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.

Thinking of Doing a Google Hangout? Read This First

This is not going to be a technology article, so if that’s what you were hoping for… sorry. Nope, just good old fashioned presentation advice, but the kind you need when you’re going to be on camera.

I recently watched a Google Hangout where the content was all good, but the speaker’s on-camera performance left much to be desired.

Just a few simple adjustments would have made this presentation so much better, and I would have been able to focus on the content rather than the distractions of the visuals.

Here are some tips for you whether you’re live on a Hangout or shooting a DIY video for later upload.

1. Place your webcam at or above eye level

When you sit at your desk, your screen tends to be a little bit lower than eye level, unless you have a really high desk or a massive monitor. But when you shoot a Hangout or video, you don’t want to be looking DOWN at your audience, which is what will happen if you keep your monitor where it is.

If you’re using a laptop, elevate it on some books or a box, so that you’re looking directly into the camera or even looking up a bit. If you’re using a standalone webcam (anyone still use those?) position it the same way.

2. Actually look at the webcam

I’m shocked when I watch a video or Hangout and professionals who should know better are looking down at the screen instead of into the camera. Just because you’re looking at someone’s face on the screen doesn’t mean you’re making eye contact with your audience.

If you want to make eye contact (and your audience wants you to), you must look INTO the webcam lens.

This takes practice, and for some presenters it helps to tape a picture of someone next to the lens. The more you get used to talking into the camera, the easier it becomes.

3. Put on some powder

Yes, guys, even you. The last thing I want to see on a livestream is some sweaty, shiny guy on the other side. I’m the least likely person to tell you to wear makeup, because I don’t enjoy wearing it, and it’s actually one thing that keeps me from shooting as much video as I should.

But you don’t need full stage makeup, just a little something to even out a blotchy complexion and keep you from blinding the viewer. A little basic street makeup for women and at least some powder for men is required to keep you from looking either shiny or washed out on the screen. And guys, that powder will need to go on your pate as well, if you’re losing your hair. Just sayin’.

4. Pay attention to your backdrop

If you don’t have a nice backdrop at your desk, fake one. Ruth Sherman taught me to put a plant or some flowers behind me to liven up (and lighten up) the scenery, even if I have to put them on a step stool.

Your audience can’t see what’s holding it all up; they just want something pleasant and non-distracting behind you instead of saggy drab curtains, a mishmash of books and knickknacks, or a big piece of drywall (which is what you would see behind me at my desk if I let you!).

You don’t have to have a fancy studio setup or expensive lighting when shooting video or live Hangouts. But as a professional who wants to be seen as an authority and an expert, you do have to come across as someone who knows what they’re doing and has the confidence of a pro. And the last thing you want to do is distract your audience with these piddly but noticeable mistakes.

Making these little tweaks to your appearance and to your performance will make a subtle but important difference in how your audience perceives you, your credibility level, and overall, your ability to make a connection and build a relationship with your audience.

About the Author:

Lisa Braithwaite is a public speaking coach and trainer based in Santa Barbara, CA. She is author of the Speak Schmeak blog as well as the free e-book, Present Your Best: 11 Strategies for Magnifying Your Confidence, Both Onstage and Off.  For more information, visit http://www.coachlisab.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

 

 

 

Are You a Communicator or a Public Speaker?

By Nancy Duarte

It’s rare for me to read a book on presentations and learn something but I did in the book, Habitudes for Communicators: The Art of Engaging Communication from Tim Elmore. Elmore uses sticky metaphors that help you remember his concepts. His chapter heads are metaphorical like “Windows and Mirrors”, “the Faded Flag” and “The Thomas Nast Principle.”

He has great insights throughout the book. For example, in “Windows and Mirrors” he proposes that there’s a gap between communicators and public speakers:

A Public Speaker:                                                                                                                

1) Puts the Message Before the People

2) Asks: What Do I Have?

3) Emphasizes Techniques

4) Focus is on Content of the Words

5) Polished (Image Conscious)

6) Goal: Complete the Message

Communicator:

1) Puts the People Before the Message

2) Asks: What Do They Need?

3) Emphasizes Atmosphere

4) Focus is Change in the Listeners

5) Personal (Impact Conscious)

6) Goal: Complete the People

At the end of each chapter is a quiz, but Elmore’s also put those questions into an online assessment to rank yourself to see how you’re doing as a communicator. He asks questions like “I tend to focus on being simple more than comprehensive.” It shoots out a score when you’re done. This book is full of fresh insights that I haven’t seen in any other presentation book, so it’s worth picking up.

About the Author:

Nancy Duarte is the CEO of presentations firm Duarte Design, whose clients include many innovative Fortune 1000 companies in diverse industries. Duarte worked with Al Gore to develop the presentation that became the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and supports many conferences, including TED and PopTech. For more information about her company, visit www.duarte.com

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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