Tag Archives: presentation skills

How to L.O.V.E. Public Speaking

hand-heart

Long ago I lost count of the number of people who have said to me “I HATE public speaking!” But what if I told you that you could learn to love public speaking?

If you fear or loath public speaking and avoid it at all costs, you may be missing out on opportunities to promote your business, progress your career or share a few words about a special person at an important occasion such as a wedding or a funeral.

Like anything, the more often you speak in public the better you get at it, and the better you get at it the more you enjoy it. You may still experience nerves and that’s okay because nerves are completely normal, they mean you care. And you can learn techniques to help manage your nerves and get those butterflies to fly in formation.

But before you do that, you need to think about why you hate public speaking in order to be able to turn that around. So here’s my 4 step process to help you to L.O.V.E. public speaking:

LISTEN

The first step is to really listen to your thoughts, your feelings and your self-talk. What do you think about when you think of public speaking? Is it triggering memories from childhood when the kids in your class laughed at your presentation about your pet cat? Or maybe your thoughts are based on someone else’s experience; you may have learned that public speaking is scary or uncomfortable because that’s how a family member felt about it. Next listen to how you feel. Deep down in your heart, what do you really feel about public speaking? Often we can get our true feelings mixed up with our thoughts and with our self-talk.

So the final step is to listen to your self-talk. What do you tell yourself about public speaking? If you tell yourself that it’s hard, that you hate being the centre of attention, that it’s embarrassing and that you’re going to make a fool of yourself, etc. then that’s likely to be the case. You are reinforcing and attracting this outcome every time you say these things to yourself (or other people). So the first stage is to listen and notice your thoughts, feelings and self-talk.

OPEN YOUR MIND

All you need to start to change your mind from hating public speaking to loving public speaking is to open your mind to the possibility of it. Could you doubt your beliefs? I often do an exercise when coaching a client to help them shatter their limiting beliefs. We’ll start with their current belief which is usually something like “I don’t believe I can be a confident presenter.” And then I’ll ask them if there was any possibility of doubting that belief. All it takes is a tiny little shift to enable them to start to move away from that limiting belief and towards a more positive and helpful belief.

You choose all of your thoughts and beliefs. You also choose your attitude every minute of every day – you choose how you approach things and you choose how you react to things. So doesn’t it make sense to choose beliefs, thoughts and attitudes that help and not hinder your life? By choosing to open your mind to the possibility that you could enjoy public speaking (or least not hating it would be a start) you will have a much better chance of turning that hate to love.

VERBALISE AND VISUALISE

The next step is to share all of your thoughts and feelings either with someone else or write in a journal. Get them all out where you can start to properly address them. It’s important not to continually focus on the negative statements but instead take time to turn them into more positive statements and start to focus on helpful and encouraging affirmations. For example, change “I’m going to mess it up” to “I will prepare and practice so that I can do my best.” Or “The audience will be bored” to “I’ll make sure I understand the audience so that what I say is relevant and interesting for them.”

The second step in this stage is to use your mind to visualise yourself in your desired state, feeling poised, calm, self-assured and speaking confidently. This powerful technique is used by successful people from athletes to entrepreneurs and will have an incredible impact on the way you feel about public speaking.

EMBRACE OPPORTUNITIES

I’ve written many times about the fact that you can’t get better at public speaking without actually doing it. You need to embrace opportunities to speak in public but you don’t have to start with a 45 minute keynote in front of an audience of 3000. Perhaps start by challenging yourself to share your point of view or ask a question in a meeting. Or join a public speaking group such as Toastmasters International or my Monthly Masterclasses where you get a chance to speak in a safe and supportive environment. You could volunteer to give an update on your work at your next team meeting. Or go to a networking event where you have an opportunity to deliver your 1 minute elevator pitch.

Whatever steps you take, make sure you prepare, practice and give yourself lots of love and kindness beforehand and afterwards. Use the 4 step L.O.V.E. process and learn to love public speaking – I can (almost) guarantee it will build your confidence, open up new opportunities and bring wonderful experiences into your life!

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

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

8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

On Stage RBS lectern 1b

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

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

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

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

On Stage RBS 7c

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

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

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

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

LecternGripper_Final_2 sm

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

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

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

 

 

10 Ways That Running is Similar to Public Speaking

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

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

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

Get your mindset right

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

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

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

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

Start small

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

Just do it!

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

Enjoy the high of achieving your goals

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

Learn from experts

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

Get support

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

Warm up

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

Awareness is key

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

Take time to reflect

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

How confident do you appear to be?

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Dress for Success

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

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

  1. Own the space

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

You will appear more confident if you:

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

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

  1. Open strongly

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

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

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

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

  1. Take a moment

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

  1. Embrace The Applause

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

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

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

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

 

3 Public Speaking Lessons from Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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The annual Festival Fringe in Edinburgh has come to an end and I am taking a moment to reflect on some of the shows I have had the opportunity to attend. This year I’ve watched mainly theatre, cabaret and comedy performances. I’ve enjoyed most of them in their own way and, as usual, I have picked out a few lessons we can take and use to improve our public speaking and presentation skills.

Make the tech operators your best friend

If you are speaking, presenting or performing in a large venue, the sound and lighting operators are the people who will ensure that you are seen and heard. If you are using sound and lighting cues, the tech operators are the ones that can make or break it with regard to the timing you require; you will need to communicate with them effectively so that they understand your requirements. They will also ensure that you can hear yourself through the fold back speakers if required.

Ideally you will have had an opportunity to test the sound and lighting prior to an audience entering the auditorium. If you haven’t for whatever reason and there is a problem affecting your performance, you will need to be able to communicate with them your requirements in a way that won’t necessarily negatively impact on you or the audience. An example of this being done effectively was at a preview performance of a cabaret show. The female singer was singing a fabulous song with the piano accompaniment and it wasn’t until the music break that we realised she couldn’t actually hear the piano. She smoothly spoke to the sound technician to let him know and it felt easy, almost as if it was part of the act. The sound guy quickly plugged in the relevant speaker to resolve the problem but it was her easy going manner and professionalism in communicating with him that enabled her to get back on track and confidently sing the rest of the song, and indeed the rest of the show.

During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when shows in each venue are scheduled one after another, performers usually have a very limited time to set their stage and speak with the crew beforehand (often just 15 minutes which is shared with the performing company who has just finished their show!) However, in most speaking situations you will have an opportunity to connect with the sound/lighting crew beforehand so make sure you take the opportunity to ensure you are fully prepared and avoid any mishaps.

When you are on stage everything is in the spotlight

One of my bugbears when it comes to stage sets is crooked or un-ironed tablecloths! Your stage is an extension of you. If you are using any props or furniture to support your presentation or you are setting the stage for an event you are speaking at, remember that everything on the stage will be in the spotlight (regardless of whether or not there is an actual spotlight). The audience will be focused on the area you are presenting from and will have lots of time to scrutinise you and your surroundings. Therefore, if you are using fabric to dress the stage or a table, make sure it is clean and ironed (unless you specifically require something tatty!) If you are displaying anything, make sure it is in good condition, sits well in the environment and can be seen from the audience. A tip I use from my theatre days is to sit in various seats before the audience arrives so that you can see the presenting area from their perspective.

With regard to your outfit, it should be clean and pressed with no loose threads hanging (these are emphasised in certain lighting conditions and can be very distracting for people… or is that just me?) Don’t fiddle with your outfit or jam your hands into the pockets – the audience will often focus on your hands so think about where their attention is if your hands are in your trouser pockets! Remember to ensure your shoes are in good repair too; if you’re on a raised stage, your feet could be right at the audience’s eye level. Also make sure that any props you use are appropriate, relevant and that you have rehearsed with them to ensure you can use them to enhance your presentation, not detract from it.

Stick to what you’re good at and end on a high

We saw a brilliant, witty, extremely talented comedian almost ruin the end of his performance by asking the audience for their suggestions so that he could ad lib some jokes during his encore. Sadly, his improvisation was not as good as the rest of the show and he chose to end the show after one improvised joke rather than the few that he promised. This left the audience feeling a bit flat and took the shine of his otherwise excellent performance.

If you know you’re not good at improvising or you’re not particularly funny, don’t try to be! I admit that I am challenged in the ‘make ‘em laugh’ department, although I have recently attended some workshops to help me understand how to incorporate more humour into my talks. I’ve also attended some improvisation workshops to enhance my ability to be spontaneous on stage. However, whilst I believe in stretching myself and taking some risks when public speaking, I would never risk messing about with the beginning or end of my speech. These are the most crucial parts of a presentation so my advice is to prepare them well and show yourself and your material at your best.

What are your thoughts? What public speaking lessons could you take from watching other forms of entertainment? I’d value your input so please take a moment to share your thoughts 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 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 dedicated to 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

25 Questions You Must Ask Before Creating Your Next Presentation

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Often when people are asked to deliver a speech or a presentation, they will start their preparation with the question “What do I want to say?” However, this is the completely wrong place to begin because a presentation is never about you and what you want to say. Rather you must focus on your audience first. The reason? If you don’t know who your audience is you won’t be able to craft content that will meet their needs or effectively deliver it to them.

Therefore, before you do any preparation, here is a list of questions to ask yourself and the person who has requested you to speak:

  1. Why have I been asked to speak – to inspire, inform, motivate, persuade, entertain, etc?
  2. What is the impact/outcome they are expecting?
  3. How will I/they know whether the desired outcome has been achieved?
  4. Is there a theme for the event?
  5. Who has spoken at this event/about this topic before and what did the audience like or dislike about them?
  6. What challenges is the organisation/audience facing right now?
  7. Will there be any ‘elephants in the room’ I should know about?
  8. How many people will be attending?
  9. What is their age, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, religion, primary language, educational level, profession?
  10. What do they believe?
  11. What are their interests?
  12. Why are they attending the presentation?
  13. Do they know why they are attending the presentation?
  14. Is their attendance voluntary or mandatory?
  15. What are they expecting to hear?
  16. How do they feel about what they are expecting to hear?
  17. What role or position do audience members hold?
  18. What is their level of knowledge about the topic?
  19. What do they know and what do they need to know?
  20. Do they know the jargon / technical terms you may use?
  21. Is the audience familiar with you and your role?
  22. Do they know why you are presenting to them?
  23. What assumptions are you making about your audience?
  24. What is the main purpose of your presentation/what is the single message they will take away?
  25. What do you want your audience to think, feel or do as a result of this presentation?

Not all of the questions mentioned above will be relevant for every situation; however, the more you can find out about your audience before you present to them, the more effective and successful your presentation will be. And who doesn’t want to deliver a successful presentation?

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

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 dedicated to 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