Powerful public speaking – adding meaning to your preasentation

By: Ellen Egan

Photo by Robert Scoble

Guy Kawasaki – Make Meaning in Your Company

I was just watching a video with Guy Kawasaki where he was talking about one of the keys to starting a business.  And, his message resonated with me as one of the keys to a good presentation.  He said that the core of anything that you start has to be about “meaning”.  It can’t be all about money, it has to be about meaning.

This, of course got me thinking about what is at the core of a good presentation.  It also has to have meaning at the center.  When you speak about something that has meaning for you, that you are passionate about, your audience will feel your enthusiasm and , if you put some effort into the presentation, they will join your enthusiasm.

But Ellen, my topic is boring….what do I do?  Find the meaning behind the topic.

Guy Kawasaki says in his talk that there are three fundamental ways to bring meaning to what you do and I will use these as examples.

1.  Increase the quality of life.  We have discussed audience analysis in this blog.  If you have done your audience analysis, you will understand your audience’s interests, needs, expectations, etc.  How can your topic increase their quality of life.

2.  Right a wrong Perhaps your audience is struggling with a particular problem, and you can provide the solution.

3.  Prevent something good from ending Perhaps your audience needs information on how to prevent something good from ending.

I have delivered presentations to bankers, teachers, entrepreneurs, stock brokers, leaders of industry, school children, etc.  Whether I was talking about the recent sales figures, personal development, the latest software or High School History  I always focused on increasing the quality of life for my audience.

When you can use meaning as the core of your presentation, your audience will listen more attentively, they will leave with a greater understanding of your presentation and you will have a much more enjoyable experience.

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Public speaking tips – Whatever happens is normal

by:  Ellen Egan

SuperFantastic

I was just reading an article about leadership and the author was talking about the concept of approaching each situation with the understanding that “everything is normal”.  I thought that was a great concept to share and to apply in public speaking.

One of the fears that people attach to public speaking is that “something terrible” will happen while they are speaking – something that will throw them off their well-planned-out speech and leave them babbling like an idiot,  or worse, silent in front of the room.  Does this fear sound familiar?  Often if you ask people what they think could go wrong, they have difficulty defining this thing that would throw them so off-track.  But, the fear is firmly in place, nonetheless.

Now, we all know that when it comes to public speaking, I am all for preparation.  Can’t be too prepared, I always say.  But, at the same time you must expect the unexpected and know that “whatever happens is normal”.  If you can approach each public speaking experience with the attitude that whatever happens is normal, and more importantly, that you can handle it – you will sail through every presentation with style, and enjoy yourself a lot more.

Remember this tip when you are stepping up for your next presentation and you will be able to approach every little “glitch” with a smile and a calm demeanor.

To your success,

Ellen

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Public speaking tips – Breaking down the barriers with your audience

By: Ellen Egan

One of the critical things that we can do with public speaking is to use communication to bring people together despite their differences.  When we bring people together, we can move forward as a team and achieve loftier goals.  As a public speaker, you can motivate people to work together by breaking down the barriers between them.

One of the ways to do this is to first break down the barriers between you and your audience.  I often see public speakers who create barriers between themselves and their audience in order to establish themselves as the “expert”.  There is no need to do this. One obvious barrier comes immediately to all of our minds – the podium. Please come out from behind the podium, it creates a physical and psychological barrier. Being at the front of the room and being the one speaking, already sets you up as the expert, you don’t need a podium for that.

But, let’s talk about the ways you can use the content of your presentation to break down the barrier. Because, if you are able to draw the audience together  and to have them see that you are “one of them”  and have their best interests at heart, your chances of success increase dramatically. One of your goals early on in the presentation should be to unite the audience with a sense of shared goals.

So, how do we do this?

1. Focus on commonalities. We have already discussed the importance of audience analysis – in a nutshell – understanding who your audience is, what they want and need, why they are there and how to best present information to them. Now, use this information to focus on the common ground between them -and you (e.g. they are all parents, they are all taxpayers, they are all rising stars in the industry, etc. with common dreams and concerns).

2. Acknowledge perceived barriers. Acknowledge sources of perceived discomfort early on (i.e. the elephant in the room). For example, “Yes, I am new here and many of you have years of experience with the company…” If you feel comfortable with using humour, then address the issue with humour. Once the issue is out on the table you can get back to the important task of bringing people together.

3. Identify common ground where everyone can agree. For example “we can all agree that we provide important services to our clients”. These statements can provide strong ties between audience members and then to you.

4. Using shared experiences. Highlight shared experiences to build camaraderie. For example “we all remember how hard we worked to get version 2.0 of our software to our clients”.

Lel4nd

These are all techniques you can use within your speech to build rapport with your audience. Another important thing to remember is to Smile. Smiles are very powerful when trying to connect with your audience. It also makes you feel better (honestly, there has been research into the chemical reaction in your brain when you smile – and just smiling really does make you feel better).

To your success,
Ellen

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Public speaking essentials – It’s all about your audience

by: Ellen Egan

I have been in public speaking for many years.  I have coached countless peole on how to improve their public speaking skills and how to develop individual classes, seminars, short presentations, etc.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am.  I am suprised at how often peole forget what is at the core of their presentation/speech/seminar.

The Audience.  What your audience wants and/or needs to hear should be the foundation of what you present.  You can have the most well researched, fantastic, captivating, etc. presentation that the world has ever seen. But, if its not what the audience wants or needs to hear, it’s no good.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox.  I have done a set of articles on the subject of Audience Analysis (please see www.ezinearticles.com) and a series of blog posts breaking down the aspects of audience analysis and how important it is to developing a strong presentation. Please see blogs starting around end  July 2009.

It all comes down to four big questions.  Who, What, Why and How.

1.  Who -  Who are they?  Your audience- what age, sex, education, background, etc. Get a clear picture in your mind of your audinece and who they are and you will be much better able the understand their perspective and what they need from your presentation.

2.  What -  What is the topic?  What is it about this topic that is important to your audience?  What is the problem that this topic presents and what information are you going to provide that will offer a solution?  What do you specifically have to offer them (e.g. a solution, a service, information)?

3.  Why - Why are they there.  Why are they bothering to spend the time to listen to you?  Do they need this course for a degree or a certification?  Did thier boss require that they are there?  Are they trying to find the answer to a perplexing problem?  Why are you there and what do you want to get out of the experience?

4.  How - How are you going to deliver your presentation so that they can get what they need from it (e.g. Will you use graphs and props.  Will you do a song and dance.  Will you bring in other experts)?  How are you going to customize your presentation, based on the answers to the Who, What and Why, to ensure that they get what they want and need from your presentation.

If you can step up on stage with the full understanding of the perspective of the people sitting in the audience.  And, you have built your presentation based on the understanding of their wants and needs.  You are are 90% or more on the path to success.  No dog and pony show needed.

Keep coming back to these questions as you develop your presentation, and you are sure to prepare a successful presentation.  The added benefit is that you will feel much more confident as you step on stage because you will know that you are presenting something that your audience wants/needs to hear.

To your success,

Ellen

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Tips for better public speaking – Don’t make a speech

By Ellen Egan:

Many books on public speaking and experts on public speaking will tell you how to make a speech.  But, I would suggest that if you want to improve (and more thoroughly enjoy) your public speaking, you should focus less on delivering a speech and more on having a conversation with your audience.  This will improve your public speaking experience in several ways.

1.  Your audience will feel more comfortable with you.  We tend to feel more comfortable, listen more attentively and have greater respect for people who speak with us rather than people who speak at us.  Conversations are naturally more engaging both for the person who is talking and for the person who is listening.

2. You will feel more comfortable.  You have conversations every day.  It’s a very natural thing.  If you begin to view your public speaking opportunities as conversations, the “fear factor” of delivering a formal speech will dissipate.

3.  Your audience will absorb and retain the information better.  As I mentioned earlier, people learn or retain information better when they are engaged in the process.  If someone is talking at you, it is very easy to drift off into your own thoughts because you are not truly involved in the communication process.   However, in a conversation, you are part of the process and therefore, more apt to pay attention.  When your audience is paying attention, they are more likely to hear and absorb what you are saying.

OK, Ellen.  We are convinced.  But the question is…

“How do we do this?”

1.  Begin by removing some of the barriers to natural communication like staring at your notes and index cards.  Remove physical barriers like the podium.  Remove acronyms, “tech speak” and jargon from your presentation.

2.  Make eye contact as much as  possible.  If you find this difficult, then find one or two friendly faces in the room and speak with them as much as possible (ideally they are in different parts of the room).  If that is still too difficult, then  speak with one or two people’s noses.  It looks like you’re making eye contact, even when you aren’t.

3.  Include questions within your speech – especially in the introduction.  By including questions in your introduction, you are establishing the conversational style from the beginning.  You can choose questions that require audience interaction – this is ideal, but may be intimidating at first.  Or, you can ask a question that doesn’t need audience interaction, but the audience can answer in their own minds (e.g. “Do you think most people want to improve their careers?”).  Then, answer the question. “Yes, we do!”.  You can also use  questions and frame your presentation to  appeal to the audience’s natural curiosity and emotion (e.g. “Do you know how many children in our country are malnourished?”)

4.  As always, one of the keys to getting comfortable, is practice, practice, practice.  As you practice your speech, you will begin to get a more conversational rhythm.  You can also practice with your volume to ensure that you have a conversational tone and that everyone will be able to hear you.

There are some good places to start.  Let’s keep this conversation open and comment back to me on what you think and how its working for you.

You may ask.  ”But, I’m covering a very technical topic, don’t I need to be more formal?”

No, you don’t have to.  And, I will cover tips and techniques for public speaking with a technical topic in a post very soon.

To your success,

Ellen

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