You can be a brilliant conversationalist if you ask good questions and then listen, really listen.

You can be a brilliant conversationalist if you ask good questions and then listen, really listen.

What makes someone a brilliant conversationalist? Brilliant conversationalists engage others by asking excellent questions. You can improve the quality of all of your conversations, professional and personal, when you ask good questions and then listen, really listen, to the responses. This is also one of the best ways to get smarter.

Maybe you know of my brother Robert Fripp, the legendary guitarist? He’s one of Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. You might not know that he’s also a thoughtful and erudite writer and speaker. In truth, Robert is one of the most brilliant people I know and he listens well. He’s said:

“We add to a conversation by listening. We add to a conversation by contributing. People who only speak and do not know how to listen give me headache and often make me ill.”

Along these same lines is this from my friend, consultant, speaker, and author, Alan Weiss:

If you want to be regarded as a brilliant conversationalist, ask others questions.

If you want to be perceived as a smart business person, ask others about their business philosophy.

If you want to be associated with thought leadership, hang out with thought leaders and watch what they do.

The worst thing you can do is to try to prove you’re “the second smartest person in the room” by constantly citing your sources, credentials, and experiences.

Confident, bright, powerful people appear that way because they are content to listen to others, to prompt them to speak, and to analyze and learn in the process.

I may be an exception, but I’ve never been able to learn too much while I’m speaking.”

Alan is also among the most brilliant people I know.

Fripp Virtual TrainingBecome a great presenter quickly, easily, and cost-effectively on your own schedule. I’m here for you 24/7 through Fripp Virtual Training.

“I wanted a super bowl-quality coach, and I was lucky to be introduced to Patricia Fripp. Her help in coaching and scripting was world class. With Patricia Fripp on your team, you can go places.”
– Don Yaeger, Long-Time Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated magazine, Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, New York Times Best-Selling Author

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Ask Brilliant Questions

Just a few of the many complimentary resources on to help you ask great questions:

Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.

Executive Speech Coach & Creator of Fripp Virtual Training, Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Executive Speech Coach & Creator of Fripp Virtual Training, Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Stand still at the start of your presentation. Your audience members need a moment to become accustomed to the sound of your voice, your style of speaking, and sometimes your accent. After this, incorporate movement into your presentation, only if your movements are purposeful and support your message.

Learn how to make your movements match your words. Unconscious expressions of nervous energy will detract from your message.

My friend and fellow speech coach, Darren LaCroix shares these excellent techniques to help you make the most of the stage during your presentation:
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Imagine that you’re waiting offstage, about to deliver an important presentation. Are you a little bit nervous? Are you warming up? Or, have you found a comfortable chair in a corner where you can surreptitiously check your messages? (Hint: This would be a mistake!) In this brief video sample from Fripp Virtual Training, I explain what you should and shouldn’t do in the minutes before you take the stage:

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Sir Richard Branson at the eTalk Festival Party, during the Toronto International Film Festival by Richard Burdett

Where do you get your presentation advice? Even intelligent and highly accomplished individuals like Sir Richard Branson can benefit from an honest evaluation and coaching.

Speech coach and author Gary Genard is a great blogger. In a recent post, Gary discusses Sir Richard Branson’s advice on public speaking. Branson, the entrepreneur, adventurer, humanitarian, and founder of the Virgin Group, explained his approach to presentations in an article called, “My Top Tips for Public Speaking,” on the Virgin website.

Branson declared, “90 percent of the time, it is better to ad-lib rather than read from contrived speech notes. Even if you forget certain points you wanted to make, the people who are listening always desperately want to hear your passion, not just your theory.”

Gary counters, “…passion matters. But not at the expense of well-planned and formulated remarks. Actually, this sentiment is a weakness sometimes found among super-successful people. Whether it stems from anxiety … or arrogance, Continue reading

If you want to improve your presentations, here’s a simple way to know what’s working and what changes you can make to maximize your impact. Gain a new perspective:

Socrates might start this lesson with, “Know thyself.”

If you want to improve your presentations:

  • First, recognize where you are and what you do well and start with this as your foundation.
  • Next, understand what you might be doing that takes away from your impact and power.
  • Finally, seek out and learn what you didn’t know before.

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Patricia Fripp shows you how to open your presentation through FrippVT.

Patricia Fripp shows you how to open your presentation through FrippVT.

How do you open your presentation? Do you immediately capture your audience’s attention? You will if you start with a strong opening. In Hollywood, the opening of a movie is “the flavor scene.” I like to relate the first three minutes of a film to the first 30 seconds of a speech. Think of sitting in a movie theater and as the film begins, you elbow your spouse or friend and say, “Oh, this is gonna be good!” Now, think of an upcoming staff meeting, a report to your manager, a team meeting, or a talk you will deliver to a service club to promote your business. At the very least, wouldn’t you like your audience to sit up and think to themselves, “Oh, this is better than I expected. What an interesting approach!” Continue reading

Designing a presentation starts with the creative process, which can be messy. PowerPoint is tidy, but should only come in later when preparing a presentation. I love PowerPoint. Maybe you do too? Remember, however, that PowerPoint is a visual aid.

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