Empower Your Audience with the Hero’s Journey Approach

Imagine this. You’re attending a presentation hoping to be inspired on a particular topic. Instead, all you notice is the presenter spilling fact after fact  just like the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. It just seems so… mundane. You simply cannot pay attention. Every presentation looks and sounds the same and none of the presenters stood out. In the end, you come out of the room bored and uninspired.

Constantly being bombarded with hard facts and data can be overwhelming, which can explain why we zone out from a presentation, lecture or speech after a while. According to the theory of cognitive load, our minds become overloaded and blank out if we’re required to process too much complex information at once. So what can you do as a speaker to empower and captivate your audience?

The Power of Storytelling

Enter Storytelling. Stories help to connect with your audience which makes it easier for them to remember your speech. They will also walk out of the room feeling inspired, driving them to take action. It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate all our five senses which allow us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.

However, story structures on their own aren’t enough. Stories only truly become powerful when the audience can experience the adventure and challenges the characters of the story face as well.

This is where the hero’s journey storytelling technique comes in. Almost all films make use of this approach and with good reason. It is the most powerful pattern out there for telling stories. Not only that, it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. The result? An impactful speech that can inspire your audience.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to captivate a room of investors with your startup pitch deck or to boost your chances with your ICO deck during a private sale, the hero’s journey can be a powerful structure to utilise.

So what exactly is the hero’s journey?

Described by Joseph Campbell as the ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters. Though the journey’s process can be in various manners, all of them have a few things in common – the call to adventure, a mentor, challenges, victory and the return.

The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey

“[Heroes] are only mortals, ones that try their best to accomplish feats while fighting against external and internal forces. The only difference between them and other people is their response to the call to be heroic” – Julie Harris

There are typically twelve stages that compose of the Hero’s Journey. Not only does
each phase helps the audience to connect with the Hero, it also leads the audience to the key message of your speech.

We’ll use the film, KungFu Panda to reference these 12 stages of the hero’s journey:

1. Ordinary World:

The ordinary world is the hero’s home and a safe haven. Here, we get to understand the Hero’s background before his or her journey begins. We also get to identify the hero’s urges, needs, and problems and what makes the hero uniquely them. The idea is to ensure that the audience is able to relate to the Hero who helps them become emotionally invested in the story.

E.g. Po is a commoner who idolizes the Furious 5 and is unable to achieve his dream of being a Kungfu Master as he helps out with his Dad’s noodle restaurant.

2. Call to Adventure:

The Call to Adventure sets the story rolling by disrupting the ordinary life of the Hero, either making him or her face a challenge. Depending on the situation, the hero may either accept the adventure by choice or due to a circumstance that forces him or her to. This is a crucial moment in the story, where an alarm goes off for both the hero and audience. This issue that the hero faces is what will get your audience’s attention. This ‘Call to Adventure’ can take a multitude of forms such as a message, announcement, a sudden disaster, the arrival of the villain or a death. The idea, however, is to convince the audience why they should care about this issue that has surfaced. Only then can you get them glued to their seats.

E.g. Po is proclaimed the Dragon Warrior – the one kung fu master worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll and capable of defeating Tai Lung.

3. Refusal:

Depending on some heroes, they may initially refuse the ‘call to adventure’ due to fear or insecurities. The hero is not receptive to changes preferring the safety of the ordinary world. This sign of weakness makes the hero relatable to the audience as it shows everyone struggles with self-doubt and insecurities.

4. Meeting a Mentor:

The Hero then meets a mentor to gain confidence, insight, advice and training to overcome their initial fear. This is because some heroes may not wish to or are unable to rush into an adventure without gaining some experience and wisdom through his or her mentor. Some examples include: Po when he meets Master Shifu who will train him to be a KungFu Master (KungFu Panda).

Here, the audience gets to be part of the journey the hero takes to improve and strengthen him or herself as an individual.

E.g. Po meets his red panda master, Shifu, who puts Po through a torturous and agonizing training regime.

5. Crossing the Threshold:

Once the hero crosses the threshold, it shows that he or she is finally committed and ready for the Journey. Crossing the threshold will directly affect the Hero, raise the stakes and force some action. External forces may push the Hero ahead, such as an abduction of someone close to the Hero (Taken) or the hero may cross the threshold when the earth’s population is on the brink of being wiped out in half (Avengers: Infinity War).

Internal forces may also push the Hero to accept their ‘call to adventure’. Such examples include Belle sacrificing herself in exchange for her father’s freedom (Beauty and the Beast) or when Rapunzel finally musters the courage to leave her tower with a man she just met (Tangled).

E.g. Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies:

This Stage is the most important for the hero and audiences alike. Throughout his or her adventure, the hero will encounter obstacles and fights with enemies. They may forge allies or may even form a Hero team as well (Avengers Assemble). The Hero must prepare for the greater obstacles that have yet to come. He or she also requires this stage to test his or her skills, power and commitment to the Journey. For the audience, seeing the hero struggle as he or she fights obstacle after obstacle will naturally make them root for the hero. This hooks your audience to stay as they now want to find out whether their hero is able to succeed or not.

E.g. Tai Lung (enemy) escapes from Prison. Po and the others attempt to defeat him.

7. Approaching the Inmost Cave:

The Hero must make the preparations needed to approach the inmost cave after facing a setback or a failure in a mission. He or she is now forced into trying a new approach or idea. This makes the audience empathise with the character, forming a type of connection with him or her as they understand that everyone experiences failure at some point of time in their lives.

However, some confident heroes may bypass these preparations and head straight to the inmost cave. Despite so, a new approach is necessary after they faced their setback – whether it be a teammate dying along the journey or whether the villains have won the fight during that moment. In summary, the approach is nearing the climax of the story.

E.g. As Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, it reveals nothing but a blank reflective surface. Unable to understand the message of the scroll, Shifu and Po are thrown off balance by it which distracts them from fighting Tai Lung (enemy) to the best of their abilities.

8. The Ordeal:

The Ordeal marks another crucial moment in the story, where a transformation takes place. This stage is where all hope seems lost and the hero is on the brink of losing. Some examples include Mulan when she was cast out after the soldiers found out she was a girl (Mulan) or when powerless Thor loses to Loki in a fight on earth (Thor).

The hero finally faces the ordeal where not only do they confront their greatest fear but also confronts the most difficult challenge and experiences “death”. Only through ‘death’, ‘loss’ or ‘failure’ can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a resurrection that makes them stronger. This is where the hero sees to it that he or she finishes the journey till the end.

E.g. A distraught Po finds his dad who, in an attempt to console him, reveals that the long-withheld secret ingredient to his famous “secret ingredient soup” is ‘nothing’, explaining that ‘to make something special you just have to believe it is’. Po realises that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll, and goes back to confront Tai Lung.

9. Reward

The hero manages to overcome the ordeal successfully and has earned the reward. The reward can come in many forms like greater knowledge, wisdom or recognition. The Hero deserves the right to celebrate. At this point in time, the audience has become part of the story and will rejoice with the hero as they felt a connection with this character.

E.g. Po becomes a formidable challenge for Tai Lung (enemy), eventually defeating him in combat.

10. Road Back:

After the celebration, the hero finally sets out on the road to return to the ordinary world where he or she continues to live in his or her regular life.

E.g. Po returns to the Valley of Peace.

11. Resurrection:

While on the journey back to the ordinary world, the hero encounters his or her final challenge which will test the hero. This will be the toughest challenge the hero will face. Most Heroes will come out of the challenge reborn or transformed as a better version of his or her ordinary self. This is due to the lessons and insights from the experiences gained and characters that he or she has met along the road.

In some cases, this battle may not necessarily be just about the Hero’s life. It may also include other lives or the entire world that may be at stake. Thus, the Hero must prove that he or she is willing to accept his or her sacrifice for the benefit and safety of the ordinary world. Other allies may lend assistance, but at the end of the day, the hero must rise to the occasion.

 

12. Return:

The hero finally returns to the ordinary world with his or her final reward. In most tales, the return with the elixir not only resolve storylines, it also restores balance to the ordinary world. The hero may also embark on a new life with another adventure stored for them, influenced by the journey traveled. The return also helps the audience understand the meaning and key message of the hero’s journey, bringing a sense of completion to the story.

E.g. Po is praised by the Valley of Peace and earns the respect of the Furious Five, who fully acknowledge him as a true kung fu master.

 

Incorporating The Hero’s Journey Technique in Your Speech

So now you have a better understanding of the cycle of the Hero’s Journey, you’d know that most of the stories go somewhat like this:

The hero starts out as an ordinary person. He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance. As the hero leaves the comfort of their home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way. The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat. Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.
Good prevails over evil. The hero then returns to his or her ordinary life, but with a new addition – wisdom. This wisdom is then communicated to the rest of society for everyone’s benefit.
If you noticed, all the tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

How Is the Three Step Approach Effective?

a) The Problem

This is what really keeps your audience glued to their seats. There’s no point providing all the hard information and data if you cannot make your audience understand why the problem is a problem. However, once you convince them otherwise, they will be interested and curious as to what will happen next.

Many make the mistake of identifying the solutions first but not the problem when it comes to their speech. Some don’t even mention the problem at all! The problem is crucial as it gives reasons why the audience should care about the issue.

So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?

This is the reality of the audience’s mindset. The quicker we grasp this, the sooner we’ll craft and deliver presentations that engage our audience.

b) The Solution

“A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.”
–  Seth Godin

Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought, “Interesting but what can I do to help?” Overall, the content was great, stories were compelling, and valid points were brought up about the issue. Everything except one thing is missing – the solution.

Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”. As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Is there a way you can make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better, faster, or more efficient than ever before? Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action during your speech.

c) The Reward

All great stories have one thing in common and it’s the key takeaway of the story. After addressing the problem and providing the solutions, this is where the audience will learn the message that you are trying to convey.

The message is the core of your speech as it helps you to create a narrative that provides information, inspire action and solidify the public opinion. Not only that, it ensures your whole story is consistent which is crucial as it ensures your speech does not get out of point. For instance, the moral of “Mulan” is that we shouldn’t let limitations stop us from doing what we want.

Here’s a tip: To ensure your whole speech remains consistent, develop your key message first to get the ball rolling. Distill it into one or two very specific yet concise lines that you can easily repeat for your speech or presentation.

This key message will be a reminder of why you are making your speech or presentation in the first place.

Here’s a video of an inspiring talk by chef José Andrés who made use of the three elements in his storytelling to empower his audience:

 

In summary

And there you have it! An in-depth understanding of the step-by-step phase of the Hero’s Journey. Use the three core elements found in this storytelling technique to personalise, connect, engage and inspire action amongst your audience. Let us know if this approach worked for you in the comments down below!

 

30 Presentation Tips For Winning Presentations

Ever found yourself looking for ways to enhance your presentation skills for your upcoming pitch?

This presentation of yours may either be the deal maker or breaker! You wouldn’t want to lose this opportunity to work with a potential client, would you?

According to a Prezi survey, 70% of employed Americans who deliver presentations agree that presentation skills are beneficial in helping them ace their presentations and succeed at work. However, the fear of presenting is still very real amongst everyone, no matter whether you’re presenting to a small group of people or a really large one. This fear tends to affect the way you present, resulting in a presentation delivered below your own expectation.

Delivering a good presentation is no easy task, but it is definitely not an impossible one. In this article, we have prepared 30 presentation tips to help you ace your presentation. From presentation design, delivery of speech to preparing yourself before a big presentation, these tips have got you covered.

1. Arrive early

It is best to arrive early before a presentation so as to prepare yourself for the big show. This is because anything can happen – planning your journey to arrive on the dot will only spell trouble. What if the train breaks down? Or if there is a jam because of an accident? We cannot afford to take risks. So, come early. It’ll give you time to settle down and get prepared.

2. Adjust to your Surroundings

The faster you get adjusted to the environment you’ll be presenting in, the more comfortable you’ll feel. If possible, get access the room you’ll be delivering your presentation in as early as you can. It’s best to practice with the microphone, test the lighting and get an idea of what the room’s seating layout looks like.

3. Calm your nerves

Many people get nervous before presentations due to stage fright. Sometimes, it’s because they set high expectations for themselves, to the point that they are afraid that they won’t be able to meet them. But, one thing you should know is that getting nervous before a presentation is absolutely normal, even for seasoned speakers like Abraham Lincoln. Therefore, fear should never be avoided but faced instead.

Here are some things you can do to calm your nerves:

  • Meditate – Focus on the result that you would like to achieve at the end of the presentation
  • Chew gum – Research has shown that the act of chewing gum will help one become more alert and it also helps to reduce anxiety
  • Take slow and deep breaths – It helps to clear the mind which helps calm your nerves.

4. Drink water

According to experts, anxiety may cause certain individuals to feel thirsty right before they are about to present. Reason for this is because anxiety may either take water away from your mouth to send it to the other areas of your body that need it more or it could have increased the acids in your stomach, contributing to a loss of saliva.

To prevent all that, avoid sugary beverages and caffeine as they only make you feel thirstier. This will only amplify your anxiety,  and can prevent you from speaking smoothly.

Instead, ensure you are well hydrated by drinking a glass of water. Lemon juice will often do the trick as well as it helps lubricate the throat.

However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

5. Exercise

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world.  What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” ~ Bob Proctor

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognise it in others as well. So if your body and mind are anxious, your audience will know. Hence, it’s important to prep yourself before the big show so that you come up on stage confident, collected and ready.

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and send oxygen to the brain. This results in increased muscle efficiency, improved reaction time and movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

  • Neck and Shoulder Rolls
  • Arm Stretches
  • Waist Twists
  • Forward Stretches

6. Don’t Fight the Fear; Turn Your Nervous Energy into Enthusiasm

Nervous energy is good and exactly what we need for our presentation. But how? How does feeling like your heart is about to jump out of your chest or feeling cold sweat and/or anxiety a great feeling to have?

The brain perceives stress the same way, whether that stress is physical or psychological. With stress comes nervous energy, which according to research helps us to perform at our optimum and helps improve our memory. This stress is good and it helps stimulate us. Channel this energy focused on your nerves and insecurities to what truly matters more.

Focus this energy on how passionate you are for what you’re about to speak. Use this energy to project a confident and strong voice. Use it to impact your audience.

And when you do, you’ll realise you didn’t feel as nervous as you thought you would.

7. Use Positive Visualisation

Studies have proven that positive visualisation is effective in helping calm your nerves. Also known as mindfulness, it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness teaches people to observe their own behavior and thought process without judgment. It makes people acknowledge their feelings and thoughts before letting all these insecurities and reservations go. Naturally, that’ll make us focus on our strengths and positive energy as a result.

Start by imagining a positive outcome to a scenario in your mind. Do not think about possible negative scenarios. With mindfulness, the reality is more likely to play out the way you envisioned.

8. Take deep breaths

A study has shown that deep breathing can help change the state of our minds. This is because it helps increases the supply of oxygen to our brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing also helps you feel connected to your body by bringing your awareness away from your worries and hushing the self-doubt in your mind.

9. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes

Have you ever been to a presentation and felt that the presenter wasn’t really capturing your attention? Chances are, there could be a lack of interaction between him or her and us, the audience.

It’s important that we look from a different perspective when presenting so that we’ll be able to understand how the audience may be feeling or thinking. Always ask yourself: Will the audience be interested to hear this? Is my content easy to understand?

Not only will this help you think the way they – the audience – do, it’ll make you ensure what you’re presenting is engaging and relatable to them. This ensures your audience leaves the room learning something new and charmed, ready to attend your next presentation.

10. Practice

If you think it’s normal for everyone to be confident before a presentation, then think again. Finding someone who is naturally talented when it comes to public speaking is as rare as a blue moon. Few individuals can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation. Yet many people seem to have the misconception that it is possible to do so. Even speakers like Steve Jobs spend hours rehearsing for their presentations before delivering their presentation – why shouldn’t you?

It’s not only about what you say, but how you say it. Like any other skill, presentations require practice in order for you to nail the delivery and execution. Not only will this help you become more comfortable when presenting, it also helps you improve as a presenter. The result? Presenting becomes less daunting over time and you become much more confident.

11. Make use of body language

Body language is one of the most important characteristics needed to interact with your audience during presentations. Actress Mae West once said: “I speak two languages, Body and English.”

Body language, which includes hand gestures and facial expressions, is commonly used by presenters, maybe sometimes subconsciously, to place emphasis on certain points. It can also help to communicate your points to the audience more effectively, show your confidence and make you look and feel more comfortable.

However, do not use it excessively as it will become a source of distraction for your audience, and it will ultimately conflict your message.

12. Move around

The stage is all yours during a presentation.

Imagine if you were listening to a presentation in which the speaker positions himself/herself at the same spot throughout the whole presentation. How would you feel? Like most of the audience, you will probably be bored and lose focus after a while.

It is best to make use of the space given to you as it adds energy and variation to your presentation. Furthermore, it makes you look more confident and relaxed.

Here are a few ways in which you can do it:

  • Key message – When you are delivering your key message, it is best to position yourself at the center of the stage where you are the closest to the audience. Centre stage is also the position where you will probably get the most attention from the audience.
  • Use a staged timeline – Where a story involves the passage of time like past, present, and future, you can imagine a timeline moving across the stage with the progression of time. For example, when you are speaking about the past, position yourself at the left side of the stage, present – in the middle, and future – on the right. Remember to position the spot representing the past to the audiences’ left, not yours! That way, they can better relate to the story that you are speaking about.

13. Smile

Smiles are contagious!

According to experts, your facial expressions have the ability to influence your emotions and those of others around you as well. Make sure you smile as it naturally creates a higher frequency of sound in your mouth, changing the overall tone of your voice. Due to the human instinct of mirroring, it also will likely make others smile along with you which then improves the mood of everyone in general. With that being said, it’s important to smile genuinely. A forced smile makes you look confused and frustrated.

14. Breathe in not out

Do you feel the urge to use ‘um’, ‘yeah’ or ‘you know’ during your presentations? These words are very distracting and may also kill your presentation. Try breathing in whenever you feel like you’re going to say something. The pause may seem a little awkward, but the audience probably wouldn’t even notice this.

15. Eye Contact

Always keep in mind that the audience is one of the most important parts of a presentation. Without an audience interested to hear what you are saying, there wouldn’t be any reason for you to give a presentation at all. Try to make your audience feel significant by maintaining eye contact with them throughout the presentation.

By maintaining eye contact, not only will you keep the audience engaged, but you will also look more confident and authoritative.

If you find it difficult to maintain eye contact with your audience, here’s a tip. Instead of looking straight into their eyes, you can either look at their nose or forehead! Either way, it will look as though you are maintaining eye contact with your audience.

16. Looking Confident

Have you heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’?

There are really only two types of presenters – one that lies and another type that’s just really nervous.

Confidence is an important trait that every presenter should have. This is because the audience is able to determine how prepared the presenter is through their level of confidence. Being confident will not only help you boost your own morale, it will also give you credibility as a presenter as you speak to your audience.

17. Project Your Voice

Voice projection is very important, especially during presentations as it dictates how powerful your voice is. It isn’t just about speaking loudly, but also confidently and distinctly. If you speak loudly, people often view you as a confident person with a strong personality. This is why it is important to project your voice, because how your audience view you may also affect your credibility as a speaker.

Another reason for voice projection is to get your message across to the audience. Make sure your audience can hear and understand what you are saying, if not there might may be a chance that they will lose interest in your presentation.

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

18. Engage with your audience

We all know that it is important to engage with your audience during presentations, especially if it is going to be a lengthy one. This way, you’ll be able to capture their attention and make the presentation a more enjoyable one for your audience and yourself. Simple acts like asking a question and getting them to raise their hands to respond are great way to engage with them and also to ensure that they are still awake and listening to you.

Sometimes, you do not need your audience to perform any actions to engage them. Just your words and your tone can get their attention – if it’s done right. Connect on a personal level by sharing stories. Use the right tone when you are speaking depending on the type of presentation you are going to deliver, and also to place emphasis on words that need to be emphasized.

19. Never read from your slides

PowerPoint slides should accentuate your points; they should never be the point. Your audience should be able to instantly scan through the slides instead of having to spend time reading them in detail. In addition, you’ll definitely lose their attention if you read from your slides. Instead, try to either present with prompts on your slides, or cue cards as reference in case you forget your points.

20. The power of repetition

Most of the audience probably hears and remembers only half the things you are saying. The solution to this is to repeat and reinforce the key points. First, state and explain the point. Next, provide the audience with examples of how the points can be applied and finally conclude by providing actions that they can carry out based on the point.

Since no one probably remembers everything you say, make use of the power of repetition to create a bigger impact on the audience.

21. Use of pauses

Pauses are like verbal punctuation.

Imagine this. You are attending a presentation and the speaker starts off by saying, “Hello everyone! How are you guys doing?”, and the next thing you know, he is already going through the outline of the presentation. How would you feel? It doesn’t seem genuine right?

Pauses are very important as it helps to pace your delivery. Pauses work well when you are trying to emphasize a key point as it provides the audience with time to absorb and process what you have said.

While you’re at it, be sure to make eye contact with your audience to reinforce your point, leaving your audience hungry for more.

As much as pauses are a need for a presentation, avoid overusing them as it will slow down your pace and also make you look less confident.

22. Tell stories

Michael Margolis once said this, “Storytelling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.”

You see, business presentations don’t always have to start with stating numbers and facts. Instead, you should adopt a different approach by using stories to connect with your audience while leading them on to the points and concepts that you will be speaking about later in the presentation.

Stories can be useful in a sense that they allow your audience to have a vision of what your presentation is about. That being said, although the ability to tell your story is essential, it is also important to select the right story as it can capture or lose the audience’s attention. Your story also plays a big part in helping the audience understand your concepts better and it may also connect with the audience on a personal level!

23. Use pictures

It is good to have pictures in your PowerPoint slides as they can help to reinforce your key points. On top of that, it also adds color to your presentation to make it more attractive and pleasing to the eye rather than just black and white slides filled with words.

However, not every image is suitable for every slide! You can’t possibly have pictures of cartoons when you are presenting to your investors right?

So here’s a tip for you when you are looking for pictures for your slides:

  1. Choose pictures that are related to your points so that it is easier for the audience to understand and relate to what you are talking about.
  2. Avoid using blurry or pixelated photos as they look unprofessional
  3. Avoid stretching your photos! Do you notice that your photos will be out of proportion after stretching them? A solution is to crop your photos so that they remain proportionate.
  4. Use royalty free pictures to avoid watermarks on your photos as they also convey a lack of professionalism. Here are a few websites which you can get royalty free images from – pixabay.com, pexels.com and freepik.com

 24. Keep it simple

Keep your presentations simple. Don’t flood your audience with too many numbers and facts because at the end of the day, will they really remember everything you said?

What is the key message for your audience to take away? Key message should be focused and communicated across very briefly, and of course, it’s best to support it with evidence. However, if what you are planning to say is not related to your point, they shouldn’t say it. This is because you may lead your audience to a different direction which then defeats the purpose of having the presentation.

25. Use animations

Animation is an important feature which you can use to produce an effective presentation. It is also a good way to capture the attention of your audiences because they will be able to anticipate something. Animations, such as pulse, can help to emphasize certain points of your presentation. Also, animations can help to clearly show the flow of content of the presentation when used within a slide. Here’s an example, when presenting a series of milestones, animations can come in useful in showing the flow of content. But, if you have a particularly busy slide, it is recommended to use exit animations when appropriate to remove the clutter from your slides.

However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Animations are good to have, however, if they are necessary, don’t use it. Don’t overuse them either! Having too many animations will not only distract the audience, but it can overshadow the main point of your presentation!

26. Don’t overrun

Have you ever sat in a presentation wondering when it will end? Well, I’m sure we all have. Always remember to keep within the time limit of your presentation or if possible, end earlier and allow the audience to clarify their doubts through Q&A sessions. It is important to respect the audience’s time. Try your best not to overrun the presentation as the audience will eventually lose interest and wonder when it will end. Be flexible during presentations and be prepared for any unexpected situations to arise.

27. Summarise the key points after the presentation

How much do you actually remember after a 30-minute presentation?

There is a high chance that your audience will not remember everything you said during the presentation so do your audience a favour by summarising the key points when you are concluding your presentation. It serves two main purposes, a recap of the presentation that you have delivered and to ensure that your main points are well communicated to your audiences.

28. Accept constructive feedback and apply it in the future

Always practice before your actual presentation, and if possible, practice in front of your peers as they can be of great help by giving you constructive feedback. With this feedback, you will be able to understand what your strengths and shortcomings are so you can make improvements. Accept these feedback as an opportunity for you to work towards your goals.

29. Attend other presentations and observe

A trick to finding out how to improve your presentations is to attend presentations by other speakers themselves. This is because you can observe and take note of what you should and should not do to be a better presenter. Not only that, it helps to show respect for other presenters and also gives you the opportunity to observe how presentations are delivered – helping you gain the perspective of the audience.

30. Join Toastmasters

Toastmasters Clubs helps individuals enhance their presentation skills and allow others to seek guidance to combat their fear of speaking to a large audience. Individuals from different walks of life gather to develop their presentation skills in front of an audience so they can receive constructive feedback which can be applied to further improve and polish their skills. Not only will Toastmasters provide a platform for you to practice, you will also be able to pick up some tips and tricks from the experts at Toastmasters!

Use these 30 proven presentation tips to help you ace your presentation. Don’t miss the opportunity to apply these for your next big pitch and let us know in the comments if it worked for you.

The Key Guide To Overcoming Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Overcoming your fear of public speaking. Seems like an impossible feat right? Most of us have experienced it. You have likely experienced it yourself too. Hundreds of eyes staring at you as you come up on stage to speak. Beads of sweat trickling down your forehead as your heart palpitates uncontrollably. The pressure becomes overwhelming and you freeze, unable to utter a single word.

When it comes to public speaking, it’s important to effectively get your message across. But stage fright can get in the way of your performance no matter how much practice you put in to make a great public speech.

This type of stage fright is also known as glossophobia or speech anxiety which is the fear of speaking before an audience.

Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before the anticipated activity. This occurs when you think of the negative consequences, causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline as a result. At this point in the process, we all start having cold sweat, tense muscles or breathlessness – all the common signs of stage fright.

According to experts, roughly 80% of people get increasingly nervous and lose sleep before a big public speaking moment. Some experts even suggest that the fear of public speaking rivals death. Yet, most people will be put in a situation where they are expected to speak in front of a crowd.

The fear of public speaking is very real.  These moments can sometimes be career-defining which then leads to the question: How do the pros make public speaking look easy?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” ~ Bob Proctor

When you feel nervous and have not prepared enough for it, chances are, your audience will know. It is important to prep your body and mind before the big show so that you come up on stage as confident, collected and ready as possible.

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to your brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, help calm the mind. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

a) Warming up

If you are nervous, your body will feel the same way. You may find that your body is tense, breaking in cold sweat or you may feel stiff and your muscles are tight. The audience will notice you are nervous.

So do a couple of stretches to loosen your tense muscles and relax your body. According to experts, it’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps increase the functional potential of the body. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and movement of an individual.[1]

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

  • Neck and Shoulder Rolls

This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure. Rolls help focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.

  • Arm Stretches

We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.

  • Waist Twists.

Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions. Without this, it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

  • Forward Stretch.

Touch your toes while keeping your knees straight and legs together help loosen nearly all of your upper body muscles and gets your blood circulation flowing. This can instantly help to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

  • Breathe

When you are nervous, do you tend to breathe faster and take shorter breaths? Nervousness is always accompanied by these very symptoms. If not addressed, you may end up mumbling and stuttering your way throughout the speech.

To ensure that does not happen, take slow, deep breaths. A study has shown that slow breathing is extremely helpful for individuals with high levels of anxiety. Reason being, it helps lower your heart rate, making you focus on your breathing rather than on your anxiety and insecurities.

Here is an example of a breathing exercise you can try:

  1. Stand up, shoulders back and hands on your stomach. Let your stomach muscles relax.
  2. Breathe in through your nose, filling up your abdomen (you should feel and see it expand), then your ribs and all the way up to your chin.
  3. Hold this breath and count to 10.
  4. Now exhale slowly. As you exhale, keep your ribs expanded and tighten your abdomen. The lower abdominal muscles should come in first as though you were rolling up a tube of toothpaste.

While you are breathing, check your shoulders and stomach. Your shoulders should not be going up and your stomach should be going out.

b) Stay Hydrated

Ever felt dehydrated seconds before speaking only to find your voice sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? It is essential we stay hydrated before a speech because it prevents your voice from sounding bad and prevents you from being tongue-tied.

This is because stage fright will likely make your body pumped with adrenaline, causing the mouth to dry out. This can lead to the feeling of being tongue-tied.

A sip of water is recommended. Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. Not only can they dry out your mouth and make it harder to talk smoothly, it’ll also amplify your anxiety.

With that said however, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

c) Meditate

According to experts, meditation is a powerful tool to calm the mind.

ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend as well as author of a book titled, 10% Happier recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel calmer.

This is because meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular meditation method. According to experts, this meditation helps lessen anxiety as it makes an individual stop thinking of unnecessary and negative thoughts.

The practice involves focusing on your breathing while bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with stage fright have in common is focusing too much on themselves. Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? DoI look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m saying?

Too often, most people tend to lose themselves in their self-consciousness and vulnerability. Instead of that, try shifting your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Rather than keeping their eye on the prize —also known as the audience’s receptivity to their message— they look back at themselves, wondering how they’re doing. At the moment when they need to aim their attentiveness most precisely, they miss the mark by a mile. If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does: like building trust with your audience. This brings us to our next point.

3. Convert negativity to positivity

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one – Hans Selye”

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us. One is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

According to ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend as well as the author of the book titled, 10% Happier, most of us can’t help but have negative thoughts about ourselves. It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we get a chance to prove ourselves.

Also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, this is a belief that comes true because we’re acting as if it already is. So if you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Knowing this, try to take advantage of this self-fulfilling prophecy by thinking of your strengths and positive thoughts about yourself. Start by saying: I’ll ace this speech and I can do it! Make use of this adrenaline rush into a positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it.

 

4. Understand Your Content.

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps to reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. So one way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech. However, you don’t want to memorize your script word by word. It can work against you should you forget your content.

No amount of reading or memorising will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts – Bob Proctor”

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from the slides. Or, they memorise their script word-for-word without understanding the content and it’s definitely a way to stress themselves out.

According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This makes it easier to ‘memorise’ what you want to say because you know what you are talking about. This will then allow you to talk more comfortably as there is one less thing to worry about.

One way to understand is to memorise the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. This helps you speak more naturally and allow your personality to shine through.

Speaking exactly from a memorised script will only make you sound rigid and monotonous – a sure fire way to lose the audience’s interest.

Still, if you need to have a reference just in case you forget your speech, it’s okay to have prompts in your presentation slides or cue cards.

5. Practice Makes Perfect!

Like most people, many of us are not naturally talented when it comes to public speaking. Rarely is there an individual who can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

Yet, many people seem to mistake that it is possible to do so. Great speakers like John F. Kennedy will spend months preparing his speech beforehand so why shouldn’t you?

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice. Whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Mouth Your Words When Rehearsing

Another method that most speakers use to embed their presentations into their conscience is to ‘mouth’ the words as they rehearse.

Not only do they begin to instinctively memorise your presentation each time you practice, it also aids in muscle memory when you need to deliver the speech on stage naturally.

7. Be Authentic

It’s important to know that there’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience. In fact, public speaking anxiety is incredibly common, so you are not alone.

Learning to be yourself in front of others is an important key factor to overcoming fear of public speaking. Although this seems like a simple method, it is easier said than done. Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self.

If you can drop the pretense of being someone of how you think you should act or speak, you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You’ll realise that the tension and anxiety dissolves. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous.

This makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations like getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing a technical difficulty.

Your listeners will also be engaged as they prefer someone who is authentic and able to connect with them.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic you’re passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend.  It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting

Public speaking does not need to be different. Now, imagine speaking to one audience member at a time when you’re up on stage. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others, may take a little time and some experience depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others but once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

8. Fake It Till You Make It

 The truth is everyone gets nervous, even seasoned speakers. As Mark Twain put it nicely, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

These liars “fake” their confidence despite their insecuritties and reservations about themselves till they succeed. This can be through achieving the desired outcome, overcoming a fear or selling an idea successfully.

When you fake confidence, you naturally create a positive impression of what your capabilities are instantly. This makes you more confident than you actually are.

Embracing that you’ll always get those butterflies in your stomach leading up to your presentation is half the battle won. Learn to harness that flush of adrenaline and energy to engage with your audience early on.

Post Speech

Last but not least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try to see it as a good takeaway to further improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up After a Presentation

We’re the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back. You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve Your Next Speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during your speech. Then, watch the video afterwards and observe what you can do to improve next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Was I tense or stressed? Why?
  • Did I forger or stumble on my words? Why?
  • Did I say “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed and keep practicing and improving. In time, all of your fears of public speaking? It’ll vanish into thin air.

Summing it up

And there you have it, these are the five stepping stones that’ll help you overcome your stage fright and ace your public speaking.

Make full use of the opportunity and apply these tips:

  1. Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically
  2. Know and Focus On What You Want Out of the Presentation
  3. Understand and Rehearse for the Speech
  4. Practice The Art of Faking Your Confidence or Embrace being You
  5. Learn from the Outcome and Get Feedback to Improve

 

Leave a comment below if it worked for you!

The Ultimate Public Speaking Guide To Impress Any Audience

According to experts, public speaking is one of the most important and beneficial skill sets for your career. It helps to increase confidence and shapes the perception of others about you when you deliver a presentation.

Despite these benefits, however, many seem to fear public speaking. According to experts, roughly 80% of people get increasingly nervous and lose sleep before a big public speaking moment. Some experts even suggest that the fear of public speaking rivals death. Yet, public speaking is inevitable. Many of us, like it or not, will be put in a situation where we will be expected to speak in front of a crowd and these moments can sometimes be career-defining.

If you tirelessly – and unsuccessfully– have been trying to get the butterflies in your stomach to settle down before a public speech, you’re not alone. Here’s an easy to follow public speaking guide (with all the public speaking tips you need) on how you can overcome your fear of public speaking and impress your audience even if you’re a beginner.

1. Prepare for your presentation

A speaker’s worst fear is to see that the audience is bored or has gotten no value from the speech. This is why thoroughly preparing for your presentation is vital.

Here are a few easy steps to prepare and research for your presentation:

Identify the context of the event

If you’re speaking at an industry conference on AI Technology, you can be sure that your audience will include practitioners and technicians in that space. Recycling basic content that they’re already aware in their industry is definitely a way to quickly lose their attention.

Instead, it’s likely you’d want to introduce big ideas that challenge what they already know about the industry currently, where it’s moving towards or new information about the topic.

When Steve Jobs famously unveiled the iPhone in the 2007 Worldwide Developer’s Conference, he was tackling an existing industry norm of buttons on cell phones. Needless to say, his gamble paid off and set the foundation of the smart phones we now know of today.

With that said, Steve’s presentation style might not be for everyone, it’s up to you as a presenter to decide how best to deliver your speech when the time comes.

Know the demographics of the audience

It’s important to know the demographics of your audience because it determines how you can make your tone suitable for them and make the content relevant.

If you’re speaking to audiences from a particular generation, consider including examples that will resonate with them.

Here’s an example: when speaking to millennials, try referencing recent news on developments in technologies they use every day (e.g. SnapChat or Netflix) to be more relevant to them.

Organising your content

You can have the best ideas and content or feel so strongly for a certain issue that you speak of it passionately, but if they aren’t sequenced in the right order, you’re basically back to square one. You may even confuse the audience at the end of your speech since they may not understand what you’re trying to say.

“An outline is basically a blueprint for your presentation.” 

Creating an outline for your speech is essential because it helps organise your content and ensures your message gets across in a coherent and organised manner. Most experts agree that various presentations follow different ‘story arcs’ where they usually fall within three big acts: the Start (or Hook), Middle and Conclusion.

These structures can exist in all sorts of ways such as a Problem, Solution, Call-To-Action type framework for sales. We see this mirrored by numerous presenters where they establish a cause for concern upfront before addressing these concerns with a product or method.

After you’ve decided ideas you’d like to flesh out, begin organising them in an outline that will keep the audience hinged on your every word.

Here is an example of a speech outline:

Basic speech outline template

1. Introduction

  • Establish topic
  • Key message
  • A short summary of the supporting points that will be discussed in detail later on

2. Body 

Supporting Point 1

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

Supporting Point 2

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

Supporting Point 3

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

3. Conclusion

  • Recap the main points
  • Summarise the key message
  • Provide a call-to-action

This formula is simple yet extremely effective. It can commonly be seen in novels, short stories, speeches, movies, reports, business briefings, proposals and many more. So, if you’re unsure of how to start, this outline can help you kickstart organising your content.

Here’s a video of Aimee Mulins telling a story about adversity followed by resolution later on in life:

 

Understand not memorise

After organising your content in the best structure it can be, now comes the hard part – To be able to connect to your audience while knowing your content at the tip of your fingers.

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from the slides or their cue cards as they couldn’t memorise their content word for word. Not only is this sure fire way to lose their audience’s interest, you also sound rigid, monotonous. Boring.

One of the ways to prevent that is to understand what you’re speaking of rather than just plainly memorizing your script. This is because according to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This makes it easier to ‘memorise’ what  you want to say because you know what you are talking about.

As a result, this will then allow you to talk more comfortably – and naturally– with your audience which in turn makes you connect with them more.

2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience

Picking a good topic and conquering your stage fright is half the battle won in public speaking. Putting it all together in a presentation that flows well and that engages your audience is what differentiates a blockbuster speech versus a lackluster talk.

Start strong

It’s been said that the first 30 seconds of your presentation determines whether the audience want to listen to you or not.

Here are some proven ways to grab the attention of your audience:

a) Start with an anecdote

If you can draw relevance to your speech topic – sharing a quick story related to the topic is a great way to appear more relatable and lead audiences into your punchline.

Here are some of the purposes of anecdotes:

  • To lighten the mood

Telling a story can help make people laugh which then brightens their mood. This can prove useful if your audience needs a good laugh before being engaged in your presentation, especially if the topic is a little dry.

  • Caution

Sometimes, the topic we need to talk about are risks and dangers we face. This can be about kidnappings or people falling victim to scams. However, just laying out the rules and regulations for individuals may not be as effective. Sometimes, to get the audience’s attention, we need to hear frightening stories of danger in order to get them to listen. Only then will they follow-up on how to avoid facing these very situations.

  • To Persuade or Inspire

If the topic you are speaking about is a social issue like poverty or sex trafficking, an anecdote can help inspire your audience to do something about it. Of course, anecdotes do not have to serve such specific purposes all the time. They can just be part of a natural conversation with other people.

b) Use an analogy

Analogies are a fun and interesting way to begin your presentation. Comparing two seemingly unrelated things can help build a case for what you’ll say next. Not only that, it can be helpful if you need to explain a complex situation that your audience may not understand.

“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” 

This analogy, is often used from the film, Forrest Gump, showing that life has many choices and surprises just like a box of chocolates.

Here are also a few examples of analogies:

  • Life is like a race. The one who keeps running wins the race, and the one who stops to catch a breath loses.
  • Just as a sword is the weapon of a warrior, a pen is the weapon of a writer.
  • How a doctor diagnoses diseases is like how a detective investigates crimes
  • Just as a caterpillar comes out of its cocoon, we must come out of our comfort zone.
  • You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.

c) Use a memorable quote

Starting with a memorable quote can help enhance your credibility and reinforce your own claims especially if it comes from notable figures or experts. It can also help inspire the audience which will then make them excited about your idea. The end result? It makes them more engaged with your presentation. Killing two birds with one stone!

Use storytelling techniques

Presentations are hardly ever a one-way dialogue. You’ll want to take measures to engage the audience and make the presentation a conversation.

Try to pose provocative questions or use props.

Asking questions to the floor engages your audience presentation and also demonstrates that you value their opinion on things. In some cases, getting your audiences to visualise problems might be more effectively demonstrated than theorised.

Bill Gates is an iconic example of how using props can really drive a message through. During a TED talk, he released a swarm of mosquitos during his speech to communicate how people from countries with a high level of malaria infection feel.

Another example is Cameron Russell, who talked about how she was just ‘lucky’ to become a model because she was born tall and pretty. In her talk, she showed a simple but effective way to change their mind of her as a model in seconds through the use of props:

 

Use visual aids effectively

Visual aids such as presentation slides are an opportunity to enhance and drive your message home. Furthermore, adding visual aids provide 43% added recall for presentations according to Prezi.

This is because most people learn through visuals, maybe even more than through listening. In fact, one study showed that three days after a presentation, people who only heard a speaker remembered about 10% of the information but those who heard and saw visual information remembered about 55% more.

Here are some reasons why you should use visual aids:

  • Engage the audience’s interest

It can be pretty boring to sit and listen to someone talk on and on but having visual aids will help capture and keep people interested in what you’re saying.

  • Show the depth of a story

Compare saying millions were affected and many homes were lost due to a disaster vs saying the same thing but with an evocative image. Which one would sound much more impactful? By showing an image, it helps show the severity or depth of a situation without having much to say. This can leave a bigger impact on the audience.

  • A picture speaks a thousand words

Putting all the information on a slide may steal the audience’s attention away from you as you’re speaking. To prevent that, make use of evocative images. Not only does it support your speech but it does so without saying much that it steals the attention of your audience.

E.g. picture of disaster that is evocative and memorable

  • Serves as a reminder

Finally, visual aids can serve as notes or reminders for the speaker. When you’re giving a speech, it can be very nerve-wracking to the point you could forget what to say. Having visual aids help you remember what you want to say and keeps you from going off topic.

3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright

Picture this: moments before your speech, your heart’s pounding profusely in anticipation for what’s coming next. You step behind the podium and all eyes are on you. The pressure becomes overwhelming and you freeze, unable to utter a single word.

Stage fright. Also known as imposter syndrome. It is an expectation that makes us think we have to perform but we fear that we could make a mistake and embarrass ourselves.

According to statistics, at least 75% of people get stage fright when they present or make a speech. It’s even been long known that public speaking outranks even death as the top fear of most individuals. This then leads to the question – how do the pros make it look so easy?

Stretch

If you are nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. You may find that your body is tense, breaking in cold sweat or you may feel stiff and your muscles are tight. The audience will notice you are nervous. If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen your tense muscles and relax your body.

Breathe

When you are nervous, do you tend to breathe faster and take shorter breaths? Nervousness is always accompanied by these very symptoms and if not addressed, you may end up mumbling and stuttering your way throughout the speech. To ensure that does not happen, take slow, deep breaths. This is because it helps lower your heart rate and make you focus on your breathing rather than on your anxiety and insecurities.

Fake it till You Make it

The truth is everyone gets nervous, even seasoned speakers. As Mark Twain put it nicely: “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

These liars “fake” their confidence despite their insecurities and reservations about themselves till they succeed. This can be through achieving a desired outcome, overcoming a fear or selling an idea successfully.

When you fake confidence, you naturally create a positive impression of what your capabilities are instantly, making you more confident than you actually are.

With that being said faking confidence is not always the best answer because it isn’t real confidence. But sometimes, we need to fake confidence because we don’t have the luxury to build this skillset since it takes time and effort to develop.

Be conversational and authentic

It’s easy to have a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. Public speaking does not need to be that different. Imagine speaking to one audience member at a time when you’re up on stage and you’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

Presenters like Elon Musk sometimes appear comical on stage, but always authentic. He does so by speaking directly to the audience and in a language they can understand:

 

Know your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips help reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. So one way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech. However, you don’t want to memorise your script word by word. It can work against you should you forget your content.

Instead, memorise the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch as it helps you speak more naturally. This will let your personality shine through. Speaking exactly from a memorised script may make you sound rigid and robotic.

Still, if you need to have a reference just in case you forget your speech, it is okay to have prompts in your slides or cue cards.

Mouth your words when rehearsing

Another method that most speakers use to embed their presentations into their conscience is to ‘mouth’ the words as they rehearse.

Not only do you begin to instinctively memorise your presentation each time you practice, it also aids in muscle memory when you need to deliver the speech on stage naturally.

4. Deliver an impressive speech

We’ve gone from prepping for a presentation, to finding ways to engage your audience with presentations and combating stage fright. All that is left with is for the speaker to steal the show by delivering an impressive performance during the speech.

Here are some things you’ll want to take note of to ensure you’re in tip-top shape when it’s show time:

Hand gestures

Seasoned speakers swear by this and amateur speakers use it to great success. Hand gesturing is a great way to avoid looking stiff and awkward on stage. Furthermore, consultant Vanessa Van Edwards who studies famous TED talks observed that popular speakers are the ones that who used their hands the most.

A key tip is to have your hands held high above your waist at all times and let your hands gesture naturally as you talk. This makes you look more confident and also helps you engage well with the audience.

To signify something small, pinch your fingers and if its big, feel free to gesture your hands widely in the air. However, never point. It can be interpreted as aggressive, unwelcoming and off-putting to many in the crowd.

Body language

What great speakers have in common is how confident they are. Just like any other human being out there, these people also get the jitters before every speech – even great speakers like John F. Kennedy spent months preparing his speech beforehand.

Most people struggle to sound confident and it’s okay. This is because, at times, confidence is not all about how you speak but through your body language.

Standing tall with good posture can do wonders for your perceived confidence and your actual performance. Using big hand gestures while standing firmly on your feet, a shoulder width apart, helps even the most nervous presenters open up on stage.

“Our bodies change our minds and our minds change our behaviours, and our behaviour changes our outcome.” – Social Psychologist, Amy Cudd.

Small gestures like these give signs to your audience on how to think and feel about you and whether they should listen to you in the first few seconds of your presentation. Hence, it is important to take note of your body language as it is a stepping stone to make you feel or at least look confident – even if you’re not.

Tone of voice

Your voice plays a critical role in your success as a presenter. According to an analysis of media appearances by 120 top financial communicators, the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the content of the message and even an evaluation found one of the most popular TED talks concluded these very speakers have 30.5% higher vocal variety than other speakers that are less popular.

Technical speakers focus a lot on how they train their voice as they articulate words. Some use a higher pitch when communicating an idea with energy and a lower pitch in solemn instances.

In short, it is about matching your emotions to the idea. For example, if you are sharing a sad story, it only makes sense to match that mood with your voice in a lower tone and volume.

Pause and emphasis

Pauses and emphasis are a powerful tool in a presenter’s arsenal. When used purposefully in the right moment, it can create a dramatic flair to further reinforce what you have said, make the audience ponder over a topic or it can provide time for the audience to let the message sink in. It’s basically a ‘full-stop’ used but in spoken word.

Check out how to master the pausing technique from Brian Tracy:

Connecting with the audience

Many understand confidence is essential when delivering a speech or presentation in order to get the message across but many forget that engaging with the audience is also what hooks them to your presentation/speech.

There are many ways to engage with the audience such as asking questions, holding eye contact or even finding out the demographics of your audience to shape your speech’s tone and content to what’s relevant to them.

Practice, practice, practice!

Like most people, many of us are not naturally talented when it comes to public speaking. Rarely is there an individual who can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation yet many people seem to mistake that it is possible to do so.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

Time management

Ending too early or too late can spell trouble for speakers that are on the clock for an event’s schedule. At times, event schedules get delayed and leave little time for speakers to deliver their full speech.

The key tip to avoid an awry moment is to be very familiar with your content and to practice several versions of your presentation at varying durations.

Summing it up

And there you have it, these four big steps are what will help you ace your public speaking.

Don’t shy away from your next chance to speak in public. Instead, make full use of the opportunity and apply these public speaking tips:

  1. Study your audience before preparing your topic
  2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience
  3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright
  4. Never Wing It. Practice Your Voice, movement and time-keeping

 

Leave a comment below if it worked for you!

Why Not Every Presentation Should Be Like Steve Jobs’s

Many of us would agree that Steve Jobs’ presentations can be considered to have ‘legendary’ status. We’ve probably come across them in some way, either through watching Apple’s WWDC, or reading articles and books such as Carmine Gallo’s that was dedicated to discussing his speeches.

Ever since the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, the less-text, highly visual and ‘big picture’ style of presentations have grown in appeal to presenters from all walks of life. In fact, if you were to compare it to Bill Gates circa 2000, it would seem that Steve’s unorthodox approach to presentation visuals and their format was at odds with how the rest of the corporate world delivered their presentations at the time.

It stood out amongst text-heavy presentations that put people to sleep, gave audiences the breath of fresh air they needed to remain engaged, and enthralled many with the aesthetic presentation approach. This is why it is now the gold standard of an ideal keynote presentation.

But is that really the best?

Contrary to popular belief, this style of presenting may not always be the best catchall definition of an ‘effective’ presentation. Instead, presentations should be designed according to their contexts.

The problem is, most people tried to follow suit without understanding two things:

  1. Steve Jobs could get away with that style of presenting because he had the autonomy to do it.
  2. This format of presenting may be great for a keynote speech, but might not fit every setting.

Put it this way – if you had to speak to your company’s CEO and a five-year-old child about a topic, would you use the same tone towards both? Similarly, different presentation settings require different styles, and different audiences require different ways of reaching out to them. This is why a Steve Jobs, TED-style presentation will not work in a boardroom, and a text-heavy slide deck may not succeed at a conference.

Presentations that follow the style frequently used by Apple work best for on-stage presentations at large events such as WWDC or TED talks. These situations are occasions where visually impactful slides make a huge difference and help to bring across key messages quickly to numerous audience members in a short timeframe.

However, in boardroom meetings where critical decisions need to be made by the audience, such presentations may end up backfiring as they may seem fluffy and probably lack important information needed to support the decision-making process. Instead, the presentations have to go beyond inspiring audiences and should involve slightly text-heavy slides with fewer images.

In short – Just like how we dress appropriately for different social functions, presentations are most effective when they are designed with the audience and the context in mind. Touting one particular style of presenting as a catch-all method for various kinds of presentations might be a segue towards career suicide.

Regardless of whether you’re using PowerPoint or other presentation software, the principles tend to be the same – you need to cater your presentation towards the setting. We encourage learners in our presentation skills courses to always be aware of the context before developing their presentations.

So let’s talk about the five different styles of presentations you may encounter, and the best approach for each of them.

presentation matrix - HighSpark

The Presentation-type Matrix

1. Keynote Speeches

The typical objective of a keynote speech is to inspire and help the audience retain key points quickly. This is why the content generally focuses more on the “why” rather than the “what”; for example, in most TED talks, speakers pull together stories with the main take-home message that is both insightful and impactful. In these situations, the presentations generally involve fewer words, highly visual and meaningful images, and a couple of key points.

These speeches are commonly also littered with literary devices like analogies, quotes and other tools for presentations. Steve’s presentations are notorious for having lines like: “And one more thing…” and also anecdotes of how customers use Apple’s products.

A good example to check out would be organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s TED talk, ‘Are You a Giver or a Taker?’. He wove in various experiences from interactions with others into a narrative that highlighted his key message: Why helping others drives our success.

2. Marketing Presentations

Marketing decks are generally created with the aim of spreading awareness about a product, organization, or initiative, and hopefully, gain an initial buy-in, hence they’re shared across various platforms such as the internet or social media. One popular example would be SlideShare, a social platform that allows users to upload their presentations on the site.

Like many of the featured SlideShare presentations, the content of the presentation deck is generally structured in a narrative, with minimal text and visually impactful stock images and icons to sustain the interest of the readers.

The general rule of thumb here is that your digital presentations that need to stand alone should have just enough text for it to be consumable without a presenter to walk through it but at the same time brief enough to be skimmed through quickly. Steve Jobs was well-known to have his slides designed to be as brief as possible. The problem with this approach without a presenter is that the audience can’t make meaning from such presentations.

Remember, in the digital world, most of us have extremely short attention spans. Think of your marketing materials as a hook – provide just the right amount of information to arouse interest, so that the audience is motivated to find out more. If there are too many details, it is difficult for them to maintain interest.

3. Sales Decks

Like what its name suggests, sales decks are generally used by salespeople to present their product to a client, with the aim of closing a deal. Chances are, you’ve gotten a foot-in-the-door beforehand with your marketing materials and numerous follow-ups, so your audience already knows the big picture. Now that they’re in the buying-decision process, what they want are the key details.

Here, both information and visuals hold equal importance, as the audience needs to visualize in order to be persuaded. At the same time, details should be included to add credibility, and concrete case studies of the products will help to paint a clear picture in their mind on how they can benefit from what you’re offering.

There are three main pillars of a sales presentation: Problems, Solutions, and Benefits. You need to show your audience that you understand the problems that they’re facing, how you can be their solution, and what are the benefits of choosing you instead of your competitors or sticking to the status quo. So when you meet your prospect for the first time, command their attention by addressing their key challenges, before ever talking about the solutions you offer.

In these presentations, technical aspects and details of your solutions are not required during the first stage of discussion. Instead, leave them until the end, when your audience is at least half-invested in what you’re offering. Unlike a ‘Steve Jobs style’ presentation where you speak about most topics at a high-level, sales presentations sometimes require you to get into the nitty gritty of your solutions.

Auston case study highspark presentation design

Example: Auston Institute Sales Presentation

4. Internal Review Presentations

Mostly used in corporate settings, the main objective of an internal review is usually to align goals amongst the stakeholders and propose areas for further improvements. This is where slapping an image onto a slide without any text just won’t cut it – details are key in this situation.

This can be said to be a polar opposite of Steve’s style of presenting. In many companies, especially larger firms, gathering stakeholders can be a challenge, and not everyone may be able to turn up for the meeting, increasing the likelihood of the presentation deck being disseminated after the meeting. Without sufficient details, the reader will not be able to understand, hence rendering the deck useless. If you try sending something out of Steve Jobs’ presentation during the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, it’s likely you’ll get a mouthful from your boss and colleagues.

In this case, information including ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘Who’, ‘When’, ‘Where’, and ‘How’ are extremely important, and should be presented in order for stakeholders to make a decision.

This doesn’t mean that your slides have to look wordy and cluttered – your content can be arranged in a fashion that draws your audience’s attention to the key message, and be designed with visuals that add value to the communication of the content.

Internal reviews might not always look pretty, but they need to first and foremost ‘work’.

5. Investor Decks

This is more relevant for startups and new companies on the rise. To reach into the deep pockets of your potential investors, you have to be extremely clear and specific about your strategy to be a highly profitable and successful company. Details need to be shown to give the investors confidence in both your idea and your team.

However, many investor pitch decks (notably the public ones during Demo Day) are required to be delivered in 5-7 minutes. This is why you’ll need to keep your text minimal to allow them to focus on the key message of your pitch. At the same time, every important detail must be shared and highlighted.

So think of it as an elevator pitch – if you only had a minute to convince someone to buy into your idea, what would you say? That’s where your key message lies. When in doubt, have a look at some of the successful pitch deck examples online and you’ll get a good sensing of what’s required.

This is why (similar to keynote speeches) investor decks include fewer words and more images. The emphasis is on getting your audience to see your vision, and envision the same things you want to achieve. The only caveat is if you need this investor presentation to be read by others – then you might need a separate version to stand on its own. In some instances, Steve’s style might work on Demo Day, however in closed doors situations, you might want a little more data on your slide to back you up and support your pointers.

There you have it, five types of presentations for different situations apart from the Steve Jobs ‘TED style presentations’. Remember that those techniques we highlighted above aren’t always the gold standard, you’ll need to apply them correctly for it to be effective.

For your next presentation, keep your audience and purpose of the deck in mind. From there, you can figure out the appropriate style, and apply the right balance of text and images.

Have fun and all the best!

Psst – Which of these styles work best for your presentations? Let us know in the comments below!

15 Bad Speeches We Can Learn From

If you’ve been an avid reader of our blog and generally presentation content on the internet, you’ll likely have been exposed to golden standards of presenting. (Think Steve Jobs) But how often have you encountered bad speeches that you can learn to avoid? Part of being a great public speaker or presenter is knowing what NOT to do so you can safeguard your reputation and speech.

Here are 15 bad speech examples for you to learn from:

Michael Bay quits Samsung

Have you ever forgotten your script, or perhaps experienced a faulty projector while presenting? Well, Michael Bay sure did. At the Samsung CES press conference in 2014, he failed to promote the new Samsung curved TV. After an error with the teleprompter, he apologized and walked off the stage, leaving the audience speechless and confused.

To avoid facing an awkward situation, pay close attention to certain key messages while practising. It will guide you through the presentation and help you recall the points, which could buy you some time to sort your cues.

Questioning Round: Miss Teen USA

In the Miss Teen USA 2007 question and answer round, Caitlin Upton struggled to answer her question: “Recent polls have shown that ⅕ of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map, why do you think this is?” She stumbled through her 30 seconds with an answer that barely made any sense.

You may come across some difficult questions when doing a Q&A session after a presentation. The best way you can deal with an unfamiliar question is to get back to the person after finding the answer. Always think through before replying and if you are unclear, ask them to repeat, or explain their question further. Failing to do so can lead to dire consequences on stage (usually an embarrassing time) if you rush through the question.

Emmy Awards 2013

The chances of winning an Emmy Award is probably one in a million, and award winners typically thank their families, producers and so on. However, all Merritt Wever had to say was “thank you so much. okay, I got to go. Bye.” The audience was baffled at the situation.

One thing that we can definitely learn from this is to have a prepared speech if you know you are being nominated. It may come off as rude if you don’t do so as you will leave the audience hanging, expectant of a thank you speech.

Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention Speech

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention 2016 caused a huge controversy and uproar. Many observers were able to tell that her words were extremely similar to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s previous speech.

There may be days when you are inspired by others, and decide to put their speeches into yours. Do give the owners credit for it, which simply be done by mentioning these phrases, “quoted by”,”mention by” or “from”.

Theresa May’s Calamitous Conference Speech

This may be one of the most catastrophic speeches of all. The conference was to address and reassure her party’s political members about Brexit and Britain’s future. Amongst this seriousness, a comedian rudely disrupts her by handing over a resignation form and props behind were falling apart. Besides that, she was coughing endlessly into the mic, trying to proceed with the speech.

Props to her for trying to keep things together after an interruption, but coughing into the mic may seem unprofessional and unhygienic. One way to tackle these bad speeches is to turn away from the mic while coughing, though it would be best to hold it in. If you are losing your voice, do clear your throat first before speaking into the mic.

Santa Cruz City Council

One way of improving your city is to have people volunteer their ideas. Here is an example of a poorly executed speech with little structure and redundant hand gestures. It is natural to feel anxious when presenting in front of people with authority, however, it is important to keep your cool and practice before a speech.

A method to counter such anxiety is to have a list of things to be covered according to the flow of the speech. Having a specific structure helps both you and your audience understand the thought process better. Another way you can go about doing it is by practising in front of the mirror, which helps to boost your confidence and eliminate bad fidgeting habits.

Politician Rallying Votes

Being passionate and believing in yourself is important when you’re trying to convince people. Nevertheless, being overly zealous could potentially scare your audience, harming your chances to be voted. Looking at the video, you can probably tell that yelling makes it hard to hear your speech, and the tone of your speech affects the way your audience reacts.

One way to prevent this is to have your family members or colleagues listen to your speech beforehand. Have them pinpoint out specific mistakes such as voice projection, posture, and tone. Through this method, you will have a sense of what your audience will feel, and improve to make your speech better.

Pitching for 1million Pounds on Dragons’ Den

Asking for and receiving a million pounds is no easy task. Bathomatic failed to secure a deal with any of the dragons. In his pitch, he mentioned the problem, the solution and how he came up with this idea, however, there was something missing. He did not mention any benefit statement or justification for a large amount of money.

During a pitch, it is important to address your audience’s concerns. Questions such as “why should they invest in you?”, “what can you bring to the table for them?” can guide you in making a much more persuasive speech.

Common Mistakes Made

Here is a group of 4 students attempting to do a presentation on Apple. Throughout the video, we spotted numerous errors commonly made by presenters. Here are 5 mistakes which you should take note of:

1. Reading off the slides with your back facing the audience
This is where cue cards come into play. If you are having a hard time remembering your script and need pointers to remind you, cue cards are a good alternative to solve that. They prevent you from back facing the audience and increases the engagement rate, but remember not to rely on them for the entire presentation!

2. Redundant animation sounds
Just like sound effects in movies, they’re used to emphasize certain motions. Excessive use of this defeats the purpose and may be seen as annoying. Try to avoid using sound effects during a serious presentation as it destroys the atmosphere of a meeting or a pitch.

3. Teammates standing around
This could be one of the toughest problems that group presenters encounter during a presentation. Teammates who are not presenting maybe fidgeting or look disinterested, which could distract your audience. In order to stop it from happening, have your team members nod in agreement to what you have to say. However, if they’re not involved, get them to join your audience instead.

4. Long paragraphs of information
Based on a study done on 439 people by Dave Paradi, more than half felt annoyed when full sentences are used in Powerpoint. The solution to this is to break down sentences into shorter points, and every slide should only have one message. For example, if you are presenting a new product, separate the functions into different slides. This aids your audience in understanding and gives them a clear focused message.

5. Chewing on sweets/gums
Take a look at the boy standing at the far right. Do you notice something?

He has been chewing on a gum since the start of the presentation all the way until the end!

While you’re enjoying your gum, others may see it as ill-mannered. Avoid eating any candies, chocolate, and gum right before your presentation. Chewing on something while presenting will not only be seen as disrespectful, but it will harm your voice projection as well. The best is to keep away from such sweet treats until the end of the presentation.

Nervous Breakdown During Business Presentation

This is a scene from Billable Hours, where Robin suffered a stage fright presenting in front of her peers. Despite having cue cards, she struggled to hold her presentation together.

The greatest takeaway here is to always practice your script beforehand. Practicing helps you retain and generate a flow of key messages. While practising, generate a structure that is easy for you to remember when you’re presenting. It makes you less dependent on cue cards and increases your chances of having eye contact with your audience.

Science Communication Workshop Presentation

Here is a spoof of a science communication workshop presented by Dr Fisher-Kat. Besides the noticeable clutter of words and pictures on a single slide, she was rambling on about the different scientific terms. At 2:10, a lady asked a question, however, she received an insulting reply.

When you’re presenting to people, especially a general audience, it is best to keep things simple. Removing and simplifying terminology will help your audience in understanding. If such terms are needed, explain them in layman terms.

Dealing with questions can be difficult, especially when you’re given a time limit. Using “Can I get back to you later?”, helps you kill two birds with one stone. You will be able to proceed on with your presentation while giving your audience a peace of mind that they will be answered. You can have a short chit-chat with the person after the presentation or simply drop them an email.

Pitching Without Prepared Product

Whether it is pitching to your customers or investors, the most crucial parts are your services and products. But what happens when one fails to work? In this episode of Dragon Dens, an aspiring entrepreneur attempts to demonstrate his service. However, it did not work in his favour, leaving the dragons uninterested and speechless.

The biggest turn off for the investors is when you’re pitching something that does not work. To prevent this from happening, always do checks before going up on stage to do your grand pitch. Similarly, if your pitch requires help from others, remember to remind them of it. Being prepared definitely saves you from embarrassing situations.

Forgetting Your Script

There are two contrasting sides of this presentation, one being an engaging presentation, the other being a really confusing one. We also noticed that he forgot his script for a second in the middle of the presentation. How can we prevent ourselves from being seen as unprepared and confusing?

One way to go about doing this is by structuring your presentation. Stating the purpose of your presentation at the start would definitely help your audience understand better. This can be followed up with points supporting your key messages, and a summary of your main points. A presentation is just like writing an essay, there has to be a logical flow in order for your audience to understand better.

Sean Penn’s 2004 Oscar Speech – For Um-ing Too Much

A speech with flow often comes with tons of practice, but what happens if it is an impromptu speech? How do we give a speech without pausing for too long?

Impromptu speeches may be one of the hardest things to pull off. Besides thinking on your feet, you will have to speak in front of an audience with professionalism. However, these mistakes may seem minute when you’re fully focused on your presentation.

In this example, Sean seems to pull off his thank you speech pretty well except the countless number of times when he paused with an “um”. Though it is said subconsciously, it can make your speech choppy.

One method to avoid excessive pauses is to prep beforehand. You might want to know the background of the situation better before heading up to the stage. This way, you will have a rough idea of what needs to be covered when you’re on the stage.

For example, you will need to give an impromptu speech about your product to a group of investors. You can structure it by starting off with an introduction of yourself and your product, followed by benefits and lastly, sales and thank you. With a rough outline in mind, it could save some awkward pauses on stage and it might eventually impress the investors too.

IABC 2012 World Conference in Chicago

Buzzwords used in corporations around the world were collected and presented by Gerard Braud as an example of what no employee wants a CEO speech to sound like.

Simplifying terms used in your speech helps your audience to digest your content much easier as compared to the different unheard terminologies. When presenting to a general crowd, it is essential to understand that they might not entirely think the same way as you do.

One way to avoid miscommunication and confusion is to think in the audience’s perspective or get your family and friends to listen to you. If they don’t get the message you’re trying to convey, there is a high chance that the actual crowd may not understand it as well. Edit the speech accordingly, practice and you’re good to go!

Were you cringing while watching some of those bad speeches? You’re not the only one. To avoid a similar situation happening during your next speech or sales presentation, follow these tips based on learnings from the bad speeches above:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Structure your key messages in a logical flow
  3. Prepare and check your props beforehand
  4. Practice Practice Practice
  5. Be calm when you face unforeseen circumstances

Prepare for the worst and you’ll never fall victim to a technical, or memory fault.