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Public Speaking 101: Should You Read from a Script or Not?

There are four ways to deliver a speech: reciting it from memory, learning it by heart, using notes for reference, and reading it from a script word for word. The method you should use will depend on the type of speaking engagement and the personal circumstances you find yourself in.

Memorizing your speech is rarely a good idea because the artificiality of it makes your delivery sound stilted. You may risk sounding monotonous when the natural inflection of your voice disappears. Also, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll deliver a seamless presentation because your focus is shifted from getting the message across to getting the words right.

Learning your speech by heart and trying to wing it without notes can work. However, it can be risky because when you lose your train of thought, you’ll have nothing to rely on to get you back on track. The best method is to use notes because at least you have something to fall back on when you lose your footing. It can also help you transition from one idea to the next.

While learning all this is good, we’re not really here to talk about the three ways of delivering a presentation. Instead, we’re here to understand the fourth: reading directly from a script. Script reading is a practice that is highly discouraged, unless you’re a person of politics who needs to deliver a speech exactly as it’s written. If you’re a student delivering a report or a business executive making a pitch, there’s no excuse for you to read from your notes at all. This is a basic public speaking convention that you should know by default.

Why Reading from a Script Is Discouraged

You may be tempted to bring a script to your next public speaking gig and read it word for word. It’s luring because you don’t have to memorize or learn your speech by heart anymore. Everything you have to say is literally in your hands. It makes you feel secure because, in theory, you can’t lose your train of thought. It’s effortless preparation-wise. So, if it’s so reassuring, why do professionals advise against it? There are plenty of reasons, and we’ll explain three of them:

  • A written speech rarely translates to an oral discussion. We don’t speak the same way as we write. Words that are written for the eye (i.e. grammatical, syntactic, generally well-structured) don’t always sound well to the ears. If you want to sound conversational, you need to write the same way as you talk.
  • A script shifts attention from the audience. Reading from a script requires you to look at your notes, and this shifts your gaze away from the audience and limits your interaction with them. As a result, your delivery loses the personal touch it needs. You’re basically just standing there aloof, with your audience feeling left out. They feel like they’re listening to a monologue rather than taking part in a dialogue in which their opinions matter.
  • Your words and actions are measured and limited. A script limits both your words and actions. You’re not free to use whatever manner of delivery you like because you’re corralled into the four edges of your cheat sheet. Aside from this, reading from a script can add a physical barrier between you and the audience: a lectern. This barrier will only fortify the walls you’ve built, ultimately resulting to a disconnect.

Planning for the Inevitable: Tips When Reading Your Speech

Without a doubt, no matter how many times you’re warned, you’ll always find an excuse to deviate from what’s recommended. So, to help you minimize the repercussions of reading from a script during a public speaking engagement, here are four tips for you to apply:

1. Employ the scoop-and-speak technique

For this to work, you need to print your notes in large font and have them written on the top portion of a document so that your eyes don’t have to stray down too far. Every time you pause, look at your notes, and before reciting what you’ve scooped, look at the audience again. Eye contact is crucial in public speaking. When reading from your notes, you don’t have to keep it a secret and act surreptitiously. Just chill out and act natural.

2. Draft a dialogue, not a declaration

Even if you’re reading from a script, you should try to not look like it. When drafting your speech, make sure to use common conversational words that sound natural when spoken. Use informal language; otherwise, you’ll just sound foreign and distant. Be mindful of the natural cadences and rhythms of spontaneous speech, and make sure to apply them throughout your presentation. To improve your vocal variety, you can adjust your facial gestures to match your words.

3. Don’t use your slide deck as a script

Your PowerPoint presentation is not a script, so don’t treat it as such. Instead, make separate notes that you can use as guide. You can also use the Notes feature in PowerPoint. It has a Presenter’s View that can let you see your notes for a selected slide without the audience seeing them. Just make sure to practice using your script beforehand so that you won’t get lost in the middle of the presentation.

4. Mind the structuring of your text

Break long blocks of text by using headings, subheadings, line breaks, and pauses. Use signals to help you break down the text and cue you as to where to begin and end, or what to stress and blend. You can even add instructional annotations along the margins to make everything crystal clear.

When you’re in a pickle and you have no choice but to read from a script, follow the tips above. However, in any other situation, try to explore other ways of delivering your presentation. Don’t limit yourself to the four edges of a page. Instead, allow your mind to roam free without straying too far from your core message. This is, after all, what being an effective public speaker means.

Resources:

Dlugan, Andrew. “How to Make Reading a Speech Not Like Reading a Speech.” Six Minutes. December 7, 2011. sixminutes.dlugan.com/reading-your-speech

Marshall, Lisa B. “Read, Memorize, or Use Notes.” Quick and Dirty Tips. September 23, 2010. www.quickanddirtytips.com/business-career/public-speaking/read-memorize-or-use-notes

Matthews, Alan. “Pros and Cons of Using a Script When Speaking.” Alan Matthews Training. May 13, 2015. alanmatthewstraining.com/2015/05/pros-and-cons-of-using-a-script-when-speaking

Wyeth, Sims. “Do You Read from a Script? Should You” Presentation Guru. April 20, 2017. www.presentation-guru.com/do-you-read-from-a-script-should-you

8 Ways Eye Contact Can Make or Break Your Presentation

“When you are first introduced to people, looking them in the eye or avoiding their gaze will send an instant message,” says an article published in Research Digest titled. Initiating eye connection is a universal premise in public speaking—it ignites a connection between the speaker and the audience. It is the key to coalescing your core message and excellent delivery.
As a presenter, your main goal is to clearly convey a message to your spectators. Whether your presentation tackles business proposals, client projects, or branding strategies, your sole purpose is to turn spectators into customers and engage clients for investments. To do this, you must delve deep into details and begin with an indispensable speaking mantra: eye contact.

Eye Contact During a Presentation

The eyes are the windows to one’s soul. It bears the integrity of your intentions and the authenticity of the subliminal messages you cascade. In hindsight, eye contact establishes an invitation to mentally connect with another person. As a speaker, you must meet your audience’s gaze to show a need to engage while presenting.
Furthermore, establishing eye contact helps you retain your composure while speaking. As you roam your eyes erratically, more visual signals are sent to your brain, which slows it down. Keep in mind that your stance substantiates your authority as a speaker. Stuttering, being lost in thought, and stopping mid-sentence are major no-no’s. These cases devalue your identity as a presenter.

Strengthening the Connection

Calling it “eye contact” can just mean “meeting of the eye” rather than having a genuine connection. To appear warmer, avoid making a superficial look, and initiate an “eye connection” instead. Eye connection means spending more time enthralling each person in the room as if you’re personally talking to them.
By establishing a brief but engaging connection, your spectators would perceive intentionality as you speak. You’d also avoid sounding too technical thus creating a conversational and engaging atmosphere.
Check the infographic below to learn the other pros and cons of eye contact during presentations.

 

Resources:

Wyeth, Sims. “10 Reasons Eye Contact Is Everything in Public Speaking.” Inc. June 18, 2014. www.inc.com/sims-wyeth/10-reasons-why-eye-contact-can-change-peoples-perception-of-you.html
Jarett, Christian. “The Psychology of Eye Contact, Digested.” Research Digest. November 28, 2016. digest.bps.org.uk/2016/11/28/the-psychology-of-eye-contact-digested
“Eye Contact During a Presentation.” Syntaxis. n.d. www.syntaxis.com/eye-contact-during-a-presentation

The Attributes of a Great Public Speaker

Since time immemorial, humans have taken to the stage so that they could be seen and speak their hearts out. With each word, they captivate and mesmerize people. With every breath, these speakers commanded the language like no other, making crowds stay and listen, and even wanting for more.
It’s not like history has a shortage of outstanding public speakers. Those who have rhetoric skills, who have etched their names in eternity, along with the long list of heroes, villains, sinners, and saints, are remembered long after their time, immortalized by their craft in history books and the Internet. From legendary Roman spokesperson Cicero and Greek general Pericles to author Susan Cain and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the world has seen its fair share of public speakers who can dominate the stage and fascinate their audiences with their piece or with whatever they present.
But what a public speaker so endearing? How do they command the charisma that inspires listeners to their cause? Is there a trick to their success? Are they magic? Through simple inspection, the most obvious commonality among them all is their ability to move the emotions and opinions of their audiences.
Today’s age doesn’t have much of the oratory events that the ancient times had; the closest in modernity, and arguably the biggest, is the annual TED Talks. Apart from the leap in technological levels and different preparatory techniques, though, is there any other difference between then and now in terms of oration?
If anything, what’s most intriguing are the speakers. From then up to now, time has tried and successfully proven that the very attributes that made names like Cicero, Pericles, and Demosthenes legendary are the very same benchmarks of a great public speaker today. In short, when you exhibit and emulate the following traits, then you can be one of the greats of this era. What are those characteristics? The following infographic will fill you in.

Resource:

Inzunza, Victor. “History’s Greatest Speakers and Their Greatest Speeches.” Pencils.com. December 3, 2012. www.pencils.com/historys-greatest-speeches

Props for Presentation: Yay or Nay?

When you think of theater, you imagine a stage, a backdrop, and the multiple stage properties that actors use to bring a story to life. Props help not only the troupe but also the audience in reliving the experience of the characters and injecting a different sense of realism in a manner that only plays and musicals can deliver, and not just imagining how everything unfolds.

In a similar vein, you could liken a presentation to a stage play. You prance around onstage, tell a story, and evoke emotions and solicit responses from your audience. And… you use props? Is it even necessary? Here are the pros and cons of incorporating them into your speeches.

Impact

Pro: Props are powerful tools you could use to concretize points and provide nonabstract examples to an idea. Kind of like giving a face to a name. If anything, that concept of “concreteness” can make a thought clearer, more compelling, and more conducive to learning. Provide a good model or a situation that perfectly illustrates every aspect of the abstract concept.

Con: However, a bad example may end up making the subject even more complicated and confusing. Instead of explaining the finer points, a mismatch of properties and attributes between your example and the idea you’re trying to explain could lead to their total disregard. Avoid false analogies.

Visibility

Pro: The moment your audience sees your prop, one of two events will happen: if you show it immediately, you make them curious of how it relates to your point; if you wait until the perfect time, then there’s a sudden realization of, “So that’s how that works.”

Con: Of course, your audience needs to see it first, from the people in the first row to the back of the room, even the ones just standing up near the exit. So, should it be a medium- to large-sized object? Those are plausible, but if you’re uncomfortable and look awkward using your prop, then that’s just a cringe-fest for viewers. If it’s too small, then the impact that everyone should have felt is now limited to only a few in front of you. You could prevent the latter with video projection on a screen, but otherwise, consider the size of your prop and the stage. Don’t waste your efforts with props only you can see and appreciate.

Functionality

Pro: Look at this one in two ways: whether your prop works or not and whether it’s practical or impractical. For the former, make sure it doesn’t malfunction during the most important part of your speech. Planning even the littlest details down to the letter is a good way to impress your audience with your prop, especially when it’s a complex piece of equipment or a simple tool used to simplify a complex concept. For the latter, show how it could also function in their lives. More than just a demo, this is an application of its practicality.

Con: Again, here are two ways to look at it: accidents or any unwanted incidents because your prop failed and undesired impressions because of how clunky or how awkward it looks when being used.

As a final point, does having a prop work? Are you comfortable enough with using an object and explaining how it relates to your main point? There are proponents of the notion, and they even recommend going the extra mile. The results are worth the effort.

Verdict

A prop is a tool, and as such, it can be used to have a good effect or a bad one. It all depends on how you use it. This one falls squarely on your shoulders.

However, there are general reminders you must ask before you plan on using whatever prop you need:

  • Are you sure it will impact your audience with the intended effect?
  • Will it be big enough so that everyone in the venue can see it?
  • Have I tested it properly and won’t fail me while I talk?
  • Is it even a good idea to use props here?

If your answers to the questions above are all yes, then by all means, use one. By then, the only concern you have is if it will drive your point home. Take care of that, and you’ll have an effective presentation in store for your audience… if you can pull it off. Isn’t that a good challenge?

Resources:

Gallo, Carmine. “Using Props to Improve Your Presentations.” Bloomberg. January 28, 2009. www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-13/synchronous-global-recovery-masks-a-deepening-asset-imbalance

Grant, Anett. “How to Use Props to Make Your Presentation More Powerful.” Fast Company. July 28, 2015. www.fastcompany.com/3048857/how-to-use-props-to-make-your-presentation-more-powerful

Linehan, Dave. “How to Use Props in Presentations.” DaveLinehan.com. November 17, 2015. www.davelinehan.com/props-in-presentations

Miller, Fred E. “Props for Presentations: Seen and UnSeen!” No Sweat Public Speaking. October 13, 2009. www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com/props-for-presentations-seen-and-unseen

Miller, Fred E. “Using Props in a Presentation.” No Sweat Public Speaking. September 21, 2009. www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com/using-props-in-a-presentation

Weinstein, Yana and Megan Smith. “Learn to Study Using … Concrete Examples.” The Learning Scientists. August 25, 2016. www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/8/25-1

Zimmer, John. “How Do Props Help a Presentation?” Manner of Speaking. September 25, 2011. www.mannerofspeaking.org/2011/09/25/how-do-props-help-a-presentation

Zimmer, John. “Ten Tips for Using Props in a Presentation.” Manner of Speaking. September 29, 2011. www.mannerofspeaking.org/2011/09/29/ten-tips-for-using-props-in-a-presentation

“How to Use a Prop When You Are Presenting.” Time to Market. n.d. www.timetomarket.co.uk/presentation-tips/confident-presentation-tips/how-to-use-a-prop-when-you-are-presenting

How Can I Become an Effective Webinar Host?

It’s understandable why some people refuse to host webinars to boost their marketing campaign. The experience can be stressful when undertaken the wrong way. First-timers who aren’t confident enough to believe that they have what it takes to pull off the event can find the experience nerve-wracking. Like most presentations, webinars require careful planning. Hosts are expected to devote ample time to ensure that everything goes well—and the implications of that fact alone are enough to give anyone cold feet.

However, if there’s one reason why businesses should still consider hosting a webinar, it’s that the pay-off is well worth the hassle. A webinar provides a whole range of functionalities that other types of media and social platforms can’t offer. For instance, webinars are a quick and surefire way to forge new connections and generate trust from potential clients in your target niche. Also, compared to live seminars, webinars are more practical and regulated because they cost less, demand less time, and can be controlled from start to finish.

If you leave out webinars from your campaign, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. To keep abreast with the latest technology, you need to host effective webinars.

The Secrets of Successful Webinar Hosts

There aren’t many webinar hosts out there who can draw their target audience’s attention from the start and sustain it until the end. However, those who are skilled enough to do this aren’t hard to emulate. In fact, their strategies when analyzed are easy to understand. Below are some of the secrets of successful webinar hosts.

1. They craft attention-grabbing headlines

Coming up with a catchy headline is winning half the battle. Your potential attendees have no way of knowing exactly what they’ll be getting out of your webinar, so it’s important that the title of your event packs enough information without sacrificing fun.

2. They learn their way around webinar technologies

You’d think it’s obvious, but many webinar hosts still don’t realize that getting the hang of webinar technologies before an event is an absolute must. They wait until the last minute before doing a test run. By leaving out this important step, they take value from their overall experience and the audience’s. The result is dissatisfaction on both ends.

Even on the onset, you should be involved in deciding which webinar tool to use. Consider all possible factors when making this decision. Also, make sure that your provider is willing to train your team so that you can make the most of your webinar experience. Knowing how webinar technologies work will enable you to provide clear instructions to your audience. Equipped with this knowledge, you can walk them through the various features and functionalities of the tools you’re using.

3. They put audio over everything else

In a live presentation, the way you carry yourself onstage is as important as the way you sound. You need to keep the audience invested not only in what you say but also in the way you say it. The same can be said about webinars, although audio-related factors are way more important in this platform than visual ones. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, the audience sometimes don’t get the chance to see you face-to-face. The only connection you have with them is your voice. This is why it’s imperative that you get a good external mic and a soundproof room to aid in audio quality. On top of this, you should make sure to use a confident and conversational tone to keep your audience engaged.

4. They hold the audience’s attention to the last minute

Don’t be too naïve to assume that your audience will stay with you from beginning to end. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. With so many distractions that technology offers, you have no choice now but to compete for your audience’s attention. It would serve you well to add interesting elements like lively videos, good humor, captivating narratives, intriguing facts, and relevant questions into your presentation.

5. They practice and practice some more

One way to make sure that your webinar is seamless is by doing a test run. As they say, practice makes perfect. By reviewing your performance before going live, you give yourself a chance to polish the whole thing and minimize errors. Don’t wait until the last minute before you try out the webinar tools you’re going to use. Test them ahead of time—ideally at the same time you review your content and delivery. Practicing your act will help lessen your stress and give you more confidence.

6. They take marketing seriously

The most successful webinars are those that are marketed optimally. There’s only one way for you to attract a wide audience, and that is to promote the webinar ahead of time. Explore different social media platforms and start online discussions to promote the event. By maximizing all marketing opportunities, you can also maximize audience reach.

7. They review feedback to better themselves

No matter how good you are, there is always an opportunity for learning—a room for improvement that you may have overlooked before. That’s why after delivering a webinar, you should review your performance and take whatever feedback you can, whether good or otherwise. By doing this, you can become a better webinar host.

Webinars are here to stay, so the wise thing to do is tame the platform while it’s still not overused. With the aforementioned tips, you can become a better webinar host and expand your brand reach.

Resources:

Carucci, John & Sharan, Sharat. “How to Ensure Webinar Audio Quality.” Dummies. n.d. www.dummies.com/careers/business-communication/webinars/how-to-ensure-webinar-audio-quality

Dietrich, Gini. “14 Steps to Hosting a Successful Webinar.” Convince and Convert. n.d. www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing/14-steps-to-hosting-a-successful-webinar

Pappas, Christoforos. “Hosting a Winning Webinar: The Ultimate Guide.” eLearning Industry. August 22, 2015. elearningindustry.com/hosting-winning-webinar-ultimate-guide

Pappas, Christoforos. “Top 7 Tips to be a Successful Webinar Host.” eLearning Industry. October 5, 2015. elearningindustry.com/top-7-webinar-tips-successful-webinar-host

Warren, Gabriela. “How to Organize and Host a Webinar.” Lifewire. September 20, 2016. www.lifewire.com/how-to-organize-and-host-a-webinar-2377237

Weller, Nathan B. “The 15 Best Webinar Software Products from Around the Web.” Elegant Themes. January 17, 2015. www.elegantthemes.com/blog/resources/the-15-best-webinar-software-products-from-around-the-web

The Most Effective TED Talks and What You Can Learn from Them

Public speaking is not an innate talent that people are born with. It’s a skill that takes patience and constant practice to master. Many would agree that TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), an organization dedicated to spreading powerful ideas, is a pacesetter in producing the best presentations in the world. TED talks have been translated to more than a hundred languages, and TED events have been held in over 145 countries. Undoubtedly, the organization sets the bar higher in organized presentations.

This massive success begs the question: What does TED do differently that it manages to blow people’s minds over and over again? The answer lies in the speakers and the ideas they spread. TED speakers come onstage armed not only with powerful concepts and inspiring words but also with effective methods to get their message across. Here are eight lessons you can learn from the most successful TED talks ever held.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks

1. Hook the audience with one big idea

Everything, no matter how great, starts with a tiny spark of idea. Even the most elaborate TED talks begin with a simple concept that holds promise. As Jeremy Donovan, a TEdx organizer, said, “If you had to say there was one magical element to the best TED talks, it’s that those speakers picked one really, really big idea.” When giving a presentation, you don’t want to bombard your audience with a flurry of information. Choose one specific and interesting topic, then work around it. Attack it from a unique angle and give your audience something to think about. 

2. Start with an interesting opener

Don’t go onstage thinking that it’s the audience’s job to listen. You must earn the audience’s attention every time you take the limelight. The best TED speakers know this so they make their talks interesting from the moment they drop the first word.

  • Begin with an anecdote. Brene Brown opened her talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” with a story that was relevant to her point. This helped the audience understand Brown and her message.
  • State an incredible fact. Dan Gilbert is no stranger to the TED stage. One of the reasons why he captivates the audience every time he speaks is that he begins with an interesting statistic that turns heads.
  • Pause for ten seconds. Seth Godin advises public speakers to pause not for two, three or five seconds but for ten whole seconds to get everyone’s attention. And Godin should know since he’s one of America’s most respected marketing gurus.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks | Group of audience

3. Share a story that resonates with the audience

Everybody loves stories, especially those that appeal to the emotions. When you tell a story, make sure to not only relay the events but also the emotions you experienced. When you share genuine feelings, you establish a connection with the audience. This is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert did in her inspiring TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.”

4. Establish rapport using humor

To establish a connection with the audience, the speaker should lower his defenses and let the audience into his personal bubble. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use humor. In the most viewed TED talk of all time, “Do Schools Kill Creativity,” Sir Ken Robinson used self-deprecating humor to make the audience feel more comfortable around him. You can apply the same principle to endear yourself to the audience and make them want to listen to your message. 

5. Design your slides with care

Good speakers use pictures instead of texts to reinforce their message. Just look at Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk entitled, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” Observe how she effectively used images to strengthen her claims. If you plan to accompany your talk with a PowerPoint presentation, make sure to do away with large chunks of text and instead focus on the audience’s visual experience. Remember, you’re already overwhelming your audience with words by simply talking; don’t tire them out by forcing them to read your slides.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks | the winner

6. Reinforce your point throughout the talk

Contrary to popular opinion, you should consistently repeat yourself throughout the presentation. If you establish your point over and over, your audience will eventually catch on to what you’re trying to say. This is what Richard St. John did in his short TED talk about success. He gave away the eight secrets to success while staying true to one core message: Success doesn’t come easy. You need to have the passion, the courage and the resilience to pursue it.

7. Leave your audience a gift before you go

The audience always sit in anticipation of something new to bring home. They lend their ears because they expect to be entertained or blown away by a novel idea or a fresh perspective they’ve never thought of before. Remember, although the presentation is your moment, it’s not entirely about you. You stand onstage not to bask under the spotlight but to share something that is worth your audience’s time.

The words of Robert Ballard, the explorer who discovered Titanic, are very fitting in this case. He said, “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.” Take for example Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts.” Cain dared to look at introversion from a different light, and the response she got was positively overwhelming. 

8. Waste no one’s time

It’s common courtesy among public speakers to end their talk before the time limit. TED talks run for an average of eighteen minutes, which TED curator Chris Anderson finds “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.” So if you’re given thirty minutes, prepare for a presentation that runs for twenty-five minutes or less. You can allot the extra time for unforeseen events or unsolicited questions from the audience.

Public speaking is not easy, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be a few steps closer to delivering an electrifying TED-like presentation that you’ll cherish for life. 

 

Resources:

Gallo, Carmine. “9 Public Speaking Lessons from the World’s Greatest TED Talks.” Forbes. March 4, 2014. www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/03/04/9-public-speaking-lessons-from-the-worlds-greatest-ted-talks/#3e8ca62212ea

Haden, Jeff. “20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks.” Inc. www.inc.com/ss/jeff-haden/20-public-speaking-tips-best-ted-talks

James, Geoffrey. “11 Public Speaking Tips from the Best TED Talks Speakers.” Inc. July 26, 2016. www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/11-public-speaking-tips-from-the-best-ted-talks-speakers.html

May, Kate Torgovnick & Ludolph, Emily. “A TED Speaker Coach Shares 11 Tips for Right Before You Go Onstage.” TED Blog. February 14, 2016. blog.ted.com/a-ted-speaker-coach-shares-11-tips-for-right-before-you-go-on-stage

Stillman, Jessica. “5 Secrets of Public Speaking from the Best TED Presenters.” Inc. November 8, 2013. www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/ted-speakers-on-presenting-public-speaking.html

 

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Cultivating the Right Presentation Mindset

Someone once said, “The human brain is a wonderful thing. It starts working the moment you are born, and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” Indeed, public speaking is so emotionally taxing that many people make all kinds of excuses to dodge it. Some say they don’t have the expertise yet while others say they’re not emotionally ready. To many, these excuses are a sign of weakness and an inability to deliver.

However, most people don’t realize that this is a natural response. In fact, it is expected, and in some cases, desired and encouraged. The can’t-do attitude towards public speaking is not always negative. If any, it’s a good asset waiting to be unraveled. You can channel the energy you use to dwell into your hesitation and self-doubt into something more positive. You can turn your can’t-do mindset into a presentation asset.

Focus on yourself, not on others.

This doesn’t mean you have to disregard your audience’s needs and preferences. It only means you shouldn’t worry too much about what others think of you. It’s okay to fret a little if you’re new to public speaking, but you have to remember that you don’t need to perfect it the first time. No matter how well you prepare and deliver your speech, there will always be room for improvement.

Look past the temptation to look smart. Instead of worrying about things that are out of your control, why not focus on honing your skills? Be open for growth, and embrace any challenge that might come your way. A lot of things can go wrong in a presentation, and sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to stop them. However, your attitude towards the situation will determine how it affects you.

Doubt yourself, but only for a minute.

There are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth. A fixed mindset encompasses static givens such as character, intelligence, and creative ability. These aspects can’t be changed in any meaningful way. A person with a dominant fixed mindset typically strives for success and avoids failure. A person with a growth mindset, on the other hand, sees failure not as a drawback but as a springboard for improvement. Both types of mindsets can have a profound impact in your life.

For you to overcome stage fright, you need to let your growth mindset take over. Think of your speaking engagement as an opportunity to expand your knowledge and enhance your experience. 

Find a motivation, not a reason to quit.

What’s good about having a growth mindset is that you can cultivate a passion for learning instead of a hunger for approval. People with this kind of outlook view things from a different light. To a conventional person, for example, the words, “not yet,” ring with a negative connotation, like being stuck in a certain state. However, to a progressive mind, “not yet” suggests something to look forward to in the future.

If you think you’re not yet ready to give a talk, strive harder to become better at public speaking until you are fully prepared to take the stage. Looking at things in a better light will free you from presentation anxiety and make you more confident.

Don’t let a can’t-do mindset stop you from reaching your full potential. Develop a can-do attitude that will let you find and conquer greater possibilities.

Resources:

Britton, Kathryn. “I Can’t Do It Yet.” Positive Psychology. June 18, 2014. positivepsychologynews.com/news/kathryn-britton/2014061829119

North, Marjorie Lee. “10 Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills.” Harvard Extension. n.d. www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/10-tips-improving-your-public-speaking-skills

Peck, Sarah. “Why a Growth Mindset is Essential for Learning.” One Month. May 12, 2015. learn.onemonth.com/why-a-growth-mindset-is-essential-for-learning
Popova, Maria. “Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets that Shape Our Lives.” Brain Pickings. n.d. www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset

Roll, Oliver. “6 Steps to Overcoming Stage Fright and Giving a Presentation Everybody Listens to.” Entrepreneur. October 21, 2014. www.entrepreneur.com/article/238442

Body Language Mistakes to Avoid During Presentations

When you’re conversing with someone, which of the following do you do: look at that person in the eye or look away? focus or check your watch every few seconds? listen or play with your fingers, seemingly absentminded?

There are many negative connotations when you answer the latter for every pair. That’s because arbitrary cognition affects how people perceive your actions. In short, body language. The more negative those perceptions are, the more badly it reflects upon you, especially when you’re onstage and speaking in front of a large crowd.

But what specific “negative body language” indicators do you have to avoid during a presentation? Below are a few.

Body Language Mistake to Avoid During a Presentation: Crossing Arms

Poor Posture

If anything, this will be the most glaring and most obvious presentation blunder you can make. Slumped shoulders and slouching are its two biggest indicators, and they already tell much: nervousness, little to no confidence, a feeling of discomfort and inferiority, and that hint of the “I don’t really want to be here” idea. Poor posture reflects as much on your audience as it does to your own body.

Instead, practice proper posture in front of a mirror. A straight body not only improves bodily functions, like blood circulation, breathing, and the like, but also exudes an air of confidence and self-worth. Then, when you’re in front of your audience, do the same and think of it as your power pose. They will perceive you as a professional with the right things in mind to be worth their time.

Crossing Arms

Defensiveness is not a new concept. Humans survived basically because of it. But when talking about body language, it’s not a good thing; it gives off the message that you aren’t receptive to anything, are resistant to everything except yourself, and would rather stay in your comfort zone—three things you wouldn’t want your audience to emulate because, by then, your words will fall on deaf ears.

What do you do with your hands then? A good trick is incorporating hand movements to your spiel. If you’re about to introduce a point, motion to the audience. If you want a word or phrase emphasized, you can point to your presentation. You can also address to your viewers with a welcoming wave using both hands.

Body Language Mistake to Avoid During a Presentation: Turning Your Back

Exaggerated Gestures

Moving around the stage is good. It makes your speech lively with movements and can even draw attention to you and/or to what you’re pointing to, especially when emphasizing points (see above). But there is such a thing as “over the top.”

There should be a limit. If you use exaggerated gestures, like doing a sweeping wave when a small movement of the hand is enough, you can be seen as trying too hard or being too theatrical; the latter isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but if what you’re doing diverts your audience’s attention away from your words, then it’s time to keep your actions in check or, at least, dial it down a notch.

Turning Your Back

There’s a reason live TV strictly discourages showing its stars’ back to the camera: it’s to show the faces of the actors and actresses, the best tools they can use to portray the emotions the scene evokes.

It’s the same with public speaking. What would you rather your audience see: your back or your face? Choosing the former can denote that you’re not really interested in seeing them—much more talk to them. The worst perception is that you don’t trust and respect your viewers. Soon, they’ll reciprocate that feeling and think they just wasted their time.

Don't Forget to Make Eye Contact During Your Presentation

Make Eye Contact

Have you ever had a conversation with an individual where your eyes just don’t meet, and you feel more awkward with each passing moment? Not having eye contact gives off the air and sentiment that much of what happens isn’t worth the time and could be just safely ignored. Thus, trust isn’t formed.

Looking at your audience members eye to eye fosters better understanding of each other because of the sincerity and trust that comes with it. You feel there’s a deeper connection steadily forming from that connection. The more it develops, the more your audience sees what makes you stand and speak in front of them: “confidence, leadership, strength, and intelligence,” as Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, writes.

When it comes right down to it, when hundreds of pairs of eyes are on you, there’s no greater fear than making a mistake and humiliating yourself. With the wrong kinds of body language, you’re just digging your grave deeper. When you’re rehearsing, take extra care and effort to eliminate these habits, no matter how much of a mannerism they have become. It’ll serve you better in the long run.

Resources:

Babar, Tayab. “8 Fatal Body Language Mistakes to Avoid During Presentations.” Lifehack. n.d. www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/8-fatal-body-language-mistakes-avoid-during-presentations.html

Bradberry, Travis. “13 Body Language Blunders that Make You Look Bad.” Huffington Post. March 4, 2017. www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/13-body-language-blunders-that-make-you-look-bad_us_58b88c2fe4b02eac8876cc70

Chernoff, Marc. “25 Acts of Body Language to Avoid.” Marc & Angel Hack Life. July 7, 2008. www.marcandangel.com/2008/07/07/25-acts-of-body-language-to-avoid

Economy, Peter. “9 Body Language Habits That Make You Look Really Unprofessional.” Inc. May 13, 2016. www.inc.com/peter-economy/9-body-language-habits-that-make-you-look-really-unprofessional.html

Grickej, Peter. “5 Negative Effects of Bad Posture on Your Body and Mind.” Posturebly. June 20, 2014. www.posturebly.com/5-negative-effects-of-bad-posture-on-your-body-and-mind

Herold, Cameron. “5 Absolute Worst Body Language Mistakes Made at Work.” COO Alliance. November 16, 2016. www.cooalliance.com/blog/communication/5-absolute-worst-body-language-mistakes-made-at-work

Navarro, Joe. “The Psychology of Body Language.” Psychology Today. November 29, 2009. www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/200911/the-psychology-body-language

Smith, Jacquelyn. “The 11 Worst Body Language Mistakes Professionals Make.” Business Insider. April 17, 2014. www.businessinsider.com/common-body-language-mistakes-employees-make-2014-4

5 Rules When Presenting Hard Data

Business communication is a skill that, simple though it may appear, takes a lot of effort to master. Every professional, regardless of rank or specialization, ought to learn the basics of delivering presentations, as this skill can come in handy when relaying a new business opportunity or spreading news about the success of a new initiative.
If your career leans more towards the technical side, it’s all the more important for you to grasp data storytelling at its fullest. It’s true that numbers and graphs can lend a credible air to your presentation, but wouldn’t it be a whole lot better if your audience can understand the information you feed them? The goal of business presentations after all is to inform, not to impress.

Pointers on Data Storytelling

Presenting Hard Data: Know the Story Behind the Data
Data storytelling takes a lot of practice to master. The following list can be a good starting point towards understanding the full power of this skill.

1. Know the story behind the data

It’s unfair to expect your audience to make sense of hard data when you yourself can’t comprehend it. As a presenter, it’s your job to dissect a piece of information before presenting it to your listeners. Most importantly, as a data storyteller, you must learn how to extract convincing and relatable stories from hard numbers. Don’t limit yourself within technical bounds—instead, try to capture a creative idea or insight that will best communicate your message. By harnessing the power of storytelling, you can encourage your audience to be more engaged and cooperative.

2. Provide context when going technical

One of the common mistakes that presenters make is plunging right in on the actual data. Amateurs often don’t bother constructing a logical structure that allows for the smooth transition of ideas. If you’re serious about being an effective data storyteller, keep in mind that your main goal is to make sure that the audience finds meaning in your presentation—they must be able to translate the data you give them into their everyday lives. To make that happen, you simply need to provide context when treading on technical subjects. If you try hard enough, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make a connection between numbers and reality.
The last thing you want to see is a roomful of people wearing befuddled—or worse, indifferent—looks. Your data-heavy presentation might make sense to you, but you have to assume that the audience are utterly unfamiliar with the concepts you’re sharing. As much as possible, veer away from technical language and use layman’s words instead. Try to strike an emotional chord with your audience. Yes, it’s a business presentation, but a little touch of personality won’t do any harm. In fact, if you employ the right strategies, pulling at your audience’s heartstrings can be more beneficial than you think.

3. Let your message sink in before advancing

Presenting Hard Data: Let Your Message Sink in Before Advancing
Racing against time is not a viable excuse for rushing a presentation. Most time constraints are declared beforehand to allow presenters to work within those limits. By being mindful of your boundaries, you can control the flow of the presentation while still letting stories unfold from the numbers and figures. Remember, haste makes waste. For your message to sink in, you need to give the audience ample time to digest it. Rushing through it will only do harm and no good. Speak slower and pause for good measure. Let the audience meet you halfway at their own pace.

4. Make an important detail prominent

The audience won’t remember everything you share them, so it’s important to underline the key points you want to impress on their minds. For maximum impact, capture, package, and present the core message in a moving and unforgettable way. You can do this visually by giving a core idea a slide of its own or by iterating it throughout your speech. To better highlight your message, eliminate everything that distracts from it. Clutter will only confuse your audience, so make a final run-through before presenting to ensure that only the most important elements will reach the audience.

5. Use imagery to paint vivid pictures

Presenting Hard Data: Use Imagery to Paint Vivid Pictures
One of the factors that can redeem a data-heavy presentation is aesthetics. While there’s some truth to the general notion that no one listens to a business presentation unless necessary, the experience needs not be unpleasant. You can mute the dullness and bring a little color to your presentation by, well, literally bringing color to it. Use visuals where appropriate to make the data more appealing. Also, be mindful of the font sizes and styles you use. By being conscious of your slides’ design, you can guarantee that the visual elements of your presentation clarify your message and not hamper it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using charts to communicate a message, but you’d be wise to remember that there’s always a better way when presenting things. Don’t settle for cold and intimidating numbers; instead, delve deeper and find the story beneath them. Use data to weave a story that paints the bigger picture. When all’s said and done, there’s no reason why math and storytelling should be two different things.

Resources:

Crooks, Ross. “7 Ways Data Can Tell Your Story.” Visage. October 7, 2014. visage.co/7-ways-data-can-tell-story
French, Katy. “11 Design Tips for Beautiful Presentations.” Visage. November 24, 2016. visage.co/11-design-tips-beautiful-presentations
Ravilochan, Teju. “6 Principles for Making Your Pitch Unforgettable.” Unreasonable. July 31, 2013. unreasonable.is/6-principles-for-making-your-pitch-unforgettable
Samuel, Alexandra. “How to Give a Data-Heavy Presentation.” Harvard Business Review. October 16, 2015. hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-give-a-data-heavy-presentation
“Presentation Ideas: When Presenting Data, Get to the Point Fast.” Duarte. n.d. www.duarte.com/presentation-ideas-when-presenting-data-get-to-the-point-fast

Fighting Off Sleepiness Before a Presentation

You beat the deadline and made sure that everything in your deck looks right. But one look at the clock and you realize it’s already deep into the night. Deeper than you expected. And you’ve got to wake up on time the next day. To make sure you’re not late for your presentation (which is why you crammed in the first place), you sleep less hours. This trade-off might not be that great since you’ve compromised your delivery—exhausted, sleepy, and all that.
When you’re not in the best shape to deliver your speech, your slides can’t build rapport with the audience for you. Here are ways to energize yourself so that you don’t fall asleep before—and during—your presentation. 

1. Warm Up

What to Do When You Feel Groggy Before Your Presentation: Warm Up
Get your blood rushing to reinvigorate your body. Liken it to hyping yourself up or getting yourself excited—or anything as long as you feel the blood pumping. You might think that exercising will use up your remaining energy reserves, but the body is a lot smarter about conserving energy than we give it credit for.
You can get more energy by moving around. This will trigger the release of hormones in your body and will put you on alert. Do simple activities like stretching and doing breathing exercises. The latter will also help you relax before your presentation.

2. Cool Down

Shock yourself awake with something cold if any attempt to warm up didn’t work. An ice-cold shower is guaranteed to wake you up first thing in the morning, but it’s not something you should do often since too much of it could lead to medical complications.
You can splash some cold water on your face during the day of your presentation to repeat the effect without getting your entire body shivering. A blast of cold air from outside can also wake you up. Just don’t sit down in a cold room for too long or you’ll be tempted to doze off. 

3. Power Nap

What to Do When You Feel Groggy Before Your Presentation: Power Nap
Taking a quick nap for ten minutes can help you recharge when prodding yourself awake just doesn’t cut it. Or you’re too tired to begin with. Getting a few minutes of sleep might give you just enough energy to present. If you love caffeine, you can also try the “coffee nap.” It works by drinking a cup of coffee and taking a short nap afterward. Both helps get rid of adenosine, a byproduct of the brain that makes you feel tired and sleepy. Several researchers have already proven the effectiveness of this study.
Sleep deprivation also gives you a distracting headache. A short shuteye can help alleviate the pain when there’s no paracetamol around. The trick is to keep it within twenty minutes to avoid feeling groggy afterward. 

4. Talk

We tend to be on our best behavior when we’re around other people. You’ll perk up by talking to somebody instead of sulking in a corner, slumped down and obvious that you’re sleep-deprived.
Talking to your peers might give you the encouragement you need to pull off your presentation. You can also ask your friends for more tips on how they fight off sleepiness. Focus your attention on something else to help you be alert.

Recap

What to Do When You Feel Groggy Before Your Presentation: Feel Your Best
It’s best to consider different options and discover what works and doesn’t for you. For some of those who only end up getting sleepier after taking a power nap, moving around might work better than getting a few minutes of rest. Others might find that relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea is more helpful than shocking themselves with a cold shower in the morning.
Do what works for you to keep awake during the day.

Resources:

Bratskeir, Kate. “10 Ways to Wake Up Without a Cup of Coffee.” The Huffington Post. December 3, 2015. www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/09/16/wake-up-without-coffee-its-possible_n_6096518.html
Daum, Kevin. “12 Non-Caffeinated Ways to Wake Up at Work.” Inc. May 28, 2013. www.inc.com/kevin-daum/12-non-caffeinated-ways-to-wake-up-at-work.html
Knowlton, Susan. “How to Fight Sleepiness.” Health Guidance. n.d. www.healthguidance.org/entry/15792/1/How-to-Fight-Sleepiness.html
Pinola, Melanie. “How Long to Nap for the Biggest Brain Benefits.” Lifehacker. September 4, 2013. www.lifehacker.com/how-long-to-nap-for-the-biggest-brain-benefits-1251546669
Stromberg, Joseph. “Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee or Naps Alone.” Vox. April 23, 2015. www.vox.com/2014/8/28/6074177/coffee-naps-caffeine-science