Tag Archives: body language

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

Running2

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

 

Why I can’t keep quiet about my latest project!

Virtual Summit

Have you ever come across something that is such amazing value that you can’t wait to tell people about it?

Well, that’s the way I feel about the upcoming Boost Your Business Speaking Online Virtual Summit which I’m delighted to be part of.

The summit is mainly aimed at business owners currently using or thinking of using speaking to boost their business, such as speakers, coaches, trainers, authors and consultants. However, it is packed with value for anyone wanting to improve their public speaking generally or introduce speaking (online or in person) as part of their marketing mix.

I don’t want this post to sound salesy, but there are so many business owners and entrepreneurs I know who would find this summit beneficial, that I felt compelled to write it!

Over the three week summit, thirty expert speakers will be sharing their tips on:

  • How to give a great talk that engages your audience and increases your credibility
  • How to integrate speaking into your business model so you can increase your income potential significantly
  • How to market your speaking in new ways to reach those who matter most to your business

The topic I’ll be covering is ‘Offline Secrets for Online Speaking Success: How to Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind for Successful Presentations’ where I’ll be sharing why you should warm up before a presentation as well as loads of techniques to help you look and feel more centred, focused and confident when presenting.

Other topics covered include ‘Charisma: Discover the Secret of Audience Engagement’ with Nikki Owen, ‘How to Create a Persuasive and Inspiring Speech’ with Shola Kaye and ‘Confidence on Camera: How to Present Your Power for Video, Vlogs and Virtual Summits’ with Lottie Hearn. Plus info on creating online products, getting your contracts right, marketing using Facebook ads, Periscope and LinkedIn and much more.

If the summit sounds like something that would benefit you personally or your business, you can find out more and get access to the free digital magazine here.

I personally can’t wait to listen to the interviews over the next three weeks and to get hold of the value packed giveaways that every speaker will be sharing.

Here’s that link again – see you at the summit!

 

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

5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting

Image - Success boy small

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 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

3 Areas Most Presenters Forget To Prepare and Why You Should Make Them a Priority

Mel Sherwood Pitch at Palace

Photo: Douglas Robertson

Regardless of whether you worry like crazy when asked to do a presentation or see it as a great opportunity to share your knowledge or passion, you will probably have a certain way of preparing what you’re going to say.

And whilst what you say is fundamental, how you say it is equally, if not more important. In order to bring your words to life and ensure they have the most impact, you need to prime the elements that communicate the words – your body, your voice and your mind.

Recently I ran a warm up session for Pitch@Palace On Tour which was designed to prepare 24 companies who were pitching for a place to participate in a bootcamp in London in October and attend Pitch@Palace 4.0 at St James’s Palace on 2 November. The aim of the session was for all of the pitchers and invited audience to have some fun (laughter is a great way to help people relax) and learn some tips on how to enhance their pitch delivery.

So, drawing on my background as a performer, here are some of the tips I shared during the session about how to prepare your body, voice and mind for a successful pitch:

Body

Our bodies communicate a large part of our message; however, you may have noticed that when some people present they seem disconnected from their body, they simply become a talking head. If we use our bodies effectively we can enhance the way we communicate by helping our audience to take in our message through their eyes as well as their ears.

Preparing your body with a short warm up before you speak can help you to be fully present and able to smoothly incorporate movements and gestures. As we tend to carry a lot of tension, simple stretches, shoulder rolls, arm swings and shaking your arms and legs can be very helpful in easing some of the tension and getting the blood circulating which will energise your performance. Deep slow breathing will help oxygenate your body and ensure you are calm and centred.

Voice

Our voice carries our carefully crafted words and is therefore a fundamental part of our communication. Whether we like it or not, people make judgements about us based on our voice such as where we’re from, how well educated we are and how confident we are. When we’re nervous, we tense up and tend to speak in a higher pitch which sounds less authoritative. We might also speak more quickly, forgetting to pause to allow our audience to hear and process what we are saying. We can sometimes get tongue tied, tripping over our words or we might mumble or speak in a monotone, once again impacting negatively on the message we want to share.

But a few simple voice exercises can help your voice to be richer, freer and more expressive. Start by making some weird faces to wake up your mouth and jaw – by this I mean open your mouth wide and then close it tightly, make a chewing motion as if you are chewing a huge piece of gum, blow up your cheeks with air, mouth the word ‘WOW’, poke your tongue out and then move it around the inside of your mouth. Follow this with some gentle humming or singing and add some tongue twisters to get your articulators working effectively for clear diction.

Mind

The attitude we bring to a presentation and the state of mind we choose will determine how well our talk is received. If you think about how nervous you are and about everything that will go wrong, then you can pretty much expect you will be nervous and things with go wrong! On the flip side, if you perceive the audience as your friends (most people want you to do well) and focus on delivering value to them (rather than focusing on yourself), you will have a more successful presentation.

Apart from being well prepared and practiced, techniques such as visualising your successful presentation and becoming aware of your self-talk ensuring you are giving yourself positive affirmations can be very helpful in preparing your mind. In addition, rather than thinking about addressing an entire audience, think of your presentation as a series of one to one conversations that you have with individual audience members. Just before your presentation, spend a moment being quiet and still, breathe deeply and focus on serving your audience in the best way you can.

Spending time preparing your body, voice and mind before a pitch or presentation will ensure you are in peak condition to support your words with an engaging and impactful delivery.

What do you think? Do you have any rituals or specific methods of preparing for your presentation delivery? If so, I’d love to hear them; please do share in the comments section.

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