Posts Tagged ‘presentation training’
Imagine you’re on a first date.
You ask your date what he or she does for a living, and your date responds by speaking for the next three minutes with a perfect monologue that was clearly rehearsed and memorized.
You’d think that’s a little weird, right?
That leads to a follow-up question: Why is that weird? In part, it’s because the memorization robs any spontaneity from the moment, which creates a feeling that your date is being inauthentic. At the very least, it’s clear that your date isn’t truly experiencing the date in the moment with you.
That leads to a third and final question: When people memorize their presentations word-for-word, is that any less strange?
Before answering that question, let me offer a narrow disclaimer. A small number of people are able to both memorize a presentation and deliver it with an authentic audience connection. But that’s a rare gift that few people can pull off well. (And yes, stage actors memorize their lines, but the exchange between actor and audience is different than the exchange between speaker and audience.)
Why Do People Memorize?
People often memorize their presentations because they think doing so conveys a sense of polish to the audience. In some cases, that’s true. Seasoned speakers who deliver the same presentation day after day can often deliver it without notes. But seasoned speakers know that in most situations, it’s far better to internalize content (allowing the specific words to come to them in the moment, which more closely resembles real-life conversation) than it is to memorize content (which is reminiscent of a stage play, in which the audience has no speaking role).
In other cases, they think it gives them a sense of control. But audiences generally don’t respond well to tightly wound speakers—they prefer speakers who show a piece of themselves, something comic Billy Crystal calls “leaving a tip.”
The Problem With Memorization
I can almost always tell when one of our trainees has memorized their presentation. So can the audience. It’s easy to spot that they’re searching for their next words—and they’re so busy wracking their brains for the next line that they’re no longer present with the people in the room.
Plus, for the vast majority of speakers, the cost-benefit ratio of memorizing their script is all wrong. Whereas the audience won’t deduct points from speakers who occasionally glance at their notes, they will deduct points from speakers who seem overly rehearsed—or who forget their next line and go blank.
There’s nothing wrong with using notes. Ideally, you’ll reduce them to just a few bullets that serve as memory triggers. When you need to look at one, all you need to do is pause, look down, see your next bullet, look back up, and begin speaking again.
Save memorization for Broadway actors and speaking circuit pros. For the vast majority of the presentations you’ll ever deliver, no one will mind if you glance at notes once in a while.
Tags: presentation training, public speaking tips
Posted in Presentation Training | 3 Comments »
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Gary Genard’s new book, “Fearless Speaking: Beat Your Anxiety, Build Your Confidence, Change Your Life,” which I reviewed here.
Please complete the sections below concerning the eight causes of speech anxiety. Answer the questions honestly and candidly. Your answers will help you know whether you have speaking fear, and identify the type of fear response(s) you experience. Knowing this information will help you zero in on the fear reduction technique best suited to your situation.
Feel free to answer, “Yes” to more than one of the eight causes. But once you’ve completed the entire exercise, go back and circle the name of the response that is strongest for you.
1. Learned Response
Are you still influenced by a negative public speaking or performance situation that happened to you in the past? Did something “teach” you that public appearances are unpleasant, risky, or even dangerous? Have you been afraid to get up in front of others since then?
2. Anticipatory Anxiety
Does the thought of giving a speech or presentation cause you excessive anxiety beforehand? Do you worry constantly about the upcoming speaking situation, lose sleep, have no appetite, or fixate on what’s coming?
Do you believe you know what your audience is thinking? Can you “hear” them in your own mind challenging and criticizing you? Are you certain that their facial expressions reveal their true feelings toward you?
4. Fear of Appearing Nervous
Is your greatest fear that everyone will see how nervous you are? In other words, do you think, “If I appear truly nervous, everyone will realize I don’t know what I’m talking about!” Is this your big concern?
5. Fear of Going Blank
Are you afraid that nervousness and anxiety will make you forget everything you’re supposed to say? Do you picture yourself having a brain freeze? Are you convinced you’ll be unable to say anything or that you’ll forget key parts of your message?
6. Lack of Skills
Are you convinced that you simply lack talent as a public speaker and shouldn’t be up there? Are you afraid that you’ll be “found out” and your secret will no longer be safe?
7. Physical Reaction
Is your biggest problem the physical responses you have when you speak in front of others? Is your principal complaint dry mouth, pounding heart, gastrointestinal distress, racing pulse, sweating, shaky voice, gasping for breath, or other symptoms?
8. Performance Orientation
Is your principal concern that you have to be an excellent speaker? Do you compare yourself to other speakers, telling yourself you have to come up to their level? Is your skill in performance your major concern?
Well done! Now that you’ve identified possible anxiety responses, you can focus on the technique best suited to deal with that particular response.
Editor’s note: To learn the specific techniques that will help you address your primary source of public speaking fear, check out Gary’s book, Fearless Speaking: Beat Your Anxiety, Build Your Confidence, Change Your Life.
Tags: fear, Fearless Speaking, Gary Genard, presentation training, public speaking, public speaking fear
Posted in Presentation Training | 1 Comment »
When we conduct our presentation training sessions, almost every speaker begins their presentation with a PowerPoint remote in their hand. By doing so, they send a signal to their audience right from the start: Boring PowerPoint show about to begin!
The vast majority of presentations shouldn’t open with a slide. The opening moments are a critical opportunity to forge a connection with your audience, which is best accomplished by speaking directly to your audience, not by clicking to a boring agenda slide.
That being the case, there’s no need to keep the remote in your hand at the beginning of a presentation. If you’re using PowerPoint, you can pick up the remote when you’re about to click to your first slide, which may not occur until several minutes into your talk. And if there are long gaps between slides, you should put the clicker down during those gaps as well.
This may seem like a small point, but it’s not.
Before our clients deliver their second practice speech, I ask them to put the clicker down. That small act often changes everything about their performance. They often move closer to the audience (they’re not tied to the screen), gesture more (they don’t have an object in their hand), and use the pronoun “you” more (they’re suddenly having a conversation with the audience, not presenting a slide). Simply putting the clicker down is a small move that offers almost magical powers.
My favorite clicker
Please don’t interpret this post as being anti-clicker. Remote controls allow speakers to move away from their computers and advance slides more subtly. I carry one in my backpack every day just so I always have one handy whenever I speak.
My only suggestion is that you don’t begin or end your presentation with one in your hand or hold it in your hand during long gaps without a new slide. Just place the clicker on a table or slide it into your pocket.
If you don’t already use one, I really like the Targus Laser Presentation Remote, pictured above. All you do is plug a small connector into your laptop’s USB port, and the remote instantly works. And since it’s less than $25, you won’t be too upset if you accidentally leave it behind.
Want to learn more about public speaking and PowerPoint? Check out our recommended reading list!
Tags: powerpoint, powerpoint tips, presentation training, public speaking
Posted in PowerPoint | 1 Comment »
I recently attended the bat mitzvah of a good friend’s daughter.
My friend made a few remarks at the reception—and during his comments, he mentioned that he was nervous to speak given that I, a presentation trainer, was in the audience. “I had a nightmare that Brad wrote a story for his blog that had the five biggest mistakes from my speech,” he quipped.
It turns out that he had nothing to worry about. He did a terrific job and infused his speech with good humor (one highlight came when he told the 13-year-old boys interested in courting his beautiful daughter, “Gentlemen, I look forward to getting to know you over the next few years.”).
But he’s right that I’m always watching other speakers—not necessarily to be critical, but to learn from them. And that means that I almost never attend a boring presentation.
Clients leaving our training sessions often remark that they’ll never watch a presentation the same way again. Instead, they’ll pay closer attention to every speaker they watch, noting why the good parts worked and why the bad parts didn’t. They no longer play the role of passive audience member; instead, they remain actively engaged from start to finish.
The next time you attend a “boring” presentation, conduct a mental exercise and ask yourself these types of questions: If I had to present the same information, what would I do differently? Would I have used a more compelling open, a better-designed PowerPoint slide, a group activity, or something else? Would I have abandoned the lectern, conveyed more enthusiasm, or engaged the audience with a topic for discussion?
If you approach attending “boring” presentations in that manner, you’ll never be bored again. But you will learn—and you will improve as a speaker.
Don’t miss a thing! Click here to instantly join our mailing list and receive our latest public speaking posts each week.
Tags: presentation training, public speaking
Posted in Presentation Training | Please Comment »
“Our company was founded in 1922.”
Whenever I hear a speaker say something like that, I think, Who cares? That piece of information, presented without context, could lead the audience to have one of two reactions:
1. “Wow, they’ve been doing this a long time. They must know what they’re doing.”
2. “Wow, they’re old. I wonder if they’re a traditional company that’s too slow to embrace change.”
I often tell speakers to stop being their company’s Wikipedia page by merely listing factual information. Their job during a presentation isn’t to list facts, but to create a useful context into which those facts fit.
In the above example, the speaker should have said something closer to this:
“Our company was founded in 1922. Our industry has gone through three major transformations from then to now—and the only reason we’ve been able to continue our growth is because we have the experience to identify and embrace tomorrow’s trends before everyone else.”
Here’s another example. Don’t simply state that you have 18 offices around the world. Instead, infuse that fact with meaning, and say:
“We’re a global events planning company. We can help you plan top-notch events in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Mexico City, Berlin, Mumbai, Johannesburg, and 12 other major international cities. And if you want to plan an event in a city outside of those 18 locations, our closest regional office can successfully plan it for you from there, as we did in 145 cities last year alone.”
As you practice for your next presentation, pay close attention to the moments when you’re verging on becoming a context-free, facts-only presenter. Then, repeat this mantra: “I am not a Wikipedia page!” and add meaning to those facts.
Want more free public speaking tips? Check out our 25 Most Essential Public Speaking Tips.
Tags: media training, presentation training, public speaking
Posted in Presentation Training | Please Comment »
Sir Ken Robinson—an English education expert—delivered the most popular TED Talk ever in 2006.
In the eight years since, his talk called “How Schools Kill Creativity” has accumulated more than 27 million views. That’s about the same number of people who watched last year’s Grammy Awards, meaning that Ken Robinson—a relative unknown who stood on a stage in front of a few hundred people—has attracted the same number of views as performances by Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Elton John, Sting, and Jay-Z. Not bad for a speech about education.
Whether or not Mr. Robinson’s speech is the best TED Talk of all time is subjective—but however you answer that question, it’s clear that he delivered a terrific talk.
This post identifies five reasons Robinson’s speech succeeded—and what you can learn from it.
1. His Theme Was Unambiguous
Mr. Robinson delivered his thesis statement early in his talk by saying, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Everything that followed supported that theme—his stories, statistics, quotes, and other personal observations.
2. He Supported His Theme With Compelling Stories
Robinson is a master storyteller. His story about Gillian Lynn, who choreographed Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, is likely to stick with me for a long time. As a child, Robinson explained, Lynn was sent to a childhood specialist to diagnose her inability to sit still. The brilliant doctor turned on the radio, observed the young Ms. Lynn, and left the room to offer her mother his diagnosis: “Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer.” His story roused my emotions, both anger (for the children who are misdiagnosed) and hope (that misunderstood children will be understood more completely).
3. He Concluded His Talk With Context
During the body of his talk, Robinson effectively made the case for creativity in education. He could have ended his talk successfully by simply reiterating that point, perhaps through an illustrative anecdote (the Gillian Lynn story could have served as a memorable close). Instead, he set his aims even higher, tying his talk into every other TED Talk that the live audience had seen or was about to see: “What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely and that we avert some of the scenarios we’ve talked about.”
4. His Tone Was Conversational
Public speaking coaches always advise their trainees to appear “conversational.” Robinson demonstrated perfectly what a conversational and relaxed tone looks like. I’ve written before about mirror neurons, which can allow speakers who exhibit a certain tone to create that same tone and feeling within their audiences. It’s easy to imagine oneself being put at ease immediately through Robinson’s easy demeanor.
5. He Used Humor As a Vehicle
Robinson is funny. At first, I wondered whether his humor—which occasionally veered slightly off message—bordered on overkill. But as I continued reflecting on his speech, I realized why it worked so well. A talk about a topic like education can easily become strident. Robinson used humor as a vehicle to open up the audience, create a personal bond, and convey his message without making anyone feel defensive. He has the ease of an experienced stand-up comedian—which most speakers do not—and he used that gift to sell his vision to an increasingly receptive audience.
Want to learn more about public speaking? Click here to receive our weekly emails full of helpful presentation tips.
Tags: How Schools Kill Creativity, presentation training, Sir Ken Robinson, TED Talk
Posted in Presentation Training | 2 Comments »
No offense, but I got to be honest, I need to be real.
Those types of phrases—known as “tee-ups” and “performatives”—can be signs of deceit, dishonesty, or uncertainty.
I’ve written about this topic before, but this recent interview from NPR’s “On Point” expands upon my original post and offers great examples from the world of social media, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and The Tonight Show, among many others.
If you’re a language geek like I am, you’re in for a treat. Thanks to friend of the blog Deborah Brody for sharing this clip.
Want to learn more about public speaking? Check out our recommended reading list!
Tags: performatives, presentation training, tee-ups, verbal filler, verbal white space
Posted in Presentation Training | Please Comment »
If you read a few public speaking books, you’ll probably come across conflicting advice about how long you should maintain eye contact with an audience member before moving on to someone else.
Here are a few examples from writers whose insight I respect:
In You Are The Message, Roger Ailes writes: “As you move from small group to small group—or from individual to individual—in the audience, linger for a few seconds.”
On his website “Six Minutes,” public speaking blogger Andrew Dlugan recommends that speakers “Sustain eye contact with someone for a few seconds, then move on.”
In 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, Susan Weinschenk gets slightly more specific: “Spend 2 to 3 seconds looking at one person, then move to another person.”
In Presentation Skills 201, William R. Steele agrees: “Look at someone just long enough that you both feel the connection (two or three seconds) and then move on.
Presentations That Persuade and Motivate, published by the Harvard Business Press, recommends doubling that time: “Make eye contact for five or six seconds with people in the front, left and right, and the back.”
In Speak With Confidence, Dianna Booher dispenses with that approach, advising speakers to focus not on seconds, but on sentences: “Delivering one or two sentences to each person establishes a bond of intimacy with individual listeners.”
Jerry Weissman’s The Power Presenter has similar advice, but recommends less time-per-person: “Deliver one phrase to that person. Pause. Move to another person and deliver one phrase to that person.”
All of the writers above offered similar advice, but with meaningful variations. A few of them noted that although a specific number of seconds (or words) could serve as a helpful general guideline, the specific amount of time was less important than what happens during the eye contact—a genuine connection between speaker and audience member. I agree with that.
In my experience, giving speakers a specific timeline to follow gets them too far inside their heads. Instead of focusing on being truly in the moment during their presentations, they suddenly find themselves doing mental math: “One second—two-seconds—three seconds—okay, I need to look at a new person now.”
The most useful guideline I can offer is this: You shouldn’t say a word unless you’re looking someone in the eye and making a connection with that person. (If there’s any “rule” beyond that, it should be that you don’t dart your eyes so quickly from person to person that you fail to make a connection.) That’s all you have to remember. Don’t talk to the wall, the floor, the ceiling, your notes, your laptop, or the screen projecting your PowerPoint slides. By remembering to speak into someone’s eyes, every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph you utter will help you forge a meaningful connection.
If, after all of that, you’re still seeking a numerical formula, remember this excellent piece of advice from Andrew Dlugan: “There’s no magic minimum or maximum; you’ll just know.”
Want more public speaking tips? Click here to instantly join our weekly mailing list.
Tags: 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People, Andrew Dlugan, body language, Dianna Booher, eye contact, Jerry Weissman, Presentation Skills 201, presentation training, Presentations That Persuade and Motivate, public speaking, Roger Ailes, Six Minutes, Speak With Confidence, Susan Weinschenk, The Power Presenter, William R. Steele, You Are The Message
Posted in Presentation Training | Please Comment »