Tag Archives: audience

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_

 

 

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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

 

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

 

Public Speaking Lessons from a Drag Show (Part 1)

drag queenImage: Shutterstock

Whilst on holiday recently I had the opportunity to see a drag show called MHT, or the Music Hall Tavern. The producers guarantee 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.

Given that I struggle to relax on holiday, I immediately started to think about what lessons we could learn when it comes to public speaking. There were many lessons so I have divided this article into two parts; here are the first six lessons:

  1. Get Your Marketing Right

It is crucial to promote your talk or presentation to the right audience in the right way; this is highlighted in a fabulous book called Watertight Marketing by Bryony Thomas (call me sad but this was my holiday reading!) The Music Hall Tavern show is aimed at British tourists so it is promoted by the hotels and tour companies through their brochures and holiday reps.

Lesson: Think about how your talk is being marketed and to whom; support the organisers of the event at which you will be speaking and help to market it through your own connections and social media channels so that you have a good crowd of your ideal audience in attendance.

  1. Research Your Audience

I harp on about this continually with my clients, masterclass participants and through my social media posts, but it is absolutely crucial to know your audience. The drag show audience were British tourists so the show included lots of relevant references such as popular television shows and commercials (not all of them resonated with me given that I’m Australian but the rest of the audience seemed to love it!!)

Lesson: Take the time before you create your presentation to understand your audience and their perspective so that you can create an engaging presentation that really connects with them. (Get your free Know Your Audience guide at www.grow-your-potential.com)

  1. Build Rapport Before You Get On Stage

When we arrived at the Music Hall Tavern venue (bizarrely in an aerodrome), one of the cast members welcomed us at the entrance for a quick chat before the show. After a short wait we were ushered to our seats but not before having a quick photo with the other two ‘girls’. Of course this is all geared towards making you want to buy a photo of you with two drag queens but the other benefits for the performers are that these interactions enabled them to start building rapport with the audience before they even took to the stage.

Lesson: Aim to interact with your audience before your presentation, whether that is in the lead up to the event or immediately before you present. This will help you gain information you can use in your talk to help engage them and will also ensure you have some familiar faces in the audience when you stand up to give your presentation.

  1. Appropriate Humour

Despite our expectations that the show might be ‘tacky’, ‘touristy’ and potentially ‘distasteful’, we were genuinely entertained and found ourselves laughing throughout. Apart from one particular remark (which admittedly would have possibly only felt uncomfortable to me) the comedy was appropriate and relevant. Much of it was visual humour due to the exceptional performances of the three drag queens who incorporated subtle innuendo, used relevant and funny facial expressions and body language as well as sharing self-deprecating humour to entertain the enthralled audience.

Lesson: Inject some appropriate humour into your presentation to keep your audience engaged and entertained. Done right, humour can also help your message to stick.

  1. Rehearse, But Allow For Spontaneity

The show we saw was extremely well rehearsed and for the most part it ran smoothly. However, as with any live performance, occasionally things went wrong. One particular incident involved part of a costume falling off one of the performers who completely lost it and cracked up laughing. The trained performer in me thinks that losing focus in this way is an absolute no no; however, it was quite amusing to see both performers in this particular sequence struggling to maintain their composure and it made it extremely funny to watch. Whether this entire event was planned was difficult to know, but the fact that they were extremely well rehearsed and comfortable with the material ensured that they were able to stray from the ‘script’, acknowledge and embrace the situation before getting back to the correct material showed their professionalism and preparation.

Lesson: As presenters, we need to be well prepared and practiced to easily manage any unforeseen interruption to our presentation.

  1. Admit mistakes and laugh about them

In another unexpected moment, one of the performers seemed to completely forget what they were meant to be doing. Instead of pulling a face and looking nervous and uncomfortable as I have seen many performers and presenters do in various similar circumstances, this performer smiled and laughed at the situation and caught up with the others.

Lesson: In most instances it is better to just move on as if the mistake didn’t happen (the audience is unlikely to have noticed unless you draw attention to it.) But if you make an obvious mistake, take it in your stride, admit it, make a joke of it if you can and move on – in most cases your audience will forgive you for your honesty (they’re probably grateful that you’re the one on stage, not them, and will applaud your honesty accordingly!)

Those are the first six of the lessons I identified after watching this drag show – I trust you found them useful for your own public speaking. In a future post I’ll share the remaining lessons; in the meantime, what do you think? Have you learned any public speaking tips from watching another form of live performance?

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

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak 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 follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

11 Ways to Kill Your Credibility as a Presenter

Public Speaking - Microphone

During a three day conference in London I had the opportunity to watch and listen to some incredibly charismatic and engaging presenters. Amongst them all, however, there was one presenter that stood out for all the wrong reasons and she has inspired this post. (As a female speaker with a mission to help more women present at conferences and events, I was disappointed it was a woman committing these presentation crimes!)

So what did this particular presenter do that led me to leave the room part way through her presentation because I felt my time was better spent in the foyer watching paint dry?

Here’s a quick overview:

  1. No clarity – she rambled from one thought to the next, often not even completing a sentence before moving onto another point without finishing the first.
  2. No structure – as above, she had no clear beginning, middle or end and left the audience confused about what exactly she was trying to say.
  3. No signposts – given the lack of clarity or structure, there was also no signposting so the audience had no idea what part of the speech she was up to and where she was going with it next.
  4. Didn’t deliver on promises – she made a bold promise at the beginning of her presentation that the audience would have extraordinary clarity on their business direction at the end of it; I just had a headache and confusion!
  5. Didn’t understand her audience – she was speaking to a room full of experts in their field, yet she shared basic information that most would have already known whilst trying to give the impression that what she was sharing was going to revolutionise their business and life.
  6. Inability to remember – she didn’t use notes and as she lurched from one random thought to the next, asked different members of the audience to remind her of what she promised to come back to. Then didn’t remember who she had asked!
  7. Didn’t know how to use technology – despite being the first speaker of the day with plenty of time to prepare, she hadn’t practiced using the technology so had to ask how to use it during her speech.
  8. Dreadful slides – the slides were boring, poorly designed and contained some inferior quality, out of focus images (she kept forgetting to advance the slides so they weren’t very useful anyway!)
  9. Revealed the presenting techniques she was trying but failing to use – she had clearly learned about the value of stage anchoring for different parts of her message but was thinking this through out loud and including statements like ‘Oh, this is a good part of the story, I should be standing over here now’ rather than smoothly and expertly incorporating the technique without it being obvious to the audience.
  10. Tacked on an offer to work with her at the end – after killing her credibility for about an hour and a half she then spent another twenty minutes telling us about how we could work with her and what a great deal it was.
  11. Went over time and even when she was finished she didn’t finish! – Several times she seemed to end the presentation and then said ‘Oh I forgot to mention….’ As a result, each time there was a quiet but still audible groan from the audience (or was that just me?)

Overall I found the presentation incredibly unprofessional and painful to sit through and I wasn’t the only one. To be fair, as I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt, this may have been the first time she had appeared on a stage in front of 130 people. And she did have some great qualities as a speaker – she had a lovely smile, friendly style, appeared confident, displayed no nerves and interacted with the audience quite well (129 other people managed to sit through the entire presentation so she must have been doing something right!) However, she would certainly have been familiar with the other high quality speakers appearing at the conference and should have prepared more effectively to provide the audience with more value and avoid being compared so unfavourably.

You may be familiar with some of my other formulas for successful presentations and pitches, so inspired by this presentation, here is my simple formula for how to kill your credibility as a speaker:

Poor Preparation + Poor Content + Poor Delivery = Credibility Killer

For the sake of your reputation and your audience’s experience, please don’t try it for your future presentations!

Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success.

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 inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

9 Public Speaking Lessons from the Theatre

theatre masks2

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you might have gathered that I love the theatre and in particular the lessons we can learn from the theatre to enhance our public speaking. Whether you like it or not, each time you speak in public it is a performance.

I recently attended a fabulous event bringing together around 100 performers in a concert to raise money for a charity. The show was thoroughly enjoyable and it inspired me to write about some of the areas of performance that presenters sometimes overlook.

  1. Respect the audience

Your audience deserves your best from the moment you step in front of them. I hear many people say that they like to warm into their presentation and they get better as they go along. However, given that people decide whether they like you and want to listen to you within the first 30 seconds, can you really afford not to be performing at your best from the beginning of your talk? This is the reason that professional performers do a thorough warm up of their voice, body and mind before a performance. If you are giving a presentation, you owe it to your audience to warm up so that they get the best of you right from the get go.

  1. Your costume is in the spotlight

As a presenter all eyes will be on you for the duration of your talk. And those eyes will be looking at the complete package of you. So think carefully about what you wear and bear in mind that it will be in the spotlight. Ideally your outfit will be aligned with your brand. If it fits well, flatters your body type and is appropriate for the occasion, people will be able to focus on you and your message. However, if your suit jacket doesn’t quite match your trousers (this particularly shows up under stage lights), your skirt has threads hanging from it, your shoes aren’t polished, your jewellery is jangling or your zip is open, you are in danger of inadvertently undermining your credibility and distracting people from the content of your presentation.

  1. Preparation is crucial

When you are on stage performing or giving a presentation it is not only your outfit that will be in the spotlight. You are on show; the more prepared you are the better you will come across and the more the audience will enjoy it. If you look unsure about what you’re doing it will be highlighted and make the audience feel uneasy so prepare well to ensure that you are confident and comfortable with the material you are delivering.

  1. Embrace stillness

The concert I watched was well put together and the choreography added interest but my favourite parts were when the performers were completely still as I could focus on the words they were singing and really connect with the song. Too much movement can be a distraction for your audience when you’re speaking. Stillness is incredibly powerful, so stop moving about and just connect with your material and the audience.

  1. Commit to your movements

Whilst I encourage you to include some stillness, using appropriate gestures and purposeful movement can enhance your presentation. However, half-hearted gestures won’t do you any favours. Some performers in the concert appeared to be just going through the motions and not really committing to the movements; unfortunately the result was that it looked sloppy and as if they didn’t care. It’s the same when you’re presenting – if you’re going to gesture or move, make it purposeful and extend the movement right to your finger tips.

  1. Once more with feeling!

There is a difference between someone singing a song with all the words and notes in the right place and someone truly performing a song with passion and conviction. There is also a difference between a presenter saying the words in their talk and a presenter who really communicates the meaning behind those words. When you’re speaking, if you think about the meaning behind the words you will naturally express that through your voice and body language and you will have a much better connection with the audience.

  1. Don’t highlight mistakes

If you forget something or you make a mistake, don’t worry about and don’t show it! The audience won’t usually know what you were going to do or say; so as long as you don’t pull a face or apologise, they’ll never know it wasn’t what you were planning.

  1. Training is invaluable

When watching a concert put on by a group of people committed to having fun and raising money for charity, as an audience member I expect to see a range of talents and abilities. Having said that, it is always very obvious who has had experience and training and who hasn’t. Training and ‘stage time’ experience is invaluable when it comes to public speaking as well. As you learn and develop stagecraft skills you will be more aware of your presence on stage and the countless other elements that impact on the whole performance. You will also develop the ability to adapt and easily cope with unexpected occurrences during your talk.

  1. Focus focus focus

Whether you’re new to public speaking or performing, or you’ve been doing it for years, there can be all sorts of distractions – not least your internal chatter! But the audience will sense when you aren’t completely present so it’s important to be able to fully concentrate on the task at hand. A good warm up beforehand including some mindfulness meditation or visualisation will help to calm and focus your mind. When you’re in front of the audience, ensure that you direct your energy into communicating with them; if you focus fully on delivering your message to the audience you can’t be distracted by internal chatter or external interferences.

What do you think? Do you agree that a presentation is a performance? Which of these nine things do you already do and what could you incorporate to enhance your public speaking? I’d love your thoughts so please feel free to share your comments.

Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success.

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 inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

Secrets of a Public Speaking World Champion

World Champion Speaker2

This week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with the Toastmasters International 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi (‘Dan’ for short).

It was a delight to observe him weaving in so many key public speaking skills as he engaged the audience with stories, questions and examples along with general charm and a great smile. Dan shared various tips on preparation, content and delivery and a few secrets about how he beat 33,000 other speakers from 120 countries to win the world title.

Here is an overview of what he covered:

Be Authentic

Whilst we can always learn from watching other speakers, it is important not to imitate another person’s delivery style as it will not be congruent and will come across as awkward and inauthentic. Dan was unsuccessful in winning the title until he embraced and developed his own way of communicating. You can study others to understand the art of speaking but then use your knowledge to find your own unique style that works for you.

Know Your Message

As I wrote about in a recent post, knowing your key message is vital. You should be able to ask every person in the audience what your speech was about and get the same answer from everyone. Therefore, it is crucial to spend time developing and refining your key message. Your ‘foundational phrase’ as Craig Valentine (1999 World Champion of Public Speaking) calls it, should be short and sweet. Short so that it is easy to remember and sweet so that it is easy to recall. By sweet, it should have a sense of rhyme to it. e.g.

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away
  • Life goes on so you must be strong
  • No more crying, keep on trying

A seven year old should be able to understand your message.

The Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey is a well-used template in storytelling – a hero goes on a quest, faces a challenge, discovers the solution (in failure), recovers and applies the solution in order to eventually achieve victory. This can be a great structure for a talk, especially if you’re speaking about a universal subject that the entire audience can relate to (essential for winning the Toastmasters International Speech Competition!)

*Note: When sharing your hero’s journey, you can’t be the person who discovers the solution to your own problem; the solution needs to come from someone or something else – a wise adviser, a supportive friend, a parent, a book, a quote, a movie, etc. The solution will be your ‘foundational phrase’ which you should repeat several times throughout your speech.

Connect With The Audience

A good way to connect with your audience and help them relate to your material is to ask them a question; an even more effective way of getting them involved is to ask them to raise their hands to answer the question. Throughout your talk, continue to ask the audience questions that help them connect to your topic. For example, if you are speaking about wanting to be great at water skiing, try saying ‘Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to be great at something?’

Delivery

Your speech starts well before you open your mouth to speak, even as you are walking to the platform; therefore, stand tall and walk with your chin parallel to the ground. If you are shaking the hand of the MC or contest chair (there is a lot of handshaking in Toastmasters!), ensure your handshake is strong and confident, not aggressive or submissive.

Then take your time; wait four seconds before speaking. This enables the audience to finish evaluating you so they’ll be ready to listen when you start speaking. It also allows you to get grounded and comfortable and make eye contact with the audience too. Make sure you smile a genuine smile.

To ensure you don’t transfer your weight from one side to another (this reduces your credibility), shift your body weight forward slightly to the balls of your feet.

Throughout the talk, use open gestures i.e. exposing the palms of your hands. When not using specific gestures to highlight a point, relax your arms by your sides with your palms slightly towards the audience.

B.A.L.L.S.

Dan also shared five things he has learned during his 10 year journey to World Champion Speaker:

  • Believe – that success is possible. You can’t just wish for it though; you need to want it as much as you want to breathe.
  • Attitude – have the right attitude to risk. Take some risks and don’t suffer from paralysis by analysis.
  • Little things make a huge difference – be aware of the small things that can diminish your credibility and improve them.
  • Learn to be a better person – before you become a better speaker. Be the same off stage as on. Your words mean nothing if you are not sincere.
  • Sustain your success – find yourself a mentor who can support you on your continuing journey.

So that wraps up the words of advice from champion speaker Dananjaya Hettiarachchi. Whether you are aiming to be a public speaking world champion, or to engage your team at your next team update, use these tips and you’ll deliver a winning presentation.

Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success.

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 inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential