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Fearless - FEAR LESS - Public Speaking

Some people dread it. 
They absolutely fear it. 
Just thinking about it makes their hands sweat and their knees shake. 

I am not one of those people.
I am one of the weirdos who gets joy from it. 
One of my absolute favorite things to do is speak in public. 

I love giving presentations, training people and leading meetings.  For me (and some others like me), there is nothing like stepping off a stage and feeling like you crushed it. It’s this weird high you get when you know that you have effectively and successfully given an audience more than they expected. You’ve made them laugh. You’ve made them think.  You’ve made them feel. I get excited just typing this.

Of course, even for us weirdos, the opposite can happen. Maybe you weren’t really prepared, or the message was off. Maybe you were just off.  For whatever reason, people weren’t really into it. You second guess your choices, your timing and even your clothing. That feeling stinks.

Last week I had the privilege of teaching an 8 hour training on how to provide effective and memorable presentations.  I love to teach on this topic because I am passionate about it. For as long as I can remember, at least part of my job description had training, teaching or instructing in it.  So, I love to pass on helpful tips to people who need inspiration, materials and motivation to improve their techniques.  I thought for this post, I’d pass on some of these tips to our readers. 

Tip #1 – Know your Audience

Meet them at the door.  Shake hands.  Ask questions. Take time to get a little bit of information from them.  It can be useful to reference them during the meeting or training session.  For example: “Joe was just telling me his son plays baseball... How many of us are trying to manage our time between work and kids’ schedules?”

Tip #2 – Make it Relevant

I once took a 10 Hour OSHA training and the instructor asked the class at the beginning, “how many of you do trenching and shoring?”  Not one hand was raised. He seemed disappointed at that and he said, “well, that is what my company used to do, but we’ll just hit the highlights since you guys don’t really do that.”  Then he proceeded to spend 2 of our 10 hours of class discussing trenching and shoring.  1/5 of our class time was wasted on an audience for whom the material was irrelevant.  Make sure that your audience needs or at least can use the information that you are providing them.

Tip #3 – Use Gimmicks!

Play games. Do demonstrations. Use props. Here’s an easy one for a safety meeting.  Do a cell phone scavenger hunt.  Have the group find things on their phones like:

  • Text that says I love you
  • Picture of someone that motivates you to work safely
  • Picture of your favorite hobby
  • Text that says, “be safe” or “be careful”
  • Picture of your pet
  • An app for Health & wellness

Have them show it to the people around them and discuss some of it.  This kind of activity gets people involved. Gets them talking to each other and sharing a little bit of personal information.  Discuss how much we all have in common by asking who showed a picture of their kids or grand kids. Who showed a picture of fishing, hunting, crafting, etc for their hobby.  Activities during a meeting can make them more memorable and fun.

Tip #4 – Teach to the WHY.

Explaining why we do things as opposed to saying, “do it this way because I said so” can provide better understanding and should give you better results. People are more likely to follow your instructions and apply it when they understand why they are doing it.  Then when they try to teach it to another person, they can answer the question why.  For example: If I say, “Always sign in and out of the area” or “Always sign in and out of the area.  We use the sign-in sheets for head count during emergencies. We use them to verify your location for billing and we need to have an accurate time/date stamp of your location when we are audited.”  The second example helps them understand the importance of signing in and out.

I think overall, people just like to understand WHY they are doing what they are doing.  If you’ve ever had an argument with a 5-year-old, you know that I’m right. Their side of the conversation goes: “Why? Why? But Why? I know, but Why?”.  Try explaining the material as if you know they are asking that question throughout. Because they likely are.

Tip #5 – Take time to prepare. 

If you really want to convey quality information, don’t try to wing it.  Reading directly from your materials because you’re not sure what they say can be an ineffective way to give information.  Most people don’t remember the information because they tend to check out when you’re not engaging them. When you take a little time to gather some materials and plan an activity or two to help reinforce the information, you and the participants will get more out of the meeting or training. A structured presentation with a prepared speaker can make a world of difference for the audience.

Tip #6 – Admit and Commit

Don’t be afraid to admit “I don’t know”. But the better answer is “I don’t know but I will get the answer”. Then make sure to follow up.

Tip #7 – Be Flexible. 

Things don’t always go as planned.  Have a plan B or a back-up activity to fill time in case you need it.

Tip #8 – Know the venue. 

From a tool box meeting to a convention center full of people, it is important to know what you have available.  Verify that you will have things like: Audio/Video capabilities, wifi, tables and chairs, writing utensils, paper and any other props you might need.

Tip #9 – Timing is everything.

ARRIVE EARLY to deal with unwelcome surprises, set up the room and get organized.  Be there to greet the early birds.  Print out your agenda and have times on it to check your pace. It never hurts to have a timer helping you if you have a longer presentation.  They can give you cues for breaks and end of day.

Break at least every 90 minutes. Take a break in 60 minutes if the audience is seated theatre style or every 75 minutes for classroom style. Never go more than 90 minutes without a break. Adults’ attention spans wane as they become uncomfortable.  Schedule High Energy Activities Throughout the Day - Start up, after lunch and mid-afternoon.

Respect the schedule. If you said the class would end at 3:00pm, make sure that you finish on time.  Some people do not have very flexible schedules and even going over by 15 minutes can throw off the rest of their day.

Tip #10 Enthusiasm is contagious.

Show your enthusiasm and passion for your subject and people will believe it. They will get excited about it. They will remember it.  Low energy presentation will produce low level results.  People will take more from the training if they are involved and excited about the message.

Well there you go.  I hope this helps.  These are some of the tips I use for each presentation.  I have had a few duds. But I usually get good feedback.  And if you still don’t feel up to the challenge of speaking in front of a crowd, you can always hire a weirdo like me who finds joy in public speaking! 😊

- Bridgett Morales
VP & Managing Partner