Phoenix Public Speaking coaching and workshops

Public Speaking Tip #51: Mastering the Power of Thanks

If done correctly, there is tremendous power in thanking your audience at the beginning of a presentation.

But for many public speakers and business presenters, this becomes a missed opportunity. How often have you heard a speaker begin a presentation with something like this: “I would like to start by saying thank you for having me. When I got the invitation to speak here, I was thrilled. I am truly honored for this opportunity to speak to you.”

Notice how many times the word “I” or “me” is used in that introduction vs. how many times the word “you” or “we” is used. The “I/me” to “you,/we” count is 5-2. The words seem humble enough, but the point of view is all about the speaker, not the audience.

A good presentation — one that really connects and engages — is always all about the audience.

Audience-Centric Thanks

Here’s the secret: Before thanking your audience offhandedly, give some serious thought to exactly what you are thanking them for. What effort did they take to be there? Did they take time out of their busy day or forgo something else in their lives in order to attend? Did they travel from a great distance to be there? Why are they there?

Doping a little research and thinking about your audience will get you focused on delivering a thank you that connects with them.

I recently shared this advice with a friend who was speaking at a 5:30 p.m. public event. He began his remarks with this: “Thank you for coming today. I know some of you had to rush from work to get here. And I know some others of you had to make childcare arrangements in order to attend. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think this issue was important. I know that working together, there is a lot we can accomplish. So thank you all for coming.”

This time, the “I/me” to “you,/we” count is 3-6. More importantly, the point of view is all about the audience.

As my friend was giving his audience-centric thank you, I saw heads nodding in the audience. Others who were sitting back in their chairs started to lean forward. My friend was engaging the audience because he was speaking directly to them.

Connecting Right Away

It’s important to connect with your audience right away because you might not get a second chance. Smartphone technology has made it easier than ever for audiences to tune out. If you can’t capture their attention in the first two minutes, your audience may never hear all the great things you have to say in your presentation.

An audience-centric thank you is a great way to get your presentation off to a great start.

RELATED ARTICLES

Public Speaking Tip #17: Know Your Audience

 

Public Speaking Tip #50: Perfect Panel Presentations

You’ve probably been to a business conference and seen a panel discussion. Some are entertaining and informative. But others are uncoordinated, hard to follow and the panelists seem ill-prepared. In short, these are a waste of time for conference attendees and often public speaking disasters.

If you are asked to participate in a panel discussion, you’ll want you and your fellow panelists to shine. Following are some tips to make sure your panel presentation is a success.

But first, we need to understand what a panel is not and what it is.

What a Panel Discussion Is Not

I’ve been to many conferences where an event is billed as “a panel discussion.” The panelists sit side by side and pass a microphone from one to the other as they each talk about their area of expertise. This is not a panel discussion. This is a series of mini-presentations.

What a Panel Discussion Is

Panel discussions require the presence of a skilled moderator to direct a structured conversation. The moderator should begin by describing the purpose of the discussion and introducing the panel members. The moderator then launches the discussion by directing a question to one or more of the participants. At the conclusion of the discussion, the moderator may then direct questions from the audience. The moderator also will present a concluding statement. Just as we advise for a solo presentation, the conclusion should come after the Q&A.

How to Prepare

Before the presentation, the moderator should circulate an outline and explain the ground rules to the panel participants. From the outline, the panelists will have an idea of the main questions that will be asked. They will provide unscripted answers and the moderator may ask follow-up questions. When one panelist answers a question, others may politely chime in. In other words, it’s a conversation.

When preparing remarks for a panel discussion, or when preparing to serve as a moderator, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience? What do they know about the topic? What ideas can be emphasized to encourage greater understanding?
  • What aspects of the topic will each participant address? What are their areas of expertise?
  • How much time is allotted for the Q&A?
  • Which key points should be reviewed in your conclusion?

Rather than having people sit in a row, consider having them arranged in a semi-circle to facilitate dialogue. The accompanying photo, from the McGlaughlin Group TV show, depicts such an arrangement.

By following these tips, you can put together a lively and informative panel discussion.

Public Speaking Tip #49: Team Presentations

“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

Working in project teams is increasingly becoming the way many businesses get work done. That means having to present as a team at a business meeting is becoming more common as well. Teams frequently have to put forward ideas, get their projects and funding requests approved, and present project status updates.

Preparing and delivering a team presentation has its own unique public speaking challenges and opportunities. If your team presentation comes across as uncoordinated and disjunct, it calls into question all the information that your team presented. Conversely, a well-prepared and smooth presentation creates a perception that your team works well together, and that its members have done their homework and know what they’re talking about.

The following tips can help you and your team members collaborate more effectively when preparing for a team presentation.

  1. Establish Goals and Information Needs. Make sure each team members agrees on what the presentation is trying to accomplish and what the scope and type of research will be needed.
  2. Assign Roles and Tasks. Designate a team captain to help coordinate members, beginning with the selection of roles and tasks. Next, assign members to present the introduction, the body of the presentation, and the conclusion. Determine how the group will handle questions. Assign other responsibilities as needed.
  3. Establish Transitions Between Speakers. Determine how the team will handle transitions between speakers ahead of time. For example, decide if a designated group member will introduce every speaker or whether each speaker will introduce the next speaker upon the close of his or her presentation. Make sure everyone knows the order of the presenters.
  4. Consider Each Presenter’s Strength. Consider choosing the person with the strongest presentation style and credibility level for the opening. Put the more cautious presenters in the middle of the presentation. Select another strong speaker to conclude the presentation.
  5. Coordinate Presentation Aids. Consider assigning one person the job of coordinating templates for slides, video, and/or audio. Presentation aids should have a cohesive and unified look.
  6. Rehearse the Presentation. Rehearse the presentation together and include any presentation aids that will be used.
  7. Remember You’re Always On. Remember that even when someone else is speaking, the audience can still see you. So, make sure you are sitting up straight and paying attention to the other team members and the audience at all times. See related article.

These public speaking tips will help you and your team work together effectively and put together a polished business presentation.

 

 

Public Speaking Tip #48: Stand out in Business Meetings

Meetings, meetings, meetings. They are a big part of the day for most business professionals. And they are a big opportunity to use public speaking and business communication skills that can help you stand out.

The following tips will help you make the most out of business meetings:

  1. Come Prepared. Do your homework and research the issues you know will be discussed.
  2. Don’t Jump to Solutions Too Quickly. Resist the temptation to settle quickly on one solution before others in the meeting have systematically examined the causes, effects, history, and symptoms of a problem.
  3. Help Summarize the Group’s Progress. Ask questions about the discussion process rather than about the topic: “Where are we now?” “Could someone summarize what we have accomplished?” and “Aren’t we getting off the subject?”
  4. Listen and Respond Politely. You can’t learn if you don’t listen. Respect other points of view, keep your emotions in check, and respond courteously. Don’t assume you know everything – you don’t.
  5. Help Manage Conflict. Conflict is inevitable. But remember this: the best decisions are often those that emerge from productive conflict, which encourages members to rigorously test and debate ideas and potential solutions. Be sure to keep the discussion focused on issues, not on personalities. Rely on facts rather than on personal opinions for evidence. Seek compromise and don’t assume that there must be a winner and a loser. Try to clarify misunderstandings in meaning. Be descriptive rather than evaluative and judgmental. Keep emotions in check.
  6. Send the Right Body Language Messages. Dress appropriately. Sit in the middle of the table where you can influence and include the greatest number of people. Sit up straight. Be attentive. Make eye contact. Back up from the table just a little so that you have room to gesture naturally. Put your smartphone away. Take notes. Be mindful of negative body language such as pointing or rolling your eyes.
  7. Use the Language of Leadership. Eliminate weak language in your statements like “sort of” and “just wanted.” Use inclusive language like “we” and “us.” Replace “ums” and “ahs” with pauses.

Take advantage of business meetings with these tips. They will help you have a more productive meeting and just might help your career.

Related Posts

The Language of Leadership

Where to Sit to Influence and Include

Public Speaking Tip #47: You’re Always On in Team Presentations

In the business world, many of our presentations are done in teams. During such a presentation, the audience’s eyes will fall upon everyone involved, not just the person speaking.

Remember this: even when it’s not your turn to speak, you’re on. Therefore, any signs of disinterest or boredom by a team member will be easily noticed.

Even innocent movements can send messages that you may not wish to send. Remember President George H.W. Bush checking his watch during the 1992 Presidential debate? That single act fueled a narrative about his supposed aloofness and disinterest.

3 Group Presentation Tips

Here’s what to do:

(1) If your presentation is longer than five minutes, have everyone on your team sit. Being seated will help guard again fidgeting. Sitting behind an appropriate table can help cover up nervous legs. Predetermine if team members will stand or remain seated when it’s their turn to speak.

(2) Give your full and polite attention to the other speakers on your team. Take notes to keep you actively listening. Avoid negative body language, such as rolling eyes, crossed arms, or disdainful facial expression).

(3) Project an attitude of interest toward audience members. Make eye contact with audience members and smile when appropriate.

Sometimes, you need every advantage you can get. Following these simple tips will help ensure a smooth and more polished team presentation. Good luck!

‘3 Steps to Own Any Room’ Workshop

Do you want to be the type of presenter who can command a room? If so, you’ll want to check out our newest workshop. We’re partnering once again with the Phoenix Business Journal and offering a presentation skills workshop entitled “3 Steps to Own Any Room.”

The workshop will be held Thursday, Sept. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Arizona Better Business Bureau, 1010 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85014. Lunch will be served.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: An exclusive 20% discount is being offered to readers of this blog. Use offer code SPEAK when checking out to receive your discount.

Our last three Phoenix Business Journal workshops sold out quickly so be sure to register today!

Claim Your Spot!

Public Speaking Tip #46: Pointless Presentations

“My values, our values, aren’t about pointing fingers. They are about offering a helping hand.” — Kathleen Blanco, first woman to be elected governor of Louisiana

Pointing fingers and effective public speaking simply don’t go together. Pointing is often perceived as arrogant, aggressive and rude — not characteristics we want to project to an audience when making a business presentation or speaking in public.

What’s more, pointing at someone in the audience during a talk — for instance, to call on someone during a Q&A — can create a perception of  “you” and “them” rather than “we” and “us.” A pointing finger can be perceived as divisive. And anything that can come between you and your ability to make a better connection with your audience should be eliminated.

But what if you are pointing at someone in a friendly way to commend them? What if you were pointing, but smiling and saying something like, “Joe here, he did a great job!” Even when you are announcing good news or saying something nice about someone, a pointing finger lessens the positive impact of your message.

What to do Instead of Finger Pointing

So what should you do instead? How do you point without pointing?

If you do need to acknowledge someone in your audience, try extending an arm toward them with an open hand. This will be seen as a much friendlier, more inclusive gesture. It’s also easier to see from a distance, which could be helpful for those in the back row if you’re speaking in a large room.

You can even use this gesture to call attention to a PowerPoint chart or any inanimate object. “Handouts will be on that table when the session is over.”

An extended arm with an open hand is a great gesture on or off the stage. Try using it in everyday conversations with work colleagues, friends and family. Use it to draw attention to people and objects. Like most things, if you do it often enough, it will become second nature.

What We Say, How We Say It

What we say, and how we say it, directly impacts our body language and gestures. Try shouting angerly and you will find yourself instinctively pointing fingers and making fists. But the opposite is true as well — by changing our gestures to open and friendly, we can affect what we say, and how we say it in a positive way.

You may find that gesturing in a more welcoming, more inclusive way, instinctively changes your word choices and the tone of your voice.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

What Makes a Great Commencement Speech

Many of you likely have heard a commencement speech recently as high schools and colleges are releasing the class of 2018 to the world. Was the commencement speech you heard good? Was it memorable?

If you’d liked the commencement speech you heard and remember any of it, it’s probably because of the speaker’s ability to tell a great story and their ability to add healthy doses of appropriate humor. A good speaker knows how to tell a story and a joke that resonates with you personally and emotionally.

The following are three commencement speeches I recommend to my coaching clients and classes because they are examples of good storytelling and good humor. In each example, note how the speaker finds a common emotional bond with their audience.

> Rick Rigsby: The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout

> Steve Jobs: Don’t Waste Your Life Living Someone Else’s Dream

> Admiral Willian H. McRaven (Navy Seal): If You Want to Change the World …

The success they each achieved in life is interesting to our minds, but the struggles they go through to get there are what touches our hearts.

What’s your favorite commencement speech and what did you like about it? Feel free to drop a link to your favorite speech in the comments section below.

Note: The photo accompanying this article is from my daughter Kaitlyn’s high school graduation a few weeks ago. Yep, that’s Kaitlyn at the podium. But she isn’t about to deliver a commencement address. No, she’s about to do something even more terrifying. What could be more terrifying than public speaking? She’s about to sing the National Anthem in front of 4,000 people in a stadium that has been the site of national championships and a Super Bowl. No pressure! Well, she sang great and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

 

Public Speaking Tip #45: Use the Language of Leadership

Eliminating weak language in your business presentations and speeches will help you to be a more effective leader and a better public speaker. Unnecessary equivocating phrases such as “kind of,” “sort of” or “just wanted” will chip away at your credibility and sabotage your own effectiveness. Instead, use powerful, straightforward language and seek to be inclusive with your audience.

To be more inclusive, think “influence and include’ rather than “command and control” or “more we and less me.”

Compare these phrases:

  • “This is sort of my plan to get the ball rolling.” vs. “This is our plan to get the ball rolling.”
  • “I just wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work and dedication.” vs. “Thank you for your hard work and dedication.”
  • “In my opinion, we should take a different course of action.” vs. “Let’s take a different course of action.”

If you want to be perceived as a leader, speak with confidence, conviction, and inclusiveness in areas where you are certain, committed and need the support of your audience. When you speak like a leader, you’ll have a more powerful presentation and inspire more listeners to take action.

 

 

 

Public Speaking Tip #44: Graciously Accept Laughs and Applause

When your audience is laughing at your quip or clapping their approval of your key point, let them conclude before continuing with your presentation. By rejoining your presentation too soon, they won’t be able to hear your first few words and you miss an opportunity to fully engage your audience.

By cutting the audience off too soon, it may even appear that you don’t appreciate their goodwill. Just say “thank you,” if appropriate, smile and continue.

Conclude with Style and Grace

The same goes for your conclusion. When your audience is applauding, stand graciously and accept the applause until they have concluded. You might even want to give a slight bow if it seems appropriate. Hang out for a few minutes to talk to people who approach you after your presentation and graciously accept their compliments. There’s plenty of time later to gather up your notes, disconnect your laptop, etc.

Take your time and enjoy the positive feedback. Public speaking is supposed to be fun and engaging.

You deserve it and so does your audience.