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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