Posts Tagged ‘public speaking confidence’

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: 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: 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: 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: Life Goes On

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

At a networking meeting, a young woman was getting ready to do her 10-minute BNI presentation on her business. She had done her homework, and was well prepared.  Previously, she had confided in me that she dreaded public speaking, but knew it was a “necessary evil” if she wanted to grow her business through networking.

She had heard me doing a persuasion speech on sales, and she said she was going to apply that strategy to public speaking. This was the crux of the strategy:

Before the sales appointment, you must CARE enough to research your prospect, and prepare for questions and roadblocks. However, during your presentation, you must not feel you NEED this particular piece of business. You must know that life goes on either way. You must feel that you would like the business, but you will be fine either way. Sales guru Carl Harvey shared this philosophy with me, and it works. It frees you to simply relax, establish a relationship, and enjoy the process.  It makes you feel and appear more confident, and subtly communicate that you offer something they need. You also avoid looking like the desperate salesperson.

This woman applied that philosophy to her speech. She had, in essence, over prepared, but moments before she was on, she adopted an attitude that this presentation would neither make or break her; so she might as well have fun.

Her presentation exceeded even her own expectations. She was natural, funny, and on target.

What happened? The problem is that presenters get nervous because they care TOO MUCH about how they appear before their audiences. By “too much” I mean that the pressure actually hurts their natural ability to communicate.  It makes them shaky, stiff and monotone. Most presenters’ main roadblock is their own psychology. By adopting the attitude “this presentation will not really change my life in any significant way,” you mitigate the exaggerated pressure you have fabricated.

What a great application of a sales strategy to public speaking!

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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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