Annoying Public Speaking Habits
Here are some annoying public speaking habits. They can be deal breakers, so avoid these annoying habits at all costs!
Voice Trailing Off – Many speakers let their voices trail off at the end of every sentence. The audience can hear the first part of their sentence, but they have no idea what pearls of wisdom might be lost in the whispers at the end.
Looking Down – Sometimes this speaker will deliver complete sentences inaudibly while looking down — obviously not interested at that moment in engaging the audience.
Mumbling – Mumbling is not cool. Inexperienced speakers will often speak at conversation level, not giving any thought or consideration to the people in the back of the room. Recently, I sat in on a panel discussion at a workshop. The panelists chose to sit instead of stand to address the standing-room-only crowd, which I thought was rude. And one man, whenever it was his turn to speak, would rest his elbows on the table and fold his hands in front of his mouth during the entire time that he was speaking.
Reading – Some speakers are not good readers. If you are not skilled at reading something out loud, don’t do it while speaking. Especially avoid doing this secretly. In other words, if you plan to deliver your speech by reading all or part of it, and you do not have good out loud reading skills, forget it.
Not keeping everyone involved - Inexperienced or thoughtless speakers leave members of the audience out. When an audience member asks a question, it is rarely heard in the back of the room. I’ve seen many expert speakers respond to the question by engaging in a one-on-one conversation with this person while the rest of the audience is left wondering. Speakers, I urge you to repeat the question so everyone is on the same page. And then respond to the question so that everyone in the room can hear it.
Sitting Down – Some speakers choose to sit down on the job. In a very small, intimate group or when the audience is sitting in a circle of chairs or on the floor, for example, speaking while seated is generally okay. But if you have a room containing six rows of chairs or more, you really should express respect for those in the back of the room by standing so that you can be seen as well as heard.
Filler Words – Even some professional speakers still use too many filler words. It takes practice, but you can rid your vocabulary (especially while speaking in public) of those filler words like, uh, ah, er. Also avoid connecting sentences by overusing “and.”
Overshooting Time Allotment – Many speakers have trouble staying within the time allotment. Most programs or presentations are carefully organized. Each segment is designed to fit into a specific time slot. I’ve seen speakers completely disregard their time constraints and foul up the entire evening’s program. Not cool.
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Tips on Public Speaking
Here are some important public speaking tips to help you develop your skills and become far more effective as a public speaker.
- Ensure your speech will be captivating to your audience as well as worth their time and attention. Videotape your presentation and analyze it. Emphasize your strong points during your presentation.
- Present the desired image to your audience. Be solemn if your topic is serious. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Remember, you don’t look as nervous as you feel.
- Establish rapport with your audience. If a microphone is available, adjust and adapt your voice accordingly.
- Maintain sincere eye contact with your audience. If what you have prepared is obviously not getting across to your audience, change your strategy mid-stream if you are well prepared to do so.
- Allow yourself and your audience a little time to reflect and think.
- Check out the location ahead of time to ensure seating arrangements for audience, whiteboard, blackboard, lighting, location of projection screen, sound system, etc. are suitable for your presentation.
- Tell audience ahead of time that you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation.
- Humour : Tell jokes if you’re good at telling jokes. If you aren’t good, it is best to leave the jokes behind. There’s nothing worse than a punch line that has no punch.
- Tell stories : Stories make you a real person not just a deliverer of information. Use personal experiences to bring your material to life. No matter how dry your material is, you can always find a way to humanise it. Keep audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting speech makes time fly, but a boring speech is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.
- Using Public Speaking Environment – Try not to get stuck in one place. Use all the space that’s available to you. If your space is confined (say a meeting room or even presenting at a table) use stronger body language to convey your message.
- Mistakes – Mistakes are all right. Recovering from mistakes makes you appear more human. Good recovery puts your audience at ease – they identify with you more.
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Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking
If you have the fear of public speaking, you are not alone. You must first recognize what “fear” is. Fear is the anticipation of pain. Is your fear real or imagined?
Here are some great insights into Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking.
Steps to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking -
Fears – The fear of being judged, making a mistake, not measuring up, getting hurt either mentally or physically can get in the way of a good performance (speech, seminar, sales presentation, etc). Remember that people in the audience really want you to succeed. Nobody is standing there hoping you’ll be boring or bad. If you are coming from an authentic place, and you cover the material with clarity, you’ve won 3/4 of your inner battle with fear.
Learn how to enroll and engage your audience - If you haven’t yet taken a professional development course on public speaking, consider finding a public speaking training course appropriate for your needs. Learning the art of public speaking can enhance your results in a boardroom, in a sales presentation, and even accelerate your climb up the corporate ladder. It is a must-skill for any executive and/or business owner.
Practice - Find business organizations, networks and clubs in your area (such as Toastmasters) that can afford you the opportunity to practice. Remember to choose topics that you are already an expert on. Speaking on a topic that you are not familiar with will increase your stress, and impede on your performance.
Use recording software - Record everything on your PC/laptop. Review it to see where you can improve. Have speaking pros attend your live presentation to give you feedback. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn more every time you go out.
Remember, even the top professionals learn something new every single time they go out!
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How to Speak Well and Confidently
Are you very shy when it comes to new surroundings, such as starting a new class or moving to a new area? Sometimes, it is necessary to overcome your shyness and speak confidently. By doing this, it can help you not only to share your ideas properly to others, but also to learn communicating with others. Here are a few steps to consider when speaking with confidence.
Learn how to have conversations with people. Your ideas or opinions may not always be accepted by others, but this is nothing unusual. Open your mouth, express your beliefs! This will improve your courage.
Don’t be afraid and speak loudly. If you speak in a low voice, not only will others not be able to hear what you say, but you will also portray a submissive demeanor, which suggests the opposite of a confident one.
Make eye contact when you speak. For one thing, it is polite for others. Also, eye contact will help others to listen to your thinking carefully.
Praise yourself everyday! This will promote your own confidence, which is important when you speak. With more confidence, people will take your thinking more seriously.
- Don’t be nervous when you make mistakes. Human error is far from being a new concept — nobody is perfect! It is normal for everyone to make mistakes. Just calm down and keep speaking bravely.
- Try and try again! This may be difficult for a shy person at first, but you need to force yourself to speak, and not seclude your thoughts. If you have some ideas, then try to speak out! Don’t just keep them in your head.
- If you have self confidence issues, try to think that you are the only one who has sound knowledge about the topic. Then go ahead and impart your knowledge to the audience in an effective way.
- Remember that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Don’t portray an exaggerated amount of confidence, or you will come off as arrogant, believing that your ideas are better than the ideas of everyone else.
10 Tips to Improve Your Speaking voice
One of the most important components of public speaking is the sound of your voice. It influences the impact of your message, and might even make or break the success of your speech. Fortunately, for many people, good voice quality can be learned.
Breathe from your diaphragm – Practice long and controlled exhales. When you speak, use breath to punctuate your point. For example, take a breath at the end of each phrase whether you need to or not. Use that opportunity to pause and let the listeners absorb what you say.
Use pitch – Lower pitches generally are more soothing to hear. However, modulating your pitch for emphasis will keep your listeners engaged. Develop your pitch by practicing humming.
Moderate your volume – Find out if you speak too loudly or too softly. When you begin speaking, ask your audience how your volume is (each situation is different). Try to stay at the appropriate volume throughout your speech.
Moderate your pace – This one is also closely related to breath. If you speak too quickly, people can’t keep up. If you speak too slowly, people will lose interest. Record your speech to determine if you need to change your pace. Get feedback from others.
Articulate – Try exaggerating your lip movement to reduce mumbling. Practice articulating tongue twisters and extending and exaggerating vowel sounds. Become an expert at articulating tongue twisters as quickly and crisply as possible. Focus on the ones you find difficult.
Practice your speech in advance and determine where you want to pause for a breath. For more emphasis, pause for more than one breath. Mark your breathing points in your notes.
Loosen up before you begin. Look side to side. Roll your head in half-circles and roll your shoulders back. Shift your rib cage from side to side. Yawn. Stretch. Touch your toes while completely relaxing your upper body, then slowly stand up, one vertebra at a time, raising your head last. Repeat as needed.
Posture – Stand up straight and tall to allow full lung capacity and airflow.
Record your voice repeatedly using different ways of speaking. Determine which one is most pleasing.
Practice breath control – Take a deep breath, and while you exhale, count to 10 (or recite the months or days of the week). Try gradually increasing your volume as you count, using your abdominal muscles—not your throat—for volume. Don’t let your larynx tense up.
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Top 7 Tips to Be Great Public Speaker
Public speaking is one of the best ways to promote your business, your career or your organization. There is an endless number of groups looking for informative and entertaining speakers. You can be one of them! And when you wow an audience, they want more. It's a perfect way to build awareness, gain credibility and generate new leads for your business.
This article gives you seven top tips straight from a professional who's been there. They are road-tested and proven tools to help you become a great public speaker.
It's ALL about your audience.
You are there for them. (They are not there for your gain.) Whatever you do, your intent and focus needs to be 100% on your audience. Help them, entertain them, inform them, inspire them.
Always play to win.
Have something worthwhile to say (that they will want to hear) and be able to say it well. Half-way efforts don't count. Public speaking is a pass or fail deal. Always be prepared to hit the ball out of the park. No exceptions.
Entertain and inform.
There are plenty of boring speakers. Don't be one of them. Use humor and stories and fun to make your presentations sparkle. And give them enough solid information to make it worth their time. Enable them to leave with something they can use to improve their lives.
Use stories. (Your stories.)
Stories are not just for kids. Everyone loves a story. Just make sure it's fun and relevant. And , for the most part, use your own stories. It’s okay to sue some that you hear about from others. But if you use too many, you’ll risk sounding like every other speaker who sues those stories. Use your own and you’ll always be unique.
Use personal examples to illustrate your points.
Dig into your life for real examples to help you demonstrate concepts or illustrate points. People learn in different ways and real life examples are a great way to help people understand and remember your points.
Get them involved.
Forget the lectures we all had in high school or college. People don't want to be talked at. Ask questions and expect answers. Then use those answers to further a point if applicable. Make it a two-way exchange of information and you'll connect with more people.
Show them the dream.
We all have dreams. We all aspire to something greater than what or where we are. One of the reasons people enjoy great public speakers is they show them the dream. And they help them believe it’s possible. Help your audience see their dream better. Help them believe they can take steps to accomplish their dream. Do that and you’ll win new friends for life.
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Top 7 Major Mistakes In Presentations
Whenever you are invited to stand up and deliver a presentation to your peers, clients or family - be proud! Be very proud. Whoever invited you, clearly thinks that you have something important to say.
Whenever we deliver in public, there must be some value added by speaking in person, otherwise, why not send them another boring email. So how are we going to grab the audience and take them on a journey?
The audience will listen because I'm a subject matter expert and what I have to say is interesting.
This is probably one of the most frequent mistakes made by speakers. We all like to think that we know our stuff, and many people do. But that alone will not engage your audience. Albert Mehrebian the US Educational Psychologist's research demonstrated that only 7% of your presentation's impact will be your words. Only 7%... This is worrying for subject matter experts. You could prepare for weeks, select the best words and key messages, you could have the best introduction, middle section and ending than any speaker on the bill, but your impact could be negligible. A few year's ago I became a school governor and as such, I was offered training sessions by my local Education Authority. The general standard of the 2 hour presentations was good. One evening, the guest speaker, a man who had worked in education all his life with a career that spanned being a headmaster, Ofsted inspector and a senior role in the Ministry of Education and Science; what this fellow didn't know about the history of secondary education was not worth knowing. However, he ended every sentence with a pronounced hmmmmmmmmm. Imagine that 6 times per minute, for two hours.... I nearly lost the will to live.
Tip - Listen and react to feedback from your colleagues. I'm certain that over the course of this fellow's long and distinguished career, many people must have mentioned his verbal mannerisms. If your company culture prohibits you from giving constructive feedback, seek professional help. Advice from consultants is more likely to be accepted because it is seen to be given objectively.
Speaking too fast.
Nervous and inexperienced speakers always remind me of the 100 metres sprint. They hear the gun, they're out of the blocks fast and they can't wait to get it over with. This is not unusual - it is the normal reaction to any potentially stressful situation. Let's close our eyes, do it, and get it over with. It's a bit like going to the dentist. However, some speakers do not even devote themselves to such minimal preparation.
Tip - for each minute of your speech, spend ten minutes of preparation on it. Watch yourself on video and ask yourself if you're delivering too fast.
Keep it short and simple and always leave them wanting more. The best way to maintain the attention of an audience is to start with a gripping opening, develop a maximum of three themes or key messages, and conclude with a message that pulls the introduction and key messages together with impact. An experienced speaker can make this look simple and seamless, but we're looking at perhaps 0.001% of the population. We all need help developing this skill. If you speak for over 10 minutes it's almost inevitable that the structure will suffer and you will lose your audience because you haven't signposted your structure well enough. Tell them what you'll tell them, tell them, and tell them what you've told them.
Tip - keep it short and simple and use your best material at the beginning and the end of your speech. Start and end with impact.
Maintaining eye-contact with your audience.
For the new or inexperienced speaker, eye-contact is one of the hardest aspects of speaking. Looking into the eyes of strangers does not come naturally to most of us. Indeed, in some cultures young people looking directly into the eyes of their elders is seen as a mark of disrespect. However, as a speaker, your audience is your primary concern. Remember that without audiences, we do not need speakers. Making eye-contact and engaging your audience is critical to success. It shows respect and demonstrates confidence. We listen and learn most from confident speakers. Life is a busy place, and when we invest time in a speaker, nobody likes to feel they have wasted their time.
Tip - if you find eye-contact difficult, try it out with friends and family in regular conversations. You will have a major impact on those with whom you are conversing. It' very difficult (almost rude) to disengage eye-contact with somebody when you're having a pleasant chat. Bear that in mind when you're making a speech and you'll do very well.
Speaking in a dull and monotonous voice. Throughout our professional careers, how many times have we endured the monotonous speaker?
In my case rather too often. Tonal variety is what adds massive impact to your speech or presentation. We need some highs and lows allied to seamless changes in pitch and pace. These effective techniques help to keep your audience engaged and participating in your presentation. Mehrebian's research demonstrated that 38% of what an audience remember is down to the effective use of tonal variety. A massive 55% relates to your body language. If you send a mixed message, don't be surprised if the message is dropped. A key factor in any speech or presentation is simply this:
Tip - It's not what you say. It's the way that you say it.
Scenario 1: You're trying to find the channel with the live football. Suddenly, your wife sitting in the opposite armchair says, ‘Do you love me?' You continue flicking through the channels, you don't look back at her and you eventually say the words, ‘Of course, I love you.'
Scenario 2: You're trying to find the channel with the live football. Suddenly, your wife sitting in the opposite armchair says, ‘Do you love me?'
You stop flicking through the channels with the remote and put it down. You walk across the room and take your wife by the hand, gently and sincerely you look her in the eyes, caress her cheek and say, ‘Of course, I love you.'
Notice that the same words are used, but which do you think conveys the stronger message?
Be confident - when you walk up to the lectern, walk up there like you own the joint.
The audience wants you to be excellent as they are investing their valuable time in listening to you. Your body language must exude confidence.
It may sound silly, but it's easy to practice walking confidently.
If you are delivering your presentation in the evening or perhaps as an after dinner speaker, stay off the wine until you've delivered your presentation.
If you want to destroy your professional reputation, slur your words in front of an audience. Don't worry to much about losing them - they will lose you and start talking among themselves. Be professional - reward yourself with a glass of wine after the event.
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Top 7 Power and the Point of Powerpoint Tips
MS Powerpoint is a mature product in a mature industry and yet it is still the most frequently misused application on the market.
Why is this?
Well, the mistake that most inexperienced users make is that they think that Powerpoint is the presentation itself - whereas the truth is that Powerpoint is simply a tool to visually assist the speaker’s key messages.
People spend hours creating scores of slides with large chunks of text in a small font size. They then waste the presentational opportunity by reading the contents of each slide verbatim in a monotonous drone. This is more a case of assisted reading rather than imparting key messages with impact.
The presenter must take centre stage and take control. Do not be a slave to the PC or the projector. Your audience has come to listen to you and Powerpoint is simply a tool to visually assist you deliver your key messages.
It’s vital to have a structure so that you can map out what is about to happen. This assists the audience enormously when you tell them what you’re going to tell them. Remember to consistently use fonts and font sizes. Use non-serif fonts. No more than 2 per page. If your company has a logo or brand, ensure it appears in each page (master slide - usually bottom right hand corner).
Ensure you have only one key point per slide. Ensure that each slide serves its purpose and pulls its weight. Can your audience read the slide?
Know your audience - who are they and what's in it for them? Are you there to inform, persuade, inspire, motivate? Stick to your theme. We are all guilty of trying too hard to please. Sticking to the theme will help the audience enormously – confusing messages or themes makes the audience feel uncomfortable and you will see them shifting in their seats if they are confused.
Know your PC.
Find out which type of PC you’ll be using as the specification for each PC can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Email your presentation to the organisers and take a copy on a memory stick, just in case. Most modern laptops no longer use floppy disks. Find out in advance and always expect the unexpected.
Also, make sure that you address your audience and do not talk directly to the screen. As always your primary concern is your audience. Without an audience, there is no requirement for a speaker. When you deliver a key message or even a key line, make sure that you’re looking directly at the audience and not at your notes. That will give your point added weight and greater impact.
Use a remote mouse - it highly distracting for the audience if you are hunched over the PC during the presentation. Being free to move around the stage and address individual segments of the audience will make certain that you’ll look calm and professional. That, of course, is exactly what you want. Being invited to speak again is your reward for your hard work, preparation and delivery.
How to create a positive impact when speaking in public. What to do and what not to do when addressing an audience. Making your speeches memorable by focusing your words on the audience. It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it. Speaking with confidence, coherence and clarity.
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Top 7 Reasons To Host a Seminar
In an increasingly competitive business world, complete with inklings from top economists that we may be heading for a recession, it’s vital that business professionals plan ahead for leaner times. Part of your plan to help ensure continuing success in the New Year ought to include hosting seminars. While the thought of hosting seminars may terrify you; when you consider all of the benefits that hosting seminars will yield both personally and professionally, any trepidation you feel should begin to subside. Here are the Top 7 Reasons to Host a Seminar this coming year.
Increases Your Visibility.
Consider that in order for people to conduct business with you, they need to know who you are! Hosting a seminar is a great way to let more people know who you are and what you do. Visibility enhancement occurs through two primary mediums; the marketing of your seminar, and word of mouth. Through marketing your seminar (email campaigns, invitations, fliers, and calendar listings) your name is made visible to countless new people. Word of mouth visibility is derived from attendees telling others your name. This can happen when they tell friends or colleagues that they plan to attend your seminar, or after the seminar when they share with others what they learned.
Positions You As An Expert On A Specific Subject.
When you host a seminar you in effect, position yourself as an expert on a given topic. After all, you wouldn’t host a seminar on a topic you knew nothing about! People will begin to associate your name with specific subject matter via two main methods. They will make the first association through reading a calendar listing or flier announcing your seminar. Then, the second association will be cemented after people have attended your seminar (where you will have demonstrated your expertise.)
Positions You As An Expert On Related Subjects.
By hosting a seminar, you reap the added benefit of being viewed as an expert not only on the specific subject you cover in your presentation, but on related subjects as well. As an example let’s say that you’re a financial planner, and you’ve decided to host a seminar on “Mutual Funds: How To Make Them Work For You.” By hosting this seminar, attendees first associate your name and expertise with investing in mutual funds. However, the second association they are liable to make is that as a financial planner you probably don’t recommend that your clients put all of their money into mutual funds, so you undoubtedly have expertise in other investment options as well.
Improves Public Speaking Skills.
There’s no getting around the fact that public speaking is intimidating to the majority of people. However, as a result, good public speakers are highly sought after individuals. Obviously, the more seminars you host, the better you’ll become at speaking in front of live audiences. As you progress in your skills, don’t be surprised to find that attendees begin asking you present a seminar to their clients or even their companies. By taking advantage of this opportunity, you’ll be given yet another opportunity to introduce yourself as an expert to even more people.
Allows You To Educate Others.
This reason for hosting a seminar is so obvious that it is easily overlooked. Hosting a seminar allows you to share valuable information with others, which may just make a positive impact in their lives. Whether you’re informing them on a new product that will benefit their families, instructing them how to live healthier lifestyles, or simplifying subject matter that may seem illusive; your seminar allows you to educate others. That in and of itself is a personal reward, but it will also lead to professional rewards.
Generates New Business Leads.
By hosting a seminar, you automatically earn business leads, just from those who attend. While it’s unlikely that everyone who attends your seminar will immediately want to conduct business with you, you may find that at least one or two attendees are eager to discuss your services in a later meeting.
If nothing else, you will at least have potential business leads to follow up with in the days following your seminar.
Provides Opportunity To Earn Referrals.
Referrals can make or break your success, particularly in an economic downturn. When you decide to host a seminar, you’re opening the door to invite in referrals. Although your attendees may not have need for your particular service; when you follow up with them after the seminar, they may refer you to someone who does.
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Top 7 Ways to Increase Attendance on Your Next Conference Call
You’ve done everything to get ready, you’ve got a great message, and you’ve gotten the word out and are ready to roll. Now the waiting game starts, how many people will actually attend your conference call?
Send an email reminder to all registered participants one day before the planned teleconference call.
Make sure to do a press release announcing your event up to one week before your scheduled teleconference call. Or better yet, do a press release announcement 30 days out and then another 7 days out.
Promote your teleconference call heavily on your website, in your blog, and in your monthly e-newsletter. Use image icons in addition to search engine spiderable text to draw the reader’s eye to the information.
Add a line below your email signature for all correspondence with your upcoming conference call information and a brief sentence of what the call is about and how to sign up.
Send an email reminder out one hour before the conference call on the day of the call.
Create an alternative date for those who may have inadvertently missed the call or had a last minute scheduling conflict. Post this on your website after your call has happened.
After the conference call, send all participants a link to the recorded call so that they can get the information and exposure to your information even if they could not attend. This may help with future conference call registrations.
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Top 7 Guidelines for Gesturing When You Speak
When I coach executives who want to become more effective speakers, or when I direct a presentation skills seminar, there's one question I hear repeatedly:
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Top 7 Ways to Influence Your Audience and Deliver Powerful
How effective are your presentations? Do people seem captured by your words, data, and graphics? Do they look at you and your slides with intense interest? Do they come to you after the presentation commending you and asking for more on the subject? Perhaps that level of presentation success happens only once in a long while. People say that most presentations are boring and ineffective. How can you make yours more interesting and influential? Here are some suggested tips that might work:
Know your subject:
The one element that can make your presentation much easier on you and more influential to your audience is your mastery of the subject. Practices giving a presentation on your topic until you are confident that you know your topic inside out without having to look at slides or notes.
Speak to your audience’s interest:
It’s amazing how many presenters stand up and start talking about their project, their ideas, their product, as it what is of interest to them is also of interest to their audience. Follow the WIIFM concept (What’s In It For Me?) Tell your audience at the outset how what you will be talking about is going to benefit them.
Speak the language of your listeners:
A key concept in effective communication is to speak in the language of your listener. This means that you must not speak in your own preferred language, style, and point of view. If you want to be effective, you must make sure that you reach the audience by adopting their language, their style, their way of seeing things, and their level of comprehension. If you don’t reach them, you don’t influence them.
Talk to group one person at a time:
Don’t look in the outer space. Look at your audience one at a time. Spend a few seconds looking in the eyes of each person sitting in front of you, then move slowly to the next. This way each person will feel that you are talking to him or her personally.
Make it personal. Make it human:
Even if your presentation is technical, make it as human as you can. You make your presentation human by making it personal. Talk about your personal experience. Describe how you felt when. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. By funny, without necessarily telling jokes. Be natural. Be human.
Engage your audience:
Communication is a two way street. Avoid giving one-way speeches. Fill your presentations with questions that require your audiences’ answers. Use quizzes to intrigue them. Ask those who have similar experiences to raise their hands. Get them involved. If you have time, give them time to speak and present their view points.
Being natural and authentic does not mean you stand up there whispering in your normal voice. If you are presenting then you are on stage. You must perform. You need to raise your voice, move, and waive your hands. You are the center of attention and the focal point of your audience. Don’t let them sleep in their seats. Your movements, voice, and body language should all be dynamic enough to keep your audience awake and interested.
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Top 7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Voice
Your phone rings. You answer, and the caller says hello, without identifying herself. Yet immediately you recognize her voice—even though you haven’t spoken with her in more than ten years. How are you able to do that? There’s no mystery here, for voices are highly distinct and distinguishable, sort of our “signature in sound.” Your voice is you.
That being the case, you’ll want to make the most of your voice, especially when you speak to audiences. Here are seven steps for putting your best voice forward.
Before your speech, be kind to your vocal chords by avoiding cold water, which constricts your speaking mechanism.
To quench your thirst, go with a warm or lukewarm liquid. And stay away from liquids for the last two or three minutes prior to your speech, to avoid getting choked temporarily by swallowing the wrong way. On that point, swallowing your liquid is safer than sipping.
Let your words display a continuing flow, without too many unnecessary pauses when you appear to be searching for the next word. That mannerism distracts listeners, who might think you have forgotten something.
Speak in your regular conversational tone.
No need to sound like a broadcaster, because you aren’t one. Your audience wants to think that a real person is speaking with them personally, as individuals. Decades ago, President Franklin Roosevelt accomplished this personalization in his popular “Fireside Chats” on radio.
Consider speaking with a faster rate.
Listeners can understand you when you speak rapidly, because our minds can absorb words two or three times faster than the normal speaking rate. Also, think about the speakers you consider the most dynamic ones. Aren’t they rapid-fire? Usually, yes.
A word of caution: You don’t have to exaggerate as much as the used car salesmen on TV. Work toward achieving a revved up pace that doesn’t smack of artificiality.
My college speech professor advised students to “leave out everything but the pauses.” Remember that a pause never seems as long to the audience as it does to you, assuming the speaker still looks like he is in control. Pauses help you emphasize certain points, give your audience a few seconds of mental rest, and bring in the variety we have called for with rate and volume.
Analyze your vocal quality with every opportunity you can create.
Record your speeches and listen to them afterward. You don’t have to use expensive, bulky equipment. For a very modest price, you can purchase a small device that fits inconspicuously in your coat or jacket pocket.
Of course, the most effective way to analyze your vocal quality is to enlist the services of a speech coach. Your speech coach will give you objective feedback, telling you what needs attention, and offering specific steps for improvement. Through the magic of the Internet, you can work with a speech coach many miles away when you can’t find one locally.
Use your own voice, without imitating anyone else’s.
I like the way Roger Ailes, Chairman of Fox Broadcasting, put this: “Nobody can play you as well as you can.”
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