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Sunday, December 30, 2007

50 Top Tips To Not Trip Up a Speech

The original Ten Tips To Not Trip Up A Speech post generated discussion beyond my wildest hopes via MarketingProfs' DailyFix Ten Tips (Plus!) To Not Trip Up a Speech, Becky Carroll's Speaker Tips and Daksh's Speaker Tips From The Masters.

As 2007 winds down, it seems only fitting to recapture them all in a mashup yielding not 10+, but 50 Top Tips To Not Trip Up A Speech.

FOOD, WATER & PRACTICALITIES
1. Never eat a banana immediately before a speech. For that matter, avoid dairy products, too. Both contribute to a distracting need to clear one’s throat during a presentation.

2. Drink lots of water, ideally with lemon [I avoid ice]. Have water with you at the podium to minimize dry mouth.

3. Avoid ice cold water, says Peter Kim. The theory being that cold water constricts the vocal cords, which leads to drinking more. Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Voice supports part of the theory.

4. From a practical perspective, I dislike having ice fall out of my glass as I'm trying to get to the last drops of water, and Becky Carroll says the ice makes too much noise in the microphone anyway.

5. Always keep a mint or hard candy with you at the podium. Sometimes a sip of water doesn’t clear the “frog” in your throat!

6. Check out the Public Speaking Blog and learn how to be good to your vocal cords.

7. Per Mack Collier, if you have butterflies, eat a few saltine crackers. It will quickly settle your stomach.

8. Turn off your lavalier microphone if you use the bathroom before your speech.

CONFIDENCE & UNEASE
9. It’s okay to feel nervous. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous. Anticipate it and be prepared. Yes, you’ll be aware of it, but the audience won’t. No one but you will feel your knees shake. If you’re worried about tripping on stage, then don’t wear high-heels…

10. In the few minutes before the presentation, clench and unclench all of the muscles in your body. Do that again and again. It will help dissipate excess energy. Remember to breathe. If you tend to race at the beginning of a presentation, then consciously make plans to slow yourself down and breathe.

11. Remember that you are the expert. Express that energy and passion and have fun. You will be contagious. Guaranteed!

12. At the same time, Suzanne Obermire says be human! Even though you’re up there as the expert, make fun of yourself, laugh a little, ask for input/comments/questions. There’s nothing worse than the stuffy, know-it-all presenter.

CLOTHING
13. Patricia urges wearing a comfortable outfit. This doesn't mean bathrobe & fuzzy slippers. But even the most knockout ensemble can wreck a presentation if you're preoccupied by tight shoes (not to mention tight pants!)

14. Valeria Maltoni agrees: beware of wardrobe malfunctions, remembering an article for Italian magazine l'Espresso by Umberto Eco where he described what happened to him when he wore tight jeans -- all he could think about were his pants for a whole day ;-)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
15. Practice, practice, practice. Videotape yourself speaking. Practice some more, especially the parts of the presentation when you feel most vulnerable. If it’s at the beginning, then learn the beginning by heart. Understand the rhythm of your material.

16. Paul Barsch reminds us that speaking is a craft and discipline that one improves only through constant practice. He recommends joining a professional speaking group to fine tune and improve your speaking skills. These groups often offer critical feedback to work out the kinks in voice projection, rate, pitch, hand gestures, etc.

17. Ian Straus says that "tips" are the wrong way to go. Public speaking is a performance skill. And it's learned, not born: Who among us was born talking? Just as golfing "tips" will never make you a Tiger Woods, whereas practice made him a champion, so "tips" on public speaking won't make anyone a good speaker. Practice will. Better to recommend Toastmasters International which provide the repeated practice and coaching to actually help people improve their public speaking and then maintain that level of skill.

18. Project your voice and your presence. If you’re not sure what that means, then go into an empty church or auditorium and practice projecting both without a microphone. Try singing, too. Fill the entire space with your voice. That will really help things click.

BEFORE THE PRESENTATION
19. Doug Meacham tries to mingle a bit with people who arrive ahead of the presentation, especially those sitting in front. He interacts with them to learn what they are hoping to hear and to possibly address questions one on one. This also establishes "friendly faces" in the audience. [I understand that Jay Leno mingles with people as they are waiting in line before the show; it also allows him to obtain timely input on his material.]

20. Diva Toby takes a moment before the speech to remind herself that her purpose is not an ego trip, but rather to serve the people in the room.

21. Mack Collier suggests, if at all possible, spending time prior to the speech becoming familiar with the environment. Know where everything is and be as comfortable as possible with your surroundings.

CONNECTING WITH THE AUDIENCE
22. Make eye contact, with every part of the room. Hold contact for a few seconds. If you forget, place boldly dressed friends in strategic places and look at them!

23. Ann Handley encourages friends throughout the room to nod and smile at her. One of the things that always unnerves her is the "blank screen" of an early morning audience, or a tired audience, or an audience that is staring into a bank of laptops... It helps to have feedback from a friendly face, even if that person is a plant.

23. Similarly, Becky Carroll “works the room,” but if you find a face or two that are frowning, don’t take it personally! Focus on the friendly face and keep coming back to that person for encouragement.

24. SMILE when you connect with those people scattered throughout the audience.

25. Daksh says to look into the eyes of your audience. Do not focus towards only one section of the crowd.

26. Daksh also encourages moving with your audience. If you feel your audience is unclear, politely ask ‘Are you with me?’ or something which stresses on the clarity of point.

27. Brandon finds two or three people in the room that are (or at least appear to be) interested in what he is saying and speaks to them. That way, he is focusing on several areas of the room and not sweeping across everyone with his eyes. It helps him feel like he is having a conversation with just a few people and relaxes him.

28. Becky Carroll likes to open with light humor (not too many Dilbert cartoons, please!) then sprinkles humor throughout via pictures or in her comments. She makes for a conversational speech by involving the audience in show-of-hand polls, throwing questions out to be answered, or even taking questions to keep the energy going.

29. Beware, though, not to get side-tracked by less relevant questions or too many questions [particularly critical if you have limited time for your presentation].

30. The inimitable Phil Gerbyshak says to smile wide and pause to see who smiles back. This small gesture can help you identify your friendlies in the audience, and these are the folks you can go back to when you need an energy boost.

WHEN ON STAGE AND SPEAKING
31. Do not read your presentation.

32. Do not clutch the podium. If possible, stay as far away from a podium as you can [except for when you need to drink water]. Glenn (Customer Service Experience) Ross clarifies that you don’t stand behind a podium, you stand ON the podium. That thing holding up your notes is a lectern. [I had to check this out as the thought that Columbia's 'podium clutch' was wrong just about devastated me. I'm relieved to find that podium can also mean lectern.]

33. If you are comfortable in front of the crowd, get out from behind the podium! A bit of wandering makes your presentation more visually interesting.

34. Be sure to use pauses to highlight points you want to make [per Valeria Maltoni].

35. Speak slowly, especially if you are passionate and interested in your topic [per Gavin Heaton].

36. Phil Gerbyshak says to S-l-o-w d-o-w-n when making important points - Take the time to breathe when you’re making your most important points. Even stop periodically to give people’s brains a chance to catch up.

37. Include something humorous at strategic points during your speech. A light laugh is always good to keep people focused!

38. Be yourself. Let your personality shine through [per Elaine Fogel].

39. Shelley Ryan's old business partner taught her when speaking with a .ppt deck to, just before moving to a new slide, say or ask something relevant/compelling/interesting that ties into the next visual. This approach may not sound like a big idea, but most presenters seem to do the opposite (using the slides to jog their own memory instead of keeping an audience riveted).

THE PRESENTATION ITSELF
40. Phil Gerbyshak uses a “quote slide” to make a point. For example, when he talks about the power word-of-mouth can have to ruin a business, he uses a Jeff Bezos quote to make his point even stronger.

41. Don’t be afraid to change the background color of your slides to make a transition. Who says all slides have to be exactly the same? Change it up in the middle, then go back to your template.

42. Better yet, don’t use a template at all, just put a picture and a few words on a slide.

43. Phil Gerbyshak's last tip is from Guy Kawasaki: Remember the 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides max; 20 minutes max; 30 point font. Sure, not perfect if you have a 2 hour slot, but if you’ve been given 45 minutes, be ready to shorten it to 20 minutes in case the CEO of your host company decides s/he wants to share some of your time on the platform to make some important points to her/his company.

44. Becky Carroll likes to keep her template simple: a few words/bullets, and a nice picture to keep it interesting. Quotes are very useful and lend credibility, as do the right statistics. She shies away from multimedia, as there are just too many things that seem to go wrong with sound, etc!

45. Minimize the number of bullets on each slide. No one can read a slide with too many words on it! Three bullets of short phrases are sufficient.

46. Do not rely heavily on the content of slides.

47. Glenn (Customer Service Experience) Ross highly recommends reading The Exceptional Presenter, a book he recently blogged about. Major learning from the book: When planning your presentation, start with your key points, not with PowerPoint. Since reading the book, he doesn't consider PowerPoint until after fleshing out those key points.

After my original post, I came across Library Revolution's On Knockout Performances based on Quicksprout's 10 Tips For a Killer Presentation [also referred to in Lifehacker's Public Speaking posts].

48. Be honest and tell the truth.

49. Watch what you say - especially those 'um' or 'ah' [or, in my case 'eh'].

50. Differentiate yourself. Be unique and memorable. You are branding yourself when you speak.

So, there you have it: 50 Top Tips To Not Trip Up A Speech.

And, Hunterz Ignite's Experts Speak organizes several of my original tips into a chronological check-off list.

What an enlightening and inspiring experience! I greatly appreciate all the feedback and comments and the opportunity to create something far better than the original 10 tips.

Thank You and Happy 2008!

[The photos above come from The New York Times' Dexter Filkins' mesmerizing presentation at the October 2007 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference. ]

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