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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 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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