Setting a Presentation Rhythm

A good way to get your audience's attention at the start of your talk is by setting a presentation rhythm. Lay out for them a plan about how your talk is going to unfold, and then follow that rhythm. You're basically giving an agenda, with rhythmic pace built into it. And it sounds simple, but I don't often see it done. The case for setting a presentation rhythm Rhythm is primal. Our connection to it starts before birth with our mother's heartbeat, and it's an integral part of our voice, speech and communication. And we've been communicating using rhythm for thousands of...

5 Ways To Ask Questions That Your Audience Responds To

Do you give presentations, and worry about how to ask questions that your audience responds to? Have you ever sweated through silence, while a lot of faces stared blankly at you? It's probably happened at some point - it certainly has to me! Here are 5 ways to ask questions that your audience responds to: The opening of your talk I often encourage my clients to ask a question in their opening few sentences – because it is a good engagement technique. Some people nowadays say that it's cliched, but it's a cliche for a reason. So long as it's a...

How to Use Few or No Notes when Presenting

Clients often tell me that one of their main goals is to learn how to use few or no notes when presenting. And it can be important for many people, particularly in certain industries, to show their expertise in this way. I do, however, sometimes point out that there is no bravery award given out just because you went out there juggling on a tight-rope, noteless, without a safety net! How to use Few or No Notes when Presenting I personally see notes, whether they are a few bullet points jotted on a cue card or one A4 sheet of paper,...

Three key factors which reduce speaking stress

Studying 'stress hardiness' research is part of what I do to help clients become more resilient presenters; and there's been a lot of interesting work done in this area over the past nearly 40 years by two psychologists, Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa. They've worked with 1000's of  Control, commitment and challenge - key factors which reduce speaking stress professionals and have found three critical factors in resilient people. Resilience shows up when people go through life stressors and come out the other side showing the ability to grow and thrive. (Whereas non-resilient people suffer physical and/or mental ill-health.) These three critical...

Bad Presentations – What’s the Biggest Problem?

Bad presentations: I've been reminded recently of a observation by Scott Berkun, a writer and speaker who's spoken at conferences all over the world. Scott's also written a great book 'Confessions of a Public Speaker'. One of the ideas in his book is something I totally agree with. Burkun says:  "The problem with most bad presentations I see is not the speaking, the slides, the visuals, or any of the things people obsess about.  Instead, it's the lack of thinking." You'd probably agree that this is true. No amount of being polished and eloquent with beautiful slides will save you if...

Three Thinking Traps That Increase Public Speaking Fear

I've heard from hundreds of clients about their fearful thoughts on public speaking - and listened to my own in the days when I used to get very nervous. And I've noticed that there are some styles which just keep popping up! Here are three thinking traps that increase public speaking fear: Thinking Traps That Increase Public Speaking Fear  "I must know more than everyone else in the room"  This thought is a recipe for enormous stress and sleepless nights. It's also something you can't control (see my post the drive for certainty or factors which reduce speaking fear for my thoughts on...

Public Speaking Anxiety – A Drive for Certainty?

Public Speaking Anxiety - A Drive for Certainty? Creating certainty in public speaking Anxiety: it's not only a signal that something needs attention - it can also be a drive to eliminate uncertainty and a sense of loss of control in our lives. And in working with many clients on their public speaking anxiety, I'm frequently seeing that many of them have a strong drive for certainty and control around their speaking. This is a tricky one - because public speaking is an inherently uncertain activity. However, if you recognise yourself as someone who's uncomfortable (or driven mad) by your need for certainty, there...

9 Mistakes Presenters Make

9 Mistakes Presenters Make Mistakes Presenters Make Do you want to be a more dynamic presenter? You will be if you avoid these frequent mistakes. I've discussed all of these ideas in previous articles, but thought it was worth clustering them together for a 'common mistakes' overview.  1. Forgetting the WIIFM filter  One of the most common mistakes that presenters make is forgetting to run their whole presentation through their audience’s No.1 filter – and that is always WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)  From the moment you open your mouth, to the summing-up, you’re being judged through this filter, and in...

What Navy Seals Can Teach Us About Reducing Public Speaking Fear

[Updated 2020.] As you'll know if you've been around my work for a while, I used to suffer real anxiety around presenting to people (and music performance anxiety before that - it was a long road!). And when I work with clients on reducing public speaking fear, I use lots of different tools and techniques, depending on what people present with. About 10 years ago there was an interesting article in Psychology Today about four techniques the U.S. Navy Seals used to increase their training pass rates with new recruits. The original article is here. And because all four tools are ones...

What to do When your Negative Voice Gatecrashes your Presentation

Negative inner voice during presentation - typical audience listening face Have you ever had the experience while presenting of looking out at the audience and seeing only a sea of blank faces? You look at them and immediately get discouraged; the negative self-talk kicks in: "John looks bored, this must be really bad" or "that woman's just looked at her watch again...I'd better speed up!" (which is usually a bad move, as we tend to accelerate when nervous anyway). I Hearing my negative inner critic voice during my presentation used to be an issue for me, especially when I was a...