Want to be a Better Speaker? Do THESE Things with Mike Pacchione
There’s an old adage that more people are afraid of public speaking than of death, meaning that at a funeral, more people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. I suspect that when push came to shove, most people would actually choose the eulogy, but that’s beside the point. Public speaking is hard. And truth be told, most people are bad at it…if you feel that way, don’t fret. Mike Pacchione is here to help. He’s coached people like James Clear, Amy Porterfield, and Donald Miller on public speaking, and today, he’s teaching us his best stuff.
- The greatest gift you can give your audience is to be completely present with them. That means don’t memorize! Know your stuff, practice your talk, and be with them in the room!
- Most people say too much. Embrace silence and be concise. Silence lets a point land, and communicates to your audience, “hey. That was important. Remember it.”
- The best speeches are not the ones you’ve given the most. Back to the first point, they are the ones where you’ve practiced and are present for the audience.
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There’s an old adage that more people are afraid of public speaking than of death, meaning that at a funeral, more people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. I suspect that when push comes to shove, most people would actually choose the eulogy over being put in a casket. But that’s beside the point.
Public speaking is hard, and truth be told, most people are bad at it. And if you feel like you’re bad at it, don’t fret. Mike Pacchione is here to help. He’s coached people like James Clear, Amy Porterfield, and Donald Miller on public speaking and delivering the best speeches of their lives. And today he’s teaching us his best stuff.
A few things that you need to look for are the greatest gift that you can give your audience, which has a lot to do with not memorizing your speech. He talks about why most people are afraid to embrace silence. And then he talks about why the best speeches are not necessarily the ones you’ve given the most.
It’s a great conversation and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it. I’m really grateful that we got to connect at Craft & Commerce in 2022. So enjoy that.
Today’s episode, by the way, is brought to you by GoodGames, Groundhogg, and LearnDash. You’ll hear about them later on in the show. For all of the show notes, you can head over to howibuilt.it/302. But for now, let’s get to the intro and then the interview.
Intro: Hey everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.
Joe Casabona: All right, I am here with Mike Pacchione. He is the founder and head honcho of Best Speech Co. Mike and I met at Craft & Commerce, like many of my recent guests here. And the thing I like about Mike besides we’re geographically in similar places is-
Mike Pacchione: An Italian.
Joe Casabona: An Italian. That’s right. That’s right. I didn’t say it the way that probably fake Italians would say. Do you get a lot like Pacchione or whatever?
Mike Pacchione: Well, the H is silent. But technically it’s Paccione but it got Americanized at some point.
Joe Casabona: Gotcha. Gotcha. I get a lot of Casaboona, good house. That’s how I know when someone’s Italian if they say good house after they say my last name. For the uninitiated, Casabona means good house in Italian.
Mike Pacchione: I’ve sent you way off-topic already. Sorry, Joe. You can continue.
Joe Casabona: I know. That’s right. We’re like way off. That’s good. Mike, we met at Craft & Commerce. You spoke at a… I guess like a pre-event thing that I was under the impression everybody was invited to and then I later learned that it wasn’t invite only. And I was like, Dude, why didn’t you go to this thing? What thing? Oh, cool.
And then I went to your session during the actual conference, which was a lot of fun. You gave me some constructive criticism on delivering a story, which was great because I love public speaking and I always want to be better at it.
Mike Pacchione: You were the model student there because you’re willing to get out there. You’re willing to try some things. When I do live coaching I don’t let you finish. I don’t necessarily let you finish. So this is what happened to you. And I distinctly remember you were doing fine. Your gestures were really close to your body. So I was like, “Dude, can you gesture bigger.” And you did that, which that’s hard to do on the fly.
And then there was a part towards the end where, again, it was fine. It’s totally acceptable. Nobody in the audience would say, “Joe sucks at this.” But I just recognize that it’d be better if you said it faster. So I challenged you to do that.
And it was so awesome to see everybody in the room just recognize how much more energy you had when you were saying… I don’t remember what you said, but when you were saying that part fast. And it totally validated my whole teaching, which is helpful because it’s risky bringing people up to the front and then I tried to fix it. And if it doesn’t work, it’s like, well, Joe’s the problem.
Joe Casabona: Right. Oh, he couldn’t fix it.
Mike Pacchione: That’s a Joe problem, right?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. I mean, you can’t fix some things. No, it was great. In college, my friends challenged me to talk without my hands. So it’s funny that you’re like, “Gesture bigger.” I guess when I’m on stage I try to like tone it down. But I should tone it regular or tone it up a little bit.
Mike Pacchione: You should tone it up.
Joe Casabona: Tone it up.
Mike Pacchione: Why did someone challenge you to speak without your hands?
Joe Casabona: Because all I did was talk with my hands. They said, “Put your hands behind your back and see if you could talk.” And when I get really animated and then I tell a story, it’s usually like my hands are flying, and I can’t. So it was funny because I put my hands behind my back and totally lost my train of thought.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah. Your energy and everything that’s good about you probably.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah. They just thought it was funny that I couldn’t talk without my hand.
Mike Pacchione: All right. Let me share some science. We’re not gotta get through the intro.
Joe Casabona: That’s cool. We’re diving right into the meat of it. That’s what people want.
Mike Pacchione: I probably shared this in Boise at the conference and my friend Vanessa… She’s pretty great. Science of People is Vanessa Van Edwards. They did an experiment where they wanted to see if people could tell what the best TED talks were if there was no volume.
So I’m gonna get the details of this slightly wrong but it’s something like this, where… you know how these things work. Like you grab a population of people to watch all the videos and the show, I think 20 videos, turn the volume off, so like literally press mute on your laptop, and just said, Okay, of these 20 videos, I think it was 20, of these 20 videos you watched, which were the good ones. And people could predict what the good ones were just by number of gestures.
Joe Casabona: Wow, that’s awesome.
Mike Pacchione: Which if you think about it, it makes sense. And I can always tell us someone is prepared and or how nervous they’re feeling by what their gestures look like. Because what should happen, your gestures should be running slightly ahead of your voice. I’ve never timed it. But I guess it’s like half a second quarter of a second just slightly before your words get there.
But when someone’s nervous or I can tell them not prepared it’s like the exact same thing. It’ll be the exact same time.
Joe Casabona: Really?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah. And their gestures will usually… when they pause their gestures will pause too. Those are different body parts. But it’s all I think in sync because the person’s not actually as prepared as it should be.
Joe Casabona: Gotcha. It kind of sounds like they’re like faking the gesture almost, right? They’re like thinking. Whereas like when you’re excited and you’re talking about something, you get ahead of yourself a little bit.
Mike Pacchione: Yes, you get ahead of yourself. Your two arms move differently. Like it’s not the same exact gesture from both arms.
Joe Casabona: Right. Right. That’s very rehearsed, right? No one gestures. Like – what’s it? Maestro… conductor. Like they’ll gesture like this in sync. But most people are doing two different things.
Mike Pacchione: But your hands are two different things. They should be moving… You can use your hand one and hand two indicate different things. Most people don’t do that.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, right.
Mike Pacchione: Listen, these are the things I think about when I’m watching a speech. Even when it’s a speech on a TV show. I remember watching… Remember House of Cards that was really good for a while?
Joe Casabona: Yes.
Mike Pacchione: I forget. I think Season 2 the president I am 99% sure study the way that Obama spoke.
Joe Casabona: Really?
Mike Pacchione: Because it’s like the second or third last episode and he’s delivering a talk and he’s pausing and he’s looking around. And I was thinking to myself like, “This is a white actor President Obama.”
Joe Casabona: Oh, my gosh.
Mike Pacchione: That’s the stuff that actually goes through my head.
Joe Casabona: I mean, which is good because it’s the thing you do. I wanted you on the show because I don’t think enough people think about this. I’ve gone to lots of meetups and local events and big events and you can tell when someone’s prepared and when they’re a good public speaker and when they just kind of like threw their talk together. I was at a… it was WordCamp Chicago. So WordCamps are these local WordPress events. Chicago is one of the big ones.
I was giving a talk there that I had given a couple of times before. And in the WordPress space, giving the same talk at a WordCamp is like frowned upon because the talk goes up on the internet. So this guy threw a little bit of shade at me. And he was like, “Oh, I don’t deliver the same talk every time.” And I was like, “Yeah, the difference between me and you is you’re about to go on stage and you’re still working on your slides and I am prepared.” So, guess who gave the better talk?
Mike Pacchione: There are people who are able to write a new one every single time and make them really good. So Glo Atanmo, you saw her, new speech every single time.
Joe Casabona: Really?
Mike Pacchione: And I have spoken to some other people. Yeah. Michelle Harris is like that, where she feels like, you came here to see me talk, I want to give you something new. I am more of the school of thought of I want to give you stuff that I know is good and then add in some material that’s just for this conference.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s exactly where I’m at. Like the skeleton is going to be the same and then I’ll throw a little… You know, because somebody gives a talk before me and they say something that’s interesting, I’ll reference it, right?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: I don’t have a script memorized. I personally don’t think that’s a great approach. I had to do that for TEDx Scranton. Like, they made me memorize a seven-minute talk.
Mike Pacchione: That kills me.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. I mean, the video’s up online, TEDx Scranton.
Mike Pacchione: Oh, really?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. 2014. That was my fedora phase. So you’ll see me wearing a fedora. And it was okay. It was a fine talk. A lot of brain cycles were going towards making sure I didn’t forget something.
Mike Pacchione: Right. Let me just cut you off and talk about this for a second. A lot of people want to memorize their talk as a means of dealing with anxiety. And I understand the instinct. I do want you to know, if that’s you, if you’re listening to this and that’s you, your audience doesn’t know what you are supposed to say. And memorizing makes you feel like you’re back in high school, middle school, elementary school, the teachers in the back of the room with a red pen, and they’re taking points off if you deviate from the script at all.
Your audience doesn’t know what you’re supposed to say. It is unlikely that you are Shakespeare with your words. So certain words and phrases, it is essential to get absolutely right. But most of the time, the important thing is that you rehearse it so that it’s familiar. But the actual nailing the script 100% is rarely that important.
Joe Casabona: I love that. Your audience doesn’t know what you’re supposed to say. This is something that we were taught in drama club. Like, if you forget your line, no one’s going to know the exact line. Like just say something similar and the audience is gonna have no idea.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah. I might feel a little bit different about that. Actually, here’s what I think. If you’re going on a speaking tour, eventually it’ll be mostly memorized, but it won’t feel memorized to you. So in other words, you’ll know it well enough that someone could throw a bag over your head, put you in a closet, and you can still recite your talk if you deliver it enough.
But I just don’t think that they’re… your audience is there because they want to hear from you and they want you a person on the stage, not you a robot on the stage.
Joe Casabona: Right. You know, this made me think of two distinct things from Parks and Rec. Have you ever watched Parks and Rec?
Mike Pacchione: A little bit.
Joe Casabona: Okay. So, Leslie is giving a stump speech as Amy Poehler character is giving his stump speech and like Ben… She’s in the background Ben played by… Oh my gosh.
Mike Pacchione: I don’t like this guy. Adam Scott. I just don’t.
Joe Casabona: Adam Scott. Yeah, that’s it. Now he’s in Severance, right?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Or wasn’t. Anyway, Adam Scott (Ben) is in the foreground and he’s pointing to like the audience is gonna laugh here and Leslie’s gonna make a joke here that’s not gonna land. So she had it so down her stump speech. So I just thought of there.
The other thing I thought about is… I don’t know how many other shows do this, but Parks and Rec, they would get the takes with the script, and then they would essentially let the actors freestyle. So just do whatever. And a lot of the times like that made it into the show. So it’s like you can have what you want to say but there’s also the ability that maybe ad-lib or be human, like you said.
Mike Pacchione: Well, let me put it this way. I love that. I always say… so this is specific to a speech that you’re giving on stage, it’s a little bit different on video. But if you’re giving a speech from stage, the greatest gift you can give your audience is to be completely present with them. The greatest gift you can give them is to be completely present with them. But that can only happen if you know your stuff, which by the way, is a little bit of a challenge if you don’t practice.
So, of course, you know your stuff, like you’re the expert, but I mean, you know your way through the script. So you know your stuff, you know that the audience is rooting for you, a lot of people don’t feel that way. But the audience is rooting for you. Unless you’re a politician, the audience is rooting for you. And number three, you know how to calm yourself down. That’s how you can be present with your audience. So you know, your staff, you know, the audience is rooting for you, you know how to calm yourself down.
If you can do those three things, there’s a pretty good chance you can be present with your audience. And that’s a huge, huge gift. Because those are the moments where you chip onstage and you can make a joke, and it feels like everybody’s in it together. Or those are the moments where, to your point, you can adjust something that someone said in a previous talk, or there’s moments where someone might shout out an answer and you can roll with it. But that doesn’t work if you’re devoting 97% of your energy to just remember what the next sentence is.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. And then, again, if someone does shout something out, you’re gonna be like really thrown off by it. I gave a talk in Utah about how I built my LMS stack. And I started off with a story about the Empire State Building and how it got put together and the overrun and the cost and how most projects don’t need to be like that, or whatever. I gave a stat that maybe was slightly off. Maybe I misremembered the numbers slightly or whatever. And this guy was, “Actually the Empire State Building was completed in 1933.” I’m like, “Well, it’s a very good thing. This isn’t a talk about the Empire State Building.” And I just got back into my thing. And I was like, “Man, no one cares that you know that.”
Mike Pacchione: Funny how that works. Somebody else would have been totally thrown off by that.
Joe Casabona: Right.
Mike Pacchione: Like, felt like the whole speech was invalidated because this little mini Empire State Building was said wrong.
Joe Casabona: Right, right. Yeah, absolutely. This is great. I feel like we’re very like warmed up right now. So the greatest gift you can give your audience is to be completely present with them. You can do that by knowing your stuff, that’s topic and practice.
Understand the audience is rooting for you. This is great. I’ve given talks at academic conferences where the audience is not rooting for you, like they’re rooting for you to give them an opening, so they can show you how smart you are. But that’s not most places. Like most places paid to be there, and they’re attending your talk because they are choosing to.
And then you know how to calm yourself down. Calming yourself down, this is probably different for everybody. Like breathing exercises? Is it like get-pumped music? What is the common ways you see it?
Mike Pacchione: Totally, it is different for everybody. Here’s one of the things that I try to tell people. I think it’s often been said that public speaking is the number one fear. My joke is always I have trouble believing that. Like I have trouble believing that someone in a den of vipers is sitting there like, Well, at least I’m not giving the Q3 update right now. But people do have a lot of fear around it.
My argument is that fear is actually good. I think that you can’t perform to the apex of your ability unless you have a little bit of fear. I think elite athletes will tell you something similar. I will tell you that the best speeches that I’ve given and the best speeches when I work with people one on one, the best speeches are not the 74th time you’ve given the talk.
By that point, you know what people are gonna laugh at? You’re probably able to deliver the talk while also thinking about what you need to add to the grocery list. So I’m not saying the talk is no longer good, but just the very best talks are when you have a certain adrenaline kick from a little bit of fear.
My favorite example and I think I showed this at one of the workshops that you went to. So after Chadwick Boseman died, I went on a rabbit hole reading more about him and watching interviews with him. And one of the things I watched was his Commencement Address at Howard. So Howard University in DC, as his alma mater. I think it was 2017 that this happened, maybe 2018. But it was shortly after Black Panther came out.
So he is like one of the most famous people in the world, one of the coolest people in the world. And if you watch that Commencement Address, he does a great job with it. At the very end, he ends the talk, his last line he says, Wakanda Forever. Not Wakanda. He says Howard forever in the style of what kind of forever. Audience goes nuts. The video is great. You see people leaping to their feet, whooping their arms around like Arsenio Hall, dated reference.
Joe Casabona: I understood that reference.
Mike Pacchione: And then something really interesting happens, which is he exits the podium, goes back and shakes hands with I assume the president of the university and things like that. And then what you see is you see him take a deep breath and exhale. Like whoo.
So I remember seeing that and thinking to myself, “Oh, my goodness, if Chadwick Boseman, on top of the world, one of the coolest people in the world, who should be more confident than him? Maybe Tom Cruise. Maybe. If he is reacting that way, then we all have a little bit of fear in us, right? So the key is, how do you calm yourself down?
There are things about getting yourself pumped up with music or meditating in the back. A lot of that is case by case. But I think the biggest things you can do are picture people rooting for you, whether it’s the actual audience members or not. But really, I mean, when I… I don’t speak that often. My role in life is helping other people speak. But when I do, and I’m back in the green room, I’m picturing friends and family rooting for me. Like, I’m gonna walk out on that stage, and they’re not literally there but I pictured them being behind me cheering me on. That should calm me down.
Joe Casabona: I like that a lot.
Mike Pacchione: The other thing, though, is having a plan for the talk, having rehearsed it. Thinking through, When I delivered this line, on what side of the stage am I going to be? Thinking through, what am I going to do if people don’t laugh at that joke? One of the activities that I give people is to actually write down, why are you the right person to deliver this talk. And the more that you can embrace whatever you write down, the more you’re going to be able to deal with fear when you get on stage.
Joe Casabona: I like that. I like that a lot. Very similar. I picture one person that I’m giving the talk for, and I’m like, “I’m gonna do a good job for them. They’re really gonna love it” sort of thing. As someone who tells a lot of jokes that don’t land and a lot of jokes that do… Like I’m considered a funny guy. But as long as it’s not horribly offensive, no one’s gonna care, right? I usually just go like, “That was just for me.” Like nobody laughs, I just go, “That was for me. Move on.”
So I love that advice. And you’re absolutely right. Again, when I was in drama club, the adrenaline I got right before I went onstage was like that gave me the boost I needed to give the best performance I could give.
Mike Pacchione: Joe, I think it’s so cool too. I mean, we’re both sports people, which, obviously, not everybody listening is. But I always try to remind people, so the benefits for speaking, obviously, there’s business benefits to speaking. But for you on an emotional level, once you’re beyond like age 22, you’re not in college anymore, you’re not playing sports that attract fans, you really don’t have that many opportunities in life to get applause and walk out with that adrenaline rush. It’s probably a little bit of a possibility.
Speaking is one of those places. And when I’m able to switch someone’s mindset from walking on stage and feeling like, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this” to “I want to do this,” that’s when real change happens for people.
Joe Casabona: That’s awesome. You’re absolutely right. One of the reasons I love talking or I love teaching… I mean, on, you know, I’m not looking to stand and deliver like how to be a good podcaster or whatever, like a course, but, you know, I love being in front of people and doing that entertaining and teaching. So you’re right.
My son pronounced a word right the other day and we were like, “Good job.” Nobody does that for you when you’re 23. My son is 21. No, he’s two. That’s awesome. Now, as someone who works with a lot of speakers or aspiring public speakers maybe… Maybe I did this in the cold open, only future me knows that. But you’ve worked with a lot of well-known people, right?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah. Yeah.
Joe Casabona: So you’ve probably seen a lot of stuff. I want to ask you, because I kind of have like an idea of like what is a good talk or like how I can give a good talk. But what are some of the more common mistakes that you see? I guess we’ve been talking mostly about like delivering a speech in person, but if we could do this for like speeches, and video, like YouTube videos, because I know they’re different contexts, but still you’re delivering information.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, for sure. I think this one is true whether it’s on stage or on video, but it’s way worse on video, which is the presenter doesn’t have energy if they sound flat. I think if you’re in the same room as other people, even if you sound a little flat, the audience will give you a little more grace. But come on, we’ve all put on a YouTube video and it’s nine seconds in and I’m like, “Nope, next one.”
So showing up with energy is really important. And when I say energy, that doesn’t mean that you have to be bouncing off walls and cheerleading and things like that. But one of my precepts is that if you don’t sound entertained by what you’re talking about, why in the world would the audience feel that way? So it’s really important to show up with energy.
If you’re doing video, it’s a lot easier to have energy if you’re standing instead of sitting. I know that feels weird. You’re recording in a room by yourself. But you’ll have more energy that way. You’ll also have more energy if your gestures are bigger. I don’t know, as long as you’re not driving listening to this, stick your arms out real big right now and speak.
It’s really hard to not have your energy increased by virtue of your gestures being bigger. You’d have to mentally try to have your energy stay the same. So showing up with energy is huge. I think that’s all I want to say. I don’t know.
Joe Casabona: I think that’s good. You know, it’s funny, I insisted on recording my podcasts standing up for like the first 100 episodes and then I decided I wouldn’t do that anymore. So what I’m going to do, dear listeners, is a little experiment. I am one way right now. In next week’s episode, I’m going to be the opposite. I’ll remind you in the next episode, too. I want you to write in and tell me if you could tell, which was which. This will tell me how many people are engaged here. But I want to know, can you tell was I sitting or standing in this episode? Was I sitting here standing in the next episode? And we’ll see if my energy levels are similar or markedly different in an audio-only medium.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, that’s good. That’s good.
Joe Casabona: I definitely agree. Like I’ve definitely watched videos because I was super interested in the content, but I definitely like scrubbed through a transcript to find it because the speaker was like, “Hi, I’m going to tell you about this today.” I’m like, “Be excited. Be excited about what you’re talking about. You’re about to teach someone something new.”
Mike Pacchione: Let me give you another tip for that that’s helpful. You and I both have young children, so we’re constantly reading kids’ books. What book are you reading your son right now?
Joe Casabona: My son loves The Gruffalo. Have you read that book?
Mike Pacchione: No. Uh-uh.
Joe Casabona: Oh, my gosh. It’s really good. It’s about like a mouse walking through a hoodwink all of his predators by making up a Gruffalo that turned out to be real. Spoiler alert. It’s a really good book.
Mike Pacchione: Wow. I should get that. I mean, every kid goes through 900 books, right? But I have found that there are certain books that do a good job of coaching me through when I’m supposed to be excited. Mo Willem’s books are like that. The Pigeon type books are like that.
Joe Casabona: Oh, nice.
Mike Pacchione: The pigeon goes to school.
Joe Casabona: We have one of those. I thought it was so… because my daughter was just like, “Yeah, I want this.” And I’m like, “You want to book about a pigeon?” Like I’m from New York pigeons are the worst thing in the world. But then we read it and it was enjoyable.
Mike Pacchione: So here’s the thing, in that book, there are parts where the font is huge. And that’s coaching you on the fact that you need to bring the energy to that part. And then there is another part where pigeon wants to go to school, where the font gets like really small. So picture big text bubble and font is it’s really small, and right in the middle it just says, “I’m scared.” And that coaches you that your voice should get quiet.
Joe Casabona: Oh, I love that.
Mike Pacchione: So brings up not because anybody giving a presentation should incorporate kids’ books, but because we have to bring that same mentality to it though, right? So there should be parts where we get louder or softer. Your voice should go up and down. If it’s at the same the whole time. Your audience will tune out. Your audience will tune out.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Mike Pacchione: Even if you have a really solid… There’s an audiobook I’m listening to right now. It’s read by British guy, so immediately I think he’s sophisticated and awesome. But he is the same the whole way. It’s an hour and a half drive from here to the Jersey Shore and my wife and I had to change because we’re falling asleep because he’s so monotone.
Joe Casabona: Was it Four Thousand Hours? Sorry to out that guy.
Mike Pacchione: No. What is the name of the book? Operation Mincemeat.
Joe Casabona: Interesting. Great name. Great title.
Mike Pacchione: Well, and it’s a Netflix movie. I want to get through the book so I can watch the movie, but I don’t know if we’re gonna make it through the audiobook, which is easiest way to get through a book.
Joe Casabona: Quick sidebar. That’s how I felt about the Game of Thrones audiobooks, because like my parents were three hours away, so my wife and I are like, “Oh, we can go through the audiobooks and finish one in a couple of round trips. The guy’s voice for Tyrion, just I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it.
Mike Pacchione: Because it’s boring or you didn’t like the voice?
Joe Casabona: I just didn’t like the voice. And like I already had Peter Dinklage’s voice. You know, Peter Dinklage is deep and sophisticated and talks like this or whatever. And his voice was more high pitched cockney, which is probably closer to what George R. R. Martin thought of when he made Tyrion. But I just couldn’t do it.
Mike Pacchione: Well, that’s just you not liking the voice. But overall the principle here is that your voice needs to change. There should be variety in it as you present. And that’s true whether it’s video audio, whatever.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. I like to like start big. “Hey, everybody. Today I’m gonna…” Like really excited to tell you whatever I want to talk about. One thing I like to do… I mean, I’m not the biggest YouTuber, but I like doing this stuff because I like to get close to the microphone like I’m telling you a secret. It’s just me and you right here. I actually hate this thing, but I’m gonna show you how to use it because it’s helpful, whatever, you know. I don’t know if you can hear any of that because of my compressor but I hope that was good.
Mike Pacchione: No, that was good. Here’s the thing. So when your voice gets quieter, it makes the audience feel like you are sharing more.
Joe Casabona: Like from The Great Gatsby, right? Like she would talk like, just so you’d lean in.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, that is the exact principle. You have to pick and choose when to do that. You can’t do it every sentence, it loses its impact. But it should happen somewhere in your talk, whether it’s a 30-minute talk or a minute YouTube clip. At some point, your voice should… not your voice, but the volume, the pace, those things should change from time to time. That clues the audience into this is the important part and it just brings more energy to the whole thing.
Joe Casabona: Right. It’s like, you know, the jump cuts or the zoom-in or the different camera angle too, right?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Because here’s the thing with YouTube videos. Well, a lot of my YouTube videos for a while were just me talking about the camera because I didn’t feel like editing. But they’re not how I deliver in-person talks and they’re boring videos, right? There’s no reason for people to pay attention to the visuals in that way.
Mike Pacchione: Right. That’s the equivalent of a slide deck that has one slide in it.
Joe Casabona: Right. Can I ask you? Actually, I learned this convention in college. Shout out Dr. Kim Pavlik. I love her. She’s great. She was our public speaking teacher. Oh, well, she was multiple teacher, but whatever. And I learned the convention was like basically one slide per minute. Is that a made-up thing or is that a is a commonly known convention?
Mike Pacchione: Well, I doubt there’s any science on it. But here’s what I will tell you. As the person who is delivering the talk, it’s a lot easier for you if you are changing the slides with, I don’t want to say rapidly, but the slides are regularly changing. It will help you as the person delivering the talk.
So let’s look at the opposite side of that. When I was in grad school, there were a ton of teachers who my whole grad school class, which might be two hours long would have three slides, four.
Joe Casabona: Ooh.
Mike Pacchione: And what that means is that every single time there’s a slide, like every slide is its own long speech. So picture that versus the other side of it, which is what I would recommend is that the slides are regularly changing. Each slide just had to remember a little bit of information that is so much easier for your brain. So one slide per minute. I don’t know, maybe. I shoot for more than that. I shoot for probably every 30 seconds or so. Okay, but one a minute is… that’s a good thing to shoot for.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Right. Again, it kind of mixes it up. I think a lot of people again, probably fall into the trap of putting everything they want to say on their slides. I think I heard like seven lines at most on the slide. And that even feels like too much for me, unless it’s-
Mike Pacchione: It’s too much.
Joe Casabona: Right?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: That was a quick side quest.
Mike Pacchione: Let me add just one other thing on that real quick. Because if when people are doing it online, that’s a problem if the same slide stays up there versus if this slide changes. The slide changing a lot is a way to trick your audience into paying more attention to you.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. I think when I would make videos professionally, we tried to shoot for like every 15 to 40 seconds there would be a visual change, and like maybe even 15 to 30. That’s why I spend so much time on my stream. Maybe we can talk about this in Pro. We’re going to tell horror stories in How I Built It Pro, by the way, howibuilt.it/pro. But maybe I could talk about the way I configured my stream deck, because this is like so I could like easily change between slides and my face and camera angles. Again, without having to do too much editing, but still making a dynamic talk.
So, presenter sounds flat. That’s something that anybody whether they’re giving a talk IRL or via YouTube or webinars zoom or whatever, that’s something that they can fix. What are some other common mistakes?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, let’s zoom through these. The next one is, and this is hard, most people over talk. To say it differently, most people are not concise. Where I want to challenge people, whether this is face to face or on virtual, there will come a time if you haven’t battle tested your scripts already, there will come a time where you either look out at your audience or you imagine your audience. So if it’s on virtual you just imagine your audience and you think to yourself, “Do they get it?”
And in those moments, if you’re like most people, you have to respond to your own brain. When your brain’s asking you, “Do they get it?” and your response is probably “I’m not sure. I’d better keep explaining.” I was doing a workshop for a group of nurses recently and I was just joking. It’s like you’re looking out at the audience and they look maybe a little bit confused and you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, if I just give them one more peer reviewed survey, or one more peer reviewed study, then they’ll get it.”
It’s a lot easier for your audience if you give them less information. So my rule of thumb is I would always rather err on the side of less information versus more. To say it differently most of us because we’re experts in what we’re talking about, most of us want to force the audience to go scuba diving. So in other words, force them into a deep dive. Take them snorkeling instead. If they have more questions, they can always ask you afterwards, you can direct them to a part of your website. But when you force people into the deep dive, what will usually happen is they will end up checking out.
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Joe Casabona: Here’s a little trick that I started doing in college and when I was teaching at the college level, because you know, they’re like half checked out anyway. But I always had this one student who looked really confused. And I would do this. I was worried that she had no idea what I was talking about. And then like I pulled her and I’m like, “Are you understanding?” She’s like, “Yeah, everything makes sense.” And I’m like, “Your face is just like that?” I didn’t say that, obviously.
Mike Pacchione: “In case you didn’t know, this is what my face looks like.”
Joe Casabona: So I started doing this, “Are there any questions, comments, concerns?” And then I would say, “Blank stares mean yes.” Which means if nobody says anything I’m moving on and I assume that you’ve got it right. And like sometimes I’ll say that in my actual talks, like coming up on Q&A. But I think that really makes sense. Because people are only going to take like one or two things away from your talk anyway. Like they’re gonna grab that and they’re gonna be like, “This is the thing that I’m implementing today or whatever.
Mike Pacchione: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Actually, let’s use that to kick off the next thing. So my guess is a lot of times that resulted in their being silent. So are there any questions blah, blah, blah? Some of those people have questions, a lot of times they don’t. Frankly, it can be hard to come up with a question when someone’s in the middle of a talk.
The next mistake that people make is they’re scared of that silence. I would tell you that silence is actually strength. Said differently. A lot of people start throwing um, ah, like, really, uh… What’s another one? Actually. Throwing in words just for the sake of… I came into sentence and then go to silence people think I don’t know what I’m talking about. No. Actually, silence is really, really good. Only a confident presenter will use silence.
So there’s been some really interesting research. I always cite this company in the Bay Area called Gang. They use AI to look at phone calls from salespeople. They’re trying to figure out like what makes for good salesperson. And one of the things that silence.
So they took a look at regular… I don’t know, these regular, average, whatever… some middle ground salesperson versus the best salespeople. After they set the price, middle-ground salesperson is willing to pause less than one second, before they keep talking. The best salespeople were willing to pause for more than two seconds.
And their conclusion is that that symbolizes a rock solid confidence in your pricing. And you can imagine that. I’ve certainly done that before where I’m like, “The cost for that is 9,500, but if you don’t have that much money then we can totally…” I’m like financing for the person I’m talking to, they haven’t even opened their mouth yet. Versus just saying a confident, and the cost on that is 9,500, one one thousand, two one thousand, and just let it hang out there because that’s what a confident person would do. So most people are scared of silence, I would encourage you to embrace it.
Joe Casabona: I like that. Because it lets your point land too. I mean, in the sales thing, don’t negotiate against yourself. When I was buying a car, my wife got so… I instructed her because she gets really uncomfortable in stuff like this and I like thrive on it. And I was like, “Don’t say anything. No matter how uncomfortable you get, don’t say anything.” And she’s like, “Okay.” So the guy said something and I like counterpoint and then he counterpoint. And then I just sat there for like a minute.
Mike Pacchione: A minute? What?
Joe Casabona: It felt like five. It was probably like 30 seconds. But I sat there till you could feel it. And then he started negotiating against himself. He’s like, “Well, I could probably do this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do that. Great.” And it was like, in negotiating, which is this is not about negotiating, but like silence could be the differentiator I feel.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah. But most people feel like they need to throw more words in. Behind the scenes what’s probably happening to you, by the way… If you’re one of those people who says, um, uh, like, really, things like that all the time, what’s probably happening is because of that you’re probably not breathing. And when you’re not breathing that’s making you more nervous. So, you know, public speaking is the number one fear, one of the reasons why. Because here’s how most people talk. “Hey, I’m talking to Joe right now and Joe lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and Joe dah dah dah.” I’m talking talking, I’m talking talking, I’m like out of breath, you will hear me exhale. Well, nobody can feel confident that way. So embrace silence.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. I like that.
Mike Pacchione: Let me do one more.
Joe Casabona: Okay. Yeah, sounds good.
Mike Pacchione: Does one more works?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, one more works, and then we’ll get to the big question.
Mike Pacchione: Okay. I have given mostly tips on the way that you deliver a talk and I obsess about the writing of the talk too. One of the things that I think I’m able to help people the most with is their introduction. And I think one of the reasons why people get some nervous is because the first like 30 seconds on stage feel so awkward.
What most people do to start a talk, and you see this on YouTube to a certain extent too is you talk about like where you’re from or, “Hey, it’s great to be in Cincinnati. Boy, those Bengals are doing great this year.” Like some… you’re literally talking but you’re not advancing the topic. And again, I understand why this happens.
I would encourage people to attack it. Attack the presentation, attack the video. Don’t wait for approval from the audience. You actually need to lead them. So the metaphor that I always give people is you need to push the audience into the pool. And what most presenters do is they start off with just a lovely bunch of words about the city that they’re in or if you just got introduced by someone because a lot of times that on stage, a lot of times there’ll be an emcee who introduces you and reads the bio so a lot of people will start and be like, “Wow, that was a really nice bio, Chris. You got to send that to my wife.” All the time people say things like that.
You need to push the audience into the pool. So I have a whole freebie on that we’ll link to. But just to give you general ideas, surprise the audience. Like obsess about your first sentence. Surprise the audience. Start with a story.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, start with a story is… Well, first of all that freebie, what’s the link that people can find that at? That’s super valuable.
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, yeah. Best speech.co/joe.
Joe Casabona: Bestspeech.co/joe. Love it.
Mike Pacchione: I have a freebie for you on how to hook your audience. So how to hook your audience in the first five minutes. And I’ve got several different ways of doing that. But it’s like two big ones are surprise the audience or use stories.
Joe Casabona: That’s great. That’s like stories is the one. Because you know, I remember when I first felt like I was a good public speaker and it was like after I started using stories. So before I would say, “Hi, I’m Joe. I’m a front end developer and blah blah blah. Today I’m going to talk to you about name of my talk.” People know that already. They’re here. They read the [inaudible 00:51:08]. They know why they’re here.
And then I started switching into like, Oh, what’s a common story I tell in my talks. Story about the contracts of the Death Star or something like that. You know, I’ll tell a story about Walt Disney is a good one, right? Did you know that Walt Disney had a character before Mickey Mouse and he lost that character?
Mike Pacchione: Amazing. The first line of your talk? Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Joe Casabona: Thank you.
Mike Pacchione: So picture Joe walking out to the middle of the stage, everybody’s expecting him to talk about how nice it is to be here. And instead of that, he hits the center stage and first words out of his mouth, pauses for a second looks at the audience, spotlight on him, did you know that Walt Disney had a character before Mickey Mouse? Whoo, audience leans. And that’s exactly what you want to happen.
Joe Casabona: You using my words just gave me chills. I gotta get back to speaking. I’m gonna find some events to speak at.
Joe Casabona: Wow. So good. Console.log? What?
Mike Pacchione: Of course not. It’s not always because the story is, but I would say most of the time there is a story that is being told that inspires the audience.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Pacchione: So that can’t be the entirety of your talk. I mean, there needs to be substance. Well, sorry, let me rephrase that. Stories when used well help to prove a point. So there needs to be points made in the talk. It can’t just be stories. But those are the things that move people.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, it’s the thing that opens the thread, or like you said, illustrates. I talked about how it’s all Blink-182 at a concert. And everyone knows Mark Tom and Travis. They love Mark, Tom, and Travis. But what they don’t see are the sound techs making sure that everything sounds good, the lighting guys, the pyrotechnic guys who are making sure the F-word is actually on fire. True story, by the way. When I saw Blink-182, the curtain dropped and the F-word was just in flames in the background. And as a 15-year-old, I thought that was the funniest thing ever.
So, you know, the story illustrates that like, yeah, it was about like WordPress programmers, but those aren’t the only things you can do to contribute to WordPress was basically my point. But that story illustrates that and I think that’s really… So before we get to the big question, oh and we are coming up on time, what is one thing you recommend to help people come up with a story to tell? I did not prep you on this.
Mike Pacchione: To come up with a story?
Joe Casabona: Like when we did the workshop, you gave us an exercise for…?
Mike Pacchione: Like, where to find stories in your own life?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Pacchione: Oh my gosh. So a few places you can look. Number one, I would think of people in your life that you’ve known for a while and stories that come to mind when you think of those people. Husbands, wives, brother, sister, family members, those are the easiest ones. Co-workers can be really good for that. So those are great places to look.
What I usually recommend to people as a starting point, you have to literally get a scroll of paper but I picture like a big Scroll of paper, like King Arthur times 1800s. But you’re setting it out long ways, and you’re making a timeline of your own life. And you’re breaking it out by decade or maybe stage a life is a better way of thinking about that.
So for me, it’d be like my son was born in 2019. That would be a little marker. Married in 2015. I would have a marker for when I moved to Portland, I would have a marker for when I lived in Boston. Anyway, I don’t need to go through my whole life timeline. But I’m putting all those markers out for different stages of life and then I’m just trying to think of things that happened in those stages of life. That’s what usually generate a lot of stories.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, love that. I think maybe you said this or maybe this is just something I’ve internalized. But more stuff has happened to you than you think probably. My life is boring-
Mike Pacchione: My life is boring.
Joe Casabona: …but probably have some good stories.
Mike Pacchione: Went through a Phillies game once.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. So we’ll end with this. What is the first step somebody can take to being a better public speaker?
Mike Pacchione: So I think the first thing you need to do is you need to know that it requires not winging it. So run through it before you get on stage, before you publish it to YouTube. When I work with people one on one, one of the reasons they can walk on stage with confidence is because by the time they’re getting on stage, they already know it’s good.
But what most people do new, and you and I have talked about this, that a lot of WordCamp-type places the first time the words are leaving their mouth is when they’re in front of their audience. Just think of the reputation that’s at stake. Think of the money that’s at stake if you do a good job, and then everybody wants to check out your website. Most people the first time that words leave their mouth is when they’re walking on stage. So pretty please with sugar on top, rehearse it to the point where it feels comfortable.
Joe Casabona: I like that a lot. I’ll share this with you. For a long time, I didn’t rehearse my YouTube videos and I shot those at least twice before I got to the publishable one. So just save yourself time and energy and rehearse it. Because you know, when the camera’s on, you’re on and then you’re like, “I’m gonna edit this and it’ll be good.” Aside from Star Wars 1977, you can’t fix it in edit probably.
Mike Pacchione: It feels dumb rehearsing. I realized that but that is there.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. Mike, this was amazing. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?
Mike Pacchione: Yeah, totally. So Best Speech is the website. As I said, Best Speech… I guess I should say the whole website. You can just type Best Speech. Bestbeach.co. And then bestbeach.co/joe will get you to the freebie. That is the freebie, I can really talk, how to hook your audience in the first five minutes of your talks. I’ll walk you through a specific creative ways that I’ve used to hook the audience right away. I work with people one on one, I do group coaches. So it’s good to fill out that form as well. You’ll get on my email list and you’ll know when those things happen.
Joe Casabona: Awesome.
Mike Pacchione: But one other plug I should do Best Speech Podcast, I interview speakers. They tell stories, they talk about times where they’ve done really well, times they’ve bombed. So check us out at Best Speech Podcast.
Joe Casabona: Love it. I will link to all of that and everything we talked about in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/302. If you want to hear some quick horror stories from Mike and myself, become a member of How I Built Pro at howibuilt.it/pro. Mike, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.
Mike Pacchione: Thank you, Joe.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. And thank you to our sponsors, Gap Scout, Groundhogg and LearnDash. Thank you for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.
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