Posts Tagged ‘don’t fear the public speaking’

Public Speaking: Veiling the Nerves 101

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Avoid looking nervous when you speak.

Many of my clients confide in me that they get nervous when giving a presentation or speaking in a group. It is interesting that these are highly confident people, who know their material. My experience is that it is simply in our DNA to feel nerves when presenting before our peers. If you are like most of us, you will benefit from these tips on veiling the nerves.

1. Slow your movement. As a general rule, confident people move and talk more slowly.

2. Never apologize or mention your nerves. It makes others feel awkward.

3. Steeple the fingers. Your hands speak volumes about you. The most confident hand position is where you steeple the fingers. Research shows this also conveys an aura of intelligence.

4. Notice the eye color of each person you are talking to you. This ensures keen eye contact and conveys confidence.

5. Especially when seated, take up more space with your body. Stretch out and lean back a bit. Just don’t overdo this, lest you appear arrogant.

Want more tips on being confident? Enroll today in one of our full day intensive public speaking seminars here.

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Public Speaking: Offensive = Memorable

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Are you offensive enough?

My close friend runs professional development seminars on a wide range of skills people need to grow their businesses. She shared an enlightening account with me: The presenter she had booked was borderline offensive. Her language was edgy and she really put audience members on the spot. A day after the seminar, my friend received two emails from attendees. One lamenting that the presenter had been offensive and the other thanking my friend because he thought the presenter was great and hired her to consult.

This immediately reminded me of a book I had read on presenting magic. The author argued that if you don’t offend a small percentage of your audiences you are losing an opportunity to be memorable and create an “after-buzz” about your presentation. He warned against offending a large part of your audience. I remember thinking that was ridiculous, but experience shows that some people who know how to walk that line can gain an edge.

Is “offensive” really the right word? We are not talking about assailing religious convictions or being a racist. But what about a marketing presenter telling someone that his elevator pitch is weak and asking the rest of the class, “who would want to buy that product?” I remember while getting my MBA, in strategic marketing one of my classmates confided in me that she was offended that after offering a lengthy comment on our case study, the professor tersely replied, “so what?” It seems that what one person construes as offensive is just another person’s idea of being direct and not sugar coating.

Think about your networking circle. I bet you can name a few people who successfully perform that delicate dance on the edge. Some people call them offensive and others think they have a confident edge. These people tend to have a loyal group of followers, but have also alienated a small group. We would probably all agree that they are memorable.

Also, walking that line may make sense for a marketing consultant or prosecuting attorney, but not so much for an undertaker or family counselor.

What do you think? Is there any advantage to being “offensive”? I ‘d love to hear from people who have that reputation as well as from those who have observed that behavior in others. Click here to chime in.

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Public Speaking: The Results Are In

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

You have voted and the results are in:

 Q: Does a more animated speaker seem any less credible to you? 

 Results: While the poll is still live, at the time of this writing 97% of voters agreed that speaking with enthusiasm does not make you appear any less credible than a subdued and “serious” speaker.

If this is so, then why do so many presenters project an overly serious and subdued persona?  The reason is that any small gestures or expressions feel bigger than they are to the presenter and appears smaller than they are to the audience.

Consider a natural one-on-one friendly conversation.  Because the speaker is relaxed she will use gestures and expressions appropriately and her enthusiasm will show.  But, when she is presenting to a group those gestures and expressions need to be amplified to project  further and broader.  As she feels pressure, however, she becomes nervous and is inclined to do just the opposite.  She dulls the shine and decreases intensity.  The audience simply accepts this as another boring presentation to be endured.

The only way to overcome this challenge as a presenter is to be aware of it.  Know that your audience wants to see enthusiasm, gestures and expressions.  Our poll shows that your audience will not perceive you as goofy and less professional.  On the contrary, you will be appreciated and admired.

Next time you present, understand that if you feel like you are over gesturing and expressing, you are probably doing it just right.

Here you can read 8 great tips on gestures.

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Public Speaking: Don’t Use PowerPoint As A Crutch

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What an epiphany!  

If you want to learn how to improve public speaking watch other speakers AND observe their audience while they speak.  Consider the faces of the audience members and look at their eyes.  What you will see most of the time is polite interest at best and boredom at worst.  On occasion you will see an engaged audience – what is the speaker doing (or not doing) to get that reaction? Take mental notes.

I watched a woman bore her audience with a Power Point presentation. BUT then, her computer quit. She had no hard copy; so she completed the presentation with NO aids.  This created some tension, which awoke the audience from their mental slumber.  Because she stopped reading from her slides, she connected with the audience.  Their faces changed from exhibiting apathy to shining with interest.  Even though her organization and smooth pace suffered a bit, her ability to connect more than compensated.

What can we learn from this?  PowerPoint is great to make a visually powerful POINT, but not to deliver an entire presentation.  A slightly bumpy presentation without the crutch of Power Point is far more effected that a smooth presentation with it.

What do you think?

Add impact to your presentation using PowerPoint.

Speaking from the heart  & speaking from the heart II

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Public Speaking: Exhibit Confidence

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

In our previous blogs we spoke about veiling the nerves.  Once that is accomplished, we are ready to emulate what a confident person does, even though we may not feel confident from within.

Two “tricks” that we’ve discussed are pausing and moving at a moderate pace.  Here is another technique for exhibiting confidence.

In college, I was already an avid student of public speaking, and I made it a point to compare and contrast students’ public speaking performances with those of our professors. This is not to say that professors are necessarily great presenters, but they do tend to look comfortable and confident.  When students are asked to speak before the class, even though they might have a great presentation prepared, they usually appear nervous and awkward.

Of course the professors typically spoke at a much slower pace, but I also noticed that they tended to lean a great deal.  Later, when I began studying body language, my observation was confirmed by research: confident people will lean (when appropriate) and nervous people will not.  Professors would have one hand in the pocket and, on occasion, put the other hand on a table or desk.  This is a great telegraph of comfort and confidence if it is NOT a formal presentation.  Clearly you would not use this technique giving a eulogy or a presentation to the board of directors.

On a side note, in social situations, for example a house party, studies show that guests who are comfortable and confident will tend to lean as well.

There you  have it, the power of the lean, just make sure you don’t fall over!

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Public Speaking: Fear – Nerves and Confidence

Monday, February 16th, 2009

To date, we have uncovered the secrets to veiling the fear of pubic speaking:

Fear of Public Speaking: Stop shaky hands
Fear of Public Speaking: Stop shaky voice
Fear of Public Speaking: Cure the dry throat
Fear of Public Speaking: Avoid freezing

Once you can successfully manage/veil your public speaking fear, you are ready discover how to emulate confidence, even when you are not feeling that confidence from within.

What are the common denominators of a confident speaker?  After years of studying presenters, both nervous and confident, I’ve uncovered the nuances that make the difference.

1) We have already discussed the first: pacing, which dictates that more confident speakers tend to do everything at a more moderate, purposeful pace.  Nervous speakers tend to race, both physically and verbally.  As as side note, research shows that people who talk too fast and bustle around the office are PERCEIVED as lower in the power chain than those who talk and move at a moderate pace.

2) Confident speakers PAUSE.  Without the pause, people cannot digest as swiftly as you speak.  Of equal importance your pauses clearly communicate that you are confident (irrespective of whether it is true). Always pause when you make a strong point.  Pause when you are searching what to say next.  As we discovered in the avoid freezing blog entry, pausing makes YOU feel awkward but it makes you LOOK confident. Conversely, “umms and ahhs” to fill the silence make YOU feel more comfortable, but they make you LOOK far more awkward.

Public speaking fear can be managed easily and effectively using these techniques.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Avoid Freezing

Friday, February 13th, 2009

ice-cubes-nausea-lgIn learning to veil the fear of public speaking, we must address the common fear of freezing.  Here is a simple technique:

Memorize rote your opener and closer.  Why? Research shows that nerves spike in the first few moments of a presentation and in the last few moments.  When nerves spike you are more likely to freeze; so by memorizing, word-for-word, your power opener and power close, you will have more confidence when you need it most.

Clearly if you are using Power Point as a crutch, all you need to do is look up at the slide, but for the more effective presenters who chose not to read from their visuals, keep the following in mind:

1) Freezing to you is simply pausing to them.  Four seconds feels like an eternity for you, but it seems like a respectable pause to the audience.  It feels weak to you, but they interpret it as confidence.  It’s okay to “freeze” to allow your brain to catch up; then move on.  Avoid “Ums and ahs” and any filler. It is counterintuitive that filler makes YOU feel more comfortable, but it makes your audience think you are insecure.

2) Keep in mind that, in most cases, the audience does not know the layout of your presentation; so if you freeze on a point, just move to the next. You can address the missed point later in the presentation without anyone noticing.

3) If you’re using notes, avoid writing in sentence form or, even worse, paragraph form.  For a nervous speaker this can be deadly.  Once you lose your place, your eyes start to race through the text to find where you left off, and the panic snowballs as the seconds tick away.  Bullets in large font ensure that in just a glance you can get right back on track.

Freezing is simply a mind game with one player – you.  By employing the tips above you will be more confident that you will not freeze, which means that you’ll be less likely to freeze in the first place.

There you have it, yet another tip to manage your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Dry Throat

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

dreamstime_11462314[1]Veiling your fear of public speaking is quite simple, once you know the quick-fix tricks.  We’ve already discussed how to stop the shaky hands and how to stop the shaky voice.  Now we’ll share a simple technique for handling the dry throat.  

Just do a search on the web, and you’ll find many people seeking a remedy for the dry throat when they become anxious.  Here it is:

1) Forget water because it quickly dissipates within a minute.  If, however, you do drink water before or during your presentation, make sure it is at room temperature because cold water constricts the throat making public speaking more difficult.

2) The best remedy: luke warm orange juice.  It will give your throat a silky coating that will LAST through your presentation.

3) If you’re caught off-guard and have nothing with you: Imagine eating Sour Patch Kids, which will get your saliva glands into action.

4) A teaspoon of honey will give you a lasting coating, and it may be more palatable for you than luke warm OJ.

The benefit to you of using one of these remedies is that you won’t have to swallow mid sentence when public speaking, which is a dead giveaway that your are nervous.  Now with one less thing to worry about, you can concentrate on your delivery.

Please share your comments on how to veil your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Shaky Voice

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Does your voice shake when you are speaking in public?  Just like the shaky hand, your fear of public speaking triggers the release of excessive adrenaline, which causes your voice to shake.

What big mistake do most speakers make when their voice gets shaky?  They lower the volume.  It is natural to want to lower your volume when you hear the shakiness in your voice, but it is counterproductive.  It makes the shakiness more obvious.

The solution is to raise your volume when your voice is shaky.  The extra adrenaline in your body causes your vocal cords to have tiny vibrations that make that shaky sound.  When you speak loudly, the bigger movements of the vocal cords will veil the smaller vibrations caused by nerves.  In essence, you drown out the shakiness in your voice.

While counterintuitive, it is this simple: turn up the volume to overcome the “shakes”.

More to come on veiling your fear of public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Fear – Shaky Hands

Friday, February 6th, 2009

10180735As promised, first we will delve into the outside-in approach for veiling your fear of public speaking. Later we will uncover long-term methods to deal with your fear of presenting.

When we feel the fear of public speaking from within, what telegraphs that fear to our audience? One of clearest “tells” of our discomfort is the shaky hand.

Fear not . . . this one is easy to veil.

The problem:  Your fear of public speaking releases excessive adrenaline, which would be great if you were about to engage in a fight. However, since you’re just standing there, the energy has no release, and the result is that your hands begin to shake.

The solution: If you rely on notes, never hold a single piece of paper or index card.  Leverage dictates that a small shake in your hand will look huge by the time it reaches the tip of your paper.  Everyone will see your shakes magnified by this leverage.  You will see it too, and you will become even more nervous. If you need notes, hold something heavy underneath them.  It’s that simple.  By holding a leather padfolio beneath your notes, the sheer weight will flatten the shakes.

If you are not using notes, start your presentation with your hands held behind your back. Research shows that the beginning of the presentation is the most nerve-wracking.  Also, if it is not a formal presentation, you can then move to one hand in the pocket, and it is okay to hold a pen in the other hand as long as you do not fidget with it.

There you have the first tip towards veiling your fear of public speaking.  From this point forward, you will not telegraph your fear of presenting through your hands.

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