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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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Successful Author, Life Coach and Musician

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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