Speaking Tip: Check yourself in the Mirror First!

speaking tipsWhen Speaking, Don’t Rely on Others to Tell You Something is Amiss!

Many years ago, I was teaching at ‘Willis College of Business and Technology’ in Ottawa. I was sitting on the front corner of the teacher’s desk, explaining a point to the class, and I could feel something amiss about the energy level in the room. The class, comprised mostly of women, seemed to be in a strange, an almost silly, mood.

I concluded that it was due to my magnetic personality, causing the class full of women to be so capricious in my presence. Then, one of the ladies at the back of the room held up her hand. I acknowledged her, and she said, “We have a problem.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Your fly is down!” She replied, as she giggled. I looked down, and saw that she was telling the truth. Not only was my zipper down, but, because of the manner in which I was sitting on the edge of the desk, there was also a gaping hole to make it easier for the class to peer into my pants. I looked completely ridiculous!

Before I entered the class room that day, I had chatted with at least a half dozen other people, any one of whom could have drawn my attention to the open crater in my midsection. However, it was my own responsibility to check those things before I stepped up… Continue reading

Speaking Tip: Making Eye Contact with your Audience

Speaking-tip-eye-contactMake eye contact with your audience whenever you can.

In most speaking situations, you’ll be able to see your audience members. So, take advantage of the opportunity to make them feel like you’re speaking directly to them by making eye contact with them individually, just for a few seconds. As you make eye contact with someone, nod your head slightly if your message warrants it, and you’ll notice their head begin to nod back. I’ve seen this a thousand times while speaking to smaller groups.

Of course, you want to avoid the over-exaggerated, manipulative bobbing of the head to enforce agreement. I’m suggesting a very slight nod to garner a mirrored response. This helps bring your audience into a state of agreement with you. It’s subtle, but it works.

By making direct eye contact, you’re not only engaging that audience member into your presentation, but you’re also winning some trust. People tend to trust you more if you’re willing to look them in the eye.

At the same time, you’ll be able to spot those faces that offer you a welcoming or agreeable expression. Those faces can help you calm your nerves if you feel a little nervous all of a sudden.

Be sure to distribute your eye contact randomly throughout the audience. Often, I’ll see a speaker at my events who’ll focus in on me, and avoid the audience altogether. Sometimes, a speaker will have a favorite side of… Continue reading

When Speaking Enter Left, which means Stage Right

speaking tip enter stageWhen speaking, you should always aim to enter from the Audience’s Left … meaning Stage Right.

This method has its roots in stage acting. Some claim there’s a difference in the way an audience feels about a character (and a speaker) based on whether they enter from the left or the right. One theory suggests that entering from the audience’s left makes an audience more comfortable because they read from left to right. This would apply, of course, only to audiences who do read from left to right.

The extension of this theory is that when you enter from the audience’s left (stage right) you should exit to the audience’s right (stage left) because our perception is that when characters leave the stage to our right (stage left), they’re moving off into the distance and they’re gone.

Some claim that when characters enter from the audience’s left (stage right) they’re seen as “good guys,” but “bad guys” enter from the right (stage left).

I’ve read from several sources who suggest this tradition began with Shakespeare, though I haven’t been able to find any scientific information to support this theory. It does, however, have a ring of truth to it in my mind, so I thought it was worthy of space in this book.

When I speak, I try to enter from the audience’s left if I can, in case there’s actual merit to this theory. I wouldn’t want my audience… Continue reading

Speaking Tip: Memorize Key Phrases, not your Entire Presentation

speaking tipsRelying on your memory for your entire presentation will really get you into trouble.

That’s why most speakers use notes and/or slides to help them stay on track, which is okay, as long as they’re not just standing there and reading to the audience.

Keeping that in mind, it’s a good idea to memorize and rehearse key phrases and sentences, so they have the desired impact when you utter them.

When I give a presentation of any kind, I always write out the opening statement. I research the best way to say it, and rehearse it over and over again. When I take the stage, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is something I’ve said thousands of times before. This way, I get off to a comfortable start, and I gain momentum right from the first word.

The same principle applies with my call to action and my closing statement. These are critically important parts of the presentation, so I memorize them, rehearse them and refine them to the point that they roll off my tongue with ease, with confidence and with impact.

When developing your presentation, identify the critical points and make sure you know how you’re going to deliver them. Come up with the best way to articulate your thoughts, and practice it relentlessly. Your presentation will have the impact you need, but still have the natural flow your audience wants.

So, what’s the lesson?… Continue reading

Stand out as a Speaker: Speak in the Present Tense

keynote speaker tipsWhen speaking, the tense you use telling a story can make or break your audience reaction.

Writing in the past tense can create a very compelling story. As speakers, many of us can tell a story in the past tense and still make it compelling, but if you want to stand out as a speaker, you’ll need to engage the audience better than other speakers do, and an effective way to do this is by telling your stories in the present tense.

In the summer of 2009, a very sweet lady named Penny attended an evening workshop I was giving on public speaking and networking.

One of her assignments was to come prepared to speak for two minutes about a significant incident in her life.

Her speech began something like this, “Three years ago, I was working with the ‘Party Lite’ gift company. I was really successful and sold enough of the products to earn an award of ten-thousand dollars. At the ceremony, they called me up onto the stage to accept my award, and I was very emotional because I realized that I was finally able to buy my husband the motorcycle he always wanted.”

At this point, I asked her to start her story over again, but to make two changes to it. First, I asked her if she would tell the story in the present tense, and second, I asked her to begin the story as… Continue reading

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