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Public Speaking Tip #56: Defining Your Terms

By Michele Trent
Public Speaking Coach

Have you ever listened to a speaker and you’re thoroughly enjoying what they have to say? You are following along, everything makes sense, and they even make you feel smart. You start to think – “Hey, this financial stuff isn’t so complicated.” And then it happens. Unexpectedly they sprinkle in terms like P/E Ratio, asset allocation, and DSCR. Now you are lost. Why bother listening? It’s all confusing mumbo-jumbo anyway.

This might be a strategy by some speakers as a way of positioning themselves as the “expert.” However, most likely, it will only serve to confuse their audience and audiences tend to tune out when they are confused. Your goal as a speaker should be clarity. How can you clearly communicate in a way that makes you impossible to be misunderstood? If you are truly an expert, use your knowledge to teach and explain. By clearly defining your terms, you won’t risk being misunderstood.

Of course, if you are speaking to your colleagues who already are aware of all of the acronyms your company uses and the terms that are prevalent in your field, fire away! However, if there is a risk some portion of your audience won’t understand what you’re saying, define your terms. You do not have to make it overly complicated; simply keep your audience in the game. Instead of saying PE ratio and moving on, say something like “The P/E ratio shows the current demand for company stock. It’s quite simply an equation that takes the current trading price of the stock and divides it by the earning for that company. Usually, we look for stocks with a low P/E ratio and let me tell you why…” That is just an example, for those of you who are in finance; you could probably come up with a better explanation. The point is – provide some explanation that will ensure your audience is still tracking with you. You will appear even more of an expert when your audience walks away understanding everything you have said.

EXTRA TIP: Using insider terms is a common mistake that speakers make. You are so accustomed to your industry or your company that these words and phrases are just part of your language. You no longer see these terms as anything but common and understood. Here’s where a fresh perspective can really help. Have someone else – your spouse, a friend, a speaking skills coach – listen to your remarks and flag anything that is not common language. Try not to use a colleague, as they will likely have the same bias as you do. Then, define those terms and come across as a true expert!

Public Speaking Tip #55: Pronunciation Affects Credibility

One sure way to lose credibility fast when public speaking or making a business presentation is to mispronounce a word. It may not sink you entirely, but, if misused repeatedly, it can chip away at your reputation and take away from the impact of your message.

Even great speakers have words that are troublesome for them. President Barrack Obama once mispronounced “corpsman” in a speech. I dismissed it as a minor slip-up until I heard him say it again about 20 seconds later. Did it make him seem less credible on matters of military personnel? Surely it did for some.

Likewise, I’ve heard otherwise well-spoken business presenters have trouble with certain words. Perhaps they grew up mispronouncing these words and never learned the correct way.

Here are some common words that I’ve heard mispronounced in business settings:

  • Pacifically instead of Specifically
  • Post instead of Supposed
  • Prolly instead of Probably
  • Physical instead of Fiscal
  • Exspecially instead of Especially

If you are guilty of any of these cringe-worthy mispronunciations, take the time to learn and practice saying them the correct way. Good grammar and correct pronunciation will enhance your credibility and boost the overall effectiveness of your message.

Live Webinar: How to Engage a Virtual Audience

These days, business presentations aren’t always made in person. Often, they’re conducted virtually through webinars and speakerphone conference calls. That requires a different approach than face-to-face meetings.

Join me and NYC-based social media expert Dhariana Lozano for a unique and free webinar that will show you how to:

  • Keep an audience engaged and paying attention during a virtual meeting or webinar.
  • How to hold organized and effective meetings via speakerphone.

 

CLAIM YOUR SPOT

Use Questions to Engage Your Audience and Increase Clarity

By Michele Trent
Public Speaking Coach

Do you have a love/hate relationship with questions? Did your child repeatedly ask you questions when you were trying to give them a grand lecture on the importance of tooth brushing? Was “why” their favorite word? Or maybe you have that colleague who questions everything. You just want to make your point without getting interrupted 10 times.

If you’ve been tempted to ban questions and questioning from your presentations, think again. Questions can be a powerful tool for engaging your audience and checking in with them to make sure your points are well understood.

There are many ways to begin a presentation. One of my favorites is with a question. Asking a question gets your audience engaged right off the start. “How many of you believe that we can grow our revenue in the 4th Quarter by 30%? Only two of you? Well, during this presentation, you are going to learn how we can surpass that goal and you’re going to get a clear blueprint to make it happen. You’ll leave feeling confident that this investment in resources will result in a record-breaking 4th Quarter.”  Interested? Yes, your audience will be as well. You have piqued their interest and you’ve got them thinking. They are now invested and want to know more.

Of course, you could have said, “We are investing in new resources to grow revenue in the 4th Quarter by 30%.” This is a bit of a startling statement so you’ll likely have your audience’s attention but you’ve asked nothing of them. It’s clear that you’ll be doing the talking, they’ll be doing the listening, and eventually, they’ll check out as this is just another pitch from leadership. You can see how opening with a question is much more powerful.

Questions actively engage the audience. They are either thinking about the answer or you’ve directly asked them to respond. In the example above, you’ve asked for a direct response. You’re essentially taking a poll from the audience. As with any poll, be sure and report on the results. Take a minute to observe the room and report back. “Only two of you?” This not only gets everyone on the same page in terms of the sentiment of the room but it also sends a signal to the audience that you care that they participated. If you ask additional questions throughout your presentation, you will get responses. If you ignore the responses, people will stop giving you feedback because you’ve subtly communicated that you don’t care anyway.

Results from questions give you real-time feedback as to what the audience is thinking. Your goal as a speaker is to be clearly understood. What better way to ensure that your audience is following you than to ask questions along the way? Now some people may advise you not to ask questions because it will derail your remarks. In some cases, this is true but if you’re giving a presentation to a team and you need to be understood, questions are your ally.

Similarly to asking questions throughout, be willing to entertain questions toward the end of your remarks. Often times the Q&A section is as valuable or even more valuable than any of your prepared remarks. Don’t be concerned that you’ll get asked a question that will trip you up. If you’re asked something you don’t know, acknowledge it and offer to follow up. “I don’t have that specific data with me right now but will get that answer for you later today.” And then move on. If someone wants to start a debate with you regarding one of your answers, simply say, “I appreciate your interest in this; let’s discuss this more after today’s meeting. Does anyone else have a question?” Another option, in some circumstances, is to open the question up to the audience.

If you’re giving the same presentation multiple times to different teams, the questions asked will give you ideas on changes you may want to make to your presentation.  If you keep getting the same question, perhaps you haven’t clearly communicated that point in your remarks and now you have a chance to clean that up before your next presentation.

Questions are a great way to address any lingering thoughts or confusion about what you’ve presented. However, don’t let questions have the final say. Once you finish the Q&A section, as Paul Barton advises, close with power. Leave your audience with exactly the key point you want to communicate. Going back to the example used at the beginning of this post, your ending might sound like, “As you now know, we have a plan to significantly increase sales in Q4. By using XYZ effectively, we are positioned well to not only achieve 30% growth but substantially more. You and your teams are about to take part in a record-breaking year-end for ABC. We couldn’t be more excited or more ready. The sky is truly the limit this year.”

Using questions to start your presentation will engage your audience early and get them involved with what you have to say. Asking questions along the way will ensure that they are following along and understand what you are communicating. Questions are a powerful tool that will make you an even better communicator.

RELATED POSTS

What’s the Most Engaging Question?

Handling Questions When You Don’t Know the Answer

 

New Coach, New Offerings

We’re excited to expand our offerings. Presentation expert Michele Trent has joined our team and is offering two new coaching packages to help you master the basics and polish your public speaking skills. Having worked with big and small businesses, and for-profits and non-profits, Michele brings a wealth of experience.

Michele will focus on these two new personal coaching packages:

You can learn more about Michele’s extensive communication, marketing and entrepreneurial background on our About page, and you can learn more about our 1-on-1 offerings on our Personal Coaching page.

We are excited to grow our business and help more business professionals become the speakers they’ve always wanted to be in the year ahead!

Public Speaking Tip #54: Site Inspections Key to Success

It’s a good public speaking practice to inspect speaking venues before you deliver your presentation. Where will you stand? Where will your audience be? What AV equipment is available? Where will your laptop go? Do you have the right connections for your laptop? Will you need a microphone?

Checking out the room layout and the AV equipment is important for practical reasons. But there are also psychological reasons to do a site inspection. I like to do my inspections several days in advance so that I can visualize the location and become comfortable with it in my mind.

If you cannot do an inspection days in advance, come to your presentation an hour or so early. That way, you have some time to become comfortable with the room and the available equipment. If something needs to be fixed, moved or changed, you have some time to do that.

Doing a site inspection is a great way to avoid pitfalls and also a good way to see if your site offers any opportunities. Even if you are presenting in your own office building, make sure you are familiar with the room where you will be presenting and make sure you are comfortable operating all the technology.

Fumbling around trying to find out how to adjust the lights or get the sound to play on your video can ruin an otherwise great presentation.

When you take time to do a site inspection, you will be that much closer to having a great presentation. Make it part of your routine and you will present like a polished pro.

Related Posts

Preparation is Key to Public Speaking Success

Preparation Helps Reduce Fear

7 Tips for a Great Holiday Toast

A holiday toast is a great way to add a touch of class to a holiday gathering and leave a favorable impression with attendees. Here are some public spoeaking tips to make sure your toast is delivered well.

  • A toast can be the official beginning of an event. Wait until it appears most guests have arrived and then deliver your toast. Start by welcoming everyone.
  • Introduce yourself. Don’t assume everyone knows who you are. Even those who have met you before may have forgotten. If you’re not the host, consider explaining how you know the host or why you are the one delivering the toast.
  • Meet audience expectations. As in all aspects of public speaking, it’s always about your audience. Be warm and be sincere.
  • Avoid canned humor. Canned jokes are known as groaners for a reason. If a groan is the best you can hope for, is it a good idea? Instea, recognize the potential for spontaneous humor.
  • Be accurate. Make sure you’ve got your information correct. If you’re mentioning names, make sure you’re pronouncing them accurately. Mistakes can kill your credibility.
  • Be brief. Don’t have people waiting with a glass in their hand for too long. If you tell a story, make sure it’s short and that there’s a clear point to it.
  • Make the actual raising of the glass special. Consider asking everyone to stand to ensure you have their attention. Don’t shortchange the toast with a cliché like “down the hatch.” This is an opportunity to make a personal connection. Toasts usually end with a positive look to the future.

Here’s hoping these tips help you put together a great holiday toast!

Public Speaking Tip #53: The Most Engaging Question

Asking your audience a “by show of hands” question just might be the most engaging type of question you can ask and one of the most powerful tools you have available as a public speaker or business presenter.

Here are some of the reasons why “show of hands” questions are so engaging:

  • First, like all questions, the audience has to think about their answer (provided you word it correctly and pause to give audience members adequate time to think).
  • Second, the audience has to involve themselves physically (granted it’s not calisthenics, but there is some physical motion involved).
  • Third, it engages audience members with one another as they look around to see who has their hands up and who doesn’t. Ask a question like “by show o hands, how many parents do we have?” and you’ll see audience members form instant bonds with one another.

Watch Out for These Mistakes

“Show of hands” can be very engaging, but here are a few things to watch out for so your question doesn’t backfire:

  • First, make sure the question is worded clearly so audience members are crystal clear about how to respond.
  • Second, make sure you take the time to see how many hands are up and report the results to the audience with a comment. Think of the “by show of hands” question as a real-time poll. Like a poll, you’ll want to note the results, report the results back to the audience and analyze the findings. “Ah, I see about half of you are parents. That’s about typical for working people.”
  • Third, don’t rush it.  I’ve seen many presenters ask for a show of hands but then charge on with their presentation before they’ve even counted the results of their query. This leaves an audience feeling a bit cheated and audience members are left thinking: “He didn’t even take the time to look at my answer. I hadn’t even got my hand up yet and he moved on. I guess he didn’t really even care about the answer.”

If you’re going to ask the question, take the time to get the answer. You and your audience will be glad you did.

Here’s to engaging presentations!

Thanksgiving Dinner Tip

Of course we love all the fantastic food at Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s the great conversations that really make the day special for me. The head of the table may be the traditional “power position” but a spot in the middle of the table is much better for interacting with more people. From this centralized position, you can have more meaningful conversations.

Here’s wishing you a happy Thanksgiving full of great food and great conversations!

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Public Speaking Tip #53: A Home Brew for a Sore Throat

It was the day before a big workshop that I was presenting and the unspeakable was happening – my throat was getting sore and my voice completely gave out a few times. Would I awaken the next morning with full blown laryngitis? Would I be able to speak for three hours or would I have to cancel? What could I do?

As is my custom, I had a backup plan for everything – everything that is except for my voice being reduced to a mere whisper. However, I had a secret weapon – my wife, Maribel, and one of her home remedy Filipino concoctions called Salabat tea.

The taste of Salabat is not exactly my cup of tea, but the effect was just what the doctor ordered. I sipped on the tea throughout the night and rested my voice as much as I could. With each swallow, the brew produced a slight burning sensation in my throat and that made me feel like something good was happening.

The next morning, I was able to speak with confidence and finish the three-hour workshop with all of my vocal cords playing in harmony.

And so, I offer the recipe for this enchanted elixir to public speakers and business presenters everywhere.

Here’s how to make Salabat: Pour 4 cups of water in a covered saucepan and bring to a boil. Peel and cut a 6-inch or so ginger root into thin slices and put them into the boiling water. Add ¼ cup of raw honey. Squeeze a fresh lemon into it. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the ginger root slices out and serve hot. Sip away. If your tea begins to cool, zap it in the microwave. Keep it hot but drinkable.

So, there you have it. May you be well and may you speak well. Cheers!