Get your calendars out, it’s a busy couple of months ahead. I have a speaking gig and a book signing in San Francisco, and several workshops and a talk coming up for Phoenix area residents.
As part of my corporate communication consulting business, I will co-present a talk on intranet best practices at the Advanced Learning Institute’s Digital Workplace and Intranet Summit in San Francisco on June 22. I’ll also sign copies of my book Maximizing Internal Communication at the summit. I’m pleased to say that my book is the No. 1 book on Amazon that details how large companies can communicate more effectively with their employees. It’s even being used by Jame Madison University in an advanced level communication course.
Back in Phoenix, I’ll present a workshop on crisis communication best practices on June 28. This session is geared to public information officers and others who serve as spokespeople for organizations, but it is open to anyone with an interest in this unique form of public speaking. It’s free but seating is limited to 20, so you must RSVP.
And if that weren’t enough, I’ll be teaching two public speaking classes and a non-fiction writing course at The Art Institute of Phoenix this summer. Yep, it keeps me busy and it keeps me young. I love the creative students and I think I learn as much from them as they do from me.
You can find all of our events listed on our Events Page. I look forward to meeting you at one.
As busy as it is, I still have plenty of room for you! Please remember that I’m available for personal coaching sessions or to do a speech or a workshop that is customized for your organization. Referrals are my lifeblood and I appreciate all your support. Here’s wishing you a fantastic summer!
When does a speech or business presentation begin? Answer: As soon as it is assigned. That’s when preparation for the presentation begins and that preparation will be the single biggest factor in determining how well your presentation goes. Part of that preparation must include audience research. You must know your audience to be a successful speaker.
Here are some questions to consider:
What does the audience know about me? Am I credible with them?
What does the audience know about my topic?
What are the audience’s views on my topic and purpose?
How do audience members define themselves?
How do the setting and occasion influence my audience?
How will the audience be dressed?
Are there cultural considerations?
What matters to audience members? What do they value? What are they skeptical about?
What are audience members interested in? What motivates them?
The answers to these questions can affect everything from the clothes you choose to wear to the words you choose to use. The more you understand your audience, the more effective you’ll be in connecting with them. And audience connection is really what it’s all about.
The sign in the Starbucks window reads: “We welcome Service Animals.” And, in much smaller letters, it states: “No pets, please. Thanks.” Being warm and welcoming is on brand for Starbucks so it’s no surprise that their customer signage follows suit. The message easily could have been reversed with the “No pets, please!” in large letters (and an exclamation mark added for good measure) and a smaller “we welcome service animals.” But Starbucks wisely prefers their coffee cup half full, not half empty.
When it comes to persuasive public speaking and business presentations, you should choose to use positive words. It will make you a more effective communicator.
The Starbucks sign is a great example of the power a positive tone. A positive tone enhances your ability to connect with your audiences, whoever they may be. Human brains are wired to understand and remember positive expressions better than negative expressions. Telling someone to “be still” is more effective than “don’t run.” Business directives get through better if we explain the action we want our audience to take rather than what not to do. When giving instructions for tasks, or stating policies, detailing procedures, or in countless other directives, it’s easy to slip into needless negative tones. Sometimes we do it simply because we are trying to be more serious. But compare: “You cannot sign up until Jan. 1” to “You can begin signing up Jan. 1.”
It’s simply more effective to be positive. Talking to your customers and employees in a positive tone is a simple change that over time can have a big impact. Try to catch yourself when you are using negative word choices. With practice, and over time, you will learn to speak more positively.
So don’t forget, err…I mean, please remember: Be positive. It works.
You’re about to make a persuasive presentation to a cross-functional task team of your peers in a conference room with a long rectangular table. Quick – where’s the best place to sit?
The head of the table you say?
The head of the table is great for a “command-and-control” style directive, but your persuasive speech to your peers will be more effective if it is delivered as an “influence-and-include” presentation.
That means a seat in the middle of the table is your best position. The head of the table can only directly influence the people in the two seats closest to them. But the middle position can directly influence those seated on either side plus two to four people seated across from them.
From the middle position, you can more effectively use your tone subtleties, body language, eye contact and charisma to make connections and draw more people over to your point of view.
Your middle seat position also supports powerful non-verbal messages that you want to send to other meeting participants. It says that you are part of the team, you are approachable, you are open to other points of view, and that you are a collaborator. And when trying to win over your colleagues, those are pretty good messages to send.
Body language is crucial to effective public speaking. It communicates more than our words. Some experts say as much as 80% of what we communicate is done through our body language. So, it’s important that we are using our body language to communicate what we are intending to say.
When you are making a business presentation, is your body language sending signals of “command and control” or are you trying to “influence and include?” You will have more success at persuading audiences to your way of thinking if you adopt a strategy of influence and include.
In this video clip from our “Speak Up and Stand Out” workshop, Paul Barton presents some tips on using body language to help you be more a more inclusive public speaker and presenter.
By using your body language to say what we are intending to say, you can become a more powerful communicator.
What happens if you get nervous or slip up in the middle of your speech? In previous posts, we’ve presented tips to help calm nerves before you begin speaking, but what about while you are speaking.
Here are some tips to help deal with public speaking fear while speaking:
As you begin to speak, look for friendly faces in the audience first. Feed off their positive energy.
Remember: You mind affects your body language, but the opposite is true as well — your body language affects how you feel. Plant your feet and stand confidently. Hold your head up. You will begin to act more confidently.
Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, and don’t say you’re nervous.
Be authentic; not perfect. Audiences are very forgiving of sincere speakers.
Laugh off mistakes, regain your footing and continue.
If you forget something, just move on. You’re probably the only one who knows you forgot.
Don’t forget to breathe, and do so from the diaphragm.
Be yourself and have fun!
By being your authentic self, your presentation will gain the most important element of a speech — credibility.
It’s natural to be a little nervous just before you begin to perform any sort of public speaking. Even if you’re not particularly scared to speak, adrenaline may increase in the excitement of the moment. We often times can control our upper bodies by focusing but the nervous energy then goes to our feet and causes us to sway, pace or move our feet around a lot.
Here are two techniques to use to deal with nervous energy:
Burn off nervous energy. Nervous energy is natural. Some speakers are able to convert this nervous energy into presentation energy. Another strategy is to burn off some of that energy. You could d0 jumping jacks but that might look a little weird. Instead, try this “stealth” method to burn off energy that I learned from my mentor, Pam Chambers: Grip the side on your chair with your dominant hand and pull as hard as you can from the elbow up for 30 seconds. If you pull from the elbow, and not the shoulder, no one can tell you’re doing it!
Breathe Deeply. Your body needs oxygen but often your body goes into shallow breathing when you are nervous. Breathe from your diaphragm. There’s science behind how this helps. But now, let’s take a psychological approach. Moments before you go up to speak, draw a deep breath. As you do so, imagine you are sucking up all the negative energy inside your body — all the self-doubts, the fears, the nervousness. Now, blow out your breath and imagine all the negative energy is leaving your body in the form of bubbles. Imagine those bubbles are popping as they come out and y0ur fears are disappearing into thin air. This exercise is only as good as you make it.
I have clients and former students who swear the chair grip is the greatest thing ever and they thank me months after learning it. Others love the imaginary bubbles. Some love both and others find no value in either one. The trick is to find what works for you. When you do, you will deliver a more relaxed and more confident speech or business presentation.
In my 20-year career working at six major corporations, I witnessed many people who were passed over for promotions. Many found their ideas were not taken seriously. They just didn’t seem like “management material.” Most of them had the knowledge they needed to do the job. So why didn’t they advance in their careers? Answer: the fear of public speaking. They lacked the confidence to speak up and the communication skills to stand out, and it cost them.
Conversely, I’ve seen people who were very good talkers but didn’t necessarily have as much knowledge as others on their work teams. They often times were taken more seriously and got promotions they perhaps didn’t deserve. Ideally, those who advance in life should be good communicators and know what the heck they are talking about.
Don’t let fear paralyze your career. Before you can gain the confidence to speak and learn the skills to stand out in this highly competitive world, you have to first put fear in your rear view mirror.
You can begin to eliminate your fears of public speaking long before you step to the front of the room to deliver your business presentation or speech. You can take steps in the preparation phase that will reduce stress, anxiety and your fears of failure.
Preparing for Your Presentation
A speech or presentation begins as soon as you accept the assignment. That’s when you begin to do your audience analysis, content development and rehearsals.
Practice, practice, practice! There is no substitute. Practice aloud. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of your friends or family. Record yourself. Have someone else read your speech to you.
Memorize your outline, not your speech. This will allow you to speak more authentically and appear to be more credible.
Believe at least one thing in your speech will be meaningful to at least one person in the audience. That’s not a high hurdle. But if you do not believe that with all your heart then you have two choices: rewrite your speech until you do believe it or stay home.
Make a packing list so you don’t forget handouts, visual aids, etc.
If you have presentation materials, scripts, or any technology, have a backup plan. Technology can and will fail.
Come prepared with a small bottle of room temperature water and throat drops. Keep them handy while you’re speaking. A coughing fit can ruin a presentation.
Remove coins, keys, etc. from your pockets. If you fidget with a ring or watch when you’re nervous, remove the distraction.
The more prepared you are, the less fearful you will be. We will look at additional steps to overcome public speaking fears future posts. So, don’t be afraid to check back frequently!
Are you afraid of public speaking? Well, you’re not alone, as illustrated in the humorous clip above from Jerry Seinfeld. Year after year, the fear of public speaking ranks No. 1 in study after study.
There’s even a fancy word to describe the fear of public speaking – glossophobia. Gloss comes from the Greek word for tongue and phobia, of course, is Greek for fear.
In our next post, we’ll present some tips to deal with anxiety and the fears you face when doing public speaking or making business presentations. But for now, know that you are not alone and help is on the way!