SpeakerByte #37:  Remember to Breathe

Do you have trouble staying calm in front of an audience? It’s essential to focus on your breathing. When you take a moment to breathe, you slow down and create “white space” that allows you to actually think about what you’re saying.

Breathing helps you stay in the moment so you can respond appropriately to what is happening around you.

SpeakerByte #36:  Meet & Greet Your Listening Audience

Use the time before your presentation to circulate and get to know your audience.  Ask individuals about their expectations as well as interest in your topic.

Informal pre-event conversations can provide spontaneous anecdotes you can use to personalize your presentation and keep everyone engaged.

SpeakerByte #35:  Overcome the Schoolyard Bully

Many people battle with the fear of public speaking. Do you? Author Joyce Meyer writes, “Instead of thinking ‘I can’t do this,’ make up your mind that you will do whatever you need to do, even if you are afraid.”

Fear is like a schoolyard bully. It will push you around and control the situation until you finally stand up to it!  Keep a bold face and forge ahead confident in what you have to say and your ability to say it!

SpeakerByte #34:  Make It Your Own

Have you been asked to deliver some else’s already prepared presentation? Don’t feel compelled to “deliver” what has been handed to you.  Spend some time thinking about your personal perspective on the content. Then edit, augment and adjust as needed  to make it your own.

Personalizing the content will increase your comfort level with the message and ensure you are confident when you step up to speak.

SpeakerByte #33:  Decode the C.O.D.E.

The keys to an effective presentation are to Clarify, Organize, Develop, and then to Express & Engage — what I call the Presentation C.O.D.E. The first three keys stress the skills required to craft your content: clarifying your message, organizing the content and maximizing the impact of your message by developing relevant slides or other forms of media.

When your content is clarified, organized and developed, focus on the E — express yourself with conviction and engage your audience.

SpeakerByte #32:  Say Cheese!

Can a smile really make a difference when you present? The fact is that a smile makes you appear more confident and engaging.

Smiling actually gives others more confidence in you!

SpeakerByte #31:  Less is More

We’ve all been there. We’re in the audience while a presenter wades through a slide deck so chock-full of information that he doesn’t  know how to explain — and we don’t know how to digest. When you present, avoid trying to stuff 10 pounds into a 5 pound bag – it won’t fit!

Remember to keep things simple: identify your core message, organize your material, and thoughtfully communicate your ideas.

SpeakerByte #30:  Emulate, Don’t Imitate

Some people are impressed by the style of an admired presenter — so much so, that they attempt to imitate that presenter’s delivery. While you can always learn from others, it’s important to remember that every presenter has a personal style and something unique to offer.

The more you are yourself, the better off you (and your listeners) will be!

SpeakerByte #29: Conduct a Dialogue Not a Monologue

After spending 30+ years in the presentation field, one of the universal lessons is this . . . transform your “presentation” into a “conversation.”

Use a conversational tone and talk with your audience as if you are talking with friends or colleagues.

SpeakerByte #28: Sync Up for Maximum Impact

The best presenters get everything working together — their words, body language and voice, as well as slides, props or other audiovisual support.

When you and all aspects of your presentation are in sync, you’ll find that your audience not only “gets it,” they’ll be inspired to take action.

SpeakerByte #27: Don’t Make Me Think

In the book, Don’t Make Me Think, author Steve Krug counsels against complicating your message. I believe most of your listeners would agree with his advice.  To help ensure your listeners can quickly and easily understand your message, try this exercise.

First, state your core message in one simple sentence; then, do everything you can to ensure your audience takes that message away from your presentation.

SpeakerByte #26: Preparation not Memorization

Many speakers believe that being the “perfect” presenter means memorizing your presentation. Not so! It’s never about perfection; it’s about connection.

The trick is to use your hard copy as a reference, not a script, while staying directly connected to your audience by maintaining 90% direct, roving eye contact.

SpeakerByte #25: Make a Meaningful Connection

Powerful delivery comes from connecting with your audience. Eye contact is key to a meaningful connection, combined with carefully chosen stories, supporting visuals and authentic energy.

It’s the quality of the connection that matters not the quantity of data you present.

SpeakerByte #24: Develop Your Unique Perspective

 Many presentations are little more than a laundry list of data. To set yourself apart from the typical speaker, start by identifying what makes your “story” unique.  Be sure your presentation has a distinct core message that captures your unique perspective.

By sharing your unique prescriptive on the topic or issue, you increase the odds of connecting with your listeners and inspiring action!


SpeakerByte #23:  Present Like You’re Conversing

 Most people are comfortable having a one-on-one conversation. Put them in front of a crowd, however, and everything changes. But it doesn’t have to! Imagine you’re simply talking to one person who’s genuinely interested in what you have to say.

View every presentation as simply a conversation on a grander scale.


SpeakerByte #22:  Walk the Room

 You’ve just arrived at the conference room, ballroom or convention center where you’ll be speaking. How can you increase your confidence from the start?

Walk around and get to know the room. Transform it in your mind from an impersonal space to a welcoming, cozy area that will make listeners even more receptive to your message.

Walking the room will boost your confidence and help ensure you are ready for prime time!


SpeakerByte #21:  Dare to Be Different

Do you skimp on your preparation because no one else is taking the time to prepare? Or do you use PowerPoint simply because everyone else does? Avoid the dreaded “default mode” of going along with the crowd. Focus on what you want to accomplish and the best strategies to get there.

Dare to be different! Break the mold and your audience will thank you. 


SpeakerByte #20:  Think-the-Thought

Listeners know when you’re mindlessly reading your message. It comes across as lifeless and emotionless because you’re not thinking about what you’re saying. You have to be fully engaged in your presentation or your listeners will tune out.

“Think-the-thought” and stay personally engaged.


SpeakerByte #19:  Don’t Fall Victim to the Curse of Knowledge

In their book Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath say that many experts try to share everything they know instead of delivering what listeners need to know. As result,  presenters are like the Energizer Bunny®. They keep going…and going…and very little sticks with their overwhelmed audiences.

Focus on what’s relevant and your audience will benefit.

 SpeakerByte #18: The Eyes Have It

Making and maintaining eye contact is one of your most important tools to engage your audience and keep them involved. Eye contact creates a sense of confidence, establishing your credibility and helping you build rapport.

Shoot for 90% direct, roving, and continuous eye contact throughout your presentation.

SpeakerByte #17: Make Sure Your Audience “Gets It”

As a presenter, it’s your job to do whatever you can to ensure your audience “gets” your message — they understand it and are inspired to act. As author Carmen Taran says, “If they can’t repeat it, they didn’t get it.”

Be clear, concise and deliver with impact!

SpeakerByte #16: Scout Your Stage

Plan to arrive at your venue, whether it’s a conference room, boardroom or ballroom, at least 30 minutes before your start time. Get comfortable. Walk around and explore the room. Test the equipment. Troubleshoot the logistics. If something isn’t the way you need it to be, you’ll have time to get it fixed or implement “Plan B.”

Make sure you’re ready and prepared to greet your audience as they arrive.

SpeakerByte #15:  Be Confident, Be Heard, Be Inspiring

Be Confident … believe in what you are saying and your ability to say it.

Be Heard … craft well-organized, carefully sequenced materials that lets the audience follow along with ease.

Be Inspiring …use  your passion to connect and inspire your listeners to take action.

SpeakerByte #14:  Put the Power Back into PowerPoint

Slides have just one purpose — to maximize your message. To create strong visuals, use our RSVPSM method. Ask yourself if the slide is:

  • Relevant to the topic?
  • Subordinate to the speaker?
  • Visible to the audience?
  • Pictorial rather than dense text?

Applying RSVP will perk up your PowerPoint and move listeners from understanding to action.

SpeakerByte #13:  Succeed At Being You

Rather than fixating on the abilities of others, concentrate on your own unique strengths.  Identify what you do well (it may be as simple as a warm smile) and let your natural skills and talent shine.

Letting the “real” you shine through boosts self confidence while building rapport with your audience.

SpeakerByte #12:  Be Conversational

Imagine you’re talking with friends or colleagues.  Are you usually:

a) stiff and formal

b) conversational

Hopefully your answer is “b.”  Approaching any presentation — with friends, business associates and colleagues — as a conversation, instantly gives you the vocal inflection and variety you need to be credible and authentic.

SpeakerByte #11:  Rehearse Out Loud

Until you’ve rehearsed out loud you can’t truly tell what works and what doesn’t, what trips you up, what’s too complicated, or what just doesn’t sound like you.

A presentation that’s “well done” on paper is probably about 70% done in reality. On average, it takes three to five focused rehearsals for a speaker to really seal the deal — especially when it comes to critical or career-defining presentations.

You’ll probably find yourself editing and rewriting as you practice out loud. That’s to be expected. . . better now than later!

SpeakerByte #10:  Be Expressive

Non-verbal skills like your smile, posture and eye contact are as important as the content of your message. Being “physically expressive” helps you build rapport and  connect with your   audience.

These skills can also make the difference between an attentive audience and one that’s busy texting or daydreaming while you’re speaking.

SpeakerByte #9:  Present, Don’t Perform

A physician client once confessed that, for him, presenting meant “performing.” Careful, when you’re performing, you’re literally putting on a facade — a “false face.” This can keep listeners from connecting with you and your message.

It’s better and easier to be yourself. Your authenticity will be more appealing than an act.

SpeakerByte #8:  Own the Room

Some presenters want to “own the stage” — but that turns them into performers not presenters. Instead, try owning the room. It’s not that hard. Simply close your eyes. Imagine the ballroom or boardroom is your living room.

Think of each audience member as a guest you’ve welcomed into your home and it becomes easy to project confidence, credibility and conviction.

SpeakerByte #7:  Rehearse Your Way to Success

When the stakes are high and the pressure is on, it’s important to learn from the experts. As pianist Arthur Rubenstein famously said, success requires “Practice, practice, practice.”

There is simply no substitute for a structured rehearsal plan to deliver the results you want.

SpeakerByte #6: Commit to “Getting It” Vs. Getting Through It

Is your presentation a chore, something to cross off your list and move on? Or are you committed to ensuring that your audience really “gets it?”  When you truly commit, everything clicks: you’re more authentic, eye contact increases, gestures are spontaneous and effective.

When your goal is to make sure your audience “gets it,” you’ll present with power and purpose.

SpeakerByte #5: Inspiration Starts with Engagement

To inspire your audience to take action, you have to be fully engaged in your presentation. That means believing in what you’re saying and being confident in your ability to deliver the message — whether you’re addressing a group of 10 or an audience of 10,000.

If you are not personally engaged, why would you expect your audience to be? Inspiration starts with personal engagement.

SpeakerByte #4: It’s Never About You; It’s Always About Your Audience

Are you self-conscious at the podium, worrying about what you’re doing or not doing?

You may be surprised to learn that while you are the speaker, your presentation is never about you. Effective speakers realize that success comes from focusing on their audience.  When you step up to speak, do everything in your power to ensure that your audience is engaged and your message is inspiring.

Remember, it is never about you; it is always about your audience.

SpeakerByte #3: Glance & Grab

Question: How can I create the most effective PowerPoint presentation possible?

Answer: Follow the principle of “Glance & GrabSM.”

We all glance and grab critical information every day to make crucial decisions fast. Why not help your audience do the same? Use images to tell your story or make a point and keep text telegraphic.

This strategy will allow your audience to quickly glance at your PowerPoint, grab what they need and keep their attention where it belongs — on you.

SpeakerByte#2:  Be Spontaneous

Your personality and thoughts are just as interesting — or more interesting — than your script or any written notes. When presenting, be yourself! Interact with your audience, learn what is important to them and then offer little known facts and anecdotes that reflect your listeners needs and interests.

Remember, your presentation is happening in real time — take advantage of it!

SpeakerByte#1:  It’s About Connection, Not PerfectionSM

When faced with a high-profile presentation many of us strive to be perfectionists. But if we are “connectionists” we’d be better off.  Instead of trying to be flawless, focus on what’s important to your audience and connect as directly and powerfully as you can

Next time you step up to speak, remember . . . while preparation is essential, authenticity and connection always trump perfection.


9 Responses to SpeakerBytes

  1. Pat Iyer says:

    I appreciate the short bytes. great idea. Pat Iyer at http://www.avoidmedicalerrors.com

  2. Valda Rowe says:

    LOVE your style and sage advice; love the effort you make to share it. I know this is going to be a valuable tool for a lot of people! Congratulations on your launch, and best wishes for continued success! 🙂

  3. Tommy Hilcken says:

    Glad to be on board

  4. Thank you Janet, I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. If you have a topic or question please send it this way for a future SpeakerByte.

  5. Love it, short, sweet and very effective. I look forward to more of the same. You are a wonderful example of keeping it real.

  6. Thank you! Please let me know if the “SpeakerBytes” are useful and let me know what type of “byte” would be most useful to you!

  7. Paul,

    So good to hear from you and thank you for your feedback. It is always good to know that readers find the articles informative and useful(that’s a double hitter?). Hope to connect with you soon.

  8. Paul Means says:

    I wish I had had this information back when I was teaching. I spent a lot of time looking down at my notes. I knew this was not really the way to make contact with my students. I would however, go around the class later on, and listen and speak to my students on a one to one basis. It would seem important to capture their attention in the beginning. I will use this information as I have with the many other tips from your very informative website, when hopefully I get another teaching job!
    Happy Holidays to you and John.

  9. John Frackoviak says:

    Looking forward to it !!!

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