Open Minds, Open Doors - Janet Luongo
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I. Ten Keys to Powerful Presentations
II. The Story of a Personal Breakthrough in Communication


1. Be yourself
2. Begin by getting attention
3. Care about your audience
4. Tell personal stories
5. Use body gestures and facial expression
6. Be visual
7. Find some humor
8. Act out dialogue
9. Keep notes to a minimum
10. Close with something memorable


I want to tell you the story about a young African-American woman who was worried about giving her culminating speech. We had been studying presentation skills and communication over ten sessions and Roberta had been tight and inhibited all along. Her nervousness caused her to speak too fast and drained her of any facial expression. A serious young woman with intelligent things to say, she kept her personality locked up.

To loosen people up, I led games like charades. We made exaggerated faces at each other that made us laugh. We joked that people could see us through the window and thought we were crazy. But I had a clear purpose: acting “silly” in front of others would free us of inhibitions and we’d be more natural when we gave our speeches. Still Roberta remained stiff, resistant to my urgings to “play.”

I told personal stories that made me vulnerable and asked them to search for their own personal stories. One day I told the group about a marvelous and successful speaker, Les Brown, whom I had just heard in New York. I related his story of having been abandoned as a one-year-old baby, but adopted by a wonderful woman who had only a third grade education. Les’ goal was to be successful enough to buy her a house. After Les made his first million he bought his mother not one, but four houses.

I wondered if Roberta would be inspired to tell her own real life story or if she would remain a prisoner of her fears. On the day of her last speech, she arrived wearing red. When she got up to deliver her “I Believe” speech, she paused to visibly gather her courage. She then broke out into such a broad smile that the class applauded. She animatedly related how her friends had encouraged her in her life by saying, “You, go girl!”

Roberta then told us she would be the first in her family to graduate college. She revealed that she had come from “the ghetto” and how she and her sisters had to run for cover when gun shots broke out. She wanted to own a home in a safe neighborhood. She closed with the thought that the grass may not be greener on the other side of the fence, but she was determined to get to the other side and find out for herself. Her eyes began to tear, and as she sat down crying the room exploded in applause. We were witness to her breakthrough. Unlocking the passion in one’s heart and connecting with others is the key to powerful communication.

From: Open Minds Open Doors
Free Electronic Newsletter
Vol. 1, # 2, May 2002