Posts Tagged ‘presentation skills’

PowerPoint Presentation Tips: How to Keep Your Audience Tuned IN! (Part 3)

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

When you use PowerPoint, are you actually diminishing your image as an expert – or even helping your audiences tune you out?  If your answer may be YES, you need PowerPoint Presentation Tips for real speaking power.

Today’s VideoBlog gives you the solutions:  PowerPoint Presentation Tips, Part 3.   In previous blogs, I presented Tips #1 through 6.

  • Tip #7:  At any point in your presentation where you plan to move close to your audience for dramatic effect, help focus audience attention by placing a black slide in your deck.
  • Tip #8:  When you want to focus attention on yourself for a longer period of time, allow the screen to go completely dark. Use the “B” key for this.
  • Tip #9:  Always make your final slide an image slide:  this image should illustrate the inspirational closing that you will speak. 

Finally, Tip #10:  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Don’t make PowerPoint your higher power. Allow PowerPoint to support you, and not the other way around.

When you use these strategies with PowerPoint, you’ll project your own unique power.  You’ll enhance your image as an expert and your listeners will quickly realize that they cannot afford to tune you out.    You’ll have them on the edge of their seats!

Be sure to receive all my upcoming video tips!  Follow this link to my YouTube channel and hit the “subscribe” button on the right side of the screen:  https://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=SuccessfulSpeaker

Speaking Mistakes: Humility Saves Face

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Have you ever made a mistake during a business meeting or conversation: a big mistake that was obvious to everyone?  You don’t have to lose face in situations like these.  Here is a tip that will help you save face.

At one point or another, in your professional life, you may at one time or another, have dropped the balls. You said the most inappropriate thing or your spoken mistake that everyone noticed was a serious one.  These situations present two choices for you.  You can

1:   Pretend that it didn’t happen:  this is never advisable when you are sure that everyone noticed your mistake!

2:   Accept that you dropped the balls and demonstrate humility.

Humility might be an instant and sincere apology. It might be self-deprecating humor.  It might be that you allow others to see you try with your heart and soul to correctly your mistake and maybe even fail to correct it!  Humility means that we accept our right relationship with nature and allow people to see our human-ness.  Because human beings make mistakes and are sometimes wrong — and most everyone we do business with can identify with that.

Humility is a very importance ingredient in successful business speaking.  It’s not a weakness.  It’s actually strategic.  It’s a quality that makes us approachable, more likeable, and more attractive to do business with.

Building Credibility When You Speak: The Value of “Acting Objectives”

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Savvy professionals apply acting techniques to help enhance their credibility and gravitas when they speak for business.  They know that they need to build belief within the listeners, so they borrow techniques that actors have used for decades.  So can you.

Crafted actors spend years perfecting a craft that is designed to build belief.  This is why advertisers so often rely upon actors and their craft:  they understand that actors’ techniques and performance skills are fundamental to the business of selling any idea, product, or service.

When actors are preparing a role, they make careful choices about what actions to take, to help the audience believe that the make believe situation is real.  For actors, it’s all about actions; for actors, actions speak much louder than words.

To prepare, actors create “acting objectives”.  These are actions that lie underneath the words – actions they plan to take toward their listeners.  This helps actors to be motivated to speak the words that the playwright or screenwriter wrote, and speak them truthfully, authentically, and conversationally.

In rehearsal and performance, actors pursue their acting objectives as if their lives depended on it.   This helps the audience believe that the actor and the character are one and the same:  that the actor IS the character.

This applies to you when you speak for business for two important reasons:

  1. You want your business listeners to believe something: to believe that you have solutions to their problems, for example.  The more rigorously you pursue your actions (your acting objectives), the more completely your audience will believe:  believe that you and your message are one and the same; believe that you are your message.
  2. Whenever you are speaking for business, when you make listeners believe, they are very likely to overlook minor shortcomings or mistakes you might make.

Throughout my acting career, and as a professional speaker, I have occasionally neglected to rehearse with the use of acting objectives.  Invariably, whenever I have neglected to use this technique, I lost the acting job or failed to engage my business listeners.

Your business speaking/presentations will never be perfect; there will always be something to improve upon and something that you might consider to have been slightly “negative” in your “performance”.   Without the use of acting objectives in your preparation, you significantly reduce your ability to make business listeners believe.  When that happens, your listeners have little to focus on BUT the negative.

Once you have helped your business listeners believe, you’ve won them over to your side.  After that, they will forgive you almost anything!

 

Captivate Your Listeners: Use Focus Words to Let Ideas “Land”

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Would you like your business listeners to feel compelled to listen to you?  Would you like them to hang onto every word you say?

Here is a tip I learned from one of my acting teachers, the late Mira Rostova, who was also coach to the great film actor Montgomery Clift.  This will help you become a more compelling speaker and is Part 2 of my Series called Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land When you Speak. 

One of the most common mistakes speakers make is to stress too many words within one spoken idea.  Speakers who do this are usually attempting to be clear, but the result is often a delivery that sounds unfocused or pedantic; it can even sound condescending.

While every word that you speak “counts” and should be understood by the listener, take time to consider WHICH  of your words should receive focus.  The more words you stress within one phrase or sentence, the more you lose focus and clarity.  Mira Rostova used to say, “go for the point; go for the point!”

To prepare for any business presentation, include the following three strategies:

  • Review your notes and identify the focus words of each complete thought.  Be very discriminating as you choose your focus words.   Find creative ways to add depth and an interesting perspective to your ideas by choosing to placing stress in unexpected moments.  This will add an element of surprise in your delivery and will help you engage your listeners.
  • Underline the focus words of each complete thought.  Then, internalize your content; don’t memorize it.
  • As you rehearse aloud, stress only the focus words of each complete thought.  Keep those focus words at the forefront of your mind, and pursue them energetically as you speak.

Rehearsing this way will drive your ideas with power.  And the paradox is this:  when you become more selective about which words to stress, you’ll help your listeners hang on to every word you speak!

 

Feel & Look Energized By Sharpening Your Mental Focus

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

http://youtu.be/MuHNNnrus0A

You can sharpen your mental focus right before an important business conversation or presentation.  Here are two simple techniques that will help you feel and look fully present and energized.

You probably know that actors warm up their bodies and voices right before a performance.  Well, they also warm up their brains before they go on stage!   As a business professional, you can sharpen your mental focus before you speak, in the same way that actors do, right before they go on stage.

Before you enter the room where you’ll be speaking for business, find a private spot, and try the following:

  1. Busy your brain with arithmetic!  That’s right:  Do arithmetic, starting with small sums.  Add numbers like 64 and 27.  After a few combinations like this, graduate to larger figures, like 459 and 3897.   It really is OK if your answers are not correct; the point of the exercise is to work the brain; to make the effort.
  2. Busy your brain with Jeapardy; just like the game show!  Think of any simple category.  Speak/whisper all the words you can think of that belong in that category.  When your ideas stop flowing relatively easily, change the category and repeat the exercise.  Categories like “capital cities of the world” and “languages of the world”, etc., are good ways to begin.  The choice of categories is almost endless.  Choose categories that are challenging enough to work your brain and  that give you a sense of achievement.

Mental gymnastics will energize you and help you feel and look authoritative. They are very useful tools to help you deliver your ideas with confidence and focus!

 

 

“Take Stage” to Engage Your Business Listeners

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

http://youtu.be/yMKr1xAI3oM

You can engage your business listeners fully by “taking stage”:  capturing their attention and keeping it.

How do professional actors get the audience’s attention and keep them riveted to the action of a play? One answer is that they take stage: they inhabit the space with a “do or die” purpose and an attitude of complete belonging.

Business professionals need to do the same thing, in order to persuade and inspire your business listeners, whether you are speaking one on one, or to a group; whether you are speaking informally, or delivering a PowerPoint presentation.

Here are three techniques to help you take stage –to command your listeners’ attention and keep it:

1.  Before you begin, situate yourself in a position of power whenever possible.  When you are speaking to a group, that’s usually front and center.  Whether you are seated or standing, begin with both feet planted firmly on the ground, and imagine that your legs are tree trunks and that your feet are roots extending deep into the ground. This initial grounding helps you claim the space as your own and gives weight to your movements. It helps you project confidence and authority.

2.  If you’re standing, stand away from furniture and resist any temptation to lean for support. If someone offers you a podium when you speak to a group, politely decline it whenever possible, unless you truly need it.  You want to eliminate as many physical barriers as possible that might come between you and your audience. If you must use a podium, stand tall and don’t lean on it!

3.  If you have handouts for a talk, whenever possible, distribute them after your talk has ended — not before or during the talk.  Giving people material to read during your talk encourages them to focus on the written word and encourages them to ignore you!  Giving material in advance can send the message that your listeners might just as effectively have read your talk — that they did not need to hear you live and in person!

Take stage to engage your listeners.  Better yet, take stage to captivate your business listeners!

 

Command Attention with the Surprising Pause

Monday, July 30th, 2012

http://youtu.be/Y6J2tqiXENc

In my last blog, I wrote about your use of pauses, to allow your ideas to land when you speak & engage your listeners.

Today, I’m going to talk about the power of the surprising pause. Successful business speakers, like good actors, use the surprising pause strategically to command attention and add depth to their message. The element of surprise is a key factor in capturing and keeping your listeners’ attention when you speak for business. Pausing at meaningful and surprising moments can be helpful to you in three ways:

1.   It creates variety in your delivery:  A moment of unexpected silence provides the greatest contrast to a stream of words.

2.   It creates suspense:  It teases your listeners for a moment, making them want to hear more.

3.   It gives your listeners a window into your inner world:  Listeners want to know what is “going on” with the speaker underneath the words.  A surprising pause filled with meaning allows your listeners to observe a different quality in your expressiveness and gain additional perspectives.

In the video version of this blog, I demonstrate now just how effective a surprising pause can be. You may wish to view that now; simply click the thumbnail for the video.

If you prefer to continue reading:
I use the following sentence as an example of the use of the surprising pause. It’s a sentence about concept of supply and demand: an excerpt from a play called Other People’s Money, by Jerry Sterner; which was first produced Off Broadway and later made into a film with Richard Dreyfus.  Here is the sentence:
“One day, when the dollar is weaker or the yen stronger, or when we finally begin to rebuild the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure of our country, demand will skyrocket.”

Logical but predictable moments to pause would be after the words, “day, stronger, and country”.   A more interesting choice would be to add meaningful pauses after the words, “dollar, yen, and demand”.   The surprise and suspense created in those moments leads to a more compelling delivery.

As you rehearse your business talk, consider why and when you will pause. Take logical, meaningful pauses at moments when those pauses might be most surprising.

Make your delivery truly compelling —  and captivate your listeners!

How to Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Ideas to ‘Land’ (Part 3): The Brief Pause

Monday, June 25th, 2012

http://youtu.be/RC9A14CsNmM

In today’s videoblog, I’ll share the third and final step in my three-part series called “How to Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land.”

In my last two videoblogs, I talked about the first two steps in this process: (1) Speak in complete thoughts and (2) pursue your point with energy and focus.

Today, I’ll share step three: Pause briefly after speaking a complete thought, to allow the idea to “land”.

Successful business speakers, like good actors, always consider pacing when they prepare to speak. The tempo of the spoken word has a strong impact on the listener and directly influences the way speakers are perceived. This raises the issue of pausing.

Even the smartest and best listeners need a moment to digest a complete thought. When you are speaking face-to face or on camera, your listeners need time to interpret meaning from a broad palette:  a palette that includes your visual as well as vocal delivery.  So, pauses are important.

A University of Michigan study revealed that speakers who never paused had the lowest success rate in getting listeners to do what they wanted them to do.  The great British actor, John Gielgud, famously said that, when acting Shakespeare, the pauses are the most important moments of the speech!    He knew that pauses can be captivating.

Help your business listeners receive the full impact of your message by giving them the gift of time. Pause briefly after each complete thought, to let it “land”. Don’t be in a rush to go on to your next idea. The pause will also give you time to get a reading on your listener’s understanding and engagement level. During the pause, breathe deeply and maintain good eye contact.

Without the pauses, your listeners may feel overwhelmed by an unmanageable amount of input. They may lose some of your meaning; they might even tune you out.

When you give your listeners time to process each thought, you are respecting their needs while you communicate your own conviction that your message is important.

Never underestimate the power of the pause!

Step Two, for How to Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas To Land When You Speak

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

 

http://youtu.be/i1N1BQxryVU

In today’s blog, I’ll write more about how to keep your listeners engaged by allowing your ideas to land when you speak.

Last time, I wrote about Step One in this process:   Speak in thought groups.  Today, I’ll write about Step Two: Pursue your point with energy and focus.  I’ll share some early advice given to me by one of my teachers:   the late Mira Rostova, (who for many years was coach to the great film actor, Montgomery Clift).

One of the most common mistakes speakers make is to put focus on (to stress) each word – or too many words — within a complete thought.   Speakers who do this are usually attempting to be clear, but the result is often a delivery that sounds unfocused, pedantic, or even condescending.   While every word that you speak “counts” and should be understood by the listener, take time to consider which of your words should receive focus and which should not.

Prepare with these three strategies:

1.  Review your notes and identify the focus word of each complete thought. Remember that the more words you stress, the more you lose focus and clarity — so be very discriminating as you choose your focus words.  Make word-stress choices in creative ways that add depth and an interesting perspective to your ideas.  This can add an element of surprise to your delivery, which is very engaging.

2. Underline the focus words of each complete thought.

3. Rehearse aloud, stressing only the focus words of each complete thought. Put your attention on your focus words.   Keep them at the forefront of your mind, and pursue them energetically as you speak.   My late teacher, Mira Rostova, used to  say, “Go for the point! Go for the point!”   Mira was talking about pursuing your point with focus and energy.  Rehearsing this way will help you drive your ideas and will prepare you for the third and final step in this process.

So, be sure to read my next blog:  Step Three for How To Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land When You Speak.

How to Engage Your Listeners: Allow Your Ideas to “Land”; Step 1

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

http://youtu.be/bRvNPjBGK0s

Successful speakers engage their listeners by pacing the message in a way that allows listeners to understand fully. The key is to allow your ideas to “land” when you speak. I recommend a technique based on one that I learned from my mentor, the Academy-Award-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis.

In today’s blog, I’ll present Step One:
Think in thought groups, instead of thinking in words. This will help your pacing to become organic, authentic, and compelling.

Research tells us that people don’t think in words. We think (and listen) in complete thoughts. Match the way you speak with the way your listeners listen! As you prepare to speak for business, focus on your thought groups by using these three strategies:

1. Review your notes and analyze your whole message. As you rehearse aloud, be conscious of the number of complete thoughts that you present in each sentence – probably one, two, or three complete thoughts in any given sentence.

2. Be mindful of the moments in your message when one complete thought ends and the next one is about to begin. These are your transition moments.

3. Here is a useful and fun technique adapted from the theater. My mentor, Olympia Dukakis, taught me a rehearsal technique that helps actors internalize the actions and emotions of each section of a play script. I have adapted Olympia’s technique for business speakers, so that you will become sensitized to your thought groups. Here is a good way to begin your rehearsal process:

1. Set out a few chairs, as you do in musical chairs, and begin by sitting in one of them.

2. As you rehearse aloud, move to a different chair each time you complete a thought. Speak each complete thought from a different chair.

3. Rehearse this way until your mind and body have internalized the moments when each complete thought has ended and the next one is about to begin.

This early rehearsal exercise will increase your awareness of your thought groups and will prepare you for Step 2 in this process (which I’ll be writing about soon).

Be sure to read my next blog and/or watch the videoblog: Step 2 for “Engaging Your Listeners: Allow Your Ideas to Land”.

May you be a successful speaker!