Posts tagged public speaking
The Best Way to Build Your Skills

Are you scared of presenting your work? 

 

The best way to get comfortable speaking in front of a group is to practice speaking in front of a group.

 

This month I will be kicking off another Speak with Impact Lab, a 5-week in-person workshop on public speaking and presentation skills. 

Speak with Impact Lab is a small group course designed to get your ideas out of your head and coming out of your mouth so you can be articulate even when you’re nervous. 

 

It provides a safe space to practice presenting, refine your content and learn how to calm your nerves so you can nail your presentation when it matters most. 

 

Over the course of 5 weeks, you will develop strategies to manage your fears and engage your audience so you can:

 

  • Persuade clients and teammates that you thought through solutions and already arrived at the best option

  • Be confident in your message so you don’t get sent back to the drawing board

  • Respond effectively to questions without melting into a puddle of nerves


What this means for you is at the end of 5 weeks, you’ll have your presentation written, rehearsed and ready to go so you can showcase your work and finally get recognized as an authority. 

 

Want in? Details are here.


3 Secret Weapons to Engage Your Audience
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
— Carl W Buechner

The best presentations engage your audience on a human level. You may be the one standing in front of an audience, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all the work.

I often hear from clients that they don’t like public speaking because they feel like they’re talking AT people. If you’re talking AT people it’s not going to be fun… for anyone.

The best way to engage your audience is to involve them.

Invite them into your world, use your creativity, and show them your personality.

I was recently doing a workshop for a team of researchers and we were playing with techniques to make presentations stand out at conferences. Just because you’re presenting data doesn’t mean your presentation has to be dry.

Below are 3 secret weapons to connect with your audience so you can stop talking at people and have more fun.

Secret Weapon #1: Pictures

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Stop putting so many words on your slides and replace them with pictures. We’ve all sat through boring Powerpoint presentations and no one wants to read them.

Pictures engages different learning styles and help bring your ideas to life.

When you don’t have slides, use descriptive language to paint a picture.

Secret Weapon #2: Props

We’re so inundated with screens that anytime you show people a real object, it automatically grabs their attention.

Some of the best TED talks include props. Susan Cain brought her suitcase full of books to the TED stage and Josh Kaufman played the ukulele during his talk.

When I was working with a client doing events for the nonprofit 826, she incorporated a can of chuptzpah into her presentation.

Not only did it highlight a product from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store where they were holding the event, but it added humor and vulnerability to her talk and helped her connect on a human level.

Props are a great place to inject creativity into your presentation. They can provide visual interest and sound, such as a holding up a plastic water bottle and crunching it when I was talking about the perils of single use water bottles.

Secret Weapon #3: Personal Stories

Stories are memorable. They elicit emotion and engage the senses.

You can use stories to set the scene for your audience and show them why they should care about your topic.

When I teach workshops we do a storytelling exercise to get everyone’s creative juices flowing and I challenge people to think about how they can use all 3 strategies (pictures, props and personal stories) in combination to make their content come alive.

Do you have a secret weapon that you use when speaking?

Let me know what it is.

7 Life lessons from Improv

When I told a business acquaintance that I was starting improv classes, she replied “I bet you’re great at that.”

This struck a chord. She assumed that I was already great at improv or that it came naturally because I teach people about public speaking.

I felt myself tense up, for a moment believing that I should already know everything there is to know about improvising. Then I remembered why I signed up for a class.

I wanted to learn. Improv is fun, and hard, and awkward. Like anything else, it takes practice.

I get up in front of groups regularly and teach workshops, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still learning.

For some, performing comes naturally, For others, you might dread being the center of attention. But you don’t have to be a natural performer to be a great public speaker.

I just finished an 8-week Improv class at Magnet Theater and I wanted to share 7 life lessons I learned from improv:

  1. Doing silly things with strangers is fun - sure it’s awkward but it's also hilarious and it builds trust.

  2. You don't have to know everything. In fact, it's a huge relief when you realize you’re supported by a team of other people who can help you figure things out

  3. When in doubt, mirror what your partner is doing - imagine if you applied this concept the next time you’re in a situation where you don’t know the answer.

  4. Listening is vital. As a naturally quiet person, listening was already a strength but knowing you have to respond to what your scene partner is doing makes you pay attention on a deeper level.

  5. Let go of control - if you spend all your time planning what you’re going to say, it might be completely irrelevant by the time it’s your turn. You might miss the most important details, you might miss all the fun.

  6. Commit - you might be unsure but if you look certain it will be easier to get other people on board.

  7. Pretend - if you’re scared, do it anyway. Pretend you feel confident. Eventually you will.


Improv is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. It requires letting go of control (#scary) and trusting the people you’re working with.

I can recall a time when improv would have been my worst nightmare and now it feels fun.

So remember, however you feel about your presentation skills today, those feelings can change.

It’s okay to start at the beginning.

It’s okay to not know the answer.

It’s okay to still be learning.

Not quite ready for improv classes? I understand.

There are other ways to get started.

Grab 4 steps to a Winning Work Presentation to prep for presentations, even if you have no time, so you can stop freaking out and start communicating like the expert.


Are you feeling stuck in your choices?

Are you feeling stuck?


Sometimes play can help you get unstuck so you can come up with new ideas.

That's why I created the Momentum Maker, a new spin on a classic game piece.

You might remember it as a fortune teller or a cootie catcher. But unlike the ones you made in grade school, this one won’t tell you who you’re going to marry or how many kids you’re going to have. Instead, it will do something far more useful.


The Momentum Maker is a conversation tool to stop procrastination
and get your team talking and engaged in a productive dialog exchange.


Check out this interview from when I was featured on The Cheerful Mind to find out how I use the Momentum Maker as a coaching tool. https://youtu.be/CRUp9Wm7jHI


Want one?

Join us at the next workshop Collaboration with Your Clients: Critical Conversation Skills To Keep Presentations On Track presented by Spark Design Professionals.


What To Do When You Stumble

One of the participants at a recent corporate workshop asked this question:

How do you recover from a presentation blunder?

Here are a few options to help you gracefully handle those unplanned moments:

  1. Ignore it and keep going, chances are no-one else will notice.

  2. Acknowledge it. You might say: “I forgot to tell you something important so I’m going to back up for a moment.”

  3. Use humor. Humor can go a long way to bring your audience along with you so don’t sweat it. You might say “That might have looked like a mistake, but I actually planned it that way.”

  4. Improv. Find a creative way to incorporate the blunder into your talk.

  5. Be kind to yourself. You’re allowed to make mistakes and being human gives your audience permission to do the same.

Some tips to help ward off some common fumbles:

  1. Print your notes so you have a backup if technology fails.

  2. Pause if you lose your place, forget a word, or need a moment to think about your answer. Get comfortable with silence.

  3. Remember that your audience is cheering you on so treat them like friends, not the enemy.

Want more tools. Get 4 Steps to a Winning Work Presentation.

Practice Your Talk on the Subway

This might sound crazy, but the subway is a perfect place to practice your

public speaking.

What?! Yes, that’s right!


I practice while I’m commuting and I encourage clients to practice on the train, in the car, or while you’re walking to work.

This is my favorite life hack for all those folks

who don’t think they have time to practice.

Imagine how productive your commute could be if you used 10 or 15 minutes of your travel time to practice a presentation instead of scrolling through social media.

People often ask if I’m worried about looking crazy. NOT at all.

This is New York City and there are far weirder things! No one is paying attention.

If you’re self conscious, put in your headphones – people will think you’re listening to music.

This is a great technique to get used to distractions. You can even record yourself practicing while you’re on the subway or waiting at an empty section on the platform.

Want a few more practice ideas you may not have thought of?

  1. Take an Improv class. Magnet Theater, UCB and The PIT all offer classes. Read about my experience taking improv in 7 Life Lessons from Improv

  2. Go to a city council meeting and talk about an issue in your neighborhood.

  3. Host a dinner party and give a presentation for your friends.

  4. Check out Toastmasters. Find a club here and find me at Heights Toastmasters twice a month.

  5. Practice for your neighbors. It’s a great way to get to know people.

  6. Practice for your dog, or your cat or your lizard. It’s #3 in 7 Practice Strategies to Ace Your Presentation.

Want more practice ideas?

Download 7 Practice Strategies to Ace Your Presentation.

How Practice Makes TED Talks & Great Talks

One of the creative directors in my Speak with Impact Lab shared a story about seeing an early iteration of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.

It’s the 3rd most viewed TED Talk of all time and it launched Simon Sinek to fame.

It also started as a talk for 8 people in someone’s living room.


The moral of the story?

Your talk doesn’t need to be perfect at the outset.

In fact, it’s almost certain that it won’t be.

Perfection shouldn’t be your aim.

Just get started – let the first draft be messy.

There may be countless iterations and living room talks on the way to your big talk but that’s part of the process. Feedback is essential.

Need an audience?
Here are some ways you can get one.

  • Have a dinner party and give your presentation for friends

  • Practice for your housemates

  • Practice for your children

  • Practice outside as people walk by


Want help developing your practice plan? I’d be happy to hop on the phone with you. Reach out to me at madeline@madelineschwarz.com.


The Power of the Edit

Want to write a good talk?

The key is surprisingly simple: You need to EDIT.


According to Chris Anderson, the creator of TED,

“The biggest problem I see in first drafts of presentations is that they try to cover too much ground... If you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to include key details, and your talk will disappear into abstract language that may make sense if your listeners are familiar with the subject matter but will be completely opaque if they’re new to it. You need specific examples to flesh out your ideas. So limit the scope of your talk to that which can be explained, and brought to life with examples, in the available time.”


If editing is the key then you may be wondering how to decide what to leave in and what to take out.


First, you need to get clear on your objective.

Your audience is never going to remember everything, so you want to be very clear about the main message you want them to walk away with. Once you know your objective, you can examine whether your content is helping you achieve it.

This is where editing comes in. You might want to tell your favorite story, but if that story isn’t the best example to illustrate your point, leave it out.

Grab the template to write your objective in 4 Steps to a Winning Work Presentation. This simple tool will help you get organized, get clear, and get confident.

Never Use 2 Words When 1 Will Do

“The most valuable of all talents is never using

two words when one will do.”


I found this message in a fortune cookie but it could have been written by my dad. He was a journalist for over 25 years and considered word count an art form.

My dad was also a ruthless editor. He taught my sister and I how to write short, clear sentences and ingrained in us the power of brevity.

Getting to the point is as important in your presentations as it is on the page.


When it comes to speaking, chances are you know more about your subject than your audience. You may be able to speak on your topic for 45 minutes, but that doesn’t mean your audience has an attention span of 45 minutes.

Less is More.

Share too much information, and you risk losing your audience.

The key to an effective presentation is editing.

After writing the first draft of your presentation, ask yourself, where are you using two words when one will do?

Wondering how to get started or which words to choose?

Download 4 Steps to a Winning Work Presentation to get organized, get clear, get confident. They’re free!


Don’t Look LIke a ROBOT

I saw Grace Bonney speak at Creative Mornings last week. Grace is founder of the successful blog Design Sponge. She talked about the importance of in-person connection. Her message: 
 

"Real people matter, real life experiences matter, and what happens on the internet matters a whole lot less."
 

If you have the chance to speak in front of other people, focus on connection and the fact that your audience wants to hear from you. You may not relish being in the spotlight, you might be nervous, but if you have the opportunity to share your work in real life, seize it!

Focus on the fact that you’re talking to other people. And remember that your audience wants to hear from you.
 

Don’t look like a robot and use these 3 strategies to build connection:


1. Look Them in the Eye

I know it can feel scary standing at the front of the room with all eyes on you. If you’re nervous or shy, eye contact might be the last thing you want to focus on. But consider this:

Your audience wants to know you’re talking to them.

So look them straight in the eye.

People often ask how to make contact with a big room of people. Here's a Tip: Look at one person at a time and tell them a whole thought. Then, move on to another person and tell them your next thought. With practice it will get easier. 


2. Smile

If you’re nervous and don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. 

Smiling helps you relax.


It triggers different hormones in the body and when you smile, people in the audience are more likely to smile back at you. It will make the experience more fun, and if you're having fun so will your audience.

 

3. Be curious

Find out who your audience is and make sure your topic interests them. For instance, you might research them in advance and find out their profession, age range, and educational background. Once you know more about the audience, tailor your content to suit them.
 

Want more strategies to build your speaking confidence and an opportunity to practice live with other creatives?

Don’t miss the next Speak with Impact Workshop on March 5th! Details and tickets here.