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3 Tips to Make You Feel Confident When Giving a Presentation

3 Tips to Make You Feel Confident When Giving a Presentation

I still remember those terrible days when my history teacher would have the class read aloud from the text book, each student one paragraph.

I was a pretty awful at reading out loud, so I counted the kids ahead of me. I determined I’d be reading paragraph 13, and started practicing.

When it was my turn, I blasted through my paragraph so quickly that I mispronounced words left and right and sounded like the disclaimers at the end of a car commercial. Worst of all, I was actually supposed to read paragraph 12. (Turns out I was lousy at reading and math.)

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But it turned into a valuable lesson. When you’re reading a text in public—whether it’s jotted notes or a full-blown speech—it’s easy to mispronounce words and fumble phrases. You feel stupid and your audience is confused. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

1. Avoid using words you might misread during your talk when you glance at your notes.

If you wrote, “It assures our success” on a note card for a presentation you were going to give, it would be easy to mistakenly read it as “assumes” if you glanced only briefly at it during the talk – especially if you were talking fast.

If you’re going to refer to written notes during a live presentation, think through the words you’re writing down. Ask yourself if you can imagine misreading any of those words when the crowd is in front of you (“darling” for “daring,” for example). Cut out words that could easily be mistaken for others.

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2. Watch out for words you regularly stumble over.

A confession: I almost always mispronounce “distribute” and its variations–distributing, distribution, distributor, etc. I’ll often place the emphasis on the wrong syllable and say “dis-tributors” or “distrib-utors.” So I never use any variation of distribute in my public talks. It’s one less thing to worry about.

During a live presentation, you get just one chance to deliver each line, each word, flawlessly. If you stumble over or mispronounce a word, it can severely disrupt your flow. If it happens more than a few times, it can also make both you and your audience uncomfortable. So monitor yourself for particular words that trip you up–your own versions of “distribute”–and make a point of keeping those words out of your talks.

It’s also a good idea not to use long, complex words. All of us occasionally trip over words like “inexplicable” or “extemporaneously.” So try not to include words like these in your presentations.

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3. Avoid words or phrases that might confuse your audience.

Former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in her book On Speaking Well, tells an interesting story about a foreign policy speech she wrote for President Reagan. After reviewing the draft, Reagan’s chief of staff handed it back to Noonan and told her to change the phrase “muscular altruism.” When Noonan asked why, he said, “It sounds like a disease.”

What the chief of staff realized was that when people hear the word muscular, they think “dystrophy.” Add to that the fact that the second word in Noonan’s phrase is a word most people don’t know and which ends in “ism,” and you can see where the whole phrase could confuse and even frighten the public.

When crafting your presentation, think through any words or phrases that your audience might misconstrue or even hear incorrectly (because they’re so used to hearing those words in different contexts). Then find different words to make the same points.

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One final thought for anyone reading this who works for the Department of Education: Please do whatever you can to stop that horrible read-aloud practice that fills school kids with terror!

Featured photo credit: Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation. Audience at the conference hall. via shutterstock.com

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robbie hyman

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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