(by Ramakrishna Reddy)

Chapter 1: Psychological Barriers

Public speaking is overwhelming; how can I understand it in simple terms? Did you know how the drive the first time you drove a car? You start off learning primary activities such as acceleration, braking, changing gears, and so on; in speaking, you learn primary activities such as content creation, eye contact, voice modulation, hand gestures, facial expressions, stance and so on. In order to make the drive interesting and enjoyable, you can equip your vehicle with stereo system, adjustable seats, etc; in speaking, you can tell stories, create humor and use visual aids. When driving, unless you know where you are going, you waste yours and your passengers' time; if you do not have a purpose in mind when you speak, you do the same.

Fear strikes me whenever I want to give a presentation; what should I do? Fear strikes everyone. You must start by accepting that the fear of public speaking is the fear of the unknown and fear of ridicule. Write down your questions/fears and examine them.

What will other people think if I make a mistake during my presentation? People respect you when you speak in front of an audience. People only think about you as much as you think they think of you. Two secrets: Speak as often as possible and at every given opportunity; take the time to reflect on every experience by asking what went right, what went wrong, and for suggestions on how to do it better next time.

Can I really sizzle on stage even though I don't have an eye-catching look? Yes.

Even though speaking comes naturally to me, do I still need to prepare my presentation? Yes. Do not assume that you need not prepare because you have notes; you have to be comfortable with your content. Your words must roll smoothly off your tongue.

Can I still give an effective presentation without a strong vocabulary? Using simple words that we speak in day-to-day conversations is the secret to a well-received presentation. Your audience will judge you based on the value of what you say, rather than the glamor of your words.

Chapter 2: Speech Creation

I know my topic but I feel stuck; what am I missing? Feeling stuck will stop you from taking action. What is the purpose of the presentation (general-purpose (inform, entertain, persuade or inspire), and specific)? A specific purpose should be clear, short and add value to your audience. It is very important to determine your specific purpose. A simple way to formulate your specific purpose is by knowing what you want your audience to feel, think or do after your presentation.

How do I start creating content for my presentation? Basic skeletal structure: an opening, context setting, key points, support points, application, summary, and conclusion.
* Opening is what you say in the first 30/60 seconds.
* Context setting is explaining what you are going to tell them. Sometimes this part gets merged into your opening.
* Key points help to reinforce the specific purpose of your talk. 3-4 key points per talk.
* Supporting points substantiate or prove a key point. Use stories, statistics, illustrations, or facts for support.
* Application tells the audience how to apply the key point.
* Summary drives home what you have told them and recaps your presentation.
* Conclusion is the showstopper for your presentation. Final 30/60 seconds of your talk.

How do I create a killer opening for my talk? The first 30/60 seconds of your presentation determines how well the rest of the presentation will go. Four keys for a killer opening:
1. Start with a current observation about your surroundings and the occasion for which you are speaking.
2. Start with a question.
3. Start with a startling statistic.
4. Start with a personal story or experience.

Some specific strategies: take a few seconds to scan your audience before uttering the opening words; do not start with fillers like "the weather is good" or "what a sunny day"; build trust, be open to your audience, by using open palms and a gentle voice to open up and start building trust; listen to your audience and acknowledge any response; be relaxed and comfortable; make them like you by not showing a know-it-all attitude; tone down the entertainment factor for a business presentation.

What is a context setting and how do I create one? Telling your audience what you are going to tell them; a promise you will eventually fulfill or a problem that you can solve during your speech. Specific steps:
1. Context should be audience-focused; the audience should feel it is about them.
2. Context should be clear and specific; the audience should be able to clearly understand your agenda.
3. Go even further and add a specificity factor.

How do I select the key points for my presentation? Interview and audience analysis.

How do I support the key points of my presentation? Aristotle says that an effective speech has three key elements: ethos (the credibility of the speaker), logos (the reasoning behind the point), and pathos (the emotional attachment between the speaker and the audience). Use stories, statistics, facts, illustration (PowerPoint, Props, Writing board, Questions and facts).

How to create a compelling story? Stories have the ability to transfer emotions. Elements to a powerful story:
* Must-have elements
* Conflict
* A character with a desire (hero/heroine)
* Obstacles in that path
* Overcoming obstacles
* The point
* Good-to-have elements
* Event setting -- the time and place
* Character building -- what the characters look like, their vulnerabilities, etc
* Dialogue -- what the characters say to each other
* Humor -- optional, but humor makes a story more compelling
* Emotion -- knowing what the characters are feeling can make the difference between a good story and a great story
* Sensory words -- words that evoke the senses of touch, sound, smell, vision, taste

How do I best use transitions in my speech? Transitions maintain a smooth and clear flow between points in the speech. If the speech is a journey, transitions are the signboards. Transitions can be verbal, non-verbal (movement, pause, prompted gestures), or a combination of the two.

How can I have an effective summary? Do's and Don'ts for effective Q&A:
* Do take a pause and answer straight to the point.
* Do clarify any question which isn't clear. Reiterate the question to the audience.
* Do confirm your answer to all questions by saying, "Does that make sense?" or "Does that answer your question?"
* Do act confident. You might not know all the answers but you can get the answers.
* Don't try to be a know-it-all. If you are not sure, say so; but you can always go find out and get back to them.

How do I create a memorable conclusion for my speech? Seven ideas to a memorable conclusion:
1. Best Wishes Close
2. Gratitude Close
3. Answer Close -- if your presentation opens with a question, answer it
4. Action Close -- call to action
5. Dialogue Close
6. Poem Close
7. Circular Close -- bring the audience back to the starting point

How do I refine my speech content? Four tools to refine your content:
1. Choose simple words with the fewest syllables
2. Use active voice
3. Repeat key phrases
4. Use rhetorical devices (similes, metaphors, alliterations)

Chapter 3: Speech Delivery

I know my content very well, so do I really need to care about anything else? Yes; what are your miscommunications? Bad (nervous) habits?

How should I move during my presentation? Posture--straighten your back and head, broaden your shoulders, stand with firm footing. Movement--speakers should move only when they want to communicate an idea. Movement helps in the following areas:
* Transition: transition from one point to another
* Drama: depict the actual movement that happens in a scene
* Increase impact: putting a strong foot forward to convey an important and strong point, etc

How do I make effective eye contact? While practicing your speech, close your eyes. Imagine your audience in your mind. Divide into quadrants. Imagine talking to one person in the first quadrant, looking them in the eye, for 5 to 10 seconds. Move to the second quadrant: find a person, look them in the eye for 5 to 10 seconds. Third, fourth, repeat.

Is there a simple way to improve the quality of my voice? How to...
* ... sound clear: speak every word with clarity. Make sure you pronounce every syllable of each word. Complete every word before you go on to the next word. Make sure you enunciate the endings of words properly. Make sure you maintain breath and energy throughout the sentence.
* ... find your optimum tone: Practice your speech in a tone that you would use with a friend. Then gradually increase your tone from soft to loud. When you feel that your voice feels natural and resonant, that's your optimum tone.
* ... control the pace of your speech: the human ear can grasp words easily when spoken at a range of 120 to 160 words per minute. Find your current pace of speech (start reading content and stop the timer after 1 minute) and adjust accordingly. Note that certain parts of the speech work great if spoken slowly.
* ... pause effectively: practice pausing. Pauses help you connect with the audience, build anticipation before you deliver the punch line, gives time for the audience to laugh after you deliver the punch line, acts as a signal that you are going to say something very important, gives time for the audience to reflect on an important point, and acts as a transition tool for moving from one point to another.
* ... use emotion: Feel the emotion in your heart before you express it through words.
* ... say dialogue or monologue: use the emotion and attitude of the person speaking in the dialogue/monologue. You have to clearly distinguish the characters in a dialogue.

How do I use my hands during the presentation? Two forms of gestures: emphatic and non-emphatic. Emphatic gestures are gestures to emphasize any point. Non-emphatic gestures help you describe an object/character, prompt the audience or depict the scene. Practice gestures until you internalize or have your speech in muscle memory. Video-record your speech; observe your gestures. Be comfortable enough on stage that you don't need to gesture--not gesturing (keeping your hands to your side) can add impact to certain parts of your presentation. Learning to speak without any gesture is a great skill to master.

How to create correct facial expressions during the presentation? Facial expressions communicate a lot more than what you say verbally. Practice the content, then consciously allow the emotions to flow on your face.

Chapter 4: Preparation Steps

How can I create and maintain my connection with the audience? Tools for creating a connection:
* Your introduction. Plays a crucial role to build likability and trust. What expertise you bring to the table; why are you qualified to speak, without ego-boosting. How you can help your audience. An interest apart from the topic or any light remark.
* Use the pronouns you/we. Have as many "you"-focused sentences as possible. Frame content in such a way that you transition and involve the audience using "you" or "we" so that they understand that you care for them.
* Speak in the third person. Minimize the use of "I". Unless it is your own original thought, realization, finding, experience or learning, do not use "I". If the idea or teaching is someone else's, use him/her in the reference. My (your) job is to simplify and spread the information. This helps in establishing your credibility.
* Be sincere.
* Maintain genuine eye contact. Eyes are doorways to form connection. While presenting, there is a tendency for your eyes to glaze over the audience, but the moment you talk with an audience, you develop a deeper bonding.
* Engage your audience. Ask interactive questions. Invite a few of them to the stage. Create a group activity.

Is there a particular strategy to ensure that the audience will continue to listen? If you are looking for just one strategy in particular that will ensure an audience will continue to listen to you, then, ENTERTAIN! If you entertain well, the audience can't stop loving you. Try self-deprecating humor; the audience will respect your more because you are ready to let your guard down and poke fun at yourself.

What is the final checkpoint, before I freeze my content? The most important part in your content preparation is the clarity of your presentation.

Can the venue affect my presentation? Yes, in various ways:
* Venue type: board room? Classroom-style? Auditorium?
* Time limit: are you going to be timed by someone else or will you manage it by yourself?
* Projector: check if the venue has a projector
* Audience seating position: audience is seated for making connection through eye contact; audience is concentrated together and not scattered (Never leave empty chairs for a presentation; energy dissipates in emptiness.)
* Acoustics
* Audibility: verify audibility with a friend/colleague by having them sit in all corners of the room

Can you give me the exact steps to practice my speech? Steps for practice:
* Stand straight with firm footing. Keep your spine and head straight.
* Keep your hands at your sides with your fingers slightly curled.
* Keep your feet at around 8-12 inches distant from each other
* Don't worry about eye contact yet
* Practice your speech content until it smoothly rolls off your tongue. Refactor content if necessary.
* Check for any distracting mechanisms in your current speech.
* Next, practice by speaking your content in loud, soft, slow and at least in a fast tone. Make sure to enunciate the words clearly. Complete every word before going to the next.
* Check if you are starting the sentences in high energy and ending them in low energy.
* Start focusing on internalizing your speech. You should be able to tell the content even if somebody wakes you up in the middle of the night.
* If you are planning to pause at certain places in your talk, practice those pauses deliberately.
* Feel the emotion in your heart and practice.
* Ask a friend to give feedback on the relevance of your facial expressions to the intent of your speech
* Work on your eye contact; use the quadrant strategy in your imagination
* Let your hand gestures flow naturally. Practice the following rules of thumb: use open palms; do not point at the audience; move hands from shoulder level; stroke at the right word
* Work on your movements. Check your footwork; determine at what point of the stage you would be at different parts of your presentation.
* If you are using PPT, practice by sequencing the slides. Practice by asking your friend to navigate the slides for you. Or use a remote control for it.
* Rehearse by incorporating all the steps.
* Give a complete rehearsal to your close friends, family or others.
* Keep repeating the steps

Can you give me a strategy for not going blank on stage? If the speech is in muscle memory, then you will be excited and ready. You will not blank.

Chapter 5: Presentation Day Steps

How to dress for my presentation? Groom well.

Is there a checklist for the presentation day? Suggestions:

Before going to the venue:
* Do eat light food. Breads and salads; you need energy to show energy in your presentation
* Do charge your laptop beforehand. Take your charger. If you have a PPT, have a backup.
* Do take a cab/car instead of public transport. If you are going to drive, start early to avoid traffic jams and parking problems
* Do hang around with a supportive friend. You need someone to bounce your content off. You will feel less stressful if there is a dependable person with you.
* Do reach the venue early.

After going to the venue:
* Do chat with the presentation planner and check the venue setting
* Do check if the projector is working. Try to display your PPT.
* Do check if you have a proper writing board and a working marker (if you are going to use one)
* Do check for arrangement of chairs. Check if the number of chairs is in accordance with the number of people who have confirmed their presence.
* Do not forget to check the temp for the A/C.
* Do test the microphone
* Do video-record your presentation. Ask a friend/colleague to record. Or ask the presentation planner to record.
* Do check for any distraction because of the lighting. Are the lights falling on your eyes? Take a call on whether you want the lights on or off during your presentation.
* Do remind the presentation planner or the anchor to ask the audience members to keep their cell phones on silent
* Do not forget to hand over a copy of your introduction to the planner or anchor
* Do not forget to reach out and greet your audience members as they enter the venue
* Do converse with your audience after your greetings. Ask questions on what brings them there. Keep it quick and move on; it has to be natural

What if my heart starts pounding, ears get heated and hands become cold, 10 minutes before the presentation? Steps to tackle last-minute anxiety:
* Rub your left palm with your right hand for 10-15 seconds. Reverse.
* Slowly, breathe in and breathe out.
* If necessary, go to a private corner where no one is around and do some vigorous punching and kicking in the air. This boosts energy and excitement.
* Read (and answer) the following questions: What is my intent? Am I present? Will I have fun? How would I give this presentation if I knew this was the one ever?

How do I carry myself from seat to stage, once the anchor calls my name? Get up from your seat and spring to the stage; show enthusiasm because it is contagious. Wear a smile while you walk. As soon as you take position on stage, do not start off right away; instead, attract everyone's attention and create the connection before you start your speech. Stand and scan the audience for a good 4 to 5 seconds--your audience will stop doing other things and start focusing on you. Then begin.

How do I handle myself during the actual presentation? Be present. Be passionate. Be energetic.

How do I handle any unexpected problems during the actual presentation? Do not get flustered. Know that your audience will empathize if there is a problem and always want you to do well. Some example scenarios:
* Losing train of thought. Strategies for bouncing back: have some stock lines in place that can be used in case you lose your train of thought; even if you forget, do not try to go back and share the missed portion; remember the structure, instead of the words.
* Power shuts down. Just be cool.
* Cell phone ringing. Keep a few lines ready to create humor: "Tell your friend that I will call him later."
* Latecomer to your presentation. Ignore it, or be ready with some humor if it disrupts the talk.

How do I carry myself off the stage after my presentation? After you say the last words, pause, smile, say goodbye internally, the audience will understand. Pass control to the anchor or MC. While you turn and walk off the stage, show genuine enthusiasm.

What should I do after the presentation? Reflect. Get audience feedback. Give your own feedback. Analyze your video.


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Last modified 25 November 2020