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Public Speaking

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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