Archive for June, 2009

Public Speaking: Dealing With Interruptions

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

timeout2Most of us have attended a presentation where an audience member interrupts the speaker and attempts to monopolize. The monopolizer is usually unaware that he is crossing the line, and it is the presenter’s responsibility to shut him down fast.

I recently attended an excellent seminar on marketing. The presenter’s style was to ask rhetorical questions and then provide us with the answer. One man from the audience continually launched into his own answer to each question. Finally the presenter looked right at him and said, “you need to get your own lecture . . . this one is mine.” Wow! Shut down! The rest of his presentation flowed smoothly, and the audience leaned a great deal.

His zinger was effective.  My question to you, do you think it was too harsh?

Here are my strategies for dealing with interruptions and monopolizers:

1) Stop it before it starts: You may chose to open with the remark, “we have a great deal to cover; so if you would kindly note your questions and save them until the end, I’d appreciate it.”

2) If you are taking questions during the presentation, but someone begins to monopolize, you can say “I see you know a great deal about this topic, and I’d love to speak with you more about it after the presentation.  For now, I’d like to make sure everyone has a chance to participate.”

3) When the monopolizer takes a breath, say “okay, we need to move on because time is limited”.

4) Speak directly to the stubborn interruptor: “John, I love your enthusiasm, and I’m going to ask you to hold your comments until the end, so that we can get through the material.”

5) Here’s another zinger I saw a presenter use to handle an unruly interruptor: “Hey Sam, this is a one man show…and I’m the man.”

The most important thing to remember is that the audience is looking for you to squelch the interruptor because they are there to see you.  Always be prepared in advance to handle this, and your audience will appreciate it.

One caveat:  These techniques work well when it’s “your show”.  I wouldn’t recommend squelching questions when presenting to the Board of Directors of your company, because that is really “their show”.  Always consider the context when applying any public speaking technique.

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Public Speaking: 8 Great Tips on Gestures

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Eight great public speaking tips!

In my experience, 95% of speakers under gesture, which makes them appear uncomfortable, overly formal and stiff.  It can also lead to many yawns in the audience.

For novice presenters, gestures are at the bottom of the to-do list because many speakers simply want to survive the speech. They are primarily focused on their verbal flow. However, those who are a bit more advanced in public speaking are aware that they should be gesturing as they typically do when having a one-on-one conversation with a peer.

What happens then? Why do so few speakers gesture naturally when they present? I call it the cartoon factor. When people are in the spotlight, they FEEL like a small gesture looks big and goofy. It’s not true, of course. When I train businesspeople, they get to watch their own presentation on video, and they are amazed at how small those seemingly “big” gestures appear to the audience. Thinking gets warped when you are in the spotlight. Just as a two-second pause on stage feels like an eternity, a small gesture on stage feels huge.

Compound this false sense with the fact that most speakers would far prefer to look conservative and boring over flamboyant and goofy; and you now understand why people look like talking statues when they present.

What to do?

1.  Be aware that to gesture properly, you will probably FEEL a bit cartoony, but you will not appear that way to your audience.

2. Video your presentation, so that you can SEE what looks natural from the outside.

3. Keep in mind that the larger the group, the larger the gestures must become to create your presence.

4. Study a bit on body language and gestures.  Many warn against over-prepping your gestures because you can look robotic or too slick.  In my experience, that is hardly the problem with presenters.  Most speakers have torsos and arms that simply look petrified.

5. When you rehearse your speech, look in the mirror, and imagine that you are simply talking to a friend.  Watch how your hands move.

6. Avoid keeping your hands on the podium. In fact, get out from behind the podium.

7. Avoid the T-REX position with your arms.  So many speakers only extend their forearms throughout their entire presentation – keeping their upper arms glued to the sides.  After a while it looks funny, like a T-REX.  They subconsciously do this because of the cartoon factor.

8. Remember, people hate to be bored, so show some zeal.  Do try to avoid clapping your hands over your head though, because that would be cartoony.

There you have it, eight great public speaking tips on gestures.  I encourage you to leave a comment.

Public Speaking and Movement

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Public Speaking: Getting Applause

Friday, June 26th, 2009

applause pleaseThere are some presentations you do where applause is desirable and appropriate. We’ve already discussed optimal audience seating that will facilitate audience reaction and applause. In this entry you will discover the nuances  and lines the presenter can employ to increase audience applause. Much of what I’ve learned about earning applause comes from my performance in entertaining rather than strictly business presentations. Nevertheless the lesson lends itself to many types of public speaking.

Keep in mind, audiences need a cue to applaud because they subconsciously fear applauding at the wrong time, or being the only person clapping.

Here are both subtle (for business) and bold (for entertainment) methods to encourage applause.

During your presentation at an “applause moment”:

1) Ask audience to give a round of applause to someone who helped you.

2) “Thank you for your enthusiasm”

3) If it’s silent: “Save your applause till the end – I have a weak finish.”

4) When only one person applauds: “I think you just woke up the others” OR  “Are the rest of you saving it for the big finish?” OR “I will wow you one person at a time” OR “Special thanks to my fan club” (pointing to the one person)

5) “Oh, I forgot to tell you, your applause will be recorded”

6) “There are two ways we can do this (show,demo) like we’re doing it now, or with applause.”

7) “Hey, I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing”

8)  “Instead of applauding, why don’t we all hold hands and try to join with the LIVING”

To get applause at the end of your presentation

“Thank you” Take a slight bow with a light clap of the hands and take a small step back.

While the best way to earn applause is to do an excellent job, these nuances and lines make all the difference with respect to creating the right atmosphere conducive to applause.  Remember to use your judgement when tossing a quip into the mix.

present awards and control applause

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Public Speaking: How to Present Awards and Control Applause

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

applauseHere is an advanced tip for anyone who presents multiple awards to a large group.

The next time you attend a graduation or awards ceremony, watch and notice…usually the presenter is on a tight agenda; so she requests “everyone please hold your applause until the last award recipient is named.” This request is usually made when there is a large number of recipients for the same award, for example, perfect attendance.  Here is what almost always happens: the first name is called, and there is an awkward pause followed by few people clapping; the second name is called and about half the audience applauds, the third name is announced and everyone claps.  From that point on, the presenter pauses after each name to allow for applause.  Now, she is running into the next presenter’s time on the agenda.

This happens at almost every awards banquet and graduation. Here are the mistakes and how to avoid them:

Mistake 1:  Weak verbal request. What makes it weak?  It is not followed by a pause. In addition, it is articulated far too quickly. Finish your previous point, pause and slow your rate of speech. In a loud and clear voice state, “To stay on target with our timing, I will be announcing 12 recipients for this award . . .  PLEASE . . . HOLD . .  YOUR . . . APPLAUSE until the last name is announced.”

Mistake 2: Poor placement of the request. This request will not work if you say anything else before announcing the recipients. An example of this mistake: “Please hold your applause until the final name is announced. All these people have 100% attendance in their programs of study; the first award goes to David Adams . . .”  The secret is to make the request and immediately launch right into the names.

Mistake 3: The awkward pause after the first name is announced. If you pause too long after your first announcement, there will be an awkward silence followed by a weak sputtering of clapping, which has that popcorn sound. Here’s the key. You asked them to hold applause until the end, now you must read the names fluidly with only a minor pause between them.

Mistake 4: Not responding to applause. If the audience does applaud, you need to immediately stop and restate your request “I love your enthusiasm, but . . . PLEASE . . . HOLD . . . YOUR . . . APPLAUSE . . .until the end”.

There it is. I’ve seen it done right on rare occasion, but when these mistakes are avoided, the event runs far more smoothly. You avoid awkwardness and keep within your time constraints. Next time you attend an awards banquet or graduation, check in with us, and tell us whether you witnessed these all-to-common mistakes.


How to get applause.

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Power of Persuasion: Magic of Persuasion

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Discover the secrets of persuasion: 2hr audio:


CD set

Before you read further, watch the video above.

This simple experiment gives us basic insight into how people make decisions. If you selected the fifty-cent piece, you were attuned to visual and auditory signals. Watch the video again without the sound, and you will see various subtleties designed to call your attention to the half dollar. Play the video again, but don’t watch; just listen, and you will discover a multitude of verbal hints.

If you chose the dime, as stated in the video, you are likely very analytical. You are the kind of person that wants to figure out a trick or puzzle more than you desire to be entertained. You don’t just go for the ride, but you calculate while you are following direction. On a subconscious level, this calculation process causes you to avoid your general instinct to choose the greatest value. Your constant analysis also causes you to either miss or ignore the subtle gestures intended to lead you to the silver half.

Most visual learners will SEE heads rather than tails when they imagine any coin. Those who select tails usually think heads first; then switch to tails to create a challenge. Obviously this is not fool-proof. Thousands of variables are in-flux when making a decision. For example, people in the military will tend to naturally pick tails when thinking of a half-dollar. This may be due to the American Eagle on the back. Coin collectors are almost impossible to sway in any direction because their thinking is far more complex when it comes to coins.

It is noteworthy that highly visual people will almost always select the half, while auditory thinkers will mostly choose the half, and it’s simply random odds with those from the kinesthetic camp.

If you selected the quarter, as explained, you are likely analytical AND enjoy a challenge. You probably relish a good debate, and you have no problem sharing your opinion. There is no superlative that goes with the quarter. It isn’t the biggest or smallest, it’s neither first nor last, and it’s neither the most nor the least valuable. Whenever I KNOW someone wants to “catch” the presenter, I will do this effect, and they will almost always fall for the quarter. The beauty is that these people end up being the biggest fans of the power of persuasion, because they understand that there was nothing obvious in their selection.

As with all mental persuasion, it is a game of odds. The more you apply the principles, the greater are the odds that you will hit. However, the caveat is that this is not a science. There will always be the individual who hardly paid attention and just randomly grabbed a coin, or the person who always calls tails because she simply thinks it’s good luck. That’s what makes persuasion fun. The first magic trick was a visual persuasion, which should work for everyone, the second was a mental persuasion, which is far more challenging and rewarding for me.

This was published for your entertainment, but the laws of persuasion can be applied to real-world circumstances. Don’t you wonder why some people seem to get far more of their share of desired outcomes? They may be naturally gifted in the art of persuasion, or they may have learned it through study. You may call it charisma, leadership, confidence or just good luck. Any way you label it, I bet they are more persuasive than most.

What’s holding you back from applying these laws to get better outcomes for yourself? Take a 2hr audio journey that delves into the power of persuasion and how to use it to get results:




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Public Speaking: Using Names

Friday, June 12th, 2009

hello-my-name-isFor those who are already comfortable with public speaking, here is an advanced trick to take it to the next level.

When you are performing an interactive presentation, you have an opportunity to impress by calling on audience members by name.  Very few things will wow an audience more.  Why?  Unless you are a familiar member of the group to which you are presenting, nobody expects you to use their names.  Most likely, every presenter that has preceded you has not used their names.  This makes you appear different and better.  It makes you seem smarter and more sincere.

This opportunity to wow the audience only presents itself in certain circumstances, but when it does, seize it and reap the rewards.

Ideal circumstances:  Smaller audience 10 – 50 members plus a chance to mingle before your presentation. Obviously if nobody is wearing the “hello my name is ….” tags, this will be far more effective.

Strategy:  Arrive either first or very early so you can set up and assess the room.  Now it’s easy to greet each person who arrives.  Make a mental note of their name, and every once in a while, look over to that person and repeat the name in your head.  Sometimes groups will arrive together, and you will be unable to greet each person individually.  That’s okay.  As you mill around, LISTEN to people talk.  You will hear their names.  These are your golden catches, because when you refer to those people by name in your interactive presentation, they will be AMAZED – sometimes telling the person next to them “we weren’t even introduced, and he knows who I am?”

When you finish your presentation, many people will approach you and ask whether you are naturally gifted with memory, or if you have a secret method to remember people’s names.  They will be fascinated by your ability, and they will want to know whether they can acquire the same.

I have an average memory, and in the right circumstances (when people trickle into the event, at an even pace, I can do this for up to 50 people.) Years later these people will approach me and remind me about how everyone was so impressed by this “gift”.

Granted, circumstances need to be right and it does take a great deal of mental effort up front, but if you really want to appear different and better, this advanced tip will do the trick.

Now, does anyone have a method for LONG-TERM memory with names? Please share.

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Public Speaking: Body Language

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

stk116117rkeWe who are interested in public speaking realize the importance of non-verbal communication.  We study what the audience perceives about our movement, posture, gestures and facial expressions.  While it can take years to understand the nuances of body language, here is something you can learn in one minute:

In the overwhelming majority of cases, touching one’s face transmits a negative signal to the audience. Depending on the nature of the touch, it could give the impression that you are lying, insecure, nervous, agitated, or impatient. Is this fair?  Absolutely not. You may simply have an itch.  It is reality, however, that face-touching generally gives a negative impression.

The one minute lesson:  Avoid touching your face when public speaking.  

Now that you’re aware, just watch how many people do it.  Like umming and ahhhing, it is a challenge to stop.  Just being aware will give you that edge to curb the habit and project more confidence.  This is especially important for those who network through BNI and chamber events.  If people perceive you as lacking confidence, many will erroneously assume that you are unsure of your product and service.  Don’t give them that opportunity!

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Public Speaking: Verbal Branding

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

First, watch the video above: an eight-minute distillation of Stephen Melanson’s vast knowledge of verbal branding.  Stephen is the author of the seminal book:  Jaw BrandingTM

The main points to remember:

1) You have five seconds to pique interest

2) Two methods to do so: a) ambiguity b) differentiation

3) Pause after your five-second intro, and wait for a question

4) Avoid selling on category

5) Less is better – people only remember one or two things you said

6) When asked about your category, respond: “Of course we do that, but what makes us different and better is . . .”

Some of Stephen’s questions to help you discover your point of differentiation:

What negative assumptions exist in the marketplace about what you do?

You are the only one who . . . 

What happens to clients who use your services/goods?

If you started the business over, you would . . . 

What’s the one thing people should remember about you?

What would be a risky message?

What problems do you solve?

What are you most passionate about?

How are you recreating the market?

Where is there a gap in the market?

I commit to “X”; nobody else will.

What’s the personality of your organization?

What is working well now?

Want more?  

FREE 48-page section of Stephen Melanson’s book Jaw BrandingTM.

CLICK HERE  type “FREE” in comment box.

Want help with your five-second verbal branding?

Write yours here so that other subscribers can comment.


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Public Speaking: Present First or Last?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

When public speaking at networking events, your objective is memorability.  You have heard that when given a string of numbers to memorize, people overwhelmingly recall the first and last.  Much of the middle is forgotten.  The same holds true with life experiences.  For example, I’ll never forget the first professional training I delivered, and of course, I remember the most recent.

Apply this to public speaking at networking events.  Given the choice it is best to go first or last.  I believe going first has the greatest advantage because people have not yet “spent” their scarce attention span. Their crisp minds await the first imprint.  Going last can be effective especially when there is a mixer following the event.  Your words, if delivered powerfully, will linger in their minds, which will provide an easy lead-in for conversation.

Some caveats:

Going first: Late arrivals can severely detract from your presentation

Going last: At longer meetings, attention-span burnout can render your presentation inconsequential.

Tell me what you think . . .

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