Saturday, August 31, 2013

Public Speaking Tips: How to Use Notecards

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
It's okay to use notes when presenting, especially if you're speaking on a new topic or to a new audience.  The key to using notes effectively is what is included in your notes and how you use them.  The following ten tips will help you use notes effectively to remember the key points of your presentation, so you can deliver your message to your audience clearly and within the time limit.   

Notes should not contain the script of your entire presentation, typed out word-for-word, on multiple pages.  If you're reading every word of the script, you're usually not making eye contact or using gestures since your attention is focused on the script rather than the audience.  And if you do look up at the audience, it will be almost impossible to find your place in the script again.  I've seen speakers flip through multiple pages, looking for their place, which flusters them and distracts the audience.  (These tips do not apply, of course, if you are using a teleprompter, which would contain the entire script).  

Instead of writing out every word, write out your opening line and your one-sentence message – the point of your presentation.  Yes, it's okay to memorize these lines if you need to.  With practice, you should be able to deliver them without looking at your notes, but it's good to have them written out in case you get nervous.  Having a strong opening will build your confidence and make a good first impression on the audience. 

For each section of your presentation, write out phrases or key words for each major point and supporting material.  Also, write out the transition to the next section.  Separate sections in your notes with blank lines, indentation or whatever will signal to you to pause, regroup and then move on to the next section. 

Write out your closing line for the same reason that you wrote out your opening line – to anchor your presentation and leave a good last impression on the audience.  In your closing line, restate your message and include your call to action.

The goal is for you to be able to look down at your notes and quickly find your place and the relevant phrase, so the font should be large enough that you can do this easily.  How large the font should be depends on your eyesight, whether you use reading glasses, the lighting in the room, etc. 

Print your notes on standard printer paper and then tape or glue them onto heavy cardstock paper (found in any office supply store).  Heavy cardstock won't blow away if there if there's strong air movement from the fan or air conditioning vent.   You can also hold the cardstock with one hand and still read it while gesturing or holding the microphone with the other. 

Ideally, the size should be a standard sheet of paper, 8½  X 11inch (A4 size) or smaller. Use both sides if necessary.  If your notes don't fit, then you have too many words in your notes.

Once your notes are attached to the cardstock, write out any reminders to yourself, like "breathe" or "smile." You can also draw out any graphics that you will use, for example, a diagram that you will put on a flipchart.  

It will be almost impossible to deliver an effective presentation with notes if you don't practice.  The goal is not to memorize every word of your presentation, but to get comfortable saying it a variety of ways and using your notes to remember the keywords, phrases and transitions.

Writing out all your notes on the slides that you present to the audience will be too much material for the slides.  Remember, you are the presentation and the slides are just the visual aids.  If everything is written out on your slides, then why would we need you? (And those slides would be impossible to read anyway).

If used effectively, notes can be a part of a successful presentation.  Following these suggestions will help you remember the key points of your presentation so you can deliver your message to your audience clearly and within the time limit. 

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Body Language Makes a Difference When You Present

by Gilda Bonanno LLC  

Body language, or non-verbal communication, is a key element of your presentation and should match the content of what you’re saying.  

Body language consists of several different elements:

·         Posture: how you stand

·         Facial expressions: whether you’re smiling or frowning, or just looking like a deer in the headlights

·         Eye contact: if you’re looking at people in the audience without ignoring any part of the room

·         Gestures: what you’re doing with your hands

·         Movement: what you’re doing with your body (are you nervously pacing, or doing a little dance with your feet?)

·         Voice – how you project, how fast you’re talking, how much you enunciate, how you vary your voice

Your body language should tell the same story as your words. So when you’re trying to develop and demonstrate confidence, your body should help you rather than undermine that. And the first step is to become aware of your body language. 

For example, I had one client who was completely unaware that as he presented, he rolled his sleeves
Photo © Dash -
up and down.  So I said to him at the end of a presentation, “Do you know what you’re doing with your hands?” and he said, “No.” And I said, “Look at your sleeves. One’s up and one’s down!” And he said, “Did I do that?”  My response was, “Yes, you did.  And until we can fix this, wear short sleeves.”

Sometimes you’re so worried about what you’re going to say or you’re so nervous that you don’t realize that your body language is sending a message that undercuts your authority.  If you’re in front of an audience and you don’t make eye contact, and you’re not sure what to do with your hands and your voice is really soft, you are not conveying confidence.

And if your words are fine, but your body language isn’t, the audience gets confused, and they must just believe the body language, “Well, you know, she said X but she didn’t sound too sure of herself, so I’m not sure we need to go with that.”

Once you become aware of your body language, you can work on improving it while still keeping it natural and unstilted.  Think of body language as a means to communicate your message, rather than an end in itself. 

So the next time that you have to present, make sure your body language tells the same story and doesn’t undermine your message.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, August 16, 2013

5 Reasons Why Presenters Won't Use a Microphone

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Often, I have seen people refuse to use a microphone when they're presenting, whether at an office meeting, community event or industry conference. Yet, using a microphone correctly can make it easier for the audience to hear you and understand your message - which is the whole point of your presentation.

Here are the 5 reasons I hear for not using a microphone - and how you can overcome them.

1. You Don't Think It's Necessary
You may think, "my voice is powerful enough and I don't need it," but often, that is not the case. Realize that it may be difficult for the audience to hear you, given the size of the room and the amount of surrounding noise. Also, according to a 2009 study by the Better Hearing Institute, the number of Americans with hearing loss has grown to roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population - and six out of ten of them are below retirement age. So it is likely that there are people in your audience with some level of hearing difficulty.

2. You Aren't Used to Hearing Your Own Voice
The more you listen to your own voice, the more comfortable you will get listening to it. Almost every computer and smartphone has an audio recorder, so use it to record yourself and play it back, so you can get used to how you sound.

3. You Don't Realize It Can Protect Your Voice
Most people don't project well without a microphone (unless you have been trained in singing or acting). So you end up shouting when you try to project, which can leave you with a sore throat, laryngitis or vocal cord damage.

4. You Don't Know How to Use a Microphone
This concern is legitimate and can easily be addressed by practicing with the microphone. Ask the AV staff or a techie friend to help. You want to find out things such as: where to clip the microphone or how to hold it; who will control the volume; how to avoid ear-splitting feedback (don't point the microphone at the speakers) and where to get an extra battery. Then get in the room ahead of time and practice using it.

5. You Think It's Too Formal
You may think that using a microphone is only for professional speakers on a stage in front of thousands of people and that it would be arrogant to use it in a smaller setting. Not at all. Used well, a microphone can demonstrate that you're a smart and respectful presenter who cares enough about your audience to use every tool at your disposal to ensure they can hear and understand your presentation.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bold Presentation Skills: Match Your Body Language to Your Message - Video

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Professional speaker and executive presentation skills coach Gilda Bonanno explains how to make sure your body language matches the words you're saying when you give a presentation


If the video does not play, click here:


Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, August 8, 2013

7 Steps to Successful Storytelling

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Relevant and engaging stories can be a compelling part of your presentation – whether you are presenting at a board meeting, an industry conference or an awards banquet.

Here are 7 steps to follow to make your storytelling successful:

  1. Pick a relevant story.  Think about the story from the audience's point of view and make sure it relates to your message and the point of your presentation.  An irrelevant story, no matter how funny or unusual, will only distract from your message. 
  2. Adapt the story to fit the audience.  Customize the telling of the story to your audience and the situation by adjusting the language you use, the details you include and the time you take to tell it.  Your goal is to ensure that it will pass the audience's WIIFM test, "what's in it for me?"
  3. Make the point clear.  The purpose of the story should be explicit and relevant to the message of your presentation.  Even if you think the connection to your point is obvious, restate it just to be sure that the audience understands it.
  4. Keep it short.  One of the most memorable and effective stories that I've heard in a presentation was at a networking meeting when a man introduced himself by saying: "I'm a carpenter and because of my work, a disabled veteran who uses a wheelchair is no longer a prisoner in his home because we built him a ramp."
  5. Practice telling the story.  Once you've decided which elements and details you will include to make it relevant and memorable for the audience, practice your delivery and body language so you can make the story as focused and powerful as possible without taking too much time.  Practice doesn't mean you have to memorize the story; instead, your goal is to get comfortable enough with the story that you can communicate it effectively and have it convey your point – without having to use the exact same words.  
  6. Be prepared for any reaction.  Consider the best and worst reactions that your story could get from the audience and be ready to handle both.  One of my clients once told a story during a speech and the audience laughed unexpectedly at one part; she wasn't prepared for that and so, "stepped on" the laughter by continuing right on with the rest of the story. 
  7. Cue the audience that a story is coming.  Use your voice, body language and words to prepare the audience for your story.   Think of the classic "once upon a time" introduction often used with children's stories.  For adults, you might pause, make your voice softer to capture their attention and lean forward into the audience as you begin your story. 
Following these steps will help you use stories effectively to convey your message and connect with your audience.
Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How to Present When You're an Expert

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
At one of my recent Bold Presentation Skills workshops, a successful career coach asked, "How do I give a presentation on a topic that I know a lot about? I could talk about it for hours, but I only have 45 minutes."

It's a great question.  Here are 7 techniques to use when you are an expert in the topic:

1.    Find out exactly how much you will be given to present.  (And be prepared to finish a few minutes early - recognize that your time may be reduced due to factors outside of your control, such as another speaker going over the time, change in schedule, etc.)
2.    Think about what the audience needs to know rather than everything that you could tell them (thanks to master consultant Alan Weiss for this reminder).
3.    Focus on only one message within your time limit.  Providing too much information will overwhelm and may confuse the audience.
4.    Make sure everything you say, including examples, data and stories, relates to the message.
5.    Save extra material to answer questions or use it as supplemental material such as a handout or follow-up article for the audience.
6.    Recognize that although the information is familiar to you, it may be new for some people in the audience, so go through it slowly and clearly enough so they can absorb it, rather than expecting them to "drink from a fire hose." 
7.    Somewhere near the start of your presentation, set the audience's expectations about your message, the level of detail you will provide (introductory, intermediate, advanced, etc.), how long you will speak and whether or not/when you will take questions.  And all of this should match whatever has been sent out in the promotional materials or description for your presentation. 
Gilda Bonanno's blog