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7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

Imagine speaking without notes and keeping your audience spellbound! Most of us dream of being such a successful speaker, but this will only come about if we work at it. Let’s get back to reality because, if you are like me, you may well have to master this skill, as very few people are born natural speakers. Here are seven habits that you should be concentrating on, so that you can get better and better.

1. Forget about interacting with your audience.

Apart from some questions at the end, interaction with the audience should be extremely limited. Lots of speakers ask for the audience to indicate with a show of hands what they think about a certain issue. The risk here is that they will get bored and may even resent having to take part in a circus act. Remember, it is your job to speak and they want to learn or to be entertained by you.

2. You are like an actor on the stage.

Ever watched a brilliant actor on the stage or in a film? He or she will act with great enthusiasm, commitment and will be entirely convincing. Public speaking is not so different. You command the stage and the audience are expecting their money’s worth. Give it all you have got.

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“It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.” – Nicholas Bootman

3. Keep it brief.

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” – Winston Churchill

Think of the last time you heard a really boring and ineffectual speaker. I bet you noticed the following:

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  • The speech lacked structure – it was not clear what the speaker was trying to achieve.
  • You were bored.
  • The speaker went over time.
  • He or she did not make eye contact.
  • The speaker used other people’s ideas and statistics.

Try to avoid these awful mistakes and you will be well on the way to success.

4. How to start your speech.

Forget the introductions and the thank-yous. It is much better to jump straight in and get your audience’s attention by using one or more of the following:

  • Ask a question to stimulate interest.
  • Tell an anecdote that illustrates the problem/aims/objectives/results.
  • Tell a joke if it is relevant. It is great to get the audience laughing. They will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
  • Use a quotation by a famous person.
  • Tell them what your end goal is. Say, “By the end of my speech, you will have a better understanding of X.” Or, “I hope you will be able to take away five action points to deal with Y.”  Or, “I want to outline the pitfalls when dealing with Z.”

5. You know your defects and you have worked to improve them.

Let us imagine that you are hesitant. When you were practicing, you noticed from the recording or from a friend’s feedback, that you use ‘uhm’ or ‘er’ far too much. These can get very annoying if they are too frequent. Practice until you get these down to a bearable minimum.

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If you know from school that your teacher told you that you are inclined to mumble and speak indistinctly, then practice breathing and also breaking up sentences into more manageable chunks.

If you are so shy that eye contact is always a challenge, practice looking for a sympathetic face in the audience, maybe somebody you know. You will need to make regular eye contact with all the attendees, not forgetting those at the back.

6. Forget about ‘I’ and ‘me.’

Many speakers talk a lot about themselves, their experiences, their successes and maybe their failures. The only problem is that if you don’t also mention ‘you’ and speak directly to the audience and involve them, you may lose their attention.  Instead of a long, boring personal anecdote, ask a question with ‘you’ in it. Works every time!

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7. Don’t flood your speech with statistics.

The temptation is to impress people with data and figures. Some speakers go to enormous lengths to provide lots of pie charts, graphs and the dreaded PowerPoint slides. It is no accident that people now joke about ‘death by PowerPoint.’ Less is better in this case. People just cannot take in all that information.

“The audience are likely to remember only three things from your presentation or speech.” – Stephen Keague

Gaining confidence in public speaking takes time. If you find that you cannot change everything overnight, start by choosing the habit that you think is most important in your situation.

“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you’ve got, and fix it along the way…” – Paul Arden

Featured photo credit: Tech Cocktail Sessions DC/ Tech Cocktail via Flickr

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Robert Locke

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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