Four Public Speaking Pitfalls That Trap Most Presenters

If you want to drastically improve your very next presentation, it is important to understand 4 of the pitfalls that keep most speakers in a ditch out of which they can never seem to climb. If you see where these traps are, you can easily avoid them. As a result, you will clear your pathway to a powerful and persuasive speech.

Here are the 4 costly mistakes:
 
1. They close their speech with the question and answer session. Never close your speech with the Q&A session, because people remember best what they hear first and what they hear last. If you end with the Q&A, you lose control over the last message your audience receives and much of your hard work is undone. It is still a good idea to have a Q&A session, but it is not a good idea to end your presentation with it. Instead, hold the session about 80-90% into your speech and then close the speech in your own powerful way.

2. They open their speech with a whimper. Most speakers open with statements like, “I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me to speak on this prestigious occasion. First I would like to thank Bob.” What is wrong with that kind of opening? Frankly, it’s boring. Boredom shows up when you do what is expected. Instead, come out in an unexpected way by jumping right into your message. Take the “sitcom approach” and start the show first and then transition back to the opening theme song. One good way to do this is to immediately dive into a story. That will catch your audience off guard and you will have their attention from your very first word.

Another effective way is to ask a question. For example, I start some speeches with the following question: “What do you think is the number one thing that stands in the way of most people living their dreams?” This immediately gets my audience’s attention and prompts them to think and to get involved with the speech. Questions work extremely well because they take your audience members from passive spectators to active participants and that definitely raises the energy. Once you finish your planned opening, it is then fine to go back and thank the people who brought you there. Don’t open with a whimper, open with a bang.

3. They lip-synch. I once had a CFO of a biotech company say, “Craig, we need you to coach us with our presentation. We already have the presentation, but we just need to know what to say.” That might seem confusing but I knew exactly what he meant. He meant that the company already had a slide presentation but they needed to know what to say between those slides. Once I worked with them, they came to realize that they had to look at their major points first and then determine if slides were even needed to reinforce them. Most presenters who use slides simply verbalize the same points that are made on the slide. The key to understand is this; if you say the same thing as your slides, then one of you is not needed! You are doing the equivalent of lip-synching your presentation. The best time to use slides is for real visuals such as charts, graphs, and diagrams that will help clarify what you say verbally.

4. They don’t master the essence of public speaking. Bill Gove, the first President of the National Speakers Association, once said that good public speaking is being able to “tell a story and make a point.” That is the essence of public speaking. If you want to become the kind of speaker others line up and sign up to see, then make an effort to master storytelling. People make decisions with their emotions backed up by logic. Stories reach those emotions and get people in a frame of mind to take action. When you become a master storyteller, you help other people see new stories unfold for their own lives. Like the old saying goes, “Facts tell and stories sell.” The key for effective speaking is to get to your stories early because they are the heart of your speech.

If you avoid the 4 pitfalls that trap most speakers and you work on the suggestions above, you will find yourself far ahead of most of the people who ever stood up to say anything.

Being Present And Aware

Seeing the moment for what it is, is important for how we relate to it. Without construing false pretenses or imagining outcomes, we let the moment be just as it is without further interpretation. To let the moment exist how it is, to be present with it, allows us to not only fully experience it, but to be part of it. We create a separation from our reality when we pull ourselves into our heads; our thoughts destroy our interaction with it. We become someone who is relating by memory, with fear of the outcome, or are simply too lost in thought to be present. On the other side of things, we can also be too wrapped up in our emotional state to fully see what is truly happening around us.

When we are preoccupied by our emotions, relating to them rather than to the moment, we can never be fully present. In relation to the moment, we can exist purely from a state of no withdrawal, no ulterior motives, no internal mental or emotional battles, and most importantly simply allowing ourselves to be where we are. We very often choose to pull out of the moment. Why? Because we find our thoughts are more important, we give them a value over our existence. In addition, we sometimes rule our days by our emotions. Often, the two of them interacting and filling our day up, and we never fully come to peace with where we are. We miss the moment.

We have lost the value of experiencing the moment for simply what it is. We let ourselves get lost in ourselves, in what we think is important, and choose to exit reality. We may think we are doing a good job at being where we are. But take a moment, relax, and ask yourself how much of the day or even this very moment have you really felt present? Why do we hide from the moment, why do we pull ourselves away so often? It is like we are fixated on anything but being fully present. However, the truth is that when you can be present and not be pulled in many different directions by thoughts or emotions, all else falls away and the constant struggle you feel can dissipate.

The importance you placed on figuring things out, on worrying over the future, on delaying your responses out of fear–all of this is nonessential, because the moment does not require this. The moment exists as part of us; therefore, there is no future, no past, no struggle, no aftereffect, or even anywhere to get lost in, because we have not complicated the moment with our ideas, perceptions, memories, fears, or anything else. When we are present and fully engaged in the now of the moment, we can see clearly and feel what is important. We can understand what really matters for us at that time. We can relax and become ourselves without stress, without managing or pulling ourselves in different directions. By letting ourselves stay grounded with where we are, we are present. We are connected and therefore need nothing else. All the big problems tend to fall away because we no longer give them so much importance in our lives. We can then see them for what they are with nothing else added to them. Let go of yourself long enough to be present. Engage in the moment. Feel, see, and think about where you are and nothing else. Life’s purpose is not about struggle or always doing something; rather, it is about being where you are.

Presentation Show and Tell – Presentation Skills For Senior Executives

The “show” in ‘show and tell’ presentations, is slowly making a comeback in corporate America. It’s a development that is long overdue. Long, dense, dry text projected on conference room screens around the country has too long passed for the “show” criteria of executive presentations. The more text and the fewer the graphics in presentations it seemed, the more the presenter was congratulated for having prepared well.

To the long-suffering audience who had to endure these presentations, there was little reward in the effort, except getting to the end of them, where it was hoped, a few signs of life might still be found in the unscripted question and answer session.

So why are we coaches beginning to see some signs of progress? Why is it increasingly acceptable to deliver shorter presentations with more graphics and less text? Why is it now becoming acceptable to present ideas using a few simple visuals or props, or even, on their own merit with no slides at all?

Call it the rise of presentation personality or simply the maturation of that long-derided but necessary business tool: PowerPoint. Maybe it simply has to do with the groans emanating forth from every executive suite when word filters out of another request to put together, or to sit through, one of these dated presentations.

Whatever the cause, there is increasing recognition of another, more successful communication method available to executives; one best illustrated by the energy-infused performance style presentations of dynamos like Apple’s Steve Jobs.

These new wave of presentation skills share some common attributes:

1) The audience takes center stage.

Good presenters ask themselves what their audience needs and wants from each presentation. Great presenters center their presentations on those needs and wants and make the audience integral to the presentation. Start with what you know about the audience’s perceptions and assumptions of the issues you’re presenting. What will it take for them to invest in something new?

2.) No passion, no presentation.

Every presentation is an opportunity for the presenter to share a passion. If yours are about something else, a mere transfer of data for instance, find another way to get it to the people who need it (like hitting the send button). This is the difference between in person presentations and other ways of sharing ideas. If people are going to invest their time and energy to come and listen to you, you won’t be successful if you merely “tell”. You must show them your ideas through the passion with which you present them.

3.) Get visual.

Written text projected on a screen is not a “visual”. If you use slides, find a way of representing your ideas that have real and instant impact. Never use text to “say” what a visual can “show”.

4.) Presentation is performance.

Don’t present what you haven’t practiced or don’t believe in. This isn’t acting. To present well, be wholly engaged in your material and ideas before trying to communicate these well to an audience. Take your preparation seriously. And for heaven’s sake, come out from behind that lectern.

5.) Show leadership.

Your reputation for leadership is enhanced or reduced with every presentation. Seek to hit a home run then, every time you’re “on stage”, no matter your perception of what’s at stake. It may seem unfair, but the leadership skills you display during your presentation are the ones that will be used to judge the whole of your work. Even if you don’t yet have a leadership title, your moment in front of people is pivotal in determining if and when you’ll be given one. Think about what leadership looks and sounds like to you-and infuse your presentations with nothing less.