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.
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.
Who doesn’t want what dynamic speakers have? Recognition. Money. Accolades. Dynamic speakers receive them all. The question is probably not who wants what dynamic speakers have … but how can a person become a dynamic speaker. As you watch and listen to dynamic speakers, you’ll notice that they religiously follow a number of practices. They acknowledge their audience, and give them their full attention. They never overload by giving too much information or leave their audience wondering by giving too little. Like Goldilocks, they get it just right. They stay on point, and speak at a ‘comfortable’ speed.
Dynamic speakers know that ignoring any one of these practices will chew away at their credibility, as well as their financial rewards. Any time they are giving a presentation, big or small, short or long, to one or to one hundred they understand that they are taking up somebody’s time. For that that time to be filled with information that’s of interest and has value, dynamic speakers must always be prepared, engage their listeners to the fullest and be relevant to their listeners’ needs.
1. Be Prepared
You know the speaker is not prepared when the audience is ready, but the speaker is still in stages of set-up, or when the speaker begins the presentation with no clear structure or direction for the audience to grasp. Recently I watched a speaker having trouble, for much of the presentation, trying to match the correct slides to the words coming out of the speaker’s mouth. Sitting in the audience, I found it not only distracting, but irritating as well, because of the lack of continuity between what I heard and what I saw.
Many speakers mistakenly assume, because they know and understand their topic, their audience will too. Any time you present, you must have a clear core message, solid content, and state your opening and closing without staring at notes. If you are looking to be a dynamic speaker, preparation and practice are vital. Dynamic speakers have rehearsed their presentations to the point where they are comfortable with both their material and the audience. They know that their listeners are giving them a very precious commodity, their time. They honor it. They are prepared.
2. Engage Their Listeners
Have a look at this short video and watch how Steve Job’s engages his audience when introducing the MacBook Air. As the narrator dissects this video clip, he points out the different ways in which Steve Jobs doesn’t just grab the attention, he is laying the foundation for full engagement in the hearts and minds of his listeners. Steve Jobs is a prime example of a dynamic speaker, clear in his message, comfortable with his material and enthusiastic about his product, and his audience.
3. Are Relevant
For your audience to adopt or ‘buy-in’ to what you’re saying, they need to know how your information relates to them. There an acronym that sums this up perfectly. WIIFM which means, What’s In It For Me? Every person listening is asking themselves, “If I listen to you,what’s in it for me?” As the speaker, you need to show how what you have to say will help those seated in front of you and show that your position is consistent with theirs.
Be 100% prepared. Engage the audience fully. Demonstrate the relevance of the topic. Putting these three practices into place, will have you well on your way of joining the ranks of dynamic speakers, as well as on the receiving end of recognition, money and accolades.
Energize. That’s right, energize! Activate your audience. Your audience will love you for it, and remember you always.
Have you ever attended an event where the emcee, host or speaker at the front of the room shouts out to the audience, “I’m so glad to be here,” but does not look at anyone? Instead their eyes are glued to their notes, or a power point slide, and that’s how they begin their presentation. Shame on them! They have failed to energize and activate the audience.
When we think of the thousands of speakers around the world, on stage, in training rooms, at sales meetings and in boardrooms, we see people who have an enormous wealth of knowledge and information under their belt. Yet, if the knowledge they are sharing and the information they are offering is not infused with energy and enthusiasm by the presenter, chances are high that much of it will fall by the wayside, unclaimed and unused by those listening.
To make a difference, speakers must be able to jump-start their audience. They must be able to stimulate the minds and hearts of the people seated in front of them. Some presenters are more charismatic, and others more electric; however, all presenters to be effective need to energize their groups. While we need information to do our jobs, it’s the energy that moves us into action. It’s the energy that grabs us and makes us feel. That is how we connect with the speaker, and how we connect with each other.
This is not an energy that requires you to hang from the rafters or race about the room at high speed or become a drama queen, unless that is who you really are. The energy that I am talking about is our natural power and is often referred to as our enthusiasm or passion.
Think of drive, stamina and strength; that is energy. The ability to act and move forward or to lead others is synonymous with energy. The ability to energize is more than just being confident. When a presenter energizes, they motivate. They empower those around them. Think Oprah. Think Anthony Robbins. Whether you love or hate’ em, there is no denying these two individuals are star examples of presenters who energize and activate their audience into doing what they want them to do.
How we move in front of others, how we carry our voice, as well as the words we use and the eye contact we make, sends signals about how we feel about our topic, about being present, and about our audience. All these carry energy and are determining factors in our speaking success. If we aren’t excited about what we have to say, how can we expect others to be excited? No matter how many times we may have given the same presentation there will always be someone new sitting at the edge of their seat ready to listen. As speakers and presenters – that is is our time to energize and activate the audience.
“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