great speakers

Captivating an audience is not an easy feat, especially for those of us who are not “natural” public speakers, or who struggle with major stage fright. There is one skill guaranteed to keep your audience engaged and interested, and it doesn’t require making a sound. We’re talking about using silence in the form of well-timed pauses.
Stage fright is a real thing. It is rare that a person is a natural orator and can captivate an audience with little to no practice, and without anxiety. None of us are born with impeccable speaking skills, not even Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Although some people are more comfortable on stage than others, they too have had to practice, practice, practice.

One Skill All Great Speakers Possess: Knowing How To Use Strategic Pauses

Do you possess effective oral presentation skills? All skilled speakers require lots of practice, and many have teams of coaches and communication experts behind them, à la Obama. For most of us, receiving feedback, learning tips and techniques along the way – strategic pauses, for example – and frequent practice will fill the bill.
Luckily, we don’t need an entourage of coaches to help us become the next Tony Robbins.
Whether it’s a presentation for colleagues, a keynote speech or simply story time with the kids, there is one sure-fire way to capture your audience’s attention: using silence in the form of strategically-placed pauses.

How to Do It

Great leaders and great speakers know their role is not simply to speak, but rather to make the audience think. An audience cannot possibly think, if it is busy trying to keep up with the rate of the speaker’s words and ideas!
Speakers often receive feedback that includes a suggestion to “slow down!!” It is not necessarily the rate of the words that is moving at hyper-speed, but rather, the rate of ideas.
When we tell our clients to “slow down,” we’re not talking about the rate of speech, but rather how quickly they are moving from one idea to another. This is where the well-timed, engaging pause comes in. Think about the flow of your ideas. Use pauses strategically when you switch from one idea to another. Watch audience members shift to the edge of their seat, as they anticipate what you’re going to say next.

Stage Fright: Why We Always Speak Too Quickly

Typically, we speak quickly when we’re under the spotlight because we are nervous (or terrified!) and want the experience to end as soon as possible. The thought of drawing out the presentation with pauses probably sounds like a nightmare. It’s critical to keep in mind that to you, the presentation probably feels like it is dragging on, never ending. For the audience, this isn’t the case. Inserting strategic pauses, thus slowing down the rate of ideas, will not bore your audience and will not lengthen your speech. All it will do is keep your audience interested and engaged. Slowing the rate of ideas will also increase your Executive Presence by sustaining your physical presence on-stage and helping you stay focused and calm. Remember: the audience is on your side and wants you to succeed.
Mark Twain was correct in saying, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

presentation-skills-torontoFor many people, presenting in front of a group of peers, clients or superiors can be seriously intimidating! However, nailing presentations of any kind is one sure-fire way to increase your Executive Presence on the spot and seriously impress your boss. But, how to overcome the nerves? How can you make your presentation on numbers or statistics as interesting and engaging as possible? How can you command attention from everyone in the room throughout your whole presentation? There’s a lot that goes into a successful presentation, so we’ve compiled a list of four suggestions that you can follow while preparing for your next presentation to help you get started.

  1. Organize your presentation

    Make sure you’ve put thought into the content of your presentation (i.e. your use of language and your use of jargon and acronyms) as well as the structure of the presentation (i.e. the strategy and order of ideas). Your structure should look something like this: Conclusion, Points supporting the conclusion, Sub-points supporting your main points and finally Conclude your talk.

  2. Manage your stress

    There’s noting more painful to watch than someone on stage who is clearly completely uncomfortable being there and who’s presentation is suffering because of it. Don’t forget that the people in the audience are there to listen to you and welcome you – they are on your side! Whether or not you’re a born speaker, being able to manage stress can make even the most frightful public speaker appear at ease and comfortable on stage. Here are a few ways you can manage your stress both before and during your presentation:- Prepare and rehearse before hand.- Arrive early
    – Power pose (for more on this, check out our blog post on power posing)
    – Drink lots of water
    – Think positively
    – Make eye contact with the audience
    – Speak on the exhale
    – Find friends in the audience

  3. Project and inspire confidence

    One way to ensure a successful presentation is the projection of confidence! That’s the only way the audience will believe what you are saying. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to make eye contact with everyone in the room. A great way to do this is to scan all four corners of the room right when you walk in, so you’ve already acknowledge all the people in the room. When entering the room, enter on the exhale – this will project calmness and confidence.
    Presenting in front of a group of people doesn’t have to be an automatic stress-inducer! Being well-prepared is half the battle; if you take the time and make the necessary preparations, chances are very high that you will go into your next presentation feeling confident, ready and at ease. If you want to learn more about how to increase your presentation skills, check out our Course and Lunch and Learn on presentation skills.

  4. It’s ok to use notes, however…

    Using notes during a presentation is fine, and encouraged, however be sure to have proper notes ready, and not a full script that you will read from. “Proper notes” entails notes that have been shortened and made simple, and which present only main ideas, where each line includes only about 4-5 words. Bullet points are used to indicate the flow of ideas. The idea with proper notes is that they prevent you from “reading,” however still prompt you with your next thought.

There is no question that technology has integrated itself so seamlessly in the world of business that almost no business transaction can be completed without its use. The need to keep up with the world of technology has never been so pronounced, especially when it comes to your career.

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A relatively recent technology that has proven extremely valuable in the world of business is Skype. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a software application that allows two people who have access to a computer to contact each other via the Internet; the webcam is also frequently used for video calling. Skype has allowed people from around the world to video-call each other for free.

More and more, Skype is becoming a convenient way of conducting meetings and interviews when a face-to-face situation is not possible. An interview over the phone is one thing, but the ability to see the other person is invaluable (we all know how important body language can be, especially in an interview setting). Skype interviews and meetings can sometimes be unnerving, so here we offer you some tips for the preparation of your next Skype call, so you can be as prepared as possible and nail it!

It’s all in the preparation

  • Although you may be in the comfort of your own home or office, that does not mean that you do not have to adequately prepare because you may have access to notes or documents that might help you through the call. It’s good to have some notes jotted down, but do not rely on them to get you through.
  • Because the individual on the other end of the call can see your home/office, it is integral that you clean before the interview! What will a potential employer think when he sees the messy room behind you?
  • Be sure to always use the washroom before your call. This may seem silly, but it won’t when you’re in the middle of explaining why you are the best candidate for the job and you have to excuse yourself to visit the restroom. This can be easy to forget, as you are already in a familiar setting.
  • Be sure to have anything you foresee yourself needing during the call at your nearest disposal. For example, it is always a good idea to have a glass of water nearby.
  • Be sure to do a test call just before your scheduled call to ensure that the framing of your computer is right, and that the lighting in the room is perfect.

Because of the comfort often associated with a Skype call (you are often in your safe space), it can be easy to forget some basic principles of a traditional job interview, such as adequate preparation, and even your self-presentation. It is important to remember, however, that the stakes are always high, and that the way you prepare for and present during a Skype call has profound and lasting effects on your executive presence!

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As a leader in your company, you will encounter various roles and responsibilities that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership. One example is in facilitating effective meetings. In a productive meeting, the organizer communicates their ideas while incorporating the valuable contributions from other participants, while simultaneously managing time and direction of the meeting to ensure efficiency. In doing so, the meeting facilitator demonstrates the ability to guide and contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

Below are several tips on facilitating the most effective – and efficient – meetings.

Prepare in advance

It may seem obvious, but the universal motto to “be prepared” applies for several different components of a great meeting:

  • Write the itinerary ahead of time and email it to meeting participants. Seeing the schedule on paper and running through the length of the meeting in advance will help you to gauge whether the meeting time will run long and if you need to cut out any items from the itinerary.

Also, emailing the itinerary to participants will allow them to know what to expect. This will let them ruminate over discussion points in advance and likely better ensure the meeting stays on track.

  • Circulate any pre-reading at least two days in advance, if possible. Background reading, if relevant, is an excellent addition to a meeting in that it will facilitate a more robust and informed discussion. Just make sure you give participants enough time to review the materials.
  • Avoid technical difficulties during meeting time by testing any technical components – presentations, teleconference lines or otherwise – in advance.

During the meeting

During the meeting, a few tactics can help you to address the main points of discussion clearly and concisely:

  • Use materials to illustrate key concepts. Presentations, handouts, binders or other materials that lay out ideas visually for participants will help them to follow along and internalize the messages.
  • Incorporate discussion throughout the meeting. The primary difference between a meeting and a presentation is that the role of the meeting participant is essential in the outcome of meeting – so let their opinions play a part! To capture the points of discussion, ensure someone is designated to take notes during the meeting.

Follow up

The process is not over when a meeting concludes. Take the appropriate follow-up steps to ensure the effectiveness of your meeting:

  • By the end of the meeting, determine a list of action items and who is assigned to complete each task. Also, decide what will be addressed at the next meeting. Shortly after the meeting concludes, email these items to attendees while they are still present in your mind.

Running an effective meeting includes more than simply keeping the conversation on topic. A valuable meeting can influence the overall strategy of your organization – and show your leadership skills in doing so.

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Happy New Year! How will you ring in 2013?

Many of us start off a fresh year by making a resolution or two, aiming to better ourselves through small changes to our habits. This year, consider making a professional New Year’s resolution – because even small improvements in your routine in the office or your business interactions can help you to advance your career or make your mark professionally.

Resolve to Make Connections

Are you a shy person who only talks to familiar colleagues at networking events – or just skips the event altogether? In 2013, resolve to break out of your shell by making new professional connections, both inside and outside of your company. Besides participating in networking events, take other steps to build your contact list: set lunch dates with potential partners or clients, or schedule informational interviews with business contacts. Creating and maintaining professional relationships is an important piece of advancing and growing in your field.

Resolve to Be a Leader

Displaying leadership in the workplace is a solid building block for moving up in your company. You can demonstrate leadership in tasks big and small: anything from taking the initiative to assist a new colleague, to planning and executing an important project. Consistently displaying leadership qualities will work to your advantage, especially as management begins to notice your initiative. Practicing leadership can also boost your confidence and comfort level in the workplace.

Resolve to Improve Your Presentation Skills

No matter how impressive the content of your work, your messages simply will not resonate with colleagues or clients if you cannot deliver them in a strong presentation. Giving great presentations is something that many professionals struggle with, whether it is due to stage fright, nervousness or just unfamiliarity with speaking in front of a large group. Awareness of the key elements of an effective presentation – body language, posture, articulation, well-planned slides and talking points, appearance and attire – plus lots of practice can help you to strengthen your presentation skills and effectively deliver your messages.

Resolve to Build Your Executive Presence

Executive Presence
is not a single trait that can be acquired overnight; rather, it is a hybrid of characteristics, which are all critical for a successful professional to have. A recently published study by the Center for Talent Innovation defines the foundations of Executive Presence as gravitas, communication and appearance, and makes no question of the importance of Executive Presence, stating that it “accounts for 26 percent of what it takes to get the next promotion.” You can work on building your own Executive Presence through training programs, Lunch and Learn sessions, customized webinars and individual consultations that focus on skills such as communication, business etiquette, and professional image.

Even through small changes, we can all work toward becoming stronger and more successful professionals. What better time to improve your daily habits for lasting results than at the start of a brand new year!

 

Children in grade school are giving presentations. High school students are doing them with PowerPoint. In every company, organization, social gathering, and team meeting, there are more opportunities and expectations to speak in front of a group. Some fear presentations. Others just need help in how to give a presentation that engages the audience and achieves its goal.

It’s not that hard, but there are many steps. Write a clear key message. Develop the outline. Generate the content of your presentation, create your visuals, carefully consider your conclusion, rehearse your opening, then edit and practice.

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