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Presentation skills

How to Improve your Public Speaking- a Puppy’s View

Any of my clients will tell you that I always emphasise the importance of preparation for speeches and presentations.

I like to research and prepare well for everything. So, when we decided that it was time to get a new puppy a few weeks ago, I went into full preparation mode. We are first-time puppy-owners, so it was important to get this right.

I drew up my list of what characteristics the puppy would have. Two elements were essential.

  1. The breed needed to be quite small
  2. We didn’t want a very lively breed

But, as Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

We fell in love with Millie on sight. As a cross between a Labrador and a Cocker Spaniel, she is not small, and is definitely very lively. In this case, my preparation was in vain…..

I have noticed similarities between puppy parenthood and public speaking. Click To Tweet

However, in these past two weeks I have noticed similarities between puppy parenthood and public speaking. Let me explain.

  1. It is all about Millie

Millie has taken over our world. Everything we do is viewed through a puppy lens.

In public speaking, it is all about the audience. All of your content should be looked at through the audience lens.

All of your content should be looked at through the audience lens. Click To Tweet

We have adapted our kitchen area to make sure that it is puppy-friendly. As a speaker, you need to adapt your content to make sure that it is audience-friendly. Is your content relevant to this particular audience?

  1. Boredom is the enemy

A bored puppy is not good. When Millie gets bored, she gets into mischief and nothing is safe!

How do you keep the audience focussed when there are so many distractions in their environment? Click To Tweet

A bored audience is also not good. If you are presenting virtually, it is even more of a challenge. How do you keep the audience focussed when there are so many distractions in their environment? Creating content that is designed to be relevant and engaging is a crucial part of the planning process. Build moments of engagement into every presentation, especially if you are delivering it online. You could use humour, anecdotes and quotes in your content. If you are delivering virtually, you could use polls, breakout rooms and the chat function. Keep your audience listening, engaged and interested.

  1. Tone matters

We are training Millie to behave and we have noticed how responsive she is to our tone. When we want to encourage her, we add extra emphasis to the phrase “GOOD GIRL Millie”, and if she starts to pull on a slipper or nip at our shins, she hears a very firm “NO!” The change in tone catches her attention.

Speaking in a monotone is guaranteed to have the audience reaching for their phones and switching off from your presentation. Click To Tweet

As speakers, we need to add vocal variety to our presentation, so that we can catch the audience’s attention. Tone is one way in which we can do this, as well as pitch, pace and pause. Speaking in a monotone is guaranteed to have the audience reaching for their phones and switching off from your presentation.

When you are preparing your next presentation, think of Millie! Your audience is central to everything you do, from the planning to the delivery. Ignore them at your peril!

Contact me to find out how I could help you with your public speaking skills.

#UnlockingPublicSpeakingConfidence

Panic to Powerful Presentations- How To Use Pause for Impact

Person with finger over lips for silence

The Power of Pause

Read time 2.5 mins

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain

On Tuesday last, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked to comment on Donald Trump’s reaction to the unrest in the US following the death of George Floyd last week.

Trudeau’s reaction was a pause.

A very long pause.

21 seconds of silence.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool Click To Tweet

In this blogpost, I will share 7 reasons why you should use pause when presenting.

7 Reasons to Use Pause when presenting

  1. It grabs people’s attention

When you are introduced as a speaker, instead of starting to speak straight away, try a pause for 3-5 seconds. The audience will be attentive, waiting to hear what you have to say.

Alternatively, try pausing during your presentation before you make an important point. The surprise silence will help the audience focus their attention on what you say.

  1. It builds anticipation

Have you ever noticed how there is a long, drawn-out pause before the winner of the Oscars, or Strictly Come Dancing, or some other show is announced?

The pause adds to the audience anticipation. Use it to your advantage in your presentation.

The pause adds to the audience anticipation Click To Tweet
  1. It adds drama

The pause contrasts with the rest of your speech or presentation.

Imagine that you have been telling a story when you use the line “We waited three long days to get the test results”

Now imagine saying the line “We waited three….. long….. days…. to get the test results.” See the difference? 

  1. It allows you time to gather your thoughts

Perhaps you momentarily lose your train of thought. Or perhaps you have been asked a complex question in the Q&A session.

Pausing allows you time to think before continuing to speak. If you watch the video of Justin Trudeau, you can see how he almost speaks, but stops himself, during the 21 seconds. He worked hard to create an answer that he believed was appropriate.

  1. It allows your audience time to absorb your message

We are sometimes so familiar with our presentation that we forget that it is new to the audience. Pausing allows them time to reflect on what you have said and absorb your message. You could even prepare them for the thinking time by saying “Think about that for a moment” – and pause.

Pausing allows your audience time to absorb your message Click To Tweet
  1. It reduces filler words

When we pause, it slows us down. When we slow down, we are less likely to use filler words like “um”, “ah” “so” and “like”.

  1. It demonstrates confidence

Have you ever noticed how some people are uncomfortable with silence? Instead, try “owning” the silence by being calm, composed and in control. A smile helps too!

It can be difficult at first to get comfortable with pause. When you are at the top of the room, or on a stage, the audience expects you to speak. But when you master the pause, you will discover that it  will be a powerful tool in your public speaking toolkit.

What is Public Speaking Confidence?

woman pointing a finger while smiling

Confidence is a vague concept, isn’t it? 

I was asked recently to deliver a workshop on “Communicating with Confidence”. But what does that mean? 

To one person, it could be delivering a keynote in front of a large audience. 
To someone else, it could be asking a question at an internal meeting. 

For this particular workshop, it was the latter. One participant was so anxious about speaking up at the meeting, she wrote her point on a piece of paper and handed it to a colleague to say instead. 

I was listening back to a segment of Ciara Kelly’s Lunchtime Live recently, where the topic of conversation was public speaking anxiety. There was a lot of listener engagement with the topic, with people telling how this lack of confidence was holding them back from contributing at meetings; from delivering presentations and from progressing in their career. 
Lack of confidence was holding them back from contributing at meetings; from delivering presentations and from progressing in their career. Click To Tweet
There is lots of advice for public speaking and presentation skills confidence. I share lots of articles on my social media platforms. Of course, someone can also attend a workshop run by me or by someone else. They can learn the skills and techniques to craft and deliver speeches and presentations.

But that, by itself, isn’t enough. You can’t learn confidence at a workshop. You gain confidence, by doing
You can't learn confidence at a workshop. You gain confidence, by doing. Click To Tweet
A workshop can set you on the right track, but you need to work on it, to practice and to develop the skills. 
 Speak up at the meeting.
Ask a question.
Offer to deliver a presentation.

Start small.
Build on it.
Repeat.

Congratulate yourself for what you do, rather than beating yourself up for what you didn’t do.

 

Define what public speaking confidence is for you. Aim towards that!

 

3 Key Ways To Make Your Business Voice Heard

Businesses- particularly SMEs- can struggle to be heard among all the noise nowadays. Those who have a strong social media presence can carve out a spot for themselves. If the business doesn’t have the time or expertise to run their own social media campaign, they can hire someone to do it for them. But people buy from people. Therefore, face-to-face communication is crucial, and no-one else can do that for you.

Make Your Business Voice Stand Out and Be Heard

There are many ways in which you can make your business voice stand out and be heard. It could be your 60 second networking pitch, pitching to a prospective client or delivering a signature talk. Regardless of format, there are some key points that you need to consider.

Identify, Communicate and Present

Firstly, the speaker needs to identify their message clearly. They must then communicate that message in a way that is relevant, so that the audience understands and remembers it. Finally, they need to present that message competently and confidently.

stopwatch, clock, 60 second pitch
You are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business. Click To Tweet

3 Ways to get Heard:

  1. 60 Second Networking Pitch

In most cases, you are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business.

  • 60 seconds is a short period of time- definitely not enough to explain all that your business entails- so don’t include too much information.
  • Begin with an attention-grabbing opening. It could be a question, or a relevant statistic- something that makes the listener sit up and take notice, and listen out for who you are.
  • State your name and business name clearly.
  • Outline one aspect of your business, linking it back to your opening. It could be an explanation of what you do, or a short client story.
  • Show how your business solves the client’s problem.
  • Repeat your name and business name clearly
  • Don’t try to pack too much in- 150/180 words is plenty.
  • Check my website for details of upcoming workshops
  1. Creating a Signature Talk
Identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic Click To Tweet

Preparation is key to an effective signature talk. This is where you can expand on your business story and go into more detail about the products or services you offer

Your first task is to identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic

  • Identify the purpose of your talk: are you going to inform the audience? Persuade them? Is there a call to action?
  • Brainstorm all of the information on the topic, and then remove anything that isn’t appropriate for this particular audience or purpose.
  • Decide on your structure. Is it chronological? Cause and effect? Topical?
  • Try to group the body of the speech using the rule of three, as it’s easier for the audience to remember. If there’s one main point, have three subpoints. If there’s more than one point- have three. They can also be sub-divided if needed.
  • Decide on your opening. Plan this carefully, as you only have 30 seconds to get the audience’s attention. You could use a story, a question, a quote, a statistic, an image.
  • Have a memorable ending. You could summarise key points and have a strong call to action. There might be an opportunity to refer back to your opening statement, which creates a memorable conclusion.
  • If slides are relevant to your presentation, prepare those after you have prepared your speech.
  • Slides are useful if they help the audience understand your message, or if it makes it more memorable for them. Slides are not a crutch for the speaker to remember what they want to say! Images are always more effective than text, which should be kept to a minimum.
  • When everything is prepared- practice! Practice your content and your timing. Be prepared for things going wrong on the day- distractions; your speech being cut short; technology not working.
  • Focus on the audience, rather than on any nervousness you might be feeling.
    1. Using storytelling in presentations

We love stories. They are a very effective way of communicating our message- when they are relevant and told well. They need a clear structure to make it easy for the audience to follow.

 

The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service. Click To Tweet

The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service.

  •         Begin by setting the context and introducing the character. Outline their problem. It should be something with which the audience can identify. 
  • Highlight the pain caused by the problem.
  • Explain your role and how your product or service provided a solution for the problem, and the result for the client.
  • Make sure there is a clear link between what your product or service offers and the solution to the client’s problem.
  • If you are telling your own story, keep the audience in mind. It’s your story, but they have to be able to relate to it, or they won’t care about it.
  1.  

If you would like to find out more about how I can help you develop your business voice, email maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

who will be in your audience

7 Steps to Making your Audience Central to Your Presentation

The Local Elections took place recently. We had the usual parade of candidates calling to the door, handing us their literature and asking us to give them our number one vote on polling day. It’s a tough job. I admire anyone who puts themselves forward for public office, and I don’t envy them the task of canvassing door to door for weeks on end.

But what has this to do with public speaking?

One candidate stood out for me. My husband answered the door, so I overheard the interaction. Instead of the usual asking for the vote, this candidate asked was there anything my husband wanted to know about him, or about the Council. This impressed me, and it’s a lesson we can learn when delivering a speech or presentation.

During our presentations, we need to show awareness of our audience. Click To Tweet

 

It’s about the audience. The candidate showed an awareness of the voter and was open to addressing any concerns the voter might have. During our presentations, we need to show that same awareness of our audience. What are their concerns and interests? If we are telling our story, it needs to relate to the audience. If they can’t identify with it, then they won’t listen.

7 Steps to Making the Audience Central to Your Presentation
  1. It begins with your preparation. Think about the audience- who they are, what their concerns are. What previous knowledge do they have about your topic? What questions might they have? What resistance could they have to your ideas?
  1. How can you clearly demonstrate that what you are offering will be of benefit to them? Why should they listen to you?
  1. Keep jargon to a minimum and use as little data as possible. Keep your presentation easy for them to understand. There is no benefit in bombarding the audience with lots of information. If they need more, they can ask!
  1. Involve them! Create opportunities for them to engage with your presentation. This could be done with relevant stories, questions or humour, for example.
  1. If you’re using slides, make them easy for the audience to read. That background colour you choose might look great, but if the audience can’t read the font against it, then you’re wasting your time. Make sure the text is large enough to read in the room where you will be presenting. Slides should help the audience to better understand, or remember, your presentation.
  1. Eye contact! Make sure that you connect with the audience by having eye contact throughout your presentation.
  1. You need to be heard clearly from all parts of the room. Do a soundcheck in advance so that you know the volume required, or if you need a microphone.

If you follow these steps, you are showing care for your audience, and you are setting yourself up for a better presentation.

As for the politician- even though I didn’t meet him, his approach made me more open to reading his material and considering him for a vote. Open up your audience to receiving your ideas.

If you would like to see how I could work with you or your team to help create and deliver presentations with impact, contact me for a no-obligation call.

 maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

Unlock Your Public Speaking Confidence

Padlock
Rosette prize

When we were asked to bring a prop to describe our business to last night’s Network Ireland Kildare Branch event, I didn’t have to think about it for very long!

I brought a padlock with me. Why?

So many people are trapped by their fear of public speaking.

Business owners attend networking meetings as ambassadors for their business. They need to communicate clearly in their networking pitch what they do , how they do it and for whom. Poor presentation skills can hinder that communication. 

Maybe their team members are held back by public speaking nerves from contributing at meetings or  avoid delivering work presentations, potentially stalling their career progress.

Or maybe it’s in a social setting- the father of the bride who is dreading the speech on his daughter’s big day. 

Public speaking is a skill, and skills can be learned!

We help individuals unlock 🔓 their public speaking confidence.

We provide presentation skills training that helps individuals to identify their message, create and deliver presentations that communicate their message clearly and competently. 

I was delighted to win “Best Prop” on the night. Thanks to Tara Lane from Centrepiece Rosettes for the lovely rosette prize! 

If you would like to discuss how we could help you or your team unlock your public speaking confidence, contact us for a no-obligation call

https://softskillsuccess.ie/contact/ 

 

 

Preparing for your presentation

7 Step Preparation- Your Key to Successful Presentations

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” – Alexander Graham Bell 

In my previous Blog post, I spoke about the impact of the fear of public speaking. It can prevent people from speaking up at meetings or they can decline opportunities to deliver presentations. It can even cause their career to stall.

I outlined the 3 P’s to successful presentations- Prepare, Practice and Post-Presentation feedback. Of these, the most important is undoubtedly “Prepare”. This post takes a look at 7 areas that you can focus on in your preparation.  I also have a series of short videos on YouTube  that look at each area.

Audience

who will be in your audience

Establish who will be listening to your presentation. What level of information do they need? Is it a helicopter view, or do you need specific details? What information do they already have that you can build on? What level of resistance might they have and how can you address that?

Purpose

What is the purpose of your presentation? Do you want to inform? Persuade? Motivate? Educate? Decide this at the very start. Write a single sentence stating the purpose clearly. “At the end of this presentation the audience will……..” All content for your presentation revolves around the purpose.

Gather& Filter  

post it notes for brainstorming

Your next step is to brainstorm all possible content that you could include. Write down all your ideas on post- it notes or on a mind map. When you have exhausted all possibilities, start to filter. Use the two criteria that you have established. Ask yourself two questions:  Does it fit with your purpose? Does this audience need to hear it? If the answer to both questions is “Yes”, then keep it. If it’s “No”, then discard it.

Structure

Now that you have the main points that you could include, see how will you structure the main body of the presentation. How long will it be? Will you have one main point with three sub-sections, or will you use three points and sub-divide each? Is there a logical flow between your points? Have you supporting material for each point- a statistic, an example, a story?

Opening

opening your presentation

You have the audience’s full attention at the opening, so use it to your advantage. Grab and hold their attention by using a technique such as telling a story; asking a question; or making an intriguing statement.  

Closing 

presentation closing

Finish on a strong note. If you are taking questions, consider taking them throughout the presentation, or as your second last item. This allows you to summarise your points at the end and conclude with your call to action.

Slides

If you’re using slides, leave their preparation until last so that you know the flow of your presentation. Do you need them? Are they adding to the audience’s understanding, or are they a crutch for you during your presentation? If it’s the latter, then leave them out! There are numerous articles online about how to prepare your slides and I will do a post about it in the future. For now, suffice to say that less is more!

If you would like to see how I could work with you or your team to improve your presentation skills, email me to arrange a no-obligation call. maureen@softskillsuccess.ie