Life’s too short for dull presentations part 5 Anxiety
Anxiety – What can we do so we are not a quivering wreck when we stand up to speak?
Firstly let me bust a common myth – everyone gets nervous. Even professionals – its just that some people get used to it with experience and others learn to deal with it. The best advice I have ever heard about anxiety is ‘learn to change your state of mind’. For example…nerves are very helpful if we feel “Ready to rock” but if we are “Shaking with apprehension” that’s not so good. Speaker Steve McDermott says “I don’t get nervous, but sometimes it feels a bit like Christmas morning” – that has been so helpful for me.
Is there a way of rethinking your nerves? If we are nervous and run around being nervous, telling everyone we are nervous then guess what – you’ll be nervous. So acknowledge the nerves, but try and find ways to think differently. Sometimes I like to think of a time when a talk has gone really well and I think about that. Olympic divers do the same, apparently they visualise their dive again and again so that when they do it for real it’s like they have already been there. That sort of thinking or visualisation can help us get through some very tense moments.
Breathing well can also help before speaking – just try this now – breath in deeply through your nose for two seconds and then out of your mouth for four seconds, breath like that for a couple of minutes and you can feel the stress leave your body.
So, in a nutshell…keep breathing, control your negative thoughts, drink water, plan well and keep smiling – and it will feel much different, I promise.
Always remember the audience wont kill you, even if they don’t like you – they wont kill you! Have fun!
Life’s too short for dull presentations part 4 Delivery
You’ve probably heard that people retain information like this: 7% Verbal, 38% Vocal, 55% Visual (this is probably an underestimation by the way). But even so, it means that if we say some great stuff with a dull voice and bad body language our message is almost lost. For example I am not naturally the ‘smiliest’ person in the world, but I know now that I need to smile more when I speak – because it is key to great communication.
LESS IS MORE – Don’t talk for an hour about something you could have said in ten minutes. Some people live by the K.I.S.S. analogy here “keep it stupidly simple”. People have a three to seven minute attention span, even less if they are distracted or tired.
PRACTICE IS NOT OPTIONAL – Practice your talk in front of a mirror, especially the first minute so you feel comfortable when you get up. I really hate doing this so when I do I reward myself for doing it. The promise of a chocolate digestive can be a great motivator! You could also record or video yourself and listen to it later so you get more familiar with your content.
ONE MINUTE RULE – Grab their attention in the first minute or you have lost them. Anything appropriate (!) to get them in the room. Plus don’t forget you can introduce yourself after a few minutes – it doesn’t have to be at the beginning.
BE YOURSELF – Learn to be your self, don’t put on a special voice or change the way you speak, let your accent shine through.
ENGAGE – ‘Engage’ the people with an openness and willingness to allow questions. Don’t just ‘deliver stuff’ to them – they won’t listen unless they think you are the real deal anyway.
SMARTEN UP – Dress appropriately, or all people will “hear “ is the way you have dressed.
YOU ARE NOT HARRY HILL! – I have learnt the hard way that telling jokes is for comedians, not me. Jokes are very hard to do well and they often risk instantly dividing an audience, where as gentle humour about you and your life draws people in. Also reading out this “hilarious email I got the other day” is risky too as most spam and chain letter emails are often made up and very cheesy. Aim for a chuckle and a smile, not a belly laugh.
DO THE LIGHTHOUSE – As you speak naturally look around the room – making sure that you catch everyone’s eye for a brief moment, it makes them feel part of your talk.
WALK – Staring at notes or staying behind a lectern is a yawn. Walk around and engage your audience – practice it at the venue beforehand if you can and that will help you enormously. That’s what actors and singers do.
SIMON and GARFUNKEL – use the sound of silence once in a while, maybe after a story or a big point – it feels strange at first but can really help to engage the listener.
CHALLENGE – learn to challenge and not confront – there is a subtle difference that makes all the difference.
KEEP TO TIME – I often ask someone for a two-minute warning so I have time to wrap up even if I am still in full-flow. Going over time doesn’t win you any friends, so be disciplined.
END WELL – Learn your ending, so you know when to end and with a memorable conclusion.
Meat and gravy – don’t forget there has to be ‘meat with the gravy’ or more than just froth, otherwise what’s the point.
TUNE INTO V.H.F. – People learn in different ways – these are often categorized as V.H.F…Visual, Hearing, Feeling. So try to include phrases that use a bit of V.H.F. E.g. “its very clear” “can you hear the message here?” “can you feel the tension?”
Preparation – If you can’t say it in a minute, you can’t say it in an hour…
Start with the end in mind…sounds cheesy, but its easy to skip this bit and carry on regardless, ending up planning a talk that isn’t anything to do with what you were meant to do. Ask: Who am I speaking to? For what reason, for how long and where? What would you like them to take away at the end? Once you know this then you can *FRAME* your talk and put it into context – so it fits and it works. There’s no point doing a talk to an old ladies group about twitter and social networking, it wouldn’t work and can’t be easily applied.
CURRY ANYONE? – All talks should have take-aways or action points. People are all asking ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me) – answer that in your planning and your first few minutes and they will stay with you. “by the end of this talk you will know how to save £10,000 a year” “in ten minutes time you will know how to boost your self-image” “by the time you leave today you’ll understand what pensions are, and why they are important”
USE BLANKS – Use blank paper and mindmap your ideas in landscape mode – write the subject in the middle and just let your subject flow. Don’t edit – just let your brain do the work and give this time. Using lined paper and doing lists restricts your ideas – just buy blank notebooks or get a sketch pad or flip chart paper. You may also find it helpful to get away from your desk – walk around, take breaks, change the environment. In fact do anything to keep the ideas flowing. When you have the ideas then sift them and start to put them into a rough order.
PLAN EARLY – I often plan things weeks in advance because, I like ideas to “marinade” a bit. Fresh ideas aren’t always the best ones.
FLEETING – Thoughts are fleeting so if you have an idea write it down straight away. You wont remember to do it later – I can guarantee it. I have heard it said that all good leaders carry notebooks. I have notebooks by my bed, in the loo and in the car – strange, I know but it works for me!
BANK IT – Build up a bank of resources to use.You might use them, or you might not, but build up a file of cuttings. Don’t edit – just keep them.
STATO – Go steady on the stats – some people love stats but most people switch off – use one or two if you need to, but always tell stories as your main content, no-one remembers stats, but they do remember stories.
HELP! – Don’t be afraid to ask for help and opinions – I did for this article before I even started typing. Don’t be the lone ranger but be brave enough to ask for help and advice from people who are good speakers, people you trust.
WHY WHY WHY? – As you plan keep asking the Why (am I doing this talk) question – that will help you get to the core of your message much quicker.
Life’s too short for dull presentations part 1…
“Ladies and gentlemen the groom Mr. Lee Jackson” – this was probably the best speech I have done, it just felt great, it should’ve done – it was the biggest day of my life after all. I remember starting with the classic line “unaccustomed as I am to public speaking” and that got a great laugh and a few heckles – mainly because even then I was ‘very accustomed’ to public speaking – I had spoken to thousands of people in that year alone. It was a good first line though. And *shock horror* I did all of my wedding speech without a single powerpoint slide!
Obviously, there are many different types of business, but in my experience, most, if not all of them involve some sort of presenting or speaking. That may be a regular team talk, a sales pitch or presenting a new budget to the board. Even though we all have to do it, the reality is, we don’t get much help or training to do it well, a bit like parenting. And even scarier…our job may rely on it, just ask a certain well-known jeweller!
As you probably know, according to many published ‘Top Ten Lists’, the fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of the majority of people. Far above the fear of death and disease, comes the fear of standing up in front of people. This is serious stuff.
So let me try and demystify speaking for you. How can we do our best every time we have to speak in public? Helping people speak well falls into three main areas…
Preparation, Delivery, Anxiety
But before we dive in – like I did with my wedding speech – just stop and think now of a couple of great talks you have heard over the last few years…Why did they impact you? What made them memorable? Was it the venue? The content? The passion? A particular story? I have sat through a three day conference before and only remembered three things. So – purposeful and memorable need to be our focus.
Gordon Brown was voted the most boring speaker in the UK recently – strange as he seems to “tick all the boxes” for a good speech maker but he somehow doesn’t deliver with passion. That proves that there is no magic formula – we can “do it all” and still miss it by a mile – so anyone who tells you there’s a ten point plan to speaking brilliance is lying – a few tips and lots of practice will nail it. Play to your strengths, watch others do it well and then be yourselves “in the moment”, not reading a script.
Speaking is more a learnt skill than a natural talent – most people can learn to do it well…
On every Monday in June this blog will publish a part of my five-part article called “Life’s too short for dull presentations” – ideal for anyone who wants to present / speak even better!
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