Part of being in the presentation skills training business is keeping up with current findings and new literature in the field. As any modern day researcher (read: web surfer) knows, this can consume huge amounts of time as each interesting looking hyperlink leads to another, and another, and, well, you know how it works.
Sometimes, our travels are rewarded with gems like the ones that follow. Turns out that ever since Dale Carnegie discovered about a century ago that good public speaking was a process that could be learned rather than inherited, there's been little shortage of people out there with "good advice" to pass on. Some of these people even take money for it! Anyway, here's a sample of the wisdom we garnered for free, and its worth every penny!
T.B., a presentation skills consultant writing at AllSands, a knowledge site, advises:
"Many professional actors and public speakers find that doing light callisthenic exercises in their dressing rooms or a private area can relieve the excess energy. Try running in place, or shaking your arms and legs. Go out for a quick run somewhere, or punch a boxing bag. The trick is to release enough nervous energy to calm your anxieties, but not leave you so stress-free that your speech suffers."
Problem: When we're engaged to do public speaking, we often have to wear a suit and tie. It's been our experience that going out for a run just before we go on stage can often work up a good sweat! If you can help it, while presenting you really never want the audience see you sweat. And the punching bag idea is not always a convenient one. If you're giving your presentation out-of-town, a full-size Everlast bag does not easily fit in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you, and can really slow you down when running to catch a flight.
Solution: The excess energy people experience when speaking results from adrenaline pulsing through the body, brought on by the classic fight-or-flight syndrome that accompanies fear. The fear needs to be dealt with, not the energy. In our presentation skills seminars, we show participants how many of the techniques they learned in their public speaking "education" actually create, build, and compound normal levels of anxiety.
A.M., another public speaking consultant writing at AllSands, advises:
"Some speakers are surprised to learn how limited their view of the audience really is when all the stage lights are turned on. What you might fear as a group of faces staring at you in judgment may just turn out to be an anonymous group of shadows."
Problem: Call us old-fashioned, but when speaking in public, we don't feel we're really relating to our audience best if we can think of them as an "anonymous group of shadows". If you think not looking at the audience is a good thing, how about just wearing a pair of Blues Brothers shades? Or maybe squinting your eyes really tight, so that the people all become one amorphous blob? Or, better yet, maybe closing your eyes completely!
Solution: Actually, learning to adopt proper eye-contact techniques is the key to reducing the self-induced fear factor we spoke of above. More to this point, though, is that to be a truly professional public speaker, to be believed and get your audience behind you, it is essential that you firmly establish eye contact with the individuals in the group.
Ask yourself this: If you're buying a used car and have questions about its history, do you want the dealer to look you in the eye, or to treat you like an anonymous shadow?
But wait - there's more!
T. H., author of Essential Managers Series "Making Presentations", DK Publishing:
"[When public speaking] try to glance at the whole audience at the start so that they feel involved. Sweep your gaze across the entire audience."
Problem: Yeah, whenever we've got a group that we really need to convince, or whenever trust is an issue, the words "glance" and "gaze" come to mind first if we're thinking eye contact. We believe people feel a certain level of sincerity with a glance or gaze that you just can't get with that direct, look-me-in-the-eye thing. Also, when we first get up in front of a strange group, we like to get as much visual over-stimulation as possible, just to get that adrenaline pumping at full force!
Solution: The great news here is that when you engage proper presentation skills, its a win-win for all. In all forms of speaking, proper eye contact works for both the audience and the presenter. We show participants the skills required to establish the right amount of contact for every presentation situation; our participants quickly discover for themselves just how comfortable and de-stimulating this can be. In addition, members of the audience feel greater trust, because its hard to believe someone is lying when they look you in the eye.
Finally, one of our favorites:
From e-trainingsystems, you can take away this useful public speaking tip:
"Without doubt the hardest kind of public speaking format to prepare for is speaking impromptu."
PublicSpeakingSkills: We don't think Yogi Berra could have said it any better!