Making a Living as a Public Speaker The wonderful dearly departed comic Chris Farley had a character that was a professional motivational speaker. That character was Matt Foley and he was an absolute mess. His speaking style was painful and destructive and he lived (say it with me) in a van down by the river. Well, as hilarious as that routine was, that characterization of professional speakers is obviously for comedy purposes only. If you have been given the gift of public speaking, there is every reason to believe that you can make a very good living doing it for a living. One way to view making your living as a public speaker is to see it as a variation on the profession of professional author. When you think about it, a writer of informative books takes an area of expertise that they have excelled at and they used their skills in writing to lay that out for people who need that knowledge. And when people buy that knowledge, it's a fair exchange to pay that person for that valuable knowledge and allow that author to continue writing. You can also compare a professional public speaker to the noble calling of teacher. A teacher, after all, is someone who does public speaking every day for his or her students. And that public speaking has a vital function in our society. Without it, our children would not be educated and the way our culture functions would be in serious danger. So professional public speakers are important. How to get your own career as a professional public speaker going is the challenge. You may be used to public speaking to help with your work or as part of your membership in a church or other organization. So it may not be a big leap to think of taking that skill to the next level and seek ways to get paid doing what you love to do, speaking to larger groups about your area of expertise. As might happen if you took your area of skill that you have the most knowledge an put that in a book form, that focus is your meal ticket to be successful as a professional public speaker. So to get the ball rolling, the first step is to add to the level of notoriety you may have as a professional in your field of knowledge. The internet is a good starting place. By building a web site where you can showcase your knowledge and using the skills of internet marketers to get some traffic to that web site, it is there you can begin to build an audience for your knowledge area and to keep them informed on times and places where you will be speaking. Once that web site is in place, it can be a foundation for your new public speaking career. You can send people to it after each talk you give where they can learn more about how to use your talents for their function and for their audience. But don't just rest on the internet and expect it to do all the work. There are lots of organizations that you can speak at either for free or for a small gratuity (sometimes just lunch). But the value of these meetings is not the pay, its getting momentum and some buzz as a speaker. From then on its just a matter of networking. As members of those groups carry your business card with them, they refer you and you get more and more "gigs" presenting your talk to bigger groups. Before long the gratuities turn into real pay. And when you are on your way and things start to click, you will never look back on your decision to become a professional public speaker. The Greatest Public Speaking Secret of them All Any guide to success in an endeavor will tell you that there is no magic formula to success. But in a lot of fields of endeavor, there seem to be "insider secrets". And taking on the challenge of becoming a truly great public speaker is a noble ambition. But if you could learn the insider secret that makes the difference between good public speakers and great ones, that would help you make that transition. Actually there is one great secret to what makes speakers that really shine in front of a group so great. But it isn't magic or something that you can take as a pill and an hour later, presto, you are ready to stand up and dazzle the crowd. It is a very simple process that is something you already know a lot about. It is just simple, old fashioned hard work and preparation. The further in advance you can start getting ready for a presentation, the better your public speaking will be. You know that feeling of terror that you experience when you address a crowd. Well you may not be able to pinpoint why that feeling comes upon you because who can think when terrified? But many times it comes up because you aren't completely prepared and you don't know what to do or how it will go because the material is not as well developed as it should be. If you put the work in on your presentation, it will make all the difference in the world when you stand up to give your presentation. First of all, make sure the content meets your standards. You should make that speech compelling and fascinating to you. And if that presentation is full of great material that it not only fascinates you but you will be eager to get up there and share what you know with this crowd. And that eagerness to speak is a very refreshing feeling when it replaces that terror you felt when you did not work hard in advance to make sure the material was well developed in advance. Your audience will notice that big change in your attitude too. Enthusiasm is contagious and if you get up in front of them bubbling with anticipation because what you have to share is just that cool, they will be eager to hear it. It's like when someone says to you, "Hey, want to know a secret?" You are dying to hear that secret. That is the attitude you will see in your audience when you get up there not only well prepared but excited to tell them what is in that outline. The more you have that outline and the details of your presentation in your mind, the more confident you will be in front of a crowd. If you have that presentation virtually memorized, when you begin to speak, you will look at your audience more and only have to glance at your outline to stay on track with where you want to be next. That is a terrific skill to develop and huge benefit when speaking to the crowd because you have that material down pat in your mind and you always have a destination throughout your talk. It will take some work to get to that level of confidence in your material. Rehearsals of your presentation help a lot. Prepare a dynamic opener that puts the problem statement into the minds of the crowd and then proceed to solve that problem. Also know the navigation plan of your presentation and plan the transitions from point to point. That will help you not get stuck in one part of the talk and not have awkward transitions which will make you and then your crowd nervous. Finally plan how you will conclude. There is a conclusion you want your audience to reach. Make sure you know the critical points and what parts of your talk are "optional" or there for illustration or to fill time. In that way, you know where to cut if time runs short and you will still get to your point and close strong. If your talk has good content, enthusiasm, good points to lead up to solving the problem and closes strong, not only will you feel great about it, your audience will applaud the job you did. And won't that be a nice way to end a public speaking exercise for you? How to Write a Speech You cannot excel at public speaking without a good speech. If you are asked to give a speech or its required for work or school, you know that when you stand up there to give that presentation, you are going to have to have a well organized outline and content to get through it and impress those listening. Sometimes the fear of an upcoming speaking engagement comes from that writers block that happens when you have to write a good speech. Writing a speech is not exactly like writing a term paper or a report. The reason is simple. What you actually "write" is not intended to be read. It will be heard. You don't have to worry about good spelling or the other conventions of writing a paper because it might never see the light of day. If you are new to writing speeches, it might be best to write it out like a paper so you can hear it being said in your head. But many times experienced speakers write a speech in the form of an outline based on a defined structure and then they hang the detail off of the structure. The detail is the content and the substance of the speech which makes up why your speech has value. It can include quotations, facts, historical references, scientific statistics, whatever you need to support the theme of your speech. Now how you organize your speech may be determined by what kind of speech it is. And what kind of speech it is can be defined by what you hope to achieve. So a speech might be designed to convince, to sell, to entertain or to inform. Many times a speech can be a combination of these forms. But you should define what your expected outcome so you know if you have achieved your goal by the time the composition of the speech is done. Having that overriding goal well in mind helps in how you organize your speech. The skeleton of a good speech is similar to a paper. But lay out each section and allocate your time accordingly even before you write the speech. The components are the introduction, the opener, the personal introduction, the statement of the "problem", three to five points of the body of the speech, the summary and the closer or the call for action again depending on the purpose of the speech. For the opener, its good to use something that brings the audience to you. Its good to greet them warmly and seek a greeting in response. Some anecdote about the hall or the weather even can get the talk off on the right foot. Then go into your personal information but making sure what you tell relates to why you are the one here giving this talk. Keep every aspect of the presentation relevant to the central theme. The problem statement can be phrased as a question. A good speech is like a good story because you must create a problem and then solve it. If you are going to discuss tricks for using Microsoft PowerPoint, start out talking about problems using the software with illustrations about catastrophes that have been caused by that lack of understanding. As much as possible keep the problem relevant your listeners. Then move directly from there to presenting the body of your work in an organized way. Make sure you have three to five solid points. Tell them what they are, tell them the points and then tell them what you just said. That cements your presentation in their minds. The conclusion is often a summary of what was just said. Its good to close with humor as well. But you may also use the final summary of your talk for any call to action you may have in mind for this audience. If they enjoyed your speech, they want to know what you want them to do, even if they are not going to go do that. It just gives a nice ending to the discussion. Thank them for their time and close. But stick around because if it was a good talk, you will have questions or people who will want to talk to you about things they thought about afterward. And if that happens, you know for certain then that you did a good job. Maintaining Focus in Public Speaking A public speaking situation can be intimidating for even the most seasoned of public speaking professionals. That is because when speaking to a live audience, you really never know what is going to happen. Never mind the freak occurrences of problems with the audience and the room, you as a human being could be subject to momentary memory halts that often come as the result of nervousness or just looking up and seeing all those eyes looking at you. So much of the discipline of giving a public presentation is to establish an internal structure to your talk that helps you stay on task and maintain the focus of your subject for the entire time you are speaking. That structure can also be of huge value in helping you gauge your time and make adjustments so you get the most crucial parts of your talk presented within the allocated time frame even if that means leaving out less important parts of your presentation. There is a simple directive many public speakers live by that gives you a fine guideline for that structure. It goes like this: * Tell them what you are going to do. * Do what you said you were going to do * Tell them you did it. This simple outline may be overly simplistic but it is the heart of what makes a good presentation work. And the simplicity also helps you stay focused under the pressure of a public speaking situation. So any tool that can do that is a good one. You tell the audience what to expect during your opening comments. Those comments also contact giving your personal information, a greeting to the audience and perhaps some humor to set the tone of the talk. After you have gotten the speech underway, it is common to establish what is the topic of your talk. But to do that, the most effective device is to make a statement of the problem. By phrasing the subject matter as a compelling and very real problem to your audience, that creates interest as the audience says mentally, "Yes I have that problem. Tell me how you will help me fix it." This is where you tell them what you are going to do. The body of your speech is usually a three to five point discussion of the solution to the problem. Don't give them the entire heart of your speech but let them know the ground you are about to cover. Not only does this give the audience a road map of what to expect, it lets them know that you know what you are doing and you know when you will get done. This gets rid of a secret fear of an out of control speaker that a lot of people who sit in on presentations dread. Once you establish this roadmap for the rest of your speech, this gives the audience a good feel for where you will be going. By giving them this information early on, that actually reduces the impulse to interrupt you because they know you have a path to go on and they don't want to take you off that path. Now it is just a matter of stepping through each of the outlined areas to do for this audience what you said you would do which is to offer a solution to the problem statement. Naturally your detailed discussion will have more content than your brief preview. But if you continue to broadcast to the audience where you are on the outline and that you are on track to reach the goal, that keeps them interested and assured that this is an organized program they are a part of. It is always good to let the audience know then when you are entering your closing statements. Many speakers use a simple clue like "Let me point out, and I am closing with this: " to give the audience the signal that the presentation is almost done. This is common courtesy and a professional way to conduct a presentation. And if you treat the audience with respect like this by telling them what you are going to do, do it and then tell them you did it, you will be a speaker that will get good reviews and invited back for more presentations frequently. Where to Look When You Speak When you are giving a presentation or speech, your body language and how you hold yourself in front of a crowd speaks to them as much as your words do. And part of not begin nervous in front of people when you are doing public speaking is not "acting" nervous. If you have complete control over your body, your face and your hands, you can perform relaxation in front of people and you will actually accept the idea that you are relaxed and begin to feel more at ease as you do your speech. One problem that you often see in public speakers who is the use of the eyes. It's extremely easy as a public speaker to want to look at your outline or your written out speech throughout your presentation so you never get lost or have that terrifying feeling of not knowing what you are going to say next. That is why many people who do not become skilled at talking in front of crowds write out their speeches word for word and just read it to the group. The problem with that approach is you have been asked to give a speech, not a reading. And many adults take offense at being read to. An audience wants to hear "from" you, not just hear you read. If that was the only value of a public presentation, you could just hand out your speech as a white paper and let them read it and not have to get in front of people at all. But that is not as effective as public speaking, particularly if the purpose of your speech is to convince or to sell. So the question comes up of where to actually look as you give your speech. Many speakers look at a spot at the back of the room because looking at the faces makes them nervous. This is better than staring down at your papers the whole time. For one thing, projection is a big part of getting your message out there. And even if you are using a microphone, if you speak "out" into the crowd rather than down, your voice will be clearer and you will naturally use your diaphragm to do well at enunciating each word. The other value of looking at the back wall is that it will help you project your voice, particularly if you are not using amplification. The old actor's motto of "performing to the last row" applies here because it means you consider everyone in that hall to be your audience, not just the people on the first row. So there is some value to that approach. However, one of the most valuable ways you can really connect with your audience and get your message across is to make eye contact with the audience. Eye contact is commonly used by sales people to create a bond with the customer and that bond helps close the sale. But even if your presentation is not necessarily a sales situation, eye contact will get your message across. And that is what you got up there to do in the first place. Eye contact makes the audience look at you. It keeps them attentive. To use eye contact to its maximum value, move your eyes from audience member to audience remember and speak to that individual directly. That eye contact will actually be felt by everyone around that individual and it rivets the listener to you. Don't linger on one person because you don't want to stare but by becoming skilled at using eye contact as you speak to a crowd, you are taking control of the presentation to make it do what you want it to do. And having control is a big key to success in public speaking. When Things Don't Go as Planned One of the greatest fears we face when speak in front of a crowd is also one of it's greatest rewards. Public speaking is a totally live event. And that means that anything can happen and just about anything could happen in the middle of your presentation. So to change your fear of the unexpected to another talent you have to handling interruptions, think ahead what you will do if things come up and how you will get the crowd back on track with your outline to take them to the conclusion you want them to reach. Depending on how you conduct your presentation and the type of gathering, questions or objections from the audience could potentially take you off course. This is especially true if you really didn't plan to have an open forum type of discussion. If you set out to do your talk as a speech, not a discussion and someone interrupts, the first thing to do is recognize the disrupter to assure the crowd you have the situation under control. Your audience comes to your talk with a confidence that you are in control of the room and its important you maintain that control. Now if the disrupting speaker is being difficult and clearly wants to disrupt the meeting that is when the organizers of the meeting should know to step in and remove that person. But many times the interruption could be a very logical and politely put question or need for clarification. A rule of thumb is if one person asks a question, that means that four or five in the crowd had that question in mind but did not have the courage to interrupt you. Sometimes the disruption may not even be audible. If might be just a hand in the air or a facial expression that is clearly communicating the need to interact with you. Again, the more you can maintain composure and recognize the question and either answer it or divert it from your outline, the more confidence the crowd will have in you. Many times the question will either be easily answered from your materials. Don't be afraid to say, "That is an outstanding question which is right here on my outline. So I will be answering that in a moment". When you do that, it gets a chuckle from the questioner and the crowd and you can continue on your path to finishing your talk just making sure you highlight the area of the outline that came up in the question. Be prepared also for either a legitimate question that you do not have a ready answer for or for questions that don't make any sense to what you are talking about at all. For both to simply recognize that the questions was a good question (even if it isn't) and state that you will do some research and get back to them later with that background information. That will usually quiet the disruptor down and let you get on with your program. Questions are not the only thing that can go wrong. Something could break either on stage or in the crowd. A person could fall out of his or her chair. A bird could fly in through a window. The list of things that might happen goes on and on. Again as you did with questions that you didn't expect, maintaining composure and control is the key. The audience will actually key off of you as to whether to panic about the interruption or not. So if you keep your head and handle the disruption with humor and a sense of calm, that will put the audience in that mood too. The effects of the disruption will minimize immediately and because you communicated that you were in charge at all times, the audience will respond to your leadership and come back to you to hear the rest of what you have to say. You can achieve a feeling of control and calm by thinking through how you will handle the unexpected before you even step up to give your talk. And because you actually expect the unexpected, you can capture strange things that happen to demonstrate your management of the time you have to speak to the crowd. If you do that, it will work to your advantage and you the end result will be an even better presentation than would have happened without the disruption. What's Your Problem? How you approach that moment when you stand up to give a speech depends a lot on why you are giving the presentation. Now we are not talking about the fact that you have to give the speech to pass your general education speech class in junior college or that your boss is making you give the speech because he is to darn lazy to do it. Instead to really give a good speech, you must know that the speech is designed to do. By identifying what the goal of the speech is and what you want the audience to experience from your presentation, that will give you a lot of information both on what kind of content to use but on your attitude and "approach" when you actually get ready to give the talk. There are some very basic reasons that someone gives a speech. Those are to inform, to convince, to amuse or to cause action. Many speeches you hear are a combination of these motivations. A sermon is there to inspire which is a mixture of to convince and to cause action. A lecture in school is to inform and if you get lucky, the teacher will at least try to make the presentation also try to amuse you. So that is the first thing to ask yourself when you have your topic and your audience. Also there are variations on these themes. A speech intended to sell something is a variation on the "to convince" format. A good question to ask when you are ready to put your presentation together is "What do I want my audience to do with this information?" If you want them to walk away with new information that makes them smarter people, you were speaking to inform. If you want them to laugh and have a great time, you were out to amuse. If you want them to go out and use your web site, to join your political party or stop hurting the ozone layer, the objective of your speech is to convince. You will not necessarily announce when you start speaking what your objective is. Sometimes it's obvious. If you are addressing your class at school, its obvious you are there to inform the students. But you may also be looking to convince them to live a certain way or to take some other action with the information you are giving. A speech to amuse is very often also a very softly worded sermon on behavior. Just watch any comedian and you will hear small snippets of philosophy such as "people, we are all the same, we just have to learn to live together" in the middle of the comedy set. That comic is actually out to convince you to change your outlook and behavior and using comedy as the tool to that end. These are all very valid adaptations on the basic forms of a speech. To make sure your talk reaches its primary talk, lay down the outline or the "skeleton" of the speech with your primary goal in mind. You might even "back into it" by writing the conclusion first. The conclusion might be, "And so ladies and gentlemen, I hope you can see that using mass transit will do a lot to help the ozone layer". From there you can back up into the body of the speech and lay down, again at the skeleton layer what your three points of the body of your speech is. These are the things that must get done and that you will evaluate whether you were successful by whether you got those points across. With that skeleton done, you can go back and start writing the speech from the beginning and use any or all of the public speaking approaches to layer that on top of the core reason for the talk. You can use humor, inspirational stories, urban myths or factoids from history to help your speech be fun, compelling and attention grabbing. If by the end of your talk though, you can tell you hit that primary goal, then your speech was well constructed. And a well constructed speech is easier to give. It is also easier for your audience to hear so everybody wins. Tell Them Something They Don't Know When an author is trying to come up with a topic for his next story or novel, the old pros in the writing came will always give him the same advice. "Write about what you know." That is because if you speak from your own area of expertise, you will speak with authority and passion. And authority and passion not only make for a great story or novel, they make for a really good public speaking event as well. When you are putting together what you will use for your talk to that group you want to amaze, you want both of those elements, authority and passion. But on top of that, you have to give them something to make it perfect. You have to tell them something they don't know. To achieve a balance of what is familiar with what is new and fascinating will be the stuff of your research and preparation for public speaking. Sometimes telling them something they don't know might be just bringing a new joke that they have not heard. Or you might bring a fascinating story or anecdote that will lead directly into your talk. That can grab their attention and let them know that this is going to be an interesting take on the subject. Finding jokes that nobody has ever heard before can be a challenge. But that is ok because canned "jokes" are not best for your speech anyway. It is much better to find a funny or very amusing situation that relates to the topic from your past. By telling the story of that situation with plenty of self referencing humor and commentary, you can have your audience very amused as you move into the body of your speech but at the same time very interested in you and so in your topic. Sometimes finding material that is new to your audience is obvious and easy to identify. It might be that you were invited to give the speech because you have some expertise in a subject that your audience wants to know about. If you are giving a speech about how to make your own PC from scratch and you know a lot about that, you are in good shape right off the bat. Your listeners are sure to learn plenty from your presentation and have lots of questions for you after your talk. You told them something they didn't know. However, if your topic is a little more in the area of common knowledge, you might have to do some research to find things to share that will get those eyebrows to raise. One rich repository of little known facts lie in what we call trivia and urban myth. You might be giving a talk about the internet. Now most of us know quite a bit about the internet. But with a little research, you can uncover a lot of trivia about how the internet came to be, how the internet actually works at a structural level or whether or not Al Gore really did invent it (he didn't). But the internet is also a great topic to go out and pull in literally dozens of urban myths that will make for a very enjoyable presentation. From how viruses work to whether or not that African prince really will send you 5 million dollars or not can give you lots of things to share that your listeners probably did not know (incidentally -- he won't). So approach your research both to fill your speech with good solid content but also to include information that may be amusing or anecdotal to give your listeners something to talk about over coffee later on. If you make your speech that memorable, they will think of you as a great speaker and probably ask you back again. Speak With More Than Your Voice There is a bit of a misperception about the phrase "public speaking". The misperception that the technique of becoming good at public speaking is all in how you speak. The truth is that your voice is only part of what you need to be successful in giving a presentation to a group of people. To be an effective public "speaker", you should use every resource you have including your body language, your arms and your legs to capture the attention of the crowd and hold it. There is nothing more boring than a speaker who stands in one place and never moves his arms and speaks softly just putting out the information of the talk. So to avoid this curse, learn not only to communicate with your entire being when you are in front of an audience. Learn to express yourself with facial expressions, with gestures of your arms and with movement. Because that extra effort is what can make a fair presentation good or a good presentation a great one. A good public presentation can be compared to eating a meal in a restaurant. A good chef knows that there is more to fine dining than just food because you also must have good service and ambiance so the presentation of the food makes the meal delightful to eat. The same is true of a public speaking situation. It isn't enough just to stand up there and speak out the information. You are not just speaking because you are only really successful when you are communicating. And to communicate, your audience has to grasp what you are saying and be prepared to make it real in their own lives. Movement is probably the most underused public speaking method but it is also one of the most effective. To put it bluntly, when you speak to a group, don't just stand there. Get out of the podium and move around a bit. Walk from one side of your speaking area to the other. Use your hands to help you describe an illustration or to gesture with emphasis toward the crowd when your text fits that kind of expression. This movement is good for you because it's a way of walking off your nervousness. It's good for the audience because it keeps them interested. And it's very good for your presentation because it is a powerful way to get your point across and to assure you are being understood. The relationship between public speaking and public performance is unmistakable. When you watch a speaker, the key word is "watch". Taking in the presentation of a speaker is an event that brings in all of the senses. And the more your audience actually "experiences you" rather than just hears what you say, the better they will like your presentation and the more likely they will be to agree with what you have to say or take action in the direction you had hoped they would. Of course, it can be a nervous moment the first time you decide to step away from the podium and use your body as part of your presentation. If you walk and move in front of people, there is always the chance an accident can happen. You could swing your arms in emphasis and knock something over. You could trip over a microphone cord and be in danger of falling down. Or your wardrobe could malfunction because of the increased stress and that would be a horrible thing to deal with when everyone is looking at you. You can do take some extra measures to be sure your wardrobe is secure beforehand and to evaluate the speaking setting so you are aware of potential causes of accidents. But the possibility of a mishap is just a risk that you should be prepared to take because the movement you use is so powerfully effective that the rewards are too great to pass up. The other risk is that by stepping away from the podium, you step away from your outline. To enable yourself to wean away from having to have that outline in front of you all the time, select one or two sections where you will depart the outline and share a personal story. Then your movement will be confident and effective. And when you can integrate confident movement into your presentation, your public speaking skills will go from good to great instantaneously. Shooting From the Hip There is a style of public speaking that absolutely terrifies a lot of people. But when you see a public speaker speak extemporaneously, it is one of the most relaxed and easy to digest forms of public presentation it is. Now, to drop the fifty cent word, to speak extemporaneously means to speak without notes. In other words, pure extemporaneous speaking is done entirely without preparation and is done completely "from the hip" so to speak. There are variations, however, on pure extemporaneous speaking. But if you can adapt to a more extemporaneous style, your presentation will benefit tremendously. Because people speaking directly from their minds to their audiences do not need notes, a podium or any helps at all, the level of eye contact and audience interaction is improved tremendously. Freed from being tied to a podium and an outline, you can wander free around the stage and even into the audience and speak to them almost face to face. That kind of physical motion will grab an audience's attention and keep them fascinated with what you are doing for as long as the talk goes on. But don't be deceived by thinking that a extemporaneous speech is rambling and has no structure whatsoever. One reason that many very seasoned public speakers go to it is they are capable of capturing and holding the outline of their talk in their minds and speaking from that outline without the aid of notes. This kind of ability does not just come naturally. To be able to be relaxed enough in front of a crowd to not only speak spontaneously but also to do so while following an outline carried in the mind takes experience and the self confidence that comes with practice. Giving an extemporaneous talk is equivalent to improv in the theater world. But that doesn't mean that a speaker who appears to be speaking without preparation is speaking without preparation. Often it means that what you are seeing is the result of extensive preparation. Many times extemporaneous speaking means that speaker carefully wrote and prepared that talk to have the appearance of spontaneity. Then he or she became so familiar with that outline that it could be delivered completely without prompting. This is more than just memorization. Memorization implies that the talk must be given word for word as it was written and in exact order. A memorized speech would come unraveled if the speaker lost his or her place because of an interruption. But an extemporaneous speaker can be interrupted, take questions and even scramble that presentation because that level of familiarity with the talk is so complete that he or she literally lives and breaths what is being presented. So, is it worth the extra work to learn to speak by "shooting from the hip"? It absolutely is. For one this, to be able to speak extemporaneously is the pinnacle of public speaking skills. When you see such a speaker on television or in a public setting, it may seem that he or she is making it up on the spot. What you are really witnessing is the Oscar level of skill and ability on display in a public speaking. Anyone who strives for the best can set extemporaneous speaking as a goal. But more importantly, being able to speak to a group in this manner is such a higher quality of presentation that you as a speaker will not only have more fun, you will see a higher level of response from your audience. If you are teaching, they will learn better. If you are trying to sell, greater sales. If you are speaking to amuse, more laughs. So for no other reason than to see such improved outcome from the work you put in to public speaking, learn to speak extemporaneously. The rewards are tremendous. Reading to an Audience Public speaking is counterintuitive. That is to say what your intuition tells you is a good thing is not always the truth. And what your instincts say not to do is often the best thing to do. Your natural inner voice when you find out you have to do a public presentation is to write it all out and read it to the audience word for word. That way, so your inner voice thinks, there is no way you have to depend on memory and you won't ever get stuck and have that sinking feeling up there when your brain empties out and you have nothing to say. But even if you don't use the method of writing your entire speech out, there are situations where reading to an audience is called for. You may have a passage from a part of your research that is key to what you need for them to know. Or there may be quotations that are too long to just quote and you need to read them. The situations are varied where reading to a group of people is called for. So to be prepared for that becoming part of your presentation, you should practice it and have some technique down before the situation comes up. Then pausing to read a segment of your presentation is not going to be so disruptive. The biggest problem of reading to an audience is eye contact. Maintaining a continuous eye contact with your audience should be the first commandment of good public speaking. The more you can look at your audience, catch their eye and maintain that relationship, the stronger your presentation will be. So if you take a minute or two or three to look down and read to an audience, you lose all of that contact with them and momentum. Like children, when you are not looking at them, they will naturally begin to fidget and drift from what you are doing. The simple truth is that people don't like to be read to. Add to that the problem that when you look down to read, your voice is no longer projecting out to the audience but down to the page. You lose at least half of the force of your diaphragm because you are looking down so the power of your talk is vastly reduced by that simple interruption. By the time you look up again, you may have no idea that you have lost of their attention and the forward motion of your talk is damaged. One way to lesson the disruption of reading a passage is to had out the passage to the audience before hand and then direct them to it as you need to in the body of your talk. This gives them somewhere to look while you read. Then when you do read the material, don't put it on the podium and look down at it. Hold it up to just below face level. That way you can read it and still maintain the force of your diaphragm and your eye contact over the top of the book or page. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that because you are going to read some or all of your presentation, that reduces your preparations. If anything, you should prepare more. Be sure you are very familiar with the text so you are not so much reading it as reciting it with notes. By giving them the text, you are not so concerned with having to read it word for word correctly and because people read faster than they listen, they will be a step ahead of you and understand the text better. Practice reading the passage. Resist the urge to read monotone like you was reading the phone book. Learn to read the passage with inflection, with emphasis and even with emotion. Work the passage into the flow of your presentation so you come right out of the reading and make the points from the reading that you need to make right away. These techniques overcome the major problems reading to a crowd create in a presentation. Using them you will find success because the reading you need to have will flow naturally in the other parts of your speech. And when you can do that and you don't lose your audience, you will have made a step forward in your public speaking evolution. Put Some Snap Into It. The difference between a public speaking presentation that bores you to tears and one that leaves you with a smile on your face and thinking about that presentation is often not the content but the style of the speaker. You can take the same exact written talk and give it to two speakers and one will turn that script into an exciting live event for his audience and the other will leave that crowd cold. Obviously your goal as to be that speaker that can really make any presentation come alive. The first "myth" to get out of your head then is that how well you do at creating excitement has anything whatsoever to do with your subject matter. While it always helps for you to be excited about the topic itself, you can develop the skills to take any text and turn it into a genuinely exciting public speaking event for any crowd and to do it every time. Its just a matter of knowing how. Much of how excited your audience will be has to do with your own level of energy, your sense of humor and how much you are enjoying yourself up there. This is one of the great secrets of the really great entertainers or public speakers. If you are having fun, your audience will have fun too. Fun is contagious. Think of the great late night host Johnnie Carson. He always seemed to be having a great time. And as a result the world wanted to join him and have a great time too. You can cultivate that personality and that attitude when you are on stage. To have fun during your public speaking engagement, you have to learn to have some fun with the subject matter. This is not always easy if the subject matter is mundane and ho hum. But if you see that topic as boring, so will your crowd and your time talking to them will be a tedious trial on your soul and on theirs too. So have some fun even with how mundane the topic is. If you join the audience in their feelings about the topic, you and they become partners to find the excitement in this topic. But along with finding excitement in the topic, learn to have fun with the audience. You can do that even before you begin to speak on the outline at hand. Take some time to step away from the podium and interact with the audience. Ask them questions and learn who the vocal members of the crowd are. Find out who the big jokers are and the ones who will have some wise cracks to add as you speak. These connections and spontaneous friendships will pay off as the presentation begins. But you are doing something dangerous there too. By energizing the crowd, you are also giving them permission to jump in during your talk and "help you out". As you begin to speak, put energy and excitement, humor and personality into that text. The excitement of the crowd that sprung into existence because you started your relationship with them with affection and humor will feed your presentation. Yes, if you put this kind of snap and pop into your time in front of a crowd, you will see feedback come back from that audience, particularly from those wise crackers you took time to make friends with at the start. But as scary at having that kind of interruption is, it means your crowd is energized and you an actually used that for your advantage. You can actually develop the ability to "surf" these interruptions and use them to propel your prevention forward. By teasing the crowd, asking them questions, the funny remarks that come back will actually be pertinent to what you have to say next. You can take your cues from their comments and take them right back to your outline and take the presentation forward to its conclusion. This kind of public speaking can be dangerous and more than a little scary to learn to do. But because you had fun and our audience had fun, that presentation is full of "snap" and is 100% more successful. And that makes it worth taking the risks to learn this kind of public speaking.
Public Speaking Quirks We all have our little vocal style that makes us unique. How often have you heard someone make a remark about how interesting it is the way you phrase things? We learn the way we speak from our parents and our mentors growing up. So if you ever listened to yourself speak, you would recognize the expressions you learned from your childhood. Your vocal style is what marks you as a distinctive individual. But when you stand up in front of a crowd, that distinctive way you speak becomes the center of attention for the length of your talk. For the most part, that is what makes your presentation style enjoyable to your listeners. But sometimes how you speak can become a distraction. If you have some distinctive "quirks" that begin to dominate how you speak when you are in front of a group, that can be a big distraction to the people who are trying to enjoy your presentation. There are some very noticeable verbal quirks that if they are affecting your ability to communicate as a speaker, they deserve attention so you can root them out of how you talk in front of people. The one that is most notable is the dreaded "um". You no doubt have cringed listening to a speaker have to fall back on "um" during a talk. It is one of the biggest clues that the speaker is nervous, insecure or inexperienced. If you evaluate why a speaker uses "um", it is usually one of a few things. It could be because he or she got lost in the notes of the presentation. "Um" is usually inserted to buy time because the speaker is nervous about a pause of silence. But "Um" is not the only quirk of public speaking that can become an annoyance to a crowd. Another place holder phrase that sneaks in often is "you know". Occasionally you even hear professional public speakers use this one and it is almost as mindless as "um". Sometimes certain phrases become catchy for a while and if they begin to "infect" how you speak, they will become notable to your audiences but maybe not even to you. The one that seems to be making the rounds lately is "at the end of the day" which is a fine phrase, if you only use it once. But you notice when speakers use it in speaking publicly, they use it many times. The real problem with vocal quirks is you may not know yourself that you are using them. You are so focused on your topic and your presentation that they sneak in and become a crutch for you as you speak and before you know it, they are a habit that is hard to break. But there are some things you can do to send the habit of falling back on vocal crutches packing out so your presentation is clean of them and easier to take by your audiences. One way to pinpoint focus quirks is to record your presentation and listen to it later. Now a lot of us don't like the sound of our own voices so that is sometimes unappealing. But be brave because if you can identify any vocal quirks you might have, you have a good potential for rooting them out of your speaking patterns. Another outstanding method of just identifying which vocal habits you may use too much is to ask your friends, spouse or even your children to listen to you as you speak publicly to help locate any vocal crutches you might be using. The people who you are close with are willing to be brutally honest with you so you can become a better public speaker. Once you know what vocal quirks plague your presentation style, make a conscious effort to get them out of how you talk. Many times we fall back on vocal quirks when we are not confident in our material. The answer for that is obvious. Practice. Know your presentation well and you will be more confident in front of people and that will help you smooth out the way you speak publicly. And by making an effort to take out irritating vocal quirks from how you speak, you are assuring those quirks are not distracting your listeners from your message. And then you will be more successful anytime you get up in front of a group of people to speak. Public Speaking Means Never Saying "I'm Sorry" In the romantic movie, "Love Story", a phrase about love was introduced that went, "Love means never having to say your sorry". And while anyone who is married knows how untrue that is, we could easily adapt that concept to the world of public speaking. While you may from time to time have occasion that you feel you should express regret to your audience, it's a hard and fast rule of public speaking to never apologize to your audience. The psychological principle behind this rule is solid and it's not based just in ego. We are not putting this rule in place because you are infallible or to put out an image of the super speaker. The rule is grounded in the relationship between an audience and a public speaker that is well known and how you should create and use that chemistry to have success in your own public speaking career. When a speaker gets up before a group, there are the assumptions that the crowd has about you. And they want to know that these things are true so they know they will be made to feel comfortable during your presentation. The core of those assumptions are: * You are confident * You know what you are talking about * That you like them, are passionate about your subject matter and are genuinely happy to be there * You are comfortable in the public speaking role, and * They want to like you These assumptions are strongly ingrained into the psychology of a crowd and you can relate to them as you have listened to a speaker. If that speaker is at ease, relates to the crowd in a confident easy going way and is not easily "thrown" by the little things that happen during a talk, then you relax and in doing so, you are more open to what the speaker has to say. Learning to react to issues that come up or to handle objections or perceived errors or weaknesses in your script is just part of becoming confident as a speaker You should become convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that that contract between you and your audience is more important even than any little problem that comes up. When you do have to adjust, lose your place or respond to a question that points to a flaw in your presentation, the real issue that is on trial here is not the problem or even how you answer. It is whether you can handle that problem with grace and poise and move on that makes the difference. If you become flustered or violate that assumption that you are confident and you know what you are doing up there, you create insecurity in the audience. And that is the last thing they want to experience. An audience is a captive population and they know that. So they want to like you and be able to trust you to be their captain and safely guide them through to the other side, even if the trip is a bit bumpy along the way. This is why an apology for a problem, a weakness in your material is a big mistake during a presentation. If a question surfaces a problem, far better to simply acknowledge it with "you know you bring up a good point. Let me research that and get back to you" rather than to apologize. That maintains your confidence as your ability to continue to be in leadership as you speak. And it makes the little problems that come up simply go away. When you have that skill, you will capture and maintain mastery of a public speaking situation. And that will guarantee your success. Marketing by not Marketing Many times local civic organizations look for experts from various businesses to come and give a presentation about your area of skill. The Elks, Rotary and Kiwanis are just a few who are always on the look for good public speakers to address their groups. So if you get a chance to speak to these groups, its easy to see these as tremendous business opportunities for marketing. The problem is that these groups restrict you to only address your field of expertise and do not allow marketing of any kind when you come to speak to their membership. This could be a pretty frustrating situation. Many times these men's groups are fraternities of the most successful business people in your area. And because these groups meet monthly they are always on the look out for good public speakers like you. If you are confident in your public speaking ability, you can easily see yourself getting return invitations to address these groups. But maybe by looking at these speaking opportunities differently, you can leave that frustration behind and find a way to market to these people by not marketing. You can use the natural functions of the public speaking forum to advertise your business in a way that never has a marketing feel to it at all. And these methods are not forbidden and your sponsors will applaud your presentation as you quietly milk these speaking engagements for all the marketing value you can get. First of all, you are allowed to introduce yourself and talk about your specialized training and experience. Let's face it, while that is a section of your presentation to help your audience understand your area of expertise, it is also nothing short of a job interview. By discussing your training and talents in the context of background, you cement in the mind of that audience why you would be a good person to think about when they need your kind of talent as part of what they do. But the introduction is not the only way you can market by not marketing. By speaking with energy and passion about your work, that excitement sends a message about who you are to those potential customers out there. The one thing a client wants to see is that are always on a quest to increase your knowledge of your field. This is especially true if you are in an industry that goes through a lot of changes every year. Your clients want a partner who can keep up on those changes so they don't have to. By demonstrating that this is a big part of who you are as a subject matter expert in your area, you will become a very attractive prospect as a business partner for those future. You will want to make sure your presentation is packed with very useful information to your clients. But don't tell them so much that they can live without you. A good approach is to discuss the problem area in business that your specialization is very good at addressing. By using your time to detail the problem, you create need in your audience. The solution section of your talk simply describes the perfect solution in enough detail so your future clients know you know what you are doing but not enough so they can take on the problem themselves. Once again, this creates the desire in the members of that fraternal organization to come to you when that very well described need comes up in their businesses. Be sure to use the time before and after your presentation for networking. You may be invited to join the group for a meal and if you have already had a chance to speak, this is an ideal time to make some personal connections, answer questions about your talk and even make appointments to come and speak to individual business owners about how you can be of help to them. You are usually allowed to have your business card with you and for members of the club to take them after your talk. So if you done a good job of marketing by not marketing, those business cards will fly into the hands of those interested audience members and you will see a nice return on your investment of time just using public speaking to harvest contacts that can turn into more business for you. Make Them Laugh In the delightful Broadway musical "Singing in the Rain", there is a song called "Make em Laugh" which is based on this idea that the best way for any stage performer to build a bond with an audience is to use humor to bring a smile, or a laugh, to that audience. Well, that idea is not just valid for stage performers. It's just as true when you begin to develop your style as a public speaker. If you pick up any self help guide to how to be effective as a public speaker, one of the golden rules is to open with a joke. But guess what? That is not actually a hard and fast rule. Humor is the type of thing that works just as well about a minute into your presentation, halfway through or just about anywhere that you feel you are losing your audience. Audience psychology is a funny thing but not in the "laughter" sense. The truth is that when you first begin to speak to an audience, they are probably listening to you. Most people are at least curious about you and what you have to say and will take interest in you if for no other reason than you are a new person up there in front of them. While there is certainly not a bad idea to open with humor, the time your audience needs a joke is when you have launched into your discussion and you look out to nodding heads or drifting eyes and you know that you are talking but nobody is listening. That is when humor brings the audience back to you and hooks them back into your presentation. The biggest problem with a lot of public speaking situations is that you may be presenting ideas to the crowd. While an idea is a good thing, people have trouble staying focused on pure concepts for very long. That is why most good public speakers use illustrations, stories and humor to keep the audience focused on what you are talking about. And that is where a generous use of humor will help your public speaking style as well. Humor has a certain effect on the human psychology that causes the listener to bond with the speaker in a unique way. To put that more simply, using humor in your presentation makes people like you. And when they like you, they want to hear what you have to say. There is just no getting around the fact that people will listen to, accept, understand and make their own ideas presented with humor far more readily than if your talk is dry presentation of material, even if it is important material. But what if you don't know how to use humor? Of course you can always just tell a joke. But canned jokes are just that, attempts to use someone else's humor. They do work, (if it's a good joke) but if the humor is not relevant to what you are talking about or to you as a speaker, it often is not as effective as it should be. The best humor is actually self-deprecating remarks as you speak. These are easy to come up with by simply using yourself as the subject of an illustration. For example, if this topic was part of your speech, you might say: "You know it's easy to get tongue tied and bumble around up here trying to use humor. But you folks won't make a mess of it like I am doing." That isn't even a very good joke. But because it is highly relevant, it is self deprecating and it's a light moment in the presentation, it will probably get a chuckle. A chuckle is really all you are looking for. You are not trying to become a stand up comic up there. Humor that is too wild and designed to bring hearty laughter actually is distracting. You just want little asides that are of a humorous nature to bring your audience back to listening to you. Listen to good speakers you admire and take note of how they seem to slip and out of humor easily and effortlessly and how quickly that build rapport with the audience. It will take some practice to get good at using humor as you speak. But it will improve your presentation style tremendously. And that's the whole idea, isn't it? It's all in the Voice Maybe one of the most common occurrences that happens in a public speaking situation is to see someone in the audience go to sleep on you. When you are the one going to sleep, you just hope the speaker doesn't notice. But when you are the speaker, you know that you do notice and you wonder what you are doing wrong. You worked hard on your speech and you thought it was pretty interesting stuff. So why do they doze off? Well you are in good company if you see that happen. For some reason this phenomenon happens routinely in churches all over the country every Sunday morning. And that preacher is a skilled public speaker who you would think could keep that crowd riveted. But in many public situations, even when the speaker has decades of experience, he may still not know how to keep that audience awake. That is because there is a public speaking technique that if you learn it early, you will be come of the rare public speakers that routinely is considered to be "great" no matter what the quality of your material. That technique is quite simply how you use your voice. The voice is a marvelous tool. It has the power to express emotions, complex ideas, humor or outrage. And yet for some reason, many public speakers when they stand up to do a formal presentation loose 90% of the expression in their voices. All of a sudden we all start to sound like a boring math teacher droning on in a monotone even if the subject we are talking about is very interesting, human or emotional. You could talk about the day you fell in love or how to skydive but if you say it in a monotone, you are going to put people to sleep. You have a lot of vocal tone available to you that you naturally use when you speak person to person and you are relaxed. What causes speakers to switch to a monotone or a reduced amount of vocal tones when speaking formally starts with nervousness. You are so focused on speaking clearly so you are understood that you end up sounding like you are reading the phone book. This is especially true if you have your entire speech written out and you are reading it. The strange thing is you would never read like that to children. It's strange we fall back to that style of speaking when talking to a group of adults. Two great exercises can be used to help you get control over your vocal range as you speak. It really isn't something you want to think a lot about when you are in front of people because then you will become self conscious. But listen to other speakers and think about how they can improve their range of vocal tones. That will help you process your own range of expression. But also practice your presentation focusing on the ideas themselves but also on how you say them. Don't be afraid to express emotions while speaking. If the subject is exciting, be excited. If it's troubling, be troubled. Be a human in front your audience will respond. In addition, you can add a lot of variety to your presentation varying the volume with which you speak and the speed. You don't want to shout but when you speak softly at times and with more force at others, that sudden change of tone and volume can capture the ear of the audience and hold their attention. In a way your focal presentation takes on elements of music as you use your voice as an instrument to make sure not only that the information is given to the audience but that they stay awake long enough to hear it. Illustrate, Illustrate Illustrate When a speaker loses an audience, too often it is a mystery to him. But for the audience, it is not a mystery. The simple fact is that many speeches we listen to spend a lot of time in some theory or idea. And we as humans have trouble focusing on an abstract idea for very long before losing interest. This is one of many reasons one of the central rules of public speaking is to use lots of stories and illustrations to make sure you hold the audience's attention. Some speakers look down on the need of audiences to connect to the speaker via concrete illustrations. But this is a basic form of human communication. In fact, some of the most brilliant speakers in the world have acknowledged that if a speaker cannot express his ideas in concrete illustrations, then that speaker does not have a grasp on those idea yet. The use of stories and humor should get started as soon as the talk begins. One of the problems that public speaking encounters has to do with the speed of processing. Science has shown us that the human mind can think at least 10 times faster than it can hear. That means that for 90% of the time you are talking to a group, their minds have time on their hands. If you give them a concrete story to work with, the details of that story give that excess brain power something to do. By opening with a light hearted illustration, you capture the minds of your audience quickly. The best kind of opening story is a humorous one particularly if it is an anecdote from your past. This method not only is a wonderful way to get your talk off with a enjoyable story, it connects them to you and opens up the speaker to the audience which causes bonding. When selecting the perfect opening humorous story, use two criteria to select just the right illustration. First select a story that links to the problem to be solved by the presentation. If the problem is an abstract tone such as spiritual hunger or political theory, that can be tricky. But try to get close with the illustration, at least close enough that you can have a transition ready to take the audience from the story to the concept you wish to discuss first. Secondly, connect your opening story and every illustration in your talk to your theme. In this way every step of the way, the illustrations reach out to the audience, rescue them from drifting and gently bring them back to the talk and what you want them to be thinking about at this part of your presentation. You can tell if your audience is drifting. Any public speaker has looked out and seen the audience begin to lose interest in what is being said. The eyes begin to look away from the speaker. Often they will take interest in something in their lap or on their person. You might see them writing but its probably not notes from your talk. Or their heads bob or you just see them go to sleep entirely. So when you see that happen, your presentation has spent too much time on theoretical ideas and you need to go back and think through a different mix of ideas and illustrations. A good illustration at least will keep the audience involved in the discussion. But a great illustration will actually become part of the presentation so you can tell the story and then proceed to use elements of the story as part of your next points in your conceptual talk. When that works well, you will stop losing the audience because the concrete story serves to anchor the rest of the presentation perfectly. So learn the art of telling a good story. Any long time story teller will teach us that the heart of a good story is detail. But in a public speaking setting, a story should be brief but easy to understand. If it has humor, that's the best story of them all but above all, it should have personality. And it should help to compel the audience to connect to the talk and understand the ideas you want them to grasp. And if that happens and you have a stronger talk as a result, you will be glad you followed the advice of experts in public speaking to illustrate, illustrate, illustrate. If you Like Them, They Will Like You When you see experienced public speakers, sometimes it seems they can cast a spell on an audience. You as an audience member know what that spell feels like. And one of the first evidences that this public speaker was going to keep this audience in the palm of his hand is that you almost instinctively liked him or her. And the interesting thing about that "spell" is that once you genuinely like this speaker, you naturally are open to his presentation, you listen more attentively and you are more open to suggestion if the speaker is driving to a point. So as you prepare to begin doing some public speaking, its natural to want to know how to make that spell work for you. We all have a natural feeling of insecurity or inferiority and we worry that the audience will not like us and our presentation will go badly. So you wonder if that speaker just naturally more likeable than you or did he use some public speaking magic to make the audience like him. The answer is twofold. First, no, that public speaker is not more likeable than you. That is just your insecurity talking to you and you need to tell that insecurity to take a hike because it is not going to do you a bit of good becoming a better public speaker. And secondly, yes there is something that public speaker knows to make his or her audience like them but no, it isn't magic at all. It is something anyone who stands in front of a crowd can use and it will work every time. The secret really isn't very complicated at all. You just have to learn to like the audience. That may seem simple but buried in that idea is a powerful principle of psychology. When you step in front of a crowd and you have trained yourself to like them, it comes out in every aspect of your posture and the way you behave. You will smile more, make eye contact and actually find yourself wanting to interact with them during the course of your presentation. Now don't be concerned if your speech or presentation is not interactive in a dialog sort of way. But if you have spoken to a small group before, you know that there is a lot of interaction going on even during a one way speech. That speaker who charmed you that day with that "magic" knows that interaction goes on all the time. As you speak, you get feedback in the form of body language and facial expressions that let you know how you are doing. And by starting out with a fundamental warmth and affectionate relationship with an audience, that feedback is warm and affectionate as well and that only makes the presentation more of a success. The trick to learning to like your audience lies in looking for good reasons to like them. We use the word "trick" for a good reason.' Any reason to like them will do. You don't have to like every individual in the audience. You might like the clothing they are wearing or the faces of individuals in the audience. You might like certain ones you know or a few you met and found a chemistry with early on. You can even like a crowd just because you find a few in that group attractive. By focusing on the ones you like, your warmth toward them will spread to the rest of the audience as you speak. Before long you will have that crowd in the palm of your hand and using that magic spell to make your presentation a success. Then you will remember this little "trick". And you will use it often for public speaking success every time. Give Them a Bit of You There is a good reason that public speaking is a superior method of presenting material to a group than just faxing your text over and letting them read it. Yes, part of that reason is that by stepping through the talk, you can make sure they "get it". But the most important reason has to do not with the subject, not with the presentation style and not even with how good the donuts were before talk. The reason public speaking is so effective is that the audience gets the material presented in a very personal way by the one person who can do that -- you. When people walk away from your talk, they will remember one thing as their primary memory and another level as secondary. The secondary memory will be your subject matter. But the most potent memory they will carry with them will be that of you as a speaker. Public speaking is actually a very personal thing to your audience. That is because while to you, you are speaking one to many, to each audience member, you are talking to him or her directly. That bond is unspoken but strong. And it is even stronger when you address the same crowd regularly. This may seem like an awesome responsibility but buried in this little fact about public speaking is a secret to make your presentations more effective. Instead of shying away from the fact that people will feel like they know you after you address them in a public, embrace that fact of life about speaking in public and use it to your advantage. The way to grab a hold on this powerful psychological principle is simply to give them more of you in every aspect of your talk. You can start with your introduction. Its easy to tell some joke you heard on the late night talk shows and then go right into your talk. But if you take a moment and speak to them person to person, you will create a stronger bond with them which will result in better results from your presentation. Take some time and reveal a little bit about yourself to this group. Public speaking can be a very cathartic event because when you open up to a group of people about your feelings and your past, they embrace you emotionally and that presentation becomes personal to them. But don't stop adding the personal touch with the introduction. Continue to look for ways to make the presentation personal throughout the talk. You no doubt know the power of illustrations, stories and humor in any presentation. Well instead of using abstract or canned stories or jokes, personalize this aspect of your talk. Don't just "tell a joke". Instead think of a personal story that has a humorous component to it and use that to illustrate the point. By using humor that makes fun of you, not only will the laughter be more genuine, it will ingratiate you to the crowd and create that connection between the personal speaker/audience bond to your subject matter. The same is true of illustrations. Now there have been cases where speakers made up a personal story to fit the talk so that is done. And because it has the same effect, you could put that under the category of "acting" and not feel to badly about it. But if you use a real story from your own life, your childhood or your love life, that will ring true during your talk and be more believable to your audience. Don't be intimidated by putting some of your own heart and life into your public speaking. The investment of giving people a little more of you will result in a higher level of concentration and responses to your call to action. And the audience will emotionally bond to you in such a way that you will almost certainly be asked back to speak again and again. Effectively Using PowerPoint The software application PowerPoint has been a revolution in public speaking particularly in the business world. PowerPoint is easy to use, available with almost every implementation of the Microsoft Office suite and it's reliable. If you can use Microsoft Word, you probably have the skills to put together an effective presentation using PowerPoint. But just like anything else, there is a right way and wrong way to give a talk using PowerPoint as a speaking tool. If you have ever sat in on a presentation where the speaker used PowerPoint unwisely, you know that the tool can become as much of a curse as a blessing to a public speaker. So it's good to have some guidelines on how to use PowerPoint to help your presentation and not hurt it. Knowing in advance some of the problems that can disturb your talk if you use PowerPoint unwisely can help you in the design of your slides. For one thing, it's a good idea not to put too much text on a PowerPoint slide. If you put a long paragraph of information up on the screen, you will see people squinting to try to read it all. And even if the section of your talk refers to that text, you put your audience in the position of trying to read that text or listen to you. And either way they go, part of your message will be lost on them as they try to keep up. PowerPoint comes with some really fun special effects like fonts and special effects like fade in or other ways text can be revealed on each slide. Avoid the temptation to get too cute with these effects. It's always nice to have a little humor in your presentation but if your slides are overly "cutesy", it reduces the credibility of your talk. Also if every slide uses a different special effect, color scheme or font, not only is that distracting to the audience, it makes you look like you just discovered PowerPoint and had to play with all of the toys it has. So establish some consistency in how each slide will look or behave and stick with it through every slide. Another great device that PowerPoint offers is to allow the software to change slides for you on a timed progression. In that way, PowerPoint can change the slide every two minutes allowing you just the amount of time you want between slides. While this is also very slick, it is a dangerous toy to use because it can cause you to stumble while doing your talk. You have to have you talk planned to a high level of precision to carry off that kind of talk and if you pause too much, have a question pop up or any other disturbance in your script, PowerPoint will move on when you do not. So use this feature with caution. Above all, do not turn your back on the audience to read a PowerPoint slide to them. This is the number one most common mistake people do when speaking using PowerPoint. Turning your back on your audience is always a bad idea. So if you must discuss what is on the slide, do so facing the audience. But to turn your back and then read a slide to them is insulting and boring to your audience. It is far better not to have the text information on the slide but just a series of bullet items that are ticklers for the presentation you are giving. This approach assures that PowerPoint remains a tool that you are using not a tool that is using you. And that makes you the boss of PowerPoint which is the way it should be. Don't Fear the Pause If you listen to experienced speakers, it's easy to see some real differences in how they step through their presentation than maybe how you go about giving a talk when you are called upon to speak in public. But it is a good exercise to use every opportunity to listen to different public speakers and learn from them. From speakers who are not effective, study why they are and learn how to correct those problems in your presentation. For speakers who are very good, learn what they do that works and copy their methods without shame. It's all part of learning from each other. One thing that jumps out when an experienced public speaker is holding an audience in the palm of his hand is that he is totally relaxed up there. That is a calculated relaxation. In fact most of the methods he uses such as his use of hands, the vocal range of his voice, where he looks and how he moves are all carefully planned and part of that presentation and who that speaker is. And all of those things come with time and practice. So if you need a few times in front of a group, or a few dozen times before you can begin to get that relaxed, be generous with yourself and allow that public speaking is the kind of thing that you can read about all day long but you don't get good at it until you get good at it. One thing that very often jumps out in a speaker who is at ease with his style is that for most of us the idea of a pause is terrifying. But notice smooth speakers often will pause and allow that moment of quiet in a presentation to just hang there. When that pause happens for that other speaker, you may have felt as terrified as if it was happening to you. But not to worry. As you noticed, that skilled speaker uses pauses to create interest and isn't afraid to let his presentation stop for a moment either intentionally or to check notes or make some other adjustment. The pause is actually a very powerful communications tool that if you can master it, you can use it to make points, add drama or just wake up an audience that may have begun to doze off on you. That is because as you speak along, if your presentation is somewhat long, it is easy for people to be lulled into an unintentional trance of sorts. The mind can wander and that is the condition people get into when they doze off as you speak. They track to the continuous sound of your voice and the melodic tempo that you naturally fall into when you speak in public. When you begin to use pauses and changes to the tempo of your presentation, you break that natural rhythm of your talk. The pause will jar the audience back to you and they will suddenly be attentive with that "what did I miss" look on their faces. That is a real tool to you to help your audience stay focused and to use particularly when you are approaching a point that is an important part of what you have to say. Most of us when we are just starting out in public speaking fear the pause in our presentation in the worst way. That moment when you are not speaking and that audience is looking at you and nothing is happening can feel like you are falling to your death. But in truth, all you have done is focus the concentration of the group on you and on your talk. So don't fear the pause. If used with caution and sparingly, it can be a powerful communications tool to help you make your point. Deer in the Headlights People who make their living researching what frightens people the most have made a pretty amazing discovery. Consistently when people list the top five things they are afraid of in life, they have are some pretty intimidating terrors. But you would think that death would rank number one on that list. But death doesn't take number one, it has to settle for number two. Amazingly, the number one thing that terrifies most people is not death, it is public speaking. A popular comedian once said that this means that people would rather be the guy in the casket at a funeral than the guy giving the eulogy. If you have ever been in a meeting listening to a speaker, you can usually tell if they are terrified. They will get up there and you will see that "deer in the headlights" look. You know that look. It is one of extreme fear, panic, and terror so profound that the person is frozen in place unable to speak of move. And if you have ever been that guy or gal in front of a group giving the "deer in the headlights" look, you know the feeling of terror that happens in front of a group of people can be pretty awful. So if you know that public speaking is going to be part of your job or something you have to regularly, you have to find a way to neutralize that fear and be able to relax in front of a crowd when you speak. How often have you sat and listened to a speaker who was relaxed, funny, bright and even able to field questions with no difficulty at all? It's easy to admire that kind of public speaker and think that he or she has some magical powers that you will never get. But they don't have magic. That speaker has just learned some techniques for neutralizing those fears so he or she can appear relaxed and as though he or she is having fun up there. It's not an inborn talent. It's a skill which can be learned. Of course a lot of the ability to look out at a sea of faces who want to hear what you want to say and not feel sick comes from experience. But experience teaches you things that you can at least understand before you become an old pro at public speaking. One of those things is that the crowd out there doesn't know what to expect. If you broke down why you feel terrified in front of people, it's that you think that they think they know what they want and that you are being judged. But to understand what people really expect when they are looking at you at the podium on stage, just remember the last time you heard someone speak. You had no predefined idea what was about to be said and you probably had no outline or any frame of reference what that speaker was going to say. That means that even if you don't deliver your speech perfectly, they will never know that! As long as you don't let on that you are nervous or not sure about your material, they won't know if you got it wrong. If you forget an entire segment of your speech, as long as what you do say flows nicely and they never know you forgot it, the people listening will think your speech was just fine and will probably applaud. Also remember that you are not really speaking to a group. The group has no ears. You are speaking to several individuals. When you are listening to a speaker, you are one person listening to one person. That is how each person in that audience is receiving you, as individuals. So if you speak to them as though they are one person, not a crowd, your presentation will be warm and personal and very successful. And the crowd will like you to which helps a lot. Just remember that their expectations of you are fairly low and for the most part, people hearing you speak want you to succeed. So smile at them, use a bit of humor and use that little insider tip to relax up there. And when you can relax, you can actually have fun at public speaking rather than wishing you were the guy in the casket instead. Create a Problem and Then Solve It How well your presentation goes the next time you step up to a podium depends on several factors. But one factor you can control completely is your script. The way you organize your content and how you present the material to that crowd can either totally captivate them and drive them step by step to conclusion or it can bore them to sleep. Its all in how you construct your presentation and how you present what you want them to know throughout the talk. The difference between a great talk and a boring one is simple. A great talk is compelling. A great talk gets to the heart of a common experience. It addresses something we all go through and deals with a need we all experience. In short, a great talk solves a problem. So to create a presentation that reaches out and grabs your audience and holds them for the entire time of your presentation, you have to create a problem for them. And then you have to solve it. The point when you create the problem is in your opening comments. Now don't shy away from being a bit melodramatic in your opening. Remember the goal of the opening is to grab the audience's group attention and rivet it on your talk. So present the problem statement in a personal way, how it is meaningful on a personal level to the audience and to you. A about 20% of the time to the creation of the problem statement. By the time you have created that big monster in the room, they will be ready for you to guide them toward the solution. With the audience "in the palm of your hand", you can move directly into the description of the perfect solution. The solution phase of your talk can be broken into two parts. First describe what the perfect solution would look like. You would not even directly bring up your solution just yet. Base your description of the perfect solution on the problem statement so you have an aspect of the solution that fits every possible problem created at the first part of your talk. The next phase is the next to the last and comes about 50% into your time. Now you have the audience in a perfect place to hear your solution. Use about 30-40% of your total time on the proposed solution, fitting it perfectly to your discussion of the problem and the outline of what a perfect solution looks like. By this time the audience is eager to know the solution. All you are doing now is closing the deal. If we followed a standard "term paper" approach to a program, the final phase would be to sum up and go over what you just talked about. Btu we are not going to follow that pattern because this is the time for the "pay off". In your closing statements, you finally disclose the action to be taken. By giving your audience what they can do to take the first step on putting your solution into motion, you are cashing in on all that energy you created in the first 80% of your speech. Now close the deal by giving them concrete and "right now" things they can do to recognize the problem and start the wheels turning on making the solution a reality. If its possible make the first step of implementing that solution happen right there in the room with you. That might be signing up for a newsletter, giving you an email address or going to another room for further counseling and discussion. You know what it is. But by using that energy, you convert passive listeners to active participants. And you did that with a very well designed and a well executive presentation plan. Becoming Larger Than Life To say that there is no ego in a person who does public speaking regularly or for a living would be clearly a false statement. But for those of us who only speak from time to time, when you see a speaker who can walk out in a room of 30 people or a auditorium of 3000 and literally "own the room", it really is an amazing transformation. To imagine how you could ever be that much larger than life is mind boggling. But in a lot of ways, when you step out to talk to a group of people, you do become larger than life. That is because you are doing the impossible. You are having a conversation with dozens of people all at once. Now, whether you feel like you are having that conversation or not isn't important. If your talk is not interactive, you may not know the dialog is happening. But in the minds of every single individual in that hall, they are interacting with you. What you are saying is getting down inside of them and they are reacting to it. But even more than what you are saying, how you are saying it is having an even bigger impact. So are there things you can do to "become" larger than life? Well there are some ways of behaving in front of a crowd that differ from daily life. We do have to accept that you will develop a "stage persona" that is different from your daily personality when you speak to a group. Does that make you a phony? No. Both of those personalities are you. It is just a different you when you relate to a group than to people one on one and it seems strange because that form of you only comes out on stage. But it isn't a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde thing. Just as you speak to a child differently than you speak to an adult, you will develop a way to talking to a group that differs from speaking to an individual. Part of becoming larger than life is learning to what they call "own the room". This sound egotistic and strange but it really does work when you are about to speak. Owning the room simply means that when you step out in front of that crowd, they are no longer some random group of people, they are YOUR people. They are there to listen to you and what you say is of value to them. If you had any ego problems before you stepped out in front of that audience, check that ego problem at the door. You must assume that you are adored when you speak to a group of people. This doesn't mean you strut about like God's gift to the world. But it does mean that you recognize that your value to this group is as a speaker and that your services are wanted and needed here. In fact, the only way you will be an effective public speaker is if you own the room. Treat that room like it was your home and these people came here just because being with you is just that great. If you step out there with that attitude, the audience will buy into your attitude and they will give you the room and be glad you took it over. It can be a bit strange if you watch yourself become larger than life. But you can be humble about it and just recognize it is part of the craft of becoming a great public speaker. And if being good at this art you are gifted to give to the world means owning rooms and becoming bigger for an hour or so, well then why deny the world that experience? Enjoy it and let others enjoy it too.
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