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

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.

 

 

 
 

Making Your Case

To make your case, you must first have one.

pexels-photo-290150.jpegThe art of persuading audiences and judges is as old as life itself. However, success or failure depends largely on how well you succeed in making your case. At Toastmasters meetings speeches are evaluated; we “evaluate to motivate.” But too often we highlight the good and whitewash that which needs improvement. In speech contests, presentations are judged to pick a winner. The objectives are very different; however, one may conclude that it does not matter if you are being evaluated or judged when your purpose is making your case.

To make your case, you must first have one. You must be clear about what you are asking your audience to think, feel or do. You must also be sure that what you are asking your audience to do is doable. If after you have presented your reasoning to that audience or judges, they should be so impressed by your argument about that which you are asking them to do, or not do, is the best in this case and in similar situations to follow, you would have made your case. This process is a proven method of presenting, judges and lawyers use courts, CEOs, and executives use successfully.

Making a connection with your audience is just as important as knowing everything about the subject matter you are presenting. Your ability to communicate is a gift to all. Although we may communicate differently, we all were born with the proverbial “gift of gab” in some form. As kids, we were able to talk ourselves out of any sticky situation. Don’t remember, ask your parents, they will be happy to remind you. Then it happened. Once we became conscious that there is a difference between talking in private and speaking in public, we became fearful of being embarrassed. We lost that gift of making your case, well except for those times when we get outraged. Why! Many will argue it is all because of fear.

Of all the emotions we are faced with on the platform, perhaps fear is one of the easiest to control. How do we control fear? Fear is controlled by you being true to yourself; just like when you were outraged. By being who you are, and what you are all about when you are on the platform. Sincerity is essential when speaking in public. If you are not sincere, you will always be looking over your shoulders. Your voice will quiver, knees will weaken, and as many who have been there and done that would confess, you would rather die than do what comes naturally – speak in public.

I have heard it said the most crucial minute in your speech is or should be the minute of silence after you have finished speaking. If at the end of your presentation, your evaluator, audience or judges feel compelled to take some action, positive or negative, you most likely would have or would have not made your case. Be clear about the purpose and the goals you want to achieve. A speech without a clear purpose will accomplish nothing. Decide before you step on that platform if your goal is to persuade, inform or entertain. Keep that goal like a banner in the front of your mind from the beginning of your talk to end. And when it is all over, the applause will let you know if or how well you have made your case.

Speech Editing – From Good to Great

Every word counts. Less is more.

20180930_094407.jpgEditing your speech can be both a painful and rewarding exercise. Careful editing can make your copy cleaner and your prose sharper. To get the best out of writing and rewriting your speeches, you must take your own work seriously. Seldom do you write or say exactly what you wish, on your first or second rewrite. It is my hope that you will find these tips as helpful as I have while editing. I too believe good speeches are written – great speeches are rewritten.

Avoid clichés that are common and overused. Aside from being indicative of lazy writing or speaking, they are rarely used correctly and even when they are, they rarely make sense. Who throws out “the baby with the bathwater” today”? Would you “cry over spilled milk” – “at the end of the day” and yes are you still “going the extra mile”. You may get a chuckle or two for some of these clichés, however, you may want to be more current. Those expressions are outdated.

Repetition not used intentionally for effect should be avoided. Check your copy carefully for how many times you have used your favorite words or phrases.  Increase your vocabulary. Go to your thesaurus to look for synonyms – words or phrases that by word association would be more pleasing to the ear. Learning how to make the best use out of synonyms and antonyms will prove to be extremely important for all kinds of purposes when writing and rewriting your speeches.

Modifiers like “very big” get old quickly. How about “gigantic”. Use a noun that does the work of an adjective. The most common problem with the use of modifiers is where you place them. Specifically, modifiers can cause confusion or unintentional humor in a sentence when they are placed too far from the noun they are modifying. Reducing your work count by replacing entire sentences with a single word or two works great. Also, seek out those two for one-word opportunities. Every word counts. Less is more.

Examine the beginning of each sentence. Varying the lengths of sentences can be very effective. When writing personal stories, try to limit the use of “I” over and over. Count the number of times you used “I” in your copy. Try shifting the focus from “I” to “you” with a question or a “you statement” focusing on your audience. Be more inclusive.

Have fun rewriting some of your old speech.  Rewriting makes your speech writing clearer, more powerful and can make your good speeches great.

Timing Is Everything

Fast Speaker or Fast Listener

In the Toastmasters world of public speaking, timing is everything. The 5 to 7-minute speech is our Gold Standard. Icebreakers are usually 4 to 6 minutes long. Fast speakers speak fast; however, not everyone happens to be a fast listener. To ensure speakers remain within their allotted time when delivering an icebreaker, it is best to write a 5-minute speech, for delivery in 6.30 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, write a 6-minute speech for delivery in 7:30 minutes.

The average speaking rate of most humans is between 120 to 140 words per minute. Therefore, it is important for every speaker to calculate his or her own personal speaking rate. In order to find your personal speaking rate, select a passage from a famous speech. Read it as if you are delivering that speech using pauses and vocal variety.  Read for one minute.  Time yourself. Your word count will be the number of words you read from the beginning of the passage to your last word at the one-minute mark. If your average rate is 130 words per minute, your word count for an icebreaker should be approximately 130×5=650 words – average.

Once you have calculated your speaking rate, you should gather your Readability Statistics. When using MS Word Readability Statistics for Writing, you will need to have grammar checking turned on. Microsoft Word’s readability scores are based on American audiences and Word’s grammar checking. These statistics give speakers an idea of the readability of their content. They also provide general rules that can be useful when editing your written material.

The Readability Statistics facility in Microsoft Word includes:

  • Counts: Count the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in the document.
  • Averages: Averages the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word.
  • Readability statistics: Calculates the percentage of passive sentences in the document, Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

A grade level of 5-9 is recommended for general readers. A grade level of 7-12 is acceptable for industry and technical writings. Remember as you edit, you are writing for the ear and not for the eyes. Edit to make your speeches conversational. Stay on time. That is and will always be the Toastmasters Gold Standard.

Great Speeches For All Occasions

Speeches must have a rhythm

Great speeches like a beautiful picture have many attributes in common; a strong opening, a compelling story, a magic moment and a memorable closing. They start strong.  Some “break the ice” with humor. Others prefer a powerful statement. History has shown, the stronger your first impression, the easier it is to keep your audience’s attention from your beginning to the end.

  • All speeches must have a rhythm to convey your message. Speakers should use a mix of short and long sentences to communicate that message.
  • Clear and concise language makes it easier for your audience to understanding the story and go with the flow of the speech.
  • All sentences should be short enough for delivery within one breath.
  • The words used to communicate each sentence should be rich with imagery and emotion to take your audience on a journey into the heart of the story.

Total Body language matters as much as the spoken word.  Use body language to move the story forward. Audiences can subconsciously notice even the smallest body movements that are not coordinated with the spoken word.  Your smiles and eye contact can go a long way to convey your message.  Speakers should practice the delivery of their first smile or first words to establish a connection with your audience.  When audiences like you, they are more inclined to believe you.

Great speeches should all have a magic moment; a memorable event that recalls some detail of your speech. The positioning of your “Magic Moment” is also very important. It should be the highlight of your speech. It should appear to be natural and not over-rehearsed or disconnect to your message. Your speech should flow like a conversation with each sentence perfectly crafted for your audience. Nonverbal communication you receive from your audience should flow like a silent conversation between you and your audience.

Speakers should strive to allow their speech to feel like a personal invitation for each member of your audience to participate. It should capture their attention while validating your message with looks or smiles. If you can achieve all of these qualities while thoroughly entertaining your audience, you will have a great speech worthy of being delivered to audiences for all occasions.

Your Foundational Statements

Great speeches are not written – they are Rewritten!

3866033Your Foundational Statement will often determine success or failure when writing your speech. That statement can be a short sentence or catchy phrase.  It can be a humorous or provocative statement, shocking facts or rhetorical questions. Whatever you choose, it should make your audience think, “Wow! – That’s interesting, tell me more.

Most speeches generally have an introduction, a salutation, discussion, and conclusion.  Your introduction should grab your audience’s immediate attention. It should clearly identify where you are taking your audience. You should also try to make your opening relevant to your audience. Audiences are always more willing to pay attention if they can relate to your subject matter. While a salutation is always optional, if done well with sincerity, it can help you make a better connection with your audience.  

Next, you should go into what I call the Discussion phase of your speech. Here is where you give your audience reasons to buy into your point of view with facts and figures. Be the expert by presenting your material with natural excitement, and strategically placed humor. Establish your Foundational Statement. Tell a story to make your point or make your point by telling your story. Personalize your speech. Use vivid language and remember the rule of threes when qualifying your references. Once you are sure that you have made your point, don’t repeat yourself, move forward. Get to the Conclusion, keep moving forward,  You can recall later.

Telegraph your conclusion to let your audience know you are closing. This can be done with a simple phrase – “My fellow Toastmasters” – “Ladies and Gentlemen”. Summarize the main points. Repeat your Foundational Statement.  Recall what you told your audience in your introduction and discussion phases Finally, you should leave your audience with a call to action. If you are sure that your closing will leave your audience with a burning desire to take some action in the minute of silence after you have concluded, STOP! you are done, however, remember great speeches are not written – they are rewritten. Now you must edit your speech until you have a tight final copy that is ready for delivery.

The Value Of Quotes

Goals in Writing are Dreams with Deadlines – Brian Tracy

pexels-photo-290150.jpegQuotes strategically placed in stories can brighten speeches.  Over the years, I have amassed a collection of small books with quotes which add value to the point of my stories.  One of those books which I treasure is a thirty-two pager written by Brian Tracy entitled “Excerpts from The Treasury of Quotes”.

This book was given to me many years ago by a fellow Toastmaster. It contains one hundred and fifty quotes taken fresh from Brian Tracy’s journals, lectures, and audio recordings.  Each quote relates to some aspect of everyday life. Some of the topics addressed are attitude, possibility thinking, belief, desire, decision, character, integrity, honesty, and goals to name just a few.

Quotes I often use in my everyday speaking which sometimes ends up in my speeches are – “Your attitude is an expression of your values beliefs and expectations” – “Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other” – “Integrity is the foundation upon which all other values are built” and –  “Think before you act and then act decisively – Fortune favours the brave”.  All valuable quotes that can brighten your stories

One word of caution, make sure to always give credit to the author of your quotes. To quote Brian Tracey – “Truthfulness is the foundation upon which all other values are built” – And finally one of my favorites Tracy quotes? “Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines”.

Start building your own library of little books with quotes that will not only brighten your everyday communication but will also be the brighteners in your speeches as you discover, the value of quotes.

 

 

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