It can be difficult to keep your audience engaged during business presentations. How do comedians keep their audiences engaged? Some of us are naturally funny. Others think that being funny is a gift from birth that only the chosen few are blessed with, and that the rest of us should stay far, far away from trying to make people laugh. The fact is, being funny is a skill like anything else, like driving a car, learning a new language, or learning presentation techniques.
Comedians spend years crafting and honing their content and delivery, making them one of the few public speakers that clock upMalcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours that he says make a master.
Performers learn a lot the hard way. there’s just no other way to do it. You can practice, practice, and practice until the cows come home but at the end of the day you have to get up in front of a real audience to test it out.
Here are a few interesting presentation techniques from the world of comedy to help speakers in the business world master the art of keeping audiences engaged.
Rock It From The Start
Everyone knows that getting off to a good start sets the tone for the rest of your journey. When you’re practicing your speech or presentation, the first 30 seconds will make or break you.
A killer start to your presentation will set the tone for the rest of your talk and keep your audience engaged. So practice this, hone it, and know it until you can do it in your sleep.
Know Your Timing
When you’re practicing, breakdown the sections of your content.
First 30 seconds
Numbers of key areas
Time yourself so you know how long each takes and how much time the whole presentation will be and when in doubt, keep it short. you will keep your audience engaged, and they will thank you for it.
Don’t Wait To Work The Room – keep you audience engaged from the get go!
Comedians are clever at working the room. They ‘cast’ someone in the audience so they have instant familiarity with the room. Introduce yourself to people as they come into the room; don’t wait to find common ground with your audience until you start your talk.
Break the ice with them from the outset, greet them as they come in, have a bit of banter with them. You’ll automatically have back story with them when you start your presentation.
Warm Up First
All performers warm up and do something to get them in the ‘zone’ as TEDTalk presenter Julien Treasure talks about here. Stretch your arms up over your head before you step onto the stage, take some deep breaths, loosen up your muscles or do some articulation exercises. Whatever you do, do something. This will help calm any nerves and also get your body and mind focused on the task at hand.
Whenever you get the chance to present or speak in front of an audience, always film or video yourself. Always. It’s so easy now to do it now with phones and tablets. Get a friend or someone you know will be there to video you so you can watch it back and see exactly what you’re doing and sounding like. Performers and comedians love this because it gives them instant feedback on everything they’re doing and how they are keeping audiences engaged.
No one feels comfortable around people who seem like they’re perfect all the time. We connect with people we trust, who feel familiar to us. Really funny material comes from comedians who know it’s not necessarily about making people laugh; it’s about making people think, it’s about showing them that you know what it’s like to be human. The audience finds something in you that resonates with them. Comedian and writer Ricky Gervais talks brilliantly about this here.
As a public speaker, take heed of some of these techniques from comedians and see if they help in your performance. Comedians face the toughest audiences in the world so they know what they’re talking about.
Remember, good preparation and practice will pay off in dividends when it comes to getting up in front of an audience and delivering the goods.
Great communicating is learned; no one is born a great speaker.
Remember that you’re a human being in a room full of human beings and every audience loves to see people succeed.
They want you to be great! It makes their job of listening so much easier.
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Through out the years, we have supported many individuals across the corporate and private sector from all over Europe. We’ve trained C-Suite Personnel, Business Executives, Sales Professionals, Scientist, Engineers, Legal and Medical Professionals, and one topic that comes up over and over again is ‘Executive Presence’ and how to achieve it.
Let me share with you an insight I had some time ago, which might help you to understand and build on your own Presence
I try to go for run most days and one of the routes I have enjoyed most over the years, is the lovely Phoenix Park here in Dublin. One day, along my route, I came face to face with a large herd of deer. They were all standing very still, regarding my presence with quiet curiosity.
What struck me most at the time, was their immense stillness. The deer possessed such calmness and a phenomenal sense of ease and yet, they were also completely alert, ready to flee at any sign of danger.
I stood looking at them for what seemed like an age, transfixed and drawn by something – their amazing ‘Presence’
An audience is always connected to a speaker who communicates in a relaxed and calm way, but just like a wild deer, a speaker always needs be alert to the audience. So if building your executive presence is something on your mind, try this simple technique – stop moving, stay grounded and still!
The Art of Stillness Builds Executive Presence
Moving around may help you to calm nerves or to feel at ease but it can be very distracting for your audience. Instead, try to find an ease within yourself to simply stand still and be present. By just following this technique, not only will you build your presence in front of your audience, you will also connect in a stronger and more authentic way
“Stillness is a simple, yet powerful technique to build presence”
Remember this; as a speaker, you have the ability to instil any emotion in your audience.
If you are agitated or stressed then your audience will also be agitated and stressed. If you are at ease and physically relaxed and grounded, then your listeners will also be at ease and guess what…they will also be more open to listening, and building that all important connection with you. You will have achieved ‘presence’!
Sometimes we just need to demystify things and go back to basics when it comes to communication! So next time you are rehearsing your presentation, try this technique to achieve Executive Presence.
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When I think back to my college days and my first presentations I remember one tutor very clearly and to this day he is my public speaking guru, he’s my ‘Tony Robbins’! If it weren’t for Mr. Rutland, I wouldn’t have got the wake-up call I needed to get the focus of my presentation where it belonged: Off me and on to my audience. I want to share the strategies for great presentations which I learnt from the wonderful Mr Rutland with you.
Here’s the scenario:
I had to give a final presentation in one of my college courses. I was acting and performing regularly so I figured I had a pretty good shot of dazzling my unprepossessing tutor.
Mr. Rutland patiently sat through my 15 minute presentation. There were a lot of slick slides my friends had helped me with. I had some funny jokes, flashy body and hand movements, and a few sarcastic comments, all the bells and whistles!
When I finished, I was beaming, waiting for my tutor to tell me how brilliant I was. He smiled, nodded, and then he said the words that would stay with me until today,
‘Stop trying to be interesting to the audience. Be interested in the audience’
How could I have gotten it so wrong? Wasn’t I entertaining, polished, and prepared? Didn’t I do all the homework ?
The answer is yes to all those, however I was missing
One fundamental truth that drives all the best speakers, speeches, and presentations: It’s not about you. It’s always about the audience.
So here are a few strategies for great presentations to help you to take your attention off yourself and focus it instead, on the audience during your next presentation or keynote.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes
You need to ask the question your audience is asking themselves, ‘What’s in it for me?’. Audiences consider their time important so they want to know it’s going to be well spent listening to you. They want a reason to listen. This is probably one of the most important strategies for great presentations, so PLEASE give it time and thought. You have to give them that reason in the first 30 seconds or you’ll lose them. Here’s where a strong ‘Hook’ comes in; have a strong hook right at the start and give them what they want – you tell them exactly why they should listen.
Great vocal delivery can make or break a presentation
Audiences are always looking for a reason to tune you out so don’t give them one. By using vocal techniques and skills like pace, pause, pitch, volume, and articulation you can change up the audio and keep their ears interested. These are the pallet of colours and textures you have to create great vocal delivery and they work, so it’s worth learning, practicing, and using them.
Make eye contact – make them the centre of your universe
Audience’s love to feel like they’re the center of attention so show them that they are the centre of your universe for those minutes by making eye contact. By using eye contact, open body posture, or hand gestures you can make an emotional connection with your audience that will keep them listening.
This TEDTalk from Daniel Levitin is an example of good eye contact
Never underestimate the power of a smile
Smiling makes you feel good and tells your audience you are happy to be there. It has to be more than just words so face them, connect with them, and show them through your delivery how important they are.
What do they know and what do they feel?
When you begin to map out your presentation (and you should do this before you even look at Powerpoint) ask yourself these questions:
(1) What does your audience know before you present and what do they feel?
(2)What do you want them to know and want them to feel afterwards?
This will help form the framework for a presentation that engages them.
This, along with a good, strong hook, will create the bones of a presentation that puts your audience’s needs first.
Remember the word GENEROSITY
When you get nervous and feel that urge to start ‘performing’ or even worse run away, just remind yourself of one thing:
“it’s not about you. It’s all about the audience. Whew!”
Take the pressure off yourself. How generous can you be with the information you have to give? How can you be of service to your audience in that moment? Take the focus off you and turn it instead, on to what you can do for your audience.
Audiences don’t want to do any work, they want you to take them by the hand and show them how important they are and all the great stuff they’re going to get out of your presentation. They want to feel good after you leave the stage. They want to get the sense that their time was well spent.
So remember, take the spotlight off yourself and turn it on the most important people in the room: Your audience. Through great delivery, give them a reason to listen: Look and sound confident and engaged, get into your audience’s mindset and do your homework on who they are and what their challenges might be, and above all be generous. If you remember it’s always about the audience, you’re halfway there to a knock out delivery that will get you the results you want and keep everyone wanting to hear just a little bit more.
Confident Speak is a Presentation, Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives.
Contact us for details on how we can help you build great strategies for presentations.
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There’s a lot to be learned from studying the presentations and public speaking techniques of some of the world’s great leaders. Here we take a look at an Elon Musk presentation, and ask: Despite a number of obvious flaws in his technique, what makes his presentations so popular?
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
So, a few things about Elon Musk straight off the bat.
Musk is rich, he’s passionate about his projects and he’s most probably a genius!
And yet when he gets in front of an audience he can turn into a public speaking car crash.
He gave a presentation earlier this year outlining his very ambitious plans for rocket company SpaceX.
SpaceX plans to land an unmanned spaceship on Mars in 2022. (It will then start preparing for human visitors to arrive two years later!)
That presentation garnered him a lot of social media attention, but for the wrong reasons: there was his stammering, and his style of delivery, which was clunky and awkward.
And yet that long speech was watched over 400,000 times online less than 24 hours after it was posted.
So the question is.
Why are we still interested in watching an Elon Musk presentation when so much of his delivery is soooooo bad?
Well, here are a few insights that might make sense of this bizarre dichotomy of brilliance and bumbling.
1. He Gives You The Why Before the What
Elon Musk does big plans big style – humans on Mars in just a few years!
He tells you WHY his projects are important right off the bat.
When he outlined the SpaceX plan to go to Mars, he tells you ‘why’ it’s important before he tells you the ‘what’.
In this case, that SpaceX will ensure the survival of humans as a species and to inspire the belief that the future will be better than the past. He always gives his audience a reason to listen and engage with him.
2. Master the Art of Imperfection to Master the Art of Authentic Presenting
Musk is very good at making his audience feel like he’s just like them, that we’re all in it together, so his stammering and stumbling actually doesn’t bother us so much.
Many great speakers, like Steve Jobs for instance, talk as if they’re on a higher plane and that they’ve got everything perfectly down pat and present you with a finished product. That’s great and we buy into it.
But Musk does the opposite. He tells you that he and his employees have been figuring things out. He shares with you how a product crashed and burned and landed in the ocean. Musk lets us know that he has failed more than he’s succeeded.
That shows us Elon Musk’s humanity, and we love people who are human. Perfection is overrated, this is authentic presenting.
Musk and other imperfect speakers may not have the best delivery on the planet but they can make up for it with vulnerability,honesty, and passion for their subject. You can teach techniques for great delivery, but it’s mighty hard to manufacture real, honest feeling.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you present, be sincere and your audience will follow you anywhere, regardless of how much you stumble or stammer.
3. Elon Musk is the Definition of an Authentic Presenter: What You See is What You Get
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. Not false or imitation.
Musk gets down to brass tacks, lets the audience know that he’s down-to-earth and vulnerable, and lets his feelings show about what inspires him.
The idea of living out amongst the stars excites him and he tells the audience exactly that. He is telling us his dream—and audiences love people who follow their dreams.
Especially when it led them to become billionaire entrepreneurs.
There’s a lot to be said for credibility when presenting. Sometimes we gain credibility because of our position or from the amount of money we have or how many accolades we’ve collected. All these factors do carry a certain weight and give the speaker gravitas, ensuring they have a better chance to get the audience on-side before they’ve even stepped on stage.
Yet when it comes down to it, two things will always sway an audience.
Great delivery, and humanity.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you get up in front of an audience, give them a clear, confident, credible delivery and you’re on your way to a winner. Give them humanity, vulnerability, and passion in addition to that and you’re on your way to home-run World Series victory.
Here’s the full Elon Musk presentation from SpaceX. Watch for yourself
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For over a decade in this business I have seen and heard so many sales presentations. I’ve seen good sales presentations, I’ve seen bad sales presentations. And yes, I’ve seen downright ugly sales presentations. So what are good sales presentation techniques? The kind of sales presentation techniques that can win that six-figure contract? Here are eight sales presentation habits to identify and avoid—at all costs!
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
In the years since I founded ConfidentSpeak, I’ve worked with so many sales executives on their presentations, vocal skills and executive presence. I’ve seen at first hand what makes for a successful sales presentation—and I want to share with you today some of the presenting habits which can seriously impact your confidence, the success of your sales presentations, and ultimately the bottom line in your businesses.
If you are a CEO, a sales director or a sales manager with responsibility for a team, I hope that the eight sales presentation techniques below will help you to identify whether these habits are commonplace within your teams.
Because if your team has any or all of these bad habits, they are most certainly having a detrimental effect on sales figures.
1. Stop Thinking About Yourself
I’ve seen this happen so many times. So often, in fact, that it deserves to be Number 1 in this list.
Many executives might say they are “focused on their customer”, but what happens in reality?
In reality, they might know their customer’s name and job title, but have not given a single thought to them apart that. And this is recipe for a certain letdown.
Without careful and strategic consideration for your audience and without tailoring your message to their requirements—remember here, your audience is your prospective decision maker—you are losing so much credibility.
And because of that, you are almost certain to lose out to your competitor for that prized contract.
Your audience is more than just a title, you need to understand them deeply.
You must keep your audience in mind all the time. You must tailor your message to meet their requirements, not yours.
Every audience you present to has different wants, wishes and challenges – it’s your job to find out as much as you can about your audience and tailor your message to meet their world.
Yes, it takes time but will be worthwhile when your audience feels valued and understood. Then they will feel positive towards listening—and ultimately opening the “chequebook”.
Three-Word Takeaway: Get Outside Yourself
2. Winging It
Following on from the point above, so often I hear sales executives saying they have no time to prepare for sales presentations or meetings, or that they feel they don’t need to prepare.
They say they have their “tried and tested” presentation. So they’ll just “wing it”.
It makes me tear my hair out! Even if you are an experienced presenter, this is not setting you up for success.
You need to remember that ultimately, you do not decide how good your sales presentation actually is or how good you are as a presenter; your audience (not you) is always the decision maker.
Even more importantly, they also get decide how they spend their money.
You need to get out of the habit of believing that “winging it” is enough.
If you want a greater level of success you need to realise that planning is vital. Yes, this requires thought and time, no question about that and this needs to be factored into your day/week.
How often do you start your presentation with some variation of this.
“Here’s our company, here’s our employee numbers, here are our services. Oh, here are our clients too. And here’s blah blah, blah…”
If you do just one thing today, make a commitment to yourself to notice when you’re being self-centred and to STOP right now!
Think about the last time you met someone out socially and they “rattled on and on” about their holiday, their family, their car or their job, and never once stopped to ask your opinion or about your life.
How did that make you feel?
Not great I’m guessing? You might even go so far as avoiding that person now.
Now think of that in a business context. If you want to build a relationship with a prospective client, do your research and find out about them before you launch into your message.
Then bring their world into your message.
Starting getting curious about your audience to understand their needs.
Three-Word Takeaway: Don’t Do Boring
4. Delivering 30-Minute Sales Presentations
Think about this for a moment.
What is your attention span when you sit in an audience?
How quickly do you get distracted? Of course it depends on the situation, but even if you’re being regaled with a Verdi operetta, it’s not uncommon that in any given moment of downtime you’ll feel a little twitchy and do something like checking your watch or your phone, right?
I have news for you.
Your audience is no different.
Equally they have a short attention span, so make sure you respect their time. To put it a different way, respect their attention span.
If you cannot communicate your sales presentation in 10 minutes (or under) in a concise, audience-focused and memorable way, then you probably are going to struggle getting your audience to make that decision you so badly require.
So share your short presentation and then open the meeting to a focussed discussion.
Three-Word Takeaway: Ten Minutes (Tops!)
5. Unleashing the Jargon
Tell me when you start groaning.
“It is what it is.”
“Do more with less.”
“Take it to the next level.”
“Let’s circle back.”
“Think outside the box.”
There are lots more where they came from. If you’re being really uncharitable, you could try a game of Cliché Bingo next time you hear a sales pitch.
I hear it so often—generic, clichéd, jargon-filled content that is simply meaningless to the audience.
There is absolutely nothing more exhausting for any audience. Yes, you might feel comfortable with this language and it can be your “go-to content” when you’re under pressure, but unfortunately for your business it is much more than likely to be raising the hackles of the audience.
So bear this four-step process in mind.
Make life as easy as possible for the audience
Strip back all banal clichés or complex corporate lingo
Speak in simple short sentences
Use real examples and stories to illustrate your points
Another four-step checklist. This time, four questions you should always ask yourself before any presentation:
Is this content meaningful and understandable to the audience?
Is this content relevant to the audience?
Is this content helping the audience make a decision?
Is this content relevant in helping me achieve my goal?
If you answer “No” to any of those four, you have to be ruthless. Delete!
Three-Word Takeaway: Watch Your Language
6. Sitting Down (Also Known As: Taking the Easy Option)
I am often told by sales executives I work with that they tend to sit down, open the laptop and “talk through the slides”.
Two things about this approach.
It is the safe and easy option
It is totally forgettable
Even that phrase—”Talk through the slides”—gives me the shivers.
I say, set yourself up for success.
Plan to stand up and fully own and inhabit your presentation.
If there are more than 3-4 people in your audience you will have a much greater impact in a room.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes you will be on a client’s site and there may be physical limitations. But be brave and take control.
Do whatever you need to investigate the room setup and technology in advance. It requires a quick call ahead of time, but it will send a clear message to your prospective client that you are focused on their meeting and giving them your full commitment.
Standing up does not mean you are formal. If you maintain a conversational style, you will be more memorable and professional.
Three-Word Takeaway: Stand and Deliver
7. Thinking Rehearsal is for Rookies
When we explain to our sales clients the importance of rehearsal, they look at us like we are crazy. Often they say “you don’t understand how busy we are” ! Wrong, we understand very well, we work with hundred of sales executives yearly. We also know how decisions are made by your clients and we know what a polished, confident presenter can achieve. So, imagine taking 30 minutes over the course of a few days, practicing your message aloud (not in your head pressing the slideshow button). This rehearsal will ensure you are confident, concise and polished – now that is priceless.
“Rehearse your message aloud at least three times – even if it’s in the car on the way to the meeting”
Three-Word Takeaway: Practice Makes Perfect
8. Playing the Blame Game
When we don’t secure the contract or business after a meeting or sales presentation, there are of course many reasons, but don’t jump to conclusions and blame (1) a biased member in the audience, (2) a product, (3) competitor advantage, (4) some other external factor. You must always ask yourself what you could have done differently, it is vital to do a debrief and self reflect:
Did you consider the client’s needs/challenges and create a compelling message for them?
Did you prepare relevant, tailored and memorable content for your audience?
Did you plan effectively and rehearse ahead of the meeting?
Did you have slides that were relevant to your client?
If you are answering “no” to any of these, then you need to re-assess, get feedback from the client or your colleagues and take ownership of your sales presentations. If you do you will have a much greater chance of securing that 6 figure contract.
Three-Word Takeaway: No More Blame
There you have it.
Eight things to bring into your sales presentation techniques to bring you so much closer to six-figure contracts.
Here’s a quick recap.
Get Outside Yourself
No Winging It
Don’t Do Boring
Ten Minutes (Tops!)
Watch Your Language
Stand and Deliver
Practice Makes Perfect
No More Blame
Finally, remember this.
Presentation skills are a muscle.
It responds to constant work. So NEVER stop developing your presentation muscle.
If you are an experienced sales presenter and have had great success, well done to you!
If, on the other hand, you want to stand out among today’s busy decision makers by presenting effectively to secure that contract, know that this is a skill that can be learned and practised.
At ConfidentSpeak we teach you how to use these skills and techniques to get the results you want, and we have designed a dedicated “Sales Communication Bootcamp” especially for Sales Executives.
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Here I discuss the power of pause in public speaking, and outline why a genuine, honest pause is so powerful for your presentations.
By Olivia MacDonnell, Confident Speak
So, I could share with you the different techniques and theories in relation to “pause” in public speaking to give your speaking and presenting a sense of performance.
There are many clever pause devices, and some, when used well, are hugely effective.
But I won’t share those just yet.
Very often these “pause” devices complicate and confuse. Today, I want to bring the “power of pause” right back to its core, right back to basics. I want to share with you the value of a genuine, honest pause and its importance for both you and your audience.
What is an Effective Pause in Public Speaking?
First, let’s define what a true, effective speaking pause really is.
Are all pauses in public speaking effective?
The answer is no!
When a presenter is truly connected to their message, truly present with what they are saying, they will pause naturally. A pause always needs to serve the purpose of authentic communication.
The pause serves the presenter if they have a strong intention to communicate something to the audience in an honest way.
To paraphrase Patsy Rodenburg, an effective pause is one that is “full with breath and has your attention on what you are communicating”.
Ineffective pause in public speaking occurs when we pause expecting a response or approval from our listeners. For example, when we pause to wait for a clap, wait for laughter, when we pause as if to say: “Look how dramatic I am!”
Listen to any political speech and you will hear them.
Max Atkinson has written a brilliant, forensic book Our Masters Voices, for the nerds out there (me included!) who like to explore the language, body language and delivery devices of well-known orators.
He dissects these ineffective (needy) pauses brilliantly along with other very cool observations.
A Pause To Breathe (Or “Come up for air!”)
We discuss breath a lot at ConfidentSpeak. What you need to understand is that the breath you take into your body (when you inhale) is the fuel for voice.
If you want to have a strong, resonant, commanding voice then you need to understand the role of breath.
If breath fuels your voice, then you need time to take that breath, and what’s more, you need time to breathe deeply.
To have this breath, you need to pause in order to refuel your body. If you are not pausing and simply taking quick “top-up” breaths, the truth is that you simply will not have a strong voice. You might be heard, but your voice will lack power and control.
This “pause to breathe” is vital to enable deep breathing, and also hugely important to control nerves and composure.
A mantra I always tell my clients is: “Give yourself time to pause and breathe because it gives you the fuel to speak.”
A Pause for the Audience (Or “Give them a break!”)
When we truly want the audience to digest and remember what we are saying and if we as presenters are honestly committed to our message, then a pause is essential.
If you “plough on” through your content, then you’re not respecting your audience.
You’re not giving them the time to think and feel about what has just been communicated. There is no question, you will overload your audience, you will frustrate them.
And ultimately they will stop listening.
A Pause to Allow You to Think and Reflect (Or “Give the brain a break!”)
When you are speaking and you literally are not giving yourself any time to either reflect on what you have just said, or any time to consider what you are about to say, you can be described as disconnected.
You may know your content very well and feel very confident, but you are not present or connected to your words.
I’m sorry to say that this often results in unauthentic, meaningless presenting.
And the sad fact is that we see it so often.
By not giving the “brain a break”, what can happen in these situations is that you can lose your concentration or “train of thought”.
When you don’t give your mind time to pause and think, you often experience what my six-year-old daughter refers to it as the “Brain Freeze” – your mind draws a blank.
Allowing a pause to think will help you to punctuate your ideas and remain connected to your words and message.
Should you have the “Brain Freeze” a pause (and breath) will help you to recover and get back on track.
Exercise time! How to Critique the Use of Pause in Others and Yourself
Try this. It’s very simple.
Next time you are:
Having a conversation with a colleague or friend
Listening to a presenter (perhaps at work or a TED talk).
Exercise 1: Observe the use of pause
The use of pause – what effect does it have on you?
Watch out for the ineffective pause and the authentic pause
How does it make you feel about the presenter and the message?
Observe if there’s time for pause or if there’s too much pause – note what the experience is like for you.
Now it’s your turn.
Take 2 minutes of your work related content – your presentation or meeting minutes.
Exercise 2: Put it into action
As naturally as you can, speak it aloud – but first hit record on your phone
After you finish, allow ten minutes to distance yourself from it
Play it back and listen for your pauses
Ask the above questions (part 1)
Ask this important question “do I believe ME?”, “am I honestly, authentically communicating this message?”
If the answer is NO – then simply repeat the exercise with the focus on pausing for authentic communication.
Share the recording with someone and get feedback.
It will take a few goes – but it’s a great little exercise in self-critiquing
So whilst there are many effective Pause devices we can build into our communication and presentation skills to achieve performance quality – we need to come right back to basics and understand the authentic pause, because it gives you (and your audience) something special, and that something is authentically you communicating.
Exercise 3: Listen to these three well-known speakers
Using Exercise 1 above, listen to these videos and critique.
Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 Harvard Commencement Speech
That final address from Michelle Obama
Steve Jobs being Steve Jobs
ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.
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Some of the best presenters and performers admit to being nervous about performing in front of an audience. Everyone from superstar music performer Beyoncé Knowles to Rugby World Cup winning Dan Carter have spoken about why being nervous about performance have spurred them to their greatest performances. If you suffer from nerves, here are five things to set your mind at ease … and stop your pulse from racing!
There is no question. Nerves can be debilitating.
With so much available to readers on how to control nerves, I felt it was important to share my experience of nerves from a different perspective. By understanding a little more about nerves we can start to use them to our advantage.
I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous, I know I’m going to have a good show. – Beyonce Knowles
I am a big believer that it is normal and healthy to feel nerves before any presentation. Some of the best presenters and performers I have worked with will admit to being nervous in front of an audience.
When clients tell me they “don’t get nervous”, I worry, why? Because in my mind it’s a sure sign that their presentation may not succeed.
Being over-confident can often translate to boring, uninspiring and a disconnected presenter.
1. Being Nervous About Performing Means This Is Important To You
Very often people perceive nerves as a weakness.
But what if we think about this differently?
What if we flip this on its head and think about it completely the opposite way?
I say that feeling nervous is not a weakness, but the best sign that what you are doing is important to you.
Think about the last job interview or presentation you had.
If you were nervous, you also probably had a clear focus, a drive to succeed and a clear intention. That counts for a lot.
2. Nerves Mean You Will Strive To Be The Best You Can Be
Nerves mean the stakes are high!
You don’t want to screw it up.
Being nervous will remove complacency in my experience. If the stakes are high you will prepare with more focus, you will rehearse more, you will put in the graft, you will give your all to the preparation.
What happens then?
You will reap the rewards!
A healthy dose of nerves will keep you on your toes, keep you focused and ultimately lead to a better presentation.
3. Being Nervous About Performing Helps Realise Your True Potential
If you feel nervous, then that means you’re not being safe.
When we try new things, when we make changes, we will always experience nerves – but if we don’t try new things, we will never know what we’re really capable of in life.
Here’s the thing.
People who do the same thing every day, who are afraid to try new things probably do not suffer from nerves.
They never feel nervous because they never actually challenge themselves, and that I believe is a bigger weakness than being nervous. I think that feeling nervous is a sign that we’re actually living life to the fullest.
And that has to be worth something.
4. Nervous About Performing? It’s Not Nerves, It’s Excitement!
Would you believe anxiety and excitement are not that dissimilar on a physiological level?
The heart pounds faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action in both cases. Our brain can very quickly switch between both.
In contrast, the brain has greater difficulty switching to a feeling of calmness and relaxation.
Excitement suggests there is something to look forward to, whereas anxiety suggests it’s something to be feared.
Harvard Business School psychologist Alison Wood Brooks has researched what is known as “anxiety reappraisal.”
If we’re nervous about performing but choose to consciously reframe nerves as excitement instead of anxiety or fear, she says, our performance can be improved.
So if we start putting a positive association with those physical feelings (heart pounding, palms sweating), we will no longer fear our presentation, but will present better as a result.
Instead of attempting to calm down our nerves we should be harnessing them. It takes practice but it’s certainly an interesting challenge to explore.
5. Nerves Are a Sign You’re Prepared For Action
In a 2013 study in the Clinical Psychological Science half of the participants were told prior to having to present that they’d probably feel nervous about performing, but that sweaty palms and racing hearts, sweating were signs that their bodies were prepping for action.
The other half received no information.
Participants briefed about the benefits of nerves were less distracted by them and performed better.
So if we know to expect feelings of nervousness we can embrace them and harness the energy.
Conclusion: Embrace the Butterflies!
There is nothing wrong with having butterflies in your stomach, provided you make them fly in formation. – Jon Jones
Nerves certainly mean an element of discomfort – no argument there!
We all know the feeling – the heart is pounding, palms moist, mouth like sandpaper. Our body’s natural response is thrown into overdrive.
What can happen is that we focus on the response – pounding heart, sweating palms – and get distracted from the task at hand.
If we are able to keep ourselves from turning our focus in on ourselves, then nervousness can be a helpful tool. Focusing on your surroundings and your audience during a presentation, rather than on the thoughts inside you, is the key.
With nerves, the adrenaline gives you a boost of energy. Actors use the adrenaline rush to take their performances to a higher level. This can be seen in their physical and vocal delivery – presenters can also harness this.
The day I lose my stage-fright is the day I will stop acting. – Sir Laurence Olivier
So, all in I think we need to accept that nerves are normal and natural. Yes there is discomfort and there are many ways to control them, but it is useful to challenge ourselves to look at nerves from a different perspective.
Thank you for reading! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
ConfidentSpeak is a S.T.E.M. Specialist Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.
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We’ve been talking about the link between breathing and the ability to speak with power and confidence since the very first day we started ConfidentSpeak. A recent article from Harvard Business Review backs up everything we’ve been saying.
2. How performance is performance (whether it’s singing or speaking)
As a former opera singer, I know how much breathing affects how a voice sounds. Singers must use deep breathing in order to project a strong voice across a crowded auditorium to reach every single person in the audience. I never thought that this skill would help me once I left the field of opera — until I had to give my first speech. Then, I realized how much my operatic training made me a powerful public speaker.
4. How often you should breath in order to learn to speak with power
How often should you breathe? At the very least, at the end of every sentence! If you are prone to rushing through your speech or presentation, then practice breathing at every punctuation mark — it will force you to slow down.
5. Why it’s about optimising your voice, not changing it
It’s not about trying to sound like someone else; it’s about giving your voice the richness and fullness it deserves every single time you speak in public, so that the power of your voice matches the power of your words. If you do that, people will listen.
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There is endless advice available on how to overcome presentation nerves.
For many people fear of speaking in public ranks higher than fear of spiders or even death.
The problem – according to Jeremy Jamieson, psychology professor at the University of Rochester – is that we tend to think all nerves and stress is bad.
“Before speaking in public, people often interpret stress sensations, like butterflies in the stomach, as a warning that something bad is about to happen”.
Jamieson goes on to say “But those feelings just mean that our body is preparing to address a demanding situation, The body is marshalling resources, pumping more blood to our major muscle groups and delivering more oxygen to our brains.”
How our body reacts to social stress is exactly the same ‘flight or fight’ response it produces in response to actual physical danger.
The good news is that we can actually use these responses to help us perform. So if presentation nerves raise their head here are some ways to use it to your advantage
Get Your Preparation In Early
Don’t wait until a few days before your talk to get started. Allow those presentation nerves spur you into action and seize the earliest opportunity to prepare
Know Your Content
Presentation nerves are more likely to kick in if you are not fully confident in out content. Make sure you thoroughly understand your topic. Understand the stats, what they mean, what call to action they suggest .
Practice Your Delivery
Rehearse your talk out loud as often as you can and record it. Then you can both see and hear how you come across and make any changes necessary.
Prepare Your Answers
Being put on the spot can be a nerve wrecking experience. Make a list of likely questions you’ll receive, and prepare your answers. If you don’t know the answer to a question don’t be afraid to say something like ‘I’ll need to get back to you on that’
Remember that even the most consummate and experienced performers experience performance nerves, so don’t let them cripple you. Instead let them keep you sharp!
“ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private voice, executive presence and presenting programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.”
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