Tag Archives: preparation

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

 

Advertisements

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

 

12 TEDx Talks: 12 Lessons in Public Speaking

20160218_164340

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.

—–

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

 

How To Become a TEDx Speaker

TEDx2

I love TED and TEDx talks and I’ve been coaching a number of TEDx speakers recently so at the moment I am immersing myself in all things TEDx.

If you’re not familiar with TED, it is a nonprofit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

The TEDx events I’ve been involved in have had a good representation of women, and in fact the upcoming TEDx University of Edinburgh event has an overwhelming majority of women speakers. However, this is not always the case at TEDx events and Tabby Biddle, Author, Speaker and Women’s Leadership Coach, is on a mission to change this.

Recently I listened to Tabby’s teleseminar on how to become a TEDx speaker; the session was aimed at women who aspire to be on the TEDx stage. Given that many people I meet are keen to promote their ideas via TEDx, I thought I’d share some ideas from Tabby’s teleseminar for securing a speaking slot at a TEDx event.

Firstly, Tabby outlined five key components to giving a great TEDx talk:

  1. Identify your idea worth spreading
  2. Identify why your idea matters to others
  3. Teach the audience something they don’t know
  4. Convince the audience why your idea matters (use storytelling to do this)
  5. Change the audience’s view of the world

She then explained the steps to becoming a TEDx speaker. As a first step, you will need to research future TEDx events at www.TED.com/tedx/events to find out what’s coming up. Sometimes individual events will have an open call for speakers; however, others will consider proposals. Keep in mind that the organisers will likely be looking for speakers at least two to three months in advance.  Most events will have a theme and it is important to respect that and make sure your talk fits in with that theme.

It is useful to get to know the organisers of the event in advance; you will be able to find them and their contact details on the TED website when you research the events. That’s not to say you need to connect with them immediately; consider getting to know them through social media such as reading their profile on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter before making contact.

Finally, when you do make contact, it’s important to pitch yourself as a speaker. You should be able to provide the following information:

  • What is your big idea?
  • Why you? What is your expertise or personal story?
  • An outline of your talk
  • Sample videos of you presenting

In my experience, getting clarity on the big idea is the thing that most people struggle with; if this sounds like you, check out my previous blog post on How to Talk Like a TEDx Speaker.

Once you have your big idea, a reason why people should listen to you, an outline of your talk and some footage of you speaking you will be ready to approach a TEDx organiser. Then when you’ve secured your speaking slot, it’s all about preparation and practice – remember your TEDx talk has the potential to reach a global audience so it’s important to put the time and effort into making sure it is the best it can be.

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

 

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

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