Controlling Your Fear on the Platform

Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it!

20190425_185242Most speakers are conscious of the fact that the fear of public speaking-bug can strike at any time when they are on the platform. But with time and experience, when they begin to accept that all speaking in public is, in fact, public speaking the platform becomes less intimidating. Whether you are on or off the platform, it doesn’t matter. To be successful, speakers must learn to utilize the normal tension and nervousness associated with speaking in public. Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it. Tension can give speakers energy. It can make speakers more alert and make the difference between a compelling presentation and one that is dull and lifeless.

The act of speaking and proper breathing play a vital role in the process of reducing tension.  As you talk and discover that your audience accepts and understand what you are saying, your nervousness will dissipate. Physiologically, your body is using up the excess adrenaline it generated. Speaking aloud and moving with purpose reduces fear. Use body language to help you channel your energy as you show and tell your story. Be alive when you are on the platform, and your audience will respond positively to you and the topic you are presenting,

Topic selection and subject mastery are critical for your success. Select topics with which you are familiar and passionate about. Choose topics that will easily let you take your mind off yourself. Speech anxiety sometimes arises because of self-centeredness. Avoid being more concerned with your appearance and performance. Instead, focus on your audience and subject matter. Think more about introducing the subject and purpose of your talk rather than just starting your speech. Open with a statement that is simple, easy to say and engages your audience.  Choose statements that allow you to get to the point of your speech quickly and clearly.

Audience and situation analysis is also critical. The more you know about your audience and their expectations, the less you should have to fear. As you speak, feed off the positive non-verbal responses, you are receiving. The more you speak in public, the more you will become confident and be able to relax when you are on the platform. Speaking several times in front of the same group can help you reduce your fear; however, speakers should try to step out of their familiar surroundings to explore speaking in front of unfamiliar groups whenever possible. Over time and with repetition of the public speaking experience, you will realize and develop your own strategies for controlling your fear when you are on the platform

A Toastmasters Life

Join Toastmasters and present with confidence

20190317_122306JOIN TOASTMASTERS AND PRESENT WITH CONFIDENCE: That was the headline in the Navy’s Center Newsletter – The headlined that attracted Helen Blanchard to Toastmasters. She would later reveal those words literally leaped off the page at her as she had just taken on a new assignment – a position typically reserved for men.

And so began Helen Blanchard’s Toastmasters Journey – which would lead her to become the first woman president of Toastmasters International.  The year was 1970.  Helen’s new assignment with the – United States Navy Research and Development Center in San Diego California – was to travel to offshore test sites to train the engineers to use a uniform method of analyzing and reporting the technical data they collected.  That headline – “Join Toastmasters and present with confidence” Helen knew was just what she needed; however, when she read the fine print, observed one minor detail – The article and invitation entitled “Men on the Move” was limited to men only – Yes! men only!.

The contact person for the program was a name Helen was familiar with – Bob Bolam. She called up Bob to ask for more information. He politely explained that Toastmasters was an all-male organization – Women did not join Toastmasters, they joined Toastmistresses – The same type of organization but one exclusively for women. Bob even suggested the possibility of Helen starting a Toastmistresses Club at the Center. Although Helen, was well aware that she was walking in a highly technical man’s world without the background of an engineering degree and that presentation training would be a boost to her confidence, decided to move on when she was unable to find Toastmistresses who shared her passion for presenting with confidence and to also “be on the move”.

Three weeks later, Helen got a call from Bob to informed her that the members of Center Toastmasters had unanimously voted to admit her to their club. Bob reminded the members, that the club met on Federal land, on Federal time and that Helen was a Federal employee. As such, her membership could not be denied. At first, Helen was a bit reluctant to attend their meeting, however, Bob assured her that their decision was unanimous and that she would be welcomed to the club with open arms. Ten of the fifteen members of the club were present at her first meeting. Once Helen saw the program in action, she wanted to join and formally applied from membership on June 2, 1970, under the non-gender-specific name of H Blanchard.

Helen’s first speech, her “Ice Breaker” was scheduled right away.  She had two weeks of preparation as the club met bimonthly.  Her evaluator’s comment by her own admission was that she had great potential but used so many “ahs” and “uhms” he decided to stop counting mid-speech.  Several weeks later, her application was returned to the club’s VPM – Vice President Membership – for a first name. The challenge was now to find a male name starting with the letter H. She was racking her brains – Herman … Harry … Harold – or perhaps even Henry? Who Knew!!

One member of the club suggested the club find her a name. That became the Table Topic of the day. Since Helen had already done her Ice Breaker, the members used some of the information she revealed about herself to choose her male name. The winner was Joe Dobbs. He wove a beautiful story around her maiden name – Pallas suggesting there would be no better name for Helen – referring to her as “Helen of Troy and the Trojan horse” – than Homer!  She agreed and that name remained with Helen until November 1971 when Toastmasters International informed the club they could accept female members.

In August 1973, the policy officially changed to permit any club to amend their bylaws to allow women in its membership. Fifteen years later, Helen Blanchard would become the first female President of Toastmasters International.  Wow – What a Toastmaster’s life! Helen Blanchard died at age 86 on May 31, 2013. I met Helen when I was the District 4 Governor in 2009 -2010 and will always remember these words of encouragement I received from her: Enjoy life’s Journey – Yours and Mine!

Clarity is Key to Good Communication

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message

20181207_093125It is often said that clarity is the key to good communication and public speaking. Public speaking is a skill everyone has to embrace at some time or another; however, over time as speakers, we come to realize that “all speaking is public speaking”. Every day, we communicate requests, opinions, and ideas with family, friends, and associates. The more we exchange communication, the more it becomes evident that communication is not only what you said, but also what the listener thinks you said or is saying.

The following are a few concepts anyone can start practicing today, to become a more effective communicator. These principles can be career-enhancing when practiced daily. They can unleash a whole new perspective in the way you communicate. Speakers can also start applying them to presentations, conversations and your communications with family, friends, and colleagues. They will also significantly improve how you respond in your daily interactions with others. They will help you develop who you are as a communicator.

One of the first requirements of good communication is, getting people to listen to you. How to get audiences to stop, look at you and listen is a question all speakers must try to resolve. Before a speaker utters their first words, they should make sure they have the complete attention of their audience. The challenge then becomes how to hold that attention. Begin with a voice inflection that commands your listener’s attention. Also, use appropriate body language to let your listener know you are ready to establish a line of communication.

If one of the parties tune out or disconnects, it is like having a bad phone connection. Communication is over. While still connected, you should envisage how you are going to hold your audience’s attention. A good strategy is to strive to be entertaining while you are informing or being informed. Listen before you interject. Go with the flow.  If you can entertain and inform at the same time, the flow of information between the speaker and listener will be greatly enhanced.

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message. Quips; witty communication will often keep the conversation alive and memorable.  Well placed quips will often have the effect of an echo long after you and your listeners have disconnected. When used in speeches, quips can bring clarify your message.  Give your messages a voice. Make your audience stop, look at you and listen to you while you entertain and inform. And the day will come when you be respected not only as a good speaker but also as a great communicator.

Your Power Pause

Let your audience embrace your silence.

20181207_093125Whether you’re presenting a speech at your club meeting, introducing a speaker at a social event or delivering a sales pitch, you will always connect with your audience if you stage some silence before you speak.  In the immortal words of William Shakespeare – “I stand in pause where I shall first begin.”

The power pause method has been the key to magnifying the messages of many great orators, however, stage silence before you begin your presentation should not be overdone. Your expressed purpose should be to make sure you have the undivided attention of your audience. Before you start, try locking your eyes on each of your listeners with a stare, as you silently review in your mind each word of your opening sentence. Make your Power Pause your final preparation before you begin to speak.

When you’re sure, you have your audience attention, it is wise to acknowledge that you now have their attention with a smile or perhaps a gentle nod. The Power Pause is the great equalizer. Whether you’re male or female, tall or short, dapper or grungy, an audience will lend you their ear if you take the time to make your audience stare back at you in hopeful anticipation, before you begin. Stand and steer with confidence as if to say I am ready for you. Are you ready to listen to me.

The Power Pause is one of the keys to charisma – that special power some speakers have naturally or develop. A power that makes them able to influence others and attract their attention and admiration. Audiences usually listen attentively to people they like and those who they admire. The Power Pause can also be your safety net also as you stare out into that audience for the first time from the platform. Let your audience embrace your silence. Take time to gather yourself, your thoughts, tame those butterflies as you begin to deliver what everyone present waited with bated breath to hear; your opening with a roar or a whisper.

 

Conflict – Wit – Wisdom & Humor

“Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”

GandhiOne of the best skills all speakers must develop is the art of being quick, witty and polite. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to defuse conflict is with wisdom, wit, and humor. Wisdom comes with time. However, humor and wit take practice. Mahatma Gandhi was a leader who also used wisdom, humor, and wit effectively to defuse conflicts. He was a lawyer, activist, and politician who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India. Here is an example of his wit, his wisdom, and his humor.

When Gandhi was studying law at the University College of London, a professor by the name of Peters disliked him intensely simply because Gandhi never lowered his head when addressing him as he expected. There were always “arguments” and confrontations. 

One day Mr. Peters was having lunch at the University dining room when Gandhi came along with his tray and sat next to him.  The professor said, “Mr. Gandhi, do you understand that a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat.  “Gandhi looked at him as a parent would, to a rude child and calmly replied, “You do not have to worry, professor, I’ll fly away,” and Gandhi went and sat at another table.

Peters, red with rage, decided to take revenge on Gandhi’s next test paper, but Gandhi responded brilliantly to all questions. Unhappy and frustrated, Mr. Peters asked him the following question:  “Mr. Gandhi ! if you were walking down the street and found a package. And within that package was a bag of wisdom, and another bag with a lot of money, which one would you take?

Without hesitating, Gandhi responded, “Why of course, the one with the money.”  Mr. Peters, smiling sarcastically, said:  “I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.”  Gandhi shrugged indifferently and responded, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”

Mr. Peters, by this time, was fit to be tied.  So great was his anger, he wrote on Gandhi’s exam sheet the word “idiot” and handed it back to him.  Gandhi took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk, trying hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move.  A few minutes later, Gandhi got up, went to the professor and said in a dignified but sarcastically polite tone “Mr. Peters, you autographed my sheet, but you did not give me the grade.”

It is my hope that the next time you find yourself dealing with a Mr. Peters, you too will remember Mahatma Gandhi who was the master of wit and wisdom.

 

 

 
 

My Pathways DTM Journey

Change is good when you go first

20181215I joined Toastmasters in March of 1997 and received my first DTM in July 2007 under the original education program. In 2017 we had the rollout of Pathways in our District 4.  I achieved my second DTM award in November 2018 after meeting all the Pathways requirements for a second DTM   Why did I undertake a second DTM? Because it was time for change.

In 2009 to 2010 when I served as the District Governor for District 4, I learned about the new educational program under development to modernize the Toastmasters learning experience. I was excited. The Toastmasters organization started in October of 1924 and was incorporated in 1932.  Since then, the world of Communication and Leadership has changed tremendously. I too believed it was time for change, and it was time to change with the changes.

One of the reasons I decided to get on the fast track to complete the requirements in Pathways, was to help me better understand the changes in the new program. I knew what old offered but was curious about the new. I signed up to be a Pathways Guide for District 4. After introducing the required ten clubs to the program, I decided to do the program myself, to see where Pathways will take me. I wanted to validate the full range of benefits the Pathways program promised. Some of those promises were:

• Customized learning tailored to personal and professional goals
• Early and frequent recognition of accomplishments
• Mobile access to educational materials
• Expanded video and digital content
• A self-paced, self-development journey

At one of my sessions to introduce Pathways, a fellow Toastmasters said to me, if the change is so good why don’t you go first. So I did. The two Paths I selected Presentation Mastery and Visionary Communication delivered on the promises. Once I did my icebreaker, I realized how important it was to develop a strategy to complete each project with full benefits.  While it was great to have the flexibility of working online, anytime, anywhere, I found it useful to have the downloaded copy of each project. I also opened a notepad window and made notes after launching each project. The notepad made it easy to cut and paste key points as I worked through a project. Finally, I would combine the guidelines from the worksheets with my notes to develop the required project for my presentations at club meetings.

The Pathways program is an evolution in the Toastmasters experience. It allows you to select and customize speeches on topics best suited for your personal and professional growth.  New projects like writing a compelling blog, creating a podcast and building a social media presence are dynamic projects, which were not available before the change to Pathways. Having done both programs, the old and the new, I believe the Toastmasters education program will help you build the core competencies required to be an effective communicator and effective leader.

To get started, you will find a wealth of valuable information on the Toastmasters Website. Another useful resource made available by a fellow Toastmasters Guide – Ken Braly from District 101 is available at http://kenb.com/pathways – Pathways will take you where ever you want to go if you embrace the change. This milestone in my Toastmasters journey made me realize that change is good when you go first.

Competitive Speaking

A great speech is spoken art.

20181206_145952Competitive speaking can put a speaker’s development on the fast track. To prepare for competitions, speakers must pay attention to those details often ignored. Here are a few of those details to consider as you prepare for your next speech to compete at the Club, Area, Division, District or International level of competition:

The true winners are not the ones who walk away with the trophy but those who win the hearts of their audiences.

Topic Selection: The topic you choose can decide your place in competitions. While you should select a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. Your presentation should not be all about you. It is should also have some universal appeal. The challenge is to establish a connection with your audience through personal stories, and real-life events spun into a unique, persuasive work of art. It should not be an act.  Simply put, a great speech is spoken art.

Avoid The Following: Recent events & stories overused by the Internet & News Media. Events with varied audience interest and opinions as well as topics too big to be delivered in 5 to 7 minutes. If after you have finished speaking your audience is left with many unanswered questions, you may want to ask yourself if this is a story I can deliver completely in the allotted time.

Study The Points Distribution As You Prepare Your Speech:  The points distribution is usually: Speech Development-Effectiveness-Speech Value – (Content – 50 Points) Physical-Voice-Manner-Manner (Delivery – 30 Points) Appropriateness-Correctness (Language – 20 Points).

Speech Purpose: The purpose of your speech should be clearly defined very early in your presentation. Are you speaking to Inform: Entertain: Persuade: Motivate.
Study the objectives of all ten speeches from the CC Manual. Focus on what do you want your audience to Think-Feel – Or Do after hearing your presentation.

Delivery: Don’t Tell Them–Show Them-Take Them
Be descriptive – Use word pictures to convey your message. A picture paints a … words.
Be concise but also be clear – Every unanswered question becomes a distraction.
Practice your personal stories and anecdotes so that they don’t sound rehearsed-Keep it real.

Timing: Write a 6-minute Speech and Deliver it in 7 – Find Your Speaking Rate.
Calculate your average speaking rate – Men average 125 Women 150. The average number of words in your speech should be between 700 to 750 words. Use single syllable words.

What is your Magic Moment: The moment in your speech that would make your presentation memorable. Every speech must have a magic moment, strategically placed for maximum impact.

A Call to Action:  Recall what you told your audience in the introduction and body of your presentation. Leave your audience with a call to action. Close the deal to leave your audience with a lasting impression. If at the end of your speech you left your audience has a burning desire to take some action, whether you take home a trophy or not, you will be a winner in the hearts of your audience.

Are You Speaking or Performing

Your acting may become a distraction.

FB_IMG_1546708124190There is a fine line between public speaking and performing when you are on the platform. However, if you are performing more than you are speaking when your purpose for being on stage is public speaking, you are on the wrong side of the line.  In some cases, when speakers are not comfortable or too familiar with their message, they may begin to perform. What most audiences want from a speaker is their message, not an act. If you can make a connection with your audience through your message, there is no need to go into acting mode. Even if that act makes your audience laugh or cry, you run the risk of detracting from your message and your acting may become a distraction.

While the focus of speakers and performers is on making a connection with their audience using gestures, eye contact, vocal variety and use of the stage, your message will resonate with audiences when you are perceived to be authentic. When your audience can relate to your and your message you will be accepted as a credible messenger. Whether you are an experienced speaker or not, your focus should be on your message and not on how you are looking on stage. With more and more stage time, as a speaker you come to realize that it is not about you the messenger; it’s all about the message.

By no means am I saying it is inappropriate to inject acting into your presentation, however, as a speaker you should always remember that your primary goal is to communicate your message. While it is okay to get involved in your stories, you should revert to reality and your purpose as quickly as possible without taking your audience off on a tangent. Over time, you too will develop a style which makes your speaking and performing delivery appears seamless. Your ability to straddle that imaginary line that separates speakers from performers will develop as your stage time increases.

Presenting to audiences takes courage, however, if you strive to be who you truly are as a person when you are on the platform, half the battle is won. Stage presence is far more powerful than resorting to acting. Strive to be conversational with your audience. It takes practice and stage time to become an accomplished speaker. Speaking and performing both have lots in common, however, it is the intent that makes them separate. Leave the performing to actors and stay more on the speaking side of that fine line when you are on the platform.

 

Your Speaking Voice

The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension

20181208_090953On a recent trip to Pismo Beach, I was asked by a colleague how can I improve my speaking voice? Are there exercises I should be doing to improve my voice and where should I begin? Those questions made me refer to some of my notes from a training session which addressed those questions. That Toastmasters training session was entitled – “Your Speaking Voice.”

Breath Produces Voice:  Deep, controlled breathing is necessary for good Vocal production. Your voice is supported by a column of air, the depth, and steadiness of which determines your vocal quality. Think of the diaphragm as the foundation on which this air column rests and by which it is controlled as it comes upward to meet the vocal organs. When you breathe in, your abdominal wall expands and the dome-shaped diaphragm flattens. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the abdominal wall contracts. The relaxed diaphragm rises, pushing air out of the lungs. The exhaled air provides the controlled production of speech sounds.

As the air pushes upward against the vocal cords, it causes them to momentarily separate, allowing the air to pass between them. The rush of air and the elasticity of the vocal cords then pulls them back together. The production of these vibrations is called phonation. Consider how sound is produced at the mouth of an inflated balloon. Vocal sound is produced in a similar manner. Air pressure comes up through the throat, mouth, and nose, causing a continuous pressure change in the air surrounding the speaker. These pressure changes are called sound waves. They are transmitted to the ear of the listener and the voice is heard.

Production of Voice Quality: Think for a moment about musical woodwind and brass instruments. Their sound comes from the musician’s breath and lip vibrations or the vibrations of a reed in the mouthpiece. Because the chambers of these instruments differ in size and shape, their tone qualities are distinctive. Different parts of the original tone are increased, or resonated, and other parts are reduced. Human resonance is the increasing or modifying of sounds by the throat, nose, and mouth. The sound waves created by the vibration of the vocal cords travel into the upper part of the throat, then to the mouth and, at times, into the nose. As these waves bounce around within these structures, they are reinforced and amplified. The differences in people’s voices arise from the size of the vocal cords and the effects that the resonators (throat, mouth, nasal passages) have on the vocal tone. To a certain extent, a speaker can change the size, shape, and surface tensions of the pharynx and the oral cavity; he or she may also use, partly use, or close off the nasal cavities.

Improving Your Voice: Before trying to improve your voice, you must first understand what kind of vice you have. Do you whisper or boom. Does your voice convey life, color, and melody, or do your sentences come out flat, wooden, and without variety? The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension – emotional or physical tension – so controlling tension is critical to improving your voice quality. The key to developing effective voice quality is being aware of the different roles you play during a typical day: parent, employee, boss, friend, lover, consumer, salesperson. Each of these roles reflects different personality traits and requires different voice images. Listen to how your voice sounds in your various roles as you relate to others. Consider what you are doing with your voice. How is your mouth moving? How are you using your lips? To improve your voice, you must become aware of stress, muscle tension, and relaxation. The most important recommendation for developing voice quality is to relax your throat while you speak. Think in terms of the impression you would like to convey. Is it friendliness, confidence, and a desire to communicate? If you release the tension from your voice, a pleasing tone will likely result. Remember that the emotions and vocal colorings you express with your voice can arouse similar feelings in others.

What’s Your Purpose?

It takes Preparation to speak with Style – Substance – and Clarity.

20180929_095036Regardless of the occasion, we must have a purpose for speaking?  The 4 Types of speeches are to INFORM – PERSUADE – INSPIRE – ENTERTAIN.

The following are some of the crucial questions you need to ask yourself as you prepare for each occasion?

Is this a speech to PROMOTE a cause – IMPROVE your image or the image of your organization – Is it to SELL products or services – ANSWER questions – INSPIRE others or EXPLAIN a process.

After selecting your topic and deciding on your purpose, here are some more questions to consider as you research and prepare your presentation.

  • Do I know this topic very well?
  • Am I passionate about this topic?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this speech?
  • Can I complete this presentation in 5 to 7 without leaving unanswered questions?

What do you want your audience to think, feel or do, in that minute of silence after your presentation?

It takes PREPARATION to speak with Style, Substance, and Clarity.  Prepare every speech to be UNDERSTOOD, REMEMBERED and REPEATED  –  When your speech is understood, it will be repeated. When it is repeated, it will be remembered – Speak to be remembered – However, statistics show:

  • 50% of what I tell you even now, will be forgotten in 24 HRS.
  • In 24 HRS after that, you will not remember another 50%.
  • 24 HRS after that you may even question if you weren’t ever here.

Keep it simple. You must have a hook. The THEME or SCARLET RIBBON must run through the speech or presentation, from beginning to end. You must also have a SPEECH STRATEGY – What is Your Point of Attack? Head the Heart or the PocketBook?

TITLE:  First Impressions are lasting. Don’t give away your entire presentation or speech with the title. Your title is your anchor – Include it in your presentation.

OPENING – Lead with your strongest point. When you begin! Start! First impressions are lasting. In your first minute, you can win over or lose your audience.  Give a hint or some indication where you are taking your audience.

Don’t Tell Them–Show Them-Take Them.

  • Be descriptive – Use word pictures to convey your message
  • Be concise but clear – Every unanswered question becomes a distraction
  • Practice your personal stories and anecdotes so that they don’t sound rehearsed-Keep it real.

HUMOR: Ever tried to buy a piece of equipment from someone who doesn’t know how to operate it? Be factual. Use statistics. Do not overstate your case. You’ll undermine your credibility. Don’t try to be a comedian.

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AND CONCISELY

Make brevity a part of your style.  Write and then deliver or deliver-then write. Whatever happens, to be your choice – Focus on your choice of words.  Check each sentence to see if fewer words can provide the same message. Great speeches are not written – they are re-written – This is why we write!

DELIVERY

Everyone has a personal manner of speaking.  Be yourself.  Most people can process information only at a moderate rate. Find your voice. Find your rate. Don’t speak too fast or too slowly. Don’t try to sound like someone else.  Use strategic pauses for emphasis. Practice enunciating each word clearly – Work on your Verbal Punctuation.

CONCLUSION

Your conclusion is just as important as your opening. Recall some of the main points of the presentation. Leave enough time to summarize and emphasize your take away message.

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