Public Speaking From Notes: Some Tips and Techniques

Among the most common questions we get at the Pincus Group, are those brought about by “podium panic.” That’s what I call the moment a speaker realizes he or she won’t be able to hide behind a lectern or read from a full script. With that discovery comes a lot of questions:  What do I do with my script? How do I stand? And the ubiquitous “What do I do with my hands?”

We tell clients that they are the presentation, not their scripts and nothing brings that home like facing an audience without one.

Know that, the good news is if you are prepared, speaking from notes is going to greatly increase your effectiveness as a speaker. No one in your audience wants to be read to, no matter what the topic. They’ve come to hear what you have to say, not what you have to read. (After all, you could have saved everyone time and bother by just emailing your script if that weren’t the case.) The bad news is, you’re going to have to get over the notion that preparation stops once you get your content down on paper.

Follow some basic guidelines to help you power up your presentation without that script:

  • Always start by determining key messages. Your messages are your port in a storm. Lose your place? Return to port. Wondering if material is relevant? Look at those key messages and decide whether any of your material helps explain or convince us of their validity. If material doesn’t directly do that, leave it aside. This is how you’ll begin to reduce a lot of unnecessary material and get to the essence of why your audience has come to hear you.
  • Reduce notes to key ideas and phrases. Don’t use full sentences on your note cards and don’t fill your notecards with small script. The whole idea here is to get away from just reading to the audience. That process gets much more complicated if you’ve simply transferred an entire script onto small notecards. Instead, focus on larger points with key phrases, using more of an outline reduced to a bulleted form (and numbering your note cards prominently). The idea is to maximize eye contact with an audience and gain some feedback from them. If you see heads nodding in agreement, or faces staring back in thought, you’ll get a cue you’re on the right track.
  • Don’t memorize. You want to practice your talk until you’re comfortable with the general shape and outline, but give yourself the freedom to speak in the moment. No one knows what you meant to say. Meanwhile, by freeing yourself from exact phrasing and even exact order, you’ll have a better opportunity to really connect and give your presentation a flow that’s easier for the audience to understand.
  • Try and leave even the notecards behind. If there’s a small table or surface off to the side you can place your notes on, work toward reviewing your notes periodically rather than holding the notes in your hand. Yes, it takes practice. If you need to return to your notes to check your place, don’t stress. Simply stop talking. Review your notes, and then begin again with your audience. Once you really free yourself from the need to fill every second of time with a scripted phrase, you’ll discover how much your props (notecards) have actually been holding you back. If you need to shorten your presentation to accommodate your ability to stay on track, then do so. It’s well worth it to your audience to get a sense of your passion and knowledge about a subject, then it is to try and follow a technically detailed presentation that’s just read to them.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Did I mention practice? Nothing will increase your proficiency and the audience’s enjoyment more than having a real sense that you’re not lecturing them but really communicating your ideas for some purpose. When you’re comfortable, it’s going to show, in natural hand movements, in a more relaxed voice, natural pace and more compelling presentation.

Remember, you are the presentation. The rest are merely aides to help you make it.

Aileen Pincus is a communications consultant and President of the Pincus Group, Executive Communications Training. She can be reached at www.thepincusgroup.com

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Briefing How To’s : Tips and Techniques to Deliver A Briefing Worth Listening To

Briefing, noun brief·ing \ˈbrē-fiŋ\: an act or instance of giving precise instructions or essential information.

Briefing isn’t just another word for presentation. A briefing is designed to point the listener toward “precise instruction or essential information” according to Webster’s definition. In practical terms, that means the essence of your job as a briefer is to facilitate some kind of action.

That means the first thing to ask yourself before putting together your briefing is why you’ve been asked to give it. You can’t develop your key points if you don’t know how or why this information is going to be used, or exactly what piece of information you gather will be the most useful to the person you’re briefing. The essential work for any briefer is in the preparation and in knowing your audience, what he/she or they might need, and then delivering it. If you want to hit the mark with every briefing you deliver, follow these best practices:

START AT THE END
You can’t brief well if you don’t know where you’re heading. Remember, this is a talk with a specific purpose, designed to deliver essential information for a decision maker. What’s the conclusion you’re going to reach? Get that up front and build your briefing from these “messages.” Don’t keep your target audience waiting and wondering what all this adds up to. You want to state your case and then spend the bulk of your time proving it by adding the essential information that led you there.

KEEP FOCUSED ON THE WIN
Remember this isn’t about everything your target audience needs to know. It’s about the ESSENTIAL things he/she or they need to know NOW in order to make a decision. Stay focused on the WIN, What’s Important Now. That means you want to distill your information to a few key points and back those up with your best verifying information. Then let the person you’re briefing guide you to any more detail in the question and answer portion of the briefing.

STAKE A CLAIM
This is no place for a wishy-washy, “on the one hand-on the other hand” type of dissertation. Briefings, remember, have a particular purpose. Don’t wait for your target audience to ask you, “So what’s your conclusion?” or “Which of these options do you think is best?” The whole point is to state a case and prove it. If your target wants you to talk about a different option, that’s fine as well, but be ready to make your case either way. You’ll have to stick your neck out to be a useful briefer. This isn’t just a random collection of information you’re delivering. Even if the best you can do is a briefing that concludes “we need more time” or “we don’t know yet,” make sure it’s clear why this is your conclusion and stand behind it.

REMEMBER TO BELIEVE WHAT YOU’RE SAYING
Never deliver a briefing with conclusions that you don’t believe yourself. This isn’t acting. Your usefulness to a decision maker demands credibility. Make sure you can deliver that to the best of your ability, in every briefing, every time.

Aileen Pincus is President and CEO of The Pincus Group, Inc., providing tailored presentation training and media coaching to executives worldwide, with headquarters in Washington, DC.

 

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Presentation Confidence: Take The Fear Out Of Executive Presentations

We tend to avoid what we fear, so before you hand off that presentation to someone else or try side-stepping the responsibility altogether, consider what you’d be passing up. Each presentation in front of your peers, your boss, an important client is a unique opportunity to showcase your value. A home run in a presentation or briefing can do more to lift your reputation and cement trust for these important relationships than all of the hard work you’ve already put in getting ready for it.

That’s because your audience can see and hear your ideas for themselves. They can connect the messages with the messenger and get the full measure of their impact. Importantly, they will give credit for those ideas to you, the presenter. In short, presentation and briefing skills are essential tools every executive needs to master.

Embrace the presentation opportunities you have by conquering those fears and letting your expertise shine. Follow these pro tips to help:

Don’t memorize

If you memorize (instead of just getting comfortable with your ideas), all you’ll be concentrating on when you deliver your presentation is remembering what you were supposed to say. That’s going to interfere with being your best, most confident self. Instead, stay in the moment and give yourself permission to express your key ideas in a way that sounds natural and comfortable for you. Don’t worry about perfection. Your audience isn’t.

Do prepare (the right way)

Get your essential ideas down to (no more than) three main points. Practice delivering these orally. Pay attention to how you naturally communicate them, what details you use to explain each and how you transition from one main point to the next. There’s simply no substitute for hearing yourself present and building some muscle memory of how you want the presentation or briefing to flow. (Recording yourself is a great tool for this.) If you write out a full script, begin practicing with a greatly reduced one with just bullet points or notes with key points and phrases. It’s far more important to stay connected to your audience than it is to remember every detail of something you’d prepared.

Build in a breather

Many presenters need help controlling their fears at the very start of their presentations. Once they get into the body of their material, the content of what they’re saying helps them find their stride and pull through. If you’re most anxious at the beginning of your presentation, try a different approach. A question to the audience momentarily allows you to subtly shift the focus to your audience and might offer you the breathing room you need to settle in. (Of course the question has to be one you’re reasonably certain will draw the right response, or a survey with no right or wrong answer that helps you set up your points). You might also use a prop, or a handout to momentarily draw people’s attention to something you’re about to speak to. You might even start with a short video or other visual after the briefest of introductions.

Go with what works for you

Many executives heave a sigh of relief when the presentation or briefing is over and they can move on to answering questions. If that’s you, don’t feel constrained by formats. Keep the presentation shorter and lengthen the q and a. You’ll still need to deliver some key messages about your conclusions, but you can save the detail for when your audience signals they want it; by asking a question. Just tell your audience what you’re doing (“I have a brief overview and then I want to get right to your questions about what this means”). Remember to present with your audience first and foremost in mind: what is the essential information THEY need?

Treat the symptoms

Fear causes a physical reaction in us, as our brains signal to our bodies that we’re in some kind of danger. Our breathing becomes more rapid, our voices might shake, our palms sweat. It’s those ‘symptoms’ that many presenters fear displaying, so have a plan for handling those reactions. Know that no one can hear what you’re thinking, and are oblivious to your fear. Tell yourself you’re going to be great, remind yourself of past successes, and visualize how good it’s going to be to hear the congratulations afterwards (even if you don’t believe it). Tell yourself: You’ve GOT this! Remember no one knows what you were supposed to say, so if you forget something, just move on without apologies. If you forget something, it’s a good time to pause and ask, “any questions so far”? Don’t try to banish your nerves, channel them. It’s the same energy that will help fuel your performance. Expend a bit of it if you can just before your presentation (a quick walk, some deep knee bends and long, slow deep breaths).

Remember, the more presentations you do, the easier this will be. Don’t avoid speaking to your own ideas and your own capabilities. Remember how scary things were the first time you tried them, that you now do with ease. You can build this ‘muscle memory’ of success, one presentation, one briefing at a time!

Aileen Pincus is President of The Pincus Group Inc., an executive coaching firm offering training in presentation, speech, media and crisis communications. Free consultations at https://thepincusgroup.com 301 938-6990

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/9634281

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Leaving PowerPoint Behind: No, You Don’t HAVE To Use It

At the Pincus Group, we know better than to try and talk clients out of using their slides when making presentations. At many (if not most) organizations, presentations have simply come to mean an oral talk communicated with the aid of slides. Separating the two, presentation from PowerPoint, is as unthinkable as presenting before others in lounge wear. It’s just not done!

But is that because PowerPoint is widely considered a successful mode of communication? Anyone who has suffered through their share of bad presentations knows the answer. Very often, audience hopes of an interesting presentation are dashed quickly as soon as the lights are dimmed. So if you’re someone who wants to break the mold, doesn’t want to present their ideas using slides filled with bullets and text just because everyone else does, how would you present your ideas?

Ask yourself to consider how you might do things differently:

Bring back the visuals in visual aids

Ask yourself if you could get through a presentation without reading or asking your audience to read. How would that change your presentation? It definitely forces the presenter to be very clear about their purpose and key messages. By putting the burden of communication on the presenter, and excluding text, it forces a shift in the way presenters communicate their ideas. Are there photographs, drawings, or renderings you could use to show your ideas and help your audiences understand them?

Think outside the box

If you do decide to rely on visuals rather than text, think of those ‘visuals’ in the widest possible sense. There might be a simple prop you could use to demonstrate how your ideas work. There might be a video that helps you set the stage for your ideas. Then again, you might try simply interacting with your audience to lead them through how to consider your idea. Think about what your messages are and what your goal is for this audience. What are you trying to get them to understand or be persuaded of?  Removing text from your presentation might force you to find more creative avenues of communication. Remember, everyone loves a good story.

Keep it moving

When presenters use PowerPoint, the materials tend to drive the performance. Presenters often want to address each bullet on each slide, regardless of what their audience may be interested in, or the time allotted, because it’s there.  Without those bullets, with or without visuals, presenters become far more aware of having to reaching their audience successfully. That may mean presenters are motivated to stop for questions along the way, or find new ways of interacting with the audience as they present. A lively engaged audience is far more likely to forget about the time and absorb what’s being communicated.

However you present, remember the materials are secondary to you, the presenter. Don’t be afraid to try some different ways of communicating those ideas and to never take a back seat in your own presentations!

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TPG CEO featured in Huffington Post article

Tell-It-Like-It-Is Trump Becomes Teleprompter Donald

The GOP nominee is now using the machine he used to scorn, except really badly.

S.V. Date Senior Political Correspondent, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump has become what he has long mocked.

After a full year ridiculing his rival candidates for relying on a teleprompter and finding himself on a shorter leash from his new handlers, the Republican presidential nominee has fully embraced the tool. There is, of course, one key difference: He is bad at it.

“If you’re just going to be staring at a monitor and shouting and gesticulating, then what’s the point?” wondered Aileen Pincus, a public speaking consultant and teleprompter coach based in Washington. “It’s painful.”

Trump’s staff has for months realized that his tendency to wander off topic or unleash personal insults made any effort to deliver a serious address risky. So Trump has, beginning with his speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group in March, resorted to a teleprompter to get through important speeches.

But although the machine was designed to help public speakers appear more natural and maintain eye contact with their audience, it appears to have the opposite effect on Trump.

During his acceptance speech at the Cleveland Republican convention, Trump squinted for much of the address. In his Aug. 15 speech about terrorism, he appeared at times to get confused about what he was reading, leading to awkward pauses and sentences that trailed off. And on Wednesday night’s much-touted speech on immigration, Trump seemed fixated on the lefthand screen for long stretches.

On occasion, Trump also has misread words, sometimes to embarrassing effect. On Aug. 24 in Tampa, he said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had created a private email server “deliberately, willfully and with pre-medication,” before correcting himself: “premeditation.” And on Wednesday, Trump read “amnesty” – a key trigger word among his hardcore, anti-immigration base – as “amnety.”

Pincus said Trump’s problems with the machine are common for beginners. “It’s not unusual at all,” she said. “What’s unusual is that this man is the Republican nominee for president.”

Trump’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post’s queries about how much training the candidate has received on the device. One Republican consultant close to the campaign acknowledged that Trump could use some help, but isn’t particularly interested. “He resists all attempts to change, train, educate, generally,” said the consultant, speaking anonymously because he didn’t want to anger the nominee.

Trump’s resistance to the machine appears tied to his overarching concern to be entertaining and never boring, at all costs. He has said numerous times over his campaign that he could be “presidential” if he wanted to, but his audience wouldn’t like it.

He repeated that thought on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Thursday. Ingraham, who supports Trump, asked him why, at his Phoenix rally Wednesday night, he didn’t use the low-key tone that he had used in his remarks earlier in the day in Mexico after meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto. “We had this unbelievably energized crowd,” Trump replied. “And if I would’ve used the tone that I used in Mexico, I think everybody would’ve fallen asleep.”

The new reliance on the machine ― which uses transparent screens on either side of the lectern that display the script ― began with Trump’s installing Kellyanne Conway as his third campaign manager in as many months. Top Republicans urged Trump to tone down his public persona and keep to a strict set of messages on immigration, trade and attacks against Clinton, using a teleprompter to stay focused.

The switch, though, comes after 13 months of mocking other candidates for using one.

On Aug. 14, 2015, Trump told a Hampton, New Hampshire, audience: “If you’re running for president, you should not be allowed to use a teleprompter,” and then rotated from side to side to mimic someone reading from one screen and then the other. “You shouldn’t be allowed, because you don’t know what you’re going to get. Look what happened with Obama, where he’s a teleprompter guy.”

On Oct. 10, in Norcross, Georgia, Trump told his crowd: “I’ve always said, if you run for president, you shouldn’t be allowed to use teleprompters,” to big applause. “Because you don’t even know if the guy’s smart.”

As late as July 6 in Cincinnati, Trump mocked Clinton for using the device in her speeches. He stared at an imaginary screen to the left: “North and south,” then turned to his right, “or east and west,” and then turned to the left again: “Donald Trump is a bad person.”

In his mockery, however, Trump resembled mainly himself.

“There is something truly unique in his delivery and affect in his teleprompter speech, and I don’t mean that as a compliment,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP consultant and a longtime Trump critic. “Some of it is his raging ADD. He’s trying to race ahead of his message and do some ‘acting.’ It’s clumsy and weird. And for people who aren’t for Trump, it’s incredibly off-putting.”

Pincus, the speech trainer, said Trump could easily get some professional help. A two-to-three hour session with her firm would cost a few thousand dollars – considerably less than an hour’s worth of jet fuel consumed by Trump’s personal 757 airliner.

“I doubt it’s the money that’s holding him back,” she said, but hastened to add that she personally had no interest in volunteering her services. “I’m quite sure there are plenty of other people who can help him.”

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