Posts Tagged ‘public speaking tip’

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: How to Present Awards and Control Applause

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

applauseHere is an advanced tip for anyone who presents multiple awards to a large group.

The next time you attend a graduation or awards ceremony, watch and notice…usually the presenter is on a tight agenda; so she requests “everyone please hold your applause until the last award recipient is named.” This request is usually made when there is a large number of recipients for the same award, for example, perfect attendance.  Here is what almost always happens: the first name is called, and there is an awkward pause followed by few people clapping; the second name is called and about half the audience applauds, the third name is announced and everyone claps.  From that point on, the presenter pauses after each name to allow for applause.  Now, she is running into the next presenter’s time on the agenda.

This happens at almost every awards banquet and graduation. Here are the mistakes and how to avoid them:

Mistake 1:  Weak verbal request. What makes it weak?  It is not followed by a pause. In addition, it is articulated far too quickly. Finish your previous point, pause and slow your rate of speech. In a loud and clear voice state, “To stay on target with our timing, I will be announcing 12 recipients for this award . . .  PLEASE . . . HOLD . .  YOUR . . . APPLAUSE until the last name is announced.”

Mistake 2: Poor placement of the request. This request will not work if you say anything else before announcing the recipients. An example of this mistake: “Please hold your applause until the final name is announced. All these people have 100% attendance in their programs of study; the first award goes to David Adams . . .”  The secret is to make the request and immediately launch right into the names.

Mistake 3: The awkward pause after the first name is announced. If you pause too long after your first announcement, there will be an awkward silence followed by a weak sputtering of clapping, which has that popcorn sound. Here’s the key. You asked them to hold applause until the end, now you must read the names fluidly with only a minor pause between them.

Mistake 4: Not responding to applause. If the audience does applaud, you need to immediately stop and restate your request “I love your enthusiasm, but . . . PLEASE . . . HOLD . . . YOUR . . . APPLAUSE . . .until the end”.

There it is. I’ve seen it done right on rare occasion, but when these mistakes are avoided, the event runs far more smoothly. You avoid awkwardness and keep within your time constraints. Next time you attend an awards banquet or graduation, check in with us, and tell us whether you witnessed these all-to-common mistakes.


How to get applause.

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Public Speaking: Using Names

Friday, June 12th, 2009

hello-my-name-isFor those who are already comfortable with public speaking, here is an advanced trick to take it to the next level.

When you are performing an interactive presentation, you have an opportunity to impress by calling on audience members by name.  Very few things will wow an audience more.  Why?  Unless you are a familiar member of the group to which you are presenting, nobody expects you to use their names.  Most likely, every presenter that has preceded you has not used their names.  This makes you appear different and better.  It makes you seem smarter and more sincere.

This opportunity to wow the audience only presents itself in certain circumstances, but when it does, seize it and reap the rewards.

Ideal circumstances:  Smaller audience 10 – 50 members plus a chance to mingle before your presentation. Obviously if nobody is wearing the “hello my name is ….” tags, this will be far more effective.

Strategy:  Arrive either first or very early so you can set up and assess the room.  Now it’s easy to greet each person who arrives.  Make a mental note of their name, and every once in a while, look over to that person and repeat the name in your head.  Sometimes groups will arrive together, and you will be unable to greet each person individually.  That’s okay.  As you mill around, LISTEN to people talk.  You will hear their names.  These are your golden catches, because when you refer to those people by name in your interactive presentation, they will be AMAZED – sometimes telling the person next to them “we weren’t even introduced, and he knows who I am?”

When you finish your presentation, many people will approach you and ask whether you are naturally gifted with memory, or if you have a secret method to remember people’s names.  They will be fascinated by your ability, and they will want to know whether they can acquire the same.

I have an average memory, and in the right circumstances (when people trickle into the event, at an even pace, I can do this for up to 50 people.) Years later these people will approach me and remind me about how everyone was so impressed by this “gift”.

Granted, circumstances need to be right and it does take a great deal of mental effort up front, but if you really want to appear different and better, this advanced tip will do the trick.

Now, does anyone have a method for LONG-TERM memory with names? Please share.

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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: Layout and Floor Plan

Friday, January 30th, 2009

In our recent blog about rude audiences, we referred to the fact that the speaker disseminated information rather than communicating and connecting with the audience.  This helped cultivate an environment conducive to chitter chatter.  Upon reflection, more variables come into play.  

The first is seating.  While technically this was not a “seating” issue because much of the audience was standing, the same guidelines apply:  the denser the population the more they pay attention.  Scattered audiences have scattered attention spans.  This certainly contributed to the five private conversations that broke out while the speaker was presenting.

The second is room layout and floor plan.  Given the choice, It is always better to have a room that is slightly too small rather than too big. It it makes the event seem like it was a sell-out.  “They packed the room!” will be the reviews.  In addition, you avoid the scattered population problem.  Finally, the speaker has more relative presence; so both she and her message are less likely to get lost in the room.

The third variable is speaker positioning in the room.  Most rooms are rectangular, and in such cases the speaker is best positioned on a short end.  The “less square” the room, the more important this becomes.  Presenting from the the long side of a “flattened” rectangle will destroy your impact on the audience.  It dilutes your focus, voice and eye contact and INVITES the temptation for your audience members begin talking amongst themselves.  Most audience members will resist the temptation to speak aloud; instead they will engage in their own internal dialogue.  For example: “I better get working on my 3rd quarter presentation for next week, I wonder if Bob has started his?”  Some rude or ignorant members will simply startup a conversation.

Looking at our rude audience scenario, my bet is that had these layout issues been addressed in advanced, there may have been only one or no private conversations ensuing while the Chamber Officer was presenting . . . rather than five.

When you are public speaking, command your battlefield by controlling your layout and floor plan whenever possible.  Always keep in mind, a wider and more dispersed audience requires far more presentational skill on your part than does a narrow and densely populated audience.

In short: how and where they sit/stand will be a significant factor in how much they feel that they “liked” your presentation.  As always, it’s all in the nuances.

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Public Speaking: Advanced Tip – Connectors

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

What one mistake do even the best public speakers tend to make?

Clearly, they don’t pace, fidget or say “uhmm”, and they do project their voice, make meaningful eye contact and use purposeful movement.  They’ve mastered the basics; so how can they improve?

In my experience even the best public speakers make this minor mistake: connectors.  When they finish a statement, they start the next with one of the following words: so, now, or okay.  While there is nothing wrong with an occasional use of these connectors, most speakers use them almost every time after a pause.

It’s a nuance that I learned from a top Toastmaster who analyzed my speaking.  She pointed out that I had overused these connectors.  Before this enlightenment, I had no idea I was doing this.  Are you?  If you’re just becoming comfortable with public speaking, don’t worry too much about this.  If you are an advanced speaker, chances are this is one area in which you may be able to improve.  The only way to know whether you use connectors is to record your presentation, or ask someone in the audience to take note of them for you.

How to stop?  The same way you stopped umming and ahhing.  Avoid using connectors in your everyday conversation and they will automatically disappear from your more formal presentations.

Advanced tips for public speakers are always welcome here.  Please share yours.

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