When does a speech or business presentation begin? Answer: As soon as it is assigned. That’s when preparation for the presentation begins and that preparation will be the single biggest factor in determining how well your presentation goes. Part of that preparation must include audience research. You must know your audience to be a successful speaker.
Here are some questions to consider:
What does the audience know about me? Am I credible with them?
What does the audience know about my topic?
What are the audience’s views on my topic and purpose?
How do audience members define themselves?
How do the setting and occasion influence my audience?
How will the audience be dressed?
Are there cultural considerations?
What matters to audience members? What do they value? What are they skeptical about?
What are audience members interested in? What motivates them?
The answers to these questions can affect everything from the clothes you choose to wear to the words you choose to use. The more you understand your audience, the more effective you’ll be in connecting with them. And audience connection is really what it’s all about.
The sign in the Starbucks window reads: “We welcome Service Animals.” And, in much smaller letters, it states: “No pets, please. Thanks.” Being warm and welcoming is on brand for Starbucks so it’s no surprise that their customer signage follows suit. The message easily could have been reversed with the “No pets, please!” in large letters (and an exclamation mark added for good measure) and a smaller “we welcome service animals.” But Starbucks wisely prefers their coffee cup half full, not half empty.
When it comes to persuasive public speaking and business presentations, you should choose to use positive words. It will make you a more effective communicator.
The Starbucks sign is a great example of the power a positive tone. A positive tone enhances your ability to connect with your audiences, whoever they may be. Human brains are wired to understand and remember positive expressions better than negative expressions. Telling someone to “be still” is more effective than “don’t run.” Business directives get through better if we explain the action we want our audience to take rather than what not to do. When giving instructions for tasks, or stating policies, detailing procedures, or in countless other directives, it’s easy to slip into needless negative tones. Sometimes we do it simply because we are trying to be more serious. But compare: “You cannot sign up until Jan. 1” to “You can begin signing up Jan. 1.”
It’s simply more effective to be positive. Talking to your customers and employees in a positive tone is a simple change that over time can have a big impact. Try to catch yourself when you are using negative word choices. With practice, and over time, you will learn to speak more positively.
So don’t forget, err…I mean, please remember: Be positive. It works.
You’re about to make a persuasive presentation to a cross-functional task team of your peers in a conference room with a long rectangular table. Quick – where’s the best place to sit?
The head of the table you say?
The head of the table is great for a “command-and-control” style directive, but your persuasive speech to your peers will be more effective if it is delivered as an “influence-and-include” presentation.
That means a seat in the middle of the table is your best position. The head of the table can only directly influence the people in the two seats closest to them. But the middle position can directly influence those seated on either side plus two to four people seated across from them.
From the middle position, you can more effectively use your tone subtleties, body language, eye contact and charisma to make connections and draw more people over to your point of view.
Your middle seat position also supports powerful non-verbal messages that you want to send to other meeting participants. It says that you are part of the team, you are approachable, you are open to other points of view, and that you are a collaborator. And when trying to win over your colleagues, those are pretty good messages to send.
Handshakes have been in the news a lot lately as President Trump meets with world leaders. In these interactions, there has been lots of talk about who was dominant, who was awkward, and who got it right.
Handshakes do make a difference. They set a tone for a conversation and how you do your handshake can say a lot about you. A handshake can make or break the first impression someone has of you. Because handshakes are a conscious exertion of body language and how we present ourselves, they are an important part of public speaking. And in today’s fiercely competitive business climate, how well you present yourself can make the difference in getting ahead or going home. So to succeed, it’s important that we do this basic business interaction correctly.
In the video clip below, Paul Barton shows how to do a handshake that exudes confidence and a willingness to partner with someone. Both of those qualities are crucial in most interpersonal and business settings. A proper handshake helps you send the messages you’re intending to send and it helps you to stand out in the minds of your customers, clients and business partners. So go on — shake it up!
Body language is crucial to effective public speaking. It communicates more than our words. Some experts say as much as 80% of what we communicate is done through our body language. So, it’s important that we are using our body language to communicate what we are intending to say.
When you are making a business presentation, is your body language sending signals of “command and control” or are you trying to “influence and include?” You will have more success at persuading audiences to your way of thinking if you adopt a strategy of influence and include.
In this video clip from our “Speak Up and Stand Out” workshop, Paul Barton presents some tips on using body language to help you be more a more inclusive public speaker and presenter.
By using your body language to say what we are intending to say, you can become a more powerful communicator.
What happens if you get nervous or slip up in the middle of your speech? In previous posts, we’ve presented tips to help calm nerves before you begin speaking, but what about while you are speaking.
Here are some tips to help deal with public speaking fear while speaking:
As you begin to speak, look for friendly faces in the audience first. Feed off their positive energy.
Remember: You mind affects your body language, but the opposite is true as well — your body language affects how you feel. Plant your feet and stand confidently. Hold your head up. You will begin to act more confidently.
Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, and don’t say you’re nervous.
Be authentic; not perfect. Audiences are very forgiving of sincere speakers.
Laugh off mistakes, regain your footing and continue.
If you forget something, just move on. You’re probably the only one who knows you forgot.
Don’t forget to breathe, and do so from the diaphragm.
Be yourself and have fun!
By being your authentic self, your presentation will gain the most important element of a speech — credibility.
It’s natural to be a little nervous just before you begin to perform any sort of public speaking. Even if you’re not particularly scared to speak, adrenaline may increase in the excitement of the moment. We often times can control our upper bodies by focusing but the nervous energy then goes to our feet and causes us to sway, pace or move our feet around a lot.
Here are two techniques to use to deal with nervous energy:
Burn off nervous energy. Nervous energy is natural. Some speakers are able to convert this nervous energy into presentation energy. Another strategy is to burn off some of that energy. You could d0 jumping jacks but that might look a little weird. Instead, try this “stealth” method to burn off energy that I learned from my mentor, Pam Chambers: Grip the side on your chair with your dominant hand and pull as hard as you can from the elbow up for 30 seconds. If you pull from the elbow, and not the shoulder, no one can tell you’re doing it!
Breathe Deeply. Your body needs oxygen but often your body goes into shallow breathing when you are nervous. Breathe from your diaphragm. There’s science behind how this helps. But now, let’s take a psychological approach. Moments before you go up to speak, draw a deep breath. As you do so, imagine you are sucking up all the negative energy inside your body — all the self-doubts, the fears, the nervousness. Now, blow out your breath and imagine all the negative energy is leaving your body in the form of bubbles. Imagine those bubbles are popping as they come out and y0ur fears are disappearing into thin air. This exercise is only as good as you make it.
I have clients and former students who swear the chair grip is the greatest thing ever and they thank me months after learning it. Others love the imaginary bubbles. Some love both and others find no value in either one. The trick is to find what works for you. When you do, you will deliver a more relaxed and more confident speech or business presentation.
In my 20-year career working at six major corporations, I witnessed many people who were passed over for promotions. Many found their ideas were not taken seriously. They just didn’t seem like “management material.” Most of them had the knowledge they needed to do the job. So why didn’t they advance in their careers? Answer: the fear of public speaking. They lacked the confidence to speak up and the communication skills to stand out, and it cost them.
Conversely, I’ve seen people who were very good talkers but didn’t necessarily have as much knowledge as others on their work teams. They often times were taken more seriously and got promotions they perhaps didn’t deserve. Ideally, those who advance in life should be good communicators and know what the heck they are talking about.
Don’t let fear paralyze your career. Before you can gain the confidence to speak and learn the skills to stand out in this highly competitive world, you have to first put fear in your rear view mirror.
You can begin to eliminate your fears of public speaking long before you step to the front of the room to deliver your business presentation or speech. You can take steps in the preparation phase that will reduce stress, anxiety and your fears of failure.
Preparing for Your Presentation
A speech or presentation begins as soon as you accept the assignment. That’s when you begin to do your audience analysis, content development and rehearsals.
Practice, practice, practice! There is no substitute. Practice aloud. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of your friends or family. Record yourself. Have someone else read your speech to you.
Memorize your outline, not your speech. This will allow you to speak more authentically and appear to be more credible.
Believe at least one thing in your speech will be meaningful to at least one person in the audience. That’s not a high hurdle. But if you do not believe that with all your heart then you have two choices: rewrite your speech until you do believe it or stay home.
Make a packing list so you don’t forget handouts, visual aids, etc.
If you have presentation materials, scripts, or any technology, have a backup plan. Technology can and will fail.
Come prepared with a small bottle of room temperature water and throat drops. Keep them handy while you’re speaking. A coughing fit can ruin a presentation.
Remove coins, keys, etc. from your pockets. If you fidget with a ring or watch when you’re nervous, remove the distraction.
The more prepared you are, the less fearful you will be. We will look at additional steps to overcome public speaking fears future posts. So, don’t be afraid to check back frequently!
“If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.” ~ Dianna Booher
When you are preparing a speech or business presentation, take the time to develop a well-crafted thesis statement that explains what you want your audience to understand, believe or do when you have finished speaking. This one sentence statement will serve as the fountainhead for the rest of your speech and it’s worth taking the time to think it through and get it just right.
If you can’t figure out what you’re trying to say, your audience never will. But when you craft a great thesis statement, a speech can sometimes almost write itself.