Posts Tagged ‘fear of public speaking’

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: Special Delivery

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

theater 2Recently, I attended one of the famous Highland March Professional Development Series featuring master networker Jason Kallio, President of ExpoVantage.  Did he have great content?  Yes. Was he prepared and organized? Yes. But that’s only part of the reason he won the crowd.  He was funny, entertaining, and engaging.  He made us laugh and he talked with us, not at us.  He was in the moment and built on the comments that people shared.

As a public speaking expert, anytime I’m in the audience, I spend up to half the time looking at the audience to see how effective the presenter is.  The answer lies in their focus.  If their eyes are glued to the presenter, that’s great; otherwise there is a problem.  All eyes were glued to Jason throughout the entire presentation.  I have seen other prepared, organized, and structured presenters in that same room lose the audience.  Why the difference?  Content is a commodity; delivery is everything.

Jason is also a professional magician; so he adheres to the philosophy that every presentation is a performance. He realizes that excellent content that is well prepared is NOT enough to earn the audience’s attention.  Great content must be delivered in a performance.  Here are some of the reasons people loved him:

1) He opened with a magic trick that conveyed a major point about networking.

2) He invited participation and wove that participation into his presentation.

3) He was very much in the “here and now”.  He used appropriate humor to respond to audience remarks, and got to know the members of his audience as he went along.

4) He spoke to each member individually, focusing his eye contact on one person at a time instead of doing the common superficial scanning.

5) He was excited because he knew he had prepared for a performance, rather than a presentation.

After watching and analyzing thousands of presentations, here is something I’ve learned: presenters who think their only responsibility is to disseminate information are usually painfully boring – irrespective of their content. Presenters who understand that their presentation is a performance usually win the crowd.

Make your presentation a performance by avoiding these 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

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Public Speaking: Project Confidence

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Of all public speaking tips, these may have the most universal appeal.

In Video Lesson One, we discovered how to veil the nerves caused by fear of public speaking: shaky hands, shaky voice, dry throat, and fear of freezing.

In this ten-minute video we will uncover the secrets of emulating confidence. There are some situations in which, no matter how well-prepared you are, you will feel the pressure. That’s okay because you now know how to veil the tell-tale signs of nerves (Lesson I); so you are ready to learn how to appear confident on the outside, even though you don’t feel that way on the inside.

Apply these five public speaking tips to projecting confidence, and you will shine. Nobody will detect the fear you may be experiencing. The beauty is, just by simply knowing these tips, you will actually begin to feel more confident from within. That’s a double bonus.

We hope you enjoy and benefit from this “how to overcome fear” training video. Please share it by clicking any of the icons below.

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Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

lecternPublic speaking can be the most daunting task because we make it so. No doubt you’ve heard that according to surveys, most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Of course the major reason is that we are concerned about how others will perceive us.

The truth is that when we engage in public speaking we shape many people’s perceptions about us in a very short time. In many instances, perception dictates reality; so it is important for us to shine in the spotlight.

When people say they are afraid of public speaking, usually they are talking about their delivery more than their content. Clearly both are important, but most people feel in control when it comes to mastering their content for a presentation. They are more worried about how they will appear before their audience.  In the realm of public speaking, we call this delivery. In our public speaking blog we’ve covered much material on this topic. Here is a summary of 19 delivery mistakes:

AVOID

1. Standing right next to the person introducing you. Instead, wait far off to the side.

2. Walking too fast to center stage/floor. Instead, a moderate pace will transmit authority and confidence.

3. Launching immediately into your presentation. Instead, pause a moment and scan your audience and then deliver your power opener.

4. Not shaking the person’s hand who introduced you.

5. Not publicly thanking the person who introduced you.

6. Not smiling, but don’t force it either. The only thing worse than a somber face is the fake public speaking “chucky” smile.

7. Standing in one spot during your entire presentation.

8. Pacing is worse than standing in one spot. A quick tip on effective movement: give 1/3 of the presentation to the center, 1/3 to the left and 1/3 to the right. Always start and finish center.

9. Standing behind the lectern is deadly. GET OUT OF THERE.

10. Reading off slides is probably the #1 way to turn off your audience. Most public speakers do it.

11. Monotone voice is a cure for insomnia. Instead, record your presentation to ensure you’re injecting enthusiasm.

12. Filler is killer. “Umms”, “ahhs” and “like” will destroy your impact not only in public speaking, but also in one-on-one communication. Instead use the pause.

13. Talking too fast. People can’t process as fast as you can talk. It makes you appear not only nervous but lacking authority as well.

14. Poor eye contact is a major challenge with most public speakers.

15. Speaking softly. If you want to aggravate your audience make them strain to hear you.

16. Petrified body. A talking statue amuses nobody. Catch yourself talking to friends.  What does your body language look like? That’s what your audience wants to see.

17. Petrified face. The audience’s face mirrors yours. If you speak with a frozen countenance, you’ll be looking into a sea of expressionless faces. When you tell a story to a friend, your facial expressions accent the words. Do the same when public speaking.

18. Awkward close. Remember nerves spike at the beginning and end. I’ve seen great public speakers fumble to close. Remember your closing rote.

19. Being too conservative. Unless you’re presenting to the board at a stodgy bank, put some fun into your presentation. Most presentations are painful to endure. A dash of sugar will make them love you.

If you avoid these 19 common delivery mistakes, your audience won’t care whether you are nervous because they will like you and appreciate that you gave them an experience instead of a boring book report. You will shine in comparison to the public speakers who precede and follow you, because it’s almost guaranteed that these other presenters fall victim to most of the 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

There you have it! Now pounce on your fear of presenting, and use these delivery skills to enjoy the art of public speaking.

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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Public Speaking: Dead Time Kills Your Presentation

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

DeadTreeLast week, I presented magic at the historic Vienna. I started entertaining a few people, but in ten minutes I was completely surrounded, and the room was packed. Then, I looked for my Sharpie marker, which I needed for my next effect. I realized it was in my bag sitting about ten feet away; so I wended my way through the crowd, fished for my marker, and finally handed it to the spectator. This took about twenty seconds. But, when I launched back into my presentation, the crowd had dissipated, and small conversations were flourishing. Now I needed to WORK HARD at rebuilding my crowd and recapturing attention. In short, I had to revive my presentation from the dead.

Shame on me! I teach executives and managers that they must have everything they need at their fingertips BEFORE beginning a presentation. Why?  Because DEAD TIME KILLS. It devours your effectiveness because without the audience’s rapt attention, you are wasting your time and theirs.

What I witnessed physically at a magic performance (people talking and walking) is a caricature of what happens in a business presentation. While it is unlikely that your audience will bolt for the door or launch into small private chats at your presentation, people will “check out” mentally, and they will launch into internal dialogue about something more important or more amusing than you.  It’s that simple.

The solution is simple as well:

1) While rehearsing make a checklist of everything you need, use, or refer to.

2) Setup: on the big day, go through your checklist and physically touch every item you need.

3) Handouts: have them at each seat before you begin. If this is not possible, have somebody else deliver the handouts for you while you continue to present.

4) Index cards: If you rely on index cards for notes, be sure to number them to avoid excessive fumbling should you drop them.  If you rely on powerpoint for notes see here.

5) Do you refer to a manual, text or report? Use Post-it notes as book marks. Flipping around for even five seconds creates enough dead-time to start the bleeding.

6) Avoid or limit conversation that is administrative and directed at only one person. For example, you are presenting on a new accounting policy, and your tech guru asks about systems integration. Even though this is not technically dead time, the conversation acts as white noise for everyone else in the room who is far removed from these details. Unless the issue is urgent, use this response: “excellent question, and you and I need to discuss it in detail after this presentation. Thanks for bringing it up Jim.”

7) Be very aware of any time that ticks where nothing is happening, and understand that it is causing a slow drain of your audience’s attention.

Please do not confuse dead time with the power of the pause. A purposeful pause drastically increases your effectiveness. I’m talking about me fumbling for my Sharpie or you flipping through your 10-Q report trying to find the change in retained earnings while your boss begins to daydream about whether it’s chicken fajita or tuna salad for lunch.  Personally, I’d take the chicken fajita with ranch dressing.

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Public Speaking: High-Pressure Presentations

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

dreamstime_6172094[1]Here is a novel tip for anyone preparing for public speaking in a high-pressure situation. What makes it high-pressure? Simply that you think it to be so, and you know that no matter how much you prepare, your adrenaline will still be pumping on the big day.

Using the techniques previously discussed in our blog regarding nerves and confidence will certainly help, and if you want to go that extra mile, do this:

Immediately prior to rehearsing your presentation, do some cardio activity (pushups, treadmill, jog in place, jump rope, etc). Avoid going overboard and getting out-of-breath, but do get your heart rate up and even break a little sweat. This will emulate how adrenaline from nerves can affect you. Now launch into your rehearsal. This overcomes one major problem with rehearsing – you don’t feel the same sense of urgency as you do when presenting to your audience. Now your rehearsal is giving you a very similar experience to the real thing, enabling you to master your presentation.

Other tips:

1) Use your imagination. Don’t just stand up and start.  Sit down, and wait to hear (in your mind) your name announced. Imagine the applause, walk to the center, visualize looking at the audience, and go.

2) As much as possible, rehearse the presentation with your eyes closed, visualizing the audience before you.

3) Video record your rehearsal.  You’ll be amazed at how good you really look, and you’ll find some areas for improvement.  It adds even more value to have someone else analyze your video.

By using these techniques prior to your high-pressure presentation, you will gain a “been there, done that” feeling, which is what rehearsal is all about. Always keep in mind though, that unless the presentation is life or death, you are the one manufacturing the pressure.

Try this tip and let us know how it works for you.

Below is a previous video I posed to Youtube on nixing the nerves:

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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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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