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How to Avoid Rambling in Presentations

Presentations don’t happen in a perfectly controlled environment. An audience member gets into a coughing fit. A baby starts to wail. A phone goes off, and a trail of conversations from afar can be heard. Each distraction comes with a perfectly choreographed moment of silence. And each second lost to distraction is a second gone to waste.

Some of the scenarios above do happen, but there is a preventable kind of distraction that often goes unnoticed. The unexpected sources of distraction are none other than the speakers themselves.

Who rambles?

1. Rambling as the Last Resort

The most obvious sign of rambling comes from unprepared speakers. Unprepared speakers struggle to deliver the message of their presentation. Their speech slows down, uh’s and um’s dot their speech patterns, and they disrupt themselves. There aren’t enough tips to help out unprepared speakers.

Core topics can’t be made up on the spot and there are a few options available to save the presentation and the speaker. Damage control needs to be done. Rambling only worsens an ill-prepared presentation. So stay on topic as much as possible. Relax for a few seconds and don’t show any more signs of panic.

When you’re in a state of anxiety, simply pause and take a breath.

2. Rambling Creates a Wall

A prepared, but anxious speaker shows the same signs of nervousness as the unprepared speaker. Take the same steps to calm down and relax. There’s no need to be nervous if the deck is crafted carefully and communicates clearly.

Rambling as a result of anxiety can be avoided by reframing a nerve-wracking experience in a positive light. So instead of fearing judgement from the audience, think of the positive reaction you’ll gain. And instead of worrying about the presentation, be proud from its inception to its completion.

3. Rambling as the Unintended Effect

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the overly prepared speaker. You might exhaust all talking points and start talking about something completely unrelated. Eventually, you could have gone too far ahead to get back to your original point. As a result, you might ramble some more, creating a vicious cycle.

An unprepared speaker fills the air with silence while an overzealous one fills the air with too much information. According to career consultant, Lea McLeod, you should learn how to regulate rapid speech by having a measured pace. The average person talks at a rate of about 125-175 words per minute while we can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute.

Also consider the amount of attention and focus listening requires. Then factor in the other thoughts that could be distracting the audience. Combined, those 450 words that we can supposedly process can end up much less in reality. Control your pace and stay focused on your topic by slowing down.

Re-focus

Which one are you among the three? All these candidates can take steps to minimize winding along in their presentations. Preparation is the most important step in creating a deck. Confidence is the most important factor in delivering a speech.

For the benefit of the audience, don’t speak too fast or too slow, and remember to relax and just breathe.

References

McLeod, Lea. “3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling.” 3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.themuse.com
“Speech Rate – Is Your Speaking Rate Too Fast, Too Slow, or Just Right?” Write Out Loud. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.write-out-loud.com

Featured Image: SD Zoo” by Stephen Kruso from flickr.com

A Fresh Breath of Air: Calming Your Presentation Nerves

When panic strikes, how do you respond? Inexperienced public speakers often feel jittery before and during their performance on stage. They fixate on what might go wrong in the near future, forgetting how this anxiety affects them in the present.

Everybody has a different way of dealing with pressures, whether at home or at work. Thankfully, what you need is pretty simple: oxygen. If you’re one of those presenters who frequently run out of air or stutter, all you need to do is breathe.

The Importance of Breathing

Breathing is an essential part of all our lives. Without oxygen, it would be impossible for us to survive. Have you noticed how difficult it is to speak when you’re nervous and gasping for air?

Stress tricks your body into thinking you don’t have enough oxygen, causing you to gasp for air frequently. While oxygen is an important human need, too much oxygen is actually hazardous to your health.

An abundance of oxygen is then misrepresented as a serious health problem, like a heart attack. This triggers panic and, at worst, shock. This is why in public speaking, proper breathing is of utmost importance. It normalizes your condition, allowing you to think clearly while also improving your vocal projection.

Invest in Belly Breaths

Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, allows your lungs to expand so you can take in an optimal amount of air for each breathing cycle. Most people only use their upper chest for respiration since it requires less effort.

What they don’t know is that diaphragmatic breathing has the added benefit of releasing tension. In addition, taking a deep breath lessens your anxiety because it removes panic-causing blood toxins from your body. Public speaking trainer, Gary Genard, enumerates the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, some of which involve slowing your heart rate to calm you down, and circulating oxygen to the brain to help you think better.

Once you’ve cleared your head, you can finally think of ways to engage the audience and organize your thoughts. Try taking a deep breath whenever you get a mental block in the middle of a presentation. Instead of stuttering with speech fillers, invest in  belly breaths instead.

Time Your Breathing

Aside from preparing for your pitch, you need efficient practice. Advanced planning helps you prepare for the worst, and gives you the chance to adjust accordingly. Give your script one whole read through, as if presenting live, and take note of the parts where you tend to stumble. This allows you to pinpoint what part of your speech requires proper breathing.

Note where you should breathe in and when you should breathe out to help yourself get through a tough part of your presentation.

One Last Thing…

Optimized breathing will help you look more confident, credible, and convincing. A combination of efficient diaphragmatic breathing and sufficient preparation also provides extra confidence and lessens mistakes when presenting to crowds.

Do this constantly and expect to engage your audience more naturally after a fresh breath of air.

References

Genard, Gary. “Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Key Public Speaking Technique.” The Genard Method. June 20, 2013. www.genardmethod.com
“How to Cope With Anxiety Breathing Difficulties.” CalmClinic. www.calmclinic.com

 

Featured Image: Balance” by Kevin Dinkel from flickr.com