Obligatory Sports Metaphor Blog Post

May 6, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Managing Nerves, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

As I’ve been coaching both new and seasoned business presenters, two particular athletic analogies have proven really useful. (Full disclosure: I know stuff about sports, but it’s hardly my pastime of choice.) See if these resonate with you, and use them to help with the emotional / mental preparation you do to get ready to present.

To deal with nerves and manage energy. Nervousness with presentations seems to manifest itself in one of two barbara_egel_132_BWbroad ways: Either people’s nervous energy takes over and they lose control of their voices and bodies—talking too much or too fast, running out of breath, making unwanted facial expressions, and/or moving their feet in odd ways, among other things; or, they pull inward as though their whole bodies have been Botoxed—they forget how to smile, their voices retreat into inaudibility, their arms are glued to their sides, and they speak in a monotone.

Our engagement techniques—eye contact and pausing—help immensely once the presentation begins. But in the moments before you get up to speak, think about athletes. If you play(ed) a team sport, remember that moment between leaving the locker room and taking the field? The coach has pumped you up, you and your teammates are of one mind, your muscles are warm, and you are ready to explode into the game. You have nervous energy, sure, but it’s a good thing. It’s what will keep you pumped up but in control, jazzed enough to run up and down the court and steady enough to sink a three-pointer when the ball comes your way. This is the feeling you want just before you present. Turn that nervous energy to your advantage to keep yourself engaged, loose, and playing your best game.[Tweet “Remember that moment between leaving the locker room and taking the field?”]

To get comfortable with eye contact (or pausing, but mostly eye contact). Some of our learners have taken public speaking classes in the past and were told things like, “scan the room” or “look at the tops of people’s heads” so it appears you are making eye contact. To be truly engaged, you must make real eye contact and connect with your listeners. Often, when I prescribe eye contact as someone’s primary engagement technique, they tell me they understand in theory how it can work, but it’s really uncomfortable to do. This is when I talk about baseball (or golf or tennis).

When you’re a kid messing around in your backyard, all you do is grab the bat and stand kind of like you’ve seen on TV. If you’re naturally athletic, you might hit it pretty well, and you’ll keep that batting stance because it works for you. If you then start to play Little League and meet up with a batting coach, it’s highly likely he will change your stance—bending your knees more, moving your hands down on the bat, holding it higher or further from your body than you’re used to. Initially, you balk at this because it feels weird. You won’t have any power or control, your wrists hurt, and should you really be feeling your butt muscles this much playing baseball? Over time though, you get used to the new stance and discover you not only have more control but you get better distance, speed, and height on the ball.

Eye contact and pausing work the same way. At first, it feels weird and like all the stuff that’s worked okay for you in the past is being taken from you. But over time, you’ll discover that you’re getting noticeably better: more in control, more engaged, more conversational.[Tweet “Over time, you’ll discover that you’re getting noticeably better.”]

And you’ll be knocking it out of the park on the regular.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 3 of 5)

February 20, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

This is the third in a series of five blog posts focusing on the distinction between the academic approach to public speaking and the skill-building approach business presenters need. My goal with this series is to talk about why the application of Public Speaking 101 approaches in the corporate training room fails to meet the needs of business presenters.

This post will focus on what are traditionally called “delivery skills.” These are the physical and vocal skills you use to communicate in every face-to-face interaction. If you approach your presentation as a performance instead of a conversation (as I discussed in my last post), your focus will be on how these skills look and sound to your audience. The success of a performance of a speech involves, for example, establishing eye contact with your audience to appear trustworthy, pausing to emphasize your points, controlling gestures to appear professional, and bringing enthusiasm to your voice.

What’s missing with that approach is consideration of what these skills do for you, the presenter. Let’s look at eye contact and pausing. During our workshops we talk about these skills as engagement skills. When they are used well, they help presenters relax, focus, and bring their listeners into the conversation.

The use of these skills, in other words, is about much more than simply how they make you look and sound. They are essential for the conversation. Through their application you are able to keep your thoughts and focus in the here and now. If you’re only thinking about how these skills appear to others, it takes you out of the moment and turns your focus inward. This weakens your connection to listeners and turns the conversation into a performance.

For most people, after you’re engaged in the conversation, your other delivery skills take care of themselves. Gestures occur naturally and vocal enthusiasm is appropriate and genuine. So rather than thinking of these skills as the polish you apply to performance, think of them as the welcome result of being engaged in the conversation.

In the next post I’ll talk about the need to bring real-life presentations into training.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Are Hands in Pockets OK?

May 5, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

Question: Is it OK to put my hands in my pockets when I present? I’ve heard it’s a bad thing to do.

Answer: The short answer is yes, it’s OK to put your hands in your pockets.  Just make sure that it doesn’t become a distraction to your listeners.

It’s not so much about hands in pockets as it is about what to do with your hands in general.
In everyday conversation we gesture naturally, rarely thinking about what our hands are doing.  But when we stand up in front of a group of people, things change.  Some people say their hands feel like clumsy, foreign objects.  So, to make things feel more comfortable, they put their hands in their pockets (or clasp them behind their back or in front of them).  If your hands are confined and out of sight they won’t do anything embarrassing, right?  Well maybe, but if you deliver your entire presentation with your hands locked in any position, they will eventually become a distraction to your listeners and an obstacle to you.

So, the thing to do is to treat the discomfort you feel with your hands as a symptom of a larger issue, the fact that you’re a little uncomfortable and nervous.

Go back to your engagement skills.
Look the individuals in your audience in the eye just as you would in everyday conversation.  Pause to give yourself time to breathe and think about what you’re saying.  Before long you’ll be engaged and comfortable.  Once that happens, your hands will do what comes naturally.  Seems too easy, I know.  But give it a try.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication