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The question I hear frequently from audiences is “What do I do with my hands?” It’s amazing. We communicate daily and never think about our hands until we stand up. As soon as we become public speakers it’s as if we discover theses long appendages scraping the floor.

Body language is more than half the message so how you use your hands is important. And gestures are a vital part of the message. Consider this: Have you ever seen an enthusiastic person stand at attention as they share their exciting news? Nobody stands stiffly when they’re expressing emotion. How do you gesture in a way that’s effective yet not over the top?

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when they gesture:

Don’t Do This

Figleaf Position. This is where you clasp your hands in front of you. It looks sedate-not powerful.

Wooden Soldier. This presenter has both hands at the sides. If you start with this position, move out of it quickly or else you’ll look stiff and unapproachable.

At Ease. Both hands are held behind the back in military fashion. If you maintain this position people will soon wonder if you have hands. Why are you hiding them?

Hands in Pockets. I don’t see this posture as often. The word must have gotten out. If you keep both hands in your pockets, you’ll lose energy and expressiveness.

The Juggler. Here is where your hands are in perpetual motion and never come to a stop. The impression is nervousness and it’s also distracting to watch.

Pointing Finger. Beware of pointing at the audience. A pointing finger can be perceived as accusatory, or chastising. Instead, use an open handed gesture to refer to an audience member. It’s warmer and more neutral.

Fidgeting. Overall fidgeting communicates nervousness. It’s your body telling you to move your hands. So stop holding back Gesture, but do so effectively.

Do This:

Above the Waist. As soon as possible, bring your hands above the waist. Hands below the waist are perceived as tentative. Your power space is between your waist and your face. Keep your gestures in this box. When Bill Clinton was running for president, he used wide, sweeping gestures that made him look untrustworthy. His coaches told him to gesture within the box. It became known as the Clinton box.

Find a Rest Position. When you start flailing and over gesticulating, it’s time to come to a stop. Find a resting position. It may be one hand on top of the over with your elbows at your waist. Think of the resting position as home base. You can continue to return to it when you’re hands are moving too much or you need to take a pause.

Hold the Ball. A powerful position is to hold your hands above the waist as if you’re holding a basketball. Steve Jobs used this gesture.

Count Off. When you have 3 or more agenda items, you can tick off the points on your fingers as if you’re going through a list.

Palms Up. To convey honesty, hold your hands waist high and turn your palms up. (Don’t shrug your shoulders or you’ll look unsure).

Palms Down. Keep your palms waist high and turn your palms down so that the tops of your hands are visible. Now make a downward movement. This conveys authority and can be good for quieting a crowd. President Obama used this gesture.

Steepling. Position your hands at waist level and bring your hands together with just the fingertips touching. This posture communicates confidence but can also convey authority. Use this gesture sparingly. It can be meant to intimidate or establish dominance.

Consider Culture. Body language has different meanings in certain cultures. For example, if you’re speaking in Brazil, do not use the A-OK hand gesture. It’s considered an obscenity. Realize that not all cultures value gesturing as much as in the U.S.  The Mediterranean and Hispanic cultures are expressive and use a lot of gestures. In Asia, Skandinavia and Germanic cultures, they use fewer hand movements.  When I was first starting out in my business, I had a sales call at the United Nations. The person interviewing me was from Germany. When I gestured her eyes would look at my hands. I’d make another gesture, and she would be riveted on my hands. Very quickly, I put my hands in my lap. For her, gesturing was a distraction.

Why Use Gestures? There is research that demonstrates the impact of gestures. Harvard Business Review interviewed Professor Josef Cornelissen of Erasmus University.

Erasmus University conducted a study whereby they asked experienced investors to watch a video of entrepreneurs pitching a medical device. They hired actors to play the entrepreneurs. The result was that the Venture Capitalists were more interested in the presenters who used gestures to explain the idea than when they used anecdotes, metaphors and other rhetoric.

This flies in the face of current emphasis on storytelling. What they researchers discovered was that gesturing made the product more concrete, helping investors to understand the product. Gesturing also conveys excitement and passion is a quality that investors value. However, too much gesturing can work against the presenter, making it look like pantomime. Use a few strategic gestures to add impact and influence to your presentations.

If gestures don’t come naturally to you. Practice some of the gestures mentioned above.

Practice but be natural. Use these tips and gesture often and you’ll win over the audience hands down.

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Ever wonder about the secret to stage presence? Do you think that some people have it and some people don’t? Guess again. Yes, some people have charismatic personalities. But stage presence is not some mysterious quality. You don’t have to be a professional speaker to have stage presence. You don’t even need a stage! Stage presence is evident whether you’re speaking on a panel, a webinar, a seminar or workshop or the main stage. Public speakers who convey stage presence have three things in common. They know what to do back stage, on stage, and off stage.

Back Stage. Imagine all the things that go into a Broadway show back stage before the curtain ever goes up. If you want to have stage presence consider all the behind-the-scenes skills and preparation it takes before you speak your first word.

Prepare and Rehearse - It’s 90% preparation and 10% delivery. For a 1 hour talk, expect to prepare more than 10 hours. Practice until you’re natural. Part of the preparation includes talking in advance to attendees.

Test Audio Visual Equipment - Find the AV person and test all equipment. Keep the phone number handy and have a back-up plan in case of a technology failure

Arrive Early - Be on-site one hour ahead of schedule. Never show up right before your presentation time. Practice in the room if possible. It will make a difference in your delivery and confidence.

Greet People - Arriving early allows you to shake hands with people. This will make them and you more comfortable and what you learn about them can be referenced during your presentation.

Bring Business Cards - Every presentation is a marketing and networking opportunity. If you don’t do this back stage step, relationship building can slip through the cracks.

Set a Timer - Know where you are time wise. Get a volunteer to give you a 10 and 5 minute signal. You can also set a timer on your desk if it’s a small meeting. For the main stage, you can see a counter on the presentation monitor.

On Stage. Once you’ve set the stage, it’s show time.

Grab Attention - You have less than 30 seconds to grab attention so start with something, funny, thought provoking or tell a personal story.

Smile - Even if you’re nervous, you’ll look confident when you smile. It will also engage the audience. Remember one of the questions in the mind of every audience is “Who are you?” “Do I like you?”

Vary your Voice - If it’s a sit down presentation, you can’t work the room but you can do the vocal equivalent with your voice. Let your passion flow and vacillate between soft and loud tones. Variety is what will keep their attention.

Display Your Agenda - Most people want a road map of where you’ll be taking them. Show it visually on a slide or handout.

Interact with the Audience - Audiences don’t want to listen to lectures. Adults want input into their learning. Engage them with questions, polling, paired exercises, group exercises, and experiences.

Distribute Handouts - Provide handouts in small groups during your presentation so that they don’t read ahead. For larger groups, place the handouts on chairs before you speak but keep the handouts simple so people will pay attention to you.

Call to Action - Challenge the audience. Most presentations are quickly forgotten because there is no call to action or next step. Encourage them to commit to taking action on one idea they heard.

Off Stage. It’s not over ‘til it’s over. The biggest mistake speakers make is they forget they are ALWAYS ON STAGE. How you behave after the presentation is part of your stage presence and reputation.

Clean Up - Don’t leave the room a mess. If you’re not in charge of the meeting, at least take your own coffee cup to the receptacle. Groups have lost meeting space privileges because they left a messy room.

Mingle with the Audience - Don’t run off. Build in time to remain and talk to people. This shows that you care and it’s the beginning of building relationships that can pay off down the road. You’ll also get valuable information about your presentation.

Follow Up - This is another BIG speaker mistake. If you exchanged cards, take the initiative to meet afterwards. Don’t wait for them to contact you. The purpose of speaking internally and externally is to convey information, motivate, build relationships, build your brand, and increase your visibility. Following up will allow you to create strategic partnerships.

Watch your Behavior - Be respectful to everybody: the janitor, the meeting planner, the cab driver, the waiter. You may not realize it but you’re being watched. There are talented speakers who exude great presence on stage only to lose it when they are off stage. Don’t risk your reputation by letting your guard down with rude behavior. Remember: You are ALWAYS ON STAGE.

Or as professional speaker Scott McKain always says, All Business is Show Business.

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Grand Floridian Resort

On May 19th, the FEI Leadership Summit kicked off in Orlando Florida. The opening evening reception opened at Epcot Center. The three day conference held at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, offered keynote speeches, break out sessions and events.

On May 20th, Diane DiResta delivered her keynote, Influential Leadership: Transforming High Stakes Communication into Massive ROI, to an audience of 500 FEI members. And the following day presented a one hour concurrent session entitled How to Give a Knockout Presentation.

Other keynote speakers included, Craig Kielburger-Making Doing Good, Doable, Roberto Masiero-A Better Way to Work, former NFL player Anthony Trucks -Trust Your Hustle and artist Erik Wahl-The Art of Leadership.

The Financial Executive of the Year award was bestowed on winners from public, private and non-profit organizations.

About FEI

The 2019 Financial Leadership Summit offers professional and personal development, including networking opportunities in a knowledge-intense and enjoyable atmosphere. It’s an opportunity to join the conversation and interact within a prestigious community of like-minded peers to challenge thinking and share in challenges while strategizing for tomorrow.

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 has spoken on 4 continents.

Diane is Past President of the NYC chapter of National Speakers Association and former media trainer for the NBA and WNBA. She was featured on CNN, and quoted in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, London Guardian, and Investors Business Daily and Bloomberg radio.

Diane is a Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by less than 12% of speakers nationwide. And her blog, Knockout Presentations, made the Top 50 Public Speaking blogs.

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Take your thumb and index finger. Pinch your nostrils. Now say “Welcome to the Staten Island ferry.” That’s the voice commuters hear every day over the PA system as the ferry leaves the dock. And that’s a Voiceover!!! Really? Yes, somebody paid for that nasal voice that sounds like a cat in heat.

Have you noticed a trend toward nasal voice quality? I hear it more often in the vocal quality of young women but nasality is not gender specific. It’s perpetuated on American television mostly by young actresses in sitcoms. A perfect example of this preferred television voice can be heard on the show Two Broke Girls.

A nasal voice sounds whiny and pleading - not exactly a power voice. And when paired with a high pitch, it can be irritating to the listeners.

There are two types of nasality: hyponasal and hypernasal. The hyponasal voice is the absence of nasality. It sounds like your nose is stuffed up as if you have a cold. The hypernasal voice has an excess of nasality and is the sound that emerges when you pinch your nostrils. The sound is coming through the nose instead of the mouth.

Why do people sound nasal?

A nasal voice can be a result of modeling. If your family members speak with excessive nasality, you may, too; or it may sound cool to mimic popular television voices.

It can also happen when the soft palate (back of the throat) doesn’t close properly. Instead of sealing off the nasal cavity, it allows air to flow through the nose. The reason may be sluggishness of the muscles or it can be anatomical.

How do you know if you’re voice is too nasal?

  • Ask friends for feedback. Has anybody said you sound whiny?

  • Record your voice. Compare it to professional voices that you hear on the news.

  • Place a mirror beneath your nose when you speak when saying vowels. Does the mirror fog up?

If you determine that your voice is too nasal what can you do?

  • Practice speech drills on your own. Pinch your nostrils and say a sentence. Now say the same sentence without pinching your nostrils. Listen for contrast.

  • Say vowel sounds (a e i o u). Place your index finger against the side of your nose. If you feel vibration there is too much nasality.

  • Make an appointment with a speech therapist who can evaluate and provide exercises to reduce nasality in the voice.

We all have some nasality. When it’s excessive it can be irritating to hear, it can have a negative effect on how you’re perceived, and it can distract the audience from your message it they are focusing on your voice.

Fran Dresher, the television actress and star of the 1990s sitcom The Nanny, made her nasal voice her trademark. For the rest of us public speakers it’s best to avoid negative speech habits and not let nasality cloud the message.

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 Have you ever watched a TED Talk? TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and It’s an annual conference of public speakers and experts who have “Ideas worth spreading”. This online format and coveted event showcases outstanding public speakers on a wide variety of topics. It’s highly competitive to be a TED speaker and very expensive to attend.  But there is another option.

Many organizers have created a local brand called TEDx. These events may be produced in a state, city, university or other group. All TEDX organizers must go through a rigorous application process and follow the guidelines of the official TED brand.

Barbara Teicher, a speaker on women’s leadership, shared her experience speaking at two different TEDx events. www.PropelHerInfluence.com

She decided to target TEDx talks in her home town in Kansas City. And then decided to think big and applied to speak at TEDx Paris. And to her delight she was accepted by both organizers.

Contrary to popular belief, TEDx doesn’t seek professional speakers. That’s good news if you don’t speak for a living. The TEDx talks you listen to aren’t messages you hear in other places; they are a unique version, an idea that may be way “out there”. That’s what makes the talks interesting.

Barbara advised, “The people who should pursue trying to gain an invitation to speak on the TEDx stage, are people with a very unique message, an “idea worth spreading” as they say.  If you try to take a message you promote every day, more than likely, that won’t result in the invitation you’re looking for.”

In other words, talking about your expertise or topic will not get you in the door. Generic topics and expertise are not desirable for the TEDx audience. It’s not about delivering data and tips. You don’t even have to be an expert to speak at a TEDx event but you do have to share an experience with your unique angle.

According to Frank King, a comedian and TEDx speaker, there are a number of reasons speakers are rejected from the TEDx application process. Speakers may think they have a good idea but it’s not worth spreading. The focus should be on the payoff. What is the payoff for the audience? A personal story is not a TEDx talk.

Another mistake is having a poor title or subtitle. Barbara’s talk was entitled, “Stop Being Yourself”. This contrarian title grabbed the attention of the organizers. The talk should be one main idea. And if the video doesn’t grab them in the first few seconds you won’t be considered as a speaker. Another reason for being eliminated is when there is a theme and your topic isn’t a fit. Finally, be sure to explain why YOU are the person to give the talk.

Yes, being invited to give a TEDx talk is highly competitive but not impossible. Research the upcoming locations and organizers, determine if your idea is a fit for the theme or venue. Then come up with an attractive title and produce a video clip that shows you in the best light. Even if it’s not a go on the first try, don’t give up.

Tweak the title, test the idea, get feedback on your presentation and work with a coach. With some persistence, the right TEDx venue is waiting for you.

 

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DiResta Communications Inc. by Diane Diresta - 4M ago

Are you fed up with networking meetings? I was at a networking event where we went around the room in typical fashion and listened to elevator pitches. If this is starting to get old, it’s probably because many networkers still haven’t learned how to communicate who they are, what they do,and who they serve.

Here are some of my biggest turnoffs.
1. Talking too long. It never fails. Over time I’ve observed a pattern at these networking meetings. The moderator asks people to be brief. She may even set a time limit. The first few speakers adhere to the time requirements. Then, somewhere in the middle, a storyteller emerges. They blather on and from that point on, others pick up the cue and start sharing their histories. At this point, the audience is frustrated and disengaged.


2. Giving a sales pitch. Nobody likes to be sold. Some networkers think every room is full of prospects just for them. This is especially true on linkedin where as soon as you accept an invitation they send you a link to their product. They don’t understand that networking is about building relationships and trust. That takes time. If all you do is talk about your wares, you might as well go elsewhere. Nobody is buying.


3. Sounding scripted. This is know as the talking head. This problem is really pronounced when the person calls in by phone. You can tell they are reading word-for-word. A good elevator pitch sounds conversational. Others can read a script as well as you can. If you can’t talk about what you do without reading, the audience will doubt your competence.


4. Speaking in a monotone. A monotone voice lacks energy. If you sound bored, we have to wonder if you really like what you do. A person who sounds like they’re going through the motions will not move anyone to action. Enthusiasm sells. Show us the passion.


5. Unclear. Have you ever heard a networker talk about their business only to to totally confused the audience? I remember a man who gave the same elevator pitch at every meeting. And each time I’d look at my friend and say, “What does he do? “ Only after having a one-to-one conversation with him did I ascertain that he was an event planner. Why didn’t he say that? Do you want to be clever or clear?


6. Unfocused.This is the networker who offers a menu of products or services. While it’s good to have options, when it comes to an elevator pitch aim for a single line of focus. The mind can’t handle all that information. What is your expertise? Don’t make the audience work so hard. A confused mind says no.


7. Clever but not relevant. In an effort to be creative, some people try to create acronyms, relate their business to songs or tie it to a current event. Being creative is good but if your the angle isn’t relevant to your product or service, use a more traditional approach.

What is your biggest networking turnoff?
If you're challenged by any of the above issues, it's time to ditch your pitch and clean up your message. Contact me if you'd like to create an elevator pitch that works! And give a knockout presentation. diane@diresta.com

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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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