YOU Magazine - March 2007 - Make Your Next Presentation Your Best By Lance Miller, Toastmasters' 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking Subscribe to YOU Magazine and other timely market alerts from Linda Winters.

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March 2007

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Make Your Next Presentation Your Best
By Lance Miller, Toastmasters'
2005 World Champion of Public Speaking

Make Your Next Presentation Your Best - By Lance Miller, Toastmasters' - 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking

When watching amazing athletes such as Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, and Michelle Quan perform, it's impossible not to marvel at their talent. But, how much of their competence and skill was just talent, and how much was developed through practice? How many mistakes did they endure in order to gain the experience necessary to become a champion?

This concept holds true for most things in life, including giving a speech or a presentation. When we see a great comedian, an inspirational speaker, or a well-delivered presentation, we're seeing the final product. We are not seeing all of the preparation that went into that final product.

There is an old saying, "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of experience comes from bad judgment." I can tell you, "Good speakers come from experience, and a lot of experience comes from giving bad speeches." The thing to keep in mind is that not all of those bad speeches need to be given in front of audiences!

Over the last 15 years, I have coached countless professionals on speaking and presentation basics. The main element these individuals seemed to lack was sufficient practice and drilling techniques. By helping clients learn how to successfully practice their presentations, I was able to help them achieve the results they desired.

Here are some basic tips you can use to enhance your public speaking skills:

1. Practice out loud.
It does little good to practice your speech in your mind. We all come up with great speeches in the shower, or while lying in bed or driving in the car. But these speeches are run on the "mental screen" in our minds. When we get in front of an audience, our attention and vision are focused on the crowd, rather than that "mental screen". It's essential that you practice the speech in the same manner that you will give it – out loud!

2. Practice giving your speech to something.
Practice giving your speech to something, such as the room, chairs, a wall, or even the bushes in your backyard. You need to direct your communication to something. If you were practicing basketball, you wouldn't just throw the ball in the air; rather, you would throw it against a backboard. When you deliver your speech, you will be delivering it to the audience. So drill your speech to the area where the audience will be or at least a representation of that area.

3. Drill your speech a specific number of times.
Pick a number, like 5 or 10, and drill your speech repeatedly until you hit that number. It's quite normal to experience frustration during the first few delivery attempts. However, you need to get through the presentation several times before you start correcting and adjusting it. So, just pick a number, no less than 5, and run through it from start to finish.

If you make a mistake during the drill, do not stop and correct yourself! Just keep going and correct yourself the next time through. Drill like you will when you deliver your talk. If you make a mistake during your live presentation, you are not going to stop and correct yourself, so donít get in the habit of doing it in practice. This will help you to slide over mistakes if you make them in your live performance.

4. Get someone to coach you.
Find someone who understands speaking basics and knows how to coach. Having someone watch your presentation and give you feedback is invaluable. We're only able to see things from our perspective, as the speaker. We need to have what we say and do viewed by someone who has an audienceís perspective. They should follow points 1-3 above while coaching you.

5. Get in front of an audience.
Even if it's only 2-3 individuals, put yourself in front of people and deliver your speech. This will make a big difference when the time comes for your presentation. It's a nice transition between practicing and the final delivery. It will push your comfort zone and provide you with valuable feedback.

6. Drill in a space similar to the one where you will be speaking.
If you will be presenting in a boardroom, find a room of similar size and type to practice in. If you are presenting on a stage in a 2500-seat auditorium, find a stage and space of similar scope where you can run through your speech a few times. Different spaces have different characteristics to them. The way you project your voice, address the audience, and the way you move and use body gestures varies based upon the type of room you will be in.

7. Videotape yourself.
This may be painful at first, but you will get used to it quickly. Review your videos 3 times before coming to any judgments about your performance. This practice will enable you to see yourself from the audienceís point of view.

If you practice your presentation with these 7 tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to becoming a confident and skilled presenter!

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