Category Archives: Presenting

Lessons from Hosting the Scottish EDGE Final

Mel Sherwood EDGE10

If you had an opportunity to compere the final of the UK’s largest funding competition, how would you feel? If you’re like most people, including me, you may feel a little daunted by the prospect!

The Scottish EDGE final takes place twice a year and is an eagerly anticipated event in the entrepreneurial calendar. Held at RBS Conference Centre in Gogarburn and attended by 600 people across the course of the event, audiences this round saw twenty promising entrepreneurs pitch their businesses plans to an expert panel of judges in order to win a slice of a £1.3 million prize pot.

I’ve been involved with the EDGE in some way or another since the first round 4 years ago. I’ve run pitch workshops for applicants and have personally coached more than 30 EDGE, Young EDGE and Wildcard EDGE winners who have secured more than £1.25 million between them. So I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to host the Round 10 final.

Having sat through most of the EDGE finals I was aware that the host has a massive duty to keep the energy and momentum up throughout the day for the benefit of the entrepreneurs who are pitching as well as for the audience.

With that kind of responsibility on my shoulders, I was keen to do a good job in the role and ensure it was engaging, informative and entertaining. I pitched some ideas to Scottish EDGE CEO, Evelyn McDonald, and COO, Steven Hamill, who embraced my suggestions to increase audience engagement and Steven incorporated it into the script he kindly drafted for me. We included activities that required audience interaction such as ‘2 Truths and a Lie’ about the EDGE team which generated some laughs as we learnt more about each of them, and we asked the audience to guess the answers to questions such as ‘What is the total number of jobs EDGE winners have created?’  We also ran a competition for audience members to come up with an alternative acronym to EDGE and they came up with some crackers. Some of my favourites included ‘Everyday Delivers Grief for Entrepreneurs’, ‘Enjoying Da Gogarburn Experience’ and ‘Educating Drivers in Good Etiquette’ (you had to be there!) Incidentally, EDGE actually stands for Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day after seeing twenty entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone to give their #pitchtastic pitches in front of a formidable panel and a packed auditorium, I got out of my comfort zone to wrap up the event by singing a song I wrote to capture the spirit of the EDGE. This was a bit of a challenge for me because I feel the same way about singing as many people feel about public speaking – super anxious, but thankfully it seemed to go okay!

Overall, the day went really well and there has been some great feedback, but it didn’t happen without any planning or preparation – there was a whole fabulous team of people involved in bringing it together and as the host I had to make sure I did my bit to ensure the success of the event.

Congratulations to everyone involved and to the twenty businesses who delivered such a high standard of pitches – whether you won or not, you were all absolutely #pitchtastic!

If you have the opportunity to host an event, here are some of my tips to ensure you are well prepared to ensure everything runs smoothly:

Before the day

  • Research the audience and why they are in attendance
  • Understand the event and its themes so that you can align your comments and reinforce key messages
  • Find out exactly what the organisers are expecting you to do
  • Prepare a script, or at least bullet points to ensure you cover everything that needs to be mentioned
  • Prepare some relevant anecdotes and stories you can weave in throughout the day
  • Prepare introductions for all speakers; make sure they are happy with what you will say
  • If hosting a panel, research the panel and prepare introductions and questions
  • Think through possible problems and prepare some solutions should the worst occur
  • Think about ways you may be able to interact with the audience to keep them engaged
  • Ask about the pronunciation of all names or words you are unfamiliar with (I did this for the majority and was still caught out by some slightly different to ‘normal’ pronunciation so always check every detail with the actual person you are introducing)
  • Practice what you are going to say, especially any unfamiliar words or phrases
  • Visit the venue where possible; at the very least obtain pictures so you have an idea of the set up and layout of seating, etc

On the day

  • Arrive early (I arrived just before 8am for a 9.30am start)
  • Let the organisers know you have arrived and ask if there is anything additional you should know or anything they might need you to do to help prepare for the event
  • Familiarise yourself with the space, stand on the stage, walk up any steps, check where the lectern and other props/staging might be, note where you will enter and exit the stage
  • Sit in a few different seats in the auditorium so you can see what it will be like from the audience’s perspective
  • Find out about any prepared fire alarm tests, where the toilets are, etc
  • Meet sound and lighting technician/s (they will be your best friend and ensure you are seen and heard)
  • Find out where and when you will need to get your microphone and make sure you are there at that time
  • Anticipate questions the speakers may have (e.g. how to use the slide ‘clicker’)
  • Warm up your body and voice so that you aren’t warming up on the audience’s time
  • Take a moment to prepare yourself mentally and get into the right state before the event commences

During the event

  • Start strongly and positively; remember you are setting the scene for the event
  • Stay alert and ready to adapt as required
  • Vary your voice and use open body language to ensure your delivery is engaging
  • Listen to the speakers so that you can incorporate a comment about their talk when thanking them
  • Keep to time; you may need to fill some time between speakers but remember it’s not about you so don’t go on and on leading the event to run overtime
  • Smile, be lively and enthusiastic and keep your energy up throughout the entire event

After the event

  • Thank the organisers, the tech crew and anyone else who has supported you through the event
  • Review your performance – think about what went well and what you would do differently in the future
  • Relax and recover!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

7 Vocal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Presentation

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What does your voice say about you? Whether you like it or not, people will make judgements about you based on your voice. They’ll make assumptions about where you’re from, how well educated you are or how confident you are.

Regardless of the words you speak, your voice will impact on how engaging a speech or presentation is for your audience and how well your message is received.  Here are 7 vocal mistakes than can ruin your presentation:

Monotone

When my workshop participants discuss what makes a poor presentation, inevitably someone will mention how awful it is to listen to a presenter speaking in a monotone. It’s boring and tiring to listen to and it gives the impression that you’re not interested in what you are saying or that you don’t care about your audience.

Too Fast

When you speak too quickly it’s very difficult for your audience to keep up with what you’re saying. We often speed up our speech when we’re nervous or want to get a presentation over and done with but this doesn’t serve your audience. It will most likely be the first time they have heard your message and they need time to process the information you are providing.

Too Slow

Whilst it is important to slow down your speech when giving a presentation, speaking too slowly can be frustrating for your audience and sometimes make you sound uncertain about what you’re saying.

Too Soft

As a communicator, it is your responsibility to ensure your listeners can hear what you’re saying. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hear someone who is not projecting their voice appropriately. It can make a presenter seem like they don’t care and also make you sound nervous and uncertain about what you’re speaking about.

Too Loud

People who speak slightly louder than normal are often perceived to be more powerful and confident; however, if you speak too loudly it can sometimes sound far too aggressive. It’s uncomfortable for people to listen to and you lose the nuances that help communicate your message.

Upward Inflection

An upward inflection at the end of a sentence will make what you’re saying sound like a question which can make you seem uncertain and undermine your credibility. Compare a downward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood” with an upward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood?” As an Australian I am very conscious of this common vocal trait!

Trailing Off

Whether it’s through nerves, habit or simply running out of air, many presenters start off a sentence with the right amount of projection and trail off as they end the sentence. Often this is repetitive which creates an undesirable rhythm and pattern that’s hard to break and difficult to listen to.

Are you making any of these mistakes? One of the best ways to find out, apart from asking someone, is to record yourself delivering your presentation and listen back to it (if you record it on video, make sure you listen back to the audio without the visual).

If you find you are making these mistakes, you’ll obviously need to add in some vocal variety to keep your audience engaged – varying the pace, the rhythm, the emphasis and the volume will help to bring your speech to life. You can do this consciously; however, the best place to start is to really connect with your material and fully express how you feel about it – keep it conversational and allow your passion and enthusiasm for sharing your message to give your voice the extra energy and variety required.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

Ten (More) Parallels Between Running and Public Speaking

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Back in the summer of 2016, I decided to take up running and wrote a post about how running is similar to public speaking.

Due to some changes in my personal circumstances, running became less of a priority and until recently I hadn’t run for months.

But with my alternative way of approaching goal setting (which you can read about here), I am starting to make running a part of my life. It was whilst out running recently that I came up with ten more parallels between running and public speaking:

  1. Change your mind about your ability

No doubt you have beliefs that impact on the way that you live your life. For me, one of the beliefs that has continued throughout my life is that I’m not very sporty. I never imagined I would be able to class myself as a runner. But one day I just changed my mind. I made the decision to get out and run and I just did it. And now, even though I don’t run that fast, I still run so I assume I can call myself a runner! Change can happen in a moment and it’s so simple. If you fear public speaking, the first step is to decide not to fear it any longer. If you think you’re no good a pitching and presenting, change your mind about your current ability and then take steps to improve.

  1. You are capable of more than you think you are

I have completely surprised myself over the last 2 weeks, running further and faster than I ever thought would be possible (my achievements may not be spectacular to anyone else but for me it’s amazing!) By not setting myself a specific target for each week, or even for each run, I have been able to exceed anything I would have thought I was capable of so I have decided to take this approach into my business and life in general. And you can too. If you think you can’t give a presentation or pitch your business with confidence, think again! We are all capable of so much more than we think we are so give yourself a chance to find out just how much.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the start and finish line

I’m sure you are familiar with the streets around your house, and so am I. As a result, no matter which route I’m running, if I start at my house I feel at ease because I know where I am and what it’s like to run on those streets. My run might take me into unfamiliar avenues, over unfamiliar terrain or through unfamiliar areas, but as I get closer to returning to my home, the environment becomes more familiar and I feel confident as I approach the end of my run. It’s the same with public speaking – if you familiarise yourself with the start and the end of your presentation you can begin and end with confidence.

  1. Stop and take a breath if you need to

For my last two longer runs I have allowed myself to stop at the halfway point, take stock, do some stretches and breathe deeply. This has helped to focus on the homeward journey and re-energise me so that I could run better than I would have had I not stopped. One of the biggest challenges for many people who speak in public is that when they’re nervous they talk more quickly and forget to breathe deeply. This makes them seem more nervous and makes the experience unpleasant for the presenter and the audience. Remember that it’s okay to pause for a moment to breathe deeply or take a sip of water before carrying on; both you and your audience will appreciate it.

  1. The thought of it is often worse than the reality

Sometimes I put off going for a run and tell myself I can’t be bothered or I think it will hurt or it might rain or any one of dozens of other excuses I feed myself. But once I make the commitment to go, I usually feel fine after the first few minutes after which I get into a flow and a rhythm. And most people I know find the same thing with public speaking – the thought of it is often worse than the reality. Almost everyone gets nervous before giving an important presentation but if you’ve done your preparation you’ll generally find that after the first few moments you’ll feel fine and get into the flow so it’s important to know that and trust that it will be fine once you get started.

  1. Even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, keep going

As I am new to running, I don’t find it that easy or comfortable and a few days ago I also had a stitch to contend with. But I wasn’t prepared to let myself down by stopping so I embraced the discomfort and kept going because I knew that it would be worth it in the long run. When you’re giving a presentation, you may experience some discomfort but it’s obviously important to keep going – you don’t want to let your audience down or yourself. The discomfort will be worth it in the long run when you experience the personal satisfaction of having delivered a great presentation and you receive applause for a job well done.

  1. Wear a comfortable and appropriate outfit

One of the most important pieces of running kit is appropriate shoes and I will happily spend a lot of money for a pair that are supportive and comfortable. What I haven’t yet invested in is clothing designed for running so the other day one of the tops I was wearing kept riding up my torso. It was underneath another top so my belly wasn’t completely bare but it did get quite cold! It made me think about how important your outfit is in public speaking too. I have seen people experience embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions on stage or become completely distracted from what they were saying because they were worried about their appearance. If you are giving a presentation, choose your outfit carefully – it must be flattering, comfortable and appropriate for the situation.

  1. You’ll have good days and not so good days

The first day I started running again I was really surprised at how good I felt. I seemed to have energy, my legs felt strong and I was able to run further than I thought I could. My next run felt like I was wading through treacle; I still managed to run but I didn’t seem to have the same energy and it didn’t seem to flow. This happens with public speaking too – sometimes you’ll deliver a fantastic presentation where you feel your message is flowing and the audience is engaged and appreciative; other times it might feel a bit clunky and as though you didn’t connect as well with the audience. This is normal, even for professional speakers. Don’t let it put you off and don’t worry about it; just accept that some presentations feel better than others.

  1. Watch your posture

If I’m getting tired towards the end of a run, I notice that my body tends to slump forward and I have my head down which makes it harder to run efficiently and to feel good about it and stay motivated. As soon as I adjust my posture and hold my head up, I get a burst of energy and feel confident that I can keep running for longer. When you’re presenting, make sure you stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head up. You will not only look more confident but you’ll feel it too – exactly the way you want to feel when speaking in public.

  1. Smile and enjoy it!

Whilst at the moment I enjoy the feeling I get when I actually finish running, my ultimate aim is to enjoy the entire activity of running. And the more I do it and the more I improve the more enjoyable it is becoming. To help that along, I have started consciously smiling when I run and what a difference that makes to my enjoyment levels; I almost manage to ignore the burn in my legs. It’s the same with public speaking – even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you smile and show you’re enjoying yourself, your audience will enjoy themselves and you’ll feel good too.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

On Stage RBS lectern 1b

I have been a speaker and/or an attendee at hundreds of conferences and events and it often surprises me how many presenters are happy to stand behind a lectern and deliver a speech; it really doesn’t do them any favours when it comes to communicating their message effectively.

Here are 8 problems connected with presenting from behind a lectern:

  1. It creates a physical and psychological barrier to what you’re saying
  2. It can seem like you’re hiding which can portray a lack of confidence (you may well be feeling less than confident but in most cases you don’t want your audience to know!)
  3. When your hands are not in view it can create a mistrust of you
  4. It restricts your movement and gestures, therefore limiting an essential part of your communication
  5. It can feel like you’re giving a lecture which in most people’s minds equates to boring so they switch off and don’t listen to you
  6. You will be tempted to lean on it or grip it instead of using gestures
  7. It can be more difficult to see the audience and their reactions to your presentation
  8. It can be more difficult for the audience to see you and if they can’t see you they are less inclined to listen to you

It can also look ridiculous if you’re short like me as the photo above taken at Royal Bank of Scotland Conference Centre shows. Compare that with the image below which really highlights the difference stepping out from behind the lectern can make.

On Stage RBS 7c

Whilst in some circumstances the lectern can define a position of power and credibility that you may not have, in most cases the benefits of coming out from behind the lectern are far greater. For example:

  • It portrays the message that you are pleased to be there and that you want to communicate effectively with your audience
  • It shows that you know your content and that you don’t need to hide behind a lectern
  • It makes you seem more approachable
  • It helps you to build rapport and create a better connection with your audience
  • It helps you appear more natural
  • It increases trust
  • It helps you to make good eye contact with your audience
  • It adds visual interest for your audience
  • It stops you relying on your notes and helps you to speak from the heart
  • It ensures people can see you and your entire body, therefore you have more of your communication tools available to reinforce your message with your gestures and movement – behind a lectern you only have your voice and face (if you’re tall enough for people to see you!)
  • It gives you the opportunity to anchor different parts of your speech to different parts of the stage or presenting area e.g. walk to a position and stop to deliver your next point before walking to another part of the stage

I don’t know about you but as an audience member I always find that talks and presentations delivered without the lectern are far more engaging; the speakers may make themselves more vulnerable but there is power in that. As a speaker I like to move about the audience where possible and when I do so I find I get a much better connection with people. There are of course challenges with that, such as moving out of the light, away from the microphone or out of camera shot if it is being filmed. However, if the organisers know in advance that you want to step out from behind the lectern they will usually be keen to make sure you have this option; just make sure you give them plenty of notice of your requirements and always ask for a lavelier microphone where possible to give you the most flexibility.

As a presenter it can sometimes be scary stepping out from behind a lectern, but the benefits to the way your audience relate to you and receive your message are so great that I encourage you to give it a try (even if you’re usually a lectern gripper like the woman in the cartoon below!)

LecternGripper_Final_2 sm

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

 

 

10 Ways That Running is Similar to Public Speaking

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Have you ever committed yourself to doing something without having any idea of how you were going to achieve it? I’m a big believer in saying ‘yes’ to things and working out the how later; it has served me well and given me many opportunities that I may not have had if I had stopped to think first!

With this in mind, and having recently come to the conclusion that I need to improve my fitness, I decided to commit to doing Julie Creffield’s Five Weeks to 5K run. I’ve never been very sporty; I also have an aversion to gyms and I certainly couldn’t call myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination – I had no idea whether it would be possible and but I was never going to find out if I didn’t try.

So over the past few weeks I have found myself out ‘running’ (if you can call my slow shuffle for a few minutes at a time ‘running’!) Of course, I rarely stop thinking about my work so during a recent ‘run’ I started thinking about the parallels between my running and public speaking.

Get your mindset right

I will never know if I am capable of running 5km unless I try it but I have to believe it’s possible. It’s the same with public speaking. You have to look at your beliefs about your ability to speak well in public and find a way to believe that you can. I often help clients to shatter their limiting beliefs and replace them with new positive beliefs that will allow them to move forward with their public speaking goals. If you are serious about wanting to improve your public speaking, you need to have the right mindset. Get help with this if you need to – work with a coach, speak with a trusted friend or mentor or look into hypnotherapy, EFT, resonance re-patterning or any of the many other options available to help you get your mindset right.

(By the way, I have a belief that everyone can learn to speak well in public so that means you too!)

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

I don‘t feel mentally or physically comfortable about running. The idea of what others might think about me huffing and puffing along the road with my wobbly bits wobbling makes me feel uncomfortable! Pushing my body beyond what it is used to challenges me physically. But unless I stretch beyond what is comfortable I know I’ll never improve. Many people feel that public speaking is way out of their comfort zone but unless you stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable you won’t be able to develop any further than your current level of ability.

Start small

5km is a good goal to have when you initially start running. I’ve still not run 5km without stopping but each day I try to run a bit longer and by next week I know I’ll be able to run the full distance. If I had set myself the goal of a running marathon it may have felt like too much and I would have stopped well before reaching my goal. When you’re starting your public speaking journey, start small. Your longer term goal might be to speak at a big event in front of 1,000 people, but give yourself a more attainable goal when you’re starting out. That might be delivering a 30 second pitch at a networking event, challenging yourself to speak up in a meeting, joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters International or getting yourself a coach.

Just do it!

I know will never get good at running by just thinking about it. And you will never get good public speaking by just thinking about it. Until you get out and speak in front of an audience you will never know what works and what doesn’t, you will never be able to build your confidence, develop your own style or to implement any learning. It is the actual doing of it that helps you grow and improve so stop thinking and start doing!

Enjoy the high of achieving your goals

Today I managed to run half a kilometre more than I did yesterday before stopping for a short rest; I felt a great sense of achievement and it gave me a bit of a high. When you have set yourself and achieved a small goal in relation to your public speaking, make sure you take a moment to congratulate yourself and enjoy the feeling. If you’re someone who avoids public speaking, it might surprise you to know that just like running, many people find that once they’re over the initial resistance they experience a high after public speaking as well.

Learn from experts

In the Five Weeks to 5K programme, Julie Creffield provides helpful advice and encouragement delivered directly to my inbox each week. As I get further into running I will consider hiring a coach to review my technique and help me find ways to improve. Even as an experienced speaker, I am always looking to further develop my own expertise so I read books, watch webinars and regularly work directly with experts who help me refine my skills even further. If you want to improve your running or your public speaking, learn from the experts.

Get support

As part of the Five Weeks to 5K programme, participants can join a facebook group where they can ask questions, share their challenges and encourage each other. You should do the same for public speaking; there’s only so much you can prepare in isolation, eventually you need to speak in front of people – practice your presentation in front of a supportive audience who can give you constructive feedback, help and encouragement. Choose these people wisely – sometimes your family, though they may mean well, might not be the best for this; a public speaking group is always a good option.

Warm up

Just like an athlete warms up to ensure they are in peak condition before a race, so should we warm up before a giving a presentation. With my background as a performer I never warm up on the audience’s time. As a presenter, it is your responsibility to show your audience the best possible version of yourself and ensure your communication tools are sharp. You should ensure that your body, voice and mind are thoroughly warmed up so that you bring the best energy and delivery to your speech.

Awareness is key

When out running I become very aware of my body and how it’s performing. I notice when I’m breathless (a lot!), when my muscles are feeling tired or when I feel a twinge of pain somewhere. When presenting, you should be aware of your body as well. Are your gestures appropriate and effective or are they repetitive and distracting? Is your voice rich and expressive or are your nerves making it high pitched and squeaky? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Are you sounding apologetic and unsure because your voice is too soft or you are including too many ums and errs? The more aware you are, the more effectively you can adapt your delivery during your presentation and work on improving it for the future.

Take time to reflect

At the end of each run I take a moment to reflect on how I felt and how I can improve for next time. I do the same with my talks and workshops to ensure that I am always growing and developing my ability. At the end of your presentation or speech, ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go so well and what would you do differently next time? Then incorporate your learning into your future talks to ensure continuous improvement.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

What Dolly Parton Can Teach You About Public Speaking

Dolly Parton Quote

Some time back I was watching a re-run of Glastonbury 2014 on late night TV and I was struck by Dolly Parton’s amazing ability to engage a 180,000 strong crowd. The more I watched the more I realised that her techniques could be implemented in many public speaking situations. So here’s what Dolly Parton can teach you about public speaking:

Be Authentic

Dolly’s carefully crafted personal brand and image “modelled on the town tramp” is unique to her and she lives and breathes it. She is completely comfortable with it and she owns it, regardless of what other people think.

Lesson: Be true to yourself, be aware of your personal brand, be consistent and be yourself when speaking – don’t try to copy other speakers or be someone you’re not. As Dolly says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Be Brilliant At What You Do

There is no denying that Dolly knows how to sing and entertain a crowd. She has put in thousands of hours perfecting her craft and it shows when she is on a stage. She and her band were well rehearsed ensuring her performance was top quality.

Lesson: If you are going to speak in public you owe it to your audience to prepare and rehearse thoroughly and give the best presentation you can.

Wear An Appropriate Outfit

Rhinestones, rhinestones and more rhinestones adorn Dolly in concert and not only was her sparkly white outfit appropriate for the occasion, but the colour and style ensured her petit frame stood out against the background on the huge stage. It was also flattering, highlighting her best features and in line with her personal brand and audience expectations.

Lesson: Wear an appropriate outfit that fits and flatters you and is comfortable to present in. Find out as much as you can about the event, the dress code and the room you will be presenting in and choose your outfit accordingly.

Involve Your Audience

Dolly’s relaxed and natural interactions with her audience ensured they were hanging on her every word. She shared stories and kept people engaged with fun banter in between songs, as well as audience participation throughout by encouraging them to clap and sing along (not that they need much encouragement for this!)

Lesson: Today’s audiences want to be included in your presentation; keep your style conversational and stay connected with them by asking questions, speaking to them rather than at them and finding ways to involve them.

Tailor Your Material For The Audience

With a good understanding of the event and the festival goers that would be attending, Dolly ensured that most of the songs she played were upbeat. She played lots of her well-known crowd pleasers, interspersed with some of her newer material. In addition, she even wrote a song especially for the event about the mud – “we won’t let it ruin our high” – as the crowd chanted “mud, mud, mud” right back at her. She also acknowledged the setting and connected with them through tales of her own upbringing in the country.

Lesson: Presentations are never about you; they are always about the audience and that should be the starting point for any speech or presentation. Regardless of what you want to tell them, always do your research and look for ways to tailor your content to connect with the audience.

Appreciate Your Support Team

Dolly recognises that she couldn’t do what she does without her amazingly talented band and support crew. She took the opportunity to introduce every band member expressing her admiration and respect for them whilst allowing them their own moment to shine, and she encouraged the audience to show their appreciation by clapping and cheering for each individual.

Lesson: If you are speaking at any event, it is important to remember that the event doesn’t just happen by itself. Always recognise the organisers and show appreciation for the tech crew who will be working hard to ensure you can be heard and seen by the audience.

Adapt To The Size of the Audience

At five foot tall, Dolly could have easily been swamped by the massive stage and surroundings. One of the ways she was able to own the space and be more easily seen was to incorporate large gestures and use the entire stage area by moving to different parts of it which enabled her connect with different sections of the audience.

Lesson: Adapt your presenting style to the size and type of venue; in a larger space you will need to lift your energy and use larger gestures than in a smaller more intimate setting.

Be Likeable

Dolly doesn’t take herself too seriously and this makes her incredibly likeable. Add to this humility, respect for everyone around her, a great sense of humour, fun antics and a traffic stopping smile and people are easily drawn to her.

Lesson: Even if your audience may not like the message to have to share, you will receive a better response to your presentation if you are likeable. Being friendly, humble, respectful, open and remembering to smile will definitely help with this. As Dolly says, “Smile – it increases your face value.”

 

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Public Speaking lessons from a Drag Show (Part 2)

Drag queen 3

A while back I wrote Part 1 of a post about Public Speaking Lessons from a Drag Show. It was inspired by an experience I had on holiday when I went to see a drag show called MHT, or the Music Hall Tavern. The advertising guarantees that it will be the funniest night of your holiday and looking back it probably was; despite some drawbacks regarding the venue and the food, the cast were talented performers and each number brought something new and fun to watch.

The show inspired me to think about what lessons we could learn when it comes to public speaking. My initial post covered the first six lessons and here are five additional lessons:

  • Interact With Your Audience

Each of the three performers continually interacted with the audience; even when they weren’t speaking, they used great eye contact and facial expressions to really connect with everyone in attendance. They also asked questions, found out people’s names and any special celebrations and made people feel special in some way. There was a little bit of audience participation but by speaking with people as they arrived, they had already worked out which audience members would be comfortable with that and would play along during the show.

Lesson: Rather than being talked at, audiences like to be involved. That may be through asking rhetorical questions that get them thinking and responding in their minds, getting them to raise their hand to indicate their views on a particular point or it could be requesting individuals to join you to help with a demonstration to illustrate your point.

  • Look Your Best

The costumes for the show were well made, well fitted and had the obligatory and highly appropriate feathers and spangles. Some costumes were designed specifically for comic effect and they helped tell the story. The ‘girls’ were extremely well groomed and each exuded their own style and flair in their makeup, hairstyle and accessories.

Lesson: When you are delivering a presentation or a talk, you are the centre of attention (I know, this is the part most people hate about public speaking); therefore, you need to ensure you look the part and dress appropriately for the situation. Like it or not, people do make judgements about our appearance so make sure you look your best. Find out beforehand what the dress code is and ensure you wear clothing and accessories that are clean, comfortable, flattering and in line with the event.

  • Smile and Enjoy Yourself

It was very clear that the performers (and the supporting staff for that matter) were thoroughly enjoying themselves. The energy they exuded from the stage was fun, completely charming and a joy to be a part of which kept us smiling and entertained all evening.

Lesson: If you don’t enjoy yourself, you can’t expect your audience to! Obviously this depends on the situation and the topic of your talk, but a smile is one of the quickest ways to build rapport so share yours freely along with your passion and enthusiasm for your topic.

  • Commit To Being the Best You Can Be

What I particularly loved about the show was each of the performer’s complete commitment to their character, their performance and the overall show. They gave everything they had to bring it alive and their energy was infectious. Every move was purposeful and they were completely present and focused on the audience from beginning to end.

Lesson:  As a presenter, you should be aiming to give your best every time you speak. You will be judged on the quality of your talk, the amount of effort you put into your preparation and the way you deliver your material. Be authentic, passionate, and fully present; and concentrate on delivering your message in a way that is engaging and meaningful to your audience.

  • Evaluate Your Performance

Each audience member was encouraged to complete a feedback form providing a rating and comments on the food, the venue, the show and the overall experience. There was an opportunity to provide our contact details to go on the mailing list for the show’s upcoming UK tour and, whilst I’m not rushing back to see it again, a lot of people were very keen to be kept informed. This helps with marketing of course and is also great way for the producers to review and evaluate the show on an ongoing basis.

Lesson: Always review your presentation to help you to continue to develop your skills. Ask yourself “What went well? What didn’t go so well? What would I do differently next time?” (Film footage of your presentation and the audience’s reactions will assist with this process.) Where possible ask your audience for feedback as well; and if you are keen to grow your mailing list, a well-designed feedback form offering to email additional material relating to your talk can be a good way to obtain their contact details (just be sure to let them know you’ll be adding their details to your list!)

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential