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How to Give a Killer Presentation When You Feel Like Dying

How to Give a Killer Presentation When You Feel Like Dying

According to surveys I have seen, most people fear death less than they fear speaking in front of an audience.

If you have a presentation coming up, you are likely losing weight and sleep while you feel it creeping closer like the tumbrel* wheels inching their way toward the gallows.

My name is Chris Ellis and I am a blogger, speaker, and a professional musician, singer and instructor. Over the years I have performed thousands of times in front of huge crowds, on street corners and in bars, restaurants, and wineries. You name it and I have played it.

Having experienced both incredible highs of a near perfect performance to nerve-jangling near-complete failures, I have worked out exactly what it takes to be a fabulous speaker or performer.

While I may not be able to wave my magic wand and turn you into Regis Philbin, I can give you simple and creative methods of making public speaking easy and perhaps enjoyable.

The key to doing anything is knowing how to do it. Do these things and you will succeed.

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Gather your facts and double check them. Make sure you are not just a conduit for them but understand them fully. Take the time to work out for yourself why they are important and how they relate to each other.

Make sure your facts don’t contradict each other and don’t put in any other data that doesn’t specifically relate to your subject. Present your data in a sequence that makes sense!

Failing to do these things creates confusion in the mind of your audience and people hate to be confused.

2) Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!

We all hear that we are supposed to practice our presentations in front of a mirror, but how many of us actually do that?

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Get out all of your notes and equipment, and practice. Using a video camera to record your practice is vital.

Pay attention to how you look.  Do you look confident? If not, there is something you are doing with your body to convey insecurity. Look at every little thing you are doing that may distract your audience from focusing on your words and ideas. Correct these things.

Go to Youtube and find a speaker you would like to emulate. Great comedians are great speakers.

Work out what you need to do to make your presentation look like that of a great speaker.

Don’t read off a page or screen. Talk to your audience.

3) Practice making mistakes.

Look at your upcoming presentation and decide what could go wrong. For example, what if someone asks you a question and draws you into a long conversation on a point that is only interesting to him? You could lose your audience if you engage.

Practice handling that person so that you don’t go off into the weeds with him forever while your audience starts checking their text messages.

 4) Find out who your audience is.

Before you start, find out about your audience. What is their average age? What are their interests? What do they do for a living? All of these things help you make a presentation that is as personal as it can be to each of your audience members.

If you start talking to a room full of divorcees about the joys of marriage, it might not be real to them. Create a new presentation for each new audience.

5) Get to the venue early and practice using the equipment there.

Musicians have what is called a “sound check” before every show. During this sound check, the person running sound, checks the levels of the microphones and amplifiers to ensure that the sound is balanced.

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The musicians get onstage and do a few songs so that they are familiar with that particular venue and the equipment. Every venue and set of equipment is different. You must be familiar and comfortable with the equipment you will be using or your attention will not be where it needs to be, on interaction with your audience.

Above all, make sure your microphone does not feed back. When it does, it emits a high-pitched squeal that is extremely unpleasant. Do not point the mic at any of the speakers and don’t have it on so high that it distorts. Nothing clears a room faster than high-pitched feedback.

Ensure that you know how to set microphone level before your presentation. It makes you look like a total amateur when you start talking and people start yelling “Can’t hear you!”. You then waste everyone’s time setting the levels. By then you have lost your audience and it is tough to get them back on your side.

 6) Don’t picture your audience naked!

Really! Who came up with that idea? That is wayyy too much work! How can you focus on what you are saying and your audience if you are busy trying to create a mental image of even one person?

Instead of working that hard, simply take a little time before you go on. Look at your audience and decide that they are all on your side and really want to hear what you have to say.

Find things to like about your audience. That guy’s tie is awesome. This lady’s dress is beautiful. This one’s eyes are pretty.

Your audience is not a hostile crowd waiting to lynch you. They are gathered there to hear what you have to say. They really want you to succeed.

7) Talk to your audience

Don’t stare up at a screen or look over the heads of your audience. You are talking to them and they are listening and responding. A good presentation should be a sort of dialogue. There is give and take, but you must always be in control.

Invite your audience to ask you questions if something occurs that they don’t understand. Don’t spend too much time with any one person. Let them know that you will be available after the presentation to talk to them.

Creating a relationship with your audience entails maintaining control while inviting interaction. It is a delicate skill and requires practice.

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8) Bring in top-notch speakers who know how to really teach.

If you do this wisely, you can have your speakers take over a good portion of your presentation while sitting there looking brilliant for having chosen them.

Your association with brilliance will convince your audience that you are brilliant because you were able to find these guys and get them to work with you. And guess what? That is brilliant!

I do this with my students a lot. I book the venue and sing a few songs but then I let them rip! They look great, they make me look fabulous and it is a lot less work for me!

Don’t be afraid of asking brilliant people to help out. Brilliant people know the value of networking and many times are looking for an opportunity to jump in.

9) Don’t use jargon or unintelligible language!

If you throw in a bunch of jargon, acronyms and words your audience doesn’t understand, they will become restless and irritated. If you must use unfamiliar terms, explain to your audience what they mean.

Contrary to what many people think, it is not the speaker who uses big words and complex explanations who is successful.

The speaker who can take a subject, break it down and explain it in simple and understandable terms is very popular. This is a very particular skill but one which, when mastered, will make you extremely valuable.

10) Dress for confidence.

What colors make you feel bold? What shoes will make you feel confident (Hint: 6-inch stilettos worn for the first time is a bad plan!)

Create the picture in your mind of the ideal You giving your presentation. What is the ideal You wearing? Try out your outfits and move around in them, stand for a long time in them and really decide which one will make you feel the most comfortable and yet project an air of confidence.

11) Give your audience something to do.

The presentations that kill are the ones that give the audience something they can do immediately to solve a problem or handle a situation they find pressing.

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If you are talking about improving relationships, give your audience some exercises that will help them communicate better. If you are giving a cooking presentation, give them a simple but great recipe to go home and try. Your audience should be excited to go out and try out what they learned.

12) Think past your presentation

Despite all of your preparation, you may still be nervous. In fact, you may be petrified. If you can’t get your mind off your upcoming presentation and you are losing sleep, create a mental image picture of what you will do after your presentation is over. Picture yourself having a nice meal and a glass of wine congratulating yourself on giving a great performance.

When a dreaded event is in the future, our minds tend to move to that point in the future and stick there. By creating an image of the future beyond it, you can unstick your attention and you will feel a lot better.

You may even find that once you have done all of the above steps, you won’t be worried at all. My best remedy for nerves is to know your stuff backward and forward, know you can handle anything on stage and know you can direct and control your audience.

Public speaking and performing is a skill unto itself and, unfortunately, there is nowhere you can hone that skill except in front of people. Therefore if you succeed or fail you will have an audience.

Taking the time to do the above steps thoroughly will stack the deck overwhelmingly in your favor.

Go give a killer presentation! Enjoy yourself!

 

*Tumbrel: An open cart used to transport the condemned to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

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Last Updated on August 21, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. Hello promotion, here I come!
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. No, thanks Alzheimer’s; you and I are just not a good fit.

So how to train your brain to learn faster and remember more?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new.

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.” Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

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But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

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Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

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I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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