Murder Board – The Perfect Speech Practice (Part 2)

Date posted: August 18, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Practicing

by Larry Tracy

Larry Tracy's Murder Board(c)Tracy Presentation Skills 2006. All rights reserved.

(This article is the second of a four-part series originally published in 2006 and 2007. Read Part 1 here.)

The Murder Board is a rigorous simulation which allows presenters to hone speaking skills, and anticipate questions and objections. It is to the speaker what the flight simulator is to the pilot, in that it provides the speaker the opportunity to make mistakes when they don’t count, and learn from them.

In my executive workshops, I teach a seven-step process to ensure a successful and productive Murder Board. The seven steps are . . .

1.  Murder Board recruiting
2.  Sharing audience intelligence
3.  Murder Board role-playing by participants
4.  Video-taping and/or audio-taping
5.  Critique of presenter’s style and substance
6.  Recording on cards all questions asked
7.  Revision of the presentation.

In this post, we’ll examine the first two steps. In future posts, we’ll cover the other steps.

1. Murder Board Recruiting

In recruiting people to be on your Murder Board, the best place to start is with knowledgeable colleagues. Request no more than four of these colleagues to be your simulated audience.

Keep in mind, however, that if these colleagues think that the objective of the Murder Board is only to help you look good, they probably will not want to give up their valuable time. You must give them an incentive tied to their self-interest.

They will have their own priorities. You should frame your request in such a way that these colleagues see a potential dividend accruing to them by investing their time.

Remember “What’s in it for me?” is the prime motivator for people to take action. You must find a way to have these colleagues believe they will gain by being in your simulated audience.

Reciprocity is the key. My advice is to recruit only people who themselves must make presentations. Then you say, “If you will be on my Murder Board now, I will be on yours when you must make a presentation.” Presto. They see a potential benefit in the future by spending some time with you now.

Why only four people? One reason is to limit the debts you will have to pay in the future. You do not want to spend all your available time on the Murder Boards of others, and you certainly do not want to go back on your word.

Another reason is that most audiences you will face have no more than four key people. Having more than four colleagues helping you could result in a less-than-productive bull session, not a question-anticipating Murder Board.

2.  Sharing Audience Intelligence

The purpose of a Murder Board is to create an environment for the presenter similar to the actual situation to be faced. It is important that those playing the members of the audience be armed with as much information about this audience as possible. That is where the intelligence collection comes into play.

Participants must be steeped in the details of the issue being presented so they can put themselves in the mental framework of these participants. Information on the personal styles, idiosyncrasies, temperament, etc. of these audience members provides insight into how they will react to certain comments or proposals.

Your colleagues can better role-play if they have this information. The more you know about personalities, the less surprised you will be in the presentation.

If the presentation is to be made internally, say to a Board of Directors or a Committee, participants in this practice session are likely to have valuable information to share with the presenter and other participants.

One beneficial reason to recruit participants who present regularly is that they may have had the opportunity to present to the same people you are preparing to address. Colleagues can provide first-hand information on how your actual audience listens, questions, reacts, and interacts with fellow audience members.

In the next post, we’ll review role playing, recording the Murder Board, and critiquing the practice session in steps 3, 4 and 5.

Larry Tracy is the president of Tracy Presentation Skills. He has been cited in several publications as one of the top presentation coaches in the US. President Ronald Reagan described him as “an extraordinarily effective speaker.” His book, The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations, is the textbook for the Oral Presentations course at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University. Contact him at (703) 360-3222 and