I was privileged to be a close combat instructor of the Singapore military during my national service stint. Over the two years, I’ve received interesting different responses from varied crowds hailing from different demographics. I’ve instructed both elite infantry units and recruits to even officers during my time in the Singapore military.
When you’re expected to command an audience of diverse backgrounds that respond to different forms of communication week in and out, you’ll have to be highly adaptable. Here are 5 ways to command an audience:
1) Be Authoritative
If you’re standing in front of an audience to impart lessons on a subject, you’re expected to be authoritative or at least competent about your subject matter. They aren’t there to listen to something they’ve already heard umpteen times before, but a unique perspective on your topic of discussion.
Likened to a teacher who is unsure about a subject that he or she is teaching, you’ll very quickly lose the audience’s respect and ultimately their attention.
On the flip side, there are teachers that walk into the room and immediately commands your attention, almost effortlessly earning the respect of those listening. It’s slightly different from ‘knowing’ your stuff, but more so exuding an aura of authority. How can you be authoritative then?
Three of the simplest ways be more authoritative are:
Strong Eye Contact
You need to be able to hold strong, regular eye contact with your crowd. There are no two ways about it. In my experience as a military instructor, I regularly have more than a hundred grown men looking up to me, waiting for instructions. Looking down to the floor with shifty eyes and uncertainty is one of the fastest ways to lose their attention and respect.
Strong Body Language
Secondly, is your body language.
When humans get scared, we close up our postures similar to how animals go into a submissive position or posture. It’s so rampant (especially in public figures), that we’ve given it a name: the ‘Fig-Leaf Presenting Position‘. Presenters that are nervous or afraid tend to default into this defensive stance to protect their more sensitive parts of the body.
Ever heard of ‘Fake it, till you make it’? To appear more confident via more effective body language, try to consciously maintain a good, comfortable posture. Walk with large purposeful strides, with your feet, shoulder-width apart.
Commanding Vocal Tonality
Lastly, it’s your vocal tonality. I’ve seen huge, bulky military men crumble into nervous wrecks when put infront of an audience in a public-speaking situation. They tend to talk much faster to get through the experience much quicker. This comes at the expense of the audience and their presence.
Instead, to truly command attention, you’ll do well to talk more slowly.
As TED Speaker, Amy Cuddy, Author of ‘Presence’ aptly put:
“Powerful people initiate speech more often, talk more overall, and make more eye contact while they’re speaking than powerless people do. When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time. We don’t rush. We’re not afraid to pause. We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”
One of the best ways to get good these three areas are to study the speeches of powerful politicians and businessman. Take Lee Kuan Yew’s Speech for example:
2) Demonstrate Instead of Simply Telling
Instead of telling them what you can do. Show them what you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have access to visual aids, you can show pictures or multimedia. In situations where you don’t have access to technology, it always helps to demonstrate live.
One of my favorite demonstrations as an instructor was when we needed to teach the basics of self-defense. The approach was to find the heaviest soldier from the crowd as a volunteer and execute a simple, but effective technique that would sweep him off his feet, resulting in the soldier falling on his back.
As I have a smaller frame (at 1.67M and 65KG) than many of the recruits, the demonstration held even more power. Demonstrating that a much smaller soldier could easily takedown someone two times larger left a deep impression in many of my recruits – not to mention it also helped to cement a positive impression of my capabilities in their minds for the months to follow.
3) Be Passionate
Thirdly, passion goes a long way to command an audience.
“If you organize your life around your passion, you can turn your passion into your story and then turn your story into something bigger―something that matters.” ―Blake Mycoskie
In every class I instruct, there will often be a small minority who isn’t a 100% interested in the class material. They’d much prefer to slack off, not pay attention or cause some disruption to classes with their unruliness. However, over time, I observed that tweaking certain aspects of my delivery became useful in winning over these non-enthusiasts.
Accentuate the Details
You know someone is passionate about that particular expertise when he’s able to pick out the tiny details that 99% of people miss. Identify certain nuances in your field that the majority hardly talks about. Include them in your presentation and delivery to watch your audiences appreciate the effort.
For example, in the arena of public speaking, effective speakers typically pay attention to vocal tonality, the speed of delivery, pauses, vocal inflections when on stage. These are details that most people miss, but differentiate the good speakers from the great ones.
Find Your ‘Flow’
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced a concept named ‘flow’. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you find yourself losing track of time and your surroundings. That is an example of having found ‘flow’.
Ever observed a street performer so immersed in his performance that you can’t help but steal a closer look? That’s a great example of commanding an audience through flow. The key is to be present at the moment without having your mind wander off and getting distracted by other thoughts.
Mindfulness training and actively focusing on that specific moment you’re delivering your speech can do wonders for your delivery.
4) Work with your Audience
Find Common Ground
If you’re working with an audience, you need to garner their trust, respect, and likeability, fast. As an instructor, it’s a tough line to toe. Overly nice treatment gets you perceived as a pushover and being too strict can sow discord. The most effective takeaway I got from these occasions is that the audience needs to perceive you as being ‘one of them’. As Cialdini stated in his book, Influence, people tend to like people that are like them.
If my men perceive me to be a dictator figure hell-bent on my own agendas, nobody is going to listen to me, much less follow my instructions. Introducing parts of your personality or background that aligns with that of audience members is a quick way to build instant rapport and familiarity.
Speak Their Language
Through the years as an instructor, I found that if you speaking to your audience’s hopes, dreams, and fears, you can get them to listen to you more attentively. You can garner their trust, respect and become more likable.
For example, most people aren’t interested in ‘financial literacy’. However, a lot of them are worried about housing loans, car loans or salary increases. Use layman language and avoid speaking at a high-level to connect with your audience members on a personal level.
5) Hold to your Highest Purpose
Lastly, you cannot command an audience when speaking in front of them if you do not hold to your highest purpose. Have you ever wondered how Gandhi, Martin Luther King gave speeches that changed the world?
Yes. That’s because they are holding to their highest purpose. They are delivering those speeches from a point that’s deeply rooted in their purpose. For the greater good.
You may not be Winston Churchill beckoning troops to fight on the beaches, however, you can also hold to your highest purpose when speaking to a crowd.
Contribute to Something Meaningful
The highest purpose of my role as a SAF self-defense instructor was to impart self-defense instruction in an effective manner to Singapore military troops to enable them to defend themselves in an unarmed combat situation. In my heart and in my bones, I was aligned with that purpose and the reason that we’re conducting the presentation in the first place.
The session did not feel forced. Being able to defend yourself in dangerous situations as a soldier can mean the difference between life and death. I was glad to avail time to spend with these young men hailing from different families and backgrounds to enable them to serve their nation. Likewise, your speech should be something that you believe in.
If you communicate to your audience in a ‘just had to be done’ manner, the devil-may-care attitude towards the topic might backfire. Audiences can feel the lack of sincerity and tune out immediately.
However, gearing your energy and presentation towards your noble agenda or purpose can help you become more charismatic and persuasive.
Through the years as a self-defense instructor for the Singapore military, I found that being authoritative, demonstrating instead of simply telling, being passionate about your subject, working with your audience and holding to your highest purposes are 5 timeless principles to command an audience.
Working towards your first ICO (Initial Coin Offering) project can be a harrowing experience. Besides actually developing the technology that works on the blockchain, you’ll have to actively market the token to cryptocurrency communities and seek private investors before a public launch.
A common problem that most ICO teams face is that they spend months with an expert technical team building the perfect blockchain-based technology, only to find themselves unable to tell a compelling story around their token and their ICO.
There are a few things that anyone working towards an ICO prepares before launching their token sale:
A whitepaper detailing how their token works and the overall vision of the application
A website to briefly explain the ICO to visitors and individual investors
A pitch deck for private sales before the ICO begins
Developing a pitch deck that sells tokens is easier said than done and is on a whole new page when compared with a whitepaper or website.
The truth is, whitepapers are slowly becoming outdated and redundant. Blockchain whitepapers became widely popular after Bitcoin’s inception but are now gradually becoming less relevant. This is because of two reasons: Firstly, they are typically very technically worded or written more for marketing purposes. Secondly, whitepapers fail to quickly answer the questions that are truly at the top of mind for crypto buyers.
Rob May, CEO of Talla.com on Coindesk, puts it aptly:
“So, the next time you look at a token or a network, just skim the white paper. Make it a secondary factor in your decision, not the primary thing you buy on.
Spend your time instead looking at the team, understanding the big vision, researching the market opportunity, and thinking counterfactually about the possible futures of the network. You’ll make better decisions.”
This then begs the question, what should we include in ICO private sales and investor decks?
ICO decks are not very far off from regular start-up pitch decks where founders seek to raise funding from skeptical investors.
There are numerous areas that overlap:
Proving that the team is capable and experienced enough to see through the execution
Hinting at a high return-on-investment (ROI): a positive payout for start-up investors and token appreciation for ICOs
Communicating immense potential for uptake and usage of product or token
Why they should act on this immediately
That said, ICOs are far more nuanced because of the technology and considerations that cryptocurrency buyers have before they sink their hard-earned capital (in Ethereum, Bitcoin or NEO) into your token.
Here are some of the key components that make up the general structure of every ICO deck:
1. Cover Slides That Summarize Your Story
Gone are the days where it was trendy to be the ‘Uber for XYZ’. Clarity is the new currency to get your token funded. The cover slide needs to immediately hook the reader or audience to want to align with your vision and also intrigue them to continue with the rest of the deck.
A good title clearly indicates what the token or network will be used for and what it enables. Do not complicate the title. There is no benefit in confusing your potential token investor.
To ensure your title on the first page of your ICO pitch deck is concise ensure that:
The title clearly represents your project
Hint at the benefits that it provides to the end-user of the token, who might not always be the early token investor.
This slide should also contain a visual representing either the end-user or a digital mock-up of the blockchain solution that you’re creating.
This is one example. The title is clear about what they want: To convey why Vaultbank will be of benefit to the target user. On the right, it then provides several brief descriptions of the benefits.
Good Title Examples:
Switcheo: The World’s First Decentralised Exchange on the NEO Blockchain
TenX: Spend Your Virtual Currencies in Real Life
Kyber: Instant Exchange and Conversion of Digital Assets
2. Problem Statement
Tokens will typically continue to appreciate in value and stay that way (unless we see a crash in the cryptocurrency economy) if they have real-world application that targets a gap in the world currently. Token investors are always on the lookout for the next big blockchain project that will change the world as we know it and ‘moon’ so that they’ll see a big gain.
If your identified ‘problem’ can be solved by using a database instead of your solution – is it really a problem worth investing in? You’ll have to make clear why you’re building the blockchain application and also illustrate the magnitude of the problem.
This should be descriptive yet clear. For example, if your blockchain project is intending to replace insurers – it could be something along the lines of: Today’s Insurance Solutions Lack Transparency and Efficiency
Look at this slide’s title. Its main point is concise and clear, no complex language used.
Describe the Problem
Elaborate more on the problem to make a case for your problem statement. If: “Insurance Solutions Lack Transparency and Efficiency”, why is this happening?
Some example pointers could be:
Insurance customers still rely heavily on agents for claims
Inefficiency is good for insurer bottomline
Basically, support your statement with what’s happening in the industry and back these points up later with hard facts and statistics so you do not lose credibility.
Substantiating Pointers and Arguments
Your statement should then be supported by real problems that you’ve identified in your industry of choice that you’re trying to solve by using the blockchain. These can be supported by using research statistics, quoting credible sources like large news sites or influential individuals and/or showcasing other competitors in the arena that have done well, but still leave room for growth.
If you’ve surveyed a good sample size of respondents or have market data to back up your opinion, be sure to include these in summary as well.
This video of Switcheo Network CEO speaking at the NEO Amsterdam conference is a good example of illustrating problems within the general space with real examples.
3. Introduce Your Blockchain Solution
Now’s your chance to showcase your solution. You’ll want to be clear about two things.
What is the solution?
How users interact with it (E.g. Is it a platform that they login to? Is it an app? Or will it be used in the form of a credit card to spend cryptocurrency?)
Leave no room for doubt here as it’s critically important that your prospective investor understands how your solution can fit into the lives of those you seek to serve.
It helps to reference the points listed out in the problem earlier and juxtapose that with the merits of your solution. That way, investors can quickly see how your solution solves those various problems.
Show the solution
The benefit of using a pitch deck is that you can afford to include imagery to help your audience or reader fully visualize what your solution will look like. Having it mocked up is half the battle won versus not even having a proof of concept. Don’t leave it up to their imagination, show them.
This presentation by the Zilliqa team (the cryptocurrency with the highest market cap in Singapore) is a great example of explaining a complicated solution in a simple manner whilst painting the high potential of the landscape.
4.Demonstrate How It Works
Blockchain solutions are notoriously difficult to explain to non-technical people. It’s your job to make it easy yet informative for your prospective investor so that he or she can understand your token and solution.
Explaining what the solution looks like from the front-end (i.e. user experience and interface) is the first step in getting their buy-in for your product. Investors want to understand what the user sees and how they interact with your platform. Instead of using long prose, break up the example of use into a linear step-by-step process with screens or descriptions.
For example, instead of:
User enters exchange with their private key, makes their trade with the right pair and receives their currency in their wallet
Login with private key -> Trade with pair of choice -> Receive currency in wallet
For more discerning investors, they want to understand your tech. This is where most technical people shine when explaining the logic behind the solution. Problem is, these explanations are usually quite verbose and hard to understand.
Using illustrations, diagrams or flowcharts in the right sequences have proven to be one of the best ways to effectively explain a blockchain product to investors.
The key to not confusing them is to:
Have a headline upfront that explains what the diagram is explaining, and the process involved
Always show the users/stakeholders in the diagram prominently
If there is flow of token usage, use animation or demark sequencing to avoid confusion
Try to adhere to a left-to-right reading flow that most people in the world read
5.Explain Your Token
The deck will not be complete without explaining what your audiences are buying in the first place – your ICO Token. You’ll want to ensure you cover:
The slide provides a clear step-by-step explanation on the process.
The way the token moves around in the network should also be described along with how token holders can benefit from being a holder. Do they receive dividends or rewards? Does the token let them attain reduced trading fees? Or does the token allow them to spend less on acquiring a product or service?
Be clear with what the token does as there are various token applications that either work on utility or act as a store of value/proof of stake.
You should already have this in handy. Be sure to use this throughout the deck so that your investors know what your token looks like and that they know what they’re getting into. The token symbol/logo represents your cryptocurrency and is backed by the overall messaging of your other communication mediums.
This token presentation by WAX sports a really good build-up by showcasing the progression of their industry, ending with their solution sitting at the forefront. They also did a good job around the 8-minute mark explaining how tokens could be used and the benefits for holders.
Unless your cryptocurrency token is truly a world’s first (which in 2018 is still very possible), you’ll want to always try to list competitors in your space. In lucrative industries, there will almost always be competitors that exist in one form or the other even if indirect. If there are no competitors, the market is either too small or not really that lucrative.
The key to getting this slide right is to:
Compare your application with your competitors so that investors know where you stand in the big picture
Identify why your token is unique, superior in application and differentiates from others
At times, illustrate that your competitors have already done well in different markets and that your solution can perform as well or even better.
The format of this can either be a table, a positioning graph with X and Y axes or a map with market sizing bubbles. It really depends on the messaging and what ties in best with your story.
Here, the key message is conveyed through providing where Switcheo stands amongst its competitors through a positioning map. The message shows that Switcheo does not compromise convenience and security – something its other competitors lack.
7.Introduce Your Team
This is one of the most important slides in your deck where you’ll want to play up the achievements, experiences and technical fit of your co-founders, advisors and team members to make a case for your token sale.
There is no hard and fast way to ace this as the makeup of every team is different. Try to identify strengths within the team even if they might come from a few individuals.
Avoid making general boastful statements like: “creator of multiple successful startups”. Always use quantitative numbers or facts to substantiate any statements
(e.g. former CEO at X, 20 years in IT)
Decide on a specific format and keep it consistent throughout team members. Advisors that need no real introduction can have shorter descriptions.
Here’s one example. The format in introducing the team is consistent. It states their position and states their experience or describe their roles.
As mentioned above, this slide keeps the introductions for the advisors short.
8.Share Your Road Map
Some investors buy tokens to HODL (Hold on for dear life) for the long-haul and not just sell immediately after the ICO is over. As such, they’ll want to know exactly what the founders plan to do and have a look at the roadmap ahead.
Marketing and Growth
Nobody wants to be the last holder of a token. Some investors want to know how you’ll continue to acquire and retain new token holders to bring added liquidity and value to tokens on sale. If you have these in handy to a notable investor who has been asking questions about your marketing plans ahead, list out initiatives to grow users with a dollar value tagged to them.
A basic linear timeline usually suffices when it comes to communicating different phases of your project along with the goals and benefits it is meant to achieve for token holders and users.
Juxtapose each phase title with descriptions of what features will be added along with what benefit they can expect. Typically, founders forecast developments up to 3 years ahead.
(e.g. Phase 2: Main Net, Secure trading for token holders direct to their wallets)
9.Plan to Finance
This is close to your end slide where you detail the distribution of ICO token proceeds as well as the important dates that investors should note for public and private sales.
If you’ve managed to convince the prospective token holder by this point, congratulations.
It’s a good time to deliver an ICO summary so that they’ll know the factors to consider in their purchase including the token price, whether there are hard caps to the number of tokens and how these will be distributed to their wallets.
Specify the following parameters:
Hard Cap and Soft Cap Campaigns.
Number of tokens for sale.
Key token properties for owners.
Platform for release.
Model of the token distribution.
Dates of ICO opening and closing.
Distribution of tokens and key holders.
The distribution breakdown typically consists of the founding team, tokens set aside for marketing related promotions (such as airdrops), key advisors and general operation of the foundation or company working towards realising the solution. Ensuring these are broken up logically and with good reason helps to avoid dissuading the discerning investor wondering where their funds are invested.
10.Ask for Investment
Your whole presentation will be for naught if you don’t ask for the investment. List a few calls to action they’ll have to take to get onto the private sale or public sale and try to reduce the barriers to entry for ease of investing. Nobody wants to go through lengths just to invest.
Have an action statement that clearly answers the question: ‘What do I do next?’ and also incentivise quick action. Don’t forget to include contact details and telegram/medium page URLs if any so they can involve themselves in the ongoing conversation.
E.g. ‘Help us build the world’s first DEX on NEO’, ‘Join our private sale within 24 hours and get 25% bonus”
Visual suggestion: Always good to have a user depicted using the solution or a mock-up of your application to really solidify your ideas and to suggest eventual realisation.
Meandering this new world of cryptocurrency and the blockchain can be confusing when you’re trying to get traction in the initial stages. However, as with any difficult endeavour, strategies that work will leave patterns and we can learn from these successes and apply it to our own projects.
Ever wondered why it is so hard to keep your audience engaged? Well, here’s the answer. According to research, the average attention span of a human is eight seconds. And what this means is that your audience are likely to lose their attention during your presentation, and you wouldn’t want that to happen would you?
Delivering a presentation isn’t as easy as it seems, and on top of that, the thought of your audience not listening to you can haunts you throughout your presentation. In this article, we have prepared 15 tips to help you keep your audience engaged during your presentation.
1. Tell stories
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” – Jean Luc Godard
Ever heard of Shark Tank? Entrepreneurs take part in the show to seek funds from a group of sharks in return for equity for a new product that they have just launched. The way they would pitch about their product is to start with a story that focusses on the problem followed by a demonstration of the product that help provide a solution to it.
So why do they use stories to communicate the problem? Isn’t it easier if they just stated it and moved on from there? Why put in the effort to come up with a story?
Thus, storytelling can play a huge part in helping the audience better understand your point.
Here’s a video of Andy Harrington speaking about the number one way to engage your audience:
2. Eye contact
Most of us have been a victim of painful presentations. Some contain really heavy content, some are filled with numbers and facts, and some are just… boring. One of the ways to keep the audience engaged is to maintain eye contact with them. When you look them in the eye, they are more likely to back at look at you. This way, they get less distracted by other things such as games on their phones and become more focused on you and your content.
3. Start by telling your audience what they’ll take away from your presentation
Imagine listening to a presentation hoping to gain knowledge about a particular something, and the next thing you know, the session is over – turns out, nothing memorable was mentioned, no valuable insight or takeaway from the session.
It would be a plus to inform your audience at the start of your presentation about your agenda or goals so that they know to expect from it. This way, they are more likely to listen attentively and anticipate the information that you’ll be speaking about, which will engage them in your presentation.
4. Emphasise key words
Make it clear to your audience what they really need to pay attention to by changing your tone when it comes to the important information. You can also speak a little softer when you’re emphasising a key point to make the audience focus on you more.
You must be wondering then, why softer and not louder? This is because when you speak softly, people tend to associate it with important things like secrets – which makes them all the more interested in what you have to say.
With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with speaking louder too, though it depends on what the message is and how you would want to convey it to the audience.
You can also consider using the following techniques to emphasize the important points:
Inform your audience that you are about to say something important.
Make the most important point the climax of a story
5. Use silence effectively
Imagine explaining an extremely complex situation or problem to someone. Do you instantly move on to the next point or do you wait for them to process the information before moving on?
This is the same with presentations. When you make a statement, it’s important to wait in silence to observe how people receive the message. Give the audience some time to receive and digest the information. Don’t flood the them with too much information or you’ll end up overwhelming them, which is a sure fire way to lose their interest.
6. Incorporate humour into your presentation
When you have a creative presentation lined up for the audience, you’ve won half the battle. Creative presentation will help to differentiate you from other presenters. What’s left is to maintain their attention towards you throughout the presentation.
Life is too short to be serious about everything. Lighten the mood by incorporating some humor into your presentation to keep the audience engaged. Leo Rosten, an American Humorist, once said “Humour is the affectionate communication of insight.” I’m sure the audience will be happy to listen to a joke or two during a presentation, especially those with heavy content.
7. Encourage interaction
Ever wondered why speakers say things like “Raise your hands if you agree” or “Raise your hands if you have done this before”?
Doing this helps stimulate engagement amongst the audience. Not only that, speakers are also able to find out if you have been listening through your response.
Here’s a tip: make use of online quizzes such as Kahoot during your presentation Kahoot is a customisable online poll to help kickstart a discussion with your audience. They can take part in the quiz using their electronic devices.
This helps find out if they have been listening to you through their participation and also keep them engaged.
8. Be enthusiastic
Don’t expect your audience to be excited about your presentation when you yourself are not. Be enthusiastic and spread the positive vibes to your audience. Remember, you only have 7 seconds to either make it or break it when it comes to creating a lasting impression on your audience. So start off strong with lots of energy to create a lasting first impression. That way, they are more likely to listen to your presentation as they may find you fun and interesting.
9. Pause periodically
Pauses allows your audience to interrupt your presentation with their burning questions. This way, there will be more interaction between you and your audience, thus they’ll be engaged and involved throughout the presentation. You can also switch the presentation up by asking your audience questions once in a while instead of letting them do all the asking. This also helps them to ponder over the issue that you’ve brought up.
10. Alternate your pacing
Would you rather listen to a presentation at the same pace or would you rather have variations? Imagine listening to the presentation outline for a minute when it can actually be done in a shorter amount of time. As a presenter, incorporate some variations into your presentation to spice things up.
For example, when you’re speaking about the presentation outline and background information, you can pick up the pace as it is less important as compared to your main points. And when you’re at your main points, you can speak slower to be more elaborate and to allow your audience to fully absorb the information.
11. Go off script
It would be good to practice the delivery of your presentation in advance so as to look well-prepared and professional. When you look more confident and professional, your audience is more likely to buy your message. After a few rounds of practicing, you should be very familiar with the flow of your presentation and can make do without the cue cards.
However, there is no point memorising and knowing your content at the back of your head if you sound robotic, rigid and rehearsed. The moment you do, chances are, your audience would know and they won’t be able to feel your sincerity when you’re speaking.
So don’t think about how you should act, speak or behave. Let all these expectations go down the drain and speak like how you normally would with a friend or family member – Personal, warm and your walls down. Speak naturally, not word for word.
12. Use your voice
Imagine you’re listening to a monotonous person speak for several minutes. Wouldn’t you feel as though you are listening to a robot? If you’re the presenter, you wouldn’t want to speak in the same tone throughout your presentation as this would bore the audience.
One of the way to capture the attention of the audience is to add a personal and emotional touch to your presentation. If you have noticed, most speakers out there would constantly change their tone according to the context of their presentation. Let’s take Obama as an example. Have you ever heard him speak monotonously? You rarely right, this is because he uses his voice to keep his audience engaged by adding some tone into his speech.
13. Keep it short and sweet
The attention span that can be comfortably held by an interested human engaged in listening to a speaker is around 18 to 20 minutes. It’s the same for students in lectures. They can never listen to a 90-minute lecture without having to take a break – and even with breaks, they tend to lose focus after the first half of the lecture. I have been there and done that and I’m sure most of you have too.
My point is, try to keep your presentations short and sweet but not to the point where you leave out important information. Eliminate unnecessary and irrelevant topics in your presentation as this would also cause the audience to lose focus.
14. Break the ice
If you are speaking to an audience that you’ve just met for the first time, it is important to make them feel comfortable. Wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable when you’re listening to a friend as opposed to when you’re listening to a stranger? This is the same for your audience. They want to hear someone – a friend when you’re speaking. Not a stranger. So to do this, conduct simple ice breaker activities before properly starting your presentation to get them to warm up to you. Examples of ice breakers activities are: Live Polls, 2 truths 1 lie and the classic – Raise your hand if….
Only then when your audience is comfortable with your presence, will you notice that they will be more attentive, making it easier for you to engage them.
Here’s another tip: when you are conducting the activities, try being enthusiastic and personable. Don’t hesitate to go all out and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself in front of the audience. Any hesitation or fear on your part will only make your audience doubt you in return.
15. Avoid providing handouts before or during a presentation
The main purpose of a presentation is to convey your message to the audience. Handouts are secondary.
Although handouts are great for the audience since they can refer to them for further detail and elaboration, distributing them –especially before or during the presentation– will only serve to distract them.
Not only that, they may end up reading the handout instead of focusing on your presentation.
Furthermore, if your handout contains sensitive information, there is no reason why the audience shouldn’t copy it or worse – give it to your competitors.
Thus, handouts can act as a double-edged sword. Useful for the audience, but risky for you. If you plan to make use of handouts, proceed with caution. Weigh the benefits and risks before continuing.
Wrapping it Up
And there you have it! 15 tips to help make your audience glued to their seats during a presentation. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it through this article. Do let us know in the comments if you’ve tried these methods and if it worked out for you!
Q&A is like unchartered territory – unpredictable and full of surprises. It’s a double edged sword, either reinforcing your message or undermining it. One wrong move and you may lose the credibility you’ve worked hard to build as a speaker.
Many speakers – even seasoned ones – are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? You can’t know the questions that will be coming your way. It’s one thing to talk to a crowd but another when it’s a two-way dialogue taking place.
Q&A sessions are not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well – which makes sense why so many can get stage fright, and possibly a break a cold sweat just thinking about it. Naturally, it happens to most people that may not have gone for presentation skills training, but it’s more common than you think.
Either way, whether you love or hate it, Q&A sessions are an essential tool. It makes your talk a subject of conversation and a way to connect with your audience. With a bit of preparation, research and determination, you can leverage on the Q&A session to help elevate your talk and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help ensure your Q&A sessions are as smooth-sailing as possible:
1) Q&A Objectives
A good Q&A session is more than just an allocated time slot for your audience to ask random questions.
The purpose of a Q&A like any presentation, speech or pitch needs to have a clear objective that meets the goal at the end of the day. That means making it evident of the direction you want the session to go.
If you do make use of a moderator, a good one would already be guiding your session to the desired direction easily.
2) Hold a briefing session before the event
It is vital that you brief everyone before your presentation so they are prepared which in turn, can provide the best experience for your audience.
Clarify any issues, questions or instructions from the people working behind the scenes such as stage managers and moderators before running through the event program so everything is in place and running smoothly.
3) Dedicate enough time
This is something you should establish earlier on in the planning stages of your session. Timing for a Q&A session depends on your set up. If your Q&A session will be conducted after your presentation, then a good 15 minutes should be given. However, if it is a team presentation, then the time given should be extended to ensure each presenter gets a chance to answer the questions as well.
Speakers often focus their efforts into the presentation and leave the remaining time allocated to a Q&A session. This means the audience can only answer one or two questions at best. This compromises further engagement with the audience.
To further engage your audience and strengthen your credibility as a speaker, the Q&A session should match the length of the presentation. You can even consider switching it the other way round where your presentation is short and sweet followed by a longer Q&A
4) Prepare questions beforehand
“Over prepare then go with the flow” – Regina Brett
It doesn’t hurt to over prepare – after all it’s the backbone of success. To ensure you’re not caught off guard or flustered over the questions the audience may ask, think of a few to anticipate beforehand.
Make it a habit to write down these questions down especially the tough or controversial ones before rehearsing your answer. Run a mock session with your trusted and reliable colleagues, friends or family to ensure your answers are well thought of and don’t offend your audience. The evaluation and feedback given from the mock session is key to helping you improve as a speaker.
But, if there are a lack of questions asked during your presentation, don’t shy away from initiating first. Not only do you avoid awkward silences, it also helps to kick start the discussion and inspire more questions from the audience.
5) Engage a strong moderator
If you need someone to moderate your Q&A session, then it’s important to choose a good moderator as they can help boost the effectiveness of your Q&A. Ultimately, the role of the moderator is to bridge the gap between the audience and the speaker. Hence, they need to be someone who is comfortable with being on stage, able to handle pressure and facilitate the conversation – not join in or control it.
A good moderator ensures the purpose of the session is intact, is able to guide the questions back to the main topic of the session as well as prevent the session from being hijacked by a troublesome audience member. Make sure to take these considerations in mind when finding a good moderator.
6) Collect Questions Ahead of the Event
Throughout the event, you can start collecting questions before and during your speech. This is helpful in several ways. You as the speaker will be able to plan how to address these questions. The moderator will be able to guide the session better.For the audience, they’re able to ask questions that truly matter instead of scrambling to think of one that may not be useful to them or you. It’s a win-win situation.
One of the ways to collect questions beforehand is using Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both are polling tools where you or your audience can set questions or provide input via a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet.
7) Use the right tools and equipment
Are you planning on having your audience ask their questions vocally or online? Either way, make sure that these tools are able to function with ease during the session itself.
If you’re making use of a microphone, ensure the volume of the microphone is loud enough that even the audience from the back are able to hear the questions asked loud and clear. If you’re facilitating the questions online, then make sure the Wi-Fi or internet is strong so you can receive their questions easily.
It’s not life or death situation if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Sometimes, answering too quickly may make you seem defensive to the audience so it’s okay to take a few seconds to indulge the question. Not only that, answering instantly may wind up making you stumble over your answers which in turn makes them doubt your credibility. Worse, you may even make the mistake of answering nothing related in your haste.
Although it may be awkward to pause due to the silence, your audience won’t think badly of it. In fact, they will appreciate that you took the time to process their questions. You’ll also look more genuine and authentic as a speaker – not a scripted, monotonous robot.
9) Reduce filler words
Although not everyone is graced with speaking fluently in front of an audience, constantly saying ‘um’, ‘well’, ‘you know’ and ‘uh’ will do little to establish your credibility as a speaker. These filler words will also annoy your audience when used repetitively.
But what you can do is reduce using these fillers when speaking. Make it a habit to pause so you can gather your thoughts before you speak. Better to take a few seconds to speak in a cohesive manner than instantly speaking, stumbling over your words.
10) Get straight to the point
Often times, speakers beat around the bush when answering questions during Q&A. It may or may not be intentional as there are other factors that can cause the speaker to answer the questions in a long-winded manner.
For instance, they may not have listened closely or they may not have not known how to answer the question and decided to change the topic. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Beating around the bush will only compromise your credibility as a speaker.
So before you answer a question, make sure to listen carefully. Then, make sure to give a short and straight forward answer.
This brings me to my next point.
11) Confirm that you’ve answered the question
After answering a question, always make sure you clarify if you have truly answered it. Throughout the Q&A session, make it a habit to ask if you’ve answered the question or if your answer was clear. It shows you care and that their needs are being met.
12) Don’t get thrown off by the awkward or random question
Elon Musk mentions that even the most well-prepared and organised presentation can go haywire if the speaker is confronted by irrelevant, random and awkward questions.
If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter this. Nonetheless, it’s still important to be prepared to face it and answer as professionally as possible before tying it back to the topic.
This may take a few tweaks here and there especially when It comes to mastering how to handle awkward questions. With that being said, even if the questions asked are not related, answer it honestly anyway. It may end up being the answer you are most remembered for.
One example is Former President Bill Clinton who encounters being asked a totally random question: “Boxers or Briefs?”. Although the question was puzzling and did not tie with his speech, he answered anyway.
Here’s a video of Elon Musk calmly tackling random and awkward questions after his presentation:
Notice how most of the audience members in the video ask long-winded questions. Elon Musk does not harshly tell them off but firmly says “No essays, only questions” to bring them back on track.
13) Learn How to Handle a Tough Audience
Of course most of the questions asked by the audience are sincere. Their intentions are never to hurt or bring malice upon the speaker.
But sometimes, we are faced with audience members who ask questions intended to make themselves look smarter, put the focus on them or, make the speaker look dumb and undermine their credibility
Whatever the purpose is, there many ways to come out unscathed when handling a tough crowd. Despite so, always make sure to be the bigger person. Answer all their questions with professionalism and keep your emotions in check.
Ending the Session
And we’re nearing the end! You’re almost done so make sure to end the session off strong.
Summarise in one or two short sentences encompassing the message of your talk and always make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention – even if they were a tough audience.
Always be humbled by the audience’s presence even if the talk did not go as plan. This sincerity in turn, may keep your audience coming back for more – or at least leave a long lasting impression on them.
Summing It Up
The best Q&A sessions are ones where you provide your audience with a voice and a safe space for interaction. Not just for the sake of having one.
It all boils down to one purpose: to enhance their learning experience after your presentation or speech.
With that being said, Q&A sessions are only one of the many factors that help you craft an impressive presentation. Make sure to put in the same amount of effort and dedication to planning and executing your presentation as well, and you’ll definitely have a presentation with that ‘wow’ factor.
Don’t forget to implement the 13 steps mentioned to help maximise your Q&A session’s potential and added value. Remember to:
Prepare yourself and others
Know your objective the the Q&A session
Brief others of your plan
Delegate enough time
Anticipate and prepare questions that may be asked
Ensure you have a strong moderator
Make use of the right tools to enhance your session
Pause to ensure your point sinks in
Do not rush and stumble on your words, reduce filler words
Don’t beat around the bush
Ensure if you’ve answered the questions properly
Don’t get thrown off by awkward questions
Learn to handle a tough crowd
Let us know and comment down below if it worked for you!
Every time you go up on stage to speak to the audience, it’s ultimately to establish and develop a good relationship with them. To win the heart of the audience is to gain their trust and their respect all while providing engagement and credible information during a speech.
With that being said however, most speakers worry about whether their audience will like them or not – especially when they have to speak to a tough crowd.
How to Approach Tough Audience Members
These tough audiences can come in many forms. They’re either unimpressed, unconvinced or will jump at any opportunity to scrutinise and judge your every action. If not, they could just be plain uninterested.
This is every speaker’s worse nightmare. But while it can be daunting to face these groups of people, there are ways you can get them to switch to your side. All you need is a lot of determination, patience and effort.
So let’s start with knowing the audience. In order to get a tough audience to switch, it’s important that we understand what type of tough audience members we can typically find. This is so we can frame our presentations to adapt to their needs.
Here are the four types of difficult audience members and how to approach them:
1. The Entertainer
Just like their label, they love the social part of public speaking and this is often more important to them than listening to you. They participate by offering comments and questions to entertain and make the attention shift towards them rather than on the speaker.
At times, they can be of great entertainment but if you’re trying to bring up or convey a serious issue, their energy can undermine your efforts.
Here’s how to identify one:
They constantly promote themselves
They crack jokes
How to Handle This Type:
a) Bite Your Tongue
Do not challenge them unless you wish to make a new enemy. Resist the temptation to give a witty comeback or to crush his or her ego. Instead, be polite and answer their question before quickly moving on.
b) Leverage On Their Energy Skilfully
Sometimes, it’s okay to direct the attention towards the entertainer. Keep them involved by constantly asking questions and giving plenty of eye contact. However, to give the other audience members a chance to participate as well, only ask the entertainers a very specific type of question.
If that doesn’t work, cut short any comments that do not relate to the question.
c) Maintain an Easygoing Approach
Avoid being too serious or you’ll seem like a wet blanket. It’s okay to go with the flow with the entertainer at times. You can laugh at their jokes and give your audience some fun via this entertainer.
This helps give your audience a break – especially when the topic is difficult, complex or boring – before pulling them back to focus.
d) Bring Them Back on Track
Sometimes your talk may require the scene to be much more serious due to the depth of the issue. To ensure, that the entertainer does not lead the talk out of point, gently get them on track by mentioning the purpose of your speech and how you’d prefer the audience to behave.
2. The Rock
This person does not budge. Literally. No matter how much you try to engage with them, they won’t respond or provide any sort of reaction at all.
This is because they’re often socially anxious and will try to avoid participating or interacting in speeches. Despite so, these very people are also aware of how you, the speaker, behaves towards them.
How to Identify One:
Lack of response
Does not like to participate
How to Handle This Type:
a) Do Not Assume
You won’t get much opinions or questions asked from a room full of these individuals, but don’t judge a book by its cover – they may not necessarily dislike or are bored of what you have say to say. This brings me to my next point.
b) Warm Them Up
Try welcoming them into the room with a smile on your face, so they’ll feel much more comfortable and relaxed. This creates a positive environment which makes them much more keen to voice out their opinions as well.
c) Ask for their thoughts
The Rocks are usually the most reflective members of an audience. Due to their detachment from the group, their opinions and thoughts are mostly unbiased and offer a fresh perspective into your topic or issue.
3. The Critic
This audience member is every speaker’s nightmare because all it takes is one mistake. One mistake and these people will jump on you like a pack of hyenas that finally cornered its prey. They will scrutinise your every detail and action before they deem you as a trustworthy or credible speaker.
How to Identify One:
“Hi yes, I noticed that the second slide with the third paragraph overlaps the fifth paragraph with the second column on the first row”
Constantly questions your every intention while looking you up head to toe in scrutiny
Has a hostile or cynical attitude towards you or your topic
How to Handle This Type:
a) Welcome Them:
Listen to their comments and do your best to work with them rather than restricting them. This not only enables an open discussion; you may even get to gain a few insights from another person’s perspective as well.
In the end, they will also perceive you as a humble speaker who believes that their opinions matter too.
b) Agree with Them
If you still firmly believe your opinions are right, it’s okay to provide reasonable and tangible evidence to support your point. Just, make sure to do so in a calm and objective manner to avoid sounding defensive.
4. The Rebel
The rebel is basically someone who just wants to disagree with everything you have to say. Their reason for opposing you can vary. Sometimes it’s because they just hate your guts or worse – they do it because they think it’s fun to make the speaker squirm.
Either way, it’s important not to let them push your buttons or all the effort you’ve built for your image and credibility as a speaker will be thrown out the window just like that.
How to Identify One:
When You say the sky is blue, they yell back in protest, “No! Look out the window! It’s grey!”
Constantly finding ways to irritate you with irrelevant questions or statements
How to Handle This Type:
a) Turn the Tables
Most comics deal with this type by turning them into the target of the joke. This is good if you are naturally very good when it comes to improvised humour.
b) Do Not React
These types of individuals’ main goal are to fire you up so the worse think you can do is to let your emotions get the better of you.
One very quick way to stop them from constantly finding ways to get under your skin is to just stare at him or her with a neutral expression. They will eventually grow more irritated instead of the other way round since you’re not falling for their trap.
Winning Your Audience’s Trust
Now you know what to expect from the type of audience members you will be facing, it’s also equally important to know what you can do to gain their trust as a whole.
According to experts, trust affects a speaker’s credibility. This is because your audience view trustworthiness as your motivation to be truthful. Furthermore, gaining trust often makes audiences believe in your message as well.
Hence, here are the 7 Tips to help gain the trust and respect of your audience:
1. Embrace the ‘tough crowd’
“Embrace each challenge in your life as a an opportunity for self-transformation” -Bernie Siegel
We all have to face a tough crowd at least once in our lives. It’s inevitable. But, instead of seeing this as a challenge, try turning the table around so that it works in your favour.
Come onto the stage with a positive mindset and approach them like they’re the best crowd you’ve spoken to. The key is to look at every laugh or any sort of interest in your speech as a gift. Think this way: Every laugh or moment a listener engages in your presentation is an affirmation that you’re doing my job.
Focus on what is working and put your insecurities and doubt aside. This is so you can free up your mind to work on the good things and go from there.
2. Don’t take it personally
So far, we’ve been talking about how you can gain the heart of your audience. But one sure fire way to lose them forever is to take their comments to heart.
We, as humans, are naturally driven by emotions. But sometimes, letting them get in the way prevents us from establishing a good relationship with our audience. To ensure this does not happen, focus on the result that you’re looking for and not on how the process is making you feel, or whether the person offended you.
Although this sounds simple, it’s easier said than done. This is especially so when we encounter a rude and unreasonable individual that steps out of line. Don’t stoop to their level. Instead, take a deep breath, remain calm and try to deal with this individual patiently.
In return, the audience will realise that you are being treated unfairly. Not only that, the audience will have a better and positive image of you as well. The rude individual on the other hand, will look like a jerk as a result.
3. Addressing the Elephant in the Room
There will be a point in time where something unexpected happens or the audience knows something embarrassing or controversial about you.
For example, it could be someone in the crowd that was insulting or throwing food at you before you could speak or a ‘scandal’ that you allegedly got into.
Either way, it creates an awkward atmosphere between you and audience. Hence why you should address it even more to get it out of the way.
If not, you risk losing your audience’s attention because they’re too preoccupied by the unspoken issue that you did not clear before your speech. This ‘elephant’ that surrounds the room is what’s hindering them from paying attention in the first place.
President Barack Obama strongly believes in this saying. He openly acknowledges his discomforts which often include his race, his ‘funny name’ and the fact that his father comes from a developing part of the world and once lived in a hut.
This is an uncomfortable topic for him as his background may make him seem less eligible than the other leaders in America.
Despite the discomforts he faces, he still addresses them head on with humour, easing the comfort of those to whom he speaks. The outcome? He successfully manages to lead his audience back to his main point.
4. Show you understand
No one and I repeat no one likes to be told that ‘they don’t understand’. So when someone in the audience decides to challenge your idea, don’t fight it; embrace it. Say: ‘Tell me more’ so you can have an effective, enlightening and calm discussion.
This will show your effort in trying to understand your audience and you are doing so by addressing their concerns.
Here’s an added tip: constantly ask for their opinion or thoughts from time to time. This makes them feel wanted and appreciated as they feel that what they say matters to you as a speaker.
5. Find the common ground
A famous speaker for this is none other than former US President, Barack Obama. He has the uncanny ability to bring people together despite their differences. His method is simple, and it’s to focus on the similarities of him and his audience. This is how he manages to bring people of different backgrounds, race and ethnicity together.
So when you’re about to present, always ask yourself what are the shared beliefs, values, message or opinion you and your audience can agree on. This can help you gain their trust, flipping them from a tough crowd to future loyal fans.
Here’s a famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Dr Martin Luther King Junior that brought people together despite their differences:
In this video, Dr King kept using the words, ‘I have a dream,’ before bringing his audience together with a common vision – the dream and the hope for a brighter future for America regardless of race, language or religion. This shared vision helped unite these people despite their differences in beliefs and values.
6. Through storytelling techniques
According to experts, recent scientific work is putting a much stronger emphasis on how stories change individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.
It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate on all our five senses which allows us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.
If used correctly, storytelling can be a very powerful communication tool due to its ability to connect, gain the trust of and pique interest amongst the audience.
One example of a simple yet extremely effective storytelling technique is none other than ‘The Hero’s Journey Approach. This technique has a proven framework that never fails to keep your audience glued to their seats!
Here’s a video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about how school kills creativity. In the talk, he makes use of storytelling techniques to engage and hook his audience.
You’ll notice that he makes references through the story of others such as Picasso as well as his own personal stories to build rapport with his audience.
7. Ace your Q&A
It’s vital you Master the Art of Q&A. Many speakers are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? It’s unchartered territory since you can’t know the questions that will be coming your way.
In short, this session will demonstrate whether you truly know your stuff.
This is the crucial moment where you either gain the trust and loyalty of your audience, or you completely lose them and your credibility. Essentially, it’s the segment of your talk where a two-way dialogue takes place. It’s not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well.
In Q&A sessions, you may face a difficult questioner from time to time. In this setting, it’s important you know how to respond knowledgeably, calmly, and confidently. Don’t fear this obstacle but rather, embrace it. If you understand your content from the presentation, it’ll be half the battle won. All that’s left to do is to prepare questions to anticipate in advance and practice.
Summing It Up
So there you have it! These are the ways to handle and convince a tough crowd. Identify and understand the behaviours of a tough audience member so you can best approach them without compromising your credibility and image as a speaker.
Seize the opportunity to convince and switch a tough crowd with these tips:
Identify the type of tough audience members
Understand their behaviours and patterns
React and approach them accordingly
Embrace the problem and turn it into an opportunity
Don’t take things to heart and dare to address the issues or problems
Find common ground and show you understand your audience
Engage your audience through storytelling
Build your credibility through Q&A
Leave a comment below if you’ve applied these tips and if it worked for you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Stand up, shoulders back and hands on your stomach. Let your stomach muscles relax.
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.
Hold this breath and count to 10.
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.
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.
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:
Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically
Know and Focus On What You Want Out of the Presentation
Understand and Rehearse for the Speech
Practice The Art of Faking Your Confidence or Embrace being You
Learn from the Outcome and Get Feedback to Improve