Saturday, June 30, 2012

9 Tips for Communicating With Confidence

by Gilda Bonanno

Confident communicators are not afraid to take up their space at the table and let their voices be heard.  They know their subject well and project a strong belief in what they're saying without being conceited or arrogant.  And as a result, the audience is more likely to listen to them and trust what they're saying.

Here are 9 tips for communicating with confidence:

1.    Know your subject.  Although this seems obvious, it's important to restate it.  Before you communicate anything, make sure you do your homework and are prepared so you have something valuable to share with the audience.    

2.    Speak clearly.  Be careful not to mumble.  It's important to enunciate your words so people can understand what you're saying.  This is especially important if you're presenting to non-native speakers of English.

3.    Speak loudly.  How loudly? Loudly enough to be heard, which depends on the room size, number of people, ambient noise, etc.  Project your voice or use a microphone to make it easier for the audience to hear you and to demonstrate that you want your voice to be heard (literally and figuratively).  

4.    Cut out your filler words.  Words like "um," "ah," and "you know" become a verbal crutch and overusing them can make you sound like you're unsure of what to say next.  Instead of using filler words, pause and take a breath – and then move on to your next words. 

5.    Cut out the weak words.  Words like "sorta," "just," or "kinda" minimize the impact of your stated opinion or message.  I've even heard people use these weak, minimizing words when introducing themselves: "my project is just about work orders and I'm just responsible for kinda getting the production techs to provide status on the open work orders." Catch yourself saying these weak words and eliminate them.

6.    Stand confidently.  Confident posture means you stand up straight, shoulders back, with weight evenly distributed on both feet, knees relaxed and no slouching.

7.    Move with purpose.  Avoid nervous pacing or rocking back and forth on your heels.  If you walk into the audience or towards the flipchart, make it deliberate. 

8.    Make eye contact.   Confident people (in Western culture) communicate while looking people in the eyes.  So be sure to make eye contact with people in the audience rather than looking nervously at the floor or the ceiling. 

9.    Be aware of your hands.  Use your hands for gestures that visually illustrate your message.  Avoid nervous movements like clutching your notes tightly or putting your hands in your pockets and playing with your spare change. 
The next time you have to communicate with an audience of one or one hundred, become aware of what message you're sending about your confidence or lack thereof.  If you project confidence, the audience is more likely to listen to you and believe your message. And as you feel more confident, you will be better able to access your experience and your knowledge of the subject. 

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, June 29, 2012

Are You an Over-Communicator? From Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Business writing expert Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has written a great post about the perils of over-communicating when writing emails; like much of her writing advice, it can also be applied to presentations. 

She recommends asking two questions before you communicate and I think they are also useful to ask before you prepare a presentation:
  1. Do my coworkers need this information now? Is there anything they should do with it now?
  2. If they need the information now, how much do they need? What is the smallest amount of information that will meet their needs? (The shorter your message, the more likely it is that they will read and understand it.) [in the case of presentations, the more likely it is that they will listen and remember it.]

Read the rest of her post here:

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Garr Reynolds - "Ichi ju san sai: A lesson in less-is-more"

I'm a big fan of the Presentation Zen blog by Garr Reynolds.  He has written an interesting post, "Ichi ju san sai: A lesson in less-is-more" which offers presentation skills lessons influenced by Japanese culture.

He also includes photos of the whiteboard sketches that his students use to storyboard their presentations before they create slides. 

Read his post here:

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Patricia Fripp - Four Techniques for Better Storytelling

Master speaker and public speaking coach Patricia Fripp has written a great blog post about how to be a better storyteller.  And she includes useful examples to illustrate her points. 

Here is technique #1:

1. Set the “scene.”
When did your story happen? Where is your story set? From whose eyes is the audience going to see the story? Stories usually work best when told in the order it actually happened. That makes it easier for you and the audience to remember it.
Help your audiences “see” the story that will support your message. When putting together a story, transport your audience to a different time and place so they can connect emotionally with your tale. For a speech, try writing out your story, then underline the words that describe the setting, the emotions, the sounds, smells, and sights that set your scene.
Once you’ve fixed your vivid scene in your mind, discard the written version and just describe it. (Never read to your audiences, formal or informal.)

Read the rest of her post here:

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Clay Johnson - How to Prep for a Presentation

Entrepreneur and author Clay Johnson (author of The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption) has written an interesting blog post about how he prepares for a speech.  I have written extensively about the importance of practice and finding a process that works for you - and Clay has clearly given a lot of thought to how he gets ready to give a presentation.

Here is one of Clay's recommendations:

Know the Scene

The first piece of prep you need to do should come weeks before you're scheduled to give your talk. Know what the room will look like, where you'll be, what the equipment will be like, and the structure of the event. Here's the bare minimum of the questions you should ask to anyone putting on the event:
  1. How many people will be there?
  2. Who are they, and what do you think they want to hear about?
  3. Will there be a screen?
  4. How big will that screen be?
  5. Will I have a microphone? What kind of microphone will I have? (over ear, wired, podium)
  6. What kind of slides can I present? Powerpoint, PDF, Keynote, Prezi?
  7. Will this be run off of my laptop or your system, and do I need to bring a dongle?
  8. Will I have a screen on stage to see the current slide?
  9. Can I also have a screen on stage to see the next slide (i.e. presenter's mode. super handy)
  10. Will this be recorded?
Read the rest of his post here -

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Easy Way to Present Better: Get Organized!

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

One of the easiest ways to be a better presenter is by organizing your content clearly and logically.  It sounds so simple, yet many presenters don't organize their material; instead, they just throw everything at the audience, all jumbled together with no clear indication of how things relate to each other or to the overall message.  Then the audience is stuck with the messy task of figuring it out. 

As a presenter, your goal should be to make it easy for the audience to understand your content.  Here are four ways for you to create a presentation that is clear and organized:     

Have an Overall Message
The message is the one thing that you want the audience to remember from your presentation.  It's the point or the takeaway.  Every statistic, story and slide that you use should relate to and support your message.  If it doesn't, cut it out.  Sure, you can have extra material in your notes or in handouts, but don't clutter your presentation with it; extraneous material distracts from your message.  And if you're not clear what your message is, you're not ready to present

Use an Introduction, Body and Conclusion
You may remember this outline form from writing essays in English class.  It's an easy and effective way to ensure that your presentation has a beginning, middle and end.  This outline is also known as "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them." 

In the introduction, capture the audience's attention, introduce your overall message and remind them how long you're going to speak.  In the body or main part of your presentation, include your supporting points – examples, data, etc.  In the conclusion, summarize your points, give one final reminder of your message and explain any expected follow-up actions from you or the audience. 

Have an Overall Organizing Principle
The overall organizing principle is the link which ties all your points together.  For example, you might present a specific number of points: three goals the team has achieved, four major project risks or three reasons you outperform your competitors.  Or, you could present a timeline of events, debunk myths about your topic or present a series of dos and don'ts.  It helps you focus and sets the audience's expectations for what comes next. 

And sometimes, you can even include the organizing principle in the title of your presentation.  For example, the title of a presentation that I gave at the National Speakers Association annual convention was "Improv Comedy Rules! Applying the Five Rules of Improv Comedy to Make Your Presentations More Powerful and Engaging."

Be the GPS and Roadsigns
When you're driving someplace unfamiliar, how do you know how far you've come or if you're going in the right direction?  The road signs and your GPS (Global Positioning System) tell you how far you've traveled and how many more miles or kilometers you have to go before you reach the end of your journey.

When you're presenting, you have to be the GPS and the road signs for your audience, especially at the intersections and transitions between points where they can get lost.  One sentence is all it takes to get the audience safely from one point or section of your presentation to the next.  For example, you might say, "The fourth and final major project risk is…" or "Now that I've summarized the history of the company from our founding to the initial public offering in 2003, let's look at what has happened since 2003."

Following these four tips will help you create a presentation that is clear and organized. Your audience will be grateful for the clarity - and a grateful audience is more likely to understand and remember your message.  If you do nothing differently other than organize your presentation, you will still be a better presenter!

Gilda Bonanno's blog