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Matthew, I am happy to hear from you. Congratulations to you and your students. Competitions can be nerve-wracking, but I’m glad they will have the honor and the experience.

The thoughts that follow are based on what you wrote; I apologize in advance for any misunderstandings on my part.

First, a suggestion for the future:  It sounds (I may be wrong) as though you and your students very conscientiously edited what was on the page. It’s more effective to edit using two non-writing criteria: What you hear when the students reads his or her work out loud, and how he or she feels reading it. In this way, the student begins to practice delivery as part of the editing process. This can help avoid the disconnect you describe them feeling at the moment, and also creates a better edit. (I have written more than 1000 speeches, and feel confident asserting that it is impossible to create a natural-sounding script without “editing out loud.”)

What I believe you’re expressing at the moment is frustration that your students haven’t fully embraced the task of delivering their speeches. This is a difficult step for people who don’t have public speaking or other performance experience, but how they practice between now and the competition can make a big difference.

The key is to nurture their sense of connection with the audience.

First, if they have not already begun to do this, they must start reading their talks out loud to other students, while making as much eye contact as they naturally can. The more often they read their talks out loud to other students, the more they will be able to get their eyes off the page and look at the audience. This transition should occur naturally, over many repetitions of the speech. Do not try to force it, just give them the goal of ultimately being more connected to their listeners than they are to whatever is on the page.

Second, they should practice being ridiculously dramatic. PRACTICE is a fundamentally different activity than presenting, so assure them that their overly dramatic antics will not carry over to the actual competition. Being overly dramatic now is a way to stretch the emotional range of their delivery, which is done in service of the audience (drama helps the audience to hear, understand, and absorb what is being said), but this approach is just for practice and should be forgotten on competition day. This blog post explains: http://speakupforsuccess.com/sound-exciting/ (the action items are most important for your students). Try to have fun with this exercise and embrace its full silliness.

Third, a conversational delivery is the best way to connect with an audience. When they practice, your students should pretend that they are speaking to a small group of close, trusted friends, and strive for a relaxed, friendly delivery. Please share this post with them, and use the attached handout to let them practice making eye contact with one person at a time.

And finally, help them to practice in a non-rote way by delivering different sections of their speeches out of order (you can call out the sections, or they can create flash cards to use). Randomizing your practice helps keep it fresh and encourages you to think about the ideas you are sharing, not using particular words in a particular order. This post explains: http://speakupforsuccess.com/public-speaking-practice/

I hope this is helpful, and will look forward to hearing how the competition goes.

Warm regards,


The post Advice to an English Teacher in Japan appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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the more animation, the faster the memoization

The post How to Memorize a TED Talk appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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No One Sees What You Think They See

Or if they do, they don’t care.

STAND UP presentations:

He always gets flush when he first starts speaking.

When he’s practiced and done it for a while, he’s got something to say.

He gets a little red, a little embarrassed.

The post No One Sees Your Symptoms appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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How can five public speaking exercises that take just one minute to complete help you become a better public speaker?

Well, as with any physical discipline (and public speaking is physical; you speak with your body), a little bit of daily practice can produce more dramatic results than the occasional cram session.

Yes, public speaking mastery takes time and effort. But you can improve — sometimes significantly — by practicing in small daily doses.

Want to try it? Click on the links below and watch yourself get better, day by day:

1. Make an Instant Speech — It’s Easy! (15 seconds)

A format that helps your sound credible, informed, and smart; that helps you answer questions; and that shows you how to start and stop, and how much to say? It’s not magic — it’s the Instant Speech!

2. Be Your Super Self: Call On Your Public Speaking Avatar (5 seconds)

When you need a little extra juice to get a public speaking job done, summon your Public Speaking Avatar to instantly tap more confidence, power, and pizazz.

3. Put Pauses in Your Public Speaking (5 seconds)

Pauses are one of your most important, dramatic, relaxing, and versatile public speaking tools. Here’s how to practice them.

4. Breathe Out to Settle Yourself (5 seconds)

You’ve probably been told to take a deep breath when you’re nervous. But if you breathe out before you breathe in, you’ll feel calmer, more relaxed, and ready.

5. Make Public Speaking Practice a Game (30 Seconds)

Taking to people is part of your daily life. You can use those conversations to make public speaking practice into a fun and simple game.

Image by John Cameron | Unsplash

The post Got One Minute? Build Your Skills With These Five Public Speaking Exercises appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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Giving an Academic Talk in the TED style? Start with a Big Idea and Passion!

If you’ve ever seen a TED, TEDx, or TED-style presentation, you already know that they’re very different from standard academic research-based presentations. (They’re different from standard business presentations, too.)

This means, to use an expression that I love,

You can’t get there from here.

You can’t begin with a traditional academic presentation and then morph it into a TED talk. You have to start with an entirely different process and frame of reference.

Here are the two concepts that anchor a TED frame of reference, with some tips about how to get them solidly in mind before you begin preparing your TED talk:

1. TED Talks are Built on a Single Big Idea

If you work in academia, you’re very familiar with topics, hypotheses and conclusions. But topics, hypotheses, and conclusions don’t make a BIG IDEA.

A TED “big idea” is second cousin to these things, with a very specific difference: A big idea is personal, punchy, and passionate.

Here are some TED and TEDMED titles that illustrate the difference:

  • How we’ll become cyborgs and extend human perfection
  • What would happen if you didn’t sleep?
  • Teach girls bravery, not perfection
  • Why hospitals are making us sick (by my awesome client Robin Guenther)
  • The next outbreak? We’re not ready

You can imagine the academic versions of these, right? (“How we’ll become cyborgs” might be “Enhanced brain augmentation: pros and cons of a hypothetical mind-machine interface.”)

These titles are actually TED big ideas. They cover a wide range of topics, but they have one thing in common: lots of attitude. 

You know, before you hit play, that the speaker has a powerfully felt position, and a point of view that is not trying to be “objective” (even though the research that’s presented will be).

You know one other thing, too: The big idea referenced in these titles will be front and center throughout each of the talks.

Which bring us to a corollary that can be difficult for people who are experts in their subjects to accept: Prioritizing one idea in the design of your talk requires that lots of other, related ideas, are not going to be explored.

As Chris Anderson, current owner of the TED franchise, says,

Ideas are complex things; you need to slash back your content so that you can focus on the single idea you’re most passionate about, and give yourself a chance to explain that one thing properly. Everything you say [should link] back to it in some way.”

So find your big idea, then focus on it.

2. TED Talks are Personal, Not Cerebral

We often give presentations that are loaded with information and argument, perhaps believing that the sheer weight of our evidence will persuade our listeners.

TED talks take a different approach — one in which your audience’s connection with an idea is based on your relationship to it. (Note Anderson’s use, in the quote above, of the phrase “the single idea you’re most passionate about.” Passion is not incidental to a TED idea; it’s essential.)

So if you’re presenting academic research, be ready to share not just the thinking behind your work…  not just the conclusions from your work…   but also the feelings, fears, hopes, frustrations, etc., it generates for you.

Yes, this means that you will be a factor in your talk. You will be talking about — wait for it — yourself. 

But never fear, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck making direct emotional statements. Your passion, your emotions can also be expressed through stories about your experience.

The essence of a “story” is that it has a beginning (the “precipitating event”), a middle (actions taken, often to overcome obstacles), and an end (which ideally “pays off,” or completes, the beginning).

How to Find the Stories Connected to Your Big Idea

Your research and professional life are rife with events that can be construed as “stories.” To find them, try this exercise: Complete the following phrases (or answer the following questions) out loud:

  • “When I first thought about this project…”
  • “What I didn’t realize was that…”
  • “That’s when it occurred to me that…”
  • “I’ve often thought that…”
  • “In spite of what we expected…”
  • “Now, you may wonder…”
  • “At that moment, I suddenly…”
  • Why does it matter? (ask that out loud before you answer it)
  • What did we learn?
  • Was it worth it?
  • What’s next?
So, What Is Next?

Now it’s time to put these insights into action.

Here is a comprehensive list of steps to follow to create your TED talk. Not all of them apply to academic or conference presentations, but most do.

Have fun finding your big idea, and creating a TED talk that’s passionate, personal, and relentlessly focused on it.

And if you need any help, contact me!

Image by Mikito Tateisi | Unsplash

The post How to Give an Academic Talk, TED-Style appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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It’s Hard to Trust Yourself When a Speech is Near

I recently received this note from a client,

Jezra, I’m presenting tomorrow, but I haven’t had much time to practice, and the person who invited me to speak has suggestions he wants to give me tonight. There’s a lot of pressure and things feel off. Do you have any advice for me?

Here’s what I wrote in response:

Dear Wonderful Client,

I hope it will be helpful to realize that what you are going through is VERY common.

Most of us never feel that we are adequately prepared for a presentation. Even if you had been practicing for an hour a day, I can promise that you would not feel adequately prepared.

And many speakers are deviled by well-meaning conference organizers with “helpful” suggestions for how they should change their content at the last minute. It just seems to go with the territory.

So here is my advice:

I then suggested that my client do these three things:

Step One: Manage Yourself and Others
  • Your NUMBER ONE focus before any speech must be on taking care of yourself, and that is particularly true if you’re speaking at a conference. Lack of sleep, too much socializing, fear of not doing your best, unfamiliar food and drink can all contribute to severe disorientation, so trust yourself to know what you need, and prioritize what is best for you at every moment.
  • When dealing with whoever invited you to speak, be respectful and vague. Say things like, “I will try to incorporate that,” or “Let me see what I can do about including that perspective.” Don’t argue with their requests (you will get nowhere); don’t point out how absurd it is for them to give you last-minute instructions (they don’t care); and don’t agree to change your speech. Listen respectfully, and then do what you think is best, which will probably be to make very small changes, if any.
Step Two: Trust Yourself
  • When you feel off balance before a presentation, DIG DEEP to find trust in yourself and confidence in your professional skills. Remember that your talk is composed of things that you’ve learned while living your life and doing your job. It isn’t some bizarre activity that’s disconnected from everything else; your speech is an extension of things that you think and do every day.
  • Don’t get caught up in things like “giving a good speech” or “being an expert” or “impressing the audience,” because those things are all illusions. What’s REAL is that you have interesting things to say to people who want to hear them.
  • So give yourself permission to say those interesting things. Not as some theoretically perfect and perfectly-prepared speaker, but as the deserving, thoughtful person that you are right nowOnly when you trust yourself will you find the calm you need to enjoy this experience.
Step Three: Follow These Links for Additional Strategies

So there you have it: a few practical tips, a slight attitude adjustment, a little self-preservation, and you’ll be ready to take the stage.

And Last But Not Least…

And as I told my worried client, there’s ultimately just one thing to remember:

You can do this!!


Image by Diana Simumpande | Unsplash

The post Advice to a Worried Speaker: Trust Yourself, and Your Lifetime of Experience appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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Public speaking — and effective communication in general — is always about preparation. So really, the title of this post should be…

How To Prepare to Ask for What You Want

I shared these tips at the annual conference of The Women’s Alliance of Xerox:

So you get the point:

When You Ask for What You Want, You’re Starting a Negotiation!

You’re not asking for a favor.

You’re not a supplicant, in a one-down position.

Instead, you’re opening a conversation — a negotiation — so that you and the person you’re talking to can find common ground between what they want and what you want.

The classic example of this is asking for a raise. In this situation,

  • I want to maximize my income (or other benefits); and
  • My manager wants to save the company money while keeping me happy enough that I won’t leave.

Knowing that they want to save money and need to keep me happy will help me craft a realistic and effective “ask” — one that,

  • Points out my benefit to the company
  • Gently reminds them that I have other options, and
  • Explains how they can get what they want (a satisfied, productive employee) by giving me what I want (that raise, promotion, plum assignment, etc.)

How do you get to the point where you’re ready to make that pitch?

Follow These Five Steps to an Effective Ask

Here’s a process that will prepare you to ask for what you want. (I’ve carried through with the example of asking for a raise, but the process is equally effective when you want a promotion, an exciting assignment, time off, better working conditions, or help from your family with household chores!)

1. Know Your Value — What do you bring to your company or team that they would otherwise have to do without? What have you accomplished for them? Can you put a dollar figure on the clients you’ve won, the time you’ve saved through good management? Even intangibles like increasing team morale can sometimes be quantified (“our team lost only one member last year; the other teams all lost two or more”)

2. Do Your Research — What do others at your level, in your field, get paid? How fast have others in your company been promoted? Are you being fairly compensated (often, women and people of color are not)?  Should you be making more than others, because you supervise more people, manage more projects, or have special expertise?

3. Develop Your Strategy — You know your manager! Are they best approached at 8am on Monday morning? Over drinks on Thursday night? After a difficult project has wrapped? Should you make an appointment, or have a casual conversation? Do they need time to process, or pressure to decide? And WHAT is the argument that will win them over? (To answer this question, think about The Four Public Speaking Personalities.)

4. Plan Your Speech — Don’t leave this important conversation to chance! Work out what you’re going to say (perhaps using the Instant Speech format), and then…

5. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE

You’re now ready to prepare an ask.

But there may be one more thing standing in your way: feelings.

Ask For What You Want, Even If You’re Uncomfortable

If you’re like me (and many of my clients) you may agree with asking in theory but feel uncomfortable actually doing it.

You may, for example, not want to ask because of thoughts like:

  • “If they say no, I won’t be able to handle my feelings of anger, hurt, disappointment, or whatever.”
  • “They would have already offered if they thought I deserved it.”
  • “My value should be obvious, I shouldn’t have to ask.”
  • “They should know what I want or need without me telling them.”

These thoughts and feelings come from the Nasty Little Voice in your head that most of us hear from now and then. And what I like to tell me clients about the NLV is,

Give that voice the attention it deserves. Which is zero.

So acknowledge your feelings, but don’t give them power. Don’t focus on them or take them seriously; and above all, don’t let them dictate your actions.

Instead, put your feelings aside, do your preparation, and then go out and ask for what you want.

That’s the best way to get it.

The post How To Ask for What You Want appeared first on Speak Up For Success.

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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. And here are 20 public speaking goals you can tackle in just an hour with me.

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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