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 Look for opportunities to use photos or video clips of actual clients rather than stock photos or outdated clip art.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.

When Technology Fails You

You’ve either see it happen or experienced it personally. Either way, it’s painful. You’re prepped and ready for your presentation and something goes wrong with the technology.

Your mic fails. Or the video equipment won’t load the carefully-selected images that illustrate important points you want to make. The clicker doesn’t work and you can’t advance your slide. Or maybe your computer crashes taking your slide deck and speech outline with it.

Source: www.imgix.com

What now? Time has slowed to crawl and you’re sweating. How will you recover? What should you say now? I anyone coming to your aid?

Let’s take a look at how to move forward in this situation. It can be challenging, but try to stay calm. The most important thing to remember is your audience: they are on your side. They are silently cheering you on and want to see you recover. Once you get the ball going again and put the focus back on you, most audiences will forget that a glitch ever happened.

You can start with a simple apology for the interruption. But only apologize once. Multiple apologies won’t make you or your audience feel any better and they just draw more attention to your plight than your recovery.

Laugh at the situation, not at yourself. Everyone has been in an embarrassing situation before and your audience members will be able to relate to your predicament. It’s okay to make a joke and encourage them to laugh with you.

If there are technical assistants coming to your aid, give them time to do their job. You can use this time to chat with the audience or pull your thoughts together. If not, take a minute or two to see if you can remedy the situation. If not, just go ahead with your presentation as if the technology wasn’t there. Remember that audience came to see and hear you.

Have a backup plan. Technology is great, but low-tech will do the job just as well. If you have a white board or flip chart on stage, you can use that to diagram your ideas when a visual will help drive your point home.

Finally, put it behind you, literally! Go ahead and step out in front of the tech table and get started! Share your ideas, make your pitch, show your enthusiasm. Your speech should be able to stand on its own without the bells and whistles, anyway.

Have you had technology fail you before? What did you do to recover? What mistake did you make that you learned from? Would you be willing to share your successes and challenges with me? I would love to hear what happened.

Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know how it went and what you might do differently next time.

Using a Whiteboard When Presenting

Welcome back! Today I want to look at some tips about whether and how to use a whiteboard as part of your speech. You should think about a whiteboard in the same way you think about Power Point and any other type of visual aid you might want to use when you make a presentation.

What purpose will it serve? Is there a better alternative? Do you actually need it for a successful speech? What will be lacking without it? Are you willing to put the necessary time into planning on how you’ll use it and practicing with it?

Here are some pros and cons to consider when thinking about using a whiteboard.

Pros

  • – Using a whiteboard adds variety to your presentation and helps keeps your audience engaged.
  • – Adding important points, diagrams, graphs, and other pictures can help your audience remember what you talked about. This is especially true for people who are visual learners.
  • – Using a whiteboard as a tool for engagement can make people feel comfortable speaking up and help create a more collaborative environment.
  • – A whiteboard gives you something to do with your hands while you speak, even if it’s just holding the pen when you aren’t writing

Cons

  • – Visibility can be problematic. It’s challenging to write large and legibly enough for the entire audience to clearly see and easily read what you put on the board. Letters should be at least 3” high and written in a simple, easy-to-read hand.
  • – Just as with any other visual aid, using a whiteboard takes planning and practice. It is one more thing to plan for and be comfortable with using during your presentation.
  • – Whiteboards are usually on the same level as you are. It’s easy to forget to stand to the side so that you don’t block your audience’s view. It’s important for everyone in the room to be able to see it easily. Here is a short clip that demonstrates how to stand in front of and next to the board at appropriate times. Notice that the presenter shouldn’t talk while her back is to the audience. It’s a great time for pausing as we’ve talked about before.

So, if you do decide to use a whiteboard, how can you best prepare?

  • – Think about what points you want to emphasize on the whiteboard and how you will write them. Will you use individual words, phrases, diagrams, or illustrations?
  • – Will you need the entire board for any of the points? How will you transition and at what point will you need to erase the board to make room for your next point?
  • – Practice writing on the board in front of other people. At the very least, practice and then step to the back of the room to see if you can read what you have written.
  • – Be sure you are comfortable and confident integrating the board into your speech.

In closing, just remember that whiteboards are like any other visual aid. They take time and consideration if they are to become a successful part of your repertoire as a public speaker.

Do you use whiteboards in your presentations? I would love to hear your tips for making it work!

Building Your Personal Brand

Hello and welcome back! I’ve spent a lot of time recently giving you tips on how to be a successful speaker and overcome the public speaker fears shared by so many. I’ll definitely be sharing more public speaking tips in future posts, but today, I want to talk about something a bit different: your personal brand.

What is a personal brand? The easiest way to describe it is to think about what others would say if asked about you.

Or to put it another way, what is your reputation built on? And is it consistent from client to client and among your peers? Could someone easily sum up what you do in a few words?

We sometimes talk about what we want our audience to take away from our speeches, that is, what do we want them to remember about what we said? A personal brand is people’s take away about you.

Do you have a personal brand? Or have you been thinking about developing one? Let’s look at what steps can help you do just that!

Think

Spend some time reflecting on what you want you brand to be. Write down a list of five or so characteristics you want to be known for. It’s important to be able to demonstrate these characteristics across all areas of your life. Consistency counts.

Your Mission

Try putting the words you wrote down into a simple mission statement that reflects who you are and what you do. Perhaps you are a web developer specializing in health care facilities and professionals. What special knowledge or characteristics to you bring to the table for practitioners in the field?

That is what you want your mission statement to focus on. It’s what you want to be known for.

Spread the Word

How can you let others know about your brand? Social networks are certainly important. Think about the various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Do you have profiles there and, if so, do they reflect your brand? Is your profile picture clear and free of background distractions?

It’s worth spending a bit of money to have a professional headshot taken. It will serve as your online face and can be used in other ways, such as press releases or mailings to your clients.

Every Day

There is another aspect of self-marketing and personal branding that is sometimes forgotten. Some people spend so much time online that they forget to build their personal brand in real life. One way to do this is through community meetings and professional organizations.

Look for opportunities to speak to groups such as the local Rotary Club. You’ll also find professional groups in your area on meetup.com. It’s a great way to be introduced to a wide variety of people who can help you build your network and share your personal brand.

Staying on Top of Things

You’ll need to stay current on news, development, and trends in your industry. It pays to read widely and interact with others in your field, both online and in person.

How have you built your personal brand? I would love to hear what has worked for you and what your plans are for building your brand!

It takes hard work and consistent dedication, but it will pay off over time.

Talking Off the Cuff

An off-the-cuff speech is really just a few remarks made in answer to a question. It’s a mini-speech, if you will.

Nevertheless, it is a form of public speaking and sends many people into a mental panic. It can give you that “deer in the headlights” feeling.

Believe it or not, there are ways to handle it without panicking.

The Power of Threes

You can harness the power of threes in a couple of different ways.

ONE: Think about your reply as having three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Depending on your situation, your beginning might just be thanking the person who invited you to speak.

John, thanks for the question/chance to speak/etc.

The middle can be a few sentences that answer the question put to you. For example:

It has been my experience that colleges who evaluate their students’ performance and make meaningful changes have a higher number of students who graduate. Last year the faculty agreed to add the same statement about the course outcomes to their syllabi and discuss them in class the first day so that student would have a better chance at remember the goals for the course

You can wrap it up by thanking the person who asked you to speak or adding by a concluding sentence.

TWO: Focus on your remarks as a mini speech that has three points. Just have we have discussed in talking about a full-length speech, off-the-cuff remarks can be composed of three points. You can thank the person who asked for your opinion or you can begin by launching right into the first point.

Thanks, John. Our department has used three methods to collect data from potential clients with varying rates of success. Cold calling, email, and networking.

THREE: Now that you have verbally outlined you points, you can briefly talk about each one before wrapping it up.

 It’s Not All About You

And that’s a good thing! Why were you called on to speak? Most likely it was because you have knowledge or expertise that others need.

Your opinion is valued, which means the battle is already won! There is no need to prove to your colleagues or peers that you are an important part of the team.

Rather than focusing on yourself and your fear, focus on your audience and on answering the question that was asked. You may have a few seconds while walking up front to a podium or while you are thanking the group or person for asking you to say a few words.

Use that time to quickly consider their perspective and what knowledge they are lacking, then use one of the three-point strategies as you speak.

Practice, Practice, and Practice Again

Take every opportunity you can to practice off-the-cuff speaking. If you are member of Toastmasters, be sure to participate in Table Topics whenever you can.

As with anything else, repetition results in greater skill and increased confidence.

Join the conversation for more great information in my weekly emails and let me know about any tips you have to share!