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Conference calls can be a mess!

Often, you’re dealing with bad tech, background noise, people popping on and off, dueling egos, and different time zones, as this video illustrates:

Tripp Crosby: Conference Call in Real Life - YouTube

Pretty real-life, isn’t it!

But never fear: It is possible to get your point across, and these conference call tips will help you do that.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense, So Plan Ahead

Good meetings have usually been planned, and that goes double for conference calls.

So if you’re the person who’s in charge, think carefully before the call about what you want to accomplish, and what role each participant can play. (If there’s no clear role for a meeting participant, why not release them to get something else done.)

If you’re not the person in charge, you can make your boss look good (that’s part of “managing up“) and make life easier for yourself by gently pushing for some thought before the call. Say something like,

I’d like to prepare for the call in advance. What do you think you’ll want me to cover?

If you’re not able to determine your role in advance, take your best guess of what it’s going to be.

Now you’re ready to…

Use These 5 Conference Call Tips 1. Practice Making Your Point

Know the points you want to make and practice them out loud before the call. This will give you confidence and help you find the clearest way to state your message.

Make sure, as you practice, to deliver your most important point first. That way, if you’re interrupted or distracted, you’ll know that at least you’ve gotten your main point across.

2. Anticipate Questions

In addition to thinking about what you want to say, try to anticipate the questions you might be asked.

Now practice answering them, using your knowledge of the Instant Speech format.

Be sure to practice answering the question first, and if there are questions that you dread or prefer not to answer, give them special attention. (‘Cause you know they’re going to come up!)

3. Close Your Eyes

Yes, I know this looks a little weird, but if you’re having trouble hearing people at the other end of a speaker phone, close you eyes (or at least look into the middle distance without focusing).

We all have a powerful visual sense. Shutting it off allows you to focus more fully on what you’re hearing — and that can make all the difference.

4. Stand Up and Get Close

When it’s your turn to speak, try standing up, and getting as close as possible to the speaker phone.

Standing up lets air and energy flow through your body; you’ll sound and feel more authoritative.

And standing near the speakerphone means you don’t have to shout to be heard. Instead, you can concentrate on speaking clearly and slowly, with good articulation.

5. Bring On The Drama

Speaking more dramatically (with emphasis, pauses, real energy in your voice) also makes you easier to hear.

And if you’re not a “naturally” dramatic speaker, this simple exercise will help you sound more exciting:

  • Turn on a TV or radio show that has an announcer or host you like.
  • Listen to them say one phrase and then imitate it out loud.
  • Don’t worry about what you’re missing, just do your best to copy what you hear. Now do it again. Now do it again. (Just 30 seconds, 5 days a week, will give you outstanding results.)

You’ll be surprised at how dramatically your on-air model is speaking, even when they sound “natural.” Copying them will help you pick up the tricks they use to hold an audience’s attention.

Take Control of Your Conference Call Fate!

So there you have it.

You don’t have to just grin and bear your next conference call. Apply these conference call tips, and you will shine on every call.

Image by Pavan Trikutam | Unsplash

The post These 5 Conference Call Tips will Help You Be Heard appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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Your time isn’t unlimited, and you may even be interviewing for more than one job — so where do you put your energy and attention?

This  job interview checklist will serve as your guide to preparation and practice. And don’t forget to cross off each item you complete!

Start with Two Attitude Adjustments

It’s very hard to keep a calm and balanced attitude when you have a job interview coming up — but you have to, because you need good mental energy as well as good preparation to do your best.

There are just two items on the attitude portion of your job interview checklist:

Don’t show up trying to be what you think they want. Show up as the best possible version of yourself (whatever that means to you). This post on becoming your Avatar will help.

Remember, you have no control over the outcome of a job interview. Release yourself from trying to make something happen, because you can’t. Just be your best and do your best.

Here’s Your Checklist of What to Prepare and Practice

While it’s not possible to be completely prepared for a job interview (because you can never anticipate everything that might happen), you will be really well prepared if you do the following things:

Practice telling 3 or 4 stories that illustrate an accomplishment, or something important about you. List several questions that each story could be used to answer.

Decide how you’re going to answer common interview questions*, particularly questions that make you uncomfortable. Practice answering them out loud, several times.

Practice answering sample industry-specific questions. If your technical knowledge of your field is rusty, bring it up to date and practice discussing important topics in your business.

Review the job description. The more familiar you are with what they’re looking for, the more easily and naturally you could point out how your skills and successes match their needs.

Research the organization and be prepared to ask 3-4 well-informed questions that show you’ve done your homework and thought about what having this job would be like.

If you’re not comfortable with small talk, read about the respond and return technique, and practice with a friend. Remember: You don’t have to like making small talk to do it well.

Think about how you will manage your energy before and during the interview, particularly if it’s a long one. Plan to get some sleep, eat breakfast, pace yourself, and stay positive.

Start to think about how you’ll negotiate your salary and perks when the job is offered. (But don’t discuss money during the interview!) I recommend Jim Hopkinson’s Salary Tutor.

And after a successful interview, be sure to write a thank you note!  This post has all the information you need, and if you take supplies to your interview, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Interview Like Yourself is your one-stop guide to acing the interview.

*Some common interview questions:

  • Tell us about yourself
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge.
  • Have you dealt with conflict on a team?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?
Want More Help with Job Interviews?

Check out my book Interview Like Yourself… No, Really! Follow Your Strengths and Skills to Get the JobIt has detailed advice, concrete steps to take, and insights from 64 HR professionals.

And if you’d like my help with interview prep, just contact me for more information.

Image by Bram Naus | Unsplash

The post Interview Coming Up? This Job Interview Checklist Will Get You Ready appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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What Are the Public Speaking Skills You Want to Improve?

Last month, I asked readers of my newsletter one simple question about their public speaking skills:

And the Envelope, Please…

The top 3 needs that people who answered this survey identified most often were:

  1. Refine My Delivery (to be listened to and heard more clearly) — chosen in 53.4% of answers
  2. Speak Effectively in Meetings — chosen in 53.4% of answers
  3. Deliver a Stand-Up Presentation — chosen in 44.6% of answers

Great choices!

These communications skills are essential for anyone who wants to advance their career, and can help you in every area of life.

And like all public speaking skills, they’re easy to improve in just a few minutes a day, when you know where to focus and how to practice.

How do you learn that?

With 100 Top Public Speaking Tips!

If you don’t yet own 100 Top Public Speaking Tips: The BookI’m offering it for 20% off, with my appreciation. To get your copy, just:

  1. Go to this page
  2. Click on the button that says “I Want This” and
  3. Enter the offer code levelup2018 to get 20% off the full price
Want a Head Start on the 3 Most Common Areas for Improvement?

Here are some tips that will get you started:

4 Tips to Help Your Public Speaking In General 6 Tips to Refine Your Delivery (so you’re listened to and heard more clearly)

53.4% of you — more than half of survey respondents — said that being listened to and heard was a top public speaking priority for this year. These tips will help you hold the floor and communicate clearly, no matter the setting you’re speaking in:

4 Tips to Help You Speak Effectively In Meetings

Wouldn’t it be fun if most meetings just went away? Until that happy day, though, 53.4% want to speak more effectively in meetings, and these tips will help.

NOTE: If, like many people, you’re not speaking up because you don’t think you have important things to say, read Tip 61 first! And even if you’re not running the meeting, Tip 75 will help you understand what makes good meetings work (and how you can contribute).

7 Tips for Delivering a Stand-Up Presentation

I was surprised by how many survey respondents (44.6%) need to make stand-up presentations.

If you intend to give more than the occasional talk, I recommend my comprehensive public speaking workbook, Speak Up for Success…No, Really! The book takes you step-by-step through the entire process of planning writing, and delivering a business presentation, and is filled with the advice and insights I share with private public speaking clients.

I also recommend checking out these tips:

Make This the Year You Achieve Public Speaking Success, with 100 Top Public Speaking Tips!

When I set out to write 100 Top Public Speaking Tips, the task felt incredibly daunting. Where was I going to find 100 good ideas, let alone the time and energy to write about them?

But step by step, the job got done — and that’s just what happens when you set out to improve your public speaking skills.

Pick a skill, pick a tip to advise you, and pick a moment each day to practice.

This can be the year you reach your public speaking goals, and enjoy doing it!

Image by Joseph Chan | Unsplash

The post Public Speaking Skills for A New Year appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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I recently had the kind of week that every consultant cherishes. I delivered three workshops and one major keynote speech to exciting organizations, all in a six-day period.

So what did I learn from this whirlwind of activity (aside from, get to the airport early)?

In Public Speaking, as in Life, Learning to Manage Yourself is the Secret to… Everything

Self-management is normally not my best attribute.

  • I’m the person who eats everything on my plate even when I’m not hungry, just because it’s there.
  • I’m the one who needs two hours to psyche myself up for an hour of work.
  • And oh, how I envy those of you who can follow carefully constructed plans and make progress at a steady pace, instead of alternately hiding and hurling yourselves forward.

But when it comes to public speaking, I become a self-management boss — and what I learned last week was how rare and important a skill that is.

Manage Yourself If You Start to Wander

Are you the kind of public speaker who likes to go where impulse takes you?

Often, speakers digress or improvise because something occurs to them in the moment, or because they like being spontaneous. But it’s remarkably easy, when you’re speaking in public, to wander yourself right off a cliff.

Here’s what I mean by that: 

  1. Let’s say you’re talking about how to make an apple tart, and you suddenly feel a powerful urge to tell the story of an apple-picking trip you took last summer. That could work well.
  2. But if you then speak at length about a friend who took that trip with you, you’ve introduced a second degree of separation.
  3. And if you now start describing your friend’s divorce, that’s three degrees of separation from your topic.

While some audience members (process-oriented Perceivers) will enjoy that journey, others (outcome-oriented Judgers) will be annoyed and impatient. (Learn more about Judgers and Perceivers.)

But fortunately, if you manage yourself and your impulses, you can satisfy both groups by taking a brief detour through apple picking and then return back to your point. To do this:

  • Notice where you were before you headed off in a new direction (so that you can get back to that point); and
  • Discipline yourself to stay within one degree of separation from your topic.
Manage Yourself When Uncomfortable Feelings Strike

Oh, those uncomfortable feelings.

Very few of us get through a public speaking situation without being assaulted by self-doubt.

The specific words that are spoken by that Nasty Little Voice in your head may vary, but the idea is pretty universal: You screwed up, you’re not good enough, etc., etc.

When these sorts of thoughts and feelings hit, draw on your skills at self-management to get through the moment.

Seriously, that’s all you have to do!

Don’t feed the thoughts by focusing on them. Instead, stay connected with your audience. Stay focused on what you’ve decided to say. And in a minute (or two, or three) the negative thoughts that seemed so compelling just seconds ago will begin to dissipate of their own ridiculous weight.

Manage Yourself When Other People Annoy You

This one can be tough.

When other people annoy us, it’s easy to decide they’re doing it on purpose. After all, we’re clearly in the right and they’re clearly in the wrong, so why don’t they just get with the program??

It’s harder to see that other people’s perspectives might simply be based on different concerns than ours.

An example:

I recently met an important client in a local coffee shop. She was delayed by subway troubles, and by the time she sat down with me to edit an important speech, we had only 30 minutes left.

Ten minutes later, a server came over and said,

I need to ask you to move. We don’t allow laptop use at these tables.

OK, then! I was annoyed, but made what I felt was a very reasonable request, saying,

I understand that’s your policy, but can you make an exception? We only have a few minutes left to meet, and it would be great if we could just keep working.

To which she said,

I’m sorry, but if I make an exception for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone.

Arghhh!  At annoying moments like this, it helps to remember that different types of communicators are motivated by different, often equally valid perspectives.

So instead of snapping at the server, I’m glad I was able to tell myself,

Don’t take it personally! This person is a Reliable communicator. Reliables follow the rules, and sometimes prioritize the needs of institutions over people.

(Learn more about The Four Public Speaking Personalities, and what motivates each of them.)

What’s the Moral of the Story?

Whether you’re being pushed by internal thoughts and feelings, or by other people’s behavior, self-management creates some breathing room.

It lets you reflect on what’s happening…  choose a strategy for dealing with it…  and handle communications challenges like a boss, without adding to the already-too-high quotient of BS in our very challenged world.

Images by Andy Beales | Unsplash

The post How to Manage Yourself in Public Speaking and in Life appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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A new client recently shared this self-judgment:

I’m not energetic, dynamic, funny, or entertaining. I speak in a monotone.

When I asked how she practices her public presentations, she said,

I walk around my office reading my bullet points, and then I do it from memory.

I took this to mean,

I read my bullet points in a rote, low-energy way, and when I know them pretty well, I deliver them from memory in a rote, low-energy way.

My new client was, in effect, practicing to sound boring.

In Public Speaking Tip 31: Want People to Listen? Add Some Drama, I talk about how much easier it is for an audience to pay attention to speeches that include some drama.

But what if you’re not a “naturally” dramatic or exciting presenter?

You can still up the excitement in a talk, speech, or off-the-cuff statement if you practice to sound exciting.

What Does “Sound Exciting” Mean to You?

Drama can mean different things to different people, so let’s start by deciding what it means to you.

Because I used to be a jazz singer, I often look to great singers for new ideas. The first 17-seconds of this clip of opera diva Joyce DiDonato (who’s also featured in Tip 31) captures the essence of drama for me. DiDonato goes from 0 to 60 on the emotional intensity meter in one short line of music.

Joyce DiDonato: Drama Queens (Royal Arias from the 17th and 18th Centuries) - YouTube

And for a different type of excitement, watch the first minute of this video from jazz virtuoso Aubrey Logan’s “You Can’t Touch This!” (yes, the M.C. Hammer tune):

U Can't Touch This (MC Hammer Jazz Cover) - Aubrey Logan - YouTube

In these clips, the two singers are doing opposite things — DiDonato plays down her extraordinary vocal technique and grabs us with fiery emotion, while Logan mutes the emotion and grabs us with her extraordinary vocal technique — but, for me, each of them creates over-the-top excitement.

The point is that there are lots of different ways to be dramatic. So choose your own model of “exciting,” and keep it in mind as you do the following exercise.

Practice to Sound Exciting by Taking It Over the Top

ACTION ITEM: First, pick a statement or some song lyrics that inspire you. (If it inspires you, it probably has lots of dramatic potential!) Here are some examples to show that you can pretty much pick whatever you  like:

  • “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming)
  • “Would you lie? (No!) Make me cry? (No!) Do something behind my back and then try to cover it up? Well, neither would I, Baby!” (Mary J. Blige, Be Without You)
  • “These violent delights have violent ends.” (Bernard, in Westworld)
  • “Whisper tickles! Whisker tickles! Tickled by your hair! Oh no — not my armpits! Please don’t tickle there!” (The Tickle Book, by Heidi Kilgras)

ACTION ITEM: Write down or print the statement you chose, and then follow these practicing steps…

  1. Stand in front of a mirror and read your statement out loud in a normal tone of voice.
  2. Read the statement again, and this time, try to be dramatic. (If you feel really silly, you’ll know that you’re doing this exercise right!)
  3. Now read it again with even more drama. Raise your voice. Make some gestures. Emphasize important words. Let yourself get angry or happy or curious or bewildered. Be extravagantly over the top as you try to bring out the meaning of your statement.
  4. Now do it again, going even more over the top.
  5. And when you think you can’t get any more dramatic, try to take it up one last notch and get crazy stupid dramatic. You should feel like a total caricature of a public speaker who’s trying too hard to be exciting.

Now sit down, relax and take a deep breath. You did it!

Next time you do this exercise, do it with some words that you’re actually planning to say in public.

And don’t worry, this is just for practice! When you deliver your talk, meeting remarks, or speech, you’re not going to do any of this. But some of it will have seeped into your delivery, because that’s what practicing is all about.

Some Additional Practice Tips to Sound Exciting

1. Conversation is more exciting than stiff, jargony speech.

  • As you practice being dramatic, listen for instances where you’re using dull language, complicated sentences, or passive constructions (“the program will enhance your skills” rather than “you are going to be a lot more skilled by the time you’re done with this program!!!!”).
  • Then immediately rephrase what you just said, out loud and dramatically.

2. Practice in short sessions, often. Making one dramatic statement a day will get you farther than practicing for an hour once a month!  (This post has more on the subject.)

3. You can practice to sound exciting while you’re putting a talk together. As you write down your draft bullet points or script for an upcoming presentation, say each idea out loud, with dramatic energy. Then print your notes and practice delivering them out loud, standing up. (Here’s a post on why and when to put down your editing pen.)

4. The way your notes look can help you sound more exciting, or hold you back. So when you format your notes, please follow the guidelines in this post, and then practice using the techniques you’ve just learned.

Bottom line?

Anyone can sound more exciting by practicing for a few short minutes a day.

It’s fun, it’s effective, and it’ll keep your listeners coming back for more!

Image by Patrick Fore | Unsplash

The post What If You Could Practice to Sound Exciting When You Speak in Public? You Can! appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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Imagine that you’re carefully explaining something — to your boss, or a client, or a colleague, or someone who reports to you — and their eyes start to glaze over.

This can be a sign that they’re getting too much information.

None of us wants to bore our listeners, so here’s how to avoid over-explaining.

Use the Instant Speech Format to Organize Your Information

An Instant Speech is short, sweet, and elegant:

You start with a high-level overview statement (your “key message”) that identifies the topic and gives your opinion about it. For example,

This project is going well, but we need more time to finish it.

Notice that, even if you only get to say this one thing (and that happens, often), you’ve already made your most important point!

Next, you add one, two, or three short statements that support your main idea (“supporting points”):

The print process is taking a lot longer than we thought it would. The client has made a lot of changes to the scope of work. And our chief designer is out sick, which is also slowing things down.

Then you close by repeating your most important point, to make sure the listener has taken it in:

So in general, the project is going well, but we really need more time to finish it.

(The TMI version of this — at least, for me! — would be a detailed description of all the technical factors that make the printing process slower than expected. If I want to know that, I can ask.)

Watch Your Listener’s Reaction, and Stop Before They Hit “Too Much Information”

The Instant Speech format has just solved three important problems for you: Where to begin, how to end, and how much to say in the middle.

But the real judge of what’s “too much information” is your listener. Ideally, you should stop talking before they hit overload.

Here’s how:

1. Watch your listener for telltale signs like a definitive nod (“OK, I’ve got that”) or a shift in their attention (wandering eyes, fidgeting, an impatient expression, etc.).

2. When you see those signs. stop talking at the end of your current point, even if you believe there’s a lot more to explain.

Pausing in this way gives your listener a chance to:

  • React to what you’ve just said,
  • Jump in with a follow up question,
  • Introduce a different topic, or
  • Ask you to continue explaining.
How Do You “Watch” Your Listener on a Call?

But what if your listener isn’t expressive, or you’re on the phone and can’t read their cues?

In that case, ask them if they’ve heard enough. Just pause and then say,

Would you like me to continue?

Do you want more detail?

Shall we move on to the next topic?

These questions aren’t rude — they show confidence, and consideration for your listeners.

So remember:  Identify your main point (and deliver it first), keep your supporting statements brief, and watch your listeners to make sure they’re still paying attention.

When you do these things, “too much information” won’t be a problem!

Image by Veri Ivanova / Unsplash

The post How Much Information is Too Much for Your Listener? appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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The good old days! (Image by Kristi Lamarca)

Twice this week, I’ve had to remind sophisticated clients that you can pick up the phone when you need information:

  • In one case, a client who’s applying for an academic job realized that she could get an inside track on what they were looking for by asking the acting department head.
  • Another client, who’d just launched a great Kickstarter campaign, realized that calling her backers to thank them in person might result in more support.

Why is this simple skill — picking up the phone to find something out or convey a personal message — becoming so hard to remember?

Probably because we’re so used to using other technologies. Instead of picking up the phone, we tend to:

  • Catch up with friends on social media;
  • Tweet to share opinions and resources; and
  • Email a request for something, even if we need it right away.
Texting and eMails Don’t Replace the Phone Call Laurika Harris-Kaye (left) and Kamillah Aklaff craving pancakes

Don’t get me wrong, I love written contact.

I love that, several years ago when my daughter was in Cali, Colombia with her best friend, they texted me to ask for a pancake recipe.

And I love that my clients, who speak all over the world, can shoot me quick emails about how well it went!

But sometimes, you gotta just pick up the phone and speak to a colleague or friend in person. Examples of those times include when:

  • Repeated emails don’t get a response;
  • You’re on a tight deadline, and need info now;
  • You’re feeling blue, and could use to be reminded that other people care about you; or
  • The topic at hand is delicate (or there’s already been a misunderstanding), and you need to hear the other person’s reactions in real time.
Use Your Telephone Skills, and They’ll Improve

These are just some of the many situations that will benefit from the real-time voice-to-voice contact.

And if you’re concerned that your phone skills have gotten rusty, don’t worry; as with all things public speaking, you’ll build your skills  by using them.

So next time you need help, or just plain human connection, trying picking up the phone.

Something special might just happen!

Photo by Derick Anies on Unsplash

The post For Public Speaking (and Business) Success, Pick Up the Phone appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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My clients sometimes report that — although they felt ready to give a talk or speak up in a meeting — when the time came, their minds went blank.

This is what they experienced. And yet, anyone who’s ever tried to meditate knows that there’s no such thing as a truly blank mind. There’s always something going on in our heads.

So I’ll ask my clients,

OK, you felt like your mind was blank. But was there actually a thought that went along with that feeling?

Absolutely not, people tell me.

They weren’t thinking anything.

Their minds were COMPLETELY BLANK.

When “Your Mind Goes Blank,” You’re Probably Having an Uncomfortable Thought

My theory is that your “blank mind” is actually blanketing a thought that’s too uncomfortable or unpleasant to be acknowledged. So I give my clients a challenge like this one:

I’m going to share some things that you might have been thinking when your mind went blank, and you tell me if any of them sound familiar.

Here are some of the thoughts I suggest:

  1. “The minute I open my mouth, everyone’s going to know that I’m a total phony.” [This is called imposter syndrome. It’s a real thing, and tons of people experience it.]
  2. “Other people know more about this topic than I do, so I’m not the best person to talk about it.
  3. “The talk I’m about to give will be a complete failure, and I’ll never live down the humiliation.”
  4. I should be able to do this [give a talk or make a comment]but I’m really nervous so there must be something wrong with me.”
  5. “Whether I give a good talk or not, everyone will hate me for showing off,” etc.

And here’s what happens:

People who, just moments earlier were positive that they had no thought can easily pick the thought they were having out of this line-up of possibilities.

That’s because self-critical thoughts are always hovering near the surface.

It’s just that, sometimes, we don’t hear them.

You Can’t Fight a “Blank Mind,” But You Can Push Back On Inaccurate Thoughts

Why is it worth unmasking the “blanked out” thought?

Because that’s what’s messing up your public speaking!

When your mind goes blank, it’s like being stuck in a room with no doors and no windows; there’s no obvious way out. But when your enemy is a negative thought, the way out is to reject what you’re thinking!

You can do this in lots of ways. Try:

  • Reassuring self-talk (“I’m very qualified to discuss this topic”);
  • Focusing on something besides yourself (“My team is counting on me to deliver this update, and I’m not going to let them down”);
  • Connecting to your audience (“These people look friendly, and it’s going to be OK”);
  • Using meditation, yoga, or calming breaths to center yourself;
  • Screaming at the nasty little voice in your head (I’ve done this); and
  • “Just” ignoring it, as discussed in this post about how fear of public speaking is like having (or can be triggered by) a fractured foot!

Whatever method of combat you choose (and there are more suggestions in the You May Also Want to Read… section, below), remember that you can fight back against inaccurate, negative thoughts, and go on to give a great talk.

And if, someday, your mind goes blank, be assured that a negative thought is lurking below that blank surface.

Dig out that thought, kick it to the curb, and go on to enjoy your public speaking success!

When “your mind goes blank,” there’s an uncomfortable actually a thought stuck in the middle of it.

The post If Your Mind Goes Blank When You Speak in Public, Challenge the Thought that’s Lurking Underneath appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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NOTE: This post isn’t just for conference organizers! The tips that it outlines will also help presenters, or teams working on group presentations and pitches!


I recently had the delightful experience of coaching presenters for GEER 2017 — and learned a lot about how to engage your conference audience!

“GEER” is the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference, a semi-annual event that’s hosted by the University of Florida and features a who’s who of scientists, policy-makers, local leaders, and others who care about preserving this precious resource.

Here are the steps we followed to create acclaimed presentations:

GEER Conference Illustration 1. Educate Your Conference Speakers about TED Talks

Because TED-style talks differ — significantly! — from standard business presentations, you can’t just tell your conference presenters to develop a TED talk, and expect them to do it without support.

(OK, you can do that, but you won’t like the results!)

Instead, offer your speakers as much support as you possibly can, including (at the minimum) an explanation of what a TED talk is, and how to go about constructing one.

My blog post on how to craft a fantastic TED talk in just 8 steps is a great place to start.

It’s also helpful to put together a list of examples, such as TED talks on topics that relate to your conference, are similar in length and style, or are particularly effective.

2. Create a Speechmaking Calendar, with Check Points

One reason that most business and academic presentations are so unbearably dull and dry is that (a) they’re written at the last minute, and (b) speakers deliver them without practicing.

To avoid this common pitfall, divide the remaining time until your conference in half, using the first half to create presentations and the second half to practice them.

This is the best way to approach any public speaking scenario, but it’s absolutely crucial for TED-style talks because TED talks,

  • Are usually delivered from memory (and memorization takes time!), and
  • Require a relaxed, conversational style that you just can’t get without mastering your material (and getting comfortable with your content takes time!)

So let your conference speakers know that this won’t be a “business as usual” process, and share your pre-conference schedule with them.

Then either check in often to make sure they’re on track, or hire an experienced public speaking coach to guide them through the preparation process.

3. Keep Your Presenters Informed About Each Other’s Talks Captain Everglades (illustration by Eduardo Galindo)

As your speakers’ talks develop, it can be helpful and fun to share what each one is doing with the other.

I had a great time doing this with my GEER presenters, who enjoyed hearing that Dr. Jennifer Rehage was going to show a local TV interview with one of her citizen scientist/fishermen and that Dr. Fred Sklar was talking about a character named Captain Everglades.

But don’t just share information because it’s fun. Do it because:

  • Having the big picture will give everyone a common sense of purpose;
  • Knowing each other’s content let’s people refer to each other, and reinforce common messages; and
  • If anyone is struggling (and, inevitably, some will find this process hard), they’ll take heart from knowing that their colleagues are going through the same steps and getting good results.
4. Encourage Presenters to Use Strong Visuals

If you’re truly going for a TED-style presentation, boring visuals are the kiss of death — and there’s absolutely no need for them.

TED talks are organized around central, passionately-held ideas, and big ideas don’t get bigger or better when you add slides that are packed with incomprehensible graphs and over-stuffed bullet points. (Actually, nothing benefits from those kinds of slides, because your audience can’t possibly take them in.)

Slides don’t have to be elegant to be effective; they just need to support a single idea in an interesting and easily-grasped way, as this slide does:

From Dr. Stephanie Johnson’s presentation at GEER 2017

And don’t forget: Actual, physical props — anything from a decorative cane to a replica of the human brain — are a welcome addition to any talk, and can make a powerful visual statement.

To Engage Your Conference Audience, Get Engaged Yourself!

As you can see, creating a TED-style conference is more complicated than just lining up the usual subjects and letting them do their usual thing.

And even if you bring in a professional public speaking coach — which, of course, would be a very wise move! — you’ll need to invest your own time, thought, and passion to make this conference the best that it can be.

So challenge your speakers…  engage your conference audience…  and watch the kudos and standing ovations roll in!

The post How to Engage Your Conference Audience with TED-Style Talks! appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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