Posts Tagged ‘presentation tips’

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: Death by PowerPoint

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I just came back from the HIMSS trade show in Orlando. Many of the larger booths had presenters using PowerPoint to sell the benefits of their featured products and services. Not one presenter was using PowerPoint effectively.

Every presentation had either too many bullet points or cluttered graphs and most of the presenters were reading from their slides. These professionals must have taken a training course on presenting at some point, right? Probably, but it is simply easier to read your presentation off the slides, and since everyone else does it, why not?

FACT: Every presenter I saw was losing an opportunity to persuade their audience to invest in their solutions. Many of the audience members were “zoning”, and they were missing the message.

In this imbedded video, Don McMillan will make you laugh and remind you how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

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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: The Rule of Three

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

rule of 3My college roommate, Sean Cusick, was an English major, and he enlightened me about the rule of three. Your writing will have more impact when you use three nouns, adjectives or adverbs together. For example, it is more compelling to say, “this course will give you the skills, confidence and motivation to catapult your speaking career,” rather than saying “this course will give you the skills and confidence to catapult your speaking career.”

Little did I know, however, that I was only scratching the surface with respect to this amazing rule of three in public speaking. Here is a fascinating, in-depth look at the RULE OF THREE by Andrew Dlugan and how to apply it. Enjoy!

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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: 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: Tip for Networkers – “I” vs. “You”

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Here is a quick tip for those who do public speaking for networking:

After you’ve written your presentation do a search for the word “I” and a search for the word “you”.  The latter should appear far more than the former.  In reality, however, most presentations are “I”-centric. After all, it is how we grew up.  Children use the words “I” and “me” so often because they must.  Successful networkers reverse that model and continually speak about “you”.

Why? Other people are far more concerned with themselves than they are with you. Talk in terms of “them” and they will listen intently.

In addition, this tip for public speaking for networking lends itself nicely for developing marketing copy.

Give the word search a try, and you’ll find that your networking presentations capture and retain far more attention.

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Public Speaking: Lights! Camera! Action!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

If you are truly serious about improving your public speaking, then consider video taping yourself.  You’ll be amazed at how well you do some things, and you’ll find areas for improvement that you never imagined.

After many years of teaching advanced public speaking skills, I still watch the videos of my presentations and I ALWAYS find areas for improvement and little things that make me laugh.

Video recording has an extra bonus for those of us who perform the same presentation multiple times.  I wish I were a naturally funny person, because adding humor does wonders for your presentation. However, even though I’m not a comedian, I still get lucky with a funny line here or there.  When I critique my presentations, I’ll always make note when the audience laughs.  I write that line down and use it again.  After a while, it appears that I actually have some wit.

Those who are serious about public speaking will find great benefit to recording their presentations.  If video is too cumbersome for you, consider a digital audio recorder with a lavaliere mic – small investment with a big return.

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