When Your Mariah Moment Happens

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Did you hear the one about how powerful Mariah Carey’s voice is? You can hear it even when her mouth is not open. As you can imagine, there is no shortage of jokes about the singer’s epic fail on New Year’s Eve. Several have no doubt graced your Facebook or Twitter feed, you’ve seen the memes, watched the late-night show snippets, and probably discussed it with your friends and colleagues. How could it have happened, you might ask? Here’s the question I would prefer to be asked of presentation professionals?

What should you do when it happens to you?
Let’s clean up the facts just a bit before we begin, because while I believe that Carey is deserving of plenty of criticism, I want to make sure that it is fair. First off, she did not get caught lip-syncing. Lip-syncing is like playing air guitar: you go through the motions while the sound is produced elsewhere. Most live performances, especially in difficult environments, include a vocal track, over which the singer sings. That is what Carey was intending to do, but when her in-ear monitor went out, she lost her composure. The second fact, for whatever it is worth, is that she and her team warned the producers and stage managers of the balky transmitter pack well ahead of time and they evidently did nothing. The third thing to keep in mind is what a crazy and dynamic environment Times Square must have been. This would have been challenging for even the most consummate of professionals.

It’s easy to wonder why she couldn’t just sing the song without the benefit of her in-ear monitor? Shouldn’t a professional be able to do that? After all, it was her song! We can debate how demanding the environment was and speculate on whether she could hear the music at all, but that misses the point and brings us to the criticism of Carey that is most relevant to the presentation community: her image as a professional. You see, Mariah Carey is perfect. Her wardrobe is always perfect. Her hair impeccably coiffed. Her choreography painstakingly staged. Her background vocals exquisitely integrated. I recall when she was a judge on American Idol, many of the camera cuts to the judges’ table caught her fiddling with her hair. Everything about Mariah Carey’s on-stage persona is about being perfect.

And that’s the problem.
What do you do when you are supposed to be perfect but circumstances out of your control prevent it? What do you fall back on? There are no degrees of perfection–either you are perfect or you’re flawed. And that’s a really tough place to be as a performer, because of three axioms of our profession, which hold up across all public performances:

  • Audiences don’t want perfect presenters. They want people whom they feel are just like them.
  • Audiences respond best to presenters whom they feel are genuine and passionate.
  • Audiences root for presenters to succeed.

From this perspective, Carey was doomed from the very beginning. If your whole thing is perfection, what does that say about your ability to roll with punches? And unless you really are perfect in real life, does that stage persona evoke feelings of authenticity. No, this was a technical problem for which Mariah Carey was uniquely ill-equipped to handle.

Here is a continuum of possible responses to the situation:

  1. You stop performing, become visibly upset and frustrated and blame everyone around you.
  2. You stop, wait for the technology to be fixed, and if it can’t be, you continue anyway.
  3. You pretend nothing has happened and you fake it in the hopes that you make it.
  4. You apologize to the audience and tell them you’re going to do the best you can.
  5. You rally the audience to your side, you turn it into an experience, you start a singalong, you lead rounds, you laugh at yourself as you do a goofy dance, and in the process, you prevail over the moment.

Why would anyone pay the outrageous sums of a live concert?
I would tell you it is for the chance at No. 5 moments. As I think about my own concert experiences, the ones that are indelible are when unexpected things happened. Like when Paul McCartney started a song by singing the wrong lyrics, made his band stop, and then wondering if he had just happened upon something cool, a capellad his way through the mashed-up arrangement for a few bars. We ate it up. Or the time when Mick Jagger ran the length of the Candlestick Park outfield in the middle of Satisfaction, and Keith Richards dared him to not sing out of breath. They both cracked up and we ate it up. Or the time when the conductor of the San Jose Symphony Orchestra invited a seven-year-old boy from the audience to take over for him, making his musicians promise that they would try to keep time according to his direction. The pace became so fast that they could not keep up. And we ate it up.

Mariah Carey did not get past No. 1 and she made it worse in the following days when, instead of letting the whole thing blow over, her team defended her, lashed out at Dick Clark Productions (isn’t that a bit like blaming God?), and went so far as to suggest self-fornication to the producers for refusing to pull the performance from the West Coast telecast, destined to air three hours after the incident.

Let’s compare two singers. Let’s compare Mariah Carey’s response to New Year’s Eve with how Adele handled a complete sound failure during a 2016 performance. While Carey had a vocal track and complete accompaniment behind her (even if it was noisy), Adele found herself with no accompaniment at all.

Click here to watch the video at YouTube — it happens at the 2:30 mark.

Why is Adele so popular?
By her own admission, she misses notes all the time. And her range is just average. Is it incredible songwriting? Perhaps, but that is rarely the basis of the praise she earns. And her wardrobes are nothing like Mariah’s; they’re usually semi-frumpy dresses with sequins. And that’s just it: Adele is real. She can do something that less than 1% of the population can and for it, she earns obscene amounts of money, but she gives her audiences the powerful impression that she is just like them. Watch the clip to the end and listen to how she schmoozes them about the moment they had. I’ll issue a modest profanity alert, but you know what, that actually makes her even more real.

Thanks to Mariah Carey, our industry has a perfectly gift-wrapped new year resolution. Do not practice your polish, do not work on your image, and do not try to be the best dresser you know. Your audiences do not care about those things. Instead, ask yourself who you truly are and whether your audiences could recognize your most genuine qualities and characteristics. Ask yourself how you can manage all of the demands of a public presenter — the technology, the slides, audience expectation, and your own nerves — and reach a place where you are showing the room your most authentic self.

Above all, your authenticity puts you in a position to be the very best storyteller you can be, and that is your No. 1 aim.
In addition, finding your real self gets your audiences to a place where they can root for you, where they might be endeared by you. And it gets you to a place where you can confidently deal with the most unexpected circumstances of all. Stuff happens to everyone so it’s no big deal if it also happens to you.

Mariah Carey has not shown herself to be capable of finding that quality within herself. Here’s hoping that you can.

Rick-AltmanAbout Rick Altman

He is one of the most prominent commentators in the presentation community today. Rick is the author of 15 books. He is the host of the Presentation Summit, the internationally-acclaimed learning event for presentation professionals.  An avid sportsman, he was not a good enough tennis player to make it onto the professional tour. All the rest of this has been his Plan B.

My 10 BEST Tips for Female Presenters to Rock It

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It has been my experience and observation that women presenters tend to be more reserved and self-conscious. Female presenters tend to overthink everything and strive for perfection, even when perfection doesn’t exist. It’s a combination of things that make it more difficult for female presenters to begin, much less finish, a presentation. I have put together my list of advice that female presenters need to know.

  • Don’t let self-doubt creep in.Women are infamous for self-doubting their capabilities and shrivel at the thought of stepping in front of other people to talk. This doubt leads to feelings of inability to perform and allows the mind to wonder how listeners will judge and criticize. Women can do everything that men can do, and sometimes better, you just have to trust yourself that you know your subject matter and are extremely qualified to give this presentation.
  • Overcome the fear of public speaking.The chronic thoughts of self-doubt generally morph into full blown presentation anxiety complete with sweating, nausea, tension, and sickness. Even if fearful presenters get enough courage to step in front of others, they usually cringe and fold into themselves and struggle to finish. The fear of public speaking is a perceived fear, where the brain has been trained to react in a way that demonstrates one is inferior, you can overcome it with a little effort. You can avoid not only the fear but all of the feelings that go along with it. (Check out my article 5 Quick Tips to Overcome Presentation Fear.)
  • Stop overthinking.Women are well known to change their mind a time or two, but they also tend to overthink the situation. The debate on what to talk about, can I afford to leave this out, how do I explain the situation and not babble on and on, can leave your mind in debate for extended periods of time with no resolve.
  • Stop the madness!All of this thinking, wandering, and debating can make you tired before you even get to the presentation site. Ladies, we have a big job to do, and nobody is more qualified than you to do it. Any presenter has a single obligation to fulfill, and that is to educate the audience and ensure that the listeners walk away with information that is helpful to them; ladies just do it with more grace and poise.

Here are my best tips for female presenters to let go of the self-doubt and overcome the fear of talking to other human beings.

  1. Prepare – Yes, you need to include the necessary points without any extra, and you can solve this with index cards. Writing one idea per card and laying them all out on a table can help the most indecisive presenter fully see what is necessary and what is not. Write it up in an outline and you have officially begun the presentation plan.
  2. Evaluate – Every presenter needs to take a step away and think for a minute to evaluate the plan. You are looking for reassurance that your presentation is not overflowing with content, that it includes stories and examples, and follows some logical order to ensure that you know where you are going, and your audience can easily follow along with little effort.
  3. Prep until comfortable – This advice is different for every person, so you will have to figure out what is the right amount of preparation for you to feel comfortable. You want to practice your presentation as many times as necessary that you can easily recall it without notes. Do not resort to memorization because this will cause many additional complications, trust me.
  4. While you are still in preparation mode, now is the perfect time to go to the restaurant or hotel where the event will take place and get a good look, maybe even take some pictures of your own to study back at the office. If you are preparing for an event out of town, ask your contact person to send you pictures of the room or at least a sketch of the setup. Knowing this information will allow you to visualize the situation in practices and strategize where is the best place to stand for maximum effectiveness.
  5. Dress for success – Plan out your wardrobe in advance, taking into consideration what the atmosphere of the presentation site will be like and if you’ll be wearing a mic. (It can get complicated running a lavaliere microphone cord through some outfits.) Take into account the decor of the room, and what you expect the audience to be wearing. Check my blog, What Do I Wear for My Presentation, where I go in depth on how to weigh your options.
  6. Arrive early – One of my personal anxieties is not the presentation itself, but the travel to get there. Regardless of whether the travel time includes a simple car trip or a plane ride, you want to make sure that you have arrived early. If you have confused the location, then you have time to fix it, otherwise knowing that you are where you are supposed to be is a relief in itself and now you are not out of breath from running and rushing.
  7. Meet the audience – Arriving early has its benefits because you have the time to take a few deep breaths and to meet new people. You are meeting the people that sacrificed their time away from work or family to see you present. You are meeting new friends that will be rooting you on and are excited to learn the new things that you have to teach. Most importantly, having the opportunity to meet the audience means you are no longer speaking to strangers; you are talking to new friends and knowing that tiny piece of information can turn your presentation from a lecture into a conversation just like speaking to any friend.
  8. Own the room – Imagining that you are wearing your power suit can make you feel powerful. According to a 2010 study, taking a high-power pose, one that takes up maximum space with your body can make stress hormones ineffective. Take a quickcapture potty break and psych yourself up, a one-person pep rally. You have done all of the necessary steps to make this happen; you are in control. Now is the time to own the room!
  9. Celebrate because you did it – You followed through on the commitment and not only did you fulfill your obligation, but it was much better than you thought it would be. Maybe you even had fun and would consider presenting again in the future. Revel in the lives that you have enriched with your message and how all of that stress was for nothing. Concentrate on how interested the audience was the entire time you spoke and that they had so many questions about applying the lesson to their individual situations. Remember that for at least this moment, you were the teacher, and you made a difference.
  10. Debrief & improve – After the celebration (maybe it even includes champagne) it’s time to think about the situation as a whole from an objective point of view and debrief with notes on what went well, and what can be improved. Consider any moments that you had to rephrase something because it wasn’t clear, or you had to add something that wasn’t supposed to be there but was, in fact, necessary. Remove any pieces that you initially thought were necessary, but weren’t. Now is the time to pull the index cards back out that weren’t incorporated into this presentation and think about how you can integrate them into a future presentation.

 

img_8893-682x1024Erica Olson, founder of Speak Simple, has delivered 1,000+ presentations, coached hundreds, and won her clients millions of dollars. She is an author, professional speaker, interpreter, and presentation coach that helps her clients become comfortable when presenting and relate with their audience. Erica specializes in helping with technical professionals to simplify their message to engage audiences and win new work and includes strategy, preparation process, learning styles, simplification, & delivery. Her book, Speak Simple – The Art of Simplifying Technical Presentations, and her self-guided presentation course, SpeakU, are great resources for her numerous clients, many of whom Erica has helped to win millions of dollars in new work via bid presentations, thought leadership presentations, and increased keynote speaker fees.

Pitch Perfect! How to Make Successful Sales Presentations!

BoringPresentation_WebMake winning sales presentations. Learn the tricks the pros use to get audience agreement and sell a product, solution or idea. Use the latest behavioral psychology and neuromarketing techniques. Use what you learn during this webinar to make a clear, compelling presentation that gets buy-in and improves your success rate. It’s easy—when you know how to do it.

  • Discover the three reasons people buy
  • Improve sales
  • Learn the latest behavioral psychology and neuro-marketing techniques
  • See how to get audience agreement
  • Get the recipe for persuasive presentations

This webinar with sales and presentation guru, Mike Parkinson, is recommended for those who develop or deliver sales presentations and presentations that are meant to persuade the audience to take a desired course of action.

About Mike Parkinson:

Mike2015_bigMike Parkinson is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, solution and strategy expert, award-winning author, trainer, and popular public speaker. He is a key contributor on multi-billion dollar projects and helps Fortune 500 companies improve their success rates. Mike shares his expertise through books like Billion Dollar Graphics, articles, and online tools. He is also a partner at 24 Hour Company (www.24hrco.com), a premier creative services firm.

The Sit-Down Presentation: Can it Be Effective?

One question I get asked regularly is about sitting down to present. If there are only a few people in the room, if it’s an informal setting or if it’s a board meeting and all the board is sitting,  I want to send out a casual message. I don’t want to be too authoritative – then can I present sitting down?

Often the real reason people want to present while sitting down is that something happens in their head when they sit: it no longer feels like a presentation or a speech, but rather a conversation. And so they don’t get nervous.

Anything to avoid that horrible feeling of adrenaline coursing through your system, right?

And that becomes a circular argument for sitting down – if I don’t get nervous then I present better and if I’m presenting better doesn’t it make sense to sit down?

A recent study comparing students who sat and students who were given standing desks sheds a little light on this question. It turns out that the standing students were able to focus better and longer than the sitting ones. So you think better on your feet.

Now there’s a reason for speakers to stand. You think better. That reason alone should nullify all the other arguments for sitting.

But if it doesn’t, then here’s a more reasoned one. Think about what you’re giving up when you sit. Authority is naturally taken by the person standing in a room full of seated people. If you sit down, you give up the authority and let other people take it or at least share it. The result is that it’s much harder for a speaker to hold the floor if he is seated during the presentation.

I worked with a CEO once that I persuaded to try the following experiment. He had issues with people deferring to his authority too much, and he was working with me on developing a more collegial style of communications. Just for fun, I suggested that he use a body language trick to change the authority dynamic in the room when he was meeting with his direct reports.

I suggested to him that they would naturally defer to him by keeping their head lower than his. He was skeptical, but offered to watch out for it. Specifically, I instructed him to start lowering his head in his next meeting, very slowly, by leaning back in his chair and sliding down surreptitiously.

When I chatted with him after the meeting, he was still laughing about it. He had become a believer in the power of body language, because as he lowered his head (very, very slowly) he saw each of his direct reports do the same thing, keeping their heads lower than his. By the end of the meeting, everyone was nearly under the table.

Here’s the kicker. No one was aware of what was going on. The CEO couldn’t believe it, but he had seen it (indeed, controlled it) himself.

Authority is very precisely determined by relative height. Standing up takes authority naturally without having to be pushy. Sitting down gives it up.

I usually recommend people to do the opposite – i.e., start out seated, and then seize the moment and the authority when you’re ready to speak by standing up. It’s a natural, effortless sign that you’re ready to go.

Why would you do otherwise?

Many times working with clients I’ve seen the moment when a client gets the new way of thinking about his or her topic that I’m suggesting – it’s usually when they stand up. They’re taking charge. They get it. They’re ready to run with the idea.

Now I’ll be doubly pleased because I know that they’ll think better on their feet. And it’s my excuse to keep standing.

So you can sit down to present. But now you know how much you’re giving up.

About the Author:

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and presentation skill coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication and the good and bad speakers of the day. For more information about his coaching services or books, visit www.publicwords.com

Each Time You Present a Lifetime of Baggage Comes With You

Recently I had an opportunity to do some personal presentation skills coaching with Michael. That’s not his real name but his story could be your story, your manager’s or maybe even your company president’s.

Michael certainly made a very polished first impression as he walked in.  He was well groomed and very executive looking in his well-tailored suit. “Feel free to take off your jacket,” I told him.  He politely declined.

During the first 15 minutes with a new client, I always spend some time to try to understand who’s sitting in front of me.  I learned a long time ago  I’m never just working in the moment – I’m working with the sum total of someone’s life experiences; both good and bad, acknowledged and deeply buried.

“I wasn’t completely honest with you about setting up this time.” he continued. “And there was a reason I kept putting off this personal coaching time. Even the thought of presenting is terrifying to me and has been for as long as I can remember.”

Not much explanation was needed.  You see, I had experienced this many times before over the years.

During one coaching session a senior executive recalled an extreme presentation embarrassment 50 years earlier as he stood in front of his 6th grade class…with everyone laughing.

After a speaking gig, a young senior account representative in a large PR firm pulls me aside and asks about her incapacitating fear in front of clients.  “I completely freeze up,”  she confides.  “What’s happening to me?”

Then out of the blue a few years back, a senior officer in a large company calls me looking for some insight into his debilitating anxiety when presenting to his Board; other presentation settings were never an issue.  His coping mechanism?  Xanax for the anxiety and avoidance whenever possible.

Baggage for All

We are all the sum total of our life experiences.

I find few people who relish presenting, but for most they find a way to cope, some surviving the moment at best. For others, however, the pressure of an important presentation brings back old tapes, deeply internalized embarrassments, harsh words or confidence that has been systematically dismantled over decades by the relationship with a parent.

And it’s precisely these moments that I realize that no matter how good I may be as a personal presentation coach, I am woefully inadequate in untangling issues that have ensnared people for most of their lives.

So my counsel to them and maybe you is pretty much the same.

I can help them work on the outside and very visible manifestations of their fear. But for the stuff on the inside, presenters owe it to themselves to better understand what’s going on, if for no other reason than to live a more fulfilling life. One that isn’t metered by fear and anxiety.

So whether you’re simply a survivor of anxiety or have never turned the corner on overwhelming fear, know this…personal victories in this area can and do happen.

I’ve seen breakthroughs change people’s lives through a partnership of a coach and a clinician, all focused on helping individuals overcome the things they fear most. Deeply held anxiety slowly mitigated not only by meaningful insight, but also a client seeing with his or her own eyes a more confident, polished presenter on the video playback in front of them.

They can’t believe it’s them.  Old tapes slowly rewritten.  Self-defeating scripts joyfully discarded. Confidence blossoming.

And most of us have experienced this important truth – avoidance is not a very successful strategy.  Because presenting our thoughts and ideas to others will be something we will be asked to do the rest of our lives. And there simply aren’t enough places to hide.

So if this article strikes a little close to home for you… maybe it’s time to go to “baggage” claim.  Check your tag carefully, and finally find someone to help you carry it all to the curb.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit www.distinction-services.com

Improving Your Online Presentation Skills with Ken Molay!

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Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success, presents tips to help you become a more effective online speaker. Presenting on a webcast or webinar is fundamentally different from speaking in front of an in-room audience. Since you and your audience cannot seeach other, your vocal style and the way you interact with the web conferencing software determines how you are perceived.

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You will learn how to prepare a presentation that complements the web environment and how to deliver it with confidence and professionalism. Discover ways to consciously adjust your vocal style in order to build rapport with your audience. Identify common presentation errors that can detract from your message.

As an added benefit, attend this event and receive a free speaker evaluation form that can be used to help identify strengths and weaknesses in your own presentation style.

 

About Ken Molay:

Ken MolayKen has a background in software development and marketing, working for companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, Syntelligence, Blaze Software, Brokat, HNC Software, and Fair Isaac. He has acted as development manager, product manager, and product marketing manager.

Ken has been producing and delivering business webinars since 1999. His background in public speaking, radio, stage acting, and training has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to create a compelling and effective presentation.

Ken enjoys world travel and spent a year on his own in Europe. He also spent five years as an international tour guide, leading groups throughout North America, England, and the South Pacific. Currently Ken offers consulting services through his company Webinar Success (http:/www.wsuccess.com).

 

How to Thrive in a Challenging Speaking Situation

Not long ago I had the pleasure of working with Carolyne Stayton, the Executive Director of Transition US. Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate, or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process.

Carolyne was scheduled to give a speech at the Bioneers conference in Marin County, CA, and she needed help with her preparation. Bioneers is a non-profit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with nature-inspired approaches for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.

Carolyn’s topic was “Resilient Communities: Mobilizing and Equipping Local Citizen Action.” Here’s how she began her speech:

I’d like to begin by using the analogy of  “the story.”  In our climate story, we are entering the chapter where the dragon has arrived. He’s breathing fire and scorching our crops. He’s melting the ice and causing tornadoes where they’ve never been seen before. He’s flooding our rivers, our cities, and our towns. And he’s madly extracting oil from our fragile landscapes.

So where did this dragon come from?  He came from our decades of wonton consumerism. He came from our explosive carbon lifestyle. And he came from our blatant disregard for the laws of nature. This sounds like a pretty bleak chapter in the story, doesn’t it? It sounds like a story you want to put down and not finish.

But I’ve got good news for you. We are also at the point in the story where the hero arrives to save the day. And the best news of all is this: the hero is YOU!  My purpose here today is to give you the information, tools, and resources you need to confront the dragon head on, to slay him. To sauté him.  And to serve him up at a pot luck supper!”

The night before Carolyn was scheduled to give her speech, she sent me an email. She said she had the jitters and needed a last minute pep talk. I sent her a list of some things to do to further prepare her body and mind. Among them was to limit caffeine, drink plenty of water, sit quietly and breathe deeply, and visualize success before her talk.

Two days later I received another email from Carolyn. Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you so much for the last minute tips and for all of the wisdom you imparted. They really helped me.  Among other things, I was very conscious of my breath all through Saturday. I stayed away from caffeine and I did drink lots of water. But I do have a story for you.

Fifteen minutes before my presentation, I was sitting on a bench in the sun, feeling my heart and connecting right through my legs and feet to the earth. Unbeknownst to me, my water bottle had tipped and had poured all over my notes AND the back of my skirt. Basically I was sitting in a puddle!

I had to wring my skirt out, walk onto the stage, and stand before the audience with a skirt clinging to the back of my legs and wet underwear! My practice and work on the presentation saved me. But instead of being nicely grounded in my heart, I was definitely more in my head.  Apparently no one else noticed!  So to add to your book of what not to do (fig leaf, etc.) feel free to add “don’t pour water on your butt”! Geez. Without your help, having the water incident happen would have absolutely immobilized me. Fortunately, I delivered adequately and from some comments, very well.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

There is a lesson here. Even when you are prepared, confident, centered, and in control, things happen out of the blue. Good speakers take these unwelcome incidents in stride and roll with them, keeping perspective, going back to the long hours of preparation and planning, and moving on as if nothing had happened.

So the next time you’re ready to present and suddenly realize that you’ve just sat in a puddle of water, or that you forgot your slides at your office across town, or that your room set up is not what you expected, or anything else that could possibly happen, relax and rely on your practice, wisdom, and expertise to pull you through.

When you’re prepared and confident, you can thrive in even the most challenging speaking situations.

About the Author:

Angela DeFinis is the founder and president of DeFinis Communications, a presentation skills training company that offers a curriculum of professional public speaking programs and services for Fortune 1,000 companies in all industries. Specializing in Executive Speech Coaching, DeFinis Communications helps business leaders find solutions to their presentation challenges so they can successfully compete in a demanding marketplace. Visit her web site at www.definiscommunications.com

 

 

 

Speak, The Movie

If you’re ever had a bad case of nerves before speaking — and count yourself in the minority if you haven’t — you’ll want to check out the movie Speak, released last fall. The documentary follows the trials and triumphs of six people who compete in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, chronicling how they cope with and ultimately overcome the age-old fear of public speaking.

The filmmakers spent more than two years visiting Toastmasters clubs to interview members about their public speaking anxiety, and the movie culminates with a behind-the-scenes look at a Toastmasters speaking competition in Calgary, Alberta.

The six finalists the directors chose to feature all have inspiring life stories, which makes for intriguing and at times riveting viewing. The film also followers the finalists after they return home from the competition. In an interview with The Toastmaster magazine, the filmmakers say one of the film’s core messages is that every person has a story to tell.

“The contestants focused all of their efforts to be the best, not just the best speakers, but the best human being they can be,” Brian Wiedling, one of the filmmakers, told the magazine. “They looked on life’s hard moments, learned from their mistakes and dug deep inside themselves to live their dreams.”

For more on the movie or to host a screening, visit http://speakthemovie.com/. The site also allows you to post a YouTube video of one of your  presentations to the Speak Facebook page, where you can get feedback from peers and Toastmasters around the world.

Do You Have a Speaking Tic? These Tips Can Help

By Nick Morgan

Some people say “like” and “you know” so often that you want to strangle them. Others say “um” often and enthusiastically. Some people swallow nervously and spasmodically. Some people let their voice swing up in pitch at the end of every sentence as if they were always asking questions. For some, it’s happy feet – wandering around the stage as if they really loved walking and couldn’t wait to get off the platform.

I’ve seen a thousand tics over my years as a speech coach, and I’ve had a thousand people come up to me and point out someone else’s tic, usually in whispered tones, along with, “Can’t you fix them?”

Here’s the thing about tics. Of course, we’re better off without them, but they’re not really a problem unless an audience notices them, and they get in the way of comprehension.

Then we do have a problem, Houston. And it’s time to get out the taser and fix it. A few shocks later, and your tic is gone.

Just kidding. There are several relatively painless ways to fix a tic. My favorite is to get someone, a friend, to count the tics over some specified period of time, like a speech, and then charge the offender an agreed-upon sum for each offense. Usually a dollar is enough to get the malefactor’s attention. And you’d be astonished how quickly the tic goes away after you’ve had to pay up a couple of times.

Another method is to video the speaker and point out the tics. That’s usually enough for the speaker to want to stop, and wanting to stop is usually enough to allow them to do so.

If you’re one of those people who says ‘like’ or ‘you know’ or ‘um’ and you’re aware of it, then self-monitoring may be the simplest way to fix the problem. Notice yourself in a relatively low-stress situation – say, a conversation – and just stop talking when the urge to “um” comes over you. Don’t stop forever, just long enough to let a little pause in your conversation flow rather than the tic. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can train yourself to do without the likes or you knows or ums. They just go away.

So let’s all calm down about tics and start quietly eliminating them on our own. I’ll have less to do as a coach, but that’s OK.

About the Author:

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication, and the good and bad speakers of the day. His passion is to connect the latest brain research with timeless insights into persuasive speaking in order to further our understanding of how people connect with one another. For more information on his company, visit www.publicwords.com

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