Whenever I launch into creating a keynote presentation, my office temporarily turns chaotic: Notes, scribbled on pieces of paper toweling or crumpled bank deposit slips, skitter across my desk; drafts of previous keynote presentations flicker on my dual computer screens; folders of additional notes, taken while assessing my client’s needs, explode across my computer keyboard; my acoustic guitar leans against my desk, within grabbing distance; and piles of papers that were important yesterday, are suddenly irrelevant, crowded to the corners by my latest obsession. This chaotic abandon is what my husband calls “My Process.” I go through it each time …

To Be What You Want To Be, Do What You Want To Be

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“I really want to be a better public speaker,” she said. “I want to be a more confident, more relaxed and more engaging when I speak to groups.” “Well,” I asked, “How often do you speak to groups?” “Hardly ever,” she replied, shrugging. “I tend to avoid public speaking like the plague.” “That’s going to have to change,” I said. “ To be a better speaker, you’re going to have to speak publicly—as often as you possibly can.” I’ve had variations of the above conversation too many times people who approach me for presentation skills coaching. They talk a mean …