People are always surprised when I tell them about my past career. In the sense, they find it hard to see the similarities between dancing and communication. But the skills I drilled in the dance studio and performed with on stage are actually very powerful disciplines…
In this “Rapid Success” video series I deliver a top communication tip in 90 seconds or less. In this video I discuss the power of intention and why we need to start focusing on how we want our audience to feel.
In this video I want to share my PowerPoint do’s and don’ts…. and when I say PowerPoint I mean any presentation software including Prezi and Keynote.
I know that a lot of people use these presentation tools and used well they can be excellent. Unfortunately, all too often, I see people making easily avoidable mistakes with the software. In this video I’ll share with you some simple tips that will help you connect with your audience and get them to engage with your presentation.
Tip no.1: Don’t read the bullets!
Power point and other presentation tools are there to help you reinforce your messages, to give the audience the key points that you want them to take away. Don’t use your slides as a script. It’s distracting and boring for the audience, as they know what’s coming before the words have even come out of your mouth.
Tip no.2: Don’t have too many words on the screen
If you start to put lines and lines of text onto your slides your audience will try and read it. As soon as you flip to a new slide filled with words you lose the focus of the audience as people try and read all the information that you put on the screen behind you.
Tip no.3: Keep it simple
Use a maximum of three bullet points per slide. That’s plenty. Use three to five words per bullet point. Don’t over complicate things; leave people with the key messages
Tip no.4: Use images
I really encourage you to use pictures. Images stay with us much more powerfully than text and if we associate what you are saying with the image that you put on the screen, we are much more likely to remember it.
Tip no.5: Think of Power Point as your backdrop
Don’t let PowerPoint upstage you. We don’t want people to remember the PowerPoint, we want them to remember you and what it is you said. Use your Power Point to enhance your presentation, but remember, Power Point isn’t your presentation. You are your presentation: the words you speak and the connection that you make with your audience.
I’d love to hear your views on how to get the most out of PowerPoint, so please share your comments with me in the box below.
Breathing is really important for making you sound and feel confident when you are in front of an audience.
The first thing you should think about is the placement of your breath. A common mistake that people make when they are nervous is to start breathing up into the chest. This increases the adrenaline flowing around your system and you enter into ‘fight or flight mode’.
The best way to overcome your nerves is low breathing. Use your diaphragm by relaxing your stomach muscles and allow your breath to drop in and fill your lungs. Use your ribs and the intercostal muscles too, like you’re filling up a barrel!
The simple breathing exercise I share in this video will help you to calm yourself down before a presentation. What you are actually doing is lowering your cortisol levels (your stress hormone) and at the same time increasing your testosterone levels (your confidence hormone) so it’s an absolute win-win!
I hope that you find my video on breathing exercises for confident public speaking useful. Please share your comments with me in the box below and I’d love to hear about any other tricks that work for you.
Keep shining (and breathing)!
There are many things you can do to make your audience love you but in my opinion the simplest and most effective is to make brilliant eye contact.
In my latest video I give you my top three tips for connecting with your audience using your eyes. If you find eye contact a little uncomfortable or you’d just like more engagement with the people you’re talking to, then this video is for you.
I really appreciate the comments these posts have been getting recently. It’s been amazing to hear people generously sharing their experiences and their own ideas for how to be brilliant communicators. So, if you’d like to join the debate I’d love to hear from you in the box below.
I wanted to make some videos so that I could share with you some quick tips and tricks.
In this first video I talk about the topic that probably comes up most often in my presentation skills training sessions…. “what do I do with my hands?”.
I hope you find it helpful and would love to hear your comments so leave them in the box below or at my youtube channel.
What a match! Novak Djokovic pounded a cross-court winner past Roger Federer on Sunday afternoon to seal his third Wimbledon championship and ninth grand slam title. But what can the world’s most famous tennis tournament teach us about public speaking?
#1. Love your audience.
In a game of tennis the cheers of the crowd make a big difference. When they feel like the audience is behind them, it can give players a big boost. When they loose the audience, Centre Court can be a very lonely place! Standing in front of large groups of people can make us nervous. Put yourself in Djokovic or Federer shoes and imagine standing in front of an audience of 15,000 people (plus a few million more watching from home)… pretty scary stuff!! For most of us the idea of presenting in front of 100 people causes anxiety. So what can we do to make sure that we give a confident performance and get our audience on our side?… Simple. Show them some love!
The big secret is that there is little difference in speaking to an audience of one or an audience of one thousand. I understand that it feels different but don’t let that feeling fool you. Look at the people we consider great speakers, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Stephen Fry, they all have different styles and different subject matters, yet they all have one thing in common: whatever the size of their audience, they make every single person feel engaged and special. Treat the people you’re speaking to as if they were your best mates and you can’t go wrong. Just like in a game of tennis, the audience is your friend and they want to be part of your success.
#2. Focus on the task at hand.
It’s easy to get distracted, especially when things don’t go our way or we make a mistake. However, great performers and athletes focus on their objective and don’t let themselves get pulled off course. If we stumble over a word when we are speaking or forget to mention a key point, we can often spend the next few minutes beating ourselves up. When we see this on the tennis court we know a player is in trouble. If they can’t move on quickly they will find themselves heading towards defeat. The key to success is having a strong objective to focus on. If you know what you are trying to achieve – to inspire the audience or to challenge their current way of thinking for example – then you can direct your energy towards that goal when you find yourself in trouble. If the goal is big enough and exciting enough it will outweigh any negative emotion and help you to continue to move forward. Without a strong objective you’ll trip yourself up at the first hurdle and find yourself crashing out of the competition!
#3. Get in the game.
The more you do something the easier it gets. No athlete, whether professional or amateur, would ever advocate competing in their chosen discipline without first putting in many hours of hard work before the event. In the same way that Djokovic spends most of his time training, you have to seek out opportunities to speak in front of large groups. So many people say “ I’m not a public speaker, I’m just no good at it”. The truth is that if you’ve ever had a single interesting conversation with another person in your entire life then you already have all the skills that you need to be a great public speaker in front of thousands of people! It’s just a case of practicing (and working with a good coach) to find out what works and what doesn’t. Djokovic has been knocked out of many more competitions than he’s won but that doesn’t stop him playing, in fact it probably makes him more determined. That’s the sign of a true champion in any discipline!
What do you do to make sure you “win” when you’re performing in front of a large audience? What other professions have you learned lessons from? I’d love to hear your ideas (and what you thought of the match!) in the comments box below.
Sunday night was an important night in the British Theatre calendar. Some of the biggest names is show-business gathered at London’s Royal Opera House for the 39th annual Oliver Awards, ready to celebrate the best performances, productions and stage craft of the previous twelve months.
One of the highlights for me was seeing arguably two of the worlds greatest living actors sharing the stage. After 10 years at the helm of the Old Vic Theatre, Kevin Spacey is standing down as Artistic Director. So who better to present him with an outstanding contribution award than the wonderful Dame Judy Dench? Watching these two amazing performers standing side by side, I was struck by the ease with which they held the entire audience in the palms of their hands. Without a shadow of a doubt this was a faultless display of “Star Quality”. So what exactly is it that made them so easy to watch and how can you or I get hold of some of the “fairy dust”?
The key to lighting up the stage (or the meeting room) is to be truly present. Just as the word suggests, presence is about being in the “here and now”. It’s one of the most popular topics that my clients ask for my help with and with some conscious effort it’s relatively simple to fix. We live in an incredibly busy world. Emails, text messages, phone calls, plus a million-and-one push notifications from our various social media channels, all compete for our attention. If we’ve just walked out of a bad meeting or know we have a difficult conversation coming up later in the day, sometimes it is very hard to shake those things off and focus on the task at hand. The best way to engage with your audience, whether from the stage or in a one-to-one situation is to make sure that you stay with them in the moment. Don’t allow your attention to wonder or allow other things to distract you. Taking a deep breath and finding a moment to pause before you start a new interaction are a great ways to ensure that you don’t carry your past, or your future into your present.
Care About Your Audience
Another word for “present” is “gift”. When we make the people we are talking to feel special, when we are generous, when we take the time to care, we instantly begin to develop “The X Factor” as a communicator. Human beings are very good a spotting a fake. If you don’t genuinely demonstrate respect for your audience (especially when delivering a difficult message) you instantly begin to loose rapport. What actors like Dench and Spacey do so well is make the audience feel comfortable and at home. We’re never worried about what they might say next. Instead we feel like we’re listening to an old friend, completely at ease and excited to hear what they have to say next. When you focus on yourself and forget about the people you are talking to, you instantly increase your own anxiety and alienate those listening. Shine your light on your audience instead and your “Star Quality” will be visible for all to see.
Whilst it’s sometimes easier said than done, enjoying your time in the limelight is vital if you want to be remembered as a star performer. That doesn’t mean you need to use “jazz hands” or crack lots of jokes. However, it’s a simple fact that if you are enjoying yourself, then your audience are much more likely to be enjoying themselves too. Enthusiasm is infectious! Great communication is a skill that can be learned and as with anything you want to master, targeted practice is vital. Many famous actors freely admit that whilst their performances appear effortless on stage or in front of the camera, in their private lives they are very shy and introverted. Look for opportunities to practice and to step outside of your comfort zone. The more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable engaging with an audience will become.
You don’t have to be an award winning actor to be have “Star Quality”. On a regular basis I am lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life who discover their power to excite and inspire. They touch the hearts and minds of their audience and their message has lasting impact. What steps do you need to take today so that you shine more brightly? I’d love to hear your comments in the box below.
No presenter in their right mind would set out to bore their audience to death! So why is it that so many presentations start in such a dull way?
“Good morning everybody, it’s very nice to be here. I hope you had a safe journey….” SO WHAT!?
Research suggests that it takes less than seven seconds to make a first impression, so the way you kick things off really counts! If you want to stand out from the crowd it makes sense that you have to do things differently from everyone else but most people are scared of rocking the boat. I’m confident that if you try one of the simple techniques I’m going to share with you below you’ll never fail to grab you audience’s attention again.
#1. DITCH THE NICETIES
Thanking people for their time, starting with your biog or giving an overview of what you’re about to cover puts you on the fast track to forgeability. So many people set themselves up to fail by beginning their presentations with what I call “middle management speak”. If you’ve got the courage to stand up in front of an audience then I’m sure you’ve got something important to say. So, don’t let it get buried under tons of small talk. Worse still never start with an apology. I’ve yet to see anyone start their TED talk by saying “I know you’re busy so I’m going to keep this brief. I promise not to take up too much of your time”!! The bottom line is, if what you’re about to say isn’t important, get off the stage and send an email instead!
So, assuming you’ve got something you really want to share, how should you begin?…
#2. START WITH A FACT OR A QUESTION
One of the best way to begin a presentation is make your audience curious. Starting with a fact or a question means that audience members have to engage their brains. How many times have you been bored watching someone go through their PowerPoint slides? .... It’s impossible to stop your brain from trying to answer the question! A bold statement or fact at the top of a presentation has the same effect. It also signals to the audience that you’re different and that you’re not going to follow the same format as everybody else.
#3. STOP BEFORE YOU START
My third tip is probably the most powerful and can be used in all sorts of situations, not just presentations. Rather than bounding up to the front of the room and starting to talk straight away, try the following technique. Walk up to the spot you are going to speak from, stop, take a deep breath and count from 1 to 7 in your head, all the time making gentle eye contact with your audience. Most people start talking straight away and this means that the people watching you don’t have a chance to take you in. Stopping before you start allows them this opportunity and also give you a chance to calm your nerves before you open your mouth to talk. Not only will you have instant gravitas you’ll also make sure that you have the audience’s full attention so that they don’t miss any of the important stuff you’re about to say!!
Are you brave enough to try out one of the techniques above in your next presentation? If you are, I’d love to hear what impact they on you and your audience, so please share your experience in the comments box below.
Until the next time