Author Archives: Rich

About Rich

Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

The Art of Filling

Sweating speakerHave you ever been sat in the audience whilst a nervous-looking, unprepared and slightly sweaty person has had to ‘fill’ an unplanned gap in the schedule?

Unless you’re watching a professional stand-up comedian, there’s not many more painful things that you can witness on stage.

It’s painful for the audience because with every word the ‘filler’ utters, they become more and more aware that they are waiting.

Waiting only has two outcomes – fulfilment (when the expected/advertised speaker arrives) or frustration (when the speaker doesn’t arrive). Every word the filler utters increases their frustration.

Lest we forget that it’s painful for the person filling too.

It’s not their fault that as the most senior / most confident / most mouthy they got pushed on stage to speak. And rest assured, they are just as aware of how painful this is becoming too…

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

In my experience, anyone tasked with filling will do their best to talk to the audience about a topic that meets two criteria:

  • It is of interest the audience
  • It is a topic that the filler knows something about

And so the filling becomes an everlasting ramble on a topic that in reality only 50% of the audience is even remotely interested in…and so the frustration begins.

So what is the remedy?

The remedy is exactly the same one that you might use to placate an impatient child – distraction.

When acting as the filler, distraction involves getting the audience involved in the process of filling.

It’s tough to become impatient if your brain is distracted by being asked to focus elsewhere.

So next time you’re asked to fill, don’t try to fill all by yourself – get your audience involved too!

Potential distraction filler examples include:

A 15 second introduction session – ask each audience member to stand up and quickly introduce themselves and their business to the room. The majority will welcome the networking opportunity and won’t become frustrated, as they’re focused on thinking of something to say!

The brainstorm – split the room into four groups and ask each group to brainstorm on an area of the event that could be improved. Your audience will be engaged and you will receive lots of sheets of ideas and feedback!

The burning question(s) – set up four flip charts or large pieces of paper around the room with an area that the speaker is due to cover. Divide the room into four groups and ask them to work together to generate questions that they would like to have answered by the forthcoming speaker. If you need to fill more time, ask the groups to rotate around the different topics.

When your speaker arrives, they will have four lists of questions that they need to answer. If they answer them all (and they should, they were late, after all!) then your audience will leave fulfilled and happy, despite the delay!

PS. Always ensure that any activity you put on to fill time has value for your audience .ie. either they are creating value for themselves, or they can clearly see how they are building something useful together.

If there is no value to the audience, they will quickly realise that they are wasting time, which quickly leads to the dreaded frustration!

The best presenters do more than just ‘survive’

A cat surviving in waterBecoming a better presenter is all about having the right mindset.

 Whenever I begin working with a new client, coaching them to develop their speaking skills, I ask one question:

“What do you want to sound/look/be like when you present?”

The answer that is given usually begins with:

“Well, I don’t want to be…”

and concludes with words such as:

“Nervous, shaking or forgetting my words.”

It’s tough to become a better speaker when the focus is on avoiding calamity and catastrophe and simply surviving when we have to speak.

With survival as our main goal we have to work hard every time to avoid the public speaking tigers (for tigers read ‘fears’, it’s just that tigers makes a much more interesting analogy) and deliver an average performance.

It’s for this reason that I always ask the question again:

“What do you want to sound/look/be like when you present?”

The client then begins to understand what I am getting at and envisions where they would like to be in the future.

Possible answers include:

“A confident, articulate speaker that can quickly build rapport with an audience and inspire them.”

Now we’re talking! (Metaphorically, not literally, yet!).

Looking forward and creating a vision of the speaker that we wish to become gives us a goal to aim for. It also removes the focus from survival and the negatives (those thoughts of shaking, stuttering and forgetting our words) and instead directs them towards an end goal.

Instead of simply surviving our speech, we are now focusing our efforts on excelling at it as a confident and articulate speaker!

As with all things in life, having a positive and clear goal gives us something to work towards and increases the likelihood of achieving it.

If you are regularly think about just surviving the speaking shakes or stutters, take a few minutes to reframe your goals as a target, not a survival strategy.

You’ll be amazed at it changes your approach and the results from your next presentation!

The student skills gap – my view: presentation skills

When I attended university 10 years ago, it cost a lot of money.

£3,000 tuition fees. £3,000 accommodation per year. Three years of education.

My family had to change the way they lived to make it work.

I had to work to make sure I made the most of the opportunity I was given and not let anyone down.

Paying such a large amount of money to an internationally recognised university, I never considered that in fact, they may be the ones that let me down.

The press today writes a lot about the quality of students that our higher education system is producing, and how so often many of them are not ready for the world of work. This isn’t the fault of the students, it’s the responsibility of our universities and currently, there is a gap between what is provided and what is really required.

£9,000 is now the average tuition fee (the life of my family would have had to have been very different to afford that!), and yet still there are so many ways in which our universities could improve the service that they give to our economy as a whole, and to our young people specifically.

I could talk about them all, but instead I’ll focus on what I know the most about – group communication and presentation skills.

The criticism often levelled at higher education is that it teaches our students the knowledge required, but often leaves them short of the practical skills with which to employ their new found knowledge. Never has this been truer than with regards to communication.

Expertise without voice

How much is my world class expertise worth, if I cannot communicate my new found knowledge in the workplace?

The answer: zero, zilch, nada.

There were 120 students on my marketing course at university. When we were told that we had to present our final project to the entire lecture hall the following week, 118 of us felt sick to the stomach (the other 2 were studying drama as a minor subject and positively relished the opportunity to perform).

Not only were we paralysed by fear, we were struck dumb by the fact that we had absolutely no idea how to conduct ourselves and communicate confidently to a large group. There was no textbook, no seminar, no lecture that would prepare us for what we saw as the biggest challenge of the year. Public speaking.

The final insult was that this presentation for which we had been given no formal training formed 60% of our overall grade for the module. Our university wanted us to achieve the highest levels of attainment, and yet hid from us the tools we required to do this.

It came as no surprise on results day that the module in question delivered poor results across the board. It was no further surprise when our friends in the years above us confirmed that this was always the case.

Imagine not only the increased achievement by students if universities provided much deeper and relevant presentation skills training, but also the efficiencies that this could bring to our economy as a whole.

I can think of organisations and colleagues that are famed for having a meeting to agree to have a meeting and I am sure that you can too. If we could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our communications in the workplace our ideas, innovation and output would be improved and the world would surely race to come and trade with us and take onboard our communications culture!

For me, the issue was highlighted once again the moment that I left university. I had three job interviews. Two required me to prepare and deliver a presentation. This was just like that dastardly module at university all over again. However this time there was an £18k salary riding on it.

I was fortunate that by this point in my life I had undertaken a hell of a lot of self study and practice to try and improve my public speaking. Combined with the arrogant confidence of youth, I muddled through and was viewed as the best of a bad bunch.

Not everyone was so lucky, and the speaking experiences (and subsequent failures) that they had at university and job interviews set them up with the well-known and openly embraced fear of public speaking that 90% of the workforce now have as standard.

With our current provisions for public speaking both in the secondary and higher education curriculum, why would we expect anything else?

Current provisions

Of course, I know that it isn’t all doom and gloom. My own recent discussions with university course leaders up and down the country help to confirm this.

‘We have a session on presentation skills, covered by an existing member of the faculty’, is the common response when I mention speaking, so someone is covering this. But therein lies the problem.

Public speaking is a skill that requires practice. If I gave you a lecture on how to swim, and then pushed you into the pool, the chances are you would probably lose your life before you really ‘got it’.

The same applies to public speaking, but instead of death, your failure results in a lifelong fear of presenting to a group. Understandable really.

Yet still a lot of universities are covering presentation skills with just a single lecture.

Add to this that presenting, like most skills in life, is best taught by an expert (a swim coach would probably get me swimming quicker than instruction from my novice mother) that can engage and inspire an audience, then the well-meaning lecturer delivering a single session on presentation skills does not appear to be anywhere near an adequate solution.

If you fancy a giggle, Google ‘university presentation skills’ and see the online resources provided by institutions for their students. The last thing I wanted to do at university was read more. Pages of information are not enough – practical, relevant training in plenty of time is what is required.

A real solution

So what’s the solution here? Firstly, it’s a recognition by our higher education system as a whole that the value of an education is nothing unless a student can communicate that education for the greater good. This realisation may come about through government review or a slower change of mindset amongst the great and the good of the higher education world.

Whichever way, it needs to happen.

The second step is then the creation and delivery of a sustained and relevant presentation skills education for students. Not a single session delivered annually with voluntary attendance, but instead a series of workshops that provide a safe and encouraging space for students to develop the skills that will initially benefit them, but will ultimately improve the efficiency and success of our economy as a whole. If budget is an issue, perhaps after an initial setup phase, these sessions could be student-run, providing an arena to practice and evaluate presentation skills, in a similar model to Toastmasters International?

Ok, so that’s my passionate presentation skills plea, I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences and ideas regarding presentation skills within our education system. Please do add them to the comments below.

5 original tips for creating outstanding speech titles

Greatest Show On Earth ImageThe title of your presentation has the power to make or break your speech before you have even begun.

Your audience will judge your forthcoming presentation based on its title.

In the conference programme, it may be the factor that makes them choose you over the other talk that is on at the same time.

Displayed on the screen before you start speaking, your audience will read it and decide whether to tune in or turn off for the rest of your presentation

When announced by the MC, your audience will either await your first words with baited breath, or look forward to your final words with unbridled joy.

It is therefore incredibly important that you get your title right; to grab the attention of your audience, engage their minds and set a positive expectation for your speech.

Personally, I’m not really into stating the obvious, so here’s my top five, slightly less obvious, things to consider when creating a title for your speech.

1. Highlight what’s in it for me

Be sure to highlight the benefits to your audience of listening to your speech.

If you were to try and sell me the pen you have been writing with today, you wouldn’t grab my attention, or convince me to buy, simply by telling me about its features.

Instead, you would highlight to me the benefits that owning the pen could bring into my life. It’s the same with your presentation title.

Instead of the title: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Discover the easiest and fastest ways to boil an egg!

2. Attract attention with unusual language

Our brains are accustomed to the ‘norm’. Our senses deal with things that are ‘normal’ quickly and subconsciously without really thinking about them. To make your speech title stand out from the crowd, use unusual language that makes the reader stop, think twice and process on a more conscious level.

Instead of: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Hubble, bubble, boil and trouble: the very best and worst ways to boil an egg.

3. Don’t instantly alienate half of your audience

If you are speaking to persuade your audience of your point of view, it’s always tempting to simply title your speech: “XX reasons why you should XX”. However, this isn’t always the best idea as it quickly alienates the half of the audience that already agrees with your point of view, and perhaps even some of your audience who don’t want to be convinced.

If your title can encourage everyone to attend, then you can persuade them of your opinion by delivering a constructive argument in your presentation.

It’s very difficult to persuade someone if they aren’t there!

Instead of: 10 reasons eating a boiled egg daily will boost your health.

Think: A discussion of the benefits of a boiled egg every day.

4. Be original

When the conference organiser asks you for your title, it’s so easy to look at what everyone else is doing and adopt a title that follows the same format.

How will your speech stand out above the rest if it looks exactly the same? Different is intriguing, so instead of simply fitting in, review the titles of the other speeches and break the rules a little!

The result will be a larger audience keen to hear something new and innovative!

Instead of: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Boiled eggs. If you thought you knew everything there was to know, you’re wrong.

5. Be curiously relevant

I’m sure you’ve been told before that your speech title should generate curiosity within your audience, but this tip is a warning: don’t go too far!

Curiosity-generating titles are great, but if they are taken too far they become completely incomprehensible to your audience.

Once you have written your title, do a quick sense check to ensure that someone who knows nothing about your talk apart from the title can still grasp what area or topic you will be talking about!

Instead of: Hard or soft – which do you prefer?!

Think: How do you like your eggs in the morning? The art of boiling.

The Ultimate Guide To Handling Question & Answer Sessions

Rich Watts MBAMany people fear a question and answer (Q&A) session more than having to deliver the presentation itself.

For them, it represents the unknown, the uncontrolled and therefore, an opportunity for things to go terribly wrong.

In reality, the Q&A session is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise even further and to double check that your audience have received your presentation message loud and clear.

A good Q&A session can energise an audience, inspire them and leave a positive memory of your presentation.

If Q&A sessions can have this impact, it’s important we get them right. So here’s my ultimate guide to handling Q&A, in the form of twenty top tips to employ before, during and after your next question and answer session!

Before the Q&A session:

 

Anticipate questions

Ok, let’s start with the obvious (you would be amazed at how many people still don’t do this).

Before the day, brainstorm any obvious questions and prepare answers to them. Better still, amend your presentation so that it answers the obvious questions.

After all, your objective is to cover everything that your audience needs to know to persuade them of your opinion.

Set the rules for your audience

Never forget that as the speaker, you are the leader of the room. Set the rules for audience questions at the very start of your presentation. Let your audience know whether you are happy to take questions as you go, or if you would like them to save questions until the end. It’s your presentation, so you need to set the rules that make you feel most comfortable and confident as a presenter.

Postpone questions

If someone asks a question during your presentation that will be answered later in your slide deck, don’t be afraid to postpone the question with a polite ‘we’ll come to that later’. Again, you are the leader of the room and you don’t want to confuse your audience by answering a question ahead of time and destroying the logical flow of your presentation.

During the Q&A session:

 

Restate the question

When you are asked a question, immediately restate it. This serves three purposes:

1. It allows you to confirm that you have heard the question correctly

2. It allows the rest of the audience to clearly hear the question too

3. It buys you a few more seconds to construct your answer

Check that you have answered the question

Once you have delivered your answer, be sure to return to your questioner and check with them that the answer is satisfactory with a quick, ‘has that answered your question?’. You wouldn’t leave a customer without checking that your product or service had been delivered to their full satisfaction, and the same rules apply to answering questions!

Be concise

Keep your answers clear and to the point. If you feel yourself waffling, stop, take a breath and confirm the key points of your answer in short sharp statements.

There’s no quicker way to destroy your position as the expert in the room than through long, waffling, unintelligible answers to simple questions.

Don’t get sucked into comments

Some people want all the attention, and it’s these people that will try and grab the attention during a Q&A session by asking a question that isn’t really a question, it’s just a chance for them to get their opinion across to the audience.

If this happens to you, don’t be afraid to ask your questioner to confirm exactly what their question is before attempting to answer it. If they have clearly just stated an opinion and not asked a question, thank them for their opinion and move on.

It’s not rude for you to take control of a situation like this, as ultimately it’s your role to ensure that the audience have an interesting, relevant and rounded Q&A session.

Don’t praise questions

Sounds odd doesn’t it? It’s not unusual to hear a speaker start an answer with “That’s a good question…”.

The problem is, if you praise one question highly, what does that say about the rest of the questions that you are asked – are they not as good? How does that make your audience feel?

It’s a little thing, but one that I have personally seen influence the willingness of an audience to ask questions. Once a ‘good question’ is asked, the rest of the room become hesitant to ask their own questions, just in case they are not as good!

Don’t lie!

I’m not even going to bother writing an explanation for this one. You know why. It’s amazing how many people panic and still do it though (!).

Involve your audience

The very best presentations are those that involve their audience and become a conversation rather than just a lecture. The same applies to Q&A sessions. If you can turn your Q&A session into an interactive piece with other people in the room giving opinions and answering questions your audience will be more engaged and ultimately everyone will get more benefit from the shared wisdom.

The best way to achieve this is by opening up some questions to the audience. Ask their opinion, or if anyone in the room has anything to add. Think of yourself not as the person being interrogated, but instead as the chat show host, getting everyone involved in the topic of the day!

Don’t assume everyone knows as much as you do

When we know it, it seems so simple. It’s also then easy to forget that our audience may not share our expertise. Be sure to define key terms and ideas within your answer to ensure that everyone can keep up with what you are saying.

If you are unsure about what your audience do and do not know, then ask. Your audience would rather answer a few questions about their knowledge and then be able to follow your answer than have no questions and not a clue what it is that you are saying!

Split ‘big’ questions into smaller chunks

There will always be complicated questions. To help you answer them, and your audience to follow them, break the more complicated questions down into chunks. For example, answer using three key steps, four main thoughts, or perhaps the five main areas that need to be addressed.

Your audience are seeking clear communication of great ideas, give them this with a structured, bite size answer.

Ask your questioner to stand up

Asking the person who asks the question to stand up is another great way to ensure that everyone in the room can clearly hear the question that is being asked. It also makes the questioner feel important and valued, which is a nice thank you to them for being so kind as to contribute!

Provide pens and paper for your audience to write questions on

This is especially useful if you are delivering a long presentation or if your topic is a sensitive one. Give your audience a pen and paper to write questions on so that a. they don’t forget them, and b. they can submit them anonymously if they wish.

Anonymous question submission using a post box at the front of the stage is a great way to take questions on sensitive topics that the audience might not feel comfortable standing up and asking in front of the whole room.

Ask your own questions

The speakers’ worst nightmare is asking ‘are there any questions?’ and seeing row upon row of blank, unmoving faces before them.

The audience not having any questions is a good sign. It means that your presentation was so good that it answered all of the queries that they had!

To avoid an awkward silence, prepare a few questions of your own regarding opinion on the topic that you spoke about. Ask them to the audience and ask them for their views. A Q&A session can work both ways!

 

After the Q&A session:

 

Deliver a conclusion

Your presentation should always end on a high with a clear final thought for your audience. A Q&A session at the end of your talk often dilutes the energy and your spot can be in danger of just drying out with no real energy.

Instead, prepare a short conclusion for after the Q&A session and ask your host if you can deliver it once all of the questions have been asked. This way, you can still leave a clear, positive final thought in the mind of your audience AND have a full Q&A session!

End on time

No one likes to be held up any longer than they need to. There are trains to catch, buffet dinners to eat and dentist appointments to get to. Finish on time and your audience will be forever grateful to you.

Be prepared to answer more questions afterwards

Ultimately you want your presentation to inspire your audience, start conversations and ignite ideas. Always let your audience know that you are happy to answer any questions that couldn’t fit into your Q&A session afterwards in the bar, and embrace the impact that your presentation and outstanding Q&A have had!

Producing Blockbuster Presentations

Cinema screenLast weekend I sat in a cinema enjoying the latest summer blockbuster action movie.

These movies attract millions of people during the warmest months of the year to sit silently in a darkened room watching what is basically just a series of flashing lights on a screen.

And we pay good money for it too! Madness isn’t it?!

This got me thinking. If a blockbuster movie can attract us all and keep us on the edge of our seats for so long, then surely there must be some lessons that we as speakers can learn from this to make our own presentations just as compelling for our audience?

Here are my thoughts on lessons you can incorporate into your next blockbuster presentation, taken straight from the cinema industry:

Anticipation is everything

It’s the build up to a summer blockbuster that helps to get bums on seats in the cinema. That intriguing trailer, the advert on TV and the online articles all help to build audience anticipation for the big event. The anticipation of the film is as enjoyable for some viewers as the film itself (even more so if the blockbuster turns out to be a big flop!).

Presentation lesson: Your pre-presentation actions should all help to build anticipation in your audience and get them excited about what you have to say. Choose an exciting (and relevant) title for your presentation, personally invite each member of your audience to attend, even give away sneak previews of the content that you will be sharing to really excite your audience!

 

We remember and enjoy believable characters

The very best films feature characters that we can believe in and relate to. Films with deep and involving characters are often much more enduring than those that feature one dimensional potatoes in the lead role. We can all remember that the lead character in the Shawshank Redemption is called Andy, but can you recall much about the lead characters in High School Musical 3?

Presentation lesson: If we want our audience to believe in us, then we need to show the depth of our character when presenting. We need to display to our audience how we are just like them, how we are human too. If we want to be remembered by our audience, then we need to show some emotion, and tell them a story that they won’t forget.

 

Plot holes ruin movies (and presentations too)

I’m pretty sure that I can name at least ten movies that looked amazing in the trailers, but were completely let down by MASSIVE plot holes (Source Code anyone?). A massive plot hole can leave audiences feeling angry and disappointed when the credits start rolling.

Presentation lesson: Your Q&A session is the chance for your audience to close any plot holes that they may have found in your presentation. If you deny your audience the chance to ask questions (either because you’re too scared or there isn’t time) then they may leave the room with unanswered queries, annoyed that they wasted their time listening to you only to be more confused than before you started speaking!

 

Going to the cinema is like a dream

I don’t remember much from my university media studies module (six weeks of 9am Friday morning lectures), but I do remember this: “cinema is a massively immersive experience because of the way in which it replicates a dream like state”. With its darkened rooms, soft chairs and fantasy projections on the screen in front of us, the cinema is a lot like being in a dream of our choosing. Awesome.

Presentation lesson: You should always do your best to make your presentation a fully immersive experience for your audience. In an ideal world you want your audience focus on and think about nothing else but your presentation from the moment that they enter the room.

If your audience are rearranging chairs when they arrive or distracted by a fluttering blind whilst you speak, you don’t have their full engagement. Do your best to make your presentation room like a 5 star hotel, in which your audience have to worry about nothing except what matters – your presentation!

 

Concentrating in the cinema can be hard

A slight contradiction here, but one I’m sure you can relate to. Remember how we just said that going to the cinema is like being in a dream like state? That’s not always the case is it? Especially when you’re lucky enough to sit next to the person that is clinically unable to eat popcorn quietly. The cinema often contains noisy distractions. From phones to not-so-quiet whispering, blockbuster films need to be able to hold our attention against these noisy foes.

Presentation lesson: Your presentation needs to accommodate an audience that might at times be distracted. Even the best presenters in the world cannot control the minds of their audience and make them concentrate 100%. As a result, your presentation should contain clear headings, points and summaries to ensure that even if your audience do tune out occasionally, they can quickly catch back up.

The big finale

As humans, we crave order and logic, and so a big conclusion that ties up all the loose ends and results in a ‘happily ever after’ moment, really pleases us. It’s for this reason that most action movies end with a titanic battle between good and evil, with the goodies prevailing in the end.

Presentation lesson: Our presentations should never have a damp squib of an ending. Imagine the atmosphere in a cinema if the latest blockbuster ended in a sad way. The audience would leave silently, with no energy and probably without a smile too. We don’t want that to happen after your presentation so be sure to finish clearly, logically and with lots of energy, letting your audience know exactly what it is that you want them to go and do next.

Success is all about the takings at the Box Office

Ultimately, the success or failure of a blockbuster is measured on its Box Office takings.

Presentation lesson: What is the goal of your blockbuster presentation? When the credits roll, what will ultimately decide whether your presentation has been a success or a failure? Before you even begin writing, make sure you know exactly what it is you want to achieve so that you can script a presentation that will be this year’s blockbuster smash hit!

Handling presentation hiccups like a pro (cure for hiccups not included, sorry!)

Woman with hiccups(If you’re looking for advice on how to stop actual, physical hiccups, check out this guide here. If you’re more interested in delivering a presentation perfectly, whatever the circumstances, then please read on!)

Your presentation is going brilliantly. In front of you are rows and rows of smiling faces, hanging on every word you deliver, furiously taking notes, not wanting to miss a single drop of inspiration from you, the inspiring presenter.

You smile back at your audience, confident in the knowledge that this presentation is going brilliantly.

Your right thumb instinctively moves to press the button that will bring up your next fantastic slide.

Suddenly the smiles on the faces of your audience change to shock. You turn and look over your shoulder at the screen behind you.

Silently standing there is your slide. Six foot tall projected against the wall. But it’s not your slide. The text is all jumbled, it’s the wrong size, it doesn’t make any sense.

Your perfect presentation has been derailed.

Your stomach churns…

What do you do?

I’m sure many of you reading this have either previously imagined the situation above, or worse still, experienced it for real during a big presentation.

Generally, there are two ways we can go from here.

1. We stand there in front of our audience, open mouthed, speechless and possibly dribbling a little bit too. After thirty seconds we flee the stage never to return again.

or

2. We can handle it like a ‘pro’. Share a joke with the audience and laugh off the thing that has happened that we cannot change, and move on seamlessly.

When I discuss this second option with my public speaking coaching clients, their first response is often, ‘yes, but I am not a pro. I’m nervous enough about speaking as it is. I won’t have the speed of thought to quickly formulate and deliver a joke and move on without panicking…’

And here’s the big secret – the ‘pros’ panic too – and when they panic they can’t deliver impromptu humour on the spot either.

The only difference is that the ‘pros’ are prepared for that stomach churning moment…

The big secret

The secret is so simple. Preparation.

Before speaking, the ‘pro’ sat down and wrote a few lines to use if technology failed / he ran over time / he forgot his words.

Lines that can be delivered without too much thought and that seem wonderfully impromptu.

These lines can then be used forever more. Write once, use forever and whenever anything in your speech fails.

The ‘pro’ isn’t polished, just prepared.

What sort of lines might the ‘pro’ prepare?

Appearing polished when things don’t go to plan is as simple as just taking ten minutes before a talk to write and memorise a few lines.

You might choose to prepare lines for different things that you think may have the potential to occur. Here’s a few examples to get you thinking:

Broken technology:

“It appears that the computers are becoming self aware and rising up to take over the world. TV always told us that this would happen!”

“This slide is in here as a test. Does anyone here speak gobbledygook?”

“Never work with animals, children or technology!”

Forgotten lines:

“I had a great point here, so I am going to give it a nice long dramatic pause before I deliver it…”

“My mother always said I would get into trouble because my mouth worked faster than my brain, it turns out that she was right…!”

Running over time:

“I am completely guilty of having too many wonderful things that I wanted to share with you, I will finish this off now, but please do come and see me afterwards to hear about the final few pieces of inspiration that I had to share with you…”

You can do it too

You will notice that throughout this article I have referred to ‘pros’ within speech marks.

What is a ‘pro’, really?

In the view of many of us, a ‘pro’ is often just someone who appears very accomplished and polished at what they do. They’re not necessarily paid or professional, just cool, calm relaxed and effective.

The only reason that these people appear so accomplished and polished is through preparation and practice.

The wonderful thing about preparation and practice is that they are not the possessions of an exclusive club. Anyone can practice and prepare.

You just need to be aware that it is required.

So, take this article as your wake up call to avoid stomach churning moments in future and to become the polished ‘pro’ that others talk about.

Grab a piece of paper and spend ten minutes writing and learning three brilliant quips that you can use next time your big presentation doesn’t go to plan.

Future you will thank you for it!

Using Video In Presentations – Golden Rules

What is tailored trainingYou will come across the occasional presenter that frowns upon using video during a speech or presentation.

In my opinion, video is a vital part of the modern day speaker’s armoury. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video must surely be a million.

As well as supporting and emphasising our key points, video also helps to break up longer presentations, keeping the audience engaged, and giving them a break from the speaker!

Add to this the fact that video is a great way for engaging all three core learner types (auditory, visual and kinesthetic) and you have a top tool for powerful presentations.

But video also has the power to ruin a great presentation, and so here are my three golden rules (all beginning with ‘S’, rather conveniently!) to ensure that you use video effectively in your next presentation.

Support

If your video doesn’t fully support the key point that you are making, do not use it. Don’t try to tenuously link a humorous video to your point because you think your audience will like you more if they laugh.

Your audience will always appreciate a valid, relevant point well made over a cheap laugh or obscure video link.

Short

A video should really be no more than 10% of your presentation. Positive communication is all about humans building rapport and understanding. How can you do that if you, the human, isn’t in front of your audience connecting with them?

Simply playing a video for the majority of your presentation devalues your own expertise and voice, damaging your relationship with the audience.

Sound

Always check your speakers before the big presentation. In fact, check all of the related technology.

You’ve chosen to use video because of the impact it adds to your message, but all of that impact will be lost if you are the presenter (and there are a few of them!) mumbling ‘sorry, this worked earlier…’ as you fumble with your laptop and your video plays silently and fuzzily on the screen behind you…

Why those who stand up and speak get ahead in the workplace…

Powerpoint alternativesAt the age of 19 I successfully delivered a eulogy at my Grandfather’s funeral – one of my earliest experiences of public speaking.

“Well done”, said my Godfather, “now you’ll be the one who is asked to speak at every family event going…”

…as if standing up and speaking was some kind of curse.

Far from it, over the last decade I’ve watched colleagues, competitors and entrepreneurs separate themselves from the chasing pack by standing up and speaking. Whether it is in meetings, at corporate events or as part of a pitch, far from being a curse, being able to stand up and present confidently is a gift that allows those who can master it to get ahead of the competition in their professional lives.

Now, don’t for a second think this is an article glorifying public speaking and presentation skills as the only key to success in the workplace.

I am simply saying that those who do stand up and speak find more opportunities coming their way – they still then need a large amount of skill, luck and of course, hard work to seize those opportunities!

So, if you’re looking to open up more opportunities in your professional life, here’s my thoughts on a few reasons why developing the skills to stand up and speak confidently might just be the answer:

Confidence

Even if your heart is racing on the inside and you are sweating underneath your suit jacket, those that have the confidence to stand up and speak instantly demonstrate that they are brave enough to take on challenges that millions of others wouldn’t dare to.

Charisma

Successful speakers quickly build rapport and understanding with their audience through their style of delivery. If you’re successfully standing and speaking then you are demonstrating to the world that you have the communication skills to get others to follow you on mighty business journeys.

Knowledge

Standing up and speaking up is the quickest way to demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and understanding to a group. Be careful though, because it’s also the quickest way to get found out if you are bluffing your way through a topic!

The ability to think on your feet

When you stand up and speak, you are in control of the room. But, you are still going to have to think on your feet when the audience have questions, or the unexpected happens! Quick thinking and innovation are key skills for future leaders, and speaking gives you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate them.

Clear communication

It might seem like the most obvious aspect of them all, but if you’re speaking up, you are learning to communicate ideas simply. Communicating ideas and sharing inspiration are key skills for leading teams, and by standing up and speaking, you are already displaying these skills!

Reach

Again, it seems so obvious, but by standing up and speaking you are reaching more and more people to display your best qualities to. The more people you reach, the more opportunities that will come your way!

If you’re nervous about standing up and presenting, or just looking for ways to get ahead in your career, I hope that this article has opened your eyes to how developing your presentation skills can help you to get ahead.

You don’t always need structured training to develop your skills (although it may help). As long as you set yourself a public speaking goal and take steps towards achieving it on a daily basis, you are certain to be moving forward, and most importantly, ahead of the rest of the professional pack!

Good luck, and I’m here to answer any questions that you may have!

Want to inspire your audience? You need to be more Daily Mail…

Daily Mail Headline ExampleWant to inspire your audience to take a stand?

Look no further than the headlines of the Daily Mail.

For many of us, the sensationalist headlines and often absurd points of view printed within the pages of the Daily Mail are nothing more than a giggle as we glance through today’s copy in a waiting room / service station / hotel restaurant.

However, such incredulous reporting is not quite as pointless as it seems – say what you like about the Daily Mail, it creates opinion in its readers, and is not quickly forgotten!

The Daily Mail strives (daily!) to make the inane interesting, the downright dull slightly more delightful and the mediocre memorable.

But most importantly, like Marmite, it always creates opinion, and it does so through the use of eye catching, mind blowing (in many ways) and instantly intriguing headlines.

(I direct you to exhibit A, here.)

As speakers seeking to inspire and persuade, we want our audience to have an opinion. Good or bad, right or wrong, we want them to take a stand, a side and sometimes even a sword (think Julius Caesar) on our behalf.

PowerPoints don’t create strong opinions.

Monotonous monologues don’t create opinions.

Strong, bold and outrageous statements create opinions.

If we want to make persuasive points, we don’t deliver your presentation like it’s a 10,000 word broadsheet article.
If we really want impact, we must start each persuasive point with our very own intriguing, forthright, engaging Daily Mail headline.

Why?

Because no audience ever flicked past, forgot or didn’t have an opinion on a truly crazy Daily Mail headline.

Your Final Words – Creating A Presentation Legacy

Last wordsAt some point in our lives, we’ve all had the conversation, ‘what would your final words be?’

As humans, we see our final words as hugely important. They are the final mark and message that we will leave with the universe before we pass away. Our final words are our last chance to leave a legacy.

The same can be said of the final words of our presentation or speech.

Of course, we don’t leave this Earth at the end of our presentation, but we do leave the attention of our audience.

Therefore, the final words of our speech are just as important as the final words of our lives. They are our last chance to inspire, persuade, motivate or inform and as such we should give them as much careful thought as we would the final words of our existence.

And so, the ultimate question to ask before writing your final line:

If these were the last words I could ever utter to my audience, what would they be?

‘Why do it’ always beats ‘Just Do It!’

Just Do It

‘Just do it’ works brilliantly as an advertising line.

It doesn’t work so well when you are telling a room full of people that they have to follow the latest company health and safety rule / procedure / idea.

Truly persuasive speakers, managers and leaders don’t tell their audience to ‘just do it’, they provide relevant evidence and instead tell their audience ‘why we should do it’.

That evidence can take so many forms – stories, statistics, analogies and ideas to name just a few.

But, they all have one thing in common. They are a hundred times more effective than simply standing there and saying ‘just do it’.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Agencies Make When Pitching

DSC_6204smallerThere are five really obvious mistakes that I see made by agencies across the UK every single week.

Rather than only reveal them to you once you’ve engaged with me, I’d much rather do something really kind and share them with you now, so that you can use them to increase the revenue you generate from your presentations and pitches in the coming months.

When you find yourself receiving even more work from your clients by using these tips, then please do call me. I’d love to talk about helping you to increase the success of your presentations even further by delivering training in house for your team,.

Here are The 5 Biggest Mistakes Agencies Make When Pitching:

1. The uninspiring opening

Agencies get chosen by clients for their original thinking and solutions. “Hi my name is Alan and I’m here today to talk to you about…” is not creative or original. Grab the attention of your audience with an intriguing and bold opening line and make them want to listen. “Today is the day you discover the key to doubling your market share in just 12 months…”

2. Too much talk about me, me, me

Successful agencies are all about great client service; focusing on the client. Why then do we spend half of a pitch telling the client about who we are and how great we are? If you want to demonstrate true client-focus right from the start, focus on how you are going to help your client, not how great you are!

3. Packing the presentation with everything about anything, ever

“Not quite sure what the client wants to hear? Chuck everything in. We can’t fail if we cover everything…” That is unless the client falls asleep. Clients choose their agencies for clear and concise communications. To sell, your presentations should be laser focused and crystal clear.

4. Forgetting to relate the solution directly to the client

If we can’t see the benefit, we won’t buy it. Your solution needs to become ‘real’ to your client through the use of stories and examples that they can relate to. If they can’t feel the pain, they won’t buy your medicine!

5. Not telling the client how to buy

Finally, the majority of agencies don’t tell their clients how to buy. As part of your presentation, it’s up to you to set the next steps for the conversation. Your client will appreciate having a clear structure and you’ll feel more comfortable and in control of the account.

How many of these mistakes are you making?

None, I hope! If you have any questions, or are looking to train you staff to avoid making these common errors and losing valuable clients, please give me a shout!

Thoughts on training expiry dates

ExpiredIf we don’t go for a run each week, our fitness starts to decrease and we put on weight. So we run.

If we don’t paint the fence, the wood starts to get damp and rot until it breaks. So we paint the fence.

If we don’t MOT the car each year, our confidence in its ability to get us safely from A to B declines. So we MOT the car.

Training and learning is exactly like keeping fit, painting the fence and maintaining the car.

If we don’t keep it up, the quality of the product (our health, the fence and the car) begins to decline. Its effectiveness decreases.

So why do we so often accept that once we’ve had the training, that’s it, we know it?

To stay at the top of our game we need to practice, refresh our skills and our knowledge – especially if we work in an ever evolving industry.

It’s for this reason that all training from Rich Public Speaking will henceforth come with an expiry date -  a date by which you need to renew, refresh or have practiced the skills that you have learned, or else their effectiveness will begin to decline and your initial investment in training will be…worthless.

If you want to engage your audience, move!

Lectern on stageStanding behind a lectern is the easy option.

It’s traditional, it’s expected and it provides a wonderful shield between us and the audience.

How do our audience see a speaker stood behind a lectern?

Traditional, expected and shielded from them.

In other words, completely unengaging.

If we want to really connect with our audience then we need to move.

We need to move closer to our audience to engage them, and we need to move around to bring our stories to life.

The lectern lends itself to neither of these things.

So next time you have to stand up and speak, don’t stand still, leave the lectern.

Step towards your audience and use the full space of your stage to being your story to life.

Use different ends of the stage for different sides of your argument, illustrate characters within your story by their position on the stage. Even use your stage as a time line, explaining the history of your company from left to right.

Whatever you do, don’t be traditional, expected and tied to your lectern: Don’t stand still.