I know it is scary and I know you would rather jump off a tall building without a parachute than stand up and speak in front of a group of people.
Throughout the history of human civilization, people have been expressing their confidence and strength, not only by force but also by the noble art of public speaking.
I was never a huge fan of public speaking. I was always very nervous and had this overwhelming feeling the audience was judging my every word. I now know how to overcome my fears and deliver a memorable presentation.
I have summarized for you the top 5 strategies I use to make sure every presentation is a showstopper.
Realize 90% of Nervousness Doesn’t Even Show.
The audience usually can’t see the telltale symptoms of nervousness. The butterflies, the shaky hands or the sweaty palms. The key is for you to not focus on them either. You need to focus on the audience. When you do this two things will happen: 1) they will like you more, and 2) much of the nervousness that you feel will go away.
Don’t Avoid Eye-Contact.
When we are nervous, it is a natural reaction to want to hide. When you are standing in front of a group of people where do you hide? You can’t. So you will tend to look down or look away from your audience. If we can’t see them they can’t see us, right? Wrong.
The other trick people try is to look over the tops of their heads. The idea here is that by looking a people’s foreheads, they will think you are looking at them. Wrong again.
You need to look directly into people’s eyes with kindness. Create a rapport with the audience through your visual contact. If anyone smiles when you look at him or her, smile back. This will make you, and the audience, feel more at ease and will make your presentation more genuine.
Identify three people in the audience whom you want to speak to, One on your left, one in front of you and one on your right. Deliver your speech to these three people. Look at each one for about 4-5 seconds and ‘switch target’ to the next person. Don’t maintain eye contact for too long. This will create an uncomfortable situation. You don’t want to creep people out.
By using this technique, it will give the impression to the entire audience that you are making eye contact because you are sweeping the room with your glances.
Never start a presentation with an apology. By starting a presentation with an apology for your nervousness or for having a cold, you are drawing attention to something the audience may not have noticed. You are also announcing to the audience, ‘the presentation you are about to receive is less than you deserve, but please don’t blame me.’
Avoid Rushing Monotone Voice.
A fast-paced monotone speech is a sure-fire way to make your audience feel unimportant. It will also cause them to lose focus and become bored. How many lectures did you sit through in school listening to a monotone professor drone on about whatever subject he was teaching? How much of those lectures did you actually remember?
You don’t want to subject your audience to this same torture and you want them to remember what you talked about.
You can easily avoid monotone messages. Before saying a word think about the value of your message. Think about the aspects that create passionate feelings. Think about speaking clearly with compassion. Smile. Tell yourself a joke. Take a huge confidence breath.
Use eye-contact, positively say ‘you,’ and flow with the message. If you do, you’ll hear, ‘I felt like you were speaking specifically to me.’ That’s one of the best compliments you can get. And it proves that you’re speaking TO not AT the audience.
Limit your talk to a few key points.
Narrow down your topic to either one key point for a short talk, or three key points for a longer talk (a talk longer than 30-minutes). Ask yourself, ‘If my audience only remembered one thing from my talk, what would be the most important thing for them to remember? ‘the more points your presentation has, the less focus the audience will have on each individual point. Once you have your key points, then create your PowerPoint slides.
If you remember these five key points, you will be sure to knock-em-dead
If you want to get real action out of your audience during a public speaking engagement, then tugging on their heartstrings can help make it happen. This is where your storytelling ability can really make you shine.
You don’t have to tell stories when speaking to get an emotional response. You can get another two-for-one happy hour special when you ask the right questions. Asking questions not only involves the audience mentally, it can also stimulate many kinds of emotion. Do you remember when you were a child and you could barely get to sleep Christmas Eve because you just knew Santa was going to bring you that special something? This question would stimulate fond feelings in most general public Christian audiences. It would not, however, connect so well with people who do not celebrate Christmas (remember: know your audience).
How about this question, Do you remember doing something really bad as a child? What kind of punishment did your parents give you? These questions would cause the audience to remember bad feelings.
Did you ever have a pet that died, or did you have a friend who had a pet that died? This would undoubtedly elicit sad feelings. If you want the audience to smile, ask them this, Can you remember the most embarrassing moment of your life? Most people will laugh when thinking back to an embarrassment that they felt was a tragedy at the time because one of the definitions of humor is tragedy separated by space and time. So, tell stories while speaking in public and ask the right questions to move the emotional state of your audience.
There are many emotions you can trigger in the audience just by your choice of words. Happiness, anger, sadness, nostalgia are just a few. Knowing your purpose for speaking to a group helps you to pick which emotions you want to tap. When your purpose is known, choosing words to get the desired emotional response is much easier.
Here’s an example of a simple set of facts that a speaker might convey:
“There have been eleven accidents in the past year at the sharp curve which is two miles north of Cherokee Lake on Route 857. Installation of guard rails, warning signs, and a flashing light will cost approximately $34,000. Even though we have not balanced the budget this year, I feel that we should appropriate money for this project. Thank you.”
Here is a little different version that uses emotional appeal to get the message across.
“On July 18th of this year John Cochran was found dead. The radio of his car was still playing when the paramedics got to his overturned vehicle. John’s neck was broken. It was snapped when his car flipped over an embankment. No one here knows John Cochran because he did not live here, but he died in our neighborhood. Most of you do know of the hairpin turn on Route 857 that has been the scene of eleven accidents this year alone and has injured many friends as well as strangers. We need money to put up guardrails, signs, and a flashing light. I know money is tight, but I hope you see fit to find the funds to remedy this situation before the unknown John Cochran becomes one of your loved ones.”
Can you see the difference in these two appeals? The first was simply a set of facts. Facts are important, but they rarely stimulate people to action. The action comes when emotions get attached to believable facts. You can bet the second version of the above story would have the best chance of securing that $34,000.
To create the emotional appeal in the second version of the story, words and phrases were chosen that had emotional power. … John Cochran was found dead. The radio of his car was still playing … John’s neck was broken. It was snapped … His car flipped … hairpin turn … He died in our neighborhood. All these phrases were woven into the original set of facts to create the emotional response of horror about this terribly dangerous turn.
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Flip Chart Color
=> Black, blue and green inks have the greatest visibility.
=> Blue is the most pleasing color to look at with red coming in second (note: pleasing to look at and visibility are not the same)
=> Do not do the whole chart in red ink.
=> Avoid purple, brown, pink and yellow inks.
=> Permanent markers give the most vivid color but dry out faster if you leave the cap off. They also frequently bleed thru to the next page. Forget trying to get the ink out of your clothes.
=> Watercolors are less vivid and squeak when you write. Ink will wash out of clothing.
Use Color Thoughtfully
=> Use bright colors for small graphics to make them stand out.
=> Use subtle colors for large graphics so they don’t overwhelm.
Use Color Psychologically
According to Greg Bandy in Multimedia Presentation Design for the Uninitiated certain colors evoke certain emotions.
=> RED = Brutal, Dangerous, Hot, Stop!
=> DARK BLUE = Stable, Trustworthy, Calm
=> LIGHT BLUE = Cool, Refreshing
=> GRAY = Integrity, Neutral, Mature
=> PURPLE = Regal, Mysterious
=> GREEN = Organic, Healthy, New life, Go Money
=> ORANGE / YELLOW = Sunny, Bright, Warm
=> WHITE (if I make the example white you couldn’t see it) = Pure, Hopeful, Clean
=> BLACK = Serious, Heavy, Profitable, Death Since “death” is a pretty heavy way to end this section, I will give you a reference to find out more about outstanding visual design.
Eventually, we all have to speak in front of others. It can be tough to graduate from school if you never do it. Perhaps it is part of your job. Use the information here to improve your public speaking abilities.
Your audience will not remain attentive unless you work to keep them listening. You have to put in an effort to keep the audience interested in what you’re saying. This is actually a type of performance, and that means that you must work hard to obtain the desired results.
When delivering a speech, always face your audience. This will limit a number of distractions that you have. You are trying to convince your audience of something, which means that it is very important for them to have your full attention.
Practice makes perfect. This will allow you time to tweak the speech if needed. Practice your pace and breathing. Be sure to allow time in your speaking for pauses or interruptions, which you hope to be audience applause. Try to practice using the equipment at the location where you will be delivering your speech.
If you have skipped some of the information in your speech, continue talking rather than getting yourself and the audience confused by an awkward flow of words. If you stop and backtrack and try to correct your error, you will end up with a big mess. If you ignore the mistake, your audience is less likely to notice.
Try some deep breathing exercises to get over nerves when speaking in public. Doing some deep breathing and full exhalation prior to speaking helps calm you down. Breath using four-count nasal inhales and five-count mouth exhales. Repeat this until you feel your breathing and heart rate calm down.
Practice really does make perfect. Try practicing before a mirror or recording your speech to revise and spot areas in need of improvement. However, doing a practice run for family or friends is ideal, as they will be able to critique you well.
Do not drink alcoholic beverages prior to giving a speech. While you might think a drink will calm your nerves, it can cause you to slur words and become forgetful. You’ll regret it when you’re standing there and forget your speech because your brain is too fuzzy.
It is important to know your material if you want to feel confident about speaking in public. Pick a topic that really interests you and that you have a personal connection with. Keep a conversational tone, you are sure to impress the audience with what you know.
Practice making your speech every day. This will help build your confidence when it comes time to deliver your speech. Even if you have committed your speech to memory, always take some notes with you to the lectern. You may draw a blank and the notes can help jog your memory.
Public speaking is hard to avoid for quite a few people. You may need to do it as a final school project, or you might have a job that requires you to do public speaking at some time or another. Some social events may require you speaking in public. Still, public speaking can be simple if you keep the things you read above in mind.
To say that there is no ego in a person who does public speaking regularly or for a living would be clearly a false statement. But for those of us who only speak from time to time, when you see a speaker who can walk out in a room of 30 people or a auditorium of 3000 and literally “own the room”, it really is an amazing transformation. To imagine how you could ever be that much larger than life is mind boggling.
But in a lot of ways, when you step out to talk to a group of people, you do become larger than life. That is because you are doing the impossible. You are having a conversation with dozens of people all at once. Now, whether you feel like you are having that conversation or not isn’t important. If your talk is not interactive, you may not know the dialog is happening. But in the minds of every single individual in that hall, they are interacting with you. What you are saying is getting down inside of them and they are reacting to it. But even more than what you are saying, how you are saying it is having an even bigger impact.
So are there things you can do to “become” larger than life? Well there are some ways of behaving in front of a crowd that differ from daily life. We do have to accept that you will develop a “stage persona” that is different from your daily personality when you speak to a group. Does that make you a phony? No. Both of those personalities are you. It is just a different you when you relate to a group than to people one on one and it seems strange because that form of you only comes out on stage. But it isn’t a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde thing. Just as you speak to a child differently than you speak to an adult, you will develop a way to talking to a group that differs from speaking to an individual.
Part of becoming larger than life is learning to what they call “own the room”. This sound egotistic and strange but it really does work when you are about to speak. Owning the room simply means that when you step out in front of that crowd, they are no longer some random group of people, they are YOUR people. They are there to listen to you and what you say is of value to them. If you had any ego problems before you stepped out in front of that audience, check that ego problem at the door.
You must assume that you are adored when you speak to a group of people. This doesnít mean you strut about like God’s gift to the world. But it does mean that you recognize that your value to this group is as a speaker and that your services are wanted and needed here. In fact, the only way you will be an effective public speaker is if you own the room. Treat that room like it was your home and these people came here just because being with you is just that great. If you step out there with that attitude, the audience will buy into your attitude and they will give you the room and be glad you took it over.
It can be a bit strange if you watch yourself become larger than life. But you can be humble about it and just recognise it is part of the craft of becoming a great public speaker. And if being good at this art you are gifted to give to the world means owning rooms and becoming bigger for an hour or so, well then why deny the world that experience? Enjoy it and let others enjoy it too.
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