Public Speaking Skills: Step 5 – The Assessment

applauseYou did it – you presented to a group and they loved you! Take a few minutes to feel good about your accomplishment…you deserve it.

Now it’s time to review your performance, make notes for improvement and do re-design as needed. If your presentation was recorded, play it back a few times to look for what you did very well and what you can improve.

Most meeting organizer receive feedback or evaluations from the participants, so be sure to ask for that. If you know anyone from the audience, let them know that their constructive criticism would be very helpful. Ask for details: what were the take-aways they valued, what specifically did they not like, was the material too advanced or not advanced enough, was there something they expected to learn that wasn’t offered, what were the best moments. Use all the feedback and evaluations to improve the content and your abilities as a speaker.

If you would like to continue growing as a speaker, consider some other training opportunities. For instance, you could join Toastmasters International, an organization with many local chapters. Or ask to be considered for other speaking and presentation opportunities at work.

I hope that these 5 Steps help you. Remember, it’s not about just this one presentation; it’s about the journey you take as a communicator, a subject expert and an Edutainer!

Public Speaking Skills Part 4: Presentation Day

You’ll want to arrive early so if you are unsure of where you’re going, look it up. Getting lost is not a valid 2013 excuse. Give yourself about 45 minutes to check the room, be sure the projector or microphone are working and to meet any other presenters, organizers and early arrivals. Feeling good in the room helps calm nerves.

As you are introduced, take a few deep breaths to help slow down your inner clock. You want the audience on your side from the beginning, so show energy, enthusiasm and passion in your voice from your first words. And smile – it will be heard in your voice and pass through the audience.

I always look for friendly faces, people who show their interest in the topic through their body language. These folks want to be Edutained. They want you to succeed. Make eye contact and check back with them often – if they look a bit confused you may need to let the audience catch up with you, maybe revisit an especially difficult point.

Get your audience involved by taking polls or asking simple questions. If you make a mistake own up, take a deep breath, and move on.  Humor (not jokes) can help you keep the audience with you. Remember, there may be bumps in the road but you’re taking people on a journey.

Public Speaking Skills Part 2: Build Your Confidence

confidenceSo far in my series “Get Past Your Fear of Public Speaking” I talked about Programing Your Brain – getting your mind ready to face your fears. This next step will help you build confidence and visualize success.

A few highly gifted people can try something new and be truly good at it. For most of us, mastering a new skill takes time. Say we want to learn the tango or juggle knives. On the first try chances are we would fail, our confidence would plummet and, based on my own experience with the tango, never try again. It takes time to build confidence in any new skill.

Start with what you know: you have been asked to present because you are an expert on a topic or you are the leader of a team whose work is important. You know that. You know what needs to be shared in a presentation. You know that you are the right person for the job, that you can bring energy, passion and excitement to the topic. You know you can speak to anyone, anywhere about this very important topic. You are confident that you can do it. You will do it.

Then imagine giving the presentation. Picture yourself in the room or on the stage. Watch yourself – see how calm and confident you look. See the audience – they are totally focused on what you are saying. Look, you’re smiling.  You own it. You are in the zone.

As with Programming Your Brain, repeat this exercise daily.

Get Past Your Fear of Public Speaking, Part 1

Whether presenting to a group of clients, room of colleagues or your own staff, taking center stage can cause anxiety and fear in the most able person. In fact, public speaking ranks as a top anxiety-producer in a whopping 74% of us, and is downright debilitating in nearly 20% of all people. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some techniques that can help reduce that anxiety and will, I hope, bring you to a new level of confidence when presenting to groups.

Through my work with groups on presentation skills I’ve learned there are six common fears about public speaking:
• Forgetting what I’m going to say
• Not reacting appropriately to questions or unknown situations
• Not appearing to be a subject expert
• Losing my train of thought or getting lost in my notes
• Boring people
• Showing signs of stress like sweating or coughing or mumbling

And the things people really value in other speakers are their ability to seem calm, to interact with their audience and to make an interesting, meaningful presentation.

You can overcome your fears and you can learn to make valuable presentations. It takes time, attention and practice, but I’m going to share some tips that I use everyday.

Step 1:  Program Your Brain

Nothing is flawless, nothing is perfect. Even professional speakers like me make mistakes – the mic doesn’t work or we have a coughing fit or maybe even get distracted and forget what we were talking about. What strong speakers do have in common is the ability to get past the bump and enjoy the rest of the ride.

Rather than focusing on what could go wrong and how much you dread public speaking start re-programing your brain. Create a mantra for yourself that supports success. Your brain will do what you tell it to, so give it the right message. Sounds simplistic, I know. But it’s no different than an athlete getting psyched for a game or getting in “the zone.”

Repeat after me: This presentation is a great opportunity for me, and I will do a very good job.

Now repeat again. And again. And again. The next time someone asks how the presentation is coming do not say how you’re dreading it, how you wish someone else would step up or that you hate public speaking. Those are negative statements and your brain will believe you. Instead say “It’s a great opportunity for me and I look forward to doing a good job for our company (or firm or group).

Check back for my posts on Steps 2 thru 5.



Want to Connect With Our Audience: Make Them Laugh

Earlier this year I spent three days in Las Vegas participating in the National Speakers Association Laugh Lab conference entitled “How to be funnier…even if you’re not that funny now.”

Now I consider myself a pretty funny guy, but I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate more humor in my presentations. Why? Think about the presentations you’ve attended where you actually enjoyed yourself. Where you laughed a little – or a lot. You remember them, don’t you? More importantly, you probably remember at least one important thing the speaker was trying to communicate with you.

Humor does that. It connects you with your audience and your audience with you. That connection helps your audience absorb – and more often retain – the information you’re trying to communicate. There was an Ohio University journalism professor named Mel Helitzer who said if we can open students’ mouths with laughter this will allow us to spoon in knowledge. I’ve embraced that philosophy as an instructor and speaker, and I can tell you – Mel was right.

At the Laugh Lab, I met people from all around the United States including an Emmy award-winning comedy writer, stand-up comedians, motivational speakers, dentists, life coaches, authors, a PhD in psychology, engineers, and even accountants like me. We all had different backgrounds and experiences and different reasons for attending the conference, but at the core, we were all there for one reason – to learn more about humor and how it can make us better at what we do.

As I was traveling back to Columbus, I thought of four things that I could do to enhance my upcoming accounting and auditing update presentation based on what I learned at the Laugh Lab.

  1. Redefining frustrations. Like most of us, we tend to rely on PowerPoint to get our message across. You may not know this, but PowerPoint is actually a Greek term meaning “you are getting very sleepy.” This is a method called redefining frustrations where you take a topic like PowerPoint and talk about what frustrates you about this topic. You can strategically place these “redefining frustrations” throughout your presentation at points where you think your audience may be glazing over quicker than a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
  2. Use anagrams. An anagram, according to, is a word, phrase or sentence formed from another by rearranging its letters. For example, if we took the word DOG and rearranged it, we could come up with the word GOD. There’s a website,, where you can plug in any word phrase or sentence and instantly create an anagram. I plugged and lease accounting and the anagram that I got was “Clean-cut, agonies.”
  3. Comparison humor. This is where you take a topic and either compare the topic before and after OR take two topics and compare them to each other. For example, this economy is really scary; it has really changed my goals. Before, I used to save money, now I print money.  Or, men and women have different ideas of what they want in a relationship.  Women want a commitment and men want the remote control.
  4. Rule of three’s.  This is where you take a topic and list three things about your topic BUT the third on is the funny one.  For example, it’s scary how being broke can just happened. There are three signs that you’re broke. One is you can’t get money out of an ATM, two is your banker won’t return your phone calls, and the third is twitter is too expensive.

Try one or two – or all four – of these techniques in your next presentation and get your audience laughing! There’s no better way to help them stay focused, alert and engaged. And better yet – they’ll remember what you’re trying to communicate with them. So go ahead. Make them laugh and spoon in that knowledge.