When The Time Comes – It’s All You!

It’s All You

When it is finally time to get in front of your audience, you will have no more lifelines and no backup, just you giving the presentation. Although this sounds very intimidating, with proper preparation you can make the most out of being in the line of fire and give an impressive speech.

Practice Your Speech

Practicing will make all the difference in the world when it comes to giving a great speech. Make sure you create a good outline that you can easily remember, so you won’t have to rely on note-cards.

You should also practice in front of trusted friends or colleagues in somewhat of a private location. Also, make sure you practice standing up and giving your speech out loud. Although practicing isn’t guaranteed to make you perfect, it will improve your delivery and make you feel more confident and in control of your content.

Be Fueled by Desire

Think about what your motive is, what moves you, what drives you. Also, what is your purpose behind your presentation? Really dig deep and uncover these things and you will be fueled by a desire to deliver a powerful speech.

Be Nervous

Being nervous before a speech is not a bad thing. Remember you are nervous because you want to do a good job and nervousness means you have passion for your topic. You need to allow yourself to feel because in your attempt to suppress your nervousness you could end up suppressing other emotions that will add life to your talk.

Pause and Take Detours

Pausing is an important way to engage your audience and to effectively deliver your message. To create emphasis and to allow your important point to sink in, do not under estimate the power of not speaking. Also, you don’t have to stick to your outline exactly; you can play around with your speech and make it more relaxed and fun.

Being a little spontaneous and courageous will lighten up the room and make your listeners feel more comfortable. However, do trust your instincts and gauge your audience, so you don’t end up going overboard.

Nail Your Close

End your speech with some final passionate thoughts. Use your creative thinking skills and a compelling delivery to end your speech strong. Always end a speech with a call to action. What do you want to see happen as a result of your audience hearing your speech? You should close with something inspiring that will illustrate your points, like maybe a good story.

Make sure your story is brief, and the moral is clear and ties in with your topic. Finally, let your audience know that you are finished in a manner that is authoritative and that adds to your credibility.

On your next speech, I challenge you to the make the most of being in the line of fire. Remember that you can turn your anxiety into passion and make your speech a success instead of your worst nightmare.

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Make A Speech Memorable

Let’s get down to business. How can you make it easier for your audience to remember your speech? The most important thing you’ll need to do is capture their imagination.

To get started, think about a movie or book that has stayed with you over the years. Great writers and film makers know how to grab your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. How do they do it?

The Intro: Memorable books and films grab you from the very first sentence or opening scene. There is a mystery that captures your imagination.  Take a look at the opening scene from Jaws, for example.

In this case, it’s the sudden death of a beautiful girl swimming in the ocean. The cause of the death is not seen in the introduction, but it will become clear and take center stage in the movie. The audience wants to know what happened to her and whether it can be stopped.

When you take the stage, it’s best to avoid the traditional self-introduction. The people attending your presentation already know who you are.

If need be, have the person who introduces you establish your credibility, or have that background information available in a handout as people come in. It’s your job to grab their attention with a startling, profound, funny, or otherwise engaging beginning, or hook.

The Hook: Writers and screenwriters have a central story, or idea, to share. They have chosen to spend a great deal of time and money and physical, and emotional labor to tell you about it. They believe it’s important and worth the effort. What is your central idea? What do you want your audience to walk away knowing, believing, or doing? Do you believe in the idea yourself? Why?

The Audience: Writers know their audience. With some exceptions, movies and books are targeted at a very specific audience.

They know what their audience cares about and what will inspire them. They use this knowledge to inform the creative choices they make when presenting the story. Who is your audience and what inspires them?

The Sequence: All stories have a beginning, middle and end. Some storytellers choose to move in chronological order, while others have flashbacks, prequels, sequels, and or an afterword.

Think about what order will have the most impact. Is there a surprising ending that can be told first, followed by the backstory? Or is chronological a better order? What would be most engaging from your audience’s perspective?

The Spice: Visuals are like spice. They add something special to your speech. But if over-utilized, they will drown out the central message.

Limit your visual to no more than one new one every ten minutes. Like great passages in books and films, they make ideal transition markers between important points. Make the image bold and keep the words on the screen to a minimum.

The Wrap: Both your introduction and conclusion should comprise about 15% each of your speech. You’ve spent a lot of time on your presentation and want people to leave with something memorable. This is the time to conclude the story you were telling, present a call to action, remind the audience of your central point, or wow them with a compelling quote or testimony. Go out strong!

Finally, remember that the attendees came to hear you. This already give you an edge. Take that as your starting point and make the rest happen by doing the work ahead of time to engage your audience with a memorable speech. Try using some of these tips the next time you are invited to speak and let me know how it went.

What are some of your favorite ways to make a speech memorable? I would love to hear them!

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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!

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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!

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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!



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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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Top Ten Tips for Presenters

Hello and welcome! Today I’m going to do a top ten countdown, reviewing the topics we’ve been covering. If you have been reading my tips for public speaking for a while, you’ll know we’ve covered a wide variety of tips in the last few months.

If you’re new to SpeakingWithNoFear.com, you can get an idea of the kinds of topics I discuss here.

Let’s look at ten of the tips that will help you on your way to speaking with no fear.

  1. 10 – Know your material. Practice is crucial to success. It’s important to be generally comfortable with your subject, but there is no substitute for practicing your speech until you can give it without detailed notes. Joining a Toastmasters Club in your area will give you an opportunity to practice speaking on a regular basis, too.
  2. 09 – Keep your visuals simple. If you plan to use Power Point, Prezi, or any other kind of slide, limit it to those that will highlight your main points. Keep the words to a minimum and use bold images that drive your point home.
  3. 08 – Don’t read your speech. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to fall back on detailed notes or wordy slides when you are nervous. That’s why tip #10 is so important! The easiest way to lose an audience’s attention is by focusing on notes instead of on them.
  4. 07 – Move around the stage. Don’t plant yourself in one spot. Moving around as you speak allows you to directly engage different sections of the audience and it keeps them engaged as they track your movements.
  5. 06 – Vary your voice. Use volume and tone to change your speech patterns and emphasize important points. Changing your voice when you talk will keep your audience’s ear. This is especially important in tip #5.
  6. 05 – Tell a story. Using a story to make your point is one of the best ways to keep your audience interested. Weaving the parts of the story through your presentation will hold their interest and keep them wondering what will happen to your story’s characters.
  7. 04 – Put yourself in the audience. What would you want to hear if you were in their seat? Are you selling something or trying to influence opinions? What do they need to hear and see to be convinced?
  8. 03 – Use gestures, but don’t plan them. Allow yourself to use your natural gestures. Planning ahead and inserting them as you talk makes you look stiff.
  9. 02 – Ask the audience if they have questions. Questions give you a chance to take a break from speaking and encourages the audience to stay engaged. It takes the spotlight off you briefly, as well.
  10. 01 – My number one tip is to have fun! Remember that the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed! Let your enthusiasm for your subject show and your audience will love you.

What tips do you have for successful presentations? I would love to hear from you!

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Being Positive Makes Your Speech More Successful

It’s easy to forget that having a generally positive outlook on life affects us in many ways. We talk about getting up on the wrong side of bed or seeing the glass half empty or full.

It’s also easy to let a bad mood dictate how our day will go, how we will treat other people, and how we are perceived by our friends, family, and colleagues.

It naturally follows, then, that a positive attitude reflects well on us when we are speaking to others. So what can we do to “be of good cheer” more often?

Let’s take a look at some time-honored advice on the subject that has held up over the decades for very good reasons…the ideas behind them work!

Make a Choice

Fake it till you make it” is an old cliché that actually works! There is a great deal of research that proves that a sincere smile elevates mood and lowers stress, including one study mentioned at Forbes.com.

A genuine smile, scientifically known as a Duchenne smile, has much more impact than a forced one.

Guillaume Dechenne was a mid-19th century French neurologist who made the observation that a genuine smile uses muscles around both the mouth and the eyes, where as a forced one does not engage the eye muscles.

Use of the mouth and eye muscles when smiling, it was noted, can impact brain waves which in turn, may elevate mood.

Practicing a genuine smile when you aren’t in the best of moods can change your mindset and improve your outlook on the world and those around you. This will come through to others whether you are in one-on-one conversations, or addressing a group of people.

Make a Difference

Volunteering to help others can give our own emotions a boost. We sometimes hear people say that they “get more than they give” when they volunteer. They are usually referring to the gratitude that comes from those you are helping.

We also know that volunteering can help reduce stress and calm our nerves.

A few years ago, I spoke with a friend whose wife had left him on Christmas Eve just a year into their marriage.

He went to his church and spoke with his pastor who listened to him as he talked and cried, then as part of a suggested escape he sent him out to deliver meals that the church had prepared for those who couldn’t afford to feed themselves.

My friend reported that the act of helping others during his own crisis boosted his spirits and helped him get through the most difficult night of his life.

It’s Your Turn

The next time your day gets off to a less-than-ideal start, take a moment to refocus yourself and think about what you have to be grateful for. Then try an out-loud laugh to get a genuine smile on your face. You should feel at least a small difference right away!

Seek ways to give back to your community by donating your time to a local project or cause. The good you give to others will come back to you many times over.

I encourage you to join the conversation on the wide variety of simple techniques you can use to improve your speaking skill through my weekly newsletter.

Let me know what you think!

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How to Develop An Effective Speaking Voice

Welcome back! I hope you’re getting ready for a wonderful holiday season. I’m here today to talk with you about your speaking voice.

When giving a presentation, people are often focused on how they are dressed and what the audience will think of their appearance. Their voice frequently takes a back seat and only becomes noticed when they start talking and don’t like what they hear. It’s easy to let nerves and emotions overwhelm you and have a negative impact on how you sound.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can improve your voice and use it as an effective part of your public speaking tool kit. What happens when you are asked to give a presentation or know you need to have a difficult conversation and are nervous about it?

Fighting Your Nerves

The first thing that many people experience is butterflies in the stomach and a feeling of nervousness, often well in advance of their speech. The earlier you gain control of your nerves, the more confident your voice will sound when the time comes for you to speak.

One way to do this is through breathing. Whenever you feel nervous about your upcoming talk, try this: breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Controlled breathing helps lower your heartbeat and calm your nerves. Use this technique shortly before you take the stage to steady your nerves and voice.

Know Your Material

Preparation is an important factor in developing a memorable speaking voice. Be sure you know your material inside and out and are able to talk about it without your notes. This kind of in depth knowledge allows your brain to relax and your voice to sound steady and confident when you speak.

Hit the Brakes

Next is speed, a problem for many less-experienced speakers. Talking so fast that people can’t understand you is one of your body’s responses to fear. Your brain wants you to get through the speech as quickly as possible in order to get you off the stage and away from being the focus of a crowd. It’s related to the fight or flight affect you are likely familiar with.

Practice and experience are your best weapons against speed. When you are rehearsing, try this: say a series of numbers aloud and write them in the air with your finger as you talk. This is about the speed at which you should speak. Work on matching this speed with the pace of your words as your practice.

Adjust the Volume

Finally, adjust your vocal volume to the size of your audience. Next time you speak to a group, pay particular attention to the audience and their body language. Is anyone in the back straining to hear you? Or is your voice too loud for the people in the front? If you are using a microphone, you may need to adjust it. If not, make use of the space to move around as you talk and make sure you volume allows everyone to hear you.

Take a look at Robert Love’s tips on how to use the proper volume.

I would like you to try out the four-second breathing technique we discussed above. You can use it to calm your nerves in any stressful situation, not just public speaking. The more you use it, the better you will be at calming yourself before a public speaking event.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. And if you have more tips on improving your speaking voice, I would love to hear them.

Send me an email and tell me your tips!

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Moving Around The Stage

Welcome back! In this post I’m going to take a look at how you can use the very ground you stand on to strengthen your speaking skills and engage your audience. Whether you are on a stage or on the same level as your audience, the floor beneath your feet can be used to your advantage.

Know your space

If you aren’t already familiar with the space where you’ll be speaking, try to visit it before the day you will be there.

Take note of the size of your area and the audience’s space. Is there a podium? Will you be elevated on a stage?

Is there a microphone at the podium, will you be wearing one, or will there not be any amplification?

Blocking your moves

Theater and movie directors often “block” the area where they want the actors to walk and stand at different points in the production. You have an opportunity to do the same. Think about the points you want to emphasize and the transitions you want to make in your speech.

A good first step is to decide on a “home base” on the stage that you will move from and return to as you talk. Plan to move forward from the base to emphasize important points.

You can also acknowledge everyone in the audience by moving to different parts of the stage and making eye as you go.

Moving around as you talk helps people stay focused on you as well. A leaning forward just a bit as you step forward and gesture into the audience is a another great way to make use of the space.


Move Intentionally

While some people pace back and forth across the stage out of nervousness, others stand quite still and rarely move, as if they were rooted to the spot. Try not to pace from one end to the other. Instead, make deliberate moves across the stage that underscore your message.

Some people even choose to spend a brief amount of time standing in the audience as a way to make an important point.

Better than Power Point

You are your own best visual aid. Power Point slides and other visuals are great and have their place, but there is a tendency to hide behind them.

You – your movements, eye contact, gestures, and ability to engage the audience are your very best visual aids.

You can help keep your audience focused on you and your message when you take control of the stage and your movements.

What next?

Try marking out a space at home or in your office and practice moving and gesturing when you’re practicing a speech.

Once you have done it a few times, it will begin to feel very natural and you won’t even have to think about it. I would love to hear from you! How did it go?

Send me a note and sign up for my newsletter for more great tips on improving your speaking skills.

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