Avoid the Apology

notsorryI would say the most common thing I see from my students is the tendency to walk up to the front, and tell us all the reasons why their talk is going to suck!

I haven’t really prepared anything.

I’m not good at public speaking.

This isn’t something I’d normally do.

I was going to talk about this other thing, but I changed my mind.

I didn’t know I was going to be speaking today.

These are the most common opening statements I hear in my classes, and they’re really just products of nervous energy. Most people are very uncomfortable with speaking in public, so when they walk up to the front to speak, they have to release that energy somehow. In their minds, what better way to do it than to explain to the audience members the reason they shouldn’t expect too much? That takes the pressure off the speaker, right?

In actuality, these nervous opening statements make speaking more difficult, because they put you into a negative pattern right from the start. This means that something good has to happen in order to move you from a negative mindset and into a positive one, instead of you already being on a high note.

What you do or say on the way to the stage is critical, because your audience is forming an impression about you right from the start, even as you walk up and take your place… Continue reading

There Is No “Right Way” To Do It

I have heard mnorughtwayany speech coaches state that “there is no right or wrong way to speak in public,” and I completely disagree!

I believe that there is a right and a wrong way and, if you do it the wrong way, it could all explode in your face.

I have seen speech coaches train their clients to keep their hands down by their sides, to limit their pacing, to slow themselves down and to make sure their tie is straight. In most cases, paying attention to these things is the exact wrong way to do it, and let me tell you why.

If you’re speaking in public, you probably have something valuable to say. More than that, you believe you have a message that needs to be shared or a story that needs to be told. You want to be the catalyst for a change you feel driven to make in this world. As a speaker, if you’re emotionally involved in your message, if you believe in your message and its importance to your audience, the right way to 9 Speaking Myths to Clear Up Right Now 5 deliver that message is whatever way gets you the desired result. The desired result will come from your heart, not your tie.

In 2009, a friend of mine sent me an audio clip of a speech he gave at a major speaking club event for which he was awarded very… Continue reading

Stay Within Your Time Limit…

 always“Hey Doc, you have to wrap it up.” 

About thirty minutes before I began writing this blog, I received a phone call from a friend who was scheduled to give a presentation that very evening. She asked me for some input on a few things. She shared with me that she’d been allocated five minutes for her presentation, but planned to “hijack” more time. I strongly advised against it, and I hope she heeded my advice. In late 2007, I held a seminar. As part of my session, I invited two guest speakers, both of them doctors. Before the event, I spoke directly with each of them, and we discussed their allotment of time, and their main topics. We reached an agreement on topics, and on a fifteen-minute time limit. We planned our session, in significant part, around the agreed-upon topics and time limits. During the session, the time came up for the first guest speaker to take the stage. His presentation was outstanding! As he presented, I sat off to one side of the platform, beside his laptop computer. He had to walk over to the computer many times, in order to advance his slides. After his allotted fifteen minutes, there was no sign of his presentation coming near an end. After twenty minutes had passed, I flagged him down when he walked over to advance his slides. “Hey Doc, you have to wrap it up,” I… Continue reading

Don’t Speak to Your Audience…

conversewiththem A conversation flows two ways, and it should do so from the stage as well. 

Wikipedia defines a conversation as, “communication between two or more people.” A conversation flows two ways, and it should do so from the stage as well. Now, that doesn’t mean both parties must speak; it means there’s some communication between the two. This typically requires mutual attention and respect, in order to establish transference of both information, and emotion. In order for you to converse with your audience, you first need their attention. A very simple way to command your audience’s attention as soon as you take the stage is by giving them your attention first. You can do this through silence. That’s right, say nothing, do nothing. Just stand there, and look into your audience. This lets your audience know they have your attention, and that you’re expecting theirs. I’ve done this hundreds of times, and it works very well. It sometimes takes longer than is comfortable, but it does work, and you need to remain steadfast until you have everyone’s attention, not just some of them. If you begin speaking before you have your audience’s attention, you’re not conversing with them, you’re merely speaking at them, and they’re not listening. Standing in silence and looking at your audience takes moxie, no doubt about it. But it can be a very powerful way to command their attention.

Once you have their attention,… Continue reading

Speaking With Gestures

let your hands goThere are different physical levels of gesturing, each with their own meaning.

What should you do with those awkward appendages when you have to speak in public? I’m referring, of course, to your hands. There’s so much that can be said about this topic that Mark Bowden has written an entire book about it! (See his book, Winning Body Language.) I used to get very frustrated when I was working with a specific training company, because they kept trying to get me to keep my hands down by my sides when I spoke. It was never comfortable for me to hang my hands down by my sides and to keep them there. Later, when I began offering my own training programs, I’d tell my students to let their hands go wherever they felt they needed to go naturally. It wasn’t until I read Bowden’s book that it all made sense! Your hands are not meant to dangle down by your sides unless you’re in motion. Here are a few tips taken from Bowden’s book that might help you.

There are different physical levels of gesturing, each with their own meaning. Two very powerful levels are what Bowden refers to as the TruthPlane and the PassionPlane. The TruthPlane is the horizontal plane at the level of the navel. Gesturing with your hands at this level offers the audience a message that you are here to give, rather than to take away.… Continue reading

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