Your Guide to Successful Writing and Speaking
Public speaking ranks right up there in terms of the things we are afraid to do. Whether its the fear of being watched closely by others, or the insecurity and self-conscious feeling of slipping up during the presentation, these six tips will help you give a polished, professional speech that you (and your audience) can be proud of!
1. Know your audience. This is the single best piece of advice for delivering a presentation. What are there interests? Their backgrounds? Why are they coming to hear you speak? What ideas do you have to share with them? Approaching your speech as more of a me-to-you discussion rather than a full-blown broadcast makes it less stressful.
2. What do you want your audience to do as a result of your speech? Whats really at the heart of your presentation? By concentrating on the end result rather than slogging through the beginning, you create a powerful punch that drives home your message instead of rambling on.
3. Share a story. In public speaking circles, this is called a hook something that gets your audiences attention and makes them sit up and listen. Start off by asking questions or sharing an experience you had. People like to be active, rather than passive listeners. By giving them something that they can identify with, youll find that these people are just like you; that makes giving a presentation a whole lot easier. Be sure your story has a beginning, a point, and an ending. Theres nothing quite as bad as telling a story to an engaged audience and then forgetting why you told it!
4. If youre selling a product, focus on the benefits instead of the features. People would much rather hear WHAT a product can do for them than HOW it does it. Narrow down your products features until you get to the core of how it solves a problem. If you need help with figuring out the difference between a feature and a benefit, ask yourself So What? For example, if youre selling a vacuum cleaner that has a hypoallergenic filter, put yourself in the customers shoes and ask yourself so what? The answer would be something like, It picks up dust, mold and pet dander. Again, so what? Answer, Youll feel relief from runny nose and sneezing plus itchy, water eyes. Now THATs a benefit!
5 Powerpoint presentations are great but they can be overwhelming or downright boring. Instead, give your audience something to DO by providing them with fill-in-the-blank flip charts or team activities. These help reinforce and emphasize your message in ways that a computer presentation simply cannot.
6. Make sure your speech ends in a way that reiterates the beginning. Speakers can get carried away with the details and leave their audiences asking, What was the point of all that? People naturally digest information in chunks, so focus on the big picture rather than all the pieces. If the details are just as important, save it for an after-speech handout that the audience can take with them and read over at their leisure.
If you keep these six tips in mind, youll not only have an easier time overcoming your fear of public speaking, but youll have a very appreciative audience who will in turn be more receptive and eager to try your product or service. Go get em!
When arranging flowers, balloon bouquets, or business presentations, do you use the rule of three? With flowers and balloons, optically we prefer odd numbered or non-symmetric arrangements. Impress your friends with this tip, don’t make a balloon bouquet of two or four balloons, stick with three!
Before I get to business presentations, I want to relate a cute baseball story to provide greater context for the rule of three.
Many years ago I coached T-ball with a fellow who was 6’10″. At 5’7″ it is safe to say I really looked up to this person. We were coaching five year old kids and this was their foray into baseball.
At one of our early practices, Bill saw me providing instruction on how to hit the ball off the “tee”. He asked me what I was doing. My many years of baseball behind me, I guess I looked at him a bit dumbfounded. I explained I was providing direction on hitting the ball. One of my life lessons was about to begin.
Bill said, “Clayton, you can only tell the kids three things. It is all they will remember – if you are lucky!” Bill also suggested I’d be more successful if I related each point to something the kids could visualize or were clues to help them. Lastly he told me consistency and repetition is good.
So step one became how to set up in the batter’s box. I suggested their feet became tree trunks with roots going into the ground so they didnt move. Our “code” when they approached the batters box became ROOTS! Second was to watch the bat hit the ball. Our code was to take our first two fingers and point to our eyes, as a reminder to WATCH the bat hit the ball. Sounded simple enough, and with practice most did. Lastly they had to remember to run. That is where the parents were quick to help coach by yelling from the stands RUN RUN when the hit was made. Our first batter in our first game hit the ball and ran … you guessed it, straight out to second base and kept going! We learned a lot that year!
Bill later explained to me, not only kids, but adults have short memories. Tell them one thing they’ll remember it, tell them two and you are still safe, tell them three and they may remember it but dont go past three. He called this the rule of three.
How do you leverage the rule of three in business?
- First, prioritize the three most important points you want to communicate.
- Second, relate each point to something familiar to your audience, capture their interest and attention.
- Third, be consistent and repeat the three points to reinforce your message.
Think about your next presentation. What are the three most critical points you want to message? Do you begin and end by reinforcing them? If you are using PowerPoint, limit your bullets to three per slide. This forces you to think in threes and prioritize your communication. Lastly, how do your points relate to your audience? Are they a call to action? Why are they important? How will they benefit your audience? A wise person once recommended, “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then finish by reminding them what you told them!”
Start practising the rule of three. You will be surprised how well it will work for you!
Any public speaking involves delivering information to people who are, in one way or another, waiting to get some information. This is a key reason why you should pay careful attention as you prepare to make you speech and as you plan to meet your audience.
Some people are naturals at public speaking and getting to audiences, you may think of politicians or a good college professor you took some classes with, the fact of the matter is most people are not good at making speeches and the vast majority of people are terrified of delivering a speech. This should not discourage you in any way, since many experts have studied this and worked hard for you to deal with these problems in speech making.
If you are at a point that you are going to deliver a speech, you probably got to a stage in your life your thoughts are worth something to other people, this means that in principle, people want to get into your head and they appreciate your talent or skill in some particular field, the people that will listen to you have something to learn from you. But you are not thinking of these people, are you? You are thinking of the few people that probably know more than you and will be in the crowd. This is a big mistake, first because you should think of the person that will profit from your knowledge and get to him, and secondly because you have something in you that will benefit even the ones that you fear.
The key to all this is simple, its preparation, its the most basic, banal and trivial thing, but it is the base of any success in any field. Lets think about speech making preparation.
First think about your audience, who is the average person coming to your speech, what does he know, what does he need to know, what will inspire him and make him listen carefully to what you have to say, and how will you get him to appreciate your speech. It is not that difficult, its actually good to start at this point, remember people want to know what you are thinking, you just need to keep them interested, and I am sure you got interesting thoughts.
Rehearse, this seems clear to me, practice the speech again, and again, and again. Obviously I know that you dont have all the time in the world to perfect it, but, there is a value to this, timing your speech, and pre setting spots in which you know you need to change your tone, your speed and rhythm, will make you a better speaker and a better speech planner. So rehearse your speech and listen to yourself while doing it. Start strong, confident, talk about things you know no one can beat you or undermine you, let the confidence and the experience shine through, people feel that, and if you do this right, you will own your audience.
Think about your entrance and the first 3 minutes of the speech, pay attention to the way you walk in, project confidence and calm, do not rush into anything, even if you are late or under a tight schedule do everything slowly and thoughtfully, show the room that you are entering your speech zone and that no one is allowed in, they can sit and wait for a few seconds (which seem like hours) its only a few seconds. Make sure you got the attention of the crowd, and start strong. Pick the words of your opening carefully, and trust yourself.
In the next article I will review more of the speech making basics. Good luck.
Public Speaking or Gargle with Drano? 4 Ways To Prepare…
Which sounds more appealing, getting up in front of a group of strangers and talking, while they all sit there looking at you like a dog watching a ceiling fan…or gargling with Drano? It’s no surprise how many would choose the Drano.
Public Speaking has been ranked as the “number one fear” among thousands of us. The anxiety is overwhelming, you start to sweat profusely, your knees are knocking so hard you might break a kneecap, hands tremble like you dipped them in a fryer full of hot oil, voice starts quivering like someone dumped a bucket of ice water on your head and you can’t remember what it is you are supposed to be talking about. Why? Because you are scared to death.
I want to share with you some tips on overcoming this fear of Public Speaking.
1. Picture yourself doing it, go ahead picture yourself standing in front of all these people saying what it is you are going to be talking about. Picture yourself from start to finish. Begin with walking up to the microphone or podium, all the way thru your speech, and then finally wrapping it up to a successful outcome.
2. Practice, practice, practice…do your speech ‘out loud’ over and over again. Now, do the same thing to a real live person..(just make sure they will be honest with you about your presentation). It’s been said: “Repetition is the mother of all skill”…it really is and you do it everyday in your real life, because you have done the same thing over and over again. You can just about overcome any fear you have by doing it over and over again. Sports are a good example…you see NBA players almost never miss a free throw, PGA players make 20 foot putts, NFL kickers put it thru the uprights. It’s not because they were born with some special skill…it’s because they practiced and practiced and practiced some more. The same holds true for Public Speaking.
3. Whip out the camcorder and tape yourself giving your speech. That way you will be able to see what the audience will be watching and listening to.
4. Get a grip…just before you give your speech, RELAX. Take some slow deep breaths and remind yourself that all these people are here to listen to what you have to say. They don’t know (or really care) what your personal life is like. Honestly, they could care less about anything going on in your personal life that YOU feel is adding to this anxiety.
The more prepared you are, the less anxiety you’ll experience, which in turn, will boost your confidence sky high. Then after you are all “said and done”…you will never look at a can of drano the same way again.
Like most pubic speaking consultants, I usually hammer all the reasons a person should not be afraid of presenting. However, the more coaching I do, the more I realize the fear is legit. People should be afraid of getting in front of a group.
While there is a lot to gain from speaking publicly, there is also a lot to lose. Here are seven reasons to be scared
Number One: No skill.
Would you want someone repairing your car that knows nothing about mechanics? The average speaker receives no training, takes no classes, and doesnt read one book on presenting. He or she expects to do an adequate job with no experience.
Number Two: Not Fearing Death
The OLD adage is that public speaking is the #1 fear. If you would RATHER die than speak, then you dont need to be speaking. Period.
If you spillover Niagara Falls walking a tightrope, youre going to die and it will all be over. When speaking you wont die. Youll live to face the embarrassment, the whispers, and the snickers. But youll still be alive. If you look forward to a Niagara, yet look away from speaking then put on your swim trunks and stay away from the podium.
Number Three: Failing to Organize.
One of my services is critiquing the outlines of speakers. On average the format and structure is elementary at best and confusing at worse. Its as if the speakers brain spewed out on a sheet of paper and left it at that. Organizing does not take long, nor is it difficult, but only a handful do it successfully. Without a proper outline the fear is understandable.
Number Four: Confusing Writing and Speaking
Writing is formal. People rarely forgive errors in spelling and grammar. From this article Ill get several people attempting to correct me. However, there is room for error when speaking. The ears are very forgiving and the brain is sharp enough to fill in the blanks.
Speakers get tripped up when they try to talk like they write. They become more academic and antiseptic and who wants to listen to someone like that. How many college professors did you find hypnotizing? Do you remind yourself of a monotone bore? Frightening, yes?
Number Five: Trying to Survive.
I just want to get through the speech and get it over with. If that is your attitude then be afraid. Chances are extremely high that you will not do well. Survival causes you to do and say things you wouldnt without the duress.
Number Six: Lack of Commitment
This ties into the first point. The majority of speakers do a single presentation and thats it. No problem. A book can help them. On the other hand, there are thousands of monthly, or even daily presenters who fail to make marked improvement. Why? No commitment.
You cant take one class and do brain surgery. You cant attend one seminar and suddenly become a tax expert. The same with speaking. One book, class, or course will not create excellence. To become the best you have to commit yourself to long term achievement.
Number Seven: The Freeze Factor
Chances are high that you will forget something and freeze during your speech. Unless you know how to play it off, or use the moment, you will look uncomfortable, or even stupid. People will talk about it afterwards. They will mention how they felt sorry for you.
It seems that folks are always looking for ways to be afraid. Well, you just got seven reasons. The question is: What are you going to do about it?