Sunday, October 25, 2009

Speaking Skills: Performance

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!

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