Avoid the Curse of Punxsutawney Phil

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Do you find that every time you are asked to give a presentation you “relive” the same fear over and over again? You don’t have to live the life of Punxsutawney Phil! Fear of speaking in public still ranks as one of the top — if not the number one fear — in the western world. Begin to manage that anxiety and use it to your advantage – ARM Yourself and Knockout Stage Fright for Good!

In case you missed it, see what Phil “presented” yesterday. Groundhog Day 2014: Phil Sees His Shadow, Signifying 6 More Weeks of Winter

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In The Red Zone & Ready To Score

goal postsIn football, no matter how well you’re playing the rest of the game, it’s what happens when you’re in the red zone – those last 20 yards to the goal line – that’s essential to punching it in for the touchdown.  The same dynamic applies to speaking. No matter how well you have prepared, what happens in The Red Zone — the 24-36 hours before you speak – will determine your success. Taking advantage of the intangible pressure that comes when your presentation is near and addressing on-site details should be the “play” that sets you up to score.

The following tips can ensure that you’re prepared and as focused as possible when it finally comes time to suit-up for the big game:

  • Make time for on-site stage rehearsal. Although you rehearsed before arriving at the venue, rehearsing on stage is just as essential. The set-up of the stage, the way your voice sounds on microphone, and the technology that will be used should all be familiar before you step up to present to your audience.  Be sure to schedule this rehearsal time to ensure the availability of the room, equipment and production team.
  • Rehearse your entrance and exit. There is usually a plan for entering and exiting the stage, and you should be sure you know what to expect. This seemingly simple step has tripped up many an unprepared presenter. Consider how you will enter and exit the stage – then make sure you actually do it.
  • Practice your introduction. Depending on how the event is organized, you may be introduced by another speaker or by the “Voice of God” (aka VOG) over the audio system. Not knowing how you’re going to be introduced can lead to a shaky start, especially if the person introducing you says something you’re not expecting, or if they haven’t practiced it themselves.
  • Wear your shoes. It’s common to wear a new pair of shoes to a presentation, but this can be a mistake if the shoes turn out to be uncomfortable and not broken in – whether old or new, wear your “presentation” shoes to the rehearsal. In addition women, if you’re wearing heels, make sure you’re comfortable navigating any stairs or carpets.
  • Practice your positioning. Get to know the room or stage so you are comfortable with the space. If you’ll be sitting, as can occur in a panel, make sure you practice getting in and out of whatever type of seat is provided. For example, high bar stools can be awkward for shorter people or women in skirts; knowing the seating in advance can give you time to practice and plan your wardrobe accordingly.

These last-minute offensive strategies can only be played out on-site, and they’re surprisingly essential to boosting your confidence.  Make time to take care of these “red zone” details and you’ll be primed and ready to win the game!

Do you have any special habits or rituals to prepare for a big presentation? Share in the comments!

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SpeakerByte #63: Take the 15-Minute Test

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If you want relevant and actionable feedback when rehearsing your next presentation ask your listeners, “If I only have 15 minutes to make changes, what would you suggest I do differently?”

Ask for specifics. With this approach you can distinguish between the “must do’s” and the “nice to’s”.

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SpeakerToolbox: Score the State of the Union Address

 

Obama State of the Union

President Obama will step up to give the State of the Union Address tomorrow evening — talk about a high stakes presentation!  This event challenges us once again to be attentive to both what is said and how it is expressed.

What type of score will you give the President and why?  As you watch, use our Speaker Scorecard to aid in your assessment.

Return “the morning after” and share your thoughts about this all-important event.

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7 Of My Favorite Presentation Tools

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A few years back (October 2010, to be exact) I published two posts describing my favorite presentation resources. In reviewing the posts, I happily found those same tools to still be relevant today. So, here are ‘my favs’ – with some updates!

Use these tools to maximize your rehearsal time, strengthen your visuals, and smooth your on-stage presence.

1. A Reliable Timer

I have a timer handy at every stage of the presentation process — from my initial cold read through, in each practice session and the final delivery. I like the West Bend digital timer as it allows for setting the allotted time and counting down. It’s easy to use and reasonably priced. Of course, you can also use the timing mechanism on your mobile device.  Whichever tool you prefer, never underestimate the importance of “timing” your presentation.

2. No to Low Cost Photo Resources

When looking for the perfect image to capture the essence of your message, check out Photopin.com.  This site offers no-cost photos for bloggers and others. Ensure you choose  “commercial” for the type of license and then properly cite the photo with the given link.

Other affordable resource sites such as Fotolia offer a searchable library of professional images — photos, illustrations, even video clips — you don’t have to break the bank to give your presentation a polished image. Similar resources can be found at iStock and Jupiter Images.

3. Online Teleprompter Practice Tool

Using a teleprompter can be nerve-wracking the first few times out. Luckily, web-based applications like Easy Prompter let you get the feel for a teleprompter’s basic flow, pacing and use, all in the privacy of your own practice session. One caveat: Online tools are no substitute for the real thing! When you arrive on site, practice with your teleprompter operator so you’re certain to nail it like a teleprompter pro.

4. Wireless PowerPoint Control

If your presentation includes PowerPoint, then a wireless remote is an absolute must. My favorite is the Targus Laptop Wireless Presenter. It’s small and lightweight. And this may sound like a no-brainer, but always bring a spare set of batteries to every presentation.

5. Time 

One of the most precious resources you can give yourself is time. Time to think. Time to clarify your message. Time to develop that one-sentence lead-off that sets a tone of excitement and anticipation. Once you’re confident in your message, you need time to refine its delivery to ensure that you do much more than simply convey information…you inspire action that achieves results.

6. Room 

It may sound funny, but you really do need room to rehearse — a space that mimics the size of the presentation room whenever possible so you can get a sense of what it means to “own the room.” Why? Because your environment impacts your presentation style. For example, if you’re presenting on a large stage, you should practice in a room that offers the same sense of breadth and scope. On the flip side, if you’re presenting in a small conference room, you’ll want to create a more intimate feel — and adapt your presentation style accordingly.

7. Feedback 

Listener feedback is the breakfast of champions. You can’t take your speaking skills to the next level without it — so ask for it! Ask a trusted colleague to watch for particular strengths and weaknesses, or to evaluate the overall structure and effectiveness of your core message. Not in a position to receive feedback from listeners? Record your presentation and critique yourself. It’s the only way to find out how you’re perceived by others when you speak.

By incorporating some of these tools — you’re guaranteed to bring your “A game”, delivering a highly memorable and effective presentation.  

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SpeakerQuote: Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of unity, equality, and judging our fellow Americans by who they are and not by the color of their skin — touched people of all races and ethnicity.

After 50 years, it was both what he said and how he expressed himself that still distinguishes Dr. King as an iconic speaker, allowing his messages to resonate with people of all ages.

Dr. King did not rely on a teleprompter; in fact much of his speech was ad lib. He spoke from his heart and the gut.

Remember, being who you are, believing in your message, as well as authentically and passionately sharing with listeners will ensure you connect with your audience and inspire action!

What about Dr. King resonates with you on this day?

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Going Live: Tips for First Time Corporate Speakers

Recently published on SmartBriefs…8 tips for first time corporate speakers.

laptop on conference speech podiumYou’ve been asked to speak at an upcoming business meeting and have learned that some important people will be in the audience. There is a lot riding on this. And the reality is this presentation could open doors for you, including the exit!

Speaking in public is a requirement of most corporate positions. It also is a leading fear for many people. Yet, with a little preparation and practice, you can manage that fear and present like a rock star — delivering for your company, elevating your position and avoiding being shown to the door!

Follow these eight tips and you will surely succeed as a first time corporate speaker:

  1. Embrace the anxiety. Most people will tell you to relax before giving a public speech. But that’s easier said than done. Public speaking activates your adrenal glands and creates nervous energy. Take a step back and reassure yourself that what you are experiencing is normal. Harness that energy and make it work for you, not against you. Make a conscious decision to use purposeful movements, meaningful gestures, and direct and continuous eye contact.
  2. Open with a grabber. This is one of the most common tips for the first-time corporate speaker. Don’t start by saying, “My name is ____, and I’m here to talk about …” Someone’s (hopefully) already introduced you and your topic. Your job is to start your presentation with a story, startling statistic, a little known fact — something that will break the ice and engage your audience.
  3. Fact-example-fact. This is a good way to structure the points of your speech to drive them home. State a fact. Then give an example that illustrates that fact and its implications. Then state the fact again, in a different way.
  4. Employ visuals. They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words. If you have specific audiovisual elements that can illustrate your point, use them. Be careful with this one. Some think that having a slide show with their presentation will automatically make it more engaging. In fact, if used poorly, any audiovisual can distract from the overall message. Use slides when they are relevant to what you are saying, maximizing the impact of your message.
  5. Include soundbites. This is the Twitter age. If people like what you say, they’ll share it with the world, but only if it’s memorable and brief. Format the takeaways of your speech as short but interesting soundbites that encourage people to pass them on.
  6. Practice, practice, practice. Your speech works on paper, but how does it sound out loud? Practice your speech out loud a minimum of five times before you deliver it. The first three times, you may find yourself editing your speech and honing your content, determining what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve got your message in shape, it’s time to focus on delivery. Find a small group of colleagues, friends or family members ask for their honest feedback. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be when you speak at that all-important meeting.
  7. Have a conversation. Instead of talking at your audience, talk to them. Share with them what you want them to know, why it’s important, and most importantly, “what’s in it for them.” Use a little humor where appropriate. Be authentic and you’re sure to connect with your listeners.
  8. Be passionate. This is the most important tip: Get excited about the subject you’re speaking about! Your audience will be as engaged as you. When your excitement is genuine, you will convey a “sit up and listen” energy, and your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Whether you’re addressing a room of 10 or a stadium of 10,000, these tips for the first time corporate speaker can help you deliver an engaging and memorable presentation. With a little preparation and practice, you’ll gain confidence and discover that speaking in public is an opportunity that can take your career to the next level.

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