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10 Things You Can Do Now To Make Public Speaking Effortless

10 Things You Can Do Now To Make Public Speaking Effortless

Have you ever wondered how some well-known figures make public speaking look like child’s play? As we know, it is not like that at all. Remember that over 50% of UK senior management feel nervous about speaking in public, so you are not alone!

“People think actresses find public speaking easy, and it’s not easy at all; we’re used to hiding behind masks.” – Jane Fonda

My first venture into public speaking was when I had to give a speech at my brother’s wedding, as I was his best man. This was an enormous challenge for me as I had struggled through adolescence with a speech defect. After an operation and speech therapy, my brother’s wedding was my first match in the public speaking arena. Happily, all went well!

Public speaking is an important life skill because if you can master this, you can cope better with job interviews and giving presentations. Here are 10 things you can adopt now to make it all sound smooth and effortless.

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1. Prepare the speech.

This seems pretty obvious but many people skimp on this. If you are giving a presentation or seminar, preparation will be crucial. You will also have to practice and decide how much use you will make of the following:

  • All written out or just notes?
  • Will you use PowerPoint slides?
  • Are you aware of your breathing while practicing?
  • Are you familiar with the venue?
  • Do you know what equipment is available?

2. Research your audience.

In my case this was easy, as it was family and friends. Anecdotes about my brother were expected and appreciated. But when you are in front of a business audience, it is important to know their background. Are they colleagues, middle managers or trainees? Finding out about their business experience and their companies will be very important. Armed with this information, you can make a passing reference to their company’s history or profile, which they can relate to.

3. Don’t read your speech.

There are several reasons why this could be disastrous:

  • You may bore the audience
  • You will almost certainly not succeed in getting their attention
  • You will never make eye contact
  • You are at risk of mumbling or failing to speak clearly.

4. Think beyond the words.

Let’s face it. You are communicating a message or information, or entertaining. Or it may be a combination of all three. The words you are using are merely a vehicle for conveying your ideas. They are not sufficient on their own. You also have to use the following:

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  • Gestures
  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Speed of delivery
  • Pauses
  • Emphasis.

Get the combination of all these right and you will make a great speech.

5. Practice makes perfect.

You need to get really familiar with the contents of your speech. If you lack confidence, the best way to do this is to try and memorize the main points, and you can use a list of notes for this. You have to go over and over it again, timing yourself so that you do not go over the time allocated. If you prefer, you can also use cards with the main points on them, just in case you forget. A good idea is to number the cards, just in case you drop them!

6. Avoid the PowerPoint death sentence.

People refer to ‘death by PowerPoint’ because these visuals, while an excellent tool, can become deadly boring, especially if you read what is written on them. Your audience can read too!

It is important to keep the number of slides to a minimum. It is a visual aid and it is not supposed to substitute for you. Go for facts and figures, charts, graphs, or something visually stimulating such as a dramatic photo.

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There are many true statements about complex topics that are too long to fit on a PowerPoint slide.” –  Edward Tufte

7. Personalize what you have to say

People still love stories. An anecdote or two can work wonders. Tell them about your personal involvement in a project and what went right or wrong. Jokes are great too, although these should be kept to a minimum. All these things are important for bonding with your audience.

8. Being nervous is good

“Adrenaline is wonderful. It covers pain. It covers dementia. It covers everything.” – Jerry Lewis

You may think that all those irritating and embarrassing symptoms of butterflies in your stomach and a tremor in your voice and hand is going to mean you fail.

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But look at it this way: These are just minor things that are happening because your adrenaline is flowing. This is giving you more energy, more determination, and also a much sharper you. Concentrate on these aspects so that you can power up rather than become a frightened mouse. These are primeval instincts to help you fight. Forget the flight bit. It will all be over soon.

“I don’t get stage fright, I actually love the energy, I love the spontaneity, I love the adrenaline you get in front of a live audience, it actually really works for me.” – Brooke Burke

9. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

While remaining upbeat and confident, there’s no harm in being aware of what could go wrong and to have a contingency plan up your sleeve. Here are some common situations you may encounter:

  • Make sure there is a glass of water on the lectern. When your mouth becomes impossibly dry, this is a life saver.
  • Check to see that everything is working beforehand and that the PowerPoint is all set up. Do a trial run, if possible.
  • If you forget the next point, refer to your notes. These should be brief and clear, with main points highlighted.
  • You will not be judged on your quivering voice. You are not doing an audition for a Hollywood film, so concentrate on getting your message across.

10. Observe and learn from the experts

When practicing your presentation or speech, watch people speaking on YouTube. Observe people who you think are great communicators and whom you admire. Watch how they use pauses for effect. Study their speed of delivery and also their body language. Remember that they started out like you and were probably just as nervous and phobic about the whole thing.

One comforting thought is that one journalist noted that President George Washington, in making his inaugural speech, was as nervous as hell. He was “so visibly perturbed that his hand trembled and his voice shook so that he could scarcely be understood.”  Nobody ever judged George Washington’s achievements by his public speaking!

Have you any tips about how to make public speaking easier? Tell us about them in the comments.

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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