Category Archives: Presentations

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_

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8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

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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.

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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!)

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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_

 

 

5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting

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How confident do you feel when you stand up to speak in public?

How confident do you appear to be?

Would it surprise you to know that most people appear far more confident than they think?

Nerves before a presentation are normal and important. Feeling nervous means you care and, therefore, you will put extra effort into ensuring that your message is communicated to your audience in the best possible way. Nervous adrenaline is also useful for giving your presentation the energy it needs to keep your audience engaged, as long as you use your nervousness effectively rather than allow it to overpower you.

Almost everyone, even a professional speaker, will sometimes feel nervous giving a presentation, especially in the first few minutes until they get into their flow. But regardless of how nervous you feel, the great news is that you are unlikely to look as nervous as you feel.

In the past few weeks I have had the privilege of hearing more than a dozen speakers give talks on a variety of topics; most of them have been interesting and engaging but some could have been more effective if they portrayed a bit more confidence in themselves and their message.

So here are five easy ways to look and feel more confident when speaking in public:

  1. Dress for Success

At some stage in our life, most of us have worn an outfit that we didn’t feel good in; maybe it didn’t fit well or the colours weren’t flattering or maybe it was simply uncomfortable (unfortunately I find this with most high heel shoes!) You may have attended an event and realised that your outfit wasn’t appropriate; maybe it was too dressy, too casual, too thick or too flimsy, all of which can cause a different kind of discomfort all together.

The first step in feeling confident is to be confident in what you are wearing. Take the time to ensure your outfit is comfortable, flattering, appropriate for the event and represents you in the best possible way.

  1. Own the space

If you have been asked to give a presentation or talk it is because someone thinks you have something important or interesting to say. Even if you’re not feeling it, the audience expects you to project confidence in your message. One of the best ways to portray that confidence is through your body language as the audience will be reading this before you open your mouth to speak.

You will appear more confident if you:

  • check out and move about in the presenting space before anyone arrives so you can get comfortable in it
  • stand tall and straight with your head up
  • use the space available and don’t stand too far back from the audience (although only ever move with purpose; no aimless meandering!)
  • make eye contact with individuals in the audience rather than scanning over the tops of their heads
  • use open gestures and make them bigger if you are presenting in a larger space so that they can be seen in the back row and beyond
  • take a moment before you speak to stand and be fully comfortable before you utter your first words; this allows the audience to check you out visually and prepare themselves to listen

These suggestions will not only make you appear more confident but will help you to feel more confident too.

  1. Open strongly

You only have a few seconds for an audience to decide whether they are interested in listening to what you have to say so it’s important to engage them from the very beginning of your talk. A strong opening that connects with your audience will get you off to a great start and boost your confidence in those crucial first moments.

There are various ways to open a presentation including asking questions, telling a relevant story or incorporating the use of a prop for the element of surprise. Or you can use simple language to hook your audience in.  Here are two examples that I particularly liked from recent talks:

  • “Think back to when you were 8 years old…” – this approach allowed the audience to engage their brain and connect the topic with their own experience
  • “I wish you could have been there to see it for yourself…” – this approach was intriguing for the audience and we were immediately ready to listen to the story that followed

Decide on your opening and then practice it so that it comes across clearly and you can project confidence from the get go.

  1. Take a moment

When speaking live, all manner of things can happen to interrupt the flow of your presentation. Distractions inside or outside of the room (or inside your head!) can lead to you losing your place or having a complete brain freeze.  I saw this happen to two speakers recently and both of them handled it extremely well even though they both felt like it was a huge disaster. Whilst your first reaction may be to panic if you mess up for any reason, most times your audience won’t notice. And even if you do get complete brain freeze, your audience will not mind if you need time to find your place again. Smile and take a moment. When you have found your place, continue on from there; if you do this with confidence your audience will remember you for your message and won’t even recall you ‘taking a moment’ during your talk.

  1. Embrace The Applause

At the end of the presentation your audience will want to congratulate you on a job well done. However, I often see presenters give a great talk and then quickly scurry away the moment it is over (I have been guilty of this myself in the past). Regardless of how you feel your talk has gone, it is important to respect the audience and give them the opportunity to show their appreciation. Ensure you have a clear finish to your presentation, stand tall and look at the audience whilst they applaud you. You can also use this time as an opportunity to silently express your gratitude and thank them for taking the time to listen to you.
Even though most people cringe at the thought, I strongly recommend that you film every speech or presentation you make and then review it objectively afterwards. If you follow these tips, you’ll definitely look and feel less nervous, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how confident you appear to your audience as well as how much more effective you are at delivering your message.

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)

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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

12 TEDx Talks: 12 Lessons in Public Speaking

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On Thursday 18 February the TEDx University of Edinburgh (TEDxUoE) 2016 Conference was held in Edinburgh’s Central Hall for an audience of around five hundred people.

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission – Ideas Worth Spreading (if you’ve not heard of TED, check it out at http://www.TED.com) TEDx supports independent organisers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community and the student-led team at the university did a brilliant job of organising an exceptional event.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to coach 10 of the 12 speakers for this event and was incredibly proud of the way each of them delivered a clear, concise and engaging talk. There were a few minor hiccups on the day which can sometimes be the case with a live event, but overall the standard of talks was excellent and a fantastic example of how to do it right.

So, from my perspective as an audience member, here are some public speaking lessons inspired by each of their talks:

  1. Jo Simpson – Talk Title: The courage to trust yourself… listen to the nudges

Jo is a leading authority on values based leadership and a professional speaker. She has an excellent command of the stage and took a moment to pause before she began which demonstrated her confidence and authority. She also used just two slides; simple images that enhanced a particular part of her message. The screen was black at all other times throughout the speech so that the attention was focused on her and her important message of listening to, trusting and acting on your intuition.

  1. Sabrina Syed – Talk Title: How to feel in place, any place

Sabrina was one of three student speakers and charmed the audience with her relaxed style and touching anecdotes. By incorporating personal stories, she connected emotionally with everyone in the room. She smiled, used effective gestures to enhance our understanding and she also used her voice to great effect; her diction was clear and her tone rich, varied and expressive which was both pleasing to the ear and a useful tool to emphasise her key points.

  1. Lynne Copson – Talk Title: How to demystify academia (and why we should bother)

As a teaching Fellow in Criminology, Lynne is no stranger to speaking in front of a group of people but we could see and hear that she was nervous as she staunchly delivered her talk despite some distracting problems with the sound system. About half way through, Lynne admitted that she felt out of her comfort zone and incredibly nervous in front of the TEDx crowd, and it was this vulnerability and her self-deprecating humour that really added to her talk. Whilst I generally don’t advise admitting you’re nervous, by introducing some humour and pointing out her obvious discomfort, the audience really warmed to her proving that being your authentic self is crucial if you want to connect with people.

  1. Michael Gidney – Talk Title: Change is in your pocket

Michael is the CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation. He commenced his talk with a series of rhetorical questions which immediately engaged the audience and introduced his topic. He connected the key message of the talk to his talk title, wove in some amazing statistics and pulled at our heartstrings with horrifying photographs and stories about the people who mine for the gold we buy and wear. His message was driven home with sound bites of tweetable quotes and he included his twitter address on his final slide so that the audience could easily quote him and spread the message further.

  1. Elizabeth Dulemba – Talk Title: Is your stuff stopping you?

Elizabeth is a successful children’s author and illustrator. During her preparation she worked very hard on refining her idea to a single sentence which became the title for the talk; this ensured a succinct and easy to understand message. She had a warm relaxed delivery style enhanced by her dazzling smile, open and expressive gestures and comfortable shoes! (Many of the speakers were challenged by wearing stilettos on the red carpet rug they were standing on; always find out about the floor surface where you’ll be presenting and choose your footwear accordingly!) When Elizabeth couldn’t recall a particular word she wanted to use, rather than get flustered, she just moved on so smoothly that the audience barely noticed.

  1. Vimbai Midzi – Talk Title: Writing Ourselves into History

Vimbai was the second of the student speakers. Having worked as a freelance journalist and someone who frequently blogs, her writing skills were evident in her well-crafted talk. Apart from her beautiful posture, confident stance and charming smile, Vimbai shared a personal story about her father to engage the audience and reinforce her message. She also used the rule of three throughout her talk – this is a powerful technique which gives the listener a sense of completeness and helps to ensure that key points are remembered.

  1. Catherine Wilson – Talk Title: Making Poetry Loud

Catherine is a successful performance poet and her talk stood out as a result of this. Her skilful use language was a real treat and demonstrated how using descriptive expressions, rhyming, alliteration and other writing techniques can connect emotionally with an audience and take them on a journey. In addition, Catherine owned the stage, was fully present and really lived the words as she spoke them, taking time to think and connect with her thoughts before using her body and voice to portray the feelings linked to her words.

  1. Jennifer Culbertson – Talk Title: The hidden symmetry of language

A Chancellor’s Fellow in the Language Evolution and Computation research group at the University of Edinburgh, Jennifer was able to take a complex topic and provide a simple example to prove her argument that despite the huge differences between languages spoken around the world, language is still a unifying force of human connection. She used a well-designed slide presentation to demonstrate the idea and she concluded with the words “The final message to take home is this…” before sharing her closing comments which left a very clear message with the audience.

  1. Matthew Bailey – Talk Title: My genes don’t fit! Living in a salt-saturated society

Matthew is the Director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Science in Edinburgh and he bounded onto the stage with liveliness and enthusiasm which radiated into the audience. His energy, open body language and eye contact were very engaging. Whilst there were opportunities for some of his slides to be simplified, he did use his own hand drawn images which made his presentation more unique. After talking about the implications of too much salt in our food, Matthew also left every individual in the audience in no doubt about what they should do next. He strongly encouraged everyone to 1. get their blood pressure checked and 2. be salt aware, then reinforced his point with his final line, “We have to change it, we can change it and I think that’s an idea worth spreading.”

  1. Chloe Edmundson – Talk Title: Unleashing the potential of university eco systems

Chloe was the final student speaker and a perfect example of how taking on feedback and practising diligently can transform a presentation; the difference in her talk from our first coaching session a few months prior to the masterclass a couple of weeks ago to the actual event was outstanding. This was not only in the way the content was structured but also in her body language which was much more relaxed than I had seen previously. Chloe also incorporated a quote in her talk which neatly connected her opening to her conclusion and underpinned her message.

  1. Emma van der Merwe – Talk Title: Why I do something every day that scares me

The biography in the programme states that Emma is a storyteller, world traveller and amateur adventurer and this was demonstrated in her moving talk which started with a beautifully told personal story and was filled with anecdotes throughout.  Emma also shared a statistic about suicide about three minutes into her talk and made it relevant by explaining that since she started speaking four people somewhere in the world had died by suicide. By sharing three decisions she made and how they had helped her manage her depression she was able to demonstrate the life changing benefits of stepping beyond your comfort zone. She offered a simple challenge to the audience with her final line “Why not do something every day that scares you?” – a powerful ending to an inspiring talk.

  1. Deri Llewellyn-Davis – Talk Title: Everest: F*** the fear, it’s not real anyway

Deri is a speaker, entrepreneur and author who aims to enable businesses and individuals to fulfil their potential. Whilst sharing his personal story about being on Everest when the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015 resulting in an avalanche and the death of more than twenty people on the mountain, Deri demonstrated a number of techniques that set him apart as a speaker. His well-designed slides included personal photographs and diagrams to indicate the scale of Everest and he specifically acknowledged his Scottish audience by mentioning Ben Nevis as he talked about the mountains he has climbed. Whilst he was speaking about his own experiences, he turned this around and frequently used the most powerful word in presentations: YOU, which really helped him to connect with the audience. And he used the element of surprise; for example half way through his speech he revealed that F*** in the title was for Face The Fear, Feel The Fear and Free The Fear which brought an audible chuckle from the audience. Finally, rather than scurrying off the stage immediately he was finished as I have often seen presenters do, Deri owned the applause and gave his audience the opportunity to show their appreciation for his talk.

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During the conference, we are also treated to some videos of TED talks from around the world and I particularly enjoyed seeing Benjamin Zandar’s talk ‘The transformative power of classical music’. I loved his energy, humour and fabulous demonstrations on the piano which helped people to listen to classical music differently – watch this TED talk if you want to know how to fully engage an audience.

 

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 Mary Poppins Can Teach You About Public Speaking

Mary Poppins - linkedin2Image: Shutterstock

Whilst in Australia recently I had the pleasure of watching a brilliantly produced and performed amateur production of Mary Poppins. I had seen the professional stage show previously and the 1964 Disney film was one of my favourite films as a young girl. I watched this production completely captivated from beginning to end and, as is so often the case when I attend live theatre, I identified a number of tips that can be easily transferred to your talks and presentations.

Use the Element of Surprise

Mary Poppins is a magical show but given the relatively small budget of an amateur production, I didn’t expect the special effects to be particularly good. However, I was surprised and delighted to see Mary Poppins fly across the auditorium to make a grand entrance and to watch her glide up the stairs unexpectedly during the second act. Not to mention her ability to pull out a lamp, a mirror and a coat rack from her carpet bag! You can use the element of surprise to keep your audience engaged and entertained during your presentation.

Repetition Repetition Repetition

How often have you had a set of song lyrics stuck in your head? The phrase ‘Anything can happen if you let it’ was used in a song as well as in the dialogue during the show. And who can forget that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Just like when we get song lyrics stuck in our head, repeating key phrases in your talk will help your audience to remember your message.

Tell a Story

The story of Mary Poppins may not appeal to everyone but it does have all the elements of a good story – interesting characters, magical settings, plot twists and turns, conflicts and resolutions, morals and life lessons. People love listening to stories so by incorporating stories in your presentation you will ensure your material is more relevant, interesting and engaging for your audience.

If You Feel Good, Your Audience Will Feel Good

Throughout the entire production the cast were completely committed to their characters and they put 100% effort into ensuring that their production was the best it could possibly be. They all clearly loved being on stage and this positive energy exploded into the auditorium, generating a warm feel good factor for the audience. When you are asked to give a talk, it is important that you approach it with a positive mind set. Even if you don’t enjoy presenting, you need to find a way to turn that around, because if you’re not enjoying yourself or interested in what you’re saying, no one else will be either.

Proper Rehearsals Are Vital

Unlike some amateur productions I have seen, the cast and crew in this show all knew exactly what they were doing; in fact it was probably the slickest ‘amdram’ musical I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The musicians were in time, the singing was harmonious, the dancing was tight, the set changes were seamless; this was a team of people who were clearly prepared, extremely well-rehearsed and committed to excellence. As an audience member I was extremely satisfied; I felt my evening’s entertainment was exceptional value for my money. Regardless of whether your audience has paid a fee to hear you speak, they are paying you with their time; therefore, you owe it to them to prepare and practice so that you can give your best possible ‘performance’.

Things Will Go Wrong

No matter how much you plan, prepare and practice, there is always a chance that something will go wrong. In this particular production there were two quite noticeable incidents. Firstly, a massive crash could be heard backstage when one of the actors exited the set (I’m still not sure what it was but the actor appeared unhurt when he returned to the stage!) Secondly, Mr Banks experienced a challenge when a vital prop caught on part of the set and he had to give it a huge yank to free it; he simply said “Whoops!” (which produced a short chuckle from the audience) and he carried on with the scene. Audiences recognise that live presentations and performances won’t always be perfect. Whilst they won’t tolerate lack of preparation, if you have clearly done everything you can to prepare effectively, you’ll find that people are very forgiving of any mishap. As a presenter, you need to take any distraction or interruption in your stride, remain focused and continue your talk as planned.

And of course if all else fails, you can simply saySupercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

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


Mel Sherwood 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