Coexistence 302: Public Speaking

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Public speaking is simply the most extreme speaking skill

  • There are many skills that public speaking skills will naturally apply to
    • Job interviewing
    • Tense and difficult conversations
    • Conflicts with others
    • A product sales pitch
    • Convincing others of an idea you deeply value
  • Everyone can publicly speak, but more people are afraid of it than dying

Everyone gets nervous with public speaking

  • Nobody who is mentally well can be fully comfortable in front of dozens or hundreds of people who coul potentially reject them
  • Though everyone gets nervous in a public speech, nobody actually knows you’re nervous until you show it
  • Great public speakers learn how to channel their nervous energy into:
    • Effective body language
    • Projecting their voice well
    • Focusing on their tone of voice
  • Nobody is actually paying attention to the speaker, they are simply paying attention to the message
    • A public speaker is a performer, and even if it’s a story about the speaker’s own past it’s still a story that is separate from them

Every single good public speech is a story with a beginning, middle and an end

  • The beginning actually starts with the audience first seeing you on stage for the first 7 seconds
    • The first 2 seconds will determine if the audience wants to listen to you or not
    • Work on improving your physical appearance and health in any way possible
    • Be well-dressed, at least as well as the best-dressed person in the audience
  • The first minute on stage will be the most impactful to the audience
    • Pause before you start to build drama for your opener
    • Your opener will determine how excited and interested people are
      • It needs to be different than what they are expecting
    • There are some good openers that are proven to capture others’ attention
      • Start with a verb
      • Start with a story
      • Ask a series of questions that have the exact same answer
      • Start with a shocking statistic that gets people disrupted
      • Ask a question that makes the listener want to hear what you are going to tell them
  • The middle of the story should include something personable
    • Share your failings openly and go easy on your successes
    • Don’t let silence persist in the message unless you intentionally want silence for dramatic effect
    • Only have 3-4 points, if you add more be ready to throw them out if time catches up to you
  • The end of the story is always about sharing one ultimate idea
    • This message should usually be positive, since it’s what you’re leaving the audience with
    • The end is wrapping up the entire reason for people to sit through the speech
    • It can help to open it up for questions

Pay attention to your audience

  • Sophisticated language will be lost on a working-class crowd
  • If you’re speaking to an international audience watch for acronyms, idioms and slang
  • Try to connect the story you’re giving to the local area the audience is in
  • Generally, the more simple you can keep it the better

Make the words you say jump out at the audience

  • Use strong adjectives and metaphors
    • Use historical or cultural comparisons
    • Use comparisons and contrasts to show differences and similarities
  • Use humor or comedy, and allow a pause for laughter
    • Sometimes the joke won’t be that great, keep speaking before silence sets in
    • Improvised comedy will come naturally
  • Insert quotes into the speech that match what you want to say
  • Speak with confidence
    • Talk clearly and slowly
    • Use silence to pause for effect, and hold it long enough to make it dramatic
    • If you stumble with your words, don’t apologize
      • Most people don’t notice most stumbling anyway
  • Use a lot of vocal variety throughout the story
    • Pay attention to the different parts of how you speak and work to improve them
    • Observe your inflection, since it changes the focus of what you are saying
      • Practice vocal exercises to improve your capacity for speaking well
    • Change the speed of your speech regularly
      • The speed should slow down on the final points and permit pauses to let the idea sink in to allow a shift
      • Speed up speaking when there is a lot of information to run through
    • Draw people in with softer words, and hit them harder with louder ones
    • The tone of the speech should feel and sound like you’re having a conversation with someone
    • If you’re nervous and start getting hoarse, speak louder
  • Use a common theme
    • Sprinkle a catch-phrase throughout the talk if you can, which will connect to the final take-away idea
    • The speech is never about you, it’s about the message, even if it’s a message about you

A large part of effective public speaking is tied to body language

  • Besides the words you say, your body language is also telling a story
    • If you’re not paying attention, your body can interfere with your words
    • With the correct body language, you will deliver a message that everyone will remember
      • Your posture will show your attitude
      • Show enthusiasm and energy through your body
        • Enthusiasm comes through comfort and confidence, which involves expressing your own self
          • Don’t try to imitate another speaker, since their style is based on their personality
          • Let your body naturally copy your feelings
          • Move freely and openly
        • With energy invested into your story, the most boring presentations can still be interesting from you acting out what you feel at the moment
  • Try to remove distracting behaviors, since they take away from your message
    • Don’t rock, sway or pace without intention behind it
    • Try to stay away from smaller actions
      • Gripping or leaning on the podium
      • Biting or licking lips
      • Tapping fingers
      • Playing with something in pockets
      • Frowning
      • Adjusting hair or clothing
      • Turning head or eyes rhythmically from side to side
  • Pay attention to your face
    • Everyone looks at your face to track the feeling you’re using to convey
      • Public speaking requires connecting to the audience through facial expressions
      • Smile as often as the situation permits
    • You will probably have distracting facial mannerisms or unconscious expressions that you should learn to control
  • Practice using gestures to illustrate your point
    • Gestures are very useful to emphasize
      • They clarify and support the words you are saying
        • The words have more emphasis and life to them
        • They work as highly visible visual aids
      • The ideas can be more dramatic
        • It stimulates audience participation
      • It’s great to let out nervous tension
    • There are a few types of gestures
      • Descriptive Gestures – clarifies or enhances a verbal message
        • Helps the audience understand comparisons
        • Visualizes size, shape, movement, location, function and numbers
      • Emphatic Gestures – give emphasis to what is being said
        • Indicates earnest conviction
        • e.g. clenched fist implies a strong feeling like anger or determination
      • Suggestive Gestures –  symbols of ideas and emotions
        • Helps the speaker create a desired mood or express a specific thought
        • e.g. open palm suggests giving or receiving
        • e.g. shrugging shoulders suggests ignorance, confusion or irony
      • Prompting Gestures – evokes a desired response from the audience
        • Does actions as an example, such as applause or raising hands
      • Visual Cues – other things like slides or props
        • If done correctly, the visuals make a huge impact, but if done improperly it will distract the audience
        • The cues should accent the speech, to where the speech can hold up without the visual aides
        • Keep your text slides to the 10-20-30 Rule
          • No more than 10 slides
          • Never prepare for more than 20 minutes of speaking in a 1-hour block
          • Size is always larger, at least 30 pt font
          • It gives 25 minutes for setup and 15 minutes for questions
          • This makes the slides very concise and you’ll run through them quickly
        • Keep your slides simple
          • Rarely use effects or transitions
          • Make every slide match with the theme of the other slides
          • Use visuals on the slides to make anything important stand out in the first 1 second of looking at it
          • Don’t use full sentences on the slides, since the audience will stop listening to you to read it
            • Memorize your sentences and speak them if you need to convey the idea
        • Point directly to an object on the slide if there’s something specific you want the audience to focus on
          • When pointing, don’t overuse it, since it will distract from the message you’re speaking
        • If you’re reading from a paper, look at the audience near the beginning and end
    • How to show gestures effectively
      1. Respond naturally to what you feel, think and say
        • Our bodies are already built to create the gestures we want to use, and all we have to do is stop suppressing it
      2. Create the conditions for gesturing, not the gesture
        • Since the gestures are natural and habitual, this is about fostering more than forcing
      3. Make the action suitable to the word being used and the occasion
        • The gestures are meant to tie together with the message
      4. Make the gestures convincing
        • The actions should be vigorous, slow and broad
        • Great gestures use as much of the body as possible
          • Keep your limitations in mind (hand microphone, podium microphone)
      5. Polish the gestures to be smooth and timed well
        • Every gesture has 3 parts that should appear completely natural
          • The Approach – body prepares to move
          • The Stroke – body moves
          • The Return – brings body back to balanced posture
  • Keep eye contact with the crowd
    • Your eyes are what make the crowd know that you are talking to them
    • By not making direct eye contact with people, you can seem insincere
    • An easy way to not keep eye contact if you’re nervous is to look across the audience
    • There are many benefits to using your eyes
      • Eye contact establishes a shared bond with your audience, which can actually relieve stress
      • You can monitor visual feedback from people and tailor your message’s tone
  • Use open and expressive body languages like you’re performing

There are small tricks to make public speaking easier

  • A few days before the event
    • Create talking points that will guide you through the speech
      • Don’t memorize it word-for-word, since it’s impossible to remember under stress and you’ll stifle body language unintentionally
    • Record yourself and track how you can improve
      • If you find yourself hanging up on a point, create a body language cue or note that can bring you back on point
  • The day before the event
    • You don’t need a word-for-word speech, but you do need be prepared with what you’re going to say
      • A verbatim speech will be more stressful to speak
      • Your speech won’t be from a script, since you will need to keep eyes on the audience to keep them interested
      • The only things worth memorizing are the opening and closing
      • Most of the preparation will be to learn how you are doing on time and the way you say words
    • Rehearse with someone else, and consider using a dictating machine to listen to yourself
    • Relax on the evening before the talk
  • Earlier in the day
    • Take a short walk away from everything 3 hours prior to it
    • Drink liquid 90 minutes and 30 minutes before the speech, then go to the bathroom
    • Drink water 15 minutes before the event to avoid dry mouth
  • Right before you go up
    • Meet members of the audience, it helps to know people in the audience as you present
    • Do a stress management exercise
      1. Take a deep breath through your nose all the way in
      2. Raise your shoulders as high as you can
      3. Drop your chin to your chest
    • Keep breathing normally as the stress hits
    • While standing comfortably, massage your throat and jaw to relieve any tightness
    • Pose in private for 2 minutes with your feet spread apart and hands on your hips, it’s been scientifically proven to boost confidence
    • Remember that everyone wants to hear you speak, and that you can do it
    • Bring bottled water with you when you go up, and if you need a few moments to gather your thoughts take a drink

A webinar has a few tweaks to the public speaking formula

  • Get to the point as fast as possible
    • There’s no need for formalities, a webinar is a public speech with questions involved
  • You can’t speak, read questions and respond in chat at once
    • Either answer the questions at the end, or have a chat assistant help you
  • Make the speech slides or recording available after the event to allow others to consume it
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