Don't Lose to the Snooze

[Photo Credit: Lance Anderson]

[Photo Credit: Lance Anderson]

How can you prevent your audience from checking out?  The answer: an emphasis cue. But first, let’s talk about why people sometimes space out while you’re speaking.

Could be that you haven’t put enough time into your presentation and it’s simply not engaging. (But let’s hope this isn’t the case!) Or maybe you didn’t do enough audience analysis and you’re talking ‘past’ them. Or then again, it just might be our crafty brains doing, well, what they naturally do.

John Medina, a molecular biologist, has studied the human brain for decades. I love his book (a NY Times bestseller no less), "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” In it, Medina distills the latest findings in neuroscience into practical concepts that folks like us can understand. Turns out that much of what he says can make us much better speakers.

Take Medina’s Ten Minute Rule. It states that, in short, our brains need some form of stimulus about every ten minutes. When that doesn’t happen, our brains snooze, basically falling into hibernation mode. The result is deadly: people daydream, check Instagram, or the like.

You can prevent this from happening by using an emphasis cue or a single phrase that essentially says, “this is important. Listen up.” Think of the high school teacher who suddenly says, ‘This will be on the final exam.’ Yup, I’m awake now!

Examples of emphasis cues include:

  • My point is ...

  • I’ll sum up by saying …

  • What I learned at that moment was …

  • If you take one thing from my talk, let it be …

You’ll want to tailor these to your speaking style of course. Advanced speakers might also pair these with a delivery cue such as a long pause or a descriptive hand gesture. Stepping away from the podium will also jog the audience awake and put their attention back where it belongs: on your message.

Interested in more practical speaking hacks? Please click here to subscribe, email Rose@rosespeechwriter.com, or follow me on Twitter at RKing_Portland. -- Rose

Make It About Them, Not You

A wonderful way to change the focal point of your remarks – and put the emphasis where it should be – is to replace the word “I” with “you.” Here’s a classic example from Steve Jobs and the team at Apple:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.” 

Jobs could have said “I can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing I can't do is ignore them.” By turning the tables, he invites us into the conversation.

A similar trick is to replace “I” with “we.” Check out this example from Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London. In this 2016 speech, he was advocating for BREXIT (i.e., that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union).

“Thanks to the referendum given to this country by David Cameron, we find that a door has magically opened. We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is, it is not we who have changed. It is the EU that has changed …”

[Photo Credit: Karla Alexander]

[Photo Credit: Karla Alexander]

What I like about this excerpt is how Johnson uses “we” to create allies. A “magical door” has somehow opened. If we walk through it together, he seems to say, we’ll all get to the “sunlit meadows beyond.”

Notice too that Johnson is not saying follow me. He’s asking folks to move ahead in step with him.  Whatever your thoughts on BREXIT, using “we” in this passage makes his argument more persuasive. (And, well, the vote for BREXIT passed as we all know.)

Next time you’re preparing a presentation, do that one final and supremely important edit. Search for “I” and replace it with “you” or “we.”  It may take you all of two minutes (tops!), but it’ll leave a lasting impression with your audience.

 

Try this easy trick in your next speech. For more speaking hacks, click here to subscribe, email Rose@rosespeechwriter.com, or follow me @RKing_Portland. -- Rose

Work Out, Speak Out

When I hear the term ‘working out,’ I’m more apt to think of my New Year’s resolution than public speaking. But there’s an important connection between the two. A light work out before you present will discharge that excess nervous energy that will otherwise destroy excellent remarks.

Last year I was working with an executive in the field of health care. I’ll call him “Ed.” Ed had come to me because, a year earlier, he’d frozen up on stage. He said that suddenly, as he glanced at the audience, a steam roller hit him. He couldn’t breathe. A black circle filled his vision. The room telescoped in on itself, growing darker by the second.

Ever since the panic attack, Ed hadn’t been able to present without taking medication to calm his nerves beforehand. He and I worked together for a few weeks. We tested out various coping mechanisms and he made mild progress … but nothing major. That is, until the topic of running popped up in our conversation.  

Ed sat back in his chair, exhaled, and talked at length about running cross country in college. About how much he loved jogging through the woods. About how being an athlete was fundamental to his identity. And about how he’d let the demands of his job – including 40% travel – stop him in his tracks.

[Photo credit: Jenny Hill]

[Photo credit: Jenny Hill]

In the end, what helped Ed to not just face the podium, but excel as a speaker was returning to what he loved. He got back to running trails (and back on the treadmill when traveling). The result? Ed said goodbye to his anti-anxiety meds for good.

Now, to be clear: working out is, by no means, a cure all for glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. But discharging excess energy before you speak will help you manage it. You don’t have to run a marathon, but you could walk briskly around the block or do jumping jacks in your hotel room. Don’t try to exhaust yourself. Just do enough to shake off the jitters and channel that energy into your best performance yet.

I love this tip. Has it worked for you? Email me at Rose@rosespeechwriter.com or reach out on Twitter at @RKing_Portland. -- Rose

Comfort Zone & Vocal Range

One easy way to become a better speaker is to consider your vocal range: how softly and loudly you speak. If you’re like most people, you probably tend to stay in a fairly safe range of what seems acceptable. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, frankly, it can be a killer. It can put your audience to sleep. (And you don’t want to be “that” speaker who rambles in a monotone voice.)

[Photo Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel]

[Photo Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel]

So, what can you do? First, experiment on yourself. Most smartphones have a microphone app. When you’re practicing your remarks, record your voice for 2 minutes and then check out your volume waveforms. I just did this with a client who had a “flat line” -- zero variation in the volume of her voice. When she saw this visual, she realized she had to make a change.

Second, find at least one place in the speech where you really want to connect emotionally with the audience. Maybe it’s a story about Apollo 13 or a moving quote by JFK. Maybe it’s the call to action where you'll rally your sales force for a big end-of-year push.

Once you find that spot, consider how you can deliver your message with the greatest effect. For example, you may want to lower your voice at the story’s end and walk closer to the audience. Or maybe speak louder when you cite the end-of-year sales goals. You decide. The point is to move out of your comfort zone by extending the range of your voice.

Finally, do a quick sound check before the event. Test the mic to see how softly you can speak and still be heard in the back of the room. This seems so simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people begin by asking, “Can you hear me in back?” (And nothing says amateur hour more loudly.)

In sum, increasing your vocal range isn’t hard but it will require you to get out of your comfort zone. But it’s worth it. Turning the volume up or down at key moments won’t just avoid sounding monotone. It’ll get your audience involved in an emotional, dramatic way. Remember, your role as a presenter is to take the audience on a journey. Show them what happened. Give them a glimpse of where they’re going. Use your voice to bring them along and you'll experience the highs and lows together.

Interested in more speech hacks that work? Please click here to subscribe or follow me on Twitter at @RKing_Portland. Thanks. -- Rose

Backwards Planning

Let’s say that an email landed in your inbox asking you to speak at a local conference. Or maybe a colleague left you a voice mail, inviting you to be part of a panel next month.

What’s the first step you should take after saying “yes” to a speaking invitation?

The answer is so basic that you might overlook it – at your peril. I recommend working backwards. In other words, put the event on your calendar of course, but also add two other critical dates.

As soon as you accept a speaking invitation, get it on your calendar -- along with a few other critical dates. [Photo credit: Eric Rothermel]

As soon as you accept a speaking invitation, get it on your calendar -- along with a few other critical dates. [Photo credit: Eric Rothermel]

#1 – Move from What You’re Saying to How You’ll Say It

The first date to add is the day that you’ll stop generating content and start rehearsing the material.  In other words, this is the date when you’ll start figuring out how to share your ideas in a compelling way. It’s usually about 3 to 5 days before the event, but may vary depending on the length of your remarks. 

At that time, start asking yourself questions about delivery. For example, what slides are needed to underscore the main message?  What prop will help your audience “get it?”  How will you tell the story or use the space on the stage? You will likely fine-tune content after this date, but having it on your calendar will give you a clear target: HERE, on this exact day, you’ll make that mighty transition from what you’re going to say to how you’ll say it.

#2 – Set Aside Time to Practice

In addition to this date, I recommend blocking off chunks of time to prep and rehearse. Some folks like to set aside 2 hours at a time; others prefer shorter 30-minute blocks of time. It’s up to you and will depend on how long your presentation is. The important thing is to give yourself enough time so that you feel calm and confident on the day of the big event.

Give yourself the benefit of time by planning backwards from the get go. This will help ensure all the effort you put into crafting the content won’t be wasted. Instead, you’ll have figured out how to share it in a way that’s clear, entertaining, and persuasive.

Interested in more speaking tips? Email me at Rose@rosespeechwriter.com or follow me on Twitter at @RKing_Portland. Thanks. -- Rose

To Move or Not to Move

I was recently working with a client on a speech and he asked me about moving around the stage: should I walk around up there? How much? And where do I go exactly?

In general, speakers should begin and end their remarks in the center of the stage without any movement. This is especially important during the intro. That’s the precise moment when you’ll be sharing some of the most critical parts of your presentation: the headline of your speech and an overview of what’s to come.  In addition, that’s when the audience is forming their first impression of you. If you move too much (or pace back and forth), the audience will find your movement distracting.

During the rest of the presentation, speakers should be deliberate about walking around on stage. Specifically, I recommend doing so for the following 3 reasons*:

[Photo Credit: Antoine Schibler]

[Photo Credit: Antoine Schibler]

  • To Tell a Story – “When I was 8 years old ….” A great time to move closer to the audience is when you’re telling a story. If you lower your voice and slow down your rate of speaking, trust me, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand.

  • To Make a Transition – “Fast forward 9 months …” A great time to walk across the stage is when you’re transitioning between major ideas or themes. By doing so, your body language reinforces what you’re saying.

  • To Illustrate an Action – “I stepped up to the plate and heard Dad yell ….” Finally, showing an action can make your speech more memorable. In this case, you might step forward and tap home plate with an imaginary bat. Don’t overdo it. You’re a speaker, not an actor. Just a few key gestures will go a long way.

Should you do all three of these techniques? Probably not. Instead pick the one that’s most appropriate for what you’ll be saying and, above all, that’s natural for you. Said differently, there’s no set formula. You don’t want to look like a robot on stage, moving 3 feet to the left then 5 feet to the right. Instead, your goal should be to come across as personable: just one human being trying to connect with another. Movement that’s both intentional and natural can help you do just that. 

*Note: techniques adapted/modified from Washington Post article Nov 2015.

The Spot Light Effect

I use a number of techniques to help people who are nervous about speaking in public. Taking a few deep breaths before stepping behind the podium helps some. Other people rehearse ten, maybe twelve times, becoming so familiar with the material that their jitters fall away. Still others benefit from hearing about the spot light effect, the notion that the audience is probably paying less attention to you than you might think! 

[Photo Credit: Paul Green]

[Photo Credit: Paul Green]

I first read about this idea in Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She talked about a major league baseball player who felt self-conscious when he stepped up to the plate. Seeing his face (and batting average!) plastered across the two-story scoreboard made him anxious. Some of my clients have expressed similar feelings when they’re asked to speak in public.

Here’s where the spot light effect comes in. Dozens of experiments show that we generally overestimate how much attention we think other people are paying to us. One of my favorite involves a study in which college students were asked to wear t-shirts sporting a picture of Barry Manilow. Researchers asked them to estimate what percentage of their peers they thought had noticed the embarrassing t-shirts. They said about half. In reality, only about a quarter of their peers noticed the Manilow t-shirts. In some studies, the number was as low as 10 percent.

You can read about these studies here but, in terms of public speaking, two takeaways are worth noting. The first is relax. Chances are the audience isn’t eying you as closely as you think. The second is to remember that you’re competing for their attention. They may be thinking about their daughter at school or daydreaming about their recent trip to Hawaii.  On top of that, they’re probably texting and tweeting. That’s all the more reason for you to prep great material, practice your delivery, and demand their attention with engaging and compelling remarks.

To learn more speaking tips, click here to subscribe, email Rose@rosespeechwriter.com, or follow me on Twitter at @RKing_Portland. -- Rose

Eye Contact & Audience Anchors

[Photo Credit: Mark Solarski]

[Photo Credit: Mark Solarski]

Last Saturday, I attended a meeting with local community leaders. The fact that it ran long – over 3 hours – was painful. But what made it particularly difficult was this: most of the speakers didn't talk to me. Or, frankly, anyone else either. Here’s what happened …

I was sitting around a long conference table with about 20 other adults. Plunked in the middle of the table was a box of Starbuck’s coffee. The room was hot. Someone floated copies of the agenda and the first presenter stood up.

He was slim with graying hair. He cleared his throat and began to speak so softly that I leaned forward in my chair. He kept his eyes glued to the paper in his hands. He was so intent on covering what was written there that we, the audience, were superfluous. I sat back, realizing he could have emailed the info out to us with equal effect.

He finished and the second presenter, a woman in a red cardigan, stood up. She was less intent on reading her notes but she glanced up for just one reason: to make eye contact with the person seated across from her. She seemed to genuinely care about the topic, speaking at length and with passion. But her delivery was directed to a single recipient. I glanced around the table. Folks tapped at their phones. Like me, they had checked out.   

Then the third presenter, a 50s-something man with glasses, pushed back from his chair. He began to speak, making eye contact with all of us. He drew us into the material with conviction. The cell phones went away, folks leaned in to the words, and soon enough we were behind his cause.

Eye contact is one of many simple tools you can use to rally an audience. I recommend picking 3 anchor people in the audience located to your far right, far left, and center. (Don't pick someone who's Tweeting or already disengaged.) Instead find someone who is smiling at you or nodding as you speak. Take turns looking at each anchor person while you speak. The other folks (seated between them) will catch your eye automatically. 

Will eye contact alone win converts to your side? Of course not. But failing to see – and therefore connect with – people in the room will lose them every single time. 

Have a question about your next speech? Email me at Rose@rosespeechwriter.com. -- Rose

Priming


During the holidays, I heard lots of "mini speeches." Last week my father-in-law offered a toast at the dinner table. Yesterday a friend talked about appreciating our time together. Both were beautiful little tributes: kind and heartfelt. The next time you want to say a few words but are holding back, consider a technique called “priming.”

Joe Maggie, a professor at NY University, uses priming to help people under stress. Before doing a nerve-racking activity (like public speaking!), he encourages people to remember a moment when they felt powerful & confident. And to that I'd add this: reflect on a time when you felt good about yourself. Perhaps it was after you volunteered at a food pantry or made chicken soup for a sick neighbor. Maybe it was how you felt after a long run or doing yoga.

By reflecting on a moment when you were your best self, you'll reduce your anxiety about speaking in public. It’s not a magic bullet. It won't quell all your nerves or shake free the stress of everyday life. But it will help you feel more relaxed and confident. Adding a few deep breaths is important as well. Give it a try. When you’re moved by the spirit, “prime the pump” first then share your thoughts aloud. My guess is that your friends and family will appreciate what you have to say.

 

Have a question about your next speech? Email me at Rose@rosespeechwriter.com. If you'd like to learn more speaking tips, please click here to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

[Photo credit: Deniz Altindas]

[Photo credit: Deniz Altindas]

The Call to Action

Have a speech coming up? My advice is to start at the end with a clear, compelling Call to Action. Let me explain.

I got a frantic call last week. A woman named Sarah was giving a speech in less than a week and wasn't sure what she wanted to say. She was stuck. We talked for some time about the event and the audience. She'd been asked to share 8-10 minutes of remarks about a nonprofit she had founded 7 years earlier. The setting? A nondescript conference room. No podium. No slides. No Q&A. Soon we were talking about the audience. I pressed. Who were they? What did they care about? What motivated them?

Then came the kicker. And the reason Sarah was stuck. I asked her what she wanted the audience to do. When you're done speaking, I said, they'll clap politely. You'll gather your notes and your raincoat (yup, it's Fall here in the Pacific NW.) Then you'll walk out of the room, Sarah, but what happens next? What do you want your audience to do?

She got it.  Sarah mentioned contacting our city council and we were off! Together we hashed out a clear, concise "ask." Once we'd identified her Call to Action, we fleshed out the main arguments of Sarah's speech. Hurray! Success!  

A Call to Action

A Call to Action is a clear, concise appeal to the audience asking them to take action. To do something. How do you craft a compelling one? Here are some guidelines:

Instead of “let’s solve homelessness," say, “join our coalition.” Be specific about how you want the audience to get involved. [Photo credit: Giovanni Randisi]

Instead of “let’s solve homelessness," say, “join our coalition.” Be specific about how you want the audience to get involved. [Photo credit: Giovanni Randisi]

1)  Be explicit. A Call to Action isn't a hint or suggestion. It's not a veiled request. Nor is it a wishy-washy "ask."  Stand up tall in front of the room and own it: ask for what you want. Don't say, "You might consider looking at this petition." Instead say, "I urge you to sign this petition on XYZ today." Here's another example. It's okay to say, "Homelessness is a travesty. Together we can solve this problem." But it's better to say, "We've formed a homeless coalition and we invite you to join us at our next meeting on Tuesday. Together we can get people off our streets and into safe, affordable homes."

2)  Focus on THEM.  The Call to Action shouldn't center on the speaker. It should state how it'll help the audience. Make clear how they'll benefit. Don't say, "Your donation will help us grow our nonprofit." Instead say, "Your donation will help build playgrounds for children this summer."

3)  Use active verbs. Asking people to "think about" or "reflect" on a topic is fine for a walk in the woods, but not a speech. Be assertive. Tell them to vote or volunteer. Write a check or swipe their card. Check on their elderly neighbor, launch a neighborhood carpool, or storm the castle walls. (Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.)  

4)  Make it easy.  If you're asking folks to volunteer, pass around a sign up list. If you’re asking them to write to their Senator, give them postcards to sign & mail. We're all pressed for time, so make it convenient for people to take action. Said differently, reduce hurdles that would prevent them from heeding your Call to Action.

Next time you’re giving a speech, don’t get stuck. Figure out your Call to Action and then work backward to build a persuasive argument. Starting at the end is often the best way to begin.

Want to learn more tips and tricks of great speakers? Please click here and scroll down to subscribe. -- Rose

The Headline Test

Last week I presented at a nonprofit conference in Chicago. The point of my talk was to share time-saving tips with busy communication professionals working on a limited budget. Most were a communications "shop of one." In addition, they wore many hats, serving as the volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, or grant writer. At one point, I asked the audience if they'd heard of the "headline test." Very few had, and yet, it's such a powerful tool.

The Headline Test 

When you read a newspaper, the headline is the main message the editors you want you to remember. It's a concise summary of the article. The same notion applies to your remarks. Before you give the speech, figure out the key idea you want people to remember when you're done. So how do you use the Headline Test and why?

Say that you're giving a speech on summer hunger among children in America. At some point in the remarks, you know you must describe the problem: specifically, millions of low-income kids lack access to reliable, nutritious food in June, July, and August. You also know that you must explain why. The answer: Free and reduced-priced meals (which they receive during the school year) aren't available in the summer. You'll also be hunting down statistics and maybe an anecdote or two. 

But how will you organize your remarks? The headline test can help. It forces you to determine the main idea that you want people to remember. In this example, it might be this: "Summer Hunger Among our Children is Unacceptable." Or maybe it's "Elected Officials Must End Summer Hunger." 

Whatever it is, knowing the headline enables you to work backwards. If you know the Call to Action (i.e., what you're asking folks to do) you can organize the body of your remarks. In other words, you can build a cogent argument -- that gains steam one idea at a time -- so the audience can't help but come to any other conclusion than "We Must Do Something About This Problem Now!" (And, of course, you will spell out exactly what they must do: call their elected official, volunteer at a food bank, or donate grocery items to summer lunch sites, etc.)

It's a "test" because you need to be able to articulate the speech's main message in a clear, concise way. That brings me to the take-away.

Take-Away

You don't aim an arrow in the general vicinity of the target. You shoot for the bullseye. The same concept applies to drafting your remarks. Before you put fingers to the keypad, do the headline test. It'll save you time. It'll help you sharpen your message. It'll help you reach people. Figure out what you want people to remember after the applause fades. If you can't capture it in a few words, your audience won't be able to do so either.

To learn more speaking tips, click here and scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

3 Tips for a Killer PechaKucha

PechaKucha, the Japanese word for chit chat, is a presentation of 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. (Total time is 6 minutes, 40 seconds). Because the slides advance automatically, the format forces speakers to be concise ... otherwise, they fall woefully behind their slide deck.

What I love about PechaKucha is that it encourages people to get right to the point -- and then move on. We've all heard speakers ramble on stage. They wander down one rabbit hole after another. Often they haven't taken the time to key in on their main ideas before the speech. As a result, their audience struggles to weed out the "tangents" and "asides." Before long, they're tweeting or texting on their cell phone. The speaker has lost them. 

How, then, can you give a killer PechaKucha? 

Tip #1 - LESS IS MORE - Long before you take the stage, you need to know the one or two main ideas per slide that you'd like to share. This takes time and, frankly, it's tough. But if you don't "do your homework," you'll try to cram in too much info. The result? You'll speak rapid fire and you'll lose your audience. You only have 20 seconds for each slide, so you have to be selective. Ruthlessly so. In the end, I encourage you to give priority to the "headlines" you want to share on each slide and, remember, less is more.

Find vivid photos like this one of fireworks in Singapore. My favorite source of pictures is Unsplash. [Photo credit: Nitin Mathew]

Find vivid photos like this one of fireworks in Singapore. My favorite source of pictures is Unsplash. [Photo credit: Nitin Mathew]

Tip #2 - COMPELLING IMAGES - The best PechaKuchas have powerful images. You can find quality, high-resolution photos here or here. These pics are free and have no copyright restrictions. They also have searchable databases so you can find the right picture quickly.  (I love these sites so much, in fact, that I get their weekly emails.) For your presentation, it's fine for some slides to have a single word, short phase, or compelling statistic. But your slides shouldn't be cluttered with text. No bullet lists. No dense paragraphs. No special effects. Instead, I recommend following the slide guidelines used in TED Talks. Essentially, big, moving high quality images that reinforce the point you're making.

Tip #3 - PRACTICE - This format is unforgiving because the slides move ahead whether or not you're ready. In the last PechaKucha I attended, 9 of the 10 speakers fell behind in their presentations. Meanwhile the slides, on automatic advance, surged ahead. Folks on the stage kept glancing back at the screen, flailing their arms, and stumbling on their words. They weren't sure how to get back on track. The audience giggled when the first two speakers fell behind; after that, the joke wasn't as funny. Now, no two speakers are alike, but I generally recommend running through this type of presentation (with your slides) at least 5 times before you deliver it. More if possible. You need to know the main idea for each slide, how to jump forward if needed, and what you're going to do (pause) if you get ahead of your slides.

Want to learn more practical hacks of public speaking? Please click here and scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

 

 

Just Breathe -- Tips & Tricks of Great Speakers

JUST BREATHE: The Woman in Chair #2

[Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina]

[Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina]

I recently attended an event at the Lucky Lab, one of my favorite local bars in Portland, OR.  I was there to watch a client that I'm coaching. She was among a group of about ten engineers and architects who were doing PechaKucha (basically presentations of 20 slides @ 20 seconds each).

The first 5 speakers were seated stage right. As the first speaker began, I noticed a well-dressed woman seated in chair #2.  She was the next presenter.  As she waited for her turn to take the stage, she tore up her fingernails one by one. She squirmed in her seat. She swung her legs beneath it.

When the speaker finished, the woman in chair #2 leapt up. She took the mic and began to speak rapid-fire style. She talked so fast that no one could understand her. I didn't time her, but would guess she was covering about 175 to 200 words a minute. That's crazy fast.

I wanted to seek her out after the event to help in some way. Unfortunately she slipped out the door and headed to the bar. My advice would have been pretty simple. Breathe ... just breathe. Doing a few simple exercises before you speak will not only calm the nerves, but ensure you're ticking along at about 125 words a min (about the right pace for most speakers).

Here's what to do when you're in chair #2:

  1. Put both feet on the ground and sit up straight.

  2. Inhale to a count of 4. Exhale to a count of 4. Breathe through your nose.

  3. Repeat.

  4. If this pattern is too easy, try a count of 6 or any of the options listed here.

To be honest, it doesn't really matter which breathing exercise you use. If you know you're extra nervous before speaking, focus on breath beforehand. It will slow down your pace so you can convey your message in a more thoughtful manner. It will also help you master "the pause," a hugely underrated trick that's part of the exceptional speaker's repertoire.

I love this tip because it never fails. To learn more, click here and scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

Hand Gestures -- Tips & Tricks of Great Speakers

What About Hand Gestures?

I get this kind of comment from clients all the time. They say, 'Here's the thing, Rose ... when I keep my hands at my sides, just sort of dangling there, it feels awkward. What the heck should I do with my hands?' Great question. 

Don't adjust your tie or fiddle with your outfit on stage. That says amateur hour. Use the mirror in the green room to ensure you're ready to go! [Photo Credit: Ben Rosett]

Don't adjust your tie or fiddle with your outfit on stage. That says amateur hour. Use the mirror in the green room to ensure you're ready to go! [Photo Credit: Ben Rosett]

Here's what not to do:

1. Jiggle the change in your pocket. Check your pocket for the cell phone -- over and over.
"Is my iPhone there? Yes, there it is.
(10 seconds later) 
Wait, where's my iPhone? Ah, yes. It's there.

2. Stand in "fig leaf" or parade rest (hands clasped in front or behind you).

3. Brush hair out of your face or readjust your glasses repeatedly.

4. Point at the audience. (If you must point, use the politician's solution which is to point with the knuckle of your index finger.)

5. Use jazz hands to convey your enthusiasm.

Well, then, what should you do? My advice is threefold. First, keep hand gestures natural, as if you're having a conversation with a small group of friends. Second, use them purposefully. By that, I mean either list a number (hold up 2 fingers to make your 2nd point) or use them to describe a specific activity or an object (ex: skipping a stone or a watch on your wrist). Finally, use hand gestures inclusively: open your arms and keep the palms up. Project an image that's welcoming -- even when you're inviting people to disagree with you! Check out the illustrations in this Washington Post article as well as the practical tips it offers.

Want to become a more powerful speaker? Please click here and scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

Save the Cat!

Save the Cat!

Watch any major blockbuster movie & you'll notice a little trick used by screen writers. The protagonist will do something that's, well, just plain nice. A professor might say "thanks" to an intern. A Dad might hug his son. A teacher might compliment her student. The act is often so subtle that it doesn't register consciously, but it sure does subconsciously! This is the "save the cat" moment. It gets us, the audience, rooting for the hero. It often happens in the first few minutes of a movie. It's a pretty ingenious technique, one that I learned from the amazing book, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. 

Your Take-Away

Be nice when you first take the stage. Project the image of someone who's grateful to be there, respectful of the audience, and humble about your abilities (however superhero like). So ...

If the last speaker was great, start by complimenting her. One thing I often do is tell the audience to interrupt me at any time. "This is YOUR session," I assure them. "I want to make our time together as helpful as possible."  In some 10 years of public speaking, I've never once been interrupted by a question.

On the flip side, if things go wrong, don't overreact. For example, if your slides are dorked up, don't belittle the poor IT guy. (Truth be told, visual aids that don't work are your fault ... You should have checked 'em earlier.)  Keep calm, poised, and polite.

The bottom line is this. Don't pander to any audience. Ever. Instead, just remember what your Mama taught you. Play nice. If you keep it simple and subtle, you'll save the cat.

Want to learn more "tips and tricks" of great speakers? Please click here & scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose

The Dole Stroll -- Tips & Tricks of Great Speakers

Try the Dole Stroll

At the 1996 Republican convention, Elizabeth Dole was asked to introduce her husband who was then running for President. Her job was to "humanize" him and she used a masterful (but simple) technique to do so. She left the stage, walked among the audience, and talked about her husband in a personal, thoughtful way.   (Full speech here.)  

Take a minute to watch what was ever-after called, "The Dole Stroll." (Start clip at 1 min/15 sec)

Now, what the video doesn't capture is twofold. First, the Dole Stroll was highly choreographed. She hugs a man in a wheel chair, an African American cop, and others. Each time the crowd roars its applause. It's her "Save the Cat" moment for sure. Second, Elizabeth Dole stole the show that night. All the major news anchors covering the event went wild with praise for this "new" technique.  Sometimes using the stage differently than done in the past makes all the difference in the world. 

Your Take-Away

To do the Dole Stroll, leave the stage & walk among your audience members. Best time to try it? When you're telling a personal story. [Photo Credit: Christian Fregnan]

To do the Dole Stroll, leave the stage & walk among your audience members. Best time to try it? When you're telling a personal story. [Photo Credit: Christian Fregnan]

1)  Are you using a highly personal, moving story in your presentation? Would it break down a barrier if you moved into the audience? If so, give The Dole Stroll a try. 

2) Has the audience been sitting there listening to speaker after speaker from a big stage? Again, maybe The Dole Stroll will set you apart (and wake up the audience!).

 

If You Use The Dole Stroll

1) Have a handheld, backup mic ready to use. Lavaliers can go dead outside a certain range. I've talked to Elizabeth Dole personally about that night. She told me she had 3 handheld mics on the floor -- and needed to use two of them!

2) Before you speak, tell the event organizers that you plan to leave the stage. They may need to bring up the house lights or, if there's a spotlight, adjust it to follow you. Your speech will go better if the production folks know in advance what you're up to.

3) Use a transition to get you on and off the stage. Check out the video again to see how Elizabeth Dole did it.

Want to learn more "tips and tricks" of great speakers? Please scroll down to subscribe. Thanks! -- Rose