Archive for the “Presentations skills” Category
By Ben Decker
Even the strongest speakers can undercut a whole presentation with three seconds of wobbly indecision at the end. Those few seconds amount to the last impression you leave with your audience – it’s the last picture people will remember of you. You’ve spent your whole presentation building credibility for yourself and your idea, and that last impression has everything to do with how you hold yourself.
Watch your nonverbal behavior and body language. Not even a line like Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty…!” can bail you out if you act nervous, disgusted, insincere, or hurried. Here are six essential don’ts for ending your presentation.
1. Never blackball yourself
…with a critical grimace, a shake of the head, eyes rolled upward, a disgusted little sigh. So what if you’re displeased with yourself? Don’t insult your audience by letting them know you were awful; they probably thought you were pretty good. One lip curl in those last three seconds can wreck 30 minutes of credibility-building. Keep a light smile on your face, and you can grimace at the mirror in the bathroom later if you want.
2. Don’t step backwards
If anything, take a half-step toward your listeners at the end. Stepping back is a physical retreat, and audiences subconsciously pick up on this cue. While you’re at it, don’t step back verbally, either. Softening your voice and trailing off toward the end obviously doesn’t sound confident. Maintain your strong vocal projection, annunciation, and pitch variety. You need to end with a bang, not a whimper.
3. Don’t look away
Some speakers harken back to the last visual-aid or PowerPoint slide, as if for reinforcement. Some people look aside, unwilling to confront listeners dead in the eye at the last words. Murmuring thank you while staring off somewhere else isn’t the last impression you want to leave. Maintain good eye communication throughout.
4. Don’t leave your hands in a gestured position
In our programs, we recommend using the resting ready position (arms gently at the sides) at the end to physically signal your audience you’re finished. You must let them go visually, in addition to the closing remarks you’re making. If you keep your hands up at waist level, you look as if you have something more to say. In speaking, think of yourself as the gracious host or hostess as you drop your hands with an appreciative thank you.
5. Don’t rush to collect your papers
Or visual aids, or displays. Stop and chat with people if the meeting is breaking up, then begin to tidy up in a calm, unhurried manner. Otherwise, you may contradict your calm, confident demeanor as a presenter. Behavioral cues are being picked up by your audience throughout the entire presentation experience, even during post-presentation. If you sit down and grimace or huff and puff, listeners notice that, too.
6. Don’t move on the last word
Plant your feet and hold still for a half-beat after the you in thank you. Think about adding some lightness and smile with your thank you to show your comfort and ease. You don’t want to look anxious to get out of there. If anything, you want to let people know you’ve enjoyed being with them and are sorry you have to go. Don’t rush off.
Paying attention your behaviors at the end of your presentation, whether formal at the lectern or informal standing at a meeting, will project the confidence and credibility you seek. Has anyone seen some of these behaviors in action? What are your thoughts?
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Back to basics: 10 tips from Toastmasters International
Posted by Moe Davis
Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and even beneficial, but too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here are some
proven tips on how to control your butterflies and give better presentations:
- Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more
about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
- Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
- Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
- Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
- Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
- Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
- Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
- Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
- Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
- Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.
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This is an interesting article by Lucy Craft (edited so this blog is not long and rambling). It makes many good points that should be considered when preparing a speech or presentation!
It’s the bane of students, business people and even the military: If you’ve ever yawned through a slideshow, you’re probably familiar with that dreaded malady of modern times, known as “Death by PowerPoint.”
Now, for the long-suffering audience, there’s some good news. Tokyo architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein hit on the antidote to presentation overload — a style they dubbed pecha-kucha, Japanese for “chitchat” — and their elegant solution is taking the world by storm.
Dytham and Klein are easygoing by nature, but if there’s one thing they can’t stand it’s slideshows full of hot air. So when the pair staged a forum featuring the work of their architect friends, they laid down one rule as simple as it was extreme.
“The problem with architects is they talk too much. So how could we find a way to stop them? You get passionate about whatever you’re talking about and you go on forever and ever — so we came up with 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide,” he says. He says 10 slides, 10 seconds per slide was too short and 30 slides, 30 seconds per slide was too long.
“We were trying to find a catchy 5 minutes or so for the architect to present,” he says.
With speakers allotted a draconian 6 minutes and 40 seconds each, Dytham and Klein were able to pack 20 speeches — or rather, speechlets — into a single evening. Klein named these curious events after a quaint old Japanese onomatopoeia.
Pecha-Kucha Goes Viral
At first, pecha-kucha (pronounced: peh-CHAKH-cha) was purely local. But then, something strange happened. Without any prompting or publicity, and to the astonishment of its founders, the format went viral.
In just the past three years, the speech events have taken root in hundreds of cities in the U.S. and worldwide, from Amersfoort, Netherlands, to Saragossa, Spain. New cities are added, on average, every 72 hours. Nearly a quarter of a million people every year gather in warehouses, old prisons and forest clearings for pecha-kucha nights — a spectacle that seems to belie the pretenses of the online age.
“People really like to get together physically,” Dytham says. “We forget that on Facebook. They say they’re ‘social networks,’ but they’re not really; they’re anti-social networks. People in a city want to get together and have a chat and a beer. And this was a way to pull people together.”
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Great article by Kate Peters:
The Three Key Components of a Powerful Sound
The key components of a powerful sound are:
- passion, and
- strong vocal physique.
The first two components are achieved by being yourself and by being clear about your intention. The third, through awareness and practice.
Personality is “you” and the unique gifts you share with your audience. Personality is the unique imprint your thought leaves on your voice, making it distinguishable from other voices and revealing things about your particular experiences and perspective. You cannot escape the revelatory nature of your voice. The essence of who you are is in your voice for all to hear.
If you want to be heard, it’s vital that you celebrate your authentic self. In a New York Times interview Ursula Burns, the impressive new head of Xerox Corporation, wisely remarked, “I can’t try to say it in somebody else’s voice. I have to say it in my voice.”
Passion is the power of intention aligned with content and personality. We have already covered personality, so what about intention and content?
Content is simply what you have to say. It’s your message, your words, your ideas manifested in spoken form. Intention, on the other hand, is what you have in mind to do or bring about. It is why you are speaking in the first place, why you are standing in front of an audience, what you hope to accomplish. When intention, content and personality align, we have passion. And when there is passion, powerful things happen.
When a speaker is passionate, they seem authentic and genuine. For that reason, actors are trained to pour intent in their lines and speak with passion. We are so tuned in to this aspect of voices that babies as young as six months old can discern intention in voices. I have written about this subject in my blog.
If your intention is unclear, if it conflicts with your message or even with the reason people think you are there, your vocal power will diminish and you’ll lose your audience.
3. Strong Vocal Physique
“Speaking louder doesn’t create a powerful voice.”
Strong vocal physique is the ability to produce a vibrantly resonant sound and to have a good command of breathing technique.
Because sound travels on air, resonance and air are intimately connected in the voice. In an earlier Six Minutes article, I focus on good breathing technique for speaking. This is important because air itself makes the voice work. As you exhale, air moves from your lungs through your trachea (or windpipe). It then passes between your vocal folds (also called arytenoids and vocal cords) and brings those muscles together. As they vibrate, sound happens. You use your throat, tongue, lips, and jaw to shape the sound into words.
Now, if someone tells you to speak up, there is a good chance you will use more air as you increase your volume. That’s an improvement. But speaking more loudly may just come across as yelling — and you also risk straining your voice. It is more correct to suggest that you stand up straight, take a big breath, and use more air to carry the sound as you speak up, but that is a very long set of instructions for even the best of sound men! Better that you know what “project” means so you do it right.
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By SALLY FRIEDMAN
I want to be looked at. And honestly, I’m not an exhibitionist.
It’s just that eye contact has gone the way of proper enunciation, a good handshake and a hug that means something — casualties of modern life.
Time was when eyes met other eyes in conversation, and surely in the quest for connection. The wide-open gaze was no big deal. It was, in fact, commonplace. To be looked at was to be acknowledged, attended to.
“Look at Grandma when you say hello,” one of my daughters instructed her son Jonah recently. I wanted to cheer. Of course, the grandchild in question was hunched over a computer screen and had managed merely a grunt when I arrived.
Because so much communication now is not face to face, eye to eye is an endangered species. Twitter, Facebook, text messaging — no eye contact necessary.
Which is why I felt so stung recently when I was having lunch with a good friend who spent much of our time together scanning the restaurant for — well, I don’t know what. But she surely wasn’t intent on seeing eye to eye with me.
How does one say to a friend who’s been there through the first bra, the geology final and three pregnancies that she should be looking at me, not the woman with the great highlighted hair, or the plate of strudel at the next table.
I sometimes wonder whether it was those 1980s cocktail parties that forever messed things up. It was an era defined by that constant seeking of the next conversation, the next potential client/customer/broker/date.
Of course, urban streets and elevator etiquette practically forbid eye contact — just try getting some meaningful “I’ll look at you/you look back at me” going, and you’re likely to be dismissed as a weirdo. But I live in a small town without a single elevator building. And even here in Moorestown, N.J., ranked No. 1 on Money magazine’s list of the best places to live in 2005, only a neutral nod is acceptable on our quaint little Main Street.
Time was when I would walk this same street and look directly at the person coming toward me. Not these days when suspicion seems to have spread like some virus.
But I don’t give up easily. I continue to seek out other eyes during intermissions at theaters, hoping I’m not committing some venial social sin by invading anyone’s personal bubble of space. To date, few have sought mine.
I look into the eyes of my grandchildren even before I hug them. And recently, Jonah, the 10-year-old, actually looked back at me and announced with some interest that my eyes are blue.
Actually, they’re green.
But it’s a start.
Sally Friedman is a freelance writer who lives in Moorestown, N.J.
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We are not always “Bashing” Power Point. It has it’s place. Just don’t always default to it. Think…”Do I really need a Power Point presentation to make my point?
From interview with Teresa Taylor, chief operating officer of Qwest:
It’s amazing, there will be eight people in the room and they all have a different answer of what’s going on there. I’ll also say, once we’re clear about what we’re doing: “Does everyone need to be here? If anyone feels like they want to leave right now, that would be fine.” Every once in a while a couple of people will say, “Yeah, I could use this time back,” and they get up and leave.
Q. But you could chew up 10 minutes just going around the table.
A. Sure, I think it’s a good 10 minutes. I really do.
Q. What about presentations?
A. I use a little saying, which is, “Be brief, be bright and be gone.” It’s also not uncommon for me to say, “Why don’t we put the PowerPoint aside for a minute and why don’t you just talk to me?”
Q. What’s the maximum number of PowerPoint slides you want to see?
A. Six. But I actually prefer no PowerPoint. To be honest, I’d rather just talk. A really great meeting, to me, is someone who is just talking to me and might give me a piece of paper or two to support something, but that’s it.
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These are good points from Andrew Dlugan!
The 25 Public Speaking Skills Every Speaker Must Have
by Andrew Dlugan
Oct 31st, 2007
Inspired by 25 Skills Every Man Should Know, I pondered a list of the 25 essential skills every public speaker should have. How did I do?
Every public speaker should be able to:
- Research a topic – Good speakers stick to what they know. Great speakers research what they need to convey their message.
- Focus – Help your audience grasp your message by focusing on your message. Stories, humour, or other “sidebars” should connect to the core idea. Anything that doesn’t needs to be edited out.
- Organize ideas logically – A well-organized presentation can be absorbed with minimal mental strain. Bridging is key.
- Employ quotations, facts, and statistics – Don’t include these for the sake of including them, but do use them appropriately to complement your ideas.
- Master metaphors – Metaphors enhance the understandability of the message in a way that direct language often can not.
- Tell a story – Everyone loves a story. Points wrapped up in a story are more memorable, too!
- Start strong and close stronger – The body of your presentation should be strong too, but your audience will remember your first and last words (if, indeed, they remember anything at all).
- Incorporate humour – Knowing when to use humour is essential. So is developing the comedic timing to deliver it with greatest effect.
- Vary vocal pace, tone, and volume – A monotone voice is like fingernails on the chalkboard.
- Punctuate words with gestures – Gestures should complement your words in harmony. Tell them how big the fish was, and show them with your arms.
- Utilize 3-dimensional space – Chaining yourself to the lectern limits the energy and passion you can exhibit. Lose the notes, and lose the chain.
- Complement words with visual aids – Visual aids should aid the message; they should not be the message. Read slide:ology or the Presentation Zen book and adopt the techniques.
- Analyze the audience – Deliver the message they want (or need) to hear.
- Connect with the audience – Eye contact is only the first step. Aim to have the audience conclude “This speaker is just like me!” The sooner, the better.
- Interact with the audience – Ask questions (and care about the answers). Solicit volunteers. Make your presentation a dialogue.
- Conduct a Q&A session – Not every speaking opportunity affords a Q&A session, but understand how to lead one productively. Use the Q&A to solidify the impression that you are an expert, not (just) a speaker.
- Lead a discussion – Again, not every speaking opportunity affords time for a discussion, but know how to engage the audience productively.
- Obey time constraints – Maybe you have 2 minutes. Maybe you have 45. Either way, customize your presentation to fit the time allowed, and respect your audience by not going over time.
- Craft an introduction – Set the context and make sure the audience is ready to go, whether the introduction is for you or for someone else.
- Exhibit confidence and poise – These qualities are sometimes difficult for a speaker to attain, but easy for an audience to sense.
- Handle unexpected issues smoothly – Maybe the lights will go out. Maybe the projector is dead. Have a plan to handle every situation.
- Be coherent when speaking off the cuff – Impromptu speaking (before, after, or during a presentation) leaves a lasting impression too. Doing it well tells the audience that you are personable, and that you are an expert who knows their stuff beyond the slides and prepared speech.
- Seek and utilize feedback – Understand that no presentation or presenter (yes, even you!) is perfect. Aim for continuous improvement, and understand that the best way to improve is to solicit candid feedback from as many people as you can.
- Listen critically and analyze other speakers – Study the strengths and weakness of other speakers.
- Act and speak ethically – Since public speaking fears are so common, realize the tremendous power of influence that you hold. Use this power responsibly.
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A very interesting and informative article about the use and misuse of PowerPoint by Edward Tufte.
PowerPoint Is Evil
PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.
By Edward Tufte
Imagine a widely used and expensive prescription drug that promised to make us beautiful but didn’t. Instead the drug had frequent, serious side effects: It induced stupidity, turned everyone into bores, wasted time, and degraded the quality and credibility of communication. These side effects would rightly lead to a worldwide product recall.
Yet slideware -computer programs for presentations -is everywhere: in corporate America, in government bureaucracies, even in our schools. Several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint are churning out trillions of slides each year. Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience. The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.
Of course, data-driven meetings are nothing new. Years before today’s slideware, presentations at companies such as IBM and in the military used bullet lists shown by overhead projectors. But the format has become ubiquitous under PowerPoint, which was created in 1984 and later acquired by Microsoft. PowerPoint’s pushy style seeks to set up a speaker’s dominance over the audience. The speaker, after all, is making power points with bullets to followers. Could any metaphor be worse? Voicemail menu systems? Billboards? Television? Stalin?
Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.
In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40 words, which is about eight seconds’ worth of silent reading material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless sequentiality, one damn slide after another. When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships. Visual reasoning usually works more effectively when relevant information is shown side by side. Often, the more intense the detail, the greater the clarity and understanding. This is especially so for statistical data, where the fundamental analytical act is to make comparisons.
Consider an important and intriguing table of survival rates for those with cancer relative to those without cancer for the same time period. Some 196 numbers and 57 words describe survival rates and their standard errors for 24 cancers.
Applying the PowerPoint templates to this nice, straightforward table yields an analytical disaster. The data explodes into six separate chaotic slides, consuming 2.9 times the area of the table. Everything is wrong with these smarmy, incoherent graphs: the encoded legends, the meaningless color, the logo-type branding. They are uncomparative, indifferent to content and evidence, and so data-starved as to be almost pointless. Chartjunk is a clear sign of statistical stupidity. Poking a finger into the eye of thought, these data graphics would turn into a nasty travesty if used for a serious purpose, such as helping cancer patients assess their survival chances. To sell a product that messes up data with such systematic intensity, Microsoft abandons any pretense of statistical integrity and reasoning.
Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.
At a minimum, a presentation format should do no harm. Yet the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play -very loud, very slow, and very simple.
The practical conclusions are clear. PowerPoint is a competent slide manager and projector. But rather than supplementing a presentation, it has become a substitute for it. Such misuse ignores the most important rule of speaking: Respect your audience.
Edward R. Tufte is professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale. His new monograph, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, is available from Graphics Press (www.edwardtufte.com).
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