PowerPoint Failures During A Speech

You’re doing great! It’s about 2 minutes into your speech and you’ve never felt more confident.

You started with a strong opening and, just as practiced, you stepped away from the podium to take advantage of the large stage. You have been looking up behind you to draw the audience’s attention to your PowerPoint slide with it’s bright colors and clear bullet list of points you are making.

You turn to make eye contact with your audience and – what? — they are all looking down at their phones or whispering to each other.

Your confidence goes out the open window and you lose your place. You struggle to regain the audience’s attention and barley make it through your presentation, speeding through the words so you can get off the stage.

What happened?

You worked really hard to plan your speech and make sure your audience could keep up with you through your slides.

You know that visuals are an important tool to engage your audience. You’ve read up on public speaking tips and thought you had all the bases covered.

Let’s take a look at why PowerPoint presentations sometimes fail and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you.

  • – What is the purpose of a slide in a speech? It shouldn’t serve as a teleprompter, causing you to turn your back on the audience for extended periods of time. If you’re going to use slides, make sure they are there to simply emphasize or illustrate a point you’re making. A single bold image will have much more impact than a paragraph of text.
  • – How much is too much? There should never be more than six words on a slide and the font size should be larger than 30 pt so your audience can see it easily. Try not to use more than one slide for every major point you are making.
  • – Color, if you need to use it, should be simple and there for a reason. It should highlight or emphasize an element of the slide. Too many colors are a distraction.
  • – Image quality counts. Choose your images carefully. The stock graphics that come with PowerPoint are tired and outdated. Make sure the image you choose is sharp and clearly relates to the point you are making.

Finally, think about when you will display the image. If you have selected a good one, put it up just as you transition to a new point in your speech. Use it to grab your listeners’ attention and make them curious about what you’re planning to tell them.

Then make your point and tie the image to your idea. Helping them associate you and your idea with an image makes it easier for them to remember you later.

PowerPoint slides and visuals in general are a great way to keep your audience focused as you move through your speech. Just don’t let them take your place as the center of attention.

Try taking a recent speech you gave or one that is coming up and review these tips to improve your results. Let me know what you think.

I would love to hear about your success and challenges in using PowerPoint in your presentation!

Slides

Have you ever gone to a class or a presentation prepared to just listen or perhaps jot down a thought or two, only to be been bombarded with slide after slide of text, making you feel as if you had to get it all down? You may have left feeling as if you had drowned in a sea of information with nothing to think about after you left and a few pages of scrawled notes.

Slides are meant to punctuate your presentation, not outline it or display it nearly word for word. Remember: slides and visuals in aren’t for you. They are for you audience.

Slides with several bulleted points are too busy for the audience and takes their attention off of you. But when used correctly, slides can underscore the most important aspect of each section of your speech in your listeners’ mind.

What’s In?

Consider your audience. No more than six words on a slide, according to speaker and entrepreneur Seth Godin. And nothing on the lower quarter to third of the bottom of the slide.

Remember, depending on the setup of the room, many of your audience members may be seeing your visuals over the heads of several rows of other people. What about the design element? Find a font and color combination you like and stick with it throughout your presentation.

A powerful photograph paired with a few words can help your message resonate.

What’s out?

An entire document. Too many words will be lost on your audience and most of them won’t even be able to see it from their seats. Long lists or entire sections of your speech don’t belong.

Never, ever turn your back on your audience to read from the slide. It’s just as important as ever to make eye contact as you talk.

A good rule of thumb is no more than 10 slides for a thirty minute presentation. Even fewer is better.

Saving the Best for Last

Create your slides after your presentation is written. This will allow you to pull out a few key points you want to emphasize rather than focusing on the content of your speech at the same time you are creating slides.

Think of it as using a highlighter to mark the most important parts of an article and take a look at Nancy Duarte’s tips for creating great slides.

What Next?

Take advantage of a speech you recently gave where you wanted to use slides but weren’t sure how to, or did use slides but weren’t entirely happy with the outcome. Use some of the tips we discussed as well as this great beginner’s guide to master slide basics and see what you can come with.

You can also sit down with your speech and go through it highlight the points you want to illustrate. Transfer each point to one side of a small card or Post-It note and, on the other side, write down no more than three words that describe what you want to illustrate. You can use those words to look for images later.

Send me an example of one your slides that you’re most proud of. I would love to know how it went in the comment section below!

Making Eye Contact with Your Audience

There are several great reasons to improve your eye contact skills when speaking to a group.

  • – It’s an effective way to connect with them on an individual basis.
  • – It increases the support and buy-in you have from the audience as a whole.
  • – When you are looking at one person directly, the people in their immediate vicinity feel you have also acknowledged them.
  • – It can calm your nerves by helping you focus on one person rather than the entire crowd.
  • – It will boost your confidence when people acknowledge you in return with a slight nod or a look in their eye that tell you they see you.

So now you know why improving your eye contact skill is worth investing some time in. What can you do to improve?

How to Practice

If you rarely make eye contact during your presentations and the thought of it makes you a little uncomfortable, remember that you aren’t alone. Eye contact is powerful and it can be a little intimidating because you are inviting someone to notice you. Here are some ways to practice.

Use the everyday opportunities you have

Spend a few more seconds at the cash register when you shop, looking your cashier in the eye as you chat and go through the transaction. Many people stand at a checkout counter for an entire transaction without ever looking the cashier in the eye. Having a meal out with clients or colleagues?

Look them in the eye during conversation when you have the floor, moving from one person to the next as you talk.

Speed Talk

This is a great exercise for two. Take turns picking a topic your partner is likely to know little or nothing about. Give them the topic and have them talk for a minimum of two minutes while making direct eye contact with you.

Have a Conversation

When you are speaking, treat each person in the audience as if you were speaking to them alone. How long should you hold one person’s gaze?

Sheri Jeavons of Power Presentations, Inc. says it should be for the length of a complete sentence, beginning to end.

Although you are talking to a group, it’s really a collective conversation. You can gain valuable feedback when you address the audience members one at a time. Most will nod slightly or look back at you in a way that indicates they know you see them and they understand you. But if someone is not looking at you or appears bored or confused, move on to the next person.

If you see several people like this, you can make some changes in real time to recapture those whose attention has slipped. Add some vocal variety as you talk by raising or lowering your voice or pitch and using descriptive words that will resonate with the audience.

Over the next few days, make a point to try out some of these exercises.

If you are in a group like Toastmasters, use your next meeting to work on making eye contact with your audience and see how it improves your speaking skills. Then send me an email to let me know how it went!

Get Emotional

What do you think of when you hear the word emotional?

  • Crying?
  • Laughing?
  • Yelling?
  • Arguing?

The idea of being emotional can connote being out of control. While that is sometimes true, it also refers to engagement and excitement. And that is something you want your listeners to feel.

As a speaker, you want your audience to be emotional, but there are many ways to show emotion without being out of control. Likewise, there are many ways to evoke it.

Creating passion in an audience means your presentation will have more impact and stay with the listeners long after they are gone. It increases the likelihood that they will buy into what you are telling them or make the choice to use your services over someone else’s.

Passion

What is important to you about your idea? Why should your audience care about it? What makes is better than other, similar products on the market?

Don’t leave your audience wondering about any of the questions. Answer them in your speech.

Show that you care about your topic by being so well prepared that your words come naturally rather than from a piece of paper on the podium. This allows your audience to learn what excites you. Enthusiasm is contagious!

Facial Expressions

Make eye contact with people in your audience, one person at a time, and smile when it feels natural. Most people react to a smile with a smile of their own which is a powerful brain trigger for endorphins.

Try scanning the crowd and stopping with your gaze on one person each time you change topics or make a transition.

Body Language

Your body language can stoke excitement in an audience. Don’t pace back and forth, but do move around, engaging different sections of the listeners, focusing more of your attention on one area of the group when you are closer to them before moving to another.

Use gestures to convey emotions and excitement about your project. Step forward when you want to emphasize an important point.

Visuals

Keep your visuals simple. Slides should be clean and bright, easily understood. Use no more than a half dozen words per slide. Look for compelling images that will have an emotional impact. There shouldn’t be so many words on your slide that you feel compelled to read from it.

Word Choice

Active verbs and descriptive adverbs will evoke more attention. Look for ways to use them in your speech.

Tell your audience that you’re excited to be here, not just happy. And then tell them why and what excites you.

Emotional Need

Consider why your audience is there. What do they hope to gain — especially emotionally — from you? Insight? Knowledge? What do you want them to leave knowing or believing? That your product is the one they should choose? Why? What makes it different?

In closing, let me tell you why emotional buy-in from your audience is so important: it means you can influence people when it comes to making decisions.

A friend of mine recently went looking for some flooring to install in her new home. She visited a big-box store and two independent dealers. The second independent dealer won her business. Members of his family worked for him. He had his products in his own home and his dog spent the day at his company. All of these spoke to him as a person and helped him make an emotional connection with my friend. Although he wasn’t making a speech, per se, he was giving a presentation. Without even knowing it, his own enthusiasm for his business and his product helped make the sale.

Before your next presentation, try thinking about how you can evoke emotion in your audience. Let me know what you did and how it worked for you!

Try Visual Storytelling When Presenting

Visual communication is closely tied to the art of storytelling. It’s definitely an area worth becoming proficient in, because focused imagery makes your message more compelling and memorable.

Photo Credit: http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/556655/Images/nonprofit_storytelling_blog.jpg

Too many images, or ones that are cluttered and not directly related to your message will detract from your speech.

Today I want to take a look at how to use images in a way that will have the most impact on your audience.

What are you trying to say?

What are your main points? What do you want your audience members to walk away remembering?

Sit down and take a few minutes to think about this. Then write down no more than three things you want them to remember after you are gone. Highlight the key words in your text and begin thinking about visuals that reinforce them.

Authenticity

It is important that your visuals feel authentic. Look for opportunities to use photos or video clips of actual clients rather than stock photos or outdated clip art.

Your audience members want to know how your brand or idea applies to them today.

Or look for stunning photos that capture the ideas behind your brand. Is your product future-oriented?

Consider using a photo of something or someone in motion, moving away from the viewer. There are many ways to represent a brand or idea.

What will have the most impact on the viewer?

Body Language

Even in visual storytelling your body language, presence, and personality are a critical part of telling a story as part of a speech. We have talked about body language here before.

Remember to take advantage of the tools you always have on hand. Gesturing, making eye contact, and moving around as you talk add a great deal to your presentation.

It’s another great way to engage an audience and make an impact on them.

Size Matters

Big and bold is the way to go in most cases. Large, simple image or clips will best grab the viewer’s attention.

Plan ahead by thinking about where your audience will be sitting in relation to the screen they will see. Can they see over each other’s heads?

Consider where best to place your visuals for maximum impact. Plan your movements so that you won’t be in your own way when you share the photos or videos.

Diversity

Use images that are culturally relevant to your audience. Diversity is important today and your choice of visuals should reflect that. Society is changing and inclusiveness is more important than ever before, especially if your business has an online presence.

It’s Your Turn

Give some thought to visual storytelling for your next presentation. Jot down some ideas and look for images or video clips that represent your brand or idea.

Maybe it’s time to make a short video with one of your clients who can talk about what you have done for them. Let me know what you do and how it works for you.

And if you have any ideas t share, I would love to hear about it!

Six Steps to Master Public Speaking

You’ll find a huge number of public speaking tips on the Internet. It can be overwhelming! Today I want to narrow down your game plan to just six steps. Six steps to mastering public speaking, some of which go beyond the basics by looking at what you can do to build on your existing skills. The new year is a great time to look at upping your public speaking game!

Beyond Being Prepared

Most people preparing to give a public speech work hard to prepare. They make notes, draft and revise their speech, and rehearse until they feel as comfortable as possible. What else can you do? Visit the space you’ll speak in. If possible, stand at the podium or dais where you’ll deliver your message. What could go wrong? What if you plan to use a mic and it isn’t working the day of your speech? Is there room to move closer to the audience? If the visual equipment goes out, can you speak without the help of your visual aids? Are you confident in you will get to the site if it’s an unfamiliar one?

Drama

Spend some time drafting opening sentences that will challenge your audience when you are asked to give a speech. What is something that would surprise them to know? How does your work positively influence the world or fill a gap in an unexpected way?

When you give a speech, opening with something surprising will grab your audience’s attention. Furthermore, having a few of these on hand that you use regularly will help you feel confident every time you take the podium.

Use Your Professional Knowledge

You know your subject or industry best. Help others see it from a variety of perspectives, including their own. How do industry outsider’s opinions of your work influence how they see you? Are their opinions negative or neutral? What could you tell them about your work that would change those opinions?

If they already understand or support your work, tell them about something new that’s happening. This is a great public speaking tip that will help keep your audience’s interest. People like learning something new.

Engage the Audience

Engage your listeners by involving them. Ask questions, take polls, tell stories. If your audience is too large to question individually, use rhetorical questions to get everyone thinking. “What would you do if…” or “Have you run into this problem before?

Adding active participation keeps people focused on your message or draws them back in if their minds have wandered.

The Closing

Don’t end your speech with phrases such as “That’s all I have” or “I’m done, thank you.

Instead, provide a call to action or something you want them to remember as they leave. Try connecting your closing words to your opening sentences.

It will help them to walk away thinking about what you said and what their next steps will be, instead of what’s for lunch.

It’s Your Turn

Try out some of my public speaking tips to help master your own skills and let me know what you think. Have some of your own to share? Send me a note with your thoughts. I would love to hear about them!

 

Gain Confidence with Public Speaking

Even the most experienced public speakers can get a bit nervous before a presentation. Practice and experience go a long way, but the human body will almost always have a fight-or-flight response to the idea of putting itself up in front of an audience.

There are ways to deal with stage fright that will help you become a better speaker who is more at ease in front of a group. Let’s look at a few.

Before the Event

  • – A lot. You don’t need to memorize your speech word for word, but you should be so familiar with the order of your talking points that you don’t need to think about them. You’ll be able to speak more confidently and without notes if you know your main points cold.
  • – Test your equipment. Make sure any equipment you’re taking with you is in good condition. Check bulbs, batteries, and any accessories you have. If possible, visit the room you’ll be speaking in and be sure you understand how to connect your equipment to theirs.

The Day Of

  • – Spend some time exercising the day of your presentation. Exercise will work off some of the pre-talk jitters and give you confidence by boosting your serotonin levels. If you can’t get in a solid workout that day, try a brisk ten-minute walk. Drinking plenty of water will help stave off dry-mouth, too.
  • – Remember Power Posing? Body language is important and taking a powerful stand before your speech can give you a strong, positive mental boost.
  • – It’s typically easier to speak to a group of people you know than a room full of strangers. Get to the site early and spend time talking with people who will be in the audience. A friendly face, or several of them, will make your time on in the spotlight much more comfortable. Engaging your audience beforehand also helps keep them focused on you because you are someone they know. It’s much easier to tune out a stranger.

Getting Started

  • – If you’re comfortable with it, starting off with a joke is a great way to break the ice. Alternatively, we have talked about beginning a speech with a surprising or interesting fact about your subject. Either of these will peak your audience’s interest and make them want to hear more from you.
  • – Make eye contact, especially with the people in the audience who are attentive and indicating their support by smiling, nodding, or appearing especially focused. Their support will boost your comfort level.
  • – Act confident, even if you don’t feel that way! Research has shown that appearing confident helps create confidence where it doesn’t exist. In other words, fake it ‘til you make it! The audience will see confidence even if you aren’t feeling.

In Closing

Most importantly, remember why you are there. It’s not to be the best or most perfect speaker ever. It’s to share some information, make a few points, and encourage others to support your ideas. Leave them with some great ideas and ways to take action, and you will have done your job well!

Let me know how you have gained confidence in your public speaking. I would love to hear about it!

 

 

Exciting Your Audience

Last month I was at a presentation where the audience members were bored, antsy, and waiting for the speech to end. Some were trying to be polite and attentive, but many had already mentally checked out and were texting and surfing on their phones.

The speaker knew she had lost their attention and struggled to regain it. Unfortunately, she was unable to do so.

We all want to start strong and finish strong when speaking, but, after your opening, how do get your audience excited and hold their attention to the end? I have some public speaking tips that will help you do just that.

Starting Strong

We’ve talked about great openings before but it’s worth a second mention. Use an opening that grabs your audience’s attention. Pick a startling fact, statistic, or other comment that will command attention. Try pausing after your first few words to let that information sink in before moving on.

Put Barriers Behind You

Literally. If there is a physical barrier between you and your audience, such as a podium, get comfortable moving away from it during your speech. The motion of movement renews audience attention and gets people to refocus on you, partly by wondering how you’ll do without notes or a stand in front of you! This is a great time to bring emotion to the forefront, as well.

It’s a great tool for building suspense and holding attention. You can do this with a story, as we have discussed here & here.

Remember Why They’re There

As you plan your speech, think about why the audience members are there. What motivates them? What do you want them to take away from your talk? What reasons might they have for disagreeing with you? For agreeing with you? Construct your presentation with these things in mind.

Take Action!

Let your audience know early in your speech what you want them to leave knowing and prepared to do. Then give them a challenge to follow through on! Do you want them to contact a representative? Sign up to be a volunteer? Whatever it is, make it easy to do by providing the appropriate information for completing the task.

A flyer is helpful for this and gives them something concrete to take with them.

Interrupt Yourself

Interrupting can be a very effective tool when used correctly. You can say something like,

Before I move on, I want to stop and see what you think. Do you have questions or ideas about how to make new contacts to increase sales?

This brings everyone back to center and gives them an opportunity to participate in your presentation. Allowing others to talk and share their ideas also demonstrates your own self-confidence, which is exciting to an audience.

Wrapping Up

So, you now have some great speaking tips on exciting your audience. Have you tried any of these ideas? Do you have thoughts of your own on the subject? I would love to hear from you!

Even better, try some of these tips out during your next speech and let me know how it goes!

Being Memorable

What makes someone a memorable public speaker? When you think about memorable people, what words come to mind? Today we’ll spend some time talking about how to make a lasting impression on your audience.

First Impressions

The first impression you have on someone is usually visual. Who do they see when you take the stage? Are you confident, polished, and professional? Don’t forget, you can also be remembered for making a negative impression!

Let’s look at how to get that first impression right.

Dress for Success: A friend of mine told me that she grew up in a poor family. She said that regardless of how little they had, they were always dressed in clean clothes and that her mother kept a clean house. They were proud of what they did have and all of the children were taught to take good care of their belongings.

Do your best to dress appropriately for the occasion and always be neat and clean. This bit of attention to detail will add to your self-confidence and is one less thing to worry about when you make your presentation.

Make an Entrance: People are drawn to positivity and confidence. Make your walk to the podium memorable with a smile and a confident stride.

Your first few words are a big part of the initial impression your audience has of you and they will encourage them to stay focused on your message.

Start with a sincere welcome and hello and consider telling the first part of a story that will weave its way through your message.

Your Message

Less is More: Don’t try to memorize your speech. You’ll be thrown off if you forget a line and have a harder time recovering!

Practice is important, but try to remember the three key points you want to make between your opening and closing. You can speak off the cuff most of the time as long as you know your topic well and use those main points as scaffolding around which you’ll build your remarks.

Don’t Plant Your Feet in One Place: An important way to keep your audience’s attention is to move around while you speak. Motion keeps people’s eyes active and their mind alert and focused on your message.

Be sure you are moving with intention and not just pacing out of nervousness.  It can help to think of your movements as a distinct part of your key points by moving to a new point on the stage each time you make a new point.

Have Fun!

This is my number one tip on my recent Top Ten List. Let your enthusiasm for your topic show.  If you are speaking about something important to you personally, the audience will pick up on that and be more easily persuaded to buy in to your message.

Use gestures, facial expressions, and movement, as well as changes in your pitch and tone to show how you feel as you speak.

The Perfect Opening

Your audience’s opinion of you starts the moment you take the stage and open your mouth. The perfect opening to a great speech is important, but not difficult to deliver if you stick to a few guidelines. Today we’ll talk about how to decide on the perfect one for your topic and speaking style.

Should you use humor?

This one can be a bit tricky. Are you naturally funny? Would your friends and colleagues describe you that way? If so, great!

However, you don’t want to start your speech with forced humor. That can leave your audience puzzled and give them a negative impression of you right off the bat. Whether it’s your natural style or not, if you do decide to start with a joke, make sure it’s relevant to your speech topic, inoffensive (hint: leave the two killer topics of politics and religion out), and short. Tell it in such a way that it leads naturally into the body of your speech.

If you’re still unsure, remember that a joke is nothing more than something that makes people laugh. Funnyman and Toastmaster Rick Olson has some great tips.

What other options are there?

  • – A shocking statement or a statistic is a great way to open a speech. Are there surprising changes coming in your industry or something your client can do to make a big impact in the field? Using a surprising opening fact or statistic is a great way to begin. Here’s an example: 75% of business and IT executives anticipate their projects will fail. This is an opener that will grab your audience’s attention and make them want to hear more.
  • – Try using a catchphrase. These are short statements that bring something concrete to mind, often a particular product or industry. Just think of “Got Milk?” or “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” to be reminded of the impact a catchphrase can have.
  • – Begin with a story. Weaving a story through your speech is a great way to capture and hold audience interest. A personal story creates empathy in your audience and makes them want to root for you and your success in both your story and your speech.
  • – Try bringing out an object. It’s a great way to represent your idea and kick off your speech. If your subject is too large or impractical to bring on stage, a smaller representation, such as a model, can work, too. A physical object makes a lasting impression on your audience.
  • – Involve your audience. Start out with a question such as, “How many of you made New Year’s resolution last year?” Beginning your speech with a question gets the audience directly involved right away and keeps them thinking and listening as you speak.

Whatever opening you chose, just be yourself! Let your energy and enthusiasm show. Genuine passion for your subject is the most attractive quality you can possess.

Have you tried any of this tips? Or do you have some to share? I would love to hear your thoughts on great openers! Drop me a line and let me know what you think.