Posts Tagged ‘improve public speaking’

Public Speaking: Fact or Myth?

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

1. Eye contact should last about 3 seconds before moving on to next person.

Myth. Many courses on public speaking teach this technique. The problem is that it makes you look superficial. Instead, vary the duration of eye contact with each individual. Sometimes you will make a point to an individual that might last eight seconds. Just be sure to avoid the “stalker stare”.

2. Keep a formal demeanor when presenting.

Myth. I’m not saying be unprofessional, but most speakers appear as if they are giving a eulogy, which is bad . . . unless they really are. Your audience wants to see some personality; so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

3. It is imperative to stay within your allocated time.

Fact. This is probably “more true” than most speakers realize. There are few things that will make your audience resent you more than going past your time. Conversely finishing a bit early will earn you a great deal of appreciation.

4. Speak from the lectern/podium.

Myth. The lectern is a barrier between you and your audience. Perhaps this is comforting to you, but it doesn’t work for your audience. Get out from behind the lectern and you will outshine the other speakers by connecting directly with your audience.

5. Avoid fillers, “ums” and “ahs”.

Myth. Most speaking courses tell you to watch out for those filler words. Some even have the audience count them as you speak. This is counterproductive. The worst thing to tell someone to do before they present is to avoid saying “um”. The fact is that they will say it much more when they make an effort to avoid it. It’s like telling someone, “hey don’t think of a monkey”.

6. Dress at least as formal as your audience.

Fact. While many presenters are overly formal in speech, they sometimes underdress, which can be misconstrued as lack of respect by their audience. Always ask the organizer upfront how people will be dressed.

7. It’s okay to read from your slides because everyone does it.

Myth. Well, yes, almost everyone reads from their slides, but that doesn’t mean that your audience doesn’t greatly dislike it. It’s okay if the slide guides you, for example a ONE WORD bullet point to get you in the right direction is ok. Avoid long phrases and sentences.

8. If you’d liked this blog, you can help me by hitting one the buttons below to share.

Fact.  I would be much obliged.

Take a look at our upcoming full-day public speaking training in Worcester, Mass.

Download Power of Persuasion Notes Here.

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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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Power of Persuasion: NO

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

The Power of NO

Nothing is more empowering than the ability to say “no” and walk away. In a recent blog I discussed the most persuasive way to make a request. In this entry, I’ll share a strategy that relies on the power of NO.

 

BUYER’S PERSPECTIVE

In July I moved into a temporary apartment while awaiting the closing of my new home. I had basic cable and Internet through Charter. The fee was $41, and I asked that they waive the one-time fee for the representative to come out and connect me. Charter obliged.

When I moved in August, I called Charter and asked for the same deal. The rep said there would be a $50 charge for hook up. I told him that Charter had waived the fee the first time, and I requested the same. He denied my request, explaining, “the free install promotion just ended”. I politely asked to speak to his supervisor to see whether an exception could be made. He said he would connect me, but he guaranteed the request would be denied.
 

THE POWER OF NO: I thanked him for “trying” and said, “Cancel the order because I need to check out Verizon’s options, and if they can’t do better, I promise I’ll call back and give you my business.” His response? “Oh, wait, I just saw a promotion that will enable me to waive the fee.”

I had already done my research and was going to go with Charter irrespective of a hook up fee. But my trick worked. I knew that Charter trains their reps to open new accounts, and once I was walking out, the rep gave me the deal I requested.

Interestingly enough, I shared this story with a friend who is moving this week. When Charter wanted to charge her the install fee, she cited my case, and they explained, “promotion just ended.” She pushed and they “found” an offer to waive half of the fee. I am confident that if she had requested that they cancel the order she would have received a full-waiver.

Charter’s behavior is reflective of human nature. They want to profit the most from you, but they lose their power when the see that you are ready to walk away.

In many cases using the walk away factor works as long as you don’t back the other guy into a corner and give yourself an opportunity to come back. Be sure to be polite and explain that you need to examine your options.

 

SELLER’S PERSPECTIVE

From a seller’s perspective in a non-commodity market such as training, I use the power of no effectively. I provide custom public speaking training and power of persuasion courses to companies that need to get better results from their people. Some prospects ask for Nordstrom quality at Wal-Mart prices. I always respect that they ask, and I explain how they are getting Nordstrom quality at JC Penny prices.

Then, if they still balk, I don’t push. I tell them the truth, “this training is not for everyone, and I will be happy to pass a referral to another trainer who can work within your budget.” Many times the walk away will convert to a sale because they respect that I know my value. Other times, I will make the referral to another company, and I am okay with that. This system helps me work with the right type of client while passing on those who don’t fit to someone else who can help him or her.

Make a comment below on your experience employing the power of NO.

Ask me about professional development training in the power of persuasion and public speaking.

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Public Speaking: Enthusiasm or tone it down?

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

What do YOU think?

While coaching a top executive on presentation skills, I commented that the enthusiasm he exhibits in one-to-one conversations was not being conveyed in his presentations to the group.  His response: “as a company leader, I need to be taken seriously; so I tend to tone it down when speaking to my group.”

Of course, if a presenter is delivering bad news, such as layoffs, a subdued style is appropriate.  In general, however, is the assumption that when one speaks with enthusiasm he or she appears less serious or businesslike?  Does a more animated speaker seem any less credible to you?  Take our poll and leave a comment below:


After weighing in, then check out this related blog entry on the cartoon factor.

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Public Speaking: Impress your audience.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Discover the secret to impressing and connecting with your audience.

Attendees at my pubic speaking trainings often say that they have taken “similar” courses on presentations by the big-name companies, and that my techniques are more thorough and insightful.  This is because we all cover the same basics, but I also add a plethora of techniques that I developed as a professional sleight-of-hand performer.   I learned far more about effective presenting in the entertainment industry than I did in the corporate arena.

 I’ll share with you one major discovery I uncovered through magic.  In my circle of professional magicians, we often discuss what is the “best” trick for an audience.  At a show, I might throw your signed card through a window, bend your signed coin in your own hand, and turn singles into hundred dollar bills.   Solid magic.   My peers accomplish similar effects.  We unanimously agree on what impresses an audience the most, and it’s a trick YOU can do… remember their names.

Clearly, this “trick” has limitations.  It is unlikely to work with a full auditorium, but it is quite effective at meetings and classroom-size presentations.  If you can remember the names of your audience members and use those names through your presentation and Q&A, you are golden.  I have already written about some great strategies to remembering names here  but I want to include a new technique I’ve been using that makes it even easier.

When you arrive early, you have an opportunity to meet attendees as they trickle in.  My secret is upon introduction, I create a visual that I associate with the person’s name.  Here are some examples:

Mike: I will visualize him talking into a mic while we chat.

Sarah: Piece of cake on her shoulder (Sara Lee brand of course)

Wendy: Burger

Karen: Carrot

Bob: Apple (corny but it works for me)

You can make these up on the spot.  Some will only make sense to you.  Burn that image into your mind so when you see them a bit later, you have your memory hook that enables you to recall their name.  It works like a charm.  When you are done with your presentation and Q&A be prepared to have many people remark, “you are amazing.  How do you remember all of our names?”  You might want to send them a link to this blog.

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Public Speaking: “Ums” and “Ahs”

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

“Ums” and “Ahs” – don’t fight ‘em

If you are among the 95% of people who “um” and “ah” when they present, then you will benefit from this blog.

As a public speaking trainer, I am appalled by the throng of “experts” who suggest that when making a presentation, the speaker should concentrate on not saying “um” and “ah”.  Wrong.

I recall watching a high school student making a presentation.  He was using “ums and “ahs” in some moderation, when a peer hollered, “Greg, ease up on the “ums and ahs”.  It’s easy to predict what happened: Greg’s reliance on the filler words doubled.  Now that he was aware, he became more nervous, and actually focused on the words he was trying to avoid.

In addition, when I was a member of BNI, I counted the number of “ums” and “ahs” each person said in their 60-second commercials, and it averaged five incidences.  The next week, I “educated” them on how much filler detracts from their message.  I asked them to endeavor to omit the filler from their commercials.  What happened?  Despite their sincere efforts, the average rocketed to nine occurrences.

Why does this happen?

I learned the secret at Ananda Yoga Studio  where Tish Roy  shared a story about an instructor who told his student, “Whatever you do, do not think of a monkey while meditating.” After sometime the instructor asked the student how he was doing.  The student replied, “All I could do was think of that Monkey!” 

Case in point: The worst thing you could do when you are about to present is concern yourself with filler.  If you use fillers, no worries, just focus on your message, and you will be better off.

That said, it is important to note that “ums” and “ahs” drastically undermine your credibility and impact.  The time to fix the problem, however, is not right before you present.  It is in your everyday speaking.

1.   Stop saying “um” and “ah” in your everyday conversation with friends and family. Offer them a dollar whenever they catch you.

 2.   Pause when you think.  While it may make you feel awkward and insecure, others will perceive you as very confident and thoughtful.

 3.   Listen to the voice mails you leave to others by pressing the star or pound key. See how many times you “um” and “ah”.  Keep leaving the message until there are none.

Here is the bonus:

Stop the filler and you will speak with authority and confidence in both your presentations and in your personal conversations.  You will always appear in control even when you don’t feel it.  What a great return for such a small effort.

Here  is an excellent blog on “ums” and “ahs” from one of my favorite sources of public speaking wisdom: Six Minutes Speaking and Presentations Skills.

Leave a comment below if you have any strategies to help stop the “ums” and “ahs”.

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Public Speaking: 5 Tips on Handling Hecklers

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Are you intimidated by hostile audiences? Public speaking can be daunting enough, but when you are faced with a tough or hostile audience, it can be petrifying.  Below are some techniques to set the battlefield in your favor.  By employing these, you will gain the upper ground and successfully stave off much of the attack.

1) Stop the attack before it starts.  

If you are afraid of being knocked off track with difficult questions, avoid them up front by saying: “I have 30 minutes with you, and I will keep within that time.  During the presentation I’ll probably answer many of the questions you have, so please make a mental note of questions and save them until the end.  I’ve budgeted 10 minutes at the end; so we can address them.”

2) Don’t give them a chance to pre-empt you.

If you have handouts, wait until your presentation is over to distribute them; otherwise people will read ahead, find mistakes and formulate tougher questions.

3) Stop the monopolizer before he starts.

At the beginning of Q&A say, “we have 10 minutes for all Q&A and I want to make sure that everyone who has a question gets a chance, who would like to go first?” If nobody raises their hand, you start things off by saying, “A question I’m often asked is . . .”

4) No dead time.

Moving briskly and purposefully is a magician’s trick to keep the questioners quiet.  When you are on course and in control, it feels awkward for the heckler to chime in.  Once there is a break in your flow, he’ll jump right in.

5) Give them no fuel to attack by being likeable.

Be there early and greet attendees as they arrive.  Chat with them and make it personal.

Look and act confidently but speak humbly.

Mention in the beginning that you will be sure to keep within your allocated time: “I have thirty minutes to update you, and I’ll be sure to stay within that time period.” They can’t help but to like that.

If you feel you know less than your audience and you are going to be fielding many tough questions: “I may not have all the answers, but I’ll tap into our experts in the audience during Q&A.”

Caveat: Many times you want open discussion and probing questions.  This vlog is not about fostering that environment.  On the contrary it is for those who seek to avoid a challenging or hostile environment.  Not all techniques are universally applicable.  Use your judgment.

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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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