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Lights, Camera, Action! Are you digital ready? Like it or not, more business presentations are going to be delivered digitally. Digital presentations save time, money, and have a wider reach. And video is king. Think Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, livestream etc. You may be a knockout presenter on a stage or in a meeting, but that doesn’t always translate to the digital screen. Here are 6 tips to give a knockout digital presentation:

Grab Them at Hello. Attention spans are short these days-one second shorter than a goldfish according to research. So it’s imperative to engage listeners immediately. It’s easier to sneak a look at a phone or send a text when you’re not in the same physical location. Save the lengthy introductions. You’ll lose the audience. Get right into the presentation with a hook or compelling question.

Up Your Energy. Video is an energy drain. That means even if you have good energy in front of an audience, you’ll sound low key on a video screen. Depending on your natural energy level, you might have to increase it tenfold to convey enthusiasm and excitement. Practice pushing your energy. It may feel exaggerated but the audience will appreciate your passion.

Shift your Focus. The mistake most digital presenters make is to look at the screen eye-to-eye. That works with video conferencing but if you’re broadcasting from a laptop you’ll actually be looking down. When it’s your turn to speak, look directly at the webcam. It won’t feel natural but to the viewer you’ll be making direct eye contact.

More Slides Faster. If you’re giving a webinar, discard what you learned about slides. Use more, not less. For webinars, create more slides that have pictures and minimal words and keep moving every 4 or 5 seconds. To keep the audience engaged, they need constant change. If you’re going to talk for one minute about a particular slide, break that one slide into several slides that can make several mini points.

Stage the Setting. Take a lesson from Broadway. Staging is important to your brand image, your message, and the mood. Consider the backdrop. If you don’t have a professional conference room you can get a green screen to project your desired image or background. Don’t sit in front of a window as it will cast you in shadow. Experiment with light. You can purchase a lamp or portable light for video presentations. Good lighting will enhance the quality of the video.

Sound is King. An audience will forgive mediocre lighting but not poor sound quality. When broadcasting from a laptop, avoid earbuds. Invest in a good headset. It will make a tremendous difference in the sound. Do a test right before the presentation to make sure your listeners can hear you. Check for background noise including heating and air conditioning vents. Many digital presentations are posted for replay. Not everybody will watch the video but they will listen to the audio. So make sure it’s loud and clear.

It may be more nerve-racking to stand in front of a live audience but the stakes can be just as high when you present digitally. Don’t shrink behind the video screen. Deliver digitally and let your brilliance shine.

To bring your digital presentation to the next level, contact me here.

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Have you ever watched a President enter a room? People stand at attention while Hail to the Chief is played by the band. The music dies down, the room gets quiet, and the audience waits for the opening remarks. Public speakers can take a lesson from the Presidents. Presenters who sound and act presidential command respect from their audience. They exude a type of gravitas. What they all have in common are these four qualities in their presentations. Let’s examine the ABC’s of speaking like a president.

 Authenticity. The mark of a great public speaker is the ability to connect with the audience. And that means being real and staying true to your style. President Roosevelt utilized radio to give his fireside chats. This style of connecting to the people was unique to him. It felt like he was talking to each listener individually. President Clinton had an ability to look directly at each person and make an eye connection. People thought he was talking just to them. He repeated what people said so that they felt heard and understood. This empathetic listening became his signature style. This quality allowed him to speak to kings or commoners and still appear real.

Brevity. President Lincoln surprised his constituents when his Gettysburg address lasted two minutes. How many of the longer presidential addresses do we recall? Yet the Gettysburg address is one of the most remembered. Who can’t recite “Four score and seven years ago...” ?

During the Battle of Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill implored his staff to make their memos shorter. He stated, "To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”

So many leaders and executives lose credibility and the attention of their audience because they talk too long and don’t get to the point. There’s a reason TED talks are 18 to 20 minutes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best. “Be be sincere, be brief, be seated.” That advice is even more relevant today.

Clarity of Message. Related to brevity is the clarity of a message. A message is obfuscated when the speaker goes down a rabbit hole or gets caught in the weeds of detail and minutia. President Reagan was known as the “Great Communicator.” He spoke simply and made use of many rhetorical techniques such as pausing, conviction, and memorable sound bites. One of his most memorable quotes was “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” It was both visual, simple, and underscored with passion.

Simplicity is the key to clarity. The rule of three will make listening easier to follow for the audience and keep the message clear. When Bill Clinton was running for the presidency, he had three goals for his platform: jobs, the economy, and healthcare. People more easily remember a message when it’s grouped in threes.

Demeanor. In order to speak like a president, it’s vital to be congruent. That is, your demeanor must match your words, tone, and body language.

President Obama exuded a quiet confidence in the way he spoke, He communicated presence through eye contact and by how he held the presidential space at the lectern. His resonant voice and measured pauses made him reassuring, thoughtful, yet approachable. The slower approach conveyed gravitas. Leaders don’t rush, speak fast, or use staccato movements. His demeanor communicated he was in charge.

You don’t have to run for office to speak like a president. Practice these four tips to sound presidential and take your speaking to the top.

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After working on his elevator speech, the client still wasn’t expressing himself. It was a good message-clear and concise. When asked why he was resistant to using his new words, he said he felt inauthentic. Bingo! Nobody wants to listen to a talking head. And most public speakers don’t want to sound scripted. It doesn’t matter how eloquent the words, if the message isn’t coming from a place that’s real. Audiences (whether they be an interviewer, a gathering of networkers or a large group) want a connection with the presenter. In order to know, like, and trust the speaker they must be able to relate not only to the message but to the messenger. And that means being authentic.

Being real is not about being what you think the audience wants. Politicians make this mistake all the time when they pander to their constituents. A recent example of this was when Senator Elizabeth Warren did an Instagram live presentation. In attempt to connect with the people, she tried being more informal. She filmed from her kitchen, introduced herself and said, “Hold on a sec, I’m gonna get me a beer.” She left the kitchen for a moment, returned and took a swig of beer. She then invited her husband to join her for a brew. He declined the drink but entered the kitchen. She took a second sip and then started announcing the names she saw on her Instagram feed. Was it a joke? Only she knows. But it didn’t feel authentic. The beer appeared to be a prop to communicate that she was one of us. It didn’t work. It wasn’t consistent with her typical style and image. It would have been more believable had she said,

“Hi. I’m Elizabeth Warren and I’m running for President. Meet my husband. I’d like to get to know you so please post your comments so we can have a dialogue. I want to know what’s on your mind”.

When a public speaker or public figure panders to the audience, it creates a wall. Audiences are more sophisticated than ever and can tell when the presenter is performing. The listeners want to connect and the best way to create a connection is to go beyond performance to being authentic. Why don’t more public speakers speak from the heart? Fear. Because the key to authenticity is vulnerability. University Professor and keynote speaker, Brene Brown, says “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” 

I learned this lesson by accident. I was speaking at a women’s lunch meeting about creating presence on the platform. It was my typical content. I rehearsed the night before and was well-prepared. And then I had a real moment. In a moment of spontaneity, I shared a story when I was down and out and trying to make a career change. I told the group that after no success, one night I surrendered and asked God to find me a new job and get me “out of there”.

After the presentation, women came up to me and said they really resonated with that story. They were amazed that I would say the God word. They wanted to know if I would say that in a corporate setting. As prepared and polished as I was, it was that instance of shared vulnerability that resonated with the group.

And it’s not limited to public speaking. Social media is a presentation. Most of the time experts including myself, promote their successes. I would post pictures and videos of awards, events, and meetings with high profile brands.

Then when my sister passed in 2018, I did a facebook live video of the military memorial service. It was for my family and friends on the East Coast so that they could be there virtually. When her tombstone was ready I took a picture of it, once again to show people who couldn’t be there. What surprised me was that these events had the greatest engagement and longest facebook feeds. The comments were a great source of comfort. The posts truly resonated with the audience-friends and strangers, international and local contacts. I was no longer the professional speaker, expert, or author. My expertise didn’t matter but my humanity did.

When we hide behind content and performance we create a barrier between ourselves and the audience. Listeners want to connect with the speaker. Being vulnerable is not weakness. It takes great courage to be who we are. That connection happens when we share our experience, insights, failures and successes. Instead of rejection, the audience will embrace you. It’s in the sharing that they see themselves and know it’s okay to be who they are. You are the message. So share your story. Be vulnerable, be authentic, be you.

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The holiday season is here and in keeping with the 12 Days of Christmas, public speakers need to be mindful of their speaking habits especially in the work place. These 12 mistakes are excerpts from the amazon best selling book Knockout Presentations.

Public Speaking Mistake #1 Lack of Preparation Too many presenters don’t spend enough time preparing. They whip together their PowerPoint and practice it a couple of times, if at all. To appear as a pro, it takes 90% per cent preparation for 10% delivery. That means hours of strategizing, structuring the message, planning and editing the visuals and practicing and timing the delivery until it’s seamless and natural. Speaking looks easy on stage because of all the work behind the scenes.

Public Speaking Mistake #2 Lateness Arriving 10 minutes before the presentation means you’re late. Arrive 30-60 minutes beforehand to check out the room and greet the audience. And once the presentation begins, end on time! Nobody will fault you for finishing a bit early but they don’t want a speaker who runs over. To keep to the time limit, practice and time the talk. A speech often runs 10% longer in front of an audience than in rehearsal. If you’re way behind schedule, jump to the conclusion and get off the platform.

Public Speaking Mistake #3 Not Knowing the Audience How well do you know the audience? If you give the same presentation in the same way, it will miss the mark. Part of preparation is creating a listener profile. What are the demographics? How do they like to receive information? Do they want entertainment, information, or both? What are their attitudes? Is it a specialist or a generalist audience? Who were the highest rated speakers in the past? The more you know about the audience, the greater chance to rock the crowd.

Public Speaking Mistake #4 Projecting the Wrong Image Your presentation begins the moment you enter the room and first impressions are visual. Your attire is a visual shorthand. How you dress, how you sound, and the language you use all contribute to your image. You’ll build trust with your audience when you look the part. When your visual, vocal and verbal communication are aligned, you’ll create presence on the platform. Is your audience a financial corporation, then look more conservative. Are you speaking to creatives? You can be more casual and fashion forward.

Public Speaking Mistake # 5 Using Visual Aids Ineffectively I think we are PowerPointed out. Slides are overused in public speaking today. but they serve a purpose. The key word in Visual Aid is Aid. Don’t let the slides overtake you as so many speakers tend to do. And keep them simple. Use photos, graphics, video, and key words. Text heavy slides cause the listeners to read, making the presenter obsolete. Fumbling with slides can cause an otherwise expert, seem like an amateur. Practice using a remote and run through the entire deck before you presentation begins.

Public Speaking Mistake #6 Including Too Much Material This is otherwise known as a data dump. Public speakers who give too much information will overwhelm the audience. In this case, less is more. Tell them what they NEED to know, not everything you know. Remember: the mind can absorb only as much as the seat can endure.

Public Speaking Mistake #7 Using Inappropriate Humor The best speakers use humor. But being humorous can be tricky. Humor can be a landmine in a politically correct and multicultural environment. Another challenge is joke telling. It takes skill and excellent timing to do a set-up and punchline that is part of every joke. If the joke bombs the presentation goes downhill. A better alternative is to use self-deprecating humor and to play off the humor in the group. As long as the audience is laughing, it doesn’t matter if the humor came from someone else.

Public Speaking Mistake #8 Speaking in a Monotone Imagine listening to a piano concerto hearing one note over and over. This monotony will irritate the audience and, if it’s a soft monotone, it may even put them to sleep. Vocal variety is key to engaging and exciting the audience. To add more color to your voice, try singing the scales. Use more hand gestures. Highlight key words and emphasize them with your voice. Most importantly, get excited!!! Enthusiasm sells.

Public Speaking Mistake #9 Not Building an Audience Relationship Do you talk at your audience? Talking a lot of facts won’t get them to relate. Storytelling is a more effective way to build rapport, likability and trust. Some public speakers give a non-stop monologue instead of pausing, listening and connecting. When you profile your audience you’ll be able to build in stories that resonate with them.

Public Speaking Mistake #10 Lack of Focus If you’ve ever heard a speaker who was talking in circles and wondering where he was going, you can bet he wasn’t clear either. That’s because there was a lack of focus. To gain focus, complete this sentence. At the end of the presentation the audience will_______________. The answer is your outcome. Begin with the outcome and your message will come into focus loud and clear.

Public Speaking Mistake #11 Starting with Details Public speakers who dive into details at the start of the presentation are doing a data dump. This will confuse the listener because they won’t have a context. Very often the presenter gets stuck in the weeds and can go down an unintended rabbit hole. The remedy is to set the stage with a high level overview and then sandwich in the details in the body of the presentation. A speech has three distinct sections: an opening, a body, and a conclusion.

Public Speaking Mistake #12 Being Speaker-Centered. Of all the mistakes this is the most common. Public speakers begin their presentation with “Today I want to tell you about my project, proposal, process,“ etc. It’s all about them! The best public speakers are listener-centered. They begin with the self interests of the audience. Find a hook, grabber or benefit statement to begin the presentation. Then show understanding of their needs and issues. Finally introduce your idea which will solve their problem. You’ll have an attentive audience and you’ll be a lot more persuasive.

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If you’re a professional speaker and wondered what it would be like to speak internationally, take heed   from A-Speakers Bureau. The leaders of the speaker’s bureau gave a presentation in New York City to a group of professional members from National Speakers Association New York City Chapter. Soren, the presenter, warned us that there are two concerns European companies have regarding working with Americans: contracts and travel.

We were advised to keep our speaker contracts short and no longer than four pages. In some countries, professional speakers are hired through email and a verbal agreement. U.S. speakers need to explain all the legalese and special clauses because it scares off European companies from hiring them. In countries like Denmark, there are no contracts for fees under $10,000.

While speaking in Europe sounds glamorous, the reality is the fees are lower. The highest speaking fees are paid in the U.S. The U.S. also has a large association market which is not the case in Europe where the public sector (hospitals, schools, ministries) account for 70% of the bookings. In Denmark, 88% of bookings are for the public sector. France has a low demand for speakers. Germany values educational titles and credentials. Professors and PhDs should fare well.

The average speaker fee in Denmark is $2000-$2500. In Norway or Sweden, speakers would profit a little better at $3000-$3500 per keynote speech. In the UK, be aware that there’s a tradition of free speakers. They meet and speak in clubs. In Germany it’s possible to command fees of $5000-$15,000.  In the UK, decisions are made from the top down. The CEO approves everything. Denmark has a flat structure which streamlines the process. In the U.S. it may take 22 days to select a speaker. The same decision can take only four days in Denmark.

Europeans are also concerned about travel costs and are afraid they’ll be billed for first class travel. It was recommended that speakers quote one flat fee that includes the speaking fee and travel cost. Go online and estimate the travel expenses and use a currency converter.

When it comes to content, American keynote speakers planning to speak in Europe must guard against their own assumptions. Soren shared a growing trend in Northwest Europe that is the antithesis of the U.S. positive self- improvement movement. A popular psychology professor tells audiences it’s okay to say no to self-development and to want to be rooted in tradition. This trend started around 2008 during the financial crisis.

Overall, there is a demand for U.S. speakers. Europeans want inspiration but don’t worry if you’re not rocking the room. Europeans are not as responsive as U.S. audiences. And they don’t get excited by “free stuff’. In the past, the most desirable speakers were heavy on entertainment with less focus on information. Today the trend is shifting. While entertainment and inspiration are important there’s an increasing demand for stronger content. The most successful keynoters will create a change in the audience that they can go home and implement.

Speaking in Europe can be an exciting adventure to learn about other cultures and spread your message to an International audience. Do your homework and adjust your expectations and you’ll expand your speaking business beyond borders.

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Imagine you’ve been invited to speak on the main stage. You’re going to be videotaped. A speaker agent is going to attend your session. It’s a dream come true. So what could go wrong?

My client was excited to speak at a women’s conference and to share her story. It would be an opportunity to showcase her business. and there would be potential sales after the speech. We worked over a period of weeks crafting her message and fine tuning the delivery. Finally, the day of the conference arrived. I told my client that I would attend in the afternoon so I could catch her session. I was confident that she would do well and I was eager to see her.

But when I arrived, the conference was behind schedule. I asked my client what happened. Apparently, the first speaker went over her time by one hour and they would have to play catch up. How could this have happened? When a meeting is behind schedule it’s usually a reflection on the moderator of the event. Here are three reasons why moderators sabotage public speakers:

Too Nice. In the case of my friend, when the opening speaker went over her time, the moderator did nothing. She let her She didn’t know how to stop the speaker and didn’t want to embarrass the speaker. The moderator had a reputation for being “too nice.”

Being a moderator requires assertiveness and a certain level of skill. To manage a loquacious speaker, state the expectations in advance. Have a timer in the back of the room. Give a one minute verbal signal. And if all else fails, turn up the music and thank the presenter.

Ego. A moderator should never be a panelist. This is a big mistake. I was once on a panel with three other presenters. One of the presenters was also the moderator. When it was her turn to speak, she blathered on and didn’t care about the time. I finally wrote her a note that her time was up.

Poor Design. If a meeting or conference is not well-planned it can throw off the event and all of the speakers. Someone once hired an event planner and showed us the agenda. As soon as I looked at the schedule I knew this was going to a disaster. The time slots for the speakers allowed no time between sessions. The first session was from 9:00-10:00. The second session was from 10:00-11:00. How were people going to get to the next room? Logistics are critical to the success of a speaker. Imagine the time lost and the noisy confusion as the crowds would try to get to the next room. Fortunately, we corrected the mistake.

Whether moderating a panel, a meeting, or running a conference, the person in charge of speakers has an important role. Giving a knockout presentation is a team sport. It takes a good moderator to help the speaker shine on stage.

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It’s showtime! The turnout is good. The topic is interesting. The dynamic seminar leader is prepared and rehearsed. So what could go wrong? How could a seminar start to unravel?

It’s not enough to be a confident speaker and subject matter expert. It’s what happens behind the scenes long before the audience ever arrives that will impact the outcome. It’s all about the logistics. Here is a peak behind the scenes of why a speaker may fail to deliver a knockout presentation. These seven mistakes separate the amateurs from the pros.

  1. Arriving Late. While arriving late is rude for an audience member, it’s the kiss of death for the seminar leader or speaker. Arriving at 8:55 for a 9:00-5:00 seminar is too late. A seasoned facilitator will arrive at least one hour before the meeting. This assures that everything is working and set according to plan. It allows the facilitator to catch their breath, ground their energy, prepare, and practice in the room. Potential disasters are averted by arriving early and doing a room check.

  2. Not Educating the Meeting Planner. The client or person in charge of booking the seminar may make decisions that will negatively impact the result. The best intentions can turn into problems is the seminar leaders doesn’t educate explain what is needed and why. They don’t understand how critical the timing and logistics can be. An example of this is the meeting planner or client may want to add more attendees. In a lecture this would not have a major impact. In a skills building seminar, size matters. The larger the group, the less time each person gets to practice and interact. Instead of saving money by adding more people and spreading the cost, the client loses value because fewer people develop the needed skills. If the client won’t back down on the headcount, the seminar leader must adjust the expectations of the client in terms of outcomes.. Otherwise, the seminar leader will be perceived as ineffective when the results are less than promised.

Too Democratic

No Back-Up Plan

Poor AV Planning

Wrong Seating Plan

Meeting the Audience Cold

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New York, NY. October 11, 2018

Diane DiResta, CSP, author of Knockout Presentations, and Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, a New York City consultancy, will be the featured speaker at FEINYC, Financial Executives International in New York City.

As a professional speaker and executive speech coach Ms.DiResta will speak about Influential Leadership: How to Communicate with Impact and Influence.

Today’s CFOs and Financial Executives must be able to command attention, influence analysts and stakeholders, and deliver a message with lasting impact.
 
In this interactive program attendees will learn communication skills of top leaders and how they:

  • Create presence on the platform to command the room

  • Get to the point to deliver a clear message

  • Speak with confidence and exude authority

As in all her presentations, the audience will leave with practical takeaways that can be applied immediately to enhance leadership communication.

The evening will end with networking and a booksigning of the newly released 3rd edition of Knockout Presentations.

About Diane DiResta
Diane DiResta, CSP, is Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who deliver high stakes presentations— whether one-to-one, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses and author of the ebook, Give Fear the Finger. She has unique ability to get to the core of the message and translate complexity into simplicity.

Diane is Past President of the NYC chapter of National Speakers Association and former media trainer for the NBA and WNBA. Diane is a Certified Speaking Professional and licensed Speech Pathologist.

About FEI NYC

The Chapter is the premier organization for financial executives in New York City. The Chapter promotes the fellowship and interaction among its members and has active programs to enhance their professional knowledge and qualifications.

Since 1933, the FEI NYC Chapter has been successfully connecting Financial Professionals in the New York City metro area providing a truly unique forum to meet at live events (most of which carry CPE), attend general peer-to-peer networking events or webinars, gain access to the rest of the 10,000 FEI members, benefit from advocacy efforts, research, and career center.

FEI NYC strives to provide its Membership with unique opportunities to facilitate or cultivate the development and furthering of the Finance profession at many levels.

From robust programming and professional networking activities to our mentoring relationship with the students attending local colleges, nearly every FEI NYC activity will provide an opportunity for you, the Financial Professional, to either get what you need or share what you know. FEI NYC functions as a 501c(6).

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Everybody needs to be a knockout presenter. Companies and individuals who have excellent presentation skills, make more money. get more exposure,  and have greater influence. When people think of public speaking and presentations they often think of delivery. It makes sense. Public speakers present  in front of people and they deliver their message verbally. But there is so much more to public speaking than knowing how to move your body on the platform, how to use your voice and how to clearly articulate a message.

Public speaking is about the audience. And that was Nike's Big Presentation Mistake. The company chose Colin Kaepernik to be the face of Nike. On Labor Day, Nike promoted their 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign and featured Kaepernick in a new ad. The text read, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." On the surface it seemed like a good idea. He's an NFL player, he made news by refusing to stand for the National Anthem as a form of protest.  Other NFL players followed his lead. Nike saw him as a leader. The VP of Brand, Gino Fisanotti, said, "We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward."

Notice the language -"We believe."  But what do the fans believe? The advertisement sparked anger with some people burning their Nike athletic gear, with others withdrawing their support of the company. When creating a message, the most savvy presenters start with THEM-the audience. In this case, the Nike marketers made a decision based on their own perception and preferences without test marketing the audience reaction. 

How often do leaders and professionals deliver presentations about what they value instead of addressing the listener's self interest? In chapter 7 of Knockout Presentations, an entire chapter is devoted to Listener-Centered Communication. What does the audience care about? How do they like to receive information? Whom do they admire? What are their hot buttons? Once the presenter knows the audience, the next step is to begin with a hook, a grabber, or headline. You'll know you have the right hook when they start nodding. Without an audience the presenter is talking in a vacuum. Yet that's exactly the effect when the presentation doesn't focus on the listener. You might as well be talking to yourself. The next time you give a presentation, start with THEM. In the case of Nike, instead of Just Do It, they should Just Think It.

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We all remember the comedian Jerry Seinfeld's joke about fear of public speaking. He said, "The number one fear is public speaking. It even beat the fear of death. That means that most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy". The audience laughs at his joke, but when it's their turn to get up to present, suddenly public speaking is no laughing matter.

Whether speaking in front of a group, a high stakes meeting, or a difficult conversation, we've all faced situations that cause anxiety. Whenever we feel threatened, the lower, primitive brain gets triggered and can hijack the logical brain. 

In these situations, we can react with  avoidance, go into hyperdrive, or a deep freeze. Avoiding the encounter won't solve the problem and avoidance can have serious consequences such as becoming invisible to important stakeholders. Hyperdrive is when anxiety causes the communicator to flail, talk fast, and gasp for air.  And deep freeze is the deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon. The person comes across stiff, monotone, and dispassionate. Both reactions will create a negative impression and can exacerbate an already challenging situation.

Why does this happen?  When a person perceives a threat, the sympathetic nervous system,  or "protective brain", gets activated. The sympathetic nervous system:

  • prepares the body for action
  • starts the mind to scan for threats
  • triggers behavior that is reactive and impulsive

What's needed is a way to manage the nervous system so that confidence can overwrite fear and reduce speaking anxiety. We all contain internal resilience or an anchor. But we can forget how to use the anchor. The anchor is the parasympathetic nervous system- the neural pathway to calming anxiety  otherwise known as "the thoughtful brain". The parasympathetic system:

  • allows the body to heal, relax and grow
  • mentally integrates new information
  • results in actions that are deliberate and thoughtful

So how do you get control and activate the parasympathetic system to stay calm under pressure? Through the breath. But not any breath. Your breathing must be strategic.

The secret is to exhale longer than you inhale. For example, inhale to the count of 4 and then exhale to the count of 8. Do this several times until you feel a calming effect. If you don't have good breath support, then take in fewer breaths. Strategic breathing is the key. Slow down the breath. If this appears challenging, try exhaling through a straw.

There are definitely times when you want to engage the sympathetic nervous system. In a truly threatening situation you'll want to be guarded and alert in order to defend yourself. The problem is when the brain becomes overprotective, it may not be able to recognize what is threatening and what isn't. The speaker may then respond to neutral situations or even friendly experiences as threatening. I've seen public speakers assign great power to an audience and react with fear and negativity even when there was no indication of resistance from the group.

The goal is to align the body, mind, and breath. Use strategic breathing to engage the parasympathetic system to relax and be more thoughtful. Remember shorter inhale, longer exhale. And then you'll have instant confidence.

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