094 Meridith Grundei on Effective Speaking

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Meridith Grundei

Meridith was the shy kid in class who didn’t want to speak up. Someone suggested she take acting classes, which meant she got to use a script and be someone else, so she didn’t feel like she was being judged, which built up her confidence. She even got into improv, and taught at Second City. Improv forced her to bring herself into the conversation, and to realize that “messing up” is part of the process. Eventually, she got good enough that she started teaching others to speak. (Although even now, she notices flaws in her delivery– it’s not about being “perfect”.)

Special Tips for Zoom

  • Don’t be lazy– be engaged. (“everyone has resting bitch face”)
  • Show up well-let, alert, nodding, acknowledging, etc. Look alive and engage.
  • If you’re taking notes, tell people.
  • Keep it interactive (this goes for all speaking engagements, but especially Zoom, where there are so many distractions).

A Talk is a Story, Not a Data Dump

Especially for technical people– make sure you’re telling a story. People will only care about the data if they care about the story. But don’t make the story about you, make the audience the hero.

Frances Frei of Harvard Business School talks about the “Triangle of Trust”– Authenticity, Empathy, Logic. You need these 3 things in your communications. Too often, people get stuck in the logic, and neglect the other 2 pieces. (This is similar to Aristotle’s Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.)

Don’t overemphasize your slides! Work on your slides last. (Same thing goes for visuals, props, etc.) For every one, ask yourself if you need it. If they don’t support your story, skip it. You should know your talk well enough that if all the tech fails, you can still deliver your presentation.

Delivering Your Talk

  • It’s your party– host the party you want to have. Want music, colorful visuals, lots of shouting out? Do that…
  • Have a pre-presentation ritual to ground yourself. (Meridith does up to 35 push-ups.)
  • Do not stand behind the podium (try to move the podium to stage right — your right– if possible, so you can occupy center stage) or hug the curtain at the back of the stage.
  • Move with purpose to convey changes in thinking or circumstances, not just fidgeting.
  • Record yourself, if you can. (Don’t practice in front of the mirror– it’s distracting.)
  • Devote as much time as you possibly can for practice. (And practice out loud. Practice the transitions.)
  • You can break your presentation into chunks– for example you may want to practice a 45 minute presentation in 15 minute blocks.

End on a Strong Note

Be as simple as possible with your call-to-action. (“Please find 30 minutes on my calendar. Here’s my QR code. I’ll give you a moment to grab that on your phone.”)

Don’t give them multiple things to do (“go here to connect with me on LinkedIn, here to get on my calendar, here to get my freebie, etc.”)

If you do a Q&A session after your main presentation, don’t let it just fizzle out. Wrap up the Q&A and recap the main idea(s) from your talk and give your call-to-action.

The Wine

Reuben has a glass of Chateau Franc Bigaroux St Emilion Grand Cru 2019, while Meridith, living in New York City, and having consumed her bottle of wine the night before, goes dry.

Where to find Meridith

Catch Meridith’s wonderful podcast that she co-hosts with Joseph Bennett, Are You Waiting for Permission?

Connect with Meridith on LinkedIn and TikTok.


Where to find Reuben

@Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

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Published by

Reuben Swartz

Host and Chief Nerd.