NSA logo risks

National Speakers Association Logo

Writing in today’s Washington Post Emily Wax-Thibodeaux highlights the oddball and usual gifts found in the gift shops of federal agencies like the DEA, CIA, Centers for Disease Control and National Security Agency. The tchotchkes on sale include NASA’s freeze-dried Neapolitan ice cream with a three-year shelf life; an inflatable NASA astronaut; sheets of $2 bills from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; and a gavel-shaped pencil with a two-headed eraser from the Supreme Court.

The article does warn that some agencies also have safety concerns. After the Sept. 11 attacks, shops have been more careful about selling clothing with the insignia of national security and law enforcement agencies. These items could turn the wearer into a target of anti-American violence.

National Security Agency logo

At the NSA gift shop, near the National Cryptologic Museum, store manager Robin Bunch said she often thinks about this. So she typed up a warning and taped it to the wall:

“Although owning an NSA logo item does not necessarily imply that one is an NSA employee, it can raise a level of interest. Consider for example where the item will be worn/used and take into account local threat conditions.”

This might be something the members of the National Speakers Association (the other NSA, y’know, the one that SPEAKS, not LISTENS) might want to keep in mind. While our logo bears no resemblance to the other NSA and features a hand-help microphone with a cord, there are professional speakers who wear golf shirts, caps and bags they buy at conferences with the logo on. Caveat emptor.

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TuneIn Radio: A great platform for podcasts

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn is a popular app available for iOS and Android devices. It allows anyone to listen to radio stations from around the world. With over 50 million monthly active users, TuneIn lets people listen to the world’s sports, news, talk, and music from wherever they are. TuneIn has over 100,000 radio stations and more than four million on-demand podcasts streaming from every continent.

I’ve built a preliminary TuneIn playlist that includes current episodes of the Iain Anderson Show from BBC Radio Scotland, Late Junction from BBC Radio 3, and A Way with Words from NPR. In the future I expect to browse for music programs to add from Australia, Thailand and Ireland. Any suggestions?

Podcasting on TuneIn

While my Professionally Speaking podcast is available on iTunes in the U.S., I don’t believe this is case outside of America. So I was pleased to discover that TuneIn allows anyone with a podcast feed to upload their material so that it is carried on this platform with a global reach. I’ve now added Professionally Speaking to TuneIn.

If you have a podcast that you’d like featured on TuneIn simply fill in this form.

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Podcasting comes of age

Podcasting

It’s been over seven years since I recorded my first podcast and six years since I posted my Podcasting 101 tutorial. I’ve been encouraged by the growing popularity of podcasts and my own playlist allows me to listen to the BBC, NPR and experts such as Wendy Hanson and Phil McKinney.

However, it wasn’t until I read the cover story in the Financial Times Weekend Life & Arts section this week that I realized the extent to which podcasting has come of age. Sarah Gordon and Shannon Bond report on The Serial , a new weekly podcast that has attracts over 2.2 million listeners. The series has been downloaded over 20 million times.

The Serial debuted in October 2014 and is a spinoff of the NPR radio program This American Life. The episodes are about the 1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student for which the woman’s ex-boyfriend is serving a life sentence.

The podcast resonates with the millennial generation and has generated ancillary blogs, YouTube videos and meetup groups of listeners.

The FT quotes Edison Research statistics stating that 39 million Americans, 15% of the over-12 population, listened to a podcast last month. Brands are increasingly interested in podcasts and popular ones like The Serial (sponsored by MailChimp) are profitable.

Whenever I tell people about podcasting, I’m asked “How do you make money?”. My answer is that you and I can’t. The average podcaster can burnish their professional reputation and promote interest in topics and people that interest them. However, just as with amateur vs. professional sports, just because you might enjoy hitting a ball around at the weekend for fun, it does not mean you’re at the same level as a professional producer from This American Life who hits one out of the park.

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Magnifying the Impact of a Speech with Social Media

Manchester
Last week I was in the UK visiting family and took the opportunity to present to the Northwest Region of the Professional Speaking Association.

Over 20 people attended at the conference center in Manchester. Thanks to Patricia Fripp for the introduction to the group, and to Eilidh Milnes and Steve Houghton-Burnett for arranging the visit.

I was struck by the energy and enthusiasm of everyone I met, who exhibit many of the characteristics that make professional speakers some of the most interesting people on the planet to hang out with. Surprisingly, there were members in the UK who spoke on similar topics to those in the Northern California Chapter of the NSA.

In the afternoon I conducted a master class on video and audio. I discussed:

  • Simple techniques to record, edit and publish audio podcasts
  • Sources of audio available to speakers
  • Which of the three types of podcasts is right for you
  • Why to embrace video as a face-to-face alternative
  • How to master video: from the television studio to your iPhone
  • Making a six-figure income from video training materials
  • Lights! Camera! Action! Create simple compelling videos that audiences will watch.

In the evening I gave a presentation on magnifying the impact of a speech with social media. I reviewed how to augment the power of a speech before, during and after the presentation using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and blogs. All offer exciting and effective ways to boost mindshare — when used correctly. The online audience for a talk can be many times the size of, and as important as, the audience in the room. Many speakers take advantage of social media to promote their programs — I shared ways to use social media as a research tool before the talk, poll and interact with the audience during the talk, and re-purpose content via audio and video afterwards.

Take a look at these edited highlights:

The resource page for the event has links to example videos, slides, reference material and more.

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Celebrating Toastmasters 90th anniversary

Toastmasters 90th Anniversary Toastmasters International has come a long way since founder Ralph C. Smedley held the first meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, California on October 22, 1924.

As society has changed, so as Toastmasters. In contrast to the white males who formed the original club, diversity is evident at any Toastmasters meeting today. What a difference nine decades makes! But to be fair, back in 1924 women in America had only won the right to vote four years earlier. However, it took almost 50 years for the idea that women could speak in public to sink in–membership was not opened to women until 1973. Indeed, Helen Blanchard, the first woman President of the organization, joined prior to 1973 under the name “Homer Blanchard”. The President at the time told her ‘You didn’t do too bad – for a woman.’ (I swear, you couldn’t make this sort of thing up!)

First TM Club Meeting

Since 1924, more than four million men and women have become more confident speakers and leaders through the Toastmasters experience.

Smedley’s idea of turning young business leaders into “would-be orators” has led to a thriving global organization with membership exceeding 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. The first club outside the United States was formed in Southport, England.

I’m a big proponent of anyone who wants to improve their public speaking and leadership skills joining a local Toastmasters club, even if you’re a woman!

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Professional Speaking Association

Professional Speaking Association
In a couple of weeks time I’ll be in the UK visiting family and I’ve been invited to address the North West Region of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) which is the UK equivalent of the National Speakers Association.

Since I grew up in North West England, this is a return to my roots.

On Wednesday November 12th I’ll be delivering an afternoon Masterclass on podcasting and video tools speakers can use to promote a speaking business. In the evening I’ll be giving a presentation on magnifying the impact of a speech before, during and after the event using social media.

With that in mind, the Twitter hashtag for the event is #psanwnov.

Here’s the resource page for the presentations. I make no claim for the authenticity of my north of England accent at the end of the preview video. After all, I’ve not lived there for 40 years.

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Essential tools for visual communications

David Sibbet
This is the second of a two-part report on the September 27th meeting of Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association. On Saturday we heard from two communications experts: Speechwriter Pete Weissman and visual thinking expert David Sibbet. This posting is a summary of David’s material.

David SibbetDavid Sibbet is President and founder of The Grove Consultants International, leaders in visually based services and tools that enable organization, teams and individuals to successfully envision and implement innovation and change.

He is author of the best-selling Visual Leadership book series:

Visual MeetingsVisual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. David’s first book in the series looks at how to use visualization to support a cycle of learning and implementation in meetings. Starting with imagination, moving to engagement, thinking and enactment–it is written for anyone who runs meetings. No special graphics skills are needed to make these methods pay off.

Visual teamsVisual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance. This builds on the meetings book and explores how a team can use visual methods throughout their work. It suggests we can gain by working like designers–using prototypes, interaction and visualization.

Visual leadersVisual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management, and Organization Change. This is a guide for leaders interested in increasing their own visual literacy. There’s a valuable section on how visual tools can accelerate organizational change and enable people to think of the total organization as a system while working on the parts.

Visual meeting facilitation

Drawing on content from his books (pun intended!) David shared how he was there at the start of the meeting facilitation industry in the 1970′s with people like Michael Doyle and David Strauss. Together, they built the field of group facilitation, community visioning, collaborative problem solving, and the development and management of task-oriented groups and teams.

Putting poster-making together with journalism led to David becoming a visual interpreter of meetings. Together with Evert Lindquist he developed a map to the world of visualization:

Lindquist/Sibbet Data Visualization Map

Graphic Facilitation

Graphic recorders facilitate meetings by interactively documenting a group’s conversation on flip charts, large poster paper, graphic templates, murals, and other media. This allows everyone in the room to see and understand the flow of dialog, decisions and agreements.

The result is a crisp summary of a lengthy meeting on a single page, as in this example from an architectural firm:

DLR Vision

(Click to enlarge)

Visuals spark the imagination

Words and images connect in valuable ways. Having a picture on the wall engages the audience with a greater degree of participation. The human brain builds more meaning into a slightly “fuzzy” diagram vs. crisp clip art. Giving people enough to go on, without total clarity, encourages people to really pay attention. Using sticky notes and group drawings as part of a presentation or facilitated meeting enables the audience to see connections, find solutions, and understand the big picture.

Beyond the spoken word

Da Vinci Helicopter SketchSibbet’s work challenges us, as speakers and speechwriters, to go beyond the written or spoken word and explore new frontiers in communication. A visual language integrates words, images and shapes into a single communication unit. Geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci have used visual language as a basic tool. Why not unleash your genius and incorporate visualization into your next presentation?

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Speechwriting secrets for professional speakers

Weissman's Wordsmith Formula
This is the first of a two-part report on the September 27th meeting of Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association. On Saturday we heard from two communications experts: Speechwriter Pete Weissman and visual thinking expert David Sibbet. This posting is a summary of Pete’s material.

Pete WeissmanAward-winning speechwriter Pete Weissman revealed how he helps CEOs and political leaders win over audiences. His methods help sharpen a speakers’ ideas so they are remembered, repeated, reported, and re-tweeted. Disclaimer: I’ve known Pete for over six years since we met at the Ragan Speechwriters Conference in DC. He’s one of the best freelance speechwriters there is.

8 tools to add color to your speech

Pete shared some tried and tested rhetorical tools that add color to a speech.

Sound bites

These are short catchy phrases that someone takes away from your presentation. Speechwriters should aim for just one sound bite per speech that will be remembered, repeated, reported and re-tweeted. Pete’s “Weissman Wordsmith Formula” to write a sound bite is to

  • Summarize your main point, or what happened.
  • Analyze what it means. what’s the impact? What’s next? What’s the speakers’ point of view?
  • Add some spark in terms of conflict, emotion, or drama.
  • Make it sing by using the 8 tools (above).

An example would be Joseph Bradley of Cisco Systems who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2014 “Big data is worth absolutely nothing without big judgment.”

How to engage your audience

We heard of three ways that a speaker can deliver content that engages an audience:

  1. Use a chorus – as in any pop song, repeating key ideas unifies the theme of the speech between different sections.
  2. Signpost – especially in PowerPoint slides, don’t have literal titles, but keep people involved with subtle signposts.
  3. Dress up your forks – meaning, highlight and embellish alternatives, so there is a sharper contrast between options in your presentation.

How to write a home run speech

Baseball diamondPete shared a simple yet powerful speechwriting secret to plan the structure of a speech. He posed four essential questions you need to answer before proceeding, Babe Ruth style, to the next step.

  1. What is the audience’s biggest problem? – Ask the meeting organizers:
    • Why is this group meeting?
    • What keeps them up at night?
    • What frustrates them?

    The goal is for the speaker to be aware of the pain-point the audience has and play back the terms they use in the speech

  2. What is the unique point of view that only you can provide?What’s your life experience, challenges, education that gives you a unique perspective only you can can offer the audience?
  3. What do you want the audience to know that is new?This is the take-away message, the core of your talk.
  4. How can you connect your topic to a current trend or news item?In order to reach beyond the conference, connect your topic to larger issues. That is one way to secure press coverage or social media traction.

These four steps can be woven into any speech, and reminded me of Aristotle’s classic speech persuasion trilogy. Starting with the introduction, then transitioning to the justification for listening to you (ethos), giving an emotionally charged take-away (pathos) buttressed by a logical argument (logos).

Pete deferred a discussion on how to speak like a thought leader, referring us to the recording of his presentation at the 2014 NSA conference on this topic and his SpeakerNetNews teleseminar on strategies for becoming a thought leader.

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How to Prepare and Present Powerful Presentations, with Patricia Fripp

Fripp Title

FrippHall of Fame keynote speaker and executive speech coach Patricia Fripp spoke to the members of the NSA Northern California Chapter Speakers Academy on Saturday. Fripp is the founder of our Chapter and a leading authority in the world of professional speaking.

Her entertaining and informative morning session touched on many aspects of her own 30-plus year career as a top speaker. She shared valuable information for aspiring professional speakers who want to prepare and present powerful presentations, including:

  • Ask: Are you practicing to improve or to reinforce bad habits? As a novice, start with best practices from the beginning.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity the Academy and NSA chapter gives us to network with others who have a passion for speaking.
  • Expect to bomb — if you’ve not failed somewhere on stage, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough.
  • Asking questions is the best education. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions.
  • Be willing to promote yourself in an ongoing, consistent and relentless way. Refocus and redirect what you are doing.
  • To build a long-term sustainable business you need to exceed expectations, or you won’t be invited back.
  • Desire trumps talent. You must have a relentless commitment as well an interest in speaking on your topic.
  • The most powerful way to learn any topic is to teach it to others.
  • Find a topic for your speeches by looking within your experience and talent, such as the expertise you’ve accumulated in your day job. No matter how technical your field, build your speech by thinking how you would explain what you do to your grandmother.
  • Despite the fact that there’s only so much truth in the world, you have a unique point of view. Deliver that in your speeches. Don’t invalidate your life experience.
  • A great way to develop material for a speech is to become a customer of the client who books you for a speech. Be a secret shopper and report your learnings. Talk to lower-level employees.
  • Structure your speech on a strong premise or central theme that is a basis of argument, leading to a conclusion. Be sure your talking points back-up and prove your big idea.
  • Remember the first 30 seconds and last 30 seconds of any talk have the most impact. Don’t waste them with empty pleasantries.
  • Engage the audience in your subject by asking “Would it interest (horrify, amaze) you to know…”
  • Populate your presentations with flesh and blood characters other people can relate to. Stories do this.
  • Your audience will remember what they “see” in your stories.

These were among the many lessons shared by Fripp in her session. For anyone who would like to dive deeper into what she has to offer, I highly recommend her Virtual Training program. This online resource gives you access to one of the most in-demand executive speech coaches and sales presentation experts available. Fripp’s Virtual Training is engaging and fun. It is designed for ambitious professionals, executives, sales teams, and professional speakers. Heck, she’ll even give you a 7 day free trial. What’s not to like?

To hear a brief extract from Saturday’s event, where Fripp shares the secret of her own career success, click on the podcast icon below.

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Guest Posting: 18 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking, by Kyle Ingham

Kyle IngamKyle Ingham is the founder of The Distilled Man, a website that helps men learn essential “gentlemanly” skills. Like knowing how to cook a perfect steak. How to mix a cocktail. Or how to give a toast. The Distilled Man is dedicated to giving guys a second chance to discover these lost “gentlemanly” arts. Click here to get a free copy of his new ebook, “48-Hour Gentleman.”

18 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking, by Kyle Ingham

I can still remember my worst public speaking moment.

I had just started at this ad agency and our new client was coming to the office to do a meet and greet.

I desperately wanted to make a good first impression. I had to show what I was made of.

I’m not generally a shy guy, but it turned into one of those awful public speaking moments everyone fears. As I stood up in the front of the room, my heart raced, my palms sweated, I couldn’t catch my breath…

But worst of all, as I spoke, I had this self-sabotage commentary running through my head: “Oh. My. God….I wish I could just STOP. I wish I could just FINISH right now. But everyone’s eyes are on ME…”

Fortunately, the moment did eventually pass. And I made it through the meeting without wetting my pants or throwing up on a client. I even managed not to get fired. My boss was gracious about it, saying later that maybe I could use a bit more practice with public speaking, “you know, to clean up some of the umm’s, etc.” Yeah, there were those, too.

I never had a moment quite that bad again. But over the years, sometimes I’ve felt like my public speaking skills were just as inconsistent and elusive as my pool game: sometimes I was epic, other times I was epically bad. And for awhile I couldn’t seem to figure out when the Steve Jobs version of me was going to show up and when it was going to be Steve Urkel.

I wish there was some magic bullet—some secret—to amazing public speaking. But what I’ve learned after years of trial and error is that the solution isn’t that sexy. It’s like other things in life: great public speaking comes from practice, plus a few little tricks that can improve your chances of success.

I can’t help you with the practice part, you’re on your own there. But here are 18 tips that will help you avoid stage fright and take your public speaking skills to a new level:

1. Connect with the audience before you speak

A crowd is scary, but individuals aren’t. If you can just remember that the crowd you’re getting in front of is just made up of individual people you’ll be okay. Before the presentation, try to meet as many people as you can—introduce yourself. You’ll find that most of these people are just regular humans. Everyday people.

The typical advice is to imagine your audience in your underwear. At some events that may not be very pleasurable. So, as a close second, just try to connect with them as people, find out about their personal life, their hobbies, their family. It will make you feel much more at ease when you’re up on stage later looking out in the audience: you won’t see a random scowling audience member, you’ll see Jason, the accountant from Pittsburgh who has 2 daughters and loves to watch karate movies and drink PBR when his wife goes on yoga retreats.

2. Stand up straight and look sharp

Some people think what they say while giving a speech is the most important thing. Turns out that according to research, people’s perception of public speakers is most influenced by 2 things: one is how you appear visually—do you look confident, are you standing up straight? The other is how your voice sounds—does it sound commanding, are you using interesting inflection?

Standing up straight is maybe 60% of the battle. If you just stand up there in front of the audience and LOOK confident, you’re already more than halfway to being a great speaker.

3. Use gestures deliberately and make them count

One of the most nerve-racking things to think about when you’re up in front of an audience is what to do with your hands. A lot of speaking coaches will say that you should try to keep them down at your sides and not gesture too much. But this is easier said than done. And besides, it’s natural for people talk with their hands. I say, don’t worry about it. Use your hands the way that you would talk when speaking with someone one-on-one.

The key, however is to avoid the appearance of “flailing” where there’s too much hand motion. When using your hands, it’s important to be deliberate—keep your gestures big and purposeful. Whenever possible, if you have numbered points, use your hand to clearly call out the number for each point. “There are 3 things…[hold up 3 sign]. The first point is [hold up 1 finger].” It may seem like it’s overkill and like you’re playing charades, but this really helps the audience follow your points.

4. Breathe…Then Keep Breathing

While it’s pretty basic advice, it absolutely needs to be said. If you don’t control your breathing, you’re allowing your body to stay in that initial “fight or flight” stage that you may have felt right before you walked up there. In contrast, when you slow yourself down with deep, oxygen-rich breaths, you are able to be in the moment, you’re able to loosen up your body and most importantly, able to think on your feet. When you can think on your feet you inhabit your speech more, so you’re not just reciting lines. You believe each point and feeling the weight of each statement as you deliver it, which ultimately makes it more believable and engaging for the audience.

5. Maintain eye contact

Eye contact is the key to connecting with your audience. While it may sound touchy-feely, there is a definite exchange of energy when a speaker scans the room, connecting with individuals. If you’ve ever witnessed a speaker who just looked off into space vs. a dynamic speaker who made it a point to connect with a few individuals, the difference is palpable.

From a purely practical standpoint, making eye contact with your audience has the effect of keeping everyone awake: ”I better pay attention, he might pick me next.” What’s also interesting is that by looking at a single individual and connecting with them, often others around them think you’re looking at them as well. Sort of like 3 for the price of one…

6. Jump right in with dramatic flair

One of the signs of a seasoned presenter is the ability to launch their presentation and immediately hook you. None of this “ok, I’ll go ahead and start now.” Or, “Uh hi guys, uh thanks for having me here.” A seasoned presenter doesn’t ever make you think about the fact that they’re presenting. Instead, from the moment the presenter walks up there, everything they do is part of controlling your experience of their presentation.

A few great ways to start with dramatic flair are to begin with a famous quote, mention a key statistic, ask a provocative question, mention a news item, begin with a personal revelation of some kind (Last Tuesday was the first time I ever used deodorant!). Or, if you’re really feeling ballsy, the most masterful presenters begin with a dramatic pause. Yep, just you and the audience, separated by a big pregnant pause. It’s like just in that moment when the audience has just quieted as they see you coming up, you just stop, breathe and survey the room. When done well it can be powerful: you could hear a pin drop. The audience is on the edge of their seats. And that brief tension heightens what you say right after that. Like you’ve withheld water, and finally quenched their thirst.

7. Be a Storyteller

The best public speakers don’t just give you their point of view in a series of statements. They paint pictures with their words. They use the age-old advice in writing: show, don’t tell. Instead of telling you how bad things are in Detroit, they tell you a story about a man with 4 kids and a wife who used to make great money at the auto plant until he lost his job and now has to collect cans and do odd jobs to make ends meet.

Humans are hard-wired to get involved with stories. Stories are like oratory crack: as soon as we hear a little bit of a story, we gotta have more. “But how does it end? Does he end up finding another job?” What’s great about this is that telling a series of stories can help you reinforce one singular point in rich ways. Many great books do the same thing: Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People (affiliate link) makes maybe 3 points total, but reinforces them with about 30 different stories, each story adding another layer of persuasiveness.

8. Master the pause, play the empty space

One of the biggest signs of a novice speaker—and you’ll notice this in interviews as well—is the inclination to fill the empty space. As amateurs, we’re worried if we pause too long, it may sound unintelligent. In fact, the opposite is true. Some of the most masterful public speakers deliberately pause between points. A well-paced pause has an amazing effect. If the audience has been listening, it has the effect of being a massive punctuation on the previous point. Or it has the effect of building suspense for the point to come. From a practical standpoint, it also allows the audience a moment to digest the point you’ve just communicated and let it sink in.

It reminds me of a quote I heard about music once: the best soloists (think Miles Davis) don’t just play the notes, they play the empty space between the notes. It’s not just the notes that communicate feeling and tone and emotion; it’s the way they’re spaced out and they way they are punctuated and amplified by silence. So too with dramatic pauses in public speaking.

9. Recharge on individuals

One of the best ways to keep the fear of the crowd from psyching you out is to pay attention to the individuals, and use them to “recharge” when you can—to regain your mojo. When you start to feel yourself getting nervous, look to one individual and stay with them for a bit. Look into their eyes as you speak. There’s a 99% chance that when you focus on them, they’re going to be highly intent on looking back at you, and if they can sense you’re feeling a little nervous, they’ll give you some encouragement through their intent gaze and encouraging smile. Stay with them a moment, until you feel like you’ve regained your stride, and then move on to other audience members.

10. Engage with the audience during the talk

Another way to calm your own nerves and keep the audience attentive is to engage them early and often. Some of the best speakers keep an audience on the edge of their seats by involving them throughout their presentation. An easy way to do this is by asking the audience questions—especially at the start. “How many of your have ever…raise your hands?” By forcing them to physically get involved, they can’t help but be engaged. I mean, who know what you’re going to make them do next? You’d also be surprised at how quickly this gets rid of any of your nerves. This is one of the best ways to remember that you’re not standing in front of some faceless crowd silently judging you. These people are just individuals…who hope you don’t put them on the spot next.

11. Never memorize, but cheat sheets are ok

You should never memorize your speech. You’re much better off if you can try to remember the main points—and think about those as the skeleton that you’re going to add “meat” to as you speak. When you memorize your speech word for word, all it takes is forgetting a few key sentences and you can be totally thrown off. And even if you do pull it off, unless you’re very good, it can come across as wooden—people can tell you’re reciting a script and it’s less engaging. If you need a cheat-sheet, it’s ok to use prompt cards with some of your high-level points jotted down or an outline you can refer back to.

12. Know What You’re Talking About

Nothing will take the edge off the nerves as much the simple knowledge that you actually know the topic you’re speaking about. There were times I would worry about doing a presentation because I was fretting over the details. Then I would remember, hey I know this stuff. If I was sitting on an airplane next to someone we could chat about this and I could hold my own. Not that I would stop preparing and just wing it. But it helps give you a certain fortitude.

You may think, well when would I present on something I’m not knowledgeable about? Where I’ve seen it happen most often is in a group presentation where the content gets carved up and shared by multiple presenters. Especially if you’re the junior person, you may end up getting stuck with a few odds and ends. And while you can speak to the surface level to all these things, it pays to do some research and make sure you have a deeper comfort-level with the subject matter.

13. Practice, Practice, Then Practice some more

Most people don’t practice their presentations enough, and it shows. I’ve written about this before in the context of best man speeches. If you really want to wow your audience, you need to go through it multiple times until it becomes muscle memory. Again, not that you should count on memorizing the words verbatim. It’s more that you should be getting used to the cadence and the dramatic pauses. And the sections where you might engage the audience. Or the way you’ll use a visual aid. In The Art of the Start (affiliate link), Guy Kawasaki recommends practicing a presentation at least 25 times. He says that ironically, the more you practice, the easier it is for you to sound natural, like you’re delivering it off the cuff. Another trick as you’re practicing is to film yourself or record the audio. The first watch is going to be painful, but you’ll pick up on some fine-tuning things you may not have noticed otherwise.

14.Visualize Success

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s easy to self-sabotage even before you go on stage and think “oh boy, I’m going to bomb!” But as Ford’s quote reminds us, it’s just as easy to psyche ourselves into believing that we’ll succeed. So why not give ourselves an advantage by being positive? Visualize success—actual success. Visualize confidently delivering your speech, and looking out to see the women swooning, grown men crying, old men stomping their canes in uproarious approval (ok, maybe it won’t be quite like that, but you get the idea).

15. Know Your Audience

Another critically important tip is to really know your audience. The more you know about who you’re speaking to, the more you can tailor your message to them. Also, the more you’ll remember that these are just people—not some abstract scary audience who’s judging you. Most importantly, it reminds you that your presentation is part of a dialog. Even though you might be the only one on stage with a mic, you need to treat it like a dialog. You should be speaking with them, not at them.

16. Structure your presentation

As you’re preparing a presentation, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the details. “What am I even trying say here, or am just filling time?” And if you feel that way, you can imagine how your audience feels when you get up there. If you take the time to map out the high-level structure of your presentation, it can go a long way to making your planning and prep easier. But it also makes it clearer for the audience. The best way is to use the old approach of “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” You may think that repeating your main point 3 times is overkill in a short presentation, but In fact it’s critical to drive home your point. Even better is to include some signposts along the way so your audience knows where you are. For example:

I’m going to tell you 3 reasons that Rocky Road ice cream should be declared the US national dessert
The first reason Rocky Road should be declared the national dessert…
The second reason…
The third and final reason…
So, I think I’ve shared some compelling reasons why Rocky Road should be formally recognized by our country for the superior dessert that it is. I urge you all to write your congressmen, thank you!

The sad fact is that the audience isn’t always hanging on your every word. They might zone out for a moment. They might have to check their smartphone. So it helps to ensure your presentation is well-structured and reinforces your main point consistently throughout.

17. Spend some time in the space if you can

While this may not help everyone, I find it helpful if I know the venue or the room where I’m going to speak. That way I can truly visualize what it’s going to be like when I’m up there. Sometimes, if you envisioned the room setup a different way it can throw you off when you get up there.

18. Embrace Nerves

As a novice presenter, when you get anxious before your presentation, you immediately think, “oh no, I’m just going to get way too nervous and not be able to regain my composure on stage.” What’s reassuring is that almost all of the greatest presenters say they are a little nervous right before going on stage. In The Exceptional Presenter (affiliate link), Timothy Koegel writes about how Johnny Carson did 4000 shows for the Tonight Show, and said he was always a little nervous right before going on stage. Other performers have said similar things, and gone so far as to say that the moment they don’t feel a twinge of that last-minute nervousness, they’ll know it’s time to give up show biz—it would be a sign their heart’s no longer in it.

So, next time you feel nervous right before getting up there, take comfort in knowing it happens to everyone, even the pros. And nerves can be your friend: when you are a little nervous at the beginning of your presentation, your senses are sharpened, your energy level is up, it shows the audience that you care about this moment.

Conclusion

Again, there’s no real magic fix for avoiding stage fright and being a more effective public speaker. The best thing is just to continue getting up on stage and taking advantage of opportunities to practice. And beyond that, the tips above—if consistently used—can help you hone your presentation skills so you can crush stage fright and become a masterful public speaker.

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