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Tue, May 29, 2012

Career Management

10 Ways to Correct Common Public Speaking Problems

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This guest post is by Eileen N. Sinett, a speech and presentation leadership coach, communication consultant and author of “Speaking that Connects.”

Here are 10 common public speaking problems and solutions for each.

  • Hate elevator speeches or think they are boring? Be creative. Avoid starting with the mundane: My name is, or I am…. Play around with these words to start your introduction: Imagine … Clients tell me … If you need … Then, add your business information and end with your name. Your listeners will appreciate the change from the usual.
  • Feel uncomfortable in big crowds? Buddy up! Drive over with a friend to loosen you up. Enter together and jointly engage in one conversation. Then, more comfortable, disperse and have another conversation. Remember, you can engage without speaking. Be present, listen well, and turn off the negative inner dialogue. You’ll soon notice how awkward becomes awesome.
  • Stuck getting started with planning your presentation? Set a timer for just two minutes. Brain-dump on paper all the possibilities you could talk about for your specific audience. Then, thinking with the end in mind, ask: “What do I want the audience to know and remember when they leave this presentation? “ Write this down. Begin with the end in mind!
  • Don’t know what to do with your hands? Speaking too fast? Racing through your presentation? Don’t slow down your speech — improve your eye contact. Connect with your eyes before you speak. It’s like any sport. Aim first, then act!
  • Overly dependent on PowerPoint slides? Speak only when you are looking at someone. You can look at your notes or the screen, but not talk at the same time. Basically, cleanse the verbal palate with time (non-talk) for the audience to process the information. Then dish out your ideas with individual portions. The non-speaking time helps your audience’s digestion.
  • Dealing with a heckler in your audience? When someone in your audience is difficult or causing havoc, stop speaking! Look in their direction, be silent, breathe and count: 1, 2, 3, 4 (to yourself, of course). Then, eye-connect with someone else and don’t look back. Literally avoid connecting with hecklers. They won’t know your non-verbal slight is intentional, but they will have to work hard to get your attention and take over your control.
  • Want to influence colleagues at a meeting? When asked your opinion, avoid starting with “I.” Instead, frame your opinion by stating three irrefutable facts that provide context for your point of view. This establishes common ground, extends your listener’s listening, and postpones knee-jerk “no’s” from colleagues poised to pounce! Express these three facts, then, follow with your succinct opinion, using simple sentences. Elaborate on the details once your listeners are warmed up and ready to receive them.
  • Conference calls challenging your speaking and listening? Use your presentation voice rather than your conversational voice. You will speak in shorter sentences with greater pause and will be better heard. If you sense that too many listeners have “gone away, ” stop and request feedback: So what have you understood so far? Call participants my name, often, to keep the remote conversation more personal.
  • Need a favor or some help? Statements before questions work best. State your need first, than ask for help. Note the difference: “Can I borrow your car for two hours on Monday” vs. “My car’s in the shop and I can’t get a rental in time for my meeting Monday afternoon. Any chance I can borrow your car for two hours?”
  • Media giving you 15 seconds of fame? Less is harder than more! Think “headlines.” Prepare two or three key messages and get them heard! Get centered, ground yourself inside and engage the interviewer or camera as your friend. For example: Speaking is my business; Presenting gives professionals an unbeatable advantage; Communication skills re both a science and an art.

Do you have a tip for speaking? Share with us  in the comments!

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