Want to be a confident and charismatic public speaker?

Whether it's a wedding, a TED Talk, a work conference or an election, we've all been wowed by a speech at some point. But how do they deliver their words in a way that the audience remembers it for the rest of that day, that month, even their whole life?

Public speaking is not a skill people are born with - it may come more naturally to some than others, but with the right tools and techniques, you can make sure you leave that stage bursting with pride and ready to do it all over again.

5 Quick Ways To Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking

For many of us, being called upon to deliver a presentation to dozens or even hundreds of people is a daunting prospect. In fact, it’s well documented that we fear giving presentations more than we do death or dying - there’s even a great sounding term for it ‘Glossophobia’.  So there’s no wonder then when we are summoned to present to a large audience it can feel downright intimidating… even to the most experienced of presenters.

1. Conquer public speaking anxiety

Anxiety can be seen as the saboteur in our head, the negative voice, the chimp vs. our adult persona. It’s there with a whole flurry of negative predictions of what could possibly happen. Your anxiety is negatively hypothesising. 

The way to deal with it is to say "NOT NOW – I’m focusing on my objective, which is to get my point across. You are not important. Yes, you’re a chimp fear, you’re a negative voice but I’m brushing you out the way and I’m focusing on my objective because I have something to do. You have to really clarify what you want to do. You don’t give time to these negative ideas, tell yourself you have a job to do, you have something to say, you have a message to share.

So, you conquer this public speaking anxiety by turning it into the chimp – if you’ve read The Chimp Paradox, it talks about the difference between the chimp and the adult brain. And we know this kind of fear belongs with the chimp.

You can also visualise each step. Visualise yourself walking onto the stage from wherever you’ve come from. Visualise yourself taking a moment to look out to the audience and visualise doing some of the speech and the audience’s positive reaction, and the feeling of relaxation. What you might find in the first visualisation, is that, if you’re really in it, your heart will beat faster, and you’ll get nervous. This is great because if you notice it, you can try to channel those feelings and convert them into excitement, you can tell the negative thoughts that you have a more important job to do. And what you’re doing there is creating a neural pathway, even if it’s imagined. It’s still valid. You’re creating a neural pathway of confidence. Of being able to convert like your catalytic convertor, to convert these nerves into positivity and excitement.

2. Practise public speaking on your own

There’s a couple of things you can do... You can do the visualisation technique, but it is even better to film yourself. You need to get used to your presentation and you need to remember the flow. In an ideal world, you want to know it off by heart. So, you need to have the points of what you’re saying and the triggers. Practise with people.

One of the TED Talks we love is the one Alex Honnold did about free-climbing a 3000 foot peak in the USA. The first time he did it, he was ill prepared and it was extremely risky. He decided that the second time he was going to do the bigger peak, he was going to do it properly. He spent a year planning his route meticulously, climbing it with ropes 50 or so times, visualising it, asking every single question about what could possibly go wrong and coming up with solutions. He was all over it. When he did climb the peak, finally, he felt like he was gliding up there and he did it without ropes. So, practise is an incredibly powerful tool when doing any kind of public speech. Because it creates those neural networks of confidence.

The more you practise, the more you make it your own. The more you know exactly what it is you’re doing each step of the way.

3 Reasons Why Pauses In Speech Are Crucial

In this video, Emma Serlin, London Speech Workshop's Director is talking about pauses and why they are crucial in presentations. They give your listener the chance to process what you're saying and stay with you. It means that in a deeper way, they feel acknowledged as part of the communication dynamic.

Packed into this little eBook are three fabulous tools to use when you are having one of those ‘off office’ days. Helping you to turn it around to be the best communicator you can be, again and again and again.

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How To Release The Confident Public Speaker Inside Of You

Feel the fear and do it anyway. Isn’t that what they say? And public speaking is one situation where that quote is particularly poignant.

It’s perfectly natural to feel the adrenalin pumping when you’re about to walk onto that stage. Very few public speakers, even seasoned ones, feel completely comfortable before they start. But here’s the good news: there are plenty of things you can do to make sure that the experience is a positive one, and that by the time you leave that stage you’re bursting with pride and ready to do it all over again.

In this Ebook we give you powerful tools that come straight from our Serlin Method™️  – which will help you to feel and sound more confident both at work, and in day to day life.

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Preparation for public speaking is key

Start planning your speech by noting down your ‘why’, that key piece of value that you need to communicate? Everything else will stem from this – all of the points you make and the stories you tell throughout your speech should be relevant and tangible, logically building to your conclusion: your ultimate ‘why.’

Don’t be afraid to ‘spice it up’ with some little details or colourful stories. It’s all part of the recipe for the perfect speech. Including thought-provoking or emotive stories helps to solidify your message in your audience’s mind and keeps them engaged and following along intently with you. I always suggest including at least one bit of ‘spice’ per minute – this could be something funny, emotionally weighty or simply something that stands out.

Remember, it's stories that make for a great presentation, not facts or slides. You want to avoid 'Death by Powerpoint' at any cost.

How to add 'spice' to your speech

Sir Ken Robinson understands the importance of 'spice', and uses it brilliantly and memorably in his TedX talk Do Schools Kill Creativity?, He was simply talking about living near Stratford, but this anecdote draws his audience even further into his story and connects him to them with laughter:

…we lived in a place called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare’s father was born. Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he? How annoying would that be? “Must try harder.” Being sent to bed by his dad, you know, to Shakespeare, “Go to bed now,” to William Shakespeare, “and put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. It’s confusing everybody.”

These few lines are packed with spice, comedy and unique observations. The result? An audience and viewers giggling and enjoying every minute, everyone is totally receptive to the profound points when they come, and one of the most watched Ted Talks of all time. So find your spice and unique perspective and let the results unfold.

For more tips on how to learn from TED speakers, read: How to speak so people want to listen.

Find someone to help you practise your speech

Practising your speech is vital; there’s no getting away from it. You need to repeat it over and over to get the rhythm right, practise when to pause, and tune the intonation in your voice. And while practising alone is valuable, practising with someone else is far more beneficial.

Once you’re confident you’ve got your speech nailed down, try delivering it to a trusted friend or colleague. Ask them for detailed feedback: which bits do they like, which bits of ‘spice’ really hit home – were there any bits that were particularly memorable? Or were there any points that weren’t quite clear? Were they left with questions? Have your listener feedback on what they took to be your main point or key takeaway and check it’s in line with your intention.

Make sure you address any feedback and try not to take it as criticism. Constructive feedback is merely a great way to ensure your delivery will be perfect on the day.

Look confident even when you don’t feel it

 I mentioned adrenalin earlier, but that nervous energy doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If you know how to channel them, nerves are identical to excitement and they impact the body in the same way. The only difference is your internal narrative – what you’re telling yourself about them.  Take back control by telling yourself you’re excited, a positive emotion, rather than thinking 'I'm nervous', which sounds negative.

And while you’re at it try some visualisation. Picture yourself behind that lectern having just finished your speech, a smile on your face and rapturous applause ringing in your ears. It really is possible to change your mindset in this way.

How to overcome nerves right before you start

It's normal to feel nervous before walking out on to a stage, so don't fight your feelings. It’s important that you overcome your nerves, not by getting rid of them, but by not letting them control your performance. 

Before you head out in front of your audience, take a moment to concentrate on your ‘why’ and initiate a power pose – lift your chest, hold your head high and throw your arms out to the side – this works to release cortisol from the brain and can literally change the way you feel about yourself in a moment.  

Combine this with some deep breathing to calm your body and prevent the panic setting in. It’s natural - evolutionary, even - that when the fear kicks in your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your breathing becomes shallower, reaching only the top of your lungs, and the brain takes this as a signal to release adrenaline and enter panic mode.

The good news is you can work to reverse this by taking deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for five and breathe out for 5. This will send good, calming signals to your brain. Don’t forget though - a little bit of adrenalin is good, it will make you feel alive and give you the energy to make an impact.

Make a great first impression

Getting off to a good start will help you feel confident, so be sure to make a good first impression on your audience. Enter the stage area confidently, don’t rush to your position, but stride assuredly. When you reach your mark, take a moment. Take another breath and look around you. Give your attention to the audience before you start.  Aim for soft eye contact and use your peripheral vision – look towards the back wall if you don’t feel comfortable staring people in the eye.

This is called "speaker state" by Eric Edmeades, whose public speaking residential I went on recently. It’s a valuable idea and a crucial concept for every public speaker. Those first few moments of taking your space pay rich dividends later. 

Commit to your delivery

Delivering a speech to an audience is all about connection. If you receive feedback that suggests your audience is following along with you, you’ll feel more confident, you’ll relax, and in turn, they’ll begin to feel more of a connection with you.

No matter how much you’ve practised your speech in the quiet safety of your own home, remember that there is now a live audience in front of you. Interact with them, respond to them, pause when they laugh. Keep your eyes softly focused but connect with them and smile when you see them nodding and laughing. Stay in the moment with them and don’t rush to reach the next part. Give your audience respect; give them time to digest your words, and don't bury your head in your notes - more tips on that here.

And finally, deliver your words with passion. Believe in your thorough planning and your sprinkling of ‘spice’. Know you’re telling a good story with a powerful ‘why’. That’s how you’ll truly gain connection - by showing your audience how much you believe in what you’re saying.

…And never apologise for being nervous

Nerves are natural, they show you care about doing a good job. But make sure you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself. Giving a speech doesn’t have to be about showing the audience what a great public speaker you are, it’s about having something valuable to share and sharing it in a way that allows your audience to feel your passion and believe in it too.

Start with a story that's worth telling, and you’ll be on a roll. Your audience’s reaction will give you the confidence you need to go on to deliver a first-rate speech…despite those feelings of fear.

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How To Deliver A Captivating Virtual Presentation

As our working lives have shifted online, we've become more familiar with this new way of working. Online meetings, online interviews, a deluge of emails every day and very little live human interaction with the people we are spending our days with. Our colleagues have turned into talking heads on our screens!  So now we're all thinking... How do I get my audience interested in my ideas, when I’m just a talking head? 

Presenting virtually can pose a huge challenge. Here is your moment to deliver your message and, with any luck, make a great and long-lasting impression. Depending on the circumstances, the stakes may be high. 

Without sharing the same physical space as your audience, it is tough to feed off the energy around you and know how you are being received. Essentially, you’re sitting at your laptop in an empty room sharing your PowerPoint screen, hoping that someone is listening to you. But whilst the set up might be different, interaction with your audience is still very much possible.

In this Ebook we’ve included our top tips for not just getting by, but acing your online and virtual communications.

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1. Curate your backdrop and find your angle

Before your presentation, figure out your angles and lighting. Make sure it’s flattering and you look your best. The screen should be level with your face so that you’re not looking downwards. You don’t want your audience looking up your nostrils for the duration of your presentation. Light should be in front of you rather than behind you so you don't look like an eerie Dementor-like shadow!

Your background is a unique opportunity to showcase some of your personality to people in a way that you never could before. Use it. Whether you want to keep your background clean with some flowers or plants or place a fabulous piece of art in frame, make your background appealing. 

Keep a glass of water at the ready, not a bottle. Chugging on a bottle looks much less graceful than taking a sip of water on screen. 

2. Make sure you can see people

Ask people to switch their video on. You may not be able to feed off the energy in the room in quite the same way as in person, but making sure you can see everyone is the next best thing. Take care to look for visual cues from your audience during your presentation, especially raised hands or confused looks. And just as you normally would, be sure to address those questions and concerns directly as you go along.

When presenting slides, you can often lose view of your audience after you share your screen, which can be very off putting. Do a practice run through and tweak the settings on the video conferencing platform you are using to make sure you can at least see a few people. 

Being visible on screen will also keep your listeners alert and concentrating on your content. 

3. Think about how you sound

Your voice will be more important than ever during virtual presentations. Your audience may only be able to see a small image of you or no image at all, in the case of full PowerPoint presentations. You want the audience to believe you, to buy into your ideas and go on a journey with you. You need your voice to sound interesting to compel your audience to stick with you.

Experiment with your vocal landscape. This is the way you use your voice - the volume, speed, tone, emphasis, intonation and pauses. Vowels are where you can inject feeling and connect on a personal and emotional level with your message, whereas consonants are where you can speak with precision and professionalism. 

Make sure the way you utilise your voice is varied and colourful whilst keeping your main points clear and impactful. 

Click here to learn more about how to achieve vocal charisma.

4. Define the shape of your presentation from the outset

At the beginning, create a clear sense of what you will be speaking about. As with regular presentation skills, you should always structure out what your listeners can expect, say how long the presentation will last and that you will take questions at the end. Read presentation notes if it makes you more comfortable, but don't rely on these as an exact script.

Define your 3 key points – this will be as important for you as your audience. It will help you to stay on message throughout and give your audience takeaways from your presentation.

5. Interact with your audience!

An engaging presentation is one where you are not doing all the talking. Other people are included. Makes sense, right? 

Involve people with your presentation – take questions, ask for volunteers and share experiences. With online presentations, that will mean asking them to write questions for you in the comments box, asking them to give a Thumbs Up sign on Zoom, raising their virtual or actual hands, waving at you, unmuting individuals to participate in a Q&A. 

It’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one in the room when doing a virtual presentation- just the quiet echo of your own voice. But you can keep the audience switched on. These little tricks keep people involved and invested in what you have to say.

6. Spice up your presentation

Don’t confine yourself to the technical - make your content pop. Spice up your presentation using stories and anecdotes. Be sure to include you, your values and your unique perspective in your presentation.

Remember: Authenticity + Connection = Engagement

At LSW, we talk about ‘the meal plan’ to help you to make your content memorable. This will not only amplify your message, but will make what you have to say much easier to ‘digest’ for the listener . 

1 - The protein

This is the essence of what you want to say. The 3 or 4 main takeaway points.

2 - The vegetables

Why this message is important - Making the message personal and engaging people at an emotional level.

3 - The spice

That ‘touch of magic’ that adds some flavour into your content. This can be anecdotes, metaphors, real life examples.

How To Use Presentation Notes Effectively

This ability to deliver a speech assuredly without notes is the holy grail of presenting. But for the majority of people this doesn’t come naturally, it must be learned and practised, and anxieties overcome. Here's how...

Take your presentation skills from good to outstanding with these seven simple tools:

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1. Hold the notes in the right place

The problem with presentation notes is that they can create a physical barrier between you and the audience. As long as you’re aware of this it becomes fairly easy to prevent this happening. Either hold them down low or have them on a lectern but – and this bit is important – stand to the side of that lectern, not directly behind it. Allow space for your energy to flow outwards to your audience. Wherever you choose to hold your notes, make sure they’re not directly between you and those you’re speaking to.

2. Use your eyes to emphasise

We talk often about the importance of using good eye contact when you’re delivering a message. When you have notes, the temptation is to look down at them more than you look at your audience. Making regular eye contact with your audience helps to make sure your message has hit home, but only when you use it correctly. For example, it’s tempting to glance at your notes as you come to the end of the sentence in order to get a hint at what’s coming next. Whereas you should be making that eye contact towards the end to deliver the thought with impact and gauge whether it’s been understood.

3. Try to avoid making verbatim notes

While it can make you feel better because you know exactly what you will be saying, the danger of a ‘script’ is you’ll be far more likely to read them out as if you’re reading from a book. This will mean not only that you’re more likely to hold your notes up like a wall in front of your audience, but you will find it much harder to deliver your points with passion. The way we write is often very different to the way we talk too - unless you’re a professional writer - therefore delivering written notes verbally can make it harder for your audience to connect with you rather than the words. By reading verbatim notes you’re actually making it harder for your listeners to fully engage. 

4. Be flexible with your notes

If your audience applauds or laughs, engage with them by pausing, smiling and acknowledging their response. Continue when they’re ready. Or if someone makes a comment or asks a question, be sure to look up at them and respond directly to them, then return to your notes only once you’ve finished addressing the point. Religiously sticking to the notes could make your audience feel left out.

The Dos And Don’ts Of The Dreaded Q&A

You’ve finished your presentation and the audience is applauding loudly. You feel a swell of adrenalin and know you’ve done a great job – all that practise was worth it. But now it’s time for the audience Q & A. Anybody could ask you anything – everything that happens next is a complete unknown. How can you make sure you give your best?

Whether you’re speaking at a conference, pitching to investors or presenting to colleagues, let’s have a look at some of the ways you can prepare for the Q&A to make sure there’s no awkward moments or unwelcome surprises...

Preparing for your Q&A - Focus and get yourself in the zone

First, notice what’s going on in your head. Are you in conflict mode, expecting an attack? If so, try and gently sweep away any thoughts that make you feel like you’re getting ready for battle and replace them with a new perspective. You’re the expert and people want to know your opinion. The fact that they are asking a question means they are engaged and that’s a great sign!

Now use some of our techniques to help reduce presentation anxiety. Consciously relax your body, plant your feet hip-width apart for balance, take deep breaths and stay centred. It’s amazing how giving the impression of physical strength puts you in a better place mentally to deal with anything. 

If you get a question that feels challenging,  imagine it’s a ball being thrown towards you. You don't want to return it with equal energy, instead, you want to take control of the situation, define the energy, and pace that suits you.  So - instead of batting it back, catch it, hold it for a moment, examine it carefully and then place it on the table and turn to the thrower to respond. There’s no rush to answer quickly, better to pause and formulate a great reply and take back the control Then you call the shots, and trust me, it feels so much better.  If you’re worried you may need a moment to gather your thoughts and defuse a question, try saying “that’s a really great question, thank you.” It will diffuse the energy and give you time to collect your thoughts and formulate a response. Here are 5 handy tips for overcoming presentation nerves.

What unfolds during the Q & A may be different depending on the type of presentation you’re involved with. So, let’s look at a few different scenarios:

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How to handle an audience Q&A at a conference

If you’ve been asked to speak at a conference, the chances are you’re considered to be an expert in your field, otherwise, you wouldn’t have been given the opportunity in the first place. So keep this in mind and remember it’s your time to shine. Take the opportunity to share what you know and even enjoy showing off a little - why not?

The audience isn’t trying to catch you out with tricky questions. They’re there to learn, to further their knowledge on a subject; they’re hungry to find out more of what you know. This is a positive thing - so if you’re nervous, reframe it in your mind rather than focusing on the fear of the unknown.

Make sure you respond positively to any questions that are asked of you, thanking and acknowledging the people asking them. And remember - you’re in control. You don’t need to answer immediately, there’s nothing to stop you jotting down a few words on a piece of paper to help you frame your answer and make your point more succinctly. And never respond aggressively. If you’re not sure about a question, try to take it and say, “what I’m hearing is….” And “my opinion on that is…”

There will always be questions asked that might take you by surprise. Even if you don’t feel confident about your answer, don’t panic. Take your time, answer from a place of honesty and consideration rather than feeling back-footed. Say, “that’s a great question, and a really interesting new angle…”, offer up some of your initial thoughts based on your own experience and say it’s something you’d like to look into more. No-one expects you to be a supercomputer – taking your audience through your thought process and the steps you would take to find out an answer is enlightening in itself. Working on developing vocal charisma will help you to navigate such situations with ease. For more tips, read our guide on handling presentation interruptions.

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Taking questions from potential investors after a pitch

A pitch is a high-pressure situation. It can feel like one wrong answer will make or break an investment offer. As you feel the adrenalin start to course through your veins, what can you do to make sure you’re showing off your business or project idea in its best light?

Firstly, understand that preparation is everything. If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den you’ll have seen that the greatest criticism that the dragons level against potential investees is that they don’t know their numbers. Make sure you know yours. Net profits, projections and margins all need to be practised and reeled off confidently when needed.

During questioning take note of how you’re feeling. If you think your business baby is being called into question, it can be hard not to go on the defensive, to tense up and react negatively to what’s being said. Better to pre-empt this feeling, take some deep breaths and pause before offering a calm and gracious response. Remember, potential investors will be assessing you as a person as much as the viability of your business. They will want to know whether you're a good listener,  how you respond under pressure, how you deal with difficult situations and ultimately whether you, and not just your business, are a safe bet. Being seen as a good listener is one of 6 top skills all the best entrepreneurs share.

If you’re faced with a question you’re not sure about, resist the urge to allow your fight or flight mechanism to take over and go on the attack. Don’t apologise, but be honest. Thank the questioner for bringing it to your attention and explain that you’ve been concentrating elsewhere. Make sure you finish your point with a downward tone rather than an upward inflection. This reflects closure and suggests subtly to the panel that you’d like to move on.

Importantly, make sure you end warmly and positively. It will be these final moments that stick in the head of the investors. Want more tips? Here are 5 communication tools for nailing your next pitch.

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Answering difficult questions in a presentation to colleagues

A work presentation can be nerve-wracking for a different reason. Surrounded by people you know, perhaps even those more senior than you, it can feel that there is immense pressure to perform well. In many ways there is more of an emotional investment here than when you’re facing a room full of strangers – after all, with strangers, you can walk away and never see them again. And while things may feel a little less formal, it’s still important from a career perspective that you show what you know.

If the questions that come your way are easy, then that’s great. Make sure you still explain clearly, don’t make assumptions about what people know already, but be succinct. The tendency when we get nervous and we’re talking about something we know well, is to quickly rattle the answer off without allowing the listener to take it in. It may feel counterintuitive, but brevity can allow you to speak less whilst actually saying more.

If you receive questions that are more challenging, then be honest, acknowledge whether it’s the case that you don’t know, or that you can’t say. And the beauty of a workplace Q & A is that you can always follow up on the answers to any questions via email later.

Keep in mind that your colleagues generally want to see you succeed, they’re not out to get you. So try to stay positive and refrain from taking the questioning personally. For more helpful tips, read '7 presentation tools that will wow your colleagues'.

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Lessons from a young politician

A few years ago, Jeremy Paxman was interviewing a young female politician. He was looking for a response about when a decision took place. He was asking, “when was xxx done?”  and “when were you told?” She tried to dodge the question by going on the attack and making him look small.

Of course, this was like a red rag to a bull. Paxman went for her, picking up her words and not letting her off the hook. She refused to answer again, saying she couldn’t remember. She was clearly lying by this point and probably felt uncomfortable.

Eventually, she calmed down, took a breath and started to deal with the questioning in the way she should have done in the first place. “I’m not going to be able to give you an answer to that,” she said in a strong, clear voice. Paxman backed off knowing the line of questioning was going nowhere.

The moral of this story is, if you try to deflect questions, or keep putting someone down, they will be encouraged to continue in the attack. Instead, stick to your guns and be authentic. If you don’t feel comfortable answering a question, say: “I understand it’s important to you, but I can’t answer that now. What I can tell you is…” Use a downward inflection at the end of your statement to signal clearly that the matter is closed.

How To Handle Presentation Disruptions

Whether we like it or not, the worst can happen when giving a speech or important presentation, our body can behave in ways we really don’t want it to, and other people can also. As was the experience of our prime minister on her recent Tory Conference party speech when she was interrupted by not only her own coughing fit but also a heckler. So what do we do when the stars misalign, and coughs and heckles make an appearance? Here are some top presentation tips to help you find the silver linings or at least, lessen the disruption.

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Remember, with any unforeseen circumstances that come up during a speech, as unwelcome as they feel, they can offer an opportunity to show another side of you, responsive or humble, gracious, witty, accepting, calm. So next time you are confronted with the ‘worst’ see if you can turn it round, and make it a time to connect even more with your audience. Letting them see more of who you really are. They will like you all the more for it.

Before the speech

BE PREPARED

Make sure you have lozenges, tissues, water and cough syrup to hand, so if the cough appears, you have what you need to nip it in the bud.

DRINK PLENTY

Before the speech you should be lubricating your vocal chords by drinking plenty of room temperature water. This will moisten the vocal folds and prevent the throat from drying. Cough syrups and hot drinks are also good. Lemon and honey is a particularly effective cough combatant. The lemon will cut through the congestion and the anti-septic properties of honey will soothe your throat.

WARM UP

When your voice is tired or ragged is an absolute necessity. A simple yet effective exercise is to create an 'Ng' sound by saying “ing” and sustain it as you go up and down your vocal register. Notice when there is an almost 'crackling' sound and go over and around these with your voice. This will massage the vocal folds and help smooth out a croaky voice.

HIGHLIGHT

Highlight your speech - literally, get a highlighter pen, and mark all the key words and phrases that you want to make ‘pop’ for your audience. This means during the speech, because you know what these key phrases are, you will be putting the effort in to get these ideas into your listeners’ head, meaning this extra bit of intention, focus and energy will easily bypass the effects of a tired voice, and get you heard where it counts.

During the speech

CREATE INTIMACY

If your voice is tired and strained, don’t feel like the only way to make impact is to talk in a loud voice – it isn’t. Instead you can lower your tone, speak slower and quieter, and double the intensity, drawing people in so they sit forward to be part of the intimate circle you are creating. It takes intention, and eye contact, and really connecting to the audience, but can be done with a large group of people and is a fantastic way to counter a strained voice and make impact.

USE SILENCE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

When our voices are strained we have to use other means available to make impact with our ideas. Pauses are perfect for just this. Take a pause before key ideas and phrases to tell the audience you are about to say something of importance. A well used pause will add weight and impact without any vocal effort.

COUGHING FITS HAPPEN

If you do find yourself coughing in the middle of a speech, accept that coughing fits happen. It is no reflection on your commitment, your integrity or skill as a communicator. Therefore do not let it take you down. Simply do what you can to help it pass, take the time you need, and let it be a blip in an otherwise great speech. If you handle it well people will forget about it and move on with you. If however you battle it out, then that it what they will ne watching. You, fighting with your cough, trying to speak, the cough winning… you get the picture. Not a pretty sight.

IF INTERRUPTED – RESPONSIVITY IS KEY

Don’t carry on as if its not happening. If you do this, the ‘story’ becomes the interaction between the interrupter and the interrupted pretending the interrupting is invisible. That little drama is going to be way more interesting than most speeches, so don’t try and compete – just nip the drama in the bud quickly. By acknowledging the interruption, responding and then moving on you can show that you are unscripted and adaptive. It also demonstrates a human element which is very important.

Six Presentation Techniques To Overcome Anxiety

Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is greater than the fear of death for 75% of us.

It affects everyone from CEO to student, manager to marketer. Too many of us are filled with dread if told we have to give a presentation or speech, and for most people, this is an inevitable event that will occur in ones’ professional or private life. Therefore, it makes sense to have a robust set of go-to tools to pick up when the presentation request comes rolling in.

1. Practise

This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how often this first tip is forgotten in the midst of presentation anxiety. And it's essential. Once you have the bones or outline of the presentation, start practicing. Get on your feet, and speak it out loud to an empty room. Practice for friends, practice for the wardrobe, the mirror, the bare walls. This creates neural pathways in your brain, so that it is less of an adjustment, and therefore less scary when you do it for real.

2. Know the messages you want to share

Go through your presentation or speech and underline the key messages, words or phrases that you really like or particularly want to share with your audience. You can think of it as if you are placing them, fully formed, in your listeners heads. Use your voice, your volume, your gestures and your facial expressions as additional highlighters to get these points across. If your focus is on what you want to convey, its in the right place.

3. Use a visualisation technique

This is a brilliant way of calming the nerves. It can be done days before or just minutes before a presentation. Close your eyes, imagine getting on to the stage or equivalent, connecting with your audience, and delivering a great, confident presentation. As with tip one—this primes your brain to have a sense of what doing it well feels like, it creates neural pathways, which make it easier to return to. You might find that you get nervous when visualising, that’s great because it means you are really in a place to get the most out of the visualisation.  Simply, calm yourself in that moment, breathing and relaxing your body, taking back control, creating the pathways in your brain that work for you. A few go’s at this and your brain will be where you want it to be. Ready to speak!

4. Connect to your audience

Take the first moment on the stage to connect to your audience, just a few seconds here will make all the difference, as you calm yourself and gather your space. You connect through stillness, and taking that moment to look at your audience, take them in, maybe smile. It’s a few seconds, but trust me, it can be a game changer. This moment of connection is brilliant to remind you of why you are speaking, and who you are speaking to. Just other individuals, like you, who are interested in what you have to say, and want you to do well. For some more ways to connect with your audience, have a look at the following post from Karen Susman.

5. Use your body to send ‘I’m confident’ signals to your brain

Now, you’re up there. You’re in your zone. Use gesture to tell your brain and your audience that you are at ease and that you are enjoying yourself. As we know, the body feedbacks directly to the brain and so when your body is acting relaxed, you will begin to feel relaxed too. You can also try adopting a powerful posture (see Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on this) which has been proven to literally change the chemicals in your brain and body, decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) and increasing testosterone for additional confidence.

6. Start using positive self talk

Don’t criticise yourself mid speech, picking-up on everything you’re doing wrong, instead, tell yourself you are doing brilliantly, and the audience are loving it. Even if it doesn’t seem entirely true, the positive self talk will boost you up, and get you feeling more confident. Many studies have been done on how we talk to ourselves and how this effects our mood, confidence and happiness levels.

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