Public Speaking Tips
We’ve all been there – attended presentations that have effectively been ‘death by powerpoint’ or watched dizzily as a lecturer paced the length of the stage like a caged lion.
What is it that makes a presentation successful? That people learn from it, enjoy it, pay attention, leave with intention to change? Is that success down to the content or the delivery or is it a mixture of both?
I would argue that no matter how wonderful the content is, if the delivery isn’t good, it just won’t be communicated effectively. The speaker may be the most intelligent and knowledgeable person is their field but if they can’t present effectively, the audience aren’t going to be much the wiser.
Attending Charisma Bootcamp last week for 2 days, I saw a number of outstanding presenters, some of whom just blew me away with the standard of their presentations. Apart from taking notes on the content, I was watching their presentation skills critically and taking notes for my own learning as I’m now speaking more to groups of different sizes. While I’m relatively comfortable now doing public speaking, I still have a lot to learn and yes, some of my failings come down to a lack of confidence.
(Note – this is a long post – pour yourself a cup of tea first 😉 )
I’ve often attended presentations and the speaker has just looked at those seated on one side and those on the other side can start to feel a little neglected. I’ve also noticed speakers only looking at those in the front rows. This is particularly noticeable if the room isn’t that large. I tend to sit near the back if I’m going to be tweeting so perhaps it is more noticeable to me.
When I attended a previous workshop by Owen Fitzpatrick, there was approximately 200 people there, I was seated about half way back to the far left and just as I’m sure everyone else there did, I felt that the speaker made eye contact with me a few times and knew I was there.
Asking him about it, Owen said that he does try to make eye contact with everyone in an audience up to about 400 people and I’m guessing that if you are looking at a small group of people, they will all think you are looking at them.
I remember when I first started giving presentations during my MA, I used to practise in front of my old teddy bears which I dotted around the room – the advantage was that most of them smiled encouragingly and none of them looked bored!
The largest audience I’ve presented to to date has been about 150 people and the next time I’m presenting to a large audience, I’ll be practising in the haybarn by standing on top of a straw bale and making eye contact with every cow or calf in there!
Effective eye contact really does make a difference.
Practice Makes Perfect
One aspect that many of the speakers emphasised was that they practise, practise, practise and that didn’t just apply to their presentation skills but to what they were teaching too. I think many of us presume when we see someone is really good at something that it came naturally to them because they are very clever or talented. It might come easier to some than others but at the end of the day, practice makes perfect and will improve your presentation.
Too Many Slides
As I mentioned above, we’ve all been to see speakers/lecturers who have used too many slides or have too much text on the slides and it seems like it is just information overload. People often give up trying to concentrate on both the voice and the slides and switch off.
It can be quite tempting for the speaker to look at the slides on the screen too but try to look at them on your laptop in front of you unless you want to draw attention to one particular aspect of the slide. As Paul Borass mentioned, looking at the slide means that you won’t see the reactions of the audience and you may miss something that you need to react to.
Keywords are sufficient text on the slide – enough to act as a prompt to remind you what about the important points and as an indicator to the audience too. I noticed a couple of the speakers would change position to change the slide and pause for a second (didn’t have many slides in whole presentation). As a speaker, I personally would have felt this pause was a negative and that I should move on as quickly as possible but in fact, I thought it worked well to give everyone a couple of seconds to gather their thoughts before moving on to another area. Deliberate pause can be very effective.
The other disadvantage of using too many slides with too much text on them is that if you run out of time, the audience may feel cheated if you decide to zip past a number of slides to get to the all-important final ones. Whereas, if you have minimum keywords on each slide, you can decide there and then how much you say about each slide, cutting them short if need be.
Use a Lectern?
None of the presenters at Charisma used a lectern and I noticed the difference when I was at 2 presentations the other morning where a lectern was used. A lectern is handy as you can put your notes behind it, and having them there can be like a safety blanket. Also, if you are the type of person who tends to pace around the stage, it can help to keep you in the one place. However, I thought the large wooden lectern also worked as a barrier between the speaker and the audience. One of the presenters was quite short, although she was wearing high heels and her gestures weren’t really apparent to the audience, gestures that could emphasise her points.
As Paul Moussoulides pointed out, standing still with your feet and posture balanced will make you feel more confident and by staying reasonably still, with gestures such to emphasise your points, the audience will concentrate more on your eyes and mouth.
Smile – Many of the presenters mentioned the need for your body language and your tone of voice to be congruent with your topic. 7% of your message comes from the actual words you use – the rest is your body language and tone. If you smile and look happy, not only will your voice be more agreeable to listen to but you’ll be showing that you are happy to be there and that you like the audience. Like them first and then they’ll like you back!
Listening to a short story that explains a point in a lecture or a long presentation goes a long way towards helping the attendees maintain their concentration and increase their engagement. Make the story personal and people will listen even more attentively.
I missed Owen’s ‘Compelling Storytelling’ module so I don’t have his full wisdom on this. One point I picked up was his claim that humiliating yourself within a story works well, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes but exaggerating it really gets the point across. This is where lots of practice comes in because I feel that unless you are really confident and go over the top, I would be nervous that the audience would believe I was really ridiculous so this is something I’m really going to have to work on and practise!
Check out Owen’s youtube video showing him tell stories about how he ‘loves’ himself in order to encourage the audience to do the same- he told a similar story at Charisma and it was even more fluent, funny and accomplished while getting the point across and hence, being memorable to everyone in the audience. (Warning – it does contain bad language)
You need to practise your presentation to perfect your timing, bearing in mind that you may speak more quickly in the real situation and that if you are asked questions from the floor during your talk, that will put you over your allotted time. However, don’t keep referring to the time by asking how much longer you have or apologise for going over. Arrange with the chair beforehand that they alert you in some way a few minutes before the end by holding up a pen or another signal that you will recognise but won’t be obvious to everyone. If you do go over time and they want you to stop, they will glare at you to make eyecontact or will come and hover!
Unfortunately, I missed Sonya Lennon’s module so I can’t impart any of her wisdom so this information is just from my own observations. All the speakers I saw at Charisma were male and I noticed that although the room became warm at times and must have been very hot at the front under the lights, all of them except one managed to keep their jackets on. They all had open necked shirts with no tie but they were all dressed smartly in a suit (apart from Leopi but from what I saw, that guy is in a league on his own). If my memory serves me correctly, none of them wore a black suit – they were navy or grey. Personally I think black is too severe. It makes us look slimmer but it also makes speakers recede into the background. I’m not suggesting that speakers wear bright red or a motley of colours but variants of navy or greys can look impressive as can adding a little colour.
Mix Old and New
Karl Spain gave this tip – you will have your stories/jokes/content that you’ll have practised and have word perfect but to make your presentation sound more ‘off the cuff’ or up to the minute, include some content that is evidently recent. For example, if I was giving a talk on twitter, I may have stories of tweeting success that I’ll have used as they’re my best examples but I’ll also include an example from last week to show a recent example. If you can work in something that was mentioned by a previous speaker, all the better.
Feel the Fear but Do It Anyway
Apparently many people fear public speaking more than death but with more of us having to make presentations in work or attend interviews, it is becoming a necessity in many roles. I joined Toastmasters a few years ago when I felt that my presentation skills needed some work and found it to be a great source of fun and support as well as providing plenty of speaking practise. If you are looking for some courses or individual help, check out The Reluctant Speakers Club by Eamonn O’Brien who also writes a very good blog.
Another point – more and more people will be tweeting during presentations or typing up their notes. If someone looks like they are texting, it doesn’t mean they are bored. They are probably so struck by the information they are listening to that they are tweeting to share it with their followers. However, an important note to those tweeters is that it is important to look up occasionally and look interested and smile. Don’t look bored or the speaker will think you are texting. I’ve been in both scenarios!
Always remember too that some nerves are good, you need to control them but you do need a few butterflies in your stomach to give you the adrenaline to perform well. As long as I have practised my talk sufficiently, I’m rarely nervous going on to do a presentation, however, I’m very aware of the heightened adrenaline flowing through my veins.
Why Everyone Should Attend Charisma Bootcamp 2012
Some people would argue that business is tougher than ever before; that sales people are facing more challenges in meeting targets; that some sales people are having to relearn how to make sales having had an easy time of reaching high sales during the Celtic Tiger; others are having to reskill; to prepare for interviews and presentations for the first time in years; prepare for making pitches to customers, editors, bosses, investors; dress well with less take home pay ………the list goes on
Update: Charisma Bootcamp is now offering tickets for the Saturday and Sunday only so this is perfect if you are working on the Thursday and Friday. The cost for the 2 days is €497 which is reduced to €348 with Skillnets funding if you are eligible. Contact Anna@charisma.ie for more details.
Owen Fitzpatrick of Owen Fitzpatrick International is organizing his second Charisma Bootcamp and it is taking place 26th-29th April 2012 in Dublin. A 4 day conference which incorporates 20 modules from 12 speakers. It is going to have something for everyone from many different walks of life but essentially it is going to have so much to offer anyone in business.
Owen says: “Charisma is the impression you make in the mind of another person – they then think you are interesting, engaging and worth knowing.” And, as he also says: “you ALWAYS create an impression in people’s mind”, it is a good idea to give them the impression that you are charismatic and encourage them to do business with you. Learn to become more charismatic and you’ll make people want to buy from you more.
As I mentioned previously in a blog post, people buy from people, hence the importance of communicating your personality through your social media tools if you have an online business. People will buy more from charismatic people.
Personally speaking, I know I have spent more when I have dealt with a salesperson who is charismatic, even down to a guy who sells us trees every now and then. We received a phone call from him 2 weeks ago and 3 hours later he was here with a trailer load of trees. He is aware of our long term plan for our garden and the farm yet although we hadn’t planned on buying a considerable number of trees this year, we took almost everything off his trailer. Why? Because he knew our long term plan, he knew where the trees would look well but essentially because he was charismatic. He made us laugh and made us feel good about the products we were buying as we could visualise how they will look and how we are getting one step closer to our long term plan.
There are twenty modules over the four days but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to concentrate on 5 of them and describe what I think I will get from them:
Owen Fitzpatrick – The Charismatic Edge
Competition is becoming fiercer in all aspects of business so this module will show me how to stand out amongst the competition and highlight my uniqueness. It will also show me how to come across more personally so I am easier to relate to and therefore, the levels of empathy and trustworthiness will be higher. I’d also like to be more confident so I can grab and hold people’s attention and this is exactly what this module will teach.
Sonya Lennon – Look Your Best
Sonya is well known from the RTE programme ‘Off the Rails’ and her module will look at aspects of appearance and dress such as how to create the right first impression, shopping more effectively for your shape and your purse and how you can increase your confidence by dressing appropriately for all business meetings. As many of you may know, I am also an ‘irish farmerette‘ and often schedule meetings for 10:30 in the morning which gives me time to feed the calves and goats before I go. But I’m often out of the shower and looking through my wardrobe struggling to find something to wear for the meeting. I know from experience that feeling that I look good helps immensely with my confidence levels when delivering presentations so I am really looking forward to Sonya’s module.
Owen Fitzpatrick – Compelling Storytelling
We have all listened to speakers who keep us spellbound, hanging onto every word. We’ve also all listened to speakers who have bored us to tears – not necessarily because the content was boring but because their delivery was so poor. I like to think that my delivery style is something in the middle – interesting, appropriate, invigorating but I know it is not spellbinding. There are a number of modules that deal with public speaking of which this is the first one and I’m looking forward to leaving the Charisma bootcamp with the confidence and know-how to being a much better speaker and presenter.
Sales Charisma – Terry Harmer
I’ve heard Terry Harmer speak before at various Enterprise board events and have always come away feeling inspired and enlightened. I know one of my weaknesses in sales is in closing the sale and this is only one of the aspects of Terry’s module in learning how to charismatically persuade others in a sales context.
How To Become Funnier – Karl Spain
I think good humour demands not just a good sense of humour but also confidence and great timing. This module really looks like it will be a good laugh as well as learning how to engage, manage and entertain an audience having hooked them in.
There’s another 15 modules too which all look superb in terms of what they are going to deliver.
The Cost of Charisma:
What is the cost of a bootcamp like this? If you are an Irish business, you can get 30% off by booking through Skillnets and full details are on the booking page. That means the 4 days will cost €560. Yes, it is a considerable amount of money but if you were to attend any of these workshops on an individual basis or at a day-long workshop, the cost would be considerably more. There are many people flying in from Spain, Japan, Mexico and other countries which is testament to how highly people view this conference. If you have any questions about the conference, check out their FAQ (which also gives a good indication of the positive tone and atmosphere of the event) or contact Anna. Perhaps the real cost should be what you lose by not doing it?
How do I know it will be so good? I worked with Owen three years ago (or perhaps I should say he worked on me by improving my time management skills amongst other things) and I’ve always been impressed by his levels of professionalism, analysis, integrity, knowledge and compassion. If he says he has brought together some of the best in the business for his bootcamp, then it is going to be incredible.
4 days, 12 speakers, 20 modules – all adding up to making you a more successful business person. I’m really looking forward to it.