You’ve just delivered an outstanding presentation. It’s now time for the question and answer session. Suddenly your self-assurance evaporates and you’re frozen like a deer in headlights, ready for the onslaught. If this feeling has ever gripped you before the question and answer session, you are not alone. Over the years, I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of people who have cringed in fear at the very thought of taking questions from their audience.
Now is the time to dump that stinking thinking. Toss the fear and apprehension aside. The question and answer session is not there just for the audience, it’s also there for you! It contributes to your speaking success. As a speaker, it is there for you to use to your advantage. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, what if I don’t know the answer?” or “What if I fumble and embarrass myself?” look at this part of your presentation as prime-time opportunity.
The question and answer session provides amazing opportunities to share more about your message, your product or your service. Regardless of how fantastic you are as a speaker, there is only so much content you can put into every speech. That’s why a question & answer period is so important. It gives you the opportunity to expand on points and provide other examples that will support your core message. By doing this, you are adding to the knowledge of your audience as well as, increasing their understanding.
Think about the question & answer session as a rapport building opportunity. It’s a major asset to speaking success. When you interact with your audience openly and honestly, acknowledge them and respond to their questions in a positive helpful, manner you are strengthening your connection with them. You are building rapport. In turn, the audience sees a speaker who is confident, poised and in control. They know they have a professional who is an expert in the field.
The more effective you are as a communicator in answering the questions of your audience, the higher the degree of trust they will place in you and the greater your overall impact. Engaging the audience through the question and answer session provides the speaker with the perfect platform to demonstrate his or her superb communication skills, industry expertise and cement speaker credibility.
Remember when it comes time for the question and answer period, it’s not there just for the audience. It’s also there for you! When you use it to your advantage, everyone will benefit.
Body language expert and author of The Nonverbal Advantage, Carol Kinsey Goman says we can use body language to our advantage. It can advance our career, increase our confidence and enhance our credibility. While we tend to look at others and make judgments about how they appear to us, we need to be aware and understand how we come across to them.
1. Stand tall and take up space. Power, status, and confidence are non-verbally displayed through the use of height and space. Keep posture erect, shoulders back, and head held high. This makes you look sure of yourself.
2. Widen your stance. Standing with your feet close together can make you seem hesitant or unsure. Widen your stance, relax your knees and center your weight in your lower body to look “solid” and confident.
3. Lower your vocal pitch. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are judged to be less empathic, less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower pitched voices.
4. Try Power Priming. Think of a past success that fills you with confidence. Imagine how you looked and sounded. Holding that emotion and embody it when you enter a meeting room.
5. Strike a Power Pose. Holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone – the hormone linked to power and dominance.
6. Maintain positive eye contact. Businesspeople from the U.S., Europe, Australia (and other parts of the world), will expect you to maintain eye contact 50-60% of the time.
7. Talk with your hands. Brain imaging has shown a region called Broca’s area, which is important for speech production, is active not only when we’re talking, but also when we wave our hands. Since gesture is integrally linked to speech, gesturing as you talk can power up your thinking.
8. Use open gestures. Individuals with open gestures are perceived more positively and are more persuasive than those with closed gestures (arms crossed, hands hidden or held close to the body, etc.)
9. Try a steeple. This power signal is where your hands make a “steeple” — the tips of your fingers touch, but the palms are separated.
10. Reduce nervous gestures. Take a deep breath. Place your feet firmly on the floor and your hands palm down in your lap. Stillness sends a message that you’re calm and confident.
11. Smile. Smiles have a powerful effect on us. The human brain prefers happy faces, and we can spot a smile at 300 feet – the length of a football field. A smiling tells those around you that you are approachable and trustworthy.
12. Perfect your handshake. Touch is the most powerful and primitive nonverbal cue. While there are cultural variations, in North America it means facing the other person, making firm palm to palm contact with the web of your hand touching the web of the other person’s hand, and matching hand pressure as closely as possible.
When you practice these 12 body language tips consistently, over time, your self confidence will increase and so will your awareness and flexibility in dealing with others. In turn, others will begin to see you as someone with strength, credibility and authority.
Looking to find out more about your body language and vocal cues when you are presenting or networking? Contact me today.
Speaking from the stage… can be an exhilarating experience for the polished presenter. But for a novice speaker or for someone who is unprepared to step up and stand in front of an audience, it can be a daunting and stressful time. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a rookie presenter, here are three positions that should be avoided when speaking from the stage…
1. The Cozy-Ankle Cross – In most cases, ankle crossers are also leaners. To keep ankles crossed for any extended period of time, and remain standing, ankle crossers need to brace themselves against, tables, walls or lecterns … anything that provides support. What the audience sees is a speaker who is nervous, rooted to one spot and who has assumed a posture that demonstrates a lack of seriousness and conviction regarding the topic.
Solution: If you get nervous and experience buckling at the knees when speaking from the stage… whenever possible check out your speaking space in advance of your presentation. If that can’t be done, find a similar space and practice speaking while visualizing your audience. Not only will you become a stronger speaker, your body will automatically become more erect; you’ll stand tall and exude strength.
2. The Fashion Foot – This typical fashion model stance tends to be adopted more by women than men. While the speaker ‘might’ appear more graceful, it is an awkward position to hold since most of the body’s weight is falls onto the back leg and foot. This position is not conducive to using body language or demonstrating any type of enthusiasm. The main purpose of taking on the fashion foot pose is so that the speaker looks good.
Solution: While looking good to their audiences is important to all speakers, solid content and being able to deliver that content in an engaging and dynamic way is even better. As someone said, “Content is king.”
3. The Toe Flipper –When a speaker does the toe flipper, the heel is fixed to the floor and acts like a pivot. The rest of the foot points outward and upward, with the toe moving either side to side, or up and down. This foot position is not only distracting, it is a bad habit. I’ve seen people who looked and sounded confident when speaking from the stage… practicing the toe flipper – totally unaware of their habit.
Solution: Eliminating a distracting habit is not easy. Self-awareness, self-assessment, and willingness to make change is needed. If you know that you are a toe flipper, practice your speeches with feet flat to the floor and firmly planted for about three to five minutes. Then move to another spot and plant feet firm and flat once more. Video tape yourself or ask a trusted friend in the audience for feedback until you are toe flipping no more.
When speaking from the stage… the goal of speakers and presenters is to be the best they can be to their audience. That means no fancy foot moves unless you’re a dancer but solid positioning for the solid content you will be delivering; feet placed shoulder width apart, knees slightly relaxed and toes pointing toward the audience. Want to learn more about positioning and speaking from the stage… Register for my November weekend workshop.
Finicky feet and bad moves can sink a speaker! Speaking from the stage is not an opportunity everyone grabs with gusto. Some people can’t wait to get off, while others can’t wait to get on. No matter your level of enthusiasm for public speaking or presentation skills, unless you are a dancer, an acrobat or comedian hugging a microphone, when you find yourself speaking from the stage, there are some moves you should avoid.
1. The Pacer – Pacers are speakers who aimlessly wander all over the stage, moving from one side to the other. Whether it’s due to an over-abundance of energy or a high degree of nervousness, speakers who constantly pace back and forth distract their audience. When an audience is distracted, it can’t possibly pay full attention to what the speaker has to say, and will miss out on valuable information.
Solution: When speaking from the stage, choose designated spots to deliver points for maximum impact. In other words, leverage your speaking space. Never move without a purpose.
2. The Shifters– Shifters tend to stay rooted to one spot transferring their weight from one foot to the other foot, shifting side to side. Or they put one foot behind the other, shifting backwards and forwards. Shifters often give the impression that they are nervous and lacking in confidence.
Solution: Advanced speech preparation and practice is a must. Watch yourself on video, and watch your video more than once. The more times you watch yourself, the more objective you become in your self-assessment. You can also ask for feedback from someone you trust and who you know will be able to provide you with solid suggestions for change, so that you eliminate any misleading mannerisms that could influence the audience in a negative way.
3. The Knee-Knocker Knee-knockers are closely related to the shifters. Instead of having legs straight and feet flat, knee-knockers do alternating knee bends: one leg straight, the other bent; then the reverse. When a speaker bobs up and down, and then up again, the audience sees a speaker who looks insecure and uncomfortable.
Solution: Practice your presentation with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Space your feet ‘shoulder’ width apart. Knees should not be locked tight, but relaxed. Visualize yourself speaking from the stage, standing strong, engaged with your audience and energized. Be aware of your body and practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
As presenters, whenever we are speaking from the stage – we need to eliminate distracting mannerisms if we want to be seen and accepted as competent professionals to our audience. In my next blog, we’ll look at more ‘moves’ speakers should erase when speaking in front of an audience.
If you are interested in in finding out out more about speaking from the stage and polishing your presentation skills, register for my next weekend workshop November 16 & 17 in Abbotsford. http://workshop.artofspeakingforsuccess.com/
First impressions build audience connection. We’ve all heard first impressions are lasting impressions. If that’s true, then as speakers and presenters we need to make that very first connection with our audience a dynamic and positive one. However, far too often the very first impression the audience gets of their presenter is anything but … the best. In this power point presentation, we look at the most common culprit. Lack of readiness by the speaker.
v When the audience is ready, but the speaker is not – 100% prepared and 100% present – for the audience, audience attention will begin to shift and wander off. It’s those first impressions that build audience connection. If the speaker is still dealing with equipment when the program is about to start, the people seated will begin to make quick, and less than positive judgments about the presenter. They are giving their time to be present for the speaker and in turn, expect the speaker to 100% ‘present’ for them.
As s presenter, you need to build connection with the audience right at the beginning. You want the audience to see you as confident, as someone who is worthy of commanding their time. While there are many ways for a presenter to grab the attention of an audience, the most important one is simple to put into practice and quite basic. When the audience looks at you standing in front of them – the person they came to hear – you look back at them: not at your notes, not at your equipment. Face the audience. Give them your undivided attention. This is what creates a good first impression and serves as the foundation to build audience connection. After all you love your audience, that’s why you are here and you want your audience to love you.
To find out more about building connection with your audience, register for Dorothea’s workshop http://workshop.artofspeakingforsuccess.com/ or schedule her for your next company lunch and learn.
Do you know that billionaire Warren Buffett is keen on communication skills? The man with a net worth of 53.5 billion, second richest in the United States, and fourth richest person in the world admits that at one time, he was absolutely terrified of public speaking. But, he says, “I knew I had to do it.” In this interview with Value Investors Portal, he tells the interviewer what he did to overcome his fear.
Searching on the internet, we can find countless articles and videos that show Warren Buffett is really keen on communication skills. In a presentation to business students at Columbia University, he said, “If you improve your communication skills, I guarantee you that you will earn fifty percent more money over your lifetime.”
While investors and investor ‘wanna-be’s’ flock to hear his words on how to make more money, we’ll never know how many students took Warren Buffett’s words on communication skills to heart after graduation. Whatever their chosen profession, being able to communicate effectively will be a major factor in achieving success. The fact that one of the most powerful men in the world, Warren Buffett is keen on communication skills, should speak volumes to anyone wanting to advance their career.
It’s true that technical skills can get people through the door and into the office, but it will be their communication skills, their openness to learning, ability to embrace change, connect and interact with others that will determine whether or not they get to stay. Far too often we get wrapped up in glitzy gadgets that promise faster, easier, unlimited possibilities. However, all of it is worth squat if people are left out of the equation, because it’s the people who communicate those possibilities with each other that make technology work.
And, when it comes to trust, leadership, persuasion, authenticity, integrity and team building, if you can’t demonstrate and communicate these in a compelling manner through your speaking and your presentations, who will ever know? American businessman and former CEO, Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
To achieve success in any area today, be it personal or professional, capable and competent communication skills are a must. Warren Buffett isn’t the only one keen on communication skills. My driving purpose at Art of Speaking for Success is teaching the fundamentals of communication and how you can effectively apply these skills to advance your career.
“Your workshop was great! It was productive, valuable and encouraging. For much of my career, I have been presenting specialized data to industry and government. Your session served as an excellent refresher for me. Your tips on body language and vocal variety reminded me how important these skills are to effective presentations. I also enjoyed the hands-on activities and appreciated the easy to implement techniques you provided. Whether a person is a new presenter or an experienced professional like myself they will benefit from this course. I highly recommend you and this workshop to anyone who is interested in sharpening their presentation skills.”
Regional Communications Manager, Government of Canada
Dorothea created a presentation customized to our needs. Her high level of expertise and professionalism was a delight. Thank you, Dorothea, for equipping our participants with new tools they can use in their personal and professional lives!
Government of Canada
I would certainly recommend Dorothea to anyone looking to expand their horizons.
Account Manager, CGA program