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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
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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

Copywriter

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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