Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Key 6: Afterward
Whew! You’ve done it! You planned, practiced, and performed. Now you’re finished with the presentation! Well, not so fast. A final key to better presentations comes after you have done the hard part. Some careful attention at this stage can help you hone your skills!
- Graciously accept compliments and questions. People will want to talk to you afterward. Many will compliment you. A polite “Thank you so much!” is an appropriate response. No need to apologize if anything went wrong--it just draws attention to it. Be gracious in accepting compliments. Answer any questions thoughtfully and honestly. If your speech was brief, many people will want to know more! If it was very good (and of course it was!), they may want you to give it again and invite you to speak elsewhere. If you make presentations to promote your business, be prepared with follow-up material.
- Ask for feedback, and learn from it. This is critically important. Be willing to learn from comments given by your audience. Sometimes they will be nice suggestions, sometimes people are rude. In any case, be gracious accepting suggestions. Write them down if you need to. Remember them as you move forward and hone your skills. If possibly, commission someone to evaluate you and give you tips for improvement. An evaluator can tell you if you were hard to hear, talked too fast, made appropriate eye contact, dealt with unexpected issues well, and connected with the audience.
- Mine your content for blog entries, articles, podcasts, and more. If you have developed a presentation, why stop there? Build your professional presence by turning that speech into a series of blog entries (like this series), articles for publication, podcasts, and so on. You might choose to expand your presentation and offer it as a paid workshop, tele-class, or a conference presentation. If you get a lot of related material, turn your content into a book, e-book, learning CD or MP3, and so on.
- Investigate Toastmasters. Almost everything I’ve learned about public speaking has come from Toastmasters International. If you want a positive, supportive learning environment, look for a local club by typing in your ZIP code at the TI web site. You will learn by doing, with helpful comments along the way.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Key 5: Performance, continued
It’s the big day! You have adjusted your mindset, planned, rehearsed, and employed some anti-anxiety techniques. You have been introduced to your audience. The moment is here: You stand up to give your presentation! Here are some more keys to performance that can help you get your message across while appearing professional.
- Eye contact. A major part of any communication is connection with your listener/audience. Eye contact is key for creating and maintaining it. With a large crowd, you cannot make eye contact with every single person, but be sure to look to different points in the room, and make eye contact wherever possible with people in your line of sight. Make sure the contact is significant--a second or two--before moving on. Quickly cruising the eyes in the room is known as a “drive-by” and does not help you look connected. A terrific tip for commanding attention right from the beginning is to pause before speaking, take a few moments to make eye contact with your audience, then begin with your presentation.
- Pace yourself. One of the easy things to do when you’re nervous is talk too fast. (I am terribly guilty of this.) People must be able to hear you and process what you are saying. A lot of rehearsal will help you learn to pace yourself well. Remember: Slow down, and take pauses. A great way to do this is to have a water bottle handy. If you force yourself to take sips from it at regular intervals, you will create pauses. In addition, you will be wetting your mouth, which hides one of the signs of nervousness (dry mouth, which can result in a lot of lip smacking noises).
- Watch your volume. You should be loud enough to be heard clearly, even in the back, and to command attention. If people are straining to hear you, your message gets lost. Pay attention to people in your audience--do they look confused? Are any of them holding an ear and turning it toward you? That’s your signal to speak up. Make sure you maintain your volume--I’ve seen plenty of people reminded to speak up, and they do so for a sentence or two, but then fade back down to normal volume. Also, be sure to enunciate clearly. Some speakers have fine volume, but it’s difficult to pick out their words because they seem to all run together.
- It’s good to have a support person in the audience if at all possible. If you corral someone into being your signal person, he or she can let you know how you are doing on time (say, signaling when 10 minutes have gone by, or if 5 minutes are left), if you are speaking too fast, if you are not loud enough, and any other roster of issues that you can address on the fly. This person can also hand out any materials for distribution (so you don’t have to do it), and help with some visual aids, if appropriate. Never underestimate the power of someone who is looking out for you.
- Deal with messing up. You lose your place, stumble over your words, forget what you were saying, the projector doesn’t work, you trip and fall, or the mic goes dead (or all of the above). It’s okay--it happens! Take a deep breath, take a sip of water if you need to, and jump back in as best you can. The important thing is not to panic. Just keep going--there is no need to stop and apologize. It just draws attention to your goofup. Believe me, no one will rub it in if you mess up here and there. It’s more important that you recover from it and keep going. How you handle a goofup is far more important than the fact that the goofup happened in the first place.
- Be ready to improvise when technical glitches happen--and they will eventually happen. PowerPoint suddenly won’t work, projectors aren’t available, your printer died, the microphone is dead. Can you give your speech without PowerPoint? You should be able to--after all, slides should illustrate or highlight your point, not be your point. If your script is in your slides, then it isn’t much of a presentation because you’ll just be reading your slides to the audience (and they can already read). Handouts not prepared? Then make sure you tell your audience to get out pen and paper and make your organization of the topic very clear so they can essentially create their own take-homes.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Key 5: Performance
It’s the big day! You have adjusted your mindset, planned, rehearsed, and employed some anti-anxiety techniques. You have been introduced to your audience. The moment is here: You stand up to give your presentation! Here are some keys to performance that can help you get your message across while appearing very professional.
- Dress comfortably, professionally, and appropriately. You don’t want to be wearing clothes or shoes that are too tight, too loose, or sloppy looking. Nothing itchy either! If you concentrate very hard on your content and delivery, you can lose track of what your body is doing--which means, it’s easy to distractedly scratch where it itches, adjust your clothes nervously (like constantly pushing up your sleeves or adjusting your bra strap), or allow any manner of nervous tics to shine through. This kind of thing betrays your nerves.
- It appears in the last post on anti-anxiety, and it bears repeating here: Take deep, slow breaths before speaking. Inhale through your nose, hold for a second or two, and exhale through your mouth. This will help you be mindful and present in your body, which can then cut down on unconscious fidgeting, swaying, and other giveaways of your nerves. Use a deep breath now and then in your presentation to create a pause and recenter yourself.
- Stand in neutral position, which is feet shoulder width apart, hands down at your sides comfortably. Nervous movement includes hand-wringing and swaying back and forth, and you can counteract this by intentionally being in neutral position. Your gestures and body language will be deliberate, and your movement will be purposeful from this position. Random, nervous moment detracts from your speech by distracting your listeners. Deliberate, thought-out movement enhances your message and drives it home.
- Don’t get trapped behind a podium if you have one. A podium can hide a bunch of nervousness, but it’s very easy to put your notes down, grip the sides of the podium, and not move an inch! This doesn’t make for a dynamic speech. Instead, put your notes (if you’re using them) on the podium, and then break out from behind it to move deliberately across your speech area. You can connect with the audience much better when you can move to them. Be careful that you don’t block any visual aids you might have (slides, flip charts, white board, etc.) as you move around.
- If you have a very large room, and there is a microphone on the podium, you may be stuck there so you can be heard (first, ask if a lapel mic is available). If you must stay behind a podium, make your gestures large, so they can be seen. Add a lot of enthusiasm in your voice and face, so it can “read” to the whole room. And be sure to make lots of eye contact from the podium (remember to look up and connect with your audience).
Next: More performance techniques!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Key 4: Antianxiety
Presentation time is looming! You have worked on your mindset and intentions, planned your material out, and practiced. You have a firm grip on your content, and it’s starting to come together nicely in the time allotment. As the date and time for your actual presentation get closer, you might start to feel a familiar nervousness. Here are some techniques to reduce anxiety in the days and moments leading up to your presentation!
- Remember your mindset techniques: The audience wants to hear what you have to say, you offer value to them with your content, and you are “keyed up.”
- If you tend to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, counter it by imagining the best that can happen. Take ownership of your success!
- Before speaking, take deep, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose, hold for a second or two, and exhale through your mouth. If you practice yoga breathing, you may find those techniques useful. Focus on your breathing to calm down, slow your heart rate. Use these deep breaths to get centered before speaking. This will also help you be mindful and present in your body, which can then cut down on unconscious fidgeting, swaying, and other giveaways of your nerves!
- Have a bottle or glass of water near you when speaking. One sign of nervousness is a dry mouth, which can, unfortunately, lead to “smacking” sounds as you try to enunciate your words. Sipping water will help you prevent this, as well as forcing you to make pauses at key points. Note that you should sip the water, not chug it--you don’t want to suddenly feel a very urgent call of nature during your presentation. Avoid dairy-based drinks before speaking, they cause a lot of mucus production and require a lot of throat-clearing.
- Try an antianxiety acupressure technique: the thigh rub. If you’re starting to feel panicky before your presentation, discreetly place a hand (or both) on the top of your thigh. Press down with the heel of your hand, and rub from the top of your thigh down toward your knee. Repeat as necessary. This is an acupressure technique for reducing anxiety (you can search for more acupressure techniques with Google). You can’t really do it during your speech (you’ll be bobbing up and down a lot if you do), but it can work to calm you down beforehand.
- Do you have other postures or gestures that calm you down? Employ them as necessary. For example, when I am calm and relaxed, I frequently find that my thumb is tucked between my first and second fingers. It’s an unconscious posture when I’m already relaxed. Sometimes I will deliberately do this to bring on a calming sensation. If something like this works for you, by all means, use it to your advantage!
- A little aromatherapy (body lotion, cologne, or some other scent that won’t disturb others) can be a powerful mechanism for reducing anxiety. If I’m wearing my favorite cologne, a discreet sniff of my inner wrist brings on the delightfully peaceful feelings associated with the scent (the human sense of smell is powerfully evocative of certain emotions). Lavender and ylang ylang are particularly calming for most people.
- Still a tad nervous? Think this: “Ok, in 10 minutes [30 minutes, 1 hour], I am done, for better or worse, and I won’t have to worry about it any more!”
- Finally, if you are still nervous to give your speech, think of it as a performance, as if you are acting. Put on the persona of someone who is supremely confident, and then perform. Many actors are actually very shy, introverted people who feel more comfortable pretending to be someone else. You can do the same in a presentation. “Fake it ‘til you make it” has a big core of truth in it when it comes to boosting confidence. Adopt the persona of a confident speaker, and you will be the real thing before you know it.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
After you have worked on your mindset and more or less completed your planning, it’s time to rehearse (the third key to better presentations). Rehearsal and practice are critical for being comfortable when giving a presentation of any kind. If you are well versed in your material, you’ll be much more confident and less likely to get flustered. Practice as much as you feel you need to. Here are some tips:
- Practice your presentation by speaking at full volume (not whispering to yourself or “thinking” through it). I used to rehearse by whispering because I felt foolish talking to an empty room, but I found I was almost afraid to speak up as loudly as was necessary during the actual event!
- Practice while standing up and moving around, as you would be during the actual presentation.
- Practice the speech in sections (just the intro, just the conclusion) if you have limited time. Try to get at least two or three run-throughs of the entire thing.
- Practice with a test audience, if possible. Anyone listening in can tell you if you are speaking too fast or too slowly or if your material is confusing.
- Practice with visual aids until you can use them easily and appropriately.
- Watch your pacing and time limits. Use a timer! This is very important--if you find your prepared material is running far too long, you have some cuts to make. On the flip side, if it’s running way too short, you have more work to do.
- If you have scripted your speech, commit it to memory or reduce reliance on notes. Practice only glancing at your notes from time to time; you don’t want to just read from them when you give your presentation.
- If at all possible, practice in the actual space you will give the presentation (or at least get a look at it, if it’s not familiar to you). Moving to use all the space available to you is a good way to engage your audience.
- Practice your body language--you probably need to exaggerate your gestures to get your point across, especially if the audience is large. Many people only make gestures from the elbows down, which makes it look as if your arms are pinned to your side. Use your whole arm!
- If you feel comfortable doing so, videotape yourself so you can clearly observe your pacing, volume, gestures, enthusiasm, and use of space.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Once you have done your research, you may choose to start scripting your speech. Not everyone scripts their speeches word for word (I tend to work from an outline of bullets). You should do whatever feels most comfortable for you and makes you the most confident. If you do script out your speech word for word, make sure you don’t then read it straight from your notes at the actual presentation. An advantage to scripting: You can very easily turn your presentation into a podcast or article later! As you work on your material, keep any time limits firmly in mind. Have you been asked to speak for 10 minutes only? Then five pages of material is far too much. Speaking for an hour? You’ll need more than one page. You don’t want to be rushed, nor do you want to draw out too little material to fit a longer time frame.
As you work on your material, keep any time limits firmly in mind. Have you been asked to speak for 10 minutes only? Then five pages of material is far too much. Speaking for an hour? You’ll need more than one page. You don’t want to be rushed, nor do you want to draw out too little material to fit a longer time frame.
As you create your script or speaking structure, you may be deciding if you want to use visual aids. (Using visual aids appropriately is a completely different set of topics not discussed in this entry.) Like with data and research, make sure the visual aid is truly useful and enlightening for the presentation, and not just filler. Also, do not put your script onto a slide; it’s not much of a presentation if you just read your slides to your audience.
Two important parts to script carefully: Your introductory statement, and your closing call to action. Work on your first few sentences until you have them right, because these are crucial to grabbing the attention of your audience and getting them intrigued in your topic. A tip: Begin with a question for which people can respond by raising their hands (and raise your hand as you ask it to show them what you mean). Asking a question like this makes your talk more interactive, so that you audience is a participant, not just a passive listener. Examples of the structure of questions include: “How many of you own more than one car?” or “Who wants to take a Hawaii vacation?” (note that these are open questions, not yes/no questions).
Your closing statement should reiterate your main point, briefly cite what you covered in support of that point, and then include a call to action. Your call to action is something to leave your audience with, and it varies depending on what your point and take-home message were. If you were suggesting a new method of sales, for instance, you might end with a challenge to your audience to put your new methods into action. If you were informing your audience about the state of the environment, you might challenge them to do more research on their own or make some changes toward a greener lifestyle. A call to action can keep a speech or presentation from being an isolated, one-time event—you can inspire and challenge your audience to take what you have shared and bring it into action in their own lives!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Part 4 of "Professionally Speaking: Six Keys to Better Presentations," is the continuation of the second key: Planning. In this entry: Research.
When you have clarified your point, your audience, and your take-home message, and you have come up with a rough outline to structure your material, you are ready to develop the content. A great way to start is by researching.
Will you need data, quotes, anecdotes, news stories to get your point across? If you conduct your research before scripting your presentation (if scripting is required), you will be able to have a wide variety of material available. Research is useful to help you drive your point home. When you can cite facts, studies, or current events to make your position obvious, your audience has more trust in you. Pithy quotes and relevant anecdotes help your audience connect with you personally. Don’t forget to include personal stories and even jokes, where appropriate. Keep the following in mind: anything you add through research should highlight and add to your speech, not detract, distract, or take away from it.
It’s easy to dig up a lot of information about your topic, and you may be tempted to put it all in your presentation because it all seems relevant. Resist this urge! You can bombard your audience with far too much information. Return to the “so what?” question you originally asked yourself so that you can make sure you are sticking to the heart of the matter. Make sure your support material is clear, helpful, and illuminates what you are saying.
Next up: Scripting
Monday, September 28, 2009
Part 3 of "Professionally Speaking: Six Keys to Better Presentations," is the continuation of the second key: Planning.
Many people don’t think to outline or plan their speeches beyond the main points they want to make. You should know that a very clear, simple outline can help you craft an effective speech and get your message across very clearly. I frequently call on the five-paragraph essay form I learned in high school:
- Introduction (no more than 10% of your speech, and be sure to clearly outline what you will cover)
- Point one (with a clear pause before beginning)
- Point two (another clear pause)
- Point three (a final pause)
- Conclusion (no more than 10% of your speech, be sure to tell them what you just covered).
This simple structure will help you get to the point quickly and help your listeners keep with you. You will state your thesis very clearly in the intro. It helps to follow that with a statement covering what your main three points will be. After a pause, begin with the first point. Pause, then the second point; pause again, then the third point. A final pause comes before the conclusion, where you reiterate the points you covered, restate your thesis, and end with a call to action (covered in a future post).
A Toastmasters colleague of mine, Brian Castelli, uses the following system to structure his speeches:
- Position (your approach, your opinion)
- Action (action you recommend)
- Benefit (results from the action)
You can easily work this PAB structure as the three main points of your speech. This structure is particularly useful when you are trying to persuade your audience to your point of view.
Next: Research and Scripting
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Part 2 of "Professionally Speaking: Six Keys to Better Presentations."
You’ve been assigned to give (or chosen to do) a presentation of some sort. You’ve been working on your mindset to channel your nervous energy, and you’re ready to begin planning and scripting your speech. A lot of people get stuck at this point. What do I say? How do I say it? Panicking at this stage can steer you wrong in two possible ways: not enough planning (thinking you can just wing it, or not providing enough content) or overplanning (and then sharing too much information for your audience to process). Proper attention to the planning stage (the second key) can provide a lot of confidence in your speech, which will make you much more comfortable when it is time to present it.
To begin the planning stages of your speech, I recommend asking yourself the following three questions, as they will guide you through the rest of your content:
- Who cares? The answer to this question will reveal your audience. It is key to speak to your audience. For instance, if you are a software engineer speaking to a conference session of other software engineers, then you will be fine to assume a certain level of knowledge of the audience, as well as familiarity with lingo and abbreviations used commonly in that job. If you are speaking to a group of schoolchildren, however, you will need to explain things in much more basic terms and not use a lot of lingo. Also, knowing your audience helps you plan how to make your point, because you can figure out why they might care about your topic.
- So what? Asking this question will help you absolutely crystallize your main point (or thesis) so that it is very clear and obvious. It will also help you get to the point in your speech. If a speaker is rambling with a long introduction, many details, and lots of stories, it can be very difficult to pick out their point. Your main point is the reason for the speech, and thus it should be apparent, clear, and stated several times in the presentation. For instance, if your presentation is about quarterly income reports and planning, your point might be that steps need to be taken to boost revenue (or cut expenses).
- What now? The answer to this question will reveal the takeaway message that you want your audience to have. Again, it should be clear and obvious, perhaps stated as a call to action at the end of the speech (a call to action will be discussed in a later entry). Many times, the purpose of a speech is to persuade someone to your point of view, so you will want the take-home message to be a challenge to adopt your opinion, use a product, or try your method of doing something. In the example of the quarterly income reports, you might inspire your co-workers to turn in more billable hours for increased revenue. You can have more than one takeaway message, but keep them simple.
I find that asking myself these three questions helps me focus my speech plan and adapt it to my audience quite easily. Try it, and see how it works for you.
Next up: Outlining and filling in the content of your speech.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
- First, relax. Your audience, whoever they are, wants to hear what you have to say. They are rooting for your success!
- Instead of thinking, "I am nervous, I am scared!", shift your energy to think, "I am keyed up!" Being keyed up is about having a higher energy to put into your presentation, not necessarily being frightened of fearful. Channel that nervous energy into something positive instead of dwelling on your fear! This is a subtle, but powerful shift.
- Imagine your success ahead of time. Visualize the room, the audience, and yourself giving the presentation as if you are also in the audience, watching. Notice how well you communicate!
- Take ownership of your success! A presentation is a chance to shine. You get to share something meaningful with your audience or listeners and show them what you can do! This is especially true of job interviews. Remember, you speech or presentation is not a torture device simply to drive you nuts: It is a means to an end of some sort. Think about the payoff to keep your motivation up.
- If your mind continually goes to the worst-case scenario, then counter it by imagining the best-case scenario: Suppose that you do everything perfectly, and people are so impressed they whip out their wallets and give you all their money, plus you get a promotion, and you meet the love of your life, and they throw you a parade and give you a key to the city, all as a result of that one speaking opportunity. Obviously, that's not terribly realistic, but neither is the worst-case scenario. Realistically, your presentation will fall somewhere between these opposites.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I was recently asked to come up with a blog entry for an alliance I'm part of (Surve), and I thought I'd cross-post it here. This is a bit about my path to becoming a coach.
My path to coaching was rather roundabout. I have an established career as a professional book copyeditor, and for a while I had my own direct sales business as well. After a particularly grueling quarter, I was exhausted and extremely frustrated. I felt like I was doing the same old thing over and over! I started thinking about what I really wanted, and I began to realize that I wanted my work to make a difference in the world, to really have an impact in people’s lives. I was getting tempting little tastes of it, and I decided to ramp that up! The only problem was, I wasn’t sure what path would allow me to do that. Should I find a job somewhere? Go back to school? Try something different? At that point “keep doing what I’m doing” was not an attractive option!
Luckily, I attended the national conference for my sales company and met a wonderful trainer. I was so struck by her enthusiasm and creative ideas that I made a point of going up to her and asking point-blank if there was any way I could work for her! She said, “I need coaches with your experience.” Ding ding ding! The more I thought over this option, the more appealing it was. I could use my strong communication skills (written and oral), combine them with my desire to work with people, and really help clients transform their lives for the better!
I’m very glad that my new mentor insisted that I (along with three other women who wanted to work for her) take an ICF-accredited coach training course through Erickson College. Through this course, I learned the foundation of what true coaching is: supporting the client to unlock his or her own genius! The class gave me powerful tools to help my clients tap their inner strengths and resourcefulness, plus exercises for helping people get unstuck. I learned coaching as based on the core principles of the International Core Federation; I am a member of the ICF and abide by their Code of Ethics. I’ve continued my training as well and am now certified in team coaching. I’ve been able to work as a coach for just over two years, and I’m incredibly honored to support my clients. I take joy in watching them make changes, leading to an even greater transformation.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Small things can make a big difference, because even the small things define the direction of your momentum. When you're thankful and joyous about the modest successes, they begin
to build into bigger successes.
Because negative momentum can be just as strong, it often takes a lot of effort to make even the smallest move in a positive direction. Yet it is worth all the effort, because even with
that small move you have effectively turned the power of momentum in your favor.
Once momentum is moving in your direction, you begin to get more and more positive results from each effort. Start small, get momentum working for you, and there's no limit to how
far you can go.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
- Let's make a video game where you roll around a sticky ball and pick stuff up (Katamari Damacy)
- Let's make [insert any popular reality TV show here]
- Let's scream at people who have different opinions than we do (any political talking head show)
- Let's bottle water and sell it.