Posts Tagged ‘speaking tips’

UMM UMM ERR ERR – Eliminating Crutch Words Fast

Do you, uh, say, errr, you-know, uhhhh…..all the time when you speak?  Researchers say “umming” your way through a speech, a presentation, an interview, or even everyday conversation makes the listener think:

  • You are less intelligent than you really are.
  • You don’t know what you are talking about.
  • You are not prepared.

You don’t want any of those misperceptions out there. Try this simple technique for fixing your um’s, ah’s, and crutch words FAST! Complete with a practice plan.

Preachy!

Easy on The Preach!


Tips for helping speakers sound less “preachy” and more “powerful”

Preachy!

I recently received e-mail from a reader who thought his speeches sounded too preachy. He asked me to you give him some pointers on know how to make his presentations more entertaining and less preachy. Another way of asking the same question is “How do you sound more natural and less like a know-it-all?” I responded with these tips on “transforming preachy into powerful…”

 

Don’t sound like a know-it-all

examine-your-styleMaybe you are a know-it-all…or at least in your field.  And that’s precisely why people have come to hear you speak. If you are an authority then your credentials speak for themselves. The audience expects you to have knowledge they don’t have and you’ve already been introduced as a know-it-all. So relax and get conversational. What you want to avoid is adopting a tone of voice or speaking style that alienates your audience and makes them feel ridiculed, demeaned, or preached to.

Here are a few suggestions that might help you ease up on the preach while still getting your message across.

  • Examine your text
  • Write your message for the ear rather than the eye. Remember your audience will be hearing what you have to say. They won’t be reading it.
  • Use words that are easy for your audience to understand
  • Avoid technical jargon.
  • Keep your sentences short but descriptive.
  • Avoid statements that sound like edicts: You should…You must…
  • Include your audience with statements like, “As you already know…” “I’m sure you’ve discovered….”
  • Sprinkle your message with humor.
  • Tell stories and anecdotes in third person. ” I have a friend”… My father always told me…”

Examine your style

Don’t read your text, no matter how good you think it is. You can’t maintain a conversational tone or have good eye contact if your head is down and you are reading.

  • Speak to your audience not at them
  • Smile
  • Breathe naturally
  • Use hand gestures that are inclusive
  • Don’t point. Use an open hand when gesturing to the audience
  • Vary your volume and rate to keep interest and add intrigue
  • Move away from the lectern
  • View your audience as valued friends
  • View your message as one to be shared

Relax and have fun with your presentation! Your audience will be more receptive to your message. They’ll leave the room feeling entertained and not preached to.

If you have a question about speaking style or presentation tips, please email Beverly at BCohen @ presentationteam . com

quotation-mark

Achieving Greatness Through Quotations


Discover how quotations can add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority…and open new doors to your speech and writings.

“A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.”

Brendan Francis

quotation-markQuotations have always fascinated me. As a child, I spent hours upon hours reading my parent’s copy of the Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. It gave me insights and intrigue. Words from famous people I had only heard or read about in school.

George Washington: “It is better to be alone than in bad company.”

Or Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

So when I was called on recently at a Toastmasters Meeting to deliver an improvisational talk about dealing with the good and bad of life, I was prepared with a clever quote. Or so I thought. The “Tabletopics Master” singled me out to address “the meaning of life.” I boldly stood and delivered a meaningful message from memory.

“The tragedy of life is not that we wait so long to begin it but that we wait…” No.

“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but we begin it too late…” No.

“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” Yes!

Yes, three times to deliver those simple words, and by the time the correct quote trickled off my tongue, the meaning was lost. Everyone was focused on how I was saying it than what I was saying.

I believe quotations are the icing on a cake for a good talk. Great leaders, politicians, businesspeople, and entertainers, weave them into their words. Indeed, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Quotation_Marks_on_Glass_DoorQuotations add life and depth to a talk, lending credibility and authority. Research and insight. They can open new doors to your speech. And these quotations need not be only words by famous people. They can be lines from movies. Lyrics from songs. Quotes from poems. Statistics from studies.

“In the magazine Science, it was reported last year nearly 45,000 people died in auto collisions, the equivalent of a fully loaded passenger jet crashing with no survivors every day for a year. If everyone wore seat belts, more than half of these deaths could have been avoided.”

This is a jarring statistic! And notice the imagery used in conjunction with the statistics. If properly assembled and presented, statistics and quotations can be powerful verbal tools. Quotes add meat to a speech or article in many ways. Here are four:

  1. They add dimension and richness to a speech, injecting your talk with a unique perspective, refreshingly different from your standard speaking style.
  2. They show your talk has been well-researched…not just something quickly crafted and rattled off the tip of your tongue.
  3. They add credibility to you and your talk, especially if you’re quoting a well-known and admired historical figure.
  4. They reduce the amount of individual creativity you – as a writer – need to create. This article is only 66% my own content; the other 33% is only borrowed.

Combine the words “wise old man,” and the images of a bearded sage speaking softly to a young man comes to mind, offering words of wisdom.

Quotations-Qs“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”

“Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.”
Samuel Johnson

This is not to say that quotations are not universally adored and treasured. When asked about the impact of quotes in writing and speaking, Ralph Waldo Emerson rattled, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

W. Somerset Maugham was a bit more biting:
“She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Quotes resurrect a person, place, or time. And as speakers or presenters, we should strive to frame them in their original context. Act them out, put them in an overly dramaticized style. Amplified accents. Distinct delivery. If you’re using visuals or a PowerPoint, put the quote on screen, along with the attributed person’s photo, name, and lifespan.

Perhaps my strongest point about using quotes in speeches is that they should be well-rehearsed. Memorized. Prepared and in-context. I would love to be able to just rattle-off quotes like wise leaders like Winston Churchill or Bill Clinton. Or snappy comebacks like some witty Hollywood comedians.

To master this craft of “quotations in speaking” takes attitude, practice and time.

You can find thousands of quotes on attitude. Here’s a favorite of mine by Lou Holtz: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

And on the subject of practice: “If practice makes perfect, and no one’s perfect, then why practice?”

Time and again, read these quotes, recite them. Pin them up in your office walls, see them, repeat them. Live them. The words of the leaders of the past can be reborn and requited by the leaders of today.

Leonard-Bernstein-West-Side-StoryComposer and musician Leonard Bernstein has always an icon to me. As a child, I loved his music from West Side Story (together with Stephen Soundheim), and would sing the poetic lyrics of this popular musical from the 1950s. As I work to build my professional speaking career, and The Presentation Team, I am often kept focused and on-track by this simple single quote by Mr. Bernstein…something that we can all relate to, as we strive for greatness in our increasingly busy world. I could easily share a few personal insights on what I think it takes to achieve greatness. But isn’t it more powerful to hear words resurrected…quoted…from someone who isgreat? In the words of Leonard Bernstein:

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Leonard Bernstein

Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.

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