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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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