Fall Public Speaking Classes

This fall I’m offering my popular 4-week “Public Speaking Crash Course”  at New York’s 92nd Street Y.  The course runs the gamut, from conquering nervousness to crafting and delivering your own presentation.  Classes begin Tuesday evening, October 29.

A 2-class course, Improve Your Speaking Voice: How to Sound Better in Any Situation begins Wednesday, November 13 and uncovers the secrets of how you can have a stronger, more dynamic speaking voice.

img_0511-2In addition to the 92nd Street Y courses, private classes are available on demand, and offer  participants of all levels a small, supportive environment  with time for individual exploration and  practice.  Learn how to turn dull speeches into presentations that will captivate your audience, and how to conquer your fears and be heard.

Please contact me at speechdoctor @nyc.rr.com or publicspeaking4u@aol.com about individual sessions and on-demand workshops. Or phone me at (212) 877-2798.

Speaking to a smaller audience

Recently I  attended a new book reading at a local book store, where  about 30 – 40 people were  in attendance.  Even though one should be able to project to a room that size, it was difficult to hear the author and her guest speakers.  They were speaking as if to someone in the front row.

Because  I see this “lazy speak” so often, I’ve jotted down five quick hints to help your audience better hear you.

  • Speak to the person at the very back or end of the room, instead of to the people sitting in front of you.
  • Ask the audience in advance if they can hear you. If not, consider using a microphone.
  • When using a mic, it’s important for it to be at the right distance from your mouth. Speaking too close will distort your sound; holding the mic too far away means it won’t pick up your voice.
  • If using a mic, speak directly into it. Don’t turn your head away when you speak.  Most mics won’t pick your voice up if you turn away.
  • If your audience is spilling over to both sides of the room, include those sides when you speak. Speak to them as well as to the people in front of you.  But, as you turn, be sure the mic turns with you.

Summer Public Speaking Classes

This summer I’m offering two one-time classes at New York’s 92nd Street Y.

In Body Language and Awareness for Public Speaking on July 17 you’ll learn about the important role your body plays in helping conquer nervousness and in achieving a stronger presence as a public speaker.

Improve Your Speaking Voice: How to Sound Better in Any Situation begins on July 24 and uncovers the secrets of how you can have a stronger, more dynamic speaking voice.

img_0511-2Private classes are available on demand, and offer  participants of all levels a small, supportive environment  with time for individual exploration and  practice.  Learn how to turn dull speeches into presentations that will captivate your audience, and how to conquer your fears and be heard.

If you can’t make my summer classes at the Y, please contact me at speechdoctor @nyc.rr.com or publicspeaking4u@aol.com about individual sessions and on-demand workshops.

What the Olympics can teach us about public speaking

Gymnast overcoming adversityEvery two years we watch the many inspiring stories that come out of the Olympics.   In watching the Olympics, I’m always struck by how many similarities there are between top athletes and top speakers.  All participants demonstrate a grit, determination, and dedication to get out there and “strut their stuff.”

Determination and Persistence Pay Off

It takes preparation and practice, sometimes mixed with disappointment, to produce a champion.  After all, we’re human, and part of the human experience means that we falter from time to time.  But what makes a true champion is the determination and persistence to pick oneself up and commit to the hard work.

Don’t Give Up

You never know when a stumble will derail you, but keep going. When it seems like you can’t, have courage, and don’t give up.  At the Sochi Olympics, Japanese figure skater Mau Asada, finished a disastrous short program, only to go and give the long program performance of her life.

British gymnast Ellie Downie took a frightening fall on her head during a floor routine at the Rio Olympics.  Despite calls for her to sit out the following routines, she picked herself up and finished the vault exercises with shining colors, as her team came in third in the Olympics qualifications.

And then there is American swimmer, Michael Phelps, who retired from the Olympics, and, who, after a disappointing showing in the London Olympics, came back to swim the 400-meter relay in Rio.  He not only won a 19th gold medal, but catapulted his team to a first-place finish.  It wasn’t only skill, but practice and determination that helped him make a comeback.

Ten Essential Qualities

So, here is my list of ten essential qualities that all top performers share, whether in athletics or speaking.

  • It takes focus, dedication, and determination to triumph
  • Failure can lead to success. Skiers and snowboarders crash, gymnasts have accidents.  Wipe yourself off, and start again
  • Even if you’re rusty, there’s no time like the present to jump back in and start practicing
  • learn to take risks, as many successful athletes do. Leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself
  • Be courageous
  • Be authoritative
  • Don’t be a quitter; never give up
  • Go out there with focus and concentration
  • If you falter, you can recover and make a comeback
  • It takes practice, practice, practice

Remember, always hold your head high, go out there with confidence, and with the can-do attitude: “I have something to say that’s worth listening to!”

Five questions to ask when preparing a presentation

Planning a presentation?  Before you begin, here are five helpful questions to ask yourself. Answering these will help you more effectively target your presentation.

  • What do you have to say that will interest others?
    Everyone has something interesting to say: an experience, particular field of expertise, a hobby.
  • Who are you talking to?
    It’s important to know your audience, their educational level, and biases (if any).
  • Why is your audience there?
    Have they come for a specific purpose? It may be an awards dinner, a banquet, a political discussion, an educational forum, a sales presentation.
  • What is your purpose?
    Your goal can be to inform, educate, entertain, sell a product or service, or challenge your audience on a specific topic.
  • How much time do you have?
    The less time you have to speak, the more important it is to edit your presentation down to its core. If you feel you have been allotted too much time, try adding more examples to bolster your main points. Or open your presentation up for questions and answers. If in doubt, remember that it’s better to leave an audience wanting more than overstaying your welcome.

Photo: Domiriel via flickr

Five tips for presentation success

Number 5 for blogYou have an important presentation to give and you’re ready to captivate your audience.  But, wait a minute!  Before you start, there are a number of common traps that can be avoided with a little advance work.

Here are some tips to help you take control and put your audience at ease.  They apply whether you’re giving an informal  presentation to a small group, or delivering a more formal address to a large audience.

  1. Do a Test Run

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many times have you seen a speaker get up to show their slides, Power Point presentation, or video, and the equipment malfunctioned?  By doing an initial run-through with the equipment – especially testing microphone levels — you can easily save yourself from those embarrassing moments.

  2. Scope out the Room

    Just as people, rooms have their own personality. Each room has its own acoustics and its own particular lighting.  Before your audience arrives, get to know the room.  Does the lighting level need adjusting?  Do a sound check to be certain you can be heard at the back of the room, and get up on the podium to see what it will feel like.  Then walk around the perimeters of the room to develop a “physical” memory of the room for yourself.  It will add to your comfort level.

  3. Pace Yourself

    Don’t be a “Motor Mouth.”  Your audience needs time to digest material.  Add interest to your presentation by deciding in advance where you would like to add dramatic pauses, where you would like to slow down, and where you feel it’s important to speed up. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

  4. Bring your Personality With You

    Too often speakers leave their real personality behind in an attempt to sound authoritative on the podium or chairing a meeting.  Try to be natural and incorporate your personality into your presentation.  That’s what makes you unique and adds interest to your material.

  5. Make Life Easy on Yourself

    Don’t fall for the misconception that you have to memorize your presentation.  While you should be familiar with your presentation so that you are not glued to the script, a script serves as your map and guidepost.  Some of the finest speakers around deliver from scripts.  And remember: There is a difference between reading and delivering!

 

Stop Speeding.

Canada_Stop_sign.svgI recently went to an off-Broadway show in previews, presented by one of New York’s better theatre companies.  One of the leads was speaking so fast that you just couldn’t get his words straight.  At certain points in the play his breakneck speed was forcing the other actors to up their pace in order to keep up with him.    Bottom line: the audience lost a number of good lines.

Following the show, one of the people in my party complained to a theatre staff member that it was difficult to follow the dialogue.  Then, another theatre-goer voiced the same concern.  The staff member acknowledged that there was a problem.

Speeding can often be a result of nervousness.  It can also reflect that your mind is jumping ahead of your mouth. Maybe we should issue speeding tickets for people who chatter too fast.

Are you a speeder? If speaking too fast is your problem, imagine a speeding car.  Visualize a “Slow” and “Stop” sign ahead.  Just as with a car, slow down your pace.   It will feel uncomfortable at first.  But once you get used to speaking at a slower pace, you will find that people will follow you with greater ease.  And, best of all, you will be in control of the speed!