Public Speaking 101 – Part IV

PART IV

How to Make a Lasting Audience Impact

Believe me when I say that no matter how good or flawless your pronunciation, grammar and accent are and regardless how masterful you are of facilitation and platform skills; you will still wind up as an average speaker if you do not make an impact on your audience.

Sounding well amazes people, that is for sure but it is just one thing.  Furthermore, moving well on stage keeps your audience focused and awake but then again, it is still one thing.  Nevertheless, enlivening your people as you speak and ending your presentation/speech wowing your audience is another.

What sets apart good or average from very good or excellent speakers (that get a deafening round of applause if not a standing ovation) is their ability to touch their audience’s lives and arouse their interest and participation in the duration of your seminar or training.  If they are successful in getting deep down to their emotions/feelings and positively influencing and completely inspiring them, they know they are assured of not only a presentation or a speech that is well-applauded but a chance to be invited again to motivate more people’s lives; an encore.

In this article, which is the last of our four-part blog series about “Public Speaking 101”, I will provide you some techniques or tips that I am pretty sure you will benefit from as they have been working, thankfully, for me all through these years that I have spoken at different events and trained in different classes or programs.

Let me share with you my concept, E.N.E.R.G.I.Z.E.  Yes.  This is all you need to do to be an extraordinary speaker that brings in results, that impresses his audience, that leaves people in the audience wanting for more; feeling great that they watched you, listened to you and attended your event; and that is able to achieve the objectives of his presentation or speech.  This is an acronym or a mnemonic that stands for Excite, Notice, Exchange, Relate, Goad, Inspire, Zoom In, and Entertain.

EXCITE your audience

You have to sound and passionate from start to finish.  People have to see that you love what you are doing and that what you are telling them emanates from your heart.  Honestly, I have been part of the audience several times myself and every time I see a speaker who is passionate and who talks as if his words are what make him alive, I am rallied by him and his wisdom.  For me, a speaker who is passionate is more believable.  It is because for some reason, such passion and enthusiasm help us imagine the story the he is sharing or put us in his shoes when he is narrating his personal encounters in life.  We get to feel what he feels.  We suddenly think the same way that he does and wonderfully enough, we find ourselves desiring to follow in the footsteps thinking every single wisdom that we are learning, we can readily apply in our life at once.

You see, passion and enthusiasm in speakers are very contagious.  Magically, these auras of not only confidence but genuine concern to motivate and inspire as well kind of hypnotize people and before they realize it, they have already been itching to put into practice what has been said.

Therefore, sound and look passionate consistently.  This can be seen and heard not only from the content of what you are saying but from how you sound — your tone, your voice’s volume, pitch, enunciation, etc.  Believe me, it does work wonders.

 NOTICE their reactions, body language and facial expressions

To be a great speaker is to be a very observant and strongly-sensitive one.  No matter how many or few your participants are, you have to multitask with thinking, speaking and looking at their facial expressions, reactions and body language simultaneously all the time. It is not only to try to maintain eye contact with them but to check if everyone is still okay, following you, understanding you, awake, focused, and enjoying as well.

When they already look bored (you can see some yawning or looking somewhere else) or they are already sleeping, you might want to take a moment to ask them if they are still okay or better yet, facilitate a very quick icebreaker or game just to wake them up or put them back on track.  You can also poke fun at the fact that they are sleeping on you or they are not paying attention to you anymore by pulling off a non-offensive and non-embarrassing joke directed at everyone so as not to put those people you caught yawning, sleeping or looking bored on the spot.  If most people in your audience look like there is a big question mark on their faces, you might want to check for understanding by asking them if they do not have questions at that point or if everything is clear so far.  Better yet, you might want to ask them questions yourself to test if every one is on the same page as you are and not just ignoring you or pretending to be listening to you.

Additionally, if you said something or cracked a joke that you are not sure will be or was accepted well by your participants, you may have to pay attention to their facial expressions, body language and reactions as well.  Although it is still much better to think first before you utter a word you would regret saying afterwards, it helps when you check your participants to see if you are not rubbing anybody the wrong way.

So, do not just keep on talking in front without regard for what your participants might be thinking, feeling, or doing.  It is significantly required that there is no single soul in your audience who is not having a great time with you.

EXCHANGE ideas with your audience, involve them, and be conversational

Remember, even if you have hundreds to thousands of participants, it is always a two-way communication and there is always a way to look and sound conversational, involving your participants, and exchanging ideas with them.

I am pretty sure you have seen how singers or bands involve their audience during their concerts, don’t you?  It is either they ask them to sing with them, they ask them if they are having a great time with them or not, or they introduce or end their songs by telling a story or talking to them.  These are their ways to strike up a good conversation with their audience and these are exactly the same things that I need you to do as well.  Always involve your audience by asking them questions about what you are discussing, sharing anecdotes (fictional or factual) and personal experiences, or having them to say something briefly.  This way, you are not the only one who is doing all the talking.  As I have observed, most people feel valued when they are involved or made to participate.  It also keeps them from getting bored or feeling asleep, you know.  They pay more attention to what you are saying.  Lastly, they always remain on their toes all throughout your talk.

RELATE ideas and concepts to your personal experiences

Especially when you are doing motivational or inspirational talks, the best example for your teachings is you; yourself.  The reason why you have been invited to motivate or inspire to begin with is that you have walked the talk or have practiced what you preach.  Right?  Therefore, before or after presenting a tip; a strategy; a method; a technique; a principle; an idea; or a concept, you may need to share a personal story, encounter, or ordeal in which you were able to make use of that knowledge and it has helped you tremendously.

The truth is, it is hard to believe a speaker who is teaching something that he has not applied himself yet, ever.  Would you believe a person who is advertising himself as a rags-to-riches story when he was not really born to an impoverished family and cannot even share a single experience about not having to eat anything, going flat broke, or struggling to survive every single day of his life?  Do you get what I am saying?

Ergo, sharing personal experiences; struggles and successes not only enhances your presentation or speech but increases your credibility as well.  Give it a go and let me know if it works for you or not.

GOAD your audience to acknowledge, appreciate, act, apply, and appraise

One of the best ways to reinforce or wrap up the life principles that you are sharing with your audience is to challenge them to acknowledge and appreciate what they have learned, act on them and apply them immediately, and appraise their own results afterwards.  You may start with phrases like “I challenge you…”, “Let me give you something to work on…”, “As I end my speech, I’ll leave you with a homework or an assignment…”, or “Let me give you a test of life…”.  This has always worked not just for me but for any other speakers too.  Challenging your participants  to do the Five As I mentioned above (acknowledge, appreciate, act, apply, and appraise) does not only give them the responsibility to understand and appreciate what they have learned but the obligation to commit to putting everything into practice and asking themselves if they have done them well or not.

INSPIRE them with borrowed or better yet, your personal quotations and life principles

Using or sharing quotations with your audience is the real icing on the cake.  These life principles are what really stick to their heads or stay in their systems.  As usually the case, one cannot be a motivational speaker or a life coach if he does not have any quotation or life principles to give to his audience.  Even with corporate trainers, let me tell you this, their training programs or courses are also accentuated by one or two food for thought that really help.  So, always make sure that your presentation or speech is highlighted by very practical, convincing, and good-sounding quotes.  For sure, as long as they are pronounced with conviction and enthusiasm, your participants will be blown away.

Keep in mind though that your quotations do not have to be your own or self-thought.  You can just borrow quotations from famous people or other proven motivational speakers.  Jut make sure that the quotations that you tell them are relevant, easy to understand and digest, favorable, and viable.  You may have to be prepared to elaborate on them if necessary.

ZOOM IN on your audience.

If you really like to make an impact on your audience, then zoom in on their needs and expectations and focus on their responses.  Make all the effort to reach out to them and touch  their lives.  This is not only done by maintaining eye contact with them though.  This can also be accomplished by listening with your mind and heart when somebody wants to share or when you initiate to ask somebody questions.  You have to pay attention to what that person is saying.  It also helps when you show that you are listening by nodding or by uttering verbal nods or listener feedback like “I see…”, “I understand…”, “I’m with you…”, “I get what you mean…”, “Right”, “Okay”, etc.  Just the same, your audience will participate if you paraphrase what one says by telling it to everyone or addressing it to the crowd.  That way, everybody else knows what is going on or what that person is sharing.

Bear in mind that a great speaker or trainer is one who always makes his presentation two-way even if he has hundreds to thousands in front of him.

And last but not least, ENTERTAIN

This last ingredient for making an impact on your audience in your training, seminar or what have you is actually a personal favorite.  In fact, this is what makes people give any speaker or trainer out there a standing ovation or what makes them laugh or applaud on their feet in my opinion.

This simply means that you will have to be a stand-up comedian every so often or when the situation calls for it.  There are times that when your participants are apparently losing interest in your discussion or talk, that is already an alert that you must throw some wholesome; non-condescending jokes here and there. For real, these jokes are what keep them attentive all throughout.  More often than not, just to add, speakers or trainers are best remembered for their good sense of humor than anything else.

It takes some practice or testing though.  There are times that some people would not buy your joke but you do not have to crack it again or be disappointed.  It usually works when you just make fun of your own corny joke and that is what makes your audience laugh.  The point here is you should always be prepared to back up or adjust yourself every time you face situations like this.  Nonetheless, with all things being equal, entertain your audience.  It does not have to be jokes or doing stand-up comedy all the time.  It could be something else too.  In my personal experience, since I dance well and was a dancer before, I play famous and trendy dance hits and I encourage my participants to dance with me.  So, really, do what you think has an entertainment value and will amuse your audience.

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Okay, this is the fourth and last installment of our four-part blog series about “Public Speaking 101”.  I hope that all you guys have learned  from Part I until this one.  More importantly, I expect that after reading everything, you are now all set to become a speaker or a trainer yourself. Or, if you have already been a trainer or speaker, I am wishing that this series has made you a better and more entertaining expert in whatever your chosen topic is.

Until the next blog or series, folks.  BE EQUIPPED! 🙂

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Public Speaking 101 – Part III

PART III

How to Enhance Your Stage Presence

It has been several days since Part II of our four-part blog about “Public Speaking” so I decided to get this done and over with for those like you who have been following this series.

In this article, our third that is, we will talk about enhancing your stage presence by knowing the essentials in moving on stage well and some other platform skills that you have to master.  Remember, possessing excellent platform skills on stage enhances your overall presentation better.

Make use of your hands to express your thoughts effectively

I have proven time and time again, although it depends on our own individual styles, that I speak more clearly, more meaningfully, more passionately, and more assertively when I use my hands. Thus, if it has been working well for me, why will it not for you? Just one caveat though.  Be careful not to overdo it.  I see some speakers who utilize hand gestures just for the heck of it; just so people can see they resort to them.  Even when their hand movements do not really represent their thoughts or the words that they are putting stress on, they still use them anyways.  Therefore, let me clarify the use of hands when speaking.  Apart from aiding in expressing yourself more effectively, hand gestures should still represent what you are saying.  You cannot just move your hands any way you want.  That is not how it is done.  Make sure that your hands kind of show them a picture of what you are saying so they are able to visualize your explanation.  In other words, you use you hands to draw the word you are saying in the air.

Establish eye contact with your audience

We already talked about this on Part I but just to reiterate, always do this if you want to create a personal bond with your audience no matter how big or small it is.  Other than the “Lighthouse technique” that I shared with you, how it is done is very easy.  You simply survey (like a moving security/surveillance camera) your audience as you speak.  This makes sure that you are making an effort to reach out to or look at every single one in your audience.  Just do not move your head from left to right very slowly because you will not look very natural nor move it very fast as you will look very distracting.  Instead, move it the normal way and ensure you do not look robotic.

Standing still on either side of your presentation VS moving around or from left to right

Whether you stand still on either side, you move around or you go from left to right and back on stage depends on the following factors:

1. Type of presentation

2. Size of the audience

3. Seat formation

4. Microphone used

Type of presentation:

When you and your audience critically depend on the content of the presentation or everyone must pay attention to the slides in it, you may have to stay on either side of the projection (which side is your  choice) and stay there all throughout.  You have to stand still instead because if you move around, they may be distracted because instead of looking at what you have on your slides, they would unavoidably look at you and where you move about instead.  This means that their attention will veer away from what is more important than everything else, the content.  However, if you do not want your audience to depend heavily on what you have on your slides and you only need them to look at them as a visual aid, then there is nothing wrong with going around the audience or moving from one side to the other on stage.  This only means that you need their attention and what you say is more important than what they see on the slides.

Size of the audience:

There is really no strict rule about whether you should stay on either side of your presentation, walk around the audience or move from one side to another on stage or not depending on the size of your audience.  For me, this is more of a personal preference or a style unique to each and every speaker or trainer.  For instance, my personal style is I do not speak behind a podium, a lectern, a rostrum or a table even if I only have a few participants.  Unless the microphone does not allow me to go very far because it is not wireless, I will try to move around.  For me, my approach becomes less formal and more interactive, personal, and connective if I walk away from the projection or the rostrum  and join the audience.  With this, it is like I become one of them or it is like I am just having a forum with them.

Then, why am I saying it also depends on the size of the audience?

Well, for the purpose of being seen by everyone in your humongous audience (let us say), especially when there is a lot of people, you may just need to speak from where you are standing.  This is because when you walk through your audience or around them, those seated in front would have to follow where you go.  Thus, they end up turning their heads or bodies just so they could trace where you are walking to. It is also the same when you walk back to the front.  The people at the back that you were just talking to would start following you as you march back to where you came from.  It becomes very distracting for them as they would have to make an extra effort to follow you around.  Ergo, especially in these scenarios, I believe you are better off just staying up on stage or near your presentation.

There is an exception though:  You may join the audience or walk on the isle if your purpose is to involve a few or some of them by asking them questions, having them share, or cracking a joke deliberately directed at them.

Now, so as not to look like a stump on stage (you know what I mean), just rely on moving from one side of your presentation to the other every once in a while.  This way, you do not bore your participants because they are staring at a motionless YOU.  Just do not go back and forth after every slide because you will look distracting and uncomfortable to look at as well.  When I say every once in a while, it could be after every topic or after a certain number of slides; but not after each of them.

How about for a class or audience of just 15-25 people?  Well, either way is fine.  You may opt to stay beside your presentation or you may move around if that is what you like more.  After all, everybody can see you clearly from where they are seated.  However, if you start talking to them and not presenting to them (like you would tell a story, ask them to share, or have them answer your question), this is the time that you get near them or you move from one person to another.

Seat Formation

Depending on how seats are arranged or where your audience is seated, how you move about also varies.

Typical seat arrangement (with an isle) – When there is no isle in the middle you can walk along/on, then it is hard to join your audience by walking around inside.  So, you do not have a choice but to stay in front.  However, you may have to maximize that by not looking stiff at all.  You are ought to move from one side to the other or if you decide to just stand still on one side, you could at least make up for not moving by making use of your hands and showing pleasant facial expressions that really get your audience’s attention.

U-shaped seat arrangement – This is actually my personal favorite.  It is because when tables/chairs are arranged in this manner, I can move around my limited number of participants with ease and wherever I go to, I am still way within their line of sight.  Also, it is more comfortable and less taxing to make an effort to talk to each of the participants because all you need to do is walk along the U-shape and back.

Microphone Used

It is needless to elaborate on this.  Nevertheless, just for the sake of saying some about this (since I included it), let me remind you that if the chord of the microphone you are using is not too long enough to allow you to walk towards your participants or to move about, then just stay near your presentation.  Otherwise, especially when there is a wireless microphone or lapel mic available, you may move around.

Physical Movement Can Be Used to Transition

To segue from one idea to another, you can represent the change or the shift using movement of your body from one location or side to another.  However, let me just make something clear.  I am not referring to a slide.  I am referring to an idea.  This idea may refer to a topic, a module, or different concepts.  Therefore, do not exaggerate it by moving from one side of your presentation to another after every slide.  You will not only end up exhausted for walking over and over again all throughout your presentation but your participants might also feel dizzy moving their heads from left to right and vice versa as if they are watching a tennis or a badminton match.  Can you follow?

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So, there you go.  I hope you learned again from the third installment of our four-part series about “Public Speaking 101”.  I hope that after reading through what I can share with you guys on this article, you would already have better platform skills ,which would undoubtedly enhance your stage presence the next time you speak or present.

Public Speaking 101 – Part II

PART II

On the second of our four-part blog about Public Speaking, we will talk about:

How to correct and enhance your voice and your communication skills

So, how do you correct and enhance your overall communication skills before, during and after your presentation/speech so you are assured of sounding well?  Below, I will provide some very practical and doable tips that I have applied myself ever since I started several years ago.  I have proven, time and time again, that they truly work so I hope they work for you too.

BEFORE

Get enough sleep.

Speakers get a raspy voice for one reason or another.  One of them is not getting enough sleep.  When you do not take ample rest, your body gets tired including your vocal chords.  So, simply, make sure that you give yourself a well-deserved rest so your body and voice are well-conditioned for your speech.  Also, you may have to include thinking of happy and positive thoughts beforehand.  Thinking of happy and positive thoughts in preparation for your speech not only relaxes you but relieves you of any pressure or stress as well.

Rehydrate.

Drink plenty of lukewarm water hours or minutes before your speech.  Hydrating keeps your vocal chords healthy in such a way that lukewarm water relaxes them and keeps them moist.  When they are moist and relaxed, the sound they produce comes off more pleasing and clear as compared to a dry and inflamed voice box.  Moreover, never drink cold water when you are going to speak or present.  Although it also wets your vocal chords, its coldness actually causes the blood vessels to contract that leaves the throat dry afterwards and consequentially, dry vocal chords are prone to irritation.  Since our vocal chords vibrate fast when being used, this causes friction which produces the hoarse voice.

Never drink alcohol or smoke cigarette.

The reason behind this is simple. Drinking alcohol and smoking also dry the vocal chords up.  As mentioned above, dry vocal chords do not produce a clear and pleasant voice.

Aside from conditioning your voice with the aforementioned, I also highly suggest conditioning and loosening your speech mechanisms so they are prepared to produce a nice-sounding voice.

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Your speech mechanisms refer to the physiological systems that aid in sound production.  They are your jaw, your lips, your mouth, your teeth, and your tongue.  In preparation for presenting or speaking, you may need to ready them as well.  What I personally do, especially so as to produce my vowel and consonant sounds correctly, is that I produce all of the standard American English sounds one by one from the fifteen vowel sounds to the commonly-misproduced consonants.  Doing so kind of programs my speech mechanisms to remember producing them correctly so when I start speaking, I will not mispronounce a lot of words or any word at all.  Also, I do what I personally coined as the “Boxer’s Jaw Muscle Exercise”.  With this, I imitate the way boxers loosen and warm up their jaws.  Using slow-relaxed motions, I move my jaw up and down and side-to-side repeatedly.  The purpose of doing this is it becomes easier for you to produce those vowel sounds for which your jaw has to drop down and those that have to be prolonged and your speech mechanisms get used to producing the consonants correctly as well.

Do not clear your throat.

Before, I used to clear my throat prior to and even during my presentation or speech in order to remove the mucus inside until I came across an article on a medically-inclined website saying that it is not actually advisable.  Accordingly, clearing your throat actually traumatizes the vocal chords the same way that drinking cold water does.  Instead, what is suggested is that you swallow your saliva or have a sip from your water bottle every so often.  Saliva is not cold and lukewarm fluid like what it is, as earlier explained, moistens your vocal chords to make them perform better.

Breathe in deeply and blow air out.

In order to speak with a well-modulated and audible voice, I also highly recommend that you do breathing exercises.  One way is to take in lots of air through your nose as long as you can and blow the air out through your mouth with a loud “hah!”.  Breathing in and out this way does not only condition your voice but it also provides you with a powerful one that sounds well and can be heard even at the back of your audience.

Read a lot of materials about your topic.

Stage fright or nervousness is not the only cause of stuttering, stammering, or fillers when speaking.  At times, it is also because of lack of knowledge of and poor vocabulary about your topic.  I mean, you may have good grammar and excellent pronunciation but if you do not know much about what you are going to talk about, you will just see yourself groping for what to say or say next.  It then leads to thinking in between that makes you either pause long or utter fillers unavoidably.  Also, thinking in between words or sentences makes you more prone to speech defects like stuttering or stammering.  As we know, these two are usual hints for lack of expertise or confidence of any speaker.  On the same note, poor vocabulary makes you say “whatchamacallit” or “how do you call that?” which are expressions commonly used  when the person cannot remember what word he wants to use.  Worse, you just find yourself speechless and just the same, stuttering or stammering.  Ergo, make sure that you do not go out there to talk without any preparation at all.  Study and know a lot about your topic especially when you are, admittedly, not an expert in it.  The more you know about the topic, the more exposed you are to relevant words that you can say and the more fluid your delivery is.

DURING

There are some elements that you have to take note of, try out and master while you are speaking.  These similarly pertain to the physical qualities of voice.  They are:

TIMBRE – refers to your voice’s unique tone quality or combination of different qualities that makes it different to other people’s

You do not have to change your voice when you are speaking just so you can sound like speaking greats like Anthony Robbins, John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, T. Harv Eker, etc.  Unless you are a dubber, just do not.  If you want to make it big as a speaker and be known for your own identity and capabilities, just keep what you have and just correct and enhance it if needed.

VOLUME – pertains to the loudness or softness of your voice.

The loudness or softness of your  voice is controlled or modulated depending on the following factors:

  • The number of your participants
  • The surroundings or venue you are speaking in/at
  • The quality of your microphone (if there is one at all)

Of course, common sense says that you need to check both your microphone and your voice to see to it that everyone in the room is able to hear your voice.  This requires you to be sensitive and to observe whether all of them are able to hear you very clearly or not.  If not, then you speak louder.  If yes, then you are good.  Now, if their reactions tell you that your voice is too loud and it is either annoying or distracting them, then adjust the volume of your voice accordingly.

For those who naturally have a very soft voice and would like to know how they can speak aloud, my tips would be:

  • Maximize the use of your microphone.  Turn up its volume if you must just so everyone can hear you.
  • Before you say a sentence or a group of sentences, breathe in plenty of air through your nose and release the air through the mouth as you are speaking.  Believe me, this works.  It makes your voice louder and clearer.

ENUNCIATION – is articulating your speech in such a manner that you add the corresponding feelings or emotions that come with the message of what you are saying on top of speaking clearly and concisely.

Speaking with emotions or feelings is what makes your speech or presentation alive.  Just imagine cracking a joke, a really good one, to your audience but you do not sound elated to say it or imagine sharing a personal experience that irked you with a flat tone.  Do you expect your audience to laugh at your joke, even if its content is hilarious, when you say it with a monotone?  Do you expect your audience to identify with and feel sorry about your annoying experience when you do not even sound like you mean it or you were genuinely pissed by it?  Hell no!  So, when you are sharing something funny, make them hear a smiling or a laughing voice.  When you are mad, sound mad.  When you are serious, give them an assertive tone. I believe you sound more believable and influential when you speak sincerely or when you sound like what you are saying is being drawn out from the bottom of your heart.  All it takes really, is to play with your tone and speak as if you are narrating a story to your listeners.  It is as simple as that.

RATE OR PACE – the slowness and quickness when speaking.

Make sure you are not talking too slowly nor too fast when you are speaking.  Quite understandably, some speakers have the tendency to talk fast when they get too comfortable speaking about the topic, they have so many details to tell, or when they know a lot about the subject matter.  Unfortunately though, it takes its toll on the learning retention of the audience and the quality of the good message that is being sent across.  On the other hand, with those who talk slowly, it is either they just naturally sound that way or they are just not fluent so they have to think in between or intentionally slow down so they can enunciate their words clearly and accurately.  Unfortunately again, however, it is pretty much the same with the consequence of speaking fast; that it fires back at the quality of the content and the participants’ level of appreciation of and learning from the talk.

The work around this is relatively simple.  Just do not talk too fast nor too slowly.  Set your pace somewhere between these two where your participants can catch up to you or better yet, be on the same page as you are.  This can be done by observing them as you speak.  If there are some people who look like they are not following you because of like their raised eyebrows or what have you, slow down a bit.  Now, if you think (based on their facial expressions and reactions once again) that you are talking too slowly, then accelerate a bit as well.  Adjusting your pace, really, is simply matching your audience’s reactions.

TONE/INTONATION – means the highness and lowness of voice when speaking.

There are several intonation rules out there and although I would not mind sharing them all here on this article; this article is already long enough that including them would already make this look and read like a mini-novel.  Thus, let me just limit my explanation to a few very elementary rules with regard to intonation.

1.  When you are asking a close-ended question, your intonation rises.  For example, “Are you ready?”

2.  When you are asking an open-ended question, your intonation falls.  For example, “Why do we have to think positively?’

3.  When you start your sentence with an introductory phrase, make your intonation rise in that fragment.  For example, “When we are talking about public speaking,…”.

4.  Your intonation rises every time you are emphasizing a word.

The aforementioned are just four of the several rules with intonation.  I know they are basic if you look at them.  You might even say you have known them ever since your preparatory schooling.  Nevertheless, I must tell you this, there are some who are not able to or who are not applying them flat out.  So, let us just say this is just a refresher of what you already know or a reminder that if you desire to be a great speaker, you are ought to put them to practice.

PRONUNCIATION/GRAMMAR/ACCENT

These are very long and complex topics to learn in our only four-part blog so let me just refer you to my other widely-read blog article that was published back in November which is entitled, “How to Speak Great English with a Neutral Accent”.  Read on.

And last but not least, AFTER

Now that you already know what to do before and during your speech so you have the likelihood of pulling off a heavily-applauded and sought-after presentation, let us now talk about what you must do after your talk.

Drink plenty of lukewarm water.

Your vocal chords must have been overworked after your long speech.  So, moisten and relax them again by drinking lots of lukewarm water.  This is definitely one way of maintaining your voice’s health so it will not suffer wear and tear and be damaged permanently in the long run or when you least expect it.

Take a rest.

 This is something that you, your body, and your voice deserve after a helluva experience speaking to and educating lots of people. So, take it and enjoy it.

Think of ways on how you can get feedback or testimonials from either the organizers of your speaking engagement or a few of the participants.

We love feedback as much as our trainees or participants do.  Right?  So, if you would like to improve your speaking skills continuously and get back up on stage a better speaker, presenter, facilitator, or whatnot the next time around; I suggest you solicit feedback from either or better yet, both the organizers (those who staged the event you spoke at or invited you) and a few representatives from the audience.  What I would do is I would approach my contact person right after my portion and would have him/her bridge me to the organizers.  I would then ask the latter for testimonials/feedback that they can just email to me afterwards so they have all the time they need to draft it.

Same with the participants.  If possible, I would ask those who are taking photos with me or that I walk with on the way out of the venue to tell me what they say about me and how I did on stage.  If they are too shy to share, I just provide them my email address as well and request them to shoot me an email about their feedback/comments.  In my training stints, on the other hand, I make it a point that I administer my post-training program and facilitator evaluation forms or more commonly known as “happy sheets”.  I give them out so I can have my trainees provide me their feedback about my strengths and areas of opportunities.  This way, I can enhance what I am already good at and I can correct or work on my areas for improvement.  This is, plain and simple, how I  get better and better with each speaking engagement that I have.

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I hope you learned a lot from the second part of our four-part blog about Public Speaking.  On my next article, we will talk about how to enhance your stage presence (platform skills).  Till next time.  Be equipped!

Public Speaking 101 – Part I

Have you ever wanted to become a public speaker but just could not be one because of stage fright, poor communication skills, mediocre platform skills, lack of audience impact, etc.? Have you been looking for effective and workable tips on how to overcome fear of speaking in front of a large crowd, how to sound well on the microphone, how to correct and improve speech defects; bad mannerisms and communication skills, how to move about the stage/platform, and how to enliven and involve the audience?  Are you looking for a reliable source you can get these tips from who had all of the aforementioned fears himself before but is now considered as one of the best young speakers and trainers in the Philippines?  Then, you stumbled upon the perfect article.

In this 4-part blog, we will talk about very simple yet effectively doable tips on how to (first and foremost) conquer nervousness and then communicate well, improve stage presence, and make an audience impact.

PART I

How to Overcome Stage Fright or Fear of Embarrassment

To be able to overcome stage fright, you must first find out what is causing it.  By knowing the cause of it all, you are able to think of ways on how to manage it if not totally get rid of it.

Below are some of the common causes of stage fright and their corresponding solutions:

You are overwhelmed by the number of people in front who is going to either applaud or criticize your speech.

You often get overwhelmed or feel intimidated because you are already predicting that the people in your audience might boo your presentation.  You think that they will be bored with your speech and its content.  You assume that they will find your delivery as just another speech from just another speaker.  Well, this is not the kind of mindset that you want to have.  Instead, you presume that most or better yet, all of the people in the crowd will appreciate you and your speech.    You might not completely lose your nervousness but for sure, it will be lessened. It will be lessened because you do not need to worry much (or not at all) about how your audience will react or what their negative comments about your speech or presentation are.  But of course, this should not leave you overconfident though.  You should still put your best foot forward and not leave anything to the belief you will be fine because you are confident or your content and communication skills can carry you through.  While actually doing it, you should still think quickly before you speak.  You should still listen to yourself as you converse.  You should still be able to self-correct when you say an ungrammatical sentence or a mispronounced word.  You should still be able to neutralize your accent, enunciate your words, and try to sound as well and clearly as you can with a microphone.

The mere presence and number of the people in front scare the hell out of you

Who would not be afraid of too many people in front?  It always feels that they might gang up on you alright.  Who would not be scared of having to talk to, educate, satisfy and please a lot of people?  Nobody would not. You see, even the best speakers out there get worried, if not scared. However, it is the way you react to the situation and how you hide your worries or fears to your listeners that make the difference.  Even if you are scared or worried, you must continue with the show.  You have to think that you will just stand up there to do what you are passionate about which are to speak and to share.  Imagine that your audience is simply your friends that you have to tell stories to.  Better yet, especially if it is your first time, imagine that there is no one in front of you to begin with; although I do not suggest this to those who have been speaking for quite a while now and are just looking to improve themselves.  Of course, you have to establish a connection and eye contact with your audience so you really have to accept they are there right in front of you and try to reach out to them.  I know this is easier said than done but if you are well-prepared and you rehearsed your speech in detail without sacrificing still being conversational in your entire speech or presentation, you will be fine.

Most of us get scared only because it is either we did not prepare enough, we prepared enough but we believe we are not an expert in the topic, or we are an expert in the topic but we feel we would under-deliver.  Right?  So, if these are just where that nervousness is coming from, then we have to take care of them first before we could do our thing.  Once again, you prepare, you specialize and just go up there and do it.  Also, once you are already up on stage, do not let any of your audience catches any mannerism, behavior, or movement that would be indicative of your nervousness.  They might lose their trust in you.  Their confidence in you might wane away.  They might not believe you.  They would surely not find you as a credible source.   Therefore, hide your fear and your nervousness.  Keep them contained inside of you.  Mask them with a face and an aura of confidence and belief in yourself.  Try to channel your negative energies, thoughts and feelings to the microphone, the laser pointer, the clicker, or the water bottle that you are holding.  These will surely work.  They just must.  Now, if none of these help you in any way at all, then I recommend you learn how to eradicate or at least manage your nervousness and nervous habits first before you could even speak in public.

You are scared to make mistakes; be it in your speech or in your content

Even the most famous speakers out there make mistakes.  Nobody is perfect, as they say.  Just like the previous topic, it is just the way you keep your composure on stage and how you deal with inevitably committing a slip-up that will have you taken care of.

Let us start with speech.  Making mistakes when speaking may refer to saying an ungrammatical phrase or sentence, mispronouncing a word, or getting lost in your explanation somewhere.  It may also refer to stuttering or stammering with a line or a part of what you are saying.  But do not fret.  These things are normal.  They happen even to the experienced speakers and even to the native speakers of the English language (if that is the mode of communication).  Once again, nobody is perfect.  These are the different ways by which you deal with it.  When you say an ungrammatical phrase or sentence, just try to get away with it without putting yourself on the spot.  What I mean by “putting yourself on the spot” is you initiate letting the people know that you made a mistake by apologizing or by telling them that was grammatically incorrect.  You just do not do it this manner.  While some might appreciate your honesty, unfortunately, some might also take it against you and your reputation.  So, just to repeat, just wear a poker face or do not make it obvious and just get away with it.  It is that simple.  Now, how about when you mispronounce a word? What I personally do is the moment I hear myself mispronounce a word, I never say sorry about it.  Instead, I repeat it as quickly as I can after I just said it and just the same, I wear a poker face and continue like nothing happened.  Or, for as long as you do not do it too many times, you might want to make fun of it for just once with something like, “I feel very comfortable with talking about this topic to you that I’m mispronouncing a word now” while laughing at it yourself at the same time.  Do you get what I mean? You get to correct yourself and at the same time, you package it as a joke that will draw laughter from your participants.  You will just realize that your audience is already laughing with you too or laughing at it afterwards.  Just be careful not to do this several times though.  Once, twice or thrice is tolerable but doing this several times might already work against you.  They would already think a good speaker does not mispronounce a word a lot of times so when you are already doing it several times, they might not think you are a good speaker at all or a newbie at what you are doing.  Now, about stuttering or stammering.  The remedy is simple: do not talk fast and try to enunciate your words as clearly as you can.  Some speakers tend to speak fast because they know so much about their topic, they are too comfortable (to a fault) to talk about it, they have a lot of things to say, or they are nervous.  Ergo, slow down; take your time; and clarify your words.  Even if you know so much about the topic, you never forget taking into consideration if your audience is following you and understanding what you are saying or not.  When you feel too comfortable discussing your subject, never set your audience aside.  Check for understanding every now and then and pace your talk.  Make sure everybody is still on the same page as you are.  If you have a lot of things to say, that is actually good.  But once again, pace…pace…pace.  Lastly, just like what I already mentioned, do not let your audience feel; see; and hear that you are nervous.

Now, let us discuss erring with our content.  This is not in terms of if what you are saying is factual, correct, and reliable though.  This is in terms of starting with one idea and in the middle of saying it just jumping to a different thought altogether.  This happens when you to talk about something and then all of a sudden, you change it to something else without finishing it first.  If you are going to do this, I guess it is fine.  But if you can, try to say words in between like “let me back up”, “let me start over”, “sorry, let me say that again, “let us scratch this topic altogether and talk about something else instead, “or rather”, “let us talk about something else instead”, or “okay, erase that”.  When you say any of these, you let them know that you are changing your mind about talking about or continuing to talk about what you have started and you are shifting to a different topic or idea.  It is better this way than sounding disorganized with your thoughts and right then and there, confusing your audience.

Lastly, you are not confident about your content

I must say this is very critical.  You do not talk about something you are not an expert of or you are not confident about in the first place.  Unless you are a specialist in it or you are given several days or weeks to prepare for it and learn it even if you are not a specialist, just do not accept the speaking invitation.  This is the last situation you want to be in, I must tell you.  Nonetheless, if worse comes to worst that you end up accepting the speaking engagement, then make sure you prepare and learn your topic beforehand.  You also have to rehearse with explaining the entire topic and each of the slides on your presentation.  Additionally, it helps if you anticipate your audience’s possible questions about each of the topics on your presentation and come up with a ready answer to each of them.  If there is a question that you least expected and that caught you off guard, tell them that you would have to check it first or that you do not have the answer at the moment and would have to get back to them at a later time.  Trainers call this “parking questions/concerns”.  This is a lot better than responding with a fabricated/made-up answer that has no bases and is erroneous, which is dangerous.  Sometimes, there are some people who already know the answer to their own question and are just asking for the heck of it or only to challenge you and test your knowledge.  Be careful not to fall into these traps.  On the other hand there are also those who really do not know what they are asking about.  If you deceive them, nevertheless, they might get back at you in the near future and accuse you, whatever their medium is, of providing them with something wrong.

These are some of the most common causes of stage fright.  Now that you know and that you are already aware of what to do with them, then I hope that this prepares you more.

Now, let me provide you with a set of tips on how you can conquer stage fright after dealing with its different causes. Just remember the mnemonic, BE POSITIVE.

B – Believe in yourself and your content

Well, first of all, you have to believe in your talent; your public speaking skill.  When you believe in yourself, you are assured that you would be able to think well; that your mind is cleared up as you do not have to think of worries and not-so-good presumptions of what might possibly happen.  When you are confident about what you are capable of doing and sharing, it makes you relaxed.  It helps you focus more.  It brings out the best in you.  You enunciate better, you pronounce your words correctly, you are able to deliver grammatically-correct sentences, and most important of all, you get to organize your thoughts more effectively.  Thus, you send across a message that is more appreciated, understood, and accepted by your audience.

E – Energize yourself

When you energize yourself, you seem to forget you are worried or you are scared.  Your mind deviates from all the negative energies and thoughts and onto the positive excitement and happiness that come with having the opportunity to speak to and inspire people.  It helps you concentrate your efforts into achieving the target objectives of your presentation/speech, whatever they are; disregarding the fear and the nervousness.  Ultimately, it aids in helping you feel great that you are going up on stage to showcase your skills and share your expert message with everyone.  So, to get that energy out, speak as passionately as you can and couple it with moving around the stage well, reaching to each one of your participants by walking around, and making use of your hands to express your thoughts more comfortably and clearly.

P – Practice

Believe me, the key to a highly-applauded and learning-filled presentation/speech is lots of thorough practice.  Even if you believe in yourself and you are energized to the highest level, if you did not walk yourself through your presentation and/or practice your speech before you jump into it, you may not fail but you may come short of what you could possibly pull of either.  So, rehearse a few days before your speaking engagement.  Anticipate all the possible questions that your participants might throw at you and make sure to prepare for objections and rebuttals as well.  You have to cover all aspects and factors of your subject matter in preparation for questions, arguments, and not-so-good reactions.  Also, it helps if you practice in front of the mirror or if you  record a video of yourself rehearsing your entire speech.  This way, you get to critique your facial expressions, your chosen hand gestures, the movement and opening of your mouth, and your physical movement as well.  If you do not like how you look with some of what you do or show, then stop doing them and replace them with something better; something more pleasing to the eyes of your watchers.

O – Overcome your nervousness and fears

We already talked about this above.  But just to reinforce what we discussed, you have to make sure you are able to eliminate or at least contain your nervousness.  There is really a lot of things you can do prior to your presentation/speech.  First of all, you must pray to God.  Always thank HIM for giving you the gift of the gab, seek for HIS guidance and ask HIM not to embarrass you or give you a tough time up on stage.  Next, think of happy or positive thoughts.  When you do, it gets you going even when the going gets tough or tougher.  Think of your inspirations and motivations in life like your partner, your children, your parents, your friends, your ambitions, and of course, yourself.  This way, you get the confidence and the optimism that you need to be able to leave an impact with your audience.

S – Smile before, during and after your presentation/speech

Smiling before, during and after your speech gives you the calmness; the inspiration; and the positive energy that you need.  The mere fact that you are smiling means you are happy with what you are doing and that you love the chance to let more people know about you and you get to educate them with your message at the same time.  From your audience’s perspective, when they can see you smiling, they are positively influenced by the cheerful aura that you exude and they get to feel the same too.  You become more believable to them.  Your audience then feels they are only talking to a close friend because they feel loosened up.  Consequently, they are able to enjoy every moment they have with you and of course, listening to your wonderful presentation.

I – Innovate during your speech

No presentation/speech is much better than one that has creativity in it.  The flawless, clear and intelligent delivery of your content is very important.  However, it is also equally important that you wear the hat of a stand-up comedian and crack some wholesome jokes that are related to your topic every now and then.  Not only that you are able to make them laugh and have fun while learning, you also keep them from getting bored, dozing off or wanting to step out of the room because they cannot take the monotony and the excessive formality of your talk as well.  Moreover, try to cater to the different learning styles of your audience.  Aside from your presentation, your jokes, your nice voice, and your beautiful content; you might want to include a video that the visual learners can watch, audio clips that the auditory learners can enjoy listening to, and a few icebreakers or activities that can wake up the sleeping or unfocused kinesthetic learners (those who learn by doing or applying) in the crowd.  Believe me, your audience will absolutely be blown away by a complete/innovative presentation that is highlighted by these helpful components.

T – Talk to your audience and not your visuals

Remember, when you are presenting or delivering a speech, always make it a point to reach out to every single person in your audience by doing the following:

  • Maintain eye contact by trying to look at everyone.  Looks impossible to do?  Definitely not.  You simply do the ever-famous “lighthouse technique” by moving your eyes across from left to right or vice versa slowly.  Just do not overdo it as it can also be very distracting.  Just do it every once in a while.  Your goal here is for your participants to feel you are talking to them one by one.
  • Your visuals are just your guide.  Remember, your visuals should not take over while you are speaking.  They are only for your audience to use or look at and not for you to depend on.  So, only look at your presentation when you need to read or refer to something or simply to show it your audience but turn to your audience right away.  Your explanation will do the rest.
  • What I also do when I present or speak in public is I walk around.  I actually prefer doing this than staying behind a podium or a lectern.  That is why if possible or if the organizers can provide, I always request a wireless microphone or a lapel mic.  The advantage of moving around for me, although it also depends on how many participants you only have and how they are positioned in the room or , is that you get to approach your audience.  Time and time again, I have proven that the closer you are to everyone in the audience, the more you are able to involve them by asking them questions and connecting to them.

I – Intonate (pronounce or articulate with the appropriate rise/fall of speech/tone)

Over and above your excellent content and your impressive pronunciation, grammar and accent; it is also very important that you deliver your presentation or speech with the appropriate feelings and the right emotions that go with it.  What I mean by this is if you are talking about happiness, sound happy.  If you are sharing something you need them to be sad about, then sound sad.  If you are pointing out or emphasizing something, then sound assertive or firm.  Are you with me?  Presenting or speaking involves some theatrics (displays of emotions) too.  Your audience identifies with your content and story more when you say them with whatever feelings or emotions are carried with them.  It also keeps your speech from sounding too formal, monotonous, stiff, and flat.

V – Be very visual

What this means is that it helps when you cater to the creative imagination of your audience by using your bodily movement and hand gestures.  When you are telling a story, use your hands to help them picture what you are saying.  When you are explaining something, represent your thoughts with a jab, with moving your hands, opening and closing your fist, etc.  Using hand gestures and drawing your anecdotes in the air do not only enhance your speech and your content but they also facilitate listening and comprehension which both lead to your participant’s learning.  Furthermore, use your body to your advantage.  There are times when the audience is not pleased or satisfied by a “stump” speaker – in other words, a presenter who just stands still and does not even move his body that much.  Thus, you may need to move your body from left to right from or move from one side of the stage to the other from time to time.  Count on me. When your participants’ eyes are also actively looking and moving, they will not feel sleepy all throughout your speech or presentation.

E – Last but not least, enjoy every moment of your experience

Relish the experience, have fun with your participants, interact with your audience, loosen up, and talk to human beings. When you do these, it does not feel like you have a very challenging task at hand.  The fact about loving and having fun with what you are doing is that even if it takes you hours to talk, you will just breeze through everything like nothing happened.  It all becomes play and not work.  Before you realize it, you are all done and all you could see at that point are smiling faces; faces of enjoyment, satisfaction and confidence.

So, there you go.  I hope you learned a lot from the first of the four parts of our series, “Public Speaking 101”.  I must tell you this.  It all commences with being able to start right and to start right, you have to deal with your worst fears and nervousness.  If you are unable to do this, you are in all kinds of trouble when you start speaking.  However, if you are prepared, has an amazing content, and are confident; expect an outcome that is going to be sought-after by every one.

Next up, we will discuss correcting and enhancing your communication skills when presenting or speaking in public.